Heaven is for Real

booksHeaven is for Real was just released as a movie two weeks ago, and last Sunday I enjoyed seeing it as part of a volunteer appreciation event for H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services). Even though I’d read the book shortly after its publication in 2010 (when it became a NY Times best-seller), and even though I’d taken a copy to comfort my sister-in-law, Jan, shortly before she died…or maybe because of those events…I found myself tearing up over and over again during the movie.11174759_det The movie (and book) are based on the experience of Todd and Sonja Burpo, whose 4-year-old son, Colton, nearly died on the operating table after his appendix burst. Four months after Colton recovered, he starting telling his parents about visiting heaven while he’d been in surgery, mentioning things he’d learned about his family that his parents had never told him. Although the details of Colton’s experience aren’t anti-biblical, there are (of course) those who doubt the veracity and plausibility of the story. However, after reading 90 Minutes in Heaven and stories about other death/near death experiences, I can only say that to me the story could be true. I do believe heaven is very much real. I know that the Apostle Paul records being caught up to heaven in 2 Corinthians. I personally know the ghost writer for 90 Minutes in Heaven, and he believes the testimony of Don Piper.

What most impacted me as I watched the movie was empathizing with the anguish of people trying to be honest about what they’ve experienced, honoring the faith of their child, and being willing to express their faith in the face of disbelief and disapproval. Do we believe in the reality of heaven and hell? Are we looking forward to going to heaven? Are we willing to share the gospel with others so that they can know the joy and peace of possessing eternal life through Jesus Christ? Maybe reading or watching Heaven is for Real will encourage you in your own faith journey as it did me. It’s showing in the GR theaters now, and it may be available in other cities as well, or you can get a copy of the book on Amazon for $7.09. Unfortunately, you can’t borrow my copy this time, because I gave mine to my beloved sister-in-law, who began enjoying the reality of heaven on Mother’s Day just two years ago. 🙂

“I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows), how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:3-4).

P.S.—I just listened to one of my son Jonathan’s GodTalks, which is a fascinating interview with Sid Roth, founder of the T.V. show “It’s Supernatural.” Sid recently published the book Heaven is Beyond Your Wildest Expectations: Ten True Stories of Experiencing Heaven. I am intrigued and hope to read the book soon. If you’re interested in more information on spiritual things and the afterlife, I would like to recommend the interview between Jonathan and Sid, which can be found at: http://aqueductproject.org/category/archive/


Cultural Differences in Hiaku

Sunday night Daniel’s family came over for dinner, and I have a renewed appreciation for the stress their two exchange students are facing as they adjust to living in a foreign culture. Lois is from Sweden, which isn’t too different from DSCN1932the U.S., but Oh is from South Korea, and Asian culture is extremely different, even things as simple as where they shop and what appeals. For an example, DSCN1935Oh told me that his family has an entire refrigerator dedicated to keeping their kimchi (which is made from cabbage around Christmas for the entire year). As NaPoWrMo (National Poetry Writing Month) comes to a close, I decided to share just one more time via hiaku (until next April), this time on cultural differences between America and South Korea. May it inspire all of us to be kinder and more outreaching to the foreigners among us!

IMG_5160On Shopping: DSCN1911Shopping for presents… DSCN1925Where shall I go?  I cannot DSCN1933 Read a single sign.

Normal Modes of Transportation:DSCN1687To go by subway, IMG_5532 Train IMG_5149 or bus is cheaper,Hang On! but You might have to stand!

What You’ll Find in Street Markets:IMG_5074 Second Market stalls IMG_5089 Filled with exotic foods, but IMG_5093They all seem so strange!

What’s Considered a Really Special Treat: IMG_5130 Golden-haired children IMG_5179Would you like some pie? We have IMG_5083 Lots of octopi!

Up (and down)scale Toilet Facilities: (many are for squatters only) IMG_4988  Such fancy bathrooms:DSCN1302 Soap on barsToilets and heated seats, But— DSCN1727don’t stand on them!

