Hereafter - Are We All Going There?

Halloween is upon us.  You'll be hard pressed to find the proper meaning of this word, but it literally means "Holy Eve."

Even in pagan origin there was a respectful, "pre-Christian" understanding of human nature and relationship with supernatural reality. Yet, for most of the popular culture, this is the season of ghouls, witches, vampires, warlocks... and popular musician/Hollywood personalities.

While I have not yet seen the newly-released, blockbuster film starring Matt Damon (Hereafter - congratulations Matt on baby number four yesterday!), it's sure to provoke conversation, and controversy.  Is there an afterlife? If so, what is it like? Is there criteria? Says who?

Curious about what the new movie may have drudged up on the subject, I Googled "life after death." The search returned "about 234,000,000 results."  And to my surprise, if not shock, standing on top of that massive mountain, was a short, little video-story I produced two years ago (No. 2 on Google, No. 1 on YouTube).

First, some background before the main message.

Two years ago Tim O'Neill (The O'Neill Brothers - sold millions of CDs, Billboard charting music appearing on HBO, ABC, CBS, etc.) and I began a company called Keys2Heaven. The basic vision was to gather people's inspiring stories of faith and produce beautiful, instrumental music based upon the respective story.  The first, 12-track CD, called "Songs of Faith: 12 Songs Inspired by You," was released, and includes some of the most beautiful music you'll ever hear (Go here for a preview). The below video, "Life After Death - AMAZING STORY!", was the first Keys2Heaven story, told by Tami and her surgeon. The longer, 20 minute version is even more amazing-- accessible at

At least one, good critique of this video was allowing Tami's words to stand unqualified: "I know where we're all going... you don't need to worry about that."  In fairness, Tami is challenging our anxieties over daily concerns. Having experienced "the other side," she's inviting us to put our trust in God, to have confidence in a bigger purpose: "Don't live like you're dying, live like you're living."

Beyond Hollywood, the conversation is important.  Is "Hereafter" a guarantee?

If you've been to a funeral lately you get the sense that everyone goes to heaven, that the only criteria is "being good."  It's roughly equivalent to little-league sports where rules and penalties are optional, scores are not kept, and everybody wins. That may feel good, but does it resonate with our experience in every other area of life? Work? Home? World? Clearly, there are defining boundaries and rules, the violation of which has implications.  People get fired. Couples get divorced. Teams lose. People get unhappy. You get the idea.

Similarly, with regard to the hereafter, is there not reasonable basis to consider that there are defining "rules" of the moral life... a "field of play" so to speak, which shape the potentiality of our present and eternal lives?

Even William Nicholson, screenwriter for Gladiator (starring Russell Crowe, directed by Ridley Scott), had Maximus exhort his troops before battle: "What we do in life echoes in eternity." This "pagan" sentiment resonates with the dominant Roman and Greek thought: There is an eternal realm.  We are fashioned with a particular design and purpose. We are given free will to determine either for, or against, that design and purpose.

On this landscape, this playing field, we discover the meaning of heaven and hell. Choosing to live for our design/purpose, which results in harmony, intimacy, union - is heaven.  Choosing to live against our design/purpose, which results in discord, exclusion, alienation - is hell.

Here's the meaning for us today. God doesn't "condemn" anyone to hell.  (Nor do any of us know the state of any other person!) God reveals and lets us decide: "Today I present to you life and death, blessing and a curse, therefore choose life that you might live" (Dt. 30:19).  We choose heaven, or we choose hell! What we do today not only shapes our eternity, it is lived/experienced in the present.  The truth is that many are choosing to live in the shadow of hell right now- not just on the level of some juridical state, but in their experience.

Contrary to popular opinion, God is the opposite of a dictator. He gives us what we love. And what we choose is what we'll live in, forever and ever.

