I’m focused on spiritual writing this evening. My dear friend is facing an end-of-life scenario for Molly, her Parson Russell terrier.
Molly is the darling of our friendship circle. About a dozen of us love visiting her. She rewards us with licks and a lot of excited romping. She’s a really funny dog, hopping like a baby goat from floor to sofa (and our laps) — but less so over the years.
Molly is fifteen, almost sixteen, and fading fast.
Spiritual Writing About a Dog?
If any canine has defined the words spunky and energetic throughout a very long life, it’s Molly. But she has brought more than entertainment to us all. You can’t help but adore her. She’s never met a stranger. It’s rather flattering when she makes you feel like the VIP in the living room. But most importantly, she gives her human mom such joy — not just companionship, but pure joy, much like a furry four-legged child.
Talking about Molly’s end-of-life ordeal has been anything but easy. Molly’s mom and I share a birthday — and guess what? Molly shares the same birthday too! This has created a special bond, and thankfully our wonderful circle of friends is supportive as well. It’s good to be able to go through this together — the struggle over the timing, for instance.
Exactly when is the right time to usher your pet across the Rainbow Bridge? We have collectively grieved over Molly’s loss of movement and appetite, mourned the inevitable, and prayed for the comfort of Molly’s mom. She’s reeling over the decision to end Molly’s pain. She will miss her furbaby like crazy, but Molly is signaling that it’s time. We’ll continue praying now and after Molly is gone.
Spiritual Writing — What Does the Bible Say About Animals in Heaven?
Speaking of praying, the topic of “animals in heaven” came up in our group discussions. It makes us wonder, Will Molly really be gone? As in permanently non-existent after she passes away?
There’s a lot of spiritual writing on the subject of animals in heaven, and many debates in cyberspace as well— a few heated. It seems everyone has an opinion, depending on religious denomination and culture.
Some of us were raised with the notion that animals do not go to heaven. Some say only “souls” in the human sense have the capacity to embrace salvation, a requisite of heaven. But the real question is, Does God value animals enough to include them in heaven regardless? Better yet, does God value Molly enough to take her to heaven?
It has me pondering God’s love of animals. After all, God instructed Adam to name every beast in the field and every bird in the air. He knows when a sparrow falls. He saved a floating zoo on Noah’s ark. Obviously, animals are important in God’s Kingdom.
Maybe God takes our pets to heaven because he made these awesome creatures and they please Him. But what does the Bible have to say? Well, perhaps the most astounding spiritual writing on the topic is found in Revelation 5:13 (ESV).
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!Bible Gateway
Heaven is for Real
The topic of Colton Burpo also came up in our friendship group, the little boy who died and came back with an amazing story about heaven. His father, Pastor Todd Burpo, wrote a book about this occurrence, Heaven is for Real.
Molly’s mom mentioned the animals Colton saw while in heaven, which he captured in his own book, Heaven is For Real — for Kids. You can learn more about Colton’s experience on his family’s website, Heaven is for Real Ministries, and his encounter with heavenly animals — all sorts of animals.
Colton saw many different kinds of animals. It seemed to him that most all of the animals we have here on earth are also in heaven.www.heavenlive.org/faq
Wow! Whether you believe that animals have souls or not, I am personally heartened by Colton’s eye-witness account. As I mentioned before, God values animals in a special way, so why wouldn’t they be in heaven awaiting us?
Psalm 34:7 states, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” My fondest wish is that I will see my loved ones (people and pets and yes, Molly too) in heaven some day.
An Interview With Pastor Todd Burpo, Author of Heaven is For Real
I’ve had many opportunities to delve into spiritual writing as a former writer, editor and editor in chief of Katy Christian Magazine and Fort Bend Christian Magazine.
One of my favorite interviews was with Pastor Todd Burpo himself, written in 2012. Since we’re on the topic, below is the full text.
Heaven is For Real
By Melanie Saxton
Nearly ten years ago on March of 2003, a four-year-old boy suffered a burst appendix and nearly died due to a life-threatening infection. For his parents, it was a living nightmare. Emergency surgery was Colton’s only option. He barely survived, but lived to share his remarkable journey from unconsciousness to heaven.
The result is Heaven is for Real, the miraculous account of the Burpo family. Several months into recovery, Colton began talking about his experiences. He described the people he met in heaven, including a great grandfather who died 30 years earlier, a sister who was lost through a miscarriage, and Jesus, Himself. Glimpsing into heaven through the eyes of their young son was startling for Todd and Sonja Burpo. The family didn’t know what to believe, but soon the evidence was clear.
Though skeptical at first, they came to realize that more occurred during surgery than was ever expected. Colton began to accurately describe his parents praying for him in separate rooms at the hospital. It was at the hospital that the angels sang to him, and he described them, as well.
New York Times best-selling author Lynn Vincent collaborated with Todd to chronicle Colton’s story. Since its release in November of 2010, over seven million books have been printed and it reached the top position on many domestic best seller lists — New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, National Public Radio, and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, as well as lists in Canada and Portugal. The Burpos have made countless television appearances, the most recent of which were the Katie Couric Show, NBC Today’s Show, and The Barbara Walter’s Special.
“It has been incredible to watch the contagious enthusiasm of readers drive the success of Heaven is for Real,” said Michael Hyatt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers. “Colton’s story gives a wonderful glimpse into what lies ahead for believers, and encourages us to embrace our childlike faith.”
Todd Burpo is the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan in Imperial, NE and a volunteer fireman. His wife Sonja is a children’s minister, busy pastor’s wife, and mom. Colton, now an active twelve-year-old, has an older sister Cassie and a younger brother Colby.
