Is Something Wrong in Grayson?

Last night, my family went to eat at Zaxby’s with a couple of the students from my church. We were enjoying our food when the restaurant inexplicably began to fill up with teenagers – some of whom I was familiar with. In fact, I got up and hugged one of the kids because I taught her last semester at the Grayson Christian Learning Center. We chatted briefly about our respective summers, and then separated, but I remember walking out of Zaxby’s and looking at all those kids and thinking:

“Man, I hope none of them go do anything stupid.”

So imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I woke up and saw the Patch headline, “Teenager Dies in Grayson Crash.” I quickly read the article, and realizing that the names of the students involved had not yet been released, I hit Twitter and Facebook to see if I could find anything out.

Within five minutes, I had three different responders. The names they provided were the same. Within twenty minutes, I had seven responses.

Same names each time.


I don’t know the students involved; and while I grieve for their families, there was a sense of relief that it wasn’t any of the kids I’m close to. That sounds callous, I know, but it’s what I felt. I was greatly relieved to know that neither of the two students who were injured were drinking or otherwise impaired, and I hope that that the law deals with the intoxicated driver quickly and fairly. As the police issue their findings and the families and friends involved begin to pick up the pieces, that’s all that’s left.

Or is it?

I know that DUI fatalities are random things, that they are the result of poor choices and fate. I also know that car crashes period are constants in our traffic-riddled metropolis, and it is unreasonable to expect a low number of incidents involoving teenaged drivers. Sheer statistics makes such occurances highly likely.

But I also know that the closer I become to some of our younger generation, the more keenly I am aware that a pervasive and permissive culture exists. I see it in the number of kids who are smoking weed. I see it in the number of kids who are drinking. I see it in the number of kids who are casual about sex. And it concerns me.

I’m not advocating a lockdown, or calling for a return to Puritan values (that would be dumb), but I am asking if our community is turning a blind eye to a growing trend within our youth – an increasingly cavalier attitude characterized by the acronym “YOLO”: You Only Live Once. The idea being that it’s okay to do things that you know are dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised, because, hey – you only live once.

Nevermind that by doing the aforementioned dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised thing, you may not live that long.

I’m guilty of promoting it. Looking back now, I’m sure that some of my younger charges have heard tales of my collegaite stupidity and thought, “He turned out okay. So will I.” But the truth of the matter is I didn’t turn out okay. I came through my period of rebellion with scars, some of which still run deep. I came out okay despite my stupid behavior, not because of it.

I’ll grant that what’s going on in our schools is nothing new. Kids have been experimenting with drugs and booze and sex and who knows what else for as long as most folks can remember. But what has changed is their perception of those things: once upon a time, it was If we do this and get caught, we’re gonna be in trouble. Now, it seems to be If we do this, it’ll be fun.

Suddenly, there’s no fear of consequences. In fact, there’s no fear of much of anything.

Suddenly, I find myself at a loss as to where we even begin to change this subtle undercurrent, this riptide of laissez faire. And it leaves me asking:

Is something wrong in Grayson?

I know I’m going to take some shots over this, but I think maybe it’s time we took a long collective look in the mirror. Your thoughts are welcomed below.

Coming To Grips

Karl Turner, with his wife, Marsha and their two children. Pray for them, please.

This won’t be a long post, as I’ve really not that much to say. I’ve spent the majority of the day marveling at the amount of traffic on the blog, almost all of it related to the death of Karl Turner.

There have been over 380 hits on the homepage and the blog post about Karl, most all of them connected to the 298 variants of “Karl Turner” entered into Google. People have been looking for information about the accident, about the funeral, and maybe about how to make sense of it all. In short, people are still coming to grips with Karl’s death.

I know the feeling.

I will drive out to Marietta tomorrow afternoon for the 2:00 visitation at Carmichael Funeral Home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out that way. Despite the time and distance, there’s still a love for the people of Elizabeth Baptist Church, the place where I met and got to know Karl and his family. And while these are not the circumstances under which I would ever hope to see people again, the fact is that sometimes tragedy is the only that can cut through the busyness of our lives and force us to take stock; to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is God’s megaphone for rousing a deaf world.

After yesterday, there are a lot of people wide awake, and I know God is speaking.

May we listen. May He be merciful.

You Just Never Know (Updated With Funeral Arrangments)

We went shoe shopping tonight, but that doesn’t really matter. I tell you that only to give you the context for what follows. When we got home, I was tired, irritated and just not feeling very well. As I mentioned in my earlier blog today, I’ve been re-visiting some old memories in an effort to revise and release a memoir on my daughter, Ruthanne, and it’s been a bit tougher than I anticipated. It got tougher still when I checked Facebook once I got home.

I had a message from a friend of mine, Tim, who is a youth pastor in Alabama. We both served at the same church in 1998-1999, me as the youth minister, he as children’s. Tim is a good man, a good husband and a good father. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a message from him.

Then the pleasantness went away.

Jason, don’t know if you’ve heard yet or not, but Karl Turner was killed today. Google crane accident atlanta.

The wind went out of me. I called Rachel over and read the message to her.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “That just gave me chills.”

I Googled exactly what Tim said, and sure enough, there were plenty of articles about an accident today in Atlanta, where two workers were killed after a forty foot fall from a 80-ft. tall bucket lift. I went through three different links before I found what I was looking for on

The men, Rigoberto Lopez, 29, and Karlos Turner, 42, were working in what was described by emergency workers as an 80-foot lift. The lift was on Dallas Street off the 500 block of Glen Iris Drive when it fell over at about 1 p.m., officials at the scene said.

The men died from the fall…

I don’t know Rigoberto Lopez. I knew Karl Turner. I won’t pretend that we were best friends, but Karl was the worship leader at the same church where Tim and I served together. He was a good man. He was a good father. He was kind, and generous, and loved to laugh. Mostly, when I think of Karl, I just think about his humility. He wasn’t a braggart. He wasn’t brash. He was just a good man.

And now he’s gone.

I spoke to my students last night about death, how it’s the inescapable destination for all of us. We talked about the fact that death isn’t something to be taken lightly, and that even teenagers need to think about it at least on some level, because it will touch us all in some way. I told them that sometimes I feel as though I’m too familiar with it, because it seems like a month never goes by without my learning of someone passing away.

I believe it even more now.

Tonight, in Dallas, Georgia, a wife, a daughter, and a son are trying to comprehend the unfathomable: that their beloved husband and father is gone. If you have a moment, please take some time to pray for them – for tonight and the days ahead. And while you’re at it, pray for all of us, because you just never know.

You really just never know.

**Update: The arrangements for Karl‘s funeral and visitation have been set. Visitation will be at Carmichael Funeral Home on Saturday, December 3, from 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM. The funeral will be held at Karl’s home church, Elizabeth Baptist, at 2 PM on Sunday, December 4.**