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this can be done

The Lord is With Us  Click on this to read the pdf or just keep reading.

The Lord is With Us: Build the House

Nehemiah prayed simple prayers in struggling situations. Challenged to do an amazing work for an ungrateful people in a land of pain and problems, Nehemiah prayed simple prayers and took significant action. The task was immeasurably daunting, but he knew God sent him to do it.

 Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.

In the beginning of his vision, he opened with repentance and reminding God of His promises. Then you simply asked for success and compassion.

 They said, “Let’s start rebuilding,” and they were encouraged (put their hands to work) to do this good work.

When he had assessed the situation, and formed a small coalition, he went to the people and they responded just as simple.  They said, ”Let’s start”, and put their hands to the work.

 Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.

he was pushed against the wall and ready to move forward, he asked for favor.

 But now, my God, strengthen me.

At a critical juncture, he asked for strength.

In our work to reach North Texas and Southern Oklahoma, I relate to Nehemiah.  A destroyed culture of violence, alcohol, and family dysfunction needs built into a haven. People are afraid to bring their families into this area.  Yet, there is a rising tide of changed lives ready to come together and build.  Such things start small.  That happened to Nehemiah also.

One night, after a painful day struggling against my crippled knee, I sat out on the front porch of our building in Gainesville.  The air was cool and crisp and the kids and workers were gone after a successful night of outreach.  That morning we trained probation officers, a pastor, and some strugglers in Mental Health First Aid.  I had spent the last two days with some 1-1 with potential pastors, who might join our work.  And I was exhausted.  The thought entered my mind, “Why not just do the church thing?  The money would come.  Church people would come. Sure, the strugglers would feel as unwelcome as they do in all the churches, but hey, I could kick back and relax and let the normal flow.”

A car struggled into the parking lot with much rattling and noise.  As it pulled up and parked, no one got out.  My knee was so painful, I just waited in my chair.  20 feet away in the dark, someone wanted ministry and I did not have the physical stamina to walk to them.  Finally, a familiar voice spoke, and two people came out of the vehicle.  One was covered head to toe in grease.  The other showed signs of a meth addict, who had not had a fix in a few days.

We visited outside for a few minutes, and I summoned enough endurance to put up with pain and took them inside for a cup of coffee and some water.  The man had brought $20 that he had outstanding on a workshop.  Probably the only $20 he had.  He went through the building and started inventorying jobs he wanted to do to help get us ready for our next step in ministry outreach.  Before his crash, he had had a successful business custom painting and remodeling million-dollar homes.

Here I was, a trained executive, a builder of huge works in business and the kingdom, walking and listening to two strugglers with lives lived in disaster looking over a building and a city in ruins with little more than an unrelenting dream to see a difference. What was I doing here?  Like Nehemiah, counselor to the ruler of the world at the time looking over a destroyed city away from his family and friends, I live out of my comfort zone.

They said, “Let’s start rebuilding,” and they were encouraged to do this good work. Last week, this same man had shown up unannounced and manicured our campus.  It took six hours with two men to get it into shape.  Unannounced.  He has a mind to build.  Here he was again.

But now, my God, strengthen me.  My knee is crippled.  I had already missed teaching Wednesday night’s bible study due to exhaustion and pain.  Here I was back in the middle of the mess.

The two began to talk about their church experiences and being put out due to their struggles and how they wanted to connect family and rebuild.

They looked at me and answered my unasked question, “Why are you standing up now?”

The man answered without being asked. “I had no hope until I came here.  Now I have hope.”

Both asked to be baptized and made fresh commitments to Christ. We prayed, and a peace descended from God where usually drugs were called upon for peace that doesn’t last.

The night before, a couple met with me and explained how their marriage had been healed using wisdom from our Life Skills workshop.  The man stared intently into my eyes and told me that they had no hope until working with me. Another couple came into the sanctuary and asked about helping on the worship team.  They had given up hope of connecting in a church.  Both couples had their children in the custody of the state for differing reasons.  But Hope is their haven.

