Mary Had a Little Lamb (Variations)

I.

Mary had a little Lamb,
His face with Love did glow,
reflected in the eyes of beasts
that ’round His bed did go.

The sacrament, the mystery
a humble heart can see:
because Love lit a creature’s face,
there’s hope for one like me.

II.

Mary had a little Lamb;
into a King, he grew,
and laid aside His starry crown
to make a prince of you.

So do your best, my little boy,
as long as life has days,
to honor Him in all you do;
let living be your praise.

III.

Mary had a little Lamb;
an angel, kind and good,
had told her of this miracle
in words she understood.

From the moment Mary’s soul
was blessed, this news to hear,
the hope of every humble heart’s
been born again each year.

For God, the gracious, kindly laid
within a cattle stall
the Love so vast and powerful
to save us, one and all.

IV.

Mary had a little Lamb
when earth stood cold as stone,
and winter wind, like saber steel,
cut creatures to the bone.

Yet right around the manger bed
a light from Heaven lay,
and dawned upon the dead of night
a never-ending day.

V.

Mary had a little Lamb
while all the world around
lay frozen in the grip of death
and silent as the ground.

But angels from their realms above
to shepherds that were near
sang “Gloria,” to warm the souls
of any who would hear.

The humble beasts beside the bed
made from a trough of wood
knew deeply in their creature cores
the Lamb was kind and good.

And Kings drew near the lowly birth
from eastern lands afar
by humbly setting to the side
their scepters for a star.

For even now the wise ones from
among the folk of earth
find mangers in their heart of hearts
to hold the Holy birth.

Thus hope returns anew for all
who save a spot within
to let this everlasting gift
of Love be born again.

Yes, Mary had a little Lamb,
but knowing hearts will see
the saving glory of God’s grace
for our humanity.

VI.

Mary had a little Lamb
whose promised birth did bring
Immanuel, God with us all,
our brother and our King.

No distant despot, cold, aloof,
or cloistered would He be,
but one knows the joy and pain
of being you and me.

So deeply He desires to be
reborn within the soul
of every broken spirit
with a longing to be whole.

Thus God became a creature
so the creatures He could claim
with a Love that lasts forever
and an unforgotten name.

Even death has been defeated
and no enemy remains
for this Lamb of God who suffered
now has Risen, and He reigns.

He shall lead the lost and lonely
to green pastures of His love
and the deep peace of a river
shall alight them like a dove.

Mary had a little Lamb,
and to the world was born
the Love of God in human flesh
that blessed Christmas morn.’

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The Forest Gathering

(A story of gratitude)

Standing silent and alone, just off a ridge crest on a flat stone outcropping in a grove of white oaks, I saw them, as they gathered near the river.

Their faces took shape, it seemed, from the gently drifting breeze dancing like river eddies among the pines and hardwoods anchored in the bottomland soil, some with roots that reached from the steeply sloping bank to waters’ edge.

Emerging forms moved in unison with the autumn air, turned pastel with the paint of leaves, downward drifting to their sabbath rest on the forest floor.

To my mind, they were familiar, but I could place no names. Though moving, they were silent, like the rippling coat of a deer running through the hills and hollows of its wooded home.

Their presence brought an air of antiquity, of lives that had always existed somewhere. Yet youthful spirits skipped among them, as well, like adventurous children emerging from an old, abandoned wood-frame house.

Like a Sanskrit circle, the gathering had an aura of utter completion within itself, a universal embracing of life in all its facets, without blurring any of the faces swirling in this forest dance.

Training all my senses upon the ineffable scene unfolding before me, I felt a sense of belonging and hope; a warm and satiated joy like the love of a mother came over my spirit, and I began to feel a stirring deep within to the rhythm of the river and its brother wind.

Yet mingled with this undeniable joy, a sadness came, hand in hand. I wanted to cry, and to be held by the mysterious elders bowing beneath the shadows of oaks, primeval.

Time passed; I’ve no idea how long. The gathering seemed to fade into the colors of the forest canopy from whence it came. Shadows and spirits, once intertwined, now unmingled, leaving outstretched arms and open hands…or were they simply the appendages of limbs angled against an autumn sky?

