Tag Archives: chaplain

Challenges

He turned to me and said, ‘And don’t talk to me again with your mask on.’ Then he shuffled off with his walker. We had just shared a fifteen minute conversation. I had heard how his wife was ailing and unable to do much more than sleep. She had had a bad fall and then contracted Covid 19 and although this was several months later, he was worried she was loosing ground. I had prayed with him, for which he was grateful, then he finished our talk abruptly. 

Not being able to hear words spoken through a mask, is just the last straw for many elderly, who have seen their lives turned upside down in the pandemic. Loneliness, confusion, gradual loss of sight and hearing; these are just a few of the difficulties they face. Loss of mobility, fear of falling, memory loss and the slow onset of dementia or equally difficult, their spouse’s.

The physical challenges the elderly face slowly force them into an internally lived world. A world shared with themselves. The TV News constantly talks of a world so different from the one they grew up in and spent the best years of their life with. It seems like their value system has no value anymore.

It has gone or it is going. Everywhere they turn or they turn to do, has left or is leaving, has died or is dying. Possibly the hardest challenge for many is holding on to a purpose for living, a purpose for their lives, now.

Well, it has always been that way, one might argue. That is true, except for three areas which may have exasperated this purposelessness the elderly increasingly endure. 

Less and less people are being cared for by their own family members as they age, in fact their children are likely to live busy lives of their own, a plane trip away. No direct family connections leads to loneliness and isolation.

People are living much longer, due to medical advances, so living into your nineties or even hundreds, is becoming the norm. 

But for me, the most significant difference I see, is many elderly are living without a close relationship with God in their lives. 

The church past and present have contributed to this by: in the past, by teaching a theology of a distant judging Father God who expected works for one’s salvation; and in the present, by focusing on discipling the young, who would be more effective at reaching the lost, for more years.

Consequently, the kinds of questions and assurances, that a loving close relationship with Jesus Christ would answer and provide are left as an empty wound, mixed in with the all the other challenges aging brings.

God has led me to work in an elderly community as a Chaplain and I would not have had any awareness of this dynamic and quite frankly any interest either. We have a tendency to expect the state to look after the latter years of peoples lives with ‘meals on wheels’, or other programs. Some families are still able to help an aging relative but as a whole our society has moved away from an extended family life styles.

There is a real need for the spiritual lives of the elderly to be attended to. I am learning on the job and thank God for that opportunity.

We wish you all a very Happy Easter and look forward to hearing how we can best pray for you!

May God bless you and hold you in His favor,

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

Christine and Michael Hales

The Right Place

Spanish Point Chapel, photo by Mick Hales

In the Right Place at the….

Working as a Chaplain in an elderly persons community I find myself asking the question, ‘Is this really where God wants me?’

Then I reason, ‘this is my selfish thinking getting in the way of serving God and my pride is trying to make my ministry expectations more significant than is appropriate.’

OK, so in that case, I am exactly where I should be, and God has not deserted me, but I still  wish I could serve Him more.

A little voice says, ‘What does that have to do with you? It is really up to God how he wants to use you.’ 

I am serving as Chaplain in an old people’s community.   I question it because my ‘Vespers’ services appear so boring that everyone goes to sleep.

Actually, it is just what they need, a chance to sleep, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the service this last Sunday, I had to shake awake my violinist, the only source of music we have, for him to play. 

But when you are approaching 80, 90 or your into your 100 years, it is an achievement to make it to the Sunday service in the auditorium. That is a big deal for each of them and if you catch a nap so much the better.

I often ask myself, well what can I really give or teach people who have gone to church for thirty five years before I ever read through the bible.

But there goes my thinking again, placing the burden on myself to be ‘doing the work’, when in fact only God can do it.

Most of my flock can not see to read, they cannot hear even with hearing aids, they do not move without a walker or an electric cart. They have continued as well as they could through the pandemic, trying to keep their thoughts positive, but it has hurt everyone. You can see the sadness in their eyes, as they pull down their masks and ask, ‘How long is this going on for?’

I have the luxury of movement, hearing, seeing and asking myself, ‘am I in the right place?’ 

My flock does not; they are staying where they are. Thankfully they can always ask, ‘God are you still with me, do you still hear me? Are you really as powerful as the Chaplain says you are and do you really love me as much as he says you do?’

