On the morning of January 31, I had a terrific migraine. I realized it had set off a stroke when I was eating my soup at lunch and it was dribbling down the right side of my beard. The right side of my face was numb. The migraine continued for four days. The numbness in my face remained. Plus I have intermittent times of feeling like I was going to fall for no good reason. My typing has gotten even worse with my fingers grabbing totally random keys on the keyboard. I seem to lose small pieces of time. Intermittently I cannot focus on words. The type shakes. This afternoon I felt shaky, but I wasn’t shaking. I have been having a more difficult time finding the right word, so have been talking more slowly; occasionally forgetting to finish sentences altogether. The brain is a strange world.
Several of my friends have been telling me to see a doctor for over a week now. Every time they have seen me, they told me I am not right. And they add that they mean more not right than usual.
I finally called my neurologist today. I spoke to the nurse. She listened to the way I spoke on the phone, then the Dr. listened in for a bit. They told me to go to the ER. They observed me in the ER and felt I was still exhibiting symptoms of experiencing stroke. I had an inconclusive CAT scan. They kept me for observation and an MRI tomorrow.
February was a blur. First, I was sick with the flu and bronchitis so bad that I could hardly do anything for two weeks. Bethann got it, too, not as severely, but with the bronchitis. On the 17th, we were both going to make it to church for the first time in three weeks. She sat up on the edge of the bed and told me she thinks she is having a heart attack. I got her some aspirin and water. We got dressed and I rushed her to the ER. It turns out it was very bad atrial fibrillation. She was in the hospital until Friday. They installed a pacemaker on Thursday. We did make it to church on the 24th.
On Thursday, February 28, we made soup and I got supplies and went to Giant to get the iced tea. In fact, that is why I was a little late getting to the city. I was a little disoriented, not focused on the fact that it was Thursday, for the entire day. I know that sounds funny and it is, but our life has been that disrupted by various forces and events lately. Serge and Alex and Serge and Alex (that’s not a typo, two different families) dropped off sandwiches. Brian came and we headed down to the city. When we arrived, I realized that it was the last Thursday of the month and the people of Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church made the soup and brought the iced tea and cups, etc. I said to Brian, “I’m an idiot. Leave the soup and iced tea in the car. Just grab the sandwiches. I forgot which week it was.” I let Fr. Chris know what I had done and told him that if he ran out of soup, we had plenty more!
They served the line. Everyone got plenty. A little bit after we got there, Linda Notskas arrived with blankets and quilts and a few coats from St. John Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church. We helped her give those out. She had a car full, but she felt heart broken that she didn’t have more. She is such a sweetheart. God bless her.
Well, the crowd cleared. We packed up. We said our goodbyes to the folks from Holy Annunciation. They shared their well wishes and hugs for Bethann. We were just about to get into the TKJ-mobile, when Alex came over. (the 3rd Alex of the evening) I was so glad to see him. I had his cellphone, which he had arranged to have mailed to our house. I asked him if he wanted soup. He was surprised we had any left, so I told him the sorry tale of my forgetfulness. One thing led to another. We had several more stragglers. It turns out there had been a lecture at the Free Library about the persistence of poverty in America that a number of the guys attended. They missed our normal serving line. We ended up giving away well more than half of the soup and all of the iced tea. The guys were very appreciative. They had made a difficult choice to go to this lecture and discussion, but had chosen long term edification and hope for progress over a hot meal. God used my absentmindedness to be the ram in the bush to provide for them and bless them for their wisdom.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
Last Thursday night was the first in three weeks that I was well enough to serve in the city. The people were so glad to see me. Alex examined me and noted that I still did not sound altogether well. He was right. A week later, I am still coughing. This is one nasty flu. We had a skeleton crew. The McGraws were out sick. Fr. Chris was the lone representative from Holy Annunciation. It was just Deacon Herman and me in the TKJ-mobile. Anthony was not there, because he was cleaning up after a mercy meal after a funeral for a long time volunteer for the soup kitchen at his church. A couple of the guys pitched in. I was even pressed into manual labor. I served hard boiled eggs, oranges and peanuts. I am much better as a gadfly. I don’t keep the line moving. Linda Notskas and a fellow, whose name I fail to remember, brought lots of clothes and blankets and gave them away from her car.
