Psalm 23: 1-6

New Resources

  • A Psalm for All Creation

    by Sharron Blezard
  • Feed My Sheep

    by Frederick Buechner
  • Exegesis (Psalm 23)

    by Richard Donovan
  • Easter 4B (2021)

    by Phil Heinze
  • Proper 11B (2021)

    by Phil Heinze
  • Sermon Starters (Easter 4B)(2021)

    by Scott Hoezee
    Years ago my colleague Neal Plantinga and I heard Rev. John Claypool deliver a sermon at the installation service for Tom Long at Candler Divinity School. At the end of the service Claypool used a benediction we had never heard before (though we have since traced it back to the breastplate of St. Patrick). Neal memorized it on the spot and wrote it down and we have both been using it for years since. I can testify that I regularly have people comment on how rich this blessing is. At my former church people requested that this be the benediction I use at weddings and funerals. And it very much speaks to the sentiments and emotions evoked by Psalm 23: God go before you to guide you. God go behind you to protect you. God go beneath you to support you. God go beside you to befriend you. Be not afraid. And let the blessing of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Descend on you, settle in around you And make its home in you. Be not afraid. Go in peace.
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 11B)(2021)

    by Scott Hoezee
    Years ago my colleague Neal Plantinga and I heard Rev. John Claypool deliver a sermon at the installation service for Tom Long at Candler Divinity School. At the end of the service Claypool used a benediction we had never heard before (though we have since traced it back to the breastplate of St. Patrick). Neal memorized it on the spot and wrote it down and we have both been using it for years since. I can testify that I regularly have people comment on how rich this blessing is. At my former church people requested that this be the benediction I use at weddings and funerals. And it very much speaks to the sentiments and emotions evoked by Psalm 23: God go before you to guide you. God go behind you to protect you. God go beneath you to support you. God go beside you to befriend you. Be not afraid. And let the blessing of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Descend on you, settle in around you And make its home in you. Be not afraid. Go in peace.
  • Words Revealing Mystery

    by Dawn Hutchings
  • Easter 4B (2021)

    by Michael Jackson
  • Easter 4B (2021)

    by Joel LeMon
  • Proper 11B (2021)

    by James K. Mead
  • The Good Shepherd

    by David Russell
  • Easter 4B

    by Howard Wallace et al

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from 2017 to 2020

  • Nagging Grace

    by Bill Carter
    I lit the oil lamp and descended to the catacombs of my pastoral library. Surrounded by ancient manuscripts and learned tomes, I hunkered over the familiar words until I found something new. Suddenly, there it was, in the sixth verse: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." What I found was the Hebrew verb "radaph," which is translated "follow." It turns out that "follow" is a lazy translation. It is far too passive. The better translation is the word "pursue." God's goodness shall pursue us. God's mercy shall chase after us. With that, sermon number seven is off and running. A lot of people cannot imagine aggressive grace. Why, the very idea that goodness is not only present, but continually pursuing us - that is a most unusual expression. Yet, goodness and mercy chase after us. "Chase" is a word that carries overtones of danger...
  • Lent 4A (2017)

    by Joseph Coleson
    Psalm 23 reveals a quite astonishing dramatic turn midway through. Matter-of-factly, utterly without literary fanfare, the psalmist switched from third person to second person forms. Verses two and three contain four verbs whose subject is “he” (Yahweh), and one possessive pronoun “his” (Yahweh’s). From verse four, the pronouns are “you” (Yahweh) and “your.” Leaving aside talking about God, the psalmist began to talk to God. When we notice that, the effect could not be more powerful, moving, or hope-engendering.
  • Sermon Starters (Lent 4A)(2020)

