Lucky Penny


The claw marks on the front porch said it all–Owl.

And Penny was missing. She’s an indoor cat and hates to get her paws dirty. Each morning brings a feline routine that begins in front of her mirror grooming, getting the whiskers just right, fluffing up the hair on her elegant tail, etc. Toss her outside, and she’ll hate you for life.

But Penny was missing, and the ominous owl talon marks stretched from the door to the front steps. Off an on all night long we called from the porch our hands clenching the railing, our eyes searching the dark yard for any sign of movement. Our somber pleas blended with the distant voices of pond frogs and crickets who hadn’t seen her.

I tried consoling my wife while standing on top of the claw marks so she wouldn’t see the traces of nature’s cruelty. “Something has happened to her,” she wailed. Unable to summon a wise Greek proverb relevant to this emergency, I merely shrugged. “She’ll be fine. She’s just exploring.” Even I didn’t believe that.

After a fitful night of difficult sleep, I woke early and stepped outside. No Penny. The claw marks were fresh and deep. I pieced the crime together in my mind. The owl had studied her patterns of peering through the screen door. He had timed Penny’s brief dalliances with the outside world, her ever so short and tentative excursions a few paces from the door onto the porch.

He had watched, veiled behind pinecones and hunger, lurking. And as Penny played with a cricket just beyond the safety of the den door he struck, his threatening talons striking the jugular and dragging her across the rough boards into the upper branches of the marsh pines.

Just as I was preparing myself to call the undertaker, I saw a little paw flicker in the tall grass. And then came whiskers, a smirk, and a sarcastic trot past me into the house. I stood stunned.

I thought of asking her what happened, and fleshing out the power of needless fear, but she was in no mood for light chatter.

David R. Denny

Candlelight Service 2017

Candlelight Service at the Drummondtown Baptist Church
December 2017

A hushed expectancy settled over the crowd of nearly a hundred as the flickering altar candles summoned last thoughts of the rapidly expiring year of the Drummondtown Baptist Church in Accomac, Virginia.  Fading images of a dozen months nearly over mingled with the hallowed memories of the Christmas season as worshippers listened to the familiar Scriptures of the Christ child.  The joyous tones of the pipe organ reminded all who gathered of a night long ago when a Savior was born in Bethlehem.

As I looked out over the congregation this evening, I too reflected on many things.  I thought of the many new friends I had made over the past year.  I had quietly closed down a brief but meaningful career as a teacher in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools.  A hectic transition followed that culminated in me standing here in the pulpit looking at endless possibilities on a horizon I still did not fully comprehend.

I want to thank Mr. Robert Coniglio for sharing the pulpit with me this evening, and I want to thank all my friends at the church and community for welcoming my family to the Eastern Shore.

Christmas Eves are but portals to exciting days to come.  Join me as we take our first steps into a promising new year.
David R. Denny

Christmas Turkey
Carol Valentine carves some magic into the breast of my freshly fried turkey.  She will tell you, (if you ask her), that the whole affair was quite an adventure.  Not only did we have to figure out how to use the new XL Butterball Fryer.  We also had to monitor thermometers, oil temperature, extracting techniques without permanently scarring our skin etc.  Quite a ride.  But when it was finished, we had some mighty fine turkey!

Smith Island Cake 
Eight layers of paradise.  Count ’em.  Eight.  And each one a wonder.  Special thanks to Alice for baking me this treasure–her very first attempt at such an Eastern Shore delicacy. 

And now for two of my favorite people–Leslie and H.B. Rew.  They had invited Alice and me to the Wachapreague Island House for a Christmas lunch.  Everybody knows this is the best place for seafood and we all certainly enjoyed an assortment of flounder, oysters, sweet potato fries etc on this special occasion.
Thanks for the meal and the memories on the drive home.

Thousands of snow geese cascaded down from the heavens beside my house on Sea Breeze Drive a few days ago.  They circled restlessly above the field and then without warning drifted down like a thousand snow leaves upon the barren farm field.  They clattered and squawked endlessly, swapping stories of the flight from the tundra and then without notice lifted as one and drifted off on a jet stream to nowhere.
***Here are the snow geese that I wrote about  I tried to capture their lift off in slow motion using my iPhone.  I hope it works.


From the Schoolhouse


When I saw it, I smiled.

No one had to say a thing.  The color spoke for itself.  It was a muted emerald.  It lay curled in my little school office mailbox.  I approached breathlessly like a hunter tracking deer in an open glade. “Can’t spook it,” I said to myself.  “It might bolt into the mist and be gone for another year.”

It had been twelve months since I had last seen it.  It lay quietly in the box staring at me, wondering. I didn’t reach for it at first.  I just stood silently before it like my Japanese friends used to do at their Shinto shrines in the Emperor’s Garden.  Then, with a trembling hand, I carefully pulled it out of the box and cradled the document in my open hand.  At first, it quivered like the Bembine Tablet of ancient Rome, filled with fake Egyptian hieroglyphics. This page too had its own strange lines all spread out over the emerald face.  I read the name on the top of the page.  It said, David Denny.  I knew it was mine and not misplaced in the wrong box.  

This illusive friend had been waiting patiently for me all year.  Now I was here, holding it tightly, feeling its heartbeat, afraid it might escape, waiting for it to whisper farewell in its mysterious language.

Twenty-five lines awaited a signature.  Twenty-five lines separated me from the door. I took the emerald checkout page with me back to my room walking in giddy steps, anxious to begin the final journey of finding signatures.  And since every journey of a 1000-miles begins with a first signature, I was anxious to begin.


From the Schoolhouse
David R. Denny

She was spunky for a little 8th-grade girl.
She stood at my desk gripping the stolen artificial flower, shaking it before me in a blatant attempt at bribery.
I saw a glimmer of a smile, but she didn’t waiver in intensity.
“This flower is yours if you fix my grade.”  The words growled softly like a Cheshire cat warning a Pitt bull.

My Description

“Where did you get that Camellia?” I asked.

“Where did you get that Camellia?” I asked.
She didn’t like the question.  She pressed on. “It’s yours if you can fix that C+.”  She leaned forward a little extending the hostage in the space between her and me.
“Where did you get it?”  I could see this diversionary tactic was getting to her.
“I picked it out of the flowers in front of the school,” she said without guilt.  After a pause, she began marching again.  “It’s yours if you just…”         She didn’t bother finishing.  She knew I understood.
I took the flower and jammed it into a red plastic cup on my desk.
She smiled as if the victory was hers.  I let her have her moment.
Then I pointed to an empty REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup wrapper.
Photo at:

From the Pulpit

report-cardWe passed out report cards Sunday as we visited the ancient congregation of Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29).    This congregation was admired by the Lord who gave them high marks. They had no faults except for a minority that followed Jezebel.  She was an errant member who favored compromise with the unions and sacrificing meat to idols.  But other than that, they were in great shape.  There’s not much left of this old city today except a few shattered pillars and stones enclosed in a city park in the center of the modern town in western Turkey.  The gift God bestowed upon them for their excellent grades was the morning star.  So if you remember from last week, we’ve now got the white stone in our left pocket and the morning star in the right!

From the Pew

I want to thank Tommy Hines for his humorous rendition of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  We were both chuckling as he told me of his “miracle” recently.  He had been designated as the BBQ man for an oyster and BBQ festival.    He found out when he got there that there were more folks in line than he figured on.  He just kept on dishing out the goods expecting to hear the hiss of disappointment from the unfortunate stragglers in the back of the line.  “But it seemed like the BBQ just kept multiplying,” he said.  “And I could barely believe that I actually had a little left over when the last person passed by.  It was a miracle,” he said smiling.

And who are we to think otherwise.  I’ll take a miracle anytime it comes.    “Good job, Tommy.  By the way,  could you pass the BBQ?”
Artwork by:


Observations #3 by Dr. Denny
December 28, 2016

Greetings everybody.  Today’s “Observations” is dedicated to H. B. and Leslie Rew.  I’m going to miss you two for the next three months.  Be safe and warm down there in Florida.
Dr. Denny
From the Schoolhouse
   Lin handed me a pencil sketch of a warrior girl without a face.  I stared at the swirling hair that draped the cheeks and taunted the tip of a samurai sword.  I searched for the eyes, but they were missing. The figure seemed alive, vibrant, dangerous, but the silent face haunted me.  Beneath the dancing lines, Lin had written a few words in Mandarin, little boxes of faint lines etched in a similar silence, caged sighs I couldn’t hear.
Lin is a Chinese student who speaks in broken English.  She is very quiet and shy.  She hides in a swirl of gregarious American kids who seldom notice her at all.  I was surprised when one day she walked demurely up and handed me a piece of paper with her drawing.  That was when I looked into the faceless warrior girl and wondered.
I praised her for the gift and complimented the artistry of the nameless figure.  She merely smiled and walked away.  The next day she handed me another drawing, this time it was a Fairy-like creature with graceful arms and no face.
“Lin, thank you,” I said.  Then I asked her.  “Why is there is no face?”
She blushed.  “I cannot draw a face.  I am not that good.”
As I watched her walk away down the hall, I wondered if she was the girl in the drawings lost in a dangerous world, hidden behind a halcyon face, homesick.

Photo courtesy of

From the Pulpit
(Matthew 1:23/Isaiah 7:14)
I hope you all are still remembering the one word I emphasized in Sunday’s sermon:  Immanuel.  As I told you, I think it is more powerful than the 8th most memorable movie quote (according to the Film Institute).  That quote would be “May the Force be with you.” Han Solo had a good one there, but Luke has him beat.
Immanuel is more than a single word as you can see here in the Hebrew words עִמָּ֥נוּ  אֵֽל׃. Luke the Gospel writer had to translate it so his readers who didn’t know Hebrew would understand.  He says it means God is with you Μεθ’  ἡμῶν  ὁ  Θεός.  And that is so much more relevant than any movie quote!

From the Pew
   I thought our Candlelight service was so poignant.   We had close to 100 people there and when the evening ended everyone walked in an exuberant but hushed tone down the center aisle and out the door holding candles, our symbols of hope and love.  I want to thank Bob Coniglio, the Episcopalian pastor from Cape Charles, who shared the pulpit with me.
Now here is an adventure for you.  Follow this link and keep your fingers crossed it works.  It should take you to my Youtube channel where I placed our prelude singers for the evening, John William and Linda Coniglio.  They sang and played with such gusto.  Here’s the link:

From the Bulletin
Let’s remember our college students and our military.  Here they are:

College Students
Bryana Deeds, William Perez, Claire Rew, Christina Hargis, Anna Hines, Hannah Coulbourne, Ayla Bonniwell, Beatrice Perez, Juan Perez, Jager Parks, Kyle Patterson

Alex McCullough (Reserves), Michael McCullough, Kenny McCullough (Afghanistan), Ken Blair, Ed Eder IV, Sean Campbell, James Griffith, Thomas Johnson and all members of our military.

  • Well, that’s all for this week.  Don’t forget to pass on this sign-up link to anyone who might like to receive the newsletter.

Until later,
Dr. Denny
Accomac, Virginia