Christine did a series of four illustrated talks for the Church of the Redeemer on ‘Art in the Church’ up to 1600s. They were mostly viewed on line and You Tube has been carrying them as well. It is a fascinating subject, how Art was affected by the split between the Eastern and Western Churches. The Eastern remained more God centered and mystical utilizing icons where as the West became more humanistic and pointed towards man and his achievements. Christine is very interested in where art’s function is in contemporary Christianity; especially how that relates to the fundamentals of iconography in the American Christian culture today. She has been exploring a post graduate study in this subject, possibly in London.
Here are the you tube links for the talks- they are great!!
Michael, continues with his chaplaincy work in the local hospital when specific terminal calls come in. The Covid transmission is expanding again and inevitably the deaths are increasing too. Spending even a small amount of time around the nurses and patients on the front line of this pandemic, there is no doubt that to downplay the seriousness of Covid 19 is an arrogant deception, as some news stations have purposely and tragically successfully done.
Thank God, that within nature we can also be reminded of the creative hand of God. In deed that is so significant at this extremely pressured time to turn our eyes onto what is good, as Philippians 4:8 always reminds us.
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is
pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
Also to seek the truth, not be led by deception away from focusing on Christ but swimming in the spirit of politics, which has surrounded the recent election, as 2 Corinthians 11:3 warns.
‘But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’
So my prayer is that we keep eyes on God and the Blessings he continues to pour into our lives through this New Year, filled with new opportunities for the church.
Sending you all our love and prayers for a blessed, healthy and Happy New Year!
One of the wonderful developments this month for me has been re connecting with the Alpha program. Christine and I ran the program ten times at local churches in New York in the mid 90s and it was very foundational to our introduction to the Holy Spirit.
I am now running an in person Alpha program at Freedom Village, which is bringing a lot of fresh thinking about Christianity to the group who are in their 80s and 90s. My two co-leaders are both in their mid nineties and doing a great work.
The elderly community, Freedom Village where I am Chaplain, is getting opened up again with tight restrictions and precautions; I will be running a weekly grief support meeting, Bible study and in person Sunday Vespers, as well as the Alpha course. So we are trying to enable some normalcy but with tight precautions, as the community is so vulnerable to Covid.
Christine has led another online teaching class, again with wonderful results, and people are signing up for future classes she is offering in November, 2020 and January 2021 . She is breaking new ground with the online classes, but also, her spiritual perspective as she teaches, is also being warmly received.
For me, one of the hardest issues was the passing of my brother Timothy, in England, and being unable to attend any of his last months of deteriorating health and funeral. We were able though to have some good phone conversations and prayer times. Grief of lost ones is ongoing and little sparks of memories bubble up at different times pushing themselves without excuse into our daily lives. I remember Tim’s ability to double up in laughter, with great gasps for air, as the pathos of humanity, was celebrated and dissected with humor. We all miss him. I created a short video relating to some of our conversations, ‘God wants you too’. Click here to view.
Continue to Pray For Our Country
The many difficulties America faces, can really consume all of our thoughts, if we allow that to happen. I love what Paul says in Philippians 4:8, and especially the translation which uses the word lovely, it seems like such a complete word for how to kindle our thoughts in this season.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Please let Christine and me know how we can pray for you, and please also hold us up in prayers.
A boiling pot of hate and frustration has erupted in the nation due to the consistent unfair treatment of black people. There are 40 million people unemployed and 100,000 dead through Covid 19 and likely many more of both to come. America stands in a perilous place. It is my view that the national leadership has been taken over by the spirit of Jezebel and the evangelistic wing can not recognize the depth of denial they stand in. The country is politically divided with a leader who is prepared to be as divisive and untruthful and do what ever it takes to hold onto his power within the nation. A nation which in the last three years, has lost respect and confidence around the world for retracting into isolation on world issues of climate, health, pollution and food. This is a kind summation of where we are. It does not dive into the pain of the people around us.
But God. But God.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [Philippians 4:8]
On the other hand I do know Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. Thank God, I know that. I also know that Jesus is still healing today, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
In the Chaplaincy work I do, I sometimes hear people talk of how, could there be a God who would allow all this to happen? Or, how God has taken all the good things I ever had?
I find it hard to find the words to answer their thoughts in a convincing way. But I do know that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, and I thank God for that. I stand on that knowledge with deep thanks. My job is to try to share that with others so they can receive a real relationship with Jesus.
Each week I give my elderly community, prayer slides which get shown one a day on the in house television. They are very simple and broad, with a scripture and a very short prayer, see the ones included.
I also create a video for them for Vespers once a week, here is the link for Pentecost.
Since the lockdown started 12 people have passed on in my community, not due to the virus but because of the age of the community, none of their families have had a chance for memorial services. So, it seems like the next step will be to create online memorial services.
