If I could just go,

If I could just go,

Those words strike home.  Most of us like to give our time, talent, and treasure where we have gone. Nothing wrong with that.  That is good.

But, really, I don’t want you be addicted or desperate or incarcerated or abused or assaulted.  But, I do want you to come with me to those that have and are living in hell.

If you could come to hell for five minutes and come to heaven for five minutes, how would you live the rest of your life?  Come with me.  I invite you.  They live in the same room.

Two years ago, I packed a bag and took a trip to hell. I thought I was headed to heaven. On a prayer and a challenge I travelled to North Texas.  With less than half the money needed just to pay household expenses, I took the trip and take it every week.  And I live in hell alongside new friends for all that time.  I invite you to come with me.  We can bring them heaven.

August 9th starts a new group of families looking to improve communications.   August 10th starts theavenandhellwo new groups (25 preregistered) of people on probation for a myriad of reasons. They look to improve life in every aspect.

Come with me.

There is a doorway through which every person comes in Gainesville.  When they walk through the first time, they are cocky, frightened, anxious, angry, or aggravated.  They expect an AA atmosphere or a dressing down.  We give them Jesus. Oh, not the bible versed, KJV, sanctified, Sunday morning Jesus. We give them open arms, take you as you are, talk beside the well of life for a little while, Zacchaeus’ living room Jesus.  We give them wisdom rewritten in conversations, instructions and stories relevant today out of timeless truth.   It is researched and evidence based.  Truth works. And hell begins to look a little more like heaven.

Over the ten weeks of transformation, they walk through the door differently. They come early to sit and talk.  They laugh and sometimes dance.  One will come in so excited, we have to halt class to listen to a testimony of achievement.  I laugh and think of what Jesus felt when the seventy returned from their trip with stories of demons lying down and disease being conquered.  One tells how she is talking to her daughter in prison for the first time in years.  Another brags that her children have been returned.  A man boasts that he is having great conversations with his teenagers for the first time.  Another laughs that his wife wants to come because she is curious what is changing him into this new person.  Another has conquered another month of sobriety.

Old things pass away. Life becomes new.  This is the gospel of Life Skills and Family Builders.  This is Jesus. And we party for graduation.  Family comes. Grandma visits. Kids sit beside changed parents.

In the private times, my phone rings and we visit one on one.  We pray and cry over cancers and conflicts.   We dig into deep stories of pain and angst no one should ever have lived. We open a bible and let the love of Jesus shine in faith.  In class, we never preach.  In private, we always pray.  No one is required to believe, everyone is offered the fullness of Jesus.  But, they have to ask.

Come on a short term mission trip.  This is missions.  Once we begin a class, there are no visitors allowed, so August 10th is your opportunity to see a beginning.  Come spend an evening watching miracles.

Can’t come?   Scratch in a Wednesday luncheon with me in Moore, Ok in August.   Visit our new headquarters. We will be starting the same thrust into hell for the OKC area soon.

If you can’t give your time for these, then give your treasure and talent.  All the instructions for online or mail in are at www.communitytransformationinitiative.org/the-giving-page . My wife and I still live on just not enough and dip into savings meant for retirement. I dream of having sufficient for someone to do the books and cut the grass and expand to teach more groups.   We believe that God has other missionaries, who will join with the Jesus you can touch approach. I am believing for four missionaries.  It all belongs to Him.  Many missionaries wait until they have a fund off of which to live.   Others just go.  That’s me.  Every month is an adventure.

Come sit in hell with me and watch heaven unfold.

Phil, Director

Community Transformation Initiative –

Educating, Encouraging, Engaging – Fathers, Families, Leaders

phil@shepherdok.com

405.388.8037

Anger Has It’s Moment: Treacherous Without Cause

Angst fills our conversation.  Anger erupts.  Violence spills into interactions.  This is America.  This is the United States.

Psalm 25:3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause

The anger of our youth seems unquenchable.  Some of that anger is in our twenty somethings.  Some of that anger from our youth is in our fifty and sixty somethings.  Both angers are dangerous.raysthinker

Across media there is a call to have a conversation.  Can we have conversation in the context of anger?  Is anger really a problem or is anger simply a symptom?