    by Scott Hoezee
    I am told that unlike cattle who like to be driven from behind, sheep prefer to be led. Sheep apparently have an uncanny ability to form a trusting relationship with their shepherds. I read sometime back that a sleeping flock of sheep will not stir if their own shepherd steps gingerly through their midst. But let a stranger so much as set foot near the flock, and the sheep will startle awake as though a firecracker had gone off. In fact, in the Middle East to this day, you may see three or four Bedouin shepherds all arrive at a watering hole around sundown. Within minutes these different flocks of sheep mix in together to form one big amalgamated flock. But the various shepherds don’t worry about this mix-up because each shepherd knows that when it’s time to go, all he has to do is give his own distinctive whistle, call, or play his little shepherd’s flute in his own unique fashion, and all of his sheep will separate themselves from the mixed-up herd to follow the shepherd they’ve come to trust.
  • Sermon Starters (Easter 4A)(2020)

    by Scott Hoezee
    I am told that unlike cattle who like to be driven from behind, sheep prefer to be led. Sheep apparently have an uncanny ability to form a trusting relationship with their shepherds. I read sometime back that a sleeping flock of sheep will not stir if their own shepherd steps gingerly through their midst. But let a stranger so much as set foot near the flock, and the sheep will startle awake as though a firecracker had gone off. In fact, in the Middle East to this day, you may see three or four Bedouin shepherds all arrive at a watering hole around sundown. Within minutes these different flocks of sheep mix in together to form one big amalgamated flock. But the various shepherds don’t worry about this mix-up because each shepherd knows that when it’s time to go, all he has to do is give his own distinctive whistle, call, or play his little shepherd’s flute in his own unique fashion, and all of his sheep will separate themselves from the mixed-up herd to follow the shepherd they’ve come to trust.
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 23A)(2020)

    by Scott Hoezee
    I am told that unlike cattle who like to be driven from behind, sheep prefer to be led. Sheep apparently have an uncanny ability to form a trusting relationship with their shepherds. I read sometime back that a sleeping flock of sheep will not stir if their own shepherd steps gingerly through their midst. But let a stranger so much as set foot near the flock, and the sheep will startle awake as though a firecracker had gone off. In fact, in the Middle East to this day, you may see three or four Bedouin shepherds all arrive at a watering hole around sundown. Within minutes these different flocks of sheep mix in together to form one big amalgamated flock. But the various shepherds don’t worry about this mix-up because each shepherd knows that when it’s time to go, all he has to do is give his own distinctive whistle, call, or play his little shepherd’s flute in his own unique fashion, and all of his sheep will separate themselves from the mixed-up herd to follow the shepherd they’ve come to trust.
  • Sermon Starters (Easter 4C)(2019)

    by Scott Hoezee
    I am told that unlike cattle who like to be driven from behind, sheep prefer to be led. Sheep apparently have an uncanny ability to form a trusting relationship with their shepherds. I read sometime back that a sleeping flock of sheep will not stir if their own shepherd steps gingerly through their midst. But let a stranger so much as set foot near the flock, and the sheep will startle awake as though a firecracker had gone off. In fact, in the Middle East to this day, you may see three or four Bedouin shepherds all arrive at a watering hole around sundown. Within minutes these different flocks of sheep mix in together to form one big amalgamated flock. But the various shepherds don’t worry about this mix-up because each shepherd knows that when it’s time to go, all he has to do is give his own distinctive whistle, call, or play his little shepherd’s flute in his own unique fashion, and all of his sheep will separate themselves from the mixed-up herd to follow the shepherd they’ve come to trust.
  • When the Virus Comes

    by Janet Hunt
    And so I did, we did together, two nurses and me — commending this beloved one into God’s eternal care. And then they returned her blood to her (for she was on dialysis), removed the apparatus which was keeping her breathing, and turned off the i.v. medicine which had kept her blood pressure up these many hours. And this. Those two nurses stood one on either side of her, holding her hands until the end even as they pledged they would. It was all of twenty minutes later that her pressure started to drop and I stepped forward for one more prayer. And then, oh, this is so. Her eyes opened wide and fixed on something over my shoulder and it was as though she smiled to see what we could not. It was beautiful and I was grateful to be there, bringing what gifts I could, and then pausing once more to pray for those two precious nurses that they might know strength and courage and comfort in an unspeakably difficult time. For this they told me. They have walked through such painful times before. But never before have they had to stand in for loved ones again and again. And again. And it breaks their hearts a little more every single time...
  • Easter 4A (2017)

