Sunday, December 30, 2012


The whole Pilkington clan picked me up at the airport in Pittsburgh at a quarter ‘til midnight, Christmas Eve. It was great to see them; they were all marvelously awake and happy to see me as well. It’s a good thing Clyde was awake, because he had to drive nearly three hours in fog, dark, and misting rain. Yummy. We encouraged him to keep up the good work, but of course did not volunteer to help him. Clyde kept us between the lines, and we made it home alive.

I guess you could call Christmas Day “Christmas Day,” if you want to. I have many memories of Christmas Day, as I have told you, but this was December 25. It was what it was, and all one can do is walk through it. Clyde, Clyde Lynn, Nathan and I drove to Greensburg, PA to see “Lincoln.” I loved this movie. I liked going back to the happier times of the Civil War.

One of my favorite lines (there were many) was when Lincoln says to someone who is trying to get him votes for the passage of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery: “It is such joy to be comprehended.” I almost jumped up like a Pentecostal and said, “Praise God and Jesus!” Instead, I turned to Clyde and whispered, “Ain’t that the truth.”

We had a wonderful meal that evening, and managed a few laughs. (I saw a few people laugh on-screen in the “Lincoln” movie—even Lincoln—so that proves people can laugh during wartime. I find that a little wine helps the miracle along.)

Jake and Richard Schnader, from Lancaster
On the 27th, visitors arrived from Lancaster, PA, namely, Richard and Jake Schnader, whose last names are the same for a reason: they are father and son. They stayed into the evening—an hour longer than they intended—because we were all having such a great time of fellowship. Jake is the young man I was telling you about in my blog of December 9. Jake had such a great time he was ready to move here; his dad had to sort of bribe him into the car.

(Click to enlarge)
Richard and Jake are from Amish country—without being Amish themselves, lucky gents. As I am fascinated with how crazy the Amish are, I enjoyed the many Amish stories told by Jake and Richard during lunch. The Amish go to dreary lengths to be good boys and girls for God, and God gives them no truth; they get nothing; zero; nada; not a single damn fact from any book of the Bible. And then there are “party people” (that is, we who have rubber on our tires) and “sinners” (we who do not observe the wrong Sabbath day)—speaking of folks like Jake, his dad, the Pilkingtons and myself—and God unloads the whole wad of truth—everything He’s got—right into our laps. That’s fascinating to me. It just makes me love the Amish even more.

Two days ago, seven other visitors came, and they will be here until Tuesday. (I told you we should have revolving doors installed here; well, I did not actually tell you that, but I should have.) Arriving was Clyde’s daughter Susannah, her two kids, a friend, a dude, and the friend’s two kids. (I am not too keen on names yet, as you can tell. I’m working on it. I do know several of the names, but I don’t want to slight the people whose names I know not, therefore I will refrain from all names, except that of Susannah, whose name I know well because I have been hearing it so much. But wait! I have just discovered the 12 red plastic cups from dinner last night, with everyone’s names written on them. So I will attempt to match cup names with actual people.

Saved by the cups.

Jessie, Justin, and Susannah.
(In the background is a small sampling of the
Pilkington & Sons online bookstore stock.)

Jessie and her daughters Peyton and Ava
(at this point, not sure which is which).

Justin and Susannah and their daughters Emma and Isabelle.

It is fun having a houseful of people. It is helpful, emotionally. As I know I have told you, if I were by myself these days, I would be in bad shape. I would probably walk back to the Civil War, dress in gray, and look for Gettysburg.

Rumor has it that Harsh—the cool guy from India whose last name possibly cannot be spelled in English—is coming for New Year’s. We are all looking forward to that.

Today, I drive to Ohio for the first time since arriving here, to visit my two sons, Gabe and Paul, and my sister Kelly. I am looking forward to that.

I am trying to look forward, period.  

© 2012 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


United Airlines spares its attendants the drudgery of repeatedly demonstrating flight safety warnings and techniques. Instead, they engage a safety video that plays on a small screen attached to the seat back in front of you.

In this video, passengers in various states of emergency (water landing, pressure loss; “we are presently out of red wine”), very calmly and happily do horrible but necessary things to save their lives.

For instance, here is a mother and daughter chatting away happily. Suddenly, two oxygen masks drop from the ceiling in front of their faces. This means, of course, that all oxygen has been sucked from the plane. No matter. Why be alarmed? In fact, the mother and daughter are apparently quite delighted for the interruption.

