Thursday, July 13, 2006


That I have stopped walking for two hours every day does not mean I have stopped exercising. Because to stop exercising would be to begin dying. Yes, I know I’m dying whether I exercise or not, but a soft body is its own little subdivision of lifelessness.

The longest I’ve ever stagnated is two months. And that’s since December of 1974.

It was on Christmas Eve of that year that I tried to lift one of the large presents under the tree with my name on it—you know, so I could shake it a little. Well, not only could I not shake it, I couldn’t budge it. I couldn’t raise even a corner of it off the floor. It was then that I said to myself, Holy smokes, Dad has gone and got me a weight set.

How could he have done something like that? What was he thinking? I went into my room to figure out how to let the old man down gently. Maybe I would open the present, look surprised, say, “This is really neat!” and then quickly ask for some eggnog, or grab a handful of tinsel and throw it around the room and yell, “Look how light and shiny this stuff is!” Or maybe I would ask how many Christmas cards we had gotten. I would ask if we broke last year’s record. Then I would say to my mother, “I bet it’s hard getting Christmas cards out every year. I don’t know how you do it. Do you ever get writer’s cramp? You’re amazing, Mother.” Then, after all this, I would let my eyes wander back under the tree and find a present for someone else. “Oh, look, Father," I would say. "Here’s a present for you. And look! I can lift it! It bet it’s not a @%!$# weight set!”

Honestly. What made my dad think that a fifteen year-old would want to lift heavy things for the sake of his health? I’d be better served, I thought, with a television for my room.

The more I thought about it, the more troubled I became. How could anyone lay such a burden on another person, let alone a loved one? Let alone an innocent youth? It was like giving someone a puppy. “We just thought we’d get you a little something to love and feed and worry about for the next fifteen years. We hope you like it. Please pass the fruitcake.” It was like giving someone a Mount Everest expedition. “It was such a great deal, we couldn’t pass it up. You’ll be flying to Katmandu on January 6th to acclimate, and the climbing party sets out in late April. Hey, open the one with the blue bow next—it’s your ice pick.”

I drove my head into my hands and paced my bedroom. My family would begin opening presents in an hour. I had to be certain of the justness of my cause; I had to believe wholly in it, for only then could I convincingly defend it.

My cause was sloth.

I paced and groaned and considered. I thought of my dad’s feelings, but most importantly, I thought of my feelings. But then I thought of my arms. I thought of my dad’s feelings again, in order to forget about the feeling I'd just had about my arms. Then I thought of Christmas cookies. Then I accidentally thought of my stomach muscles; then I accidentally thought of girls. I thought of my shoulders then—by accident. I tried to think again about my feelings, and succeeded. But then I thought of Mt. Everest—don't ask my why; I really didn't mean to think of Paula Mareno, but in she came, right after Mt. Everest. I thought of my dad’s feelings again, in the nick of time. But then I thought of my calves; hmm; what calves? I thought of resistance and the audacity of fighting it; that was a much better thought, and helpful. But then I thought of Laura Anne Williams, who sat next to me in Algebra—not helpful. I thought of my dad’s feelings again, but this was interrupted by the thought—the accidental thought—of removing my shirt in front of Laura Anne Williams; then—God help me—I thought of removing Laura Anne Williams’ shirt—I assure you that this was a complete and utter accident. For a diversionary tactic, I tightened my abs; nothing happened. I looked in the mirror and tried to find my stomach muscles. Lord Jesus and Santa Claus—where are my stomach muscles? In a panic, I looked into my eyes; I stared at myself. This was a big mistake because, as I stared at myself, I heard a strange voice, and the voice spoke clearly to me—inside my head—and the voice said: I think you want to do this.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I left it there. I walked from my room into a strange new world. Some would call it a darkened hallway leading to the place where the Christmas tree was, but I knew it as a new world. I understood then that climbers leaving Everest base camp felt more alive than other people. With every step toward that heavy box, I ascended a good slope. It was a slope of the simplest beginning. I knew then, for certain, that a man could change his own life.

I lifted those weights three days a week, religiously, for an entire year. I did not miss a single workout—not one. I found an inner strength and a personal resolve I never knew I had. It began on Christmas Eve, 1974, and sustains me to the present hour. I have applied it to all other aspects of my life. It is the second most amazing gift I have ever received, and it is all due to my dad.

My dad died two years ago, but he lives in me now, through everything I accomplish.

I am who I am because of him.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)
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© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Every year after the Fourth of July Fireman’s Festival, I do a strange thing. I wait a day or two until all the rides and the concessions have been packed up and put away, and I go to the grounds and try to imagine that a festival had so recently been there.

On Sunday night of the festival—the last night—our family stays late for the fireworks. Usually we sit down at the edge of a large tent at the main eating place and watch the fireworks together. By my slowed-down standards, this is a heck of a good time. The lights of the midway, the smell of the food, the darkness, the teenagers ambling about, the leftover heat from the day, the good feeling of shared experience, American independence, family togetherness, the smell of French fries, community under the tent, the festive weight of the air—all these things combine for a delicious feeling, bittersweet at the same time because the feeling cannot last. Fall will come, the teenagers will go away to school, winter will come, some of these people will be gone from the earth, and nothing can ever be repeated exactly as it was.

So I return to the grounds to wallow in this, to take stock of it, and to try to imagine how it could recently have been what it was but is not. Early morning may be the best time to do this. The early morning after a nighttime festival may be the prime wallowing time for those so disposed to it.

This year I determined to record it.

Early evening Sunday I went about with my camera recording scenes, people, lights. I played the last two games of Bingo with my son Jefferson, photographing him in the warm and cozy light of the tent—a perfect moment in time.

Snap, snap, snap I went again, all over the festival grounds, recording it as it was so that I could record it, for you, as it is, and demonstrate for you the competing miracles of being and not being, and the terrible nature of change.

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My friend Charlie and I have agreed to meet, in the coming eon, at the site of the small brick patio next to my house. We were sitting there late one evening a couple years back—drinking coffee and looking up at the stars—when we decided that sometime during the thousand years of peace we would return to earth and meet at this precise place and marvel at how it had been, and how we had been then. We would be celestial beings, but in full possession of memories, knowing well how it was during the time of our humiliation. This present earth would remain for a thousand years subsequent to our change, we knew, being destroyed only later and replaced with a new earth. For a thousand years, then, the precise coordinates of any location on the current planet would be known. We would certainly know where this porch had been, and we would come here. And we would marvel and ask ourselves:

Is this really the place where we once sat, marveling and wondering at the stars? Was this truly the site of a wooden house in which the greater part of a man’s life was played out, where he loved a woman, raised a family, shared joys and shed tears? Is this truly the place? Could this really be it? We know that it is—we know that these are the precise coordinates—yet it does not seem possible that it could have been here. It is all so different. We are so different. And yet—confirm it—this is the place. We sat precisely here in wooden chairs in our bodies of humiliation, staring up at a world that was then so foreign to us.

