My First One Man Show!

Saturday, Anthony & I went to Teich & McColgan to pick up some rockcap ferns for around my back porch post. We still had a couple of my large, custom framed art pieces and my framed proofs in the car from the errands just prior to going there. We had gone to an art consignment shop and a coffee shop (which had just closed) looking for places to try to sell pieces of my Lily Gilding collection. We pulled into the long drive at Teich’s at 4:30 to discover that they also closed at 4. Robyn & Roland & Paul were still there cleaning up from the end of the day. I got the large “Tribal Dance” with the unique frame I had designed & stained out of the car and pointed it toward them. Immediately Roland’s eyes lit up! We drew closer. Anthony got out more prints. Roland & Robyn asked me where I was selling them. I said I was just starting. They started brainstorming and making suggestions. Then Roland asked if I could leave them there. Then they came up with the idea of having me have a show there on their last weekend of the season, which is their biggest weekend of the year. They are setting up a tent and a table for me, and sending out emails to all their customers.

TMThis is a great place! It is one of my favorite places on earth. It is a peaceful place. When I was having my summer of migraines and strokes, sometimes I would just have someone bring me there just to walk around or sit and be at peace. The Teich’s didn’t mind. Again, when we were going through the battle with Mayor Nutter and the city, it was a good place to go to meditate and pray.  It’s not just the hundreds of kinds of daylilies and hostas, etc. This garden is in the yard of a home of a peaceful and happy family.

I am so excited to have this show. It is so appropriate to have it there, since most of our daylilies came from there. One of the daylilies featured in my art was even bred there by  Roland Teich.

The show will take place on August 2 and 3 from 10am to 4pm both days at 903 Upper Stump Road, Chalfont, PA 18914. Bring your checkbook or know your Paypal, since we do not have credit card processing. Framed prints and custom framed, extremely limited edition canvas prints, will be available for suggested minimum donations form $100 thru $1,000 to benefit the ongoing work of The King’s Jubilee. All works will be signed and numbered by me.

Come join us! It will be a good time. There’s even a turtle pond for the little ones to enjoy.



Prayer for the Green Things

greenthingsSince it is spring, we are working in our gardens. We have high hopes for our plants. It only seems right that we should pray for them. Our friend and brother, Gregory Leslie Swift composed this poem as a garden prayer. It evokes the Breastplate of St. Patrick in its composition and beauty. I placed it next to an unedited photo of a row of daylilies by our driveway at The King’s Jubilee. We are offering 8″ x 10″ prints on cardstock, suitable for framing for a $25 donation plus $10 Priority Mail postage. The copyright belongs to Leslie K. Swift (Christian name, Gregory).

Prayer for the Green Things

The upholding of the Three beneath you,
the enfolding of the Three around you,
the smiling of the Three upon you.

Mild sun to warm and light you,
gentle rain to ease your thirst.
No pest nor blight to do you harm,
no pest nor blight to hurt you.

The hand of God to keep you,
the hand of the tender to tend and rule,
the heart of the tender to bow and tend,
the hope of the tender to wait and tend,
the Son of God to tend and rule.

©  – LKS –





“Dancing Stars”

dancingstars

This photo of stargazer lilies blooming by the driveway at the home of The King’s Jubilee looks like a watercolor painting. It’s called “Dancing Stars” as they appeared to dance and play in the breeze. Lilies remind us of God’s provision for us each day. This allows us to be generous and not to hoard, knowing that God will have enough for us tomorrow, as well. For look how much lavish beauty He bestows upon the lilies which are just going to wilt in a day.

This is available on a number of items in our Zazzle store. We have 10″ x 8″ limited edition, framable prints available here for a suggested minimum donation of $50 plus postage. It will also be available printed on 24″ x 16″ white, translucent glass, to be hung in front of a window or other light source. This is a one of a kind piece for $600.

