Personal Ramblings

Death Row Granny and Me


One sleepless night while shamelessly googling myself, I found my name in  . . .

wait for it . . .

(Until then, I didn’t even know that was a thing.) And that’s not what I expected to find!

An excerpt of what I had written so long ago that I don’t even remember writing it is quoted in the entry for Velma Barfield, aka Death Row Granny. Here it is:

In 1978 Velma Barfield was arrested for murdering four people, including her mother and fiance. She was on death row, confined in a cell by herself. One night a prison guard tuned into a 24-hour Christian radio station.

Down the gray hall, desperate and alone in her cell, Velma listened to the gospel message and accepted Jesus as her Saviour. The outside world began to hear about Velma Barfield and how she had changed.

During the six years she was on death row she ministered to many of her cellmates. Many were touched by the sadness of her story and the sincerity of her love for Christ as well as the beauty of her Christian witness in that prison. Just before her execution, Velma wrote “I know the Lord will give me dying grace, just as He gave me saving grace, and has given me living grace.”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” On earth Velma Barfield paid the price for her crimes. The hideous nature of sin is that while we can be forgiven them and freed from them, we, like Velma Barfield, must still face the consequences of our sins. At least until Christ returns, sin is here to stay.

Sin cannot be eradicated. And for being born into this world, each of us has a price to pay. This does not mean that we receive a death sentence the moment we are born. Although we cannot avoid the consequences of our sins, in Jesus we can overcome them. At the judgment hall, Jesus’ blood washes away our sins and clothes us in His righteousness. [Fylvia Fowler Kline is assistant director of the Stewardship Department for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists]*

*I left that position in 2001

Here is Barfield before her execution in 1984:

Feature image by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

Leon’s Lawn

Photo credit: Garden Solutions, Flickr

It was the drought of 1999

Leon wasn’t much of a gardener. Plastic flowers thrust into the soil were proof. But his lawn was his pride. He mowed that lawn once a week, every Thursday at 6 pm, and watered it every day. It was the best lawn  in the neighborhood.

Then came the mandatory water restrictions. No one was allowed to water their gardens. Neighbors wondered what Leon would do.

Miss Sally, the diplomatic, empathetic member on the Home Owner’s Association board was delegated to visit Leon to ensure he did not violate the restriction.

“What are you going to do, Leon?” Miss Sally asked with genuine concern.

“I’m going to pray,” Leon said

“That’s good, but you may want to consider mowing your lawn less frequently to keep it from burning from all the sun and not enough water,” Miss Sally gently suggested.

“Can’t do that,” Leon responded, “Been mowing my lawn every Thursday, Spring and Summer, since I moved here 40 years ago.”

Thursday came. 6 p.m. There were many eyes peering out the window. Leon’s garage door opened, and out he came pushing his mower. He stopped, looked heavenwards into the blistering sun, and raised his arms up high. After praying, Leon proceeded to mow.

Every week, it was the same. Every Thursday Leon prayed, then he mowed—but he never watered his lawn.

The neighbors watched and talked about it.

And throughout that drought of 1999 Leon’s lawn stayed green.
Feature image by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

Love that Sticks

In our car every morning, before we pull out of our driveway, Roy and I pray together. On some days the prayer is longer than usual. (I confess, there are some rushed mornings when one sacrilegiously drives with eyes on the road while the other prays, head bowed and eyes closed).

But this Monday morning, even though we were running late, we didn’t start the car; we stopped for an extra long prayer. It had been one of those weekends, and the week wasn’t looking any better.

Preoccupied with the long list my prayer had left at Heaven’s door, I went through my morning ritual at work–connected my laptop to the big monitor, watered my  office plants, tore open a granola bar, got a cup of tea–and began answering my emails.

And it was only then, as my finger scrolled down the monitor and my eyes followed the cursor to the bottom of the screen, did I see the sticky note someone had left for me.

Faith makes all things possible—loves makes all things easy.—Dwight L Moody #919lovethatsticks

I googled the hashtag #919lovethatsticks and learned it’s a WGTS campaign that fosters a kinder world (they have other ideas that are just as easy and rewarding–like the Drive Through Difference).

The sticky note was just what I needed. And now I’m going to leave notes too when impressed to do so. The note also has me reminding myself: I’ve got everything I need to take on anything—faith in God and the love of family and friends.