I finish now with a photograph of this coordinate. It is know among the celestials by a name other than that given it by mortals. They know that we will return here. I believe that, since Charlie and I made a pact here and that we shall one day be seated at the right hand of God, it may well be a grand event. I want you to see how it is now. Look at it and remember it, for you shall see it again as it shall be, from the perspective of a future change soon to be spoken of in the past tense.

Present; future; past. What are these? Stare at this photograph and sear it into your mind in case you one day wish to find out.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Saturday, July 08, 2006


I love the Fireman’s Festival and Fourth of July parade. This grand weekend always occurs in July, a month that is famous here for warm weather. It isn’t always warm, but we’ve a better chance of it now than on Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Easter, or even Memorial Day, when the last of our vast snow piles melt.

Like any good pagan, I cherish the sun. I cherish anything that brings people together and makes them happy, or makes them think they’re happy. A person eating cotton candy on the Fourth of July falls victim to this, including yours truly. I reserve my fluffy passion for this weekend, and generally buy two bags of 100% cotton candy, sometimes three.

Cotton candy is a piece of heaven come to Earth. Sugar, I think, is a scaled-down version of something divine. The earthly version is deadly sweet and so pleasurable that it eventually kills us, while it’s heavenly counterpart—whatever it is—gives life. Whoever dreamed of converting sugar molecules to this light, airy substance outmarveled Einstein. An angel touched this clever individual, I do believe that. God inspired a modern-day prophet to turn the miraculous substance blue and yellow and orange and green, and another spiritual pioneer, unnamed, thought to twirl it onto a stick.

The parade is only a part of the greater festival, headquartered at the village reservoir grounds behind the old high school. It is here that the Ferris wheel scoops up its waiting passengers, the ponies tramp patiently around rings of sawdust, and a matronly woman in an apron becomes willing—for only two dollars!—to measure the speed of your best-thrown baseballs. Guess the speed of your third pitch and you win a prize worth seven cents. A miracle akin to cotton candy occurs here: people bartering two dollars for seven-cent prizes walk away winners.

Besides the parade, the best part of the festival for Melody and me has always been manning the Coca-Cola trailer. We are asked every year by some of the firemen’s wives to man the Coke trailer. I cherish it. It is such blessed relief from my regular job.

For 364 days of the year I am an evangelist akin to Paul, suffering evil as an ideal soldier for the sake of Jesus Christ. For one day of the year, I sell Coke. It is a glorious day. Why? Everyone wants Coke. Everyone wants ice-cold carbonated sugar water. We are gods of this eon, Melody and I, whenever we sell the premier product of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Some people do this for a living; I can hardly imagine. I can hardly imagine the crush of accompanying love. “For God so loved the world that He sent them a sweetened beverage colored with caramel and flavored with phosphoric acid.”

I once asked a man who worked for the Coca-Cole Bottling Company: Have you ever been persecuted? He said no. Not even by Pepsi people? No, not even by them. One day out of the year, I taste this blessed state of belonging.

No one approaches the trailer to question our doctrine. For our doctrine is merely this: Drink Coke. No one questions our motives: Just why are you selling this carbonated beverage? No, we never get that. Who dares to attack the virtues of Coke? No text of any kind is ever brought against us to refute our position. For our position is merely this: Drink Coke. We are spared even the effort of announcing our evangel. Our evangel announces itself: ICE-COLD COKE HERE. This alone brings us more disciples and worshippers than we care to count. We are the friend of man, woman, and child. I never realized before manning this trailer how fond I could be of unfeigned love, respect and acceptance. If not for the shortness of the shift and the gig (three hours, once a year), I would give up everything and travel the country in this trailer. God, in His mercy, curtails the joy. But never so much as this year.

This year, Melody and I got overlooked for the Coke trailer. I was devastated. “They want us to make pork and beef sandwiches at the main building instead,” said Melody. I thought she was joking. I thought she was telling me a Coke joke. But no. There would be no Coke trailer for us this year. This year, we were damned to Pork and Beef Purgatory. I was damned to it, that is. Melody got assigned to cake and pie duty, leaving me to my torments.

I walked into the building after the parade and announced to one of the firemen: “Here I am. Do with me what you will.” He set me in front of several vast vats of shredded pork and beef. Some of the vats were pork, some were beef. Beside the vats were piles of hamburger bun packages and sheets of foil. The fireman showed me how to hold the bottom of the bun, scoop on the meat, top it with the upper bun, and wrap it. “Good luck,” he said. I asked if I would see him again, and he said, “No.”

I did my work as unto the Lord. I would become the best sandwich maker ever. With God as my witness, I made sandwiches as fast as I could. It was barely sufficient. Demand was great, for we fed the after-parade crowd, precisely at lunchtime. I scooped and bunned and wrapped with singular purpose. It was hot work; I did not care. In the midst of the battle, I caught myself dreaming of the Coke trailer. Each time the fantasy came, I banished it; I could not afford a pause, not even a refreshing one. I went back to work.

From my pork and beef purgatory, I caught brief glances of Melody. She carried pieces of cherry cheesecake, Texas sheet cake, apple pie, and many other kinds of delicious pie. She grinned and laughed with some of the other women. I dug my big metal spoon back into my meat vat and slung another load of muscle onto the round, white bread. Five hours later, it was over.

(Below: the building in which I slung my meat.)

“Did you have fun?” Melody asked.

“No,” I said. “No one loves me. No one loves the sandwich man.”

“I love the sandwich man,” she said.

I touched her hair and looked into her eyes. “I bet you say that to all the sandwich men.”

“I do,” she said.

We walked around the festival grounds and remembered being there when our kids were little. It was bittersweet—to think of the kids so small—and we were ready to cry, so we bought two large Cokes from the lucky person in the trailer and went to see how fast I could throw a baseball.

I walked away a winner.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Our Fourth of July parade here was fun. It always is. The police shut down traffic on the state highway for the Saturday event, and I always feel bad for the first car or the first trucker stopped. By the time the parade is over, the traffic stretches clear out to Kat’s Iron Skillet to the east of town, and Eastman’s Funeral Home on the other side. I personally believe that these two businesses are in cahoots, but that has nothing to do with this story.