Make-A-Wish!

makeawish

This is what my granddaughters call a “make-a-wish.” It is a giant salsify puff that blossomed outside of our front door. We have mostly native flowers in our front yard. These showed up. We let them grow to see what they were. We have a pro-life garden. We let things grow to see what they are and see if there might be a home for them. These had very tiny, scruffy yellow blooms on three foot tall, fuzzy stalks. They were going to have to do better than that to earn a permanent home here. Then the seed puff exploded out. That puff was about seven inches diameter. It took quite a bit of effort for the girls to huff and puff to make their wishes with these. Great fun!

It’s like some people I have known. The first impression is not that strong, but then they surprise you with just amazing talent or amazing empathy or compassion. Everyone has something about them that God loves.

It turns out these are European imports. They were cultivated in the gardens at Williamsburg, VA, for their medicinal properties and because the thick part of the root tastes like oysters when cooked. Their other name is Oyster Plant.

Now I did some special effects on the photo on the turquoise side. The magenta is the inverse of it. It is available as a dramatic, limited edition, museum quality, giclee print, 24″ x 24″ on canvas. These will be signed and numbered. There will only be ten made. Suggested minimum donation is $300.

May God bless this “make-a-wish” and those who respond to it to bless this ministry to the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.

Fried Green Tomatoes

April and I  just finished cooking for tonight for the street. April made a huge roaster pan full of Satayamma’s Famous Cauliflower Curry from the Moosewood Cookbook, only omitting the peanuts from the recipe to avoid possible allergy problems. We both worked on the turkey, lentil, potato soup with assorted greens and carrots. By editorial privilege, I am taking credit for the Fried Green Tomatoes. Vincent dropped the tomatoes by on his way to work this morning. They were the last of the yield of their small patch. They were never going to ripen at this point, so I’ve never cooked them or eaten them. That’s never stopped me before! Sure I can use them. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • About a peck of Green Tomatoes, washed, chopped to ~1/2″
  • 1 bag Navy beans
  • 1 bag split peas
  • 1 head of Garlic, pressed
  • 3 large Spanish onions, finely chopped
  • 6 Frying Peppers, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Turmeric
  • a handful of Greek Oregano
  • 30 twists medium grind fresh ground Black Pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups Quinoa
  • Olive Oil
  • 1-40 oz. can Great Northern Beans rinsed
  • 2-40.5 oz. cans Dark Red Kidney Beans rinsed
  • 1-15.5 oz. can Black Beans rinsed

Directions:

We had some dried beans to use up and some canned. That’s why beans are listed twice in the recipe. It is better with dried beans, so that they can be boiled with the Turmeric in the water to soak up some of the flavor. Soak the the beans. Saute’ the Tomatoes in Olive Oil. With each skilletful, blend in some Onions, Frying Peppers and some Garlic. Saute’ until tender. Then place them in the large roasting pan, and do the next batch, until all of them are done. Boil the beans with the Turmeric in the water. Use extra water to be able to add the Quinoa. Toast the Quinoa in the skillet in some Olive Oil to bring out the nutty flavor. They should just bounce a little and smell toasty. Don’t burn them. Add them to the beans and boil for at least 15 minutes and until the beans are tender. Add this mixture to the roasting pan along with the other beans and the remaining spices: Paprika, Cumin, Oregano & Black Pepper. Stir it all thoroughly together. Cover it with the lid or with aluminum foil. Place it in the oven at 200° for a few hours.

It is sweet!

Pink Geraniums

pinkgeraniumsI call this piece “Pink Geraniums”. It looks as if they were painted into the picture. This is an unretouched photo taken of Campion Roses next to our house. When I took the photo in 2007, I had no clue what most any flowers were called. I just called everything geraniums. I figured sooner or later I would be right. These were the hot pink, five petal geraniums with the pale green, fuzzy leaves and stems. The blooms are so hot that they look like special effects on the photograph. We didn’t plant these bright stars. They pop up every year in roughly the same places, and a few new ones. My approach to gardening is a pro-life one. I let things grow to see if they are interesting or beautiful, and try to make room. I think that is how we should treat people as well.

