Friday, February 6, 2015

Selah, Leadership, and Fallow Ground

Selah… Some people have considered this the most difficult word in the Old Testament to translate, understand, and define. In that sentiment, it shares much with leadership, a term that would be "experts" and professionals have defined and redefined so often that it also lacks any standard definition. Some believe selah means something like "pause and reflect" or "stop and listen." However, it could just as easily represent an instruction to the choir director much like a fermata or the "cut" symbol ('' ). We can also see it in the next to last blessing of the Amidah, one of the most important Jewish prayers (Telushkin, 1991), where selah means "forever." Thirty-one of the thirty-nine Psalms directed "to the choir director" contain the word selah. It appears 71 times in 39 different Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. It's most often located at the end of verses. Its root word means "to hang," as in a weighing scale and thus the relation between "weighing God's Word" and stopping or pausing to contemplate or reflect on it.

Blanchard (1996) and others have suggested that leadership consists of doing the right things and that management consists of doing things right. It is seldom easy to do the right things. It is seldom easy to know the best right things to do. However, Scriptures provide some suggestions: "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him" (James 1:5, RSV); "… for which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it" (Luke 14:28); a man’s steps are ordered by the LORD; how then can man understand his way? It is a snare for a man to say rashly, 'it is holy,' and to reflect only after making his vows" (Proverbs 20:24&25); and "set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). These, among others, encourage us to pray, contemplate, meditate, and consider what He wants us to do. From a believer's perspective, the true leaders are those who listen for His still, small voice. It is difficult to hear that voice with the noise of constant activity.

Fallow ground… represents that work hardened dirt path on the hearts of individuals, complete with deep furrows from other people marching on and through it. Jeremiah and Hosea suggested that Israel repent and thereby, till up the hardened, non-productive ground that was representative of their nation's relationship with God. They suggested that fallow ground could once again grow crops... signifying the re-establishment of a growing relationship with and in Him. For believers, this is similar to allowing the Holy Spirit to take His place on the thrones of their lives. People cannot do it in their own strength. Their tillers will barely cut through already cultivated soil. In fact, the metaphor probably provides more accuracy with people represented as the tilling tool and God represented as the gardener. He knows the soil that requires the tiller. He knows the depth the blade must achieve to adequately work the soil. He provides the compass direction to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency: knowing whether to cut across the lay of the land or to run with it.

People could say this applies to all believers and not just leaders. I would say that it makes all believers leaders. Manz (1986) and Neck, Neck, Manz, and Godwin (1999) discussed the implications of self-leadership and that no requirements exist for leaders to necessarily have followers for them to use leadership or to otherwise lead. Revelation 1:5b-6 says, "to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Believers are priests with an inheritance. Christ bought us with a price. Based on these, leadership is not the reward… It is the obligation.


Blanchard, K. (1996). Turning the organizational pyramid upside down. In F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, & R. Beckhard (Eds.), The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Manz, C. C. (1986). Self-leadership: Toward an expanded theory of self-influence processes in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 585-600.

Neck, C. P., Neck, H. M., Manz, C. C., Godwin, J. (1999). "I think I can; I think I can" A self-leadership perspective toward enhancing entrepreneur thought patterns, self-efficacy, and performance. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 14(6) 477-499.

Telushkin, J. (1991). Jewish literacy: The most important things to know about the Jewish religion, its people, and its history. New York: William Morrow.


Copyright © 2015, by G. R. Bud West. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sanctity of Life: A Restatement of the Obvious

Little doubt exists that abortion-on-demand remains one of the most contentious topics of debate, in the United States, today. Coined by the left as a matter of "choice" and representing a foundational platform of the women's rights movement, the values and behaviors associated with the abortion-on-demand meme have seemed disingenuous, if not downright antithetical to the general concept of progressiveness -- at least from a perspective that positions the definition of "progressive" as having something to do with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, their position doesn't only appear disingenuous, but it appears confusing, as well. On the one hand, proponents of abortion-on-demand would have their audiences understand that they represent smart, responsible, and well-meaning individuals, only concerned with women's "rights." However, the parts that seem confusing include that a choice to intentionally abort children from wombs doesn't represent any of those. The smart "choices" include abstinence or the use of effective means of birth control. The "responsible" time to select either of those, as one of the correct choices, includes any time before having intimate relations.

Additionally, anything that any groups or legislatures legalize because people "mean well," arguably ought to mean well for everyone involved in the equation and not just the ones who argue the loudest and longest. Notwithstanding the rights of unborn children, whatever people allow to happen to any of the weakest and most vulnerable among them, they allow to happen to their collective selves.