Today one thinks "open minded" is being open to everything. In truth, it practically means being open only to self. In short, it means being closed... to any information, guidance (etc.) beyond one's immediate predilections.  In short, as popularly used, "open minded" is a religion of self. One is worshiping the god they fashion in their own image.  Of course, the supreme contradiction here confronts one willing to look honestly at human experience in every other way. Think all you want about that lump not being cancer, but beyond what you think, there is the truth of the matter.  Self does not determine reality. 

Let's be practical-- move from the proposition that there must be a shape to eternity, to something about the specific nature of that shape. In this regard, Christ proclaims, and human nature validates, that fornication, theft, homosexuality, contraception, divorce, abortion, lying, etc., are not simply some kind of "heaven litmus test list" given by a tyrannical God. These have to do with a choice against our nature/purpose... not as we would have it, but as we are.  They result in discord, exclusion, alienation. Invariably, beyond religion and faith, they reveal that we really can't break "the law," we can only break ourselves against the law.

And here's a truth that needs to be shouted: One's desire is not the norm for who they are, or what they are created to do.  There's not a human being on this planet who doesn't recognize the need to curb an innate desire or appetite, to conform to a greater good.  Does that make us slaves? No! That makes us free-- in the fullest, richest, truest sense.  Morality has to do with our happiness and fulfillment. Moral freedom is not defined as what one is able to do, it is defined as what one should do... in accord with their nature. Such freedom entails "ennobling limitation" - the very kind that shapes (defines) a song, art, words, values; freedom is not about being open to everything, it's about devoting ourselves to the tremendously valuable something

While many fashion themselves as "individuals," isn't it uncanny that so many such "individuals" look, dress, speak, act (etc.) the same?  In the end, we're all taking cues about who we are from something beyond us. We're all looking for guides. Billions are spent by the advertising industry on this conviction.

Ask yourself the questions- what guide are you following? Who's written it? Where is it leading?  For many, the answer can be traced to Hollywood.  So looking at the lives of the Hollywood pipers for direction, ask yourself, is that the life you want? Is that where you want to go? They statistically rank among the most depressed, addicted, abusing, divorced, suicidal, broken.  And we want to follow that script?

At the end of the day, we're all broken. We're all far from the mark.  We've all eaten of the shiny Apple, and forgotten who we are, and how we work.  Just as one might look to a manual to discover what a particular device is, how it works,  so we need to turn to the Manual, to the Designer of who we are. We need to look beyond ourselves. We need to question our wiring.

Our Designer is Love. We are the fabric of His Love. God-who-is-Love is our nature, and Love is what we are suppose to do.  In our amnesia, He gave us His Son, to reveal who we are.  And in Him we discover a life not open to everything, but a magnificent discovery of a defined something-- for us to either accept or reject.

And here we find that the heart of ritual is relationship; the heart of ethics is intimacy.  God fashioned us for Himself. And yes, He revealed the contours of that relationship (as any song, or piece of art, etc.).  We will not be truly happy, on earth or in heaven, if we do not turn to Him... seek Him, not simply in matters-religious, but in the relationship.  In Him, in His Spirit, we discover our incompleteness completed.  Guided by His hand we can have a tangible, living, breathing confidence of a continued intimacy "on earth as it is in heaven."

Today let's make the decision. Let's humble ourselves and look to Him.  Let's go there together.

We all fall short. That's where we need a Savior... where He enters. Let's be in prayerful communion with one another in striving for it.

Please join us for our next Catholic Men's and Women's Gathering.

God bless you and your family this day.

Greg Schlueter

My Simple Birthday Request...

The Short: We want to pray for your intentions - every night as a family. Please post them at Facebook Prayer Place (Sponsored by

The Longer: Really-- don't we share the same doubts? Our world offers us so much control, but what real control do we have? We believe in God, but don't we often question whether He's really listening? Perhaps we don't even try to pray anymore. Been there, done that... no effect... why bother? So we go back to practical non-belief, or deism (God is up there... wound up the clock... lets it do its own thing... doesn't much care for us down here).

In my heart of hearts, I believe God WANTS to make His presence known, but we're just too impatient, preoccupied, "in control" to want to give Him the opportunity. I'm speaking of myself here.

