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The Immanuel Agenda Scenes 5 thru 9
by douglas batson
01/15/10
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Scene 5

SETTING: 30 minutes later at the same cafeteria lunch table.

AT RISE: Aslan returns from taking lunch trays to the trash cans.

CRAIG
Thank you, Aslan, for clearing the table. Did you enjoy the cafeteria food?

ASLAN
You are welcome. Yes, especially, the pecan pie. It is the only dessert I tasted sweeter than baklava.

BRYCE
Itís Craigís favorite. But he knows better than to eat too much; itís loaded with calories and will rot your teeth out. He wouldnít want that since my sister has fallen for his crocodile smile, thus his nickname. Only Aunt Sueís old Buick has a toothier grin.

CRAIG
Bryce is just jealous he doesnít have a nickname. Now, Patrice, I really want to hear more about how the Spiritual Direction Center would work.

PATRICE
Itís all about the community that comes from living the New Way. Weíll ask the hard questions. For example, are we determined, beneath our moral living, generous giving, and faithful relating, to achieve the Better Life of Godís Blessings? Are we so busy strategizing how to get the things we want in life that we donít weep over the shallow community in our churches?

ASLAN
We desire to build communities that value right relationship with God over improved self-esteem and achievement, to be so salty as to make unbelievers thirsty for Christ.

CRAIG
Bryce, your Aunt Sue would really be interested in this.

BRYCE
Yeah. [pauses] And here comes someone else who would be interested. Do you mind if I ask Mr. Greenhough to join in the discussion? He was one of my seminary professors.
(stands up, shouts, waves)
Mr. Greenhough!

BRYCE
(Edward approaches table)
Mr. Greenhough, Iíd like you to meet Patrice Nuernberger, Aslan, Craig DiFatta, whom you know. We are having a discussion thatÖ

CRAIG
Actually, Iíve never met Mr. Greenhough in person. But, sir,
(shakes hands with Edward)
I want to thank you for counseling with my parents. They are doing much better. Iím home on leave and we are having a great summer.

BRYCE
(astonished)
You two never met? But Mr. Greenhough, [pauses] you told our class about the vision you had in which you saw Linda DiFattaís son in Iraq. And that you expected a phone call from him, and that Craig called you soon afterwards.

CRAIG
A vision about me? Like, thatís just wild! Now, Sir, you just have to sit down and explain this, and also how you knew my nickname was ďthe CrocodileĒ when I called?

EDWARD
Actually, I donít often speak about that dream, because it was rather wild. Maybe it was because I had bumped into your mom at the airport, Craig, and she asked me to pray for you, that I dreamt of you in Iraq, and you used that nickname to introduce yourself. Even more bizarre was that, in this dream, in which God reshaped my spiritual life, Morely Jacobs, a deceased college roommate I had not seen in 25 years, was with me there. AndÖ

ASLAN
(interrupts excitedly)
In your dream, Mr. Morely Jacobs was with you in Iraq? Mr. Morely Jacobs whose hometown is nearby in Summerville?

EDWARD
Yes, thatís the one.

ASLAN
(showing unprecedented emotion)
This is most unexpected and exciting news; I have not known that God also reveals himself in dreams to Western people! What a little, I mean, what a small, small world we live in! For several years Mr. Morely Jacobs was my fatherís, and my, spiritual mentor in Iraq!

Following the first Gulf War, he lived in our village and learned our Kurdish language. He taught my father the Bible one-to-one. My father believed in Christ, setting off a chain-reaction of faith in my family and in others. An underground church was born!

CRAIG
So thatís how you became a Christian! No offense, Aslan, but I couldnít wait to get out of Iraq, and to think that he stayed there for years to disciple Muslim Background Believers. What a guy this Morely Jacobs must have been!

ASLAN
Mr. Morely Jacobs was a marvelous mentor, even taking much time with me as a teenager. For that reason, Patrice sponsored my visit to the U.S. I help her plan how to mentor American believers. She and I registered for the Leadership conference to obtain additional ideas for the Spiritual Direction Center, to be called Jacobs Junction.

BRYCE
Jacobís Junction? From Genesis 28, no doubt, a junction between heaven and earth. Has the conference been helpful to you?

PATRICE
It has been helpful by confirming how little of Jesus we experience when we think more about getting our desires met than about meeting Him. Sadly, most Christians relate to Jesus as a Savior from pain rather than as a Savior from sin. Our problem is unbelief in Godís ďImmanuel Agenda:Ē His passion to gather His own at His dinner table and each of us just thrilled to be there.

CRAIG
Thatís just how I felt about Him! I started seeking God as a way out my PTSD struggles. I had less and less control over my behavior, and I felt terrible that it contributed to my parentsí marital stress. Even though I came to Christ looking for a way out of my troubles, not to enter into His presence, He accepts me and loves me just the same. Now, I want to invest my life in others who need to know Him, like Morely Jacobs did. So, Aslan, what happened with the underground church? Why did you go to India to study? It must be a great story!

ASLAN
Craig, on the contrary it is a very sad and painful story. [pauses] I will tell it, but must be careful not to criticize American foreign policy when I do. May I speak frankly as a brother in the Lord?

CRAIG
Sure.

