Tag Archives: America

Love, not Fear and Hate

Dear Friends and Family:

Icon Class at Immaculate Conception Seminary
Icon Class at Immaculate Conception Seminary

Christine had a wonderful Icon writing retreat at the former Roman Catholic Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, in Lloyd Harbor, NY.

It was a privilege to be able to spend time in a seminary building which had so many priests pass through its doors for many years. Although no longer a seminary, as such, a lot of retreats and teaching classes continue in the extraordinary building and grounds.

Icon Painting Class with Christine Hales
Icon Painting Class with Christine Hales

Christine was teaching Iconography to a wonderful group of students keen to learn how to write an icon and practice this spiritual discipline over the Columbus Day weekend. The building has an extraordinary collection of religious paintings, stonework, ironwork and all manor of crafts and a deep presence of prayer.

Eyes of Fire Getting Great Reviews!

Christine’s book has been getting wonderful reviews and is #1 new release in spiritual books on Amazon!! If you have not had a chance to order a copy yet please go for it.

Eyes of Fire Icon Book
Eyes of Fire Icon Book

It is wonderful to see how God has worked through her struggle as an artist to come up with a vibrant position to talk to artists as wells Christians. This is a well resourced book for this who are interested in writing Icons, but it is also a deep revelation of her walk and faith in using the gifts God has given her.

Here are two links for you to get a copy.  Book of the Month Club    and   direct link to  Amazon.   Get your copy today!!

 

Our Move is Coming Along!!

We achieved a major move from the Hudson Valley, NY, to Bradenton, FL. It is by no means completed yet but the major part has been done.

Paintings and photographs preparing to move
Paintings and photographs preparing to move

Moving is thought to be one of the five most stressful situations normal life offers. Certainly driving a heavy loaded truck 1400 miles is stressful, let alone all the packing and now unpacking, all the decisions about what should be kept and what should be given away or discarded.

We were Blessed though, we knew where we were going and that people at our destination were glad we were coming.

 

Our thoughts and prayers though go out to the much maligned people who have lost a safe place to live in their homes in Honduras and as best they can are travelling on foot to find a safer life. This is the ‘Caravan’, desperate people fleeing because they no longer have safe homes. They have become a political football for the Trump administration to build fears about immigrants, even though they are still one thousand miles away from the US border travelling by foot, 5200 troops are being sent to ‘guard’ the borders. President Trump has described the coming midterm elections as the ‘Election of the Caravan’. It is alarmist rhetoric which is fueling hatred in our country leading to political and anti semetic violence.

As a Christian I have to say this is not of God. As a Christian I have to say this nation is heading in a hedonistic direction which is contrary to its values of the past.

Attending to homeless in NYC
Attending to homeless in NYC

As a Christian I refer to scripture,

Isaiah 58:6-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Children learning Franklin D Roosevelt's Four Freedoms
Children learning Franklin D Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms

It is worth going back to Franklin D Roosevelt’s speech known as the Four Freedoms made in January 1941, where he talks of the freedom of speech and expression,  that every person can worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. These four freedoms he declared are for everywhere in the world and attainable in our own time and generation. America seems to have turned in on itself and lost the vision of a caring leader of freedom in the world.

This is a time where prayer for this nation, with all of it’s power and wealth, for all of its responsibilities to the world as a whole, would be guided by the Holy Spirit and a heart of love not hatred and fear. Let us all come together and seek before God His wisdom on the direction of this nation in prayer.

Love and Prayers,

Michael and Christine

 

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What Are You Doing Here, America?

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Dear Friends and Family:

We had a wonderful visit from Brother Joseph, a monk from Holy Cross Monastery, which culminated in a prayer time at our local waterfall. Christine has been teaching iconography at Holy Cross Monastery for sometime and will be leading another class in September, 25th– 28th. The time spent at the monastery is always so fulfilling that Michael made a short video about the monastery and what it is like to visit.

Here is the You Tube link

Christine and Brother Joseph at the waterfall
Christine and Brother Joseph at the waterfall

Christine is also working now on several icon commissions coming in from different parts of the country.  IMG_0226

Chaplaincy News for Michael

Michael just went through five days of Critical Incident Stress Management [CISM] training for groups and individuals. The course teaches how to assist, as a chaplain, people who have gone through a traumatic event; like a shooting, hurricane, fire, terrorist attack or suicide. It was held in an Emergency Operations Center, in a new purpose built building ready to survive wind speeds of over 253 miles an hour, where the county 911 dispatch center was located and where the whole counties’ emergency operations could be directed from in a critical incident. The room we were taking the course in had no windows and sometimes it felt a bit like we were hiding in a cave, having tragic scenarios of disasters unfolding constantly through the teaching.