And, I repented of my unbelief. Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people. No, we will not do the churchy thing. We will build the house with loving, face to face discipleship and small groups.  We will reach out to the most damaged people and see them created new in Christ.

Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.

That is my prayer today.  We have developed a strong reputation for wisdom, life change and compassion in North Texas.  Our small team has huge faith.  Our team in workshops and worship and works around the campus from grass clipping to kid’s ministry have all struggled with violence and alcohol and drugs and family dysfunction at points in the past.  Some closer in time than others.  They have been recreated in Christ into something new and strong.  Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.”

That is the tough work of the kingdom. Disciplemaking is the work.  Fixing fractured families is the challenge. Eventually they will be the ones to support the work financially.  They are certainly the ones getting the work done.

Right now, they need your help.  We have a challenge.  A donor has committed $10,000 in matching funds if we can raise that much by the end of year.  That $10k plus the matching will add to our hodgepodge of contracts, workshop fees, present partners, and savings to get another trained worker alongside.  Our volunteer team is awesome.  They are on their way to being certified peer specialists. We need professionally trained workers with them.

Two “right now” opportunities need your support.

  1. A pilot program of pre-trial diversion can help 100 light and first time offenders a year. We can mentor them for six months and help them build better lives instead of entering the prison system. Right now, we need $3,000 a month for nine months to match the fees they will pay. Will you help with one?  $100 a month supports one through the pilot.
  2. Another congregation is ready to be trained 15 miles south of us. To train the team over the next eight months and launch them is not expensive.  $2500 will do it and get them started. They can serve another 30 a year at their site.

Join the team.  May God give us favor in your eyes today.  May you see with vision the work in which you can participate.  The best way you can give is to send a check. Then we don’t have to pay credit/debit fees.  But we also have the convenience of online at solumcommunity.net/give.  You give one time or make a monthly commitment or whatever hits your fancy.  These families need your support.

Hebrews 13:16 and do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

capturephil

 

 

Phil Larson, The Think Dr.

Birthday Life Choices

Last year on this day, my birthday, Malachi’s adoption was final. This year and every year on my birthday I am reminded. What a great birthday present. What a great reminder every year on my birthday of the beauty of family and life. Because his biological parents chose life for him, our family is greater. They had other options, but they chose life. Lisa and Robb chose generosity and acceptance and life and our family is greater.

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Just prior Pearl, another grandchild, experienced a traumatic life threatening condition in the womb and at birth. Jesse and Sarah chose to battle for life and she is healthy, strong and precious to our soul today by direct and Divine intervention. Choose life.

Choose life. Choose generosity. Choose graciousness.

When death and destruction presents itself as an option in the form of abortion, violence, bullying, harrassment, addiction, suicide, depression, anxiety, poverty, abuse, or anger, you have choices. You can fight it. You can learn life giving options. You can surround yourself in freedom and positive relationships.

For 38 years I have dedicated my life to showing others life giving options to death and destruction as a friend, pastor, and community activist. I do not regret a day. My wife reminded me that our opus is to offer the tired,the tormented,the terrorized,and the torn a way forward into a better life now, and for eternity.

The pains of the past can be healed. The problems of the day can be solved. The seemingly unconquerable struggles can be overpowered in Jesus.

I teach many research and evidenced based workshops of life giving change. Every word is tested and true and helps build that better life forward not because of the reseach but because of the author of Life. He designed it to work. Truth is not relative. It is solid. It is crafted by the mastermind of the Creator. We discovered it in our reseach. He also laid it out in His Life Instruction book, the Bible. This book is alive.

