The Fire Service: It All Relies On You!

The Fire Service: It All Relies On You!

In this day and age of the demands of a changing economy the fire service has been greatly affected by these changes. Or has it? We have seen fire stations closed, firefighters laid off, fire & police combined, and other creative ways to stretch the municipal dollar seemingly at the cost of the taxpayers safety. We all want more for our money yet when it comes down to it do we really count the cost of the services that are provided for us?

Do we truly value the concept of our safety until it is threatened? Someone much wiser than me summed it up this way: You cannot have a greater perspective until you have a lesser one. As a firefighter, you will fight a fire differently if you or your family has suffered the loss of a home due to a fire. As a medical professional, your care for a child is intensified if that child happens to be the same age of your daughter at home. We are in the business of serving others but if our heart is not in it we are missing out on a great opportunity.

The concept is simple. It is called empathy. You cannot truly know what someone is going through unless you have been there yourself. If you have a three year old daughter at home, like I do, and a call comes in for a cardiac arrest of a three year old girl your level of compassion, intensity, and drive is off the charts (almost to a dangerous level). How do you channel that same intensity (safely) into each moment to better serve others?

We as firefighters have to realize that the public we serve may be in drastically different circumstances than we are. That one pair of shoes that you throw out the window during overhaul maybe the only pair that person has. That one moment of compassion that you show to a lonely senior citizen in need maybe the one that lifts their spirits out of the dark. The one time you stop to show a child a fire apparatus may lead them into a career in the fire service later in life. The kindness that you show to others in their worst moments will leave a lasting impact.

Some may scoff at the value in small acts of service. I challenge you to look for ways you can encourage others, help others, and to do it with sincerity. You make a difference every day by going to work, but you can do infinitely more by showing that you truly care. Even if you have not been through their particular circumstance you can be a light in their darkness. The Fire Service is about service, so let us be servants to our fellow man in such a way that the impact we make will be measured in changed lives and that my friends is heroic.

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Fire Service Leadership: What’s your motivation

Fire Service Leadership: A different perspective

BringingBackBrotherhood

Leadership: What’s your motivation?

It is apparent that leadership is a hot topic in the fire service today. One quick search on the internet reveals that leadership is something that is written about, lectured on, and taught on many different levels across our nation. Why do you think that leadership is such a “hot topic”? Leadership has been wrapped up in a neatly packaged wrapper and marketed in a very poor manner. The motivations behind leadership today are superficial in most places. How do we seek a deeper understanding of how we can lead others? In this series we will address a definition of leadership that will set your apart.

“What a waste to try to change their behavior without truly understanding the driving needs that cause such a behavior! Yet millions of people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without understanding the need that compels them.”…

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Fire Service Leadership: What’s your motivation

Leadership: What’s your motivation?

It is apparent that leadership is a hot topic in the fire service today. One quick search on the internet reveals that leadership is something that is written about, lectured on, and taught on many different levels across our nation. Why do you think that leadership is such a “hot topic”? Leadership has been wrapped up in a neatly packaged wrapper and marketed in a very poor manner. The motivations behind leadership today are superficial in most places. How do we seek a deeper understanding of how we can lead others? In this series we will address a definition of leadership that will set your apart.

“What a waste to try to change their behavior without truly understanding the driving needs that cause such a behavior! Yet millions of people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without understanding the need that compels them.” (The Search for Significance pg 11)

Leadership is establishing a direction and influencing others to follow that direction. By definition, Leadership is an influence process. So in order for us to lead we must first understand what drives us to do so. What is your motivation to be a leader? Is it for recognition or monetary reasons? Is your ego pushing your to lead or is it out of your devotion to your family or some deeper calling? Rick Lasky’s “so you want to be firefighter” is a profound example of how we should check our motives and take a deeper look at ourselves before we pursue this goal of being a leader.

