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That is why we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" Hebrews 13:6
The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) holds annual statewide conferences. In January 1989, they chose the north shore of Lake Livingston where the Union Baptist Association, composed of all Baptist churches in the greater Houston area, operates a large conference center called Trinity Pines. The conference focused on church growth, and I went because I was seriously considering starting a new church.
The conference started on Monday and was scheduled to end with lunch on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, I joined a BGCT executive and friend named J. V. Thomas for a long walk. J. V. had become a walker after his heart attack, so we exercised together the last night of the conference.
Months earlier, I had begun thinking that it was time for me to start a new congregation. Before embarking on such a venture, I wanted as much information as I could get. I knew that J. V. had as much experience and knowledge about new church development as anyone in the BGCT. Because he had started many successful churches in the state, most of us recognized him as the expert. As we walked together that night, we talked about my starting a new church, when to do it, and where to plant it. I wanted to know the hardships as well as the pitfalls to avoid. He answered my seemingly endless questions and raised issues I hadn't thought about.
We walked and talked for about an hour. Despite the cold, rainy weather, we had a wonderful time together. J. V. remembers that time well.
So do I, but for a different reason: It would be the last time I would ever walk normally.
* * *
On Wednesday morning the weather worsened. A steady rain fell. Had the temperature been only a few degrees colder, we couldn't have traveled, because everything would have been frozen.
The morning meetings started on time. The final speaker did something Baptist preachers almost never do-he finished early. Instead of lunch, the staff at Trinity Pines served us brunch at about ten thirty. I had packed the night before, so everything was stowed in my red 1986 Ford Escort.
As soon as we finished brunch, I said good-bye to all my friends and got into my car to drive back to the church where I was on staff, South Park Baptist Church in Alvin, a Houston bedroom community.
When I started the engine, I remembered that only three weeks earlier I had received a traffic ticket for not wearing a seat belt. I had been on my way to preach for a pastor friend who was going to have throat surgery. A Texas trooper had caught me. That ticket still lay on the passenger seat, reminding me to pay it as soon as I returned to Alvin. Until I received the ticket, I had not usually worn a seat belt, but after that I changed my ways.
When I looked at that ticket I thought, I don't want to be stopped again. So I carefully fastened my seat belt. That small act would be a crucial decision.
There were two ways to get back to Houston and on to Alvin. As soon as I reached the gates of Trinity Pines, I had to choose either to drive through Livingston and down Highway 59 or to head west to Huntsville and hit I-45, often called the Gulf Freeway. Each choice is probably about the same distance. Every other time to and from Trinity Pines I had driven Highway 59. That morning I decided to take the Gulf Freeway.
I was relieved that we had been able to leave early. It was only a few minutes after 11:00, so I could get back to the church by 2:00. The senior minister had led a group to the Holy Land and left me responsible for our midweek service at South Park Church. He had also asked me to preach for the next two Sundays. That night was a prayer meeting, which required little preparation, but I needed to work on my sermon for the following Sunday morning.
Before I left Alvin, I had written a draft for the first sermon titled "I Believe in a Great God." As I drove, I planned to glance over the sermon and evaluate what I had written so far.
Many times since then I've thought about my decision to take the Gulf Freeway. It's amazing how we pay no attention to simple decisions at the time they're made. Yet I would remind myself that even the smallest decisions often hold significant consequences. This was one of those choices.
I pulled out of Trinity Pines, turned right, and headed down Texas Highway 19. That would take me to Huntsville and intersect with I-45, leading to Houston. I didn't have to drive far before I reached Lake Livingston, a man-made lake, created by damming the Trinity River. What was once a riverbed is now a large, beautiful lake. Spanning Lake Livingston is a two-lane highway whose roadbed has been built up above the level of the lake. The road has no shoulders, making it extremely narrow. I would have to drive across a long expanse of water on that narrow road until I reached the other side. I had no premonitions about the trip, although I was aware of the road's lack of shoulders.
At the end of the highway across the lake is the original bridge over the Trinity River. Immediately after the bridge, the road rises sharply, climbing the bluff above the Trinity's riverbed. This sharp upturn makes visibility a problem for drivers in both directions.
This was my first time to see the bridge, and it looked curiously out of place. I have no idea of the span, but the bridge is quite long. It's an old bridge with a massive, rusty steel super-structure. Other than the immediate road ahead, I could see little, and I certainly didn't glimpse any other traffic. It was a dangerous bridge, and as I would learn later, several accidents had occurred on it. (Although no longer used, the bridge is still there. The state built another one beside it.)
