The Freelance Writer as Entrepreneur

About forty years ago, I worked at an institution for the mentally disabled. There were over 1,200 patients in the facility. Some had severe physical and mental impairments, others appeared nearly normal.

Some patients spent most of their time on their ward or outside their building in the yard areas while others had free run of the grounds and even went into the nearby town. One such individual was Bob.

Bob’s IQ was in the low 50s. Bob spent his days in the workshop where he earned a small salary doing piece-rate work. But Bob dreamed of something more.

Bob heard the staff complaining about the prices of cigarettes and soda that were sold at the on-grounds canteen and out of the vending machines. Bob used to visit the local grocery store in town. Something seemed off to Bob. He just knew he wasn’t spending that much for his soda and cigarettes.

Bob found an old shopping cart and went to the store and bought a carton of cigarettes and a case of soda. He then set up shop on the raised walkway that connected the buildings, selling sodas and a pack of cigarettes for less than the price at the canteen or the machines. He sold out quickly and discovered he had made a profit. Bob liked profit.

He went back to the store the next day and bought two cases of soda and two cartons of cigarettes. By the end of the day, Bob was a happy man.

Some staff members asked Bob if he had any candy bars to sell. Bob headed to the store and found the candy that sold in bulk packages. The next day his shopping cart offered soda, cigarettes, and candy bars, and once again Bob sold all his products.

The staff at the workshop reported that Bob was missing work. His social worker talked to Bob about this. Bob said he didn’t want to work at the workshop because he was making more money selling soda and cigarettes.

Some staff members told Bob they preferred a different brand of soda or cigarettes, so he expanded his offerings. That worked out well. Another person asked if Bob had fresh fruit like apples or bananas. He did not but went to the store that evening to get some.

The next day he searched for the staff member who had requested the fruit but the person was now on a week’s vacation. A cloud of fruit flies in Bob’s room alerted the staff about his business failure.

Bob’s business prospered until someone got upset and reported the happenings to the State Department of Revenue (taxes). They visited Bob and asked to see his sales tax records. Oops!

The team quickly convened a meeting, and staffers were assigned to make sure all the paperwork and payments were in place. Bob was upset at first but he understood that he either did this or he was out of business.

So, what can a freelance writer learn from Bob?

1) Find a problem that others have and then fix it for them at a price where everyone wins. Bob heard the staff’s complaints about prices and saw an opportunity. As a freelance writer, you can write engaging articles that someone else needs, you can edit books and content for websites, you can format e-books or design covers, all very common problems for authors.

2) Do not put limits on your success. Bob listened to what people were telling him — “I prefer a different brand” — and gave them what they wanted. As a freelancer, if you work in only one area, say edit books, you are saying no to other opportunities.

3) Entrepreneurs are not afraid to make mistakes. They learn from them and move on. Bob lost money on the apples and bananas. As a freelancer, you will run into a difficult editor or author whose complaints are not worth any amount of money. Learn from these bad experiences so you can avoid them in the future. You may bid a job too low because it turned into a rewrite instead of a proofread. Modify your bidding in the future.

4) Entrepreneurs are aware of the best use of their time. Bob saw he was making more money selling soda and cigarettes than he could make at the workshop. Some freelancers spend the majority of their time doing work that does not put money in their pocket. Watch how you use your time and learn what is most profitable.

5) Know the laws. Bob ran afoul of the tax laws. There are laws that you must be concerned with as a freelancer. Tax laws. Copyright laws. Employee vs. independent contractor. Others?

Bob’s IQ was in the low 50s, but even so, he was able to figure out ways he could make life better for himself. We should take a lesson from Bob.

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The Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer



Step Five- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Over the past few weeks, we have examined our failings and sins. The purpose has not been to feel badly about ourselves. It is to examine the habits, fears, and patterns that lead us into wrong thinking. Until we examine our past and step back from our individual faults and sins, we cannot see the sin patterns and character defects that we all have. I am sure if you look over your list of harms and fears, you will notice a pattern. For example, I noticed that all of the sins of my life were committed out of fear. How does that help me? Now that I recognize that is my weakness, I can remember that whenever I find myself afraid. I can stop and think – Is this fear justified? What is fear telling me to do?  Isn’t that wrong?

