Firefighters-Their problem, not mine?

Their problem not mine: Are you sure of that?

The more serious issue in unfortunate events is when we as firefighters take ownership of the problem. The times in my life where I have been at my lowest have been when I have taken ownership of tragic events. An example of this would be the loss of a friend due to suicide. I experienced feelings of “If I had only…” and then began to blame myself.

 The harsh reality of life is that “we didn’t start the fire, load the gun, or cause the tragedy”.  We leave the situation better than we found it.  It is often difficult when the world views you as the answer to their problems and they hand you a five week old child that you cannot resuscitate. I will speak for myself, though I believe its commonplace in the fire service, that we often make ourselves accountable for others actions. A child dies, a drunk driver kills a teen in a wrong way accident, a teenager is shot in killed in a drive by accident, an infant you find unresponsive doesn’t make it and you have tell the parents. All of these are but a few examples of incidents that began without our involvement but we were involved in their last moments. They leave marks on our souls and often cause us to cope or self-medicate in unhealthy ways.

 As I learn and grow with each passing day I have come to an understanding with tragedy. Tragedy affects everyone from our leaders, celebrities, middle-class, and the poor.  As a firefighter we come to know tragedy from a surgical perspective. We size it up, break it down, manage its results, and learn from it. We deal with it very nonchalantly until it reaches into our heart or personal lives.  The great challenge that firefighters face is to be deeply immersed in the painful circumstances of others lives and to come out unscathed by it. The prayer I often pray is “God give me a heart big enough to hurt with them but don’t let me absorb their pain and inflict upon others”.

 It is my prayer for all firefighters that they come to know the hope of Jesus Christ. For when He lives in your heart, you are able to hurt with the world and not be destroyed by it.

Firefighters: Their problem, not mine?

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Their problem not mine: Are you sure of that?

The more serious issue in unfortunate events is when we as firefighters take ownership of the problem. The times in my life where I have been at my lowest have been when I have taken ownership of tragic events. An example of this would be the loss of a friend due to suicide. I experienced feelings of “If I had only…” and then began to blame myself.

 The harsh reality of life is that “we didn’t start the fire, load the gun, or cause the tragedy”.  We leave the situation better than we found it.  It is often difficult when the world views you as the answer to their problems and they hand you a five week old child that you cannot resuscitate. I will speak for myself, though I believe its commonplace in the fire service, that we often make ourselves accountable for others actions. A child dies, a drunk driver kills a teen in a wrong way accident, a teenager is shot in killed in a drive by accident, an infant you find unresponsive doesn’t make it and you have tell the parents. All of these are but a few examples of incidents that began without our involvement but we were involved in their last moments. They leave marks on our souls and often cause us to cope or self-medicate in unhealthy ways.

 As I learn and grow with each passing day I have come to an understanding with tragedy. Tragedy affects everyone from our leaders, celebrities, middle-class, and the poor.  As a firefighter we come to know tragedy from a surgical perspective. We size it up, break it down, manage its results, and learn from it. We deal with it very nonchalantly until it reaches into our heart or personal lives.  The great challenge that firefighters face is to be deeply immersed in the painful circumstances of others lives and to come out unscathed by it. The prayer I often pray is “God give me a heart big enough to hurt with them but don’t let me absorb their pain and inflict upon others”.

 It is my prayer for all firefighters that they come to know the hope of Jesus Christ. For when He lives in your heart, you are able to hurt with the world and not be destroyed by it.

 

 

A Hope forgotten…Or is it?

A Hope forgotten..Or is it?

The time is upon us: A time of remembrance, celebration, and gratitude. But why is it that so many of us, including myself, find our hearts troubled during this time? Over 2000 years ago, God did something on our behalf that no parent could ever do: He gave His only Son. He allowed Jesus to be born a man, to live for us, and to die for us.  As I prayed with my daughter this evening, I couldn’t imagine giving up our most precious gift for anyone. Yet God demonstrated His great love in this “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Did you catch that? God didn’t wait for you and I to repent. He didn’t wait for us to cry out “Forgive me”. While we were still sinners, when we didn’t even recognize Him, He came and lived and died on our behalf.  Think back upon your life, the moments you are not proud of, and know that Jesus died for us in spite of all those moments.  I regret to admit that I have spent more time in depravity than I have in devotion to Christ.

