Tag Archives: Jesus

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

 

 

 

Practice!

Dear Friends and Family:

Confession of St. Peter Icon by Christine Hales
Confession of St. Peter Icon by Christine Hales

Christine completed the large St Peter icon commission and Father Keith Owen collected it by driving down from St Peter’s Church, Lakewood, Ohio. It underwent a quick installation to coincide with the official opening of new buildings for St Peter’s Church on Pentecost.  Now she is working on some smaller icons, St Camillus and the Holy Face of Christ. It is a very different process of icon writing when the size is a lot smaller and she finds that it is always good to have a change.

Christine Hales' Icon Studio
Christine Hales’ Icon Studio

Photography

I had a quick trip to NY and Newport, RI for photography. The Newport job was in an extremely interesting property which has follies, grottoes, fountains et al. All very personal to the owner of the property. He has created all this over the last 20 years. I was fortunate to have just a short hail storm otherwise it was beautifully sunny window in a very wet spring and many beautiful photographs were had!

Hail Storm by Mick Hales
Hail Storm by Mick Hales

 

Chaplaincy

One of the people I visited this week with my Chaplaincy work told me that having a good singing voice takes continued practice, it is not something one keeps unless it is exercised. It was obvious to me once she had said so but I had never thought of that before. I used to sing in a choir at school but now find it hard to carry a tune through the length of a hymn.

There are so many aspects to ministry that one needs to keep on practicing so you do not lose them, which becomes a loss to you personally and also to those you are ministering to.

Hales Icon Studio
Hales Icon Studio

1 Timothy 4:14-16 says this perfectly.

14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c] so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

 

Flowers by Mick Hales
Flowers by Mick Hales

God’s Calling

Yesterday I presided over a memorial service in a Baptist church. It was for a man I had ministered to, prayed with and watched him go through the slow stages of going from life on earth to everlasting life. It was all part of the work I now have as a Chaplain in an old people’s community. I love what I am doing; teaching, praying, visiting, preaching, studying the word and caring for people in the last chapters of their lives. Quite often they have experienced very full lives and been highly trained and educated. I make many mistakes and I so often feel inadequate, but I believe God called me to that work and yet I still often hear God calling me in my head, ‘Michael, Michael I am calling you.’

I reply ‘take me Lord, what are you calling me for?’

It comes again, ’Michael, Michael I am calling you.’

Am I still not engaged as God purposes? Is there more?

Then I realize, of course there is always more. God always has more than we can imagine. What I need to pray into though is to hold fast the gifts God has given me and to keep exercising them. There is a destination to keep my eyes on and not turn around to look at my past; like a ploughman holding steadfast his course exercising his skills till the end of the furrow. God will direct my path if I keep exercising His gifts and loving Him.

Luke 9:62. Jesus said to him, ’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’IMG_6696

 

So please keep us both in your prayers as God continues to work His will in our lives that we would truly know His purpose and destination for us.

 

With His Love, Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography

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

 

Eyes of Fire

Hello Friends and Family:

We are excited to announce the publication of Christine’s new book, “Eyes of Fire” on Amazon.    Here’s the link in the USA: 

Eyes of Fire copy.websmall copy

We are going to make the Kindle edition free for two days, October 11 and October 12.  It is also on Amazon in the UK for our UK friends- also free Kindle on Oct 11 and 12.

One thing we would ask, is that you leave a review on Amazon- it can be just a couple of sentences, but Amazon will notice and perhaps if we get enough reviews, they might promote it.

Christine has worked hard all summer on this and we are delighted to be able to share it with you!

From Michael: This book is really significant in that it ties together not only Christine’s personal journey but also reveals what Art in our world today has rejected. This is a work from the Lord through Christine and it is worth every hour of its conception.

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Photography

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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SaveSave

Transition

Our house is on the market, I have no freelance work lined up and I am praying for what God has for me next. This is a time of transition.

Transition, Kingdom Arts Ministry
Transition, Kingdom Arts Ministry

Looking up the word ‘transition’ in the concordances of three different bible translations, I found no listings.  For a while this bothered me because I thought, ‘everyone goes through transitions during their lives, how come I cannot get any direction from the Bible?’ So I followed it up with a search for ‘change’, and came up with the parable of the two sons who changed their actions, doing the opposite to what they had initially said they would do. This bothered me further, because I did not think that applied to me directly, essentially my desire to continue serving God in my life and work has not changed, in fact I want to do it more.

Transition, Kingdom Arts Ministry, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Kingdom Arts Ministry, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY

Then I remembered how throughout the Bible God ensures provision for sojourners, or people who are passing through or undergoing a journey. In fact Peter refers to believers as ‘sojourners and exiles’. This state of being ‘in transit’ for believers on the earth, is a normal condition for Christians whose final destination is not earthly any way. We are all on a journey of some kind and sometimes it does not appear to have an, ‘earthly resolution’, perhaps we cannot find work, or do not have a home or even a church we can be comfortable with. The paradigm that, as believers we will be accepted by the world is not biblical, indeed we do not fit. Jesus told us the night before his death that we were not a part of this world, even though we are sent into the world.