Since learning this about myself I have learned to ask myself in fearful situations; Am I acting out of fear or love. It has not been easy and I have not been perfect. Stopping and praying about my fear has helped me to change my pattern. I have a fearful nature. When it gets difficult I stop and remind myself that in Job 11: 15 I am promised- “Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.” The root of your most common sin might be anger, jealousy, greed or lust. Knowing this will help you to recognize it when it rises in you. In Romans 12: 3-8 the Bible tells us to “Know Thyself.” Jesus asks  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7: 3).

The first step to healing is to admit our sin pattern and character defects to ourselves. Living in truth is initially difficult. None of us, especially those who love Jesus, want to admit that we have failed to meet His expectations. We want to please Him. It hurts to admit to Him and ourselves that we have fallen short. That is pure pride! Everyone has failed. The Bible tells us in Romans 3: 23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He came to take on our sins and bring them to die on the cross. And the lie is that He doesn’t already know the truth. We hide like Adam and Eve in the garden. God made us. He watched us grow and watched our childhood affect our personality. He not only knows the truth. He is the Truth.

It is sin and the evil one who offers us freedom and then delights when we are imprisoned by our sins. When I was a teenager, in the midst of my rebellious years, I smoked cigarettes because all my friends did. I thought it made me grown up and in charge. I disobeyed my parents. Later, after I was hooked on nicotine, I realized that I had become a slave. God offered me freedom. But first I had to admit the truth to myself. With the truth and God’s grace, I was able to overcome my addiction. Now I realize that it was fear of rejection by my friends that started my nicotine addiction.

As a nurse I know that a patient cannot be healed until the disease is diagnosed, the cause hopefully found, and treatment begun. When you are sick, you need to do tests to find out if it is cancer, heart disease, or infection. The treatment for each is different. You heal when you apply the right treatment. That is why you need to examine your soul and spirit. Knowledge is power and with the truth you can find the right Bible verse, prayer, and spiritual guidance. You can avoid what we Catholics call the ‘near occasions of sin.’ Maybe, you have a tendency to gossip. Perhaps you may even have to give up friends that draw you into that pattern. Maybe you tend to lie, or exaggerate. Finding the root cause of that sin will help you overcome it. Perhaps you steal, or you may just steal someone else’s reputation. Finding whether jealousy or greed is the root of that sin can make all the difference.

Finding the root cause of our character defects directs our feet toward the narrow gate. Living in truth means that we are on the right path. That goes for our personal life and our professional life. We have one spirit and one soul. We can’t be one person professionally and another personally. To be a spiritual writer, you have to be a spiritual person. Over the next two weeks ask the Holy Spirit to show you your sin patterns. Ask Him to reveal to you the first time you fell into that particular sin. What caused you to fall? In the next post we will examine healing and the great gift of the sacrament of reconciliation or confession. We will examine how healing ourselves heals our writing.

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 23, 2016

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18

For the Lord is a judge who is utterly impartial. He never shows partiality to the detriment of the poor, he listens to the plea of the injured party. He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication, nor the widow’s as she pours out her complaint. Whoever wholeheartedly serves God will be accepted, his petitions will carry to the clouds. The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds: and until it does, he is not to be consoled, nor will he desist until the Most High takes notice of him, acquits the upright and delivers judgment.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


Blessing of the Harvest

Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven, and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever, and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

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Hummingbird Feet

I think we sometimes become blasé at the idea of wonder.  You know, the things that so astound us that we just shake our heads and say or think things like:  “Wow, God did that,”  “That beauty is amazing, only God’s hand could have done that,” “How astounding, we can’t even measure the universe,” and on.  Fill in your own blank.   This is  one of those dilemmas of the internet.  We have access to so many images that nothing really impresses us, and we also can view images which would have been impossible before modern technology.  We scroll, we shoot past things that dazzle our eyes. We often stop  for something that is grandiose; an amazing mountain, a dazzling view, that stunningly beautiful herd of horses,  an  ethereal underwater shot.

 The big stuff gets our attention.  These are the things that would overwhelm us if we were present in the real place and time.  In my retirement, though, I have had to scale down what I do, how I do it, how I think and how I pray. The scale of God’s wonder in the world is both large as well as small and unnoticeable. Wonder is a good thing. It spurs our thinking and reinvigorates our faith and changes the way we consider belief.