There is not one traffic light here on Main Street. Main Street is the state highway. It is busy, busy, busy. My office is on Main Street and ordinarily I am busy as well. For one glorious day each year, however, Main Street becomes the parade route and the only thing occupying me is getting folding chairs out to the sidewalk and jockeying for the best spot. Being a Main Street businessman, I have an inside track. Not that I need it, but it’s fun to think that I do.

Three quarters of the town’s residents come out for the three-quarters of a mile parade. That sounds like a lot of people until you consider that the town contains less than 2000 people. In fact, this is not even a town, it’s a village. The difference between a town and a village is Kat’s Iron Skillet.

The parade is probably terrible by any standard other than ours. The entries that always stick out in my mind are the little baton twirling girls and the flag squads. No two girls are ever doing anything in unison. Not ever. It is as if the adult leaders of these groups tell their charges before the big event: “Here’s how it works, girls. It’s every girl for herself. Try to stay with the group, if you can. If you can’t, then we’ll see you at practice on Tuesday. Just move your flag around, is all I ask. Use it to swat flies, twirl it, scrape it along the road, scratch yourself with it, it doesn’t matter. Just keep moving. Those of you with batons, make sure you drop them every fifteen seconds or so. Throw them and drop them. Got it? We’re going to be aiming a Bob Seger song very loudly at you from the back of a pick-up truck for no apparent reason. Now move out.”

Lots of people throw candy during the parade, either from firetrucks, old cars, or tractors. In fact, this should be called The Candy Parade. It’s candy, candy, candy, non-stop for an hour. The candy comes flying in at your feet in waves so that you don’t even have to leave your seat to snag some. There are Tootsie Rolls, Smarties, Bit-O-Honeys, Fireballs, Sweet-Tarts, Pixie Stix, Dum-Dum suckers, and every brand of hard sweet known to man. Some of the local businesses on floats throw Frisbees. With a little planning and luck, you can snag a Frisbee first, then use it as a plate for your candy. This is the ideal, but few people obtain it. I have never obtained it. But I know that it’s possible.

The out-of-town marching bands are usually pretty good. For some reason, our local marching band is never good. The kids blow through their instruments and beat their drums, but no music comes. I remember the time the director wanted my son Jefferson to play trumpet in the fifth grade band. Jefferson wanted to play drums, but the director said she didn’t need another drummer. She said that what she needed was brass. She said she could train monkeys to hit drums. I had heard her bands, and I asked her when she would be teaching the monkeys to hit the drums at the same time.

Local firemen put on the parade and festival, so there is always a Fireman’s Queen, and she is always young and beautiful—this year was no exception. I do wish, however, that someone would some year teach the Queen to wave from the heart and not from the wrist. I’m not saying that we spectators want “howdied” like farmhands, but we would like to see something other than the standard mechanical parade wave. You know it well: the fingers are cupped and glued together, the hand rotates slowly from the wrist as if on a swivel—thirty degrees to the right, then thirty degrees to the left. And always the parade smile, tattooed on the face and sincere as the glossy façade of a teen mag. What we would not give some year for a living Queen, a genuine waver, a heart-inspired shower of teeth, a Queen who possesses her beauty as well as capturing those of us sideliners wanting to worship her. Until then, we look to the politicians—and avert our eye.

The politicians drag their kids and spouses from bed at 7 a.m. and drive them here armed with balloons and pens and buttons and flags. “Vote for Bill Reid, County Commissioner,” says a plastic trinket. I don’t even know what a County Commissioner is. If I did, I would not want it to be Bill Reid. I would vote for the man wise enough to stay home on the Fourth of July with his family, or take them to a parade they could watch and not prostitute themselves in. How dare Bill and his ilk use this national celebration for political advantage. I always hope that the politicians step in the fruit from the equestrian entries. If any politician on parade wants my vote, he or she can at least enter early and throw a Frisbee. I need a plate for my candy; I need a County Commissioner who cares that I get a plate for my candy.

The parade ends as it begins, with firetrucks blaring. The sirens are super loud. Kids stare google-eyed and dogs bark. The firemen are showing off their vehicles and their sirens, as well they should. I believe they wash their vehicles every day twice a day before the parade, because you have never seen anything so shiny as a firetruck on the Fourth of July, with the possible exception of the top of a politician’s head on the Fourth of July. The firemen deserve our homage, and we give it to them while our hearts move at the behest of their sirens. Our hearts are always moving, thanks, in part, to the firemen.

The truckers coming through after the parade are always somehow in a good mood. This is nothing less than a miracle. I guess they give up and give in to the parade. Most can’t see it, but they all get candy handed to them through their windows, which they gratefully accept.

Well, it’s the Fourth of July in the United States of America.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


A couple days ago while I was editing a ZenderTalk, the fire squad and an ambulance raced down the street because a nine year-old girl here walked her bicycle across the highway five hundred yards from my office and didn’t see a truck. So the truck cut off her leg and drove three of her fingers up into her hand. The medical people put the leg in a plastic bag. I don’t know what the girl did because I have not been told. By the time the mother got to the scene, her daughter’s leg was already in the plastic bag. The mother fainted (someone told me) because her brain turned away certain oncoming images, sending blood to other body parts unburdened by sensory perception.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning in a sweat of concern about everyone’s spine. I had a bad dream about my son and a chair and a truck and his spine. God surrounded the spinal cords of humans with bone pieces, but the arrangement is hardly good enough. God forgot to pack the world with Styrofoam peanuts. So He made fire trucks and ambulances and plastic bags. And does He ever know how to divert human blood.

Never go back to sleep if you have to be disturbed in the middle of the night. I follow my own advice and get out of bed before much time passes; boiling three eggs is easier than thinking.

I had to kill a spider. He (or she) walked across the edge of the counter while my eggs boiled. It was bad timing for the spider. He or she might have lived to inject venom into the bloodstream of a family member, so I had to choose death over life for the spider. I hastened the death of spider and did not like any of it. I notice that the longer chicken eggs boil, the farther and farther away they get from the lukewarm liquid form they assumed in the uterus of the chicken. Apparently, female chickens have periods once a day. I do not know if the spider had a family. I hope not. The goo of spider life is smashed in a napkin right now. The goo had life in it (or was life), but now it does not.

