Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | March 10, 2018

Uncle Elmer’s Revival

Elmer lives in a small town, thirty minutes outside of Akron, Ohio. A retired master carpenter for 35 years, he now works part time on weekends at the local hardware store. Yet inside his rough exterior is a sensitive heart that’s inclined to reach out to those less fortunate. And nobody knows that more than Elmer’s niece, Jenny.

Jenny, a 39-year-old former attorney, is severely disabled and confined to a wheelchair due to a horrific auto accident 8 years prior. Life is challenging for her, to put it mildly. Her lack of mobility doesn’t allow her to do many of the basic things that are necessary for her to take care of herself, and with no ability to drive, she must rely on others to take her to doctor appointments, bring her to the store and just get her outside the four walls of her small condo. When asked how she’s able to get through the challenges that each day brings, she shakes her head with a spirit of gratitude and explains, “I don’t know what I would do or where I’d be today if it wasn’t for my uncle Elmer.”

Elmer starts each week-day enjoying an early morning coffee at the local Waffle House, catching up with some of his long-time friends and engaging in friendly and oftentimes humorous banter with the wait staff. As soon as he begins to enter the restaurant, the staff gladly begins his order since it hasn’t changed in 8 years; one small light roast, two creamers, one bag of sugar and a lightly buttered English muffin. Over time, it’s as if they’ve become their own little happy family. At 9am sharp, Elmer leaves a $5 bill on the counter ($3 for his order with a $2 tip) and heads for the exit. No one bothers to ask him where he’s going or how he plans to spend his day; they’re already very familiar with Elmer’s love and service towards Jenny.

Elmer arrives at Jenny’s at 9:30; having a key to the door, he enters her condo, walks across the family room into the master bedroom and declares, “Jenny, do not fear, for Uncle Elmer is here!” to the warm smile of Jenny. He helps her to get from the bed into the wheelchair and they proceed to the kitchen, where Elmer prepares her favorite breakfast; blueberry pancakes, a glass of fresh orange juice and a side of fresh fruit.

No day is exactly the same with Uncle Elmer, but some things do remain the same, like the chess match they both look forward to after breakfast. Sure, they both enjoy chess, but Elmer also knows that this simple game helps to activate the right side of Jenny’s brain, which is responsible for one’s creativity and problem-solving skills…. something that’s invaluable to Jenny’s well-being, especially considering her susceptibility to depression.

After the match is over, Elmer relaxes in the Lazy-Boy recliner while Jenny gets online to check out the day’s main news stories and current events. She’s always enjoyed being “in the know” regarding what’s happening in and around the world, and this always seems to lead to some interesting discussion between Elmer and Jenny.

When Jenny has to go to the bathroom, Uncle Elmer helps her out of her wheelchair and onto the toilet seat, and then waits outside until Jenny says, “Done.” She has no ability to reach back and wipe herself, so she relies on Uncle Elmer to do that for her. This was awkward to Jenny in times past, but eight years of unconditional love and sacrificial service by Uncle Elmer towards her has gradually eroded those past feelings of shame and embarrassment.

After preparing lunch for Jenny, Elmer excitedly declares, “Today, I have a wonderful surprise for my lovely niece!” Jenny laughs and replies, “Oh, you know how I love surprises!”

“It’s a beautiful day, and I want to take you to a special place,” says Elmer.

He wheels her out to his minivan which is equipped with a chairlift for Jenny. Although the minivan doesn’t seem to be a match for Elmer’s rough exterior, he doesn’t care what people think; the van is not so much for him as it is for Jenny. The chairlift cost him a pretty penny for sure, but to Elmer, the investment is well worth it.

After a thirty-minute drive, he pulls into a parking lot adjacent to Willow Lake, which is one of the more scenic spots in the county due to the stunning display of willows surrounding the lake’s perimeter. After wheeling Jenny to a scenic overlook, he briskly walks back to the minivan and then returns with an easel, some brand-new canvas, a paint brush and some colors that he recently bought at the local Arts & Crafts store. “It’s peak bloom, and I thought you may want to catch this beauty on canvas,” says Elmer, as he leans down to give Jenny a warm hug. Jenny, at a loss for words, finally whispers a soft “thank you,” and for the next several hours enters into the beauty of God’s creation…. exercising her artistic talent which was evident even when she was a young child.

