My twin brother and I were the youngest in a family of five children.

The oldest, Jay and Lee, were looked up to, respected, obeyed, and believed.

Jay and Lee—who were probably about 11 and twelve at the time— came up with some pretty hair-brained schemes, which we littler ones readily fell right into.

One hot summer night, Jay told us that we would sneak out of the house about midnight. Why? we wee ones asked.

Because it’s what we’re gonna do, see?

Okay. That was a good enough explanation for us.

So at midnight, all five of us wrapped ourselves in our bathrobes and snuck out of the house.

Now what? we asked the Big Kahuna.

Now? He repeated. Uh…now we run around the block and do it as quietly as possible.

But, I asked—always the “what if ” kid—what if a car drives by, and they see us, and they chase us or call the police?

Second oldest, and the “big explainer” said: then we drop to the ground and roll up into a ball and anyone who drives by and sees us will just think we’re big rocks.

Okay, said us three little, dumb kids.

So we took off, running barefoot, our little feet going “slap, slap, slap” on the cool sidewalk.

A car’s headlights came around the corner. Uh oh!

Jay and Lee quickly dashed for cover behind some thick bushes.

But we three little dumb ones dutifully dropped to the ground and assumed the shapes of rocks. Blue, pink, and red rocks.

The car approached, slowed, paused, then accelerated and went around the next corner. Phew! that was a close one. Good thing we were so quick to make like rocks.

We finished our tour around the block and sneaked back into the house, still breathing hard from our mad dash. Stifling giggles. Feeling so clever and brave.

The next morning, Daddy had a talk with us.

Seems the Rio Vista police got a called from a concerned citizen about us being up and out so late on a Saturday night.


A few years later, when we resumed sneaking out of the house at night, it had more to do with meeting friends and going for a spin in a borrowed car.

Our older sister and brother were certainly worthy of our love. But we little ones were too young and immature to realize that Jay and Lee were not worthy of being our guardians. They, themselves were immature and unwise.

My gullibility at the age of six reminds me of the early Christians and how readily they listened to and were deceived by false teachers. In The Apostle John’s first letter, he warned his “children” not to listen to every teacher but to test the spirits. And he gave them criteria to use when discerning if a teacher was worthy of listening to.

  1. Was the teacher faithful to adhere to the truth of the gospel and to the Apostles’ teachings?
  2. Did he show love through loving actions?
  3. Did he obey the Lord’s commands?

It’s so easy to believe someone just because they are admirable and speak lovely words.

But an attractive personality and persuasive words don’t necessarily align themselves with the truth. Sometimes attractive people with attractive personalities do some pretty rotten things.

I wanted to believe my brother and sister when I was a child. Later, when I grew up, I realized how dangerous and silly their midnight plans were. Because I came to know that a trustworthy guardian listens to the parents’ warnings, puts no one in danger, and does not try to hide his or her

A true leader
A true leader


Have you ever run into a situation where you had to discern the truth or deception behind a leader’s words? How did that turn out?

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 NIB Bible)


7 Conversational Skills

Our culture has changed a lot in the past twenty  years. Some of the changes are positive. Some, not.

Some of the negative changes, I believe, have to do with the lack of little kindnesses that our parents and our grandparents learned about conversation, and showed to their friends and acquaintances.

Here are seven important conversational skills you can practice that will make people absolutely love to be around you:

  1. Don’t barge in. When you see two friends in a conversation, wait until it’s appropriate to join them. They may be in the middle of a very private, or sensitive conversation. If you barge in, they may greet you politely, but at least one of those friends—usually the one who was talking—may be exasperated by your intrusion.
  2. Be fair. Many people aren’t aware of how they habitually dominate conversations. Are you one of them? Ask someone who will tell you the truth. If you are indeed a conversation hog, stop it!
  3. When it’s the other person’s turn to talk, do your eyes glaze over because the topic isn’t about you or yours? That shows a lack of love for the talker. Ask Jesus, the Master conversationalist, to help you love as He loves.
  4. When someone shares a new challenge or struggle, please don’t turn it around so that you are now talking about your own struggle. You may not see the resentment on your friend’s face, but, believe me, it’s there!
  5. Be interested, sincerely interested in the other person. Ask questions. When you see him or her again, refer back to your conversation and how you appreciated what the other person shared with you.
  6. Don’t give advice unless it’s requested.
  7. Discretion. Never share what the other has shared with you in confidence.

There you go. We all know people who break all of these suggestions, and others who exemplify a great conversationalist.

Wanna be be a valued communicator? Examine your conversational style and work to change your negative habits.

None of us is a perfect conversationalist. I’m not, for sure. But we can all improve, little by little.30th Wedding Anniversary013


The Light in the Dark

I went with a bunch of women from our church to a kind of halfway house for young women.

I felt a little nervous, wondering how the teen girls would respond. Would they be suspicious of our motives? Would they see us as fakes, or suburban moms who can’t relate to their individual urban struggles for security, love, food, shelter?

The building is in down-town Denver, squirreled away between two run-down looking buildings. Inside, the roof was leaking and a coupe of men were trying to address the problem, as well as get together a meal for the men’s part of the house.

We ladies went down into the basement where a sort-of kitchen adjoined a meeting room and a small nursery with glass walls. At first glance, it all seemed so dark and depressing. I imagined how I would feel if my daughter were hanging out in this place. My heart ached.