(In my opinion, the unruffled demeanor of the air emergency victims in this video reflects poorly upon United Airlines. How is it that passengers could meet the sudden appearance of oxygen masks with such indifference—nay, outright felicity? Apparently, the advent of life-saving apparatuses such as oxygen masks on United Airlines flights is as common as the appearance of beverage carts.

“Hello. Welcome aboard United Airlines. We are completely out of oxygen. Would you care for a Sprite?”

The mother smiles as she places the elastic band of the oxygen mask carefully around her head. The startling word here is, “carefully.” To my amazement, the woman tries hard to avoid displacing a single strand of her hair. How certain people be so self-aware in the face of such peril, is cause for wonder. I can picture myself remaining calm in such a situation, but I’m not sure I would dig out my lint-roller and de-fuzz my sports coat.

This woman’s young daughter is also delighted at the sudden pressure drop, the lack of oxygen, and the fact that her mother is obeying flight safety instructions to the letter, including putting her mask on first, before assisting her. The child is three shades of blue before the mother tends to her mask, but that’s okay. The three shades are a cute combination. These two debilitated yet happy passengers follow every airline rule, including that which prohibits tampering with or disabling lavatory smoke detectors.  

But now, the flight has a worse problem The plane has crash landed into the water! At least there is oxygen aboard, but that is small consolation when the airplane is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Honolulu.

The ever-present United Airlines camera now focuses on an extremely attractive young lady who has already located her life vest (she knows it is located beneath her seat, smart girl) and is now placing it around her neck and preparing to inflate it. Success! Like the victim before her, she has managed to accomplish this task without displacing a single strand of beautiful, shiny, voluminous, protein-rich, brunette hair. I am happy for her, and she is clearly happy for herself.

But now, a dilemma! There are two ways to inflate the life vest: either by pulling down on a red tab, or manually inflating it through a plastic blow-tube. This woman does not take chances; she has a “dual-inflator” personality, and will cover her bases. She pulls the red tag and purses her full, luscious lips, to blow additional air into her bright yellow vest.

Although it has been forty-five minutes since watching this terrifying yet entertaining video (I am still on the flight, a quarter of the way between Las Vegas and Houston), I can still see the voluptuous red kissing organs of this spectacularly good-looking air disaster victim, pursing and puckering around the plastic inflation tube. 

With two delicate, scented breaths (at least I am assuming they are scented; they are clearly delicate), she has inflated the rubber-duckie-colored life-saving device to full capacity.

Next stop: The Pacific Ocean!

I wish I could handle life’s little curve balls with the calm, graceful aplomb of these air disaster heroines. From whence comes such quiescence? Are they members of the body of Christ? Friends of the pilot? Angels in the guise of women? Professional swimmers? I can only guess. I can only pray for similar peace, in similar circumstance.

In the meantime, even though my flight is still in the air with all its oxygen, I believe I will head for the lavatory and disable the smoke detector there—just for the hell of it.

© 2012 by Martin Zender

Monday, December 24, 2012


I thank God for the arms of love awaiting me in Pennsylvania at the end of this amazing trip. I thank God for the loving arms here that will send me so lovingly upon my way. What I do not look forward to is the intervening hours of aloneness, especially today. 

This is a hard day. 

My parents have now both been dead for about eight years. I will not see my children today. It is not only Christmas eve—a day with no spiritual connection for me, but rather familial—it is Rebecca’s birthday, and the anniversary of the day I proposed marriage to her. I proposed marriage that day—and succeeded. She proposed divorce shortly thereafter—and succeeded.

To lay out for you two other ends of a similarly sad spectrum (I ought to avoid this for the sake of all, yet here I am; I cannot seem to help myself): I seek reconciliation, she seeks absolute and total separation for the eon. I fail in my quest, she succeeds in hers.

I would like to be cauterized against pain, but my heart operates differently. It does not follow any of my wonderful rules for it. I am just too open, too honest, too “there.” I do not travel through life with a shovel, to bury. If I carry a shovel at all through this life, it is to unearth. I live and try to walk across the cemetery—through it, out of it—and I will walk. But I refuse to cover my tracks, or pretend that I never walked across a cemetery. In life, I taste both the good and bad, to the dregs. I stop "drinking" only to a finality. (Where is the finality? When we are all consummated in Christ.) Whether this is a blessing or a curse, I don’t know. Often, if feels like a curse. But I would not be the person I am, without it. (Therefore, I have answered my own question.)