The solution will not be found in a higher power, some set of principles or pastry sayings on facebook or a false god. Quips and quotables will not get you there. You will be warmed and left wanting. The solution is Jesus. Only He offers life and life more abundantly. He is the Source of All Life. He is the Creator and Sustainer of Life. He is not a a five minute altar call, but a lifelong commitment. He is life. Start with Him. Bury yourself in Him and His life giving direction and example. Worship Him as Provider, Sustainer, Creator, Shepherd, Rightstanding, God over lessor gods, King over all kings, Lord over all lords, Boss over all bosses,. He is my God and my soon coming King. Meet Jesus face to face, heart to heart, and you will have chosen life everlasting. Maranatha. Selah.

Mental Health First Aid Rally

TeacherOklahoma City Metro
This is a great opportunity to show yourself strong.
MHFA is for you. You need it. Your friends need you to have it. your family needs you to have it. Get registered. Power up meeting on Nov 11th at the Commons in OKC. FREE meeting.
Special pricing available for onsite training after this event for ministers and church workers because I want you to make the difference.

REGISTER HERE: FREE: https://solumcommunity.net/mental-health-first-aid

Certified Trainer: Phil Larson, the think dr.

Fixing Fracture Families

solumleaf

 

Life Long Dads. Kids Need ‘Em.

The SOLUM Community of Texoma I-35 Corridor

The hospitality of North Texas has been my joy for four years living in Gainesville. It is a continuing encouragement. That hospitality and a remnant of a strong-hearted people committed to family living, personal responsibility, moral integrity, and community accountability encourages me.

In the same years my joy is complete living in my other two cities, Oklahoma City and Crowder, Oklahoma on Lake Eufaula. Few get the joy of such a life.  Diligent work has afforded me ten bedrooms where I can lay my head any day, while some have none.

In the face of a disunity and discontent across our nation and in our local neighborhoods, some must take a stand for a new vision. In 2011, at the dare of 25 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. I locked in my cabin and finished research and editing on Time To Lead. While studying leaders in business, government, community, religion, and education, who led cultural change, a few principles became evident. 26 actions of one of the greatest world changers, Hezekiah, turned up in other men and women through history. Hezekiah lived all 26, the others like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther and Mother Teresa lived a few. Hezekiah at age 25 alongside his friends overturned a nation steeped in violence and abuse and self-destruction. The new norm became moral integrity, personal responsibility and community accountability. Given nothing but bad example by his father the king and that family, his course became set through faith and diligent study of national and relational principles that have stood the test of over 2700 years.

In 2012, I made the journey from corporate management and community engagement at city-wide levels to community engagement at the face to face level full time.

It is not my wish to replace Hezekiah in history. It is my wish to influence our national and neighborhood ripples.  Ripples make change.  Research in cultural change tell us that it only takes 10% of an area strongly adopting a philosophy or action to effect total change.  That is the tipping point.

The challenge of a life well lived from personal mentors like Dr. Ken Canfield, founder of the National Center Dr Fathering, and advisor to presidents and Dr. Frank Tunstall, international leader in missions, writer, university president and bishop, speak to me daily.  One person can make a difference.  You can be that one person.  I can be that one person.  Someone we don’t know yet can be that one person.

In 2014, that journey brought me to Gainesville alongside our other endeavors.

In our four years in this community, we have seen 307 graduates of 90 day workshops on congruent thinking and behavior, goal oriented life, strong and safe relationships, and resiliency under trauma.  Each goes back and changes their world.  20 hours and 90 days with weekly homework, discussion, action oriented is enough to build a different direction.  These are those on adult probation, juvenile probation, caregivers, parents, and some struggling with dysfunctional lifestyles advances enough to have children in foster care.  We work with the struggling and the wounded.  And we see results.

H is the daughter of one participant.  Mom took the life lessons home and reconnected with H.  H worked with me for 6 months across the glass in County Jail and built a new future.  She spent a year in rehab prison and is successfully living in Ft. Worth in a halfway house making a life transition.  Three boys relate to their grandfather for the first time in their life.  Four families are changed for good forever in the county through one mom taking what she learned to her daughters and ex-husband.

