I hate chain letters where you have to forward something or face dire consequences. Out of nowhere, someone in your contacts has a weak moment and falls for the mafia pressure. They make the poor decision to hand off the matter to all their acquaintances so they can sleep at night. 

Along the same lines, I don’t appreciate multilevel marketing schemes where your friends suddenly are known as your ‘upline’. When they call, you stop answering, and you can’t take another meeting that costs you your entire savings account for a supplement made from a rare botanical plant grown in a foreign country. 

Another life invading moment I don’t care for is the bread recipes where a freezer bag of tan liquid is put on your counter without your permission. 

“I’m giving you this nice starter bag.” They say. “It’s so easy to do; just follow the instructions.” 

It appears to be benign, but then you find out you have to stir it for ten minutes each day for ten days at the exact same time, add flour fifteen days in, squish it around in the bag until day twenty and swear yourself over to a new religion at the end of thirty days for the bread to bake.  

Then you have to take the two cups of the liquid you separated and plague someone else with the mess. That’s time you just can’t get back.

And the biggest cringe worthy scam is the one that comes with the promise of a direct connection to heaven by using various gimmicks so you can advance spiritually and unlock all the treasures that are hidden away in a vault.

I was watching something I had recorded and fast-forwarding through commercials when I saw an infomercial for a seed packet. I paused, went back, and watched pure fraud marketed for those who were in desperate situations. As if asking God for help isn’t enough, this flashy segment used words such as “miracle power” and “special blessing” to gain the emotions of the vulnerable. Planting and harvesting ancient sprouts is a sure-fire way to have it all, was the claim. 

They paraded out one paid actor after another, singing the praises of these tiny seeds that produced results that rivaled the parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, and Lazarus coming back to life. 

The real catch is that no money is needed to obtain the Jack and the Beanstalk beans, but just a simple giving of your home address to get added to the hit list. 

I clicked past it, glad I wasn’t that gullible. 

A few days later, my girls and I were watching something, and the same ad came up again. I had them see how ridiculous it was. Then I forgot all about it until I got a gigantic packet in the mail.

If you have ever attended a closing or refinance on a house, that’s the amount of paperwork that was stuffed into this oversized envelope. I looked at the return address and realized I had somehow been caught in the seed pusher’s snare. 

I said to my daughter, 

“How did they find me?”

She came over to see what I was holding in my hand.

“What is it?”

“It’s from that ministry that promises fake results. How did they get this to me?” Were all the conspiracy theories right about our televisions being one extensive computer database that could be used to infiltrate our lives? How did this happen to me?

I opened it and took out three different colored envelopes along with multiple pages of rules. It would take hours to follow all the steps, so I decided to rip into the red envelope, which held more instructions.

I glanced over at one of the other pieces of paper and saw this written in bold lettering: 

“Do not open the red envelope! This will cause a curse to come upon your house! Open that last!” 

What if someone receiving these were color blind? Would that rule still apply, or would there be an exemption? 

Since I was already flirting with unleashing eternal damnation upon my house, I started opening up all the envelopes to skim read. Why not keep this game of Russian Roulette going? 

The central theme of it was to send in a prayer request and money. The simple message was camouflaged by threatening remarks, intimidation tactics, and arm twisting. It was a “let me help you, help us” type of approach.

Everything was time sensitive. Specific actions and rituals had to take place, or you would miss your “moment of visitation.” Each statement was backed up with a scripture verse as solid proof this was a life changing moment. 

Sprinkled throughout, there was the ego rewarding phrases such as “you have been chosen” for this, and my first name was strategically placed so that I would feel like they knew me. 

Just when I had seen it all, I found a small, clear plastic packet. Holding it up to the light, I could see beads of moisture inside like something had been in it but had evaporated. Looking further through all the material, I solved the mystery. I had not been lucky enough to get a seed packet, but I had been selected to receive healing water that had dried up or leaked out before getting to me. 

I was supposed to place it under my pillow and watch everything I had ever wanted continuously stream to me. 

