Tag Archives: Christian

Epiphany

It is always nice to start a new year, looking forward to new opportunities and friends.

Epiphany by Christine Hales

One never knows what is over the horizon and it is our hope that life will get better for those who are battling very difficult times. The world is facing some extraordinary challenges which are constantly being aired in the media. The same kinds of problems which people have always been challenged with; war, poverty, displacement, child labor and trafficking, intensifying climate change. The list goes on but thankfully, so does our faith in God. There is a way forward through recognizing God’s hand at work, even if what we witness appears insignificant compared to the world’s needs as a whole, we are sure God is always at work.

Psalm 50:1-2

“The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken; he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.”

Christine’s News

Christine had another TV story about her iconography, this time on the Catholic channel EWTN, aired just before Christmas, here is the link taken from part of the show Divine Mercy, https://youtu.be/c07vOqJj2JU . She also has a large commission from California to write an icon of Our lady of Guadeloupe, which she is excited to research and begin. Christine has also started to show her other hand in the painting world, which takes the form of symbolic naïve style with acrylic paint on canvas, very different from the icons. The gallery is a co operative artist’s gallery in Sarasota and is bringing Christine into a new circle of friendships. She is also teaching another online Icon writing class this month. This task takes a huge amount of preparation – she videos each demonstration, researches talks and prayers suitable for that particular icon, and then assembles it all into 8, ninety minute sessions over the course of four long days. Please keep her in your prayers for this- it’s very demanding but it is the work God has called her to, so we know He will give her strength.

Michael’s News

Michael, continues with his Chaplaincy and is grateful for several of Christine’s friends from her studio neighborhood use their their skills and time, sewing blankets and knitting shawls so that people who are ill or who have no one to give them Christmas presents will know that God remembers them. Michael has been privileged  to give to those in nursing care- and to one lovey lady for her 102 birthday! It means so much to the people and the joy of giving them is wonderful. Christmas has come and gone with all the trimmings and a beautiful Christmastide service for the community, which several family members visiting from New York, were able to attend.

“Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful! Their delight is in the way of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper. ” Psalm 1: 1-3

Looking back over the last month of ministry to commend things which stand out, there have been Bible studies, Alpha courses, Sunday services, Memorial services and many bedside visitations; but nothing that waves a huge flag of victory. Perhaps the most noteworthy incident was being still and holding the hand of a 96 year old man, who had recently shattered his pelvis in a fall, as I prayed for him, he tightly held my hand. This lasted about twelve minutes in our time, but how long that was in God’s time or what He was doing, I have no idea. All I know is, God is always working and love flowed.

Psalm 74:12.

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

We love keeping in touch with you all, and thank you so much for your prayers!

Love and Prayers,

Christine and Michael Hales

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

God’s Overflow

Advent Blessings

Christine has had some long term prayers answered, by joining a gallery of a co operative artist community,  The Uptown Art Gallery, with great location in the heart of Sarasota.  She will be able to show her more contemporary work there, while still completing commissions and teaching iconography from her Bradenton studio.

Veterans Day and Thanksgiving are large events in Michael’s Chaplaincy work. $1500 worth of grocery gift cards were given to our local homeless mission, raised by the generosity of our elderly community. In years past turkeys were donated but now a gift card for a local grocery store is more helpful to the variety culinary traditions. Veterans day is a big event as so many residents here served in the military, mostly now in their 80s and 90s.

Michael,  just came back from spending a couple of days in Fort Meyers helping the Omaha Rapid Response team clean up some hurricane Ian flooded houses and a church. Everything which got sea water on it has to be thrown away and ‘dry wall’, has to be taken out at least three feet above the water line and all the insulation removed. Then there is a wait to see if it will dry out or not.

As you can imagine this can be heart breaking, to have all your belongings rotting outside your home. The clean up is going to take a long time, to restore everything  physically and for people to heal emotionally.

In situations like this, we are forced to examine ourselves and what foundations our lives stand on. There is so much to worry about. Who is going to pay for all the work that needs to get done, let alone find a contractor to do it? Will this house ever stop smelling of mold? How can we replace all the personal belongings we lost, family pictures and mementos, let alone beds and clothes.