Ok... so... with all that in mind, on Monday of this week (October 4, 2010), in my personal FB post I asked friends to post their prayer intentions-- said as a family we were going to offer them up every night through my birthday (yesterday, October 6). We did. Little kid prayers are powerful. Only last night I didn't want to turn the computer back on for recall. Wouldn't you know, my kids remembered EVERY intention over the few days? "Hey Dad... the Mom whose son is struggling with drugs?" "And little Henry... remember... the antibiotics aren't working?"

It was the best birthday present I could ask for. It both inspired creation of the "Facebook Prayer Place," and our family's commitment to (trying to) do this every night... it's been a blessing to our family... WE'RE being impacted... beyond words I can express here. As parents we're giving them the gift of faith-- to see beyond the controlling world. We're connecting to that Someone beyond our control, who fashioned us, loves us, desires more than simply communicating WITH us, but desires to commune IN us.

Beyond the benefit of God's presence to OTHERS, consider what praying as a family will do for YOU. I'm inviting you to take the small step... carve out a "sacred space" (and time) beyond the fast-paced, controlling world.... Beyond memorized prayer, keep it real: "Hey kids... there are people with real needs... God wants us to ask Him for things... will you join me in asking Him?" Sure, they may think you're a freak... but keep it real... that sincerity will open doors to places you want them to go as a parent, in this world and the next.

Bottom line, we just want to pray for your intentions. Please take one moment and post "that need" for yourself or others on this "Facebook Prayer Place" page... I want to invite you to open the door again. God is listening. We just have to keep praying with expectant faith. And when there are any updates, please post those also....

Post. Believe. Trust.

May God... who is very real... bless you this day.

Greg and Stephanie Schlueter

The "Cover Girl Culture" Controversy

Ok, so my Facebook posts tend to range from fun family stories, to something provocative, meant to tap a nerve, shake things up. My latest post derives from the fact that my 43rd birthday is next week.  The grays are coming in. I'm not as able to leap a capital T with a single bound. A few weeks ago my back went into apoplexy just by trying to serve a tennis ball (never mind the fact that my competitor, my 70 year old Dad, consistently beats me).  Anyway, given the ingrained, cultural fear, if not indignation of "matters-aging," I can be playfully instigating about it all. So my recent post was simply:

"Steph and I were talking today... sharing our admiration for women in particular who let their hair go natural. It's one of those ways one declares to the world whom their (hair) Designer is.  No judgement here for those who modify, but just admiration for those who don't (literally) buy it..."

Within a few, short hours... a good number of comments and "likes," all from women, affirmed this culturally unorthodox view.  They shared concern with the pressures felt in this culture. One, however, did take offense, essentially challenging the point that what one does with one's hair does not make them any less of a Catholic/Christian.  Point well taken.

My follow up:

"Clearly, everyone here recognizes the 'courage' it takes to go au-naturale. Bottom line-- agree or disagree, it's worth raising the question - the degree to which one should allow a multi-billion dollar industry to 'fashion' (pun intended!) one's image/look... that goes for all of us... clothes, hair, styles.... For my part, I'm affirming the God-created beauty of women... against the predominant 'Cover Girl' pressures of this culture...."

Another of the women then commented:

"Greg, I totally understand the 'unconditional' love between mates. We love the aging process as it appears. But, ask Steph how she feels when she gets a new haircut or a 'Mary Kay' under eye concealer or a little blush, or a cute new dress to wear to church, etc. It's not vanity at all. It's just a woman thing... it gives us self-confidence and 'that' enhances the beauty within for our Lord. I hope you compute what I'm trying to say!... "ME" thinks 20 years from now you'll have a different opinion! luvnprayers..."

