Jim Bakker and the Hot Tea Prophecy

Televangelist Jim Bakker said Monday that were it not for the legality of abortion in the United States, two scientists would have been born who had the ability to cure cancer.

How does he know? God himself said so.

I lived in Branson, Missouri for ten years. During that time many important things happened in my life. I married my best friend. I graduated college, I had my children, I met many wonderful people through Missouri State and through the job I had for six years at a casual dining establishment in Branson proper. Along with the lifelong friends I met there, I also had the privilege to meet people from other countries who were there on work visas. I learned not just of their countries (Russia, Jamaica, Honduras) but also about their many cultures and religions.

I met tourists from all over the country and occasionally the world. I met celebrities. I met country singers, Chinese acrobats. I met “Branson Famous” people, like Yakov and Shoji. And one day,  I met Jim and Lori Bakker. 

The Bakkers were regulars at our store. They came in every couple of weeks and sat at the same table, table 110, in the front of the store, behind the large glass windows looking out onto Highway 76, Music City Boulevard. They enjoyed watching the rest of Branson go on about their busy lives, while they sat behind the veil of glossy glass, that made it difficult for anyone to see them. He sat with his back to the door. 

They were quiet, they didn’t try to bring attention to themselves, yet attention always found them. They were popular with the servers, as they tipped well above the 20% mark. They would come in at odd times, just after the lunch rush or just before the dinner rush.

I was usually finishing up the day’s business, counting the bar drawer, or tipping out the bus boys in the back office when the hostess would call to tell me the Bakkers were there, and ask which server should get them. I would study the floor plan and decide who I trusted the most, usually only a couple of servers were on the floor at that time. Though the Bakkers didn’t warrant any “special” treatment, they were, well, let’s call them, unique. 

Jim Bakker ordered four drinks. An iced tea, half cut (meaning half sweet and half unsweet), a hot tea (English Breakfast), a second mug of hot water, an iced water, and on occasional coffee. I don’t recall what Mrs. Bakker ordered, as most of the pomp and circumstance went to Mr. Bakker. I’d assume a water with a lime wedge or an occasional cup of coffee would suit her. 

Mrs. Bakker came for our salad bar. This I do remember, as we had an extensive conversation about it once at the front door. I was closing the inner doors because of the draft, and she caught me at the salad bar just inside. She asked if we had fresh croutons. This was not an unusual question, as many people loved our salad bar and our croutons, with there  dark and crisp outsides and their soft and chewy insides. I told her that I would whip her up some fresh ones. She touched my arm and said not to do it just for her. I assured her that I was headed back there to do it anyway. I was not, but she was so gracious, I felt the need to do it. She thanked me. 

I went back to the kitchen and dropped the small blocks of pumpernickle bread into the fryer and set the timer. It was a precise process. It took less than a minute for the brown bits to float to the top, but if you left them in just a moment longer you would hit the sweet spot. While I waited, I tidied up the line, as I often did when we were down to one afternoon cook, and I studied the screen in the kitchen with all the entrees cooking. I found table 110. It was nothing fancy, a bowl of soup, for Mrs. Bakker I assumed, and a small sirloin, cooked medium well, with a potato. Side of broccoli. No special instructions. No minus this, substitute that. Plain and simple. 

I pulled the croutons up from the fryer, let them drain for a moment, then dumped them carefully into a large silver bowl. I sprinkled garlic salt over them (the secret ingredient), then tossed them a few times adding more garlic salt as I saw fit. I filled a large plastic cambro for the salad bar, then dumped the remaining handful into a small bowl and started for table 110. 

When I got to the table my server was happily chatting away with the Bakkers. Mr. Bakker was explaining how delighted he was that his children were given the opportunity to play in a Christmas show that year. The children he spoke of, were adopted from inner-city Phoenix some years before. They had wonderful voices and he knew they would be a big hit. He spoke like a proud father, doting over each child and their particular talent. I sat the bowl of croutons down in front of Mrs. Bakker and I turned to walk away. As I did she gently touched my arm and said, “Thank you, Melissa.”