ASLAN
As you know, Saddam Hussein oppressed and killed my people. I am grateful to American soldiers like you, Craig, and Mr. Nuernberger, who lost his life in a helicopter crash, for liberating my country from the Baathist regime. But as a consequence, Iraqi Christians have since suffered horribly. [pauses] My father was murdered in the street by Moslem extremists.

BRYCE
Just because he was Christian?

ASLAN
Only because he was Christian. Under death threats my family had to flee our homes. [pauses] My oldest sister..
(chokes up)
..a marvelous Christian girl, was kidnapped and held for ransom. My uncle paid the money, but my sister, who was raped and beaten, still has, how do you say? disturbances?

PATRICE
(extends arm to Aslan)
She is emotionally disturbed and doesnít function normally.

CRAIG
(reflectively)
Just because sheís a Christian. Aslan, Iím sorry I brought this up. Iím really sorry. And
(turning to Patrice)
Maíam, Iím sorry for your loss, too.
(afterward Craig stares into space thinking of Iraq)

ASLAN
Christ made us no promises for a pleasant life, only the promise of His presence, and He is worth all the trials and sacrifices. My uncle then sent me to India to study. Similar to Bryce, I will soon earn my Masters diploma.

PATRICE
Now you see why I sponsored Aslanís visit to the U.S. He is invaluable in helping me design what will be a very different type of Christian Retreat Center.

ALSAN
I have spoken already too much of myself. Craig, how did you come to faith, it must be very recently?
(after a pause of 5-7 seconds, Bryce waves his hand in front of Craigís blank stare)

BRYCE
Craig! Hell-o! Hey, Craig!

CRAIG
(comes back to the present)
Sorry, I was thinking about Iraq---and Aslanís family.

BRYCE
Are you OK? Aslan wants to hear your testimony.

CRAIG
My testimony? Yeah. Sure. Last winter I prayed that my parentsí marriage would be restored, but it didnít do any good. I called Mr. Greenhough, as you know, and asked him to help, which he did. That he had experienced a vision, well, I donít know what God was up to with that. [smiles] I also prayed about my worsening PTSD, and again nothing happened. I was about to give up on God, and on myself, when, just by chance, I watched the movie, the Matrix.

I realized how deluded I was with my self-styled morality. Worse than the human batteries in the film, because I wasnít repulsed by my own sin, I was also butt-naked, an unwitting slave to an evil entity, clueless that life was being sucked out of me. Like Neo, who woke up after taking red pills, Christís red blood flowing into me woke me up from the fantasy of a patriotic civil religion of my own design. Because I didnít do terrible things, and because I serve my country, I was smugly convinced that ďThe Man UpstairsĒ looks out for me. Now, I see it for what it was, a blatant quid-pro-quo arrangement.
(sighs)
Did any of you see the film to help me explain it better?

ASLAN
(still excited)
Craig, I have seen The Matrix at least ten times; it is one of my favorite films. It is amazing how God uses dreams--- and even science fiction films---to reveal Himself.

PATRICE
Sorry, it must be a guy thing.

EDWARD
I must be an exception; I didnít see it. But what a powerful testimony, Craig!

BRYCE
(shakes his head)
This just gets weirder every time I hear it.

EDWARD
Actually, Bryce, it is quite normal. Our Kurdish friend can probably attest that his namesake, Aslan, the Lion of Judah, is not a tame lion.

BRYCE
What do you mean?

EDWARD
Aslan is the Turkic word for lion. Can I explain using a C.S. Lewis fantasy story?
(all nod or say yes/sure)

In the Silver Chair novel, a young girl named Jill is lost in a forest. She also becomes terribly thirsty. As she looks for water, she happens upon a stream and eagerly runs toward it. But she stops in her tracks when she notices a large Lion lying beside it. Aslan, the talking Lion, knowing she is thirsty, invites her to drink.

ďMay I---could I---would you mind going away while I do?Ē Jill asked. The Lion answered only by a look and a very low growl. ďWill you promise not to do anything to me, if I come?Ē said Jill. ďI make no promise,Ē said the Lion.

ďDo you eat girls?Ē she said. ďI have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,Ē replied the Lion. Aslan didnít say this as if He were boasting, nor as if he were sorry, nor as if he were angry. He just said it.

ďI dare not come and drink,Ē said Jill. ďThen you will die of thirst,Ē said the Lion. ďOh dear,Ē said Jill, ďI suppose I must go and look for another stream then.Ē ďThere is no other stream,Ē said the Lion. End of story.

Now, when Aslan told Jill ďI make no promise.Ē My question to you is: no promise concerning what?
(8-10 second pause)

CRAIG
I donít know the answer, but something tells me that Aslan is really Jesus, so itís got to turn out good.

EDWARD
Thatís right, it does, but listen closely: Aslan makes no promise that Jill will not suffer. He does not promise Jill a Better Life. But He does invite her to drink the water she needs to live.

CRAIG
Whoa! That is an awesome story, Mr. Greenhough. You would be a great fit for the Spiritual Direction Center Mrs. Nuernberger is planning. The truth of the scriptures just popped out in your story: Aslanís streams of living water---I get it!---are like the red pills in the Matrix, both symbols of regeneration in Christ. So cool! I wish I could hear more, but I promised my dad Iíd go with him to Home Depot this afternoonÖ
(looks at watch)
And heís picking me up at 2:00. Are any of you coming to the Concert of Prayer tonight?

