You cannot out give God

Many years ago a pastor friend of mine delivered a sermon titled, “You can’t out give God.” I never forgot it and it’s animated my life ever since. There are many scriptural references around the theme of giving but this one from Malachi 3:10 has stayed with me.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 

Just got an email from Alice Miller Nation who is the Director of the Warming House which is the oldest student run soup kitchen in the United States. In 2019 The Warming House served 5922 meals for the entire year. This year to date The Warming House has served 5378 in 7 months. That’s an average of 897 meals per month. At that rate The Warming House will serve nearly 11,000 meals this year. You can help put this bread on the table of Olean Area residents by sending a donation to:

The Warming House
Franciscan Center for Social Concern
St. Bonaventure University
PO Box AR
3621 West State Road
St. Bonaventure, NY 14778

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The Executive Officer Wants to See You

I had been at work a few hours taking care of the neonates in the newborn nursery at the Dispensary of Naval Air Station Albany GA. I was working the afternoon shift and as I recall I was getting ready to take the infants out to their mothers on the OB ward. That’s when the charge nurse gave me the message that the XO wanted to see me. I was concerned. What could the executive officer want. I put on my gown and left the ward and headed to the office where a US Navy Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman was seated waiting for me. I entered the office not knowing what to expect. Try as I might I cannot remember his name but I remember what he looked like and what he said. “Watkins, I hate to be the one to tell you this but we’ve just received word that your father died today.” Though the news was a shock it was not entirely unexpected as Dad had been ill for a number of years.

The senior chief told me I didn’t have to finish my shift and that I could return to the barracks immediately. I told him that I’d finish my shift. He instructed me to go to base personnel in the morning and they would be processing my emergency leave and travel orders. He told me not to hesitate to call him should I need additional assistance. I returned to work in shock but the infants whom I cared for ministered to me that evening. I had last seen my Dad in March. We had spent a fun week touring Northern California, eating salmon, going to the Samoa Cookhouse, going to a basketball game with my sister. In fact it had been the most fun I’d had with Dad in years. It all ended too quickly. We had made plans that when I was released from active duty in a couple of years I would come to California and enroll at Humboldt State. Now, those plans were dashed.

The next morning I went to base personnel and they had all my paperwork in order and soon thereafter I was on a plane headed home for my father’s funeral. My plane was late getting into Hartsfield International so when the Albany flight landed the airport personnel took me and my bag and drove us to the waiting Eastern Airlines jet that would take us to Buffalo. I remember my brother picked me in Buffalo and drove me home. It was all surreal and yet I remember it like it was yesterday and it’s been forty-seven years now.

Dad was only forty-six when he died. That seems very young now. I will always remember our last morning together and how he hugged me and told me he loved me. I told him, “I love you too.” Then I turned and walked toward the waiting Hughes AirWest turbo prop that took me towards home. Though he’s been gone these many years he’s never far from my memory nor is this twenty-sixty day of July when I recall once again that afternoon in Albany and the kindness of the executive officer, the nurses and fellow corpsmen and dental technicians and the infants who comforted me.

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The paradox of the cross and American Christianity

James Cone’s powerful book, ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ is the reason I’m in this course. I don’t remember who recommended it to me earlier this spring but reading became a metanoia for me. It is the reason that I enrolled in this course. I knew very little about lynchings. I read little about them in my study of American History which was my undergraduate major. I remember the power scenes in the movie,”The Great Debaters” which is one of my favorites. However I missed the paradox that is the cross and the lynching tree especially as the lived experience of American Christianity.

I grew up in Roman Catholic community which was essentially a de facto segregated group although none of us would have thought it that at the time. I attended liturgies frequently as a child and young adult. I remember the disconnect for me with the church in the 1960’s and 1970’s when little was said in support of the civil rights movement and against the war in Vietnam. That eventually led away from regular attendance and participation. In the past twenty years I’ve been reconnected to the church and a more active participation in the social gospel through my involvement with Franciscans at Mt. Irenaeus which led in time to becoming a professed Secular Franciscan. However, despite being a member of group of folks who were more active in our ministry to the marginalized I still had not grasped the powerful and prophetic voice and vision that is contained in this particular book and in the content of Julian’s lectures. 

Through this course and the materials I’ve come to believe that American Christianity whether Protestant or Catholic has been essentially “white-washed.” We need redemption and renewal in the church as whole to make it a true instrument of the gospel of Jesus Christ rather than an instrument of the status quo.  P

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I surrender

Surrender, White People!: Our Unconditional Terms for Peace by D.L. Hughley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is one of the best books I’ve read on the history of racism in America. Much of the factual data presented in the book was news to me and my undergraduate major was American History. DL Hughley intersperses enough comedy to make this an easy book to read. He covers a difficult topic masterfully. i highly recommend this book.


