Review: Joy in the Parish

Joy in the Parish
by Charles T. Knippel, Ph. D.

Churches so often seen like joyless places. Ministers go about their ministry without joy. Is that what God intended? Are we meant to worship in places of joy? If so, what happened, and how can we reclaim joy? In this slim volume, Dr. Charles Knippel uses his years as a pastor and seminary professor to show what was meant to be and how to achieve it.

Knippel wrote a book that’s a useful handbook, but entirely too short. It feels a bit like a good abstract of a longer work; there’s no examples of what he’s talking about and no illustrations to show what he means.

However, despite its brief nature, there is a lot packed into these very short chapters. (more…)

Wedding Whine

Wedding Day

I’m at a wedding. I just married two people. Pretty awesome. The bride’s shone, though she didn’t walk down the aisle with the dress she had last night. Something happened with the fitting, and she had to find a replacement today. Still, her smile was enough to outshine the sun.

Speaking of the sun, it was an outdoor wedding. Those are chancy; the weather can do so many things. But it was mid-seventies, bright sun, and the breeze was a touch strong but otherwise perfect.

I could tell the bride was a little stressed. She’s like me; an introvert. My wedding day was amazing because it started my marriage, but man, was I done by the end of it! She looked about the same. Happy. Stressed. Done. Happy.

Most everyone is happy now, though. Kids are running around screaming and giggling. Adults are chuckling and chatting. Food is being eaten. Music blares. Everyone is happy.

Except my son. (more…)

Shouldn’t I be exhausted all the time?

The kids had spring break this week, so I took some time off to spend with them. We wandered around a state park. Played some new-to-them board games. It was a great, laid-back week. I felt a little guilty that I wasn’t putting my time into the ministry.

And then out of curiosity I totaled my ministry time for the week.


And I feel rested after this week. After 56 hours of ministry time and spending a lot more time with the family than normal.

…um… (more…)

But when ends the week…

The week began in court. The judge talked about a previous case similar to this one that ended in a suicide. “I don’t want a repeat here. You’re not getting out until you’re in someone else’s custody.”

The week ends with a prospect telling me, “I used to go to that church. And then I stopped. For reasons. But you… God used you. I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you.” She’s halfway through membership classes.

The week began in despair. He was supposed to get out. But now, because of some other case, he had to wait two additional days before he got out. He panicked. His mom wept.

The week ends in a bed. He’s out now, yes, but he still has no home. Every night since he got out on Wednesday he’s been in a homeless shelter. I’ve dropped him off there almost every night. He’s spent days with me. The church has put him to work to get some money to him until he gets a job – and already he’s applied in many places while also attending his necessary classes. It’s not where he wants to be… its’ not where I’d like him, but he’s safe and warm. (more…)

A Night to Dance

No one has ever seen that tree before.

I arrived in the church’s parking lot, to where I park the car to get to my house every evening. My shirt is stained with my sweat; it was a good workout at the gym tonight. Puffy white flurries skitter across the night sky, darting through streetlamps and wafting onto the windshield.

I’m exhausted, but I can’t go in and shower. Not on a night like tonight. The air doesn’t bite. The wind is still. The flecks of white in the darkness enchant.

I don’t need to go inside. Not yet. This… this is home. This is a blessing designed for me and only for me. No one has ever served this congregation before. (more…)

To Stand in Joy Beside

“Good morning. Welcome to St. Luke’s.

“Usually I say ‘Welcome home’ here, because we’re a family. We care for one another quite a bit. We’re tight-knit. Last night, one of our family members went Home to be with the Lord forever. Melissa Schwartz was taken to heaven at about seven last night.

“It’s ok for us to cry and to mourn. The Bible tells us not to mourn like other men who have no hope, but it never tells us not to mourn. Don’t cry for Melissa, though. She’s happy. She’s celebrating. She’s partying. Cry for yourself. Admit that you miss her. That’s ok.

“To start our worship today, we’re going to sing a song in her honor. Please turn to hymn 152, and we’ll sing verses one through four.”

And then I walked over to the piano at the front of church… and I played an introduction to “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” that I created. It’s a fanfare, a bombastic piece. On my last note, the organ joined in, and we played together while the congregation sang. I’m told that more than one congregation member was watching the piano – apparently it was literally rocking under the force of my playing.

For Melissa. (more…)

So, Bipolar Weeks are the New Normal, Huh?

Another week of up and down. I have a feeling this will be the standard. Truth to tell, it’s been normal for a while; I’ve just usually focused on one thing or another. But then again, when you live in the extremes of God’s grace, that seems to be simply part of the landscape.

Think about the men who lived in the Bible. Elijah never seemed to have a blah day. It was either huge celebration or “kill me now.” Peter was a fisherman, but once he followed Christ, he didn’t seem to have much emotional downtime. And Paul? Man, if you look at his letters, you see a man who knows passion for each and every subject.

And why should that surprise me? Let’s see here: God has extreme love. It’s not a love that’s ever mediocre. Michael Card called it the “Raging love of the Lamb.” It’s a love that was so extreme that he set aside everything he was, taking on human flesh, to become one of us. That’s not something you do because you’re bored one day. It’s not something you do because you felt like it with a “meh.” This is something you do at the extreme. (more…)

Bad Cookies

See that cookie? That’s not how a cookie is supposed to look.

It’s not good to rage before the sermon at something totally unconnected to the sermon.

Sunday was cookie day. Last year, we hosted a teen activity where the teens baked cookies, eating as much as they wanted, and then delivered platters of those cookies to shut-ins. It was a huge success and several teens requested that we repeat the activity this year.

Yay for events requested by the teens we can actually do and do well!

So, we made announcements. We personally contacted the teens in person, by text, and on Facebook. We spoke especially to those who had requested to be there. We spoke to those who were too young; we decided this year, given the “all ages” aspect of baking, to have the teens host the entire congregation. Anyone who wanted: come and bake with us! It’ll be fun!

We got “Yes I’ll be there’s” from seven teens. I expected about five to show; two I knew would be likely no-shows, and probably one more. I got “Yes’es!” from two prospect teens that hadn’t been here for previous events.

Now, those of you in teen ministry: You know that a “yes!” doesn’t really mean a whole lot. You know that you can’t really count on anyone coming to anything; value every person who shows, because it means they’ve voted you more important than sitting and doing nothing – which is actually a pretty big deal.

Still, I expected four or five teens to show. I knew them; I thought they’d come.

Sunday morning… two teens in church. (more…)

Sarah holds laughter in her arms.

Genesis 21:1-7             Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”


God keeps his promises… right? (Part 6) (more…)