Martin's Fall Tour
Greetings, everyone. This is
not an on-going blog, but an account of my ZenderTour of 2007. Enjoy the
adventure with me and meet all the wonderful people I met. Thanks to everyone
who made the inaugural 2007 Tour one of the highlights of my life.
September 1st, 2007
The trip started poorly; I was so
tired before leaving. I worked for three weeks cutting the film, Martin
Zender Goes to Chicago, with my son. We had one technical hassle after
another, first in the cutting, then in the reproducing. I got about five hours
of sleep each of the last three nights before leaving.
Leaving home was tough. It is
always hard for me to take the first step of a thousand-mile trip. (In this
case, 5,500 miles.) I was leaving my family for a month; I'd never left them
for that long. How do you do it? You just go through the motions, that's how.
One of your sons aims the camera, everybody smiles, and away you go. You shed
the tear driving up Rome Road.
I had to drive 16 miles out of my
way to pick up allergy medicine that, when I got to the doctor's office (it was
closed, and the medicine was supposed to be in a drop box) wasn't there. I said
some choice words, named some Supreme Beings, and got back in my car to call
upon happy thoughts, none of which could be located; that's the way it is with
exhaustion. Now I'd have to have the allergy stuff shipped to me somewhere on
I'd given a copy of the film I'd
just made to my mother-in-law (behind every successful man is a surprised
mother-in-law), who is in the film and called me on my cell phone to say that
it didn't work on her machine. Then Dan Sheridan called from Chicago (he's a
main character in the film), and he said that it didn't work on his machine. I
did not realize at the time that these would be the only two out of sixty
copies of the film I distributed that would fail on less-than-serviceable
players. So I naturally thought that something was wrong with my entire
I had sent copies of the film
ahead to everyone on the tour. All that work, going to Chicago, doing the radio
show, spending $1,500 on reproduction equipment, $600 on copyright-free music,
three weeks in cutting, a week of technical torture trying to produce it–all
for naught. Glorious!
I came to grips with it, but it
took about 50 miles. Down went the pride again. Always the pride. Ask God what
is the first thing in humanity that needs to go, and He invariably answers,
"The pride." Flattened of soul, I continued along the Ohio turnpike.
So that's how God started the trip, and that's what made it an enterprise of
unprecedented grace and blessing; I was finished before I started.
Arrival in Pittsburgh
Before I even got out of Ohio, I
unrolled my sleeping pad at a park and tried to take a nap. Two hours on the
road, and already I was prostrate beneath a tree. This did not seem to me to be
a very good beginning to the trip. But if I could sleep for even a minute,
(sixty literal seconds) I knew I would feel better. Sometimes all it takes is
thirty seconds. But I was so keyed up that I wondered if I could manage it. I
may have been unconscious on this particular afternoon for a quarter of a
I was on the road again, minutely
I drove into Pittsburgh at rush
hour. The streets were narrow and the home of Nick and Melissa Costa was hidden
somewhere in this haystack known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am a
navigational idiot, handicapped since birth with an inability to locate things,
people, even cities. After a few wrong turns and turn-arounds, I finally
located my home away from home for the night, and was greeted by a happy couple
and two young children.
I wish I could have been better
company for the Costas. They were very nice people. I think they knew I was off
my game, so they pampered me. I turned on all the charm I could muster, which
was enough to keep me awake and my hosts mildly amused. Or maybe bemused. The
said later that they were blessed. Praise God, I was, too.
Two other couples were supposed
to come to the Costa home for a meeting. I have never been happier to have no
one show up. I sat in the living room talking with Nick and Melissa as the 8
o'clock hour came and went. Each glance at the clock brought me a new thrill:
the company wasn't coming.
Here is what I wrote at the time:
My first stop was Pittsburgh, and I arrived at the
home of Nick and Melissa Costa after only six or seven wrong turns. (It wasn't
Nick's fault; I'm navigationally challenged.) Fortunately for me, Nick and
Melissa were the pampering type of hosts, and they assuaged their sleepy guest
with the offer of a nap, which the guest accepted. Supper was barbecue chicken,
a salad, and memorable conversation.
Nick and Melissa are founded solidly on Christ. I
was glued to the testimony of the work of grace in their lives. God's spirit is
thriving in the Costa home. Nick and Melissa are the parents of two wonderful
children, Dominic and Serena.
Another couple was supposed to show up for a
meeting at 8 p.m., but they couldn't make it. To be honest with you, I've never
been happier not to have a meeting; even after my nap, I felt less than sharp.
"Dull" might be the word I'm looking for.
get a good night's sleep, however (desperately needed, and much appreciated),
departing early the next day for a breakfast meeting with Joe Gardner &
friends of Youngwood, PA. Ten minutes down the road, as I was wrestling with
directions through downtown Pittsburgh, Nick called me on my cell phone: I'd
forgotten my pillow!
pillow is a famed Sobakawa, filled with barley husks, or buckwheat husks, or
elephant tusks--or something of that nature that makes for a comfortable sleep.
Anyway, I've had the Sobakawa for 15 years, and I'd have retraced 50 miles for
that oriental wonderpillow!
I was fifteen minutes away,
heading for breakfast with the group in Youngwood, PA, near Greensburg, when
Nick called me on my cell.
"Your pillow is sitting here
in my living room," he said.
"That's no ordinary
pillow," I said. "It's a Sobakawa."
"I see," said Nick.
My pillow has been my nightly
companion since 1991. I would have backtracked a hundred miles for that pillow;
fortunately for me, it was only about five.
I breakfasted with Joe Gardner
and four or five others at a restaurant called "King’s."
"How are you doing?"
"Great," I said.
"I've got my pillow."
I was only a half-hour late. Joe
had gotten us a room in the back. One woman at this gathering was unfamiliar
with the doctrine of the eons, so I utilized five lined-up tables to illustrate
the five eons, with two coffee pots signifying the flood of Noah and the day of
indignation. My eggs got cold, but I didn't care. I wrote in my log:
I was late for the breakfast meeting, but Joe
Gardner, George and Ruth Kuhns, and a new person I'd never met, Audrey, managed
to have a good time until I got there. We had our own room at the back of
King's restaurant near Greensburg, PA, and during the course of the breakfast I
used the five tables linked together to illustrate the five eons for Audrey. I
was practically running up and down the tables, illustrating the nature of
God's eonian plan in-between bites of my over medium eggs. Audrey seemed to dig
It was a whirlwind breakfast, and stimulating to
both gastronomic and spiritual muscles. At 11, I departed, leaving copies of my
books with Audrey. The day's goal?
The Zender Tour is On!
September 2nd, 2007
Sunday began with the return of
my beloved Sobakawa pillow, and breakfast at Hoss's in Youngwood, PA, near
Greensburg. By the time I left, headed for Maryland, I had still not found my
The weather was fine, the road was
fine, my own company was amusing enough, but I was still a stranger to the
ZenderTour, whatever that was. A great thing happened at a restroom stall
somewhere in Breezewood, PA, however, that changed everything.
Perhaps I measure great things
differently than most. The following may not seem great to the reader, but it
was the thing that finally snapped my mind toward the great cause upon which I
The fair among you (I'm speaking
of the ladies now), are surely unaware that the standard of literature penned
upon the flimsy walls of male bathroom stalls is low. Really low. Stunningly
low. There are crude requests for illegal sexual adventures, accompanied by
telephone numbers. There is bad bathroom humor (as opposed to good bathroom
humor), poorly punctuated and ill conceived, grammatically. Oh, and there are
four-letter words followed by personal pronouns. Imagine my delight, then, to
read the following:
"TransCon Trucking cheats
and lies to its drivers."
If you have to ask why this was
such a stupendous thing to me, you will probably never understand.
Nevertheless, I departed Breezewood a new man. The ZenderTour was on!
I have already detailed my
adventures in Gambrills, Maryland, at the home of Army chaplain Bo Welch, his
wife Cindy, and their wonderful family. Here is what I wrote then:
God opened a door at the Ft. Meade Army Base in
Gambrills, MD, between Baltimore and D.C., but He did it before I got there.
Captain Bo Welch is a chaplain with the U.S. Army
who has served both in Iraq and Afghanistan. He teaches and counsels, and God
has graced him with the opportunity to teach truth. Without hindrance, Bo
teaches the salvation of all, the eons, the purpose of evil, and the gospel of
grace: amazing! How is this happening on a U.S. Army base? I'll tell you how:
God thinks of things that we never think of, and He does things we would never
On Sunday, Sept. 2, I spoke at a service in the
chapel. There was only maybe 15 in attendance that day, but the message was
well-received. Tuesday was the big day, when Bo packed a conference room at the
Defense Information School with over 40 young men and women in uniform, all
hungry to hear the word of God. Many were gathered around a large, oval table,
others sat in chairs along the wall. I got a catch in my throat to see these
young soldiers in uniform. These are extraordinary people, serious people,
brave people. Half of them will be either in Iraq or Afghanistan inside of six
months. I felt privileged to be bringing the gospel of grace to them. I knew
they needed it.
Bo introduced me, and I felt the power of God. I
rarely say things like I just said, but the feeling was unmistakable. In the
flesh, I have felt weak this whole trip. God humbled me in a serious way before
I left. I left with no confidence in the flesh, and my confidence kept
disappearing with the miles. But when I am weak, then I am strong.
God ministered to these soldiers through my words
and testimony. Bo introduced me as the author of "How to Be Free From Sin
While Smoking a Cigarette," and this was my topic of choice: freedom from
sin in spite of what we do. There were audible gasps from some of the soldiers
as I read verses to them that they've never heard, verses like Romans 5:20. And
passages from 2 Corinthians 5 about the members of the body of Christ being
ambassadors of peace.
I spoke for 40 minutes, and never have I had an
audience so at the edge of their seats. These people were pulling at my every
word, wanting more. Soldiers lined up afterwards to get signed copies of the
book, which I gave away liberally. I also had other of my other titles on a
table in the back of the room (about 60 books in all), and these were all
Bo counsels soldiers who have emotional problems,
or who are struggling with drugs, suicidal tendencies, or other problems. He
now has about twenty copies of "How to Be Free From Sin" at his
office. He considers this a therapy book! And it is. It is the answer--God's
relief--to those who are struggling with their flesh.
Before we left the Defense Information School, Bo
asked me, "Martin, do you think Starke & Hartmann can handle an order
for 500 books? I said, "Um--YES!" He says that, through him, the U.S.
Army is going to order 500 copies of this book for counseling its troops!
Fantastic, isn't it? I've recently been kicked off a Christian radio station
(WYLL, Chicago), yet the United States Army sees the value of this gospel that
I herald, of grace for all.
I enjoyed much hospitality at the home of Bo and
Cindy Welch, staying three nights with them. I thank their 8 year-old son John
for lending me his bedroom, and I enjoyed the fellowship with their two teenage
daughters, Rebecca and Rachael. Cindy's sense of humor is as warped as mine,
and there were lots of laughs. Cindy is a gifted vocalist, and along with her
daughters, she sings songs of praise to God. This, I enjoyed at the chapel
service on Sunday. What a remarkable work God did with the gospel of grace in
Gambrills, MD, and what further things He will do there, when the latest
paperpack enjoys a widespread distribution. And Bo is not about to give up the
teaching, which he administers with power and conviction. These soldiers are
blessed to have him at their post.
I became a member of the Welch
clan for three days. This was the longest I stayed on any stop of the tour, and
it settled me into the trip. I caught up with my sleep, watched some U.S. Open
tennis on television, and enjoyed stimulating conversation not only with Bo and
Cindy, but with their teenage daughter Rachel, who knows more about church
history than I do, and who is just as bold as I in defending the truths of God
to her friends and Christ-seeking acquaintances.
We sent a lot of young service
men and women away with a lot of truth and Zender books, gladly received. These
truths will multiply as these brave people take the message of Christ's love
and grace to the four corners of the earth.
Here is a photo of the Welch
clan, when Bo was stationed in Hawaii:
Heading to Florence
September 5th, 2007
Leaving Gambrills on this
morning, I became stuck for a spell on the bridge crossing the Potomac on Rt.
301. I don't mind bridges, and so the construction that delayed our lane for
fifteen minutes, at the crest of the bridge, rolled off my back. I am for some
reason relatively fine with plunging, in my car, from a great height into the
murky depths. I don't know why. I should be horrified. I guess it's that I'm
squared with dying. I've told Melody that if I should ever go down in a plane,
she should not think that my final moments were dreadful. My life seems so
staid sometimes that I am starved for the extraordinary. This is why I like
severe weather. When a dark, lashing storm comes in, booming and flashing, I'm
happy. It must be a God thing. When it moves on and the sun returns, I'm
depressed. (The sun should be a God thing too, but it's quizzically not.) I'm
unconstituted, ordinarily, to will such adventure into my life voluntarily, so
when God brings it, I embrace it–death included. Maybe I'm tired of living. As
I write, I am ready for this eon to end.
Entering Virginia, I saw a sign
noting the place where Federals captured and killed Lincoln's assassin, John
Wilkes Booth. It was the Garrett Farm. Fascinated with the Lincoln
assassination since childhood, I saluted a vague location overgrown with weeds
Cindy Welch encouraged me to look
up her parents in Hopewell, Virginia, just off Interstate 95. They pined to
take me to lunch. Cindy had written directions for me, but I somehow managed to
make wrong turns onto right exits, and right turns onto wrong exits, in that order.
This trauma went on for thirty minutes. Cindy talked me though the tangle of
exits from the comfort of her Gambrills home, but I soon despaired of ever
locating this house in Hopewell. I did accidentally locate the place, however.
Meeting these wonderful people–Cindy Welch's parents–more than made up for my
floundering. There are no misdirections in God's great scheme of things. These
folks were such kindred spirits that it was tough parting company. Forty-five
minutes over barbequed pork, and I was their adopted son.
With David Ameen in Hopewell, VA:
On the road again, to Florence,
South Carolina, and the rendezvous with my best friend and childhood pal, Jim
Szittai. We had a great time at an Italian restaurant, then spent the night at
a place called the Swamp Fox Inn. Here we are at the Swamp Fox Inn parking lot
on the morning of September 6:
Off, then, to Titusville,
September 6th, 2007
I like Florida, and I think it
has something to do with palm trees, warm temperatures, and the possibility of
severe weather. But the weather was so favorable driving through Jacksonville
that I was in desperate need of a nap. I stopped at the rest stop you see here,
making a spectacle of myself on a picnic table. The snakes must have been
sleeping as well, for not one of them bit my foot.
I had never met Patrick and Pam
Bielen, but I knew they were big Zender fans. When I first set forth the
possibility of a visit, I thought they were going to jump through the phone.
And so in Titusville–in the city famous for launching rockets into space–I
received a hero's welcome.
Patrick was distraught that his
plans for a meeting fell through, but I was glad, because I really got to know
Patrick and Pam, and their beloved dog Cashmere. My hosts were afraid, at
first, that Cashmere would not like me. It was not because I was an unlikable
person, but because Cashmere does not trust strangers, and sometimes takes
months, sometimes years, sometimes decades, to make up her mind about certain
Cashmere is refined, you see.
When I first arrived, Cashmere
was locked away in a small room off the kitchen, and quite unhappy with the
"Cashmere needs to sense you
first," explained Patrick.
"And smell you," said
"I took a shower
yesterday," I said. Patrick and Pam both laughed. I am hysterically funny,
especially after I've caught up on my sleep.