Furthermore, some of those who advocate abortion-on-demand have also argued that viability makes a difference in the argument. Children in the womb either exist as human beings or they don't. Viability is functionally irrelevant. Consider that adults who need life support to exist, for whatever reasons, aren't viable without it; and that care givers wouldn't generally withhold life support from the nominal adult because his or her mother makes a choice. For example, the recent case of Martin Pistorious represents such a case. In case you missed it, back in the 1980s, doctors diagnosed Mr. Pistorious with cryptococci meningitis and he entered into what they called a "vegetative state." He remained in that condition for several years, during which time his mother had reportedly wished him dead. However, he did not die and he later made a dramatic recovery.

So, it seems strange to me (read: it presents as a fallacy) that people who have advocated the right to choose to abort unborn children, have done their best to justify this right and by extension, these choices, by claiming that non-viable fetuses aren't really human beings, at all.

Consider, by April 2012, 38 states had enacted legislation that makes it illegal to kill children in the womb, by violent acts committed against pregnant women. In fact, 23 of these states have enacted "fetal homicide laws" that disregard the age of the children in the womb. That means that in almost half of the states in the United States, in violent acts against pregnant women, prosecutors can charge the killers of womb-bound children with homicide, up to and including murder; regardless of the ages of those children (read: from conception).

I have not read where any people who advocate abortion-on-demand have necessarily argued against these laws. However, on the other hand, those who advocate choice have contended that at least up until the age of viability, pregnant mothers should have the "right" (option/choice) to abort those children, on demand. Bottom line, in the U.S., it's acceptable for mothers to "choose" to kill children in the womb; but it's murder if those same mothers want to keep their children, yet others kill them. So, are children in the womb human beings or not?

Additionally, I don't serve as an apologist for people who take the position that conception from rape serves as a representation of God's perfect will. However, if life begins at conception, do the familial relationships that exist between fathers and mothers (or the lack thereof) or the circumstances surrounding given conceptions, really change the fact that children in wombs are still living human beings? Doesn't killing those children amount to homicide, regardless of the names, sexes, or positions of, or the relationships between the people who make those choices to do the killings?


Originally published in ClashDaily at:


Copyright © by G. R. Bud West. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Governance & Leadership: More Than Campaigning and Influence Peddling

Not long ago, a friend of mine asked me why I have taken the position that leadership does not represent the same thing as influence. After all, for a number of years, leadership experts like Warren Bennis, John Maxwell, Jeff Hale and a host of others have both explicitly and implicitly promoted that idea.

On the surface that position seems reasonable. If leadership means something like: "directing change;" and if, through influence, people affect change; then influence and leadership should mean the same thing. However, like so many other things, it's all in the intent. Those who use influence, do so to try to sell a receiver on potential courses of action. On the other hand, those who use leadership, do so to try to direct followers through those courses of action. Therefore, it has seemed to me that influence serves as the cause and leadership serves as the resulting effect. Additionally, influence might serve as a desired outcome of leadership... but that's a different story.

Of course, like most concepts I think about, I wondered how these musings relate to governing and to liberty. I first thought about the administration and then the legislators, at all levels of government. What counts is the influence and what counts as the leadership? Generally speaking, it appears to me that campaigning counts as the influence part. It also appears that governing counts as the leadership (and management) part.

Considering potential presidents of the United States (and any other potential chief executives who requires votes for election) as an example; those people, as candidates, make various promises to their associated constituencies, before their elections. By doing so, they attempt to influence their constituents' behaviors -- in this case, to vote for them. Ideally, upon election, they shift from trying to win votes to trying to govern in the chief executive role. Oh, they might have to revert, from time to time, back into the influencing role, in order to withstand any potential votes of no confidence. However, for all intents and purposes, with the influencing (campaigning) completed, elected officials provide what the electorates hired them to do: they go before them and govern or lead.

The problem is that too many people in the electorate have been lulled into believing that it makes no difference. Stories abound of how those representatives have taken actions that clearly support campaigning and influencing, when they should have been governing and leading. They've done this through acts of cronyism, providing unreasonably large amounts of support for special interests groups, and otherwise, failing to stand up for needed, but otherwise unpopular political positions. Then, rather than taking actions to hold these officials accountable, the majority of the electorate have usually responded by turning their heads to the side and offering rationalizations, like: "they've always done it...," "there's nothing we can do about it...," or even "that's what they're supposed to do..." Huh?!!

