Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heaven Is For Real - Todd Burpo (book review)

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo is the amazing TRUE story of a little boy's journey to Heaven during a life-saving operation. Burpo's son, not quite 4 at the time of the surgery, waited until months went by to reveal the story of angels singing to him in the hospital. Throughout the course of the next few years, in ways that only a child can, he recants stories of his trip to Heaven with his family that include telling his parents what they had been doing while he was under anesthesia, meeting his great-grandfather (that he never knew on earth), and telling them things about Heaven that he would have no reason or means of knowing (save experience).

From the first page of the introduction, this story kept me in tears! The emotional roller coaster this family experienced, the intricate weave of the good with the bad, kept me turning page after page! I had the story read in a matter of hours; I couldn't put it down! Reading Colton's descriptions of what to expect in Heaven makes me that much more excited and expectant to get there one day! I would definitely recommend this book to ANYONE who questions what will happen after we breathe our last here on earth!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silver Bells and Pavlov's Dogs

You know how the Salvation Army puts out red kettles at the entrances of pretty much every store you visit during the holiday season? And how they have people manning the buckets, ringing little silver bells? A lot of people have different responses to this situation. They roll their eyes and walk an arc around the kettle. They walk by talking loudly about how the Salvation Army doesn't properly handle the money (not that this is my opinion!). They reluctantly pull the change out of their pocket, not bothering to pick the lint out before dropping it in...

Me? I cry. It's a Pavlov's dog sort of response, and rather embarrassing really. And this is every time I hear the bells. EVERY time. If I'm lucky, I'll just get a lump in my throat; more often than not, tears will sting my eyelids. But if I'm not careful, sometimes they'll escape, along with a couple of shaky sobs before I can regain my composure.

Why the dramatics? Am I that in love with the Salvation Army? Or with that tell-tale sign of the holiday season? No... It's because I remember. For the other 10 months of the year, it doesn't phase me quite so much. I get so immersed in my own goings on, so focused on accomplishing the task at hand or keeping straight the To-Do list that I can forget. But in that faint tinkling sound, I hear their cries. The starving child whose mother doesn't know where the next meal is coming from. The young woman on a dingy cot in yet another shelter. The countless souls on the streets with nowhere to live and no means to make a living. The kids in the group home that will get nothing for Christmas if not for the kindness of strangers. For 10 months it's quiet in my world. Sure there are the occasional television commercials or ads in a magazine, but a click of the remote and a flip of the page and there's silence once again. Then November rolls around, and the inescapable bells are back...

And I realize, the needs never left. They're still there, hungry and homeless and broken in spirit, just like they have been January-October... And with barely getting my own ends to see each other (much less meet), I feel so helpless. My heart breaks at the sound of the bells, at the thought of the people those bells represent. Then it breaks even more because I can't make the bells stop. Not out of my pocket. Not all by myself.

But there are so many ways to give. I want to find somewhere to volunteer, even year round. Maybe a local food bank or soup kitchen to help out with on Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll even ring a bell myself by Christmas! Ok, so that link doesn't do any good for my area, but it's neat that such a site even exists! And I really would like to ring a bell... Even though I'd just stand there and cry the whole time.

I know I can't do it all. But I can't let what I can't do keep me from doing what I can.

So if you're in a Tri-County area Walmart through Christmastime and hear someone squalling in the parking lot, chances are it's nothing to worry about... Just me folding up a couple of dollar bills, praying Jesus does His loaves and fishes thing with them. I just want to make the bells stop. Hopefully, you'll join me and figure out in what ways you can make a difference too. Because even when it doesn't feel like it, even when we never see the end result, even when it's only two months out of the year, every little bit does make a difference.

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth,
when you did it to one of the least of these...
you were doing it to me!'"
Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It's that glorious time of day! Almostnaptime! After hours of being covered in snot, tears, dirt, food, and Idon'tevenwannaknowwhatthatis, we gear up for a blissful rest! The tables are clean, the lights are off, the kids are on their cots. We inhale for that downshifting sigh... When all of the sudden--

Heads pop up.

Bodies flip.

Legs flail.

And for probably a lot less time than it feels like, we dart around playing the gentlest, quietest game of Whack-A-Mole ever! Lay back down! Roll back over! SSSHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

But, Tica, you don't understand! There are objects in this room I haven't tasted yet! I have imaginary touchdowns to make! Mom's calling me on the Elmophone! I haven't finalized my sonata on the alligator xylophone! I haven't decided yet whether it's an alligator or a crocodile! I HAVEN'T EVEN LEARNED THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO! There's so much I have to DOOOOOO!!!!

Of course, what I DO understand is how much they need this rest in order to enjoy the rest of their day. And even beyond the day, adequate sleep is needed for proper development so that they can grow up to make real touchdowns and write sonatas on Steinways (which look nothing like a reptile. How sad.)! That little break is essential to prepare them for what's to come... If only they could understand how important naptime today is for their futures, they wouldn't fight it so much!!!

(This one's gonna sting a little...)

Marica, it's time to take a break.

It is naptime. Time to put away the doing and rest. To relax and to breathe deeply for a while. To get prepared for what's to come.

But, God, You don't understand! I've got this project over here and those people over there and I've got to finish this project and start on that one and and and-- There's so much I have to DOOOOOO!!!!

I flip and flail and fight. I fidget and twitch restlessly, thinking of all the things that are going undone because I'm just lying here. I try to get back up while He's not looking...

Yeah, that works even less for me with Him than it does for the kids with me.

It's scary and unnerving to not be doing. Especially for a doer. I don't like it. Just like my toddlers, I can't immediately see the point in stopping what I'm doing now. Isn't this thing important? Why would letting it go unfinished be a good thing?

But I must remember that He sees the end from the beginning. He knows there is more ahead. Before long, I'll be exchanging my xylophone for a baby grand (follow the metaphor here; I don't play either) and I'll need my rest for proper development. I may not like it right now, but I know it's for my best down the road. So I do my best to embrace this not doing in the present, trusting that it's all part of His plan for my future.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord.
"They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11