Tag Archives: God’s love

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Cleaning House For Visitors

Greetings Friends and Family:   Our House Mick Hales

Over Memorial weekend we were visited by some of our family and then with short notice some strangers came through.

As we cleaned house it struck me that we keep a pretty orderly, clean, beautiful house, but if I was looking at it for the first time, as through the eyes of a stranger, I would be struck by all the imperfections of an old well worn house. What had become acceptable to me through years of living here would not look good to a first time visitor.

Through the Old Testament the phrase ‘God will surely visit you’, is used as a reminder that God’s righteous eyes will be looking at our lives and seeing how we live and what we worship. What we have become accustomed to and what our society accepts as good and normal, is often not how the bible relays God’s perspective. Of course for us to know what the bible says, we actually have to read it and sometimes the bible seems to be the last thing we want to read. Even for committed Christians there are days when the bible seems to not have the allure it once did when we first found ourselves hungry to read it, to dive in deeper each day.

What I am writing about is how we become dulled by our ongoing day to day lives. We do not notice things we ought to change in ourselves; how we act, how we think and how we pray. The passion of our first love is diluted until we are just going through the motions when we talk to God, not yearning to be so close to Jesus.

Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons by Mick Hales

This is a dangerous place for us to be, but thank goodness, like the sun breaking through the clouds, God will visit us. He will shine his light on us and invite us back to the place of our first love with him. Our hunger for His word will come alive again. We will learn how God sees the lives we are leading and what we need to clean up.

Central Park by Mick Hales
Central Park

How can I say this will happen, because God’s love for us is so deep that he will rescue us time and time again. As the graffiti artist put it, ‘Love is a crazy thing’. We can not get our heads wrapped around the love that God has for us. It is ‘crazy’ that His son was prepared to go to the cross for us, but that is the truth and it will always be the truth.

So for me, the next time I am cleaning house, I will remember how much God loves me, that He is alive in me through the Holy Spirit and I am righteous through His redemption of me.

Christine’s Icon news is in another blog, please read for details!

We always value your prayers, and you are in ours daily.  Please keep in touch,

Blessings and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s photography     Christine’s Art     Christine’s Icons     Icon Blog