A self described “dangerous, badass n__ger” came up to me and started to talk about the sad state of affairs. He was a CPA, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and he was 72. He was also very drunk. He was upset at the sight of so many homeless men, at the national debt, at the Wall St. banksters, at the persistence of racism, etc. I kept talking to him and tried to understand what he was saying, because I could sense his pain and I respect the path that he had taken in his life. He was not homeless. I grew up talking to my dad when he was very drunk, but my dad was a high functioning drunk. He could be coherent and rational. This man wasn’t. He stood in front of me carrying on irrational rants, while people had to step around him on uneven ground. Finally I had to ask him to move to allow a lady who was unsteady on her feet to come through. He just went away angry. I was disappointed that I could not comfort him or ease his pain.
I was hoping to dig into work on Friday after more than two weeks off being sick. I found that I was able to do some, but I was still pretty tired from the full day on Thursday. I started working on an article for this blog for TKJ’s 24th anniversary, which I finished on Saturday. We found out that The King’s Jubilee was chosen for the second week of the Lenten Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob and started promoting that. We are hoping for good participation in that tomorrow and blessings all around!
On Sunday, we were planning on getting up and going to church. I had missed two weeks and Bethann had missed one, because of this nasty flu that gave us each bronchitis. I woke up to Bethann sitting on the end of the bed telling me that she thought she was having a heart attack. I went downstairs and got aspirin and water and gave it to her. We got dressed quickly and drove to the ER. They put her on the monitor and her heart rate was wildly erratic. She has atrial fibrillation. They kept her and tried to get to the bottom of it. As I am writing this, she is in surgery having a pacemaker installed.
I finally have felt strong enough to start catching up on orders, then this happens. Thank God for Uncle John Haggerty. He and Ha Nguyen are making the icons while I am visiting Bethann at the hospital. Our daughter, April Smith, stepped in to make the soup for tonight. Serge Metelow and his daughter are making the vegetarian alternative and helping serve tonight. Brian Simpson is driving the TKJ-mobile. I am once again reminded of what the old preacher told me years ago, “Don’t think too highly of yourself. No one is indispensible in the Lord’s service.”
Tomorrow is the Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob for The King’s Jubilee. I haven’t even publicized an event on Saturday, February 23. There is a recital at Tabor United Methodist Church at 1pm put on by Kevin Paige and some of his music students, to benefit The King’s Jubilee. I hope to be there to present the work and the vision of TKJ. Please come if you want to learn more.
Many of you are old enough to remember that great comedy, news, spoof TV show TW3: “That Was The Week That Was.” This was one of those weeks that makes you evaluate and reevaluate everything. I don’t want to be that angry, old man who fought the system and still saw it all end in futility and confusion. I think, if we work together, even if we are weak alone, if our cause is righteous and we put our hope in God, we just may see progress. Pray for peace that the Gospel may go forward.
It is time to take The King’s Jubilee to the next level, if we really want to be serious about addressing the needs of the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name. Please read on and prayerfully consider how you may participate in this life-changing ministry. Thank you!
We are on the cusp of something amazing! We have the opportunity of actually ending homelessness in Philadelphia! Ironically, it is because of the city’s crackdown and our lawsuit that makes this a possibility. But we need to step up to the plate. We need to seriously up our game! We cannot be a one day a week and sometimes on weekends ministry. Why should it be us? Because we have been working with these guys for nearly thirty years. They trust us. Relationship is the key to this puzzle.
Let me tell you some stories.
“Get me some help or die!”
I met Bob in the county jail. Then he was transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, which was the largest maximum security prison in the country at the time. He attended our Bible studies there. He kept his nose clean and was paroled in minimum time. I would see him around town, so he knew where I worked. He seemed to be doing OK. Then one summer day, about noon, he came into the architectural office where I was office manager. My desk was right by the back door. I was heading for my desk as he came in the back door holding a pistol in his pocket. He was high.
