Reflections from my trip to The Reformation Project in Atlanta.

What an amazing expereience I’ve had in the last few weeks. Earlier this year, I was invited to be a facilitator at The Reformation Prject’s Atlanta Regional Training Conference which took place June 11-13th. Specifically, my role was to be part of a full day pre-conference Accademy for Racial Justice (ARJ). In addition to the Accademy, I was invited to participate in two pannel discussions: “LGBT 101” on Thursday, and “The Intersections of Race and LGBT Identities” on Saturday. Both pannels were an opportunity for me to share my stories as a Christian who is black, gay, and celibate.  I was so thankful to be asked to share my perspectives as well as facilitate others in their own discovery and conversation around these important topics. What I didn’t expect was how powerfully I would be impacted by the community I found at the conference. 

About 16 years ago, I began a relationship with my previous church community that although it was exciting and promising at first, soon became toxic and spiritually abusive. I was part of that ministry for about 8 years before I got free of it.  In leaving that church, I also left a lot of the culture and ministry stylings that were common to a black charasmatic ministry. I didn’t fully agree with everything within that culture, but it still represented a significant part of my Christian experience. In leaving that church, I found a significant amount of healing at my current church, but parts of me always wonderd if my worship was too expresessive or distracting to those who may worship more revereantly or quietly. Often times I had to choose to be authentic in my worship even if I might be the only one to express themselves this way. 

Last weekend at the The Reformation Project Conference, I met other LGBT Christians who come from or are part of charasmatic churches. They weren’t the majority, but I would run into them in breakout sessions and a few of the speakers are charasmatic. For the first time, I had the opportunity to worship with others who could identify with the unique challenges I’ve faced of being Gay and a fully-devoted follower of Christ. As I sang, danced, swayed, waved my hands, shouted out, and wept I felt like there was NOTHING to hold back, nothing to appologize for.  I was simply free to worship God in every way I knew how. 

This was a healing for my soul.  So many times I had to cry out to God in isolation. So often I was burdened with how people saw me, or their expectations for “deliverance from homosexuality”, or their ignorance about me and my story.  There’s something POWERFUL about being able to worship in an inclusive community. 

I think we ALL are seeking a place to belong. We are wired to want to be known and loved just as we know and love others.  I don’t think our creator designed us with an individualistic pursuit in mind. I hope to help more churches be intentional about welcoming LGBT people into their worship spaces. So often the dominant narrative for sexual and gender minorities is that church is where they have been hurt by trusted leaders, abandoned by people who they considered family, and where people are commonly spiritually and/or physically abused. 
I’m longing for the church to be a place that seeks out LGBT folks and starts the reconcilliation process. On Sunday, June 28th, I’ll again be part of the “I’m Sorry” campaign – an effort by Christians to appologize to the LGBT community for how the church has been harmful and to commit to efforts to make things better. 

If you’d like to be part of “I’m sorry” click here for information about the campaign or click here sign up to join us at Chicago’s Pride Parade. 

My Story – shared at Willow Chicago this morning.


I’m Darren. Darren Khalil Calhoun to be exact. Most people call me Darren, but my mom calls me Calhoun and sometime we call each other Franky. I’ve been called a number of names… most of them Good and kind like “Dare Bear” but some others that I… wouldn’t ever repeat in church. I’ve also been known for what I do. I work as a freelance photographer so sometimes I’m known as “photo guy” or “picture man”. In college, I helped to launch a campus ministry and during this same time I was ordained as a minister. Suddenly my name became “Minister Darren”.

We attach a lot of importance to names and God even uses multiple names for himself to help us understand who he is. While it’s easy to look up the names of God and find out more of who he is, it’s not always so easy to find out who WE are. I use words like Christian, Black, and Male to describe me, but those don’t capture all of who I am. In 12-step I’m taught to identify myself as an addict but that doesn’t tell the full story either. In school I was called a failure. At times, I’ve sought validation to be called funny or cool or handsome. In some of the most difficult times of my life, because of my personal struggles, I’ve even been called Damned.

