TPC Integrative Psychotherapy and Pastoral Counseling
312 West Millbook Road
Suite 109
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 845-9977 ext. 207 

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About Me

Certified Fee-Based Practicing Pastoral Counselor
(919) 845-9977 ext. 207
Email Me

Education and Training
Campbell University (B.A.)
Duke University (M.Div.)
University of Wales Cardiff (M.Phil.)
Graduate Theological Foundation (Psy.D.)
North Carolina State University
WakeMed Health & Hospitals
Alamance Institute for Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral Counseling
Hospital Chaplain
University Chaplain




Leadership as Inviting Others to Hear for Themselves  

I’m struck by some verses in John’s gospel which have something to say about what should be done when we’re trying to lead others in any way, including leading them to Christ. 

In the follow-up verses to the story in John 4 after Jesus had encountered the Samaritan woman, what struck me was what the folks from her village said once they personally encountered Jesus. 

They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." (John 4:42, TNIV)

This is a key principle of leadership in most, if not all, contexts (i.e., to help others become able to say, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves.”)

Leading others to Christ has been anything but this for too many years. We’ve tried to make a uniform faith, an orthodox doctrine, or a systematic theology (Uh oh, what did I just attack there??). We’ve attempted to explain the Christian faith in cookie cutter fashion leaving no room for a “hear for yourself” gospel reality.

The Samaritan woman teaches a great lesson. 

Tell others the story, but give them room enough to discover Christ in their own ways. Might this produce richer and more meaningful expressions of faith that aren’t so homogeneous or orthodox? 

The richness of a faithful community might best be described by the depth of its diversity rather than the breadth of its conformity.


vocation...time to put your toes in the water

On many occasions, I reflect with folks about the issue of calling or vocation and I continue to look for ways to understand this myself.  A new metaphor emerged from a wonderful and helpful book. Calling is to “step into the flow of the river.”

As a youth minister in past years, I took a group to the New River in West Virginia to go whitewater rafting. It was on that trip that I had one of the scariest experiences of my life. 

We expected to see mostly class 2 and 3 rapids, but because of huge amounts of rain, this portion of the river was experiencing class 5 rapids meaning they were more intense and more difficult to maneuver. As we approached each rapid, our guide gave us the necessary instructions on how to paddle, which side of the river we were to go on, and in case of an emergency, how to get out of trouble should we fall into the raging waters. Approaching a rapid named the Middle Keeney, our guide gave us the normal rundown and I remember him saying something that didn’t mean much until later. He said, “If you come out of the raft in this rapid, you will need to swim Olympic style to the eastern bank. There’s a huge hole on the left that you don’t want to have anything to do with.”

We hit the rapid and flipped over. Everyone was ejected from the raft including the guide. Having gone underwater just briefly, I surfaced only to see that I was moving very quickly to the forewarned place on the west side of the river. Likewise, one of my youth was moving in the same direction just ahead of me. I remember the waters forcing me in circular motion and after a few rotations, I began being pulled downward. The water was brown, then black. I was so far down I couldn’t see the sunlight and I thought life was over for me. But, the drain-like hole that was sucking me down spit me right back to the surface. If you believe that the creation of the life-preserver was a miracle, then this was a miracle. God acted on my behalf.

As soon as I could, I swam to the western bank and got out of the river. I could not see any of our group, boats, or guides. I was alone and out of the river. An emotional basket case, I hiked up the mountain to a set of railroad tracks. Crying. Praying. Cursing. Doubting. I wasn’t sure if I’d survived while someone else didn’t. I was afraid and although I’d come back to see the daylight, it felt dark outside. It felt dark inside too.

Once I saw some familiar looking rafts, I slid down the rocks and mud to the river and found our entire group safe and looking for me in the water. I flagged them over and when they reached the large rock I was sitting on the guide put out his hand to help me back in the boat. I asked him, “How far is it to hike from here?” “A long way,” he replied. I asked, “Is there any other way besides getting back in that boat?” “Realistically? No,” he said. I had to get back into the boat, back into raging, deep waters, and face my fears in order to continue the journey.

There are time in my life when I have felt much the same way I did once I reached the shore after our raft capsized and stepped out of the water. I have been hiking here and there, wandering and wondering about life, ministry, and vocation. Crying. Praying. Cursing. Doubting. And, now I consider again this new image of calling, stepping into the flow of the river. I can see the movement of the water, but I can’t measure its depth. I can see ahead for just a short distance, but I don’t know where the river goes.

To quote myself in conversations with others about life and vocation, “the life of faith is a life of taking risks.” Maybe it’s time to listen to the Guide saying, “It’s a long way to get where we’re going. Realistically? You can hike your own way if you want. Or, you can step into the flow of the river and I will be your Way, Truth, and Life.”


thoughts about church you didn't ask for

Don't feed yourself off someone else's plate. Fix your own. The buffet bar is open and has lots of choices. Plus, you can order from the menu or even go home and cook from exotic cuisines available from all kinds of places. Your palette is unique. God made you (us?) that way. You might call this "Kingdom Feasting" or "Dining with Jesus."

A "traditional" meal sounds boring, but a meal rooted in a certain tradition sounds adventurous, and I think church is the intersection of faithful lives setting out on an adventure.


living alone with a stranger is no fun place to be

I continue to think that the most central question we ask or think about is one of identity. Who am I? The question has been asked in other ways. “What do you do?” or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I might ask it this way, “Who do you want tobe when you grow up?” Do you want to be who mom and dad say you should? Do you want to be who your friends say you should? Do you think in terms of “I want to be like this person or that one?” Many of us do. Our identity is wrapped up in what someone else thinks about us or wants/hopes for us. The question of identity is rooted in our decision to please them or have them like us. 

The book I keep saying that everyone should read is Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer. He gets at it this way. In all of our lives, we may find that we are “wearing other people’s faces,” rather than revealing who we really are and showing our true selves. We wear the faces given to us by our parents, our teachers, our ministers, our peers. As time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to wear our own God-given faces, to see the “image of God” in which we were created. 

So, the challenge is this, begin a journey of self-discovery. As it has been said elsewhere, life is best understood as a journey rather than a destination. Along the journey you might just find a little more of who you are. 


O, poet where art thou?

I admire poets. No. That’s not quite accurate. I envy poets. The spring from which their work flows is the imagination. The source of the poetic is imagination. There’s no clear set of rules to be a poet. There’s no boundaries to speak of. There’s only the imagination, a pregnant world of ideas that gives birth through creativity. Poets know this. But, I wonder about those of us who read the Bible.

Imagination is a key to understanding such an ancient text. While some suggest that proper interpretation requires certain theological borders, I believe the word from God comes in a “still small voice” which makes one free rather than captive. God's is a voice of liberation, not oppression. It’s the difference between knowing what the Biblical text meant and imagining what it means. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." It is one thing to “know the Bible.” It’s another thing to engage in imagining what it means.

Does this mean that anything goes or that whatever our imagination creates is justified? By no means! It is God’s voice that speaks, not our own. It is the faithful witness of a community that leads us from self-centered pride to self-sacrificing humility. Pride asks the question, “What does this mean to me?” Humility asks, “What can this mean for us?”

Imagination unlocks interpretation. Reading the Bible in the same way a poet fashions a poem opens the possibility that mere words on a page may reveal a word from God.