From Tupelo to Florida to China—and My New Favorite Soft Drink

post date: February 9, 2008
At the moment it is 5:36 AM and I am (mostly) wide awake. In 24 minutes we leave for the Tupelo airport where we will fly to Memphis and then on to Tampa for a week of ministry at Word of Life Florida in Hudson, about 40 minutes north of Tampa. I have lost track of how many times we’ve made this trip, but I know I’ve been speaking at the conference center every year since the early 90s. As far as Word of Life is concerned, this is where my conference ministry began. It happened because a speaker suddenly canceled and I was asked to fill in, and that was possible because Marlene and I have known Tom Phillips, the Director of Word of Life Florida, and his wife Fay since the four of us double-dated back in our college days at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga.
Besides speaking at the conference center, we’re planning on visiting the Florida State Fair in Tampa so we can check out the evangelistic outreach at the Live Prayer Gospel Tent. Yesterday I talked to Lee Fay who said the midway is packed with thousands and thousands of people. It makes for an excellent atmosphere for talking to people. Plus, check out this list of amazing fried things you can buy at the fair.
img_0895Not that I’m going to be eating fried food. Besides working on a low-carb diet (first time ever for me), I’ve discovered a new favorite drink–Coke Vanilla Zero. Folks who know me well know that I love Coke and would drink it five times a day if I could but it’s not that good for you. And I cannot abide Diet Coke. Don’t like it, can’t drink it, and hold it in general disdain. When I saw Coke Zero, I put it in the same category, but I was completely wrong. Coke Zero actually tastes like regular Coke but without the carbs and the calories plus the vanilla version is very tasty with cheese and meat–the heart of the low-carb diet. So that’s been my drink of choice this week.
We’ll be in Florida from today through next Friday when we fly home, arriving in Tupelo at 8:25 PM, giving us time to unpack, wash our clothes, repack, and head for the Memphis airport at 2:30 AM for a 6 AM flight from Memphis to Chicago to Shanghai, China and then on to Nanchang so we can spend a week with Josh and Leah. So this is the first step of a long journey from Tupelo to Florida and on to China. But now that I’ve discovered Coke Vanilla Zero, I’m ready to roll.
That’s the news. Time to head for the airport for the first leg of our journey.
2:36 PM Update. Our first day started with a "God-thing" when we met J. J. Jasper, morning host for American Family Radio’s national broadcast. I’ve known J. J. ever since I starting doing radio interviews in connection with my books 13 years ago. We chatted in the Tupelo airport and then ate breakfast together at the Memphis airport before he caught his flight to Wichita and we headed for Tampa.
We were met at the Tampa airport by a man I simply call Saint Harry. For the last few years he has picked us up at the Tampa airport and driven us to the conference center. He always greets me the same way, "Hello, saint!," which is a perfectly biblical greeting since "saint" is a name for every child of God. Seeing him put a smile on my face and it made me feel like our annual week at Word of Life Florida was getting off to a good start.
PS When we got to our room, we found Diet Coke in the fridge. Notwithstanding my comments above, I drank it and enjoyed it. I still think Coke Vanilla Zero is better.


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Ray Pritchard
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