But ALL of that changes when I turn to God to tell me who I am. He simply calls me beloved. He calls me his own. God says that I’m someone he’ll rejoice over with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). And if I’m willing to be used, he’ll call me his ambassador. Names and labels come and go – they have varying degrees of truth but there is ONE who IS TRUTH and who has the final say. God says that I’m created in his image and likeness. He says that who I really am is just like him.

So, when I’m burdened with the expectations of others, when I’m unfairly judged, when I’m just lost, or when I don’t know what to think there is an answer. I can surrender myself to God and what he says about me through his Word and there I’ll be restored and become Just Like Him.

Breakin’ Rules: Living out the Kingdom of God

photo © 2010 S. Bailey
Jon Klinepeter - photo by S. Bailey © 2010
Photo: Jon Klinepeter - by S. Bailey © 2010

On Sunday, August 15, 2010 – my church,  Willow Chicago welcomed our new Campus Pastor, Jon Klinepeter and his family.  Below are bits of the message he shared with our congregation on Sunday.

The Kingdom of God is not just a future certainty but a present reality.

When we align ourselves with the love of Jesus – we are aligning ourselves with the Kingdom of God.

Every time there was a societal or religious margin that told someone they didn’t belong, Jesus went beyond it. Jesus’ love knew no margin based on background, ethnicity, sin choices… Jesus never met anyone who was beyond his love. There wasn’t a margin that Jesus wouldn’t crash through to show his love for someone.

Love breaks the rules and is somewhat unapologetic about it. It says to religious and social rules “I don’t care!” Choosing the Kingdom of God makes us appear foolish, child-like, dangerous, and unwise. How naïve and crazy Jesus must have looked and felt on the cross.

I want other churches to think we are crazy… because I don’t care what other churches think of us.

If the lost in this city think that we are amazing at loving -then we are living out what God has for us.  If the poor and broken in this city know that our love is not just theoretical in prayer, but is tangible in action, then we are arriving at what God has for us. If the gay community in this city feels first our Love, then we are arriving at the kind of community that God has for us.

To the outcasts, the single moms, the people who are told they don’t matter, the people who live in neighborhoods where they are told that the color of their skin defines what they will ever be, we’re not going to just reach a hand. We will step beyond the margins and embrace them in our Kingdom of Love.

We break all the rules… especially the religious ones. We will infuse the sacrificial love of Jesus into our city.
–Jon Klinepeter

I’m excited about the possibilities of how God will continue to use Willow Chicago.  I’ve only had a few brief conversations with him, but already I see he has a great heart for compassion and reconciliation that is bold and authentic.   If you would like to check out the audio of the full message it can be downloaded or streamed here: The Kingdom of God

My New Netbook Review: Gateway LT2032u Black

Black Friday came early for me – Wednesday to be exact.  I went to Best Buy to see what I could grab before the rush.  I found the Gateway LT2032u for $279 – much less than what I saw anywhere – and this wasn’t a sale price! So I grabbed it and am happy I did.  I made one other purchase that I will write about later.  For now – here is my review of the netbook.


GatewayLT2032uThis Gateway LT2032u Black Netbook has turned out to be a great deal.  I’ve had it for less than a week now and so far I’m loving it.

If you’re getting a case for it, be aware that the 6-cell battery makes it too big for most slim cases (the battery ads about an inch to the size when closed).  I have mine in a slim case, but the battery sticks out the zipper (and thus can’t be fully closed. I just wanted something so that it would be protected in whatever bag I put it in and it serves that purpose ok for now.

Speaking of batteries  – the life on the six cell is amazing.  In power-saving mode and with the screen brightness dimmed to 10%, Windows has estimated 9 hours of battery life.  Even in normal mode you’ll get at least 6 hours of of it. It’s great to be able to leave the house without a power adapter and not worry about running out of juice! I do occasionally use a Clear WiMax broadband USB adapter and that sucks a LOT of power (the machine estimates 3 hours of battery life with it running).  I’ve tethered with my iPhone and that set up doesn’t eat the battery nearly as fast (I think I can get 4-5 hours with that set up).

