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.

The Beginning

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.

It's hard to leave home

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 the road.

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 reproduction process.

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 minute.

I was on the road again, minutely refreshed.

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.

I did 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!

The 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?" said Joe.

"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.

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?

Gambrills, Maryland.

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 MZ groove.

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 was embarked.

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 expect.

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 consumed.

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.

Martin and Bo Welch

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:

The Bo Welch clan

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 and woods.

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:

Martin and Cindy's Father, David Ameen

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: 

My best friend, Jim Szittai

Off, then, to Titusville, Florida!

Differing Gifts

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.

Sleeping on the table

Beware of snakes!

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 bipeds.

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 arrangement.

"Cashmere needs to sense you first," explained Patrick.

"And smell you," said Pam.

"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.

Patrick and Pam Bielen

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 evangelism.

"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 with relief.

"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:

Cashmere Bielen

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 said.

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:

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.

"Of course."

"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 Christ."

"I am not a robot!" said Ralph angrily.

That was a fat pitch right into my wheelhouse.

"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:

Ft Lauderdale Marriott

My only regret is that I spent eight of my ten hours at this ritzy place sleeping.

Thanks for everything, Kate.

Kate and Martin


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 Garrod

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.

Eleanor and family

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.

Eleanor's condo

Page 50

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 conversation.

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.

The Jean Douglas bachelor pad

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.

Little Rock or Memphis?

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

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:

Home of Charlie and Leslie Bishop

Here are Charlie and Leslie themselves:

Charlie and Leslie Bishop

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 progressed.

Here is a photo of Gene, Jean, Charlie and me after the Bible study, on top of God's holy mountain:

Gene, Charlie, Martin, Jean

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 back.

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.

Feeling Paulish

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 moving.

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 Smith.

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:

Incline Railway

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 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 often.

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 design both.

"This Just Isn't My Eon" Zender shirt

"This Just Isn't My Eon" Zender mug

After dinner at a fancy restaurant, Tony graciously procured for Jean and myself a room at the Red Roof Inn.

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 weekends."

"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:

Martin and Dani Vlad

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.

Martin and Dani

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?

Martin, Melody, Dani, Nicola, Ramona

Here is the photo from the Christmas card that the Vlads sent us this year:

Ramona, Nicola, Dani

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 her.

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 website:

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 mouth full.

"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.

Matt's townhouse

I caught Ramona in the act of ironing one of my shirts.

Ramona Vlad

Nicola thought it was very funny that her mother should be ironing one of my shirts.

Nicola Vlad

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.

Martin with mom and dad

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 change.

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 purposes.

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 be.

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 FRANK WHALEN.

"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 my books.

defacing Zender books

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 love these books!

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:
Pam Daniels

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 eyes.

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:

Pete Daniels and 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 tell.

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:

The infamous Frank Whalen

And here is a picture of Frank and me, taken by Pam.

Frank Whalen, Martin Zender

Here is Frank's family:

Frank, Marcie and daughter

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 occasion.

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 his show.

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 kidding.)

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 wonderful car.

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.

Tom and Denise Smith

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 perception.

Below: "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

field of dreams bleachers

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.

In the corn, where Terrence Mann walked into the next world. Field of Dreams in the background.

field of dreams cornfield

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. 



Field of Dreams movie sign

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.

Field of Dreams farmhouse

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 epicenter.

Dyersville Iowa

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 parabolic.

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 Minneapolis/St. Paul.

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 soulish criteria.

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 the price.

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:

Dock at Clear Lake

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.

Sitting on the dock at Clear Lake

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 Warfare

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 freezing temperatures.

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 Cokato.

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 dog's name:

Martin with Russ and Lenore Brown, Karl Hillstrom

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 Stephen prayed.

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:

The Jeff and Robin Sventek clan

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 of them.

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 Sventek

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):

At the Sventeks

On the Friday evening before I left, some of the kids and Jeff and I went for a walk down a country road.

Jeff Sventek and kids

Trees in Frederic

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 before sunset.

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:

Manistique beach

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 occasions mentioned.

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.

Mackinac Bridge


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:

Mackinac Bridge

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 regression.

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, Michigan.

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 place."

Grace and Truth Chapel - Baldwin, Michigan

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 place.

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 kidding."

"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.

Grace and Truth Chapel - Baldwin, Michigan

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:

the Inn at Ludington

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 said.

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:

The Inn at Ludington Scandinavian room

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:

The Inn at Ludington dining room

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 Ludington.

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 growing.

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.

The Inn at Ludington lvbing area

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 spiritual disposition.

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 all.

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 by.

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:

Lars' sister and kitty kat,Martin, 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 Internet:

Ludington Lighthouse


Ludington Lighthouse



Ludington Lighthouse


Ludington Lighthouse

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.

at the pier

More shots from the pier that night:

Sarah, me, Lars:

Sarah, Martin, Lars

Dan and me:

Dan Sheridan, Martin

Dan, Lars, me:

Dan, Lars, Martin

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:

Abbey Road shot

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:

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 a lifetime.

Dale and Dori Kelley, Martin


Last Stop

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 and misery.

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 factory.

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 my house."

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 Auto Land:

Lavon Schwartz - Kalamazoo Michigan

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 time.

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 to everyone.

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 ecclesias.

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:

Lavon's basement with Elvis

Lars and Elvis:

Elvis and Lars

Sarah 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 the Tour.

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 sun."

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.

Home, safe and sound

The lovely Melody

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