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

devotion, Previously Published

the power to change

Text: Ephesians 2: 13.

Arthur stepped out of the bus in Kingston, Ontario, blending into the crowds, looking like everyone else. One would think he were perhaps a salesman or a grandfather coming to visit his family. But Arthur was not like everybody else. Arthur had just been released from prison. He had been in prison since he was 11; now he was 53.

No prison seemed capable of breaking Arthur’s spirit or reforming his behavior. Of the 42 years in prison, 24 years he spent in solitary confinement, 17 months on death row, and 31 months in Devil’s Island, chained by his neck like an animal, confined to a 5 x 7 foot cell. He was known for the riots he started, for breaking a guard’s arm, another’s collar bone, and being responsible for the death of the sheriff. In one prison, he stole 40 pounds of cyanide with the intention of poisoning the entire prison staff.

All who knew him had lost all hope. One day a preacher, accompanied by his 14-year-old son Tim, came to visit the inmates. While following his father down the row of cells, Tim, for some unexplainable reason, paused by Arthur’s cell, to smile and wink. Arthur called Tim back to the cell and began to verbally abuse him, calling him everything he could think of. Tim broke down in tears, but he stood his ground. Finally he simply said to Arthur, “I love you.”

For the next seven years, Tim regularly wrote to Arthur and prayed for him until Arthur finally felt the love of Tim and the love of God. Arthur said later, “That was the first time in all of my life anyone had ever told me that. Every letter was stained with his tears. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got on my knees and came to the Lord.” It was a miracle. A hate-filled, violent heart was transformed into a heart of love and grace.

So here he was, stepping out of the bus, stepping into the world. He was released from prison, released from the power of sin. He was now a changed man, a new creature. His body was old, he was dying of cancer; but he was new and alive in Christ. He now had a purpose. He now had a story to tell. He had found the Power to change, he had found the grace of God.

Acknowledge the Power to change. The Power to change is found on the cross. Knowing the story of the cross only makes you a good Bible student. There’s more to the cross than its place in history. The personal application of the cross in your life gives you access to a Power that defies all other. On the cross, Jesus overcame sin for you. Acknowledge the awesome power of Jesus’ death! And accept the free gift of salvation

Claim the Power to change. The Power to change is yours for the asking. No trick questions. No obstacle race. There are only two pre-requisites: You must believe in the Power to change and you must recognize your need for the Power. That’s it. It is yours. Why wait? Claim it today! And see the difference you make.

Share the Power to change. Good news is to be shared. The bubbling joyousness cannot be contained in your heart. The sheer force of the Power will explode through you for all to see. Fascinated by the new creature you now are, doors will open, opportunities will come your way–opportunities to tell the world of the Power that can also be theirs.

Only by beholding the Christ on the cross, can you be changed. When you accept God’s free gift of salvation, the Power to change, you will start a catalytic reaction! When others see you transformed, reflecting the Christ who rules your heart, they will want to know more.

“By beholding we are to become changed; and as we meditate upon the perfections of the divine Model, we shall desire to become wholly transformed, and renewed in the image of His purity. It is by faith in the Son of God that transformation takes place in the character, and the child of wrath becomes the child of God. He passes from death unto life; he becomes spiritual and discerns spiritual things. The wisdom of God enlightens his mind, and he beholds wondrous things out of His law. As a man is converted by the truth, the work of transformation of character goes on. He has an increased measure of understanding. In becoming a man of obedience to God, he has the mind of Christ, and the will of God becomes his will.”–Selected Messages, Book 1, p 338.

How does being united with Christ through His death change your relationship to sin?

In what practical sense is sin no longer your master even though you may still commit specific sins?

What makes it possible for you to live a new life?

What are the symptoms when you live in slavery to sin?

How does God help a person discard old habits and tendencies?

How does being under grace change you and affect the way others see you?

Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings


My parents say my birth brought them luck.  But that luck ran dry before my first memory. All I  now seem to bring is a turn of events that confirm that Murphy’s law is synonymous with Fylvia’s presence.
So imagine my surprise when I checked into the hotel today to learn that I had been upgraded. By historical precedence I should have been the one offered the closet because of some technical error in the reservation. But here I stood with my key to my upgraded “suite!”
A King size bed, a sitting area and a corner hot tub! I felt very special–especially since I don’t own a hot tub and have always wanted one.
Sitting in warm bubbles, virgin pina colada in my hand, watching a Seinfeld re-run–That’s what you’d think I would have done. But here’s what really happened: Didn’t use the hot tub, didn’t sit on the couch, didn’t have that imaginary drink in hand.
I’m a germaphobic. I can’t even go barefoot in a hotel room. Imagine me in a hotel tub. That upgrade was totally free; it was mine for the enjoyment; yet it was wasted on me.
A sinner, you deserve fire and brimstone, yet you are offered an upgrade: Salvation. And it’s FREE!