People are always interesting and beautiful, for they are created in the image of God. Each one is wondrous and unique, even when they pop up when and where we think they don’t belong.

This is available as a Giclee print. The image itself is 16″ x 13.83″. It will be matted in dark brown and framed in hand-crafted, native poplar, to complement the soft green hues of the stems, with low glare glass. Overall dimensions: 22″ x 20″

These will be signed and numbered. There will only be five. We are offering these for a suggested minimum donation of $650 to The King’s Jubilee.

We really need support right now. We are down to our last and on the verge of having to close down for good. I am working on selling limited edition art and finishing my books. The need is urgent. We serve over 200 people every week and are helping several transition off of the street. At the same time, we may be facing eviction ourselves, and that would mean a disruption to our ministry. Please pray and see what you can do.

May God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.



“It’s always good to have an intention.”

damaged headstonesWe finally made it to a clean-up day at Mount Moriah Cemetery on Saturday. I left my house at 6am to load John Haggerty’s pick up with a load of furniture from Myron Starinshak’s estate to deliver to a couple of the men who have moved off of the street into an apartment, Anthony McNeil and Gregory Henderson. I delivered that to their place near Broad & Allegheny.  They joined me and we continued down to 6201 Kingsessing Ave., the Philadelphia side of Mount Moriah Cemetery. We arrived at the Cemetery a little after 8am. Hal Smith was already there and working. So we had a foursome representing The King’s Jubilee. We cut up saplings into more manageable pieces to load onto the trailers and trucks after they had been cut down by chainsaws. We yanked tall weeds and weedy shrubs. Tony got going with the scythe. He was working his way up the hill as fast or faster with that than the guy with the weed whacker was working his way down the hill.

Suicide Hill
“Suicide Hill” – This is now cleared of bramble and vines. The obelisk is clean and there is a road up the hill.

Hal stayed for the whole five hours. He’s still a young buck. I was exhausted and we packed up and left at about 12:30. I have aches where I didn’t know I have muscles. Tony was looking for Ben-Gay and worried about his legs cramping on the truck ride home. I am up writing, because I hurt too badly to sleep. Gregory, whose nickname is Kool-Aid, was making some old man noises, too, by the time we left, but, he’s allowed. He worked hard, and he’s almost as old as I am. Even so, it felt good! We cleared a lot of brush and weeds. There is another section of the cemetery that is now accessible. Progress was made. We will be back.

The Friends of Mount Moriah provided hot dogs, chili, cider, lemonade, coffee, tea, water, cookies, apple crisp, just with a donation jar there. They had a whole basket of clean, new, work gloves available for anyone to use, who didn’t bring their own. Tools were provided, though I brought my own. We could not have asked for better weather. It was a gorgeous, sunny day!

Most of the people I asked had some distant relative buried there, but not all. One lady, who I was working beside for a time, said that both sets of her husband’s grandparents were buried there. They are in a section of the cemetery that has been unmaintained for so long that they have not been able to find the graves. They come regularly to volunteer to clean up. She told me that her son-in-law’s father passed away on Friday. So she came, driving all the way from Cape May, NJ, and did this in his memory. She said, “I think, it’s always good to have an intention.”

Let’s be about doing good works. Let’s be people of action!

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Earthy Wisdom

“I have said on occasion that I think gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. … True gardeners are both iconographers and theologians insofar as these activities are the fruit of prayer ‘without ceasing.’ Likewise, true gardeners never cease to garden, not even in their sleep, because gardening is not just something they do. It is how they live.”

– Vigen Guroian in The Fragrance of God

What’s Ahead?

If we can finally finish the barn, what are the possibilities? There is always a need for men’s clothing, toiletries and blankets for the guys on the street. There is a need for household goods for those moving off of the street. I currently have no good place to gather and store these. Finishing the barn, especially the clean, dry storage room, would allow us to do more without cluttering up the coat room at church.