That is when God silently answers and his love begins to flow and they are reborn again. Their smiles come back again and they are so glad they were able to make Vespers this week, even if they may have missed a part of it. They were present and so was the gentle Holy Spirit touching each one with wisdom, grace and power, in a very personal way.

God is always in the right place and I just want to be with Him as He ministers, in His presence.

 1 Corinthians 3:7    “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

Christine’s News

I’ve been finishing the “lamentation” commission and now that has been shipped off to it’s new home! I’m also finishing up a commission for st. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

I’m preparing for teaching my next online icon painting class, April 13-16. And I’ve successfully submitted my application for post graduate work at the Prince’s Foundation School in London for advanced Iconography research. In the next month or so I should hear the status of that.

Another Church Icon Talk

Tomorrow I’ve been asked to give a talk on my work for the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bradenton, Florida. I feel so blessed to be here, working in my studio everyday. The winds are gently blowing, the sun is shining and I have all my icon materials and books all around me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your goodness and blessings!

Mick Hales Photography

We send you all our love and best wishes for staying healthy and safe. Do be in touch with your prayer requests- it is our joy to pray for you!

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael Hales

Michael’s Photography Website Christine’s Icon Website

Self Examination

Florida in January!

January 2021 has been a momentous month. The political fervor in the United States had been whipped up to a crescendo, which had its explosion in the storming of the Capital buildings, while Joe Biden’s presidency was being confirmed in congress.

After the event I remember seeing a photo of a man standing, with his head bowed, holding a life sized cross on the mall, with rioting confusion in motion all around him. For me this was one more sad realization of how misdirected parts of the church body had become, when it whole heartedly endorsed a ‘spirit of politics’, rather than work through the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus Christ. Without a doubt this has been a very painful time for the body of Christ; from those believing they were striving through a prophetic word with all the zeal they could muster, to those who perceived them turning a blind eye to the complete lack of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and consistent lies.

Photo Mick Hales
Photo Mick Hales

However, God can and will turn this situation into a time of self examination, because the whole body of Christ has suffered through these polarities. Jesus always called us to stand together knowing how important that was, he prayed at length in John 17 for our unity.

 ‘Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.’

Jesus prayed that the church could follow in his ways, his teaching and his name. If we are able to move closer together as one church, it will be a healing opportunity. A healing opportunity I recognize I need.

Our News

Christine Hales
Christine Hales

Christine has been working on two icon commissions, one is the last supper and the other depicts St. Teresa of Avila with St John of the Cross. She has also completed another online icon teaching class which was very well attended. Also an application has gone to the Prince’s School in London to pursue doctoral study of contemporary iconography and its place in Western Christianity.

The Last Supper Icon in progress
Photo Mick Hales
Photo Mick Hales

Michael’s work as Chaplain to an elderly community is running another Alpha program in person. He has found people in their 80s, and 90s respond really well to the program and are able to share personal spiritual experiences of their childhood which had formed life long rejection of Christianity. Alpha is available on line [alphausa.org] and is being held all over the world, especially during the present lockdown; for elderly people the challenges they face with the internet requires they use in person programs. Unfortunately sharing a meal, usually enjoying a meal together is a central part of an Alpha evening, we are unable to do that with restrictions.

Photo Mick Hales
Photo Mick Hales

Another initiative has been to set up an ASK [ask, seek, knock] e mail list; where people can share and put out prayer requests. Many of the seniors can handle using e mail rather than social media and this has been getting a lot of use. Having people connect after such a time of forced separations and loneliness is a needed healing for us all.

Photo Mick Hales
Photo Mick Hales

Our prayer in this time is for the church to work together, using all the variety of gifts and view points we have, to build it up; as Paul writes 1 Corinthians 14:26

“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

Let us know how we can pray for you and thank you for your prayers.

Sending Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

Advent- The Coming of the Light!

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9

Sometimes we encounter Christians, who are sure, they are the holders of ‘the true light’. That they have been given a prophetic word, which must mean that they are following the correct path and them only. Then there are some who hold to a strict tradition which has always and only done things in a certain way, so any broadening of that way, is named heretical.

Annunciation Angel Icon by Christine Hales

The question then becomes, how does one interact with people who are so dogmatic they are unable see the other side of the coin; no matter how much truth the other side of the coin holds. 