Kingdom Arts Ministry, Michael Hales
Kingdom Arts Ministry, Michael Hales

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.   John 17:14-18.

Holy Cross Monastery, Mick Hales, Transition, Kingdom arts Ministry
Holy Cross Monastery, Mick Hales, Transition

So as we pray for our next steps in our journeys with God, the one thing we can rely on is that God him self does not change, He will always love us, it is only our own knowledge and the fullness of our love of God, which is in transition.

Icon Retreat, Holy Cross Monastery, Christine Hales, Byzantine Icons
Icons, Holy Cross Monastery

Christine taught an Icon writing class at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, and it was incredible to see how nine students went through three days of prayer and icon writing to complete the ‘Good Shepherd’ icon. Each student created the same icon but they were all slightly different, but each one beautiful.  IMG_9457

These students were very accomplished in their lives, as pastors or denominational leaders, but each had come to the haven of the monastery to spend time in prayer and to learn about Icons. Christine is a gifted teacher and also carries a fervent mission to further the knowledge and understanding of icons across the different rivers of Christianity. These classes are extraordinary in their power and everyone involved is very aware that God has them on a journey. We are travellers going through continual change becoming new creations in Christ.

Holy Cross Monastery, Mick Hales, Icon Retreat
Holy Cross Monastery, Mick Hales

Monasteries through the ages have been places where sojourners could go to find shelter, a time away from the world and a place to come closer to God; in fact hospitality is one of monasteries main ministries.  I am making a short video for Holy Cross Monastery, to show what it is like to be a visitor of the monastery, because I believe it is important that we support the continued existence of monasteries as havens of prayer and contemplative lives. Even though the monks are themselves living a stable life in a monastery, God has them on journeys as well, moving closer to Him.

Mick Hales Photography, Icon Retreat
Mick Hales Photography, Icon Retreat

Please pray for us, especially that our house will sell in a timely way, and let us know how we can pray for you.

Sending love and prayers,

Michael and Christine Hales

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

 

 

 

 

Grace

Dear Friends and Family:

Happy New Year!IMG_1479

One of our frequent prayers is that we would come into new relationships with people and existing ones would grow deeper.

We have been really blessed to spend the winter in Florida which gives us the chance to explore new places, new churches, new friends and new ways of doing business and ministering.

We have found a liturgical church which is also very active with community ministry.

Christine has started to work with the Altar Guild at Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota which fits well with her understanding of the roots Christianity and the many symbolic aspects of liturgical worship.IMG_1259

Michael has started to volunteer in a homeless shelter the church is involved with, which has people waiting on the streets in the morning to get in for a shower and a bite to eat.     IMG_1657

A bus ride can reveal how many people are living on the edge, struggling with health issues, mental and physical, struggling with real poverty, financial, nutritional and spiritual.

Walking through the quieter suburbs also shows the run down houses, with all the shades or curtains drawn to the street with a fancy car or truck parked in front. It must be so dark inside, one wonders what kind of life are people living, is most of their light coming through the television screen? It seems the appearance of the car is more significant than the home.IMG_1662

The reality that in this country of great wealth, America, there is a level of poverty which is easy to drive by and not see or just disregard. It reminds me of the parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told to emphasize what loving our neighbors means.   IMG_1612

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”Luke 10:25-37

On a similar tract Michael has just finished making a video concerning the opioid and heroin crisis which is sweeping our country. It is a horrible epidemic killing young and old, rich and poor. The video was created for a grass roots charity, Columbia County Pathways to Recovery, which was formed by five mothers who had grown up with children in the small affluent community of Chatham, NY. They realized their children and many members of their community were becoming addicted to opioids and heroin and they struggled together to find ways to help them. They did not pass by on the other side but have dived in wholeheartedly to find out how to help those addicted.

Bringing an understanding of the opioid crisis to all people in a community through discussion and sharing experiences is what this video is designed to do. It is designed to stimulate open discussion of people’s thoughts, prejudices , and stigmas towards those under addiction within families and our churches. So please use it – watch the video, show it to your friends- and think about the questions it raises. What kind of prejudices  do you hold towards those who are caught by addiction? What kind of help do we offer as a faith based community?

As we come to the end of 2017 which has been a very divisive year in politics let us not turn our backs on those who are in need but embrace the fact that Jesus came to give us all life and life more abundantly.IMG_1435

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

“Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”

Ephesians 6: 26

And may you be blessed and healthy in this New Year!

