18 December 2012

A Whiff of Sense

by Frank Turk

I've gotten a few e-mails this past weekend asking about or anticipating my blog post in the week before Christmas about the act of insane violence in Sandy Hook.  Let me say that on Friday, I was dead-set against writing anything about this event for a couple of reasons.  One is that everybody has written about this already, right? Everyone has laid their idiosyncratic viewpoint on the thing and come up with everything from banning guns to handing out free guns to some truism with the word "Gospel" in it.  And of all the things I hope to be as a blogger, being one voice like the others has never been my objective.

Another reason, frankly, was that I am actually tired of blogging.  I have been having a modest conversation with Dan about my ennui, and while he makes a decent point about the things we have accomplished in the last 7-8 years ("we" including Phil and Officer Pecadillo), this isn't 2006 anymore and I'm not in my mid-30's anymore.  So one thing weighing on me is that I have more important things to do, like ministry.

The greatest reason, for better or worse, that I did not want to blog about this, if I can invite you to be invasively-curious, is that I was off on Friday for the first time in months.  I was spending the day at home with my exquisite family, and I wanted nothing to do with anything other than them.  My daughter and I built an amazing gingerbread house out of graham crackers.  We bought Christmas presents which will blow minds.  I ignored work and the world long enough for my wife to enjoy my company AND I also got to watch about 3 hours worth of new Avengers episodes on Netfix with the Boy.

But the news of the shooting kept intruding.  At one point I was walking into my house, and it occurred to me that it was possible that there was a father walking into his house in Connecticut, which he spends his waking hours paying for, where he spends his nights loving the people in it, and now (for him) there would be one of those people gone forever.  There are presents under his ridiculously-merry-and-bright tree for that person who is now gone.  There's a room in this house where that missing person still has his or her stuff, and that person isn't coming back to play with the Legos or the American Girl dolls or the Thomas table or the Ponies, or to need a bed time story prolonged by a glass of water or a few crackers.  As I walked into my house, I could feel the oppressive emptiness that this other fellow in Connecticut was getting sucked into by the lack of one person.  And all he did wrong in this instance, on that day, was what he does right and has been doing right for the last 2200 days or so.  And this, at Christmas, when we think the world will be full of tidings of comfort and joy.  For my part, I wanted nothing to do with insulting or offending that guy, and the other parents like him, because they were the victims who had their human love and human joy murdered.

Let me say this: I doubt a few verses of Silent Night or Oh Come All Ye Faithful will be enough to console that fellow.  He now has to live with Christmas in the real world where a fatherless boy murders his mother, and then other people's children, on a Thursday.

This past week, by way of comparison, RC Sproul Jr. has been celebrating the first anniversary of his wife's death.  "Celebrating" is the right word, however incongruous it is, if you watch him -- because he is in the process of translating his sorrow in loss, through the immeasurable gain his wife Denise has received in leaving this life and coming into the immediate presence of God, into seeing the face of Christ.  You know: I have been rather hard on R.C. Jr. over the last few months as he and I have had very different ideas about political activism and the American citizen's role in creating political justice in this nation.  He's almost exactly my age, and we are two guys who, except for a few details, have enough in common to get on each other's nerves.  But there are empty places in the Sproul home which I cannot imagine and refuse to consider myself because, if I am honest, I am not sure I would present the faith and hope RC does as he faces them.  He looks into death and sees Jesus, and is glad to the measure that he is also at a loss -- for his loss is not swallowed up in death, but in victory over death, and sin, and sickness, and so on.

I realize that this doesn't make a whiff of sense to most people -- other Christians especially.  You know: melancholy memes go around when stuff like this happens.  Christmas is Ruined for someone.  Christmas is Ruined when I lose my job at Christmas.  Christmas is Ruined when I am evicted at Christmas.  Christmas is Ruined when I suffer violent crime at Christmas, or I am diagnosed with terminal death at Christmas, or a beloved member of my very home and heart who sleeps in one of the beds I have provided and whom I feed and cloth not merely out of duty but ought of love and fatherly concern is murdered when he was trying to learn the alphabet.  Christmas is ruined, and for someone like RC to spout his fantastic praises and felicitations speaks more to hypothetical-me about his lack of seriousness about what has just happened rather than to his faith.  He's another Calvinist quack negating real loss and sorrow and claiming they are nothing.