I drove at about fifty miles an hour because it was, for me, uncharted territory. I braced my shoulders against the chill inside the car. The wind made the morning seem even colder than it was. The steady rain had turned into a cloudburst. I would be happy to finally reach Alvin again. About 11:45 A.M., just before I cleared the east end of the bridge, an eighteen-wheeler driven by an inmate, a trustee at the Texas Department of Corrections, weaved across the center line and hit my car head-on. The truck sandwiched my small car between the bridge railing and the driver's side of the truck. All those wheels went right on top of my car and smashed it.
I remember parts of the accident, but most of my information came from the accident report and people at the scene.
From the description I've received from witnesses, the truck then veered off to the other side of the narrow bridge and side-swiped two other cars. They were in front of the truck and had already passed me going in the opposite direction. The police record says that the truck was driving fast-at least sixty miles an hour-when it struck my car. The inexperienced driver finally brought the truck to a stop almost at the end of the bridge.
A young Vietnamese man was in one vehicle that was hit, and an elderly Caucasian man was in the other. Although shaken up, both drivers suffered only minor cuts and bruises. They refused help, so the paramedics transported neither man to the hospital.
Because of the truck's speed, the accident report states that the impact was about 110 miles an hour. That is, the truck struck me while going sixty miles an hour, and I was carefully cruising along at fifty. The inmate received a citation for failure to control his vehicle and speeding. Information later came out that the inmate wasn't licensed to drive the truck. At the prison, supervisors had asked for volunteers to drive their truck to pick up food items and bring them back. Because he was the only volunteer, they let him drive their supply truck. Two guards followed close behind him in another state-owned pickup.
After the accident, the truck driver didn't have a scratch on him. The prison truck received little damage. However, the heavy vehicle had crushed my Ford and pushed it from the narrow road. Only the bridge railing stopped my car from going into the lake.
According to those who were at the scene, the guards called for medical backup from the prison, and they arrived a few minutes later. Someone examined me, found no pulse, and declared that I had been killed instantly.
I have no recollection of the impact or anything that happened afterward.
In one powerful, overwhelming second, I died.
He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Genesis 28:17
When I died, I didn't flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or of coming back. I never felt my body being transported into the light. I heard no voices calling to me or anything else. Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension or description. Only that.
In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.
* * *
Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn't matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn't see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they, surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural.
They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God. Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven's gate, waiting for me.
The first person I recognized was Joe Kulbeth, my grandfather. He looked exactly as I remembered him, with his shock of white hair and what I called a big banana nose. He stopped momentarily and stood in front of me. A grin covered his face. I may have called his name, but I'm not sure.
"Donnie!" (That's what my grandfather always called me.) His eyes lit up, and he held out his arms as he took the last steps toward me. He embraced me, holding me tightly. He was once again the robust, strong grandfather I had remembered as a child.
I'd been with him when he suffered a heart attack at home and had ridden with him in the ambulance. I had been standing just outside the emergency room at the hospital when the doctor walked out and faced me. He shook his head and said softly, "We did everything we could."
My grandfather released me, and as I stared into his face, an ecstatic bliss overwhelmed me. I didn't think about his heart attack or his death, because I couldn't get past the joy of our reunion. How either of us reached heaven seemed irrelevant.
I have no idea why my grandfather was the first person I saw. Perhaps it had something to do with my being there when he died. He wasn't one of the great spiritual guides of my life, although he certainly influenced me positively in that way.
After being hugged by my grandfather, I don't remember who was second or third. The crowd surrounded me. Some bugged me and a few kissed my check, while others pumped my hand. Never had I felt more loved.
One person in that greeting committee was Mike Wood, my childhood friend. Mike was special because he invited me to Sunday school and was influential in my becoming a Christian. Mike was the most devoted young Christian I knew. He was also a popular kid and had lettered four years in football, basketball, and track and field, an amazing feat. He also became a hero to me, because he lived the Christian lifestyle he often talked about. After high school, Mike received a full scholarship to Louisiana State University. When he was nineteen, Mike was killed in a car wreck. It broke my heart when I heard about his death, and it took me a long time to get over it. His death was the biggest shock and most painful experience I'd had up to that time in my life.
When I attended his funeral, I wondered if I would ever stop crying. I couldn't understand why God had taken such a dedicated disciple. Through the years since then, I had never been able to forget the pain and sense of loss. Not that I thought of him all the time, but when I did, sadness came over me.
