Tag Archives: God

God’s Extravangance

“The heavens declare the Glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork .” Psalm 19:1

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The Sheer Extravagance of God

Going through a month’s snaps to find images which represent our lives for the last month, I always have to include some close ups of plants I have noticed and delighted in.

The thought, ‘the sheer extravagance of God’, came to me as I picked one of the blooms from a Floss Silk Tree which flower here in November. The trees become huge masses of pink flowers before their leaves form.  Their trunks have large thorns like medieval armor.

God is extravagant not only in the beauty of what he has created but also in the huge variety. My mind is astounded and gives thanks this Thanksgiving for how God provides for us so well.

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One of the stories this month was of a woman in my bible study class deciding that she wanted to give back a turkey to the homeless. She had as a child received a Thanksgiving turkey because her family was poor and she wanted to give back, now in her seventies, and she could afford it. She asked if I would help her get the turkey and deliver it when the time came. Well she talked to friends about what she was doing and slowly more people came alongside her donating for turkeys.

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Well, the outcome was we bought 565lbs of turkeys and delivered them for Thanksgiving to a charity called Turning Points in Bradenton.  It was God’s extravagance, each time we thought we had fulfilled the money collected, there was still more left over and we returned to the freezer to pick out some more turkeys!

 

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Christine completed a commission of our Lady of Knock, a five by three foot painting for a school library, which was shipped out this month. The story of a vision appearing to a group of people in the Irish town of Knock, is reported by the Roman Catholic Saints website, as:

‘The apparition in County Mayo in Ireland of Our Lady of Knock is reported to have occurred on the evening of August 21, 1879, the vigil of the octave of the feast of the Assumption. Those who witnessed the miracle ranged in age from five years old to seventy-five. IMG_0305

The apparition was described as follows: “Our Lady was wearing a large, brilliant crown and clothed in white garments. On her right was Saint Joseph, his head inclined toward her and on her left Saint John the Evangelist. To the left of Saint John was an altar on which stood a cross and a lamb.” Standing only a few feet off the ground, the Blessed Virgin wore a white cloak and was described by witnesses as being incredibly beautiful. She wore a bright golden crown, and appeared to be praying with her eyes looking toward heaven with her arms bend in front of her with her palms facing inward.’

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For Christine, this commission has been yet another wonderful opportunity to learn more about the different ways God has interacted with His church. The different streams of the church have such a rich history of how God has chosen to make himself known. It is different for all of us and we cannot judge another’s experience, only give thanks again that God cares enough to find different avenues to connect to us, His whole church. I am sure that everyone who reads this blog could give an example of how God has made himself known to them. Perhaps through a vision, or a healing, maybe through the audible word of God, or just that quiet thought which suddenly appears in our minds which we KNOW we have to listen to and act on.

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In November one of the big events is Veterans day. Michael had the role of leading the service which was really well attended. So many people had served America in one of the five services and each one had a photograph of them dressed in their appropriate uniforms many years ago. For Michael it was a lesson to not look at the elderly as they appear today, but remember how active, dynamic and handsome they were when they were younger. We owe a huge debt to those who have gone before us and spent some of their best years fighting for the values that made America great. Now many are truly disheartened by what is happening in this country today and feel helpless as to what to do.

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The only answer I can offer is for there to be an outpouring of prayer for healing in this nation and righteous leadership.

Jesus prayed that the church would not be divided. In many ways the church has been divided and the country is divided and it is ripe for a fall, as Jesus warned in Mathew 12:25.

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’

PRAYERS FOR OUR NATION

Let us pray for this nation, without calling on the ‘spirit of politics’, which continues to be an idol against the Holy Spirit. “Make thy face to shine upon thine servant; save me for thy mercies sake.” Psalm 31:16  May God ‘s face shine upon our country and save us for His mercy’s sake.

As Christians we are called to be active Christians, not waiving that assignment to politicians. The spirit of politics may cover itself with the talk of righteousness but not the walk, as is being revealed now.  ” Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”  Psalm 31:24

Sending you all our love and prayers,

Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography        Christine’s Icons      Christine’s Icon Prints

 

Prayer is All

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Dear Friends and Family:

AS usual, it’s been busy down here!

We both had a trip to San Antonio, TX, in October. It was a mixed purpose trip; Michael gave a talk to a Garden Club there and also did some garden photography. Christine has an October birthday and we were grateful to be able to celebrate that at the same time.