After a delicious Pam-cooked meal
shared with my hosts and Pam's mother, out came Cashmere. I prepared for the
worst. This regal dog was going to hate me, I was sure. And at first, that
seemed to be the case. Cashmere was obviously peeved at having been locked in
the small room. Upon release from her prison, she ran around barking and
bemoaning her lot in life, which is a better lot than a good percentage of
humanity enjoys. Suddenly, Cashmere stopped in her tracks; she had gotten her first whiff of the world's most outspoken Bible scholar. To make a long story
short, Cashmere took to me like a Catholic to Bingo.
By the end of my second day in
Titusville, Patrick and Pam were ocean-green with envy. They kept trying to
pick up Cashmere and cuddle and hug her and give her big juicy steaks and sides
of beef, but Cashmere kept running away from them and jumping into my arms.
Cashmere! My Cashmere!
Patrick, Pam and I had some deep
discussions. They are such loving people, and truly in love with each other. In
fact, the only thing they love more than each other is Cashmere. Pam has
beautiful, golden hair, and Patrick is a big guy who will bear hug you harder
than he means to, and tell you what a hero you are to him.
Patrick used to be crazy gung-ho
for Christ. I mean, like, really, crazy gung-ho for Christ, to the degree that
he used to pull a cross on a wheel through the streets of Titusville, then set
up shop on a corner and preach the gospel as he knew it, which was full of fire
and brimstone. God has since radically reworked Patrick's doctrine, but left
his zeal intact. Now, instead of dragging a cross, he drives around town giving
total strangers copies of my books, with his own personal blessing.
On my second day in Titusville,
Patrick wanted to show me how he operates. I said, "Well, you go on ahead
and tell me about it when you get home." I cringed at the idea of giving
my books to total strangers. This was not my calling. "I'll stay home and
ask Pam to cook me something," I said. "Good luck."
"What the matter with
you?" Patrick asked.
"I wish I had time to tell
you," I said. "The main deal with me is, I write and run. I don't
like to bug people. I can't do what you do. You may not believe this, but
you're about a hundred times bolder than me."
Well, he didn't believe it. He
could not believe that the great Martin Zender dreaded to confront total
strangers with the gospel of Christ.
Patrick would not be denied my
company on his missionary trip, so off we went, with me bound and gagged in the
back seat. Pam went along to make sure I didn't escape.
We stopped at the ocean first,
and that's where I snapped this picture of our couple in love. After that, it
was off to the streets of Titusville, where Patrick would see the real Martin
Zender in action.
If the sun had been shining that
day in Titusville, I would have sought the shelter of Patrick's shadow. I hung
behind him like a puppy as he approached stranger after stranger on the street,
telling them, "This writer here and myself thought you'd really like a
copy of his book."
"Not me," I'd hiss from
somewhere behind his back. "Him," I'd say, pointing, "–him.
He thinks you'd really like a copy of this book."
It was not a good day for
"I can't believe this,"
said Patrick when we got back to the car. "God usually gives me great
success with this. People are always warm to me. They always take your books,
and thank me. Most of the time, people are really blessed." He turned then
to address his anti-hero, who was already slunk into the back seat, panting
"I think people picked up on
your negativity," he said.
"I wouldn't doubt it,"
I said. "Can we drive away now?"
Patrick and Pam had big laughs at
my expense. And so did Cashmere, when we told her about it. But it only
endeared me to her all the more. Here she is coming for me in total loving
abandonment when she found out how thoroughly I'd disappointed her master:
It is always fascinating to me
how God imparts different gifts to each. Patrick said he couldn't write the
kinds of book I wrote, but I told him that I was not nearly as bold as he when
it came to evangelizing strangers.
"I see that now,"
Patrick is as gifted in his
ministry as I am in mine. He has touched hundreds of lives and helped hundreds
of people receive truth. Me? I write and I run. But thanks be to God, His words
never return to Him without accomplishing their purpose.
Evangel in the Park
September 8th, 2007
It was a short, wet
drive from Titusville to my next stop in Ft. Lauderdale, which was the home of
Kate and Greg.
Here are Kate and Greg:
Distraught in 2002 with her
Pentecostal-type church, Kate had found How to Quit Church Without Quitting
God at the public library in Miami. "It just jumped out at me,"
she said. "That book changed my life." Since then, Kate has been an
avid supporter of all things Zender. Today, she wanted me to talk to a couple
of her friends at a park.
"Do they believe like we
do?" I asked.
"They're close," she
said. "I think they're open to it."
"Are there palm trees at the
park?" I asked.
"Then let's go!"
Palm trees or no, it's always
awkward broaching the topic of God with strangers. It may not be for Patrick
Bielen, but it is for Martin Zender. Kate told me that the couple I was about
to meet was pretty intense for the truths concerning Israel, so I started in
with Romans, chapter 9, gradually working my way toward the sovereignty of God
passages in that chapter. It didn't take long to ruffle a feather. It was in
the middle section of Romans chapter nine when–as people like to say in
diplomatic circles–the dialogue broke down.
It turns out that this couple,
while professing to believe in a sovereign God, also miraculously allows for
eight billion people to have their own sovereignty. In other words, they
believed in free will. How can God be sovereign and eight billion people be
sovereign, all at the same time? The couple wasn't really sure, and they did
not seem to appreciate being asked.
Finally, the man, Ralph, looked
at his watch and said, "We said we'd spend forty minutes here. Well, the
forty minutes is up, and we're leaving."
I couldn't resist putting in one
more plug for God and one more ruffle for Ralph. "Ralph, as far as
salvation goes, you believe that it's human willpower that saves, rather than
"I am not a robot!"
said Ralph angrily.
That was a fat pitch right into
"You're right," I said.
"You're not a robot. You're giving yourself too much credit, Ralph.
Actually, you're a piece of clay." And I quoted Romans 9 again.
Off went the couple in a holy
huff, leaving Kate and me at the picnic table.
"Want to go for a
walk?" Kate asked.
"Sure," I said.
We had a wonderful walk through
the park. We talked about God and His ways, and about when Christ might be
returning. We were kind of hoping it would be soon.
Kate's daughter worked for the
Marriott Company, and Kate arranged for me to have a $160 room at the Ft.
Lauderdale Marriott. It was the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. Here's a
photo of it:
My only regret is that I spent
eight of my ten hours at this ritzy place sleeping.
Thanks for everything, Kate.
September 9th, 2007
I got up earlier than I wanted
to, and then it was off to Kate and Greg's for breakfast. After that, it was
across Florida on Interstate 75, otherwise known as Alligator Alley.
Destination: Ft. Myers and the home of Eleanor Garrod.
The last I'd seen Eleanor was in
1995 when we both spoke at a conference in Melbourne, on the east coast of this
state. Eleanor was an early subscriber to my newsletter, and I was a fan of
hers after hearing a remarkable cassette tape she'd made on the sovereignty of
God. I'd been so taken with the truth contained in this address that I got
Eleanor's permission to make copies of it and offered it to my readership.
Eleanor is my surrogate
grandmother in Christ, and one of the most spiritual people I know. It was
great seeing her again. This day, she invited her sons and their wives and one
of her grandsons, who was a Zender fan, to a luncheon.
This particular Sunday was
Grandparent's Day. During the meal, one of her grandsons called to extend his
wishes. Eleanor told him and his wife to come over for lunch and meet Martin
Zender. He said he really didn't have time today, but he was no match for the
persuasion powers of his grandma. Eleanor is as good at talking her grandkids
into things as she is at persuading people concerning Christ. And so she
imposed on this man and his wife and daughter to come over for a little while.
It was part of Eleanor's master
plan, of course, to get this particular grandson to hear truth. He showed up
just before our meeting, and Eleanor again persuaded him and his family to have
a seat and listen in.
Here's the back-story: this
grandson was not too happy with the truths his father believed. From the
beginning of my ministry, Eleanor fed my newsletter and books to her sons, who
embraced the message. Now this grandson wasn't too sure about this strange
person from Ohio who years ago had helped sway his father toward unconventional
truths and had now come here to further the teaching.
The short of it? This man was all
ears. He asked good, honest questions that I honestly answered. His spirit
seemed soothed by what he heard. His wife was getting it, as well. God moved in
the form of revelation and wisdom and knowledge. It was a spiritual time and we
all marveled at the handiwork and timing of God.
Eleanor lives in a condo owned by
another of her sons, and adjoining this condo were two others, one vacant. The
result was that I had my own condominium for the night. I profusely thanked my
benefactors. I know that I have blessed others by my giving, and have always
been grateful when my gifts are thankfully received. And so, when other people
are determined to bless me, I am a good receiver.
September 10th, 2007
I knew when I first wrote down
the ZenderTour schedule that it would be a long haul between Ft. Myers and my
next stop in Atlanta. I had planned from the beginning to avoid straining
myself in the driving department. I'd decided ahead of time that I'd never
drive more than 450 miles in a day. I didn't just want to race from place to
place, exhausted. I knew people who, when they traveled, would drive twelve to
fourteen hours a day. I always thought that was crazy. Being crazy enough
already, I was determined to take my time.
The stretch between Ft. Myers and
Atlanta was more than a day on the road, so I knew that this would be my first
day off alone. I needed it.
I snagged a room at the Super 8
in Valdosta, Georgia. For dinner, I walked over to a restaurant across the
road. I had been ready to be alone, but now I felt lonely and was ready for
In between talking me into the
salad bar and getting me some decaf, my waitress told me about how she works
part-time, goes to school, and lives with her aging parents, who she supports.
I admired her strength and the way she cared for her parents. This was
obviously a good, hard-working person, and the salad bar at her restaurant was
pretty good, too, so I tipped her twenty dollars. By the time I got to the cash
register, she was running up there thanking me and telling me how generous I
was. The girl at the cash register said, "Gee, I wish I'd seated him in my
section." I said, "Twenty dollars really isn't that much," and
as I was going out the door I realized that it really wasn't that much. I
suddenly felt cheap.
As I walked across the road back
to my room, the inspiration struck to go to my car and get a copy of my latest
paperback, How to Be Free From Sin While Smoking a Cigarette. I did, and then I
slipped in a fifty-dollar bill in at page 50.
I returned to the restaurant
smiling, found my waitress, told her I was on a book tour, and gave her the
book, which I'd signed. She was kind of speechless, but stuttered thanks.
"I think you'll really like
page 50," I said.
I hope she's interested in
scriptural truth. Otherwise, that fifty is still sitting in there.
We Feel Like We Know You!
September 11th, 2007
The funny, common thing I noticed
about most people was that, when they gave me directions to their place, they
always said, "It's easy." Well, it was always easy–for them. They
knew where they lived. This phenomenon of "it's easy" was never truer
than when I received directions to Jean Douglas's place north of Atlanta, in
Oakwood, from Jean Douglas himself.
Much of my trip was spent on the
phone receiving directions, or at kitchen tables receiving directions, or
standing at my car receiving directions.
Jean is an old friend I'd met in
1995 when he and some fellow Georgians came up to a scripture conference I was
speaking at in Centerville, Ohio. Jean (his mom wanted a girl, so she refused
to spell his name Gene), also accompanied me on the 1996 trip to Newport News,
VA, where I delivered "The Sin Series," from which my CD Martin
Zender, Part-Time Sinner came.
Approaching Atlanta, I called
Jean and asked for directions to his house. He said, of course, "it's
easy." These were his exact words. I laughed out loud, because, as I've
already said, no directions are ever easy, especially for me.
Here are the directions Jean gave
me to his house. I was pulled over at the side of the road when I wrote these
down, and I am copying these directions verbatim from the paper I carried with
me on the trip:
Rt. 75 to Atlanta. Then Rt.
675 to Rt. 285, to Rt. 85, to Exit 113, which is Rt. 985, to Exit 12 at Flowery
Branch. Turn left. Go under Interstate, past gas station. First right is:
Thurmand Tanner Rd. Turn right. Traffic light at Atlanta Hwy-Falcons Parkway,
turn left. Radford Rd., go straight. Over RR tracks, keep going straight to
stop sign. This is McEver Rd. Turn right, 2 gas stations, Flat Creek Rd, 4-way
stop. Keep straight. 2nd road on right, Hidden Harbor Rd. Turn right. 2nd road
on left, Mallard Pt. Rd, turn left. First road on left, Mallard Walk. Turn left.
Next right is Mallard Crossing. Turn right. End of rd., house in middle, 5505.
By the time I found the place, I
was ready to kill a mallard.
Jean took me to a wonderful
Mexican restaurant. Jean, a single man, spent much time telling me how
good-looking his chiropractor was. I saw a picture of her, and yes, I could see
the advantage of Jean having a bad back. Wishing to distract us from this line
of conversation, God sent a fly to our table that tortured us for an hour. We
never could kill this ridiculous Mexican fly. I think it's the same fly that
ended up in my car that I couldn't get rid of it until Arkansas, when it died
of old age near Little Rock.
Jean is a great organizer, and
there were quite a few people at this meeting. People came up to me and shook
my hand, looking me up and down. They were excited to see me. They said,
"We feel like we know you!" And they did. In my website articles, in
my books and on the ZenderTalks, I lay myself out for all to see. I want to be
known. I enjoy that people know me. Here in Atlanta, I basked in them knowing
me. It was like this in most places. I liked getting to know them.
Jean set up two cameras and
videotaped the two-hour meeting. He has made it into a two-disc set called,
"Martin Zender Comes to Atlanta." I'm sure he will send you one if
you ask for it. Jean has a ministry where he records meetings around the
country and makes the DVDs available to people who can't come to the meetings
themselves. He does not charge for this service, but, like me, has never been
known to refuse a contribution. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the Tank Was Full
September 12th, 2007
The next morning I relaxed at
Jean's a little bit, and then headed up to Blairsville, Georgia, to the home of
Charlie and Leslie Bishop. The good news was that Jean would be going with me.
Jean knew Charlie and Leslie because Charlie and Leslie journeyed to Atlanta
occasionally to sit in on meetings. Jean and I drove separately, so all I had
to do was follow him. Ah–no "easy" directions this time.
The further we drove, the more
the road wound up mountains. I had driven mountains before, but these roads
seemed to set world switchback records; I was getting dizzy. We stopped at a
rest stop half way up Route 19, just to get out, go to the bathroom, and be
level for a while.
My favorite part of the country
is the Plains. There is something God-like about wide-open spaces. And yet I
still revere mountains, even when they touch me with claustrophobia. And yet
when one finally tops the mountain and basks in the sunshine, the journey is worth
it. It's all about contrast.
Here is the view from the home of
Charlie and Leslie Bishop:
Here are Charlie and Leslie
I wondered at my good fortune in
being here. God was so good to me. One of the greatest freedoms and blessings
in the world is living in America. And one of the greatest freedoms in America
is travel. And one of the most beautiful cities in America is Blairsville,
Georgia. And this was perhaps the most beautiful home in Blairsville.
There was supposed to be a
meeting of maybe six or seven people, but this did not materialize. Instead, it
worked out perfectly. One man came to the Bishop home: Gene. Leslie had a
previous commitment and so did not attend the meeting, so there were four at
this gathering: Jean, Gene, Charlie, and me.
