Cleaning House For Visitors

Greetings Friends and Family:   Our House Mick Hales

Over Memorial weekend we were visited by some of our family and then with short notice some strangers came through.

As we cleaned house it struck me that we keep a pretty orderly, clean, beautiful house, but if I was looking at it for the first time, as through the eyes of a stranger, I would be struck by all the imperfections of an old well worn house. What had become acceptable to me through years of living here would not look good to a first time visitor.

Through the Old Testament the phrase ‘God will surely visit you’, is used as a reminder that God’s righteous eyes will be looking at our lives and seeing how we live and what we worship. What we have become accustomed to and what our society accepts as good and normal, is often not how the bible relays God’s perspective. Of course for us to know what the bible says, we actually have to read it and sometimes the bible seems to be the last thing we want to read. Even for committed Christians there are days when the bible seems to not have the allure it once did when we first found ourselves hungry to read it, to dive in deeper each day.

What I am writing about is how we become dulled by our ongoing day to day lives. We do not notice things we ought to change in ourselves; how we act, how we think and how we pray. The passion of our first love is diluted until we are just going through the motions when we talk to God, not yearning to be so close to Jesus.

Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons by Mick Hales

This is a dangerous place for us to be, but thank goodness, like the sun breaking through the clouds, God will visit us. He will shine his light on us and invite us back to the place of our first love with him. Our hunger for His word will come alive again. We will learn how God sees the lives we are leading and what we need to clean up.

Central Park by Mick Hales
Central Park

How can I say this will happen, because God’s love for us is so deep that he will rescue us time and time again. As the graffiti artist put it, ‘Love is a crazy thing’. We can not get our heads wrapped around the love that God has for us. It is ‘crazy’ that His son was prepared to go to the cross for us, but that is the truth and it will always be the truth.

So for me, the next time I am cleaning house, I will remember how much God loves me, that He is alive in me through the Holy Spirit and I am righteous through His redemption of me.

Christine’s Icon news is in another blog, please read for details!

We always value your prayers, and you are in ours daily.  Please keep in touch,

Blessings and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s photography     Christine’s Art     Christine’s Icons     Icon Blog

Gifts

Watching the spring finally come into our garden this morning I was struck by the abundance of small yellow flowers falling off our Maple trees. Then I was struck by the abundance of azalea blooms which only yesterday were in their prime and now are falling to the ground. God’s abundance and His timing can make me stand up in awe. Indeed, this April, there have been images of the wild flowers in the Californian hills taken from space, and the whole landscape has turns yellow and orange with their Californian poppies. This was an extraordinary wild flower blooming in California, after years of drought finally gave way to soaking rain.

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It is good to remember when we feel like we are in a desert with our walk with God, that He is so abundant with His riches and precise with His timing. The bible reminds us that, [Romans 9:29], ‘For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.’

I hang on to that scripture knowing I have been called and often experiencing His gifts, but still feeling I am not exactly where God wants me to be. So I have been crying out for my life to align with God’s purposes for it.

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Christine led another Icon writing retreat in the final days of Holy week in Miami, which was a very powerful experience for all who took part. One of the wonderful parts to the retreat was using stations of the cross Icons which Christine had created some ten years ago. They were placed in different areas of Morning Star Retreat Center’s garden and everyone took part, including three teenagers who were taking the retreat with their parents.

Miami Icon Retreat
Miami Icon Retreat

 

The retreats Christine has led through lent, have each been different although the same Icon, the face of Christ has been written. The Holy Spirit has a way of opening doors which have been closed for some time and allowing integration and healing to take place. There has been a lot of healing happening in these retreats, both physical, emotional and spiritual.

 

Michael had a new book published, New York Living: Re-Invented, for which he did the majority of the photography. Books take some time to get published, this one two years, so it is always good to see how people react to ones work from a few years previously. The career as a photographer has been Michael’s ‘tent making’, referring to the apostle Paul; often while on photo shoots the chance to pray for someone will come up and it has been wonderful to do that with people, often the clients. When one looks back over a period of time one realizes how God has been working through you.