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We managed to get some time to visit two of the early Missions there; Los Alamos and Concepcion. Los Alamos was very crowded with visitors but there was definitely a strong sense of national pride in the history of the sacrifices made there. Mission Concepcion, which is still an active parish, had a spiritual presence and simplicity I found reminiscent of a monastery.IMG_9227

An old painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the Mexican Marian visitations, hangs in the vaulted church sanctuary and particularly caught Christine’s eye as an early example of this very famous Catholic image. Christine wrote an icon of that image in the past, which is unusual, as it is mostly seen as a religious painting.

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Christine taught an icon class at St Peter and Paul Church in Bradenton which has become a regular location for an annual class.  It was a smaller intimate class which created a real closeness to the Lord as the work is undertaken in deep prayer.

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Michael continues as the Chaplain for Freedom Village and sometimes wonders how God placed him in an elderly and mostly financially secure community as a lot of his past has been with marketplace and street ministry.IMG_9010

 

Then he is reminded that we are all souls, whether rich or poor, secure or in physical danger, we all will have to stand before God and answer for our lives. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, no matter what their circumstances are.IMG_9644

Working with the elderly is certainly a good primer for what we can anticipate of our own lives in the future. In America people are living much longer lives than they used to do and 95 years is becoming more the normal life expectancy than the unusual.IMG_9777

So a question Michael hears over and over again is, ‘what is the purpose of life?’

It becomes an even more pressing question for those who are bed bound, totally dependent on others for meals, using the bathroom, staying washed and shaved, etc. The list of their dependence goes until the elderly become reliant on others for everything, like a babe in arms.

 

We are introduced to this world as infants and we are escorted from the world as senior infants. How much purpose our lives carry at the end of our independent and active years will most likely be a reflection on how much we have a relationship with God. After all, I believe that is the real purpose of our lives; to have a relationship with God.IMG_9280

For those who find themselves not believing there is a God, quite often a purpose for life is found through their children or grandchildren’s lives. Fear, confusion and anger often develops along with a pathos of not knowing why they are still here being a burden to others.

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Seeing a future continuing for one’s family within this worldly context is what we can all ponder on. But Christians are given so much more than that, we are given a future continuing on into eternity of Glory and worship, not only with our blood family but also with our spiritual family. Our spiritual family encompasses not only the living believers but also all those past. Today is ‘All Saints Day’ in the traditional streams of Christianity and it reminds us of the enormity and significance of our family. As a family member, our ‘Father God’ or ‘Papa’, always wants to hear what is on our hearts, we can always talk with Him, even if we are too old or sick to speak out loud, He will hear us. So, we will always have a purpose for our lives and the purpose is prayer. Being in relationship with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10.

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

Sending You Our Love and Prayers,

Christine and Michael Hales

Michael’s Photography                   Christine’s Icons                 Christine’s Paintings

Expectations

Dear Friends and Family:

September has been very busy.

Florida sky by Mick Hales
Florida sky by Mick Hales

 

Christine taught an icon class at St Patrick’s church in West Palm Beach. She has done two large Icons for them in the past and this was the first class she has taught there. The students worked on the Archangel Michael icon and in the short time they had turned out really good icons. Christine puts a lot of work into the preparation which enables the students to cover a lot of ground quickly. Of course, the main work involved in writing icons is the actual prayers which go on for the whole time.

Icon Class Saint Patrick's Church
Icon Class Saint Patrick’s Church
Christine Hales Icon Class
Christine Hales Icon Class

 

Christine has been commissioned to paint a large scene of ‘Our Lady of Knock’, which this time will be acrylic and not egg tempera. The scene depicts, Mary with Joseph and John. Knock is an Irish village where an apparition stayed for over two hours and was seen by a congregation of people ranging in age from 5 to 75. During that period the weather deteriorated and it rained heavily but it did not affect the apparition. The painting will be for a school library.

Michael had a fast visit for some photography to Montauk, NY. Our other large achievement was that we moved house in two separate moves, one to empty a storage unit and another to bring the major furniture over to our new home. We still have a lot of unpacking to do but are very relieved the heavy lifting is done.

New House
New House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael’s Chaplaincy work has taken him to three different charities this month which are involved with helping the homeless in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. One in particular called Harvest Home in Sarasota has been in operation for about 26 years and came directly out of Harvest Church. The church realized that feeding people was not enough and they began to provide buildings and beds for them. Initially the pastor second mortgaged his home to buy the first building. That initial risk has since enabled many people to get clear of homelessness and also restore some of the very run down housing stock in Sarasota.