Gene was an old friend of
Charlie's and not so sure about this "new" doctrine concerning the
complete success of Christ's cross. Charlie led this meeting, taking advantage
of two other compatriots on board as he offered scriptural truth to his
somewhat doubting but wanting-to-believe friend.
Charlie is a gentle man, loving,
very much a saint in Christ. He is staunch in spirit and quick of mind. Jean
and he brought forth good scripture that highlighted the apostle Paul's
teaching, and I chimed in with the occasional comment that helped tie things
together. The effect of our triune testimony became evident on the face of
Gene, and he looked more and more thoughtful and hopeful as the meeting
Here is a photo of Gene, Jean,
Charlie and me after the Bible study, on top of God's holy mountain:
Leslie is a health food
aficionado, which I was glad of. I tried to eat well the trip. I knew how easy
it would be so just say, "Oh, well," and eat everything offered to
me. I needed to be careful, though. I needed to feel sharp everywhere I went.
When I eat a lot of food, I feel lousy, fat and dull, rather than sharp.
Lightness of body helps me feel light of spirit. When both body and spirit are
coordinated, things go better for me.
I ate lots of fruit and some good
bread at the Bishop's.
I never went anywhere on the Tour
hoping to receive offerings for my work and my travels. Sometimes people gave
me money, sometimes they didn't. Charlie and Leslie were in a rough spot
financially at the time, and Leslie was apologetic as she handed me an
envelope. "I wish it could be more," she said. I said it was perfect,
no matter what it was, even if it was a coupon for granola bars. She smiled and
gave me packages of nutrients that I could pour into my bottled water. I smiled
I left the Bishop's mountain home
and topped my tank a few miles outside of Blairsville. When the tank was full,
I reached into the envelope Leslie gave me.
The amount in the envelope
matched perfectly–to the dollar–the amount on the pump.
September 13th, 2007
It was a scenic drive to
Chattanooga. I wound along a river, stopping at pull-off areas to walk down to
the riverfront and count my blessings. I felt whole and at one with God. That
is the beauty of travel, in Christ–or living in Christ, for that matter. What
is living except one big trip? It's just that you don't feel you're on a trip
unless you're literally on one. Then, when you're literally on one, you realize
how literal is the trip of life itself.
Still, I liked the idea of
The ZenderTour made me feel
Paulish. This journey was how I imagined it to be in the first century. Paul
went around visiting the various ecclesias, having started most. The saints
received him with love, as they did me. Paul's labors sustained him, and so did
mine via the grace of the people. Paul brought the word of the cross, and so
did I. It thrilled me to help people. I left people better than when I came.
That was the reward of the ZenderTour. People needed to hear the word of the
cross. It is one thing to send an email to someone, but far better to meet that
person, to hug that person, or to shake that person's hand. It is one thing to
receive an electronic message, and it is another, better thing to behold the
messenger in the flesh and feel the camaraderie of Christ. This is what I found
on my trip.
My destination this day was
Chattanooga, Tennessee and Tony Smith. Tony is a brother I met four years ago
when he booked me as a guest on his radio program, "The Freedom
Factor." Tony is a man after God's own heart. He came to appreciate his
own freedom in Christ through many trials and heartaches, and a terrible
accident 13 years ago. Tony fell off a mountain during an outdoor adventure,
nearly killing himself. "God spared my life for a reason," says Tony
One of the many reasons God
spared Tony's life is the publication of How to Be Free From Sin While Smoking
a Cigarette, financed by Tony Smith. When my company Starke & Hartmann was
going through tough times, Tony said, "We have got to get this book
out." He had lived these truths, he saw them articulated in the book, and
he wanted others to know them.
Jean had to return to Atlanta
after Blairsville, but drove up to Chattanooga to extend our fellowship. He had
never met Tony Smith.
Why I didn't take a picture of
Tony as he sat at his desk on top of the printing facility in Chattanooga?
Because I was too busy living to think about recording. It's the same reason I
failed to take many pictures. And Tony looked so business-like at his disk,
too. Tony publishes a magazine called Executive Wings, which caters to
corporate air travelers. Tony is a big man, robust, loving, sensitive,
compassionate, full of Christ. And he likes to take people to his favorite restaurants,
which turned out to be a good thing for Jean and me.
Before Jean arrived, Tony showed
me around Chattanooga. The city itself sits in a bowl-like valley, surrounded
by mountains. It's a Civil War town. One of the armies charged at another army up
these mountains, and I'm sorry I don't know which army did what. I'm a peace
buff, myself. Either the North or the South did something monumental here that
had to do with cannons and lots of good people dying.
Tony treated me to one of the
marvels of this eon, which is the Incline Railroad. I wish I had taken
pictures, but I didn't, so here is one I lifted off the Internet:
The Incline Railroad is one mile
nearly straight up on a railcar that, itself, is inclined. The trip is
awe-inspiring and a tad frightening. One imagines, the whole way up, what it
would be like to have the cable break and feel the car flying down the track.
The car is on a track, but it is also attached to a cable that pulls it up the
mountain. The Railroad is old, perhaps a hundred years. It used to be practical
only, taking residents to their homes up the mountain. Now it's still practical
and also a lucrative tourist draw. Type it in on www.youtube.com and check it
out. The view from the top is breathtaking.
Chattanooga was in the midst of a
draught and had not seen rain for a month. Jean Douglas remedied that; with him
came the rain. Tony was ecstatic, and said that Jean Douglas should visit more
Before dinner, Tony unveiled the
eight marvel of the eon (or maybe the ninth, because the eighth is the Incline
Railroad): a coffee mug with my mug on it. The mug said: "This Just Isn't
My Eon," a phrase I have often threatened to put on either a mug or a
T-shirt. I had shared this before with Tony, and Tony had his friend J.D. Fine
After dinner at a fancy
restaurant, Tony graciously procured for Jean and myself a room at the Red Roof
We ran with our suitcases through
the pouring rain toward the Inn, laughing all the way.
September 14th, 2007
I woke up before Jean and ambled
over to the Waffle House, looking forward to dining with strangers.
At home, one easily gets into
ruts. Ruts with a family such as mine are glorious ones. However. I now appreciated
humble dens of eating and the vagaries of humanity. Some people were fat; some
had limps; some were old; some were beautiful; some were heading to work,
others were coming home from it. Our common bond was that we dined together
this sacred day (the one that the Lord had made) in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Before wandering over the Waffle
House, I talked to a man who had ridden his motorcycle hundreds of miles to
town for a rally. He said, "If figures it's raining this weekend, of all
"It's Jean Douglas's
fault," I said.
The man and I stood in a light
rain outside the Red Roof Inn, drinking free cups of Red Roof Inn coffee. I
liked this stranger. Here was a fellow human being, now part of the inaugural
ZenderTour, 2007. We had both left home for adventure. I was on a mission from
God and perhaps he was not particularly fond of Christ; I don't know. It didn't
matter then. It was all about the rain and coffee and the gloom of that
morning, and the call of the yellow Waffle House sign that drew me like a USA
Today to the hydrogenated land of corporate breakfast.
After breakfast, it was good-bye
to Jean and to Tony and off to Nashville. Off to Nashville in the pouring rain.
It rained for three hours. I was
in a car, so I stayed dry. You think it's a given to be dry on a rain-soaked
highway, but it has not always been so for me. I have bicycled across the
United States twice–once from Los Angeles to Boston, and once from Los Angeles
to Ocean City, Maryland. I have spent much time on highways in rainstorms,
without benefit of roof, doors, or upholstered seating. So I appreciated the
blessed lack of water, this day, upon my person. The rain was excitingly near
yet blessedly far away. I reveled in my windshield, and silently thanked the
people who made it. Thank you, windshield people.
By the time I got to Nashville,
the weather had cleared and the skies had become sunny. I headed for the home
of Danny and Ramona Vlad, dear friends I'd met three years before.
Danny and Ramona hail from
Romania, but they have been here since October of last year, and are enjoying
our country and hoping to stay forever, or at least for the eon. They had been
to the U.S. several times. They are travelers and adventures and true believers
in Christ. In Romania, Danny started an ecclesia. Danny is an able teacher in
the Word of God. He is also very strong. He looks like John Travolta, so he is
handsome as well. Here are three photos from 2005, the last time Danny and
Ramona came to the United States, when I had Danny speak at my conference in
Willard, Ohio, and Ramona played a song on her guitar:
Danny is also a national champion
wrestler. Many years ago, he was the Romanian national champion in his weight
class and went to the Olympics–the Olympics, for crying out loud.
Ramona is obviously beautiful,
and exudes Christ and a joy for living. Well, look at her family. That cute
girl in the picture, who looks like Shirley Temple, is Danny and Ramona's
daughter, Nicola. Nicola acts as cute as she looks. She laughs for a living and
melts people's hearts. With parents like hers, how could she not enjoy life?
Here is the photo from the
Christmas card that the Vlads sent us this year:
I began laying out the ZenderTour
by figuring from the first stop: Pittsburgh. Once I knew the day I would be in
Pittsburgh, everything ironed out from there. When you iron a shirt, you start
at the top and work down the wrinkle. I think. I'm not really sure. I'm not
sure at all if this analogy works, but the ZenderTour began in Pittsburgh on
September 1, and once that date was set, then all the other dates and places
became set like a wrinkle getting flattened down a shirt by an iron, because
there are only so many miles between cities and so many stops I needed to make
and only so much time to do them in; I wanted to be back home by September
29th. All of this is to say that I arrived in Nashville on the very weekend
that Danny was flying to California and I couldn't do anything about it.
Ramona had told me before I left
for the Tour: "There is a group here that really loves your teaching, your
books, and they are anxious to meet you." She persuaded me, over the
phone, to spend as much time as I could. I allotted two days, and I'm glad I
did. There was great reception to the truth among Danny and Ramona's friends.
All of this is partly to say that
I did not plan ahead of time to drive into Nashville when Danny was away, just
so I could spend time alone with his beautiful wife. But what do you know–this
is how things worked out. I was planning on sleeping at Danny and Ramona's
before I knew Danny would be gone, but this would have been inappropriate now
that the man of the house was away, so I slept at one of their friends' place.
This is not to say that Ramona, Nicola and I did not see Nashville, because we
did. I called home and told Melody, "I'm spending time with another woman
here in Nashville, namely, Danny's wife Ramona, so I hope that's all right.
Don't worry; our child will be with us." Melody knows Ramona, so it was
just fine with her. So Ramona and I were platonically married for a day, going
to malls, eating out, having a good time. It was scads of fun. There was a
vendor-guy at the mall selling little mechanical barking puppies, and
demonstrating them. Nicola really wanted one, and she wandered over to the
mechanical barking puppy and Ramona and I followed. Nicola told the man that
she really wanted the mechanical barking puppy, and the vender said,
"Well, ask your mommy and daddy."
We spent a green and lush
afternoon at the Opryland Hotel, which has an immense indoor glassed-in
shopping area loaded with restaurants and fountains and flowing rivers and
trees, trees, trees; you have to see it to believe it. Go there. I think the
rooms are about $250 a night, or possibly more. Note to my good friend Danny
Vlad, who was a very good Olympian wrestler and still quite strong: I did not
get a room here with your family. Your family and I only looked at the verandas
of the rooms from inside the mall area. Having said that, thank you for letting
me borrow your wife and child.
All the room entrances face the
giant indoor mall, and everyone has a veranda or a porch that looks out onto
all the green lush stuff. Can you imagine such a wonderment? I told myself that
I had to bring my other wife here sometime and spend a couple nights alone with
I met Paul
Smith and Matt McFarland, at an Italian restaurant, with Ramona and Nicola in
attendance also. These guys are musicians in a very hot gospel band called
Crossway. They play country gospel and make a living at it, driving all over
the country, performing. They're in demand because, well, they're quite good.
The have a CD out, and I think they're making another one. Here is their
Paul has all the ZenderTalks on
his I-Pod. He even has some of the shows nearly memorized. All this flattered
me, naturally. It feels good to know that all the work you put into something
is paying off somewhere and changing someone's life. Paul's bandmate Matt had
driven up from Chattanooga.
These guys were so interested in
the things of God. It was great for me to see such enthusiasm. They apologized
for asking me so many questions. They were worried that I wouldn't be able to
eat. I did not have a problem. Even so, Ramona told me not to talk with my
"Yes, dear," I said.
We talked about the eons and the
kingdom of God and the salvation of all and God's sovereignty, and about the
great salads. What a time. Afterward, Paul took me to an Apple store and said I
needed to get a Mac. I have been a PC man for years, but I know my computer is
about to crash; many people have told me that. I'm still running Windows ME,
for God's sake. My computer is 7 years old. People laugh at me when I tell them
what I'm working on, especially considering that I make my living with this
computer. I am big time in need of a new computer, and Paul, an Apple man, has
convinced me to go in that direction. As I write, I have yet to obtain the
marvelous new Apple machine Paul showed me at the store. God's timing and
provision will tell.
Thank you Paul and Matt, and to
the other Matt, whose townhouse I stayed in, which you see here in the photo.
I caught Ramona in the act of
ironing one of my shirts.
Nicola thought it was very funny
that her mother should be ironing one of my shirts.
Meeting Frank Whalen
September 16th, 2007
I knew from the planning stages
that the longest driving day was going to be between Nashville and Bella Vista,
in the northwest corner of Arkansas. I needed to be at the home of Pet and Pam
Daniels in Bella Vista on Sunday because that was the day most people could
make it. And I'd already committed to two days in Nashville. As I said earlier,
once I laid out the plan beginning in Pittsburgh on Sept. 1 and catered to the
particular host or hostess as far as how many days to stay, then the tour
folded out like a runner down a wedding aisle that is only so long. No, wait.
It folded out like a wrinkle on a shirt. Sorry; I forgot my own stupid analogy.
I was going to have to drive
about 600 miles this day.
I got an early enough start in
Nashville, but not on enough sleep. I tried to sleep regularly on the tour, and
I did (meaning that I slept every night), but I catered to my hosts and
hostesses to a certain extent, and if people's schedules were such that the
meeting became late, then the meeting became late. This worked fine with
shorter driving days because I could nap, but this day was going to be a trial.
I didn't walk through Memphis–as
the song says–but I drove through it, experiencing good memories of coming here
as a boy with my parents. My mom had relatives here and I remembered eating
lunch at a high-rise on the river with a fancy, revolving restaurant. I spotted
it along the Mississippi as I cruised along Interstate 40. It made me pine for
my parents, both dead. My mom died in April of this year; my dad died three
years ago. I wanted my parents to know that I was here again thinking about
them, but they couldn't know because the dead do not know anything (that's from
Ecclesiastes). It flooded back to me how much my parents did for me and my
sister, how many places they took us, how many times they sacrificed for us. I
had a hint of it while they were alive, and my appreciation amplified when I
had children of my own, but it did not hit me with the present impact until
they had both died.
As I drove through Memphis and
looked as best I could at that tall building along the Mississippi River where
we had eaten lunch as a family so many years ago, I pined to hug my mom and dad
again. I wanted to see them badly and tell them how much I appreciated them. I
will be able to hold them again, but I could not hold them now. For now, there
was an interval of time and space between them and me. That is all right. It is
natural. It is God's way of doing things. I cannot go back and wish I were a
boy. I do not wish I were a boy again. My childhood was idyllic, but I never
want to go back.