As I grew weary with the dreariness of shopping in my least favorite store two days before Christmas, I felt a gentle nudge on my heart.  God sent His son to die for all of us. And yet, here I am grumbling as I fight through the crowds of other fellow discontented people so we can all “give cheerfully”?  Have we all missed the point? As our soldiers fight for our freedom in foreign lands far removed from their families… As the homeless still wander the streets of the richest country in the world…As children die from starvation in the remote parts of the world…Here I stand grumbling, angry at the sheer frivolous nature of man and myself. We, the richest country in the world, are truly the poorest souls of them all.

God gave the greatest gift He could ever give on Christmas. He gave His only Son Jesus Christ to us and I am afraid we have diminished the meaning of it all to a mere gift exchange.  You send me a gift, I send you a gift, you send us a card, and we send you a card…?

What did God give? Why? Did we give Him anything? Do we deserve such a gift? Are we driven to give out of generosity or out of societal pressure?  Can we truly grasp the significance of such a gift?

As I sit here pondering it all, I can’t help but think of our daughter who is truly enraptured by the wonder of the true meaning of Christmas. She is genuinely excited! She sees this as what it is. Jesus’ birthday and we are going to have a party to celebrate His birth. My heart aches that I have fallen into spiritual disrepair. I thank God for the gift of a child, Jesus, in Him we have true hope. This is the Hope that will never disappoint.  I thank God for the gift of our daughter, that through her simple joy, Her Daddy was able to remember that His Hope and it is not forgotten.

Merry Christmas

Andy J. Starnes

Firefighters-Let’s Bring Back Brotherhood

Bringing Back Brotherhood

What does brotherhood mean to you?

The fire service is one steeped in rich tradition.  Each element of our day is symbolic of the traditions of our past. The badge upon our uniform is symbolic of the knights of St John who risked their lives to save their brothers from the perils of fire. The trumpets on an officer’s collar are symbolic of leadership and management. These trumpets were used by the first incident commanders to verbalize commands to the firefighters before the use of radios. The helmets we wear are similar in design of those of the past. They are stronger and safer but they bear the mark of tradition.

The service that firefighters provide is physical display of our core beliefs and values. There are very few professions that will ask you to commit to risking your life against overwhelming circumstances for someone you may have never met. This is the mark of a true servant: an individual who value the lives of others and serves them sacrificially.  These individuals do not ask for a reward, recognition, or a thank you. They only ask for the opportunity to serve.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Brotherhood goes deeper than the powerful display of support of one of our brothers during a crisis.  It is the daily moments of fellowship, counsel, struggles, and smalls acts of service that we give of ourselves to each other.  It is not about rank, role, or title. It is the very spirit of what we do. We accomplish nothing alone whether it is attacking a fire, performing CPR, cutting a ventilation hole, or performing community service. Each and every day our service is just that: “OURS!”  Image

It is a responsibility that is took on by the strong and capable shoulders of the firefighters together. The trials, conflicts, and adversity we face are meant for us to collectively share the load. We are to help one another and look out for one another in every aspect of our lives. This is the mark of brotherhood. Are you exemplifying this in your daily life? Have you grown bitter due to outside circumstances? The challenge that lies before you is to care when no one else does. It requires a heart big enough to hurt with someone but not absorb their pain. It requires one who cares nothing for recognition but would give everything for the benefit of another. Change the environment around you and bring back brotherhood by your daily words, actions, and values. It is up to you…

 

Bring Back Brotherhood

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Bringing Back Brotherhood

What does brotherhood mean to you?

The fire service is one steeped in rich tradition.  Each element of our day is symbolic of the traditions of our past. The badge upon our uniform is symbolic of the knights of St John who risked their lives to save their brothers from the perils of fire. The trumpets on an officer’s collar are symbolic of leadership and management. These trumpets were used by the first incident commanders to verbalize commands to the firefighters before the use of radios. The helmets we wear are similar in design of those of the past. They are stronger and safer but they bear the mark of tradition.

The service that firefighters provide is physical display of our core beliefs and values. There are very few professions that will ask you to commit to risking your life against overwhelming circumstances for someone you may have never met. This is the mark of a true servant: an individual who value the lives of others and serves them sacrificially.  These individuals do not ask for a reward, recognition, or a thank you. They only ask for the opportunity to serve.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Brotherhood goes deeper than the powerful display of support of one of our brothers during a crisis.  It is the daily moments of fellowship, counsel, struggles, and smalls acts of service that we give of ourselves to each other.  It is not about rank, role, or title. It is the very spirit of what we do. We accomplish nothing alone whether it is attacking a fire, performing CPR, cutting a ventilation hole, or performing community service. Each and every day our service is just that: “OURS!”  Image

It is a responsibility that is took on by the strong and capable shoulders of the firefighters together. The trials, conflicts, and adversity we face are meant for us to collectively share the load. We are to help one another and look out for one another in every aspect of our lives. This is the mark of brotherhood. Are you exemplifying this in your daily life? Have you grown bitter due to outside circumstances? The challenge that lies before you is to care when no one else does. It requires a heart big enough to hurt with someone but not absorb their pain. It requires one who cares nothing for recognition but would give everything for the benefit of another. Change the environment around you and bring back brotherhood by your daily words, actions, and values. It is up to you…

 

 

Firefighters Are you carrying a heavy burden?

