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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.
You’ve watched it. Some CSI show captures your attention and you watch it for years. Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, whatever, and whenever your senses are tickled by the obtuse and violent trends in society. Over supper, you watch blood and gore and grim. In time you are desensitzed.
In the rooms of your home another crime scene is being repeated. The number one cause of death in ages 10-24 is accidental death, followed by suicide and murder. 70% of death in this age range is violent. According to CDC surveys reported by Child Trends “High school males are more than three times as likely as females to carry a weapon (28 and eight percent, respectively, in 2013). This difference holds for all racial and ethnic subgroups, as well as at each grade level. (Figure 2) The prevalence of carrying a weapon, however, has declined significantly among both males and females (by 15 and four percentage points, respectively) since 1991.
What? What is going on here? We are talking in many cases 1 in 3 high schools students carrying a weapon. Is life really that violent for them? What fear causes that? Are they being aggressive or defensive? Do you know your own house?
Men, you have the power to protect. While working for over a decade with Dr. Ken Canfield and the National Center For Fathering, one of the Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers stands out as Protect and Provide. But, we aren’t doing the job. So many men have stepped off the curb of manhood and integrity that our young men are resorting to violence to protect themselves and assert their ideas and identities.
The Huffington Post has a great eye opener to this violence trend in youth and relationships. Don’t read it unless you are ready to weep and have your sensibilities stripped back to reality. We have and epidemic of violence.
Take a look at the graph. You will see that family violence offenders are predominant in ages 20-39 and too high in ages 15-any age. Our young men are angry and taking it out on others. No, all offenders are not men. But the preponderance are.
Fatherless young men are perpetuating fatherless young men and women.
Men, you can make a difference. You can give this generation a better view of the world and you can still this storm with your compassion and concern
What can a man do when the foundations have been destroyed and violence reigns?
. Men, listen to your sons. Listen with your mouth closed. Get into a Life Skills class and build some new skills.
. Men and women, resolve your own angst and develop new insights as a parent. Get support.
. Couples, young, old, planning to marry, struggling through coupleness, never married… Take action. Get moving.
. Men, get control of your eyes and examples. What are you teaching through your life?
. Men, do something kind to your child’s mother every week that they can see without having to try to see it. I don’t care if she hates you or not. I don’t care if she is married to you or not. Your children are watching you.
. Men, contain your habit of awfulizing.
What is AWFULIZING? n. refers to an irrational and dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events, situations, or perceived threats. AWFULIZING: “A person who engages in awfulizing, likely predicts the most catastrophic outcome in every circumstance.” Psychology Dictionary
. Men, put hope and healing into your language and actions. Find a way to apologizing for your disconnection, absence, and anger. You are the stronger one. Begin the journey.
Who is CTI? CTI is a skill building, problem solving assistance for individuals and families and communities. We use research and evidence based approaches alongside personal intervention strategies focused on fathering, parenting, and relationship. Life Skills, Dad’s University, and Family Builders course approaches put feet on the ground in the community. Joint events open new eyes with information and influence.
What are we chasing? Community change to moral integrity, personal responsibility, and community accountability from the household to influencers in government, education, business, religion, and community. We want responsible and healthy fathering and families and friendships to be fashionable and desired.
What differentiates? No fear. From curbside to board room. Community networking and integration of efforts.
A Short Story
A few twenty-somethings working on life skills wrote these notes back. It is a next step in a good direction for each of them.
I believe I have learned to know now what my true feeling are, and how to act when I feel angry.
I’ve learned : Understanding how I got here. Negotiating problems. Responding to anger.
I am better at talking to people. I also know how to control my anger better.
I’d like to help others the way I wanted to get helped
To step back and think about the issue, problem, or analyze the scenario fully before you attempt to deal with it to get the best possible outcome.
I know what I have wanted to change but laying it all (out) has really helped me put my plans into action.
That is real stuff. Real curbside change. It is a start. It is a good start for them, their children, their families, and their friends.
Support with your time, talent, and treasure.
Help me. Help Phil, David, Norm, Michelle. Help families get stronger.
A hard question comes to me often. What do you do when the foundations are destroyed?
Respond to fractured families, uncommitted fathers, divorce as a lifestyle, addiction and co-dependency as a normative, violence as a status quo, and me-ism as the accepted point of decision. Hmmm. Move that cultural malaise to moral integrity, personal responsibility, and community accountability. Stabilize and repair and launch into positive success one person, one family, one neighborhood, one community, one state, and one nation at a time.
The answer is simple but not easy. If it was easy, it would be over. The battle rages. It must be fought.
Community Transformation Initiative
Educating – Empowering – Engaging
World Renown Saxophonist
Oct 29th 7pm
State Theater – 200 E California Ave, Gainesville, Tx
Celebrate great friendships in the Gainesville, Texas community with us as Community Transformation Initiative enjoys one year making friends in the community.