EDWARD
I have other plans.

PATRICE
Weíre coming; Aslan is looking forward to the prayer and worship. Did he tell you heís been in country only five days?

BRYCE
Five days only? Aslan, youíll be in for a treat tonight. But Iíll have to pass; Iíve been on overdrive preparing for this morning. Mr. Greenhough, if you can stay just a few minutes, Iíd like to discuss a matter with you.

EDWARD
Bryce, Iíd be happy to.

(all stand, Edward and Bryce say their goodbyes to, shake hands with Patrice and Aslan)

CRAIG
(walking with Patrice and Aslan)
My mom is serving as a prayer counselor tonight; I canít wait to introduce you two to her. Could you join me in the parking lot while I wait for my dad, I have more questions?

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


Scene 6

SETTING: One minute later in a hallway intersection,
using one half of the stage.

AT RISE: Craig, Aslan, and Patrice turn the corner and
walk into Mike and Linda DiFatta.

ASLAN
(lead person of the three)
Oh! Pardon me please!

CRAIG
Dad? Mom? Mom, why are you here so early? Wait, this is great. Let me introduce you to my new friends, Patrice Nuernberger and Hamid Ali Aslan. He goes by Aslan, which means lion; heís a very cool Kurdish believer visiting America for the first time!

ASLAN
(extends hand, shakes)
Very pleased to meet you, Mr. & Mrs. DiFatta.

LINDA
Oh wait. Salaam a laikum.

ASLAN
Asalaamuh a leikum.

CRAIG
(astonished)
Mom, how do you know that greeting?

MIKE
Your Mom is full of surprises, Craig. So the Lion meets the Crocodile! [shakes Aslanís hand] Thatís my sonís nickname. [shakes with Patrice] And Maíam, where are you visiting from?

PATRICE
Right now, Iím living in Green Cove Springs, Florida, but hope to move to somewhere between Summerville and the coast next year.

CRAIG
Patrice and Aslan are planning to open a Spiritual Direction Center!

ASLAN
Yes, but the plans are delayed because the intended builder went out of business.

CRAIG
Oh, with the bad economy and all. [pauses] I still canít wait to tell you about itÖ

LINDA
(interrupting)
It will have to wait, Craig. Sue Fitzgerald is sick and asked me to substitute for her in the praise team tonight. Iím already late for practice, and your Dad needs you to go to Home Depot with him. I also have a prayer counselors meeting later this afternoon, so Iíll just stay here through the evening. Can I ride home with you tonight, assuming you are coming back?

CRAIG
Sure, that will work.

PATRICE
(to Mike and Linda)
You have a fine son here. Craig and I were actually acquaintances at the Fort Hood Army Education Center.

ASLAN
It is such a very small world we live in!

PATRICE
Yes, it certainly is. Mrs. DiFatta, Iíll be here this afternoon, too. If you happen to have a break between your meetings, Iíd welcome some early-bird prayer counseling.

LINDA
Iíd love the chance to get better acquainted. Could you come with me now and Iíll show you where to find me, say, after 5:00? Is it Patricia or Patrice?

PATRICE
Patrice. The conference runs to 5:00, so thatís perfect!

CRAIG
Aslan, would you want to go to Home Depot with us, a big building supply store; itís an American icon?

ASLAN
No, thank you. I prefer the conference session. Mr. DiFatta, you have a very fine son; you can be very proud.
(extends hand, shakes again, goodbyes are said. Mike and Craig remain)

MIKE
So, whatís the connection between those two?

CRAIG
Dad, itís such a wild story, Iíll tell you in the truck. Aslan is an Iraqi from biblical Ninevah!

MIKE
You donít say?

CRAIG
(both begins to exit stage)
And Mrs. Nuernberger is a war widow. Her husband was KIA in Iraq. Went down in a chopper crash.

MIKE
(pensive and slowly)
YouÖdonítÖsay?

(Lights shift to other half of
stage where Bryce and Edward sit
at the earlier cafeteria table)

BRYCE
Mr. Greenhough, when you were my professor, you read in my papers how I want to champion Christian leadership principles. During my two years at seminary, Iíve trusted the Lord to show me my future. Now itís graduation time and Iím uncertain what my next steps should be. Am I doing something wrong? Iíll do whatever it takes for God to show me what it is. Iím praying constantly.

EDWARD
Hereís a question for a seminary graduate: Why do you pray?

BRYCE
Why do I pray? What a question. You know the biblical teachings better than me: Ask and you shall receive; cling to God and donít let go till He blesses you; pester Him, if you must, to get a response; settle for no less than all the blessings He wants to bestow.

EDWARD
Bryce, thatís Old Covenant thinking.

BRYCE
How can that be? The New Testament exhorts us to pray, to run to God with all our cares. Surely you are not telling me that prayer is Old Covenant!

EDWARD
No, prayer is not Old Covenant. But have you examined your prayer to ensure that it is not Old Covenant? If you are looking for a method to make life work, then that method becomes your master and binds you to a desire for a pleasant life, one defined soley by your experiences of pleasure and pain.