I am what I am because of my
parents and the decisions they made. I often do not want to acknowledge that,
because each of us wants to be our own person. But we kid ourselves. We are not
our own people. For better or for worse, we are what our parents made us. We
are a result of the decisions they made and either their goodness or their
wickedness. My parents were so good. They brought me to Memphis and took me to
a fancy place to eat, and I looked out over the Mississippi as I am doing now,
though from a lower perspective. This day, I am a slave of Christ on the way to
minister to fellow members of the Body of Christ. Things change. Oh, do they
I did not realize until about 50
miles outside Ft. Smith, Arkansas that I would probably be late for my own
meeting. The meeting was scheduled for six o'clock, and it was now somewhere
around 4:30. Pam Daniels underestimated the time it would take to drive this
stretch. She was only off by about two hours, bless her heart. It is a good
thing I left as early as I did. I thought I was giving myself a generous
cushion of time (something I so rarely do), but now this cushion evaporated
into the probability of arriving late by thirty minutes or so.
This was the first time on the
trip I decided to speed. I told myself before I left that I would not speed.
Speeding is stupid for a couple reasons, one being that one has planned poorly,
probably. The other reason is that the speeding driver is not a person of rest
and peace, but a restive and agitated person. I am sometimes this person in my
ruts of life, but I did not want to be this person on the tour. In addition,
there is the issue of breaking the law. I am not a literalist when it comes to
federal law, because I know there is some flexibility. In other words, I can
drive six or seven miles over the speed limit and know I won't be stopped. Not
even the authorities are literalists, because they let you get away with this.
Thus, driving 62 mph in a 55 zone is "legal" for all practical
The speed limit in most states I
visited was 70. This was great. Ohio is behind the times in this department,
but if it saves lives, I'm all for it. I hate death. I really hate highway
death. But I don't know whether or not the lower speed limit saves lives. It
probably does. If people get agitated and start road raging because they're
going slower than people in Arkansas, then maybe we should rethink the law. But
anyway, on this day, I decided to go about 10 miles over the limit, which I
knew was breaking the law. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway. Perhaps I
should write a book on this, titling it, How to be Free From Sin While Driving
Ten Miles Over the Speed Limit.
The scenery on Interstate 540
between Fr. Smith and Bella Vista was stupendous, as Frank Whalen said it would
Oh, yes. Frank Whalen. You know
him. He is the radio host I did so many interviews with, which are posted on my
website. Yes, I'm speaking of the famous "Zender-Whalen" interviews
that have blessed so many people, including Frank and myself. Frank lives in
Fayetteville, a mere 25 or 30 miles from Bella Vista, where I was heading. In
fact, I was hoping to be able to stop in Fayetteville on my way up to see
Frank, but that was before the timing problem. I talked to Frank over my cell
phone somewhere on Interstate 40 around Little Rock, just after the fly from
Georgia died. That's when I also learned that the scenery gets stupendous
between Fort Smith and Bella Vista. That's also when I learned that, for sure,
Frank and his family were coming to the meeting in Bella Vista. This was as
stupendous a thing as the scenery for the reason that follows: I HAD NEVER MET
"I'm going to be late for
the meeting, it looks like," I told him.
"They're not going to start
without you," he said.
By stupidly breaking the law, I
arrived at Bella Vista with five minutes to spare, which was sheer brilliance.
People were still milling around anyway, so everything was cool in the timing
department. Frank and his family had not yet arrived.
When I pulled into the garage,
Pam and Pete's son whose name, regretfully, I cannot remember, greeted me. All
I know is that he is a huge Martin Zender fan who enjoys defacing the covers of
He ran up to me as soon as I got
out of my car and said, "Martin Zender. Can I carry your bag?" I said
he sure could, so he sure did. The kid was so excited to carry my bag.
I had never met Pete and Pam
before, but, again, they shook my hand and hugged me and greeted me like I was
a long-lost son. Here is Pam Daniels, who organized the meeting:
Many people knew of me. A lot of
people were milling around and people were bringing in food for this meeting. I
was glad to be at this meeting. I was also very, very tired.
One of the things I told myself
before leaving on the trip was that I was going to be sure to be rested before
speaking to any gathering. This is a necessity for me. Here's why: I'm
borderline stupid. I forget stuff. This is multiplied a few times when I am
tired. Well, I was really tired this day. And because I'd arrived relatively
late, there was no time, not even to lie down for two minutes and close my
On previous stops, it was a tremendous
help to simply be able to lie down and get in a teaching frame of mind. As long
as I could calm myself, I could do well. I always need to gather myself.
Whenever I did Frank's show, I would always sit down or kneel down or walk
around slowly and meditatingly, preparing myself to minister the Word of God. I
take this very seriously. I always need to admit to God that I am weak and that
He must speak through me. I always do this. God already knows I am weak, but I
tell Him for my sake, not His. I need quiet time to acknowledge all this and
realize again that it is the message and not the messenger. I need to confirm
to myself over and over that I am willing to make a fool of myself for Christ.
I usually like to do this voluntarily, not involuntarily.
On this day, there was no such
cushion. Looking back, maybe I should have insisted upon it. But there were too
many people wanting to talk, and too much going on. People were already taking
their seats. Here is Pete Daniels and two guests:
Then Frank Whalen came. Wow! It
was amazing to look into his eyes for the first time. He looked so much younger
than I thought. His wife Marcie was as beautiful as I expected; I knew she was
a professional fashion model. Frank's daughter Julia was also beautiful, and
radiated fun and intelligence. This looked like such a happy family to me.
Frank and Marcie are so in love. Theirs is a healthy relationship; one can
Out came the cameras. Many of the
people here also knew Frank from when he had his show on an FM rock station in
Fayetteville. Here is Frank taking a picture of me taking a picture of him,
which you're now looking at:
And here is a picture of Frank
and me, taken by Pam.
Here is Frank's family:
But now, down to business.
Everybody sat and stared at me.
It was time for me to talk. I knew what I was going to say, because I had two
main messages to deliver on this Tour, and I alternated them according to
Living room meetings are the
hardest of all formats; I'm speaking for myself here. It is so much easier
speaking to sixty people from behind a podium either at a hall or a church. You
know that everyone wants to be at the hall or the church, but in a living room,
it's different. You get the sense from seeing some of the body language that
some people wish they were home watching television. You get the sense that
maybe some of these people are here because the host or hostess invited them
and they said yes to be nice. Maybe they're doing them a favor. All these
thoughts go through your mind at the living room meeting, but not the hall or
the church meeting. A speaker is supposed to speak at a hall or a church. But
in a living room, people are supposed to live. They do not generally come to a
living room to hear speakers. It is so intimate.
I saw some bad body language this
evening. Bad body language includes crossed arms and eyes looking all around.
Or fidgeting. Some of the body language came at me like the body language Paul
must have seen at Mars' Hill in Athens. Luke, who wrote Acts, must have been in
the audience before Paul spoke because he quotes one of the philosophers saying
of Paul (New American Standard Version): "What would this idle babbler
wish to say?"
Everyone was waiting to hear what
I had to say. And there was Frank Whalen staring at me, as well. Frank really
does want to hear what I have to say in the best possible sense. He respects me
a great deal, and I him. But was I intimidated by the great Frank Whalen
expecting me to rise to the level of wonderment I'd displayed occasionally on
All of these thoughts and visions
would not ordinarily be going through my mind, but they were this evening
because I had not had the cushion to gather myself, to look at my notes (which
I also usually do), and to generally confess my weakness to God and get on with
it. Now it was only the raw, get on with it. Oh, and this: I generally ask either
the host or hostess to introduce me, but I had forgotten to do that–that's how
out of my game I was. So there I was, with all eyes upon me except some eyes
that were wandering around the room, and a few people sitting without Bibles
crossing their arms and wondering what time they could possibly leave without
seeming impolite. I may have imagined all this; who knows?
All I could do was start talking,
which I did. I forget how I started. But I do remember how I forgot. By this I
mean to say, I soon did not know what I was talking about. My mind was going
blank. This is a fearful thing, if you've ever experienced it. It's one thing
experiencing it when you're talking with one person in, say, a restaurant
booth. It's another thing when you're facing a considerable group of people
staring at you.
This has nearly happened to me on
live radio. I have been on live radio on several occasions, and there were
times when, temporarily distracted by one thing or another, I have forgotten
completely what I was talking about. It's a really bad feeling. You just kind
of stare for a second and you think to yourself, Oh, crap. The worst thing you
can do is make a big deal of it. I can usually bail out by remembering the last
word I said (or the last word I remember saying), and then starting some thread
based on that word, even if it's not the thread I left off on.
When I say that this has nearly
happened to me on the radio, I mean that I have recovered enough so that no one
noticed except me. I am always prepared, on the radio, to simply acknowledge
the brain freeze, were it to happen in an obvious way. Strangely, this is the
best defense against brain freeze: be willing to admit that your brain freezes.
I know that I am not too proud to stop in my tracks on the radio or elsewhere
and say, "Does anyone know what the hell I was just talking about?"
Honesty is the best policy, and knowing that this valve is in place ready to be
used keeps me on track, usually. The worst thing is to not allow yourself to
make a mistake, and then the pressure mounts to the point that you do make a
mistake. It's paradoxical, I think.
Well, in Bella Vista I started
talking, and I was so tired and unprepared and noticing some of the body
language that I soon had no idea what I was talking about. For about three or
four seconds I was aware of being on autopilot. In other words, in the midst of
my forgetting what I was talking about, my words took over. My words remembered
what they were, so they went on without me for a few seconds. I was very appreciative
of my words for what they did for me in Bella Vista. I would have done the same
for them, and they know that. My words and I are this way, constantly doing
favors for one another.
But then even my words failed me.
I am still a little upset at them for that, because I didn't think they'd go
that far. I stopped for a moment, and I actually considered saying,
"Please excuse me for fifteen minutes while I go lay down. You may speak
privately among yourselves. Or eat. I really don't care what you do." Fortunately,
I did not say this. If you were to talk to anyone who attended that meeting,
they may not have even noticed that all this was going on in my mind. The
autopilot may have been so effective that it may have covered my sorry self. I
don't know. All I know is that I got the brilliant idea to start asking
questions. So I started asking questions. I'd look at someone and say, "Do
you believe in free will?" I'd look at another person and say, "Do
you believe God is behind all evil?" It was a total bailout, but it
worked. The people began talking, which meant that I didn't have to. I let a
few arguments start while I rested. They people were arguing, and I was sipping
water and engaging a few childhood memories. This seemed to go on for a while,
but it was probably only a minute. By the time I took back up, I was on track.
Then–BANG. My second wind came.
Or maybe it was my first wind. I'd have to say, upon reflection, that it was my
first wind. Anyway, I was off to the races, testifying of God to everyone with
ears to hear. It was another miracle.
All the bad body language was
changing; I saw it change. I saw that the people who were out of it at the
beginning were now in. I was drawing them in. I was looking at them and
pleading with them non-verbally. One of the worst body-language people–a
woman–was riding my train now big time. I had hooked her. Later, as the meeting
wore down, she was one who seemed to have gotten the most out of it. You never
know; you just never know.
The lesson for me and everyone is
that awkwardness doesn't matter. It is always best to expect it. I have rarely
entered a living room meeting with strangers that was not awkward at first. In
fact, it seems that awkwardness is a pre-requisite. When one realizes that, it
makes everything easier. It's always easier when you know your enemy. Then,
when it shows up, you're not so surprised.
In My Own House
September 17th, 2007
I spent the night in Bella Vista
in my own house. Yes, my own house. I had not realized the day before that the
place we had the meeting in was nobody's house. I thought it was somebody's
house, but it wasn't. It was my house. The whole time, we were meeting in my
house. I wish I'd know that. I'd have sent everyone home and taken a nap. (Just
So I woke up in my delicious
house, made myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the back porch of my house as
the sun came up and tried to figure out how I could be so blessed. I couldn't
figure it out. All I could come up with was to just stop asking questions of
myself and enjoy the coffee and listen to the leaves blowing in the wind as the
school busses took the poor kids to school. How utterly delicious to sit on a
porch with coffee, and not have to go to school.
The apostle Paul suffered on his
apostolic journeys, so I was beginning to wonder about my journey. Paul said
that he learned how to abound and how to be abased, but so far I was still
waiting for the abased part. Oh, well. I was learning how to abound right now,
so I had to concentrate.
Pete and Pam eventually arrived
and we went to breakfast. We said our farewells, which was sad. It was always
said saying good-bye to people whom I'd only known for only a short time, but
who already felt like family. It was like that with everyone on the trip.
Arriving at a place and meeting people for the first time was always a little
awkward at first, but the awkwardness lasted only about three minutes. By the
time I left a place, I was family with everyone.
It was time to head north to
Kansas City, Missouri, and the home of Denise and Tom Smith. I had never met
Denise and Tom. And neither had I ever been to Kansas City.
My car had been to Kansas City,
however. I thank my deceased parents for this car. It is a '99 Ford Escort, or
something like that, with low miles. When my dad died three years ago, my mom
owned the car, and then my mom died in April and she didn't will the car to
anyone, but I bought it from the estate at a reasonable price. Whenever I drive
this car, I think of my parents. This was especially so on the ZenderTour. My
parents may not have understood this whole ZenderTour thing, but I know that
they would have wanted me to be happy and pursue my dreams and have a safe
vehicle. So my parents are still protecting me, even now, in the form of this
On the back windshield of my car,
I always noticed, was a sticker that said, "Kansas City Assembly
Plant." It was in Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas City, Kansas, where my
car was born. So here I was in Kansas City, Missouri, driving past the Ford
assembly plant, where my car was born. For some reason, I felt happy for my
car. It was coming home. I said to it, "Remember this place?" as I
drove by. I said that to my car. The plant was on my right as I drove north on
I-435, which is the outer belt that goes around both Kansas Cities.
My car didn't say anything;
perhaps it was overcome by emotion.
I forgot to tell you that,
earlier in the day on the way up Missouri on Route 71, I exited at the
intersection of U.S. 71 and U.S 54 at Nevada, turned east onto 54, went about a
hundred yards, parked my car along the side of the road near a factory
driveway, and called Melody at work.
"You'll never guess where I
am," I said.
She was kind of busy, but she
said she couldn't guess.
"Well, I'm facing east right
now on U.S. 54 in Nevada, Missouri.
"We were on this road on our
bicycle trip," I said.
"We were?" she said.
I had called Melody at a bad
time. It wasn't her fault. She was working her secretary job at the junior high
school back home, and here I was out on this great adventure having nothing to
do on this particular afternoon but drive and reminisce.
Tom Smith sells fire sprinkler
systems, and does he ever know all about fire sprinkler systems. He can tell
you all about them. If you live anywhere near Kansas City, either Missouri or
Kansas, and you need a fire sprinkler system, then you would be a fool not to
call Tom Smith. Because nobody knows more about fire sprinkler systems than Tom
Smith. He has developed a handsome business with the help of his wife Denise.
Fortunately, the only fire we had that night was on the grill.
The Smith's had invited their
family and some of their extended family to the Bible study. I gave up on
memorizing everybody's name. I am terrible at remembering people's names. If I
have known someone for twenty years, then I can usually remember that person's
name. But twenty minutes? I'm hopeless. I did try, though. It was risky
business. But I remember having a good meal and liking everyone I talked to. It
was a close family.
It was a good Bible study as
well. I gave away lots of books. Tom took the opportunity to speak up himself,
and he has an amazing knowledge of scripture and church history. He told me
that he doesn't get to talk too much about the Bible, and so my visit gave him
the opportunity to fellowship. He would get on a roll and say something like,
"Stop me when you can–if you can!"
I had my most sound night's sleep
at this house. I don't know why. Everywhere I stayed was wonderful. I slept
well at every place I slept. There was just something about this bed. And
something about the placement of my fan. Or the darkness of this particular
room, or the walls, or something. All I know is that it was a golden night of
slumber. No offense to anyone else along the way. I was comfortable everywhere
and slept well everywhere, as I just said. I'm only talking about serious REM
here, and all I know is that the deepest I went down the well of
unconsciousness was at the Smith home in Kansas City, Missouri. Thank you,
Denise and Tom. And thank you, the son of Denise and Tom. You are a blessed
person to repose nightly on such a bed.
Field of Dreams
September 18th, 2007
I have already written about my
side-trip to Dyersville, Iowa. It was a 200-mile detour, I think. Maybe 300
miles. It was worth every mile. Here is what I wrote from my motel that day in
Clear Lake, Iowa, along with some of the photos:
I am writing this in the hallway of the Heartland
Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa. This is an odd but fun lodge, set on the shore of
Clear Lake. I am enjoying a leisurely evening on my second day off of the trip.
I incorporated three days off into my thirty day journey, and I'm glad, because
I need the time to simply sit and think, to meditate on all that has happened.
This journey (it's more than a trip) has already
become one of the highlights of my life. I have so many wonderful stories to
tell you. I have met so many people--I've walked into and become involved in so
many people's lives--that I have not had time to sit and record the walk. I
know that many of you have logged on and said, "When is he going to update
the blog?" I've tried. Either I've not had computer access or, when I
have, I have been too busy living the life to record the life. Here is my
promise to you: when I arrive back home on the first of October, I will sit
down and complete the log of this trip, including photos. I do need to share
with you what has been happening out here, because it will edify and encourage
you. That is the goal. You will see and hear about the faith I have found all
over the country, and the wonderful people who are walking out that faith.
I passed the 4000 mile point of the trip
yesterday. I have been in 13 states, given away nearly 300 books, and talked
personally with approximately 100 people. Everywhere I have been, there has
been interest in the truth, and even--in some cases--people coming into the
grace of God for the first time. Most encouragingly, there are young people
receiving the message and becoming emboldened to take a stand for truth. This
is a dream come true for me.
It has been my goal from the beginning to spark
people, to inspire them, to educate them, to share some grace with them, to
generally touch their lives and have them touch mine, to leave them literature,
and then to bid them remain in the grace of God. This is happening!
To date, I have been to Pittsburgh, PA, Gambrills,
MD; Florence, SC; Titusville, FL; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Myers, FL; Atlanta,
GA; Blairsville, GA; Chattanooga, TN; Nashville, TN; Bella Vista, AR; and
Kansas City, MO. Tomorrow I will be in Cukato, MN, near Minneapolis, then on to
Frederic, WI, around Lake Michigan to Ludington, MI, then Grand Rapids,
Kalamazoo, and home. I will be sad when this journey ends. Besides writing,
this is what I was meant to do.
I incorporated a side-trip to the Field of Dreams
movie site in Dyersville, Iowa, which I just visited. I went 300 miles out of
my way to see this field. This was a pilgrimage for me. God has used this film
over the last 13 years to encourage me when I have been down in the dumps
concerning my walk of faith. Whenever I have felt despairing in my occupation
(and there have been many such times), God has directed me to put this movie in
the player, to watch, and to learn. He has never failed to use Field of Dreams
to encourage me.
There are so many parallels to a spiritual walk in
this film. I quit my job with the Postal Service in 1993 with the understanding
that, "If I build it, they will come." That is, if I began writing
about God, people would be drawn to it. I did this, however, when there were no
people in sight. Just as Ray Kinsella, in the movie, builds a baseball field
BEFORE he knows whether or not Shoeless Joe Jackson will visit his field, I set
out to write about God to people I did not yet know, who God had not yet
manifested to me. For both Ray Kinsella and myself, it was a walk of faith, not
"If you build it, they will come." The Field of Dreams, as seen from
the bleachers where Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) told Ray Kinsella (Kevin
Costner), "They will come, Ray. They will most definitely come."
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I always got something different from God each
time I viewed the film. One time it was the famous phrase, "Go the
Distance." I received this when I thought I had extended myself as far as
possible and I could not possibly go on. God whispered to me, as He whispered
to Ray Kinsella and the reclusive writer in the movie, Terrance Mann: "Go
the distance." It is the equivalent of Paul telling Timothy: "Fulfill
your calling; don't quit."
I cried on the way to this field, and I cried on
the field. So many times I had seen this place on my television. How could God
make a collection of pixelated images so real in my life? I knew the place so
well. To finally be standing ON that field was overwhelming. I am no great fan
of baseball. But I am a fan of dreams. I am a fan of faith. I am a fan of
stepping out and trusting God. I am a fan of people coming to a place where
they will see and hear the truth for the first time. I am a fan of one of the greatest
lines in cinematic history, spoken by the actor James Earl Jones who played
Terrence Mann, "People will come, Ray. They'll most definitely come."
And they did come. They came to the field of dreams. And they have come to the
evangel of God's grace.
corn, where Terrence Mann walked into the next world. Field of Dreams in the
I will speak to you again when I have finished
this monumental course. And I promise that you will rejoice with me in all that
God is doing, and will do, before He calls us to Himself.
Grace and peace from The Field,
Back to the present now. I will
never forget Iowa that day. The weather was perfect, sultry, warm. Iowa is the
advertised corn capitol, and it lived up to it. Corn, brown by this time,
undulated over hills and out to the horizon. The sky was like a postcard that
day, azure blue with puffs of milky clouds. I rolled down my windows to take it
in and breathe it.
To me, there is something about
the heartland of America. It feels safe to me. If feels centered. It is
centered, literally, on the continent, but it is centered metaphorically and
spiritually, for me. It is at the heart of everything. It is overlooked by the
high-minded on the coasts; they call it "fly-over territory." That's
fine with me, if that's how they think. While the jet-setters of the world are
flying over Iowa, I am in Iowa smelling the farms that come wafting in my
window while I head for the white farm house where Ray Kinsella looked out the
window in expectation of his dream come true.
This ZenderTour was a journey of
faith, and so the Field of Dreams became the perfect metaphor. This day was the
heart of the trip; the heart, in the heartland. If someone were to ask,
"What was the capitol of the ZenderTour?" The answer would be,
"Dyersville, Iowa, and the Field of Dreams." That, for me, was the
When I walked off that field
after an hour's reverie, a new day began. Or so it seemed to me. I walked off
around 3 p.m., just as the school busses began delivering their passengers
home. Home. Imagine. Living in Dyersville, Iowa. I wanted to get as close to
Minnesota as possible before evening. Just the name of that state,
"Minnesota," was another romance for me; I'd never been there.
Imagine. I've bicycled across the country twice, been to the Northwest, the
Southwest, the Northeast, the Southeast, but never set foot in this strange
land called Minnesota.
For the rest of the day, rain
came. Driving west on U.S. 20 through Waterloo, then north on I-35 toward Clear
Lake, I was lost in a reverie. I could not stop thinking about that darn
baseball field. I had bought some souvenirs, including coffee mugs, a hat, some
pens, and a book about the movie. It's just that God used that movie so many
times over the last 13 years to help me through difficult patches in my own
walk, my own calling. God's voice, to me, was just as unmistakable as the voice
Ray Kinsella heard. I never heard a literal voice 13 years ago telling me to
quit the Postal Service and embark on my God work, but God spoke to me in scripture,
in His Word. I built the enterprise, and people came. It was all metaphoric and
Clear Lake looked like a good
place to shoot for. I would be primed from there to launch into Minnesota the
next morning and my stop in Cukato, just east of the Twin Cities of
I arrived in Clear Lake, Iowa in
a drizzle. Where to stay for the night? When I was on my own, that was always a
big decision for me. This was only my second night alone, and therefore my
second opportunity to find a reasonably priced motel. I was budget-conscious.
The first establishment that
presented itself after the exit was a Super 8. It looked like crap. Concrete
and dreary landscaping locked it in. I knew it would be cheap, but, this day,
cheap was not my primary consideration. I need flavor. I needed romance. I
needed soul, and this chain lodging failed every one of these criteria. So I
turned left onto Rt. 18 and headed into Clear Lake. I wondered why they called
this place Clear Lake. Then I studied the map. There was a lake! I wondered if
there was a motel on the lake. If there was, then it would surely answer all my
Then I saw it: a swell-looking
place right against the big, the clear lake. My concern was expense, but I was
ready to say to heck with that. This was too special of a day. I entered the
establishment, articulated my need for a night's lodging, and waited to hear
It was off-season, and the price
was reasonable enough for me to take. And am I glad I did.
Here is the dock that jutted out
into Clear Lake from my room:
What a peaceful time here. The
artic terns flew to and fro. Well, they weren't arctic terns, probably, but
I've always wanted to use "arctic tern" in a sentence with "to
and fro," so there it is. They were some kind of birds and they flew and
coasted and squawked and made me happy.
I went to the grocery store after
dark and stocked up on fruit and nuts and all sorts of healthy things. I
started out looking for a restaurant that the clerk had recommended to me, but
this establishment looked more like a bar (and a dive at that) so off I went
for oranges, almonds and cranberry juice.
What a way to end a nearly
perfect day; eating almonds and swigging cranberry juice alone by a lake in the
great state of Iowa. I'm pretty sure I had a great night's sleep, but not as
great as in Kansas City.
Minnesota and Some Spiritual
September 19th, 2007
I was excited to get to
Minnesota, mainly because I'd never been there. When I was a kid, I loved the
Minnesota Vikings football team. Fran Tarkenton was my favorite quarterback,
and then Joe Capp. I loved watching the games played in the old Metropolitan
stadium, which was more often than not covered with snow and played in a
blizzard. Now the Vikings have the dome, which is tragic to me. Football should
not be played indoors, ever. It should be played in the mud and snow and
No mud and snow for me on this
day. But what a thrill to cross into the great state of Minnesota. It was
mystical and magical. I came in on Interstate 35, through Albert Lea, then into
Owatonna. I believe it was in Owatonna that I stopped at a Subway and got
myself a sub. Here is a picture of me eating that sub. See? No snow anywhere.
At Owantonna I headed West on
U.S. 14. But before I get to that part, I've got to tell you about something
great than happened on Interstate 35.
There was a crazy trucker who
eased himself into the left lane and stayed there. This was probably around
mile marker 22. This would not have been a problem, except there was a trucker
on his right. There were these two moron truckers then, side-by-side, blocking
traffic on northbound Interstate 35 in Minnesota.
I got behind the trucker in the
left lane, pressured him, but he wouldn't budge. I put up with this for about a
minute, and then honked my horn. Nothing. A pick-up truck pulled up next to me
behind the trucker in the right lane. We're all doing about 65 miles per hour.
I looked over at the guy to my right and I shrugged. He shrugged back. Did
these truck drivers have an agenda, or where they just that stupid?
This is when the great thing
happened. The guy in the pick-up truck hit his horn and I looked over at him
again. He had a big grin on his face and was holding his cell phone to his ear
with his right hand. With his left hand, he was pointing to the back of the
truck in front of me in the left lane. (He must have been steering with his
knees at this point.) And there was the "How's my driving" notice
with t he 1-800 number on the left lane trucker's rear door. I gave my partner
a thumbs up and a big grin. Two minutes later, the idiot in the left lane sped
up and moved over. My buddy and I passed him without incident. I tucked back
into the right lane and waved my new friend farewell. I think of him often.
I headed west then on U.S. 14
through Mankato, and on to New Ulm; yes, that New Ulm. From there, north on
Highway 15, through Huchinson. I was nearing my goal of Cokato–yes, that
I had never met Russ Brown, but
we knew each other from e-mail. I believe he found me after reading How to Quit
Church Without Quitting God. Russ Brown is a man after God's own heart. He is a
quiet, unassuming man who works at a metal shop in downtown Cukato. And yet
he's an intellectual giant. He has suffered a couple strokes which have slowed
him down to mere genius stature.
I pulled into Russ's shop to meet
him and his young friend Karl Hillstrom, to whom he'd introduced the truths of
the glory of God. Karl, too, was a sharp young man, somewhere in his twenties,
and between Karl and Russ and me, we had the sum of the world's knowledge
contained: Russ and Karl knew everything, I knew nothing.
That's not true, of course. I
knew a little about the grace of God, and we talked about that at Russ's shop.
But it was not long before Russ jumped up, asked for my car keys and
disappeared. I talked with Karl for about a half hour before Russ returned with
my keys. My oil had been changed, my spark plugs, fluids and tire pressure
checked, and I had a full tank of gas. That's Russ Brown.
At home, I met Russ's wife
Lenore, who is quite handy with quilting needles. Now, I don't know much about
quilting, but I know a good quilt when I see one (all right, I lie), and I saw
plenty of them at Russ and Lenore's house. Lenore wins contests at the fair all
the time, and her quilts bring top dollar.
Karl, Russ, Lenore and I went
into Howard Lake for dinner; yes, that Howard Lake. Minnesota is so beautiful.
They call it the Land of 10,000 lakes, and I'm pretty sure it's because there
are 10,000 lakes.
The date was September 19, and it
wasn't hot anymore. The temperature was around 65 degrees; nice. But it seemed
strange to me that only ten days before I'd been in Ft. Myers, Florida, where
the temperature hovered at ninety degrees. I had come a long way. I was making
tracks, as they say.
Here is Russ, Lenore, Karl
Hillstrom and me at Russ's place after dinner; I wish I could remember Russ's
We went to Karl's place that
evening, which is sort of a commune establishment. We all sat at the kitchen
table while one of the dudes made tea for us, the kind of tea that he pulls
from the ground himself and boils. We began talking about God. Not everyone
here saw God the same way, yet everyone was polite. But then another one of the
other commune people came in, and it was the son of Satan.
He did not look like the son of
Satan; he looked like a nice guy; he was very polite. But this is how I always
expected the son of Satan to look and act. This guy's problem was, he thought
he knew everything about the Bible. It was a problem because he did not know
much of anything. He knew a lot of surface facts, yes, but no truth. He knew a
lot of verses, but he misapplied them. As Paul says, he was "forever
learning, yet not able at any time to come to a realization of truth."
He did not grasp God's ultimate
plan, for sure, and he mixed the gospel of the circumcision with the gospel of
the uncircumcision (this was his chief crime), destroying the grace of Paul's
message. Because of this, he had no idea of the full grace of God, or even the
partial grace; not even the circumcision grace. He was a Pharisee of the
Pharisees, and had he been alive at the time of Christ, I swear to God he would
have condemned our Savior to death and saved some energy to stone Stephen. He
would have somehow found the biggest rock and thrown it the hardest while
All this was hidden from the
untrained eye by a veneer of religiosity. I think only Russ and I appreciated
the evil underneath this man's facade. I testified to the truth as long as I
could, but this guy rejected everything, with a side order of ridicule. The
meeting was fateful for this offspring of Beelzebub, as it will stand against
him at the great white throne judgment. Nothing about this man suggested to me
that he was a believer. If he was a believer, then it was in the circumcision
evangel. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, because I don't think he had
a hold even of that. He was Saul, before his conversion. I couldn't wait to
leave. The evil at this place was great, but then so was the tea.
