Archive - heaven RSS Feed

No heaven, no hell

image courtesy of

Note: This is not intended to be a biblically accurate account of the existence of heaven or hell. It’s just a story. Or a poem. Or whatever.

Two brothers
Sons of a preacher
raised to believe
there’s more to this life
than time spent on earth

One questioned his faith
cultivated his seeds of doubt
and at times chose paths
unworthy of a preacher’s son

One never wavered
stayed close to home
clung to the safety
of his father’s faith

Both were visited
by an angel
with a message from God
he said,

God knows the number of hairs of your head
and the number of days you have left on this earth.

Both replied,

We know this to be true. The Word of God tells us as much.

The angel then said,

The message God has sent me to deliver is this:
There is nothing else beyond this earth.
No heaven
No hell
The earth you walk upon encompasses both
and you choose which you will inhabit;
which path you choose to journey upon.
When you draw your last breath
your journey will come to an end.
No bright light at the end of a tunnel.
No fiery pit to suffer for all eternity.
There is no eternity
Only now.

The brothers spoke to one another
about this messenger from God
One was relieved
the other angry

I’ve spent my whole life depriving myself
of the things you’ve indulged in.
I’ve missed so many experiences
in lieu of heaven.
Now I am told there is nothing
beyond this world?
I’ve much catching up to do.

And so he did.

The other brother
who had questioned his faith
knew that what his brother had missed out on
didn’t amount to much.
And he heeded the angel’s words
about which path he would choose.
Heaven or Hell was a choice he could make.
He’d glimpsed at Hell.
He decided to give Heaven a shot.

And so he did.

He died to himself
Spent his days serving God by serving others
Not out of obligation
or the promise of Heaven
but out of Love
and he caught glimpses of Heaven
everywhere he looked.

Years later…

The brothers meet again
in a homeless shelter
one serving food
the other being served
and they talked about
the visiting angel

Do you still believe what the angel said?
About no Heaven or Hell?
After death there is nothing?,

asked the homeless brother.

Yes and no,
the other brother replied.
I believe we begin to live eternity here on earth,
but after that visit I began to search the scriptures.
I believe what God’s word says.
Not the angel.
I also believe that you’ve been given a glimpse of Hell
in order to understand the gift of Heaven.
A gift you felt entitled to as a birthright.
I hope you understand now the gift you chose to refuse
and know it is still being offered.

I think I do understand now, brother.
I don’t want to choose Hell anymore.
I choose Life.

Just then the brother felt a weight fall from his shoulder
Both brothers turned towards the sound of shreiking.
The angel who had been watching them all these years
was enraged that Hell would have one less resident.

As he flew away
both brothers remarked
How neither had noticed
the black wings
and singed robes before.

Way over yonder

image courtesy of

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

“And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:1-6 (NASB)

Way Over Yonder

Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter from the hunger and cold
And the sweet tasting good life is easily found
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound

I know when I get there, the first thing I’ll see
Is the sun shinin’ golden, shinin’ right down on me
Then trouble’s gonna lose me, worry, leave me behind
And I’ll stand up proudly in true peace of mind

Talkin’ about, talkin’ about
Way over yonder is the place I have seen
In the garden of wisdom from some long ago dream

And maybe tomorrow, I’ll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in rivers each day
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found

Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound
That’s where I’m bound, talkin’ about, talkin’ about
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. ~ John 14:27 (KJV)

A new take on the mustard seed

mustard seeds image courtesy of

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
~ Matthew 13:31-32

The lesson I’ve always drawn from this parable was that God can do great things even through small things. Whether it be our faith, our ministry, or our testimony. I still think that lesson is a valid one, but it wasn’t until I read Guerrilla Lovers: Changing the World with Revolutionary Compassion by Vince Antonucci that I realized there’s more to the story.

See, I read “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” and mentally stopped there. But Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.” I focused on the smallness of the seed, not the fact that a man planted it in his field. Why is that significant? Vince explains:

Remember, Jesus took center stage with the words, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” One hundred eleven times the Bible records Jesus saying the word kingdom. And now he asks, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?”

A mustard seed.


When a mustard seed grows it becomes a weed. It’s a vine-like weed which will grow and grow and will intertwine with other weeds. And they’ll continue to grow. And then they’ll come into contact with a flower, which will be overtaken by the weeds. Now they’re growing more. Soon they’ll touch a tomato plant, and pretty soon that tomato plant has been overtaken by the weeds.

