My Idea of Heaven

Today, a friend said to me, “I notice in Cemetery Tours, you fall short of describing what Heaven is like.  Have you ever written down what it might be like?” And I realized, no, I haven’t.

Have I thought about it?  Of course.  I think that anyone who has ever lost someone close to them has wondered where they are.  Or perhaps wondered where, as mortal beings, we’re all going after we die.  I know some believe that there is no after.  We die, that’s it.  We cease to exist.  But I don’t believe that.  I can’t believe that.  If that’s the case, then what’s the point of anything?

Seriously, have you ever thought about how the human body works?  Heck, how life itself works?  The fact that our bodies work at all is a miracle.  Life is too brilliantly designed to end with death.

That leads me to my idea of Heaven.  I’m not sure I can tell you what I think it will look like or how you get there.  I’ve read multiple accounts of Near Death Experiences, including 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon.  I notice that with all of these accounts, however, the description of Heaven itself isn’t as visual as it is experienced.  Instead of a physical description, all these authors describe a feeling of warmth, love, and exceptional joy and happiness.  They know that they are in the presence of their loved ones who had gone before them and in the presence of God.  It’s a very comforting thought.

Whenever I personally think about Heaven, I think first about the people (and animals) I will get to see.  I’ll get to see my Mimi again.  I’ll get to finally meet my grandfather, Jack, for whom I am named.  I’ll get to hold all my kitties again.  I’ll get to ask all the questions that I’ve carried with me throughout my life.  I’m really hoping I’ll get to meet Shakespeare and John Lennon and Steve Irwin and Walt Disney.  I’ll probably be just as much of a fangirl in Heaven as I am here on Earth.

As for what Heaven looks like, I’ve always kind of had the idea that it will look like Earth as it was intended at the dawn of Creation.  Perfect nature: crystal blue oceans, towering mountains, vast, endless forests.   When I was in college, I took a philosophy class.  For the life of me, I can’t remember who the philosopher was, but he said something along the lines of how he felt closer to God amidst the trees and nature.  Nature is a tabernacle hand-crafted by God.  It’s His own temple.  That really resonated with me, so I imagine that, just as we are crafted in His own image, our Earth was crafted in Heaven’s image.

As for the experience, I imagine Heaven will be awesome.  I fully intend to swim with killer whales all day long without having to take a breath.  I imagine I’ll be able to run freely as fast as I can without having to worry about time or place.  I’m really hoping I’ll be able to fly, or at least glide from one place to another.  I’ve always been told that Heaven is a place of perfect happiness.  That leads me to believe that Heaven will be what we want it to be.  It also means that there will be animals.  I’ve been told far too many times in my life that Heaven is not a place for animals.  I can’t even begin to fathom a place of eternal happiness without them.  They’re God’s creatures, and the only ones who exhibit unconditional love.  How could they not be welcomed into Paradise?

So, there you have it.  My idea of Heaven.  I’m very happy here on Earth and I hope I get to stay here for a while, at least another fifty or sixty years, but I do believe that Heaven is waiting, and that it’s going to be amazing.

New Beginnings

This was a busy, busy weekend.  It actually started Friday afternoon when my mom and took my baby kitty Midnight to the vet for her check-up.  Midnight does not like the vet.  At all.  She’s very vocal about this.  Thankfully, after her check-up, the vet gave her a clean bill of health, except for her heart murmur for which she is being treated.  So yay! I have a healthy kitty!  And she even seems to have forgiven me for manhandling her and taking her to the doctor.

Saturday was a big day, not really for me personally, but for my church.  I’ve touched on my faith here in this blog on occasion, but since this is a blog intended mostly for updates on my work as an author, I don’t delve into personal topics very often.  My relationship with God falls under that category.

I’ve been a member of my church since before I was born.  My grandparents were founding members and my mom has been a member there all her life.  As it turns out, my mom is even BFFs with the Bishop of our Diocese (who also bought a copy of my book… Oh Lord…).  I could probably write a book just about growing up in that church, the people I’ve met, and the adventures I’ve had as a result.  However, the book would also include some less pleasant stuff, stuff that I really don’t want to go into for the sake of my church and the people it involved.  If they read this blog, I’m sure they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Hopefully, they don’t.  It was nothing illegal or taboo or anything.  But it was hurtful.  And it was wrong.

The incident that I’m talking about ignited a part of me that, honestly, I wish didn’t exist.  It’s the part of me that holds grudges and doesn’t forgive easily.  It also marked the beginning of a time when, honestly, I did not feel all that welcome in the church.  I still went, but the atmosphere there changed.  I no longer felt God’s presence.  It all seemed a show.  I’m glad I had my camp in the summers, because I felt closer to God there than I have anywhere else on Earth, except perhaps Scotland.

