Friday, June 12, 2009

Harley, Farley, Charlie & Claude

Many years ago . . . say, about 40 or 45 years ago! . . . I was given an LP record of a Christian speaker to youth. One of the talks recorded on that album had the intriguing title of Harley, Farley, Charlie and Claude.

It was the story about David and Goliath.

If you look up the story in 1 Samuel 17, you'll find that, as he prepares to fight the giant, David picks up five smooth stones for his sling (v. 40).

There is no further comment on the verse. But the speaker commented on it. As far as I have been able to determine, what the speaker said about those five pebbles was a complete concoction from his fertile imagination.

As I recall, he said that the reason for those four "extra" stones was not to take care of Goliath in case David missed; rather,as protection against Goliath's brothers, . . . Harley, Farley, Charlie and Claude.*

Now, my purpose in telling you this, what I have related, is actually to bring you to another detail from the story where the speaker's point is actually based on the Scripture itself and doesn't go beyond it.

After relating Goliath's initial trash-talk of David (what we read about in vv. 42-44) and David's bold reply (vv. 45-47), he described Goliath's opening physical gambit (v. 48a) and David's response: "David ran" (v. 48b).

Yes, said the speaker, David ran.

"But he didn't run away from the battle. He ran toward it. . . . You see, the direction matters."

--Something like that. (Give me some slack. It's been over 40 years!)

For some reason, that story has always stuck with me.

And it came to mind again this past week.

Last week, early, I realized Sonlight faced one of the largest customer relations debacles we have encountered in the 19 years we've been in business. And I had a choice. The anger directed against us, the fury, the sense of injustice at what we had done: it seemed impossible that we could placate the ravening crowd.

But I decided I needed to try to do something. And so I began to write and found my words thrown back in my face.

I think I spent all day last Friday, all day Saturday and . . . something I never do: I "even" justified getting up early on Sunday in order to try to communicate with these customers (or, at that point, some former customers). (Sundays have been a pretty much sacrosanct day of rest for me since my freshman year in college. I "justified" the "work" of communication on the basis that I had to be reconciled with people whom I had offended. Following Jesus' comments about doing good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12), I figured "making up" was well-justified.)

Well, Sunday morning, the speaker at our church had us turn to Acts 3:1-12, the story of Peter and John heading to the temple and being accosted by the paralytic.

"Silver and gold have I none," Peter famously replied. "But that which I have, I give to you. . . ."

And, having healed the man, suddenly, Peter and John found themselves surrounded by a crowd.

"And when Peter saw [the crowd], he addressed the people."

He could have backed off, tried to escape, tried to do any of a number of things besides actually talk with the people.

He decided to speak to them.

When I got home from church, I continued to attempt to "speak" to those who were offended.

By 9 o'clock that night, I was disheartened (to put it mildly).

I thought: "These people don't want to hear. Why are you wasting your time? You have invested an entire precious day of rest in what? You've exposed yourself to such toxic negativity. . . . Why? What good have you done?"

I wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere.

It took another three days to bring this sorry episode to a preliminary close.

But when it was all over, despite the physical, emotional, and mental toll, I was glad I had stood my ground and run to the fight rather than away.

I'm not sure what big "lesson" I have here. But, for some reason, the story seemed worthy of telling.

And maybe this is all to say, too: I may not post for a couple of weeks.

I'm exhausted. And I'm looking forward to a two-week vacation that's supposed to start tomorrow afternoon/evening. We're scheduled to be in Europe: up the Rhine from Amsterdam, across the Main-Danube Canal, then down the Danube to Budapest.

I look forward to "seeing" you when I get back!

* ETA at 7:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 13: I just got thinking: I don't think the speaker made such a big deal about Goliath's purported brothers that he gave them names. I think he merely suggested that it was because of brothers that David picked up the extra stones. I believe the names Harley, Farley, Charlie and Claude were those he gave to the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus for healing (Mark 2:3). The names make more sense in that context. They are throw-away names for four men whose behavior was truly extraordinary and worthy of emulation. . . . And why do I remember their names? Because Harley, Farley, Charlie and Claude was the name of the record album. --Side issue, I know. But I thought I should clarify.
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