Wearing Air Filter Masks: IMG_4664Why do you wear masks? DSCN1685 To keep germs in, or out…orIMG_5718 Is it yellow dust?

The Beauty of Korea During their Cherry Blossom Festival: IMG_4335Flowers overhead, IMG_4440Underfoot and all around. IMG_4414Thank you, Korea. IMG_5441But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Remembering Korea in Hiaku

Tomorrow Alan and I will have been back from South Korea for a week, and we’re almost adjusted to Eastern Daylight Savings Time again! However, my mind is still processing everything we experienced during our visit with Mike and Grace’s family, so here are a few more pictures from our time in South Korea and some hiakus commemorating those events:

On Celebrating Easter: IMG_6032Resurrection Morn:

DSCN1936Dress up; DSCN1514worship;DSCN1941 fellowship.IMG_6067Hunt for Easter eggs!

On traveling with the kids…DSCN1758

IMG_6151Fly above the clouds.IMG_5452IMG_4389Little faces press the panes.IMG_5461Where are we going?

On Feeding the Kids (a quote from Michael): DSCN1278Why is it each day DSCN1271 That after breakfast’s over DSC_0934 I need to bathe again?

On the Fascination Koreans Have for  Fair-Haired Children:DSCN1492  Instant attraction: IMG_4592Asian tourists really like IMG_4680IMG_4879 Blue eyes and blonde curls.

On Enjoying Special Treats (like green tea ice cream): DSC_1121Ice cream, DSCN1450popsicles.IMG_4767 Cotton-candy stickiness.DSC_1133 Sometimes life is sweet.

On Traveling by Train with Kids:

IMG_5189Morning train delights.DSCN1699 IMG_4385After noon a train’s all right. DSCN1776 Evening train: Goodnight. IMG_4861“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6).

Rise Up, My Love (82): Invitation to a Holy Bed

Thai Litter by GunCSong of Solomon 3:7 “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s…” Now the bride exclaims over the royal palanquin and answers the question in the previous verse.  What is this coming? Who is coming?  The official wedding party to convey her to the royal palace has come, with the groom himself, Solomon, riding on a grand, portable palanquin.  He has come to invite his beloved to join him in sitting together on a regal throne…a grand chariot… a holy bed.

What is this? Although four verses are devoted to describing the magnificent conveyance, it is important to notice that the first name used of it is “bed,”  the Hebrew mitta, which is the most commonly used term in the Old Testament for bed.

What was the bride being invited to do?  Join Solomon on his royal bed.  What do husbands invite their brides to do?  What makes marriage distinct from all other relationships?  Sharing the marriage bed, which is honorable and undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). It is in the sanctity of marriage alone that true sexual fulfillment is possible and pure.

Solomon could have designed any conveyance he desired for escorting his beloved to their palace.  He could have ordered a royal, portable throne, or a stately carriage.  In verse nine it is referred to as a chariot… but—first and foremost—it is a bed. He did not choose a symbol of his authority and power; rather, he chose a symbol of his love and passion…the fullness of communion and the bliss of rest.

I think there is a profound lesson in this phrase that should sink deep into the hearts of all believers and be of special comfort to all who are single. “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s…” The spiritual parallel is, “Behold his bed, which is Christ’s.”

The desire for a mate is an almost universal desire. There are a few people who never desire to marry, but those people are extremely rare.  Most people—even those who never marry—experience a deep sense of longing for someone with whom to share the intimacies of marriage. Christ has offered to “whosoever will” the opportunity for fulfillment of our deepest human need: spiritual intimacy in the “marriage bed”…unity with Christ, and through him, with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the body of Christ at large, the Church.