We live in a changing world, but I thank God I know Jesus Christ. I pray you all do as well and you all stay safe.
Christine is experiencing a lull in commissions and teaching – some of her classes have been cancelled due to the virus quarantine. She is praying and working to understand God’s next steps for her and her beautiful work.
So, please keep us in your prayers- as you are in ours daily.
May God’s Blessings and real Joy fill all your lives.
Christine is off to Santa Barbara to teach an iconography class at the monastery of Mount Calvary, Santa Barbara. Mount Calvary is a brother house to Holy Cross Monastery in the Hudson Valley, NY, where she also holds iconography classes. She has a full class of students and has had to turn some away. There is a growing interest in writing icons and how they are a part of Christian life across the different denominations. Christine has been very proactive in widening the appreciation and purpose of icons through the creation of the American Associations Of Iconographers. Her trip is also a reconnection to Brother William who helped Michael in the early stages of developing the book, Monastic Gardens, the instrument through which Christine was first introduced to iconography in a small monastery in France.
Michael had a quick trip to photograph a house near Great Barrington, MA, and managed to time it with a good snow storm. Taken in small doses snow can be intriguing especially when one has not had to deal with shoveling and scraping ice for the best part of a year. Just a short immersion into winter weather was enough to confirm that moving South from New York was a good decision!
It was on that shoot, after a full day’s photography with snow falling, that Michael headed out to his car to drive to his hotel and found he had no notes of his hotel reservation for that night. It had been prepaid so he could not just abandon it for an alternative. It took nearly 20 minutes of searching the web in the snowy driveway to find a familiar hotel photo he thought he recognized, not being able to remember the hotel’s name!
Not a big issue perhaps, but it gave another small window into experiencing how it is when our brains are tired and unable to deliver what our bodies need at any given point. As we get older- so it happens more often. Our minds begin to let us down. It is in moments like these that prayer is so essential. When our minds are a void and we cannot recall a common word or name, or why we walked to another part of the house. It is time to call on Jesus because He will never forget us.
Many of our elderly population are dealing with memory loss, dementia and physical limitations much more serious than being unable to remember a hotel’s name. Fear, confusion, memory loss become more prevalent with age. Mental failures are hard to assess when they are happening within someone else’s mind, especially so with loved ones, and can build up tensions within a relationship.
Dealing with Dementia
Michael’s Chaplaincy ministry has had to deal with many older married couples slowly realizing their spouse’s mind is failing. Situations develop which are heart breaking, couples becoming separated after 50 or 60 years of happily married life. Mothers being unable to recognize or remember their own children. Dementia can create the worst living situations for those suffering from it and those caring for them.
Isaiah 49:15. “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
The elderly need that reinforcement, that God will never forget them. At one time they may have had very active Christian lives and known that simple truth. But then they loose it along with their minds. They often have been forgotten by their own families or are unable to recognize who their own children are. So our job as Christians is to visit and visit again, letting them know that Jesus will never forget them. Never stop loving them.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Please let us know how we can pray for you and we always need prayer too.
Christine has had an active month, again with teaching an Icon class at Holy Cross Monastery in the Hudson Valley, which was focused on Sacred Geometry. It was a wonderful class and it is always especially good within the monastic life at Holy Cross to experience these retreats. The spring in New York had been quite wet and all the trees were especially beautiful with the early leaf growth giving a rich chartreuse green to the landscape.
Her large icon of St Peter with Christ is practically complete and is due to travel to Ohio next week. The colors are very powerful and the peace in the expression of Christ is captivating.
There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit moves through these Icons and touches many people.
We are so grateful for the work that Christine has been led to creating and teaching iconography, please keep her in your prayers.
Be Still and Know that I am God.
May has been quite an active month with trips- driving to New York and flying to Texas.
Michael’s Chaplaincy work includes leading a weekly contemplative prayer session. He has been doing it now for a couple of months and the regular attendants know the procedure and are able to become ‘still’. A portion of scripture is read three times and then people are still and quiet for twenty minutes as they allow God to dig them deeper into the relevance of the scripture to them at that time. Afterwards we share with each other what God led us to.
It always amazes me that each person is taken down a different path to a personal encounter with God, finding out what God wants to reveal to them individually. We all start with the same scripture passage to ponder and pray into but end up with different results.
It is a reminder how important it is to be still with God.
Jesus did exactly that, rising early in the morning to go by himself to a quiet place where he could talk and listen to God the Father. Through his intimate time with the Father he was able to face the stress of his ministry. In His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prays that we, those who in the future would believe that Jesus was sent from God could have that same love and intimacy that He had with the Father. Such an extraordinary prayer. He also prayed that we could all be as one. Not that we would be identical but we could have a united purpose coming from a united love. That is when things will start to happen, when the body of Christ moves as one. What will it take for the body of Christ to move as one?
