Thursday, February 14, 2008

90 Minutes In Heaven by Don Piper

Title: 90 Minutes In Heaven
Author: Don Piper with Cecil Murphey

Type: Non-fiction
Copyright: 2004


As he is driving home from a minister's conference, Baptist minister Don Piper collides with a semi-truck that crosses into his lane. He is pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace. Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery. For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story.

Why: My husband mentioned hearing about this book while listening to Shawn Hannity’s radio program. I immediately picked it up from my local library—in a valiant effort to get him reading, instead of trying to engage me in television when I’M trying to read. When he started reading passages aloud—again, disturbing MY reading—I promised him I would read it when he finished. As long as he stopped reading it aloud to me. So I kept my promise and read the book.

Comments: The author, and subject, of the book is a Baptist preacher. He is in fact injured in an accident just after leaving a Baptist church conference. Raised Baptist, and the granddaughter of a Baptist preacher, every word in this book spoke to a part of me long buried. I’ve been a Christian lost for a very long time now. And despite the difficult times these past two years, I’d yet to successfully reach out, or reach deep, for that faith I knew as a young person. This book changed that.

The premise for the book—Don Piper’s visit to heaven while he lay dead—is addressed in just a few pages. The remainder of the book details Piper’s recovery—it is not a full recovery—and the pain and depression he suffered throughout. That was the first twist. Those 90 minutes in heaven, that experience, was deeply personal for him. So personal that he did not share it with anyone, not even his wife, for nearly two years. It did not transform him into a man driven to the top of the nearest mountain to shout the news. Instead, it tormented him through excruciating pain and uncharacteristic depression. At times, many times in fact, he did not want to live. He wanted to go back, to die again and be called home. Seemingly contrary desires for a man with a wife and children. Reasons to live. Hard-to-reconcile thoughts for a man who chose to live his life in the service of his Lord. Not to question.

Watching a good Christian struggle under the weight of his burdens was enlightening for me. Enlightening because I either expected him to be spared the mental agony via some afterglow of his after-death experience or to suffer so much that he questioned his faith, and a God who would let this happen to him. He was not spared that agony, nor did he question his faith or his trust in God. Ever. What he did do was suffer, lash out and withdraw. When he did resume forward motion in his life, it was without fanfare or noticeable motivation. He was alive, so he had to live. Period. That was the second twist.

Ultimately, this book is more about the recovery and rehabilitation process that follows physical trauma than it is about faith. As such, I’d strongly, strongly recommend it to anyone in that fight for survival. Written from Piper’s POV, the reader learns firsthand—experiences even—the same sense of isolation and weight of depression that Piper endured. His telling is eye-opening and disturbing.

His faith in God underlies his story. It has to because it defines who he is. But for someone looking for a turning point, a moment of revelation, there were none that stood out. Piper’s description of his trip to heaven is certainly awe-inspiring, and comforting to believers—an affirmation. And the power of prayer demonstrated throughout the story was absolutely spine tingling. There were also verses of scripture in several places. Combined, it all served to establish Piper as a man of God. But just a man nonetheless.

Nearly two years after his accident, he shared his story of heaven with one friend. From there, he came to the decision to share that and the more mechanical aspects of his recovery with others. It did not feel like a momentous decision. More like a small step forward, into a future Piper was still ambivalent about. In one very revealing moment, Piper shares how he felt after sharing his story of heaven with an auditorium of college students. At the conclusion of his story, What A Friend We Have In Jesus began playing over the sound system. The song played a pivotal role in his experience and he was a bit taken aback that they played it. It was still difficult for him to hear it. That moment revealed Piper’s tentativeness, that hesitancy that permeates the entire book. The final twist for me.

Piper’s lack of enthusiasm made it all feel very non-descript, almost uneventful. And when he leaves off, he does so in the same manner. Continuing this work purposefully, but without an awe-inspiring drive or goal. In short, Piper is just an ordinary man. Barely walking upright in an earthly life he built. Wife, three children, family, church congregation, friends. Responsibilities, relationships. His life. BUT, all the while, we get the sense he is waiting. Waiting to go home again. It is both joyous and terribly sad.

So what called to me? Can’t put my finger on it. Something in here somewhere penetrated a wall in me and, within days I found a local church that felt like home on the first visit (we visited a few). A few weeks later, I need that weekly visit like I need air. It’s a step.


  1. Wow, sounds powerful. I'm so glad you were ablt to find this and that it touched you in the way that it did.

  2. Thank you Friend.

    Know what's next? Rescuing Sprite. Guaranteed to have me in tears over the lives and deaths of beloved dogs. I will certainly need to shift DH's reading attention to something lighter. *g*

  3. You just never know when a book is going to change your life. I'm so glad this worked for you.

    I'm friends with the wife of a retired priest who has described her dip into death as scent oriented. She said it smelled of things that were special to her. The one that stood out to me was that of wet dogs in front of a fireplace. LOL

  4. It's a good book and Piper should be congratulated for sharing his Near Death Experience. Only readers should be aware of one serious mistake he makes in the book which is to jump from hearing songs praising Jesus and meeting fellow Christians in heaven to religious fundamentalism. Research of Near Death Experiences show that there is no evidence to support that heaven is exclusively for Christians, or a narrow interpretation of the Bible, as experiences of heaven happen in all cultures and religions. Cross cultural studies of Near Death Experiences show that the Golden Rule truly means that we must love our neighbor - even if this person is of another faith - and "hell" is not something we can simply throw around when we disagree with people. If you have not fallen asleep in Christ, or simply use reason as well, and want to know what people who have Near Death Experiences truly experience in Heaven, have a look at my book Behind 90 Minutes in Heaven.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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