Wednesday, December 12, 2012

King Jesus vs. Yertle the Turtle

"Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor"

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, 
all for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising,
heav’nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.

Frank Houghton, 1894 - 1972

One of my favorite Christmas (and any time of the year hymns), about Jesus, who stooped so low - "thrones for a manger didst surrender" - out of such great compassion for us.  He didn't demand power, but instead relinquished it for a while so that he could be Emmanuel, "God With Us."

Contrast that to so many who want to lord it over others.  Like Dr. Seuss's Yertle the Turtle.

(If you can't see the video, click here: Yertle the Turtle)

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were… until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.
“I’m ruler”, said Yertle, “of all that I see.
But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.
With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond
But I cannot look down on the places beyond.

This throne that I sit on is too, too low down.
It ought to be higher!” he said with a frown.
“If I could sit high, how much greater I’d be!
What a king! I’d be ruler of all that I see!”
So Yertle the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And Yertle, the Turtle King, gave a command.

He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
And, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another one’s back
And he piled them all up in a nine-turtle stack.
And then Yertle climbed up. He sat down on the pile.
What a wonderful view! He could see ‘most a mile!

“All mine!” Yertle cried. “Oh, the things I now rule!
I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule!
I’m the king of a house! And, what’s more, beyond that
I’m the king of a blueberry bush and a cat!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”

And all through the morning, he sat up there high
Saying over and over, “A great king am I!”
Until ‘long about noon. Then he heard a faint sigh.
“What’s that?” snapped the king,and he looked down the stack.
And he saw, at the bottom, a turtle named Mack.
Just a part of his throne. And this plain little turtle
Looked up and he said, “Beg your pardon, King Yertle.
I’ve pains in my back and my shoulders and knees.
How long must we stand here, Your Majesty, please?”

“SILENCE!” the King of the Turtles barked back.
“I’m king, and you’re only a turtle named Mack.”
“You stay in your place while I sit here and rule.
I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule!
I’m the king of a house! And a bush! And a cat!
But that isn’t all. I’ll do better than that!
My throne shall be higher!” his royal voice thundered,
“So pile up more turtles! I want ’bout two hundred!”

“Turtles! More turtles!” he bellowed and brayed.
And the turtles ‘way down in the pond were afraid.
They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed.
From all over the pond, they came swimming by dozens.
Whole families of turtles, with uncles and cousins.
And all of them stepped on the head of poor Mack.
One after another, they climbed up the stack.

Then Yertle the Turtle was perched up so high,
He could see forty miles from his throne in the sky!
“Hooray!” shouted Yertle. “I’m the king of the trees!
I’m king of the birds! And I’m king of the bees!
I’m king of the butterflies! King of the air!
Ah, me! What a throne! What a wonderful chair!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Yertle.
“You’ve no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle.
I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea!
There’s nothing, no, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!”
But, while he was shouting, he saw with surprise
That the moon of the evening was starting to rise
Up over his head in the darkening skies.
“What’s THAT?” snorted Yertle. “Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it! I’ll go higher still!
I’ll build my throne higher! I can and I will!
I’ll call some more turtles. I’ll stack ‘em to heaven!
I need ’bout five thousand, six hundred and seven!”

But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And started to order and give the command,
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!
And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
The king of a house and a cow and a mule…
Well, that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!
For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!
And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

by Dr. Seuss

Many of us know too many people like Yertle the Turtle and not enough like Jesus.

I'll take Jesus over Yertle the Turtle any day!

How about you?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Thanks to Jessica Ivey, 4th-6th grade history teacher at the Providence Home Educators co-op, for mentioning Yertle in her discussion about true greatness in leadership.   As her classroom assistant, I was able to Google the story on my iPod and read it aloud to the class.  Perfect.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What You Can Do to Make the Holiday Season a Little Merrier for Others (Advocating for the Vulnerable #8)

Dear friends,

I've been thinking lately, as so many of you have, about how many people are in survival mode at Christmastime.  And I'm not talking about how they have just crammed their schedules too busy or they are running around trying to buy all of their gifts in time.  I am talking about real survival mode.  As in: they don't have enough food to eat, decent clothes to wear, proper medical attention, maybe even a roof over their heads.  Or they might be struggling through chronic pain or handicaps - physical, emotional, and or spiritual.  They might be afflicted with mental illness.  They might just be lonely or anxious, or grieving the loss of loved ones.

Think through the people you know, or even those whom you don't know yet.  What are they going through right now?  

Where are they?  In a Third World country around the globe from you, on the streets downtown, in a decent enough home down the street from you, or, chances are, they might be living at your house.  This might be you.   

What can you do?  How can you help make the holiday season a little merrier for someone else?
  • Invite an international student or someone else who has no local family over for a holiday meal, even if it is not right on Christmas Day.   
  • Talk to a lonely friend.  A cup of tea?  A listening ear for sure.  Listen, don't lecture.
  • Watch what you say to people, especially among those whom you don't know really, really well.  You might make a critical comment about "other people's problems" (such as substance abuse, financial issues, family crisis, mental illness, etc.) not realizing that those in your presence are affected by it too.  You don't always know what someone is going through, and if you are throwing off negative vibes, you can be sure they won't be eager to tell you about it, unless it is to tell you off for being insensitive. :-(
  • Be extra sensitive and gracious to families with special needs children.  Read here: Making It Through the Holidays with Children Who Have Special Needs (at Karen Campell's That Mom blog)
  • Offer to watch friends' kids so the stressed out parents (especially a single mom) can go out for some alone time, a date with a hubby or friend, or a holiday party. 
  • Take a fancy casserole or a plate of Christmas cookies to a shut in.  
  • Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home.  
  • Write letters to your elderly relatives.  Add pictures that your kids have made.
  • Help an elderly or handicapped friend decorate for Christmas.  They can't always reach up high or lift boxes.  See Easy Christmas Decorating on a Dime.
  • Throw a Christmas craft party for neighbor kids.  Provide all of the supplies for projects for various ages and interests. Make sure you serve lots of yummy snacks!   And tell them about Jesus.  Yes, tell them about Jesus.
  • Go serve the Christmas meal at the homeless shelter.  
  • Donate non-perishable foods or gift cards to a food drive. 
  • Pick out gifts for a needy someone in your community. (Ask your pastor for the names of needy folks or worthy organizations.)  
  • Be a Secret Santa and drop a bag of goodies or presents off on a doorstep of someone you know.  
  • Harvest of Hope with Partners International - gift catalog of items you can order to be sent to impoverished people around the world. Piglets anyone?  Or how about medicine, or school supplies, or clean water, or therapy for a disabled child?  There are plenty of options to fit your budget and get your kids involved!
  • Buy the Christmas CD, It Happened One Night, a benefit for the work of International Justice Mission in bringing liberty to the oppressed around the world.  Why yes, you do want to listen to Sara Groves, Kari Jobe, Brandon Heath, David Crowder, Matt Maher, Laura Story, Mandisa and more... Beauty. Justice. What more could you ask for at Christmastime? Why don't you order a bunch and give them as pre-Christmas gifts?  I think they are only $5 right now! While you're at it, go over to the IJM web site and donate there, too!
It Happened One Night

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(Go do it!)