On Suicide and Depression, A Christian Perspective

A lot of people are weighing in on Robin Williams. Here are my thoughts:

The challenge regarding depression is that the Christian mind is also conditioned by the human brain. When I break my arm, I can easily make the choice to say, “This will get better. There is hope. I can press through this. It will heal.” In mental illness, the equipment itself with which you process rational thought becomes damaged, and decisions–though yes, decisions–become much more murky.

It takes both a renewing of the mind and working on the organ chemically at times to restore hope. Many Christians poo-poo psychiatry and say, “if you merely had faith and trusted God, this wouldn’t be happening.” Yet some with depression are desperately exhibiting MORE faith because they are flying only by the instruments through the dark skies as they see no horizon and are trying not to descend into the metaphorical hell that comes with severe anxiety-depression. Others would say, “Find the right pill and all things will be back to normal.” That doesn’t work either.

Is it a choice to not end it all? Yes! But that choice, when your choosing mechanism is damaged, requires the Body of Christ around you to help you think straight when everything within you is skewed to exit stage left. We need one another to speak hope, life, truth, comfort, God’s love and our new identity in Christ to help the depressed to avoid making the ultimate bad decision. Let us be about bringing HOPE!


Top Five Questions Oprah Winfrey Should Ask Lance Armstrong

Background: Oprah Winfrey is interviewing now defrocked 7 time Tour de France Winner, Lance Armstrong. Unless you have been off the planet for the last 3 months, you probably know Lance was found guilty of violating United States Anti-Doping Agency rules by using performance enhancing drugs throughout his career–including EPO, cortisone, and blood doping. He is also accused by some former teammates (Tyler Hamilton, Jonathan Vaughters, and Floyd Landis) of strongly encouraging –read pressuring– them to use PED’s, as well. Lance has vehemently denied this throughout his career, bringing napalm-like lawsuits  against any accuser, whether former friend or foe.

Here are the Top Five Questions  Oprah should ask Lance:

1. You once said, ”All endurance athletes are running away from something inside themselves.” What were you running from?

2. What deep within drove you to a “win at any cost” attitude?

3. Is their a core element of your identity you thought you’d lose if you weren’t Lance the Champion and just Lance the Very Incredible Rider? For the record, you were talented before the EPO, I “raced” you in triathlons–you were burning good. TDF 7x, I don’t know, but burning good.

4. Do you think you pressured other teammates to dope and, if so, how does it feel now that they got caught up in the wake of your desire to win?

5. If you could go back and repair any relationship, which is the first one you’d want to repair?

More than the how did you hide it, why did you payoff UCI and why did you deny it so long, these questions should be asked.

Like her or not, Oprah is great at getting into someone’s soul.

Mike Tyson broke down crying on her show and told of his emptiness and longing to be loved. Before, Mike Tyson was biting off peoples’ ears (okay person’s).

Now is your chance, Oprah. Now is your chance, Lance. Forgiveness is available upon confession. Trust me, I know.

When: The special 90-minute episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter will air Thursday, January 17, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. In addition, the interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide on Oprah.com.


Reason Rally. Poor Reason in The Decision to Invite Westboro Church.

The Reason Rally has been self-billed as “the largest secular event in world history.” Atheists gathered yesterday in Washington D.C. to rally in support of  secularism.  I am all for their freedom to do this and even encourage it. I am always for someone bringing their “beliefs” into the light of day for those beliefs to be examined.  (I say “beliefs” because several of my atheist friends would rail against it this term, though it holds).

However, I cannot respect the Reason Rally’s proactive invitation of Westboro Baptist Church to be the face of Christianity. The decision to invite Westboro Baptist Church was not done in ignorance, but utterly disingenuous. It is akin to doing a multi-faith conference and saying, “We need someone to represent Islam, but who could we call to we make sure it is not seriously considered? Let’s call Al Qaeda.”

The decision to invite Westboro reveals a degree of fear or a lack of commitment to reason. Are the Reason Rally not confident their belief system will stand up to the best philosophical thinkers within Christianity? Why wasn’t William Layne Craig, Alistair McGrath, or other faith “heavyweights” invited? Anthony Flew would have been delicious had he still been living. I have lots of atheist friends and others with whom I interact. When dialoging with them, I want them to put forward their best thinkers, even if those thinkers responsibly assail my belief system full force. The Westboro crowd neither thinks nor acts responsibly.