BRYCE
Are you saying that nothing I do, even prayer, affects what happens in my life?

EDWARD
If you are pursuing what is effective rather than what is holy, then the illusion of control brings requirement, requirement creates pressure, and pressure leads to the slavery of trying to make life work.

BRYCE
Iím not sure I understand. Donít good parents raise good kids? Donít faithful tithers enjoy the promise of financial security? Isnít prayer always answered by our loving Heavenly Father?

EDWARD
God is sovereign over everything and we over nothing. Be careful never to claim promises God hasnít made. Our expectations donít obligate God to bless our lives in any certain way, or even at all.

BRYCE
But only God fills our lives with meaning, right? By making this world a better place, ministering to others, and following biblical principles, are we not trusting God to bless and fulfill our lives?

EDWARD
Biblical principles become worldly ones when followed for selfish ends. Biblical principles are just that when viewed not as commands to be obeyed, but as privileges to express Christ to others.

About your future, Bryce, you obviously have put great effort into developing the leadership principles. Have you found opportunities to apply them, test them out?

BRYCE
No, not yet. Why?

EDWARD
At my 30th high school reunion last week, Linda DiFatta and your Aunt Sue mentioned that you and Craig are quite the swimming tandem. And that you might go tandem in starting a new youth sports ministry, using your leadership principles.

BRYCE
I donít know; Craig and I talked about it. But he has to go back to the Army next month, so I donít see him in the picture.

EDWARD
Bryce, even though Iím not on your thesis committee, I have some concerns about what was implied in this morningís session. So much so, that I would like to speak to you, not as a faculty member, but as a counselor who has to deal with Christiansí disappointment with God. How about early next week?

BRYCE
Next week is fine. Speaking of Mrs. DiFatta, she just walked past the door. I have something I need to return to her. Please excuse me.

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)



Scene 7

SETTING: Three hours later in a conference center room.

AT RISE: Linda and Patrice are seated for one-on-one counseling.

PATRICE
Thank you, Linda, for meeting with me. This will be a long day for you. From what I heard it sounds like you are multi-tasking to the max.

LINDA
Prayer counseling is demanding, but so rewarding. You know, I came to faith just two years ago, and I am amazed how God uses a willing heart to bring His peace to others.

PATRICE
Thatís so true. Can I ask you about your husband? Is Mike a believer?

LINDA
For that, Iíll have to take my prayer counselor hat off and just talk woman-to-woman. [pauses] Mike is much like I was two years ago. He believes in God, but is not a Christ follower. Itís kind of sad; we had gotten along great for 25 years---until I came to faith. We then experienced tensions that we were unprepared for. Things just exploded between us with Craigís PTSD. Do you know what that is?

PATRICE
Yes, Craig shared his testimony at lunch.

LINDA
Craig just delights in the Lord; Iím overjoyed by what God has done with him. As for Mike and me, well, Craig took the initiative for us to see a counselor, Edward Greenhough. Edward helped me realize that I am not the same woman Mike married, and that must be hard for him. Things are much better between us, but there is still a gap. So I have had to temper my expectations and be glad in the husband I have in Mike. Now, Craig sure is excited about your, what kind of Center is it again?

PATRICE

It will be a very different kind of Spiritual Direction Center called Jacobs Junction. Itís an idea my late husband had. Morely and I were missionaries with the same agency in the 90s; he served in northern Iraq while I was in the Ukraine. After 10 years we met at a staff training conference. He was all I imagined, a pure-hearted servant leader. We married with the aim of returning to Iraq together----when the 9/11 attacks put our move on hold. And with money running low, we both took jobs in this area. We werenít married a year when Morely was in a traffic accident driving home from work. He died in the hospital a few days later, never regaining consciousness.

LINDA
(taking her hand)
Patrice, Iím so sorry.

PATRICE
Worse than Morelyís death was my reaction to it. Morely had done cutting-edge pioneering work among the Kurds in Iraq, so why would God let this happen, I agonized. With my dreams for a family shattered, I grew furious with God and acted out my pain in very unbecoming ways. My spiritual life, and the support dollars, dried up as the bills piled up. I had to get a real job, and became, of all things, a U.S. Army civilian working in an education center. Not long afterward, I met Floyd Nuernberger at a conference.

LINDA
At another Christian conference?

PATRICE
Oh, heavens no, at a boring government contracting conference. Floyd was an Army Warrant Officer at Fort Hood, 11 years my senior, a very faithful, steady-Eddy type of believer. Not at all like the pioneer church-planting dynamo Morely was. I felt comfortable with Floyd because, well, he didnít expect great things from God, and frankly, neither did I anymore. Floyd once confided to me that early in his career he had prayed the sinnerís prayer with other young soldiers, but they soon fell away. Floyd wondered what he had done wrong; that experience pretty much extinguished his evangelical flame.

Floyd wanted to retire, but not as a single man, he told me. It was amazing how right we were for each other at the time. We quickly married, I moved to Texas but we were already planning to retire to his Florida condo when the Iraq War broke out. Floyd had to go, of course; said it would be easy like DESERT STORM and last only a few months, and that heíd buy us a boat with the extra money. Linda, he never came back.