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Romans 9: 33 and 36, ‘ Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways.photo 2

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.’

 

Please keep us in your prayers and let us know how we can pray for you.

Blessings and Love,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s photography Website, Christine’s Art Website A, Christine’s Art Website B, Icon Website,  Icon Classes Website

 

Lent

Greetings Friends and Family:  _MG_9174

In 2015, Pope Francis said the following in his lenten address:

“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.”

During Lent we like to either give up a bad habit, spend extra time in Church, or with the poor and needy – some personal sacrifice that reminds us of the gift we all have received of salvation through the suffering of Christ.

Earlier in the month we were in a city in Florida which has a considerable amount of homeless and in some areas people were laid out asleep on the streets in daylight, not half a mile from hundreds of luxury yachts. When I remember that these people are just as precious, unique and special to Jesus as any other, it comes again as a wake up call.photo 6 There are so many people in this country who depend on voluntary help from churches and organizations like the Salvation Army. They receive shelter, food and fellowship, from people who give of their time, energy and resources. These helping hands are going to be even more needed in the years to come as the government walks a path away from those in need, towards those who exploit for commerce.

 

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This month Christine has led two icon writing retreats, one at The Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, FL and the second at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY.

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What extraordinary experiences these retreats have been with people spending time in deep prayer and learning, as they are skillfully led by Christine to write an Icon, for many of the participants this was their first one.photo 1

Writing an icon, it is called writing because the painted image represents the written word, is a truly appropriate spiritual discipline to undertake during lent. All those taking part went through their own inner journey as the Lord brought to mind aspects of their lives for them to pray through.

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The primary icon which Christine was using for their initial work, was the face of Christ. It is wonderful to see the different variations created by the different hands and personalities of the group derived from the same original. It is a reflection of how we are all individuals before God. Each one of us is unique, to and for the Lord. Each one of us has a precious reason for being, we are a special facet of His church.

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This month CIVA, Christians in the Visual Arts   Serious Art, Serious Faith, published a piece written by Christine on Icons and the American Iconography.  It’s worth taking a look at!

The next Icon Retreat Christine will be leading is at MorningStar Retreat Center in Miami Florida.  This will be a Tritium Reteat for Holy week,  with Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in the beautiful outdoor garden at Morningstar. Register now.

This Lent, let’s keep our country, the poor, and the disenfranchised in our prayers.

Father, show us the way to bless those who need your blessings,  Help us to help others.

“Today if only you will hear His voice do not harden your hearts.”  Psalm 95:8

We send you love, joy, and anticipation of Easter!

Christine and Michael

Mick’s Photography website   Christine’s Paintings   Christine’s Icons

Ash Wednesday

As I drink my tea in the morning, my favorite cup reads,
‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ Hebrews 11:1. But when I go back to my ESV bible the same verse reads, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’img_6592

Those slight variations in translation can be an opportunity to explore further the nuances of the Holy Scripture or the beginning of misunderstanding and doubt. The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 digs deeper into those faith filled people of the past. But what of today? Who are the people really walking in faith with Jesus?
Our church, the whole body of Christ, seems to be divided as to what truly walking in faith means. Is that because there are so many ways to translate the bible, or so many ways to interpret what it says, or so many ways to make it fit with our own life styles and values; or even political world views? img_6480

Those are all good questions. However the question of real significance is, are Christians truly getting the benefits of walking in faith, believing they are new creations in Christ and receiving fully the power God assigned for that walk? Are we Christians making things happen, which in our own strength could not be possible, because we have faith that the Holy Spirit will back us up? Are we so grounded in our relationship with Jesus that we are sure we are walking in His will not our own? When we are in that intimate relationship, God will do extraordinary things through us, more than we can possibly imagine.img_6549

God calls us to take the first step and believe that He will be there with us when we take the second step and the third. It is our faith that He will be there for us that enables us to move forward. Having God’s path for us, completely set forth from the start to the finish with all the details in place, has never happened in my own experience, as Hebrews 11:1 says, ‘the conviction of things not seen’. I believe He calls us to push forward in ways far beyond what our rational minds can see, but by being guided by the Holy Spirit and having faith, Jesus is with us. We will fulfill His call on our lives. It is in the journey that we share daily with Christ that we receive His promise of life and life more abundantly.img_6582