Well, let me suggest something before you go and toss the tree into the fireplace and put the gifts into the compactor at work out of a desperate attempt to crush the small symbols of joy with your rightfully-large burden of sin-sickness and loss-weariness.

It's possible that maybe you could ruin Christmas by making it into a holiday of introspection.  You could make it a time when we reflect on ourselves and who we have become in the last year -- or as you get older, who you have become since you were young and full of expectation that next year's return would be greater than this year's baubles.  That kind of introspection will, as Dickens taught us with Scrooge, make us old and bitter.  That kind of "holiday" will destroy us over time as we become, over time, the people who do what seems right in our own eyes.

It's possible to ruin Christmas, I suppose, by making it into a mere tradition of family reunion.  Many have already done that, and let's face it: it's a bad deal for the people related to us because you have met us, right?  Nevermind that we feel the same toward them -- getting together in those circumstances won't make it any better.  We'd be better off saving the money we'd shell out for such a thing for our retirements as it would turn into real money after 50 or 60 years if we are fortunate enough to get than many white Christmases.

But here's the thing: I'm willing to say, in the shadow of the insanity at Sandy Hook, that you cannot ruin Christmas with the murder of innocents.  You can only make the need for Christmas more obvious.

More tomorrow.


Joel Knight said...

Don't stop blogging.

Don't stop blogging because with beautiful and brilliant posts like the above you minister to us.

James Scott Bell said...

As for blogger ennui, it is well understood. Local, unheralded ministry may actually be God's preferred mode.

A post like this is the hardest type to get right, and I think you did, esp. You can only make the need for Christmas more obvious.

Robert said...

"...you cannot ruin Christmas with the murder of innocents. You can only make the need for Christmas more obvious."

God uses many means to turn hearts to Him. We have an account of Him doing so with Israel in the Old Testament, but for the most part they hardened their hearts and refused to turn to Him.

I pray that this is not the case here (hardening of hearts) and that people don't just get caught up in discussions about mental health and guns. I'm certainly frustrated by people running with the fact that he had Asperger's Syndrome to explain things away. I have two sons, one is autistic and the other has Asperger's. They both understand (to a reasonable extent) their sinful hearts, God's holiness, and their need for a Savior. They know that they can't cleanse themselves of sin and that only God is able to save and sustain them. This is the work of God in their hearts and I'm just blessed to be able to see it and be a tool for God to use in shaping them.

The point is, there is no amount of mental health manuals or gun control policies that would take care of this boy's needs. And now there is a community in Connecticut that needs love and compassion, as well as the Gospel. I had the same type of thoughts about how parents have to deal with the loss of their children at this time of year. What do they do with the gifts? How do they celebrate Christmas? If Christmas is only about family, gifts, and traditions, then it will certainly be a hollow feeling to try to celebrate. Even as a Christian, I'm not sure how I'd handle the situation myself. I only know that by the grace of God, I'd have a loving church family to support me through it.

I'm anxious to read tomorrow to see your conclusion. Thanks for blogging for the edification of the body of Christ.

DJP said...

This post is awesom, if only for the sentence "My daughter and I built an amazing gingerbread house out of graham crackers."

Merrilee Stevenson said...

What Joel said.

Plus, "...being one voice like the others has never been my objective." This is exactly why you must continue on writing, blogging, being heard.

Thanks for your honest and captivating voice.

FX Turk said...


It's Christmas magic.

DJP said...

Just so long as it doesn't extend to my dear wife making peanut brittle out of walnuts.

And I know I can count on anyone who's actually tasted her peanut brittle for an "amen."

DJP said...

Now, having Franked this meta, I'll attempt to Dan it back to topic.

This post is an example of why you must never stop blogging, how yours is a unique and indispensable voice, and how if you stop, the terrorists would win.

I am looking forward to the next, right along with everyone else.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Frank, thank you for being frank with us. I was one of those trying to hurry into the fray with solutions and arguments, not stopping for a minute to realize that some dad is walking into his home with a little someone missing and acting in that knowledge. My heart is broken over that.

Zorro! said...

Thanks DJP for highlighting that fact...gingerbread houses will never be the same, or I may need to learn to work with a new medium.

Mr. Turk, this was a word aptly spoken. Whether you continue in blogging or not, I have appreciated you, and all of Team Pyro, in helping me better understand the relevant implications and applications of scripture. And I have been encouraged very much, in being a disciple.

DJP said...

Yes, Web, that is classically Frank writing, very evocative.