D lived addicted to meth for 14 years.  Through a workshop he changed his direction. He is now 4 years clean and works side by side with me encouraging others every week.  He has a good job and is being an involved father to his young daughter that she never had. 3.5 years later.

J came fresh from prison and was living in the Brother’s House.  In a workshop, he grumbled and struggled.  Then he connected. He began living principles of responding to the anger of others in such a manner that it changed the environment in his life.  He is four years sober and has helped countless others get and stay sober.  He has a good job and contributes to the community 3.5 years later.

W is married with three children.  Some came from his wife’s prior relationships.  He is connected to his children.  Drinking has stopped.  Staying home is important now.  His family is doing well.  2.5 years later.

R came from 30 years in prison and a life sentence for murdering his best friend.  At 52, he was alone on a bicycle.  After six months living with me and working alongside, he worked a good job, bought and paid for a vehicle, reconnected with his family, and is saftely living back in Arkansas, a new man.

On and on I can tell you stories in Cooke County, Texas of lives changed forever.  This is what we do.  This is what you do when are a part of the SOLUM Community.

Let’s skip forward.

There are four issues in our neighborhood and national community.  SOLUM works as a chaplain to 3000 legislators across 34 states.  Pray and encouragement and information on family and child issues go from us regularly.  We are a voice for change.  SOLUM works across hundreds of churches and ministries doing the same.  Leaders need leaders.  The issues we address are not just local, but they are certainly local.

Our nation has become ASOCIAL.  Books like “Bowling Alone” talk to our pain.  Social media has stormed our communications and only recently become face to face.  I do bible studies weekly linking people in Mexico and multiple states in the USA. Something is moving to change that.

Here in Gainesville, families take their children to neighboring cities for education, while some of the greatest educators in the nation lead our schools.  Why?  Why leave the community of concern and competency to go somewhere less connected to my neighborhood?  Is it part of that ASOCIAL thought train?  Something else?

Pablo De Santiago reported to me that last week 110 showed up for Watch DOGS at Edison Elementary.  Committed to show up, promote families with both parents engaged, display fathering as fashionable, make a difference.  That is huge.  Trust me. We have over 3000 Watch DOGS programs nationally, and 110 is big news.  Wow.  Attendance in our Gainesville schools has been climbing year over year under the watchful guidance of Dr. Brasher.  We have a future.

Our churches are losing attendance nationally and locally.  It is a group of 77 churches with a heart to change the new urban/rural communities that sponsored me to come here in the beginning.  Our community groups are losing connection locally and nationally.  We need a community connection.

Our nation has become AMORAL. Since 1960 the ASOCIAL trend has also become a lack of moral center.  There is little community standard.  Our standard today for business and community is “stay legal” or find a way around it.  That is not much of a standard.  Hammurabi had a code.  The English had the Magna Carta.  We are vacant.  Church attendance, a good measure of moral center has gone from 60% to 15% and is dropping.  East Coast is less than 2%.  Our own high school is less than 4% and headed down.  My pastor friend in Franklin, New Hampshire was ecstatic recently.  This town of 15000 in a county of 45000 is one of the 2% areas.  In Franklin there is the Catholic Church and his church, not many more.  Certainly, not the hundred we have here.  Another church started.  He is happy.  We work with him on community impact.  We need a moral standard.  It comes from a 10% adherence to a standard and a vocal discourse that puts it in front of others.  Right now, we can’t even agree on a national anthem.

Our nation and neighborhood has become AMARITAL.  It is not about the definition of marriage.  It is about marriage at all. Two weeks ago in a teen group I lead I asked about goals.  Where do you see yourself in relationships?  One 14-year-old responded, “I want a normal relationship.  I’m not going to get married.”  I work with her mom also.  All the teens in the room nodded approval except 2.  7 out of 9 of our future believe marriage is not normal.  41% of children today are born with no marriage.  That is unheard of in history.  What have we become in Cooke County and beyond?  Thank God for men and parent and teachers like Edison that declare a difference.  Get fathers in the game. Get them visible.  Get them committed.  We don’t need sperm donors, the normal name I get for fathers among adults on probation, we need men, fathers, dads, committed and connected.

