Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Source of Your Power: When You Commit the Power is Released

“In other words, given the yielding of the nerve center and the active release of the Spirit of God in a man’s / woman’s life, a radical reorientation became possible. This was indeed assumed to be the essential meaning of the experience of commitment itself.” p. 25

Disciplines of the Spirit  by Howard Thurman

Zechariah 4:6

He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Commitment. Yes, commitment.

To do a thing you have to commit yourself fully to that thing and embrace the possibility of success.

It isn’t the fear of failure that hold us back but rather what happens if I actually do this thing.

We then get caught up on how I am going to do this. Here is the good news you don’t have to do it.

All you have do is commit to the doing of that thing that God is calling you to do and then take the next faithful step.

When you yield to that which God is calling you to do God will give the power, the will and the way. We spend too much time trying to plan and figure out everything from start to finish.

All God calls you to do is to heed the call to start. After you start and begin on your way you will see what is next. The Spirit of God will act like a Holy Ghost GPS and guide you

As you do the work, the work will speak to you, guide you and show you the way.  

Yield to spirit. It is not by might, nor power, nor your great plan but rather it is by God’s spirit.

Commit to that thing! Commit to starting that project, that book, that new body of work, that trip, that documentary, that vlog, that blog! Commit to that thing that is calling you.

You have soul power and you will get it done if you will only start and yield to the power of the Spirit of God which lives inside of you.


Ralph Basui Watkins

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What is the Key to Unlocking Your Creative Potential?

The Creative Door: Asking, Searching, Knocking

Let me start with a few questions:

What door are you knocking on? What are you searching for and who are you asking?

“The vast creative mood of existence is creative and not chaotic…Man (woman) co-operates with the Spirit of God by making him or herself open and available to it”

Howard Thurman Disciplines of the Spirit  p. 22

Matthew 7:7 Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. NRSV

The Spirit of God is the key to unlocking your creative potential. To be in touch with God’s Spirit you must open yourself up to it. You do this by asking, searching, seeking and knocking?

I hear ya, how do I do that? You do that by creating that which you were created to create and be willing to follow the whims of your creative energies.

When a project idea comes into your head don’t reject it, don’t judge, don’t ask if others will understand it or you, just pursue it.

Start making that work that makes you.

Get in your studio and start creating. To create is an act of asking, seeking and knocking. See, the Spirit led you to this creative moment and the Spirit will guide you in the creative process if you open yourself up to the spirit.

To unlock your creative door requires a work ethic. Artist who produce the best work, actually put the work in. They find inspiration in doing the work. They find inspiration in creating bodies of work that open doors their creative possibilities. They work hard and consistently, they are always in the studio, always making work, putting the hours in!

The spirit will lead you to the door but you have to knock, seek and ask and the  Spirit will answer you in the work you do in creating. What door are you knocking on? 


Ralph Basui Watkins

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

What Brings You LIFE? Your Way, Your Truth, Your Light

What Brings You LIFE? Your Way, Your Truth, Your Light

“But the basic fact remains. If life is to manifest itself in a particular form, it poses the conditions, the discipline, essential to that end. A particular form of life is committed to a way of survival, a way  of keeping alive. When this no longer operates, when the line of communication is broken and the organism is cut adrift, death is automatic.”

Howard Thurman Disciplines of the Spirit    p. 16

John 14:6-7

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  NRSV

Sometimes the life we live can sap the life out of us. This happens when the life we are living is not that which we were created to live. We have a job, we are paying the bills, we are making a living but we don’t have a life. You are not created to pay bills you were created by the creator to create that which the creator gave you the gifts and tools to create.

Life is about having the discipline to do that which you were created. Life is about finding that thing(s) that lights you up, gives you life, makes you vital and keeps you going. It may not be what you majored in, in college but is it what you need to major in if you want to have life

Jesus came and he said he was the truth, the way and the life! As Jesus said this he says this to us: “If you want to find your way be true to yourself and have the courage to live the life that will keep you alive.” By alive we don’t mean simply this side the grave but we mean doing that which brings you satisfaction, brings joy and allows you to live your truth. Yes, your truth is being true to yourself and telling your story through that which you create and share with the world.