Leadership in the fire service, in my opinion, is a servant based leadership. You lead by example. Your consistent application of your values, work ethic, and your dedication to your crew is what sets you apart. This goes deeper than education. Intellect and education is an important part of being a leader but your team will not commit to you unless they know that you care. Have you ever noticed that some of the best leaders were the ones that people seemed to naturally gather around? What attracts people to follow someone?  “Good leaders know how to bring the best out of people. They are encouragers and motivators. They see the target ahead and pursue it.” (Charles Specht). These individuals are genuine, sincere, and have integrity. They are not afraid to admit their mistakes and most importantly they haven’t forgotten where they came from.

The most effective & important leaders in the Bible had little awareness of the impact their lives had on others. They were too busy obeying God to keep track of their successes. Why were they effective? Their focus was not on themselves! They were focused on the bigger picture: God’s plan for his people. These leaders were humble and obedient to God’s plan so they could lead others. Do you base your leadership skills by the certificates on your wall or in the profound desire to positively change others in your sphere of influence? When you leave this earth you will not be able to take any trophies or diplomas with you. However, you will be judged by the impact you had on others and whether or not you cared enough to make a difference. This is accountability on the highest level.

Self-less or Selfish?

Are you someone who motivates others? Do you look for ways to bring out the best in people? Are you encouraging more than critical? These statements are wrapped around one central word “motive”.  Leaders who have defined history (in a positive way) are self-less. They are focused on others, their needs, and they see the good in others. A leader with pure motives can see the good in each person and collectively applies those resources in such a way that produces positive outcomes while building up their confidence & camaraderie.  This comes from a selfless ambition that begins with a pure heart.

How do you become a leader?

Take a moment and look at your life. Who are you? What defines you? If your job or title was taken away would you still be significant? Does your salary define your significance or do you measure significance by the lives you touch?

My friends God has made you unique. He has a special purpose for each one of his children. If you believe that you cannot make a difference or that you don’t have what it takes then you have not trusted completely in Him. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding-Proverbs 3:5”.  God has left us His word that lists example after example of inadequate, ill-equipped, and fearful individuals who produced miraculous & extraordinary results through God’s power.  The Bible lists name after name of those who trusted in God and did great things.  For example: Moses was not a good speaker yet God worked through him to speak to the most powerful man in history at that time to free the Israelites.  David was the smallest of his brothers but was a “man after God’s own heart”. He became one of the greatest kings who ever lived. Paul was the greatest persecutor of the Christian faith and became the greatest evangelist for the Christian faith. Paul also is responsible for writing most of the New Testament.

Why you?

“God has shaped you to serve through your experiences, educations, gifts, personality, passions and relationships. God has people and situations that you are divinely prepared to touch.” (Dave Earley)

The process of becoming a leader started when you were born. Every moment of your life has uniquely prepared you for the circumstances of your future. Your testimony, trials, and tribulations are not just painful memories but “hard life lessons” that have made you stronger. There is no testimony without a test. These lessons will enable you to lift up others around you that are struggling. These difficult experiences, if you will draw from them rather than let them destroy you, can be the reason you are calmer, stronger, and decisive in the face of adversity.

Where is your heart?

“The man or woman who lives only for the love & attention of others is never satisfied, at least not for long. Despite our efforts we will never find lasting fulfilling peace if we must continually prove ourselves to others.  Does your sense of self worth depend upon your status, your title, or your spouse? This void is only meant to be filled by God? Your search for significance should both begin and end with God’s word” (The Search for Significance)

The world we live in seems desperate for constant approval. We are more concerned about the political correctness of society than following our morals and values that are God given. We spend a vast amount of money & resources to impress people that we don’t even know. We dress in fine clothes, live in the largest houses (compared to the rest of the world), and have more material possessions than anyone else in the world.

Yet we are the most depressed, obese, and anxious society in the world. If we have everything than shouldn’t’ that mean we should be happy? Why is it that our hearts seem to be constantly searching for meaning and fulfillment only to be disappointed yet again by another person, another material possession, or another achievement? Each one seems to leave us emptier than the previous attempt.