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It may have been similar to how Elijah felt after fleeing from Jezabel’s threats and hiding in a cave. Then having the Lord ask him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 1st Kings 19:11-13.

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I can relate to that feeling of being asked, what are you doing hiding here when all those horrible things are going on around you. Was it meant as an accusing wake up call for Elijah or more of an encouragement to get back into the action? Back into the fight.

Elijah had reasoned he was the last prophet left working for the Lord, but God said no, he had another 7000 in reserve.IMG_0233

 

Sometimes we all need a wake up call to get back in the fight. We live in a country which is under attack from within, that is loosing its’ moral direction by attacking freedom of speech and the press, purposefully disregarding stewardship of the environment, building walls on its borders to control people and trade, and lying whenever it suits the leadership. We can also be sure that we are getting attacked from outside our borders as well in this time of cyber information penetration.

But God. God pulls us back to remember the smaller things he has created, through his sweet small voice, a drop of water on a leaf, a snail finding its way, the amazing gift of blooming flowers. It is through the amalgamation of appreciating the smaller things of God that we comprehend the enormity of his creative hand. There is no other way.IMG_9853

He is not in the wind, earthquake or fire. He is not in the constant military armament, or thousands of miles of border walls, separating children from their parents, or abusing our environment. He is not in the constant quipping, denying, accusing and lying we hear now daily. God is in love, in joy, in creation, in truth and is eternal. He is more powerful in his little things than we can ever be in man’s so called big things.IMG_9919

PRAYER

This morning I got to pray for a man suffering from a bunion on his foot, painful when you are on your feet all day. Just a short prayer of healing in Jesus name. That was one of God’s small things that happened.

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But God. God is also capable of huge things, too. He created heaven and earth and all that is in it. He can also take it away. That is why we need to hear the quiet wake up calls, ‘What are we doing here, America?’ before God lets us fall out of his hands.

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

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine                   Mick’s Photo Website   Christine’s Icon Website

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Grace

Dear Friends and Family:

Happy New Year!IMG_1479

One of our frequent prayers is that we would come into new relationships with people and existing ones would grow deeper.

We have been really blessed to spend the winter in Florida which gives us the chance to explore new places, new churches, new friends and new ways of doing business and ministering.

We have found a liturgical church which is also very active with community ministry.

Christine has started to work with the Altar Guild at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota which fits well with her understanding of the roots Christianity and the many symbolic aspects of liturgical worship.IMG_1259

Michael has started to volunteer in a homeless shelter the church is involved with, which has people waiting on the streets in the morning to get in for a shower and a bite to eat.     IMG_1657

A bus ride can reveal how many people are living on the edge, struggling with health issues, mental and physical, struggling with real poverty, financial, nutritional and spiritual.

Walking through the quieter suburbs also shows the run down houses, with all the shades or curtains drawn to the street with a fancy car or truck parked in front. It must be so dark inside, one wonders what kind of life are people living, is most of their light coming through the television screen? It seems the appearance of the car is more significant than the home.IMG_1662

The reality that in this country of great wealth, America, there is a level of poverty which is easy to drive by and not see or just disregard. It reminds me of the parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told to emphasize what loving our neighbors means.   IMG_1612

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”Luke 10:25-37

On a similar tract Michael has just finished making a video concerning the opioid and heroin crisis which is sweeping our country. It is a horrible epidemic killing young and old, rich and poor. The video was created for a grass roots charity, Columbia County Pathways to Recovery, which was formed by five mothers who had grown up with children in the small affluent community of Chatham, NY. They realized their children and many members of their community were becoming addicted to opioids and heroin and they struggled together to find ways to help them. They did not pass by on the other side but have dived in wholeheartedly to find out how to help those addicted.

Bringing an understanding of the opioid crisis to all people in a community through discussion and sharing experiences is what this video is designed to do. It is designed to stimulate open discussion of people’s thoughts, prejudices , and stigmas towards those under addiction within families and our churches. So please use it – watch the video, show it to your friends- and think about the questions it raises. What kind of prejudices  do you hold towards those who are caught by addiction? What kind of help do we offer as a faith based community?

As we come to the end of 2017 which has been a very divisive year in politics let us not turn our backs on those who are in need but embrace the fact that Jesus came to give us all life and life more abundantly.IMG_1435

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

“Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”

Ephesians 6: 26

And may you be blessed and healthy in this New Year!

Love, Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photography website     Christine’s Icon website

God is in their Recovery

Dear Friends and Family:IMG_9537

The autumn this year has not been spectacular so far because a lot of the maple leaves went brown without turning red. They dried out before coming to their wonderful yellow-orange and red colors. Fortunately the stag horn sumacs have added the most color on the sides of the roads and there are still the oaks trees in reserve to turn.