  All we have to do to be impressed by God is just look around us and not bother to seek or pay attention to the grandiose.  In order to be surrounded by things that inspire  and get our attention, we do not need to go far or live large. As a retirement activity I have become fascinated by birding.  I have progressively advanced my camera skills and regularly upgraded equipment just for the sake of that rare shot. You get pulled in when you find out that rare bird from the Arctic Circle has suddenly taken up summer residence a few miles from your door. And then there’s beauty.  Even in the Midwest, the colors and forms of birds will take your breath away.  You wonder how that behavior, form, or color is even possible.  But I got a shot of it, didn’t I? 

 In my opinion, more stunning than all of the other species is the unbelievably teeny humming bird.  This bird is only present in the Americas and numbers 338 species. Many hummingbirds are so small you might think you’re being accosted by a large bumble bee.  Most are not as big as your thumb.  An average hummingbird weighs 4 grams or 1.41 ounces, less than an American nickel.  When it comes to wonder and the genius of God, though, these little, hardly visible beauties take the prize.  Hummingbirds have feathers of every luminescent color you can imagine and some you can’t believe even when you see it.  They literally gleam in the sun and have feathers that are almost neon for purposes of attracting a mate. A hummingbird tummy must be filled every twenty minutes or the bird will die.  They have the highest metabolism of any vertebrate, and while hovering, their wings beat at eighty times a second! Each species of hummer feeds on one particular species of flower, and the length of their beaks match, to the millimeter,  the distance to their particular flower’s nectar chamber.  A hummingbird tongue is thinner than the thinnest fishing line. 

 The fact, though, that got most of my attention is a bit of information about hummingbird Moms.  Like all female birds, hummingbird Mom’s build the nest.  Hummingbird nests, though, are engineering perfection.  They are cone shaped with a perfectly rounded bowl like interior and precariously hung on the underside of a banana or other large leaf in such a way that water skips right over the nest. Mom constructs with blades of grass carried one stalk at a time and spider silk she “borrows” from a close by arachnid.   The interior is lined with down and shaped by, you guessed it; hummingbird feet.  Mom gets her construction materials together and then literally stomps and dances the interior until it is a perfect shape. Now, think of hummingbird feet.  Thinner than the thinnest hummer toothpicks, weighing not much more than air itself.  How is that possible?  It’s like trying to shape a piece of sculpture by wishing.  Yet Mom does the dance with her humming bird, teeny, tiny, almost non-existent feet along with her “considerable”  bulk of 4 grams!

God made these, right?  Wonder tucked away in a package so small that it’s easy to ignore.  Wonder is everywhere and things like hummingbird feet challenge us and remind us that we have gifts too.  When was the last time you were sure you couldn’t do something God asked of you because you didn’t have the right tools or ability or courage or insight or presence?  Next time that thought comes over you, think of hummingbird feet.  You have a greater manifestation than 4 grams, right?  Are there small actions that you could do that might change the shape of your own or someone else’s life?

 ©2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved

 Author’s Note: The two black marks that look like sharpie, right above the tail, are this hummingbird’s feet!


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CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 16, 2016

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Second Timothy 3:14–4:2

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures -from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be upright. This is how someone who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work. Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement — but do all with patience and with care to instruct.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


Blessing of the Harvest

Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven, and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever, and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

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Poetry Sunday – Autumn

There are so many great poems about fall. Even modern writers have an easy time with the season, but the baroque, antique language of older poets is really appealing when there’s a chill in the air. It’s like it’s easier to imagine the past and the spiritual more than at any other time of the year. Robert Frost has a great poem called                                                                                                                                                          ‘October’: 

 Great Choices from Katie O’Neil, our resident Poetry scholar.
O hushed October morning mild, 
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, 
sunset-1421010__4801Should waste them all. 
The crows above the forest call; 
Tomorrow they may form and go. 
O hushed October morning mild, 
Begin the hours of this day slow. 
Make the day seem to us less brief. 
Hearts not averse to being beguiled, 
Beguile us in the way you know. 
Release one leaf at break of day; 
At noon release another leaf; 
One from our trees, one far away. 
Retard the sun with gentle mist; 
Enchant the land with amethyst. 
Slow, slow! 
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all, 
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, 

                                                                                                                           Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
                                                                                                                              For the grapes’ sake along the all. 

Another great piece on autumn is William W. Campbell’s
‘An October Evening’:
 The woods are haggard and lonely,
 The skies are hooded for snow, 
 The moon is cold in Heaven, 
And the grasses are sere below.