Your heart was designed for a purpose.  The fulfillment of your heart and peace that you seek will never be found in a person, place, or thing. All of which will eventually disappoint you.  This void is only meant to be filled by God.  It is cross shaped scar that can only be healed by Jesus. Once your heart is opened to His love your world begins to change. Problems don’t go away but “a peace that passes understanding” fills your heart during life’s storms.  You become a “new creation in Christ Jesus” and this is all due to God’s great love for you that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us-Romans 5:8”.  You will “do all things through Christ who gives you strength” (Philippians 4:13)

Leaders who possess the peace of God in their heart will influence others in profound ways. Their motivations are self-less, they want others to succeed, and they will sacrifice and go to great lengths to achieve goals for others. This seems to go against the belief of society today. If you truly want to lead, you truly want to make a difference, and then I challenge you to do the greatest thing you could ever do: Humble yourself before the Lord and ask God to send you today. Be ready to make difference in others lives.  God is saying to you today : “Be strong & courageous for I am with you”

Lead from a heart motivated by Christ,

God Bless & Stay Safe,

Andy J. Starnes

 

Fire Service Family Devotional Series: Our Two Family’s

Our Two Family’s: Let’s keep our priorities straight

The following is a collaborative effort between two fire service professionals, both whom are fathers, and both of whom have a passion for taking care of our families: those at home & our brothers & sisters in the fire house.

This is the beginning of a Blog series on the fire service & family values. We will discuss topics that directly relate to and are affecting fire service members & their families.

 Matt Barnes: I’ve talked before about having the support of your family while pursuing and furthering your career in the fire service. They should know what you want, need and expect and vice versa. I think it’s important to have all your ducks in a row before you not only pursue the service, but before you leave your family at home to go to your fire family. I have to admit, I don’t always do this. The worse feeling is having your spouse call you saying your dog got out, or to fuss at you for not doing something, or to call and say they were leaving you. This is even a worse feeling when this happens right before a call.

Andy Starnes: The fundamental unity of human society and the center of God’s covenant activity is the family. In the fire service we are blessed with two families: our loved ones at home & our brothers/sisters at the fire house. We are a family unit like none other. We strive to support our families at home through our jobs (sometimes working 2-3 jobs) all the while we are attempting to better ourselves at our calling: through training, education, and constantly learning. This can be an overwhelming task, and sadly in our profession, we tend to over-focus on our fire department family while gradually beginning to neglect our loved ones at home. Then our world starts to crumble. How do we regain control?

Matt Barnes: You’re no use to the guys on shift if you’re not mentally prepared and focused. I’ve learned that sometimes, when it comes to families, it’s hard to equally balance both. Putting too much focus on one will in turn put the other on the back burner. I know this to be true from experience. Too much of my focus and attention was on the fire service and being at the station and doing what needs to be done there, that I neglected to put that much time and effort on my family at home. This caused so much of a big mess, which I may end up going from having two families, down to one. And let’s say this, I’m nothing without my wife and daughter, but not to have them by my side and betray their trust, is the worst feeling I’ve felt in a long time. No matter how you handle things at home, make sure that your family at home is happy, feels safe and can sleep peaceful at night knowing that they haven’t been put on the back burner.

Andy Starnes: Our discussion is one of great importance. The fire service is a tradition of brotherhood, courage, duty, and sacrifice that is based on true family values. Our great devotion for our calling as a firefighter should be strengthened by our desire to return home to our loved ones. They are the reason we work, we train, and we stay sharp. We are nothing without them. They are the reason we were able to be who we are today. If you or someone you know is a super devoted firefighter but you sense that they are beginning to neglect their first family (their wife/husband and kids) do the honorable thing: pull them aside, gently, and share with them our story. The fire service has one of the highest divorce rates of any profession (as high as 84% in some areas).  Our jobs are stressful enough being away from our loved ones for 24-48 hours; Let’s all go home and take off the firefighter hat & be the man or woman you promised them you would be. Everyone should go home: Will your family be there waiting for you?

Firefighters: Your families need you! We always say “Never Forget”, well that should also be a reminder to you to “Never Forget” why you are doing this in the first place. Our foundation, those that hold the line for us, are our loved one’s at home. Stay focused and as driven to improve your abilities as a husband/wife as you are at becoming a better firefighter.

God Bless,

Andy Starnes & Matt Barnes

The Fire Service Family Devotional Series