 

What are you expecting, Michael?

Mick Hales Leaf
Mick Hales Leaf

 

That question kept coming into my mind as I sat in church last Sunday. Each time I answered it in my mind it just came right back up, as though God was saying to me, ‘No, wrong answer. What are you expecting, Michael.’

After a while I realized I was not expecting enough. All of my aspirations and thoughts had been very manageable by my own actions and accountability, flawed as I am. But God was asking me to name a vision far beyond my own ability. I was being remanded by God for not thinking large enough, not pushing into harnessing the power of God.

That afternoon I was preaching on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, how the two men’s situations reversed totally and irrevocably after their death’s. The sermon was based on Jesus’s warning that God really does care what we do with our riches. Riches indeed enable power, if you have the money you can buy good healthcare, good legal help, great clothes, etc, etc, individually; or on a national level, you can build a strong army and really exercise that power.

Power in itself is not evil, as money in itself is not evil. It is how it is used that God cares about.

The command, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’; really defines God’s care about how we treat others, how we utilize our power or riches for others.

 

Similarly, God really cares if we are not utilizing the power he has given us through the Holy Spirit for His purposes. I think that was what His question to me was about. It certainly has made me search for answers in prayer and to start thinking further into the future.

 

Please keep us both in prayer, especially as we discern our direction for what God is calling us to do- and let us know how we can pray for you.

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael Hales

Mick’s photography      Christine’s Icons

 

 

 

God’s Creation

Dear Family and Friends:

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Christine had another teaching class at Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park, NY, with several returning students. She has a following of students who want to continue to go deeper into the experience of writing icons. Teaching in a monastery which has a daily cycle of five prayer services by the monks makes it even more of a prayerful experience. The retreat coincided with some of the very hot weather which spread across the North East this July.

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Michael continues with the chaplaincy work in the elderly community at Freedom Village and Blake hospital. There are so many end of life situations which people are dealing with. To bring the love of Christ into those critical times is a great privilege and also can be very demanding. One of the constants that has brought him relief is photographing the beauty of creation, in all manner of things.

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It is God’s creativity, which is never endingly astonishing and it is available for all to see, ‘who have eyes to see.’

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Paul writes about creation in Romans 1:19-21, saying that everyone should recognize the extraordinary presence of God by the awesome divine nature of the things that have been made. He says there is no excuse, for not recognizing God’s hand at work, or for not honoring it.

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19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

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We are in a time where respect for God’s creation is not a priority for the leadership of America or Brazil [the rain forest is being destroyed at the encouragement of Brazil’s president, our president has turned away from recognizing global warming and the Paris agreement]. The environment is loosing at irrevocable speed to human development and greed.

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The environment is just one arena but now there are many areas where Christians have decided to place their trust and favor in a political spirit, following blindly ‘false Christian’ political leadership away from those things dear to Christ’s heart. Loving our neighbor, has moved to creating walls, division, racism, inequality, lies and squandering truth. Michael thinks we have a responsibility to point out as a Christian, that many are following a political spirit, which will turn whichever way it believes it can gain the most votes. It has no heart for what the consequences are. It is not driven by love but by a bullying greed. It is a political spirit not the Holy Spirit.

Michael grew up in England and his father witnessed how the fascist mentality was allowed to grow in Germany and Italy before the war. The mistake the Christians made in trusting that political spirit, rather than being responsible to the Holy Spirit, were profound.

We are responsible to the Holy Spirit, responsible to the love of Christ, responsible to Glorify God our Father, one person at a time one Christian at a time. Not to place our work and responsibility at the feet ‘fake Christian political figures’.

‘For though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.’

Jesus taught how to separate between the political spirit and the Holy Spirit, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’

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I pray that we render to God the things which are God’s and gives thanks and honor to all He creates and not turn our responsibilities over to a false spirit.

It is our joy to pray for you all each day.

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography     Christine’s Icons

 

 

 

Be Still…

 

Holy Cross Monastery Mick Hales
Holy Cross Monastery Mick Hales

Christine has had an active month, again with teaching an Icon class at Holy Cross Monastery in the Hudson Valley, which was focused on Sacred Geometry. It was a wonderful class and it is always especially good within the monastic life at Holy Cross to experience these retreats. The spring in New York had been quite wet and all the trees were especially beautiful with the early leaf growth giving a rich chartreuse green to the landscape.