I was honored to interview Pastor Todd, as follows:
Melanie Saxton: What inspired you to share Colton’s story with the world?
Todd Burpo: Several things happened before we ever considered sharing Colton’s story. His surgery occurred several years before the book came out. When you officiate funerals, live in small town and have a four-year-old who talks about his experience, well, honestly, complete strangers came to our door saying, “God told me you need to write a book.”
MS: How did the writing come together?
TB: After many years, God impressed upon me the importance of Colton’s story. You might say God brought the publishing world to me. My agent called me before I ever called anyone else. I was an unwilling partner and agreed to write the book to get it off my back.
MS: How has life changed for your family since you went public?
TB: The book took off and suddenly we were in the media. A year ago, ABC Nightly news put Colton up against Stephen Hawking. Dianne Sawyer said, “Who are you going to believe, the scientist or the child?” I thought this was a profound question and loved it when she said, “We’ll go with the 12-year-old.”
MS: How has Colton’s revelation affected you personally?
TB: So much of the book speaks to men. So many men have questions, doubts and fears. Colton met my granddad in heaven, who was killed in car wreck two days after giving his life to Christ. My mom didn’t know about this and spent 28 years worrying about his soul . . . that is, until Colton saw him in heaven. This impacted me deeply. I’m a wrestling coach, too, and not a soft-serve kind of Christian. This book gives all men a lot to think about. The message is, we all need to be upfront with our families. Some men pass on that, and I hope that the book helps them love their families enough to have that kind of open talk. The peace is incredible for everyone.
MS: What is it about Colton’s story that touches readers so profoundly?
TB: For a Christian audience, Heaven is for Real is so impacting because of the raw innocence of a child. When you read it, you know the kid wasn’t influenced by adults. After all, you don’t teach your child “what heaven looks like” at three years and 10 months.
MS: It appears to be a book without borders. Have you received feedback from outside the United States?
TB: We had very scary time as we were about to lose our son, and that’s something any parent can relate to. It’s what Colton said afterwards that amazed me and many others, as well. I was on airplane from Atlanta to Denver, and a lady stared at me. She leaned over and said, “Did you write a book?” I responded, “Yes, did you like it?” She said, “I’m Palestinian, and I took the book back to Palestine. For the first time we talked about God and no one got in a fight.” It was a blessing that she shared that. Heaven is for Real has 37 translations and is going around the world to China, Russia, Africa, and as a matter of fact, someone from Norway mentioned they read it. It makes me think about Europe. The Christian population in Europe is so small, but a testimony from an innocent kid is making headway.
MS: What lessons does the book teach?
TB: A mother told me once, “I had an abortion.” This was a mother who realized Colton had met his miscarried sister. There are unborn children in heaven. It never really dawned on me that some parents are scared to death to meet their kids in heaven. But the Lord finally spoke to me: “This woman is gong to be presented blameless to my Father.” The world has hurts and pains, and heaven changes everything.
MS: Speaking of “heaven changes everything,” we hear a sequel has been written.
TB: Yes, we just finished another book entitled exactly that — Heaven Changes Everything. It’s not so much about Colton’s story, which focused on his early years. The sequel has a richer vocabulary and the flow is different. My wife Sonja wrote a third of the book and shares her miscarriage to connect with others who have suffered loss. It is a devotional with forty-three small chapters with scripture verses.
MS: Why do you think Sonja’s story resonates?
TB: First and foremost, Sonja miscarried our daughter and Colton met his sister in heaven. That’s huge. The sequel was published just this October and takes things to the next level. Already we have received feedback from readers. A lady wrote to us that she and her husband talked about their miscarriage for the first time after 17 years of silence. Another woman finally received emotional healing after 15 years. We knew Heaven Changes Everything would speak to women, but it also speaks to men.
MS: What about the critics and skeptics?
TB: Heaven is for Real is a testimony. Testimony doesn’t replace scripture, but God does tell us to share our faith and our journey. It is touching many lives. Some may attack Colton because they don’t “need” us to tell them about heaven. I’ve been really disappointed in some pastors I used to respect who have lashed out without reaching out. They haven’t investigated, called us, or anything. It seems they have their theological positions to guard.
MS: How does Colton handle the critics?
TB: I think God prepared him for it. He seems to accept it. “You can believe what you want,” he says. “But that doesn’t change what I saw.” From atheists and old-fashioned cynics to pharisees, he just takes it in stride. In fact, he is the inspiration behind Heaven is for Real — for Kids, a book that asks the question, “What if a generation of kids grew up looking forward to heaven?” All three books share on different levels and become sources that make meaningful gifts.
MS: What is your ultimate hope as you write your books?
TB: The whole world needs to know that heaven truly is for real. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit exist, and people need to have Jesus in their hearts to get there. Colton’s testimony is biblically sound and causes people to ask themselves, “Can I make a difference in way I prepare for heaven while on earth?” Me, a simple kid from Nebraska, can’t make that happen. Only God can.
MS: What’s next for the Burpo family?
TB: We are working with Sony now to make a movie. The hope is that it will be released for the holidays in 2013. What an opportunity to talk about who is the God of heaven. God wants to take people to heaven. To have that discussion in movie theaters next year instead of just churches — wow! A lot of people want to know what we’ll write next. Personally, I want to take a break. We ask people to pray for us that this testimony translates correctly.
Contact Me for Help with Your Own Spiritual Writing
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Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s consult about your own spiritual writing project.