Tag Archives: icons

Hope, Purpose, and Faith

This has been a very difficult article for Michael to write, because in his Chaplaincy work, he encounters many people who have lost all purpose to live and have lost hope. Those who do not have an underpinning of faith that a better life is to come after death, are left in a void where hopelessness focuses them on their physical decline and not their spiritual gain. So often the message of the Gospel has not been opened to them through a loving heart.


For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.                 Romans 15:4   

Our changing purposes, create changing hopes when supported by a steadfast faith. Without a foundation of faith, we can not maintain hope when our purposes fade.

As our lives evolve and we go through the different seasons of life, the purposes we live for change; it is an inevitable part of growth and pursuing our desires in this extraordinary life, we have been given. Hope is essential to living through each bump or challenge we encounter. Each aspiration or change that comes our way.

Last Saturday, King Charles 111 was crowned with Queen Camilla. The long road which King Charles travelled to his coronation day must have required purpose, hope and faith. From a very different story, on the same day two members of the dissident Russian rock group, Pussy Riot, “Masha” Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, received the Woody Guthrie Prize. It was rewarded for speaking for the less able through their music and performance serving as a positive force for social change in Russia. Their protests cost them years in Russian prisons, which again must have required purpose, hope and faith, to survive.

These were two notably different stories which were in the ‘news media’, that day.

There were some 1.4 million people in nursing homes in America and an additional 900,000 in Assisted Living Care, who more than likely saw some of those news reports. For most of those people, television is the only entertainment or company they have for most of the day. If they are fortunate, they may have family who are able to visit, but that may be for only hours in a week or month. The majority of their time is spent alone in a room with a television. To get out of bed to go to the bathroom often requires someone else’s help and can take a long time to happen. These facilities are expensive and can drain a family’s savings very quickly, without some form of government assistance. Boredom, loneliness and the futility of a life lived mostly in bed, with diminishing physical abilities inevitably leads to a dark hopeless mind.

That very large question, what is the purpose of my life? For King Charles 111 and Pussy Riot, they will always have an active purpose for their lives to live; at least until they too, find themselves in the equivalent of a nursing home, bedbound. But for those physically depleted who feel there is no real purpose for their lives any more, they will loose hope, without a spiritual knowledge of God’s salvation plan for them.

The bible talks extensively about the hope which comes from faith in God. That message is only meaningful when given in love, by someone who has received it themselves, through love. It is low on the messages we receive through the television media news, when a coronation or a wild performance is center stage. No, this takes ‘one on one’ visitations and sharing a life of hope to come.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.              Romans 8:18.  

So my prayer is please pray about volunteering in your nearest nursing home or where ever there are shut ins. They need the gospel of hope not television, by default.

Hope

Proverbs 23    Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Psalm 33:18-19, 22.  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

Psalm 62:5-7. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 130:5-6. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

Lamentations 3:22-24.     The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Romans 5:3-5.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:24-25       24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 15:13      13 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.

I hope this has been helpful to some of you! Thank you in advance for your prayers, and you are all in ours as we go forward in these challenging times.

Love andprayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

No Spirit of Politics Please!

I had a request from a good friend for suggestions as to how to pray for Christians who believe a prominent political figure, indicted by a grand jury to appear during Holy week in court, carries a Messianic mantle.

The Holy Spirit and the Political spirit do not mix: so please, don’t interweave them within a Christian context or confuse others that they should.

The Bible is quite clear about the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are very different qualities than those which emanate from the spirit of Politics. 

1 Kings 21, gives a whole account of the subversion of authority due to greed and acquisition of political power, through the lies and deception of Jezebel. That spirit has time and time again, deceived an individual as well as their populous, to gain leadership and wield authority with no moral purity. We see it playing out again, as we did in the Jan 6th attack on congress. Christians being misled by zealots in pulpits and the media. This is an outright spiritual attack on the unity of the Church, and has no communion with the Holy Spirit.