He told me I had to get him into a drug rehab today or he would kill me. He said he had tried and tried and they all had waiting lists and prerequisites. He was afraid if he waited, he wouldn’t want to, or he would overdose, or he would kill somebody. He just wanted to stop now. I tried to calm him down. I stayed amazingly calm. God’s grace was with me. It was almost like I was watching from outside myself, as he held the gun to my back. I explained to the receptionist that I would be taking the rest of the day off for a ministry emergency. No one ever saw the gun, and I never told them the story.
We walked to my car and I drove Bob to a private, drug, inpatient, rehabilitation center that I knew was equipped to deal with violent patients. The whole twenty miles there, he was pointing the gun at my side. I coached him as to exactly how he had to act to get in that day. He had to leave the gun behind. He could not threaten anyone else personally, but he had to present himself as someone who was an immediate threat to himself. If he were too subdued, they would not admit him. If he were too violent, they would arrest him. He complied. He was still high, but he followed the script perfectly. He was in a straitjacket and admitted within an hour.
His girlfriend came and retrieved his gun from my car. We followed up with visits to Bob while he was in rehab and after he was released. Bob got clean and sober and had another chance at life.
“I don’t believe in any of that God stuff, but you’re really special!”
Oscar would always make it a point to thank us for coming out to serve. He would sometimes observe the Philadelphia police treating us ill or the crack addicts acting up, being less than civil. He would ask me what made me come back again and again. I told him, “Jesus loves you and He compels me to be here.” Oscar would say, “I don’t believe in any of that God stuff, but you’re really special!”
We would see him off and on over a period of a couple of years. We would have a similar exchange most nights after talking about literature or history or the arts. He was about 50. He did not fit the stereotype that most people have for a homeless person. He was white, always clean and presentable, well read, sane. One night after our conversation, he surprised me. He said, “I thank God for you.”
I went home with tears in my eyes.
That was the last time I was to see Oscar. He died of a heart attack not long after that.
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:21] The “you” is plural so this could be translated “the kingdom of God is among (or between) you.” The point is that the kingdom of God is not some event or happening or place that you can be the first of your friends to discover. It is not a social or political movement or worldly empire, although it can and will shake all of these to their foundations. The kingdom of God is among us. We experience the kingdom of God whenever we recognize a unique reflection of the glory of God in another person or it is so recognized in us by another. It can come as a fleeting flash of insight or last a lifetime of mutual care and forgiveness. It is what knits us together as brothers and sisters, knits our marriages together, ends our loneliness. This is personal, not institutional. This is messy and unpredictable. This cannot be programmed in or out. God will not be confined to our box.
All ministry is personal.
Every person we meet uniquely reflects something of the image of God. God sees something lovable and worth dying for in each and every person we meet. I instruct all of our volunteers to pray something like this: Lord, with each person I meet today, show me what it is about them that you love. I always follow up with the warning: Be prepared to have your heart broken when He starts to answer this prayer.
On Saturday, November 20, 2010, Alexander Bejliri, visited me at Grand View Hospital. Alex and I have known each other for almost 25 years. Alex has been homeless or in various rooming houses all of these years. He works as a dishwasher or odd jobs. Through the years, whenever I have been sick and had to miss going down to the street, he would call me at home to check in on me. With this illness, he was beside himself with concern for me, not being able to imagine what could have happened to me to keep me away for so long.
During my second hospitalization, he called me repeatedly to try to figure out how to visit me. I told him the name of the hospital and that it is in Sellersville, but there is no public transportation from Philadelphia to it. I asked him to pray for me. He told me that he went to Ss. Peter and Paul Basilica and prayed for me every day. He insisted that he needed to visit me in person. I thanked him for his prayers and said I would be discharged shortly. When I was hospitalized the third time, I ended up in ICU with my cellphone turned off and no non-family phone calls forwarded to my room. As soon as he discovered I was out of ICU and could receive visitors, he determined to make the trek. He took the train to Lansdale; then took the bus to the end of the line at Landis’ Supermarket in Telford. Then he walked five and a half miles to the hospital. Still, he did not sit down during his visit. He was amazed that I had a walker and needed to use it.
