Sermon based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Psalm 37)

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Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 6 of 6: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Scripture: Psalm 37:1, 5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Intro

  • 36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
  • Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
  • Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.

Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now. 
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Ashes of mourning  
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.

So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.

Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.

Ashes of humility  
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.

Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.

We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.

The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.

Ashes of life   
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.

So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.

grinch 1Reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.    

The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm

Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.

How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.

  • The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
  • He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
  • Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.

At the end of the story, the Grinch has

  • a new family
  • a new way of thinking and being
  • a new identity

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.

Grinch collageThe evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)

Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.

  • Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
  • Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.

Psalm 37:1, 5
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.

Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes
Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.

The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.

It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

7 Prayers for General Conference 2019

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The General Conference, the decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, will be meeting in St. Louis Missouri starting today. They will be considering the greater inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the leadership and life of our UMC tradition. There are faithful people with diverse points of view who will be making these decisions and millions more watching and waiting. It is a mile marker moment in our life together and we’re feeling it. 

Thank you for praying with us and for us. – Lisa <>< 

Prayer 1 for General Conference: Surrender
Read Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

In light of General Conference, what would it be like to turn toward Jesus and place everything in His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. If you’re willing to do this by the grace of God and invite all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Healing Hands by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, Resurrected One
Light of New Life
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

You are moving, speaking, inviting

We hear your call to repentance
The turning will save us

We hear your Good News
The trusting will save us

We place every need into your healing hands
our loved ones, our enemies, ourselves
our work, our congregations, our denomination
our community, our nation, our world
our hopes, our security, our failures, our future

We place every need into your healing hands
We will find rest and wholeness there
We will find life, now and forever
Hallelujah! Glory to your Holy Name!

Prayer 2 for General Conference: Confession
Read Mark 6:1-5

It is far too easy to dismiss persons with a different point of view. To label, judge, ridicule, blame. To build the dividing walls of us and them, winners and losers, faithful and sinner, insider and outsider. How have you done this? Will you confess your contempt and invite all at General Conference to do the same? 

Confessing Contempt by Lisa Degrenia
Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon, fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of judgment, criticism, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are different from me
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I have failed in your command to love
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9 NRSV
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer 3 for General Conference: Joy
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 (NRSV)

Nehemiah 8:10
… the joy of the Lord is your strength.

What are you feeling concerning General Conference? Fear, hope, determination, confusion, pain… Would you dare to feel joy? To sing and shout God’s greatness and glory. To claim again God’s steadfast character and presence. If you desire the Lord’s joy to be your strength and long for all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Joy is our Strength by Lisa Degrenia
Wondrous God
Father-Son-Spirit
Your joy is our strength
Nothing more
Nothing less
Nothing else
Grant us grace to receive you and your joy
Grant us grace to trust it above all other powers and plans
Grant us grace to bear it and share it as generously as you
For the honor is yours
The majesty is yours
and Your kingdom is at hand
Amen

Prayer 4 for General Conference: Power
Matthew 3:11, NRSV
John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

If you desire the power of the Holy Spirit for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Come Holy Spirit by Lisa Degrenia
Come Holy Spirit
Come again as cleansing fire, burning away all that is false and fruitless

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as guiding fire, lighting the way through our wilderness

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as refining fire, purifying our words, our ways, and our hearts

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as prophetic fire, calling us to courage and action

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as surprising fire, dancing atop every believer, breaking down barriers, opening lips with Good News

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as empowering fire, inspiring us, emboldening us to use your gifts to bless and change the world

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as unifying fire, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Amen.

Prayer 5 for General Conference: Likeness of Christ
Luke 19:41-42a, NRSV
As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

As we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ, what breaks his heart breaks ours, what he desires for all people becomes our desire. If you desire to receive these gifts for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Prayer for a Broken Heart by Lisa Degrenia
Break our hearts, Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
Take away our fear, our apathy, our silence

Grant us
Your courage, Your strength,
Your perseverance, Your heart

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
A people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

Prayer 6 for General Conference: Humility
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NRSV

Our humility helps all involved experience the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. If you desire to receive this gift for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

The Humble Way by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, you are gentle, lowly, vulnerable
You choose to be with us in our weakness
You win the world with your love, sacrifice, and humility

Your power is made perfect in
our weakness
our transparency
our vulnerability
our surrender
our honesty with our dusty condition

Free us from posing as experts with all the answers
Free us from silver-tongued speech
Free us from human conceiving and scheming

