A Fire Service Accountability Lesson

Are we really who we say we are?

We serve in a tradition of sacrifice, service, and compassion to our fellow man. But somewhere along the way we became lost. The fire service was once a calling and has now become something completely different. Our values are being slowly compromised and eroded. And in all of this we have forgotten someone. We have forgotten God! We model ourselves after the verse “Greater love have no one than this; to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).  But this seems all too often to be played out at the end of one’s life rather than sacrificing for them while they are still on this earth. We choose not to sacrifice for God or for our brothers. The Lord says if we will seek Him first He will give us the desires of our heart and “a broken and contrite heart He will not despise”.  A tradition of those serving their neighbor in their moment of need without thought of recognition or reward has been replaced with irresponsible hero worship of one’s self and actions. We are not invincible and we need to be reminded of that. I understand that this is not the case for everyone in the fire service but if you spend any significant time reading the news, fire websites, or work in the fire service your senses have had to be awakened to this alarming trend.

Where we should begin again & Who will take us there:

The foundation of a house is the most important part. Without a proper foundation the house will collapse. Our future is dependent on us building on a solid foundation. The question we should be asking ourselves is this: What foundation is currently being laid for the future houses of fire service leadership? Is it one of brick and stone or of sand?  Or are they building houses without a foundation at all? What principles, morals, and values do they hold fast to? “But the one, who has heard and not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of the house was great.” (Luke 6:49).  Why is this important? An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization personally and or professionally.  They will be manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship. Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example (at home and at work). “Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). This is integrity and is what we are missing. Have we become so politically afraid due to the media that we dare not speak up for our beliefs anymore?

Why being good isn’t enough:

The world is constantly telling us how we should look, behave, talk, and act. And if you notice, it is becoming less compassionate and more self centered. It is less about God and more about the individual. In a profession that prides itself in team work, sacrifice, service before self, camaraderie, integrity, courage, and honor we should be about the business of maintaining these foundations. Where is it that the traditional fire service values originated from? Where they from man? Where they from a government? “I know of no other worldview, religious or otherwise, that has the explanatory power of the realities that you and I confront in our daily lives that are inescapable” (Ravi Zacharias).  Christian values are those that our very country was founded on. Whether you believe in God or not, these values are God given and found in His word. An individual’s unbelief in God doesn’t stop Him from existing, nor does it stop his eternals truths, and historical Biblical precepts from changing the very heart of man.  The source of these values is from God and is modeled in the very personhood of Jesus Christ.

I want to share a quote with you:“The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive in its practice and it has exerted so deep an influence that it may be honestly said that a simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the dispositions of philosophers combined” This was written by a skeptic, an atheist, W.E.H. Lechey who recognized the greatness of Christ and His influence on mankind. How much more as believers should you and I take to heart the teachings of Jesus? We should be moving mountains in His name and sharing His love every day.

 God’s values should be our foundation

The values that are currently being espoused on us and our children are one of one-upmanship, narcissism, sexual immorality, and they teach that we should be tolerant to all beliefs yet they condemn anyone who disagrees with them all the while removing the very foundations of the freedoms that allow them to say & do these things. Why is this important from a fire service leadership perspective? Our next generation of Captains, Chiefs, City Managers, and leaders are developing their worldview right now under this current doctrine. The following statement sums up the direction we should be heading instead of our current path.

“There is discipline in transformational behavior in that people take actions based on the greater good, or for the right reasons, rather than based on self interest”-Firehouse Zen

Let us be perfectly honest with each other. We are ultimately responsible for this. We are accountable for those nearest to us. This is our 401K if you will. We should be earnestly investing in those around us. If we are not directly influencing those around us, those within our fellowship, we are failing to act and failing to lead. We are, in a sense, being morally negligent in our duties to others. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is a sin.” (James 4:17).  Wherever you are, whatever role you may be in, there are those that look up to you and watch everything that you do. I have heard it said: “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the life of a Christian. Most people will never read the first four.”  As Christian leaders in the fire service we must hold ourselves accountable. We must walk in integrity, disciple/mentor, and train others up in the way they should go. The future of the fire service depends on your current Christian witness. Our lives, our successes and our failures, should be living testimonies of our faith. The seeds you sow now will reap dividends in the future. Are you sowing seeds for the future others or for your immediate future? Are you encouraging those around you? Are you leading by example? Is your life one that will leave a mark on others and not just a memory? Is your passion about positively influencing the lives around you or merely how many accolades you receive?