Our nation and neighborhood has become AMESS.  The violence is incredible.  Our young men in their 20s and 30s make up the highest group involved in domestic violence.  Our teens at 30% carry weapons with intent to use them.  See me about the research. This is reality.  The preponderance of death in youth is violent accidents and suicide in that order.  Men over 55 are making up a new suicide trend.  Opioid addictions are escalating and heroin in back with a vengeance as a cheaper alternative to prescription pain killers and neuropathic drugs for anxiety and depression.  We are a mess.

Gosh, Phil, don’t you love me?  How can you point out all this?  What do we do?

Stay with me.  There are great solutions in motion and we can invent more.  To deny this reality however is to emulate an ostrich with his head in the sand.  It only takes 11% to break the cycle and move a different direction, but they must be adamant, not just interested.  That is only 1600 citizens of Gainesville or 4000 of the county.  It is enough.

While I was online in a FB Radio Live interview based in Oklahoma City in the Black community last week, a young woman from Gainesville asked online, “What can we do?”  Let’s talk about it.

SOLUM works on four fronts alongside other organizations, education, community, government, and churches.  The promotion of personal responsibility, moral integrity, and community accountability in a family environment can bring us a different day for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Sure, we’ve made a mess of it.  It is our mirror into which we must look. It is our leadership that must step up and stand out.

Our first thrust is with Community Education for sensible thinking and problem solving.  All three areas are addressed.  Good thinking skills, good relational skills, and good problem solving can promote a great life.  Evidence and research based training over 90 days helps settle skills into a potential lifestyle change.  We work with Community Supervision (probation officers) and the courts to make a difference.

Alongside the THINK workshops we do parenting in the same audience and with couples where the state has taken custody due to abuse and neglect.  Get the families stabilized.  Promote family unity.  We’ve seen several families reunited and some that ended in termination.  We will pursue.

Our second thrust is among juvenile probationers.  Through relational and thinking and trauma sensitive evidence and research based workshops, we affect the toughest family situations.  A teen in trouble is a family in trouble.  It usually has many extensions into other families.  Yesterday one of our grads came proudly up to me at his job and talked about his future.  He was on probation every year one year at a time from age 11 to 16.  He is off probation.  One day in the Walmart parking lot someone was yelling. Eventually I discerned it was my name they were yelling.  It was a teen grad six months out.  She came and gave me a hug along with her mother.  She had been on probation for attacking mom and almost killing her.  Now they were friends.  She told me she used her workbook at least once a week at high school to help her make decisions.  We work with the parents that will work with us also.  They attend parenting. There are some great stories here and some heartbreak.

Our third area of thrust is Mental Health First Aid.  As a certified trainer with the National Institute of Behavioral Health, we promote the most accepted response for depression, anxiety, ptsd, suicide, self harm and other pains.  In our lifetime, 42% of adults will have a diagnosable mental health issue, blip, incident, challenge.  That is either me or you and if it affects you then it affects me, too.  You are my neighbor.  Mental Health First Aid is the initial help offered to a person developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis resolves.  You can be trained.  I believe every adult in the United States should be trained.  I can bandage a cut, I need to be able to apply salve to a wounded heart or mind.

Our fourth area of thrust is direct intervention.  Through onsite personal encouragement and mentorship across the glass at county jail and onsite as a pastoral counselor, we make a difference.  Through developing other pastors and church planters across the nation to do something and engage their ministries in life developing patterns, we make a difference.  Through working on that 10% tipping point of engaged belief that fathers are significant and families count, through talking to you and legislators and other groups and asking you to action, through authoring books and building insight like Time to Lead and By Grace and Manage Well, we make a difference. Through blogging and teaching via social media, we make a difference.