But, the pastor of the church which I was volunteering with, was full of hope. She was telling me even though she and all of her congregation had suffered the storm surge and had a couple of feet of water in their homes, spiritually they were much stronger than they had ever been. Yes, it was exhausting, all that had to be done. She and her husband were living in a trailer as their home was being worked on. Everything was a mess, for her and for her church members.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13.

There was a man there who helped with the clean up. He was an alcoholic who was trying to get sober. He was able to stop drinking for a week or so and then he would pick up and drink again. He was sleeping rough. The church had found him a tent and the Omaha Rapid Response team had given him a cot and sleeping bag. He was living somewhere in the woods and he described how wild pigs had been smelling around outside his tent at night to me. The church was helping him with food, AA meetings and bus tickets. He had to get ID to get a job. He was hopeful, this was his chance to get his life back together.

One story I heard was, one of the flooded houses had lost an album of family photographs and it turned up hundreds of yards away when people were allowed back into the area. The mother of the family spent days searching all around the neighborhood for it and when it was returned to her she cried tragically, like someone who just loved a loved one. Deep guttural cry, because that album meant so much to her, the emotions of her losses were finally released in wailing of JOY.

May the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and peace in believing.

Another story I heard of God working. The team that drove from Nebraska, a 26 hr drive, pulling a heavy trailer were coming down of the mountains into Chattanooga, when one person in the front passenger seat said he felt odd, he felt sick, he slumped over on to the window, and then he fell forward in his seat. They were travelling fast with heavy trucks all around them with no where to pull over. The driver, Ken, reached over to try to find a pulse, but he could not. He called to a lady sitting behind and she struggled to find a pulse on him. There was no pulse, no breath and no way to try CPR.

The driver shouted to her to look again. She stretched forward but could not get a pulse, and out of desperation and fear she shouted out: ‘Jesus’. The man sat up strait and started breathing again. When they were able to pull off the highway 12 miles later, and they began to take in what had happened, a deep peace came on them realizing they had all survived a deadly situation, particularly because the man who had the attack had offered to drive at the last rest stop, not half an hour earlier. He was left in Atlanta, on their way, with a family member to get medical attention.

These are the kind of stories people hear when they are able to get out of their own lives and share in someone else’s situation. People involved in mission work, are familiar with incredible stories of God working and healing the sick. Even mundane stories of how God moves in our lives, need to be shared, because our God is the God of Hope, and that hope is needed by everyone. The Holy Spirit is integrally connected with our hope and belief, and whether we are at the start or end of our lives, it is God’s loving Spirit we seek, for power and comfort, to rightfully glorify God.

We pray that you have a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas season. We all have so much to be grateful for!

Much love and prayers, from us to you!

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Website Christine’s Icons and Paintings Website

Mercy

The Blue dot is our location

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,

for in you my soul takes refuge:

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

till the storms of destruction pass by. Psalm 57:1

It is thought David wrote this Psalm, when he was being hunted by the jealous King Saul, who despised the peoples’ acclaim that David was a better warrior.

As the long night of Hurricane Ian pounding South West Florida unfolded, very similar prayers were being offered up by thousands of people. For hours I was thanking God for keeping us safe up until that point, not knowing what would come next. I watched in the grey night a live oak tree, with all of it’s limbs gyrate to the demands of the gale, and I thanked God for it’s resilience. It survived hour after hour of relentless fury, but it’s neighboring live oak fell with a split trunk.

Christine and I were very fortunate, our house came through undamaged.

That night there were forces at work which, thankfully, we do not experience often although certainly they will become more frequent. Climate change is a reality, which half of congress has stubbornly denied, even though the evidence has been shouted out for years. Even the FOX NEWS company realized the reality of climate change back in 2008 and made logistical changes to its business locations at that time. It continued though to broadcast an editorial portrayal denying climate change, presumably to uphold its business and political models.