LINDA
Thatís a lot of trauma, Patrice. How did you feel toward God?

PATRICE
Numb, of course, just plain numb. My sister took notice and said it would do me good to attend a family reunion. When I arrived, I overheard my cousins talking about me: that any man interested in me had best run from the black widow while he still could. Then they laughed and IÖI just snapped!

LINDA
Words can be so cruel. What happened after that?

PATRICE

Nothing of significance: just one day sadder than the next. You know, I have girlfriends who have experienced strife with their husbands; some are now divorced. I have had two fine husbands, but lost each of them within 15 months of the wedding.
(sobs, Linda again takes her hand)
You asked what happened next. Nothing until I came across a dated letter from India addressed to Morely from Aslan. Aslan wrote that his father had been murdered, his family attacked and persecuted for their faith. Aslan, in spite of losses severe enough to rival Jobís, asked in the letter if Morely would disciple him so he could return to Iraq and lead an underground church. This dear Christian from a Muslim background, despite losing so much, remained joyful, full of hope for the future. Aslan was prepared to brave grave dangers and here I was, pouting that I didnít get to retire to Florida at age 38!

Thatís when I broke, Linda; I came to terms with God that I cannot have my own dreams and know Him intimately. Neither could I let Morelyís dream die. Actually, thatís what I wanted to talk to you about. I really enjoyed the lengthy lunch conversation with your son, Aslan, Bryce, and Edward Greenhough joined us, too. In fact my heart skipped a beat when Craig suggested that Edward should partner with me.

LINDA
(jumps to conclusions)
Oh, Patrice, your heart is stirred for two reasons, your vision for the Center is moving forward, and you are allowing yourself to think about romance again. Thatís wonderful. You know, I went to high school with Edward. He is a very fine man, skilled as a Christian counselor and teaching seminary courses. Heíd be just ideal.

PATRICE
(laughs out loud)
What did I say, ďpartner with me?Ē [laughs] Despite my penchant for fast courtships, I have no romantic interest in Edward.

LINDA
Oh, Patrice, please forgive me, I totally misunderstood. I let my girlish exuberance get the better of me. Iím sorry; Iím going to put my counselor hat back on now and pray for you. No more small talk.

PATRICE
Nonsense, Linda, I misspokeóand how! You know, I have dreaded telling anyone that I am twice widowed, but with you it was, well, so easy. Hmmh, romance? That I find it a pleasant thought again is a breakthrough for me. So, I thank you for that.

Weíll get to prayer time, donít worry. But first I want to say how right you are about the kind of staff member the Center will need. For that reason, it is not Edward, but your son, Craig, whom I will ask to join my staff.

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)



Scene 8

SETTING: One hour later in the conference center lobby.

AT RISE: Bryce hurriedly rushes in.

BRYCE
There you are, Crocodile Man. Iíve been looking for you.

CRAIG
Bryce, I thought you werenít coming to the concert of prayer. Did you take a nap?

BRYCE
No, I couldnít sleep thinking about you, thinking how eager God is to pour into your life. I mean, God has really blessed you, broí. He spared your life in Iraq who knows how many times. He even healed you of the PTSD. Just a few months into your Christian walk you have got it right. You are following Him faithfully and look what has happened!

CRAIG
(angrily)
Bryce, I didnít choose to follow Christ as a way to get on top of life. I feel guilty sometimes that I came back from Iraq in one piece and my buddies didnít. The same goes for the PTSD. Iím OK now, but the guy in my hospital ward only got worse. His family tried to comfort him with the fact that they had circulated 20,000 prayer requests on the internet. Listening to you leads one to believe that, had the family just gotten it right and circulated 21,000 petitions, then God would have gotten off his easy chair and done something.

BRYCE
Now you even talk like him!

CRAIG
Talk like who?

BRYCE
Donít play dumb with me! That self-proclaimed guru from India, or Kurdistan, or wherever he is from! You have fallen for his cotton candy theology, thinking that the Bible can be summarized in three verses! I should warn you that you are just a babe in Christ, and that you risk your future letting that Muslim background mystic mentor you. Plus, my sister, who is a real babe, actually likes you. Let me tell you, because Brittany had some bad experiences, she doesnít date much. But man, does she like you. You risk throwing all that away going down this path.

CRAIG
Oh, I got you now, Bryce, if I had come out of Track C this morning singing the praises of your formulaic biblical principles, then I would be on the right path. Not only that, Iíd also get the girl! Man, thatís just nuts! I am glad I left early.

BRYCE
Yeah, you were too cowardly to tell me what you thought of my session when I asked, so you sikked your proxies on me, to include Mr. Greenhough!

CRAIG
(more angry)
What? Thatís pure nonsense! You heard from Aslan and Patrice, and from Mr. Greenhough at lunch, at the same time I did! Damn it, Bryce, just shut the hell up and listenÖ[pauses]

Iím sorry, I am very angry now. Just listen to yourself: attacking me, attacking Aslan. And for what, not agreeing with you? It doesnít take a seminary degree to realize that doing A does not lead directly to B, B meaning Godís blessings. Itís Old Covenant, period.