One challenge on netbook screens in general is software that assumes your monitor is taller than 600 pixels – so every now and then you’ll find a fixed size window with an “ok” button that is below the edge of the screen. You might have to hit Tab and Enter until you “select” the right button to continue.  This is only an occasional issue when installing software or on setup / preferences screens (like the one on Adobe Reader 9 which comes pre-installed)

Windows Starter 7 won’t let you customize the desktop or colors, but you can legally install the free “Window Blinds” application from Stardock to let you do some customizations including colors and background images.

I’m hunting around for a good price on the 2GB ram upgrade.  I’m thinking about getting 800Mhz gaming memory – but I don’t yet know if this machine will support the higher speed. I notice that web based flash games (like Farm Ville and Cafe World on Facebook) can be quite unresponsive, so I’m hoping the added RAM will solve that.

Netflix runs just fine at full-screen.  NBC online videos are choppy at full screen but run just fine in the regular size view (which still fills up a good portion of the screen.  I haven’t tested out HD YouTube videos on it yet.

The speakers don’t get very loud, but I wouldn’t want a bigger machine just for louder speakers.  The headphone and microphone jacks are conveniently located on the side so they are out of the way.

The brightness of the LED display is REALLY BRIGHT.  I find that most of the time, I run it at a reduced brightness (70%) and don’t loose any detail in the images.

The track-pad is tiny, but very functional.  Lots of great customizing options for it as well.  The Multi-touch gestures are handy too, I’m glad they are included on the gateway machines.

The video on the webcam is nice – not stellar, but very nice – better than the cam built into my larger laptop. The built in microphone was decent as well.  This is great for Skype calls while sitting at my desktop or full-size laptop working.  I can run Skype full screen and still be productive on my other computer!

The keyboard buttons are sized nicely.  I don’t have too much trouble with typing  — the exception being the undersized backspace key.  I would have liked that to be larger and sacrificed the size of the – and = keys instead. I occasionally find myself hitting = instead of backspace. Also, the keys don’t have any traction / friction so you never quite feel like your fingers are in the right spots. Also, the “fn” Functions are in a deep red – which can be a little difficult to read on the black keys.

I’ve read elsewhere about the fan being loud – haven’t experienced that (and don’t expect to). The machine doesn’t run hot either.

The hinges open and close smoothly through the full range of motion.  The machine feels solid yet not too heavy.

Overall this computer is one of the best values out there for this kind of product and I’m happy with my purchase.

My Personality: ENFP

ENFP (Extraversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perception)

You are warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. You see life as full of possibilities. You make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns you see. You want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. You are spontaneous and flexible, and often rely on your ability to improvise and verbal fluency. Famous people with your same ENFP personality include: Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Andy Kaufman, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock, and Robert Downey Jr.

Following My Own Advice

I had an interesting dynamic happening in my world today.  I’ve been feeling a bit down the last few weeks – this week having trouble finding the motivation to do anything at all.  I realize part of it is my frustration with my situation – finances being tight, being in transition in several close relationships, as well as attempting to reorgainze my business.  All of it makes my head spin and rather than facing my pain I turn away from (almost) everything.  The one thing I cling to is getting out of the house to connect with others.  It seems to be the only thing that I’ll do no matter how I’m feeling.

On the other hand, I have a friend who’s experiencing simlilar life circumstances, but who withdraws from people — adding to the isolation and pain.  He’s frustrated with his own progress in his life journey and in me talking to him I was preaching to myself!  I realized that I set my own expectations about how and when things should be progressing – and when it turns out to be more difficult thatn I anticipated, I get discouraged.  I’m trying to stay mindful of what I want to tell others — since it probably is ringing true in my own world as well.

So with that I’m going to keep my head up and keep moving forward… even if it’s slower than a snail’s pace.