    by Stan Mast
    I recently read a wonderful little novel entitled Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Set in the high plains of eastern Colorado, it is a story about lonely people: two little boys, Ike and Bobby, who have lost their mother to mental illness; their father, Tom Guthrie, a school teacher trying to raise his sons alone and maintain his integrity in a school that tries to force him to compromise; Victoria, a pregnant teenager whose mother kicks her out of the house; and the McPherson brothers, Raymond and Harold, two tough, taciturn old bachelor farmers who have lived alone all their lives...
  • Lent 4A (2017)

    by Stan Mast
    The newer reading of Psalm 23:6 reminded me of Francis Thompson’s famous poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” It begins like this. “I fled him down the nights and down the years. I fled him down the arches of the years. I fled him down the labyrinthine ways Of my mind, and in the midst of tears I hid from him, and under running laughter. Then, after several more verses come these memorable lines: Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, Came on the following feet, and Voice above their beat: ‘Nought shelters thee that will not shelter me.” Those are the words of our Sheep Dog/Shepherd Savior, who will not stop pursuing us until we find our shelter in the house of the Lord...
  • The Good Shepherd

    by David Russell
    I read a couple of accounts of what took place in Charlottesville (on 8/11/17) written by people who were there. Brian McClaren is a pastor and author. He wrote, The courage of the clergy [and faith community] present inspired me. In public gatherings and in private conversations before Saturday, participating clergy were warned that there was a high possibility of suffering bodily harm. A group of clergy walked arm-in-arm into the very center of the storm, so to speak, and kneeled. This symbolic act took a great deal of courage, and many who did so were spat on, subjected to slurs and insults, and exposed to tear gas. I hold them in the highest regard…
  • My Shepherd

    by Noel Schoonmaker
    Back in 2005, some Turkish shepherds were watching a flock of 1500 sheep. While they were taking a break to eat breakfast, one of the sheep went off the edge of a cliff, falling some 50 meters to its death. Another sheep followed. Then another. And in a matter of minutes, the shepherds watched in horror as all 1500 sheep went off the cliff. About 450 of them died. The others had their landing cushioned by the pile of sheep that had already fallen. This is just one example of why sheep require constant attention and conscientious care. A sheep will sometimes wander off from the herd and get lost. Sheep sometimes lie down and find themselves unable to get back up. They will die there in their immobilized condition as a “cast sheep” if no one helps them back to their feet. Sheep are also easy prey for a number of predators because they have little capacity for self-defense and are not very fast when they try to get away. Sheep rancher Phillip Keller writes, “Sheep do not ‘just take care of themselves’ as some might suppose. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care.”...
  • Under New Management

    by Fritz Wendt
    A story is told of a young man from China who went to Bible study for a couple of months and found the Lord. When the time came for him to become a member in his church, he went to a store to have a T-shirt made that he wanted to wear to celebrate his being born again. He didn’t speak English and, because he didn’t want to look foolish, when they asked what wording he desired, he pointed to the first sign on the wall he could see. He ordered his T-shirt and paid. A few days later he picked it up, put it on and left for church. When he went up to the altar in his freshly pressed new T-shirt, the congregation read the words emblazoned on his chest: ‘UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT.’...
  • Saved by the Shepherd

