Thursday, January 14, 2010

Uncle Nino and Jim Harrell - A Life Well Lived

Go to Joe's site and buy a copy!I was at a Christmas party with my 'Sunday School' class when I overheard David Johnson our semi-regular teacher praise a small film made in Chicago with Joe Mantenga called Uncle Nino.

Its the story of a harrassed suburban family who gets a visit by their wise old great uncle from Italy. Its family friendly, but the message is, like all such films, timeless. Uncle Nino disrupts their lives by coming when they did not expect him - well, he DID write them, but they did not read his letters, letting them get shuffled off to the side.

He barely speaks English, but he knows unhappiness when he sees it. He does not interfere, but does little things that reveal his heart - and the foolishness of their lifestyle. He makes pizza from scratch. He plays his violin - at seven in the morning in the front yard, of course. He watches the son mow the grass and joins him in his disdain of the chore as he picks up a few clippings: "Feh! What this? You can't eat - what good is it?"

When he gets permisison from his nephew to plant a garden - flowers, vines, etc. - guess what part of the property he puts it?

Yep. The entire front lawn is tilled. THAT doesn't go over too well - and later, you see it IS beautiful, making their house the most famous on the block.

Lovely film. Dave said he couldn't get a copy of it anywhere - some legal issue was stopping it. Well, at Christmastime I happened to find that it WAS out and being produced - mere days after overhearing him. I called his wife. I got her the copy and brother, was he surprised on Christmas morning! Watched it immediately with his kids and they all loved it.

I mention this because Dave is also experiencing what is important in life. Its not financial success, having a beautiful wife and a good job, living in the suburbs - frankly, he's got that. But he has a good friend who also has that - and that friend has been dying from ALS for five years.

That friend is on a link to the right - Jim Harrell.

Jim and Dave had a weird competitive "lets-see-if-I-can-one-up-this-guy" friendship for YEARS. They are neighbors, and they're professionals in business. They both came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord later in life after a lot of experiences in the world. Dave is a native New Yorker who's heydey was in the 70's. That says it all, IMNSHO. ;)

Jim's story is a story of a well-liked, respectable businessman who was starting yet another lucrative venture when he was given a death sentence. He had the mildest form of ALS and had to live with a respirator the last two years of his life.

But because of this diagnosis, he realized he had not been living as fully as he could for the Lord. So he began telling men about God and their need to seek Him before it was too late. He shared his personal journey, very articualtely and graciously, and men would see his integrity and repent. I cannot help but think how many men wanted to have EXACTLY what Jim Harrell had - a picture-perfect life - and to hear him say "My only hope is in Jesus Christ, now." must have been mind-blowing.

When disaster strikes whehter personally or publicly - I am thinking of the earthquake in Haiti with tens of thousands dead - we must consider where we humans will get our hope.

Is this all there is? Is my life about having this or that thing - or is it about living it, living it to the full, living it for the One Who gave me life?

Dave Johnson loved Uncle Nino because that character showed an American family how to live. He also had a dear friend who showed him as well. Life cannot be about having things, because at death it is all taken away. I cannot believe death always trumps. Thankfully Jesus affirms it does not and tells us what we SHOULD do with what we have.

Hear what Jesus said about the best use of our time, talents and treasure:

Luke 16:9-13
"I tell you, use the riches of this world to help others. In that way, you will make friends for yourselves. Then when your riches are gone, you will be welcomed into your eternal home in heaven.

"Suppose you can be trusted with very little. Then you can be trusted with a lot. But suppose you are not honest with very little. Then you will not be honest with a lot.

"Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling worldly wealth. Then who will trust you with true riches? Suppose you have not been worthy of trust in handling someone else's property. Then who will give you property of your own?

"No servant can serve two masters at the same time. He will hate one of them and love the other. Or he will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can't serve God and Money at the same time."


"You can't take it with you." goes the old saying. What I have discovered - and what our Lord reveals - is that money or talents or skills do not exist to serve you and your desires but rather to serve others and by so doing, you can make an eternal deposit.

Our lives are brief. Our opportunities to give happen one day at a time.

Don't count on catching up later; later may not happen.

James Harrell didn't, thank God.

On Friday, January 8, 2010, Dave's friend - and a friend to many - James Harrell passed away.

I have no doubt of the joy of his homecoming.

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Amen.

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