Bring us back O God, let us be refreshed, renewed, and “fan into a flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). Let this gift of God bring back brotherhood and glorify your name. May this all be for you Jesus who was the greatest servant of all. “For the Spirit of God does not make us timid but gives us power, love, and self discipline” (2 Timothy 1:8)

God Bless & stay safe,

Andy J. Starnes

Isaiah 65:24

Advertisements

The Fire Service: We Still Believe

We Still Believe

“He did it with all his heart and prospered.”
2 Chronicles 31:21

As a member of the family of the fire service, we share a bond like none other. Our family consists of a unique group of individuals who, despite their differences or backgrounds, come together with their collective strengths and accomplish amazing things under very harsh circumstances. We are able at a moment’s notice to strategize and formulate a plan to mitigate an incident that we may have never even faced before.

We come from all walks of life. We are a diverse group of men and women who, as a whole, care about others more than ourselves. We share a common drive to better ourselves all for the sake of others. Our stations are called “fire houses” because they are our “home away from home”. We spend approximately 1/3rd of our lives with our brothers and sisters in the fire house. We come to know the good, bad, and the ugly sides of one another and work through it all. We are there for our fellow citizens in the tough times and we are there for each other in our times of difficulty.

The fire service has suffered many attacks lately due to the world’s financial crisis. Once it was unthinkable to suggest that a municipality would consider laying off firefighters. Sadly, many have lost their jobs, saw stations close, and in some cities, firefighters are duct taping their boots together to get by.

After 9/11, the fire service received support in almost epic proportions. Funding, grants, donations, and our support from the public were tremendous. As in all things, we have seen this appreciation fade. Why in the face of so much adversity would anyone want to be a firefighter these days?

Charles Spurgeon says “This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts, while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labor leaving half their hearts behind them”

The men & women of the fire service love what we do. Many perform their calling as a volunteer receiving no compensation for all of their time, effort, and sacrifice. Some of us are career firefighters, who also volunteer as well. The men & women of the fire service “work with all their hearts” and believe in something much bigger than themselves. The fire service, no matter how much it is cut back, will always be a brotherhood of those who give more than they receive.  No other profession, besides our armed forces (God Bless Them!), willingly sacrifices their time, their health, and even their life for the sake of others.

Whether or not you believe in God, know that the fire service is a tradition of belief. We believe in values, traditions, and morals that are eternal. We wear a cross on our chest that symbolizes the first firefighters in Malta who died or were severely injured while they rescued their brothers who were being burned. We don’t require recognition, appreciation, or even a thank you. We do what we do out of our great love for the calling. A calling that says “We will be here, we will show up when no one else will, & we will do everything in our power to protect or save your life.” We still believe in this calling.

While the world may seem to becoming less compassionate, less appreciative, and less concerned about others. Remember there are dedicated men & women who serve together, no matter their differences or backgrounds, and will be there to help in a moment’s notices. My friends, this is the power of belief.

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

The things we see & the Faith to keep going

Witnessing Life & Death in 24 hours

“Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see” Hebrews11:1

As a firefighter, it is not uncommon for us to see many different calls for service in one shift at work. One particular shift that sticks out in my mind was the tragic death of a 2 year old child. At the time, my wife was at home with our 2 ½ year old daughter.  At that moment, I couldn’t see any hope in what we had witnessed that night. The very next morning I was scheduled to run my very first marathon.  We all sat up after that call and talked about our families and some of us called our wives at 3 am just to check in. There is comfort in knowing that your family is safe after seeing such loss.