That was it. I gathered it all up and threw it away, imagining a gasp from an invisible audience. 

Later, I pulled one sheet of the disposed of paper from the trash and showed my other daughter when she came home from work. 

“Do you remember this? We saw this advertised?”

She smiled.


“They sent me an empty packet of tap water!”

“What?” She said, taking a closer look, laughing. 

“How did these people find me?”

Without hesitation, she said, 

“I signed you up.”

Just like that, very matter of fact.

“You did this?”

So much for being tracked by an evil entity through the TV, thank goodness! 

“Do you know how much junk I am going to get now from this?”

She laughed more. Oh, she knew pretty well what would happen! And she also was very pleased with herself for getting me all rattled. 

“I’m going to take every single thing they send, put it in a box, wrap it and give it to you for Christmas!”

She knew she had done a great job on this and wasn’t threatened in the least. 

I came home a few months later to more correspondence from the dreaded prophet.

“Oh no!”

This one was just as bad as the first with extra pleas because I hadn’t responded. Maybe I was just about to hand over my offering if they coerced more. 

“How are you enjoying your water packet?” was one of the lines. 

I clipped out the stock picture of the guy who said he had such a burden to help me and taped it directly across from my daughter’s bed. He has his arms outstretched and eyes closed, sending that extra special prayer that she needs. 

I haven’t received any more, so maybe he got the hint that I wasn’t such an easy mark. 

The counterfeit is aggravating because you know people fall for it. They think that to gain God’s attention and favor, there has to be something materially given to receive. And those who are hurting can be talked into anything. Their want for a better life isn’t wrong, but it is preyed upon by those who gain financially.

God loves a cheerful giver, not a dragged-out, beaten down, out of guilt and obligation giver. 

And in John 6:35, this verse sets you free from accepting empty promises from water packets and time-consuming recipes: 

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NLT).

There are no mountains to climb or steep obligations to meet. Divine messages may come that you don’t understand at first, but it’s never complicated, allowing you to cut out the middle man. God’s recipes for life are simple; Follow Him for more. 


He was at it again.  With poor aim, he flicked peas to the amusement of his comrades. I dodged the green bullet he sent my way by swaying to the left.  He set his sights on the girl who was eating her lunch quietly next to me.  How had I ended up sitting across from him?  Had he forgotten the events of less than twenty-four hours? John ‘the tomato’ was living life on the edge for whatever reason I was not aware of. He earned his nickname because his face was round and turned bright red when he was angry or got caught doing his daily devious deeds.  He was taking his chances while we were under the watch of a woman straight out of Nazi Germany.

She plainly announced her presence with a strong nicotine odor and a dragon voice to match.  An entire table of energetic smiling children would freeze with utensils in mid-air as she slithered by with a slow deliberate stroll, darting her squinting eyes looking for infractions.  All verbal communications would stop when she locked her eyes on a child, and pensive normalcy would not resume until she continued onward with her patrol.

When she decided that the noise had gotten on her last nerve, she would pick up a microphone and yell,

“BE QUIET!” with decibels that could have shattered the sound barrier.  We never knew when she would blow.

The lunch room was located in the elementary school’s gymnasium to conserve space.  An orange partition was set up to confine us for crowd control, and to serve as a means for public humiliation.  If a student was apprehended for breaking one of her laws, he or she was immediately dispatched to the ‘the wall’ with nose pressed against it for the rest of us to see.

The day before, I had witnessed her approach John from behind, grab his shirt by the collar with her talons and drag him off to a spot.   There was no wrongdoing on his part that any of us had seen.  She had decided to punish him just because she could.

He had beat the wall with his fists screaming,

“I didn’t do anything!  I want my mom!  I didn’t do anything!” True to form, his face was a brilliant shade of crimson.   Usually, I didn’t feel bad for him because he generally was guilty of the crime, but this time had been different.  There had been no offense to afford him the trip up there with his backside to us.

So it was beyond me why he would want to tempt fate to be singled out again.