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We can’t breathe

It’s been my privilege for the past couple of weeks to be a student once again. I’m auditing a course at nearby Houghton College and thanks to this pandemic and social distancing we are using Zoom. Race and American Christianity is the title of the course and our professor is Julian Armand Cook. i love the course and following last Thursday’s lecture I took Dr. Cook’s invitation to visit his church. I couldn’t make it in person but again thanks to the miracle of YouTube I listened to the service for this Sunday. I decided to look around on the church’s YouTube channel and found Julian’s sermon for May 31, 2020 which followed the death of George Floyd. His preaching is powerful and I wanted to share it and invite us all prayer. We are at a pivotal point in time. Thanks Julian for your invitation and your passion. I invite you to listen to the sermon beginning at 40:25 minutes of this video.

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Recommending you read this book

Liberating Tradition: Women’s Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective by Kristina LaCelle-Peterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an incredibly thorough and well documented book that should be required reading for anyone interested in the role of the Christian church in keeping women from being fully accepted as leaders in society.



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We hold these truths to be self evident

Thus begins the Declaration of Independence that we Americans celebrate on July 4th.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-

Thomas Jefferson

When Jefferson penned these words he was speaking as a free white man. He owned enslaved Africans whom he didn’t consider equals. These black men and women weren’t included nor were their indigenous brothers and sisters of Native Americans ancestry who roamed the North American continent.

Jefferson saw these other Americans as members of separate races and therefore not a part of the self evident truths which he so eloquently wrote about and which we proclaim each year. I’ve come to believe that there are not separate races but one race.

‘The idea of race as a biological construct makes it easy to believe that many of the divisions we see in society are natural. But race, like gender, is socially constructed.”

DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (p. 15). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

I would have been affronted by such an allegation a few years ago but I have come to see and believe that I live in a culture that privileges me as a white man. Lately our country has become torn apart once again over allegations of police brutality and white supremacy. Protesters proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” have angered millions of Americans who push back with “All Lives Matter.” White folks are blinded to the truth of over four hundred years of oppression. I hope that this year is a clarion call to end the blight of racism and move forward as sisters and brothers of the human race so that we may fulfill the vision of Dr. King.

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” — Martin Luther King Jr.

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All the statues are white

I’m at St. Mary Parish in Arcade, NY for Eucharistic Adoration and I’m facing a statue of St. Joseph. I’ve come here many times but today I’m struck by the flesh tones of the statue. I grew up in this parish. I served Mass here on this altar many times and I never really appreciated that all the depictions of the of the stained glass, statues, paintings and even the crucifix are of a white person. I’m currently enrolled in a class at Houghton College. It’s “Racism and American Protestant Christianity.” One of my classmates shared on our class Moodle site that they had grown up in a segregated community and attended segregated schools. That’s when the scales fell from my eyes. I too grew up in such a community. We weren’t segregated by law but by the fact we had no non-whites in our church or our school. Our church was for white people and we didn’t even know it. We worshipped a white God. Did I ever think of God as anything other than white. No of course not. How could I?

St. Joseph the White Carpenter
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Home Again

This afternoon I returned to Mount Irenaeus for the first time in over three months. It’s been the longest absence in the past twenty plus years of my life. It was Sunday March 8, 2020 when I last walked the grounds here. That Sunday was the first time that we didn’t share a hug at the sign of peace and when we began social distancing. How quickly the pandemic progressed as quickly moved into shelter in place and then life as we knew it began to recede. Today fully three months later I was able to return to one of my favorite haunts as a I walked the Mountain Road.

Three months ago the ground was covered with snow. Today the snow is gone and I was surrounded by green grass and a forest canopy of leaves. There was a quickness in my step as I moved along the trail praying the Franciscan Crown Rosary that I had begun this morning at home in Franklinville. A deer darted out of the woods to my right as I walked this familiar trail that took me eventually to a clearing and the hermitage of La Posada.

Much has changed in three months besides the beautiful flora. We’ve lost over one hundred sixteen thousand of our fellow citizens to the ravages of Covid-19. I’ve emerged from an episode of depression in the early days of the pandemic. There was a time I had given up hope. Despair tugged at me. From early March until now there is one constant and that is the daily recitation of the Franciscan Crown Rosary. The daily rhythm of this mantric prayer sustained me and kept just enough hope in me to press on. There were times when I doubted it was doing any good and questioned my recitation. Along the way I’ve come to believe that there is power in recitation of the prayers and an effect on my world and the world around me that I’m frequently unable to fathom.

Today while I walked along this trail in the woods I thought of the words of Thomas Merton. “My Lord God I do not see the road ahead.” Along the road there has been the deadly pestilence that has not come near me. Globally there have been the ugly horror of racism and and a reaction to it that seems to be bringing change. Just yesterday the United States Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ Americans can not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. That’s a huge win for many folks. In the midst of this pandemic there has been light and hope. For that I’m grateful.

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Are you an antiracist?

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Excellent! A must read for anyone who’s serious about understanding America’s original sin. The author pulls no punches regardless of which side of the color line you are on. He exposes the problem of racism and its roots.

History is clear. Sacrifice, uplift, persuasion, and education have not eradicated, are not eradicating, and will not eradicate racist ideas, let alone racist policies. Power will never self-sacrifice away from its self-interest. Power cannot be persuaded away from its self-interest. Power cannot be educated away from its self-interest. Those who have the power to abolish racial discrimination have not done so thus far, and they will never be persuaded or educated to do so as long as racism benefits them in some way.

Ibram X. Kendi




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