We post of lot of negative stuff on this board. I guess it is the nature of the beast. I thought I would post something positive and see if there is any response. I may sound like I am bragging, but please don't make that assumption. As we draw to the close of another year, most of us can site many negative things that have occurred in our ministries this year. It hasn't always been easy. For me, I went through some rough times in recent months...times that were spearheaded by a deacon who has been "after me" for four or five years. He is relentless. He loses battle after battle, but he continues to spew his venom. Fortunately, his colors are beginning to show and his influence is waning. There have been times I wanted to throw in the towel, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. It's hard to leave a place after investing thirteen years of your life in it. The sticktuitiveness paid off. This is the joyful part of ministry...to go through storms and survive to see the sun break through. We are not a large church by any stretch of the imagination...about 275 people who are active...200 of them on a weekly basis. Only the Lord knows where the other 400 are. lol. Located in a rural county, our county is not experiencing an influx of new people. Yet there are a lot of unreached lost people all around us. One of the joys of recent months is that we have had 21 additions to the church since mid-August. Twelve of those were saved and added to the church by baptism. The other nine transferred their membership from out-of-town churches. If you are going to have transfer growth, that is the best way to have it...imho. Another joy was experienced last Sunday when the church had Pastor/Staff Appreciation Day. Each of us was given a very generous love offering by the church, along with many verbal accolades. The budget preparation was a struggle this year. Some of the members of the finance team are dollars and cents people who have no clue about how our great God can give us an abundance in spite of what Wall Street is doing. Finally, the team came to an agreement to increase our budget by 6.7% in 2009. The staff was given generous raises. We expected nothing. Another act that brought me a lot of joy...not necessarily because of the act itself...but the motivation of the act. For the past nine years the church has leased a new car for me every three years. Since the lease on the most recent car is about to end, it was time to go through the process again. God has given me an excellent, spiritual young business man to chair the finance team. He stepped up to the plate and led in the decision to purchase...not lease...a new car for me. Actually, it is the church's car, but it is provided for me to use. I picked it up today...a Ford Escape LTD. It is fully loaded with everything but the kitchen sink. I figure it is my last car as the pastor of this church, since I plan to retire from the pastorate about the time the car is paid for. lol. Because of a catostrophic illness my wife has recently contracted, this is going to be a different Christmas for us in many ways. This afternoon one of my young deacons called and told me that some of the deacons have been talking about how my needs must be greater now that my wife is not working. He said the deacons wanted to stay on top of my needs and see that they were met. That brought a lot of joy to my heart. Things like these tend to soften the blows of the past battles and are a reflection of the joys of ministry.