I had a great night's sleep in
the Brown's living room, and the next morning Russ and Karl and I went to a
local diner for breakfast.
September 20th, 2007
I love local diners. I didn't
start looking for them until about halfway into the trip. I rarely had
opportunity to eat out on my own, but when I did, I looked for the diner. This
place was the greatest; I'm sorry I can't remember the name. The guys at the
counter were hard talkin,' hard drinkin' (black coffee, that is) Minnesota men.
I could only imagine the winters these men had endured. Their faces were hard
and wrinkled and tanned, and their hands around their mugs were huge and exuded
strength. Many had two-day old whiskers. There was much laughter and much
backslapping at the diner, and I loved it. I also savored breakfast with my two
companions. This was Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes. There was no place, that
minute, that I would rather have been.
It was tough to leave my
companions, but the time had come. It really never took me long to get to know
people. Then, it seemed, as soon as I got to know them it was time to leave. It
was always sad. But the ZenderTour had to keep rolling.
Now it was downright chilly.
Well, I was in Minnesota. Before too long, this land was going to be covered in
a foot of snow and all 10,000 lakes would be frozen. But now it was simply
rugged and beautiful and rolling.
I would have loved to have driven
through the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) because I'd never seen them. But
my route into Wisconsin and the hour of the day made I-694 to I-35 East the
route of choice. Still, I could see the downtown skyline to my right as I drove
the outer belt. Home of the Minnesota Vikings!
I was a short drive now from
Frederic, Wisconsin, and the home of Jeff and Robin Sventek and their eleven
children. That's right: eleven children. It was soon to be twelve with the
addition of Zender. Here is the most recent photo of the Sventek clan that we
just got in the mail with a Christmas greeting:
I crossed into Wisconsin (another
state I'd never managed to get to) on U.S. 8 at St. Croix Falls, then headed
north on Rt. 35. I arrived at the Sventek home at lunchtime, and their lunch
table looked like chow time at a military installation.
I had never met any of the
Sventeks, but Jeff and Robin had been long-time subscribers to my newsletter
way back in the mid ?90s. Jeff and I had often threatened to get together, and
now here I was. The kids welcomed me instantly to the table, and there was
enough food for everybody, mainly because Robin is a great cook, and it seems
that her patience is without end. With eleven kids, she either has to be a
paragon of patience or a resident of Bedlam.
There were only nine Sventek
children at home. Well, you could have fooled me. It sure looked like eleven. I
counted. But sure enough, there was only nine. I wondered where the heck I was
going to sleep. In the barn? The garage? It looked like Jeff and Robin had a
nice garage. But no garage for Zender. I got the room in the basement of one of
the sons who was going to be away at a friend's for a few days.
I don't feel so bad not
remembering all the names of the kids because Jeff himself can't remember some
Robin homeschools the kids, which
is why they were all there eating lunch on a school day. My wife and I home
schooled our kids up to the seventh grade. Our youngest went to public school
in the third grade. The point came not only when our kids started getting
smarter than us, but we began getting frazzled. If anyone had a right to get
frazzled, it was Robin Sventek. But she seemed composed.
Jeff works at a retreat camp in
the woods. It's a great place with many cabins and a grand lake. He drove me
around and showed me the quiet places where he likes to go and think. On this
day and the following, we went to his quiet places to think and talk together.
Jeff and I had many good talks during my two-day stay in Frederic, and I will
always treasure them.
Jeff and Robin invited several of
their friends for a Bible study hosted by yours truly, and here's some of the
gang that gathered on Thursday night. (That's Robin holding the baby.
Surprisingly, it isn't hers):
On the Friday evening before I
left, some of the kids and Jeff and I went for a walk down a country road.
By the time I left Frederic, the
leaves were flying off the trees. I treasured my time with the Sventek clan. I
have fond memories of you all and I hope to be able to return next year when
the house is full.
When In Doubt, Do It
September 22nd, 2007
Saturday, September 22 was to be
my third day off from the tour. All my days off were by necessity due to long
stretches of highway between stops. Still, I looked forward to them. Ever since
I bicycled across the U.S. solo in 1980 from Los Angeles to Boston, I have been
particularly fond of my own company.
My next stop was Ludington,
Michigan, clear around the top of Lake Michigan. It was way too far for one
day's drive (I was not in a push-it mode, remember), so I planned on a
still-significant day of driving and hoped to get to the Mackinac Island area
The back road Jeff sent me out on
on Saturday morning was gorgeous. I am fonder of this road than of any other on
the trip. The leaves were already turning, the road turned, the sun was
perfect, this was Wisconsin–where I'd never been–and I couldn't imagine a more
perfect scenario. All I kept thinking was: Melody has got to see this some day;
I've got to bring her up here.
I took a back road through the
town of Luck (good luck), headed east on Rt. 48, which was a small road and a
very beautiful road that I recommend to everyone. This road took me to Rice
Lake, where I headed south on Rt. 53 and joined up again with U.S. 8, which
would–and did–take me across the state of Wisconsin. Later that afternoon, I
crossed into Iron Mountain, and I was on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Now it was a long haul on U.S. 2.
This was proving to be a longer day of driving than I had anticipated, but the
day was perfect and the scenery swell. I felt at home in Minnesota, Wisconsin
and Michigan. I would have to say that these three states, along with Iowa,
where my favorite states to drive through.
At Escanaba I was finally on the
north shore of Lake Michigan, and from here to St. Ignace and the Straits of
Mackinac the scenery would go from swell to spectacular.
I stopped along the lake several times.
Here is a shot which I believe is at Manistique:
Here are two near Brevort:
I couldn't wait to see the
Mackinac Bridge, which is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.
This longing has to do with my childhood, my parents, and my teen years. I had
been to Mackinac Island twice, once with my parents at about age 12, and once
in 1979, via bicycle from Ohio with my friend Paul Hoffer. I had never driven
over the Mackinac Bridge, but of course had seen it from the island on the two
I wanted to find a room on the
U.P. side of the bridge, that is, in St. Ignace. I wanted to save the drive
across the bridge for morning. At around 6:30 p.m., a Super 8 motel presented
itself, right at the Straits. I wondered if I'd be able to get a room
overlooking the Straits and the bridge.
Such a room was available, but it
was extra. This was the off-season and the rates were reasonable, but it was
still more than I usually wanted to pay for a motel room. I contemplated this
for about thirty seconds and then said, "I'll take it!"
What a great decision. I have to
admit that I kept making great decisions throughout this trip, many of them
having to do with one of my mottos in life that I, myself, invented: "When
it doubt, do it."
What a relaxing evening I spent
with just myself, the Straits of Mackinac, and the Mackinac Bridge, glimmering
with lights. I sat in a plastic deck chair on my balcony, perched safe at the
confluence of two of the Great Lakes: Michigan and Huron. The evening turned
dark and the lights on the bridge gleamed It was a trip back to my childhood,
as well as a trip into the future: I'd be driving across the bridge in the
morning, in just a few short hours. I had a chance, on that balcony, to think
back on all the great times on the ZenderTour, and to call Melody and try to
describe to her the peace of the warm evening, the significance of the Straits,
and the lights of the great bridge.
I mostly succeeded.
September 23rd, 2007
The day dawned sunny and I looked
forward to crossing the Mackinac Bridge.
I have always liked bridges,
especially on bicycle trips. Bridges are spans between two lands, and they
spell progress for the traveler. A bridge tells the traveler that he is getting
somewhere. Bicycling across the Mississippi on both of my transcontinental
bicycle tours was always a thrill because the Mississippi is the acknowledged
boundary between the East and West. Here in Michigan, I was straddling two
Great Lakes: Michigan and Huron.
It is both hard and stupid to try
to take a picture while crossing a bridge in a car, but here is the picture I
took while crossing the Mackinac Bridge in a car on the morning of Sunday,
September 23, 2007:
After I took this photo, I kept
looking to my left to see if I could spot the famous colonnaded porch of the
Grand Hotel on Mackiniac Island. There it was! I did look ahead at the road
every once in a while, just to make sure I stayed on the bridge. Falling off a
bridge does not spell progress for the traveler, but would rather be a huge
There was a short stretch of
Interstate 75 to be negotiated through Mackinac City, then it was off the
interstate for me and unto U.S. 31. I was hungry, but decided to wait until
Petoskey to eat. Here, I would be along Lake Michigan again, and it seemed like
a good place to breakfast.
I found a local eatery, but it
was apparently a very popular one and I hit it just in time to catch the church
crowd. The food was great when I finally got it. I will hand it to the manager
for at least apologizing for the long wait, and wishing to make my stay more
comfortable. One does not generally consider one's meal at a restaurant a
"stay," but my time at this eatery was developing into that. But then
I remembered that, even though I had given my hosts at Ludington a general time
of arrival, I could always change the general time. This trip was about
relaxing, not stressing out. I had to talk myself into that time and again.
Just south of Traverse City, the
option arrived to either head down Rt. 37–a straighter route but away from the
lake–or stay on the lake on Rt. 31. I opted for Rt. 37 because, before getting
to Ludington (on the lake), I wanted to visit the Baldwin Chapel in Baldwin,
The Baldwin Chapel is a tiny
building built, perhaps, in the early thirties, and was home to many meetings
and host to some real men of God for sixty years. God chose this place to be a
hub of spirituality and spiritual teaching for the same reason that He decided
to have His Son–the Savior of the world–born in a stable.
I got in on the tail end of the
Baldwin Chapel days, speaking there for the first time in August of '94. I
would speak there for seven more years.
Three-day conferences were held
here twice a year, in August and October, hosted by Dorothy and Lloyd Hibberd,
faithful stewards of God's Word.
Back in the old day–so I am
told–conferences were two weeks long, and people would come from several states
away. In those days, the chapel couldn't hold everyone, so congregants sat
outside on lawn chairs and the messages were transmitted via loudspeaker. Those
days were gone by the time my family and I arrived, and only a small remnant
gathered here to glory in the grace of God and the salvation of all.
A worldly person would look at
this chapel, and would look at some of the meetings I spoke at in the late ?90s
and would say, "These people can't be teaching truth. Only thirty people
attend these meetings. And just look at the building. There is no more humble
edifice on the face of the earth. And just look at Dorothy and Lloyd Hibberd.
Why, they aren't fancy people at all. They're only regular people with no
theological degrees. And they can't even dress right. And where's the organ?
All this place has is an out-of-tune piano. No, the truth CAN'T live at this
Oh, but it did. And it delighted
God for the truth to live here; and it was taught here for sixty years. This is
how God operates, we all know. Well, not everybody knows this. In fact, only a
handful of people on the planet know it. But I knew. And my family knew. We
knew when we first started driving up here that it was a special place. Never
did we feel more love or hear more truth. God moved at the Baldwin Chapel.
But this was 2007. Lloyd and
Dorothy Hibberd were dead. Meetings had stopped around 2001. The building, I
knew, had been purchased by the Tru Valu Hardware store that adjoined the
property. I had not seen the Baldwin Chapel in seven years. I had to see it
again. I knew it would be sad, but I had to revisit this spiritual and holy
It was sad. It was a startling
moment, pulling up. I called Melody on my cell phone as I pulled up and said,
"I'm at the Baldwin Chapel."
She said, "Oh, my. You're
"No," I said, and as I
walked around the building and took these pictures, I talked to her on the
phone and explained to her what I was looking at.
We have several photos of my wife
and my kids–when the kids were all still shorter than me–standing outside of
this chapel in the sunshine of an August day, gathered with the faithful after
a refreshing time of hearing God's Word from the likes of Dean Hough, Tony
Nungesser, Jim Coram, Phil Scranton, Ted McDivitt, Orville Hunt, Louis Abbot, and
others. Even A.E. Knoch taught here. And John Essex.
But now, look at it. It was in
worse shape, even, then it was when I taught here. I strained to look in the
windows, but they were boarded up. I imagined that the chapel was now being
used as a stock area for the hardware store. To me, this was like the
Babylonians invading the temple. Or the Romans. It was God's house, profaned.
Ah, but it was not God's house; God now lives in the bodies of His saints. The
Baldwin chapel was a building where the saints gathered to glorify God. I kept
reminding myself of that; it was only a building. I kept trying to remind
myself of it, even as my throat tightened and I finally told Melody, "I
have to go."
God bless the Baldwin Chapel.
Lars Kvalvaag and Sarah Denny
awaited my arrival in a garden behind the Inn at Ludington, a bed and breakfast
only a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan.
I had never met either Lars or Sarah.
I think I received my first e-mail from Lars six months before the trip. He was
a twenty-something happy man who reveled in God as the Savior of all mankind.
He heard about the trip and wanted me to stop if I could manage it. He said his
mom owned a bed and breakfast, and that she would love to host me, and any
meetings I wanted to have. Lars' enthusiasm won me over; he was giddy about the
truth; he emoted happiness over it. The man was not inhibited, as far as I
could tell. I liked all this. The first three things that screamed at me to
visit Ludington were: Lars, Lars, and Lars. The second thing was the prospect
of staying at the bed and breakfast, which you see here:
A lot of things on this tour were
so last minute, and I called Lars only a few days before I actually left. When
I told him I wanted to come to Ludington, he laughed for about a minute, so
happy was he. As he was laughing, I heard him tell someone else in the room
that Martin Zender was coming to Ludington. This announcement was followed by a
loud squeal–and sounds of dancing, it seemed. I was right. Lars and his friend
Sarah were dancing around the room. I asked what dance it was, and they said it
was sort of like a jig, but mainly freelance. It couldn't be defined, they
These were the two people who
practically jumped into my arms when I pulled into the parking lot of The Inn
at Ludington, at 701 East Ludington Street.
Lars and Sarah took me into the
Inn and showed me my room. I was to be on the first floor, in the
"Scandinavian Room." I share a picture of this marvel with you, taken
from the website:
But that wasn't all. Lars had
downloaded a photo of Melody and me from the website and framed it and put in
on the nightstand next to my bed. Next to that was a picture of my family. That
wasn't all. On top the dresser, compliments of Sarah, was a box full of peanut
M&M packages, a coffee maker, and a bag of coffee beans that said, "A
hint of vanilla?and it's European." The coffee and the candy were references
to the chapter called "The Parable" in the last pages of my recent
book, How to Be Free From Sin While Smoking a Cigarette, where I eat lunch with
the Lord Jesus Christ on the ship bound for France.
I was moved by the love,
hospitality and forethought that went into my stay. I was glad I'd decided to
spend two nights in Ludington.
And two mornings! Breakfast is a
wondrous occasion, not only because of Kathy's cooking, but because how fun it
is to sit with other people for a communal dining experience. Before I left on
this tour, I would have probably said, "Um, no thanks" to the
community breakfast. But this trip was changing me, opening me, and the
mornings at the Inn became not only a gastronomical, but also a social delight.
Here is where we boarders dined each morning:
Lars and Sarah have an intimate
circle of friends that include Jonathan, Jared and Jacob. They are all happy,
free-spirited people who are not afraid to hug each other and jump into each
other's arms and smoke cigarettes and drink wine and praise God. They were all
associated with a particular church in Ludington, but now that is behind them
because of the truth they've embraced. Lars, a gifted musician, was a
cornerstone of the church, and was kicked from it only about three weeks before
my arrival. It was a shock to him, and yet liberating at the same time. All
things were becoming new.