The invitation was admittedly done as a publicity stunt. It is unfortunate that the conversation between those of faith who utilize rational philosophical argument and those rationalists who claim to eschew any need of faith was not better fostered. Maybe the Reason Rally was not the best public square in which to have this conversation, but inviting Westboro Baptist ensured it would be even less so. If the atheists want to change their image, they should engage the best Christian thinkers, not the worst.

So, my atheist friends, let us have the best possible dialog possible in the the arena of the civil public square. Please feel to comment.

How You Can Get Unblurry (and How Obama Could Benefit)

It so often happens to the best of us. The fog of business confuses us, makes decision making difficult and slows us to a crawl. Even the President of the United States is not exempt. In their recent Washington Post article, and write:

On the verge of his 2012 reelection race, however, Obama’s continued lack of clear definition is hurting his political prospects, according to longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart.

They continue to quote Hart:

Hart notes that the core of most recent presidents could be summed in a few words; “strength and optimism” for Ronald Reagan, “compassion and determination” for Bill Clinton and “conviction” for George W. Bush.

“The challenge here is not whether a specific element is wrong with Barack Obama’s image, but that he does not have one single image,” writes Hart. “He is everyone and no one.”

The Solution? A single word focus.

One of my heroes, Bobb Biehl, often encouraged us to have a one word focus, for life and for each year. I would add you can have a one word focus for month or even a day. This word provides incredible clarity and cuts through the fog. For example,  if you have a group of uncompleted tasks and projects, your word might be “complete.” In that case you would push aside everything new and emerging and set a laser light focus on finishing as many half-completed tasks as possible. You one focus will probably be tied to your one word what-you-do-best word. One of the words I most often hear used of me is “simplifier.” I seem to have been blessed with the innate ability to take a complex set of ideas or concepts and boil them down to a simple deliverable and communicable  process. This plays out well for my roles in business development and marketing just as it did in preaching. I keep my do-best word in mind as I do my yearly, monthly or daily focus word.  Things go best when they are aligned.

If Obama could sum up the goal of his next term in one simple word, it could aide him greatly in the campaign. One Republican candidate has a very clear single word focus–Ron Paul. Limit. As a Libertarian-oriented Republican, he wants to severely limit the federal powers back to what he feels are their constitutional boundaries. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 resonates in similar ways.

So what would is your single word (or short phrase) focus for life, the year, month or day?

Occupy Movement Action Plan

I have finally met an Occupy Movement (OWS) person who desires to see an action plan occur. His comment to me:

. . .unfortunately you need to think about who would be passing those laws. The people who they affect the most. I don’t think there’s any way in hell that any of those laws would get passed by the current members in Congress. That’s one reason I can see for not even bothering dealing with specific goals. Why set a goal if there’s no chance of it getting passed?

This young man just created an Occupy Movement actionable step. Finally!

Recruit, enlist and promote a potential congressional candidate who would represent Occupy values.

So some of you should pack up your tents and get busy at this.

(Disclaimer: This is solely generic movement development advice. It does not imply that I, Jordan P. Fowler, or jordanpfowler consulting does or does not endorse any actions or values of the Occupy Movement. This advise was provided in a purely advisory role and the aforementioned parties cannot be held liable if it succeeds and results in the demolition of every corporation known to mankind. Nor can the aforementioned parties be held liable if the Occupy Movement takes this advice and their bid for congressional seats fails. Just covering my assets).

A Single Question for The Occupy Movement

I understand what The Occupy Movement is against. I am all for civil dialogue in the public square. Os Guinness has influenced me heavily in this area. But I continue to ask this question (for months) with no answer:

What are the actionable steps the Occupy Movement desires to see going forward?

This is the type answer I consistently receive:

That’s the problem, there isn’t really a solution… short of pulling the world’s longest thread on the giant sweater that is our corrupt government and economy. And that will never happen.

Unless you want to throw violent revolution into the mix, which I don’t think most of us do, I think the best course of action is loud, visible, but non-violent anger. Take to the streets, make voices heard, and sure… block traders from getting to the NYSE. I won’t argue with that.

I also understand that the disruption of the current system you desire to see ended is part of the deconstruction process you desire. However, my contention is

Disruption without Construction = Destruction.

Rather than only telling me what you are against, tell me what you are for! Otherwise, the current system would be deconstructed with what in its place? Chaos? Anarchy? Put together some sort of 9-9-9 Plan of the Occupy Movement. A clear, actionable way forward. It is as this point that those who see you merely as a modern manifestation of angry, disgruntled youth would at least be open to considering you as a viable solution provider. So who will undertake this from the Movement? Put forward your best and brightest in this effort.