That next morning my wife and daughter met me in town and cheered me on for 26.2 grueling miles after being up all night. I have never felt more encouraged and thankful for my family as I did that day. As I ran, I remembered that little boy and I kept going.

The pain of that tragic loss that evening was a reminder for me to always be thankful for every single moment with my family. “Faith is the trust that God asks that you have in Him” (Ravi Zacharias).  We must understand that while we are here on this earth we are to be about the business of showing His love in our families, with our friends, and in our lives. I can remember that child’s face to this day but rather than focus on the loss of his life I choose to be a better father, husband, and a firefighter each and every moment in honor of him and what God has done for me. “I consider that the present sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18)

God Bless you all,

Andy J. Starnes

The things we see & Faith to keep going

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Witnessing Life & Death in 24 hours

“Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see” Hebrews11:1

As a firefighter, it is not uncommon for us to see many different calls for service in one shift at work. One particular shift that sticks out in my mind was the tragic death of a 2 year old child. At the time, my wife was at home with our 2 ½ year old daughter.  At that moment, I couldn’t see any hope in what we had witnessed that night. The very next morning I was scheduled to run my very first marathon.  We all sat up after that call and talked about our families and some of us called our wives at 3 am just to check in. There is comfort in knowing that your family is safe after seeing such loss.

That next morning my wife and daughter met me in town and cheered me on for 26.2 grueling miles after being up all night. I have never felt more encouraged and thankful for my family as I did that day. As I ran, I remembered that little boy and I kept going.

The pain of that tragic loss that evening was a reminder for me to always be thankful for every single moment with my family. “Faith is the trust that God asks that you have in Him” (Ravi Zacharias).  We must understand that while we are here on this earth we are to be about the business of showing His love in our families, with our friends, and in our lives. I can remember that child’s face to this day but rather than focus on the loss of his life I choose to be a better father, husband, and a firefighter each and every moment in honor of him and what God has done for me. “I consider that the present sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18)

God Bless you all,

Andy J. Starnes

Fire Attack: Battling Life’s Fires

Fire Attack: Battling Life’s Fires

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,” (Isaiah 43:2-3).

As a firefighter, we look at fire differently than anyone else. Everyone else sees a tragedy whereas we see an opportunity: an opportunity to make a difference, to apply our skills, and to give back to the community. In my line of work, the words “control time” mean to stop the forward progress of the incident. We work diligently to stop the fire from spreading and preventing any further harm or damage.

As an experienced firefighter, you approach the job with a sense of calm and perform your duties almost fearlessly. This is not due to blind courage but due to years of experience, training, and application that has provided you with the confidence to do the job all the while remembering the inherent danger of it.

In our lives, we should take comfort that God promises to walk with us through the trials and protect us. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b) During the trials of our lives, take a moment to look at them from God’s perspective: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) Look at trials as you do fires from the mindset of an experienced Christian firefighter. This is not your first fire and it will not be your last. Walk with confidence, knowing that God is with you.

Be safe & God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Isaiah 65:24

 

The Ultimate Primary Search: Luke 19:10

Daily Discipleship: An engine company’s perspective 
 
The Primary Search: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13)
As a firefighter, we are often assigned to perform a primary or secondary search on the fire ground.  We are familiar with the primary search and its purpose to quickly search an area near the fire in hopes to find anyone who may have become lost/trapped.  On the fire ground, when we are told that there is a child in the A/D corner of the bedroom, firefighters know what to do.  We are properly suited up, PPE in place, and we have our hand line to protect us along with our tools to assist in search and rescue.
In the story of the lost sheep, the Good shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to save the one lost sheep.  From an outsiders perspective we are guilty of saying “Why would anyone leave 99 to save one?”  Each and every human being is loved by God and Christ died so that all may live. If we arrive at a house fire and we are told that three of the four children are accounted for but they cannot find their youngest child you’d better believe we are going to do everything in our power to locate and save that child. We as firefighters understand the value of human life. God “demonstrated His great love in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Why? Because God loves all of His children and every life is important to Him. As we put on our PPE to search for the lost remember that God clothed himself in human flesh and took on the form of a servant to die for you and for me.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).