In our classes at CTI, anger comes up frequently.  “How do I control it?”  “How do I avoid it?”  “Why do the situations exist that provoke it?”  Anger rules our nation more than laws.  People will submit to anger’s control faster than they will put down their phones while driving.  Anger is a master.  Anger has a definition.  Anger is unresolved hurt.  Heal the hurt and the anger subsides.  Anger is a symptom, not a problem.

Two incidents point to the seething pot of pain on which we stand in our America.

The ugly murders in South Carolina by one who publicly declared the intent of his actions to cause a race war are followed by a quieter incident in the social media of Oklahoma.

Racism, prejudice, bigotry, isolationism, anger, pain, violence and finger pointing sear the national soul. We are preparing for war against ourselves. 41% of our youth will be arrested for a non-traffic crime by age 23.  Anger breaks laws.  Domestic violence is the crime of young men in their twenties and thirties.  Men attacking their loves out of uncontrolled angst exhibited in anger.  Anger needs an outlet.  We have quadrupled the prison population in our nation since 1980 exceeding any other nation in percentages of incarceration.  No other nation comes close.  We are a nation of violent unrest.

What about South Carolina?  The story unfolds.  A young man chose to hate. He chose to fill himself with stories of hate.  He isolated himself in hate.  Then he acted.  He was treacherous without cause. That path is full of war.  Many are following his path.  We scream, “Foul”, choose to hate, fill ourselves with stories of hate, isolate behind cultural walls, and then we will act.  We are preparing ourselves for war and treachery without cause.  There is another path.  Racism and isolationism are a path of treachery without cause.

What about Oklahoma?  A well liked sports figure died in a traffic accident.  A man with a Hispanic surname is charged with an illegal u-turn which seems to be a primary cause of the accident.  Social media erupted with hateful voices decrying the fact that “illegals” are being licensed to drive, causing insurance rates to go up, making our streets like the streets of Mexico.  All because this man is brown skinned and has an Hispanic surname. Do we not have a standard of innocent until proven guilty?  We scream, “Foul”, choose to hate, fill ourselves with stories of hate, isolate behind cultural walls, and then we will act.  Anger is a master. Racism and isolationism are a path of treachery without cause. 

raysexplosion “I just want to be heard.”   Last night I was teaching on emotional needs.  One of those is the need to be heard, to have someone listen.  Whether I am with couples or singles or teaching relational Life Skills or Communication or Parenting, this session is always painful.  Our fatherless society has birthed an orphan heart that yearns to be heard.  It is the angry heart of a child seeking affirmation and acknowledgement from some authority somewhere.  And it will erupt in violence to be heard.  It will isolate, choose to hate, fill itself with stories of hate, and act in some emotional, social, physical, or relational violence.

Sunday was Father’s Day.  The Father from which every family gets its name is available to listen.  The Psalmist gave a solution.  “No one who hopes in you will be put to shame (from the rule of anger’s outbursts) but shame will come on those treacherous with cause (because they will act in anger).  The parenthetical portions are mine.  The Father listens.  We can be heard.  If THE  Our Father can listen so can our fathers.sarynandpopa

A heart of a father listens.  Unless he is not home.  Unless he is strained under our national desire to overwork our employees.  Our average work week is 47-49 hours. READ. Unless he never took initial responsibility.  Huge numbers of our children are born into never married situations. “In fact, four in ten births in the U.S. continue to occur to unmarried women—and more than half of all births to women under 30 are to unmarried women. To best support children and their families, efforts should be made to support stable relationships for a variety of family types.” – See more.  I call them the “never-a-dads” and they will be angry, there will be blood.  Unless he walked away.  This father absence removes a layer of protection for children in development. (Impact of violence children see on their development.)

As a nation, we need to go home.  The pain of generations of home abortion is deep and erupting.  Laws will not stop violence bred of anger bred of personal pain in the home.  Taking down flags while putting up emotional barriers will not stop violence bred of anger of personal pain in the homes.  It is not so much the pain of one home to one person as much as the national pain of many homes flooding our streets. Finger pointing and isolationist grouping will certainly not stop violence but breed treachery without cause.

