I sit here in a new (to me) coffee shop in downtown Hickory working on homework  across from a friend, Chip. Whenever we get together to do our homework together, we know from the outset that we will not just do the homework that we have been assigned, but we will catchup and talk without the guarded walls that most of the time we, like everyone else, have. We jump in and share our hearts. Today, it seems that I have been the one who has dominated the sharing of my heart. Through our talks and his probing questions, I have realized  the amounts of defensive walls that have been built around my heart and consequentially, me. It is weird because I used to pride myself on not having those walls. I was the guy who so arrogantly (and I see now, harshly) told folks that they should drop the guard and be open. I was the guy who thought that he was the great relater.

As I thought about it, I have been in a new place for about seven months now and I have not really opened myself. I have lived surface with people. I have not trusted any new people with "me". I am still afraid. "To allow others in would be to open yourself to being hurt and the possibility of you hurting the people who you love", I think to myself.

It is interesting how this can occur without ever really realizing it, consciously. I have become the person that I never thought that I would: The Guarded Guy. I know that this is not a healthy place to live. I think that there is wisdom in not putting yourself out there for everyone to have the opportunity to hurt you. However, to guard off yourself is not healthy either. I am not sure that I am loving That Guy. In fact, I know that I do not love That Guy. He sucks and he's gotta go!

 Side Note: My buddy just left and we hugged goodbye. This is not abnormal for me to hug my friends goodbye, no matter the gender, but I am now convinced that the dude sitting at the table across from me thinks that I am gay...not that there's anything wroooong with that (Seinfeld reference, lol)

I know that I want to be devoted and committed wherever I am. I know that I want to be known and to know. I know that I do not want to be "that guy" and by God's grace I will not.

Today, I choose to drop the defenses. Today, I choose to live loved. Today, I choose to forgive and live forgiven. Today.
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love." -Washington Irving

I have deep memories of me being a young boy who was deeply in touch with his emotions. Sadness. Joy. Fear. Anger. Empathy. They were (and continue to be) always there, just below the surface, waiting for a reason to be unleashed. I recall when I was in middle school, feeling like a boy being this in touch with his emotions was not the best. As some would say today, it isn't a good look. Afterall, boys are made of  "Frogs and snails and puppy dogs' tails". Boys were not supposed to be sensitive and they were really not supposed to cry. However, as I have gotten older, I have learned to accept this soft side of me.

A good friend of mine had an incident where someone disrespected his wife royally. He sprang from his chair and ran outside and confronted the dude and like a good friend I was in hot pursuit. His wife said, "Ray you have to just stand there. Do not talk and do not smile. Because once you talk and they see that smile, you will cease to be intimidating." I must admit that she was right. God made me to be this guy who loves people, hates violence and is crazy passionate. Now, I do not see my ability to cry empathetically as a flaw but rather a virtue. The world is filled with people who will go out of their way to be rude. I think that the world needs more folks who can shed a tear and by doing say, "I feel you."

Now, don't hear what I am not saying. When there is injustice, the hairs on my neck will raise and I am ready to stand for justice. If you cross my wife, then my primal self will rise up. Because, after all, I was born that way, too. I was born to stand for justice and I was born to protect my wife and family.

There is sacredness in tears and there is sacredness in standing for justice.

The events of the last few months have led me to question a lot of things. I concede that I often will pose questions and take positions that I know, from the outset, will be controversial and lightning rods. I do this, not merely to be controversial or contrary, but because I believe the tension is good; the tension evokes thought; critical thinking.

For a class that I am taking, I had to define critical thinking. Critical thinking is thinking rationally, logically and with fresh eyes. This has a place, a very prominent place within Christendom. When we shut down thought and differing perspectives, we become stagnant and religious. Whenever the Church has required for group think we have gone down the wrong track (my mind goes instantly to the Crusades and Reformation).

So, in light of Rob Bell, the debate of the death of Osama bin Laden, and the continuing debate over homosexuals, I think that these tensions are good and godly. May we never become so comfortable and sure of our current positions that we are unable to have the discourse. May we always celebrate the tensions and live out the love. In the end, God will reveal--once and for all--the truth. I believe that we will all be surprised, in the end, that things are rarely as cut and dry as we believe.
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. ***Edited May 3, 2011 to reflect the actual quote of Dr. King, the initial part was misquoted*** "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" —Martin Luther King Jr.

Upon further reflection of the past day's events I am more convinved than ever that my initial response to the death of Osama Bin Laden was primal and carnal. Dr. King, a true ambassador of Christ--the prince of peace, speaks still from the grave. May I live into this; may I always represent Christ. These days have given me further needless evidence that I am still in process; becoming more like Jesus.

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I imagine, as was true on 9/11, I will always remember where I was when I found out that Osama Bin Laden was killed. I must tell you that at the first I was swept up in such jubilation. Such nationalism. After all, Osama Bin Laden, the man who orchestrated  the most vicious attack against this nation. I was relieved. My annoyance that Celebrity Apprentice was being preempted by "some speech from the President" was quickly swallowed by pride. Pride in my President. Pride in the military folks who executed the plan to kill Osama. Pride in my fellow Americans. It is in times like these--times of great national jubilation--that it is good to gain perspective from scripture. My carnal self jumps within. My carnal self says, "Hell yes! Osama is dead!" I am happy when justice flows like a mighty river. I am happy when the cries of those innocents seemingly is answered. But, deep within me there is this nagging questions that begs an answer: "Jesus, what do you guys think?" I find myself asking the question, "Am I capitulating--during this time of nationalism--to situational ethics? 

In searching our souls, it is good to also search scripture.

Proverbs 24:17 warns me, in this time, "Don't rejoice when your enemies [Osama] fall; don't be happy when they stumble."

Ezekiel 18:32 tells me "I don't want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!"

Then again in Ezekiel 33:11 I read, "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?"

I then read in Isaiah 55:7, "Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously."

Exodus 33:19 then brings it home for me, as I read, "The LORD replied, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose."

As I read each of these scriptures, some of the excitement of my carnal flesh is brought into reality. I am checked that I am not God. I am not judge; God is. Though I am convinced that justice demanded this outcome, I should not rejoice. Though decency demanded that Osama Bin Laden--the perpetrator of these atrocities--had to give an account here on earth for his crimes and dastardly actions, I need not rejoice nor gloat. I need only to say, thank you Jesus, that for the likes of Bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin and Ray McKinnon you hung on that cursed cross. For the likes of me, you declared it finished.

May I live into the reflection of my savior. May I never get caught up in nationalism to the detriment of my allegiance to the call of Christ.
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