Christine has been working on an icon of the Archangel Michael which depicts the scene of Revelations 12:7, where there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels and the dragon lost the battle. It is an extraordinary icon and dynamically shows the energy of the fight. The dragon is seen with seven heads and each spitting furiously. It is always a good thing to hold fast in our minds that the dragon and his angels lost. That is a fact we can have faith in as we keep our focus on Jesus and what He is doing through our lives as we walk as new creations in Christ.***  cshportrait

 

Christine is preparing for three Icon Writing Retreats this Lent.  The last one will be at Morningstar Renewal Center in Miami Florida, and will finish with the Stations of the Cross, using her Icons for prayer and meditation.

Another one will be at Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park, NY, March 21, 24.  There is still time to register! Contact Br. Joseph, guesthouse@hcmnet.org

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As we often pray for you, each one, we continue to send our prayers and thoughts for your good health, wisdom, and peace.  I’d like to pray a blessing over you now, that comes from Roy Godwin’s book “The Way of Blessing“:

“I bless you in the name of Jesus, that God may reveal to you everything you need to know to enable you to be fully who you were made to be, and that you receive everything you need, that the fulness of life might be released to you.”

Amen!

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photography Website    Christine’s Painting Website  American Association of Iconographers

 

 

Volunteering

Dear Friends and Family:img_6023

Some of the fun when volunteering for different organizations is meeting other volunteers and getting to know them. This month Michael has been blessed with the chance of making a short video for an organization called ‘Books for Kids’. This came about when a man spoke from the heart about a charity he had formed for kids who grow up in homes where there are no books available. The consequences are that during the summer months those children fall behind in their literacy skills, compared to children who do have books and parent who read to them. Consequently each year they progressively get left further and further behind in their reading ability. ‘Books for Kids’ is a program which supplies volunteers to go into schools and read books to the kids and then give each child a book to take home, each school month. I volunteered to make a video of what the program does, to help with its promotion to possible volunteers and businesses which could support the program.

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It is wonderful to see how much it means to the kids to get these books and how much it means to the volunteers to have the chance to help. The blessing works both ways. It happens because the leader, Ted, has such a heart to help the kids that it becomes infectious. Michael got the chance to pray with Ted and revealed to him how this was a calling from God and how he was stirring up others to follow through his complete dedication to the work._mg_8047

 

img_5993Twelve years ago John had a stroke which left his right hand curled up and without function. He has difficulty walking and getting up to his first floor apartment. Pretty much every morning he makes his way to his car to drive it into a sunny spot in the car park and just sits there for two or three hours. He likes the warmth of the car. He also loves to have people stop by and chat through the car window- so of course I go and pray with him. It can take him a little while to get the words out but he always tells me how much God loves him and will be coming soon.img_5491

This week I was also blessed to pray for people’s healing in Jiffy Lube, in our launderette and in a food pantry. There is joy in the every day chance meeting when one steps out and offers prayer. Doors get opened, people’s countenance changes as the Holy Spirit moves through them bringing things back to life, in their minds and in their bodies. It is so wonderful to be a part of God working even in the smallest way.

img_5898These are the opportunities which we ‘gently approach’ to bring a living Jesus to people around us. So many people need healing in their bodies but few look to prayer for healing. Sadly many Christians do not pray for healing, or pray without real belief that something will change with their prayer, it is done more as a rote or obligation.

Praying for healing can be one of the most exciting things a Christian can do, Jesus only did what God the Father asked him to do and he healed throughout his active ministry time.

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Christine’s Icon talk at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota this month

 

Sometimes when praying, we know what Jesus is doing, but often we do not. But I am sure he loves it when we do pray for healing. Then occasionally there is an e mail in your IN box that lets you know.