The girl is in stable condition. There will be no funeral this week; the funeral men can wear their casual shoes today. The girl lost the bottom half of one leg; the leg cannot be reattached, so I guess they’ll throw it away, with or without the shoe and sock. I am going to walk down the road now and take a photograph of where the girl lay in the road bleeding to death before God sent the paramedics. I think it was also around this area where the mother fainted. You will be able to see the skid marks. The road will be bathed in morning light because I look out my window now and the new sun looks orange. The truck driver said that he would never drive a truck again. The old man who first cradled the little girl’s head walked away with blood all over him. Human blood is similar in consistency to the brown goo of spiders. The man has yet to walk across the edge of God’s counter, but his wife died twelve years ago. The spider, unfortunately, died this morning.

Many women in this world have ceased ovulating, lucky them.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


My last fitness walk occurred on Monday, May 22. On Monday, May 22, my plan to walk to Pittsburgh died like a bird against a windowpane. To put it yet another way, Monday afternoon, the twenty-second of May, 2006, became my last eight-mile ramble into the rolling countryside. God withheld His new plan for my life until I saw the sign of condemnation planted by the Mennonites.

The Mennonites. Thank you, Menno Simons. Just what we needed: another religious sect wearing strange headgear. I had always hoped that condemnation could one day smell like horse poop—alas. And thank you, Jakob Ammann, Amish patriarch, for taking the religious severity of Simons to the highest methane levels possible. Your clippity-clop testimony to the world is: “We’re pleasing God and the rest of you are going to hell in a handbasket. Can we interest you in a pie?”

Several Mennonites in this area have become fond of driving condemnatory religious signs into the fertile, flowered soils of their property. The posts are wooden and uniform of grain and girth; they are birthed, apparently, at the same shop of carpentry. The signposts are as sturdy as the cross that Simons and Ammann crucified Christ upon. The most ingenious feature of the sign is the part of the post holding the epistle itself—it’s a slot, actually—allowing for interchangeable messages of varying degrees of spiritual harm. Oh, and guilt. I almost forgot the guilt.

The menfolk in these parts pound these posts out near the road so the hell-bound, driving past, might quickly imitate the Mennos and save their souls from perdition. Some gospels I have read in the past include: ■ BE YE PERFECT ■ CEASE FROM SIN ■ THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH ■ GOD SHOWS MERCY TO THE MERCIFUL ■ GOD’S WORD: HEED AND OBEY ■ THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH.

While these self-righteous salvos—in one form or another—are scripture based, the references are divorced of context and married to the distinct scent of threat. I have not seen a positive message yet. There is nothing of what God has done for humanity. If the cross of Christ has benefited anyone, free of charge, the gratuity is not mentioned, or even hinted at. Those parts of Paul’s letters full of grace, peace, thanksgiving, and the wonders of race-wide vindication, are ignored in favor of those parts deemed by the Mennonites as favoring them and damning the rest of mankind: CEASE FROM SIN. All right, I will. Cross my heart and hope to die, I will. But can I start Monday? I’d like to enjoy the weekend.

The sign in this particular Mennonite yard—located at the two-mile mark of my round—had for months read: GOD SHOWS MERCY TO THE MERCIFUL. True enough—as it stands. But this was an Old Covenant deal between God and man, void of the present grace. The question I wanted answered—directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were—was: What happens to the unmerciful? I often dreamed of asking. In my fantasy, I knock on the Mennodoor in search of a happy sequel. A plain woman answers. Her head is covered, she is aproned, and several Amlets duck and hide behind her skirts.

“Hello,” I say. “My name is Martin Zender, a sinner. Yes, I said, a sinner. I do not even own a hoe and—God help me—I eat cream puffs on the Sabbath. I bathe daily and tumble-dry my clothes. Forgive me; bear with me; have mercy on my mustache. I have read your wonderful sign for many months now, hoping to earn my way into heaven. ‘God shows mercy to the merciful,’ says your wooden headline, and I thank you for it. You are good people, merciful people, reaching out to a sinning man like me who has never once baked a single loaf of bread or fertilized a carrot. May God have mercy upon your household and curse mine in hades, naturally. But before I depart for the underworld, I must know, from a sanctified lip that has never been rouged or glossed: what happens to the rest? What happens to the unmerciful of our sorrowful race?”

In my fantasy, the Mennoness calls up a holy humph from deep behind her epiglottis. At the same time, she snatches up a firepan and a golden snuffer from the altar of God, next to her spatula rack. She then bangs me with the firepan and smites me with the snuffer. It hurts, but I know I deserve it. It is my penance for driving a red car. The Amlets giggle, bite me in the knees, then run away to play on their acacia wood swingset. Things look dim for me, but alas, I shall not return home void.

“The rest?” says the Mennoness. “The rest?” Imitating her favorite Old Testament Prophet, the Mennoness smites me a second time. “The rest?” she says again (She says it a total of three times, the third time accompanied, in my fantasy, by the third smite of the sacred snuffer.) Three more humphs emerge, each one holier than the last.

“Why, the rest are damned for eternity,” she says, “in hell, of course. Do you not know anything?” In comes the firepan, again, to my forehead. In spite of the ensuing headache, I manage a smile. The Mennoness intends to send me away happy, and she does. She concludes her sermon with a kick to my buttock area and a verse from the book of Exodus, chapter 38, verse 22: “‘Now Belalel, the son of Uri the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.’ Go and doest thou likewise!” With the slam of the door, my fantasy is sadly concluded. I have not even received a gardening tip!

Back now to Monday, May 22, just past noon. My fantasy is not only dissolved, it is dead. For in the place of the MERCIFUL sign is a new sign that makes the old sign look like a peace sign:

Dear God, Moses, Abraham, and Lot. Why me? Why must I suffer so upon this vale of tears? Is it fair that I should have been made a modern-day apostle, a sent-one, a teacher, a bearer of the glad tidings of God? A light in the midst of the darkness? A fine-tuned discerner of all things dark? And what darkness! Poor Judas, a man, set apart by God from his mother’s womb for dishonorable use, chosen by Christ Himself, possessed in the end by none other than Satan, steamrolled by the God-machine of divine inevitability, freed at last from the demonic oppression, remorseful, self-loathing, hanging himself, burst open at the belly, disemboweled, buried, only to happen upon—today—this rude disinterrment, dragged from his peaceful sleep, hung from a new tree, used, abused, his same tangled bowels rearranged upon a Mennonite signpost for the admonition of moderns who could not—ever—offend the Deity in a like manner as he.

And Acts 1:25? Dear God, take me now.

“And praying, they say, ‘Thou, Lord, Knower of all hearts, indicate one whom Thou choosest, out of these two to take the place of this dispensation and apostleship, from which Judas transgressed, to be going into his own place.”

“To be going into his own place”—a simple euphemism for the grave. To the hell seeking Mennonite, however, it is synonymous, in the case of their favorite whipping boy, with eternal separation from God. That this is their proof text exposes both the state of their scholarship and the state of their hearts.