 The bearded swamps are breathing
 A mist from meres afar, 
 And grimly the Great Bear circles
 Under the pale Pole Star.             IMG_3618

 There is never a voice in Heaven, 
 Nor ever a sound on earth, 
 Where the spectres of winter are rising
 Over the night’s wan girth. 

 There is slumber and death in the silence, 
 There is hate in the winds so keen; 
 And the flash of the north’s great sword-blade
 Circles its cruel sheen. 

 The world grows agèd and wintry,                                                
 Love’s face peakèd and white; 
 And death is kind to the tired ones
 Who sleep in the north to-night. 
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CWG Book Blast: “The Boys Upstairs,” by Jane Lebak

This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring Guildie Jane Lebak’s book,”The Boys Upstairs.” It is a SOA winner. Teaser: With temperatures below zero, three homeless kids turn to a disabled priest & an embittered cop as their last hope. … Continue reading

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The Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer



Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves as writers and of our writing.

We have been examining our resentments, fears and harms. So far this has been a personal journey that explores our personality, character and spiritual life. This week, let’s look at how the events of our life, who we are and what we believe affect our writing. Our work is directly linked to our character and the message we want to convey. We as writers know the power of words. We can use words to heal or to hurt. We can exact revenge or forgiveness by what we say. We can, and many writers have, reflect our religious, political, social and personal agendas either with sympathetic or hateful characters.  Writers can manipulate a plot to an advantage, creating a destiny or ending that we want the world to follow. I think some of us may do this with conscious awareness of what we are saying and doing. Others may not be aware of the driving force behind the work. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you begin your work.

  1. How does my childhood affect the subject matter of my work?
  2. Does my childhood cause positive or negative leanings in my writing?
  3. Is my protagonist a reflection of who I am or a projection of the person I wish I were?
  4. Is my villain a reflection of someone I dislike? Do I use character description, dialog or a name that would allow that person to recognize who I mean?
  5. Do I lack the courage to confront my personal pain with truth? Do I layer my writing with that personal pain, anger or resentment?
  6. Do I ever get satisfaction from the harm my writing may do another person?
  7. Do I lash out in anger instead of kindness, negatively denouncing others as evil, instead of being sympathetic?
  8. Are my words harsh and mean-spirited? Does my work drip with hurtful sarcasm?
  9. Does my work reflect the forgiving and kind-hearted nature of Jesus? Or does my work condemn and vilify those who disagree with me?
  10. Do I create plots that show the Church in a negative light? Do I correctly reflect the teachings of the Church, or does my writing push my own agenda?
  11. Do I denigrate or mock people of different or no faith? Do I belittle people of a different political party or those with opposing views? Do I feel self-righteous when I do?
  12. Do I twist the truth to reflect my personal point of view? Or do I create fictionalized versions that deny the truth?

These are just a sample of the questions that each writer should ask themselves before, during and after creating an article, story or novel. Self-reflection is both required and necessary for a spiritual writer. How does one stay a truthful reflection of faith? How do you allow your faith to guide you into being an honest outreach of the Holy Spirit? Here are some tips:

  1. Always pray before you write! It may be tempting to jump out of bed and hit that laptop, but always pause for prayerful guidance.
  2. Attend Mass – as often as you can. Listen carefully to the readings and the homily. I can’t tell you how often it has changed the course of my work.
  3. Read your Bible and/or Catechism daily – taking the time to meditate and reflect on what you have read.
  4. Read other spiritual writers, including those who are not members of your faith. I have grown in understanding and appreciation by listening to the deep spiritual reflections of people of other religions. It has made me more Catholic!
  5. Always have people of faith go over your work. They may catch spiritual mistakes, misrepresentations or even personal harms that you may or may not be aware of.
  6. And last of all, ask yourself this question: Am I writing out of love or out of fear? Remember the words of the Good Book, Perfect love casts out all fear.

Next time let’s move on to Step Five!

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is

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Ornamental Graces, by Carolyn Astfalk

31945842If you enjoy emotional rollercoasters, Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk is your book.

Among the author’s many gifts is her ability to conjure up fictional characters in many shades of human decency. Imagine, if you will, Dan Malone. He has let himself go; his business teeters on the brink of failure, and he has lost Kristen, his girlfriend. He struggles to prop up his sinking prospects but hasn’t exactly gotten his act together.

The voluptuous Kristen is a masterwork: pampered, pouty, petulant, a manipulative genius–one of Astfalk’s most impressive creations. Although Kristen and Dan have broken up, she still haunts his existence.