I want you to be a part of that difference.

  • Go to solumcommunity.net and browse. Sign up for mental health first aid. That is the first step to becoming a mentor. Cooke County needs mentors for every Life Skills class both adult and juvenile.  Cooke County needs mentors for parenting.    Coaches. Trained to do the right thing.  You are the difference.
  • If that doesn’t fit right now then click under Be a Mentor on Life Foundations and let’s talk.
  • If that doesn’t fit, then be a financial supporter. We are an authorized 501 c 3 since 2002 helping individuals and organization build better futures.
  • Maybe you have a fresh idea and approach that needs implemented. Talk to me.
  • phil@solumcommunity.net

 

prayer for peace and restoration, Friend, in a time of destruction and loss.

As the Americas reel from the destructive force of natural disaster, the words of Esther come to mind. “For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen?” Esther 8:6

Our nation has suffered an enormous loss of property, life, and safety during this battering. How can I endure seeing the destruction that has come to friends, Friend? How can I endure the destruction of my countrymen?

Esther received a solution and a hope in her situation. She received a reversal of the situation for others and a plan to continue in blessing.

So I pray today and ask you to join with me, Friend,for:

A hope and a peace for all those affected in the aftermath of this disaster.

A strength and an endurance for all pummeled in this storm.

A restoration of property and a sense of security to all those uprooted and whose lives will never be the same.

A reestablishment of life and business and community and neighborhood as quickly as possible.

A sure faith in the future for all that this too will pass and a new day will dawn with new solutions for these communities.

Wisdom and decisiveness for leaders and rescue workers and engineers and those looking to reconstruct and replace and secure.

In Him,

Negative Responses

Negative responses in Pastoral Counseling. 

 Yes, that happens. Someone reminded me that I should expect negativity among those I counsel and pray for and love the person with greater  concern .

 It takes a persistence, a positivity, and a personalization repetitively to get through the filters in the client. It works though. 

One commented to me yesterday on how much they appreciated that I keep coming back, I don’t give up on them. It is breaking through the cloud. Another commented that they are now doing the same for others. They are tapering their anger and finding themselves less and less aggressive when upset and more and more listening.

Do you find yourself stuck in the negative thought stream? You can beat it. It is worth the journey.

Message me phil@shepherdok.com .  Let’s move forward.  As a pastoral counselor, I am available for online consultations along with onsite.

The World is No Longer Flat and Other Myths

Many programs and approaches used daily to assist those strugglers with addiction, depression, anxiety. Ptsd, and other mental health interruptions presume incurable disease. Yet, research over the last 4 decades in cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology have shown a different light. Much like the day a man broke the 4 minute mile in running, the undoable was done and others are running as fast. Work by Drs. Aaron Beck and Martin Seligman have broken mental health science into territory of healing and health. 

So why do we continue to do what we have always done and get the same results? Change comes slow. Old school resists new strength.  That is a tale of mankind.  We discover new venues and hold fast to what we know for long seasons.

In this area, it can be sad.  A Struggler stays under longterm depression, when solutions to interrupt and build a new and hopeful life are passed over.  Another misses days without anxieties and stressful mental stretching because there is not a recent trained positive psychology practitioner in the area.  Some grasp incurable disease model because that is all they know and all they have been taught.

We are committed to get the word out. It will take more decades of declaring healthful and hopefhopeful living is within reach of most.  Nothing works for everyone, right? But no road will take you there if you don’t know where you are going.  Go toward health, hope, and healing.

These are not spiritual solutions, though the research points to evidence that you should include spiritual components in any approach to overall mental health. I believe in Spiritual solutions and scientific mental health solutions. Spirit and science work powerfully together, there is no conflict. Truth is truth.

Get the word out. Encourage and inform those you love. Ask your physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, therapist would CBT or posite psychology be for you. The world is no longer flat.