It exposed, for me, the course of my next sixty years.

The sign affected me deeply, powerfully—not in the way the Mennonites hoped, but in a way aligned with the purposes of God.

God, my father. He has called me, in this life, to defend His character. He has no need for such human assistance, but he condescends to inspire and accept it for the sake of honoring those called to it. I defend Him neither for reward nor for honor, but because I have to. It is woe to me if I don’t. It is woe to me either way, truth be known, because I feel the heartache God feels when He sees this sign. I have sympathy pains. The message harms me. I have a problem with it. The worldly man ignores it, the religious man applauds it, but the man standing stock still now in all his useless walking gear feels it grinding in his gut.

To unscripturally condemn a man to an unscriptural hell for an unscriptural eternity is to condemn the man’s God along with him. It is to condemn the One Who created him in His own image, for His own glory. The apostle Paul said of the Jews in Romans 2:23-24, “You who are boasting in a law, through the transgression of the law you are dishonoring God! For because of you the name of God is being blasphemed among the nations, according as it is written.”

Think if Paul had met the Mennonites.

It is true that Judas Iscariot disqualified himself, relatively speaking, from the glories of Christ’s millennial kingdom. The thousand years of peace will find the human betrayer of Christ still in the grave. He will rise at the great white throne, however, to be judged and adjusted by God for his sin. This adjudication does not satisfy some divine vindictive streak. Rather, it is for Judas’s own good. Here before God’s majesty, Judas will apprehend, at last, the glories that eluded him on earth. And yet God has not appointed him to live for the eons, so he is returned to the grave: the second death. Is this the end of him? It cannot be, for God is called, in 1 Timothy 4:10, “the Savior of all mankind.” Unless He saves all mankind, the inspired appellation is a joke.

The inspired appellation—I assure you—is not a joke.

The Apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that, at the consummation of the eons, death is to be abolished. For those in the second death, this means deliverance into life. The Apostle John, also inspired by God’s holy spirit, quoted John the Baptist in John 1:29, “Lo! The Lamb of God Which is taking away the sin of the world.” Did he mean all the sin of the world, or all sins except that of Judas?

Take a guess.

If you can’t get it right now, don’t worry. You will. You’ll get it right eventually. You’ll figure it out in a high place on a future day when you hear a voice louder than all others praising God for His wisdom, patience, mercy, and love—and worshipping the One he necessarily betrayed—worshipping Him for His plan, His purpose, and for dying, yes, even for the likes of him.

As for me, standing and shaking before this blasphemy in flowers, I realize that I am still not doing enough. With so much darkness in the world, I must make better use of my time. There are other paths to fitness besides those requiring a quarter of a work day. It is time to reclaim the era and take God’s light into every place.

Except here. This place already thinks it has it, so its eonian course is set. So I shake the dust off my shoes, finish my walk, and devise ten new ways to publish the truth.

The Mennonites? I leave ‘em to their fantasies. Their spiritual light bulbs ain’t coming on until Judas’s does.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, June 22, 2006


You want to know what happened subsequent to the Gold in the Cave Wall entry, and of course I’m going to tell you. Obviously, I am still alive. But am I solvent? Is my family once again consuming generic pancake batter?

Things got worse before they got better—I made certain of it. Whenever things head south financially, I always do the irrational thing: I give money away. I think I probably do it to give God sport. God loves the impossible, well do I know. It’s only fun for Him if He can make a feast appear from a kid’s two-bit lunch, or make lame people walk, or make blind people see. David conquering Goliath is only fun for God if David is a seventh-grader and Goliath shaves with the blunt edge of a sword (or, better yet, not at all). As long as Goliath has every conceivable physical advantage—size, sword, helmet, shield, and full medical coverage—then God is ready to go with the uninsured shepherd boy. Same with His Son. As long as Christ is pinned helplessly upon a cross with not one thing left to His name but faith, then God is ready to unleash Satan and conciliate the world to Himself.

“Become, then, imitators of God.” Galatians 5:1. Okay, God. You asked for it.

I went to a Bible study the weekend following Gold in the Cave Wall. My new paperback, The Really Bad Thing About Free Will had just returned from the printers, so I took a handful of copies of that, along with my other paperbacks, along with How to Quit Church Without Quitting God, along with my CD, Part-Time Sinner.

The hostess had not so much designed this gathering as a Bible study, but as a time when I would talk and other people would listen. I always pray before these things, acutely aware of my weakness. I know it is my weakness that God uses, not my strength. My prayer, then, is that I would always remember that.

The first time I ever addressed a public gathering, I was so scared that I knelt at the sink in the bathroom of the hall and prayed for a miracle, which ensued. Ever since then, the continuous miracle is that, when God prods me to open my mouth publicly, He grants people knowledge and understanding. I’m no longer scared because I know from experience that God speaks in spite of me not because of me, but I still put myself, mentally, at the foot of the sink.

The same thing went on at this “Bible study.”

I talked, answered questions, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The hostess served pizza, the miracles occurred in the typical nonobservable fashion (I would hear the details later), and Melody and I prepared to leave—but not before I metamorphosed into a sort of celestial Santa Claus.

I felt the urge to give away as many books as possible. So before I left, I reached into my “Santa’s bag” and pulled out copies of The Really Bad Thing About Free Will. I talked a little bit about the book, and then handed out copies. Then I did the same thing with all my other books. Everyone was laughing, because all these books kept coming out of my bag like the loaves and the fishes. As the books flew out of the bag, I said crazy things like, “Bless you, my child,” and “Your troubles are over,” and “I hope you want these, because here. Here. Here. And here.” I worked so hard I could have used a couple elves.

The hostess walked Melody and me to our sleigh and eyed me with genuine concern. “Good God, Santa,” she whispered. “You gave away a couple hundred dollars worth of books there, at least.” She knew about my situation and slipped me a twenty for the reindeer. I gratefully pocketed the bill and said, “I know. But I loved it. It was fun. It felt crazy. Ho, ho. Need a book?

The next day, I received a check in the mail from a supporter that made me whoop right there in the kitchen. Later that afternoon, a friend I had not heard from for 4 ½ years called out of the blue to tell me that he was “back on board” and ready to assist the ministry again. The evidence of this arrived six days later, satisfying the people at the phone company, the electric company, and half the people at the mortgage joint.

God rescued me, once again, via the Body of Christ.