    by Carl Wilton
    One of the best-known names of the mid-twentieth century is a name that’s nearly forgotten today. He was one of the most distinguished Christian ethical voices of the twentieth century. His name was Dag Hammarskjöld. He was a Swedish Christian, and Secretary-General of the United Nations. He died tragically, in 1962, in an airplane crash in Africa. Hammarskjöld was trying, at the time, to negotiate a peace treaty between two bitter enemies. There were some who feared his death might not have been an accident. Expert investigators were dispatched to the scene, to try to discover what had gone wrong. The investigators did their typically thorough job. They picked over the wreckage of the plane, looking for signs of mechanical failure — and found none. They checked out the weather forecasts for that day: had there been any wind shear, or an unexpected thunderstorm? They even checked the medical records of the pilot, to see if he could have suffered a heart attack. But none of these factors turned out to be the reason for the crash. What the investigators discovered was this: the pilot was working from the wrong “approach plate,” as it’s called. An approach plate is a specialized map, detailing the locations of the runways at an airport. The pilot had, in the cockpit that day, an approach plate for Endola airport, located in the Congo. The airport he was actually flying into was Endola, Zambia. There was a fatal altitude difference of 3,000 feet, which meant the Secretary-General’s plane literally flew into the ground, short of the runway...

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from the Archives

(In order to avoid losing your place on this page when viewing a different link, I would suggest that you right click on that link with your mouse and select “open in a new tabâ€. Then, when you have finished reading that link, close the tab and you will return to where you left off on this page. FWIW!)
  • Charles Laughton

    an Illustration
  • A Visitor, a Mapmaker and a Banquet

    by Benjamin Anthony
    ("Recently, however, I have become acquainted with an Episcopal priest who, because of a tricky medical condition and some deflating setbacks, has spent the last several months in a variety of Emory hospital rooms. He has become a mapmaker of sorts...")
  • You've Been Reading the 23rd Psalm Wrong All These Years. Here's Why...

    by Richard Bryant
    If you don’t know, I’m a Star Wars fan. In the most recent movie, “The Force Awakens”, the Resistance and the bad guys are trying to find Luke Skywalker. I won’t go into all the details but needless to say, Luke is the last Jedi knight and he’s gone into hiding. Forces of evil and darkness are trying to kill him. The good guys have one piece of a map that might lead them to his whereabouts. That’s nice but it’s no good to anyone unless they have the rest of the map, which happens to be stored in R2-D2’s hard drive. They can’t go anywhere or do anything. They can just read what they have. We’ve got a map and we’ve got a piece of the much larger map, except we’ve been looking at it the wrong way.
  • Live the Hyphen Fully

    by Joan Delaplane
    She was sixteen, sitting in her mother's bedroom window on a lovely spring evening, reflecting on the wonders of the universe: the heavens dotted with stars; the sky alight with the brightness of the moon. She was in awe of the greatness of the cosmos and its Creator, and the preciousness of the gift of life. I can point to that graced moment as significant in surfacing for me the prayer of Psalm 90: "Teach me, O Lord, the shortness of life that I might gain wisdom of heart." It was then and there that I realized I did not want to find all of a sudden that my life was over, and I had let it slip through my fingers! David Buttrick put it well: "...our lives are as brief as the hyphen between the dates on a gravestone." And the point remains: It is not how long we live, but how well, how fully we live that hyphen. Jesus lived a mere thirty-three years, but He lived it fully, giving glory to God by His faithful and loving obedience. In John 10:10, Jesus tells each of us: "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full."...
  • Hear His Voice, Follow His Steps

    by Peter Haynes
    Bob is the principal of a high school in Southern California for students who have problems in the traditional high school setting. He writes: "This year we moved into a new site. I was allowed to design the configuration of the buildings and designed the school with only one entrance and exit. Every morning I stand at the gate where students enter and greet them by name. No one is allowed past me if they are not students. "By greeting each student in the morning I am able to spot potential problems before the student has a chance to get on campus and cause problems. My inspiration for this campus design and my decision to be at the gate when my students arrive and leave is our Gospel passage for this week.
  • Shepherds I Have Known

    by Guy Kent
    ("There's a pastor I know who has a reputation for preaching. He has a way with words. He has the ability to coin a phrase and reshape a familiar thought, to demand the listener's attention. Every Sunday his church is full. Every year his church superiors get letters stating how important he is to the life of that congregation..." - a powerful story!!)
  • The Lord Is MY Shepherd