I was a bit taken aback as I had never told her my name. I later found out that she had asked the server who the “lovely manager” was, and he told her my name. I said, “You’re welcome, Mrs. Bakker.” And she told me to call her Lori. I did not. I smiled and walked away. 

The rest of their meal was tasty, friendly, and quick, I hope, as those were some of our goals. It wasn’t until the server came back to cash out his money for the day, that I got to ask about their experience. He described it as “normal”, which was good, but I inquired further, what did you talk about with them? I assumed, wrongly, that they spoke about church. About religion. About Morningside, Jim Bakker’s place of worship and fellowship where The Jim Bakker Show is filmed every day. Morningside is 20 minutes west of Branson, on the Arkansas state line. 

“No,” my server concluded. “He doesn’t talk about that. Just his kids, and the weather, and how business is for us these days.” I smiled, not sure why. 

“He did say something weird about hot tea, though,” the server said, as he rolled up his apron and gathered his keys.

I looked up quizzically. 

“He said hot tea has got him through a lot,” the server laughed. “He’s odd,” then he walked out the door. 

I didn’t know much about the Jim Bakker at that time. In fact, I knew more about his ex-wife Tammy Faye, because she was the more memorable of the two. The talk around Branson was all positive. He was busing doing God’s work. Saving lives. Helping the less fortunate. He was the great American evangelist of the new century. And apparently, he liked hot tea. 

In 1989, Jim Bakker sat in a courtroom, a mile from where I write this today. He was facing a long list of alleged sins, including hush money to a woman he’d had an affair with, stealing money from his followers, and fraud. He was also facing 120 years in prison.

In true Jim fashion, the court hearings started out odd and grew more bizarre by the minute. The court learned about the way he skimmed his followers, including the fear tactics and promises that were left unfulfilled. They learned about his homosexual behavior in steam rooms with young men. They learned about his desire to have a private geisha, going as far as having one of his office workers act the part, in exchange for an unlimited budget for travel and expenses, along with, of course, the knowledge that she was doing God’s will. 

At one point his defense lawyer pled “insanity” on his behalf. Bakker slammed himself onto the floor and began sobbing, kicking his hands and feet. This was followed by what a reporter from the Charlotte Observer, Charles Shepard, called “A real breakdown”. 

“His pain appeared genuine. So genuine I couldn’t even ask him questions. Neither did the TV reporters. He has this problem thinking people are always after him, out to get him. It is sort of a psychic nightmare of his. Now he is being dragged out in chains. He always felt like a victim, that people were after him. Now they really came and got him.”

Sitting here at my desk in Charlotte, North Carolina I may be a mile from the court that brought down a 45 year sentence to Jim Bakker (he only served five years), but I am a million miles from that young girl in Branson. A million more from the beliefs and ideologies of Jim and Lori Bakker. I know his kind now, regardless of how sweet he was, how solemn he seemed. I see the hurt he causes, I know the fear he puts into hearts, I feel his icy hand in moments of darkness. Making the world worse, not better, and doing so at the expense of others. Followers. Believers. Victims. And still I am left wondering if there is enough hot tea to save him from where he is headed next. 


Is America Great Again Yet?

I woke up this morning with a bad case of the Tuesdays. Listen, yesterday (the day that shall not be named) was a rough day. It usually is around here, but following a week of no school and a holiday, coupled with the fact that Jackson’s school pushed start and end times back about 45 minutes (blah, blah, traffic patterns, blah) it really started out kinda poopy. We were all a bit tired, a bit cranky, and one of us woke his parents by vomiting on their bed because he decided to eat mulch from the garden that never got planted last spring. (Hint: It wasn’t Jackson.) 

Let me start over. 

Sir Duke Barkington puked all over the damn bed yesterday morning and it started my day off on the wrong foot.

But, like a good day that shall not be named goes, it got even worse. 

I came home from the crowded, confusing carline to find that picture, you know which one, with the toddlers being teargassed as their mother tried to run the other way. 

And my first though was: Is America Great Again Yet? 