Our world, and particularly American society in this day and age, is overrun with sensuous overtones and an overwhelming emphasis on lust, sex, and love inextricably tangled up in a mess of mass madness. Yes, sex is one of our deepest drives.  Yes, people need people.  Yes, marriage is “honorable in all.”  But, human intimacy, marriage, and sex is not an end-all-be-all necessity for happiness in life, despite such propaganda oozing out from every pore of American culture. What is praised and trumpeted by the world is the flush of romance and new love…the sensations, feelings, and emotions of being in love. Such feelings are but a shadow of the reality of true spiritual experiences.

The feelings of human love are real, but they are transitory emotions.  They rise and fall like waving tides, driven by hormones, driven away by the storms of depravity…unstable as water.  Real love, tested by time, will remain as constant as the ocean, but the emotions of love—like the waves on the surface—fluctuate every day. Lust, like a tidal wave, sweeps across the land in a pounding fury, leaving a path of death and destruction in its wake.

Such is the nature of human love…changeable and unstable, as unpredictable as the weather, as full of storms and hurricanes as it is of balmy days. A relationship between two human beings is only as stable as the two human beings. Emotions are like winds, and bad emotions are like storm clouds and rain.  Two stormy people will clash like two rough weather systems and produce a royal hurricane! No one will be made “happy” or “complete” by another person unless they are happy and complete in God.  Passionate positive emotions toward another person—often confused with love—are not what make the world go round. They make you dizzy, but pretty soon you’ll be sick to your stomach and wanting off the merry-go-round if there is no real love stabilizing and undergirding the relationship.  Just ask the millions of divorced Americans.  Just ask the millions of disillusioned married Americans.  Never fall into the trap of believing that marriage (or simply sex) is the end-all-be-all requirement for true happiness!

What is? Not the human marriage bed, but the heavenly. “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s.” Behold his bed, which is Christ’s.  Christ offers us what no earthly husband can provide: perfect constancy in love and acceptance; perfect uprightness in relationship and behavior; perfect forgiveness and fellowship: yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!

“Behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31). Are you looking for Prince Charming? Christ is he!  Would you like to be married and carried off to a royal castle?  Christ has given you just such a proposal, and he is the “greater than Solomon.” Jesus Christ is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16)!  Do not despair if you have not yet found an earthly mate with whom to share heavenly bliss, you have a better than King Solomon with whom to share earthly and heavenly bliss!  Open your spiritual eyes and “Behold his bed!”  Rise up, beloved, and come away with him!

*Picture from Wiki Commons of an elaborate litter (although not as exquisite as Solomon’s) by “GunC”

The Armstrong Archives (82): Adjusting to Residency

visiting_photoArmstrong Archives 1980

Saturday, January 5, 1980 We’ve been enjoying January despite Alan’s being in the C.C.U. (critical care unit). Today I took the boys to Ann Arbor’s Natural Science Museum where we saw such wonders as mastadon and allosaurus skeletons, stuffed timber wolves and wolverines, and a 12’ living python. You know how interested the kids are in dinosaurs, so that was a terrific hit, and we’ve been reading a science book all about snakes this week, so it couldn’t have been more appropriate. (Did you know pythons have been known to eat as seldom as once a year—one didn’t eat for three years!?)

Last night Alan and I had our first date in about a month. We went out for supper then to an outdoor artificial-ice skating rink. It was 22° and snowing (unusually cold…it rained most of last week), but we just had a great time—and even warmed up with a cup of cocoa at the Big Boy afterward. We took the boys skating once last week. Aaron loved it and will learn quickly. Michael (on rented skates) lasted only about ten minutes, but he’s all ready to go again.

PS—Aaron’s wallet cap is among his most prized possessions, (and Michael is forever trying to get into it)! Thank you. 🙂

Wednesday, January 16, 1980 Hi! Thanks for your letter. I have been up to my neck in helping start a women’s Bible study at the church this week. You know how the kids love having me on the phone! I started a new rule: When the phone rings, Aaron has to head for the couch with a book to look at. It helps.

Alan has been on call for every other day now for a while, so he’s either sleeping or gone it seems. Today I took the boys over for lunch, which was fun.