Even after all Alex had gone through to visit me, he was amazed that none of the homeless guys had visited me. He thought nothing of his sacrifice and care to visit me, but treated it only as what should be expected of a friend. He shook his head that I should be brought low like this after serving the poor for 25 years. I tried to assure him that God was using it for good. Since I was laid up, more people were getting involved in the ministry and taking on more responsibility. He said something that blew me away: “Others come and then don’t come. For 25 years you come and you serve the poor peoples. You come in the rain and in the snow and when the sun shines. We look for your face, your face, your face! We look for your face.”
The kingdom of God is among us.
I just can’t stop crying.
When Mayor Nutter’s decree prohibiting serving food to the homeless in the parks of Philadelphia was supposed to go into effect on June 1, I began to cry. I could not help it. I cried openly for over a week. I cried at the drop of a hat until we won our preliminary injunction to stop it. I was still down and depressed because the injunction only covered the four plaintiffs and was not final. I’m still not right. I was a mess on the witness stand. Politicians and lawyers play free and loose with so-called principles and points of law and rights, but we are talking about living, breathing, human beings, who have feelings, and bleed red blood.
Regardless of what the mayor says his intent was, to homeless people, it felt like a solid blow to the gut! People were saying, “Why does he hate us so?” “Why is he ashamed of us?” One even said, “I worked for his campaign and now he kicks me in the teeth like this?”
It was wrongheaded and it was hurtful.
When the homeless community in Philadelphia is hurting, I am hurting. Christ called me to serve them and has knit me together with them.
Out of this battle, however, we can rise like a Phoenix to actually hammer out a plan, working with the mayor and the city, to end homelessness in the city. I know we always will have the poor, but there is no excuse for them to be homeless. This is more than a money problem. There are trust issues. There are issues of reintegration into neighborhoods and families. Government can do money and property and social service nuts and bolts stuff. But it is not in a position to handle the trust and reintegration issues. By God’s grace, we at The King’s Jubilee are. So, we are coming to a place of healing and reconciliation to work together.
Where you come in:
This is where you come in. We won’t hold a gun to your back. We might make you cry. It definitely is personal! We need your support.
I have been trying to run a business, “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art, and a ministry, The King’s Jubilee, by myself. I started the business in 2000, hoping that it would take off and be able to support the ministry in such a way that I could be full time in ministry. That has not happened. I have had various health problems, some probably stemming from exposures on the street. Although, it could be that I am just too old to be moonlighting to this extent. At any rate, between health issues and ministry, I don’t do a very good job at the business, and I get cranky with customers.
I have consulted with several Orthodox priests in the Philadelphia area, and they support my vision. My time would be better spent being full time serving among the homeless, helping them to transition off of the street. We hope to acquire an operations center in Philadelphia for training of volunteers, for bicycle rebuilding, for job preparation for the homeless, a place to do laundry, and for counseling and prayer.
Bishop THOMAS is a strong endorser of this ministry and has joined us on the street on a couple of occasions. We do not receive budgeted support from any church or diocese. We depend on almsgiving and monthly pledges and live by faith. To this point, we have had 5 monthly donors for a base of support of $445. With that and random other donations, we deliver and serve over 1,000 meals in Jesus’ Name and provide other services.
We are looking for a thousand small donors who will pledge monthly support. Please pray and consider what you can give. One donor set up a regular donation with a direct transfer, avoiding credit card charges. You may wish to mail a check, or have us debit your account, or use Paypal. The Paypal Donate button is up on the right or you can get contact information here. Whatever you are comfortable with.
We are suggesting $10 or $20 per month.
May God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.
Anthony cheerfully helps us serve just about every Thursday evening. Recently, he graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia with honors, gaining Microsoft certifications. Last Friday night, he was riding his bicycle back to his spot, when he was hit by a car. The driver of the car did not stick around to see if Anthony was alright. It was a hit and run. Anthony’s bike was totaled. He knew his arm was pretty messed up, so he wrapped it up tight. The next day he went to the hospital. They kept him overnight until Sunday. Thanks to his quick thinking, he avoided having to have surgery. The bones were broken, but had stayed aligned. His face was pretty messed up as well, but no bones broken. Thank God.