Then I started to think about how much hate has to be in a heart to want to spray fucking tear gas over people, including children who have been walking with their parents for weeks and have no clothes and no shoes. Then I started to wonder about the kind of person you would have to be to be working at the border, and what kind of person would not put the tear gas down and say, “Fuck this, I’m out.” Then I started to get an image in my head, without having to see a picture of what was happening. This is maybe the hardest part. Because then I started to realize that the stuff we can see in actual images is one thing. But what about the images that are not coming? What is happening when no one is there? What is happening ten miles down the road in either direction? What is happening under the cover of darkness? 

I can’t claim to know how the Border Patrol works. I don’t know anyone who works there. I don’t live anywhere near there. I have never taken the time to Google how they are employed, where they are employed, or what the vetting process looks like. But I am starting to get a clear picture of what it takes to do this job every day, and it makes me sad. 

I’m sad that people want this job. I am sad that for some it is the only decent  paying job they can find. I hope it is decent paying. I know there are good people who work there. There has to be. I know there are people who are suiting up everyday and feel, deep down in their hearts, that they are in some way serving their country. Many of them, I assume, are veterans. Many have served their country in another capacity and now, having little when they return home, little by way of money and little by way of mental health care to deal with the PTSD, continue on a path of service to their country. And I suspect they believe they are helping make America Great Again. But I can’t be sure.

Who are these people? The people who work the border. The people who lack sympathy, empathy, common human decency? Who are these people who spew hatred over the heads of babies being ripped from their parents? Who are these people who believe that a 22-year-old single mom would walk 2,000 miles with a child strapped to her back, and one holding onto her leg, just for fun? Who are these people that think it is okay to throw tear gas at these human beings? Who are they and what are they being led by? Who are they being led by? 

But, it isn’t just the men and women who work the border. They shouldn’t be blamed for all of this. They are doing what they are told. They are doing what the government says. They are “just doing their job”.

I saw a woman, a grandmother, on CNN the other day. She told the reporter, “Stop trying to make me feel bad for those kids.” 

Stop trying to make me feel bad for those kids.

Are we Great Again yet America? 


Two Years

This past Election Day my friends and I sat in the cool autumn air of their screened in porch, in the quaint little town of Davidson, North Carolina. Our children were inside watching a movie, our husbands were mixing drinks and waxing political. We were fawning over Beto and discussing all the amazing women who were stepping up to change our world. I was content. I was at optimistic. Yet, I was sad.

The next morning I woke up remembering November 9, 2016. I didn’t remember the shock of realizing Trump had won. I didn’t remember the fighting on Facebook, or the chaos that swept through our country in the coming days. I remembered the call I received from my sister. The one where she told me that my nephew, my brother’s oldest child, the little-red-haired brat who pestered me when we were kids, Little Scottie, was missing.

Election Day will never be the same for me ever again. But even worse, my family, my brother, my mother, my sisters, my great-nephews, will never be the same again. That was the beginning of a week-long search for Little Scottie, a week spent in agony by my brother, his wife, Little Scottie’s mom, sister, children, and friends. A week of waiting. A week of searching. A week of me, a thousand miles away, helping as best I could. Getting the word out, calling in favors from people in Kansas, searching news sites, filtering the press requests, keeping everyone informed. And waiting. Hoping for good news from Flint Hills.

Then the news came. And it wasn’t good. Then the real pain began.

Jerimiah and Jackson and I went to Wichita. We hugged my brother. We hugged my mother. We transported Little Scottie’s remains, in a wooden box resting on my mother’s lap, from Wichita to his own mother in Leavenworth. We read the news reports. We read the coroner report. We read the arrest records of those involved. We wept.

It’s been two years. Two long years for my brother. Two years of ups and downs. The grief of knowing what his son went through. The grief of never being able to say goodbye. Of never having closure. And then this week, on the day we were all headed to the polls to cast our ballots relying, we hoped, on love trumping hate. On sending a message to the world that we are still here in one piece, ready to move forward in love and optimism for the future. On the day the country tried to suture the wounds of our bleeding hearts, my brother sat in a courtroom and heard the sentencing of the two most evil people he has ever known.