I feel sorry for you, man. What you call the Christian life has worked for you, at least thus far, but you live under such intense pressure! Youíve had nothing but a succession of Sunday School teachers pat you on the head for memorizing Bible verses; now pastors and elders pat you on the back, give you ďattaboys,Ē for non-stop church involvement. Itís almost like you are afraid to make a mistake---any evidence that you are falling short of last yearís performance unnerves you to the core.

BRYCE
You cursed at me! Huh, talk about falling short! Why donít you tell me what you really think?

CRAIG
OK, I will! Life has been a breeze for you, Bryce, but not so due to your efforts! We are both only 25. Life is hard and your faith stands to be devastated not if, but when, something bad happens. What if your Aunt Sue has the swine flu and dies from it, or is killed in a car crash?

BRYCE
You can leave my aunt out of this.

CRAIG
Why? Sheís a perfect example, a godly woman who is divorced! So why did her husband leave her? Because she failed to read her Bible X number of times per week? Hardly! [pauses] Edward Greenhough is another example. He is also divorced. So how would you counsel him, the ďAVISĒ way? To try harder? Try harder to follow the Seven Keys to a Successful Marriage the next time around? [pauses]

Still unfazed are you? Alright, letís get closer to home. What if your sister were abducted and raped like Aslanís? Lance Armstrong got testicular cancer, why not you? Would you still worship the God from whom all blessings flow? I have my doubts.

BRYCE
You are sick thinking such things.

CRAIG
These things happen, Bryce. Our efforts to live right before God do not make us immune from them. You wanted to know what I think, well, Iím not finished: You are what Paul calls a Judiazer! With settled persuasion you put confidence in human effort by encouraging Old Way living.

BRYCE
First you curse me, then insult me, calling me a Judiazer, accusing me of introducing the Old Testament economy into the Church. Thatís ludicrous!


CRAIG
Iím taking a deep breath here [pauses, breathes] to say, no, people were saved in Old Testament times by pure grace, just as they are today. The Judiazers confused the infant Church by introducing a false view of that Old Testament economy. Itís simply a false view, thatís all. Bryce, I appeal to you as your brother to remember what you said when we examined those scriptures over lunch. Remember, you agreed ďitís in the biblical text.Ē
(Aslan and Patrice walk toward Bryce and Craig)

BRYCE
(shouts as walks away)
I donít want to remember nothing! Nothing! You understand!
(Bryce races by Patrice and Aslan)

ASLAN
Craig, are you and Bryce retelling the Matrix movie? Is Bryce playing the character of Cypher? [pauses] Craig, why are you trembling? What is the matter?

CRAIG
Iím just upset, thatís all, and it triggers feelings I donít want to have.

PATRICE
Sit down, Craig. Do you need some water?

CRAIG
Yes, please.
(Patrice goes for water)

Aslan, I have no idea what you were talking about.


ASLAN
The character Cypher in the Matrix film repented that he had taken the red pills. He wanted to return to the fantasy world devoid of problems because real life became very difficult. He said: ďI donít want to remember nothing! Nothing, you understand! And I want to be rich. You know, someone important..

CRAIG and ASLAN
(in unison)
Ölike an actor.Ē


CRAIG
Now I remember. He loved the easy pleasures of the Matrix-simulated world more.


ASLAN
I have learned something important from you, Craig. I assumed that believers who fall away from the Lord do so because they love illicit pleasures of the world more. Cypher loved the blessings of the world more, even imaginary blessings.

CRAIG
In our menís Bible study, we learned that the Apostle Paulís companion, Demas, abandoned him ďhaving loved this present world.Ē Yeah, it could have been that Demas left Paul, not to worship pagan idols again, but due to his obsession with Godís blessings---rather than with God Himself. Paul must have felt like I do now; Iím afraid that Bryce wonít be back. We had a big argument; I lost my temper, and now, just look at me shaking.
(Craig lowers head between his knees. Patrice returns. Craig sobs).
Back in Iraq, Aslan, I lost my best friend to a roadside bomb. And I had higher expectations of Christian brotherhood. Maybe I shouldnít have. I feel exactly like I did when my best buddy died.

ASLAN
What was his name, Craig?

CRAIG
His name? Evan Nuckols, but we called him Sergeant Knucklehead, because, well, he was a knucklehead. The chaplain prayed for him, too, but he died in the OR. Heís gone, and now Bryce is gone, and it hurts doubly bad to feel it all over again. [pause] When I feel like this, Iím afraid Iíll have a relapse of PTSD---[anxiously] and then what? What about my testimony? Everyone is rejoicing that Iím healed. What if Iím not?

PATRICE
(taking Craigís hand)
Iím back with the water, Craig (he takes the cup, drinks). I know such losses hurt deeply, and Iím sorry. (pauses) Craig, look at me (Craig does). Life is not linear; temporary setbacks can happen. More important is that you know Christ loves you just as you are, relapse or not, and thatís what everyone is rejoicing about!


CRAIG
(tearfully)
Yes maíam, thank you. I know that you understand; you lost your husband in Iraq.

PATRICE
Yes, and it hurts doubly bad the second time around. When the second shoe drops it feels far worse than the first. Floyd Nuernberger was the second husband I lost in three years. My first husband, well, you said how you want to be like him, and believe me, Craig, you very much are.

