6:17 AM A man entered the studio yesterday just as the program was beginning. Turns out it was Ivan Ryan, pastor of the Arnold View Free WIll Baptist Church in Creal Springs, IL, a small town not far from Marion. Though we had never met before, he is on the weekly sermon email list, and we have exchanged several emails. Among other things, he has a friend who pastors in Tupelo, and he knows several people who serve in China with the English Language Institute.  He invited me to visit his church in Creal Springs, which I hope to do someday.

6:10 AM I was interviewed yesterday by Myles and Valerie Holmes. Myles is the pastor of the Niagara International Worship Center in Niagara Falls, Canada. He and Valerie spend a week each month as a guest host on the TCT Live program. Over lunch we talked in depth about the spiritual challenge of ministering in Canada. On one hand, the younger generation is returning to church and showing an unprecedented spiritual interest. On the other hand, the government is both secular and extremely liberal. "You would never hear a politician end his talk with the words, "God bless you," Myles said. Gay marriage has recently become legal in Canada, with the result being that people who write or speak out against homosexuality in a public forum could be prosecuted for committing a hate crime. Myles is not discouraged at all because as he put it, the darker the night, the brighter the light of the gospel shines.

6:01 AM The other guest on yesterday's TV interview was Kent Bottenfield, former major league pitcher with the Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Expos, Rockies and Giants. He retired from baseball because of a shoulder injury after the 2001 season. Now he sings Christian music in concerts around the country. When we chatted before the program, he told me that he doesn't miss all the travel, but he does miss the challenge of being the starting pitcher every four or five days. "In the last few years of my career, it was like pitching when you're ten years old. It wasn't a job. It was just a lot of fun." He has an excellent singing voice, by the way, and performed his own rendition of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at the end of the program.

5:51 AM When I arrived at the Greenville/Spartanburg airport last night, it took a long time for our bags to arrive. I looked around and standing ten feet away was Al Franken, the comedian/political commentator who made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live and now hosts a liberal talk show on Air America. He looked tired but tried to be friendly when people came up to say hello. I overheard someone ask him what he was doing in Greenville. I couldn't hear his complete answer but I heard him laugh and say something about cutting his hair short once but they recognized him anyway. I wondered if he meant he once tried to pose as a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville.

5:48 AM Wasn't there a song about a tumbling tumbleweed? I feel like that this morning. I'm writing this note from my hotel in Spartanburg, SC. Yesterday I did a forty minute TV interview in Marion, IL, then spent most of the day hopping from one plane to another to get here around midnight. This morning I do another interview and then have two plane flights that will take me to Pittsburgh tonight. I've always wanted to visit South Carolina but I won't see much of it today.

5:48 AM Big news about Steve Tanner's 25 Days of Christmas Music.

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.