Someone has already come forward with a bicycle for him, but it needs new rubber all around from having sat in storage for too many years. Also, he will need some money to get by until he can get back to work with both hands. So I am making a special appeal. Please use the Donate button to help buy new tires and brake pads and a lock for Anthony’s bike; and to help him get by until he’s mended.
I have been praying the Prayer of a Sick Person quite a bit over the last year, especially this summer. Since June 8th, I have had more days with debilitating migraines than without. I have experienced at least three incidences of strokes, the second two with multiple infarcts. I have been unable to do the work for “Come and See” Icons, since my eyesight and depth perception is unreliable. Even the computer work is painful. The business is about to go under, if it hasn’t already. The last Tuesday of August and the first Thursday of September, I coordinated The King’s Jubilee from a hospital bed using my cellphone. I was so grateful I could do that.
The first hospital roommate I had, thought he was being held against his will while people were ransacking his house. He broke free from his restraints and cornered a couple of nurses. They would get him calmed down and restrain and sedate him again. He would sleep for ten minutes, then he would go off again. This went on for seven hours, before they moved me out his room to a room at the extreme other end of the hall, at 4 am. I could still hear him screaming his wife’s name. He was in psychic hell. It is only by the grace of God that I am not in a similar condition. Lord have mercy.
Later that morning, I prayed the prayer above. When I got to the phrase: “let mercy and justice meet”, I thought not only of how I deserve hell and long for heaven (for that is truly what the prayer is asking), but that I also long for it for my tormented former roommate and for my current roommate who suffered a couple of seizures and doesn’t have health insurance, so isn’t going to get the follow up care he needs. He will probably be bankrupted for the rest of his life by the hospital bill on his credit report.
I began to seriously meditate on that phrase of the prayer. It seems, as a society, we crave justice. We want to see wrongdoers punished, the slothful poor, the immoral exposed. That is all just. And it’s all fine when it’s somebody else or somebody else’s child, or somebody else’s best friend. When it strikes closer to home, we seriously plead for mercy. Mercy is where just punishment is withheld. “Lord have mercy!” is the most oft repeated prayer in all our services and private devotions. We know that the Lord is just, but we aren’t asking for justice just yet.
The beauty of this prayer is that it is from the perspective of facing one’s mortality and final judgment and it is calling for God’s justice only to be met by his mercy. This is similar to what I pray for when I
pray “for a good defense at the judgment seat of Christ.” Christ stands in my place and satisfies the demands for justice. I am clothed in my white baptismal garment, hidden in Christ. Mercy is granted. Justice is satisfied.
The icon of the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos is the most apt visual representation of this concept. Mary died because of the fall of Adam. That’s justice. Jesus Christ is there immediately to carry her in his arms like a swaddled babe to life eternal in Glory! That’s justice and mercy having met. It is the hope of every believer hidden in Christ.
This prayer is not just about the sweet by and by though. We pray for the peace of the whole world; Lord have mercy! and the unity of all mankind; Lord have mercy!
As I continued my meditation, I realized that what I have been seeking for, longing for, and working for my whole adult life is to see mercy and justice meet. I want a second chance when I do wrong. I want to help the ex-offender safely get a second shot at life after he is released. I want to be delivered from my illness. I want to help addicts and alcoholics be dilivered from their illnesses. I want my family healed. We expand our family to include others who hope for the same. I want to survive a bad decision or two or three or 146. I want us to find a way to let people find their way forward even though they may have bet on the wrong horse in uncertain economic times.
The Lord told us that if we do not show mercy, we will not be shown mercy. So pray the Jesus Prayer with as long a rope as you want to, if you don’t give alms and still want to let children die because their parents can’t afford healthcare, well, Lord have mercy.
The King’s Jubilee is trying in small, tangible ways to share the mercy of God that we all truly crave with the poor and needy in center city and the prosperous and needy in the suburbs. It is truly “more blessed to give than to receive.” There is no point to prosperity, if you can’t use it to help someone else.
