The Kingdom of Cardboard and Spoils

Dieter Zander's story is a gift for us all. In a moment, he lost his talent, his ability to speak, and his whole life came crashing down.

Yme Woensdregt

I read and watched an inspiring blog that I wanted to share with you. It’s the story of Dieter Zander. I hadn’t heard of him before, but he used to be one of the rising stars at the Willow Creek Community Church. Formed in 1981 under the direction of founding pastor Bill Hybels just outside of Chicago, WCCC is the granddaddy of the “seeker–sensitive” megachurch movement.

WCCC hired Dieter Zander in 1995 to direct the music ministry. He was a brilliant pianist and an inspirational preacher who drew hundreds with his preaching and music. Zander says now that he thrived on the adoration, the applause, the undivided attention he got wherever he went. People treated him like he was a rock star — and he bought into the myth.

Suddenly, it all changed. He writes, “I slept right through the moment that changed my life. In the small hours of the morning on February 4, 2008, I suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of my brain. When I woke from my coma in the hospital six days later, my right hand was crippled and I could barely speak.”

It was a humbling experience for someone. In a moment, he lost his talent and his ability to speak. His whole life came crashing down.

Now, however, Zander says he wouldn’t change much. He calls it “A Stroke of Grace”, the title of the small book he co–wrote with long–time friend and San Francisco poet LaDonna Witmer.

In a short video they produced, Witmer reads some of Zander’s words.

“If I am the king of all I survey, then I am king of cardboard and spoils. My kingdom is a small windowless room in the back of the Trader Joe’s grocery store.”

The video goes on to show Zander baling cardboard boxes for recycling, and boxing up the food which is called “spoiled” because it isn’t perfect — apples that aren’t perfectly round, food which is still perfectly fine but which has reached its “best by” date. He uses Dallas Willard’s definition of kingdom as “a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens.”

“My kingdom used to be a stage, a piano, a microphone. My kingdom used to be a performance. King Dieter! Then came the stroke … and now my kingdom is found here at the back of Trader Joe’s. There is no audience in this kingdom — but that’s okay because I’m not performing. There is no ‘stage Dieter’ here, no superman seeking to wow the masses with feats of spiritual strength. It’s just me. Just Dieter — the guy who mops the floors, who bales the empty boxes for recycling, who prepares the spoils for the Marin Food Bank.

“There’s something beautiful about this simple, menial work though. Take the food marked as spoils for example. It’s all still good. The fruit is good. The meat is good. The flowers are good. But they’re not ‘perfect’ … so the other employees wheel this perfectly good but not perfect food back to my kingdom. From here it goes to feed the hungry who don’t care at all that the apple they’re about to eat is lopsided … they don’t care how it looks — they just want to eat.

“To me, this is what’s real. I understand the spoils. I can relate. Because I too am spoils. I used to be packaged as perfect. Back in the heyday of my church career, I was a shiny, unblemished apple. At least that was the image I polished up and displayed. But now, stripped of my talent, my stage and my six–figure salary, I relish imperfection. I revel in the spoils.”

“I come home after work, and I think, ‘It’s good today.” It’s not a sermon; it’s not a performance; it’s not perfection. But the cardboard is recycled, the spoils are feeding the hungry, and today I’m thinking ‘Life is good. It’s very good.”

You can watch the video for yourself on youtube. It’s only 4½ minutes long, and is one of the most spiritual things I have ever seen.

Zander’s story is a gift for us all.

Tme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Just Posted

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read