Savagely loosening his designer tie, Frank Morgan talked into the phone in clipped monosyllables. It was Sunday afternoon, he had arrived home from church services and a Sunday School Staff meeting, and he was in no mood for his grown daughter’s shenanigans. Adding to his impatience was exasperation with Jana’s liberal lifestyle and questionable choices.
But something in the tone of her voice made him listen—a pleading for understanding? She was actually asking him to accompany her to a spiritual retreat she had heard about through a friend’s girlfriend whose brother had returned from said conference singing its praises.
“I have a couple of vacation days left, Baby; sure, I’ll go.”
Frank settled in his tilt-back chair for his weekly siesta. He smiled, envisioning a rescued daughter sitting piously in church beside him, a far cry from her usual . . .
Why he agreed to come to this folksy group-fest escaped him the moment he saw all the dysfunctionals there, including a motorcycle gang, each roughneck sporting a pierced ear, a nose ring and tattoos. His three-piece Germani suit stuck out like a peacock at a turkey shoot, another reminder that he was on his daughter’s turf.
Jana selected a concert in the jazz band-studded auditorium where she had typically picked up a disheveled future friend. Frank chose a Scripture-based seminar, only to arrive at the assigned room to find a cancellation sign on the door. The oppressive heat made him wish he could exchange his dress shirt with one of the t-shirts other men wore. Much like a snob would brush off a nerd, he pushed the unworthy desire aside, walking over to a woodsy trail. Armed with Bible, notebook and pen, he proceeded through the dense foliage and colorful autumn trees to a scenic alcove.
“Ah-h—the perfect place for prayerful Bible study!”
After reading about Peter and his conversation with Jesus (the verses assigned to the cancelled class), Frank knelt at a mossy tree stump.
“O Father God, please save my daughter from herself. You know how I always set a holy example for this rebellious child, how I have obeyed all your commandments and—“
“BUT, HAVE YOU LOVED?”
“—how I have served You, attending church faithfully, donating Bibles to the Old People’s Home, ministering as an elder in the church and —”
“BUT, HAVE YOU LOVED?”
“—how I sing Your praises in the choir and give monthly to the Widow’s Fund and—”
“BUT, DO YOU LOVE?”
“—how I pray an hour every morning and read a chapter of Your Word every night and—”
“BUT, DO YOU LOVE ME?”
“—I ask You to please show Jana the error of her ways. She needs to stop wearing all that make-up and stop hanging out with all these ungodly heathens she is forever trying to rescue.”
“YET, SHE LOVES.”
Suddenly, unbidden, Frank recalled the Scripture portions he had just read.
“But, I’m not like Peter, God! I’ve played by your rules all my life and I love You—I didn’t forsake you like Peter—”
“BUT, DO YOU REALLY LOVE ME?”
“Is this a trick question, Lord? I’ve played out my life serving you and—–”
“FOR ME—OR FOR YOU? SERVICE WITHOUT LOVE IS LIKE AN OASIS MIRAGE IN A DESERT.”
“But, I DO feed your sheep—I teach a Sunday School class and—”
“OUT OF LOVE, OR OUT OF DUTY?”
Frank was beginning to feel like he had gambled in a card game and was losing, the highest stake of all being his life.
“Ding-dong!” Frank awoke, drenched in sweat, and quickly answered the door, jumping out of his dream.
“Hey, buddy! Are you ready? The revival starts in half an hour. Uh—you don’t look so good--something wrong?”
“No, but I think I need to stay home tonight and, uh, pray for the services . . .”
Frank knew what he had to do and it was gnawing at his insides like a mouse chewing through a storage box. Humbly, he bowed his head and asked God’s forgiveness for depending on good deeds to please his Maker. And he spent the rest of the evening reading his Bible and seeing with fresh eyes through Jesus’ ministry on earth, what the real game called LOVE was all about.
Then, he called his daughter and asked her forgiveness for his judgmental and condemning attitudes, promising his love and support for her at the upcoming retreat.
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