We often think of the workings of Jezebel and Ahab as a one off affair, except Christ in Revelation 2 calls on the Church of Thyatira to stop being seduced by that spirit. It has seduction, manipulation and misappropriation of righteousness all through it. 

So my prayer for those who believe our former president has a Messianic mantle of some kind, ask how do his actions line up with the fruit of the Holy Spirit as in Galatians 5:22-26?

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The Gulf Coast

One of the sadder happenings on the Gulf Coast is the occurrences of ‘Red Tide’, which are concentrated blooms of microscopic algae that produce toxins which kill fish. We just had a bad episode in March and many fish were washed onto the beach. It was sad to see all the different kinds of fish randomly lying dead together. Fish have long been a cymbal of Christian believers. As an antidote to seeing so many dead fish we visited MOTE aquarium today and saw many alive, beautifully colored fish, which are protected from the red tide. God has a way of restoring equilibrium, whether in the sea or in the church.

Living in Sarasota is a blessing in so many ways. We do not have to fight to stay warm during the winter months and I remember how much time of the day that would take up. Heating a big old house in the Hudson Valley was a constant demand on our resources. I do miss much about the landscape, seasons and gardens of the North East but the reality is, God has done a huge shift in my life and opened up doors to a very active life of ministry. I had absolutely no intention of ministering to the elderly but that is where God has placed me, at least in this season. For years I prayed for direction to a ministry where I could be used, I thought it would be associated with praying for healing but as it turns out now it is more in the ministry of comfort, and assisting those who, at the end of their lives, want to find Jesus. I still love to pray for healing, but this is a different kind of healing- the healing of a lifetime! 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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

Love and Prayers, and Best Wishes for a Joyous Easter!

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography. Christine’s Icons. Christine’s Icon Classes

Mary Magdalene in Progress

Lenten Reflections

Christine is in one of those undefined periods of her painting career, where she is exploring thoughts and style, for a possible major work, depicting God’s Creation story. Her innocent symbolistic naive style has been turned towards birds and fish with tropical setting. These preparative paintings are small 12 by 12ins, but they harbor that naivety and wonder which is so captivating within her art. They carry a spiritual presence which although quiet is also powerful.

Her work on the ‘Our Lady of Guadeloupe Icon’ by contrast is large in size and moving forward beautifully.

Recently at the Church of the Redeemer, she led a children’s class on iconography, and had the students color in her drawings of Icons. It was a big success and has involved her in more teaching activities in the future there.

Lent Reflections  

For how much longer will the birds be singing?

For how much longer will I be listening?

One only gets to ask these kinds of questions, when we allow ourselves to sit still and be with our Creator God. The irony of course is, God longs for us to be still with Him, but we seldom allow ourselves the gift of His peace, because we think there is always more ‘to get done’, in the day.

Our lives seem to be a race to accomplish so much, which in hindsight is really insignificant. What could be more important than hearing the birds sing and being still with God?

What kind of world would we live in, if everyone regarded the highest achievement was to be intimate with God?

 Of course the demonic does all it can to prevent that. Whatever it takes to break our relationship with God, the demonic has done it and will do it over again. Kill, steal and destroy, are the obvious attributes through the vessels of lies, boredom, lust, envy, pride, jealousy and neglect; and so many other ‘achievements’.

Now, I realize why my Lenten commitment, to spend more personal time with God, has been as difficult as giving up something; like desert. To put it bluntly, to spend more time with God I have to give up something else. That brings me right back to the real question of, have I given my life to Jesus or am I fooling myself with busy work as a Chaplain, carrying Jesus, but not being completely in Jesus? For me the answer has to be, yes, I am fooling myself. I have just been carrying Jesus but not been totally alive in Him.