I could ramble on about this forever. The point is, our church went through a phase where I was not proud to be a member.  However, on Saturday, we welcomed our new Rector, and let me tell you, this guy is the real deal.  I don’t know him very well, but just from having heard him speak, I know he’s going to do good things for our church.  The energy he exudes and the energy he ignites in the congregation is extraordinary.  Once again, I’m feeling hope and excitement and joy inside our church.  I feel God’s presence there again.  I’m so thankful to have our new Rector and to see our church revitalized.  I think he’s going to do amazing things, and I hope he inspires our church to do amazing things as well.

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That night, I went and hung out with my dear friend and editor Kit Kat and her new boyfriend and some of his friends.  We played Cards Against Humanity (always a fun time) and then we built a campfire and sat around and drank hot chocolate.  It was lovely.

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And of course, all the while, I’ve been hard at work on my #NaNoWriMo project.  I’m still working on Cemetery Tours 3 also, which I think is going well.  My primary reader AKA my sister seems to be liking it, but she’s really liking the NaNo project.  I don’t know.  I might just have to publish it under my real name.  And why not?  I’m kind of proud of it.  It’s fun.  It’s SO different from Cemetery Tours but you know what? That’s not a bad thing.  I’m proud of both of them.  I think they’re both pretty awesome.  I should, I’m the author, but still!

I’m sure I’ll do a more in-depth update on NaNo later on this week.  For now, have a pleasant Monday!  And sound off in the comments section how your NaNo project is going!

Museums, Water, and the Trinity

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I hope everyone had a wonderful day with their dads.  Dads, I hope you had a wonderful day with your children.  My family celebrated with a day at a museum and barbecue.  It was great.

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In the Episcopal Church, however, yesterday was also Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentacost.  It was the day we celebrated God the Almighty, Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my faith.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I just answer to the best of my ability, based on what I know of God and the Bible, and my own personal beliefs.  One question that has always stood out to me, and that has been asked repeatedly, is this: How do you explain a God who is Three in One?  How can God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all be one in the same Being?  To be honest, I never really knew how to answer it.  I always chalked it up to faith.  It’s just what we believe.

Then I spent three summers working as a summer camp counselor at Camp All Saints up at Lake Texoma.  I talk about my time at camp a lot, because they were three of the best summers of my life and I’m still in touch with several of my friends and coworkers.  One of the best things about camp, to me, was the opportunity to spend time in nature and to learn from new friends and advisors even more about my faith.  Furthermore, I felt a connection to God that I’d never experienced before.

One night, after the kids were all asleep, a group of us sat around on one of the porches and just talked.  About everything.  Well, to be fair, it wasn’t all that deep.  It started out with the guys teaching the girls to spit Sonic ice like real men.  As night fell, however, our discussion turned to God, to science, to the universe, to what it all meant, everything.  It was the most open and raw discussion I’ve ever had in my life, and I loved every minute of it.

Being there with friends, at the lake, really inspired my relationship with God, and the Trinity.  I’m not sure what it was, but that night, I finally figured out how to answer that question, the one about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It’s difficult to believe in anything that you can’t see or touch or hear.  It’s even more difficult given the idea that we’re supposed to believe that this all powerful being exists as one being, yet as three.  Until, that is, you think about water.

Trust me, I know it sounds cliche.  After all, water is an important element in Christianity.  We’re baptized in water.  Water bled out of Jesus’ side after He was pierced.  His first miracle was an act of turning water into wine.

Water is everywhere.  Just like God.  And just like God, water is one element, yet it exists in three forms: liquid, solid, and vapor.

The liquid form of water represents God the Father.  Water makes life, just like God makes life.  Our bodies are made of water, just as our bodies are made of God.  Water is the most powerful force on Earth, more powerful even than fire, and yet life cannot endure or exist without it.  Water is the base of all creation and existence.  Just like God.

The solid form of water, ice, represents God the Son.  Jesus, who became man and walked among us.  Jesus is the God, who humans were able to see and to hear and to feel.  Just like we are capable of holding a piece of ice in our hands, Jesus is the living and breathing form of God.  Ice is still water, Jesus is still God.

Finally, the vapor form of water represents God the Holy Spirit.  Water vapor is less seen, than it is felt.  Vapor is mist, it moves with the wind, and it travels far and vast in the form of clouds.  Just like the Holy Spirit, who moves unseen, and yet felt, through hearts and minds and actions.  Water in a different form, but still water.  God in a different form, but still God.

I’ve never been very good at conclusions, so I’ll leave you with my favorite Psalm.

“Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord; You who stand by night in the House of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord;  The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.”