They were sentenced to 171 years between the two of them. A sentence to ensure that they will die in prison. A sentence to ensure that my brother gets the only closure he can. A sentence to give some reparation for a loss that is unfathomable. Unthinkable. Unknowable. Sentences in my opinion, that were too short.

Grief comes in waves. It surprises you, pulls you under, holds you there for more than you would like. Some days are better than others. Some days you can paddle and kick your feet and stay afloat, other days you let the tide pull you down. Way down. And that’s okay. That’s okay, brother. Because when you get strong enough to stand back up, we will all be here.

We miss you Little Scottie. We miss your sweet nature, your kind heart. Your love of the Chiefs and your love of family. I’m sorry I ran away from you that day in sixth grade when you just wanted a hug, but I was too cool to give you one. I’m sorry I told you to stay out of my room because “boys aren’t allowed”. I forgive you for locking me in the laundry room that time, because you thought it would be funny. I forgive you for breaking my favorite Barbie doll’s arm. It was an accident, I know. I’m sorry for getting mad. I’m sorry I didn’t say it then. I am sorry I wasn’t there more.

I love you.

Aunt Missy


In fifth grade I went to vote with my mother. It wasn’t the first time she took me to a polling place, and it wasn’t the last. But this time stands out among the others because we were “voting” in school too. We were learning about the government. About checks and balances. We had to take our “ballots” to the polling places with our parents and “cast” them in a box set aside for school children. We had to pick a side. Republican or Democrat. No crazy person wanted to be an Independent. I didn’t know much about much, but I knew that Bill Clinton talked with a funny accent, and that my mom liked him. I remember hearing her complain about George Bush. I remember thinking Ross Perot had giant ears and didn’t like kids. I don’t know why I thought he didn’t like kids. I just thought that. That day I eagerly and easily cast my vote for Bill Clinton. And the next day we found out that he won! I thought I had this all figured out.

On November 7, 2000 I voted in my first real election. I remember walking into the local church with my mother. It was about a mile from our house in Leavenworth. I remember the smell of the musty basement. The fake wooden walls. The senior citizens passing out pamphlets. I remember them asking if I was a Republican or a Democrat. I nervously eyed my mom, who said, “Democrat”, in a low, but prideful voice. I remember showing my id. You had to show your id in Kansas, still do I believe. I remember being afraid they would tell me I couldn’t vote for one reason or another. I remember it all very well. Though at the time, I wasn’t sure why it felt so important.

I remember watching the results come in. Going to sleep that night knowing that Al Gore would be our next president. I was happy and calm.

Then I remember the news the next morning.

The arguing.

The hate from both sides.

The dread.

The recount.

The Court’s decision.

I’m sad and ashamed to say that I didn’t vote again until 2004. I was angry and confused. I had voted. I had done my part and Gore had won the popular vote. I didn’t yet understand the politics in our country. I can’t say I understand why politicians do and say what they do now, but I am better versed at how it all works.

Over the years I’ve seen candidates that I have loved and those that I have despised. They both stick with you. Good and bad. John Kerry was served a disappointing loss. But the happiness and strength I felt holding my newborn son, watching President Obama get sworn in, is one of the most endearing memories of my adult life.

Which brings me to today, in a hurried fashion. I want to say something motivating, something captivating. But again I am at a crossroads of shame and sadness. I am ashamed that we let out country get to this point. I am nervous that the good will not trump the evil. I am ashamed that I have not tried to do more. I am sad that we have all not tried to do more.

But, I march on. We all do. Some with sadness, anxiety, and dread, mixing around in our brains with a peppering of optimism and if we’re lucky, a bit of wine to take the edge off. Some see the significance of today. Others will not. But in the end, we are all in this together, whether we like it or not. And if you’re like me, you’re just trying to make the world a little bit better day by day. And if you’re like me you’re scared and a little sad. A little ashamed and a little anxious. But remember, it will all look better in the morning.