Tag Archives: religion

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

Past Meets Present

Raspberries in England!

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

Summertime in England!

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

York Minster

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is why He called himself the divider. 

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

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

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

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

Christine’s News:

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

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

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

The Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mick Hales Photography- Kay’s Hydrangeas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love, Christine and Michael

Michael’s photography Christine’s Icons

Psalm 143:8

Prayed Up?

Christine’s PBS broadcast has received a lot of attention and great responses, if you missed it here is a link . Indeed last month Christine had an article in Guideposts, the PBS video and she placed a in-house show of icons at the facility where Michael works. It has been wonderful to hear all the different positive reactions to her work and particularly from non believers and those of the evangelistic traditions which tend to be unfamiliar with icons.

She is now being contacted by another television station to possibly do another video which has a very large audience base. The wonderful part behind all of this is that these opportunities came to Christine without her physically seeking them, although praying for new doors to open for Christine have been consistently offered by us for years.
Christine also completed teaching another icon writing class online and has built up a healthy group of students who love to take the classes with her, this class wrote an icon of Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene written by Christine Hales

Michael has taken on a further body of people to minister to, as well as the independent living population, who are all in need of assistant care or active nursing care. One of the hardest realities for people to face in this age group is that of loss. Loss comes in so many ways, loss of memory, loss of driving, loss of hearing or seeing, loss of independence, loss of loved ones; the list varies with each person but the pain of these losses keeps surfacing for them.

One lady recently told me of her home of many years which she had to give up to move into assisted living. Apparently her old Floridian home had a large porch and she would sit out painting water colors and get visited by a wood stork. This had been happening for nearly twenty years and she called the stork, ‘Ugly, because wood storks are.’ She missed that stork so much and she was sure it missed her.

Orchid photo by Mick Hales

Different stories rise to the surface of lives once lived, memories which can not be experienced again except as memories. Bodies become slowly unresponsive, tired and slow, until they can’t do what they could do a month before.

I have come to realize this is a work, a ministry, which can not be done if I am not prayed up. Of course that is so obvious, and yet so easy to fall down on.
Global Awakening always taught us, not to go into any ministry arena, without being totally in touch with God in prayer, and yet somehow I found myself dry praying for others.

I know full well that my prayer life had not been calling to be filled with the Holy Spirit as it now requires. The business of getting myself physically ready for the job had overlooked the more important responsibility of being closely in touch with God. After all it is our responsibility to pray, to open the door, for God to answer that prayer. We have a role to play from which God answers according his sovereign wisdom. At the end of Job, God says to Job’s friends, that Job will pray for them so He will ‘not deal with you according to your folly’. [Job 42:8]

Our role as believers to really focus on prayer and staying close to God is so easily lost, especially when we are in active ministry, but it is the most important role we have. That is the role God has given us to do, with which He will flow into this world.

Please keep us in your prayers, and please pray that Michael and I can focus and go deeper in prayer.

Pride

Beautiful Flower Found at RIngling Museum Garden

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

The Expanded Duties

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

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

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

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

Sea Shell photo by Mick Hales

What Does Pride Do To Us?

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

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

Photo by Mick Hales

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

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

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

Christine’s News

Mary Magdalene Icon in Progress

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

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

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

Love and Prayers, Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

God’s Hand in Our Lives

Photo from PBS Interview, Courtesy Dalia Colon

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

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

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

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

Christine Painting Prophetic Art During Global Awakening Ministry School

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

Mick Hales Photography

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

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

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

Mick Hales Photography

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

God is With Us

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

Michael the Adventurer!

MORE NEWS, JUST IN:

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

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

Love and prayers,

Michael and Christine

Michael’s Photography Website Christine’s Icon Website

What is Heaven Really Like?

Bok Garden, Orlando, FL.

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

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

Bok Garden, photo by Mick Hales

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

Mick Hales Photo

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

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

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

Photo by Mick Hales

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

Also from 1:12-16.