The scripture from Psalm 46 reads,
‘Be still and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’
The power of that scripture is far beyond what we can imagine. The news we hear from the nations, including our own, points to a world without God. But the truth is, God is God, and when we are still and focused on Him, his power is released through us and His love is made real in us.
Such a counter culture concept for us today in a world where business and activity are the hallmarks of success. Success for Jesus is being totally intimate with God and for us to have that too.
So, Michael, still has to teach himself, when driving or flying, or just being really busy which happened this month: the real journey is to be still with God that’s when things start to happen.
Please keep us in your prayers and let us know how we can pray for you.
We have our house in Philmont on the market and feel the season in Philmont is coming to an end. We will probably return to the area in the future but there is also a strong calling in Bradenton, Florida, for Michael as a chaplain and for Christine to continue her iconography based from there.
Icon Writing Retreat in September
Christine has just led another successful Icon writing retreat at Holy Cross Monastery that focused on sacred geometry. The attendees, coming from as far away as Jamaica, Canada, and Washington DC, completed an icon of St Francis. All the Icons were blessed by Brother Aidan at the Diurnum service.
Christine’s New Book!!
The big news is Christine’s book, ‘Eyes of Fire’, will be published any day now. Here is some of the PR which has been prepared for it, please forward it to anyone who could may have an interest in it. When it is published we will send you a link for it as it will be available free for a short period and we would love you to get a digital copy.
‘Eyes of Fire’ written by Christine Simoneau Hales, is not only a book on the journey of an artist finding her way through the contemporary ‘Art World’, but more importantly, a summation of how God has been mostly neglected and rejected by the ‘Art World’ since the renaissance, but is now being powerfully presented through a grass roots resurgence of Iconography.
Christine Simoneau Hales, is an award winning artist and the founder of the American Institute of Iconographers, she has been a pioneer in the awakening of iconography across gender, laity, denomination and contemporary artists.
Through a close encounter with the Holy Spirit in a nunnery in France, Christine’s life changed, a deep hunger for learning about, writing and eventually teaching iconography developed. She realized at that point that Icons held all the elements of good art as well as being grounded in a deep relationship with God and prayer.
‘Eyes of Fire’, puts a perspective on contemporary art from a Christian’s point of view and points to a revival of the visual image in Holy worship. It will be published on Amazon soon!
The phrase ‘do not be afraid’, either in those actual words or with that meaning are in the Bible at least 40 times.
Jesus also uses those words many times in addressing the disciples. I’ve always interpreted them as an instruction or an encouragement. Last week in prayer I received them as a command. A command from God is not to be ignored. ‘Do not be afraid’, is a clear command.
Do Not Be Afraid!
To receive a command and act on it, we have to accept that it is coming from a higher authority, an authority we are subject to. When we undertake a command we do so in the context of an assurance from a larger body, as when a soldier carries out an order he knows he is part of a larger army and acts within its mission and protection.
When we give our lives to Jesus Christ we subject ourselves to His authority, mission and protection.
When I got this revelation, I realized God was giving me a wake up call. He was not encouraging me. He was commanding me.
I began to realize I had been afraid all my life. My inner child reminded me of how frightened I had been as a child. I began to write out the things and times I had been afraid throughout my life, from fear of wetting my bed, of people arguing or fighting, of meeting people, or remembering their names, that my father was caught up in the Biafran war and might never come back home, fear of talking and being ridiculed with what I said. The list went on as I reviewed my life, particularly as a freelance photographer never knowing where work would come from for forty five years.
I found that most of my fears were based on what other people would think about me; Proverbs 29:25 addressed that with, ‘The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe’.
I realized that when I have relied on myself the result inevitably was fear.
So what was the larger teaching God had for me here? 1 John 4:18 answered with, ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’
Love Not Fear!
God was commanding me to not fear, but to love. When I stepped into God, the result inevitably would be love.
1 John 4:8.‘Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.’
This command from God was a gift to correct and to equip me. 2 Timothy 1:7, ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.’
God’s command for me to not be afraid, was to enable me to pick up the power, love and self control God wants us to use.
I hope this message touches someone else as well because fear keeps us back from fully loving and walking as God would have us, in power and self control. Often when we loose our self control the root cause is fear. If we can not stop drinking or being drawn to pornography, or any other addiction the root cause can be found in fear.
That is why it is a gift as well as a command. Do not be afraid for God is with us and will always be so. When we are free from fear we can accomplish so much more for the Lord.
Sending you all love and prayers, until next month!
Our house is on the market, I have no freelance work lined up and I am praying for what God has for me next. This is a time of transition.