Icon Class Christine Hales
Icon Class Christine Hales

 

Her large icon of St Peter with Christ is practically complete and is due to travel to Ohio next week. The colors are very powerful and the peace in the expression of Christ is captivating. IMG_6009

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There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit moves through these Icons and touches many people.

We are so grateful for the work that Christine has been led to creating and teaching iconography, please keep her in your prayers.

Clouds Mick Hales
Clouds Mick Hales

Be Still and Know that I am God.

 

May has been quite an active month with trips- driving  to New York and flying to Texas.

 

Michael’s Chaplaincy work includes leading a weekly contemplative prayer session. He has been doing it now for a couple of months and the regular attendants know the procedure and are able to become ‘still’. A portion of scripture is read three times and then people are still and quiet for twenty minutes as they allow God to dig them deeper into the relevance of the scripture to them at that time. Afterwards we share with each other what God led us to.

Magnolia Mick Hales
Magnolia Mick Hales

 

It always amazes me that each person is taken down a different path to a personal encounter with God, finding out what God wants to reveal to them individually. We all start with the same scripture passage to ponder and pray into but end up with different results.

It is a reminder how important it is to be still with God.

Jesus did exactly that, rising early in the morning to go by himself to a quiet place where he could talk and listen to God the Father. Through his intimate time with the Father he was able to face the stress of his ministry. In His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prays that we, those who in the future would believe that Jesus was sent from God could have that same love and intimacy that He had with the Father. Such an extraordinary prayer. He also prayed that we could all be as one. Not that we would be identical but we could have a united purpose coming from a united love. That is when things will start to happen, when the body of Christ moves as one. What will it take for the body of Christ to move as one?

Iris Mick Hales
Iris Mick Hales

 

The scripture from Psalm 46 reads,

‘Be still and know that I am God,

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.’

The power of that scripture is far beyond what we can imagine. The news we hear from the nations, including our own, points to a world without God. But the truth is, God is God, and when we are still and focused on Him, his power is released through us and His love is made real in us.

Such a counter culture concept for us today in a world where business and activity are the hallmarks of success. Success for Jesus is being totally intimate with God and for us to have that too.

So, Michael, still has to teach himself, when driving or flying, or just being really busy which happened this month: the real journey is to be still with God that’s when things start to happen.

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

Sending love and prayers,

 

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photographs            Christine’s Icons

 

 

 

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

 

Do Not Be Afraid

Dear Friends and Family:

Here’s Michael:

We have our house in Philmont on the market and  feel the season in Philmont is coming to an end. We will probably  return to the area in the future but there is also a strong calling in Bradenton, Florida, for Michael as a chaplain and for Christine to continue her iconography based from there.

Holy Cross Monastery
Holy Cross Monastery

Icon Writing Retreat in September

Christine has just led another successful Icon writing retreat at Holy Cross Monastery that focused on sacred geometry. The attendees, coming from as far away as Jamaica, Canada, and Washington DC,  completed an icon of St Francis. All the Icons were blessed by Brother Aidan at the Diurnum service.IMG_0687

Christine’s New Book!!

The big news is Christine’s book, ‘Eyes of Fire’, will be published any day now. Here is some of the PR which has been prepared for it, please forward it to anyone who could may have an interest in it. When it is published we will send you a link for it as it will be available free for a short period and we would love you to get a digital copy.Eyes of Fire copy.websmall copy

 

‘Eyes of Fire’ written by Christine Simoneau Hales, is not only a book on the journey of an artist finding her way through the contemporary ‘Art World’, but more importantly, a summation of how God has been mostly neglected and rejected by the ‘Art World’ since the renaissance, but is now being powerfully presented through a grass roots resurgence of Iconography.

Christine Simoneau Hales, is an award winning artist and the founder of the American Institute of Iconographers, she has been a pioneer in the awakening of iconography across gender, laity, denomination and contemporary artists.

Through a close encounter with the Holy Spirit in a nunnery in France, Christine’s life changed, a deep hunger for learning about, writing and eventually teaching iconography developed. She realized at that point that Icons held all the elements of good art as well as being grounded in a deep relationship with God and prayer.

‘Eyes of Fire’, puts a perspective on contemporary art from a Christian’s point of view and points to a revival of the visual image in Holy worship. It will be published on Amazon soon!

 

The phrase ‘do not be afraid’, either in those actual words or with that meaning are in the Bible at least 40 times.