Beyond that, I have always envisioned The King’s Jubilee as being much more than a once a week meal serving ministry. On the other hand, I don’t have any desire to build a large organization with an institutional culture. I want to do more of what we did in the early years. We acted as an umbrella organization to start and establish various local ministries and pass them off to local churches to continue for as long as they had people who would do them.

Clothesline in East Greenville is an example of one such ministry. It has been operating a free clothing exchange for over fifteen years. The woman who was operating this came to us when she needed a space to continue this. I contacted the Mennonite Church mission that had recently acquired a building on Main Street and negotiated for Clothesline to operate out of their garage. Our daughter, April, drew a beautiful “trademark” for them. The church people got involved and took ownership in it.

The original organizer of it lost interest and moved on. Over the years the mission closed for a couple years, then reopened, but the clothing ministry continued to help struggling families in Jesus’ Name without interruption.

We started homeless and poor outreaches in Pottstown, Stowe and Upper Darby in Pennsylvania, and in two neighborhoods of Columbia, South Carolina. These all continued for years after The King’s Jubilee had no organizational ties with them. We were just there to lay the groundwork and start them and shepherd them to local churches who then took complete ownership. That is what I want to do more of.
I have ideas for three ministries to help improve neighborhoods. Please let me know if you want to get involved in any of the following.

Broom Brigade
I remember Maureen O’Hara telling John Wayne that “Cleanliness is next to godliness” in one of those old westerns. It’s not found in Scripture, but there’s a kernel of truth there nonetheless. People tend to behave better in a clean environment. Whether the houses are small or large, if the sidewalks are clean and the windows are washed, people feel safer there and are more likely to treat others with respect.

I want to organize a mix of volunteers, some from the neighbor- hood, some homeless, some from outside to sweep, pick up trash, wash windows and weed a block at a time in North Philadelphia. This would be done in cooperation with the block or neighbor organization. If they don’t have an organization, we’ll help start one. Neighbors talking to neighbors and working together has been found to be an effective prevention against property crime and domestic violence.

Sun Power
All of the home improvement shows talk about energy independence and alternatives to expensive, fossil fuels. Remember when everyone with money was buying smaller, more efficient cars in the 1970s after the OPEC oil embargo; while the working poor were left with the gas guzzling, older cars?

There’s a similar thing happening now. Oil and natural gas prices have gone up. Electricity is bound to follow shortly. People with money are investing in insulation, geothermal heat pumps, passive and active solar power. The working poor are stuck renting older housing stock that is very energy inefficient to say the least.
There are solar collectors that can be made for very low cost, sometimes from scavenged materials. A simple passive solar heat siphon can be hung out of a South facing window of a rental property without doing any damage to the existing building.

Windows and doors can be tightened up. Energy and water conservation habits can be taught and learned. These can make a real impact on people’s monthly budgets, not to mention helping the planet. And again, it is a point of contact to share the love of God, when it is done in Jesus’ Name.

Sowing and Reaping
One can’t understand most of the teachings of Jesus without a basic understanding of growing food and the cycles of nature. Over the last century there has been an unprecedented migration off of the land into cities all over the world. The cities have become uncivilized.

I want to organize more community gardens. People who garden are better able to understand the gospel of Christ. Neighborhoods with community gardens have lower rates of violent crime, drug addiction, truancy and domestic violence; even when all other factors are the same.

They have the added benefits of providing fresh produce to help stretch budgets and promote better health; as well as beautifying otherwise blighted, wasted lots.

Prevention is Easier Than Cure
These three ideas all help to build better communities and strengthen families. When families are strong and neighbors are talking to each other, for anyone to fall through the cracks and end up homeless is much less likely. To get these things started, I need more time. Not to put too fine a point on it: to take more time costs money.