They pack up about 4pm and head back to Jenny’s. Upon entering her condo with the day’s masterpiece on her lap, she asks Elmer, “Do you think I should sell this one on E-Bay? Or keep it for myself?” Elmer, after a brief moment of thought, replies, “Well, if you ever get around to appearing on Shark Tank, this one might move Mark Cuban to dig deep into his pockets on your behalf!”

“Now that’s a plan.,” exclaims Jenny, as they enjoy a hearty laugh together.

For the next hour or so, they relax in the family room and engage in conversation. Elmer knows that Jenny’s struggle isn’t confined to just the physical, and it’s during these conversations that she oftentimes opens up about her thoughts, her dreams, her shattered dreams…, and the depression she periodically yet intensely struggles with. Elmer listens much more than he talks, knowing through his own past experience of losing his wife to cancer that what’s needed more than anything else during such times is an empathetic ear and the willingness to enter into and identify with a person’s suffering… rather than trying to “fix the problem” through pat answers or Bible proof-texts.

On this day, with teary eyes, Jenny confides, “Elmer, I was an aspiring attorney; all that schooling, the dream law firm, making a difference for all those victims of abuse, and now look at me. It’s hard not to think about where that could have led.”

Elmer, with his own teary eyes, takes the liberty this time to speak words of encouragement: “Jenny, your value to me, your friends, your family and our Lord is not based on what you do or don’t do, but on who you are. You’re precious to all of us, and deeply loved…. Never forget that. And as icing on the cake, you’ll always have our backing and support in whatever you choose to do in your life.” Elmer then stands up, lifts up Jenny’s Willow Lake painting, and adds, “And that would include the creating of masterpieces like this one.”

Jenny breaks out in a soft smile, and with a look of intrigue, exclaims, “Maybe I will go ahead and sell this on E-Bay.”

“If you list it for anything less than $500, you’re leaving money on the table,” replies Elmer.

Elmer & Jenny then move to the kitchen to end the evening with a dinner that Jenny prepares (with a little help from Elmer) at her lower table with the ingredients Elmer purchased last week from the store. Every Monday night, she prepares one of Elmer’s favorite dishes. Jenny explains, “I don’t do this to pay back Elmer for what he’s done for me, and I certainly don’t do it out of obligation. I make his favorite food not because I have to, but because I want to.”

After dinner, the doorbell rings. It’s Patty… Jenny’s longtime friend. She takes over at 6pm on weekdays to visit with Jenny and get her ready for bed. Elmer, before heading towards the door, leans down, gives Jenny a warm hug, and reminds Jenny that “tomorrow is Tuesday.”

“Oh yes!” replies Jenny, “can’t wait to see the crew at Waffle House for breakfast!”

“And they can’t wait to see you,” replies Elmer.

Elmer’s unconditional and sacrificial love and service to his niece hasn’t been seen merely by Jenny. The “regulars” and staff at the Waffle House have been touched by their special relationship first-hand every Tuesday morning for the last eight years and are all well aware that their time together extends far beyond a once-a-week breakfast.

Furthermore, Elmer’s family has taken notice. Although Elmer rarely goes to church like they do, no one can legitimately question the Spirit by which he functions, or the authenticity of his faith in Christ.

In addition, Jenny’s family has taken notice. They had tried helping Jenny during weekdays but found it too demanding and burdensome. They were prepared to pay a local facility to admit Jenny, before Elmer stepped in and insisted he get involved. They’ve been astounded at Elmer’s faithful and joyful service over the last eight years, knowing deep-down that Elmer operates in a love and is animated by a life-source that they simply do not possess.