One of largest parts of being a Chaplain in an elderly residential community is visiting people. People in hospital, nursing care, assisted living and those suffering from loss or grief of one form or another. The challenge of initiating a caring conversation with someone who has sat alone in their room, most likely with a television blaring, hour after hour, anxious, lonely, bored and often in pain. How to find out, where and what God wants you to pray for, with that individual. I stumble into questions to try to get some idea of who they are; I ask, how long have you been here, are you in pain, do you have any family, or where was home for you when you grew up? Often I have to ask them a second time what their names are, because I forget during our interaction, so I can name them before the Lord and start to pray.

I wish I was better at this.

Then I remember, to spend more time listening to the birds singing with our Creator, God. Just to spend more time with God, one on one, and be alive in Him.

Martha was directed by Jesus to not be annoyed with Mary for staying in His presence, instead of being a busy hostess. “ Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42.

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

Much love,

Christine and Michael

The Spirit Gives Life

Well, inevitably Covid paid Christine and myself a visit and has taken a long time to completely leave, however the good news is we were totally up to date with our vaccines and it never developed into a serious problem. We have both been careful about wearing masks and have staved off the virus for a long time, but finally succumbed.

Christine has started to show at an artist cooperative gallery in downtown Sarasota and has already had some sales. This is showing her symbolic figurative painting rather than her icons, and the first to sell was of an egret standing in the mist, a wonderful painting. She also has been busy with the icons with new sales and a large commission for a Californian fellowship. Again she taught an online class where the students all worked on the archangel Michael killing Satan, also a beautiful icon.

Leaving church last week I overheard a conversation when someone said, ‘I want him to know that I really care for his situation, but I do not want to get drawn into an extended conversation.’ I thought to myself, that comes up so often in ministering with people. How to seriously engage and then appropriately finish, without being offensive or using all your energy on one person. The only right answer to that is we go as the Holy Spirit leads us. Each situation of ministry is going to be different and each person needs a unique focus of attention. To some degree a minister has to assess very quickly, in affect, do a spiritual triage; what degree of suffering is this person in and what is the best way for me to help or pray for them.

Mass medical triages situations where time is so important, like a train wreck, medics asses then assign a color coding: Black, for those expired, so leave where they lie; Red, absolute emergency where immediate medical attention could save their lives; Yellow, delayed serious injuries, after stabilizing which can wait; Green, are the walking wounded, for minor injuries.

In ministering spiritually, the presenting issues are often caused by trauma experienced sometime ago, possibly in the formative years of development and are well hidden or forgotten when someone asks, ‘What or how, can I pray for you?’ When there is time, we gather as much background on the person’s situation as possible, handing that to the Holy Spirit for direction. Without time, we just go directly to the Holy Spirit with love, calling on Jesus Christ for healing. Quite often the presenting issue has become a health issue, especially with the elderly which I minister to primarily. They have been going to a medical doctor for so long for that diagnosis there is no idea, no belief, no thought that God could heal them through prayer.  Consequently there is little hunger to receive prayer, or it is accepted as a social nicety from an enthusiastic chaplain. In which case I have to remember, this is God working, not me. Thank goodness.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6.

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

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

Love and Prayers,

Christine and Michael Micael’s Photography Christine’s Art Work

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

October Challenges

October was a busy and challenging month. Christine had two retreats, one with the Soul Sisters Prayer Group and the other with Sarasota Contemporary Women Artists; she also taught a week’s long Icon Class online and is working on two Icon commissions.

While Christine was on retreat I, Michael, focused on my new website and created a store to buy ‘Fun Photos’, which compliments my first website store of the more serious ‘Garden Prints’. When you have a moment, please check them both out on Mickhales.com, they tell a story of what God has been up to in my photography life, and I would love feedback. We also managed a short trip to New York to visit with our children and grandchildren, our first chance to do so since Covid began.

Gustav Klimt

While in New York we had a family visit to the ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’, an immersive experience at the Hall des Lumieres. This turned out to be a wonderful engaging visual experience with other illumination performances shown at the same time. Gustav Klimt was a Jewish Austrian artist, who painted before the second world war and as the Nazi’s gained power his paintings were confiscated from prominent Jewish families, when antisemitism grew and became more extreme. The film, Woman in Gold, [2015], staring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds is a wonderful account of when the persecutions slowly became more extreme and the long fight to finally returned the paintings to the relatives of the original Jewish owners in America.