At work I talked with a 97 year old woman, charging her cell phone in a corridor, because there was no power in her apartment. She was saying to me, ‘My mother taught me that lying was a sin. Plain and simple. What has happened to this country, is lying and denying the truth Okay now? Has money and political power become more important than truth?’

People are not often as forthright about their political thoughts, especially in a tight knit community of elderly people, but the storm seemed to give her license. She continued, ‘I know a lot of my friends here are Republicans, but can’t they see what their party has done?’

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

Studio View

The bible uses the term, ‘dominion over’, which portrays two arms of the same privilege; to have control over, as well as have responsibility for.

I would suggest Saul, had been given dominion over David, but driven by jealousy he just wanted to destroy him. David on the other hand respected the dominion God had placed on Saul, and would not interfere with that privilege even though he clearly had the chance to kill Saul, while he was alone relieving himself in the cave.

Fox News with it’s enormous media power, willfully chose to use it’s editorial muscle and  denied climate change on it’s airwaves. With that amount of power comes an equal amount of responsibility.

Steps which should have been taken years ago, were ridiculed by news pundits and half of congress as recently as six months ago. Now, the generation which has wielded power will hand over to their children a world facing increasing hurricanes, wild fires, flooding, drought, pollution and displaced people. We have taken the pin out of the grenade and given it to our children to hold.

Has the desire for political power in part of the church, the body of Christ, become so strident that it now has earned the name ‘Christian Nationalism’? I do not recognize nationalism as part of Christ’s teaching. Indeed, the spirit of politics and the Holy Spirit come from two very different dominions and can only be corrupted when presented as the same.

Before the storm

In exactly the same place in the hallway where the lady shared her views that lying is a sin, that morning after the Hurricane Ian passed, I spoke with another woman. Her husband died at the height of the storm the night before. He had been bedridden for some time. She knew he was in a better place with Jesus. She knew that because of their faith. It had nothing to do with Christian Nationalism, Fox News, lies, jealousy or hurricanes, but everything to do with faith, love, peace, patience and self control in Jesus.

Lord, please help us to see as You see, direct our thoughts, emotions and actions so that all may be pleasing and honorable to You.

Love and prayers to you all. Please continue your prayers for us as well. We love you!

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons and Paintings

Past Meets Present

Raspberries in England!

The month of August saw another major trip for Christine and myself, this time to Yorkshire, for a family gathering in memory of my brother, who passed at the height of the Covid shutdown. It had been several years since we had the chance to visit England and this was a time of both joy of reconnecting and sadness of family loss. At one point, my sister, unfolded a printout of a family tree, which stretched the whole length of the living room and opened boxes of old family photographs. I spent hours copying some of those photos with an i phone. I felt as though I had been divided from my family, through living in the States for 33 years and I was getting filled up rediscovering my roots. As it turns out I had followed the path of four out of six of my mother’s siblings, who had spent the major parts of their lives away from England in Burma, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, America, Canada and Jamaica. People say, we are likely to repeat what our parents did, even if we try not to.

Summertime in England!

Since returning to chaplaincy work after that trip, I have visited many people who have been just days away from passing on. Holding their hands and praying for them, sometimes with them being so close to passing, they are unable to respond at all. Sometimes they are able by squeezing my fingers and hold on. They have lived long lives and their bodies are worn out and by and large they want to pass on. They are ready to die, often due to discomfort or pain; it is hard for them to find meaning in their lives, as their bodies fail. I try to assure them the love of God will never leave them and that their prayers are as valuable to God at that time as they ever have been in their lives. They are approaching the great divide, between this life and the next. It is at this approach to passing through the divide, that our faith is foremost. What we really believe is painted by our faith not by our works and it is our belief for which Jesus was born. 

York Minster

There is a part of scripture that always puzzled me, but now it begins to make sense for me, I wondered why would Jesus say, in Luke 12:51?

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

Jesus is the great divider in that he comes to see who will follow Him. Some of us will decide to follow Jesus and some of us will decide not to. God promises those who receive salvation through Jesus Christ, that they will know the full presence of God. They will be in His presence, consistently, always. When they die.