The pain needs to be heard and processed in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, in our nation.   Yes, a conversation would be good.  But it must be more than a conversation.  It must result in effective return to parented homes.  Fractured families need healed.  Our communities need to build around supporting homes not dividing them.  Then, we might make progress to a kinder and gentler nation.

Join the conversation:

A Crack in the Skylight

“A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.” Phillip Sidney

The holding ponds of poverty possess tons of undiscovered talent.  The artist yearning to open our hearts to new insights in mix of color and fantasy lies trapped in a depressive weave of indecisions.  A singer capable of wowing our hearts with passionate expression struggles confined to the limitations of societal boundaries.  A musician holds back a symphony of untold beauty imprisoned by lack of an instrument.

Fear of rejection stifles.  Fear of failure strangles.  Fear of success suppresses.  Fear and lack of resources to move forward put great immoveable lids over the cooking pots of positive expression.  Our world is poorer bound by our own limitations of class and culture.

The snippet of a heart represented in this picture talks to me.  Ray drew this, when I asked him to describe on a poster what happens in a Life Skills class.  There is more to this piece and there is more to Ray.   You can view the full piece.  VIEW HERE

image

   Ray is full of artistic potential waiting to be exposed.  He is a compassionate man and a friend from one of our classes.  In the picture you see the transformed thoughts of a man creating a beautiful world for his family and friends and himself.  That really is what the Life Skills workshop does for those that respond.  It opens opportunity.

In a goal setting session, a young woman broke emotionally.  She yearns to sing and praise God with her talents, but has been rejected by churches due to her mistakes.  Some of the rejection is self imposed, but much of it is imposed by our cultural and class expectation. When she told me how she wanted to use her talent, I challenged her to come sing for our congregation on Sunday.  Over the next few minutes, I watched a miracle unfold.

The entire class rallied behind her.  One gave witness to the talent she possessed and wanted to listen.  One encouraged her to try again.  One exchanged phone numbers and said she would play with her.  When she went to the piano in the auditorium and began to play and sing, the house came down.  It was just us from the class standing in the doorway, but it was the angels and God, Himself, who joined.  She was like a skylight covered in darkness and a crack broke through to let out the shine.

After expressing her heart in song, she shared a little more of her story with me and we wept.  Then she made a comment I cannot forget.  It will define CTI for decades.  “I have another friend, xxxxx.  She is looking for a safe place to come.  I’m going to call her and bring her, too.”  Her statement rocked me.  Her assessment of churches, community organizations, government institutions and the world rattled me with truth.  A crack formed in my skylight.  

To many people in the struggle to step up and step out of some pain or poverty, our answers are unsafe.  If I open my life and ask for help will you push me down further or listen and lift me?  If I expose my pain and passion will you allow me to express it or fasten a lid of limited expectation on my hopes and dreams?  Are you safe?  Is it safe to connect with you or do I have to conform to all of your ideas immediately?  Is it okay to have a relationship with you and your organization without agreeing to all you are?  Can I be me as I am today and walk alongside as we change together?

Another quietly pulled me aside.  She wants parenting training, but has been unprofessionally treated by a recent encounter.  The organization openly exposed her pains in her workplace.  Her reputation and job were threatened.  She won’t go back there.  Would we take care of her?  She trusts us to keep her safe and confidential.

These are the sons and daughters of our city.  That’s how I view them.  They’ve had some mistakes in life.  Failure is an event not a person.  We refuse to let them be labeled and defined by events along the path to promise and potential.  Let’s make it safe.

CTI is a safe place because the people we reach tell us we are a safe place.  We are not safe by our definition.  No organization or group of people is safe by self definition.  We are safe when the ragged and reluctant and rejected tell us we are safe.  I am honored to be declared “safe” by those we serve.  It is an honored trust and an environment in which talent can blossom and cracks can form that let out undiscovered dignity and talent.  Oh, to be safe, that is a worthy goal.

You can support the efforts of Community Transformation Initiative through your giving fund at the National Christian Foundation (nationalchristian.com) or through direct giving (http://principlenation.com/the-giving-page).  Help us provide the safe place for fathers and families and sons and daughters to grow and shine.  Don’t hesitate, amazing talent is waiting to be reclaimed and released.

