A couple of weeks ago we had our annual congregational meeting. This is the one time each year that the whole congregation gets together (or at least those who care enough to show up) and pass a budget, elect council, etc., and whatever else they want to talk about. This year, more so than most, the conversation got angry, petty, and pointed. It was by all accounts a real downer and did the family of God no credit. I came through fine but clearly distressed that such was the undertone of the body. The following week was an upper though. Lots of folks stopped by and said how much they appreciated my leadership, preaching, and the rest. The haters were being dealt with in a loving way, a way they themselves had not acted, which of course is exactly the way the Church ought to act and too rarely does. Then came a special gift from God last Sunday. My associate pastor was on a two week vacation to Texas for Thanksgiving and had arranged a Baptism for me during his absence. It took place in the late service on Sunday and was a family I knew somewhat. This was their third child in a short time and while I had not done either of the other children's Baptisms I knew the full counseling load had been done each time and because of that my associate had waived it in this case. The reason it was being done on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend was that one of the sponsers was a young Marine corporal who was on leave because he was about to ship out for Afghanistan. (He is home less than a year from a tour in Iraq!). OK, did the Baptism, during the service and all went very well. After the service as I was shaking hands I sent my sacristant over to tell them I would be there for the pictures in a moment. He came back to tell me the Marine wanted to talk about being Baptized! This surprised me because one of our general "rules" is, no one gets to be a Baptismal sponser without themself already being Baptized. OK, I went over. After posing for everyone's camera, I asked the young Marine (in full blue dress uniform!) if I understood correctly that he wished to be Baptized? He said, "Yes". He had seen so much and all that made sense was a trust in God. He had tried a couple of times but had been unable to get it all arranged. I asked him if he had a half hour right then? His eyes lite up and he assured me he did. I asked the family to be seated and went through the service with Jason (the Marine) just as we had done for his cousin's baby, this time explaining each item and its nuances. I know we didn't have time for a full instruction period but got his word that when he came back from this tour he would do the work we were skipping. Then with his family and a few of my volunteer staff as the "congregation" I Baptized this young man and welcomed him into the family of God! I don't think there was a dry eye in the place especially mine and Jason's! After all the pettiness of the week before, God had given me a special gift to remind me of what we are about and the ministry He had called me to perform. I was going to post this last week but couldn't find the time to type thius long a piece and besides my elbows are still unhappy with me. They hurt now but its worth it! Blessing folks and thank you for letting me share this story!