I grew up in Glendale, Arizona, the son of a seminary graduate, church planter and pastor, and a stay at home mom. When I was six years old my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, eventually dying to the disease after a tough five-year battle with it. When I returned to school a couple of weeks later I was unable to read for the first time in my life when the teacher called on me. That was the day I started stuttering and struggling with anxiety and fear—something I write about in my book The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? My dad took on the role of father and mother for the next five years, eventually remarrying when I was 16, a marriage which ended in divorce when I was 21.
It was early experiences like these (death and divorce) that shaped my life in a very profound way. And I think these events were the catalysts that shaped my passion for working with people who are going through tough times and often just trying to navigate life as best as possible. In college I started pursuing work in the therapy field, studying psychology, while gaining practical experience with kids and families as I worked in after school programs for the Glendale/Peoria YMCA and the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix. I also began to spend more time in the clinical field, doing an internship my senior year at Phoenix Interfaith Counseling. I even did a fascinating internship my senior year counseling with families in a home setting — that was supervised by Henry Rojas — better known as the original Phoenix Suns Gorilla.
But it was during my senior year in college at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix that I decided to take a Church History class as a fun elective. Little did I know that class would flip my world upside down, eventually leading me to pursue graduate work at Fuller Theological Seminary. So after graduating from GCU in 1997 I did a variety of interim work as a youth pastor and campus security guard, eventually becoming a full-time admissions counselor at GCU and attending the Fuller Southwest extension in Phoenix at night. I did this for three years, until I decided that it was time to quit my job as an admissions counselor and move to Pasadena, California to complete my Master of Divinity degree at Fuller.
But before I made my move to California I spent three months living in Antigua, Guatemala studying Spanish and traveling up and down Central America on their infamous “chicken buses.” This was an amazing experience for me, and an important transition in my spiritual life as I began to own more of my own faith, rather than just living out of the faith of my parents.
So in August of 2001 at the age of 26 I drove from Phoenix to Pasadena to begin a new phase of my life. I loved my time at Fuller Seminary and while I was studying there I was interning in the college ministry at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. This was intended to be just a nine-month internship, but it eventually led to the full-time position as the director of college ministry, ministering to the campuses of UCLA, USC, LMU and the actors and musicians in the area. I pastored this college ministry for seven years (2002-2008) and loved every minute of it. I had lots of amazing opportunities to minister alongside wonderful college students, serve across the world with them on various projects, and spend one on one time with them during some of their most amazing and dreadful days.
As the college director at Bel Air I would meet each week with students who were struggling in life with all kinds of issues. Sometimes the issues were not too serious and I felt like I was able to help them. Other times the issues were very serious and I felt like I knew little in the way of providing them with the help they needed. So in 2005 I went back to Fuller Theological Seminary to pursue a Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy, graduating from the program in 2007. While I was in the program I had the opportunity to intern for one year at Santa Anita Family Services in West Covina, California, providing therapy to kids, couples and families, as well as co-leading a drug and alcohol group for men and women on probation from prison.
In June of 2008 I resigned my position as the college director at Bel Air Presbyterian, and my wife, baby daughter, and I eventually moved to Dallas in August of 2008 so that we could be closer to family, pursue some new lifestyle changes, and so that I could launch a new career. In those first few years in Dallas I spent time doing therapy at the Pastoral Counseling Center, launching my own private practice, and working at HopeWorks. I also spent three years providing all the parenting classes for the youth ministry at Highland Park Presbyterian Church.
In November of 2011 I launched my new private practice. I also had the amazing privilege of being on staff and co-leading 4-day marriage intensives at The Hideaway Experience in Amarillo from 2010-2014.
I have spent the last 18 years working with individuals, couples and families in a variety of both pastoral and clinical settings. I believe that I am to be a catalyst for change in the lives of people. And now as I work with clients in the counseling setting I am continually filled with joy and amazement as people face their own struggles while allowing me to become an agent of change in their lives.
I absolutely love what I do and I hope that I can have the opportunity to work with you.