Jesus also uses those words many times in addressing the disciples. I’ve always interpreted them as an instruction or an encouragement. Last week in prayer I received them as a command. A command from God is not to be ignored. ‘Do not be afraid’, is a clear command.  IMG_0633

Do Not Be Afraid!

To receive a command and act on it, we have to accept that it is coming from a higher authority, an authority we are subject to.  When we undertake a command we do so in the context of an assurance from a larger body, as when a soldier carries out an order he knows he is part of a larger army and acts within its mission and protection.

When we give our lives to Jesus Christ we subject ourselves to His authority, mission and protection.

When I got this revelation, I realized God was giving me a wake up call. He was not encouraging me. He was commanding me.

I began to realize I had been afraid all my life. My inner child reminded me of how frightened I had been as a child. I began to write out the things and times I had been afraid throughout my life, from fear of wetting my bed, of people arguing or fighting, of meeting people, or remembering their names, that my father was caught up in the Biafran war and might never come back home, fear of talking and being ridiculed with what I said. The list went on as I reviewed my life, particularly as a freelance photographer never knowing where work would come from for forty five years.

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I found that most of my fears were based on what other people would think about me; Proverbs 29:25 addressed that with, ‘The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe’.

I realized that when I have relied on myself the result inevitably was fear.

So what was the larger teaching God had for me here? 1 John 4:18 answered with, ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’

Love Not Fear!

God was commanding me to not fear, but to love. When I stepped into God, the result inevitably would be love.IMG_7525

 

1 John 4:8.‘Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.’

 

This command from God was a gift to correct and to equip me. 2 Timothy 1:7, ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.’

God’s command for me to not be afraid, was to enable me to pick up the power, love and self control God wants us to use.

 

I hope this message touches someone else as well because fear keeps us back from fully loving and walking as God would have us, in power and self control. Often when we loose our self control the root cause is fear. If we can not stop drinking or being drawn to pornography, or any other addiction the root cause can be found in fear.

That is why it is a gift as well as a command. Do not be afraid for God is with us and will always be so. When we are free from fear we can accomplish so much more for the Lord.

Sending you all love and prayers, until next month!

 

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photos     Christine’s Icons

 

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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The Work of the Holy Spirit in Our World

Greetings Friends and Family:

Christine has been working on a major icon commission of St Patrick for a church near Palm Beach of that name. She has been under a deadline to complete the work before the end of April, and has been working diligently to finish it. So with great joy we delivered it on time last week and to Father Aidan and a group of excited parishioners.

Children of Lir Icon of Saint Patrick by Christine Hales
The Children of Lir and the Coming of Christianity

They love the work Christine has done and it may stand as a definitive icon because it includes twelve depictions of scenes from St Patrick’s life. Part of Christine’s ministry involves deeply researching the subject of the icon she is working on. That involves reading and searching as much as possible about a subject and then through prayer portraying it as she is led by the Holy Spirit.IMG_5082

So for the St Patrick figure which she came up with is younger than often depicted with a wonderful peaceful and confident demeanor.IMG_5034

 

Christine has also been preparing to lead a week’s retreat and icon writing class at Ghost Ranch, in New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keefe had her influential painting studio. Christine’s icon workshops always are very powerful spiritually because the time is spent in a prayerful creative environment. Many people receive deep inner healing through these retreats and a more intimacy with our living God.

Christine Hales and Saint Patrick Icon
Christine Hales and Saint Patrick Icon

 

We both had a powerful ministry evening with a group who had asked us to go further on teaching about the Holy Spirit and our experience with prayer, healing and art. It was a wonderful evening, full of the Holy Spirit touching lives, and we came away realizing we have a lot to offer in this field. So often we do not comprehend how much has been deposited in us and how others need to know more about the Holy Spirit.IMG_4761

 

Taking the bus a lot recently gives me a view of the less fortunate in our society. There are many in this area of Florida who sleep out on the streets, or on the beaches. The bus system is of course one of their main means of transport. Yesterday, out of the blue on the bus a lady started to preach the gospel out loud. She was preaching out of the Great Commission from Mark 16: 15-16.

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15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

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It is such a blessing to see people be filled with the Holy Spirit enough to witness in every day situations. Putting out into the world a word which is so seldom heard in daily life. That is what St Patrick did, evangelized in such a way that people could receive new teaching without being threatened.