While here on earth the life of our bodies involve trials and joys, troubles and pleasures, boredom and excitement. Life here is what we physically know. 

But all along through our lives we are being drawn towards knowing ‘the presence of God’ in a spiritual dimension. We are constantly being called to come closer to Him. We carry a hunger for God’s presence, which we become aware of at certain times in our lives. Times where God reveals himself to us personally.  Times when we have awoken to the Spirit of God working in our lives. Perhaps these moments could be likened to; we awake from a time of unknowing into a moment of sobriety and absolute awareness of our own inadequate failing human condition. We all get these moments of clarity, of awareness, of being able to taste the Kingdom of God. We are able to see the Kingdom of God, fleetingly, but not fully.

But God assures Christ’s believers approaching ‘the divide’, soon you will be able to be in His presence, completely, forever. Not an ephemeral fleeting experience, but the full presence of God. That is the eternal life Jesus has offered us, as the Son of God.

That is why He called himself the divider. 

He divides those who believe in him and those who choose not to believe in him.

We choose how we are going to be divided. We do the deciding. It is our choice. No one else. At this point the lives which our past family led, has no relevance. The beliefs our living family holds, is relevant for them. God is only looking to see whether you believe in Jesus Christ, that is His dividing line.

In England, one of our day excursions was to York Minster, a wonderful cathedral, full of artwork and sculpture. One sculpture which caught my eye was of a laid out body with both hands holding a bible to the chest. An image of the comfort and promise of faith.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. ]Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.

Christine’s News:

This month, in addition to enjoying the sweet times of family gatherings in England, I finally finished the two Saint Paul Icons I had been commissioned to do. These are original icons, so they took a lot of time to draw and design as well as to paint. They are both identical, one is for a priest and one for his friend.

We hope you have all had a blessed summer, and we are so very grateful for your prayers.

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

The Circle

One of Michael’s new responsibilities is to hold a ‘Circle’, twice a week, for two different groups of residents in ‘Assisted Living’. Week by week, the attendance is random and can be comprised of half a dozen people from totally different backgrounds and physical challenges. Their common bond is they are in their nineties and need an activity other than watching TV.

The Circle Represents God. There is no beginning and no End!

As their Chaplain my job is to initiate, support, maintain and gently direct a conversation for about an hour or more. At times I hoist a red flag question, just to see if anyone will be open to it; like, “Did your parents believe in God? Or did they take you to church on Sundays?”

Invariably, the answer is they went to Sunday School, either taken by their parents, one parent, grandparents or a friend. In answer to the question, ‘Was there anyone in particular who affected your spiritual life?’ That question has to be rephrased to ‘your religion,’ to be understood. Ninety years ago people ‘did religion’ as the norm and they held fast to their elected denomination. If I ask them if they are Christian, they answer by stating a denomination. In their childhood, a personal intimate relationship with Jesus Christ was not sought after and unlikely to be preached from the pulpit. More probably a conformist denominational obligation was emphasized, with strong community expectations and a punishing God.

So now as we sit in a circle, I struggle to find common ground, to initiate some kind of meaning or purpose into their daily lives. The world since their childhood, has spun totally out of control.

Their values, once foundational to a strong community, have been totally upended. Now as they are confined to bed or a wheel chair, finding activities worthy of keeping their minds alive is an endless challenge. Every room has a television which is constantly blaring with an image of the culture and place called, The United States of America, which is now totally foreign to them, even though they have lived in it all their long lives. There is a resignation that all is out of their control. A resignation and a retreat. They need help with their bodies, which can no longer look after themselves. They learn to wait and to wait some more.

Talking about their children is always a joy; until they remember, ‘they live so far away and of course they are so busy with their own children and grandchildren, I never see them.’

I come back to that old subject again, Religion, and there is a blankness in their eyes. It is hollow for them. They never experienced a touch of the living breathe of the Holy Spirit. They never knew the closeness of an intimate loving Jesus Christ. Their paradigm was held by an ‘obligation and restriction’ to a God, which they later decided, ‘could not really be real because of all the awful things which  happen to good people.’ Sunday School, never took them past the education about God into a relationship with God.

