Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Leadership is an action, not a position.

August 22, 2012

When I was in college, I served on the Student Senate one year. The Student Senate was selected by housing units, and each housing unit was represented. There were seven dorms, eight Greek houses, and a few small theme houses. Due to overflow in Greek housing being placed in other living units, we ended up with a Student Senate that had a majority of Greek students. (Since the majority of the student body was Greek, that was still fairly representative.) As a result, the Student Senate was largely a rubber-stamping group that gave the required approval for the Greek houses to have wet functions and parties outside their own houses. I represented one of the dorms.

Little else was done aside from filtering campus functions so the administration would not have to, and I honestly cannot remember a single worthwhile accomplishment of the Student Senate. Largely this is because the administration and trustees of the college did an excellent job. (While a lot of people have complaints about where they went to school, I have absolutely none, aside from maybe wishing they had a grad school.) They foresaw and addressed problems before they would come to the student government. The student body really had no significant complaints. On one hand, it made the job easy. On the other hand, it made the meetings feel unimportant, and the shirts seemed like a huge joke.

You see, we got t-shirts for being in the student government. The front said “Student Senate”. The back said “Leadership is an action, not a position.” While that might have been a joke to the Student Senate at my college and the shirt may have sat largely unworn in a drawer in my dresser, the statement on the back has been something that has stuck with me.

I pretty much blew it off as a joke for a number of years, until I was elected captain of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. At that point, I suddenly saw it differently. I was placed in a position, but that position required more than just sitting in a seat for meetings. I wasn’t just part of making decisions anymore. I was putting those decisions into action. My job was to help the company find a direction and make sure they got there. My job was to make sure that we didn’t get caught up in minute details or unimportant issues. My job was to get information and quickly act on it in the field and to make sure everyone else got the pertinent information and guide them through weighing it at meetings. How I conducted my leadership determined whether or not the company would create a schedule of events, work out transportation, form a unit in the field, etc, instead of falling apart in a squabble about who was going to cook or what we were going to eat, as I have seen happen to many organizations with positions and no leadership.

My Student Senate shirt is now my favorite t-shirt. I wear it to almost every meeting for the Western Federal Blues (as well as events when they ask me to command) as a reminder to myself that my position means nothing if my actions do not make anything of it. If I ever wear it out, I’m going to try to get a new one made.

Now I sit on the Session at my church. I approach every Session meeting with that motto: Leadership is an action, not a position. My role is to both prayerfully consider what is before the Session and the church, but my role is also to act in the best interest of the church. Right now, that means acting to make changes, even though change is unpopular, especially in the Presbyterian Church. Some changes are easier, like accommodating a staff office move to create a working environment that will better enable a staff member to do their job. Some changes are harder, like finding a way to significantly cut costs and/or increase revenue over a short amount of time. All of these changes are things that need to preserve and improve the operating of our congregation while keeping the larger mission of the Church foremost in what we do. Leadership means making changes when the status quo is unacceptable and not simply using a position to talk about rubber-stamping or denying things in order to keep people comfortable by doing the same thing in the same way. There are changes in store for First Presbyterian Church in Ashland, KY, and if we keep our eyes, minds, and hearts on the task of continuing God’s mission here on earth, I see great things in our congregation’s future.

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Gas Out Day

April 14, 2011

Did you hear the news? April 15 (tomorrow) is Weekly National Gas Out Day! I just got a couple of emails about it this morning:

LET'S REALLY GET BEHIND THIS EFFORT...A FEW IN THE PAST NEVER GOT PAST THE PLANNING STAGE, BUT IT IS TIME TO
ACT!  BUY YOUR GAS THE DAY BEFORE AND NOT ONLY WILL THEY LOSE BILLIONS ON THE 15TH BUT ANY PLANS TO RECAPTURE
LOSSES BY RAISING PRICES ON THE 16TH MAY BACKFIRE IF WE DON'T NEED ANY GAS ON THAT DAY!

and…
Subject: no gas on April 15

In April 1997, there was a “gas out” conducted nationwide in protest of
gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On April 15th 2011, all internet users are being asked to not go to a gas
station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.40 a gallon in
most places.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take
$2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies pockets
for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and
let’s try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one
day.

If you agree (which I can’t see why you wouldn’t) resend this to your entire
contact list. With it saying, “Don’t pump gas on April 15th”

If running low, just get your gas the day before on April 14 or the day
after on April 16. Every little bit helps.

Thank-you,

That’s right. It’s hear again: The day that you don’t buy gas. This time it actually tells you to fill up the day before or the day after, meaning the oil companies move just as much gas over the three days as they would have otherwise. Gas prices won’t decrease, and there won’t be an overflow of gasoline. For a second, let’s imagine it did cause enough supply problems that they had to stop producing and transporting gas for a day. Do you know what would happen then? There wouldn’t be enough supply to meet the demand today and on April 16, when everyone is getting the gas they won’t get tomorrow. That means that the gas stations would run dry without fuel trucks coming to refill them. When the stations see the increased traffic and the upcoming shortage, it would give them the opportunity to RAISE the prices. After all, it’s not like you can go without your gas, so you’ll pay whatever they demand you pay because by tomorrow, you’d be running low already.