It’s been rainy and relatively warm here all week. I can’t remember such a mild winter in Michigan…but I like it!

We had a really nice, really short visit with Rob [my oldest brother]. I didn’t see his satellite plans—wish I’d thought to ask. That would have been fascinating! Aaron has a Lego rocket he calls Seasat. [My brother was an engineer at Lockheed and helped design Seasat.]

Thursday pm, January 23, 1980 Busy, busy, busy! Alan worked 122.5 hours last week and weekend. It was beginning to seem like he’d gone on a trip somewhere!! The only good thing is that we’re finally learning to be happy even in spite of not much time together. Last year we used to inevitably get cranky and irritable when he worked long hours; it is so nice just being able to enjoy what little time we have instead of having 1,000 problems to solve. I suppose Baby #3 may knock us all off balance for awhile. But meantime, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet!!

We had our first ladies’ Bible study this morning at the church. I didn’t want to teach right away with the baby due so soon, so I got another girl to teach Philippians and promised to take over in May with Romans. Meanwhile, I’m organizing a “Bible Club” with the pre-school age children who come with their moms. Although I won’t be able to teach it for more than about six weeks, I wanted to get the ball rolling so that it will be a good experience for the kids too. We had nine 2-4 year-olds (another woman kept the infants in the nursery), and we had a great time. We sang songs, had a flannel graph Bible story, played games, snacked, worked on a memory verse, had a quiz, and colored pictures.

Aaron has been a great help to me in preparing, and he is really good at cutting apart the flannel graph pictures with scissors. In a few more years he can be the teacher!

Before I forget, if you have any letters I sent you between February-June of last year (you probably don’t), could I borrow them? I got behind in the boy’s journals then and am trying to fill in some blanks if possible.

I’m still feeling fine…which almost makes me think the baby is more likely to come the last half of March rather than the 5th. I’m guessing March 15-April 5th. Who knows? Do you have pressing plans then?

Sleepless in Grand Rapids: “A Hiaku or Two (Or Quite a Few)”

Full Moon copyIn honor of April being National Poetry Writing Month, I submit these minutes from last night’s time-whacked, sleepless hours:

We slept ‘til midnight

But then we were both aroused,

Wakened by our dreams.


Work dreams, resting dreams,

Coming dreams and passing dreams.

Visions rouse our souls.


In sickness or health,

In poverty or in wealth,

We’ll love forever.


He left, but I’ll stay.

He’s working, but I’ll write ‘til

He comes home again…


I thought he’d taken

Sleep with him, but I found Sleep

Awake in our bed.


As the world turns,

Asia falls asleep, but I?

I am still awake!


Time whacked and awake,

I recall: It’s time to write!

How about haiku?


Sorrow brings night, but

Joy comes in mourning, and joy

Comes in the morning.


Dark night of the soul,

Stay hidden under the wings

Of our great Father.


My soul is restless,

But when it finds rest in You,

My soul is serene.


When I cannot sleep,

I worship God by singing.

Soon, my soul knows dreams.


Bless the Lord my soul,

And all that is within me,

Bless His Holy name.


Rest, my soul, in God

Remember all his mercy.

Be kind to others.


Sun kissed moon last night.

Moon beamed brightly through the night,

Radiant with love.


Every loving act

Observe with open eyes, but

Be blind to hatred.


Be zealous for truth!

Do right, but love mercy, and

Walk humbly with God.


Perhaps I should read.

John’s Gospel will shower light

On my shadowed soul.


“Light shines in darkness

Darkness cannot comprehend,

But still the Light bears Life.” (John 1:4-5)


“Water into wine,

Drink, my spirit, ‘til you’re full.

Prove that love is best.” (John 2:10)


“Magnify the Lord.

He must increase day by day,

But I must decrease.” (John 3:30)


“The Father sent Christ

To die, so all who believe

Shall never taste death.” (John 3:36)


Blackness fades to light.

Birds sing; it’s almost dawn, but

I must go to sleep.