Be someone’s answer to prayer today. It is the tender mercies of God that lead men to repentance.
Cranford Joseph Coulter
director, The King’s Jubilee
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Physician of souls and bodies, who didst become man and suffer death on the Cross for our salvation, and through thy tender love and compassion didst heal all manner of sickness and affliction; do thou O Lord, visit me in my suffering, and grant me grace and strength to bear this sickness with which I am afflicted, with Christian patience and submission to thy will, trusting in thy loving kindness and tender mercy. Bless, I pray thee, the means used for my recovery, and those who administer them. I know O Lord, that I justly deserve any punishment inflicted upon me for I have so often offended thee and sinned against thee, in thought, word, and deed. Therefore, I humbly pray thee, look upon my weakness, and deal not with me after my sins, but according to the multitude of thy mercies. Have compassion on me, and let mercy and justice meet; and deliver me from this sickness and suffering I am undergoing. Grant that my sickness may be the means of my true repentance and amendment of my life according to thy will, that I may spend the rest of my days in thy love and fear: that my soul, being helped by thy grace and sanctified by thy Holy Mysteries, may be prepared for its passage to the Eternal Life, and there, in the company of thy blessed Saints, may praise and glorify thee with thy Eternal Father and Life-giving Spirit. Amen.
please pray for me and to give the doctors wisdom to get to the bottom of these atypical migraines and strokes. I came to the hospital ER last night, because the migraine was not responding to the medication and I had symptoms with it that I had never experienced before.
Uncle John is making the soup for tomorrow. I am still looking for someone to drive theTKJ-mobile and lead the team. Please call me on my cellphone.
Thank you for your prayers.
Cranford Joseph Coulter
Cranford Joseph Coulter
With all the different health problems I have had over the past year, we are so grateful that we have a quality hospital with caring, compassionate staff, right here in the area at Grand View Hospital. We are also grateful that we have health insurance. It is also extremely helpful to have dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are doctors and nurses to help explain the ins and outs of medicine and biology to me.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a region with the kind of health and medical resources we have without having access to them. I would not wish that on anyone. Not any one.
That’s what Fred told me after I missed going down on June 16, because I was in the hospital. He was not wishing me ill. He just marveled at how people pitched in to cover for me. Lydia and Uncle John made the soup. Todd, John and Joe made sure the iced tea, cups, hot sauce, hard boiled eggs, soup and spoons got to church. Fr. Noah rallied these troops along with Fr. Daniel and Laura into his new troop transport (c. 2006 Suburban) with all that food and gear plus baked goodies, sandwiches and clothing. He even grabbed a CD out of the TKJ-mobile for their “in flight entertainment.”
Michael met them down there with power packs and clothing from St. Philip Neri RC Church. Philip showed up on the dot of 8 and Denise arrived within five minutes. Do wonders ever cease? We are never that together! They were also joined by Sam and another man. As a young man I heard an old preacher say that we should never think too highly of ourselves, because no one is indispensable in the Lord’s work. It is so good to know that so many are willing and able to take up the work when I am knocked flat on my back.
About the time the team was arriving to start serving in Philadelphia, the right side of my head started hurting and the whole right side of my body started to go numb. I was terrified that I was having another stroke. I told the nurse to call the neurologist. She ordered a magnesium intravenous infusion. That ended the episode. Then I went downstairs for a CTA of my neck and brain. Fred told me that he counted 92 people who received meals. John told me that there was only a quarter cup of soup left, when he looked up to see no one in line. We guess about how much to make, but God always provides what is right! About the time the team was arriving home again, I had a second episode of pain and numbness and another magnesium infusion. These episodes actually gave evidence that my extreme vision symptoms were not due to stroke damage, but that there was an ongoing, atypical migraine or “migrainized” stroke going on.
I had more tests on Friday, then I was released with a prescription for a prednisone taper to stop the migraine that had been going on for eight days at that point, and instructions to take magnesium, B2, B6, D3 and baby aspirin.