Talk to yourself, listen to yourself and be true to that conversation. Commit to your way, your truth, your light and your life! What brings you life?

Now go and create something beautiful!


Ralph Basui Watkins

Friday, June 12, 2020

Walk in the Light: A Sermon / Mediation in memory of Mamie Till-Bradley and in honor of Darnella Frazier

Genesis 1:1-5

1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 

the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 

And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 

Lets title this: Walk in the Light

This text is one my favorite text in the Bible

It is one my favorite text because I am a photographer and photography is all about light 

Photo means light

Photography literally  means writing with light 

The first thing God does is God writes with light

God separates light from darkness

God does this because darkness covered the face of the earth 

God knew that Adam and Eve couldn’t do their job if they didn’t have some light

See they couldn’t walk in darkness

The old song writer said…walk in the light, beautiful light

Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright

Shine all around us by day and by night Jesus the light of the world

See God has a track record of bringing light into dark places

When the Israelites left Egypt God gave them a pillar of by day and fire by night so they could walk in the light

The Lord said through the Prophet Isaiah 

6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, 

I have taken you by the hand and kept you; 

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations, 

7 to open the eyes that are blind, 

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, 

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Jesus John 8:12

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. 

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

See light, brings life and it enables us to see through the darkness

Light exposes what is done in the dark by shinning on it

To put it another way…

Light helps us see what we don’t see

When you study light as portrayed in the scripture..what you find is that…

Light represent the love of God

Light represent the justice of God

Light represents the righteousness of God

Light represents the power of God

Light represents the presence of God 

Light represents the way of God

Light represents the path of God 

Walk in the light

See when we walk in the light we see where God wants to take us

When we walk in the light we see what evil does not want us to see

When we walk in the light we shed light on injustice while simultaneously calling out to justice

When we walk in the light we see what God is doing

When we walk in the light we see what God is doing in the world in liberative ways

When we walk in the light we see evil, we expose it, we confront it and we cast it out

In the1960s America choose to walk in the light

It was photography that shed the light on evil so that we could see

Leigh Raiford is clear in her book: Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle 


She convincingly argues that it was photography that changed the world and made us see the struggle

The images of Bull Connors Dogs in Birmingham, Alabama

The images of a bombed out  16th Street Baptist Church

The images of water hoses released on peaceful protestors

The images of peaceful marchers being attacked by police at the foot of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. 

The images of Emmet Till the teenage boy who was murdered on August 28, 1955 in Money, Mississippi

Emmet Till  murdered by two white men allegedly because he had been to friendly to a white woman 

Emmett Till had been sent to Money Mississippi from Chicago by his mother Mrs. Mamie Till for summer vacation 

They wanted to have his funeral in Money Mississippi but his mother did the unthinkable

She said, no, 

His mother, said, send his body back to Chicago and instead of grieving privately as any mother would naturally want to do

Mrs. Mamie Till Bradley grieved publicly and invited the world to grieve with her

Mrs. Till called on them to send her  sons body back to Chicago 

she said I want the world to see what they did to my boy

Mrs. Till secured the services of the Jet Magazine photographer David Jackson 

And in September of 1955 her sons beaten and battered body was returned to Chicago and David Jackson was their to take pictures 

The images of this teenage boys body and  the images of the open casket funeral flooded news outlets around the world

And as a result of these images, the world had to see what they hadn’t seen or choose to ignore

See what the images did, was they made the world see what 

African Americans had been experiencing for years

The images shed light in darkness

The images made the world stop and see..they saw the evil that was alive and well in our world

The world couldn’t turn away from these image 

As result of making the world look at these images, and the evil they exposed,  the modern Civil Rights Movement was born 

When the world saw what was done to Mamie Till’s  boy, millions of dollars poured in to Civil Rights Organizations 

And to top it all off on December 1, 1955  Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama

It is reported that Mrs. Parks said, I couldn’t get up out of my seat because I couldn’t get the picture of that boy out of my mind

In the 1960s We saw the light 

And as children of God we are to see the light, shine the light and testify to the light

In John 1:6-12 the writer penned these words:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 

He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 

He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 

11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 

We are the children of God

As children of God I believe we are called to testify to the light

We are called to bring light into dark places

We are called to make light shine on that evil that has hidden 

We are called to shine shine light in dark places, where the lights off and where they don’t allow cameras