The novel opens with Dan sitting in a freezing shack surrounded by Christmas trees. While his landscaping business hibernates, Dan is selling the trees to make ends meet. Enter the pretty, perky, and pure Emily Kowalski—the polar opposite of Kristen. Dan is attracted but feels that he’d never be good enough for her. Nevertheless, Emily gives him a chance.

Dan’s incredible blunders push their relationship to the breaking point and beyond.  Although his clumsiness damages his chance with Emily, Kristen deliberately interferes, so she embarrasses Dan and demeans Emily. There’s also a stalker—not merely a nuisance, but an actual threat to Emily, Dan and any chance they may have as a couple.

On the positive side, Dan’s grandmother and her cooking comfort him, especially whenever he blows another chance with Emily. Grandma is a cross between a matchmaker and Dan’s guardian angel.  Emily’s brother, sister-in-law, and their kids also raise the general level of stability and hopefulness. Beneath the surface of each example of human solace is the fact that Dan, Emily, and their families connect through the power of their shared religious faith. They have to believe in miracles because there’s no way they would make it without God’s blessings and guidance.

Ornamental Graces is a wonderful Christmas and year-round romance that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end.

Other romances by Carolyn Astfalk—again with fascinating characters and engaging plots—include Stay With Me (2015) and Rightfully Ours, scheduled for publication in April of 2017.

Carolyn Astfalk and I belong to the Catholic Writers Guild Fiction Critique Group. As one of her critique partners, I received a copy of each chapter as she wrote Ornamental Graces, Stay With Me and Rightfully Ours.



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What is your Galilee moment?

Dramatic sky scenery with a mountain cross and a worshiper by Creative Images (

Dramatic sky scenery with a mountain cross and a worshiper by Creative Images (

Pope Francis spoke about how Jesus told his disciples after his Resurrection to return to Galilee where they had first given their lives to him.

“To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”

I look back to a Protestant youth retreat one spring when I was 15. One evening we gathered around the campfire we built up on the mountain. I can still smell the marshmallows melting into the fire. We sang camp songs and church songs. My favorite was the story of Jesus’ life sung to the music of “Danny Boy.” I still can sing most of the words and the haunting chorus, “The Savior, Savior, of the world has come.”

The wooden cross

I wandered near a wooden cross that stood as a sturdy signpost to me on that mountain. The youth minister was talking about committing our lives to Jesus. That was when I gave my almost-grown-up life to Jesus. That was my Galilee moment. That’s the moment! That’s where I can ”return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”

Later, when the youth minister asked us to share about our experience of accepting Jesus, no one said a word — especially not shy me. It was our secret – me and Jesus! It became my security place when I needed to yell or cry or ask “why?” Somehow I thought the secret would be diluted and dispersed and disappear among people I told. This special relationship wouldn’t be so special any more if I shared it with the whole world.

Wrong! Sharing that Galilee moment surely would have encouraged my family and my teen friends in the next few years as I grew strong through several family upsets before and after my father’s death five years later.

Returning to Galilee

Pope Francis said that to “return to Galilee” also means renewing “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. … It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”

Since my Galilee moment I’ve had exciting opportunities to renew my first experience of realizing that Jesus loves me — retreats, beach vacations, babies born, special sacramental and Eucharistic moments. All were mountaintop moments that touched back to the sturdy wooden cross and then carried me farther along my faith journey of sharing his mission.

One moment from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land stands out. We went to Mass one Sunday in Ibilin, Galilee, in a Greek Byzantine Rite Church. The music and native language (with English and French translations) was close to that of Jesus’ time—Aramaic and Arabic with a few Greek responses such as “Kyrie Elieson.”

The words of Jesus in Galilee

As Fr. Elius Chacor lifted the chalice and said the words of consecration, I closed my eyes and listened to the words of Jesus as his followers heard them at the first Eucharist during the Last Supper. Even then, there in Galilee, I was up on that mountain singing that ”Danny Boy” song and rediscovering Jesus’ love for me.

Wherever I am, God often fills my heart with his love. Sometimes it’s so strong that I cannot contain my joy. His love overwhelms me and overflows into the hurts and scars of those around me.

What brings me healing is not for me alone. What heals me heals those around me. That’s the mission Jesus shares with us at our first Galilee moment.

What is your Galilee moment where you first met Jesus? How can you share it?

(© 2015-16 Nancy Ward)

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