In reality, they do not stop production because one day of selling less gas would not back up the system. There would be a larger stockpile at the gas stations and at the refineries, ready to be sent out and sold. It would hurt the companies though. Not the big oil companies that you want to send a message to. It would hurt the independent gas station owners. Most of them make little or no money off of the sale of gasoline. They depend on people coming in to buy candy, soft drinks, donuts, lottery tickets and cigarettes after they fill up outside. This is where they not only make a profit, but how they make up for their operating expenses. If people don’t stop at the gas stations for a day, it can take a week or more to make up for the actual losses from paying employees and electricity and other expenses. You won’t be sticking it to the man. You’ll be sticking it to the guy who gives money to the local school in return for having a small advertisement on the scoreboard or in a program. You’re sticking it to the guy who sponsors local festivals. You’re sticking it to the guy who supports his community, not the big oil company, who doesn’t give a darn.

In short, just get gas when you need it. If you want to make a difference with oil prices, then ride a bike or the bus!

The Color Purple

October 20, 2010

I’m not talking about the movie or the Broadway musical.  Today is Spirit Day.  On Spirit Day, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD) encourages people to wear purple to bring attention to the deaths of six teenagers, who committed suicide over the recent weeks after being bullied over their sexualities.  Why purple?  For some reason, purple has become associated with homosexuality and gay/lesbian rights.  I don’t know the reason for this, and I’m really just feeling too lazy today to try to figure out why.  If someone out there knows, feel free to leave a comment.

I don’t particularly want to get into the gay rights debate on here right now, but I do feel that Spirit Day is worthy of being addressed.  Although GLAAD intended the day to be specifically to address the trials that teens experience in school due to homosexuality and perceived homosexuality and to show these students that there are others out there who support them, GLAAD misses that the larger issue is bullying as a whole.  There are a number of people out there who argue that bullying is good for a number of reasons: It forces people to conform – They say that like it’s a good thing, not me. – It lets people know what’s expected of them and that there are consequences for not meeting expectations.  It’s Practical Darwinism, weeding the outliers out of the society to create a group that functions better as a whole.  All of those reasons are a bunch of hogwash.

While there are some actions, such as streaking and throwing pencils into the ceiling tiles, that are unwelcome distractions in places like sporting events and school and should be curtailed, there is a need to nip it in the bud.  The process of doing that does not require threats and abuse though.  Well, the threat of jail, fines or detention are acceptable.  Picking on someone because of who they are or a disability they may have is an entirely different story than reprimanding streakers and delinquents.  Sexuality, race, religion, economic status and so many other differences do not affect maintaining order and civilization.  There is no place for taunting and hazing that can – not will, but can – lead to long-lasting psychological effects.  They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but given the levels of emotion running through teens and the extremes that they see the world in, it doesn’t take as much to emotionally drive a teenager to death as it does an adult.  The “fun and games” aspect of harrassment must be stopped.

There are people who also feel entitled to abuse others because their lives do not agree with their faith.  My response to hate sometimes spewed in the name of God is this:

Leviticus 19:18 – Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.
Romans 13:9 – The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

There’s some old school and some new school Christianity for you.  Even if you don’t agree with how someone lives, you are still commanded to love them.  Love is not teasing, pushing, hitting and kicking.  Love is peace.  If you know someone who is experiencing bullying, be there for them.  Hug them.  Listen to them.  Let them know it gets better.

computer scare

March 16, 2010

Sunday night, I got ready for bed.  I hopped onto facebook one last time for the night.  Firefox was being very slow.  I tried to watch an episode of Doctor Who, but it loaded slowly also.  Then it started.  click click click  It came from right around the area of the hard drive.  I immediate jumped into action and plugged in the external hard drive that I had bought in the fall to back up my laptop and yet had never actually gotten around to using.  I started copying my teaching files from UofL, which along with pictures are the only files that I could not easily replace.  I got it about halfway backed up and the blue screen of death appeared.

I restarted my laptop, and while it restarted, I said a few little prayers that it would actually start.  It did start.  I immediately started backing up those same files again.  When that was done, I set it to work backing up everything but my music, which comprises nearly a third of my drive space.  The projected time to finish that was a few hours, so I went to sleep.

Last night, the computer was running like there had never been a problem.  The clicking had even stopped.  I went ahead and set it to the task of copying my music files to my external hard drive.  By this morning the task was done.  I breathed a sigh of relief that everything was safe now in the event of a hard disk failure.  Hopefully that doesn’t end up happening any time soon though, because I can’t afford a new one right now!