Good night, sweet soul, sleep

Until the break of day and

Shadows flee away.


Meeting adjourned.

Moles in the Sky

A couple of days ago I shared pictures from my 1,200-mile jaunt to South Korea while puzzling over time and eternity. But, there was something else remarkable about that trip: the fact that I was almost the only person on the entire jet who was actually looking out the window. Most people had their window shades pulled down and were busily watching 3-4 movies instead…movies they could easily rent at their local video store for a few bucks and watch any evening at home. I felt like I was in a tunnel full of moles who had no clue what they were missing…people so used to darkness and fantasy that bright reality hurt their eyes!

How have we human beings become more taken with fantasy than reality? How did we lose our way? Where is the old-fashioned joy in the journey? If we can go from Point A to Point B and get there before we leave…well, that’s sort of fun, but what’s wrong with people that they close their eyes, grit their teeth, and just wish to “be there” without having to go there? Wake up, world! Don’t miss out on all the glory and beauty along the way of life.

While in South Korea, my daughter-in-law Grace reminded me of Victor Hugo’s thoughts on how people who are blind to God tend to be like moles too…

“There is, we are aware, a philosophy that denies the infinite. There is also a philosophy, classified as pathologic, that denies the sun; this philosophy is called blindness. To set up a theory that lacks a source of truth is an excellent example of blind assurance. And the odd part of it is the haughty air of superiority and compassion assumed toward the philosophy that sees God, by this philosophy that has to grope its way. It makes one think of a mole exclaiming, “How I pity them with their sun!” ~Victor Hugo

Do you pity people who believe in God…who think they really can see a Son above and spend their time watching out the window? Do you pity people who prefer reality to fantasy? How are we spending our days? Do we really believe Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)? Are we purifying our hearts and looking for God, or have we given up hope and using fantasy to medicate the quiet gnawing in our hearts?

In honor of encouraging us to purify our hearts and do some soul-house keeping, here are a few more quotes from the book I reviewed yesterday, and in hopes of blessing you with joy, I also want to share a few photos from my recent travels:IMG_4644“You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.” Dallas Williard (note: it’s not confidence “in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life…but in your everyday experience of God.” John Ortberg) IMG_5191 “A person is essentially a collection of conscious experiences. Far more than just bodies or just appetites, we are our experiences. That’s why we treasure the good ones.” Dallas Willard [And, that’s why I love to travel!]IMG_4370“I began to form a new goal: I want to be as relaxed as I am on vacation while being as productive as I am at work.” John Ortberg [I’m working on this too!] IMG_4544                 “To become truly free, you must surrender.” John Ortberg IMG_4274“We’re generally quite good at doing something, but we’re really bad at doing nothing. The space where we find rest and healing for our souls is solitude.” John Ortberg IMG_4705“The Ten Commandments flow out of how we were designed, who we were meant to be. That’s why we don’t so much break them as we break ourselves when we violate them.” John OrtbergIMG_4637“Every act of wrongdoing (sin) leads to a greater likelihood of another act …Habits eat willpower for breakfast.” John OrtbergIMG_4639“The reason our souls hunger so is that the life we could be living so far exceeds our strangest dreams.” John Ortberg IMG_5033“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” Thornton WilderIMG_4242“In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness. He is slow: we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity…” Frederick Faber IMG_4871“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Dallas WilliardIMG_4540“There is a world of difference between being busy and being hurried. Being busy is an outward condition, a condition of the body…Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. I am unable to occupy this present moment. Busyness migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives…I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.” (Dallas Williard’s thoughts explained by John Ortberg) DSCN1951“Churches should do seminars on how to bless and not curse others…Blessing is not just a word. Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. We must think it, and feel it, and will it…Blessing is done by the soul.” Dallas WilliardIMG_4368“Your eternal destiny is not cosmic retirement; it is to be part of a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast scale, with ever-increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment—that is the prophetic vision which ‘eye has not seen and ear has not heard.'” Dallas Williard