CRAIG
(raises his head)
What? You lost another husband over there?

PATRICE
My first husband was in Iraq, but it was there that he found himself. I lost him in an auto accident on Route 19 near Summerville, his name was Morely Jacobs!

CRAIG
(stands up)
Morely Jacobs was your husband? And heís the same guy in Mr. Greenhoughís dream, right? Get out of here!
Now I think Iím really going to cry. [pauses] Iím embarrassed that you both see me blubbering like this. (pauses, smiles} Wait just a minute, is that why the Spiritual Direction Center is named Jacobs Junction?

ASLAN
Yes, it is, Craig. God offers many pleasant surprises in this life, or beyond it, which act as a great counterweight to this lifeís disappointments. And concerning Bryce, there is hope for him because Aslan, the other Aslan, of course, is not a tame Lion. Bryce need only let Ishmael die and Isaac be born.

CRAIG

Aslan, Iím not in the frame of mind for deep discussions, sorry.

ASLAN

A brief explanation suffices, Craig: Imagine the aged Abraham contemplating why he lacked the son of promise by Sarah. Tired of waiting for a miracle, he must have looked at the teenaged son he already had through his own efforts, and petitioned God, ďI already did something that worked, God. Just let that be enough; let Ishmael live and be the promise.Ē

But thankfully, Abraham believed God; he believed in a miracle with no sensory indications that the miraculous conception of Isaac would occur. When it did, Abraham cast out Ishmaelóand his motheróbecause he wanted no further temptation to return to the Old Way of trying to make his life work. He let Isaac be born!

CRAIG
(pulls himself together, stands)
So Ishmael is a metaphor for maintaining control over our lives! Aslan, dude, your hip-pocket Bible studies are awesome! I spent a year in your home environment and it really traumatized me. It is very bold of you, as a Muslim Background Believer, to be saying ďlet Ishmael die.Ē You command my respect and admiration.
(puts arm around Aslanís shoulder)

ASLAN
Thank you, Craig. You again have nourished my soul. This is needed because we MBBs, as you say, must inherently be very bold. But are you not also bold, combating the Iraqi insurgents? Even bolder, perhaps, by now embracing an Iraqi, your former enemy?

PATRICE
(jokingly)
Craig, does your mother have any pull with the praise team? Just watching you two now, Iím ready to hear ďBlest be the Tie the Binds!Ē But, neither of you have heard that tune before, Iím sure! (laughs, joins group hug)


(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)



Scene 9

SETTING: Three minute later in the same conference center lobby.

AT RISE: Craig, Aslan, and Patrice, are standing and laughing together.

PATRICE
Oh, all this crying, and then laughing, has totally ruined my makeup. Iím going to the ladies room to undertake some damage control before the concert of prayer begins.

ASLAN
Craig, your father is walking toward us. Does he attend the concert of prayer?

CRAIG
(alarmed)
No, it must be something else. Oh, I donít want dad to see that Iíve been crying. Aslan, go talk to him, stall him, hurry!
(Aslan moves briskly to edge of stage to intercept Mike)

ASLAN
Mr. DiFatta, I saw your truck outside. What kind of business do you own?

MIKE
Well if isnít Aslan, the lion-hearted Ninevite! How are you? My business? Construction. Say, is that Craig down there? Iíve got something to tell him.

ASLAN
(unintentionally comical)
Yes, heís, uh, praying. Tell me about the business? How has the economic recession affected your firm?

MIKE
Oh, itís had an effect, but things will get better in the very near future, especially for you.
(Mike tries to get around Aslan, who blocks his path)

ASLAN
Mr. DiFatta, I have studied economics and all indications are ..
(Mike slips around him approaches Craig, with Aslan trailing)

MIKE
If youíd excuse me.

ASLAN
..that no immediate recovery is forthcoming.

MIKE
Craig, I have something very important to tell you.

CRAIG
Dad, please donít tell me the brackets for the shelving units donít fit; I measured them twice.

MIKE
(laughs)
No, itís not about shelves, itís about, wellÖAslan, might you excuse us? I need to have a serious talk with my son.

CRAIG
Dad, the timing is really bad. You didnít run into Bryce, did you?

ASLAN
Craig, I see in your fatherís eyes that Isaac has been born. Please give your father the utmost attention. I will be with Patrice in the large salon.

MIKE
Son, sit down. [they sit] I have never shared at a deep level with you before, and this is so deep that youíll be blown away, just as I was---and still am.

The last 90 minutes have been as incredible as they were unforeseen. Did you know that Floyd Nuernbergerís bird went down in Ninevah, in Aslanís home town? Like Jonah ran from Ninevah, I realize that Iíve been running from God for 30 years. Iíve come home---to Jesus.

CRAIG
(shakes his head)
Dad, youíre making fun of me.

MIKE
Craig, no, Iím not. When I was stationed in Germany, Floyd Nuernberger prayed with me to receive Christ!

CRAIG
Patriceís late husband? Are you sure itís the same guy?

MIKE
I looked up his obituary on-line. How many Chief Warrant Officers named Floyd Nuernberger hail from Green Cove Springs, Florida? Itís him.

CRAIG
What happened again? You once had faith and lost it?