But then I noticed that some artistic person had painted Bible verses on the walls in bright colors. Like flowers on a table, the bright words lit up the gloomy walls.

We brought three different types of yummy chili, cornbread, salads, fresh fruit, juices, even bits of candy.

The girls were surprisingly easy to talk to. One of them brought her toddler. Two other women are expecting soon. All of them seemed glued to their cell phones, even during the meal part of the meeting.

I talked to the young mom who’d brought her little girl. Turns out, she has recently come to faith in the Lord and is venturing into the world of writing. I asked her what she was writing and she said she writes poetry about her faith.

Her faith is young, but she has become a kind of anchor at the house, and a testimony of how the Lord brings healing and hope. Like a brilliant colored flower against a dark back drop;

IMG_3042Already, she is giving Jesus glory and expressing her love for Him. What a lovely young woman. I’m praying that God has a special ministry planned for her someday.

She lights up the gloomy place and reminds me that in the darkest places, God’s Spirit also resides.

I’m looking forward to going back there in a couple of weeks. I have so much to learn. And these are just the young women to teach me!

Your Essence?

I used to hate my name. Why couldn’t my parents have named me something cool like Musetta, or Lyric, or Aria.? Something musical. After all, my mother and father were musical people. And the doctor who delivered me and my twin brother was at the Opera on Christmas Eve when he was called away to the hospital.

Why Dena?

I guess it’s an okay name.

But my childish imagination ran more along the unique, one who stood out from the crowd. One who—I wished—would one day make her mark in history.

I guess my parents knew better. That I would not be famous, or great, or even remarkable.

Just little Dena. Five foot one. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Type O negative. (the blood banks love me!)


A lover of Jesus, impatient, analytical, love to teach, love research, love music, skillful in several instruments, persistent, too sensitive, love all things creative, love nature, terrible at higher math, love to listen to people and wish they’d listen to me,too, love writing, love road trips, love the mountains and can’t understand why others yearn for the tropics….

Is this my essence? It doesn’t seem unique. These adjectives might describe thousands of women in Colorado.

Did my parents capture my essence with my name? Or did I simply grow into the petite name?

Sometimes I wish I could change my name. Find a name that captures my essence. Or the essence that I wish I personified.

Like Jewel, or Queen, or Noble, or Crouching Tiger?

Have you wondered about your own name, too?

Would your life have gone another direction if your name had been different? Or what if your name was the same but the meaning was different? Like, what if the name “Karen” meant Lion-hearted? Or the name “Don” meant Bound-to-succeed?

What is your essence? Have you ever asked those who know you well what would be the one word that best describes you?

Did God make you to resemble that word? Is there a destiny or a purpose in that essential word? And if it’s a great word that describes you, how could you align yourself with the meaning of that word for the good of the world?

There are other cultures where you choose, after you’ve gotten to know yourself well, what your second name is. It’s a name known only to yourself. It has great significance, and helps you make the right choices in life.

The name Dena means “little valley.”


Personally, I think my parents should have named me “Tiger.” Maybe that could be my second name.


God Doesn’t Explain Himself

In January of 2013, Bruce and I decided that we needed to be closer to our church in Longmont. So we put our beautiful Estes Park house on the market, confident that we would soon be packing and moving into a house within a few minutes of church.

Each new year, I ask the Lord for one clear message to focus my heart and mind around. This year, it was “trust in God.” As a believer I constantly remind myself that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Co. 5:7). This message and my trust would be tested over and over in the coming months.

Each Sunday, after church, Bruce and I would drive to various housing areas and study the locale.

Weeks passed. Our house attracted many lookers, but no takers. We shook our heads. Our house was beautiful, fairly priced, in excellent condition, in a good neighborhood, and located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Months passed. We prayed for clarification. Why, Lord, is the sale of our house taking so long? We trust You, but…

The summer months arrived. And still no contract on our house. People at church constantly asked us, “haven’t you sold your house yet?” And all we could do was shake our heads and say, “The Lord must have some reason why He’s delaying the sale.”

We were doing the right things to sell the house.We were praying.
Our friends were praying.
We had the right reasons for selling.

In mid-August, Bruce was advised by his boss at work that it would be best for him to work on site at the plant. That’s south Denver. About 50 miles south of our targeted home search. I  had my heart set on the Longmont area, but thought, maybe this is why the Lord hasn’t allowed us to sell our house yet.

The very next day an older couple came to see our house, fell in love with it and made a fair offer. Yay! Thank You, Lord!

If our prayer had been answered way back in January or February, we would have bought a house in Longmont. Then we would have had to turn right around and sell that house so we could be closer to Bruce’s work in south Denver.

God doesn’t always show us why He withholds a blessing. And I’ve never known Him to explain Himself. Because we Christians are commanded to “walk by faith and not by sight.” And, 7-20-11 017after all, He’s the Lord of the entire universe!

But this delayed answered helped Bruce and I to grow in trust. God walks ahead of us, to prepare places that our feet will tread. He loves us, as any wonderful Father does, and wants to bless us and protect us.

Yes, we have also experienced times when the Lord has not intervened even when we’ve been on our face, pleading for a quick answer. Perhaps we’ll never know why He delayed.

We must walk by faith even then.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5,6 NIV Bible)




Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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