Passing the Torch

Showy Evening Primrose
When you see these, praise God, and think of Jake.

A dear friend passed away last month. He is 98 years old. He prayed for us daily for more than twenty-five of those years. His name is Jacob Kulp. Even though he was still a Mennonite when he died, his life and testimony and prayers are a sizable part of why our family is Orthodox today.

Jake was so faithful in his prayers that when he missed a day, I could feel the difference. One day, back in 1987 or 1988, I was having just an irritating, off-kilter day. (At the time, I was Mennonite Chaplain for Philadelphia Prisons.) Nothing was going right and it seemed that there were spiritual forces that were just bringing everything down. As I pondered this, I thought of Jake. It struck me that there must be something wrong with Jake. I called his home and found out that he had been taken to the hospital. I went right over to visit him. As I entered his room, before I could say a word, he said, “Brother Cranford, can you forgive me? I was too sick to pray for you today.”

I was humbled and amazed by this, and replied, “Jake, there is nothing to forgive. I could feel the difference. It’s my turn to pray for you.” This happened when Jake was a young man in his eighties.

It was around that same time that I helped Jake to wire a new house with electricity. In the middle of the work one day, he began to weep. He then raised his hands to heaven and looked up and said: “How long, O Lord, how long will you tarry your coming?” He then confessed to me how he thought it would be easier to live the Christian life as he got older, but that he found that it seemed the temptations were that much stronger the closer he got to the goal. This was very sobering to me, in my thirties, coming from a godly, prayerful man, in his eighties.

How did Jacob Kulp help me along the way to Orthodoxy? At Finland Mennonite Church, Jake was one of a generation of folks whom we had the privilege of getting to know. They still wore plain clothes. They sang four part harmony without instruments, sometimes in German. They were serious about their faith in Christ and dealt honestly and kindly with all they met. There were six couples who had been married over 50 years in this little church of 140 people.

We saw the church ignoring these people and their wisdom. They were listening, instead, to the college and seminary educated church growth experts. They dumbed down Sunday School. They introduced instruments into the services, and began to opt for a “worship band” repeating gospel choruses in place of theology laden hymns.

We occasionally heard these older folks, gently, and, oh so meekly, complain about some of the innovations. Then came the discussions over divorce and remarriage; then ordination of women; acceptance of homosexuality; ordination of homosexuals; blessing of homosexual unions. At the same time, friends of mine in three different Mennonite colleges were getting flack for encouraging prayer and Bible reading in the dorms. And the seminaries were moving on to reconsider the inspiration of Scripture and the deity of Jesus Christ.

These simple, godly, older folks just held onto their faith and prayed. One by one, couple by couple, they moved into church old folks homes where they could still sing the old hymns and hear the Scriptures preached. They are out of sight of the local congregations, so the churches can innovate as they please. One by one, they are passing away.

I still haven’t answered the question.

The first time I walked into a service at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, the icons had an interesting message for me. At that point, it was just the iconostasis, the 24 medallion icons and the Platytera in the church, along with a few portable icons on the walls. I was immediately reminded of Jake and our other, older friends in the Mennonite church. The message I got was this:  This church belongs to Jesus Christ, to the Virgin Mary, to St. John the Baptist, to St. Philip, to St. Nicholas, to St. Cyprian, to St. Thekla, etc. And we dare not do anything here to make them uncomfortable in their church! I have never seen that stated in defense or theology of the icons, but it was reassuring to me.

There were a number of comments at Jake’s viewing and funeral that asked the questions: Who is taking his place? Who will take up his ministry of prayer? Who will delight in wonder and praise to God at the blossoming of an evening primrose?

As the older generation passes away, responsibilities are passed down. Am I prepared to be a wise old man or just an old fool? What legacy am I preparing to leave behind? What treasure am I sending on ahead? What kind of guidance and example am I giving for others to follow? Am I living in such a way as to finish the course to obtain the prize before the cloud of witnesses beckoning me on?