My relationship with God is an intimate one. Always has been. The church, the Bible, Ministers, Music, Mentors, and Godly friends were always a blessing; tools; an instrument in my faith, but the core of why I believe in God is due to experience and not what I've been taught. In fact, if I had to rely on anyone or anything but God to believe in Him, I probably wouldn't be a believer. God makes me a believer.
But during this time, while I'm on this "love" journey, on this journey to master love and figure out who GOD really is, I noticed myself shifting a bit in my relationship. I also noticed that some Christians don't SHIFT at all. I bet if you were to ask some family or friends who God is, their reply would involve much of what they've been taught or read in the bible. And I don't know if that's a good enough reason to believe in God. You've got to EXPERIENCE God minus religion and what you've been taught. I was watching the film "Mississippi Burning" the other night and I shook my head as racist whites used the "WORD OF GOD" (Bible) to murder Blacks. So, the Bible can often be used to fit what people want it to fit, but experience is entirely different. If you think about it, even the disciples EXPERIENCED Christ. They didn't just read about Him. And so, I also believe you've got to EXPERIENCE God to confirm what you've read because if you just go by what you've read in the Bible, you'll find some contradictions. You'll struggle with what's literal and what's not especially when considering the 38,000 Christian denominations in the world. But if you deal with EXPERIENCE, no one can take that from you. We can say the Bible has been re-written or tampered with, but no one can take away God speaking to you. You must know God for yourself. Why? Because when you only know God via religion, you're just a Pharisee. Nothing more. You'll know the law; and you'll know scripture; but love won't prevail. And us Christians, who serve God, have to know that GOD IS LOVE. Not religion. But LOVE.
While I'm on this journey, I've learned that as you read the Bible, a book of blessings, promises, and BOOK OF EXPERIENCES shared by prophets and disciples about how awesome God is, you've got to figure out your own experience. What is your contribution to the story? What did God say to you? When did God heal you? When did you fall at God's feet and ask for healing? Was your reputation ever stoned? If God is ALIVE like we say He is, He doesn't want you to finish Him off with the Bible. He wants the experience to continue and not end with the experience of Paul or the experience of David. Is it not possible that God still moves and we don't always have the answers to everything? Does the Bible have God all figured out? It's a dangerous place to be in NOT to explore God and to think you have him all figured out. Having God all figured out means you've got your own throne. And I don't think memorizing scripture makes you are an expert on God. It's might make you an expert on religion; but not an expert on God.
And so moving forward, don't complicate God. Being a Christian means touching God's heart and him touching yours and you don't need theology and religious tradition to do that. P
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I’ve been to heaven. Unlike most of the other stories I’ve heard, mine is not as elaborate, but I have left earth for a few where I was met by angels in 1991. I never shared this story with anyone other than close friends because who would ever believe that I experienced heaven. Plus, again, I couldn’t write a book about it. It was short. Sweet. It was Heaven.
I was born to Sheila and William Kirkland on December 9, 1970 in Paterson, NJ. Both of my parents divorced and I was blessed with two amazing stepparents. One of those parents, Carter Jefferson Jr., was an iconic Jazz saxophonist who played for The Temptations, The Supremes, Little Richard and more. In fact, you might recall that R&B hit "You Are My Starship". But he is known as a Jazz icon. And so, I was raised by two legends really. My father BK, a radio legend, known for exposing Hip Hop to NY’s radio airwaves, via Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. And Carter, my stepfather, where my life sounded like an orchestra and surrounded with Jazz geniuses who never received the respect they deserved, the talented late Phyllis Hyman being one of them.
During one conversation with my stepfather, in approximately 1977 when I was seven years old, I learned something fascina- ting. I was in trouble for my mouth and talking back. Our conversation went as follows as I sat on my parent’s bed –
Carter –What are you going to do when you stand before God?
Me – Tell God how good I am.
Carter – That’s not going to work.
Carter – Because God sees everything you do.
I was startled and a light bulb went off. He went on to tell me God was all around me. From that moment on, my relationship with Christ began. I felt God’s eyes on me. We then became friends and he followed me everywhere. I began talking to God, real conversation, and we were more like play mates when I was a child. I read the bible, but more importantly, we spoke to each other about everything. A neighbor brought me to Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where I immediately knew God was there and I was home. Months later, after the nudging from a friend named Janet, I walked to the front of the altar and told Rev. Napier, I wanted to get baptized. Alone. I understood, my calling early. I attended church alone Sunday after
Sunday pretty much my entire life.
For whatever reason, I chose sin. I knew God, personally, but like many Christians, sin seemed more fun, especially for a teen. While I was always different and pretty much a “good” kid according to worldly standards, I chose what I wanted to follow about Christ. And in 1991, undeservingly, I was brought to heaven.