This cycle will repeat itself for the eon, I suppose. I would like to foresee a time when I’m comfortable, when I’m “rolling in it,” delivered from the stresses of financial free-fall and recovery. But somehow I think that God will continue to stun me with timely miracles, and provide givers—givers including myself—with even more opportunities for greater blessing. Perhaps; perhaps not. In any case, I’m still on my knees at the altar of the sink, praying for miracles. God? He’s rubbing His hands together and smiling, scanning Earth for the helpless among humanity.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


When it is so light out so late, all I want to do is play with my kids and not go to bed. It is true that my kids are 19 and 17 and 13 years old, but the statement still stands.

My oldest son Artie got me a small leather, triangular-shaped football for Father’s day. “Footballs” like these are ordinarily made of notebook paper. The athlete folds the piece of notebook paper over and over in the manner of an American flag prepared for storage. The football is not stored, however, but rather flicked across a table by the facing competitors. The object of the tabletop game is to get any part of the football to hang over the table edge without falling off. This is a touchdown and is worth six points. For the point after touchdown, the athlete “kicks” the football with a flick of the middle finger through a set of “goalposts.” Just as in real football, a successful kick is worth one point. The goalposts traditionally consist of the competitor’s thumbs touching horizontally and index fingers extending vertically. But tradition gives way to these modern days.

Welcome to the 21st century. The “football” Artie got me for Father’s Day is genuine leather, and the goalposts are genuine plastic. And when I played my son Jefferson yesterday morning, I got genuinely drubbed: 50-28.

When Aaron got up, he, Jefferson and I played Triple Solitaire. This is just like single Solitaire, only three times as fun. Instead of one person playing his or her own cards on top, everyone can play on everyone else’s cards. If all three players uncover the two of hearts at the same time, for instance, it’s a race to see who can get the two on top of the ace first. The game does not ordinarily draw blood, but bruised knuckles are common. I usually win because I’m so mean and fast. I’ve never let my kids win at anything. Because of this, they are all competitive and very good at everything they do. They know that when they beat Dad at Ping-Pong or Monopoly or basketball or Triple Solitaire, it’s the real deal. Aaron finally beat me in Ping-Pong one day last winter for the first time in 200 or 300 games, and you would have thought he had won an Olympic gold medal. It was great! (I hated it!) I played the national anthem for him and he wept.

We all had to go to work. Aaron had to weed-whip for an elderly woman in town, Jefferson had to mow our lawn, and I had to get some ZenderTalks in the can. But there we sat, playing Triple Solitaire. It worked out this way: Aaron won one, Jefferson won one, and I won one. None of us were too badly injured, so we all went to work. “See ya later,” we said.

After returning from work at about seven in the evening, I found Aaron and Jefferson and Aaron’s friend Heath golfing in the yard. They were inventing “holes” that included a tree trunk, the burn barrel, the metal barn roof, the well pipe, and the natural gas tank. I didn’t want to play, I just wanted to watch. I wanted to be the gallery. So I stood behind ropes and followed the golfers around. I applauded politely whenever someone “plunked” the burn barrel under par. I only got hit in the head with the golf ball once, but even then I applauded politely. I consulted the leader board frequently. I carried my own lawn chair. I drank bottled water.

Soon after, the sky turned purple and black; a storm brewed. I love severe weather; it’s so much more interesting than normal weather; it’s more exciting, more severe. Artie came home just then from work and we all knew what he was going to do: set up his video camera. We were right.

The two older boys and their associates are filming a movie this summer. I’m not allowed to tell you what it’s about. I am allowed to say, however, that it will include purple and black cumulonimbus clouds.

I love watching Artie compose. The clouds performed weird gyrations above his lens. The clouds roiled and boiled over our heads. They looked near enough to touch. The mien of the clouds was deliciously frightening. Aaron thought he saw a funnel forming in one of the black clouds. I wish he had. I have always wanted to see a tornado. Readers who have actually lived through a tornado will hate me for saying this. So be it. I still want to see a swirling vortex.

Not a single vortex came, however, not even a swirling one. Just rain. And did it come! The storm made the house so cozy. At the start of the rain, everyone crammed into the house. Outside was dark blue and wet and cold, but everything indoors was orange and warm and familiar with all of our breath. When the storm died down, the outdoors became sullenly inviting again and Heath and Aaron invented a new game beneath the electric wire draped from the telephone pole to our house called “Throw a Rock Up Above the Wire, and Make the Rock Hit the Wire On the Way Down, but Not on the Way Up, and The First One to Do It Three Times is the World Champion of This New and Stupid Sport.” (I have since learned that the new sport is now called “Plim.”)

I watched Aaron and Heath struggling to make the rock hit the wire on the way down. Heath finally got a hit, and then Aaron got one. It took a long time for them to get one apiece. I doubted it could be so hard. Let a real man toss and see what happens, I thought. And so I announced into the rainy twilight: “I can do that on the first try.”

It was raining steadily, and increasing. Heath and Aaron kept handing me the rock—and handing me the rock and handing me the rock and handing me the rock. In the meantime (when I needed a rest), Aaron got his second hit. Then Heath got his second. Aaron kept getting large drops of rain in his eye. My shirt was starting to stick to my skin and it was getting darker and darker. I kept throwing and throwing, missing each time. Neither Aaron nor Heath could fathom that a person could miss so many times in a row while trying so diligently. And yet I continued to accomplish the unfathomable. Aaron and Heath kept giving me tips and hints: “Stand directly under the wire.” “Keep your hand in the center of your body.” “Try to hit the wire on the way up.” “Don’t throw so high.” “Throw higher.”

Nothing worked. In the meantime, Heath became World Champion. In order to comprehend his victory, I continued to miss and miss and miss. My many attempts and many misses bordered on the miraculous—the absurdly miraculous. It was astonishing how many times in a row I failed. Aaron said, “I won’t be able to sleep tonight until you do this.” Aaron had become the adult, I the child. “Concentrate, Dad,” he said. “You can do this. Go slower. Think about it. Concentrate.” The wire was only six or seven feet above my head, but my story remained the same: miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, and miss. I cursed the rock under my breath; it was shaped like a peanut. Darn the peanut, I thought to myself. It was raining too hard. It was getting too dark. I was too tired. I was dehydrated. Satan hated me.

Finally, it happened. Quite by accident (I assure you), the rock “ticked” the wire on the way down. I ran across the lawn with my fists in the air, yelling like Tarzan. I felt like I’d just won an Olympic gold medal.

Aaron played the national anthem for me, and I wept.