In fact, Jewish law at the time of Jesus made it illegal to plant mustard seed in a garden. Why was it against the law? Because they knew that it would grow and grow, invade the vegetables and other plants, and eventually take over the garden. If you let mustard in, eventually you’d be left with only mustard. The secret to gardening for the Jewish people of Jesus’s day was: keep the mustard out!

I wonder how people reacted when they heard Jesus compare his kingdom to mustard seed planted in a garden. Did they just look shocked? Are you serious? Don’t you know about mustard? Or did they giggle? This guy is hysterical. I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to say next! Or perhaps they frowned and thought, Jesus, hush. We like you, and if you keep comparing your kingdom to mustard, you’re going to get yourself killed.

Jesus used a notorious, forbidden weed to describe God’s kingdom. He said God’s kingdom is like a man who planted a mustard seed in his garden. But people didn’t plant mustard seed in gardens. It was illegal. If you did, the mustard seed would grow and grow and take over the entire garden.

I’ve tried to think of modern-day equivalents. If Jesus was here today and asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?” what would he say next? What modern-day metaphor would make the same point and have similar shock value?

Maybe: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a vicious computer virus a man sent out in an email from his computer, and it spread and spread and infected more and more computers.”

Or perhaps this: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like AIDS, which infected one person but soon spread and spread and became an epidemic as scores of people received it.”

If we heard that, our heads would spin. We’d say, “What? Are you serious? And the people who heard Jesus back then would have reacted the same way.

So what was Jesus trying to teach us about the kingdom of God?

The Jesus revolution is subtle. It starts small, like a weed in a garden, but it spreads. It reaches out and everything it touches it grabs and pulls in. It spreads one life to another, more and more people getting pulled into it. And the harder you try to get rid of it, the faster it spreads.

I think Jesus is teaching us that the revolution is meant to be viral. It spreads like a disease. It’s a disease you want to catch, but still it spreads like a disease. When you hang out with someone who has the flu, you catch the flu. Jesus is saying the revolution should be sneezable. The revolution should be contagious, and when it comes into an area, it should grow into an epidemic.

But it will only grow into an epidemic if it’s done right. Weeds don’t come in and announce they’re taking over the garden. They don’t invite all the other plants and vegetables to a meeting and ask them if they’d like to be taken over by the weeds. They don’t hand out tracts explaining the benefits of the garden overrun by weeds. They don’t wear weed T-shirts. They don’t put a billboard up for all the vegetation to see: “For the Gardener so loved the garden, he gave his one and only weed.”

No, a weed comes in unannounced, popping up very subtly, and it starts to grow. Then another weed pops up. And if these two weeds meet up, they’ll get enmeshed, and then they’ll intertwine with another weed. Soon they’re pulling in flowers and plants, and eventually the entire garden is taken over by the weeds.

And Jesus teaches us that this is the way of his kingdom. The way his revolution is intended to function, the way it grows best, is not through public meetings, billboards, and TV. No, it’s a love revolution that spreads person to person, one individual to another. And when we try to make it something it’s not, it just won’t work quite right. But when we live it out as it’s supposed to be, watch out.

So what do you think?

Have you ever thought about the the parable of the mustard seed in this way?

Do you think it’s significant that the parable of the weeds immediately precedes this parable in Matthew 13?

The Bench, Part 2 of 2 (by Billy Coffey)

In case you missed Part One of this story, you can find it here: The Bench, Part 1 of 2.

And now for the eagerly awaited conclusion to the story:

I smiled, satisfied that I had answered her questions and fulfilled my duty. I could send her off to her father now and have my bench to myself.

But Jordan wasn’t finished.

“Where are your wings?” she asked.

“In my pocket,” I answered.

“Can I see them?”


“Are Adam and Eve sorry?”

“Yes, and God forgave them.”

“Is Jonah afraid of fish?”

“Not anymore.”

“How old is God?”

“Really, really old.”

“Does He have dreams when He sleeps?”


“Why not?”

“Because God doesn’t sleep.”

“God doesn’t sleep?”


“Not ever?”

“Not ever.”


“Because He’s busy watching over you.”

“Why does He watch over me?”

“Because God loves you and He wants to keep you safe.”

“Then why did He let my mommy die?”

My mouth, open and ready to fire off another automatic answer, suddenly became very dry.


Jordan looked up to me then, her legs still. Tears began to pool in her little eyes. “I said if God loves me and wants to keep me safe, then why did He let my mommy die?”