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

Photo by Mick Hales

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

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

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

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

Love and prayers,

Christine and Michael

Michael’s Photography Christine’s Icons

Giving Thanks

Heading to Boston

An early morning flight carried Christine and me to Boston for a family visit, the first in two years. Going North at this time of year is counter intuitive, but it was a very wonderful trip and so good to be with family. Of course the planes were packed as many families are finally getting the chance to reconnect after long times of separation and Thanksgiving had some degree of normalcy with people gathering in person.

Freedom Village

For Thanksgiving, Freedom Village residents raised $1050 worth of gift vouchers for food, which went to 52 different families, through Turning Points, a Bradenton mission to the homeless. Buying turkeys in bulk was not an option this year, but the gift vouchers, although not as symbolic as turkeys, were much appreciated. 

Giving Food Vouchers to the Homeless

Veterans Day this year saw 45 veterans over 90 years old, receive a special pinning for their military services. The event is hosted by the Chaplaincy and it had been in planning mode for about six months with many meetings, discussions and options depending on Covid’s activities. Very thankfully, about 150 people could attend and it all came together, as they say ‘in the end.’ Again, that was the first time that many of the community had joined together in nearly two years.

Sadly, in November, I led three memorial services and we now have two more scheduled. One of these losses has hit our community particularly hard as it was one of the staff, a young man who was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving a four year old son.

One of the hardest aspects of growing old is loosing who we once were and what we once could do. That is the case anyway in our own minds and we tend to imagine it so for those around us. We may not be able to drive any more, walk any more, do the buttons of our shirt up or go to the restroom alone. We may forget the names of our family members or not recognize them when they walk in. Some of these losses can grow slowly or arrive quickly with a stroke. One thing I now know is, and a friend keeps reminding me, ‘Growing old is not for sissies.’  The mental and emotional struggles we go through, as we loose our physical ability to live an active life we previously enjoyed, becomes ‘‘the work’, not for sissies”.

Hannukah Celebration

As our society in America appears to be living longer in years, through medical developments, we may be living through the ‘older years’, for longer. One projection recently on the news, suggested that a child born today, might experience a life expectancy in the 150 years range. I shudder at the thought and wonder if with every thing which appears ‘to be going down the tubes’ in the world, particularly our changing climate, if anyone will be here in 150 years.

The Saving Grace of Getting Older

However, living an elderly life can be especially blessed by actively living a full spiritual life. What starts to lack in the physical can grow and be restored in the spiritual side of our lives. God does not view us as any less, if we are unable to do up our own shirt buttons. God looks for what our hearts are focused on, not on our physical accomplishments. I have had a productive career as a photographer, but I believe God cares much more about how I seek Him and care for others.

The power of a growing elderly population developing their spiritual lives, as their physical abilities decline, is as incredible and formidable as the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Far more than we can possibly think or imagine. It is one of the church’s resources not one of it’s burdens. There is a need for a proactive paradigm shift within the church to actively equip and encourage the elderly to develop the gifts of the Spirit. Many elderly have never seen the gifts of the Spirit in action, never seen someone get healed or witnessed a deaf person hear for the first time in their lives. How meaningful and fulfilling it could be for them to be introduced to the power of our living God.

Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, before they received the power of the Holy Spirit. The church was never intended to function with out the help of the Holy Spirit and yet many life long church attendees were never discipled to seek out the gifts or the Spirit. They have been dedicated, faithful and sacrificial but sheltered from being proactive with the Holy Spirit.  I would love to see those mature 80 and 90 year olds full and overflowing with God’s loving, living Holy Spirit, as well. After all it is God who does the heavy lifting, He just wants us to join in.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 1:6.

Please pray that Christine and I can complete the work God has called us to, that all people will be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and that the work of our hands will lead people to God. And don’t forget to let us know how we can pray for you!

Love and Prayers,

Michael and Christine Hales

Mick’s Photography Christine’s Icons