Too Heavy a Burden…

In our lives, we have all reached a point where we have felt the weight upon our shoulders is too much to bear. Maybe you are at such a point in your life right now? The voice in your head is saying “If one more thing happens I will not be able to stand.”

Each daily stress and burden seems to pile on top of the other. We become overwhelmed and unable to solve one problem without another one showing up. The pressure builds to a breaking point…

Have you ever prayed something like this?

“My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night I find no rest.” (Psalm 23:2)

Answers that we often seek are sometimes often overlooked because our perspective is clouded by pain. We cannot see anything positive or worthwhile because our focus is in an ever diminishing circle. I have been there and I am guilty of falling down in the depths of worry.

God doesn’t want you to dwell in the depths of your despair. There is a time for mourning. There is a time for tears and sadness but it is not meant to be your permanent address.

God’s hope and plan for you is to know the peace that comes from Him. Maybe, you have heard this before and said “they are crazy and there is no way anyone can be at peace if they are going through what I am right now!”

The verse you read is from the Psalms. It is the scripture that Jesus quoted while dying on a cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). If you believe that you are alone and there is no hope take a moment and read the words of Isaiah:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

For our sake, Jesus was alone. For our sake Jesus took our burdens. For our sake Jesus bore the weight of our sin that He knew we could never bear.

What does this mean? God, out of His great love for us, put the punishment upon His only Son Jesus so that we would not have to suffer. We may suffer the trials of this world but they are not meant to destroy us, cause us to be bitter, or go through them alone. God has already paid a price for these things so that we may come to him and “Cast our anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

This is the friend you have always wanted. One who will never “leave nor forsake you”. The friend who always answers their phone, always listens, and always comforts you in your troubles. This friend is like none other and His name is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?

Many have read about him but don’t know Him personally. God’s word says “A broken and contrite heart he will not despise”. If you have come to a place of brokenness and feel there is no one to turn to let me assure you there is one who you can. Take a moment and let the cries of your heart be heard. Ask Jesus to heal you today.

My prayer for you is that you would seek Him in your heart.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Five traits of a successful leader

Five traits that make a successful leader

1) A solid moral foundation: (Integrity): I believe that to be a successful (I prefer the word significant) Company Officer that your motivations and mindset have to be pure. 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. My experience has taught me that anyone who is placed in a position of authority but doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will compromise their principles, integrity, and values for money, power, and or fear.

2) A passion for their people(Servanthood):In the fire service, your inner desire to serve others shows that you have a servant heart.  As we step into the role of Company Officer, I believe that one must have a self-less focus where he or she is constantly about the business of knowing, caring for, and empowering those in their sphere of influence.  In order to lead, someone has to follow; therefore you have to command more than their respect. The greater the amount of passion and energy that a Company Officer pours into his/her people it has a direct correlation in how effective the crew will be.

3)Setting the example (Consistent): 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. A Company Officer who has high expectations of his/her crew must first have the same expectations of themselves.  This position requires that you pursuing the next level of excellence.  There is never a point where one should be comfortable with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If you have reached this point then it’s time to move on to another profession.

4)Humility: Some of the greatest leaders that have impacted me are the ones that have admitted openly when they made a mistake. They made no excuse, they took responsibility for their actions, and they held themselves accountable. Your crew will not believe in you if you do not hold yourself accountable as well.

5)Mentoring:  In my opinion, one of the greatest disservice we do to our veteran leaders in the fire service is when they retire. We throw them a party and say goodbye. They have invaluable experience that has been forged by a lifetime of adversity, experience, and education.  As a Company Officer, you are ultimately responsible for what the future of the fire service will look like. Your goal should be to leave a mark on the organization and not just a memory. This can be only accomplished by “training your replacement”.  We should all be concerned about developing the next generation of leaders.  One day they could be responding to my nursing home to provide medical aid in my moment of need.  Are we equipping those around us for the future?