;-{) phil

A Crack in The Skylight

rayschangeii“A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.” Phillip Sidney

The holding ponds of poverty possess tons of undiscovered talent.  The artist yearning to open our hearts to new insights in mix of color and fantasy lies trapped in a depressive weave of indecisions.  A singer capable of wowing our hearts with passionate expression struggles confined to the limitations of societal boundaries.  A musician holds back a symphony of untold beauty imprisoned by lack of an instrument.

Fear of rejection stifles.  Fear of failure strangles.  Fear of success suppresses.  Fear and lack of resources to move forward put great immoveable lids over the cooking pots of positive expression.  Our world is poorer bound by our own limitations of class and culture.

The snippet of heart represented in this picture talks to me.  Ray drew this, when I asked him to describe on a poster what happens in a Life Skills class.  There is more to this piece and there is more to Ray.   You can view the full piece.  VIEW HERE   Ray is full of artistic potential waiting to be exposed.  He is a compassionate man and a friend from one of our classes.  In the picture you see the transformed thoughts of a man creating a beautiful world for his family and friends and himself.  That really is what the Life Skills workshop does for those that respond.  It opens opportunity.

In a goal setting session, a young woman broke emotionally.  She yearns to sing and praise God with her talents, but has been rejected by churches due to her mistakes.  Some of the rejection is self imposed, but much of it is imposed by our cultural and class expectation. When she told me how she wanted to use her talent, I challenged her to come sing for our congregation on Sunday.  Over the next few minutes, I watched a miracle unfold.

The entire class rallied behind her.  One gave witness to the talent she possessed and wanted to listen.  One encouraged her to try again.  One exchanged phone numbers and said she would play with her.  When she went to the piano in the auditorium and began to play and sing, the house came down.  It was just us from the class standing in the doorway, but it was the angels and God, Himself, who joined.  She was like a skylight covered in darkness and a crack broke through to let out the shine.

After expressing her heart in song, she shared a little more of her story with me and we wept.  Then she made a comment I cannot forget.  It will define CTI for decades.  “I have another friend, xxxxx.  She is looking for a safe place to come.  I’m going to call her and bring her, too.”  Her statement rocked me.  Her assessment of churches, community organizations, government institutions and the world rattled me with truth.  A crack formed in my skylight.

To many people in the struggle to step up and step out of some pain or poverty, our answers are unsafe.  If I open my life and ask for help will you push me down further or listen and lift me?  If I expose my pain and passion will you allow me to express it or fasten a lid of limited expectation on my hopes and dreams?  Are you safe?  Is it safe to connect with you or do I have to conform to all of your ideas immediately?  Is it okay to have a relationship with you and your organization without agreeing to all you are?  Can I be me as I am today and walk alongside as we change together?

Another quietly pulled me aside.  She wants parenting training, but has been unprofessionally treated by a recent encounter.  The organization openly exposed her pains in her workplace.  Her reputation and job were threatened.  She won’t go back there.  Would we take care of her?  She trusts us to keep her safe and confidential.

These are the sons and daughters of our city.  That’s how I view them.  They’ve had some mistakes in life.  Failure is an event not a person.  We refuse to let them be labeled and defined by events along the path to promise and potential.  Let’s make it safe.

CTI is a safe place because the people we reach tell us we are a safe place.  We are not safe by our definition.  No organization or group of people is safe by self definition.  We are safe when the ragged and reluctant and rejected tell us we are safe.  I am honored to be declared “safe” by those we serve.  It is an honored trust and an environment in which talent can blossom and cracks can form that let out undiscovered dignity and talent.  Oh, to be safe, that is a worthy goal.

You can support the efforts of Community Transformation Initiative through your giving fund at the National Christian Foundation (nationalchristian.com) or through direct giving (GIVE).  Help us provide the safe place for fathers and families and sons and daughters to grow and shine.