 

“We wanted to thank you for praying for all of us at the Alive Church. We thought you might have been an angel showing up! I had recently been saying that a lot of us need healing for our backs. I know the Lord answers prayers ♡ We were and are grateful for your humble and obedient spirit. My back hasn’t given me trouble and I am happy for that manifestation.” Mellody C.

So, thank YOU for praying for us, and we continue to pray for you as well!

Love and prayers

Michael and Christine

Mick’s website    Christine’s website    Christine’s Icon website   Icon Blog

Got Home?

Dear Friends and Family:  img_5358-1

Deer painting by Christine Hales
Little Deer Painting by Christine Hales

As we come to the end of 2016 we breath a sigh of relief that a year filled with contention in the political and spiritual arenas is having a ‘time out’, at least for the time being. We also recognize that we face considerable uncertainty in both of those fields in the year to come. Thank goodness we have a God who loves us unconditionally and always will no matter how we mess up. Which is not to say there are no consequences for how we act, far from it, but that God will always love us. It is God’s love which stands as a stable rock on which we stand in these uncertain times.


Michael has just finished a short video on homelessness after having a dream which challenged him to explore what it is like to not know where you will sleep tonight. The figure is staggering as to how many people are in the world now, who have lost their homes for one reason or another, political or religious; it is 44 million. In NYC alone, 61,000 people look for shelter each night. This is more than we can understand or relate to but it is a reality for many, many people. The video, ‘Got Home?’ questions what we trust in and what is our own security. For me it has to be God’s love. Then the question is how is that love put into action for those of us who call ourselves Christians?img_5247-1

I believe this will be a more and more urgent question for all of us, in both the political and religious arenas next year.  img_5261-1

As a country whose Christian foundation is not only being challenged but often rejected, how do we really stay true to walking out Christ in our daily lives? Where Santa Claus has overtaken Jesus Christ’s birth and Christmas is now a ‘Holiday Season’, the bells are already ringing for Christians to truly live out God’s purpose for each of us. God’s love moving through us without judgement, dogma or fear will be needed even more in the year to come.img_5473-1

The good news is that Jesus Christ is as alive and powerful now as He ever has been. The bomb he set off through His resurrection is more powerful than any nuclear bomb’s destruction except it is not destructive but creative. As Christians we hold that power within us and this next year will need God’s creative nature more than ever.

Christine Hales studio
Christine at Studio opening December 2016

 

 

Christine had open studio days in her studio in Hudson before Christmas and many people saw and loved her recent work.

We send you our love and prayers, and look forward to hearing how we can best pray for you.

Michael and Christine

Mick’s website      Christine’s Icon website

God is Always Good

Sometimes that is difficult to believe. Especially if we think God is responsible for everything that happens. Bad things definitely do happen so by the above premise, God can not always be good.img_4822

However, God wanted us to have free choice so much, so we are able to choose to love Him without manipulation or litigation, that He choose to not control everything that happens.

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When a grandparent holds an infant baby close to them, the two hearts come together. Trust, fellowship and love flows between the two; the two hearts come together. Both very different in experience and knowledge of life but they come together with the bond of love. One can feel the love flowing between the two independent lives- God given lives loving each other.

Mick Hales photo
photo by Mick Hales
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Photo by Mick Hales

America has just gone through a very divisive election which has even further polarized an already divided nation. The two hearts of this nation could not be further apart. There is no love flowing between the two sides and there certainly is no fruit of the Spirit evident from the candidates. The Christian community is pitched, one against the other, claiming one candidate or another was God’s person. We are in a divided house and it will not stand. The winner is divisiveness itself, the fruit of which is division.

Despite this God is still love, and we are still called to love our neighbors as ourselves. The extraordinary thing about democracy is, we are called to accept a change of leadership through love, to have it work we need to accept the change with love. We have to work together as a nation and as a Christian Community, otherwise we fall divided. Hug a baby today to remember what love feels like. God’s love for us will never change, as a parent loves their child.

