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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The rare breed...A tribute to Mr. Harry Flohr

I'm reading the title to this post and thinking how absurd it really is. "A Tribute to Harry Flohr"
It's absurd because if you knew this man during his time on earth, you know already that there isn't a really good way to pay tribute to him. But I am going to try because he was a giant in my life and because he was--maybe more than almost anyone I have known--deserving of a tribute...deficient as it might be.
 I started attending church with the Flohrs when I was 8 years old. It was a medium sized baptist church, maybe 400 members. It was the kind of place where you knew everyone very well. I have had...and still probably have...some issues and disagreements with the theology and the personal convictions, but one thing they did very well was they never let anyone slip through the cracks. They were involved almost to the point of being nosy. Right or wrong, if you missed more than 2 Sundays in a row, someone called you to make sure you were okay. They took you dinner if you were sick and they wept if you were weeping. One of the first men I met there was Harry Flohr. I remember him being tall, handsome, funny, with a warm smile and a laugh that made you want to join in. He was vibrant, and lively and you instantly felt the kindness that his huge heart possessed. The other thing huge about Harry were those hands. Mr. Flohr had hands like catchers mitts. Shaking that hand when I was 8 years old was like shaking hands with a giant. As I grew to adulthood and my own hands grew to X-L size, Harry's were still the benchmark. I'd shake his hand and still be amazed every time at how large and powerful they were. Handshakes were a big thing to Harry. He had a slew of funny gags he'd play when you shook his hand. He'd say "How does a cardiologist shake hands" just as he reached for yours. Then before you could even think of the answer, he'd squeeze your hand to mimic a pulse and he'd laugh at himself before you laughed with him. His favorite handshake was his tireless "How does a Christian shake hands?" Then he'd reach for your hand, and as soon as you clasped, he'd open his hand away from yours and your hands were connected at the thumbs and the open palms formed a dove....the symbol of the Holy Spirit. That was his favorite and he'd smile if he caught you forgetting to open your hand in unison with him.
More than anything--more than any words or deeds--Harry Flohr was consistent. If I were a pastor, I'd want at least one Harry Flohr in my church. Mr. Flohr was the most giving, caring, diligent, hard working, involved man I saw in all my years at that church and in the years after I left that church. Harry didn't just wait for the pastor to mention a need...this was his church too and he saw the needs and jumped in with both feet. He would be on his lawn tractor with a snow plow attached, plowing the parking lot so we could have church on Sunday morning. He would be the first adult to offer to provide rides to the youth group kids to go ice skating at University of Delaware or roller skating at Merryland. He cared. He loved everyone. He was blessed with a good job that paid fairly well and allowed him a few niceties and he never saw them as just his. He had a beautiful Boston Whaler boat that we all went fishing on at some point. He had a motor home that I would dare say saw more miles on youth group activities--often without him even being there--then it saw miles for Flohr family vacations. Everything he and his wonderful sweet wife Lucille owned was really God's and it was there for God to use whenever and however he wanted.
He was simply one of the godliest men I ever knew.
I could fill page after page with things he did. Acts of obedience and service. But that would be beating a drum that misses the point. So I'm only going to bring up two specific memories I have with Harry. One...When I was a senior in high school, we started our first baseball team. We were very very good. Being a small Christian high school, the budget was tight. Harry stepped up and bought us our uniforms and equipment for that first year. Nobody ever told us who the anonymous donor was. It was years afterward that I finally found out who had done it.
The other memory is the one I'll treasure most. About two years ago, I saw Mr. Flohr at the church he'd been attending for some time. Crossroads Bible Church in Elkton Maryland. It was a church that had a lot of folks from the original church we'd all attended. Harry and Lucille were faithful as always, even though his body had been ravaged by Parkinsons and he was confined to a scooter and slumped badly. It hurt me to see this wonderful man, a man who was playing basketball with high school kids well into his fifties, so bent and worn. This disease is brutal and it's taken it's cruel toll on several people I love.
I felt the overwhelming urge to tell him what he meant to me that particular morning. I couldn't think of the right words (imagine!) but I knew I wanted him to know how he'd touched me.
I found him after the service ended and I bent down and gave him a long hug and finally the words came..."You are my hero
If you want to know what it was that made this man a hero...what made him a giant of the faith for myself and for about three generations of believers who felt his influence, it was simply this...consistency.
I was talking with Dave Lewis, our youth pastor back in those days, and one of my dearest friends now, and we were reminiscing about Harry. We talked about his qualities and his service and his consistency. We were both so moved by simply knowing this man. And I said something to Dave that struck me in my heart. I said  "Harry was the most consistent believer I ever knew. He lived it the same way every single day of his life. Some of us try to do something huge for God with our lives all at once. Sometimes we make a big splash and pour a lot of water into the bucket at once. Some goes in but most splashes on the ground in wasted effort. Harry filled his bucket a cupful every day for every single day of his life."  Over a lifetime he seldom ever missed the target and his bucket was overflowing onto us all right until the very end, and it will continue to fill us all until Jesus returns. That was harry Flohr in a nutshell. One cup at a time, well placed, carefully poured, never wasting a drop.
I'll probably never reach that sort of testimony, but I can try.
To honor Harry, I will.
Your work continues in Heaven Mr. Flohr...thank you so very much for the careful, wonderful life you lived. We will see you are not far from our hearts.