Standing upon my rock in a state of serenity and peace, I pondered the meaning of this place and all its gatherings, then left with gratitude for the simple enormity of grace, and the ever-open invitation to partake.

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The Path Toward Home

Do you hear me when I say, “I love you?”
Do you know it when I pray your name?
Do you see me beg the sky for answers
as your burning star becomes a flame?

Do you understand my guilt and heartache
for the times I may have been unkind,
when I’ve held you to some unfair standard,
when your inner self I’ve failed to find?

If you know these things, I hope you feel me
trying hard to be as strong as you;
striving fast to hear the song you’re singing,
to your melody and words, be true.

And I pray an empty place inside you
will be filled with all the love we’ve known
hand in hand, as now we walk each other
down the old familiar path toward home.

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Grandpa and the Boy

“Mama, why doesn’t Grandpa talk?”,
the little buddy asked.
Mama then measured a response
this question had unmasked.
“Grandpa has had a stroke, my dear,
lost blood flow to his brain…
but rest assured, my precious one,
he loves you just the same.”
“Oh Mama, do you think he knows
how much he means to me?
How happy in my heart I feel
when sitting on his knee?
Does Grandpa see me smiling when
we talk of summer days,
of fishing trips and story times
and all the many ways
he makes me feel like I’m the one
that gives his heart its joy,
like I’m his oldest, closest friend
and he’s a little boy?”
“I think he knows these things, my dear,
but tell, him, just the same.
And don’t be sad if Grandpa can
no longer say your name.
The part that’s most important, son,
and this you must recall,
is Grandpa is still Grandpa now,
and will be, after all.
So love him like he loves you, dear,
and soon you will be sure,
no matter what the illness is,
you will have found the cure.”

Danny and Big Daddy

Personhood

I believe personhood is inherent and unfading, imparted by God to each of us.

Personhood is expressed fully only through relationships: we need the personhood of others to fully possess our own. Though vocational identity is one component of personhood, it is not most important; we are persons even if we are unable to be productive.

Personhood is not diminished by disabilities, mistakes, or losses; I would argue, not even by death. Diminishment of the ability to perceive personhood does not diminish personhood, itself.

The greatest gifts we can give the world are our personhood, fully claimed and shared, and to honor and support the personhood of others. At times in life, each of us may be less aware of the integrity of our own personhood. In loving community, we should help each other reclaim identity during these times: “If I forget, please show me back to me.”

We should help persons living with dementia to reclaim their identity through appreciating and supporting the pillars of their personhood: those elements of identity that persist, though they may be harder to identify as dementia progresses. We should weave quilts consisting of threads of relational identity with which to enfold persons living within dementia, wrapping them in the familiar fabric of themselves and the lives that have been warmed by their presence.

Personhood lives on, and is brought to light by such compassionate, empathetic actions by a loving community of care partners. I believe personhood is eternally remembered in the mind of God. Let us be of the same mind.

 

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Personhood and Presence

Yesterday, in Bringing Art to Life (UH Art to Life), I witnessed something inspiring. In our art therapy session for persons living with dementia and their student partners, yesterday’s activity was the making of collages based on things one likes, or things that catch one’s eye; essentially person-centered collages. Two of our participants were unable to be with us, so their students created collages for them, about them. During this activity, the students were completely centered upon, and immersed in the personhood of their partners living with dementia. The students interacted with each other for an hour and a half, working for that entire time within this personhood. They reminisced while discussing unique character traits and personality features of their partners, and chose images and words that they associated with those traits. At the end of the session, each person shared his/her collage with the group. It was deeply impactful to watch this unfold. It was as if the individuals who were absent were actually with us. This caused me to ponder the role of perception and relationships in our understanding of personhood – in a very real way, our absent friends were with us yesterday, and will be with us every day, every moment that we are fully present to their personhood. 

For Gray Days

When life seems
only to be made
of gray days
like this one
envision yourself
with easel and paints
having hiked
the predawn darkness
to a place where
you’ve always dreamed
of painting the posing sun
coyly rising
on the blushy cheeks
of morning.

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