    by Paul Larsen
    ("Tony Campolo tells the story of a census taker who went to the home of a poor family in the mountains of West Virginia. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, 'Well there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry and Jeffrey......")
  • Storm Children

    by Jeffrey London
    One of my favorite Garrison Keillor stories is the story of the storm home and the storm child. Keillor begins the tale by saying that the principal of his school was fearful that a winter blizzard might strand at school the kids who lived in the country. So he assigned them all a "storm home" in town just in case. If a blizzard struck, each child was to go to his storm home. Keillor recalls his storm home vividly. He remembers it being a house near a lake inhabited by a kindly older couple. The grounds around the house were filled with all sorts of colorful and fragrant flowers. Keillor also recalls that his storm home had a statue of Mary among the flowers, thus suggesting to him these fine folks were Catholic. Given Keillor's Lutheran upbringing, he remembers wondering how a Protestant boy would manage in a Catholic home. Nevertheless, his imagination led him to envision what it would be like to spend the night in his very own storm home; what it would be like to be a storm child. Keillor even imagined the kindly older couple somehow choosing him: "That one!" they would have said as they pointed at the young Keillor. "We want that boy! The one with the thick glasses!" There was no great storm that year, no blizzard that would have led to the need of a storm home. Still, Keillor anticipated the possibility of spending the night in his very own storm home...
  • Uncle Clarence and His Farm

    by Edward Markquart
    ("Uncle Clarence had two or three big old ewes. They were under the special care of my country cousin Gary. Each year these big old ewes - these big old sheep - would be lovingly prepared for the Four H contest. They would be washed and scrubbed. Their hair would be combed out so they would look fat and full...")
  • Shepherds and Cowboys

    by David Martyn
    One of the voices in the play is that of Matthew’s father who gave me a new insight into the depths of this Psalm. “Matt officially died at 12:53 a.m. on Monday, October 12, 1998, in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He actually died on the outskirts of Laramie tied to a fence that Wednesday before, when you beat him. You, Mr. McKinney, with your friend Mr. Henderson, killed my son. By the end of the beating, his body was just trying to survive. You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone. There were his lifelong friends with him, friends that he had grown up with. You’re probably wondering who these friends were. First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope...
  • Faith for Personal Crises

    by Philip McLarty
    I got a call from my oldest son, John, Wednesday morning telling me that Patrick, my middle son, was in the hospital. He'd gone to the ER to have a piece of food removed from his esophagus. Something went wrong and he was in ICU. I told him I was on my way. Before I could get out the door, he called back to say they were airlifting Patrick to Dallas. If you don't mind doctor talk, he had an arterial gas embolism –an air bubble on the brain – which caused a stroke. He's still in ICU. His vital signs are strong, and his condition is stable – otherwise I wouldn't be here this morning. The doctors are guardedly optimistic about his recovery, but caution us that it's apt to take a long time. John's church – which is also Patrick and Emily's church – rallied around him. Emily's mother's church in Dallas brought food to the hospital. The whole community of Ponder, where Patrick teaches, responded en masse: Students put up posters at school; a couple of businesses put messages on their outdoor signs to pray for Coach McLarty; teachers and co-workers at his school volunteered to transfer sick leave days to cover Patrick through the ordeal. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it was a crisis, but we were not alone...
  • Though or Through

    by Rick Miles
    “Though” and “through” differ only by one small letter; the letter “r.” In American Sign Language, Ameslan, “r” is made by crossing the middle finger over the index finger. But crossed fingers have a history as sign language that far predates Ameslan. In the first centuries of the Church, when Christianity was wholly illegal and Christians were vigorously persecuted, believers found ways to communicate their faith in subtle cues. We’re all familiar with the sign of the fish, for instance. Accompanying a greeting or farewell, though, crossed fingers were also a code sign identifying Christians to one another as “people of the Cross.” The crossed fingers were a mute symbol for the Cross of Christ, and the redemption Christ’s death on that Cross brought to all people. Today, crossed fingers usually mean something very different. When placed behind our backs, they mean that we don’t mean what we’re saying. When held in our laps, or up beside us, they mean that we are hoping something will or will not happen. We are wishing for luck. But when those first Christians first used “crossed-fingers,” it had nothing to do with luck. Those crossed fingers had everything to do with trust in God. This is what the crossed fingers of the letter “r,” the difference that turns a “though” into a “through,” still means for you and me today. Though we walk in the valley of the shadow, we are not alone. Our shepherd is with us. Walking through the valley with us is the one who suffered as we suffer, and died as we die to draw us to God: Jesus Christ, the Crucified, our Savior. Reach out to him. He is with you. No matter what, he will bring you through.
  • Blood and Guts Shepherding

