Racial Profiling

At church this past Sunday (Willow Creek Community Church) Bill took a few moments to discuss the court event that is hot on the press lately.  At a point in the talk he mentioned racial profiling and how white folk couldn’t possibly understand what it is like for an African America father to have to explain racial profiling to his kids in order to keep them best protected, particularly with the cops.  I racked my brain to verify he was right, that I couldn’t understand, but surprisingly I did find a common ground.

While I studied for 5 months in East Africa I almost immediately grew weary of the badgering requests by locals for money – one man even came right up to me while I was working on an essay, sat down next to me, and asked if he could have my computer.  I remember trying to explain myself in all of these encounters.  I tried to explain that I had actually saved up for this trip for a long time and that if I gave them my money I wouldn’t be able to eat lunch and if I gave them my computer I wouldn’t be able to buy another one to do my school work.  Was I ultimately better off than them, probably, but that by no means meant I would be able to survive my trip there if I gave away the meager supplies and funds I had.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that these people were asking me for money and things because I have white skin.  I was a walking wallet to them, not a real, emotional person.  I loathed this.  In fact, I loathed it so much that I grew a strong distaste for most of the locals I came across.  Granted, just a few weeks after I arrived I was brutally mugged so maybe that had something to do with it too.  Regardless, before long it was only the students at my school and my host family, or the host families of other US students, that I felt safe with and like my skin color didn’t matter.  But what was most troubling about this was that I felt completely alone in my feelings.  To this day, I don’t think a single one of the other US students in the program grew a dislike for any one African.  And I wonder if they simply didn’t notice that they were being constantly profiled or that they really didn’t care.

The brief chat about racial profiling this past Sunday liberated me.  I finally realized that I wasn’t alone with my feelings.  If no other whites in Africa shared my feelings I now know at least African Americans do here.  And now I feel for them more than I ever did because I get it.  I get how it feels to be watched by beady eyes.  I get how it feels to not be received with an open mind.  Friends, it hurts to not be seen as a person.  In Africa I was seen as a thing, as money.  Here, I think we too often view African American’s as a threat.  Isn’t it right to view each person with a clean slate until they prove you otherwise – innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent?  Just some thoughts.

I’m going out on a limb here.  I may not be politically correct with my words.  But I am trying to view racial profiling through the lens of solidarity.  Truth is, yes I experienced racial profiling.  But the truth also is that I have not experienced the sort of racial profiling that African Americans experience every day here.  I cannot claim complete understanding, but I can at least claim a shred.

What do you think?

Church Quotes

Willow Creek Community Church is my home church. I have only missed a handful of Sundays since I started attending in October of 2011 – and that was because I absolutely cannot make it, I have come home early from trips just to be at church on Sunday morning.

Often times when I am asked where I go to church I am met with immediate skepticism and subtle negativity – I have found that people too often judge Willow simply because it’s a mega church with a lot of wealthy attendees. People ask why I go to Willow and my reply grows with each passing Sunday. I love the teaching and how it not only “feeds me” and gives me strength and fire for the week but, more importantly, I am challenged to grow in my faith practically, emotionally, physically, and knowledgeably. Most importantly, I so often feel the Lord’s hands in the message and his voice speaking through the sermon. And I love the worship, but not as much for the skill presented on stage but for the hearts and commitment I see on that stage. Most importantly, I can see the love of God in their eyes and as I watch them lead us in worship I feel like God is loving me through them. These two reasons are what made me choose Willow.

Since regularly attending I have grown more committed and in love with my church. I love their passion for giving and giving in a way that not only alleviates poverty through aid but pursues permanent solutions through partnership. I love their passion for establishing the Biblical relationships modeled by Jesus: the many, the “Oikos” (or 72), the small group (or 12 disciples), and the close friends (or 3 confidants). I particularly love how they are establishing Oikos communities in the church by fostering relationships within the auditorium section you sit in. Because of this initiative this BIG church is becoming very small as I am now frequently stopped in the halls for a chat or a hug or even to grab a cup of coffee to catch up.