My heart breaks for people held in that paradigm. The emptiness is resounding. The hope is focused on the material. Faith has settled on humanism and medical advances.

Christianity, so simple in it’s essence, appears to many to have lost it’s essence; God’s love. It looks to many as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  Even an outdated idea which has been kidnapped into a political weapon.

Christine’s Roseate Spoon Bill , God, and the Environment

The question remains, how do we bring a living relationship with Jesus Christ, to those who never met Him, one on one? By being patient and kind, not boasting or envying, nor arrogant or rude, not insisting on our own way, not being irritable or resentful. In other words, showing the love of Christ, which becomes an invitation for people to meet Him, often for the first time. Of course we can hopefully introduce them to the Holy Spirit in the process, then the love is really flowing.

Such an easy thing for me to write, but so difficult to achieve when divisions are deeply defended. Even within ‘the circle’, of people in their nineties, there is fear to talk freely about politics and religion. The bible has a term which comes to mind, a ‘hardening of the heart.’ Some of the elements in that condition are fear, greed, inaction, resignation, denial, and the inability to change, or realize empathy for others.

Mick Hales Photography- Kay’s Hydrangeas

So this is my prayer, that I would not have a hardening of my heart, but be patient and kind, and keep my eyes on Christ, because He is the only way, the truth and the light.

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
    at the boundary between light and darkness.   
    Job 26:10.

Christine’s news is that she is working on a long term project called “The Creation Series”. It includes icons and natural images such as birds and flowers and plants. It’s a vehicle for the searching and experimenting she is doing combining ancient symbolic language of icons with modern abstract and natural imagery to make a statement about God and the environment.

She is almost finished with two identical original Saint Paul icons and will post those images upon completion. She has also realized that her website needs to be completely overhauled and re-generated on a different platform and is dividing her time between that task and her creative work.

WE both are so grateful to be living in a staycation environment and so so happy not to have to move again for awhile!! (Hopefully forever!)

Sending you all lots of love and prayers, and please do keep us in yours!! We need each other!!

Much love, Christine and Michael

Michael’s photography Christine’s Icons

Psalm 143:8

Pride

Beautiful Flower Found at RIngling Museum Garden

I had to admit it, my pride had been running my ministry. Actually, my pride had been running me. My pride was evaluating ‘my ministry’, when in reality God is the minister not me.

The Expanded Duties

Two weeks into visitations with a whole different set of residents, those receiving nursing care, short and long term, rehabilitation and memory care, I realized I was coming away exhausted and unhappy about what I judged as ‘my ministry.’ I was having a hard time making a connection with people, let alone a meaningful one. I was opening doors to doubts about myself and why I had requested to expand my Chaplain responsibilities to include these residents. It was clear that the need for a spiritual presence was there, of all the people in the large elderly residential facility, these were the most challenged and by extension, the nurses and staff were as well.

Talking with an independent counselor and Christian, I was able to recognize I was attempting to minister through my own abilities, rather than placing it in God’s hands. It was then the phrase, ‘You have a big spitball of pride,’ was born in my brain and I just had to verbalize it.

Proverbs 16:18 is succinct. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

My counselor had been able to turn my inward thinking, outward. Pride can be a difficult sin to see in oneself, it is inherently so by it’s very nature. It can take a large dose of truth to recognize pride at work.

Sea Shell photo by Mick Hales

What Does Pride Do To Us?

So what happens when pride is set free to operate within a power rich arena, where counseling and criticism are not happening or not allowed? Unfortunately, we see this too often in the workplace, even in the church, we see it in state and national politics, and we are having a text book review of how pride’s deadly consequences are realized, in the Ukraine. Putin’s pride has been working to restore the Soviet Union era’s position that Russia held, no matter what the consequences are for lives of innocent people.

Pride is such a powerful and insidious sin it is placed as first on the fictitious list of ‘seven deadly sins’, since all sins separate us from the love of God, spiritually they are all on a par with each other. However, within the affects they have on other people’s lives in our physical world, some are much more deadly than others.