Fears of Today

This last week, I was asked as Chaplain to visit, by one of my community members, who is Jewish. The meeting lasted for about an hour and her deep fear from the rise of anti-semitism which she is experiencing, not only on the national news but within our community, was impressed on me. Someone had mentioned to a friend of hers, that she should not eat dinner with her, because she was Jewish. She emphasized to me the long history of rejection and persecution the Jews have experienced and the violence stirred up against them when extremism rises to the surface. She kept repeating, ‘now I see it happening in America as well with the white supremacists, January 6th, Kyrie Irving and the emerging extreme of the political right wing. How sad that she was fearful for her safety.

This was not a political push from her. This was a living fear she stated emphatically and the fear was back again. The Jews were becoming the scapegoats again and it was shaking her to the core. Her friends were being questioned, “why would you eat with a Jewish person?” Are these the whispers of an approaching storm and how prevalent will it get before we name it for what it is?  Is America sailing blindly towards fascism and autocratic governance?

What would Jesus call for?

If so, will the commandment of Jesus still be shared with LOVE?

 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-30.

Let us cover America in prayer as it goes to the polls. And Let us join together in prayer for God’s love to fill the world and bring peace to all people of good will.

Sending much love,

Michael and Christine

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

On the Beach

The big news for Christine and myself was a trip to Boston for a family memorial for Christine’s mother, who passed at the beginning of the year. It was good to visit with Christine’s family, many of whom we have not seen for several years. 

Part of the celebration was to visit the family beach and try the freezing waters of the North East. For some reason going to the beach, seems to be the place, where family can become ‘Family’. The awkwardness of distance and time passed evaporates into the present. The past goes and future is held at bay. The barriers to the basics of life are lifted and everyone is drawn into the present moment. Somehow the beach encourages freedom; even an emotional cleansing.

Christ used the beach setting after his resurrection, to minister to Peter who had denied him three times,  with both forgiveness and commissions. He also sat in boats to preach to crowds on the shore. He was recorded as being found at the beach early in the mornings. The beach is where two worlds meet, that of land and of water. It is a place of restoration and I believe where the Kingdom of God is near and active. Of course God is omnipresent, everywhere, but perhaps I am just more open to His creation at the beach. I know when I first walk on to a beach, I am drawn into prayers of thanksgiving for what God has done in my life, even before my feet touch the water. It is interesting that the first mention of the Holy Spirit in the bible says, ‘And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’ Genesis 1:3.

I notice when doing memorial services and there is a photo presentation of the past life of a loved one, there are three main locations where time has been captured; beside a Christmas tree, at a family dinner and on a beach. The beach shots seem to be the most honest portraits, less contrived and awkward. 

Recently I have been ministering to a man, who is not a believer in Jesus Christ but says he would like to be, because his wife who recently passed was and he wants to join her when he dies. He finds the story of Jesus very confusing and hard to believe, he tells me, ‘It just does not make sense, it seems to me if there was a God He could make everything go smooth, you know, everyone would believe in the same God or religion, or whatever. You know there just seems to be constant war around the world, and I think most of them have to do with religion.’ 

I’m wondering, if I could get him to the beach, perhaps he could believe in God without needing to understand God first. But the bible says, ‘faith comes through hearing, and hearing the word of Christ.’ Romans 10:17, and there is no mention of needing to be at the beach to preach.

Maybe, just maybe, I need to go to the beach before I preach, if you get my drift.

Really, please pray for my preaching, I have never found it to be a walk on the beach, not yet.

And here’s a link to Christine’s iconography Newsletter– perfect summer reading!

Sending love and prayers to you all!

Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography Christine’s Icons Christine’s icon Classes