There is too much more that I love about my church but this blog post is supposed to be for the tidbits I’ve jotted down with my sermon notes over the past few weeks. So here they are, some quotes said from the stage that encouraged and impacted me.

Referring to pain and struggle and how it is an opportunity for growth: “I’m not asking you to like [the pain and struggle], but I’m asking you to not waste it.”
– Shane Farmer

“God doesn’t need good ideas, he wants good servants.”
– Shane Farmer

“God is like a navigation system. When you take a right instead of the required left, He doesn’t abandon you, he reroutes you. The trouble is, with too many wrong turns, you start to run out of time and the road gets rougher.”
Michael Jr

“First of all, if God could be explained He wouldn’t be God.”
Michael Jr

Happy Wednesday friends! Have a super day!

Kaia Calhoun

A Photo A Day | June 3 – 9

1Monday 2Tuesday-2 3Wednesday 4Thursday-3 5F6Sa 7Sunday

MONDAY just grass

TUESDAY baby ducks (blog story and photo post coming soon)

WEDNESDAY engagement shoot in small town, historic downtown Buffalo, MN with Michaela and Cole (full photo post coming soon)

THURSDAY newborn shoot of my high school best friend, her first little boy, and her hubs… I am such a proud Auntie! (full photo post coming soon)

FRIDAY more baby ducks 🙂

SATURDAY a church community gathering with food and art – Section 106B Creative of Willow Creek, my church family

SUNDAY 9MO maternity shoot with Becky (full photo post coming soon)

see more “A Photo A Day” blog posts HERE

40 Days in the Desert | Challenge 3

Day 3 | Keep the Word of the Lord on Your Heart

A couple of days ago I gave you the challenge to “read the Bible today.” Today I want to take you another step further.

Challenge 3 | Find a Chair

A couple of weeks ago I heard one of those life changing sermons at church. And a few days ago I started digging in Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Bill’s sermon at church got me to commit to reading my Bible daily. The reading I’ve been doing in Luke 4 has made me realize anew why keeping the Word on my heart is so important.

I attend Willow Creek Community Church and Bill Hybels was in the middle of a series called “Moving Forward” when he challenged the entire congregation, through testimony and truth, to “find a chair” and commit to reading the Bible daily. I started right away and what I particularly loved about this message is that is wasn’t a vague challenge to get into the Bible. No, Bill said to find a chair and commit to reading the Bible for 10 – 15 minutes daily. He even suggested to start in Luke if we needed help deciding where to start. I love a good challenge, if you can’t tell, so I excitedly committed and have been working my way through the New Testament letters.

Bill outlined the task specifically but he also pointed out that it is important to make reading the Bible a part of your day that you look forward to. By choosing a favorite chair and maybe sitting with a cup of coffee or a cozy blanket reading your Bible becomes an experience, not just a bothersome requirement or task.

In Luke 4 Jesus’ weapon against the temptations Satan throws at him is the Word. In response to Satan’s persistent prodding Jesus simply states the scripture that reveals the lies (Luke 4: 4, 8, 12).

Now I turn around and challenge you to pick your chair and set out to reading your Bible for 10 – 15 minutes daily. I promise you will find that keeping the Bible on your heart and at the forefront of your mind will move your faith forward and bring your heart closer to God.

Perhaps you could be so kind as to come back here and share with me what you have made your experience look like 🙂 Or send me a picture of your chair!

A Big Stroke of Pride and a Little Touch of Grace

Tonight Josh and I decided to try out the Midweek service at Willow Creek Community Church.  We were tardy so worship had already started.