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Community Thanksgiving Dinner with First Presbyterian Church, Hudson
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Community Thanksgiving, photo by Mick Hales

Fortunately, November also is blessed with Thanksgiving. We have so much to be grateful for in this country that it is good to be still and go through all the blessings we enjoy. This year we were part of a community Thanksgiving hosted by the First Presbyterian Church in Hudson but held at Christ Church Episcopal. Through various circumstances the two churches came together along with a lot of volunteers from different congregations to serve over 150 Thanksgiving meals. We do have so much to be grateful for and there is no better way to celebrate that than in a community of neighbors.

Christine has an exciting month coming up and is opening her new studio in Hudson for three Saturdays in December. God is always working in ways we often do not see coming and God is always good.

We love you and rejoice in your prayers for us and ours for you.

Photo by Mick Hales
Photo by Mick Hales

Michael and Christine          www.Mickhales.com      www.newchristianicons.com 

 

 

“My name is Jesus”

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October is a time of transition. The colors change around us. I, Michael, have been finding a lot of green, red and yellow in my morning prayer sketches, which prophetically speaking stand for- green is phophecy and preparing the ground; red for regal warfare [which includes sin, death and bloodshed]; and yellow for heavenly blessings, enlightenment and Glory.

A brother in Christ, Tyler, and I have been walking the streets of Albany at night, speaking into the air the presence of God. It has led to some wonderful opportunities to pray for people, many of whom are without a place to spend the night. Recently we encountered a man on a park bench trying to keep warm by huddling down into his small jacket with the collar up around his head. We talked for a while about him and his situation for the night. We talked about God and Jesus Christ. He did not believe that Jesus and God could be the same personage of the Lord, it did not stand to reason and it was an impossibility for him to understand. As we left him, Tyler asked, ‘What’s your name, man?’

He replied, ‘Jesus Christ.’img_4834

We believe that first comes the prophetic words into the atmosphere which open the gates, then comes the struggle over the Kingdom and then comes the Glory of God. We are declaring God’s Kingdom knowing His Glory is coming into Albany. That Albany will hold the Kingdom of Light not darkness.img_4836

I had a dream recently where I found I was in an unfamiliar city and did not know where I was going to spend that night. My hands were also joined to several people in prayer for healing for someone, and in my mind I kept wondering is it OK, is it appropriate for me to pray in this group for a place to spend the night. The next day journaling with God, he opened up to me that those thoughts and feelings of not knowing where one was going to spend the night happen to many people every day. Not know what rights they had.

I started to research and found out that there are 44 million displaced people in the world at the moment. That is far beyond my comprehension. Then I researched homeless people in NYC, each night recently there have been 61,430 homeless people seeking shelter- and those are the people who are accounted for, many more are out without being recorded. As our weather gets more cold the situation gets more serious.img_4812

Then I remembered Mathew 8:20, Jesus saying “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”pears,art

With that sentence comes for me the incredible recognition that Jesus went through those emotions and knows what it is like. That he suffered emotionally and physically as a human is hard to always grasp. That the son of God became the son of man so that we could accept his gift and know Him fully, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. More than I can understand but not more than I can believe.

Christine and I want to thank you all for your prayers and support.  We are family in Christ, and your prayers are an important part of what keeps us going.  We love praying for you as well, EVERY day!_mg_4603

Keep in touch and let’s join together in prayer and faith that God’s plans for us are infinitely more than we can imagine.

God bless,

Michael and Christine

www.americanassociationoficonographers.com

www.mickhales.com

The days are getting shorter and the light is getting lower. Even though it can be incredibly beautiful -the change in the leaves and the cold air at night, is the sure sign that winter is on the way. Fortunately we have Autumn to go through first with it’s brilliant colors.

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But there is a feeling of foreboding outside of the seasonal change as we face an extremely important presidential election in the US, which not only will affect America but also the whole world.

A lot depends on where you get news from as to what it reports on the same event. As has just been seen in the recent presidential debate both candidates were hailed as ‘winners’ depending whether you looked at Fox News or the Washington Post.