She sniffled, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue. She swiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks and waited for an answer. I had none. This was not a child’s question. This was an adult question. Serious stuff.

Why? It was a question I still asked myself, and often. A question I still often asked God, too.

Why does the world have to be so bad? Why do the innocent have to suffer? Why must good people have nothing and bad people have everything and why does it have to be that way? And now I could add another to the list: why would God take a mother away from her little girl?

Because bad things happened in this life, and to everyone. That was the easy answer. The world was a hard place. No one lived happily ever after. And no matter how wise we became, we would always leave with more questions than answers.

But how could I tell Jordan that?

My lips moved, but no words came. I knew this was one of those moments in Jordan’s life where she found herself at a fork in the road. One path led to healing. The other led to bitterness. And whatever I said next may well be the very words that pushed down either the one or the other.

I had gotten into this situation out of the goodness of my heart. I had no ill intentions, only concern. But this, this was too much for me. I couldn’t lie anymore. It was time to tell Jordan the truth. I owed her that much.

“Jordan?” I said.

She sniffled and wiped her nose. “What?”

“I’m not an angel.” I spat the words out as quickly as I could and readied myself for what would happen next. Tears, of course. Maybe a tantrum. Both of which would be completely justified.

But there was only silence. Finally, Jordan said, “I thought maybe you weren’t.”

“You did?” I asked.

She pointed to my hat. “Daddy says God hates the Yankees.”

I chuckled. She managed a weak grin, and then her steadfast countenance crumbled in a fit of tears. I wrapped my arms around her and she huddled into the crook of my shoulder and gently rocked her as she sobbed.

We sat for a long while on the bench, our bench, and looked out over the river. The ducks arrived, and we both took turns tossing bits of bread to them as they quacked and fought for each chunk.

I told Jordan that I didn’t know why God took her mother away, but that He must have had a very good reason, because He always does, and one day she would find out. “In the meantime,” I said, “your mom still loves you and she’s in a good place. The best place.”

When all the bread was gone and the ducks had waddled off, Jordan said it was time for her to be going. She thanked me, gave me another hug, and assured me that she felt better. I knew she didn’t. But I also knew that one day she would. I watched her walk toward the bridge that led across the river and to the soccer field and the houses beyond.

“See ya,” she said from the bridge.

“See ya.”

And she was gone.

I remained there for a long while, watching the river flow by. Jordan and I had a lot in common, I decided. Both of us were sitting in a big, dark room full of questions. Right in front of us was a window, and streaming through that window was the light of truth, all the answers to all the questions we could ever ask. But over that window was the shade of time, drawn tight.

As we both grew, learning and living more, that shade would ease up a little here and there and shed some light on the things that bother us so. We both want that shade out of the way. We want to see the whole view from that window, the whole truth. But, you see, if that shade were pulled up all at once, and all the truth shone through in an instant, we would be blinded by the light.

One day, I expect I will see Jordan again. Perhaps along some street paved in gold, beside a crystal sea. She will introduce me to her mother and I will thank her for bringing such a beautiful girl into the world.

And then Jordan and I will sit down on a bench and share all the answers we know, and we will laugh.

To read more from Billy Coffey, please visit him at What I Learned Today

The Bench, Part 1 of 2 (by Billy Coffey)

Billy Coffey submitted this story to me awhile back. While it is longer than a typical blog post, I honestly think it’s one of the best things I’ve read from him – and I’ve read quite a bit – an entire unpublished book, actually. (Jealous much?) Anyway, I decided this was too good to pass up, so I have decided to post the first half of the story today, and the conclusion next Monday.

It was not merely a bench, it was my bench, and someone else was sitting in it. Someone whom I was sure did not appreciate my bench as much as I did, and surely could not. The bench, my bench, was in the park in nearby Waynesboro. It was in a particularly peaceful spot along the banks of the South River, where the water became tired of flowing fast and shallow and decided it would be better to go along slow and deep.

The grove of pines that surrounded my bench offered little in the way of shade but plenty in the way of privacy. It was not a new bench, nor was it particularly well made. The seat held a perpetual dampness due to the rotting wood, and whenever I sat I had to be mindful of the rusty nails that jutted up from the surface. When the city decided to fix up the park a few years ago, my bench was overlooked. No fresh paint, no new nails, no sturdy seat. I supposed they simply forgot it was there. Which to me meant that the bench really was mine, as I was the only one who would have it.

