Running from Hell … Chasing Heaven

IMG_2994Been thinking about some good books…

“The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.” (Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest – Dec 15)

I don’t know about you, but I resonate with that statement. When reading, the things that ring my bell are things I find in print that say something I’ve been thinking about or struggling with, and say it better than I can.  Either that, or they bring out something that has been fermenting deep within me and that I’ve been wanting to say, but just couldn’t find the words.

Then, too, there is something about seeing words in print.  It is like following a footpath through the snow that someone else has forged.  It makes the going easier.  You are not sure where it will take you, but you trust that it will be to someplace that you will enjoy.  Maybe it will take you to a high point where you can see the landscape for miles around or to a babbling brook that will fill your soul with peace, and perhaps your creel with trou

For several years now, I have been interested in books written by people who have died, gone to heaven and returned to write about their experience.  The photo shows some of them.  I’ve also read one account by a man who visited hell and literally got the “hell scared out of him.”  It is titled 23 Minutes in Hell.  You can hear Bill Wiese and his wife talk about the experience online at

I had an experience of being in hell myself, once.  It was not fun.  I thought everyone was lying to me.  After all, Satan is the Father of lies in the Bible.  So, clearly, in his realm, the truth would not be highly prized.  I was also very thirsty and literally could not get enough water to quench my thirst. This went on for some time. I had to devise clever ways of detecting if someone was lying to me. Sometimes, I would lie to them just to see how they would respond.  The thought of spending eternity in a place where everyone lied and where you were constantly thirsty was enough to make me very glad when I discovered that I was very much alive and it was only a nightmare of sorts.

On a much more pleasant note, I recently read Chasing Heaven by Crystal McVea.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  I read her first book:  Waking up in Heaven a couple of years ago.  Both were very good books and well worth the time spent reading them.

In Waking up in Heaven, Crystal talks about the much more pleasant experience of visiting heaven, becoming one with God for a while, then reluctantly returning to earth.  Her description of heaven and the overwhelming, unconditional love she experienced there transformed her.  She came back a different person.  She reveals how different in her latest book Chasing Heaven, written 5 years after her near-death experience.

She says that she was so close to God in heaven that she actually became one with him and that His Love enveloped her, washed away all her sin, and made her feel clean and whole for the first time in her adult life.  It made her feel as she did when she was a small child, innocent and full of the joy of life.  It was more powerful than anything she had ever experienced.  Despite all the bad choices she had made in her life, God made her realize just how much He loved her.  Chasing Heaven is about how her life changed and what she did as a result of that experience of being one with God.

Though she was just a suburban housewife, mother of 4 (including twins), and a third grade teacher in a small Oklahoma town, she found herself being forced outside her comfort zone and into totally new roles as she sought to regain that closeness to God that she had experienced in Heaven.  And as she acted upon God’s instructions to her to tell people what she could remember, she found herself in situations and places she never dreamed she would be in, like worshiping in a biker church, or feeding homeless people in a Church Without Walls, or entering strip clubs to pass out gift bags to the dancers.  Crystal says that by turning our will and our lives over to God, we can all experience that same closeness and love that she experienced in heaven.

The key, Crystal says, is obedience.  When we feel a nudge from God to say something or to do something, we need to obey.  After all, when Jesus called his disciples, they did not hemhaw around.  No, the dropped what they were doing and followed him.  Today, we would say that is impulsive and irresponsible, but I think Jesus still comes to us and asks us to do things without questioning or waiting, but just do them.  Drop whatever it is you are doing and do what He is asking you to do.

I have heard amazing stories of what has happened when people have been instantly obedient.  For example, a pastor said that he was praying for a couple and felt that he should call this man.  He resisted, he had others to pray for, but the feeling persisted and became very strong.  So, he stopped praying and called the man only to find out that his wife was at the hospital having their baby prematurely and the man was just then leaving for the hospital.  The pastor was able to meet them at the hospital and be with the man and his wife when they got the bad news that the baby had not survived.

A few years ago, I became interested in books by people who had “near-death” experiences.  A pastor mentioned one such book in her sermon.  The book was To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD. I was instantly drawn to it because I felt a medical doctor would not be prone to flights of fancy.  Also, she would know whether or not she had actually been clinically dead or not.

In that book, Dr. Neal dies in a kayaking accident in Chile when she gets trapped underwater for several minutes.  It is a fascinating story and includes a host of miracles that enabled her to survive the ordeal.  She says that while she did not get to actually enter heaven, she did get to spend some time with Jesus and see the “Pearly Gates” and the walls of the City of God.  She says she felt such peace and such a huge welcome from the companions that came to rescue her and the other beings waiting for her near the gate, that she did not want to come back.

I know some people don’t believe such accounts.  Others don’t believe these people have actually gone to heaven because they have not actually died.  I believe they did die and they did go to heaven, or at least to a place close enough where they could get a glimpse of heaven.  Some, like Dr. Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven, actually got to fly around heaven on the wing of a butterfly.

All 3 of these writers describe heaven as a place where you are filled to overflowing with unconditional love, a place where you are surrounded by indescribable beauty, a place where space and time are different and do not matter, a place where there is no pain or suffering of any kind, a place where everyone is happy, healthy and carefree, a place where questions are answered instantly, a place where people can communicate with each other and with God without talking.

What I like about these books is that the people who have had the experience say we can have that same feeling of closeness and acceptance by God here and now by seeking to know and do His will.  We don’t have to wait until we die or have a near-death experience.  And, it is not a matter of doing something to get God to love us more.  He already loves us to the max.  It is more a matter of our opening up to receive that love.  Reaching out and helping others and humbling ourselves before God are ways to prepare our hearts to receive the love He is constantly pouring out upon us.

When we admit we are a basket case and totally hopeless without Him, Jesus comes swooping in and restores us to a right relationship with Himself.  From that point we can begin to seek him with our whole hearts.  As long as we keep our eyes on Him and what He did for us, we can soar with the angels (or walk on water, as Peter did).  But the moment we doubt and let sin enter in, we begin to sink and must call out to God (Jesus) to save us again.  And He does, again and again and again…


Eben Alexander, MD, Proof of Heaven:

Crystal McVea, Chasing Heaven:

Crystal McVea, Waking up in Heaven:

Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back:



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