As ministers for Christ these are encounters we have all the time.  These are not interactions with non believers but with other Christians.

‘Well, you say, this has been going on since the beginning of the Church, Christ was dealing with these same situations.’ The Christian family, as broad as it is, as diverse as it is, as large as it is, as dogmatic as parts of it are, is still completely loved by God the Father. God is able to continue loving all of it.

The Light which God brought into the world; His Love, is for everyone.

Mick Hales Photography

I cannot claim or assign myself, more lovable by God than any other.

Mick Hales Photography

I also cannot claim my way to worship, or express my creative gifts, as the only way that God would want it practiced. However, I do know He wants me to worship Him and be creative for Him, as He does with everyone.

Mick Hales Photography

This Christmas as we reflect on Christ bringing his true light into the world, I will try to remember that God’s love came into the world for everyone. 

Icons

Christine has been invited to give a series of talks for Advent at Church of the Redeemer, the Episcopal Church that we belong to. The Title of the series is “New Perspectives in Church Art”.

The “New Perspectives in Christian Church Art “Talks she is giving at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota this month will be aired on their FB page, https://www.facebook.com/RedeemerSarasota and You Tube page, https://www.youtube.com/user/redeemersarasota at 6:30PM Friday evenings, Dec.4, 11, 18, and January 1. Hope you can catch some of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it all!

Chaplaincy

Turkeys for those in need

Well, lots has happened in November. Freedom Village collected and donated over 1200 lbs of turkey for Thanksgiving for food challenged families. Christine delivered a commissioned icon of CS Lewis. We had an election which, unreally, was claimed to be a fraud. The in-person Alpha class that I led at Freedom Village was completed with a full house, fully masked.

Yes, we are looking forward to Christmas and time to fully celebrate Christ’s birth. 

We pray you are well and looking forward to it as well.

Ringling Museum Gardens

More Quarantine

Dear Friends and Family:

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

Separation, is not a healthy place emotionally, but it is needed to protect us from the virus.

For those in elderly communities, especially widows, lockdown has become a lonely, boring and often depressing; seemingly endless time. People say that eating meals alone is when it really hurts.

The community I work for as Chaplain, is well provided for. Meals are delivered to their apartment doors in large brown bags. The bags are taken in, food eaten and then placed back outside, without any human interaction. Most of the many activities, which once made the 650 resident campus feel like a university, have stopped. The hallways are empty, the restaurants, pool, hair salon, wood working shop, gym, are all closed. Even the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles take for ever to finish.

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

I started to lead a bible study again, under very strictly controlled separation conditions, but that is likely to stop as the pandemic spikes in Florida and the cautious ‘opening up’, is likely to be reversed.

One of the more exciting developments has been the possibility of running an Alpha course in the community. Alpha, changed my life when it first came over from Holy Trinity Brompton, in London [https://www.htb.org], to New York City. Christine and I, attended the three day course and that was the first time I was introduced to the Holy Spirits’ presence, when Nicky Gumbel, prayed over the whole gathering at St Bartholomew’s Church, to receive the Holy Spirit. That prayer changed my life because the Holy Spirit did flood into me.

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

There are now a small group of people who are excited to help get an Alpha going in the community, but we are waiting for a better understanding of how the lockdown with develop.

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

So my main job has been preparing Sunday Vespers which gets Televised on the internal TV station every Sunday. It has been a great experience because it has pulled together my photography with my ministry, which has been a long wish of mine. I am including a couple of You Tube links so you can see what I have been creating.

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https://youtu.be/bypUhd-QIeo

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

Vespers 070520

https://youtu.be/AGVKgBgcYIE

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

Christine is doing wonderful work on two angel icons for a commission. She is also preparing to launch into online teaching of Iconography, running a course in August, which is very exciting and getting a great response.

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

I think we all are beginning to understand that this time of ‘separation’ or lockdown, is going to be with us for a very long time to come. That in itself is part of the anxiety, not knowing when or if there really is a long term resolution or a ‘normal life’ at the end of the tunnel. The long term emotional consequences are going to be enormous. As major upsets always do, this is going to hit the most vulnerable in our society the most; those who cannot find employment, families living with no school functioning, racial vulnerability will rise as racist tendencies are politically exploited; and the list could go on, so it is not surprising that the elderly person sitting alone in a room is going to be forgotten. After all they are not a squeaky wheel and they are easy to forget.