I went to the park that morning a few weeks ago with no serious business to tend to other than to enjoy a respite from the demands of everyday life. I timed my arrival just after the morning joggers had left and just before the lunchtime picnickers arrived. I never liked going to my bench with people around. They might see me and wonder where I was going, and they might get nosy enough to follow. As planned, the parking lot was empty by ten o’clock. Satisfied that no one was about, I grabbed my hat and a loaf of bread for the ducks and started out.

As I neared the grove of pines that hid my bench, however, I thought that perhaps I wasn’t alone at all. Amid the idyllic sounds of crunches and quacks and chirps I heard someone humming from the far side of the trees. I stopped for a moment to listen, then crept forward and peeked through the limbs.That was when I saw that someone was sitting on the bench. My bench.A little girl, blonde haired and skinny. Her feet swung back and forth beneath the rotting wood of the seat in an awkward cadence as she continued to hum an indecipherable tune, pausing only to take a breath to blow bubbles with her gum. I eased away, wondering where her parents were. No one else was around.

I decided that patience would be the best way to handle the situation. I would bypass my bench temporarily, stroll down to the picnic pavilion, and wait for her to leave. No child can sit in one place for more than ten minutes unless it’s in front of a television. So I slung my loaf of bread over my shoulder, took two steps, and landed on a large and noisy twig.

She wheeled around in mid-bubble, her long hair following close behind. Her legs froze in a scissor, and she greeted me with a strange combination of shock and amazement.

Then she smiled. A big, toothy, Christmas morning smile. I smiled back. She raised the fingers of the hand the gripped the back of my bench and waved. I waved.

And then she screamed.“I knew you’d come!” she yelled, her voice cracking with excitement. “I knew it I KNEW it!”

“Pardon me?” I asked.

She turned fully around and raised up on the back of my bench. Her smile grew wider. My eyebrows furrowed more.

“I knew you’d come,” she whispered.

“How did you know I would come?” I asked.

Because,” she announced, as if that one word would make everything clear.

“Because why?” I persisted.

“Because that’s how it works,” she answered, raising the palms of her hands in a how-do-I-know gesture.

“Because that’s how what works?” I asked, thinking that this was beginning to sound a lot like an Abbot and Costello routine.

“Prayin’,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

She took a deep breath and exhaled like a frustrated parent trying to explain the plainly obvious to a child. “Last night I prayed that God would send an angel to me at the park, so I came here to wait.” She paused, then leaned farther over the back of my bench. “You are an angel, right?”

My first reaction was to laugh, and I almost did. But then I saw the expression on her face had turned from joy to disappointment. Something was obviously wrong with this child, and laughing at something she said wouldn’t be very appropriate. Or helpful.

“Does your daddy know you’re here?” I asked.


“Don’t you think he’s worried about you?”

“I told him I was going to a friend’s house,” she answered, slowly chewing her bubblegum. Watermelon, by the smell of it.

“How long have you been sitting here?” I asked.

“All morning,” she said.

“How long were you going to wait?”

“Until you came.” Then, “You are an angel…right?”

I looked around again and still found no one in the park, not even a police officer I could pawn her off on. I gazed into her innocent eyes. They gazed back.

“Of course I’m an angel,” I said.

“I knew it!” she sighed. “I’m sorry I kinda doubted.”

“That’s okay,” I said, moving to my bench and sitting beside her, “I get it all the time. My name’s Billy.”

“I’m Jordan,” she smiled. “Guess you already knew that, huh?”

“Sure,” I answered, though I was beginning to feel as though I had just taken the first steps upon what was surely one of the straightest roads to hell.

“Want some gum?” she asked, holding out a half-chewed package.

“Sure. Thanks.”

“What’s that for?” she pointed.

I looked down to the loaf of bread on my lap. “God wanted me to feed the ducks while I was here,” I said, suddenly very uncomfortable at how well and how easily I could lie.

“Where’d you get it?” she asked.

“I brought it with me.”

“From heaven?”

“Yes.”“You mean,” she said, eyes bulging, “Jesus made that bread?”

I looked down at the bread again. Fittingly, the big red letters spelled out WONDER.

“Absolutely,” I answered.

Jordan began to swing her feet back and forth again, studying me. “Are you sure you’re an angel?”

“You don’t think I am?” I asked.

“No. I mean, yes. I mean, I don’t know.”

We sat in awkward silence for a few moments and watched a family of ducks that waddled nearby. Finally, she asked, “Do you know why I prayed for God to send you down here?”