MIKE
Floyd told me about Christ in his life; it sounded so appealing that I prayed with him. I thought I wanted God in my life, but backslid, because what I really wanted was what God could do for me.

CRAIG
But why? Were you razzed by others about your new faith? You wanted something from God? What then, a promotion? the girl of your dreams?

MIKE
You are getting closer; I thought I wouldnít get any girl at all with the acne I had on my face and neck.

CRAIG
Are you saying you gave up your faith because you had zits? Dad!

MIKE
I know, I know: stupid, immature; I was all of 19. For some reason, because I had given up some bad habits, I thought God owed me. My complexion got worse and I got mad at God. Floyd left for avionics school, and I returned to the States where no one knew about my faith, which made it convenient for me to forget about it altogther. I got out of the Army, joined my brotherís construction crew, met and married your Mom, had children. Life was fine without a further thought about God---until two years ago.

Now, I owe you and your Mom a big apology. You see, it wasnít your struggles with PTSD that caused the friction between your Mom and me. It was my jealousy and guilt. My jealousy that she had come to faith, kept it, and was going to keep it! It constantly reminded me of my own failure, even to the point that I wished she would fall away.

CRAIG
Dad! How could you?

MIKE
Thatís right, how could I? I had thrown my faith away. Floyd Nuernberger, I read, didnít have an easy life, yet he remained faithful. So why did God let him crash and burn to a crisp? Yet He blessed me with a great wife and children, and business success, when I didnít acknowledge Him at all. Why? Well, Godís got my attention now: itís no coincidence that Floyd went down in, and Aslan is from, Ninevah, the very same place Jonah ran from. Now, Iím jealous again.

CRAIG
Jealousy, could that be what is eating at Bryce?

MIKE
Jealousy can be a positive thing; Iím jealous of you, son, your changed demeanor. Iím jealous to know God like you do. Like your Mom does, but I wasnít about to admit it to her. But now I canít wait to see Lindaís face when we tell her. I got this idea: you tell her that an old friend wants to pray with her. Then, come get me and introduce me as her new brother-in-Christ!

CRAIG
Dad, that would be so cool! You are on the up and up about this, right? You are not playing games?

MIKE
Oh, no, I have 30 lost years to make up for. Your friends need a Retreat Center built around here, right? Well, Iím going to build it for them---at cost! I feel I owe it to Floyd, and to God.

CRAIG
You donít owe it to God, Dad, thatís dangerous thinking. He gives freely! The pressureís off to perform; you can receive freely, too!

MIKE
I need to remember that. Still, I am going to do what I can so that others are well-grounded and stand firm in their faith, unlike your Dad did. Now, howís that for your dad sharing his heart?

CRAIG
This is just awesome! Like you said, I am blown away!
(embraces Mike, then they sit)
Now, I want to fully understand your spiritual journey! Did Mr. Nuernberger not remain in contact with you?

MIKE
He did try; he called my parentsí house. But I was too embarrassed to return his phone calls.

CRAIG
Dad, are you telling me that in 30 years you never once felt God tugging on your heart to come back to Him? Aside from occasional Christmas services, I donít remember us ever going to church, or to anything Christian.

MIKE
Well, yes, there was one time, and it involved you, Craig.

CRAIG
Me? How?

MIKE
When you were 12 or 13, for the first time I looked at you as a young man. I wondered how you would turn out, felt a twinge of guilt that I had done nothing much to give you a moral foundation. About that time, a customer was telling me about a Promise Keepers rally, and you walked by. This guy said how good it would be for me to take my boy to this Promise Keepers rallyóand heíd give me free tickets. I considered it, too. I thought you being exposed to biblical principles would be a good thing.

CRAIG
(rolls his eyes)
In that case Iím almost glad you didnít take me!

MIKE
What? Why not?

CRAIG
Iíll save that conversation for later. So why didnít we go?

MIKE
You had swimming lessons, or a meet, scheduled. From that time on you had swimming events nearly every weekend. You enjoyed it---and excelled in it. Your earning two-time district champion made me some proud. That fellow who offered me the tickets, he had a funny name. Itís on the tip of my tongue: Maurice? No. Morris Jacobson? No.

CRAIG
It was Morely wasnít it, Morely Jacobs?

MIKE
Yeah, Morely Jacobs. How did you know?

CRAIG
How did I know? How did Mr. Greenhough know my nickname? How did Aslan know that Isaac had been born in you, Dad? Aslan, how right you are: it is a little world we live in!
(stands, speaks to God)
God, You are so much bigger than all our human imaginations! You are even raising up a Church in Iraq, a place I thought God-forsaken with its violence and death. God, we can trust you! This glimpse today of how You work behind the scenes has given me a great hope in You, and in your Immanuel Agenda.

MIKE
(stands)
His Immanuel Agenda? Whatís that?

CRAIG
Dad, you are the latest person to RSVP! And I want you seated right next to me!
(embraces Mike, then turns to audience)
Itís Godís relentless obsession is to form a family to gather at His dinner table, with Himself as the head and each of us just thrilled to be there! And the small talk weíll have around the table about days like today, why that alone will be thrilling!
(looks at his own arm, then shows it to Mike--excitedly)
Dad, look, is my hair standing up on end!

(BLACKOUT)

The End


If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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