Photo by Mick Hales

So the question arises, and perhaps it is too vague to be answered. Is pride more prevalent in our highly visible social media lives now, than it was even twenty years ago?

And here is another question, which is not vague at all, is pride trying to lead your life?

Please partner with me over the next month, for God to reveal ways that pride might be getting a foothold in our lives. Let us pray also for God to remove all vestiges of it and replace it with knowledge of our utter dependence on Him, His mercy, and His love. More of You Lord!

Christine’s News

Mary Magdalene Icon in Progress

I’m working on a double commission to paint a new and original icon of Saint Paul- as a young man and as a tentmaker. I’ve spent countless hours researching, drawing, and painting studies. And now I’m ready to start painting! Yay! My favorite part!

I’ll be teaching another online Icon writing class May 24-27 that I am very excited about. The subject is Mary Magdalene. I’ve written a blog about her that you might also want to read. I can’t remember if I shared the link to the Guidepost article about my work, so here it is.

Sending you all lots of love and prayers- and we very much appreciate yours! We can’t do this without each other!

Love and Prayers, Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

God’s Hand in Our Lives

Photo from PBS Interview, Courtesy Dalia Colon

Well, the exciting news in March was the filming of Christine in her icon studio by a PBS film crew, for a national spot on ‘Arts Plus.’  As this is being written the editing is underway. We do not know yet when it will be aired, but will be sure to provide a link, when that is available.

God has been at work in all of this from the start!

St. George des Gardes Convent in France where Christine had a God encounter with Icons and Sister Myriam

It is so wonderful to see Christine’s years of work teaching and promoting Contemporary Christian Icons in America, finally get some televised recognition. What is particularly wonderful, is recognition from within the contemporary Art arena, for a Christian medium so often rejected out of hand. Christine has taken the gift assigned to her from a French nun in a monastery in France, to bring iconography into a broader church body in America. She incorporated with that overall commission, her own painting style of innocence, naivety and depth of color, moving away from chiseled hard edges and precise detail, but still heavily leaning on the traditional Russian Icon writing style.

Christine Painting Prophetic Art During Global Awakening Ministry School

Using the visual image, as a bridge, to bring people closer to God, has been in the roots of Kingdom Arts Ministry for many years. It is always wonderful to discover how God wants to direct and develop the gifts God has given us. In Christine’s case, when she went to that meeting with Sister Myriam in France, it was more as an appreciative guest honoring an invitation than the expectation a life changing spiritual encounter.

Mick Hales Photography

We never know what God has waiting for us to do. Often it is associated with a path we have been on; only for us to find ourselves on a similar path we had never thought about, but that we are also gifted in. John 10:10 reminds me, God’s way is much more abundant than a way I would create for myself.

‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’

March has also been, sadly, heavy with the actions of ‘the Thief’ in Ukraine.  We in America have no concept of the tragedy being endured in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the same could be said of most Russian people, even though they are citizens of the aggression.

Mick Hales Photography

For millions in that area, life has been turned upside down. For thousands life is no more. It is even more important now for us to pray for the destructive power wielded by Putin to be bound and replaced by the power to heal and renew. For God’s Holy presence in Ukraine through the Holy Spirit. After all, we have an advocate, Jesus Christ, with God the Father, for such a time as this. Never doubt the power of prayer.

God is With Us

 But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  John 1:2.

Michael the Adventurer!

MORE NEWS, JUST IN:

Predictably, Michael has been adding so much Holy Spirit to the Chaplaincy he has been working at for the last three years that he has been approved for a program expansion. He will now be able to pray for even more people at the retirement home- and you know how much he loves praying for people! Congratulations Michael!

We love you all and love praying for you! Let us know if there’s anything specific you need prayer for! And thank you for your prayers for us! We can feel them and are so grateful to all of you!

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Website Christine’s Icon Website

What is Heaven Really Like?

Bok Garden, Orlando, FL.