Transformation: It Happens To Me First

Honestly, when I began working with Community Supervision to teach classes it was for the wrong reasons.  Desiring a way to reach fractured families and build a local congregation, the opportunity posed by the county seemed like a good entry point.  A Life Skills class needed taught effectively and I had access to the materials and expertise in use across the nation in the Department of Justice / Department of Corrections.  I fully expected we would teach some lightly attended classes, gain more knowledge of the local community, and get busy back with church work.  Boy was I wrong.rayschange

Healing fractured families is all I expected it to be and more. Simultaneous to developing and delivering the classes, we involved ourselves in other initiatives.  Training for On My Shoulders, PREP Parenting, Within My Reach, PREP singles, and PREP, couples communication was engaged.  Each of these took an investment of a full week of training.  Certification in DCPI, Dynamic Church Planters International, was accomplished and two groups of urban ministers were trained in effective community engagement.  Research in Compassion Power, a strongly successful anger management and batterer’s intervention approach revealed key insights.  Finally, certification through the Aha! Process in Getting Ahead, a system of assisting impoverished in building new mindsets was achieved.  Really, the last two years were the equivalent of a masters in Making It Happen For Others.

As a business professional and entrepreneur and corporate fix it man, understanding first and fixing later has become a style.  It works.  Really get under the covers and find the mechanical design and issues before attempting adjustments to timing and operation.  Part of our growth curve has also been to understand the world of grants and funding and what works and what to avoid.  Part has been to understand the world of those we help.  To be a solution provider in cultural shift and community transformation you must “Get up off of your curb and sit down on the curb of another.

Next, comes the hard part.  Getting a good board that is involved and informed will be a primary success factor for changing Cooke County.  Leadership means commitment from the local community.  We are not there yet. We want a mix of fresh and fixture.  Some need to bring new ideas and approaches.  Others are needed to understand and intersect with the current status quo of the county.  Change is a long tailed enterprise.  Transformation takes time.

Then, the most informative action has been the work itself.  It would be wrong to call what we do classes.  That is a component.  That is the foundation.  But the work is relationship.  It moves from teacher to mentor to friend.  We have woven ourselves into the fabric of the community and developed deep and caring relationships with some.  That was intentional and surprising.  A viable and sustainable initiative must engage in long term relational structure.  Sustainability is important to us.  The relationship is both with those that come for training and those that have come alongside as community facilitators.  A team is forming that provides continuance and opens options for the Transformers.

Transformers is how we refer to students, clients, clientele, attendees, or whatever term suits you.  Transformers suits me.  They are transformational with their lives, the lives of their families and friends, and with the entire community.  They cause ripple impacts at work, at home, at school, and in the community.  They are Transformers.

Make no mistake.  CTI is not a PMO. We are a PCO.  PMO stands for Poverty Maintenance Organization.  There is a place for this and it is a good place.  Need food?  Here is food.  Need rent?  Here is rent.  Need a class?  There is the computer. Take it online.  There is always a need for charitable giving that goes into what can be a bottomless need.  A PCO is a Positive Change Organization.  Need food?  Let’s go find a job.  Need rent?  Let’s figure out how to work it off.  Need a class?  Sit down and let’s live it and learn it together.  A PCO works at root cause analysis and resolution and works to rebuild mental constructs, attitudes, beliefs and skill sets. A transition happens from getting a need met to meeting the need myself and helping someone else meet their need also.  This is our distinctive value proposition.

In 2013/4, we graduated 57 Transformers in Life Skills (THINK) and 14 Family Builders (parenting) and 8 Mentor/Faciliators.  All but a few are still in contact.  16 are in class now.  Some of this is overlap.  We are in our second generation success.  A Life Skills grad comes back for Family Builders.  A Life Skills grad engages in community service and begins the process of giving back so others can gain what they have gained.  A Life Skills grad repeats the sessions as a facilitator.  This is second generation.  And then there are some third generation.  A Life Skills grad brings their partner to Family Builders and their kids get into events designed for them and a community is built around good positive family relationships.  A group is in that process right now.

A Transformer texted me yesterday.  She graduated a month ago.  Every day she completes what we call a “Thinking Report”. It is a tool to analyze your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs and engage in cognitive self change.  She refuses to relax until she accomplishes her goals.  She understands what we think is the driver to all actions.

A Transformer facebooked me this week.  When he came a year ago, he was newly out of prison, angry and confident his life was over.  Today he is one of the top coaches in helping others overcome addictive patterns right here in Cooke County.  He has and is helping countless others.  Over and over new people I meet mention his name.  THINK is what moved him into a different world.  He has a good job and good friends.