Feature image by Anastasiia Krutota on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

The Van Gogh Portrait of Gratitude

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 3.32.35 PMMaybe you’ve heard this story before, but I learned of it just few weeks ago,  and was fascinated by how the inability of one person to see value in something cost a family a fortune.

Very early one winter morning in 1883 Félix Rey, a young medical intern who had yet to graduate, worked hard to save a hallucinating patient who had suffered blood loss. The patient was Vincent van Gogh and the blood loss involved a severed ear and a prostitute—but that’s another story!

For several weeks young Félix cared for van Gogh, saving him from infection and possible death. When he finally recovered and returned home, van Gogh painted this portrait of Félix Rey as an expression of his eternal gratitude. While Félix became both a friend and advocate of van Gogh, he wasn’t really a fan of van Gogh’s artistic representation of him. So the painting was left propped somewhere inconspicuous in his home—that is, until his mother noticed that her chicken coop had a hole!

For the next two years of so, this van Gogh original did nothing more than keep chickens in their place—until one day an admirer of Van Gogh’s work heard about the painting in the chicken coop and bought it from Félix’s family.

Today the Félix Rey portrait hangs in the The National Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Its estimated auction value is $50 million.
Feature image by Ståle Grut on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

Making the Most of Life

Today is the day after Election Day 2016.

Today began with little sleep last night. And it continued with every hour adding a new deadline, more stress, and more pessimism.

My to-do list was not getting done and my creative energy was at an all time low. One task on my list was to find a creative way to tell a story. My search led to this serendipitous discovery! And my soul has been recalibrated.

Michelle Phan concludes her video, “Every great dream begins with a dream. And every dreamer has a story. So don’t settle for a happy ending because ‘… to be continued’ is way more fun.”

But you have to watch it from the beginning to really appreciate the end—which is not really the end :)

Feature image by Tengyart on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

The Hacksaw Buzz

hacksaw_ridge_posterI was at an advance screening of the movie Hacksaw Ridge last week. As a Seventh-day Adventist, it was a moment of humility and pride to realize how big an impact my faith and my church could have if both are seen in how I (Adventists) live.

With today’s premiere of the movie, the Internet is abuzz and bursting at the #HacksawRidge hashtag seams—to which I shall add my own :)

Of all I’ve read so far, this one by NPR’s Morning Edition captures best the tenacity of Desmond Doss’ faith. It’s factual, straightforward, and bold. It’s based on Terry Benedict’s  2004 documentary, The Conscientious Objector—which was one of the primary sources for the script of Hacksaw Ridge. 

Here are excerpts:

A quiet, skinny kid from Lynchburg, Va., Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who wouldn’t touch a weapon or work on the Sabbath. He enlisted in the Army as a combat medic because he believed in the cause, but had vowed not to kill. . . .

Doss’ commanding officer, Capt. Jack Glover, tried to get him transferred. In the documentary, Glover says Doss told him, ” ‘Don’t ever doubt my courage because I will be right by your side saving life while you take life.’ ” Glover’s response: ” ‘You’re not going to be by my damn side if you don’t have a gun.’ ” . . . .

Doss saved 75 men — including his captain, Jack Glover — over a 12-hour period. The same soldiers who had shamed him now praised him. “He was one of the bravest persons alive,” Glover says in the documentary. “And then to have him end up saving my life was the irony of the whole thing.” (Read the rest here.)

The first half of the movie tugged at my heart strings. And while the violence and gore of the second had me looking away for most of it, I left in awe of a life lived in complete faith and with a conviction that can never be shaken. And since then, I raised the bar on my own faith-walk.
Feature image by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

Monotony of Monogamy

A commentary I wrote for the Adventist Review back in 2007 when the Ashley Madison Agency had only a million or so in membership.

The Ashley Madison Agency “is committed to protecting and enhancing principles of personal freedom and social justice” and makes donations to causes such as civil rights and women’s health.” Basic membership is free and allows you to browse and observe; active membership costs $80 a month.

Behind the doors of this seemingly noble enterprise is a service industry fueled by its slogan “When Monogamy becomes Monotony.” It caters to married men and women who don’t want a divorce yet want an affair. One happy customer says I  . . . met a truly wonderful man. . . We have been together for over a year . . . We learned so much and will carry it on to our marriages.”