Phil Larson, Director
There are articles all over Facebook villifying Adrian Peterson for his actions towards his son, and they make me sick. I am not here to defend his actions at all, but perhaps my life experiences lend a different perspective, and I hope a few of you might hear me out. What I heard in his press statement was a broken son and a broken father….in our years as foster parents we cried tears of anger over our fair share of broken bodies and spirits, and sometimes it was not the child’s. Abuse is a cycle, a culture, it’s so viciously and deeply rooted that many don’t recognize it fully in themselves until something like this happens. I’ve held a hurting child and HATED their parents for what they did – until I met their parents and found myself in front of another broken child with many more years of scars to show for it, both physical and emotional. It doesn’t excuse their actions or change the consequences, but it does help to understand and to address the bigger issue. An advocate for families and fathering recently said that he persists for one question that haunts him, “what if someone had been there for my dad.” What if, instead of having DHS or the tabloids on speed dial, we pressed into the pain with love. What if someone had been there for Adrian Peterson as a young adult or now as a young father? What if that person is your neighbor whose shouting you hear or a parent in your child’s school who belittled his child in front of the class? What if you pressed in with love instead of accusations? Maybe there wouldn’t be 12,000 children in our state’s custody today. Maybe there would be one less senseless tabloid. Maybe……just what if…..
Church, those who call yourselves by the name of Christ, this is the love Jesus demonstrated for us and the love He calls us to give freely and without expectation. While we were filthy abusers, murderers, liars, and thieves, Jesus took the consequence we deserved in order to break the cycle and call us by his own name instead of that of our accuser
At Empower University, we are gearing for a big Fall of changed lives. The power to change a life, a family, a neighborhood, a community, a state, a nation lies in our hands.
Talking The Positive: Facing the Endless Challenge
Psalm 84:5 -7 adapted – What a joy is waiting for those who draw strength from the LORD and have set their minds on a journey to God’s heart and home. When their path takes them through a Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of fresh springs. After the pain and dryness, a season of blessing and rain will cover with favored love, hope, and faith. Strength will be stronger and you will appear before God’s heart and home a new person.
Life presents endless challenge. Many of those blips cause tears and tears. A tear drips and a tear scars. After a while, the scars become calloused and drudge ensues. Even a wet tear won’t soften the stiff heart torn by trauma. There are dragons in every day. Handle them.
A wise mentor once looked at me in a troublesome time. The prior year seemed to give no growth in our joint business endeavors. With years of experience, he looked at me and said, “Phil, you will find you have grown the most in the hardest times.” He was concerned more about my growth than $ performance. The $ performance would come. And it did come.
Other partners have not been so kind. Focus on greed and immediate gains leads many to live in the calloused world of paining others. It becomes more and more the American environment of discompassionate, inconsiderate, legalistic work and life.
As a parent, dad, mom, or leader in community, your positive outlook can be the change agent for another’s lifelong dream. You have the power of the positive to speak, look, and act into another life.
Dragons of dispair, disappointment, discouragement, and dis-ease come and go. Your upbeat attitude and encouragement for others should come and stay.
In the coffee shop, my head was drooped over the study of Psalm 90,91, and 92. Really, personal time was all I wanted. From across the corner, a most painful look kept staring at me. The woman was obviously in deep distress. She was frozen and immovable.
With a breath of prayer, I relinquished my personal time and said a quick prayer, “Father if there is a word of encouragement I can give, enable me. I really want to wallow in my own pain for a moment, but I sense You have another on this path this morning and wish me to be available.”
As I lifted my head, she looked directly at me and asked what I was studying. In conversation, she opened her journey and talked about her divorce, deep depression, hermitage for the last two years, and hope she could find a new life.
“I would just like to find peace.”
The pain was immense. In Psalm 90 there is a prayer that a season of blessing would come as tall as a season of pain was deep, that the season of blessing would be as long as the season of loss. She found some relief in that prayer and after 30 minutes, she left for the next assignment of her day and I finished my study.
A fresh spring of joy welled up in me. A joy I had not felt for some time bubbled in my soul. The surprising result of drying the tears of a stranger and speaking positive, faith-life was healing waters for me. God touches us in the valley.
The Father promises that we prosper in strength, faith, hope, love, courage, joy, goodness, and contented living when we focus on making the journey to His heart and home. Regardless of the “others”, we receive refreshing spring waters from under and rain waters from over of courage and blessing. We will be overtaken and encased in His touch.
Let’s Pray: Father, it is Your Heart and Home to which I journey. Keep me on the sure-footed path. When pain pummels, keep me on the sure-footed path. When tears stream from my face, keep me on the sure-footed path. When tears rip away tender flesh, keep me on the sure-footed path. Cause the fresh spring waters to bubble up from underneath when I can see no way forward. Cause the refreshing rains to pour over me when I have lived in heat and hurt for a season. Stir faith in me. Let me look to You and not to circumstance. Let me handle my daily dragons and walk high above them.
The Giving Page: Share every good thing you have with anyone who teaches you what God has said (CEV) Galatians 6:6
I am not trying to get something from you, but I want you to receive the blessings that come from giving. Philippians 4:17