Part of me does not want to be writing. I would rather “leave it be.” But since I'm unable to do that, I may as well do it with verve, or whatever of that I can muster. Why hold back? You are my friends. Why make this blog anything but an honest communication? If I am not honest, nothing is learned, nothing is new, we’re none the wiser. So now I reach out to you. Why? I would rather die exposed, than live hiding. 

This, too, shall pass. Tomorrow will be another day. And then, so will the next day. Unrequited love hurts, and I shall not pretend it is anything different. The love of Christ trumps all. Agape love trumps all. The best thing about agape love is that it requires not an ounce of requital. It loves, even in the face of rejection. In fact, it requires rejection for its display. (Damn it.)

Thus, the shovel. 

If agape love is all one has at the moment, it is good enough. It has to be. After all, it is the love of God. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012


What a meeting. It is a matter of preparation, for all of us. Not only do I have to prepare a message and know what I’m talking about, but Anita has to prepare the house and the main dish, and the people coming have to prepare many side-dishes. In other words, there are so many “human” things we all have to do. But then, when it comes down to it, God takes over and makes everything work.

That is exactly what happened here yesterday afternoon. Wow. Over twenty attended. Five people who had never fellowshipped with the Sacramento group, came. Again, people filled with the spirit of God meshed in the spirit of God. I still can’t get over the marvel of that—of watching people who have never met, embrace each other. I admit to being thrilled that God uses me as a catalyst for this marvel. It is delightful to be used in this capacity. I just step back and watch people talk and hug and fellowship, like long-lost family members. It is so satisfying; how could I ever tire of it?

I gave an overview of the first five chapters of Romans. I said: “In Romans, the good news starts with three chapters of bad news.” Paul sets the stage of humanity’s hopelessness before he unleashes grace. He is following the pattern he recommends to Timothy (2 Timothy, 4:2), of “expose, rebuke, and entreat.” He first exposes and rebukes humanity (both Jews and Greeks), before he entreats. I compared it to a symphony. The symphony begins in Romans 3:21, but before it starts, Paul has to shut every mouth. He must silence the hall. This, he effectively does. He shuts us up to put us in a relaxing posture—a reclining mode—so that we can receive truth. Otherwise, we argue our worthiness, or we deny our inclusion in the condemnation of humanity, both religious and secular.

The message was so well-received; the gospel has power. All I have to do is articulate it, and it does its work. Again, I am delighted to be used of God in this capacity. Concerning the truth: I am convinced of it; I am passionate about it; God has graciously given me the ability to clear the clutter and let the message convey its own weight. Lastly, I know when to stop talking. At that point, everyone else jumps in, and there is nothing better to see and hear than people reveling in truth, and sharing their stories.  

(Click to enlarge photos.)

Gail Ettlin (Joe's sister-in-law), Linda Ramey

Robbie Hernandez, Eddie, Gerhard Rutsch

Erin and Robbie Hernandez

Dot Haworth, Darrin and Robin Haworth, Dolly

Charles Rutsch


Dolly and Eldred

Bill Cook, Linda Ramey

Gerhard Rutsch, Anita Butler

Joe and Charles

Ken Whittmore, Bill Cook

Linda and Charles Ramey

Robin Haworth

Dot and John Haworth

Anita Butler, Jenny Rutsch

Anita, Kevin, Linda L.
 As if we hadn’t had enough excitement and good times, at 8:30 p.m. Anita, Kevin, Linda, Joe, Eddie and myself  drove out to Pete’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Sacramento to hear Anita and Kevin’s son’s band, Boom-Boom Ya-Ya, jam out the house. Man, was that ever a good time.

The Boom-Boom Ya-Yas
Lead singer Justin Newman

I am sleeping until 7 a.m. now, which translates to an absurd wake up time back east of 10 a.m. I’m living in the moment, so all is relatively well.

Our plane for Vegas takes off in five hours.

© 2012 by Martin Zender 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Preparing to call Dan Sheridan on my "dumb phone."
(That's my son Paul and me at the Lincoln Memorial.)
(Click photos to enlarge.)

Yesterday was a day of rest, a day of hanging around, and a day of putting Dan Sheridan on speakerphone so that we could place him, face-up, on the coffee table and conduct a mini Scripture conference together with him, while he was in Chicago and we were here. This, we accomplished. We would rather have flown him out here, but it was the next best thing. We were not about to leave this paradise of continual rain to go to Chicago. As I write, however, the rain has stopped and the sky is once again California blue; we have cancelled the ferry boat service.