Looking up the word ‘transition’ in the concordances of three different bible translations, I found no listings. For a while this bothered me because I thought, ‘everyone goes through transitions during their lives, how come I cannot get any direction from the Bible?’ So I followed it up with a search for ‘change’, and came up with the parable of the two sons who changed their actions, doing the opposite to what they had initially said they would do. This bothered me further, because I did not think that applied to me directly, essentially my desire to continue serving God in my life and work has not changed, in fact I want to do it more.
Then I remembered how throughout the Bible God ensures provision for sojourners, or people who are passing through or undergoing a journey. In fact Peter refers to believers as ‘sojourners and exiles’. This state of being ‘in transit’ for believers on the earth, is a normal condition for Christians whose final destination is not earthly any way. We are all on a journey of some kind and sometimes it does not appear to have an, ‘earthly resolution’, perhaps we cannot find work, or do not have a home or even a church we can be comfortable with. The paradigm that, as believers we will be accepted by the world is not biblical, indeed we do not fit. Jesus told us the night before his death that we were not a part of this world, even though we are sent into the world.
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a]16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. John 17:14-18.
So as we pray for our next steps in our journeys with God, the one thing we can rely on is that God him self does not change, He will always love us, it is only our own knowledge and the fullness of our love of God, which is in transition.
Christine taught an Icon writing class at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, and it was incredible to see how nine students went through three days of prayer and icon writing to complete the ‘Good Shepherd’ icon. Each student created the same icon but they were all slightly different, but each one beautiful.
These students were very accomplished in their lives, as pastors or denominational leaders, but each had come to the haven of the monastery to spend time in prayer and to learn about Icons. Christine is a gifted teacher and also carries a fervent mission to further the knowledge and understanding of icons across the different rivers of Christianity. These classes are extraordinary in their power and everyone involved is very aware that God has them on a journey. We are travellers going through continual change becoming new creations in Christ.
Monasteries through the ages have been places where sojourners could go to find shelter, a time away from the world and a place to come closer to God; in fact hospitality is one of monasteries main ministries. I am making a short video for Holy Cross Monastery, to show what it is like to be a visitor of the monastery, because I believe it is important that we support the continued existence of monasteries as havens of prayer and contemplative lives. Even though the monks are themselves living a stable life in a monastery, God has them on journeys as well, moving closer to Him.
Please pray for us, especially that our house will sell in a timely way, and let us know how we can pray for you.
This has been quite the month for Christine teaching Iconography at Ghost Ranch, NM, and Holy Cross Monastery, NY and for Michael photographing in TX.
Ghost Ranch was an extraordinary experience for all the participants who were writing an icon of St Francis with Christine teaching. There was a wonderful sense of the presence of God in the class and a lot of physical and emotional healing occurred.
The landscape and nature surrounding the ranch was a powerful influence and all who participated could feel the spiritual strength and heritage of the land.
One could understand how Georgia O’Keefe eventually sought the solitude of Ghost Ranch over the energy of the New York artistic scene of her day.
For Michael there were some wonderful walks through the canyons reminiscent for him of walking over the moors of Dartmoor in Devon. Away from all distractions, when alone in a landscape, the awareness that we live in a world so extraordinary in every way that it has to have been created by God breaks through.
Watching the daylight move across a vast landscape and then seeing how wildflowers bloom and reproduce through the extreme dessert conditions.
These are the things we should talk about- how the birds sing, how the morning light shines through the trees, how a plant lives in the dessert, how the hills are formed or how the cows moo calling to their young. Such things are a part of God’s creative nature and these are the type of things we need to wonder, ponder and explore. This is worthy of our attention, to recognize God’s creation so we can praise Him all the more.
Too much of our lives focus on an untransformed world; a world in active degradation under the orbit of the devil. Our work as Christians is to bring to reality the world of the Creator God, what God created, not what the devil has formed in its’ place. To nurture and love not only our neighbors as our selves but appreciate the whole of God’s creative hand, from the intimate center of a tulip to the vast vista of the canyon, God shows His hand.
Originally God created paradise for us to live in; all was perfect, all was created by God. There was no demonic, we walked naked in purity amongst the abundance of God’s creation. All was good.
So lets talk about and not loose sight of those things God created, like the birds singing in the morning or how beautifully our bodies have been formed and praise God for them.
We know we live in a broken world but lets focus on what God’s Kingdom is like, as Paul writes to the Philippians 4:8,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Please keep us in your prayers and for our house to sell in preparation of our move to Florida where we believe God has called the next chapter of our lives.
The mission of The Fra Angelico Institute for Sacred Art is to deepen the prayer life of Western and Eastern Rite Catholics by evangelizing the truth, goodness, and beauty of God through education and the prayerful creation of sacred art. People of all faiths are welcome.