Let us know nothing with certainty other than the eternal truth
that you are the Anointed One, the Liberating King,
who was crucified on our behalf

We receive you and your saving
We welcome your wisdom and offering
We entrust all you have given us back into your hands
We rely on you, Holy Spirit, to demonstrate your power
that our faith, the faith of those we serve, the faith of those yet to believe
may be rooted in you alone. Amen

Prayer 7 for General Conference: Peace
Jesus tells the story of the Religious Teacher (Pharisee) and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 so that those who have a heart of war may receive the gift of a heart of peace. The first steps to receiving this gift are honesty, transparency, confessing our need and our desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace and desire a heart of peace for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Heart of Peace by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing.
You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.
You are the Prince of Peace offering all a heart of peace.

Jesus, we bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace,
the breadth of your inclusion,
the surprise of your grace.
You seek and seek and seek,
including those we write off as beyond hope.
You even include me.

Forgive me, Jesus.
Forgive me for forgetting who you are.
For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds.
Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging.
Forgive my hurtful words and actions.
Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you.
I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.
Create in me a heart of peace.
I open myself to your gift
and pray all your people will receive it as well.
Amen.

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7 Prayers for General Conference © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palms

Repent and Return
This confession was inspired by a passage from Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson and the traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Joel 2.

Modern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. The post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
A set of four interactive prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could, of course, be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.
Prayer Station 1
Prayer Station 2
Prayer Station 3
Prayer Station 4

Palm Sunday Sermon, Jesus the King (Luke 19, Zechariah 9)

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Palm Sunday by William Hemmerling

Message: Jesus, The King
Scriptures: Luke 19:29-44
This message was offered Palm Sunday, 3/25/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Jesus enters Jerusalem a king
King Solomon entered Jerusalem the same way when he claimed his father’s throne. King David’s throne. The prophecy of the promised Messiah-King was well known

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King
He’d been offered a crown before but now he was finally accepting it.

  • The devil offered Jesus a crown 3 years earlier if he’d bow down and worship. Jesus refused to worship anyone but the Lord God his Father
  • Jesus taught and fed a crowd of over 5000. They wanted to crown him king on the spot. Jesus withdrew to a mountain by himself instead. It wasn’t time.
  • Now it’s time. His crown will be a crown of thorns.

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King
Not on a proud Arabian stallion. Not on a mighty, Roman war chariot, but on a donkey, a young donkey, a colt. An animal so small it had never been ridden. An animal so small it probably struggled up the hill to Jerusalem under his weight, so small Jesus’ legs were probably dangling, almost touching the ground, laughable.

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King on a donkey, a colt, and it’s borrowed.

  • He borrowed the donkey like he borrowed a boy’s lunch to feed the 5000
  • Like he borrowed the boat so he could preach to the pressing crowd by the sea of Galilee
  • Like he’ll borrow an upper room to have the last supper and borrow a grave for his dead, tortured body
  • Even in death, Jesus has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King
King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the king of vulnerability, the ruler of humility, the monarch of meekness. Meekness is not a doormat. Neither is humility. It is power under authority.

Through Jesus, all things came into being. He is the Word of God spoken in Creation. (John 1) Yet he laid aside his infinite power placing it under the authority of the Father to be one of us, one with us, so we could be one with him.

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King
A weeping king. These are not quiet tears. Luke describes it as convulsive sobbing. Jesus knows what’s coming-

  • The blessings and praise turning to cursing and “Crucify Him!”
  • The waving hands turning into fists of punishment
  • The cloaks on the road turning to grave clothes on his corpse

Jesus is a weeping king
He doesn’t weep for himself. He weeps for Jerusalem. He weeps for us.

Jerusalem will be destroyed in less than 40 years and so many other cities down through time. He sees the

  • Starvation- people resorting to eating their leather belts and sandals
  • People taken into slavery
  • Bloodshed and tortured cries at the hands of oppressors
  • People barely escaping to a new land

Jesus is a weeping king because so many do not recognize their time of visitation from God. Instead of running to Jesus, rejoicing with palms, shouting with excitement like little children…

  • They complain about the disruption
  • They label Jesus dangerous, a pretender
  • They cling to their earthly power and position

Jesus enters Jerusalem a King
He also enters this place, this moment. How will you welcome him?