Now I saw Mike in heaven. As he slipped his arm around my shoulder, my pain and grief vanished. Never had I seen Mike smile so brightly. I still didn't know why, but the joyousness of the place wiped away any questions. Everything felt blissful. Perfect.
More and more people reached for me and called me by name. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who had come to welcome me to heaven. There were so many of them, and I had never imagined anyone being as happy as they all were. Their faces radiated a serenity I had never seen on earth. All were full of life and expressed radiant joy.
Time had no meaning. However, for clarity, I'll relate this experience in terms that refer to time.
I saw my great-grandfather, heard his voice, and felt his embrace as he told me how excited he was that I had come to join them. I saw Barry Wilson, who had been my classmate in high school but later drowned in a lake. Barry hugged me, and his smile radiated a happiness I didn't know was possible. He and everyone that followed praised God and told me how excited they were to see me and to welcome me to heaven and to the fellowship they enjoyed.
Just then, I spotted two teachers who had loved me and often talked to me about Jesus Christ. As I walked among them, I became aware of the wide variety of ages-old and young and every age in-between. Many of them hadn't known each other on earth, but each had influenced my life in some way. Even though they hadn't met on earth, they seemed to know each other now.
As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have to use earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn't tire of it.
My father is one of eleven children. Some of his brothers and sisters had as many as thirteen children. When I was a kid, our family reunions were so huge we rented an entire city park in Monticello, Arkansas. We Pipers are affectionate, with a lot of hugging and kissing whenever we come together. None of those earthly family reunions, however, prepared me for the sublime gathering of saints I experienced at the gates of heaven.
Those who had gathered at Monticello were some of the same people waiting for me at the gates of heaven. Heaven was many things, but without a doubt, it was the greatest family reunion of all.
Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven's light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen.
With all the heightened awareness of my senses, I felt as if I had never seen, heard, or felt anything so real before. I don't recall that I tasted anything, yet I knew that if I had, that too would have been more glorious than anything I had eaten or drunk on earth. The best way I can explain it is to say that I felt as if I were in another dimension. Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. I stood speechless in front of the crowd of loved ones, still trying to take in everything. Over and over I heard how overjoyed they were to see me and how excited they were to have me among them. I'm not sure if they actually said the words or not, but I knew they had been waiting and expecting me, yet I also knew that in heaven there is no sense of time passing.
Excerpted from 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN by DON PIPER CECIL MURPHEY Copyright © 2004 by Don Piper.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|2.||My Time in Heaven||21|
|4.||From Heaven to Earth||37|
|5.||Earth to Hospital||45|
|6.||The Recovery Begins||55|
|7.||Decisions and Challenges||65|
|8.||Pain and Adjustments||75|
|11.||Back to Church||109|
|13.||The Clasping Hand||133|
|14.||The New Normal||137|
|17.||Longing for Home||193|
|18.||The Why Questions||199|
Posted July 22, 2008
The book states in the beginning that this is his story. It is amazing to read about heaven and then continue to read how he struggled through his recovery, knowing what his after life was going to be. I read the book in 2 days, I couldn't put it down. the book also helped me confirm what heaven is all about.
64 out of 70 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2010
Let's keep this short: if you don't believe in the afterlife, this book will have you thinking; if you do believe in the afterlife, this book will have you rejoicing.
61 out of 70 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2010
The 90 minutes in heaven refers to the length of time he was dead here on Earth. It's obvious that time would go by quickly in heaven, so he didn't have a lot to relay to us. The title of the book is definitely not misleading.
This book is so encouraging. It made me appreciate my life a whole lot more and not take advantage of people or things. Loved it.
35 out of 41 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 21, 2008
The book sounded like a detailed description of a near-death description. The author only touches on this briefly in the very beginning. The rest of the book is endless and repetitive descriptions of his depressing recovering and self-loathing. I stopped reading half-way through when he begins talking about how it is a shame most people will go to hell and not share his experience because they are not southern baptist like himself. First book I have ever chucked in the trash. DO NOT waste your time and money on this book.
27 out of 53 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 15, 2006
A fabulous book and a must-read for anyone who¿s lost a loved one and prays for their salvation and happiness. The story is gripping, and readers will have a hard time putting it down. And even though Piper had an unbelievable experience, he reminds us that he¿s a human being just like you or me¿one who sins, makes mistakes, questions God and simply wants to give up. The story evolves perfectly, concluding with profound insight, hope and promise.