“Well,” I said, not sure what to say next, “God didn’t get real detailed. He just told me I needed to come see you.”

Jordan gave a satisfied nod, blew another bubble, then asked, “Are angels smart?”

“Sure they are,” I said. Then, catching myself, I added, “We, I mean. Sure we are.”

“So if I asked you some questions, you would know stuff?”

“Shoot,” I said.

Jordan looked down, as if embarrassed by what she was going to say. “Well, I guess I just want to know what heaven’s like.”

The question took me by surprise. Heaven? All I could think of was the streets-of-gold, mansion-in-the-sky description. That may not appeal to a person of her age. But what else could I say? That heaven is where God lives? True, but not very descriptive. That heaven is paradise? That sounded a little better, but what is paradise to a kid?

“It’s sorta like every day is Saturday,” I said.

Jordan offered a small giggle and nodded. “Good,” she answered.

(to be continued next Monday)

Visit Billy at What I Learned Today.

Best Funeral Ever.

Does that sound strange, disrespectful, irreverent? It’s not meant to be. Ask anyone in attendance and I’d be willing to bet that most would agree.

Have you ever laughed out loud at a funeral? Ever applauded wildly? Me neither, until today. But then I have never been to a funeral that was planned right down to the last detail by my friend Pat, who is probably one of the coolest people I’ve ever known.

Briefly, I will tell you that Pat was 71 years young. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true in her case. She loved God and she loved people in big, generous, outrageous ways. I suppose one of the advantages, if you could call it that, of knowing you’re going to die is that you get to say what’s important; what matters. When I visited Pat, we didn’t talk about the weather, we talked about how much we meant to each other. She didn’t spend time mourning a life that she should have lived. She gave specific instructions as to how she wanted her funeral to proceed.

My job was simple. She had asked her kids to each reach a chapter from the Book of Psalms. If they started to falter and couldn’t go on, I was to go up there and finish the reading. It turns out that wasn’t necessary, but I was ready and able if needed.

The place was packed full of people, all of whom loved her. Can I just say that you couldn’t help but love this woman unless your heart is made of stone? Darren Walter (the pastor of Pat’s church – formerly my church) opened the service with a prayer and the usual “survived by” stuff. He’s a great guy and he did a great job. He shared with us that Pat told him, “Well, you’re no Pastor So-and-So , but you’re a good kid.” You never needed to ask Pat what she really thought. That was pretty much whatever came out of her mouth.

Another specific request she made was that the song “Days of Elijah” was to be sung. And it was to be sung by Jeff Hogan. Fortunately, we (C3) have a very good relationship with our old church, so that was not a problem. Jeff and Tamara rocked that song. Then a wonderful retired preacher by the name of Brother Wayne sang “Amazing Grace” in his big, booming beautiful southern gospel voice.

Her children and one of her grandchildren read the scriptures she had requested. Her daughter Cari spoke lovingly about some of the things that made Pat such a wonderful, loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend.

Now for the best part. Cue the video. Pat made a video before she died from her bed. It was classic Pat. She told us how much she loved us, and not to be sad for her. She shared the story of the 3 dreams she had of heaven. Said it was God’s way of putting her at peace. She had absolutely no doubt in her mind that there is a heaven and she would soon be there.

That was the theme for her funeral. That was her dying wish. She wanted everyone within earshot to know that heaven is a real place, and that she fully expected to see all of us there.

I look forward to that day.

At the close of the service, on an unseasonably beautiful day in Katy, Texas, we released 71 white balloons towards heaven.

Spot on perfect funeral.

Dear God:

Dear God:

Thank you for Pat. I suppose we were unlikely friends, what with our differences in age, background, etc. But the Body of Christ is like that, isn’t it? It matters not how vast our differences may be on the surface. When we share a love for Jesus, most things don’t really seem to matter.

Thank you for showing me through Pat that all things can be used for your glory. That something like a loss of a leg because of illness might appear at first to be a curse, then turn out to be an incredible blessing.

Thank you for:

  • her infectious laughter
  • her love of me and my family
  • her cinnamon rolls
  • her gift of gab
  • her generosity and thoughtfulness
  • her creativity
  • her wicked sense of humor
  • her wonderful family that she shared with us all
  • her servants heart
  • her friendship through good times and not so good times

I know that she is with you now. I’m missing her right now, but I know she is dancing with the angels. And probably cracking them up.

Goodbye my friend. Until we meet again. I love you.