More excitement was yet to come,
because it was decided beforehand that Dan Sheridan would meet up with me in
Dan Sheridan is the Chicago-based
man of God I met earlier in 2007, in June, when he spoke at my conference. He's
the one I wrote about earlier, the co-star of the Martin Zender Goes to Chicago
video. He had the radio show on the Chicago Christian radio station where I
joined him in late June that we both managed to get kicked off of. Dan is
extremely knowledgeable in the things of God; he sees God's ultimate goal,
revels in the God out of Whom all is, and will go anywhere the truth is
Who kept me company throughout
the ZenderTour? Three people: Dan Sheridan, Tony Smith, and Jean Douglas. I
felt like I took the trip with these three. Many potentially lonely hours in
the car were relieved with discussions with one of these men, who kept tabs on
me, thought about me, and called me, not overwhelmingly often, but often enough
to let me know that they were thinking about me and wondering where I was. And
so, thank you Dan, Tony and Jean. You made all those long driving hours on the
ZenderTour a communal experience.
After talking to Dan Sheridan for
nearly a month, I was looking forward to finally seeing him again. Lars, Sarah,
Jonathan, Jacob, Jared and I went to a restaurant in Ludington where we would
await Dan. We knew he was only fifteen minutes or so from the city, and we told
him where we were. So finally, in he came. For me, it was a great moment. It
felt so apostolic.
I know there are no apostles
today, but this ZenderTour felt very much like first-century drama. I think I
already told you that I often felt like Paul visiting the ecclesias. And now
here was a fellow-laborer, come not only to support me but also to help
establish this young group in truth. And that's what the trip was all about.
We had scheduled two meetings,
one for this night, Sunday, and one for Monday. The meetings were to be held in
the main, common living area of the Inn.
In attendance at the meeting that
evening was a man who was hosting my next stop in Grand Rapids: Dale Kelley. I
told him I would be in Ludington before coming down to his place, and he wanted
to know if he would be welcomed at the Ludington meetings. Lars' attitude, of
course, was: "The more the merrier!" so Dale came on up. He is a
good-looking man with facial hair much like mine, of a calm, quite, yet firm
I spoke on the topic of God's big
picture. Several other people attended, and the camaraderie was palpable.
Two of the attendees were Kathy
and Ola, Lars's mother and father. Strong Swedes. Loving. Vibrant. Glowing.
Kathy was gung-ho into the new revelations; Ola seemed more hesitant about it
Kathy Kvalvaag is a professional
hostess, but it comes naturally to her. She made all of us feel so at home at
the Inn. You must go to the Inn and meet this family. If you want to bask in
warm hospitality and be in a big but small city and luxuriate on the shores of
Lake Michigan, then you cannot do better than The Inn at Ludington. I know I'm
sounding like a commercial, but that's fine. Call now. Operators are standing
Here's a photo after the first
night's meeting; from left to right: Lars' sister and kitty kat, me, Lars, Kathy,
Jared, and Sarah:
We were a jolly old gang in
Ludington: Lars, Sarah, Jonathan, Jake, Jared, Dan and me. We went out to eat
together, sat on the front porch together (the weather was unseasonably warm),
drank wine together, sang Billy Joel songs together at the tops of our lungs,
and talked about God.
One of the most enjoyable things
we did was walk out onto the Ludington Pier, at the end of which sits the
majestic Ludington Lighthouse. Here are some select photos I lifted off the
We went out on the pier
twice–once during the day, and once at night. Our night trip out to the
lighthouse was the best. This was Monday night, after the second meeting.
It was warm, the stars were out,
the moon was out, the water dashed up white against the breakwall; it was
magnificent; a perfect evening. We went to the end of the pier, under the
lighthouse, and laid down on the concrete, looking up at the stars. Everyone
was quiet for a moment, and then Dan started reciting scripture from memory:
"For this we are saying to
you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who are surviving to the
presence of the Lord, should by no means outstrip those who are put to repose,
for the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with a shout of command,
with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the
dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are
surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with
the Lord. So that, console one another with these words."
I can't speak for anyone else,
but I had tears in my eyes by the time he finished. I get a chill even now,
reading these words and recalling the moment.
More shots from the pier that
Sarah, me, Lars:
Dan and me:
Dan, Lars, me:
Here is our "Abbey
Road" shot, coming home from the pier; Jared is heading the wrong way,
Lars is kicking Jacob, and Dan is only pretending to grab Jonathan's rear end:
Here is Jonathan at the
"Abbey Road" shot:
It was my privilege on this trip
to acquaint Lars and Sarah with the finer points of distinction between Paul's
message and the message to the Circumcision. This occurred on Monday morning,
in the garden behind the Inn. It was a spontaneous eruption of words, in view
of a naked Greek statue. God used this impromptu meeting to impress upon Lars
and Sarah the importance of correctly cutting (KJV, "rightly
dividing") the Word of truth.
Since leaving Ludington, Dan has
set up Lars and Sarah with their own radio show. We have since returned to help
establish this growing ecclesia. Lars and Sarah broadcast on station WKLA in
Ludington on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. The Word of God is going forth with
power, and it will not return to Him void. Lars also teaches on Sunday evenings
at The Inn at Ludington. Anyone in the Michigan area who can attend it invited.
You can reach Lars at: email@example.com
Dan and I have compared Ludington
to Gettysburg: he came up from the south, I came in from the north, and we
joined forces in this city to help combat the old church influence, already
waning. We met in Ludington for deep spiritual growth, disguised as a good
time. The result? Faith, love, joy, expectation. And the making of friends who
would be friends forever.
It was hard to leave Ludington,
yes. But I took a piece of Ludington with me to the next stop as Lars and Sarah
joined the tour for a day. On Tuesday afternoon, they drove just ahead of me to
Grand Rapids, to the home of Dale and Dori Kelley.
Furthering the Word of Grace
September 25th, 2007
Dori Kelley cooked us a perfect
meal. Maybe Dale helped. He looked to me like a pretty good husband, so I'm
supposing he did. It was strange sitting at this dining room table, looking
around. How had all this happened? How had I gotten here? Here were Sarah and
Lars, across the table from me, two people I felt I'd known my whole life. I
had introduced them to Dori earlier, and Dori assumed we'd known each other for
a long time. "I met these people two days ago," I said. It was weird
to say it, and weird to hear myself say it.
Dale invited mostly family, but
also a few friends to that night's Bible study. The living room felt warm and
comfortable. There was none of the usual tension; I'm not sure why. I always
took the time to meet and greet people ahead of time. This made it easier to
begin speaking when the "official" meeting began. God bless Dale,
because he started this meeting, not me. He testified to the power of God in
his life, how he had come to believe in the success of Christ's cross, how he
had first heard of me (it was over the internet), and how my books had helped
him see the big picture. Dale broke the ice for me, but more importantly, he
glorified God, and put all of us in the mood to hear more.
I usually pointed out to people,
right off the bat, that I was not here to sell books. It would be easy for
people to get that impression, because I generally had stacks of my books
sitting on a table or a counter, for people to take. I pointed out right away
that I was not selling books, but rather giving them away. I told people that I
was traveling this summer to promote the true God. I said that I'd written
books about the true God, and that I was offering these books, free of charge,
to anyone who wanted to come and hear. This always set the meeting up right
from the beginning, and put people at ease. I was not talking anyone into
joining anything. I would be here, and then I would be gone. I wanted to leave
them some riches, and this is what I did.
As a side note, on this inaugural
ZenderTour I estimate that I gave away about 350 of my books. I was able to do
this because of the graciousness of many of you who are reading. You have
supported my efforts, and I was able to embark upon this trip with confidence
because of you. I was able to give away free books, because of you. You would
have been thrilled to see the looks on people's faces when I told them,
"Please. Take whatever books you want. There is no charge." This
really helped to further the word of grace. It was consistent with it.
Obviously, I cannot give everything away on the Internet, and I depend on book
sales to help keep me going. But when meeting people face to face, it is a
great advantage to be able to give material away. So now you know. If you want
free Zender books, all you have to do is join up with a ZenderTour somewhere,
and help yourself. I am tentatively planning two trips next summer.
Dale's wife Dori was not too sure
about these truths. Many people along the tour struggled, especially with God's
control of all. More than one person inadvertently played the part of the
protestor of Romans chapter 9 who says, "If God hardens whomever He will,
why is He still blaming?" In other words, how can God judge people who He
makes hard?" The question is the result of human reasoning, not faith. The
answer is: He just does.
Dori wanted very much for the
salvation of all to be true, but I could sense that she was not completely
sold. And yet she was very gracious, very kind, very attentive. She asked good
questions that I attempted to answer. When the formal meeting was over, many
others of the guests contributed to the conversation. Not everyone was
"sold out." But at least my books "sold" out, as they
usually did at all the meetings.
Wednesday, September 26
Lars and Sarah went back to Ludington after the meeting, and
I spent the night at the Kelley’s in Grand Rapids. This was to be the shortest
stop/visit on the whole ZenderTour: 18 hours. And yet, as God would have it,
the most significantly spiritual event of the whole tour occurred at this stop,
on this day.
I got up early to find Dale already up and drinking coffee.
I joined him, and he made us a health shake. Dori arose soon after, and we
found ourselves sitting at the kitchen table. It was between 7:30 and 8 a.m.
There was some small talk, and then matters turned
scriptural. God made me the catalyst for Dori and Dale to bring up some of
their scriptural and spiritual differences. Dori had not been able to see
eye-to-eye with her husband on matters relating to God, and Dale had not always
patiently borne with this. I will not share every detail of this meeting. As in
any marriage, each party has his and her own faults. And yet here was a couple
that had endured much, and was still committed to the common good. There was
strain at this table this morning, and yet there was an underlying foundation
of love that seemed capable to me of bearing all.
I found myself in the position of counselor, which in my
book means listener. It should have been surprising but it was not, that these
two who I had only just met were pouring their hearts out, even airing their
differences. I knew it was only the common bond of spirit that could have made
the three of us this intimate in such a short period. The topic eventually came
around to the heart of all: the evangel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I
do not speak here of the false evangel of the Christian religion, which barters
so much spiritual blessing for so much human faith, but rather the evangel of
the grace of God, which makes Christ’s faith the sole facilitator of all
blessing, present and future.
As I listened, the words I shared with Lars and Sarah in the
garden behind The Inn at Ludington came to mind. But I did not want to share
them. In fact, I distinctly remember telling myself then, Don’t get into that.
Why wouldn’t I get into it? I’m embarrassed to tell you, but here it is: I
was tired. I was physically and mentally shot. It was the tail end of the tour,
and I was tired of hearing myself talking. The torrent of words at the inn had
taken a force out of me—some kind of toll. This sounds metaphysical, but I’m
only trying to describe it and this is the best I can do. Whatever talent for
communicating God has planted in me comes with a toll. Everything, even in
spirit, comes with a toll. Simply and humanly stated, I was not up to repeating
the talk from the Ludington garden. I was not up to the tears that I knew would
come from me when I tapped this well. I was not up to the investment of
resources. And yet God had other ideas.
Something triggered me; I don’t remember what it was. All I
know is that, even as I was telling myself not to do it, I heard myself saying
the words. I heard myself beginning the story of Saul’s journey to Damascus,
and ending somewhere in the Third Heaven.
What happened next is much too private to tell in detail,
and yet some fashion of it must be described so that you can share in the glory
of God. As I spoke, Dori began to hold her head in her hands and shake, and
cry. I continued on. She said that she saw it, that she didn’t know this was
what it was all about, but that she now saw the glory of God—and indeed, she
was speaking as if she were seeing something in her hands. But what was coming
into focus for her was not a vision, but a revelation and a realization. She
said her husband’s name over and over again, and reached for him across the
table. He got up, took her in his arms, and they embraced and wept. There were
more confessions from each side. I was sitting silently now, adding my own
contribution to the flow of tears.
Today, Dale and Dori drive the long drive up to Ludington
every other Sunday or so, rejoicing in the truths shared by Lars and others. On
my last trip to Ludington, Dale and Dori were there. It had been only a short
time since I’d seen them, but it was much like a reunion.
Here is a photo of Dale and Dori I took on the morning of
September 26, 2007, about thirty minutes after the kitchen table meeting, and
thirty minutes before I pulled out of the driveway with directions from Dale to
an address in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which would be the last stop on the tour of
September 26th, 2007
I was driving to my last stop on
the Tour, which was a sobering thought. The Tour had become part of me. It was
not just a trip anymore, but a living, vital thing. The Tour was a thing that
existed, and I was only on it. I was only the one sent to inhabit the Tour.
Only a few years ago, I could not
have imagined myself on this tour. For years, I cursed driving; I disliked it a
lot. As I always said, "Give me one extreme or the other." For me,
there was only bicycling and flying.
If I wasn't riding across the
country on a bicycle, I wanted to be flying over it in a jet. Driving seemed so
primitive to me. Some may say that bicycling is primitive, but it didn't seem
as primitive as driving. Bicycling across the United States, which I'd done
twice, was advanced in that one could not simply jump on a bicycle and do it.
The distance had to be earned. One needed a certain mind-set to do it. One had
to be stable emotionally and very, very patient. One had to be able to endure
cold and heat and fatigue. One had to have a goal and be able to hold it, keep
it. There was a special investment required of the mind. There was an investment
of time; of strength; of commitment. All these things appealed to me. This is
all primitive in the best sense of the word. But driving an automobile was
primitive in the worse sense.
Driving a car was cheating. To
travel in an auto, you didn't need any of the above. No mind-set, and no
emotional stability (in fact, this rare trait seemed to disqualify one from
driving). A person in a car was isolated from his or her environment. Not so on
a bicycle. On a bicycle, one feels. When one bicycles across, say, Nevada, one
feels Nevada. One comes away knowing Nevada. Not so in a car. Surrounded by
steel in glass, the driver does not experience a place, but only moves quickly
through it. Then why isn't flying the worst gig of all?
Because flying doesn't pretend to
be an experience. Flying says, "Want to get to Chicago? Then let's go to
Chicago." Flying doesn't care whether you want or don't want to pass over
Indiana; it only gets you to Chicago. Points in-between? They don't matter in a
jet. In a jet, there are no points in-between. There is only the beginning and
the end, interrupted by a bag of peanuts and a glass of orange juice.
It was the pretending to be about
experience that I didn't like about driving. Driving, to me, wasn't about
experience, and it wasn't about getting somewhere. What it was was an immense
hassle and one long series of roadblocks that seemed to conspire to keep one
from one's destination, rather than take one there.
I hated driving because of the
danger. Jets are safe by comparison. As the saying goes: The most dangerous
part about flying is driving to the airport. Even bicycling is safe by
comparison. Why? On a bicycle, you're only going about thirteen miles per hour.
Yes, you're exposed to cars, but I come back to the 13 miles per hour.
I'd always remarked that, while
flying on a jet, I'd never seen another jet crashed on a cloud somewhere. Or
broken down. And yet there was never a road trip I'd taken in a car where I
hadn't seen the aftermath of some horrible accident: car upside down in the
median, two cars smashed together, truck overturned, ambulances and fire trucks
rushing to some horrible disaster, gas spilled all over the highway, flames
leaping into the sky. I always associated highways with ribbons of carnage. And
they were. And they are. They are corridors of death and destruction and pain
Not to mention orange barrels.