In addition, Elmer’s co-workers at the local hardware store know about Jenny, and themselves have found Elmer to be warm and inviting. “Elmer is a great employee,” says his supervisor. “And whenever someone is going through a hard time, they seem to be naturally attracted to Elmer as a ‘safe place’ to share their burdens.”

And finally, there’s more to Jenny’s story than meets the eye. After her horrible auto accident, she went through a period of deep depression, questioning God as to why He would allow this to happen to her. One evening, she watched a dynamic TV preacher who promised a miracle healing to anyone who would be willing to sow a $1000 seed into his ministry “in faith.” Feeling so desperate due to her recent accident, she mailed the check and had one of her friends drive her to a nearby city to attend the preacher’s “Experiencing The Glory” conference. She went forward for prayer. Nothing happened. She was out $1000, and no miracle healing.

Jenny confides, “That experience not only cost me $1000… it nearly cost me my faith. I’d been exploited in the name of God, and quite frankly, I walked away from Jesus. But apparently, Jesus never walked away from me. Elmer has demonstrated to me what genuine faith looks like and what it’s all about. I’ve experienced ‘the real deal’ over the last 8 years, and my faith has been slowly but surely restored.”

His name is Elmer.

His “worship of Christ” is a life given over to love and service.

And his church is Jenny.

*******************************************************************************

Friends, the term “revival,” although not specifically used in the Bible, is often spoken of in Christian circles to describe a “spiritual awakening” of sorts. How this word is used, and ideas of what it consists of, usually depends on the persuasion within Christian religion that one is giving their attention to:

– The Baptist Church on the corner advertises that Evangelist So & So is coming to town next week for a “three-night revival….,” imploring people to come….

– A member of a downtown mega church speaks of “revival” taking place at his church, explaining how awesome the “worship” is with incredible music, lights flashing, smoke rising from the stage, and a dynamic worship leader who can “usher in the presence of God” (gag). Plus, the pastor’s teaching is really, really, REALLY good!! They’re experiencing “revival.”

– The charismatic personality-centered Apostolic & Prophetic sects of our day promise reform and revival to the Body of Christ through their “special knowledge” into the “deeper things of God,” like “submitting to Apostolic authority” or having “proper governmental alignment” (of course, the Apostles and Prophets are always at the top of the governmental order and should be shown ‘special honor’ for the office they hold…).

– The community church down the street claims to be in “revival.” After all, they had 20 decisions for Christ last month…, up 20% from last month! Of course, we never hear how many of these people are still around one year later and what their relationship with God (and others) looks like. These numbers likely won’t impress… if the leadership even knows these numbers, or the people who represent these numbers.

Instead of viewing revival through the lens of religion, what if our “revival” is simply a spirit of life and love received through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, AND LIVED OUT for the benefit of one another and humanity? What if we recognized that revival has very little (if anything) to do with the list above, but everything to do with an abundant increase of unconditional love and sacrificial service being experienced and expressed within the context of relationships? What type of “reform and revival” would come to the Body of Christ and the world if this was the reality we lived in, and lived out?

Not deep enough? Too simple? Not exciting enough? Don’t believe it? Consider what the scripture says:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love………” (Galatians 5:13)

“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

“For Christ’s love compels us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

“Now these three remain… faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another… (Romans 13:8)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:13)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20-21)

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 34-40)

How can it be that we’ve missed this?

It can be humbling to one’s religious pride to come to the realization that Uncle Elmer’s love and service to Jenny, and the resultant witness and effect to those in their sphere, has “revival” written all over it… while many highly charged church environments and charismatic ministries, saturated with celebrity preachers, dynamic personalities, church pageantry, side-show distractions, fringe novelty and manufactured stimulus, only offer an illusion of revival.

Many will not recognize Elmer’s “revival” as legitimate because he’s just a common man; his revival isn’t highly visible, doesn’t provide an adrenaline rush, isn’t flashy, won’t make the news, and it’s actually costly… an ethic that’s totally foreign to the narcissistic “bless me” fake revival environments of our day.

But it’s real.

Just ask Jenny.

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