Speaking from a child's perspective, my father died New Year's morning, 1993. The worst moment in a series of awful moments was when my mother, that morning, unwrapped all his presents under the Christmas tree, so they could be returned.

My point isn't a point about my mother; this was part of her way of dealing with the death of her husband of over fifty years.

The point was it took the out-there fact that I knew he'd died, intellectually, and made it an unwelcome, hideous, right-here fact—that my Dad was gone for good, that he was out of my life here on earth, that I'd never see him again in this life.

That legacy of what happened in Genesis 3 is what these parents are having to deal with.

jbboren said...

"Another reason, frankly, was that I am actually tired of blogging. I have been having a modest conversation with Dan about my ennui, and while he makes a decent point about the things we have accomplished in the last 7-8 years ("we" including Phil and Officer Pecadillo), this isn't 2006 anymore and I'm not in my mid-30's anymore. So one thing weighing on me is that I have more important things to do, like ministry."

Don't stop writing. Just stop writing everyday. You have too much to say (that needs to be read and heard). After all, blogging is a ministry.

In the old days, the blogurus said you had to write everyday or you'd lose your audience. I don't think that's true anymore. With most regular blog-readers using some type of google-reader-type browser, they'll get your posts when you write them. I chose to stop writing everyday, and start writing when I actually have something to say that's worth reading. I have not lost anything of value, and I've gained back some of that I'm-not-30-anymore stuff...whatever it might be.

Don't stop writing.

Homekeptheart said...

mr. turk,

i am a long time reader - this is my first time commenting.

i live in danbury ct and my church is in newtown. at times it is physically hard to be here because the grief is palpable in the air and my human frailty wants to flee.

after the election i listened to Jonh Macarthur say that he felt that this was a good indication that God's wasn't going to withhold his judgement on our nation any longer. and ever since then it feels like we are in freefall. not that this is something new manifesting itself, but that it is something that God Himself has been holding back and He is removing His hand of protection on a nation that has loudly rejected him. I felt like we were entering a very dark time as a nation - now darkness seems to be crouching right outside my front door.

please don't stop writing. your words of hope and peace that ONLY comes from the gospel message of Jesus Christ are actually needed now more than ever.

this post has given me great comfort and i thank you for that. i have 6 children and i have been struggling to figure out a way to make Christmas the special, wonderous time for them that i want it to be when all i want to do is sit in a chair and weep.

yesterday i plugged in some garland lights and my 2 year old squeeled with delight. this post was good for me to read for your last line. It has given me a renewed vision to teach my children (and perhaps re-teach myself) to focus on what makes Christmas a celebration. Everything must point to Christ. He is the light in the darkness. He is our hope. He is the Prince of Peace.

Please pray that God can use me in any way to reflect his light to my aching community.

in Christ alone - mrs. ente

Tim Bushong said...

Great post, Frank. If anything, Christmas should be the time where empathy and sympathy for others is paramount, and the acknowledgment that the world isn't "me-centric", demonstrated by love for the unlovely and broken.

Bill said...

Frank, upon retiring from my first profession I told the good folks in attendance that they must prioritize their lives. You deal with God forever, family for life, and job for 20 years. If you find anything that infringes upon the first two, you do well to reeevalute. While many will miss you if you leave, others may miss you more if you stay.

Mrs. Pecadillo said...

I absolutely loved this Frank, an I am so thankful for your precious family who can bring you so much comfort. Thanks for posting this!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Good post, Frank. I really enjoyed it, I'm not sure why, but I did.
Don't stop blogging unless you are convinced it isn't a ministry as well.

Anonymous said...

I'll add my voice to the growing number.

Stop, if you must. But don't stop because you feel like you've nothing left to say.
Your posts have blessed me more than any other blogs I've ever read, and I look forward to them, however often or rare they are.

You offer a voice of thinking sanity, which I need.

Having said that, I won't languish spiritually if you stop, I'll just miss your writing.

Kerry James Allen said...

"God will not let His people work for nothing; and though the reward is not of debt, but of grace, yet verily there is a reward for the righteous." CHS

Well said, Frank.

One Star Hater said...

Don't leave, Frank.

I have so much hate to give.

DJP said...

Well then, there y'go.

BFR said...

Mr. Turk,

You are not just writing into a void; you are writing to us. Even though there are many "blogs", the premise that what you, Pastor Phillips and others provide is something of lesser value because of the format is a false paradigm.

