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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

 

Rejoicing in the Good, When Hard Has Been the Journey

Fixing Fractured Families: That is a worthy goal. As a leader, I want families fixed. Maybe you do to. There are different ways to get it done, but it is hard work no matter what way you work on it. Resistence is assured, friend. What happens when you finally have a victory against a string of hard struggle? Whether it is my struggle to see families fixed or you have a different struggle, the principles are the same. Friend, I think today of the many struggles of recovery in the South USA from weather and North from fires and our culture in all parts to find a unity of heart and purpose.
Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. ESV
That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety CEV
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure NIV
Every so often, you will find a verse in the original language that defies exact matching translation from different eras and interpretive groups.  This one fits that description.  Many times, it is because an idiomatic phrase is contained or there is such emotion and expression, it is hard to put into a single phrase.   So let me expand this one.
My heart is glad and celebrates in great joy.  With my whole being inside and out, I am excited and alive; my tongue must shout and declare this joy.  It cannot be contained or restrained.  A great sense of peace and restfulness and security envelops my body and mind and spirit.  Phil’s version
Entering In: Entering in to health and joy is many times is preceded by great struggle and pain.  Our habits become acclimated to the struggle.  Our daily routines become expectant of the pain.  A friend going through back surgery shared some of her story.  The doctors instructed her that ghost pain would continue for some time.  Though the surgery is successful and removes even some nerve endings, our minds are trained to find pain at times of day and particular motions.  The pain is not there physiologically.  Yet, the pain is there in our minds.  The conditioning of ill health forms a barrier even when we are healed to enjoying the new freedom.
Rested Health: Now, that quotation that is a picture of great health and well being.  That is a picture of restful trust in God and God alone.  That is a picture of one that has wrestled with God and found Him to be more interested in securing our hearts that controlling our actions.  That is a picture of one, who has encountered fierce angers and pains and problems and illness and has come through to a new realization that the presence and leading of the Father brings us to refreshing and rest.  That is a wonderful picture. Is it attainable?
Breaking Conditional Barriers: In my own experience, I find it difficult to rest after an intense time of development of a business thrust or a strained season with a client.  Though the situation is ended and the issues are resolved, my daily expectation of another problem wrestles with my restfulness.  A wise executive once commented to me, “Even when we receive a new and different and positive answer, we hear the old negative one that is so common.”  He did not say it just like that, but you get the point.
There must be a time of “glory rejoicing” to break the conditional barriers of ill health and negative situations.  Celebrate.  This unspeakable joy works internally for us to remove scar tissues and sensitive nerves of mind and will and emotion and body.  Then we can receive the new and positive situation and answer.  This transition must happen.  It is a barrier breaker.
Returns at Customer Service: Discount retailers dedicate a large area for returned and damaged merchandise.  It is not a happy place.  There is not a lot of smiling for anyone.  When you find a smiling employee working that area, your frustration is defused at having to come back to the store. The transaction becomes more pleasant.  That employee is giving a rejoicing to a healing situation.  The item is broken.  You are receiving a replacement.  That should be joyful.  Yet, you lost value when you tried to use it at home and it broke.  You lost positive expectation and trust.  Now, the item and positive expectation must return before you can get full value.
Broken bones and aching hearts and rent emotions and lingering illness in our body cause us to lose positive expectation and trust in God.  We expect nothing.  Worse than that, we expect bad.  We expect anger and frustration and continuance of a wrong situation.   And we get what we expect until we expectantly express ourselves into a different result after the new answer of health and healing and restoration and replacement is received.
Prayer:
Father, there is a great life available through You and Your presence and Your word for me and for this friend. 
You are life.
You are healing.
You are “Yes” to all Your promises.
You are “Amen” to all Your commitments.
Cause rejoicing to resound in the camp of out heart.  Let us release the joy of the moment that heals and conditions us to hear, “Yes, you are healed.”
Walk with us today, Father, as You heal negative expectation built on real experience with tough living. Let joys restore a new hearing and receptivity to our full health.
 
Family Facts: The effort is worth it.  In our thrust to find solutions in the new urban/rural of the USA, we’ve seen good results that are sustainable.  Check them out at https://solumcommunity.net/give/2016-results-2017-plan/
Phil Larson, Director SOLUM Community Transformation Initiative
Training Offices: 3404 N Grand Ave, Gainesville, Tx 76240
Home Office: 508 Tumbleweed Dr., Yukon, Ok 73099
cell/text 405.388.8037

United and Engaged

A frank discussion with Anesha Alexandria over unity and engaging disenfranchised community.


 

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,

Will you rise with a listening ear and a compassionate heart and faith the follows through?

Will you rise with a listening ear and a compassionate heart and faith the follows through?

In these United States, there are some outliers that seek to breed a new division.  It like so many divisions of the past will be conquered and unity will prevail.  Short answers are not welcome.  Long listening is needed.