Joe and Eddie and I went to Trader Joe’s around 3:00, picking up fixins’ for dinner, and for our wine glasses. Joe bought some exotic-looking beer, while Eddie and I carted several bottles of the famous “Two-Buck Chuck,” which is $1.99 wine bottled by an enterprising gentleman named Charles Shaw (hence, “Chuck.”) squishing grapes on the cheap (how does he do it?) somewhere in the Napa valley.

I have never heard El Pollo Loco; it must be a western thing. According to my best guess, this is Spanish for, “The Crazy Chicken.” This company does what Colonel Sanders does to chickens, except it does it to chickens who are slightly off their rockers. We drove up and ordered 16 pieces of a chicken documented to be certifiably nuts (the meal comes with papers). Most chickens in the world act crazy to get off the hook; not so the chickens at “El Pollo Loco.” The chickens at these farms strive to appear sane. Any chicken at an El Pollo Loco farm acting intelligent or the least bit rational, gets the boot, and is bought by Colonel Sanders, who is said to fry (and now bake) the sanest chickens east of the Colorado River.

Kevin asked Joe, Eddie and me to set up the family Christmas tree while he was away on business for a couple hours. Apparently, Kevin does not like this job very much, so he took advantage of three schmucks who looked smart enough to manage the assembly of a three-piece Christmas tree. It looked too complicated for me, so I suddenly remembered I had my show to record. “Oops,” I said, “I suddenly remembered I have my show to record.” I wished the boys luck, and told them that I would definitely not be available, if they needed help.

After dinner, we all pitched in to decorate the tree, including the Grinch. (Me.)

Eddie admires his handiwork.
Joe places an angel.
Anita looks askance at Joe's angel placement.
Kevin provides the crowning touch
I do what I can.
I’m not really a grinch, not at all. I have great memories of Christmas from when I was a boy, and from when my kids were small, and for all the time after that until families got ripped out from under me. Now, Christmas is bittersweet. I sometimes wish it would just go away. I am therefore concentrating on heralding the Word of God. I would be happy with four meetings a day, or recording four shows a day, or writing a book every day, or just fellowshipping with the saints. If someone wants to make fudge, I am fine with that. I am fine with “a cup of cheer.” I do not like eggnog, but I will try it in my coffee. If any woman wants to kiss me under any mistletoe, I am available.

All I know is: There ain’t no Santa Claus.

But there is a God in heaven, and he is blessing us mightily here in Sacramento, California.

The meeting starts in ninety minutes.

© 2012 by Martin Zender

Friday, December 21, 2012


Hello, everyone! Yesterday morning was a real rush to get the blog up and do the show before our 9:30 departure for the airport. Everything got done, and off we went.

(Click to enlarge photos.)
Traveling with Joe and Eddie is my idea of a good time. I remember back in Pennsylvania when I first saw the flight itinerary Joe sent me. It was so weird seeing my name along with the names JOE NEWMAN and EDDIE BELANGER, and thinking, I have never even met these guys, and here I am booked on a flight with them from Las Vegas to Sacramento. It seemed like a big blind date. But as is usually the case with members of the body of Christ, we three have been united by God’s invisible spirit, long before we'd even heard of each other. God knew us the whole time, and in His good timing we finally met. Now that we've met, we're brothers for life. I mean, when you go through airport security together—especially in Las Vegas—it bonds you for life.

We flew into Stockton, CA (the flight there was less expensive), and rented a car for the hour and fifteen minute drive to Sacramento. On the way, we ate at our favorite “on the road” food stop (Joe and Eddie have similar tastes): Subway.

Anita and Kevin Butler’s home is beautiful; neither of us are complaining that we’re spending three nights here. Part of Paul’s suffering for the evangel was that he spent a day and a night in a swamp. Well, this ain’t that.  

We enjoyed a pre-gathering last night, with Charles Rutsch arriving, as well as a saint named Eric, who moved to Sacramento from Southern California several months ago, and joined with the Sacramento ecclesia here which meets—on most occasions—at the home of Charles’ mom and dad, Gerhard and Jenny.

Anita Butler

Charles Rutsch and son, Anita, Kevin Butler with Charles' daughter; Eric, Eddie, Joe

Tomorrow, the meeting is here in Anita and Kevin’s living room.

Several people I've never met are coming to this meeting, which we're all looking forward to.  

I hope you are looking forward to it as well. I am happy that you, the reader, are traveling along with me on this trip. I wish you were here. Be encouraged that there are people who embrace the same truths as you. We are not alone, we are just scattered. If you met these people here—or those in Las Vegas—you would feel the same instant kinship I've felt with them.

May this knowledge encourage you during your oftentimes lonely walk.

© 2012 by Martin Zender