The bottom line: if we fail to draw a line between campaigning and governing and a line between influence and leadership, then no one will ever have the ability to know and understand where one stops and the other begins. In other words, people will politicize all of the actions of all the representatives who serve in positions of governance. They will consider all of the actions of all people who serve in roles of leadership as no more than so much propaganda.

Maybe we've already arrived at that point. When George W. Bush served as the President of the United States, it seemed that Republicans generally tended to defend nearly everything he did. On the other hand, Democrats generally tended (and continue) to speak out against nearly everything he did. Consideration for the actual long term (and even short-term) effects of his administration's policy implementations seemed to pale in comparison to the perceptions of the positions on which these observers placed him on the overall political spectrum.

Through the years, people have told me that I incorporate too much idealism in my reasoning. However, I truly believe that a better way exists. I believe that people can work together, regardless of their differing political ideologies. I believe that they can agree on better courses of action, than those that result from crony-influenced compromises. These better courses of action, like an Hegelian dialectic, would require lawmakers to synthesize dissimilar elements of their competing positions. Hard work? Yep. Doable? You bet'cha. But if history proves an accurate indicator, unless we stand up and take notice -- and take action, things will continue to slide toward anarchy in our republic. How about that for a New Year's resolution?


Originally published in ClashDaily at:


Copyright © 2015 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Leadership Mantle: A Foundation of Responsibility

Anyone can lead. Opportunities for leadership emerge in all walks of life, in all endeavors, and in every organization and society on the planet. Not a day goes by without this proving true. Walk down any street, in any city or town that has a stoplight and you’ll find opportunities for leadership.

Throughout history, however, confusion has resulted on this point, from the use of imprecise language. Specifically, it has caused some people to act like: (a) only those who hold positions of authority count as leaders and like (b) everything those people do counts as leadership. Even though some people might think these have little bearing on the important things in life, I argue that they represent the very foundation of many of the problems that we face today.

In starting my argument, I preface by confessing that many would consider that most people I follow (and who follow me) on Twitter lean to the raucous right. As such, seldom a day goes by that I fail to see that someone has used the term “sheeple,” in a non-flattering context. Of course, in many cases they use this term to describe members of an electorate that has allowed (and has sometimes even encouraged, through their non-participation) their elected representatives to work against their collective, long-term best interests.

Arguably, the Congress of the United States has the lowest approval rating in history. It has maintained that lofty status for several years (decades). Yet the electorate has consistently continued to send at least 80% of the same people back to Congress, during every election cycle, during that same period. If a person continued to do the same things, the same way, over a long period of time; expecting to see different results after each iteration, some would call that person crazy. What should we call it when a whole country does that?

Many factors have contributed to the “sheeple syndrome.” One factor has included politicians who have kowtowed to special interests groups. Members of these groups often have direct and indirect funding from the government. Consequently, they have voted for the person in the party most likely to continue (or increase) their funding, regardless of any other issues or platform items.

Another contributing factor has included members of the electorate who have remained ignorant of the issues or who have otherwise opted out of the political process. For example, during the Bush/Clinton campaign, I asked a 28-year-old, Army veteran, in her third year of nursing school, whom she planned to vote for. When she told me Clinton, I asked her why. She replied: “… because he’s better looking” — and she wasn’t kidding.

It’s easy to put the blame on people like these. It’s easy to say that they should know better or that they should put the interests of the entire country above their own self-interests. It’s also scary to think that someone who’s paid a price of service would attach so little value to one of the most important franchises that she served to protect.

However, even if I do blame them, I don’t blame them the most. The people most responsible, from my perspective, include those who know the difference and have the capabilities, but have refused to pick up the mantle of leadership and make a difference. It’s the ones “in the know,” who have traveled along their ways through life and regularly had discussions with members of special interests, with people who’ve remained ignorant, and with those who’ve opted out; but who’ve never engaged on a deeper, “discipleship” level.

One of my favorite “management” quotes includes: “people won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It might seem cliché. You might think that no one should have to do it (after all these are citizens of the United States of America and don’t they have a responsibility to know these things?). You might even argue that someone else should take on that responsibility (don’t we pay staff members in public schools to do that grunt work?). However, that reasoning and those excuses have repeatedly failed to work in the past; and if we continue to do the same things, in the same ways in which we’ve always done them, should we really expect different outcomes?

Bottom line: just as passing a chest of gold to a baby in a manger and saying “Happy Birthday,” does not necessarily a wise man make; likewise, passing a campaign brochure to an unconscious destroyer of liberty, during daily travels, and saying “please vote,” does not necessarily a patriot make.


Originally published in ClashDaily at:


Copyright © 2014 by GR Bud West. All rights reserved.