A Transformer stopped me in a restaurant this week.  He had his family surrounding him.  He’s lost weight and settled back into life after some years in prison.  He was one I thought would never make it.  He fought and resisted in every session.  But he made it.  He stuck it out.  He wanted to be added to any encouragements we send out.  So now, he is part of our daily text out.

It is for these we do what we do.  Not everyone is a success story.  Some don’t make it through the class.  We don’t play games.  Game players drop out fairly quick or change their mode.  But most people are looking for a chance.  They make it.

While working in Marietta, Oklahoma, a friend called me.  He told me that on the street in Marietta my reputation was that I was a Probation Officer in Texas looking for a place to house criminals.  I laughed a long time.  I guess we have helped enough people in Cooke County with connections in Love County, Oklahoma that it is affecting that community also.  That is a good thing.  Changed people change people.

At a community event, several managers from Winstar (the world’s largest casino) came up and shook my hand.  They thanked me and told me how important what we do is for them.  It is making a difference in their employees and they are grateful.  The workplace is improving.

When you support Community Transformation Initiative in Cooke County, Texas this is what you get.  Transformed lives, families, workplaces, and community.  It just makes sense to do it.

Initiatives in Love and Cleveland Counties in Oklahoma are beginning.  The model is working and continuing to develop.  It works.

A FRESH GENneration: Out of the Crowed and into Their Place.

servantsUse Your Professional Power…

Have you found the powerful young man or woman in your sphere of influence ready to do something big? Community Transformation Initiative reaches all ages and all stages. CTI connects with government, education, community, congregation, family, and individual. I like that and I support that.

Painted across our mental landscape are pictures of angry youth and twenty-somethings. Really? Is that all there is? The media is far too busy destroying hope. Yes, this is a generation of fatherless and increasingly parentless powerhouses. The potential is warped and pained. It is potential. It is power waiting to be unleashed.

As a professional, we can get skewed visions of this generation. Our own home is prim and proper. Our friends are prim and proper. As a professional did you ever realize you are the minority? The majority lives in pain. Violence and abuse is a norm. Abandoned and aborted relationships are the norm. Drugs and alcohol and godlessness are the norm. Unlimited potential power is in the hands of the pained. Dare you ignore that? It will be released. It is being released. Choose to be a part of releasing it in positive directions.

The young woman in the center of this picture lives in Matamoros, Mexico. She lives in a city where kidnapping is an industry. She lives in a neighborhood ruled by the dominant cartel. She lives in a city under martial law. She is a flower of hope. She is unlimited positive potential power waiting to be blossomed and unleashed.

For six years my team and I have worked with a men’s recovery center and two congregations in Matamoros. Youth have grown strong in this environment. Those that chose to embrace positive change have learned that nothing is impossible.

While working with CAREVI (Casa A Restauracion Y La Vida), I have watched her family change neighborhood after neighborhood. During a time of powerful prayer and teaching, she walked with me for over and hour so she could see close up the hand of God. She came out of the crowd and into her place.

Nothing positive happens without purposeful push and pull. Vicky will never be the same. I will continue coaching her over facebook. She already has been watching and learning from me in that venue as does her whole family. Her father pushed the first Dad’s University in Mexico and continues to make a difference.

CTI is active in 34 state houses, Matamoros, Gainesville, Tx, Marietta, Ok, and the OKC Metro every week. Join us with financial support, professional services, or get personally engaged hands on. Do something. Unleash the potential. Help someone get out of the crowd and into their place.

The Place to Givelifelongdads2015april

principlenation.com/the-giving-page

Be A Friend

Discussions on helping families move into a better life.
1. Be a friend.  Quit delivering push down solutions and be a friend.  Listen.  Learn. Connect heart to heart. Change intake into connect.
2. Pull up not out. People have a community.  It struggles. But, it is family.  Don’t break up families. Do the long work.
3. Together Everyone Achieves More.  A nice yuppie TEAM acronym we refuse to give away.  Form supportive community inside of a wounded, struggling group of friends.
4. Think generational.  Apply to

image

community transformation the way you fund retirement. Think next Gen.

Just some thoughts.

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