Regarding the sorrow; it is inescapable as part of this world (I am not saying anything you do not know), but we do not grieve as those without hope. The difficult part is watching those without hope grieve.

I am quite a bit older than you (just fact, not boasting) and because of the vocation that God has bestowed, I have had the opportunity to witness quite a bit of extreme and tragic events. I was attracted to your screen name of centurion because of the honor that Jesus' paid to one centurion's confession: Jesus equated an overt admission that understanding the chain-of-command and subordination to authority as faith; the centurion "got it" when "all of Israel" stood around relatively slack-jawed.

These events, and as they accelerate, are tough times. It is not just ennui; it is a type of war weariness.

Mr. Centurion, if I might call upon your honor, dig in, hoist the standard, and drive on. That is what you are doing: press on. Younger men need words like yours, and older men need to be reinvigorated to stay in the fight for His Majesty's service

Stay in the fight.

R.C. said...

Heartily concur with the chorus both who pray you will continue and agree that your family is your first flock. Grateful also for the kind expression about my own experience. Took my own flock today to visit that spot from which Denise and Shannon's incorruptible bodies will rise when our Lord returns. Also postponed commenting on Newtown so that I could post this-http://rcsprouljr.com/blog/ask-rc/rc-year-passing-wife-learned/, a piece on a few of the things I have learned in the year since Denise passed on. Hope it's okay to link to it here. If not, however, I understand. God bless you and your family brother

FX Turk said...


PD said...

Stop blogging?? Ummm,that's not going to happen.
There is too much crap being spewed out there. We need you.

Good Day Sir!

Rachael Starke said...


I'll see your ennui and raise you a whole lotta discouragement and frustration over the whole blogging thing (wait, is it okay to use a gambling metaphor here? :) ). I came to one realization of many a few months back that too often I read Christian blogs as a sheer hobby. IOW, I'll read something some dear saint means to be genuinely convicting/encouraging, and my only response is "meh".

But the problem is I can almost never do that with your posts. You have written things about sticking with the church, about the meaning of marriage, and the meaning of Christmas that I flat out can't not do something about. It's not a coincidence that in a very difficult year in all three of those aforementioned areas, something you've written has been tattooed on my heart and mind so that, when tempted in a non-Godward direction, your words have been the ones to reorient me.

Whatever decisions you make in the future about writing, know that your past words, including these, have borne much, much fruit in my life in ways that none of the innumerable gentle and sweet Mommy blogs ever could. And this far from gentle and sweet Mom is thankful.

Rachael Starke said...

And to the point of the post, another amen to that last sentence. Perhaps one of the "good" things to come from this is a return to seeing Christmas as a time of melancholy joy, rather than mindless joy.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

If you made the house out of graham crackers, then how does it qualify to be called a gingerbread house?

Pam said...

Frank and Dan,
Your writing is a great blessing to me and although that sounds trite, I sincerely mean it- both of you write with profound thoughts, truth, and some humor along with it all. Thank you both.

FX Turk said...


Christmas Magic

FX Turk said...

All --

The point of this post is not the subtly say I am quitting blogging. Think of all the wrong people who would love that - even Hitler would be pleased.

We can't have that.

Esther Jones said...


My thought while reading your article was that you had totally pegged the bereaved father walking into his home. I would genuinely miss you if you ceased blogging entirely. But I would rather miss you a little than for your family to miss you a lot.

Perhaps R.C. Sproul Jr.s blog post mentions some of this, but one thing I've learned as a widow: regret sucks. And you don't want to go there. You won't have any choice once someone you love is gone: you'll have regret one way or another. But if you have to stop blogging to make sure you don't have as much regret, then do. stop. blogging.

Research has been done which shows that very few people on their deathbeds, when asked what they wish they could change from their past, answer "I wish I had worked more".

God bless you whatever you decide. And thank you for this post. Christmas is not ruined for me. It wasn't ruined three months after my husband's sudden death. It was only more, oh, ever so much more precious.

CCinTn said...

My cat told me that God told her that He was calling Frank to leave blogging and pursue an ecumenical ministry sharing his near death experience. Seems that he travelled to the 4th heaven after a bad experience with a Thanksgiving turkey and got to speak with Moses, Jesus and Ghandi. Now he's been sent back to spread the good news of God's unconditional love.

Seriously though, great post. I had not heard of RC Jr's remarks. What a contrast of worldviews when it comes to experiencing trajedy.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Best thing written on this blog ever.