Highways need constant attention. And so crews are always out, blocking lanes,
congesting traffic, setting up orange barrels. I always thought that the most
secure job in the world in this eon would be to work in an orange barrel
Delays, congestion, accidents,
death–and can you stay awake? That's always the challenge in a car. On a
bicycle? Not an issue. There is the wind in your face, the constant impressions
from one's intimacy with the road, the exertion, the sweat, the balancing; one
cannot fall asleep while riding a bicycle. On a jet? Doesn't matter. Someone
else is driving; you can sleep all you want. In a car? It's a lullaby on wheels,
but you better not succumb or you're dead. There are sixteen different ways to
fall asleep in a car; you're staring straight ahead, the lines are mesmerizing,
there is no wind, the body is completely immobile, the mind is in neutral,
there is no stimulation worthy of the name. It is a recipe for death. Indeed,
fatigue at the wheel is the number one cause of death on the highway.
So why was I having such a
wonderful time in my Ford Contour on the ZenderTour? I was a while figuring
that one out myself. Here is what I came up with: The ZenderTour was not about
driving, and neither was it about traveling. My bicycle trips were about
traveling. Any time I was flying, it was about arriving at a destination. With
the ZenderTour, I was on a mission. It was the mission that mattered, not the
means of achieving it. This was simply the most practical way to accomplish the
ZenderTour. If I'd done it on my bicycle–which has tempted me once or twice
over the years–then the stars of the show would have been my bicycle and me,
not Christ and the evangel. Had I been on a bicycle, the means of traveling
would have competed with the message. I didn't want to make spectacular
entrances and have people asking right off the bat, "How do you do
it?" or "How many miles have you gone today?" or "What do
you eat?" Or "Where do you sleep?" or "What kind of bicycle
do you have?" Or, "Has anybody tried to kill you?" All of these
questions are posed to the long-distance cyclist. These are fun questions when
one wants them, but I wanted the focus to be on the message, not the messenger.
Why didn't I fly? Besides the
prohibitive costs and impracticality of flying to 18 different locations, there
was the prohibitive costs and impracticality of flying to 18 different
locations. As much as I didn't want to come across as a pioneer, I didn't want
to come across as a jet setter, either. "Oh, Martin is jetting around the
country speaking of Christ." It sounds so incongruent. Flying all over the
place did not fit the humility factor I wanted to inhabit. And, conversely,
neither did bicycling. Bicycling and flying would have been equally as showy in
their own ways. But driving? Drudges drive. And that's what I wanted to be on
this trip: a drudge. A common tramper. I wanted to be a man in a 1999 Ford
Contour with all the other millions of cars, humbly putt-putting from place to
place, pulling into people's driveways and beginning all conversations with,
"What has God been doing lately?"
And that's what happened.
* * *
I had not called Lavon Schwartz
until I was sitting in my Ford Contour at a Dairy Mart somewhere between Ft.
Myers, Florida and Atlanta. This is what I mean about the tour coming together
at the last minute. Lavon had responded to my invitation and wanted to host me,
but I had not gotten back with him until now, until I was on the tour, and only
15 days from Michigan.
"I'm on the tour," I
said to Lavon when he answered the phone. "And I want to make Kalamazoo,
Michigan a stop on it."
In fact, the last stop.
Lavon was excited at the prospect.
"I can get lots of people together," he said. "But you and I
need to talk, as well. I need to sort some things out about God. So really,
Martin, you need to stay two days. You'll have your own apartment. It adjoins
I was easily persuadable and
said, "Sounds good!"
That's what I loved about the
ZenderTour. It was structured, but within that structure, there was room for
creativity, especially at the end of the trip. And so, from Florida, the last
stop of the tour was set; I would be in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Wednesday,
September 26, and Thursday, September 27.
* * *
I met Lavon at his place of
business on Kalamazoo's main drag. His place of employ was, "KC's Auto
Land," the "K" and the "C" being the first letters of
his kid's names, which I cannot now remember, forgive me. Katmandu and Cecil?
Probably not. The "K" was a boy and the "C" was a girl. Kip
and Cyrene? No, those aren't the names, either.
Here is Lavon at his desk at KC's
Lavon had done some
ZenderTour-styled tours himself in years past. In fact, he'd been a preacher.
He didn't have the full message of grace back then, but he did have the zeal.
He still has the zeal today–and the right message–but can't hit the road with a
family and a thriving business. Lavon and I spent a couple hours at his home
the first evening discussing things of consequence. It was hard not to be
distracted by the decor of his home. It was a cornucopia of visual delight.
Lavon collects eccentric
furnishings. He has an avant garde interior decorator bend. I could have done a
photo study of this man's house. The most startling piece was a
bigger-than-life-sized statue of Elvis in his basement that I never got used to
it. Every time I went down to the basement, I flinched. Elvis scared me every
Lavon's lovely wife Angelina goes
by Angie, for short. She was the perfect hostess. I was two nights in my
wonderful apartment adjoining the house. Lavon's father had lived there at one
time, and Angie had made it fit for my use, including a basket of fruit and a
gift for Melody. Well, I told you she was the perfect hostess. I enjoyed a meal
with the family out on Lavon's deck overlooking a woods. I felt like this was
the exact place I was supposed to be, at the exact time.
This was the phenomenon of the
ZenderTour, that is, the feeling that everywhere I was was the perfect place. I
never feel this as acutely at home, even though I know it's true always. We are
always where God wants us to be. This was emphasized for me in space and in
time on the ZenderTour. Everywhere seemed infallibly right. All the people were
the perfect ones I needed to be with. I rested in inevitability. This was not
fatalism, but resting in God.
I did get tired of answering one
question continually on this tour: "If God makes everyone the way they
are, why does He still judge?" So many people walked into the role of the
protestor of Romans, chapter nine. No one at this stop did it, I don't think,
but many along the way felt an incongruence at a God who orders, and then
blames, or orders, and then judges. I must be gifted to be able to switch at
will between absolute and relative viewpoints. I know that my every twitch is
of God; whether I ask for water or not at the dinner table is of Him–I know
this. And yet I revel in the blessed deception of freedom, imagining that my
every thought and motion is of myself. We have the best of both worlds, but few
realize or appreciate it. We live like nothing is certain, yet we believe like
everything is planned, because it is. When some part of living frustrates, then
I simply switch to absolute belief. When belief weighs down, I switch to
relative living. It's so easy to me, and I can't understand why it's not easy
Paul to the Saints at Rome
September 27th, 2007
I breakfasted this morning with
Lavon and Angie at a diner somewhere in town, and we got to know each other
even better. I loved spending time with my host and hostess.
The meeting was set for that
evening. Once again, my friends would be coming down from Ludington, but this
time more of them. Not only were Lars and Sarah coming down, but Jonathan,
Jacob and Jared as well. What friends. First, from Ludington to Grand Rapids
and back to Ludington. Then, two nights later, from Ludington to Kalamazoo and
back. It was all historic to me. It all seemed so first-century. These cities
in Michigan now seemed to me as sacred as Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi. The
saints come and go on the ancient roads. We are the body of Christ, the new
I had this revelation on the
ZenderTour: "Paul to the saints at Rome" was probably Paul to a group
of twenty or so people. We think that the book of Romans was written to the
ecclesia at Rome. It was, but we usually picture the ecclesia at Rome to be
several hundred people in a noble building. No. I think the ecclesia at Rome
was eighteen or twenty people, maybe less, at the home of Erastus. Or Julia. Or
Lars. Or Sarah. These were the new ecclesias, here in Michigan, operating
beneath the radar of Earth, as did the ecclesias of old, yet registered in
heaven, for sure. The celestial magistrates, I knew, were not only tracking my
path up and down the country, but the paths of the saints. And they knew the
humble routes as well: U.S. 131, I-96, the Appian Way.
This was a large meeting. Lavon
had a wide circle of friends and believers. People came from near and far, none
of whom I'd ever met. There were several elderly women from the Ann Arbor area
who had subscribed, ten years before, to my newsletter. Many here this evening
were already savvy to mature teaching. I designed a new presentation for this
ensemble, teaching that death, not eternal torment, was the penalty for sin,
and demonstrating from scripture how Christ tasted death to conquer death, for
one and all.
Afterward, I gave my Ludington
friends a tour of Lavon's basement and the frightening statue of Elvis. From
left to right: Lavon, Sarah, Elvis, Jonathan, Lars, Jared:
Lars and Elvis:
Sarah and Elvis:
I bid my Ludington friends adieu,
not knowing when I would see them next. (It would be two months.)
I settled into my apartment with
equal parts dread and excitement. The next day, dawning, would spell the end of
September 28th, 2007
Lavon and I breakfasted at the
same diner from the morning before with a man I'd met at the previous night's
meeting. He had many questions about God, and I think that Lavon and I answered
most of them effectively. But I lie. We answered all of them effectively.
At around 9, Lavon and Angie both
went to work. We parted with hugs, and the promise to meet again. I returned to
my apartment to pack.
The earth was moving beneath my
feet. This Tour, I knew, was one of the greatest adventures of my life. I
already ranked it with my transcontinental bicycle tours. It had already left
on me an indelible print. And yet I was still on it. I was still on the
Tour–though it was the waning moments. From my apartment, I did not leave
quickly. I loitered. I packed so slowly. I ate an apple. I sat on the bed. The
day, outside, was sunny. I was 3 1/2 hours from home. All the way up and down
the country–and now only 3 1/2 hours from home.
There was nothing to do for the
dread and the elation but to dance. I felt an immense relief that I had completed
my God-given tasks. I felt like Paul must have felt when he said in 2 Timothy,
"I have finished the course." I had completed what God has asked me
to do. I had heralded the Word, opportunely and inopportunely. I had not cared
for my own respect, or how I sounded, or how I felt, I had just put the Word
out. I had put myself out there, every time. I was content in my soul and
spirit that I had left myself on the playing field. I had given it all, at all
18 stops, at every meeting. I had not done anything halfway. I had given away
as many books as I had with me, nearly 350. The Word of God was everywhere. The
truth had been dropped off from Pittsburgh, to the Atlantic coast, from Florida
to Minnesota. People were better off because of me. I was only a servant, but I
had served well. I had not caved in. God was faithful to me, and I was faithful
to God. With that came a certain elation. But with that elation came also a
certain dread that the call–this specific call–was complete. But the dread
could not now overtake the elation.
I took off my shirt and looked at
myself in the mirror. Why the soulish mixes so well with the spiritual, at
times, I do not know. But I liked how I looked. I had taken care of my body,
and I looked good. I had strained to eat well and sparsely on the Tour because
I needed to feel light. I equated feeling light with spirituality. I know that
is not true in so many ways, but it is also true in other ways that the body is
linked to the spirit, because the spirit is in the body; the body is the home
of the spirit; the spirit of God makes its home in is. I cannot teach when I
feel like crap. "I need to feel light" is what I continually repeated
to myself all Tour. And so I drank lots of bottled water and ate fruit early in
the day. At restaurants, I ate only half my food and boxed the rest for lunch
the next day. I never ordered my toast with butter. It was always, "whole
wheat, dry please." I avoided the sweets people put out at meetings. The
people who listened to me talk could eat and sweeten themselves and get fat and
slow and lazy all they wanted. But I couldn't. I could not afford to. As the
teacher, I had to be light. I could not afford fat or sugar. My mind is always
on the edge as it is. I needed every advantage, to be worthy of the treasure of
teaching that God has placed in me.
Along the route, I kept my
exercise routine. Over thirty years of working out, I have refined my routine.
In the past, I have run six miles a day. I have run ten miles a day. I have
bicycled twenty miles a day. I have bicycled a hundred miles a day. I have
lifted weights. I have swum. I have jumped rope. One learns over time what
works and what does not, what one enjoys and what one does not enjoy. Finally,
as one realizes that his life's work is not to exercise but to teach the
evangel, one learns that he must streamline all things. And so my exercise
routine has been streamlined to resistance training; a miraculous workout
called The Power of 10, once a week. Here is the secret: once-a-week resistance
training to muscle failure, combined with not eating much, but eating things
that count in as natural a state as possible.
At home, I have a Bow-Flex.
Instead of lifting heavy weights, one bends resistance rods. It is so much less
intimidating than picking up metal weights. It is also less dangerous and more
effective. When I am not home, I carry a "gym in a bag," which are
bands of resistance. And with these, the muscles can be taken to fatigue, much
as with the Bow-Flex. And I did this faithfully along the Tour. The result was
that I felt good. I felt toned and tight. The long hours in the car didn't
bother me, because I was not a slab of sludge, but a fit person.
I hate to feel my stomach going
over my belt; I'd felt it before during bouts of stress and depression, when
I'd thrown my eating habits to the wind, but I could not afford that on this
Tour. So I always felt light. I would be getting in and out of the car so many
times that I needed to feel light. People think I am thin by default, but this
is so wrong. I could show you pictures of myself as a kid, and you would see. I
could be very fat. Very fat. I work hard every day at not being fat. It does
not come naturally to me, and it for sure does not come easily. I have to think
about everything that goes into my mouth. Everything. It is a burden, but the
alternative is misery and death.
The dumbest thing I ever hear is
when I refuse a dessert or a piece of candy, and the person with me says,
"What do you have to worry about? You're thin." A dumber or more
thoughtless thing could hardly be uttered; I am thin because I worry about it.
It's like being told, "Well, it's already warm today, so we don't need the
And so on this final morning
in Kalamazoo, I took off my shirt and looked at myself. It was a reward for
working hard, both in teaching, studying, and in taking care of my earthen
vessel. I plugged in my wireless, portable, clip-on Sirius radio player, and
dialed up my favorite saved songs. Then I plugged in my headphones, turned up
the volume and jammed. I danced. I air-guitared. I leaped like Mick
Jagger–performing for myself and to an unseen celestial audience–in the mirror.
Why do I tell you this? Because this is the strange mix of soul and spirit
allowed us in the joy of Christ. The music was not harp or lyre, but it was a
joyful noise, and it was certainly unto the Lord. Aware even that celestial eyes
were in attendance, I cranked up the volume and danced harder still. Sorry. But
wait. Why apologize for being free in Christ? Everything that the Tour was to
me, even the tops of the spiritual mountains I'd soared to, surfaced in front of
the mirror on this morning. Had I not done this, I'd have perhaps diffused the
energy in some unhealthy way. Had I not done this, I'd have been unfit to return
home and once again assume that mantle. Had I not done this, something would
have overburdened my circuitry and rendered me somehow useless in the "regular
world." I was morphing back into another world and I needed help.
This electric time before the
mirror, then, was a step-down. I was not sure, and I still am not, what the
real world is. I am still not sure if this is the real world, sitting here in
front of my computer at home, or rather traveling to a different place every
day and throwing oneself to the winds and the highways in obedience to some
God-inspired fiat. Or is dancing alone in front of a mirror with an air guitar
and leaping about like a mime or a fool, or grinding like a bigger-than-life
Elvis, the real world? I don't now know, and I don't hope to know. I only
loosely and maybe carelessly surmise that everything is the real world,
wherever one is, even when one stands in front of one's humble vehicle in the
driveway of one's home as the sun begins to go down behind a bean field on a
farm where a house sits in Ohio.
I think I've got it now. The real
world is wherever we are.
© 2001-2007 Martin Zender. All Rights Reserved.