Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Tribute to Uncle Harris

Yesterday, I had the tremendous honor of speaking at the funeral of my Uncle Harris. I am one of the many nephews and nieces that experienced the blessing of having Uncle Harris in my life. As I walked into the funeral home in New Freedom Pennsylvania, I noticed a t.v. screen scrolling pictures of him with his family and I could hardly move because of the many memories that came rushing to my mind about my childhood with Uncle Harris and his first wife, my Aunt Betty, who died in an car accident when I was twenty-six.

As a young man, growing up without a dad, Uncle Harris, along with other uncles invested in my life like I was one of their sons, but I was not alone. The stories I shared at his funeral represented how he treated everyone: accepting, non-judgmental, uplifting, and fun.

It is no secret that Uncle Harris loved fishing – and not just a little, no, I mean he LOVED fishing; consequently, I loved fishing. One bright summer morning, after getting off work, I headed for Pretty Boy Damn to fish. This is where Uncle Harris’ fishing career began. I worked a night shift at a grocery store and often went fishing afterwards. That morning, I noticed his truck was parked at the boat loading dock. I figured if I made a dash down through the woods, I might just catch his attention. I did not want to assume he wanted a partner, so I reached the shoreline and cast out my line to act as if I just happened to be there. He did notice me and welcomed me into the boat. “Fishing has a lot to do with luck,” I reflected after not catching anything. He responded, “Luck favors a prepared mind.”  I have repeated that phrase more times than I can count. 

I recounted that story to Paul and he said, “yea, one time he asked me to get out of the boat and left me because I was talking too much.”

Which reminds me that he left me one time as well. He was driving my sisters and I on Mt Carmel Road one day and at a stop sign, we decide to do a Chinese Fire Drill, but he warned us not to. I jumped out of the car anyway and was running around to get in the other side when he drove off. I mean for real. He did come back, but not until I learned not to mess with him.

He loved cards, and my cousins and I spent many Friday evenings at his house playing cards. We started with Rook, but eventually learned Pinochle. It was during these late evenings that my uncle also taught me to enjoy the mature things of life, like drinking coffee without sugar.  “Son, real men don’t need sugar.”  He would say after watching me put the forth teaspoon in my cup.  Well, that did it for me; I wanted to be a real man like my uncle.

Uncle Harris lent me his single barrel 410 shotgun. Although he himself was not an avid hunter, he made sure I knew how to walk with a gun – finger off the trigger – pointed at the ground and not at a person – important things like that.

Uncle Harris invested in others. As an early teenager, he was the adult sponsor of our C.A. youth group (Christ Ambassadors). When I was twelve, he sponsored our singing group called The Salt and Pepper Plus. Brian, Alan, Mike, Donna and myself represented salt. Ronney was Pepper. The Plus of course, was Jesus. We traveled to a couple of small churches and sang songs like “I’ll Fly Away”, “The Healer”, “Oh Happy Day,” we even sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.”

Uncle Harris was our manager, which meant that he got 10% of whatever offering there was, and since we never got a real offering, we gave him 10% of the chicken we got at the church pot luck dinner. He didn’t care. He purchased sound equipment for us and proudly drove us around like we were the next Christian rock stars. 

My later memories involved pigeons – homing pigeons. He loved birds. He shared this love with his sons.

While in college, I would just show up at his home, as it was on the way to my mom’s home in Hereford, Maryland. We would sit and talk about fishing, pigeons or college and drink coffee. He would let me know he was proud of me and encourage me to keep going.

Most of life is simply showing up, and Uncle Harris did that for me and so many others. I was not the only kid he loved and invested in because there is a whole group of cousins who experienced his love. After the funeral, I met so many others who shared their stories similar to mine.  

His wife, Donna, and her son James experienced his warm embrace for his last twelve years. His charm never stopped.

He leaves a great legacy.

His last few years were not physically pleasant. He suffered with a disease that his body ultimately surrendered to.

Our family came together to celebrate a life well lived. We also grieve. We grieve the missed opportunities. We grieved the times we didn’t say “Thank you.” We grieve that he spent the last few years suffering in his body.

We grieve, but not as people without hope.

During the funeral I spoke about our earthly tents, our bodies, that eventually wear out and how we look forward to being with Jesus and our loved ones, without pain or suffering. 2 Corinthians 5, Hebrews 11, and John 14 help up understand a little about this hope and offers peace while we are still on earth.

