My name is James Denham, a single father, an eldest son, a pediatric hospital chaplain, a seeker of God, and a yearner for kingdom of God. Oh, and my church is a great home that I deeply love too.
Although I work in Houston, TX now as a pediatric chaplain in an intense PICU, I was born and raised in Riverside, CA (close to LA) by my two parents, John and Teresa, with two younger brothers, Joseph and Josh. They still live in Riverside where I left them some years ago with my extended family pretty close by in town. I left Riverside for Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA), where I got a B.A. in Religion and joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity and enjoyed wonderful but short friendships there. I finished my degree, spent a year doing some ministry at a church and then made the hop to Abilene Christian University for a Master’s of Divinity. The degree was profound, the professors great companions and guides, my friends like home, but the country town was a challenge to say the least.
After Abilene, Houston became home through chaplain residency at Memorial Hermann and then my current staff chaplain position at Texas Children’s, a home sweet home. It’s there in the PICU and PCU, amongst many fantastic and dedicated nurses, that I serve babies, kids, teens, caregivers, and parents as they journey through some difficult stages of life, and even death. It’s a blessing, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
But Texas Children’s is not the end of the story. I’m not there yet anyway. But I am on this insane journey with a family. I met Elana through my church, and met her son Aiden there too. After a short time of dating and short time of engagement (which I nailed at the Japanese Gardens at Hermann Park in Houston by the way!), we married on July 27, 2013. Aiden became the sports crazy stepson whom I love. And of course considering that we moved fast, a baby came somehow shortly after marrying. Ryan, my son, was born on August 5 in 2014 and my life just hasn’t been the same since. Married life and fatherhood isn’t easy but it was a deeply fulfilling and challenging call that I hope makes me a better person. But this year we painfully separated and started separated journeys. Now separated, Elana’s time in my life has left a good mark but I now walk on the journey of single fatherhood with a blessed son whose joy and Love are beyond measure.
Aside from being a peds chaplain and father, I carry some interests. I love adventure and challenge and learning, in every facet of life. I love the adventure of faith, and challenging what it means to be faithful- from going from a non-churched life to the Mormon church to the Church of Christ. I love the images of compassion, mercy, and justice and the theme of the kingdom of God throughout Scripture, but I love the adventure of learning other faiths too and finding out how they seek and long for God.
I love the adventure and challenge of traveling- not because it is new but because other countries and cultures have something to offer and appreciate. So I stayed in Osaka, Japan for six weeks one summer, lived in Florence, Italy for a full year, traveled around some places in Europe during that year, and love getting around the US. Thus, I also love the adventure and challenge of food. I love pho, gnocchi, risotto, sushi, tamales, lots of spice, using chopsticks, lamb, goat, all styles of wine, local beers, crawfish, gumbo, beef ribs, pork belly, and just about everything else except for artificial mint (of all the things!).
I love the adventure and challenge of cooking. I didn’t start until Abilene, but I have loved trying everything. I cook all styles and like trying any recipe that comes my way. I have an Italian cookbook that is tremendous, get the Cuisine at Home magazine, and collect all the recipes I can find. Any way I can, I want to learn to cook.
Learning is a part of me. I have a Bucket List filled with goals of learning. I love languages, and want to learn Spanish soon. I want to learn how to play the guitar and piano. I want to learn how to fly a small airplane and ride a motorcycle. I want to learn to surf (if only to know how if I can’t actually do it well) and ski. Yes, I love to learn…anything. Even the game of Bridge! Anything that is, that will connect me with other people.
Mostly, I want to learn how to be a better, more faith filled, more loving father. I am always striving in this relationship because God desires to show me the beauty there. May God help me to learn in everything and see beauty there. And while I develop as a father, may God help prepare me to find beauty in another beautiful God loving woman, who will bring companionship, partnership, joy, and a loyal love for me and my son.
Those are the basics. But seriously, to interpret those is simple: I love people, love working with people, love relating to people, and love serving people. I love kids most of all. Children allow me to play and be more myself than I have ever known. Children break down my boundaries, and I connect with them and earn their trust just as well as they earn mine- and I love working with them in the hospital and at home too. (Being a dad is amazing!) Altogether, people matter so much to me because I find meaning, joy, security, confidence, comfort, and acceptance around people. It is with people that I can seek God, that I can long for God and for his justice and kingdom, that I can find myself truly.
– Enneagram: Type 9, The Peacemaker (followed by Type 2, Types 5 and 7)
– Myers Briggs: ESFP, Artisan- Performer
– Strengths Quest (5 Strengths):