Yesterday we watched an old film on TV and to my delight, I recognized one of the actors who was a pupil at school with me in Taunton, England, many decades ago. It was wonderful to see his face making all the facial expressions I could remember from that time. He was a gifted actor.

It made me think, how a random reappearance of a person from my past, so well portrayed on film, how could I forget about him? Then the question became serious when I ask, how could I forget about most of the friends in my past life?  Obviously, I have a terrible memory, and our lives have followed different paths; I now live thousands of miles from Taunton and most likely so does he.  After all, there is only so long one will send a Christmas card to an old friend! That is if he is even still amongst the living.

Bok Garden, photo by Mick Hales

From there, the thought emerged or perhaps it was a question, what will it be like to meet old friends in heaven? What will it be like to meet past loved ones; parents and siblings? Will that even be a valid question because we will be overcome by the presence and glory of God? We will be totally in awe and worship of the lamb of God.

Mick Hales Photo

Sometimes, people have told me, once they get to heaven they will ask a theological question of Elijah or Moses. Of course the one to ask is Jesus, but how close could one get to him and there would always be people ahead of me, probably millions, right?

A loud buzzer goes off with an uuurrr sound, WRONG!!!

There I go again. Trying to place God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit into my logical totally inadequate human brain. I try to formulate what heaven is like and who will be there. From my human context, I attempt a manmade virtual reality, of heaven. Of course my musings have to be wrong or totally inadequate to describe heaven. So lets see what Revelation tells us.

Photo by Mick Hales

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 5:13.

Also from 1:12-16.

 “and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Photo by Mick Hales

John’s book of Revelation gives me enough to know that thoughts of asking theological questions or looking for old friends, will be long gone, when I come into the full presence of God. All of our experience of God on earth has been veiled, or like smoke in a mirror. The concept of being completely filled by God’s love and to be always in His presence is the beginning of an understanding of eternal life, but really just a peep into heaven.

Living life on earth is really just middle ground for what we have to look forward to after we turn to the Lord. So watching an old movie took my mind back to the past, a past life, and that is what we tend to do as we get older; however, in reality we have something much more wonderful to look forward to and to keep our eyes on, our life to come. As Romans 8:38-39 affirms.

” For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

At this difficult time in our world, let us all join together and pray for peace in the Ukraine and in the world. Let God’s peace cover this world, and bring Godly leaders forward into positions of power. Amen

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

Seeking The Approval of Man or God?

Icon of the Bridegroom by Christine Hales

One of the visiting teachers who came to Global Awakening School of Supernatural Ministry, while I was a student there, was Pastor Surprise Sithole. God called him out of a family of witchdoctors when he was a boy of fifteen. He was literally called out, by an audible voice of God, awakening him from sleep in his family hut in Mozambique. Consequently, he went on being powerfully led by God to minister in Malawi, Mozambique and throughout Southern Africa, starting countless churches and God is still working through him powerfully.

Pastor Surprise

Photo by Mick Hales

The story of his life is recorded in a book, Voice in the Night, published by Chosen Books and it has been my choice to read and accompany with video scenes of nature, for the elderly community at Freedom Village.  

It is wonderful to relate, through this book, how God can work incredibly powerfully through someone’s life who started with no material wealth, little education but had the willingness to be available to be used by God. His heralding of Jesus is refreshingly direct and wholehearted.

Availablility

Photo by Mick Hales

So much of the Christian walk is about our availability and not our ability. People will measure our usefulness by our abilities, our qualifications, our university degrees. God knows our usefulness depends on our willingness to step out and be available. God wants to work through people’s hearts, not through qualifications. God provides the quality.

This is reflected in Jesus’s choice of his disciples, mostly just regular people, who became willing to follow and eventually to continue God’s purposes after Jesus’ death.

The question of availability has come up for me, Michael, as there may be an opportunity to do a ‘work’, which would require being always available; 24 : 7. There are many professions which require that sought of life style; to be always available, firemen, police, doctors etc.