I concluded the message with three simple lessons from Uncle Harris’ life:

  1. Teach me to number my days. Uncle Harris lived just seventy-one years, but he made each day count. We all have just a few trips around the sun, let’s make them count for something.
  2. Investing in the people around you makes a profound difference. The small, kind things we do for people are remembered and impacting.
  3. Luck favors a prepared mind. Uncle Harris prepared to catch fish therefore he caught fish. If luck favors a prepared mind, eternity favors a prepared heart.

Psalms 46:1-3, 7, 10-11
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

“Fish On” Uncle Harris. This world will miss you.

Harris Almony ObituaryHarris E. “Ed” Almony, 71, died Saturday, April 16, 2016, at home. He was the husband of Donna (Lutz) Almony and they celebrated 12 years of marriage in May, 2015. His first wife, Betty Wirtz Almony, preceded him in death.

Born February 23, 1945, in Parkton, MD, Ed was the son of the late Victor Jenkins and Helen (Harris) Almony. He proudly served in the U.S. Navy from June of 1963 to June 1969. Ed was employed at Northrup Grumman, Baltimore, for over 36 years, retiring as a manager. Passionate about fishing, Ed also raised pigeons in his younger years.

Surviving in addition to his wife are four children: Holly L. Farmer, and her husband Chad; Michael W. G. Almony, and his wife Rebecca; James K. Gillispie, and his wife (Stacy); and Victor P. Almony, and his fiancée, Melanie Markline; three siblings, James V. Almony, and his wife Joyce; Linda M. Cummings, and her husband Mickey; and Vickie C. Almony; 7 grandchildren.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

2016 State of the Church Report

Five years have passed since I accepted the invitation to become the pastor of Centerpointe Church. Each year has been filled with faith in God, patience, persistence and hope in our future. These were foundational years, each year building upon the previous one.

Each year began with a season of fasting and prayer, and God has led us and blessed us. We have seen people won to Christ, grow in Christ, and be sent out for Christ. 

As we review the last five years, we can see that God brought the right people, at just the right time, to give us wisdom, direction, and guidance.

In 2011, our theme was “Unstoppable.” The theme proclaimed that this church is God’s church and it will move forward. The leadership of the church made some structural changes that gave us a model for how we were going to work together. We also added a café in order for people to connect and nurture community.

In 2012, the theme was “Ready the House.” We raised the funds and remodeled 90% of the inside of the church with the intention of making the physical house as exciting as the people who attend.  

In 2013, we went through The Bible in a year. It was called “The Story.” For some, it was the first time they read through the whole Bible. We also gave a $100,000 offering to Instituto Biblico Rio de la Plata, a Bible School in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which at the time was 25% of our building fund.  

In 2014, our theme was “Greater.” We made a commitment at the March business meeting to make a decision about our property, and in December, we entered into a 99-year ground lease that would enable us to transition to a new facility by 2018. We also made adjustments in the youth leadership, rebuilt the stage, and repaired the parking lot.

In 2015, our theme was “Forward.” We took a major step toward our future by adding Pastors Brandon and Hannah Horst to our staff as children’s pastors. Because of this decision, we were able to provide more resources to families with children and add an additional worship service on Sunday mornings.

2016 looks to be another great year of life-changing impact as we further define our discipleship process to help more people grow in Christ. Furthermore, we will expand our outreach, media, and music ministries and continue to have an emphasis on missions. Finally, our plans are to identify a location in order to start the moving process.

Block buildings use a strong steel rod called rebar. The rebar runs through the block in order give support and strength to the wall. As I look at what is holding us together as a church, I can clearly see six areas:

  • Fasting and Prayer – Each year we begin with a time of fasting and prayer, which guides us in our decisions for the year.
  • Unified Leadership – We have an incredible staff and board that operate in faith and are not afraid to make courageous decisions.
  • Word and Worship – Every Sunday, we gather as a family to spend time in worship and learn from His Word.
  •  Missions Focus – Centerpointe Church has a long history of praying and supporting our home and world missionaries. In 2012, we supported 38 missionaries on a monthly basis. Today, we support over 60. 
  • Church Unity – Every step made over the last five years was accomplished because our hearts remained connected in love and unity.
  •  Focus on the Next Generation – We have made significant resource investments in our children and youth. We can see the benefits of those investments as our youth lead in worship, work and give to missions, lead small groups, and make a difference in their schools and families.

We are very blessed to have godly staff, leaders and workers, who have caught the vision and mission of Centerpointe Church. With God’s help, we will continue to be passionate followers of Jesus, inviting everyone we know to join us. We will continue to pray for a great spiritual awakening in Northern Virginia and we will continue to be a strong supporter of missions throughout the world.

I am blessed to pastor such an incredible group of people!

Serving Together,
Pastor Keith

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalms 90:17 NIV)