But, thanks be to God, He never forgets any of us.

So please, take a moment and lift up the elderly housebound in your prayers.

Mick Hales Photography
Mick Hales Photography

1 Timothy 5:15b

Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

Stay safe and be Blessed with the Holy Spirit in all you do and say.

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Happy New Year!

Dear Friends and Family:

Happy New Year!  And of course we wish you a really Blessed 2020 with many new doors opening by the Lord.

Happy New Year photo by Mick Hales
Happy New Year photo by Mick Hales

December seemed to happen very quickly this year, perhaps because things just kept popping up that needed to be done.

Our News

Michael had a surprise phone call asking him at 9:30 on Boxing day morning to undertake a marriage at 1:00 that day at the hospital he volunteers at. Christine has developed a lot of new women friends in Christ and was invited to several Christmas parties by them. We managed to receive a day of generational healing prayer, at Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, which was a powerful Blessing. Michael had one memorial service and five other services at Freedom Village to lead and preach. On top of all that we made it to Art Basel Miami to see what was cooking in the art world.

Michael leading a wedding ceremony at the hospital
Michael leading a wedding ceremony at the hospital

Christine completed a commission of St Francis and the Wolf  of Lubbio which came out beautifully. She has been diligently focused on drawing skills and it is really bearing beautiful fruit in her icons. This month she will have a one evening show of her icons at a prestigious carpet gallery in downtown Sarasota called ‘Art to Walk On’ on January 24th and has been preparing a variety of icons for that. It is going to be stunning.

Politics and the love of Christ

Of course we have to bring up what happened this December with the impeachment of the President of the United States. It is almost like the ‘Emperor has no clothes on’ within Christian circles because it is hard to talk about.  As so much division has happened within the body of Christ, much of which seemingly slipped into following a political spirit rather than holding to the Holy Spirit; the evangelical right regarded Donald Trump as a savior, regardless of his overtly unchristian persona.  ‘Christianity Today’, had the fortitude to really question whether the President should be given carte blanche by Christians.  We continue to pray that God will provide good leadership for this country, today and in the years to come.

Seabirds by Mick Hales
Seabirds by Mick Hales

Each month Michael writes an article for the Freedom Village Newsletter, ‘The Crier’ and last month it was about ‘Holding Hands.’

He is adding it below, because it could be extrapolated to the situation our country finds itself in. It is a piece on small steps of faith that can lead to larger changes through unity. Jesus said a house divided cannot stand. How do we bridge the gap of extreme division within this country before it is led to tyranny?

How to return to relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and not a spirit of politics within Christian living.

As 2020 opens there needs to be some deep searching for truth in our prayers as to who we are following, Jesus Christ or partisan politics. I pray that each side of this deep divide can reach out to touch the other and heal.

Advent Wreath on Christmas Eve by Mick Hales
Advent Wreath on Christmas Eve by Mick Hales

Holding Hands

We all know what it means to hold hands with someone we love, someone special to us. A spouse or one of our own children. Holding hands is a way in personal relationships we can express trust, comfort, fondness, togetherness and love.

But what about when we hold hands with someone we do not know so well, maybe someone we are visiting and want to show a sign of support for what they are going through, perhaps they are ill or experienced a loss recently. That can take a step of faith to put your hands out for someone who may not know you. The actual activity of sharing another person’s hands results scientifically in the release of oxytocin in our bodies giving us a feeling of safety and warmth.

I remember as a child walking through the streets of Enugu, a town in Nigeria where I spent several years, people would just touch you as you walked past. It was culturally normal that touch would happen between people, even strangers on the streets. To us in a ‘Western mindset’ this seems very intrusive, we prefer to keep an invisible barrier around us that other people stay out of.  We would hate being touched by people as they walked past  us on the streets, by hands held to out to the sides so there was a connection as one passed. This very simple gesture was a way of connecting, a way of placing oneself in the present and acknowledging all life around us as we travel through it.

Saint Francis and the Wolf of Lubbio, Icon by Christine Hales
Saint Francis and the Wolf of Lubbio, Icon by Christine Hales

We find in the scriptures that Jesus throughout his ministry would touch people as he was healing them. We also know that people would try to touch him in the crowd or even just his garment; Mark 3:10, is a good example.