We are called to turn the light on

We are called to turn the cameras on and let the light shine in the darkness so that evil will be exposed

It was Darnella Frazier a 17 year old teenager who was the light in Minneapolis Minnesota 

As officer David Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes

Darnella Frazier took her cell phone out, cut on her camera and she brought  the light

We were horrified by the evil that we saw and the world is reacting because they had to see

We only saw, what African Americans have been experiencing for years, because Darnella Frazier was willing to walk in the light

I think that’s all God expects of us 

I think that is all God expects of us

To walk in the light

The beautiful light

Some where the dew drops of mercy shine bright

Shine all around us by day and by night Jesus the light of world

My sisters and brothers go and walk in the light 

Bring light into dark places that we might see 

So that we might act and make this world a more just place

Walk in the light!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Protest and Vote: March to the Polls

As people of faith we must engage the public square. Jesus was always amongst the people addressing their issue. If we are to be like Jesus we must deal with the things that are adversely affection our people. In the public sector we have to vote.  It isn't protest or vote but rather we must protest and vote.

Frederick Douglas put it this way:
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lighting. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What Must You Let Go Of to be Free to Be What God is Calling You TO BE?

“Whatever stands in the way of the complete and full surrender, we must search it out and remove it. If a bad relationship is a hinderance, one must clean it up. In other words, whatever roadblocks appear, the individual must remove them. The yielding of the nerve center of one’s consent is a private, personal act in which the human being, as sovereign, say Yes.” 

Howard Thurman Disciplines of the Spirit p. 19

Mark 9:43-48
43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 

What is causing you to stumble?
What is holding you back? 
What is in your way? 
What must you let go of, get rid of or dismiss so that you can live your vision for your life?

In life we collect people, relationships, habits, even jobs that get in the way of what we really want to do. Yes, I said what we really want to do. God expresses God’s will for our lives through that which we desire. God actually gives you the desire to desire. God puts desire in your heart for those things God has prepared for you and prepared you for.

That thing you want to do is from God. That thing you were created to do and yearn to do is from God. When we let things get in the way of what God has for us we are living a life beneath that which God has prepared for us. We acquiesce to a life that is satisfying others and not God or ourselves. We have to have he courage to dismiss those things which are holding us back. It may feel like we have cut our hand or foot off but if need be do so.  It may mean quitting a job, ending a relationship or walking away from somewhere you have lived literally or figuratively but you must walk away.

As Thurman says, “…we must remove them.” What is it you must remove? It is going to be painful and you are going to be misunderstood by some for the decisions you make but you have the sovereignty to make these decisions. In making these decisions your are saying yes to God, your dreams and God given desires. 

You have to surrender to you and that which you want to do. We think we need to feel some rush of the Spirit to know that which God is calling us to and I would argue God speaks to your hearts and minds via that which we desire. Simply be honest with yourself about what you want because “that want” is God speaking to you. Be honest with yourself about what you want. Take an inventory of your life and get rid of that which is hindering you, getting in your way and remove it so that you can live your YES!

Ralph Basui Watkins

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Creative Calling Series #3: The Energy Source for Life: Living the Abundant Life

The Energy Source for Life: Living the Abundant Life

“When a man (woman) is able to bring to bear upon a single purpose all the powers of his (her) being, his (her) whole life is energized and vitalized.”
Howard Thurman Disciplines of the Spirit p. 19

Thurman calls on us to find that purpose, that thing that calls us, consumes us, inspires us and gives us life.  That thing that gives us life will sustain our life. That thing that gives us life will fuel our life and give us the will to go on in the midst of struggle and hard-times. 

That thing, that thing you do. That thing you enjoying doing.  That thing you do so well that people will pay for it. That thing that comes natural to you even though you have developed it. That thing that you go to bed thinking about and wake up doing. That thing you can talk about all day and never tire. That thing you read about, watch YouTube videos about, that thing that fills up your Facebook timeline, Instagram and Twitter feed.  That is the thing that Thurman is talking about, that thing that gives you abundant life. 

John 10:10 
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). The Amplified Bible

John 10:10
 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  NRSV

To have the abundant life that Jesus talks about we have to find that thing that give us life. Jesus came to show us the light as he was the light. Jesus came to shed light on darkness. We are in the dark when we are doing things for a living that don’t give us life. We are in the darkness when we are doing things to pay the bills that extract life out of us. If paying the bills is killing us we will die paying bills. To live the abundant life means we have found that thing that we can bring all our powers to and that thing gives us power.

To have the abundant life is to have a life filled with that which gives you life and light. It takes work to find that thing(s). You have to try stuff, be willing to fail, be willing to start and stop, be willing to quit and restart, be retrained, change careers and possibly start over (again and again).  We have to be honest with ourselves about what we want and then be willing to pay the price to get it. 

The thief is the thing(s) we do that suck the life out of us. The things that bring us down and makes our lives dark. These things steal our hope, they steal our joy and are thus they are evil in the sense that they drain us. They don’t sustain us. We can sometimes find ourselves in careers, jobs, relationships or majors in college that are stealing from us.  If we continue to do that thing(s) we are complicit in the crime of theft. The thing we are stealing is the abundant life that Jesus came to offer. Do want the abundant life? What are you willing to do to make your life more abundant? 

Ralph Basui Watkins
Ralph Basui Watkins, MFA, PhD

“The scholar with a camera!”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Creative Calling Series #1 Navigating the Turns in Life: Four Essential Questions

The Creative Calling Series #1:
Navigating the Turns in Life: Four Essential Questions

I am often asked by people questions like this: How did you know to do such and such at that point in your career? I often failed in answering that question. I have historically talked about my passion, sense of call and my willingness to act on what iI thought was next for me?  Let me try to answer that question in this series The Creative Calling:

The book that has guided me throughout my life has been Howard Thurman’s Disciplines of the Spirit.  This book has been the most influential book I have ever read.  In the first chapter Thurman gives us three questions, I added a fourth, that has been the central questions I have asked myself at each juncture in my life’s journey:
  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. How do I propose to get it?

When you sit with these questions, and don’t run pass them, they give you pause. You have to think and reflect deeply.  It is not about what others expect of me.  It is not what they call me.  It is not what I have accomplished but rather, at my core, who am I?  The question is not what I do but rather the question is who am I?

What do you want? Not what others want from you. Not what others expect from you. Not what others need from you but what do you want?

How are you going to get what you want, what you want out of this one life you have to live? This life that is passing each and everyday.  This life we live that we can’t stop the clock on. Each and everyday our life gets shorter as we get yet closer to the end of life. How are you going to use the time you have to get what you want?

Now let me add the fourth question that has guided me:
4. What do you want to create?

As a creative, my writing, photography, teaching, videography and other creative pursuits drive me and give me life.  I enjoy creating, it is in the creating that I honor what the creator put in me.  By creating I honor the gifts and call that God placed on my life while I was in my mother’s womb.  I have to create and I have ask what I want to create and then structure my life to create that which I am called to create.

To structure my life to create that which I am called to create at this point in my life requires I say no to somethings, that I change my life, I let somethings go so that I am free to grow. What do you need to let go of in order to grow? 

I offer these four questions to you.  Take time to answer them through prayer, mediation and deep reflection and let the answers guide your next faithful step.  You only have to take the next step on the journey, one step at a time.  Take the step!

Ralph Basui Watkins, MFA, PhD
“The scholar with a camera!”

The Creative Calling Series #2 : What Is God Making of YOU?

My favorite scripture is Mark 1:16-17
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 
17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. NRSV

What I love about this text is that they had a faith to follow and let God make them.

They left their old life for a new life.  They left what they had to get what God had for them.  

They weren’t promised stuff, they weren’t promised riches or fame.  They were promised if you follow me, I will make you.

God is always making us, forming us and calling us but we have to let go of what we were, what we have and who we have been to be what God is calling us to be.

We have be still and know that God is God and God isn’t through making us.  Where is God taking you and what does God want to make of you?

This text is clear, we can’t be made if we will not go. We can’t be made if we will not follow?  We can’t be made if we are not willing to let go of yesterday for the promise of tomorrow!  

What is God calling you to leave, give up, move on and become what God has prepared for you?

What is God making of YOU?

Ralph Basui Watkins, MFA, PhD

“The scholar with a camera!”