Before sharing my reply, for those who perhaps can't read between the lines up to this point-- let me note, emphatically, that I am not trying to advance some kind of controlling, fundamentalist, "cosmetic litmus test" for Christianity. That would be grossly presumptuous.  Rather, I am wanting to raise a point that often evades our consideration, but has important implications.  It matters not so much what one does cosmetically (etc.), so much as that they have both (1) a firm grasp of their truly beautiful, unsurpassable value/image in God, AND (2) that we are mindful of the real "image pressures" imposed upon us by culture, and the potential effects on the soul.

So my comment:

"You must know, sometimes I just like to shake things up and make people think. There are important implications here for one's self-image/worth. There's a call for balance in all this of course, yet I'm suggesting the cosmotized image is in no need of advocacy... it's assumed, lived, breathed, unquestioned; the corrective does.

"As a marketing professional, who also happens to be tuned into culture from a faith-perspective-- I'm struck by the fact that there is an understanding among industry professionals, particularly where it concerns women, that if they can associate an image with their products... engender insecurity - they create 'product need,' they'll be able to make millions... the cost to women's REAL self-worth and value where it really matters (their core/ spiritual identity) is, in my opinion, catastrophic.

"On a personal level-- along with the other boys/men of my generation, I inherited a pronounced 'Cover Girl' vision/image of what type of women are attractive. There's a book in the making here. From high school through college I dated many women who more-or-less fit this physical profile. While all of them had a faith dimension, my point is that (my) vision/image was crippled by being overly influenced by 'Cover Girl' professionals, and I note almost all of those women suffered from the pressures associated with that image... put them at a real distance from themselves, and others... constantly struggling for a self-purpose/realization they could not find in any amount of cosmetics, or clothes. 

"Seriously, think of the cultural/industry-appointed 'beautiful women.' Out of the spotlight (where it really matters), do these ladies ever really 'arrive' at the point of peace about their beauty? When?  For how long? And what is it dependent upon? We all know the answer.  And yet we're 'made' to chase that standard, to allow it to order our inner lives... why?

"Look around. Magazines. Television. The lived-culture of younger girls and women. Ask psychologists. Tell me we don't see an entire culture under the spell of big-industry.  They've set the stage, and many are buying the script... to the detriment of their own, inner sense of (true) beauty and value.  If we're honest, we're all fighting the battle in varying degrees. The search for real value, real beauty, has to be anchored in truth... in God's design. We're all getting older. Is that standard really worth chasing? How much is lost in the chase? Doesn't all this real experience punctuate that enduring self-value (and real worth!) is more than skin-deep... and shine a bright spotlight on the (false) inadequacy many women (and men) are made to feel? 

"So, I knew something was out of kilter, but didn't quite know what. Through a season of intent prayer, reflection, growth, while discerning priesthood in seminary, I experienced transformation... stripped of false conceptions so to speak, which was precisely the basis that I found, and fell in love with, my wife... in whom I discovered (and am continuing to discover) the real meaning of 'In His Image'... a priceless gift from God... way off the pages of Cover Girl society... with a beauty I think is truly physical, but transcending... connected at such a deeper level.  (By the way, for me as a man this has involved coming to embrace, celebrate in fact, God's less than 'buff' design of me!).

"Keeping it all simple- as a father of daughters, I need them to know the culture inundates them with a very false sense of their value and purpose... engenders insecurity... spins many women around their finger, none of whom are any more fulfilled, any more peaceful about who they are as a result of embracing their manufactured image; their REAL image - in God - can not be surpassed or improved upon!

"I have to believe if most women (and men) were honest, they would acknowledge, and resent this pressure. It's incumbent upon Christians to see it for what it is... and take it head on... seek transformation of vision: 'Open the eyes of my heart Lord....'"

[After writing this, I discovered an award-winning documentary on the subject that dramatically showcases the reality of many of these points. It's called "Cover Girl Culture" ( Below is a trailer. Please note-- no nudity, but there are provocative images that make the point].
We all fall short. That's where we need a Savior... where He enters. Let's be in prayerful communion with one another in striving for it.

Please join us for our next Catholic Men's and Women's Gathering.

God bless you and your family this day.

Greg Schlueter