‘for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.’

When Jesus was touching people there was a transference of power by the Holy Spirit to heal. That is why I believe when people come together to support or even pray for others, holding hands is a wonderful way to bring us all closer together, as we present ourselves and our concerns to God.

Let us continue to gather as lovers of Christ and hold hands as we pray for our country, our world, and each other in the year ahead.

Celebrating Michael's Birthday and Boxing Day!
Celebrating Michael’s Birthday and Boxing Day!

Sending love, prayers, and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Christine and Michael

Mick’s Photography      Christine’s Icons      Christine’s Art Work

 

Travel and Revelations

Dear Friends and Family:IMG_5092

Christine had a busy month in March teaching iconography at our home church in Sarasota, Church of the Redeemer and also at the Union Theological Seminary in NYC. She is also getting ready to teach another Icon class at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico next week. She delivered a beautiful icon commissioned by one of her former students in Miami, a wonderful Icon of Mary Magdalen and Christ. Recently there appears to be an understanding within the church body, that the significance of Mary Magdalene and her ministry towards Christ, as well as to the very early church, has not been fully appreciated. [Mark 16: 14] One of our fun days was a visit to the Dali museum in St Petersburg with friends. There was lots to see of course, but one of the outside displays was a Golden Spiral, which is used extensively in iconography and sacred geometry.

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Michael’s News

Michael is slowly finding his way as a Chaplain for a retirement community which has lots of opportunity for praying one on one and also preaching and teaching. He, also, had a quick trip to New York to photograph an apartment which overlooked the Hudson River. The owners were vacating the apartment after  thirty years and wanted a record of it.     IMG_5355

He has a short story about what happened after doing a hospital visitation recently. He finished his hospital visit and returned to his car. Quite close by to where he had parked was a man sitting on a tire barrier under a shade tree. He was talking to someone who appeared to be just someone in passing. After a while he heard what the conversation was about, that the man’s father was in the hospital and apparently deteriorating fast.

After a while he felt God nudge him to go over and see if he could help the man. There was a long conversation, mostly the man talking and Michael just listening. Eventually Michael asked if he could pray for him and did so and then returned home.

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About two hours later, he had a call from the hospital to return at that man’s request. Michael had been wearing a hospital Chaplain’s ID, earlier and they were asking for him specifically. So he returned and went to the room where the man and his father were. He prayed for them both separately and then talked and prayed with his mother and sister who were also at the hospital. Then waited to see how if he might help further. After a while the man came out of the father’s room and asked for Michael’s phone number and said he would be in touch if things developed. He then announced that the whole family was agnostic, but he recently learned his father had begun to pray when traveling to some of his medical appointments.

Hearing From God

Sometimes, it is strange how God works, but now Michael believes that God had heard his prayers while going to those doctors’ visits and somehow God got one of His own family to represent Him at a vital moment in that family’s life.

At the time Michael came away wondering, why was he asked to go back to the hospital if they were all agnostic? Why would they allow him to pray for them, each one separately? Maybe, just maybe, at that late hour, they realized they would be called upon to account for their lives before God.IMG_5117

As indeed we all shall. Whether we are cognizant that there will be an accounting before God or not. Even if we stand proudly as Christian, Agnostic, Republican or Democrat, we shall all be accountable before God.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Hebrews 4:13

That’s all for now.  Love snd prayers to you all!

Michael and Christine Hales

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Please let us know how we can pray for you.

Praise God for His Creation!!

Dear Family and Friends:IMG_7574

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.

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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.IMG_6781

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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.

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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.

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Watching the daylight move across a vast landscape and then seeing how wildflowers bloom and reproduce through the extreme dessert conditions.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Holy Cross Icon Blessing
Holy Cross Monastery Icon Blessing

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.

Michael and Christine with author Jane Garmey at book signing for Mick's new book "City Green"
Michael and Christine with author Jane Garmey at book signing for Mick’s new book “City Green”

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.

Please, let us know how we can pray for you.

Icon from Holy Archangel Michael Monastery, Abiquiu, NM
Icon from Holy Archangel Michael Monastery, Abiquiu, NM

Love and Prayers,

Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography     Christine’s Icons   Christine’s Fine Art