It’s comforting to me when I hear stories about people who have been to heaven. It lets me know that I’m not alone, especially the stories where people didn’t die such as the encounter in the book “Heaven is For Real.” I didn’t die. I did not ask
to go to heaven. I might have read the Word before going to sleep, and I might have not. That part, I cannot remember. I do not recall feeling sick. I didn’t ask for anything. But somehow I wound up in heaven.
Oddly enough, I was transitioned to heaven as I was sitting in my chair at home. Somehow, I went from a bed, to my green chair. As I sat in the chair, I was raised. Flying. I was flying in a very bright light. So bright, that I imagine if we looked with a human eye it would hurt. Similar, to looking into a light bulb. Extreme light. I then, was in the presence of Angels. There were quite a few and they were very happy. Extremely happy and the joy in heaven cannot be explained on this earth. I’ve tried and I can’t. The angels knew me and they were so happy to see me. And I was just happy period. Extremely. We danced, with joined “hands” (not hands, but I was holding something), going around and around in a circle. The angels I was with did not have
bodies. Yes, they were white, with wings, but I did not see faces. And while they had a form and were touchable, I could if I wanted to it appeared, put my hand right through them if I tried. Another thing that was clear, I was in WORSHIP. I could not stop praising God. I could only continue saying, “Praise God! Praise God! Praise God.” They said nothing, but danced and enjoyed me as I praised God over and over again. We flew around and I was in pure Worship and felt pure Joy and pure love.
I do not remember my actual body, but I recall when I was brought back to the chair, I saw my body and I continued to Praise God! Praise God! Praise God! My hand movements looked like I was doing the wave at a football game and I couldn’t stop worshipping. I BEGGED not to come back to earth. “No!! No!!” I said as I was descending back to earth. Not sobbing, but teary eyed. Very sad and I wasn’t even given the option. I had no desire to come back here to earth. And while in heaven, I also had no clue about earth. Not my relatives. Nothing. I just wanted to stay in heaven and praise God. I never saw Jesus. Not God. I just hung out with a few angels that loved me a lot and was in God’s precence. And we worshiped in bright light. They are very happy up there. Words can’t explain. If you have any relatives up there, trust me, they are ELATED. The way we love here is really nothing. Love there is unexplainable.
When I realized that I had been to heaven, I shared with my mother, hesitantly because while my mother was a Christian, she
didn’t really attend church. But the joy in my heart, had me elated and I said to my mother, “I’m not afraid to die! I went to heaven! I explained.” My mother was in shock and asked that I stop because it was too much. I know she remembers, but I never brought it up again, because well, it was unbelievable and just that good.
My stepfather and I didn’t always get along. Like Bobbi Kristina (Whitney Houston's daughter), my stepfather did drugs and was an alcoholic. While he was loving to me, taught me all I needed to know about music and my relationship with God, like Bobbi I loved a parent who got high and no matter how many times he went to rehab; no matter how many people praised him for his art; he struggled. After years of wear and tear on the body, my stepfather while on tour in Poland, his stomach erupted on stage. On my birthday a few days later, he went to that place I visited called heaven. He was 47 years old. Due to them not embalming him in Poland, I never had the chance to see him again and we received his body back 25 days later where we had his friends, the industry and family celebrate his life with one more concert. Today, it still hurts.
I cannot explain the depth of the pain of not only losing a parent tragically, without warning, but what it’s like to love a parent who is an addict. It’s very complex, but I can say it is possible for that addict to be a good parent and to be loving. Carter was and while he wasn’t perfect, he taught me love and to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, which is why I am sure I had the opportunity to see heaven because of relationship.
I know from visiting heaven, God is not anal. God is quite simple. And all he asks all of us down here is that we humble ourselves and master LOVE. We are so fixated on sin, ugliness, righteousness, that we’re missing God. God doesn't focus on your sin as much as you think he does, that’s why he sent his son. But what he does care about is how big your heart is and that you love like a child loves. He wants you to love BIG and sometimes sin stops you from loving they way we're supposed to. That’s where sin becomes sticky. But I will say never allow the guilt of sin to keep you from having a relationship with Christ. Repent. Do better the next time. Go and love on somebody. And keep it moving.
I decided to share my story on heaven because when I went to heaven I was a sinner. A good one and still can say the same today. In fact, I wasn’t brought back to being in God’s presence until over 15 years later. So, if you don't get anything from my story today, know that Love is your calling, just as it is mine. Master love and don’t give up until you get there. In fact, Carter's last words, I learned years later, was THINK POSITIVE.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)
"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:39-40 KJV)
Check out some of Carter's work below.