I do love summer, at times.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Someone asked me how frequently I’ll be blogging. The answer is: When I move to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America during early, mid, and late June, when the sun—bobbing up only occasionally over the Antarctic horizon—is rarer than a llama sirloin on a blue Patagonian fire, then I suppose the blogs at this time of year will come more bloggingly, and the words more frequently.

You already know how hard it is for me to write under the duress of sunshine. Yes, I know I’m a contradiction. I admitted as much on ZenderTalk a few weeks back. I like what the sun does for the thermometer, and I like how the planet leans harder toward the mother star now and makes me not need a coat. But this daylight business has got to go.

If only something could be done about the wattage.

But look at me this morning. I am in fine fettle. It is just past five and I have beat the sun out of bed for the first time in three weeks. The result? I have amassed, already, 200 words, including a new one: “bloggingly.” In addition, I have paired the words “llama” and “sirloin” in the same sentence for the first time ever. I have striven for this so many times over the years, only to suffer near misses. There was always something wrong with either “llama” or “sirloin,” or both. I had no idea, settling in here twenty minutes ago, that this would be the day of the breakthrough. And people say writing is boring!

I hope that, by this time, everyone has been able to catch up to the goings-on in Zenderville. I would like to thank Heather Dannewitz of Arizona for naming this blog. Heather is a regular to my website and one day e-mailed me with a link to her own blog. Believe it or not, I had never even seen a blog before. I saw photos from Heather’s wedding, and some Arizona sunrises, and I read some of Heather’s upbeat prose. I thought to myself, Hey, Martin. Blogs are pretty cool. Don’t you wish everyone who visited your website and read your books had blogs and sent you links to them? Then you could put faces to names and the people would become more real to you. Then when you wrote new books or did new ZenderTalks, you could picture the people and know a little bit about them. You could see who they married and what their dogs look like. Why write or talk to a faceless audience when you can write and talk to Bill With The Mustache, Wanda With The Heart Condition, Alan Of Exxon-Mobil, and Sue In Jail? Everyone has a life—everyone.

The thought occurred to me then: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I want to be known. I fear becoming a non-entity behind a teaching. “Teaching” is a cold word. Human beings, on the other hand, are warm. Human beings teach; human beings learn; human beings touch. We do not learn in order to become smart; we learn in order to become better at living. The teachings given by God to humanity are not lifeless, and neither am I. And neither are you. The Words of God are for humans, not craniums. The inspired Words should make us wake up differently; they should make us smell the roses and the coffee knowing more intimately about roses and coffee; they should make us look at one another more closely in the eye and say, I know you. We are going through this together.

I was going to call my offering “ZenderBlog,” but Heather told me as gently as she could that the title sucked. She suggested “Zenderville,” and I instantly zoned it residentially.

I am building this town to be inhabited.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Monday, May 22, 2006


The financial situation is so freaky here now that there is no situation. When you can’t even locate a situation, you know you’re in an interesting place.

God loves interesting places. He loves trouble. He makes it. Then He fits it so as to dunk me into it. Then He 1) waits, 2) grimaces, 3) checks His watch, and 4) gets me out of it. It’s a rhythm; a pattern: God loves, makes, fits, dunks, waits, grimaces, checks, removes. Just like planting a wheat field, baking a cake, or beating a person with a stick. Thus, God demonstrates His power. The awful cycle weakens me in body yet strengthens me in faith. That's one of its purposes. You are already aware of my world-record faith.

I may be an idiot. I have analyzed this from all angles. As soon as I think I may be an idiot, something tells me I’m a genius. Listening to the latter voice is idiotic, however, so I am back to square one. The best way to stop the mental mayhem is to consult the current balance of one’s checkbook and 1) read, 2) weep, 3) rejoice.

This is one of the few times when we’ve really had to watch what food we buy. It's an up-and-down business, folks. Two days ago, we couldn’t buy any—food, that is. I know this situation will eventually change, but I'm in "dunk" mode now, so I'm going to revel in whatever lessons it has to teach. To one of the few people on the planet dispensing the true gospel, this is a chunk of gold in the cave wall. It’s neato to suffer for the sake of Christ. I hope my kids understand it fully someday. Most of what they think nowadays is, why don’t we have this in the refrigerator and that in the cupboard?, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure they’re now grasping the God Principle, which is that not having money for a particular length of time in this present eon may be a sign of God’s favor, especially if the pinched individual dispenses, for a living, the true gospel.

Jesus did not have much money growing up, and especially not during His public ministry. Judas Iscariot kept the books, if that tells you anything. Jesus didn’t even have a home. Not even a house. He probably strung a hammock between olive trees on the Mount of Olives. He swayed in the breeze off the Sea of Galilee. He got up early before everyone else and went to the mountains to pray. These were the best times for Christ during those years of public ministry. He and the disciples made campfires at night and knocked back draughts of herbal coffee. Imagine the Bible studies going down at that time, if you can. Money didn’t matter. What joy. (I may be there.)

There is something exciting about traveling so lightly through this life, with nothing but a copy of the scriptures, a body, a hammock, herbal coffee, and a well of faith gushing up through the bedrock of trial.

Over these last thirteen years since trading a well-paying job at the Postal Service for suffering-filled vats of evangelistic evil, I have abounded and been abased in the legal tender department. Some months, I cannot even tender things legally. Other months, Melody and I are off to Red Lobster. Whenever God sees fit to abase, it no longer scares me. I used to worry, but I have not done that in years. God has trained me to relax in the midst of peril. Relaxation is my normal reaction to peril now. Friends don’t get it. They tell Melody, “I don’t know how you do it.” This is a backhanded slam at me. I take it and smile. I choose not to make dolls of the people and push pins into them. That would be immature. What these “friends” are really telling my wife is, “I don’t know how you live with that man.” Some have put it this bluntly. Other bolder ones have inserted colorful adjectives before the noun “man.”

Yet these people could not muster faith enough to salt a Wheat Thin. Do I lord it over them? No. Do I mock them for not having faith? No. Do I brag about the absurd amount of faith I have? No. How can I brag about something given me by God? So I just take it. I simply read my newspaper on the wire God strings for my family and me across the mouth of the great cataract.

This does not mean I do not cry. It is possible to be humiliated and free of worry simultaneously. I do it all the time. Then I think of Christ on the cross and realize how far I have to go. It comforts me to realize that God would not ever take another human being that far. It is unnecessary now. Our sufferings now are so small compared to the sufferings of Christ. God has taught me to be rejoicing in my sufferings, inasmuch as I am “filling up in my flesh, in His stead, the deficiencies of the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). How Christ could have come away with any deficiencies of afflictions is beyond me. But He did, and others and I are catching up to them.