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The St Mark’s text talks of ‘proclaiming the gospel to the whole creation.’ It is through creation that God often preaches to us. The extraordinary world that we are surrounded by is for me always a reminder that there is a creative God who has blessed us with the joy of being creative as well. God loves to watch how we are creative in all we do.

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 Photography      Christine’s Icons

Giving and Receiving

Dear Friends and Family:

Flower photography by Mick Hales
Flower by Mick Hales 1

Our monthly blog is coinciding with Good Friday and Easter this year. For Christians it is the most significant season of the year. Holy week reminds us of the powerful act of redemption that was undertaken by Jesus Christ. This is a gift given by the most powerful divine God in the most humble and humiliating way to you and me. Whether we receive that gift with thanks or reject it, for whatever reason, is the most significant decision we will make, ever.

Leaf photography by Mick Hales
Leaf Close up by Mick Hales

Two interesting conversations this week made me consider the common attributes of giving and receiving. In giving there is an exchange of worth that is facilitated by the Holy Spirit. The giver blesses the receiver in some form; however, there can also be an exchange facilitated by the demonic, where the receiver hurts the other party, as in stealing and abusing. In that case the exchange becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

Plant Photography by Mick Hales
Plant photography by Mick Hales

The Bible is full of different attributes to giving and receiving, a very prominent verse on this subject is from Acts 20:35, where Paul recounts, ‘In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.’

Red leaf photograph by Mick Hales, nature photographer
Red Leaf Photograph by Mick Hales

How much the giver actually gives needs to be viewed by what it actually cost the giver. Jesus talks to the disciples about this in the passage about the widow’s offering, in Mark 12:43-44.

“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

IMG_3491 1How we give and how we receive becomes an aspect of our characters and is often formed through our childhood experiences. If we experienced poverty and material insecurity as children we may spend our lives working to get out of poverty and find it very difficult to give to others.  IMG_3603 1Jesus is very clear about the need for us to be lovers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39. To be able to love requires giving. Love is an exchange that requires giving.

Children of Lir in progress by Iconographer Christine Hales
Children of Lir and the coming of Christianity in progress by Christine Hales

At the last supper when Jesus washed the disciples feet he was giving them an example as to how to give, I expect some of them were uncomfortable receiving that gift.

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The complete message is that Jesus wants us to be both givers and receivers. To able to receive as well as give, for there is an exchange of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit desires to flow and be active.

Lily photograph by Mick Hales flower photographer
Lily Photograph by Mick Hales

If we refuse to receive a gift, it can stop the Holy Spirit flowing. Similarly if we receive without giving thanks that will also stop the Holy Spirit flowing.

This Easter as we consider the gift God gave to us through his Son’s sacrifice on the cross, we really need to receive it completely as an act of God’s love for us individually and enable the Holy Spirit to flow by giving heart felt thanks.

Saint Patrick Icon in progress painted by Christine Hales Iconographer
Saint Patrick Icon painted by Christine Hales in progress

Such an extraordinary gift of love we can receive or reject freely. However, if we choose to reject that gift we can not be givers and lovers as God purposed us to be. It is almost childlike thinking, true. ‘Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:15.

Saint Patrick icon by Iconographer Christine Hales in progress
Saint Patrick Icon by Christine Hales in progress

This Easter Christine and I have so much to be grateful for. In our professional lives Christine has been working on a wonderful commission for a large icon of St Patrick, which is just unfolding beautifully on our lanai. I’ve had a book signing and publication launching for the latest book I photographed, City Green; Public Gardens of New York, written by Jane Garmey. Ichael also has the cover for NYC & G April issue for a house in Kinderhook shot in January.

Mick Hales and Jane Garmey at book signing for "City Green"
Mick Hales and Jane Garmey at book signing for “City Green”

However, for both of us, what we celebrate is how Jesus works through our lives to the people around us, through the many gifts he has given us but most importantly through his redemptive gift for paying for our sins and inviting us into His family of brothers and sisters in Christ.

NYCG-April cover by Mick Hales photographer
NYCG-April cover by Mick Hales photographer

This is the gift which cost Jesus everything and has created a family, his church, which is called to give and receive with thanks through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Stations of the Cross Icons, Station 11, by Christine Hales Iconographer
Stations of the Cross Icons, Station 11, by Christine Hales Iconographer

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

 

With great love and thanksgiving,  wishing you truly, a Happy Easter!

Michael and Christine

Mick’s website    Christine’s Icons