  • With cursing or a confession of faith
  • With contempt or excitement and rejoicing
  • By crucifying him by clinging to your earthly power and position
  • or by rejoicing and welcoming him, by crowning him King of your heart

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Palm Sunday Prayer by Lisa Degrenia
Blessed Are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe.
In Jesus, you rule and reign,
Not as a tyrant, but as a humble servant
Riding on a borrowed donkey
Washing feet
Suffering from injustice

Open our hearts with this truth
Take your throne

Open our lips with shouts of praise
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – Remember You Are Dust (Joel 2, Psalm 51)

ash wedensday with palms

Message: Remember You Are Dust
Scriptures: Joel 2:12-17; Psalm 51:1-12
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This sermon was offered 2/26/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Breath in, Breath Out
Which is more important? Inhaling or exhaling?
Which is more important? What we believe or how we behave?

Belief and behavior both matter, just like inhaling and exhaling.
What we believe shapes how we behave.
How we behave demonstrates what we believe.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through the book of James.
It’s a book which focuses on how the followers of Jesus are to behave.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Faith without works is dead.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) also focuses on behavior.
Turn the other cheek
Go the extra mile
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Do not judge
Do to others as you would have them do to you

Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25), as illustrated by the separating of sheep and goats, focuses on behavior. Those welcomed into the kingdom are those who
Feed the hungry
Give the thirsty something to drink
Welcome the stranger
Give clothing to the naked
Care for the sick
Visit those in prison

John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” This isn’t a sentimental, candy-coated feeling. This is love made real in our words and actions. In our sacrifices and steadfastness.

And yet, belief is critically important.
Without it, we are merely humanists
Without it, we are unplugged from the eternal
Unplugged from the “why” of our actions
Unplugged from the “how” of our strength to act

Placing our trust in Jesus Christ opens the way for the Holy Spirit to lead us and transform us: our behavior, our motivation, our perspective on what’s important, our love.

Our belief allows the Holy Spirit to shape us into the very likeness of Jesus.

Following Jesus is about the integration of belief and behavior. By cooperating with God’s grace, we become people of integrity. Integrated. We who are broken become whole. We are “re-membered.”

The integration of belief and behavior is so important we set aside time every year to reflect and focus on it.

  • We face our true selves in the light and love of Jesus.
  • We face our failures, our shortcomings in the grace of Jesus
  • We commit to continued growth in the likeness of our Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit

To help us do this, we use a symbol: ashes
The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. Our time here is short. Make it count.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our humility. Humility, human and hummus are all from the same root word meaning “of the earth.” We have a common bond with all people and all living things. We are no better or worse.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is the tangible reminder of our sorrow, a modern expression of the days’ people displayed their grief by wearing sackcloth and ashes. We grieve the spoiling and wasting of God’s good gift of life. We lament how we’ve hurt God, others, the earth, and ourselves. We mourn our sin.

The dirty smudge on our foreheads is in the shape of a cross. A tangible sign of the infinite grace of Jesus Christ that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there.

Psalm 103:13b-14, The Voice
The Eternal shows His love for those who revere Him.
For He knows what we are made of
He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.

Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave. Jesus draws us, invites us, and empowers us toward new life: A transformed life, a whole and holy life, where belief and behavior are fully integrated with his good and divine will.

Come, see how the ashes and the grace are good.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer: All will be Brought to Light (Matthew 2.1-12)

vision eye see

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they left for their own country by another road
– Matthew 2:12

Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light
Radiant One, give us wisdom
to know when to wait and when to act
to know what to pick up and what to leave behind

The hidden will be brought to light
hidden words
hidden thoughts
hidden actions of our hands
hidden motives of our hearts

Radiant One, give us wisdom
to stand- trusting all will be revealed
to bow- knowing all will be revealed

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Be sure to check out some wonderful prayers based on this scripture passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes, entitled Another Road and Inward Magi.

Prayer: All Will be Brought to Light © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: O Lord, My Heart is Not Proud

Sunrise over sea
O Lord, my heart is not proud
I trust you and need you and honor your blessed presence

Cleanse and nurture my soul
that I may rejoice in what delights you,
see as you see, love as you love

Cleanse and nurture my soul
so my thoughts are as yours,
so I am quick to respond to your bidding

Cleanse and nurture my soul
so that I may leave this world more as you intend it to be

I place myself honestly and humbly into your care,
for you know me truly and love me completely
Amen

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O Lord, My Heart is Not Proud © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.