It reminds me of Elijah hiding in a cave after running from Jezebel telling God, he was the only prophet left and the word of God gently correcting him to say there were still 7000 faithful in reserve.

Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening but God always has more to give than we can imagine.IMG_9515

This last month I have had the privilege of videoing people who have gone through serious additions to opioids and heroin telling their stories. It is material for a video I am making for Columbia Pathways to Recovery, a grass routes local community organization formed to help those caught up in the currant crisis. Each one of these people eventually coming through these horribly destructive experiences have recognized that it is a spiritual and physical disease. Each one talks about God or their Higher power and how that awakening to a divine presence is the saving foundation from which they can build their lives again. Each ones way to recovery is different and there is no cookie cutter answers to this very complex healing called ‘Recovery’.

One of the sentences that was quoted to me was, ‘ the opposite to addiction is not sobriety, but being in community with others.’ The way of addiction is to isolate people and slowly destroy them through the cravings of what ever drug they have chosen to take their pain away. This slowly makes them withdraw more and more from other people and social interactions.IMG_9607

God created us to be in relationship with each other, the drugs want to take us into isolation. The stigma around addiction shown by society will have to change before there can really be widespread healing for this disease. It is a much larger issue than a moral failing, or a weakness of character as society often view those fall ill with addictions. There are definitely chemical issues in the brain which make this a physical as well as spiritual illness.

There is a real need for the church to take a lead in this awareness that the people who are dying around us from overdoses are not bad people but people who really need healing, just as people need healing from cancer, they deserve to be loved, cared for and treated as other people with a disease.

Artists Potluck Slide Share Dinner in Hudson
Artists Community Potluck Slide Share Dinner in Hudson

Jesus only did what his father asked him to do and he healed everyone who came to him for healing. As a Christian we are called, in this epidemic of opioid and heroin addiction, to help every one we can and be totally informed on what recovery means and how we can use the gifts we have been given to help them. That is more than just allowing an AA group to meet in the church once a week but knowing person to person and congregation to congregation what recovery really is.

I just met God in those people I videoed, they have recovered and they are back in society living a life more abundantly than they could imagine. That is what Jesus came to give us, a life more abundant than we can imagine.IMG_9648

Please pray for all those who find themselves in a trap and for those who help them get free.

We ask your prayers this month for those in recovery from opioids and their families, and for ourselves as we transition into God’s next plan for us!

Blessings and Prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Site        Christine’s Icon Site

September has been a wonderfully busy month. There was another Suicide Awareness walk in Catskill that I was able to attend, as well as a Christian walk down the main street in Hudson. I preached in Rock Road Chapel, Berne, NY and photographed for clients in Texas. I’m also starting to create three different short videos for non profit organizations.IMG_9216

 

The walk through Hudson was a combination of different church groups and has been an annual affair for some time. I take part in it to support the local ministries. It is not as large as the gay pride parade which takes place down the same route and does not have anything like the support which the local politicians or community give to that.  Going down the street with other Christians, I noticed what on lookers there were look surprised and somewhat bemused. As though we were amusingly out of date and a hangover from another era.IMG_9295

 

The bible does warn us to expect to be ridiculed for our beliefs and some slight embarrassment is certainly nothing compared to the real persecution many Christians face around the world. The point is, as Christians, how relevantly do we present ourselves to the people around us so that they are able to relate to us and not reject us out of hand. Paul writes about ‘being all things to all people’ so that he was able to come alongside them long enough for people of all different walks of life, to really understand what the ‘Kingdom of God’ meant.

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I find myself digging deeper into the bible for an understanding of the ‘Kingdom of God’, being here, now. This is what Christ taught us to talk about, that the ‘Kingdom of God was at hand’. How can I witness that in a real way, to people on the street, so they realize that what I want to share with them does come from another world but not from another era? It is as relevant today as it has ever been. Jesus is as completely relevant, completely alive and completely true today as on his day of resurrection.IMG_9289

 

It is up to each one of us to bring that reality to life for whoever is standing in front of us in a way that they can hear it, see it and receive it. For me that is often through praying for healing but there are many ways just as there are many grains of sand on the sea shore. Christine is doing it through prayer and teaching Icon writing. I also do it through creating videos. Every one has a gifting of some form and we all need to use them with the Holy Spirit flowing through us.IMG_9365

 

I look forward to the day that thousands will be drawn to walk for Christ through our local streets witnessing how totally relevant Jesus is today and His Kingdom has come.

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Sending you all love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photos    Christine’s Icons   Christine’s 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