When I die I may not go to heaven,
‘Cause I don’t know if they let cowboys in.
If they don’t, then let me go to Texas,
‘Cause Texas is as close as I’ve been.
This song was by Tanya Tucker, who admitted in another song “My soul’s in San Antone”.
Not too far away, in Alabama, Hank Williams Jr. was singing:
If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie,
I don’t want to go.
If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie,
I’d just as soon stay home.
If they don’t have a Grand Old Opry,
Like they do in Tennessee,
Then send me to hell or New York City…..
It would be about the same to me.
Now I love country music, and I love dancing the two-step to songs such as these. However, I might have been more enthusiastic if the songs were written about New Mexico heaven (instead of Texas and Alabama heaven).
Living on earth is like licking an icecream cone. We generally enjoy it, and want it to last a long time. But eventually we get down to the last lick and……are we prepared? On one hand we figure we would like to go to heaven when we die. On the other hand we would prefer not going today, or tomorrow, or in the near future.
Part of the problem is that we do not have a good image of heaven. When we read about mansions and streets of gold, that is not appealing to many of us. Who really wants to live in an oversize empty mansion, and for how long would we enjoy walking around on solid yellow gold? But what if instead the image were living in a tent by the Holy Ghost River in the Pecos mountains (yes there is a bubbling stream by this name not far from Santa Fe)….. Or if we were hiking in the Sangre de Cristo range (meaning Blood of Christ) out of Red River (also New Mexico)….. These I can relate to, and I have experienced great joy when I was there. This is the point of the two C&W songs above, which are each about a heaven we can relate to. It’s hard to look forward to a heaven that we cannot relate to.
The first: A book called Heaven is For Real talks about heaven witnessed by a four-year old boy called Colton, which took place during the boy’s operation for a ruptured appendix. The boy saw angels, and was held by Jesus, and even met a baby sister who was miscarried. The story is compelling, and has been regarded as a confirmation of the heaven of the Bible.
The second: In a new book called Proof of Heaven, a neurosurgeon has a near-death experience and claims he went to heaven. Dr Eben Alexander witnessed a female angel who accompanied him, along with butterflies. He discusses the Core, where God sits. The doctor mentions feelings of unconditional love that were so intense that he now defines this love to be the center of the universe. This is essentially the same as what the Bible said 2,000 years ago (see quote below).
The unique thing about this story is that the cortex of the doctor’s brain was non-functioning due to a severe case of meningitis. He claimed that while in a seven-day coma he experienced a consciousness beyond his own brain consciousness (which was inactive), and this out-of-body consciousness is what Dr Alexander calls heaven. The story is also compelling, and appears to be further confirmation of the heaven of the Bible.
The third: To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again. Here is a brief summary:
While boating in Chile, Mary Neal was drowned when she was pinned under water in her kayak. She died and went to heaven. She walked down a beautiful path toward a domed structure exploding with beauty, color, and the love of God. She was overwhelmed by a feeling of “coming home” and its excitement.
But she came back! She had been gone 15-25 mins, and this was beyond medical science. She returned to earth with two broken legs and pulmonary problems. Doctor Neal returned to her orthopedic surgery after six months of rehab. Not only did she experience heaven, but also conversed with angels on several occasions after she returned. She understood what St Paul meant when he said that love is greater than faith and hope. Mary Neal has experienced many miracles, and points out how God keeps his promises, and why it is good to live by faith.
Finally the butterflies: if we believe Dr Alexander’s claim that he saw butterflies in heaven, we can go to an IMAX theater to imagine what heaven may be like. The IMAX film called Flight of the Butterflies 3D is a fascinating story of the Monarch butterflies that migrate every year from Canada and the USA to Mexico where they spend the winter. What a remarkable migration (these are the same butterflies that flutter about awkwardly and seem to have trouble getting across our backyard). The scientist who joined up the dots (literally) was Canadian, and spent much of his life unravelling the mystery (the dots were locations on their journey where tagged Monarchs were found). It took Dr Fred Urquhart almost 40 years to discover the secret hideaway of the Monarch butterflies and prove the most incredible migration on earth.
The scenes near the end of the film (seen in 3D),of thousands of butterflies hanging from tree trunks and limbs and leaves, high in the mountains of Mexico, are astonishing. I was awe-struck, and that made me think of heaven. I am convinced we shall be awe-struck when we reach heaven. Who would not wish to go there? And to explore the Bible for clues on how to get there?
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John chapter 4).
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” (Colossians chapter 2).
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