Well, on second thought, Jesus never had to explain to His kids why something as inexpensive as a box of generic pancake mix could suddenly not be located in the bottom cupboard.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


They call me Doctor Faith. I am the Doctor of Faith.

I have no money today, and it's interesting. People think I’m rich just because I write books. That’s a nice theory until your employer is God, Who controls all monetary sense and nonsense. Sometimes I have money, sometimes I don't. God has plunged me into an erratic line of work. Some days God sits me on His lap and pets my head. Other days I feel like an anvil, and God is the nose of the hammer. I hope that these two weeks, or however long it has been, will dispel forever the ignorant notion that just because I realize God is behind evil and will eventually bring good of it does not mean I greet it with a conical hat. If I told you what I said to God this morning it would shake your faith, so I will refrain. I would hate to have anyone stumbling over me. I can say and do and live without stumbling, but that is only because I have severe amounts of faith. Severe amounts. I am overloaded in the faith department.

If this were the day when faith moved mountains, I would be playing chess with the Himalayas. But this is not that day. This is the day when faith can only barely be bartered for peace with not being at peace. I have boxcars of faith, and it is the only reason I get away with what I say and think and dream and hope and tug and tunge and drag o’er the hearth toward the cave where He lay for three days before rising. I’m not even bragging. But honestly, this is the longest three days of the last two weeks of my life, and “tunge” isn’t even a word. This ought to give you a clue as to my faith. It is as advertised.

When I speak of my faith, I do not boast as if I have originated it. As Paul says, what do you have that you have not obtained? I have not originated, but obtained. And I obtain and obtain and obtain. I am telling you, when the first boxcar of faith passes the chambers of my inner being, it is no big cause for worry, because there’s another boxcar behind it, and another one behind that, and another one behind that. I have more faith than sixteen boxcars have coal briquettes. In fact, I need rid of some. Were I able to give some away, I would. I would render unto each of you a boxcar’s worth—and have plenty left over. Left over? I speak an outrage, for I obtain a trainload’s worth of faith every hour, even while testing the limits of all things Godward and making up words like “tunge.”

This, too, shall pass. I know this comes to pass. It all comes to pass. Nothing comes to stay in this eon, but to pass. Thus the saying: “It comes to pass.” Great saying; one of the best ever; one of the better ones. The rain and the clouds and the death come to pass. The fear of losing all my loved-ones comes to pass, and even the losing of them would also come to pass. See? What did I tell you about my faith? It is completely god-awful. It is a burden to be given so much. I have no idea why I am the world record holder in this department. I am not even glad of it. It only is. I can only bear it. I cannot help for a moment my singular possession. I cannot change it. It does not even show most of the time, this faith. If it did, I would be world-famous: Fifi the Celestial Poodle Leaping Through a Hoop of Flaming Planets. If I could barter faith for money, I would be Jed Clampett of the New World Order.

I wish I could dispense it. Would that I could. I would not charge a nickel for it, not even a penny. It would not be like my books, which come hard. Having so much faith is like having too much iron in the blood: you get heavy and bloated and your veins turn hard from constantly plying the parameters of not seeing anything. I would hook up a fire hose to my head or my heart or to whatever spiritual ventricle supplies faith, and I would heave open the valve and souse you with a flagon’s worth every minute. The tap could run all day and leave me none the worse because, in the interim, I will have been reloaded with two more times again the dispersal, immeasurable in human flagons.

I do not even work at it. Work? I blaspheme. I do not even play. In fact, the less I work the more I get, and the more I play the less I don’t get. I say again: Would that these were the days of moving mountains. But power these days is hardly manifested as men (or women) would manifest it. Men and women looked for power in the time of Christ only to see a man on a cross trying to get comfortable in His spikes and groaning unutterable utterances to Himself. They look for power nowadays and all they see are mountains sitting where they’ve been since the disruption of the world. The mountains won’t move a whit, not even to save an oxygen-deprived yak on the South Col of Everest. But in the coming kingdom, anyone with a tenth of the faith God has given me will send comets out of orbit with a random thought while gathering summer figs in the south of Lebanon. The rings of Saturn? Gone before breakfast.

There is a time for everything under the sun except personal glory. If sun is what we have out there and it is advertised with such coronal exuberance, then it should disrupt more of our cellular communication. And yet it does not. I do not doubt for a moment that I am a target of the Adversary. Everything on this dirty planet now is like a chisel that chips iron off the horseshoe of surviving another ping of God’s weeping little hammer. (I apologize for that sentence; it was uncalled for. It is just a longwinded, downgraded term for the Adversary.) And that’s without the fire, even. Add the fire, and it makes you want to take megavitamins. Or eat carrots. (Not that any of this would help, but then that’s where faith comes in. When carrots make your eyesight worse, that’s where faith comes in. If rabbits see so well, why do they run pell-mell into oncoming cars? Trucks? Campers? Where are the rabbits' heads? Why, I know: their heads are detached from their bodies! And this: When you pull on your undershirt and get the tag in front after trying so hard to get it in back, where it belongs, don’t you think that, too, is of faith? And also when you’re out of jelly? And milk? And bread? And apples? And patience? [Do you think patience is of faith? Recant of it, miscreant; impatience is of faith.]

It could perhaps be that God is gearing up for the Super Bowl of Revelation. The glory knob I spoke of on an earlier page occupies all-time world record lows, lying (or laying—who the heck knows or cares) in the lowlands of that famous dial. Not even pancakes can cure it. Not even pancakes packed with syrupy fruit can resurrect this knob from its “death bed.” Not even new brain chemicals, real or artificial, can make the glory knob rise from its slab. (Same with Christ; God roused Christ.) What about local honey? Forget it. Bees don’t live long enough to regurgitate that much glory. I doubt that a local honey would cure it, either. Mark this: Fun in this eon causes misery. Study it. Fun Houses—with all their wacky mirrors and slanted floors—make you sick. (What a paradox. But don’t look at me; I didn’t invent it.) The only peace available in this eon is to be at peace with not being at peace—that is the only cure for this present eon. In France, it would be known as “le curé miraculiare” and you would pay a million francs for it. Hear what I say. Appreciate what I have just dispensed to you, nearly by accident. It is as I told you. I have merely blown the foam off the top of my flagon, and that with no more cost to me than an exasperative exhalation. I dispense to you faith in this way, without cost; I blow it nearly inadvertently in your direction. Just like that, faith in your face. Now—can you imagine my burden?

You used to say live and let live. But if this ever-changing world in which we live in makes you give in a cry, well, then live and let die.

You can always resurrect in the coming eon.

© 2006 by Martin Zender