In the original war between the states, the United States divided over many issues. The biggest was the issue of individual and state rights versus federal oversight and decision making.  Along with that came the issue of slavery, a heinous institution that continues to plague our world and be accepted in the darker corners of the USA in human trafficking and domestic violence.  Those institutions don’t worry about race and color or even age.  They exhibit the willfulness of mankind to control the lives of those deemed weaker.

In the original war, we lost more men than in all other wars combined.

In the original war, we moved on to enslave and slaughter the Native American while attempting to free the African American.

In the original war, men like U. S. Grant kept slaves and fought for the Union and men like Robert E. Lee spoke against slavery and fought for his state of Virginia and the Confederacy.  It was a time, where honor and duty was to family, community and state and the divisions ran deep and deadly.  Brother killed brother.  Neighbors killed neighbors.   As a nation, we have come far and have far to go.  People will be people.

In the original war, we found peace as a nation through decades of unity.  World War I and II brought all together in a common fight.  After WWI, the Southern states began celebrating Memorial Day along with the Northern states.  It took a long time and a common pain to bring the nation to semblance of healing.  Civil rights remained uncivilly distributed and still pose issues causing us to work to decide what is a right and what is a privilege and what is a personal preference.  It is not easy work.  Our streets ran with blood during the civil rights marches and they run red again with anger and violence.

In the current war of ideas and preference, we move every day closer to destructive disunity.  National treasures such as the right to free speech are trampled. National treasures such as the belief that all mankind is created equal and worthy of due dignity and respect are trampled. Today, it is a few.  But a few can be built to many and many can destroy the union.  The union is a fragile commitment to civil discourse and respect of differences.  Multi-cultural means respect for differences not blind robotic similarity.   A man’s heart is a man’s heart and it will not be changed by imposition and anger.  It is changed in discourse and compassion.  Hate builds hate.  Compassion and contrition builds friends.

Compassion is what we have lost. In our search for meaningless meaning and trivial attributions we have abandoned our God and our commitments.  Marriage is meaningless.  Children are abandoned by their fathers at birth or shortly thereafter.  Our churches, our deepest social glue, are empty and entertaining.  Employee and employer have no real relationship but money and benefits.  We are like overused Velcro, ready to disconnect at the slightest pressure.

Compassion breeds commitment.  Compassion means we see and feel the hurt and pain of another and are moved to do something to relieve it.  Anger wants to relive it not relieve it.  Anger wants to point fingers and blame and shame.  Compassion wishes to hide the hurt and find a solution.  We have regulations that prevent speaking of medical and financial conditions, but no such honor of the issues and diseases of the heart.

Compassion breeds contrition. As a child, I was raised in a church that took a moment in every service to acknowledged that each of us is flawed and working it out.  As a community, we looked at each other and admitted our broken condition that we might look at each other in support of repair.  We knew we each were wrong.  We reminded each other and committed to grow a better life.

As I child my mother and father taught me respect for others regardless of their emotional, mental, financial or physical pains.  Hate is a pain bred of fear.  Fear is a pain bred of lack of love.  Love is a commitment to forgive and heal and sometimes overlook.  Love in action kills fear and disarms hate.

The only thing that will win this war of ideals will be acts of contrition, commitment, and compassion. 
There is a third party missing in the battle.  The voice of compassion can look at a rebellious flag, statue, or organization and speak peace.  Martin Luther King, Jr and those that followed him attempted to teach us that.  The voice of compassion can speak loudly a right direction in the face of strong opposition without violence without hate without anger.  William Wilberforce and the strugglers in England that brought about deep social change and ended slavery in the United Kingdom taught us that.  It is men and women of faith that have been our salvation in free nations over the history of mankind. It is not the men and women of war and hate that have prevailed in our free nations.

Should we follow the lines of hate and imposition versus compassion, we will become like others that give up freedom to be right and then have no rights.  Should the right hearted rise up and take the streets with compassion and faith, this moment too shall pass and be written in the history books as an uncivil unrest that was conquered by community.

Will you rise?  Is there an ounce of compassion to understand and listen in you?  Will you listen long and speak slowly?  Should enough join in this then the voices of dissension will go quietly and as a nation we will move another step forward in our quest for deeper unity.  It won’t be easy.  It never is.

Maybe we will become more disgusted with human trafficking and family violence and seek long lasting solutions. Maybe we develop strong patience to understand our nation of immigrants must merge and merge and merge again with growing ideas and assimilation of cultures.  That process never ends in a free nation.  We change.  We morph.

But to destroy our treasures of freedom of speech, religion, and assembly is frightening and unacceptable.  To destroy the dignity of mankind is frightening and unacceptable.  To destroy the free pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness is frightening and unacceptable. To fracture our families and accept and indenture any is frightening and unacceptable.  Our nation has freedoms. Will you rise with a listening ear and a compassionate heart and faith the follows through?

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.