I heard her approach with my right ear. When in a situation where threats abound, the senses become more keen.   It was the familiar squish sound of soft soled mandatory cafeteria shoes along with the perfume cigarette scent she wore like a badge of honor. John sat up straight and ceased fire of his vegetables.   She bent down underneath our table and brought up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had been trampled by numerous shoes.

“Who does this belong to?” she hissed.

We all shook our heads to indicate it wasn’t any of ours.  Without warning, the tomato pointed his dirty pudgy finger at me and exclaimed,

“It’s hers.  I saw her throw it.” A bold faced lie.  The kid who had been wrongly blamed the day before was targeting me.  Any compassion I had felt for him melted away forever.

I glanced up to face off with one of my biggest terrors in human form.

“Is this yours?” she bellowed with her red lips in a snarl.  The entire room went silent.

“No.  I already ate mine.”  I had been done eating for quite awhile and had disposed of my brown lunch bag.

“It’s hers!  I saw her!” he said again. This time his friends joined in with him as well as others around us.

She stood over me and presented the item in question directly underneath my nose.

“Eat it.”

“It isn’t mine,”  I said trying to convince her of the truth. It wasn’t working.

“You either eat this or you will have detention.”

I wan’t one of those kids who got detention!  I had not ever been sent to the wall.  Detention meant the beginning of years of juvenile delinquency, and that was not who I was.  And, I had been told to never go against an authority figure.

The first bite was crunchy as gravel from the floor mixed in with the bread on the surface of my teeth.  I gagged at first but managed.  There was no liquid to wash it down so each sandy bite felt like the desert. I could hear the stifled giggles as those around watched me eat a meal that wasn’t mine.  Her dark shadow enveloped me until she was satisfied with my last swallow.

“We don’t throw food here,” she said as she sauntered away.

When I got home from school that day, I was greeted with the usual question:

“How was school today?”

“I had to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich off the floor, ” I said.


I explained the event to my mom.

“Why did you eat it?”

“I was told if I didn’t that I would get detention.”

This situation would have been harrowing for any parent to hear, but she was a registered nurse who kept our home sterile like a hospital.  There was always a can of Lysol lurking in a cupboard waiting to be sprayed.

“Don’t ever do that again, ” she said.

I thought that was the end of the matter, but that evening I could hear her relating the tale to my dad once he got home from work.  From my vantage point in the house, the news wasn’t going over so well.  I was ushered into a remote location in the basement that was nearly sound proof while a phone call was made to the principal.

Before bed, my dad stepped into my room and said,

“If she ever makes you or another child do something like that again, say something right away.  If she does anything that isn’t right, tell an adult.  She will be fired.”

I went into the lunchroom the next day with a new sense of power.   It was like someone had slayed the dragon or at least put out her fire.

I proceeded as usual to get my small carton of milk to go along with my bag lunch. I made sure to distance myself from John’s table.  I had no sooner been seated when I sensed her approach.  With a fake loving hand on my shoulder she said in a voice so soft,

“I didn’t mean for you to eat that sandwich.  There must have been some mistake.”  I looked her directly in the eye without a trace of fear or humility.

“You made me eat that sandwich that wasn’t mine and you know you did.  My dad said you will be fired if you ever do that again.”  She dropped her hand away, blinked rather rapidly with her mouth contorting in shock.  I had found my fifth grade voice. She had suddenly lost hers. She turned on her heel and marched away.

There have been other times in my life where I have been in situations where I felt alone in the face of uncomfortable circumstances.  However, I have learned that just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true.  Just like my dad supported me, we have access to our Creator who loves us so deeply that a plan will be enacted on our behalf if we ask for it. A heartfelt prayer asking for assistance can change things around in an instant. We can go from helpless to hopeful very quickly just by spending some time in the presence of the One who sees it all.   There will be times when maybe the truth of the matter is only known between us and heaven, but we can find comfort knowing that we are not walking on earth in solidarity.  Someone is always in your corner.  Even when you are unjustly accused.