The hardest part of it is, to be available in one area means your less available in others, that is where discernment and prayer are needed to be sure God is initiating the ‘work’, not our own pride.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  ‘Galatians 1:10’

But as the years add up and our life expectancy diminishes, making certain we are doing what God has called us to, becomes more and more pressing. This last month I took part in a memorial service for a nurse who had died very quickly, after Covid initiated other health issues to kick in. He was young, with a wife and four children, a natural leader and an exceptional care giver. His team were deeply affected by his loss as of course his family was, but they all knew he was doing the work he had been called to do; to lead the night team on the Covid ward.

The question is: What am I available for? Can I make the choices that lead to my being available to hear God’s still, small voice in the night? I hope I can and do!

Christine’s News:

Photo of Christine’s studio by Mick Hales

Christine loves teaching icon writing online! She puts a tremendous amount into preparing her material and delivery but it is so rewarding to her to carry on the tradition and see her students grow in ability and excitement. She will be teaching another class May 24-27 online on Zoom where they will be painting an Icon of Mary Magdalene.

She has two large commissions that are occupying her time and thoughts- one of Saint Paul and the other of Saint James. Such great people to think and pray about and with!

Please do keep us in your prayers- we need them! And let us know how we can pray for you!

May God bless you and keep you healthy,

Until next month,

Michael Hales

Michael’s photography Christine’s icons

Wake Up Call

Driving to the beach on a Sunday morning to take communion by the sea and away from our gathered church family, was sad. However, we had to pass on the way a Covid testing site and the queue of cars extended outside the gates, down the road and around the corner as far as the eye could see.  Omicron has reared its ugly presence in our neighborhood and I just can not risk being in crowds of people, like at church, in case I carry it into my workplace, a community of the elderly. So the two of us, received communion on the beach and it was a real blessing.

Photo by MIck Hales

Looking back over 2021 it seems to have been a year of national shaking and loss. Possibly the biggest loss has been the brazen attempt to under mind democracy, to purposely ferment untruth in news reporting and to drag arms of the church into partisan political activity. The depth of that loss, one can only hope, will not dig itself deeper with the well worn shovel of denial and self interest, in the year to come.  With that as a background context, spiced with the bitter truth of 800,000 dead from Covid and Climate Change we see all around us but are still unable to believe, it would seem we are all due for a wake up call!

Photo by Mick Hales

Perhaps the only question is, what will it take to finally wake us up?

Or maybe, the real question is more personal, and should be why am I looking at the troubles around me and not focusing on Jesus? Just as the disciples did in the boat when the storm hit them on the lake.

24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. [Mathew 8:24-26]

Photo by MIck Hales

I know in a lot of ways in my life, I do fall down, in not looking to Jesus first. I do have the faith that God will carry me through whatever it is we have to deal with in the future and that gives me great peace, but I do not expect Jesus to stand up and irradicate all my problems. I do not expect Jesus to stop me catching Covid because I am a Christian, just as I would not expect him to pay taxes for me if I tithe. I will not hold to a narrative that says one political party owns Jesus or that by not taking a vaccine I am a stronger believer.

Jesus came not Lording it over us, but serving us, even though He is Lord of all.

So looking forward to a new year, I hope I can be better at putting Jesus first in my life, and looking for what service He would have me do. Perhaps my biggest wake up call would start with, being more loving and less judgmental. Does that work for you, too?

Christine’s News:

It is indeed sad not to be able to attend church in person again these days. It is always a highlight of my week, being lifted up by the Liturgy, Communion, and worshipping with friends. We do watch it online, though, and are very grateful for the internet.

Donated quilts

One of my friends donated some beautiful handmade quilts that were made by her sewing circle, to Freedom Village residents who are in an acute care facility and they were very grateful for them.

Next Online Icon Writing Retreat January 25-28, 2022

I am drawing studies for two new icon commissions and a new series of icons God has inspired me to do for this New Year. I’m teaching an online icon writing class at the end of January and I love the community of iconographers that are part of this school. Mostly we start each morning by prayer walking and seeking God’s healing and guidance for all on our prayer list. Please do let us know how we can pray for you!

Until next month,

Love and Prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons