Intro to Watsonopolis

Watsonopolis is a place where the Watson family posts their writing, reflections, images and videos.

Most of the stuff we post are our own thoughts, wonderings, and stories that emerge from our lives, our living, the world around us and the world within us.

You'll find us reflecting on our travels, our faith, justice, and what it means for us to live well in 21st century America. 

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Casting Out Demons

Last month, I traveled with three friends to India.  We stayed in and around Delhi for 10 days.  This is the first, of what I hope to be a couple of reflections on that trip.

“The young man is demon possessed”.  That’s what the pastor said to me when I asked him what was going on.  Three hours prior, I entered the room where we were to worship and immediately noticed the young twenty-something.  Over the course of the service the congregation would swell to nearly 200, but when we first arrived, the crowd was small so he stuck out.  He had what I thought was either a nervous tick or odd way of worshiping.  Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

Towards the conclusion of the amazing north Indian worship service a feverish concert of prayer ensued; which is when the exorcism publicly began.  First, the women surrounded the demoniac who started screaming, moaning and contorting violently on the ground.  Following the women, other ministers and evangelists of the church began praying over him pressing the Lord for his deliverance.  Waves of groans and growls echoed in the cinderblock apartment that served as the church until they finally subsided to a low hum.  “They will pray and fast and then begin again.  He’ll be healed soon”, the pastor said rather matter of factly.  Then, with out missing a beat he says, “Are you ready for lunch?”

I stepped over the young-man-in-healing as my shoes were located on the other side of his sprawled, mildly grunting body.  I slipped the shoes on, keeping a steady eye on him lest he jump up, beat me and send me out of the church naked.

Over lunch that day, and over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking about demon possession; about the ways the Evil One slips into our lives and stakes a claim.  I’ve also been thinking about the ways that freedom and healing come.  It would be easy to focus only on the dramatic, on the otherwise extraordinary events surrounding the young Indian’s liberation from demonic forces.  But what might such an event look like at Living Hope, in my life or in my neighborhood?

If I were completely consumed by materialism and my money was the focus of my life, could one not say, I’m demon possessed?  And If someone in my small group said to me, “Sell your possessions, give it to the poor and follow me” would I not moan?  Would my back not stiffen as did the young Indians?  And if a gospel-er said to me, “Your job has become your idol, repent and follow Jesus” would I not growl and fight?  If I went to one of the addicts in my neighborhood and prayed for the demon drug to exit their body, might they not fall face first into my yard?

They might would.  Because it is not true that Indians living in the rural outskirts of Delhi are somehow more demon possession prone than those in well manicured Memphis suburbs.  Rather our possession may be more subtle, more discreet, more ‘culturally appropriate’ yet still as demonic.

The truest beauty in this is that the way towards freedom is the same for us as it was for the young man.  It is the gospel of Christ that was going to free him from the demons that tormented his soul and it is the gospel that will liberate us.  The bondages of sin can have 1,000 different faces.  Freedom, on the other hand, has just One.  And that is good news.


Playing in Dirt

Last month the lady and I took the wild ones camping.  I'm sure there's a lot to say, but sometimes images do say it better.  After a remarkably fun family weekend lost in the woods, while the mom and me packed up the camp site, this is how the boys spent their final moments of fun before heading home.


The last 125 days

There really isn't a good way for me to try and summarize the last four months, just as there isn't a good way for me to explain why I haven't posted since May.  We have had some amazing stories - events that require reflection and stories that should be told.  But somewhere in between the living of them, we just moved on to the next one.  So rather than try and relay events from the summer, here are some things that I learned and those I learned them from. 

1.  Hometown heroes aren't always heroes in their hometown

Someone that has had a deep and profound impact on Lisa and I is the work and ministry of Dr. John & Vera Mae Perkins.  I've written about them before, so I won't recap here except to say that their lives are testimonies to the best parts of who we can be as people and what it means to faithfully follow Jesus.  John Perkins has been named one of Christianity's most influential people, he's written books that are read world wide, he's in history books, he speaks at colleges nation wide, entire wings of college buildings are named after him - in other words, he's sort of a big deal.  The thing is, in his hometown of Jackson, MS, there's still a ton of folks who may not know who he is.  Lisa and I traveled to Jackson for Dr. John & Vera Mae's 50 yr. anniversary of ministry (and JP's 80th birthday).  It was a great celebration, and folks flew into the Jackson airport, literally, from all over the country.  Former governors, civil rights workers, college professors, ministers from everywhere were there.  We sat at a table with a young woman from Jackson who told us, "I didn't know Dr. Perkins was so well known".  We chuckled.  

2. My family is amazing...hilarious, but amazing

About every three years I make the pilgrimage to Love County Oklahoma for my family's annual family reunion.  I love my family reunion.  I always have.  I have never, ever had a bad experience there.  I always leave more proud of who I am and who I'm related to.  And I always leave with amazing stories about my kin folk.  More and more, the older I get, the more amazed I am that I'm related to this family.  We are different.  And I love that.  But it is remarkable really.  Nevertheless, despite the differences that seem to grow over time, there is still the memory that the cousin I seem so different from now, is still the same cousin I swam across the pond with year after childhood year.  The center holds because despite how I change moving forward, there is a past that refuses to change.  Sometimes that's a bad thing, but for me, with this family, its a very, very good thing. 


3.  I love California

Texas is God's country.  You will never get me to say anything to the contrary.  Memphis has style, swagger and sass like no other, and I love it tons.  But, man I like me some California.  I know my California friends will hate to know this, but me and the mrs. slipped into an out of California without telling anyone in the middle of the summer for a quick get away.  And somewhere in between the Sierra Nevada camp outs, the In n Out burgers and the streets of San Francisco I was reminded again what a magical place California can be.

4.  Those who embody hope in the midst of chaos are my heroes.

I know this is the second 'hero' reference, but here's what I'm learning.  I'm drawn to those who, in the middle of a crisis, incarnate a hope and a faith that perseveres.  Samuel Kargbo is a fellow DMin student that I met in Ghana.  Samuel pastors a church in Freetown Sierra Leone.  If you've seen Blood Diamonds, you've seen part of Samuel's story.  He lived through the civil war and pastored in Freetown through it.  He had invitations to flee the country, other pastors inviting him to Guinea and pastor in safety.  Samuel turned them down every time, choosing instead to pastor his people through the violence and remind them that peace prevails and love is the best response.  Samuel stayed with us for a several days.  Together we shared stories, considered the future and prayed for God's kingdom to come in Freetown and in my community.  Two days after he left, Nathan asked me when Pastor Samuel was coming back.  "Soon I hope, son". Because those are the kinds of heroes I want my boys to grow up around.

Of course there's other stories; my family visiting us in Memphis, camping adventures on the Mississippi River and a family trip to Chicago.  But these snippets and the lessons learned from them will have to do for now.  


Dr. Rodriguez 

Last month the 4 Watsons traveled down to Florida to celebrate with Lisa's family.  Lisa's younger sister, Amy, was graduating from UF with her Ph.D.  Amy's has been a fantastic voyage through the halls of academia and the halls of hospitals to finally arrive at her Ph.D.  A degree that will surely further her career and take her far and wide into new halls of academia and hospitals.  

Somewhere in the midst of the Morgantown hills where she did her undergrad work, she found a topic of study and fell in love with it.  And it was that love that, 10 years later landed all of us in bleachers at the basketball field house in Gainesville; because, well, when you love something that much, and you work that hard at it, at some point your family comes to celebrate with you.  And that's what we did.  

I'll be honest with you, I'm not exactly sure what Amy got her Ph.D. in.  Normally, I'd be embarrassed to admit that, but in this case, I'm not.  You see her Ph. D is in something like Neurological Sciences Speech Pathology Communicative Disorder Science Brain Science Science.  In other words, the title was a little long on words and short on words I knew the meaning to.  But, basically, Amy received a PhD in fixing the part of your brain that focuses on speech.  

There are folks for whom that part of their brain doesn't work and what results is the inability to communicate properly.  The brain breaks and it affects the mouth.  This gets caused by any number of ways; a fall, a wreck, an accident, age.  When that happens, Amy is who you want by your side.  She can help you fix your brain and help you regain your ability to talk.

My life and livelihood is built around my ability to communicate.  Words are important to me (despite my blogging hiatus).  Written, spoken, sung - however they come and come out - I love words.  I cannot imagine the frustration, the desperation that would come from wanting to say something, to know in your heart what you long to say, but for some reason not be able to form the words, or even remember the words that convey the emotion.  What if, I wanted to tell my son, "Nathan I'm proud of you", but couldn't remember his name or what the word for 'proud' was.  And even if I could remember, I couldn't form the words with my mouth.  What may come out would be either tears...or anger.  But what would escape me is the ability to communicate my heart swollen with joyful, fatherly pride.  

It seems that more and more, we live in a world that could use someone to help us communicate better.  More and more it seems the only communicative device we have is to either lash out in anger or retreat in cries of self pity.  More and more I'm wondering if something has happened to our brains.  

And that's what Dr. Amy is for.  She helps people rediscover those words so they don't have to only cry or be angry.  She is the scientist who helps us recall words, form them with our lips and utter them from our hearts.  She helps dads whose brains have been broken and words jumbled; heal and re-find the words, "I'm proud of you".  And in that, she helps all of us heal.  

Dr. Amy, we are, very, very proud of you.  


Cape Coast Ghana

During the BGU course in Ghana, we took a trip to the Cape Coast Castle, which was the sites housing the most slaves during the transatlantic slave trade.  Cape Coast Castle housed, loaded on ships and sold literally hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.  I journaled my thoughts for class.  That journal is reproduced below.


Today we traveled to the Cape Coast in order to tour the Cape Coast Castle and see the site of one of the great tragedies of human history.  It was from this castle that thousands of abducted Africans were housed in dungeons before boarding ships that would carry them to live and die as slaves in the Americas and the Caribbean. 

Even upon entering the facility, I felt as though I was entering a prison.  Despite the barracks converted into tourist shops and the ticket window that soften the feeling in presenting the place as a museum, the essence of the place remains.  The first stop is the dungeon.  You descend into the bowels of the Castle and into the holding spaces designed for the slaves.  A strong imagination is not necessary as the physical space, though excavated and cleaned, still has an odor, still has a claustrophobia, still has a stone stench that presses in and is still able to remind the dweller that there was a time when the door behind did not open and lives inside where no longer theirs.  It hurts to be there.  To stand on the hard pressed floors and feel the tight rock-walled room and imagine 200 isolated men living in their own waste looking up at a slit in the wall 35 feet up that imitates a window is an oppressive experience.  And I’m just on a tour.  Even hiding behind the lens of my camera cannot keep the hard feelings from soaking my soul. 

We would see other rooms.  Many of them like the first, but of different dimensions and shapes.  One holds men, another holds women, one is for pre-departure another for disobedient slaves, one is windowless, one has big windows but an iron gate all of them leading towards the same future of bondage beyond horror. 

Above ground and above the slave holding cells were various cannons, platforms, offices, barracks, and living quarters.  I was amazed at the near serenity of the castle above ground in stark contrast to the harsh environment below.  From here you can see and hear the sea, feel the breeze, look at boats and sky and waves and wonder.  At one point we made our way to the captain’s quarters and the bedroom.  While standing there, looking out the windows, I noticed that from that vantage point you could not see the inner courtyard of the castle, rather only the beach and sea below.  I suspect it would have been easy to forget, from this bedroom, the tragedy being exercised on the people being dislodged of their humanity just a few feet away. 

To come to such a place with such a rich and tragic history produces a rush of emotions.  For me, so much of what I felt was a wash of shame.  I think that this was especially poignant because I was with Africans and African-Americans and by their presence I became profoundly aware of my whiteness.  The point at which I felt this most strongly what when Dr. White had us stand in the dungeon where the women who had been violated by men like me were held.  Then in that place we sang ‘Amazing Grace’.  I was embarrassed to sing.  Embarrassed to stand there.  Embarrassed to be a Christian. 

The reasons for my embarrassment are not new reasons to me.  I know that I belong to a group that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of money, country and religion.  And to say that I didn’t take part or that those things were so long ago only serves to distance myself from the pain and skirt the responsibility and culpability that rests at the feet of every American and British Christian.  Now, a few hours removed from the event my thought is that it is good for me to feel the shame.  For several years now I have understood that in many ways the hand of the oppressor is my hand, yet by God’s grace.  And I have understood my call as a Christian leader to be one who stands, speaks and acts on behalf of the oppressed, poor and marginalized.  But such a posture and such a calling can lead me to believe that I have somehow moved past feelings of guilt and shame.  I think it is like a Christian who is reminded again of the depth of depravity and the great grace that has been extended.  Just as I need to be reminded of the sin from which Christ saved me, not to be condemned but as an antidote to pride, so too do I need to remember that my collective history is tainted with slave ship captains and plantation owners as well as with abolitionists and freedom fighters.  There are both weeds and wheat in my field.


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