Love, Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photography website     Christine’s Icon website

God is in their Recovery

Dear Friends and Family:IMG_9537

The autumn this year has not been spectacular so far because a lot of the maple leaves went brown without turning red. They dried out before coming to their wonderful yellow-orange and red colors. Fortunately the stag horn sumacs have added the most color on the sides of the roads and there are still the oaks trees in reserve to turn.

It reminds me of Elijah hiding in a cave after running from Jezebel telling God, he was the only prophet left and the word of God gently correcting him to say there were still 7000 faithful in reserve.

Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening but God always has more to give than we can imagine.IMG_9515

This last month I have had the privilege of videoing people who have gone through serious additions to opioids and heroin telling their stories. It is material for a video I am making for Columbia Pathways to Recovery, a grass routes local community organization formed to help those caught up in the currant crisis. Each one of these people eventually coming through these horribly destructive experiences have recognized that it is a spiritual and physical disease. Each one talks about God or their Higher power and how that awakening to a divine presence is the saving foundation from which they can build their lives again. Each ones way to recovery is different and there is no cookie cutter answers to this very complex healing called ‘Recovery’.

One of the sentences that was quoted to me was, ‘ the opposite to addiction is not sobriety, but being in community with others.’ The way of addiction is to isolate people and slowly destroy them through the cravings of what ever drug they have chosen to take their pain away. This slowly makes them withdraw more and more from other people and social interactions.IMG_9607

God created us to be in relationship with each other, the drugs want to take us into isolation. The stigma around addiction shown by society will have to change before there can really be widespread healing for this disease. It is a much larger issue than a moral failing, or a weakness of character as society often view those fall ill with addictions. There are definitely chemical issues in the brain which make this a physical as well as spiritual illness.

There is a real need for the church to take a lead in this awareness that the people who are dying around us from overdoses are not bad people but people who really need healing, just as people need healing from cancer, they deserve to be loved, cared for and treated as other people with a disease.

Artists Potluck Slide Share Dinner in Hudson
Artists Community Potluck Slide Share Dinner in Hudson

Jesus only did what his father asked him to do and he healed everyone who came to him for healing. As a Christian we are called, in this epidemic of opioid and heroin addiction, to help every one we can and be totally informed on what recovery means and how we can use the gifts we have been given to help them. That is more than just allowing an AA group to meet in the church once a week but knowing person to person and congregation to congregation what recovery really is.

I just met God in those people I videoed, they have recovered and they are back in society living a life more abundantly than they could imagine. That is what Jesus came to give us, a life more abundant than we can imagine.IMG_9648

Please pray for all those who find themselves in a trap and for those who help them get free.

We ask your prayers this month for those in recovery from opioids and their families, and for ourselves as we transition into God’s next plan for us!

Blessings and Prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Site        Christine’s Icon Site

September has been a wonderfully busy month. There was another Suicide Awareness walk in Catskill that I was able to attend, as well as a Christian walk down the main street in Hudson. I preached in Rock Road Chapel, Berne, NY and photographed for clients in Texas. I’m also starting to create three different short videos for non profit organizations.IMG_9216

 

The walk through Hudson was a combination of different church groups and has been an annual affair for some time. I take part in it to support the local ministries. It is not as large as the gay pride parade which takes place down the same route and does not have anything like the support which the local politicians or community give to that.  Going down the street with other Christians, I noticed what on lookers there were look surprised and somewhat bemused. As though we were amusingly out of date and a hangover from another era.IMG_9295

 

The bible does warn us to expect to be ridiculed for our beliefs and some slight embarrassment is certainly nothing compared to the real persecution many Christians face around the world. The point is, as Christians, how relevantly do we present ourselves to the people around us so that they are able to relate to us and not reject us out of hand. Paul writes about ‘being all things to all people’ so that he was able to come alongside them long enough for people of all different walks of life, to really understand what the ‘Kingdom of God’ meant.

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I find myself digging deeper into the bible for an understanding of the ‘Kingdom of God’, being here, now. This is what Christ taught us to talk about, that the ‘Kingdom of God was at hand’. How can I witness that in a real way, to people on the street, so they realize that what I want to share with them does come from another world but not from another era? It is as relevant today as it has ever been. Jesus is as completely relevant, completely alive and completely true today as on his day of resurrection.IMG_9289

 

It is up to each one of us to bring that reality to life for whoever is standing in front of us in a way that they can hear it, see it and receive it. For me that is often through praying for healing but there are many ways just as there are many grains of sand on the sea shore. Christine is doing it through prayer and teaching Icon writing. I also do it through creating videos. Every one has a gifting of some form and we all need to use them with the Holy Spirit flowing through us.IMG_9365

 

I look forward to the day that thousands will be drawn to walk for Christ through our local streets witnessing how totally relevant Jesus is today and His Kingdom has come.

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Sending you all love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Mick’s Photos    Christine’s Icons   Christine’s Icon blog