Today I hadn’t managed to take a picture yet so I brought my camera and resolved to get that out of the way before we even sat down.  I paused at the back of the sanctuary, so as not to disrupt or distract anyone, and before I could even remove my lens cap I was reprimanded.  I think the woman came over to ask me a question but as soon as she saw my camera all she had to say was something like, “no pictures.”  Then she walked away.  Three things crossed my mind all at once:

  1. “In today’s age? I bet you someone is taking a picture with their iPhone right now.”
  2. “Ouch.”
  3. “I think I might just leave now.”

I was flabbergasted at her audacity to ask me not to take a pictures.  I honestly didn’t think cameras were forbidden anywhere but a few select places anymore, and I didn’t think Willow Creek (the land of escalators, a vast assortment of stage lights, electric guitars, and videographers) would be one of them.  It is the age of the smart phone.

Her words struck a big, “do not touch” Kaia button.  I don’t handle reprimanding very well.  I take it personally.

I was utterly crushed.  Now, you might be thinking, come on Kaia, grow some thick skin.  Well, I didn’t run out of the room crying and remain sobbing in the bathroom for hours and that is big for me.  Because, when I was a kid, if I EVER got reprimanded it was the end of the world.  I would stow myself away in my room, broken to bits, for hours.  Even when my parents repeatedly tried to coax me out of my crushing self-loathing I remained.  Am I sensitive?  I guess you could say that.

Now-a-days, I grit my teeth and let the parade of negative thoughts scream in my brain while remaining utterly silent on the exterior.

The rest of the service was tainted.  I tried to sing along with the worship songs but I couldn’t even open my mouth.  I tried to pray but I couldn’t focus.  I tried to listen to the message and, at best, I retained scraps.

I thought about leaving.  I had a somewhat sick, mild satisfaction when we did, indeed, exit the doors we had come through before “no pictures.”  An evil part of me was thinking, “good, I hope you think you deterred me from church.”  But, in fact, we just went upstairs to sit in the balcony because there was noticeably more space.

I literally spent THE REST of the service mulling over the whole situation.  I went through all sorts of waves of emotions ranging from self-degradation, self-loathing, bitterness, anger, alienation, and nothing.  I rehearsed several different versions of conversing with her over in my head, ranging from confrontation to blessing.  In the end, I just let it go.

This whole experience shed a lot of light into a lot of dark places in my heart though.  I was disgusted to find that, even though I grew up in the church and follow Christ faithfully, I was so quick to judge that woman and dismiss the church service.  And because of that I suddenly stepped into the shoes of a unbeliever stepping into the church for the first time.  I was horrified to think of that woman approaching a unbeliever that way.  She was the only person that uttered a word to me the whole hour and a half I was there and the best she had was “no pictures.”  Of course I know the church has problems and we are only people, but I know so many unbelievers who don’t know that and expect perfection of Christians. They, most likely, would not be forgiving or be willing to try a second time.  And I wouldn’t blame them.

As my range of thoughts and feelings rampaged around there were a few clear and good ones.

I contemplated what I might have done differently if I were that woman, knowing what I know now.  I would have either not bothered with the camera, I mean really, or I would have gone ahead and informed 24-year-old me, but I wouldn’t have kept my words so patronizing and curt; I would have explained why “no pictures” briefly and asked if I could help find some seating for the young couple.  My raging defenses would have been tamed if she’d shown a little love within the interaction.

I also contemplated myself and how irrationally my head was spinning.  It took some convincing and a little prodding from the Holy Spirit but I slowly realized that she was probably just trying to serve, to do her job, and if I were going to do mine and show the grace God so frequently gives me… well I would have to let the matter go, forgive and forget, and see if I can’t withstand crumbling underneath criticism so rapidly and thoroughly next time.  I became painfully aware of my own fault and I think its name is pride.

So, here’s to moving forward 🙂

Until next time,

Kaia Calhoun

P.S. And now I have to go take a picture 😉  And… if you haven’t already, check out my 100th blog post HERE!  There’s a little surprise waiting for you there (eh hem… a giveaway drawing).