I am always open to listen to any point of view and engage in civil dialogue, but I ask you to come to that conversation with a way forward, not merely a disruption and destruction of the current.

Grading the GOP Presidential Debate On Communication Ability September 7, 2011

Grading the GOP candidates’ performance not in regard to policy, but as to how well they communicated their message and how they might have clarity going forward. (Reagan Library, September 7, 2011, msnbc) (going stage left to right).

Huntsman D- Polished to the point of coming across as a bit cheesy. Seemed like a plastic person, which he is not. No real clarity of plan given, and seemed to never drop below 100,000 feet

Way forward: Communicate clear middle of the road plans (3 or less) that sets yourself as more the moderate of choice than Romney who is leaning right for primary votes. Dangerous, but makes you more general election and moderate=independent friendly. This positioning clearly sets you apart.

Cain A Best communicator of the night. His clear plan statements are pointed, sharp, and memorable (ex 9-9-9 plan).

Way forward: Get more message time and communicate how you have real world executive experience, just not in the bog of government. Build off his “How’s that working for you?” line from the last debate. Continue to eschew typical political language and keep driving to solution based answers.

Paul C- Too philosophical for his own good. Suffers from being offered minimal time in debates, thus, he tries to squeeze too much into each answer. Bumbles. Needs to move philosophy (as important as it is) to the background and present the solutions which lie on top of his libertarian philosophy more clearly.

Way forward: More pointed answers with less philosophy unless you wants to become a Presidential advisor instead of  President. Those long answers might have worked in decades past, but not in a Twitter world. Only one message per answer.

Perry B++ (Almost A-)  Loves the role of being the contrarian. Stood by some bold statements such as Social Security being a ponzi scheme . Took some right crosses from others without totally evading them. Lots of Texas colloquialisms. Communication that had hard right draw.

Way forward: Continue to be the contrarian and yet the front runner (a difficult tightrope to walk). Make sure you continue to communicate that you are  the more conservative and practical of the bunch.  As you bring up your record in Texas (and you should), figure out how to block and not become a punching bag regarding the under-insured, low graduate rate, and other Texas statistics that his ‘opponents’ are using. Shore up your answers to the the latter questions as you were not nearly as pointed then.)

Romney A- Polished, poised and stately. His answers are controlled but passionate. Stayed on message and appeared Presidential in tone.

Way forward: You are seen as the most Presidential. Throw enough ammunition at Perry to stay even, but present how you are the most viable candidate to beat Obama in the general election. Though people vote on more conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum in primaries, no one wants to throw their vote away. Emphasize how you have the ability to beat the incumbent, work with both sides of the aisle in congress,  and how Perry will have more difficulty with this with his ‘divisive’ Ponzi scheme language.

Bachmann B-  Generally well spoken. Didn’t get nearly the time she thought, nothing that set herself apart but did no self-harm either. Unfortunately for her, Perry seems to have stolen her Tea Party wind, dropping her into the background.

Way forward: If  you want to climb back up the mountain, you must throw caution to the wind regarding the general election and show why she is way more Tea Party than Perry. You are running out of time and beginning to fade, otherwise. Do this by showing where Perry’s policies are incongruent with Tea Party values, but do not forget to clearly present your future policies that identify you most with the GOP conservative base.  

Newt B  Newt is Newt. This night he was the oil in the Republican cogs stating that the media isn’t going to breed GOP infighting. He applauded many of his fellow candidates efforts and views. It was almost as if the Republican party paid him to be there to keep the message clear that the opponent is Obama, not other GOP members.

Way forward: You are currently perceived as brilliantly smart and more of an author and wise news pundit than Presidential material. Narrow your message points and though you have one million ideas running through your brain at all times, pick three and stick with them. Set yourself as the elder political statesman of the bunch who has been through the most storms and brought solutions that can actually work in a bi-partisan America. 

Santorum B  Consistent answers, but like Bachman did nothing that set himself apart. His best moment might have been when he spoke of welfare reform being about helping the poor versus saving money.

Way forward: You best communicate your social conservatism and compassion for people. Punch these up much higher on the frequency meter.

Thoughts or disagreements?

Adding to the Axis of Evil (An Official Proclamation)

We all know about the Axis of Evil coined by George Bush. I am officially declaring some new members effective immediately. Warn your children….

Large injection needles, cancer, Chelsea, Manchester United, Barbara Streisand, Philadelphia Eagles, NY Yankees, anything Sooner, and Aggies (okay the Aggies can be on the Axis of Semi-Evil).

Any others I am missing?