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The oak trees are dropping their acorns which I find so beautiful. As a child in England I would collect acorns from the oak trees and sell them to a neighboring farmer, the pigs delighted in them. Acorns for me are the symbol of the hope to come, the seed of the future. They look as strong as the trees they will produce. Oaks were referred to in the bible as geographic markers, they were so formidable and long lasting that locations were named by them; oaks of Mamre, oaks of Bashan, oaks of Moreh. The oak trees remind me of the strength and longevity of God’s word. I can hold on to it, be guided by it, receive truth from it and know that it is always there for me. I also know that it is alive through the Holy Spirit and has power and strength for us today.

We are the church.  We know that in theory, but recently we’ve had a chance to think about that in terms of our local village.  Christine and I have been concerned about the young, underserved families living here in Philmont. To some degree it is a transient population, and they are what’s always happened in this village. Children having children, poverty, and now, drugs are too easy for vulnerable young people like these.  Christine felt God suggested she look into getting a parenting class running here in Philmont.  She met with a representative from Cornell Cooperative Extension who is very willing to run a class here, and arranged a meeting with the local library.  Please keep this in prayer, that God would continue to show us the way to move forward with this.  The children in Philmont could benefit so much from this kind of support.

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Christine is also finishing up the large Icons of Saint Isaac Jogues and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha for the Albany Diocese.  They are looking stunning and spiritually light and powerful!_mg_4776

I have been getting the number three often in my prayer times recently and am asking two of the Kingdom School alumnae to join me to make three of us, to pray and declare the Kingdom of God into the streets of Albany. We are really excited to be coming together to do this and look forward to sharing what God is doing. What we believe is that through prayer and declaration the spiritual atmosphere of a place can change and God will come in. Albany needs it and this nation needs it as well.

Please let us know how we can pray for you and keep us in your prayers too.

His delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by the streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not whither. In all that he does he prospers.

We love you all, so much!

Love and Prayers,

Michael and Christine               www.mickhales.com   www.christinehales.com

 

Village Prayers

August is a yellow month, it seems, in native flowering plants and it is a great color, as with this water lily. I always think of yellow as representing the Glory of God when I am doing my praying / finger painting. I find the combination of prayer with the created visual image really connects me to God in a deep way. There is something about releasing our creativity which opens us up to communicating with God in a freer way.

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August is also a great month to Kayak and we keep ours at a local state park for the season. The underwater plants are often hidden below the surface by the flashing reflections of the sun. It reminds me of how important it is to be real about our relationship with Jesus and not put people off when we talk about Him. I spoke at a gathering in our village after several people had been baptized by a local pastor in his swimming pool about how important it is the first time someone hears about Jesus. The ‘law of the first mention’, underscores how important it is the first time something is mentioned in scripture to compare following occurrences with the initial one. Hence when we talk to people about Jesus it has to be done with love whatever the situation. So often it seems that people use the scriptures as a tool for condemnation, rather than a message of God’s love backed up with their own. How the story of Jesus is told is so important, it can turn someone away for ever or open a door to a new life.

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Mandylion Icon by Christine Hales

We had the opportunity to visit a local college’s art museum recently and found ourselves leaving really quickly. A lot of the material on show was literally demonic and focused on the demonic. One of the less offensive pieces was a German video we saw last year at the Venice Biennale. As we are involved with the arts and minister through them we find it very destructive when the arts are purposely being used for the demonic. However, the fact that this is happening in a respected college, which is educating the next generation of intellects, is a time bomb for our culture. This appears to now be the norm.

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Christine is excited to be hearing from God ‘to help alleviate the suffering of the very young children in our village’. A good parenting class could help both the parents and the children so we are starting to see who is working in this arena already and how Kingdom Arts Ministry can help create opportunities for young families. There are many very young adults with children and there is also a heroin problem among the youth, so caring for the small children will be very important over the next few years.

I have the good news that as I continue to pray for the monk who lost the left side of his body through a stroke, God blessed us by moving his toes in our last session.

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So much goes on, not least of all great tomatoes being grown in our garden by Christine and the Artist dinner is still active even through the heat of August.IMG_3856

 

Please pray for us for wisdom and direction and let us know how we can pray for you. How to light a fire and keep it burning- even in the water.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” Thessalonians 1:2

Blessings and love,

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Website    Christine’s Icon website   Christine’s paintings