25 out of 26 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2006
I highly recommend the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey. To say that this is a spectacular read would not do this book justice. It is one of great wonder, mixed with a little suspense, and the comfort of hope and peace. For anyone afraid of dying, and particularly what happens afterward, this book is perfect. I would encourage you to read this and be drawn into Don Piper¿s personal account of what happened to him as he vividly describes his life altering experience of dying and coming back to life again. Piper¿s accident was in 1989, and it has taken this long for him to candidly tell the story of being pronounced dead at the scene of his accident, his journey in heaven, and then 90 minutes later being brought back to life again only to struggle in intense pain, and intense emotions of regret and depression. Then finally the humbling revelation that his experience was not all in vain, but one that he could use to benefit and help others, and to glorify God. I started reading this book on a flight from the Midwest to California for a three day business trip, and I could not put it down. By the time I returned home, I had completely read it and was recommending it to others. If you'd like to view an excerpt of Piper¿s interview you can search the web by typing in Don Piper or the title 90 Minutes in Heaven. This awesome book is a collaboration with writer and speaker, Cecil Murphey, who has written and co-authored over 104 books, some of which are being made into movies. Murphey has written with such personalities as Franklin Graham, B.J. Thomas and Shaun Alexander. If I enjoy a particular author, I always try finding more of that author¿s works. I¿m sure there are many readers who do the same, so if you'd like to learn more about Cecil Murphey, or find more books written or co-authored by him simply type his name into your search engine.
21 out of 24 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 13, 2010
I was expecting not to like this book, but ended up finding it to be quite compelling. I especially like that the author did not "sugar-coat" his circumstances. Even though a minister, he admitted when he acted like a an ass, which served to increase the authenticity and believability of his story.
13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2010
The book starts with an terrible accident, then there is a chapter about the pastor's visit to heaven (short but very interesting) and the rest of the book is about his recovery, the acceptance of his new physical limitations and what he learned from God throughout it. It isn't over-the-top preachy. It isn't very long, it only takes a few hours to read.
11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 17, 2009
90 Minutes in Heaven, written by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey is truly an inspirational guide to life. The true story of the death and life of Don Piper is a phenomenal book to live by. Don Piper and Cecil Murphey have written an extraordinary book that not only answers our questions here on Earth about Heaven, but expresses every feeling and obstacle that Don has to overcome. While recovering from the accident in the hospital, ordained minister Don Piper faces many hardships and pain barley tolerable to live with. At times all he wants is to leave his life behind here on Earth, and return back to Heaven. Though, all the troubles he acquires over the time after the accident and his journey to Heaven, he becomes thankful of the little things in life. He lives by faith and God's love, and now explains the wonders of Heaven to all, in his book, written with Cecil Murphey. Don Piper writes about his amazing victories, triumphs, and accomplishments of his life back on Earth, after he ventures to Heaven. Reading his inspiring book obligates me to take of advantage of everything I do have; realizing that when I'm facing a difficult time in life; God is always looking upon us, cradling us in His very hands. Don Piper and Cecil Murphey have proficiently mastered creating an amazing novel that will have you on the edge of your seat as you turn each page.
11 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2011
Posted September 9, 2008
I bought this book with great excitement to understand this man's experience in Heaven. Sadly very little of the book is dedicated to his time there but instead on his recovery and self pity. Wasted Opportunity
8 out of 24 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2006
He talks for a short time about Heaven but then goes on and on about his recovery. Poor him. He seems to be making the point that he was brought back to serve a purpose by helping people. I am sure he has helped others who have been injured in accidents, but his book did not help me. The big message I got from this book is that life is pointless compared to heaven. He even states that. Who could ever be inspired by that! This book brought me down. If you would like to be assured that your loved one is okay and that there is an afterlife but that this life has meaning as well, check out the book: Hello From Heaven. It's based on years of research and seems to be written by someone who desires for people to feel better about their loss and have hope about their own life.
8 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2011
Posted February 22, 2012
If u love this book then you should read the book "Heaven is for real" a true story about a 4 year olds experience of heaven while he was haaving surgery. I love this book and i am 12 years old.
I cant wait to go to heaven
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 27, 2008
Posted October 16, 2007
This was the best book that I have read in a long time. I was unable to put it down cause I was wanting to know what was going to happen next. I would recommend anyone to read this book
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2006
I love this book!!!!!!!!!!! It is really a great book. There is not very many books I read all the way through, but this book I had to read all the way through it is GREAT!!! A MUST READ BOOK!!!!!!!
5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2011
I found the book to be very long and repetitive. It focused more on Don's pain and recovery than his experience in Heaven.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2012