    by Nathan Nettleton
    I once had a female German Shepherd dog, and I learned a lot about the good shepherd from her. She had a litter of pups, nine in all, but one of them was born dead. She trusted me normally and was always affectionate towards me, but she knew that when it came to her newborn pups, she knew much better what was good for them than I did. As she gave birth and in the first few days afterwards, she was never unhappy about me being in the room and looking at the pups, but she wasn’t yet ready to let me touch them. And even when I tried to remove the dead pup from the whelping box, I nearly lost an arm. No one in their right mind argues with a snarling bare-toothed German Shepherd bitch protecting her pups, so the dead pup stayed there until she was prepared to concede that there was no hope for it. Once she did that, several hours later, she dropped it out of the box herself and was happy for me to remove it, but until she gave up hope for it, she loved it and would have defended it with her life...
  • The Cup of My Life

    by Fran Ota
    ("I was sent a video of a Chinese woman who has no arms. She lives alone, and supports herself. She can comb her hair, wash herself, cook and clean, and completely looks after herself. The video shows her overturning rocks with her feet, to take out crabs for sale..." and other quotes and illustrations)
  • The Good and Dissonant Shepherd

    by Larry Patten
    ["How many blacksmiths do you know? Have you ever met a cartwright? (Note to baby boomers: I don’t mean Pa, Adam, Hoss, or Little Joe.) Ever watched a glassblower? Conversed with a falconer? Longed to be a lamplighter? Some professions no longer exist. If anyone enters 'cartwright' on a 2015 IRS form, it’s likely they’re joking or employed by Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg..."]
  • The Lord is My Shepherd

    by James Pitts
    The poetic reflections of Dorothy Ann Thrupp on the 23rd Psalm have inspired believers for nearly 200 years. Her words have become a favorite hymn text. Savior, like a shepherd lead us; Much we need Thy tender care. In Thy pleasant pastures feed us; For our use Thy folds prepare. Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us; Thine we are. We are Thine, do Thou befriend us; Be the Guardian of our way. Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us; Seek us when we go astray. Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Hear the children when they pray.
  • God Is Still with Us

    by Keith Wagner

Other Resources from 2020

Other Resources from 2018 and 2019

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Other Resources from 2017

Other Resources from 2015

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Other Resources from 2016

Other Resources from 2014

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Other Resources from 2011 to 2013

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Other Resources from 2008 to 2010

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Other Resources from 2000 to 2007

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Other Resources from 1998 and 1999

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Other Resources from the Archives

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Children and Youth Resources and Dramas

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The Classics

Currently Unavailable

  • The Challenges and Blessings Disabilities Bring

    by Irma Janzen
    Scroll down to page 46 for this resource.
  • Be a Good One

    by Steve Goodier
  • Getting What You Deserve

    by Steve Goodier
    ("According to Alan Loy McGinnis in his book Confidence, actor Sidney Poitier achieved prominence in his field largely because of self reliance he learned from his parents...")
  • Easter 4A

    by Ryan Mills
    Several years ago Frank and Annie’s foster daughter Leslie died. Frank was there for her birth, and sat beside her as she died. What do you do at a moment like that? What do you say? Frank spoke the only words that can stand up in a moment like that, he began, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He spoke a line, and then she repeated. He came to the last line, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” and she closed her eyes, and gave up her spirit.
  • Memorize This!

    by David Martyn