From Genesis to Shakespeare to television’s Desperate Housewives, infidelity spikes interest and conversations. Something about the forbidden and morally wrong is fodder for primetime news and hometown gossip. The media has given Ashley Madison airtime, albeit unfavorable press. Yet the more negative attention, the faster the agency grows: From just a few thousand members five years ago, it now has over a million!

The founder says, “I’m a marketer, filling a need in the market place” His clients are all affairs waiting to happen; he is merely providing a safe platform where they can be “honest and open” (about their infidelity)

Satan’s new approach is not to dissolve the marriage but to de-sanctify it and make it meaningless. He aggressively zeros in on the lonely and the discontented and uses books, talk shows, and therapists that promote self-indulgence in today’s I-need-to-take-of-myself society. As a result, what used to be taboo is now harmless indulgence. And it’s so easy for us to be drenched in self-pity and cry out “Poor me” rather than be draped in the righteousness of Christ and “not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14, NIV)
Feature image by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings

toast on pretty plate

If toast were a conversation starter, it would be the drably simple, “Hi.”

Toast is my obligatory minimum dietary sustenance. When I am too busy, too sick or too tired to sit down for a satisfying meal, I have toast.

Similarly, “Hi” is my obligatory minimum social interaction. When I am too busy, too impatient or simply can’t be bothered to care about anybody, I say “Hi” and keep going.

Both these obligatory minimums were completely obliterated with the epiphany I had whilst unpacking my precious stack of mismatched china: Years of random scavenging through garage sales have yielded me a pretty assortment of china, tea towels and knick knacks.

I never pay more than a dollar for anything, so I really shouldn’t be so stingy in my use of them. But, I am. I store them safely in the corner of the tallest shelf in my pantry, cushioned by sheets of newspaper. And the only time I touch them is when I clean the shelf or move from one home to another.

“Such a waste.  I should be enjoying these pretty little things,” I said to myself as I unpacked the box of china yet again. And it’s no big deal if one breaks. A few dimes under my sofa cushions and a sunny Sunday at a flea market is sure to get me another. Perhaps one even prettier.

My china reminded me of my words. It’s a gift I’m told I have–People, strangers even, often tell me their darkest secrets and despairs with great ease. And I seem to always find the right words to say. Yet I don’t enjoy these interactions and avoid them with a hurried hi. Instead of being generous with my words, I stash them on an emotionally-detached shelf for use only in emergencies.

That’s just bad. Wasteful. I really should couch my “hi” in a mouthful of words that express genuine interest. With that, I decided to dress up both my toast and my greeting.

With that epiphany, I sat my too tired self down for a bare minimum of dietary sustenance on a pretty white plate filigreed in French blue. My toast never tasted so good :) 
Feature image by Jannet Serhan on Unsplash


Personal Ramblings

budgie smugglers

Like junk mail, tedious epistolic family newsletters that arrive in my mailbox in pretty fat envelopes are immediately discarded. I love my family and friends, but don’t really want to know about their vacations, illnesses, and or the extra thimble added to their vast collection.

But, there is one exception–the Archer epistles. While they are probably the longest I receive, they are sprinkled with the wit and perspective that’s uniquely Julian Archer. As a bonus, I usually learn a new phrase or two. Today, it’s “budgie smugglers.” (I can just see where my American friends are going with this phrase.)

Got a three-page, single-spaced letter today–the latest in a series about the Archer family’s road trip across Europe. It begins:

“Greetings from a haggis-throw north of London. After months of meandering through the halls of castles, the gilded extravagance of cathedrals and the pomp and stuffiness of royal courts, it was SO refreshing to see this coat of arms above a doorway in Copenhagen. I have no idea what it represents, but the two blokes in the budgie smugglers are just wonderfully casual on this very formal continent.”
Feature image by Tomas Anton Escobar on Unsplash

Julian's Email 13 May 2013

Personal Ramblings

my one-a-day’s

Oh, to have all of these every day!

  • One oatmeal raisin cookie
  • One 15-minute (or longer) massage
  • One hour alone
  • One glass of almost-frozen diet Pepsi
  • One tropical fruit (anything but the ordinary banana)
  • One hour in a jacuzzi (this hour may not be combined with the hour alone)
  • One good hearty laugh
  • One bar of dark chocolate
  • One 20-minute nap
    Feature image by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba