The Board of Directors 

The Board of Directors 

The Board of Directors:

In an organization, the larger decisions are often made by a group of members who collectively can render the best decision based on their wealth of experience and knowledge.  This is commonly known as the board of directors. 

They often provide direction and guidance for others as well as the organization. There are many good and bad examples of organizations whose board of directors have either lead them successfully or have driven them into the ground.

In our lives, we can learn a great deal from the ‘board of director’s’ analogy. To understand our purpose, to stay accountable, and to stay encouraged we all need a board of directors in our lives. They can provide wisdom, guidance, support and valuable advice. 

Their ‘life experiences’ serve as a model for us and when they speak to us we respect their opinion for they have earned our trust.  

As in any organization we should be very cautious in choosing who serves on our board of directors. These individuals may serve indefinitely or they may only serve on ‘our board’ for a few years; but having a ‘board of directors’ in our lives is a priceless commodity.

In the fire service, the value of having a personal ‘board of directors cannot be overstated. As a young and upcoming firefighter, it is tremendously valuable to have a ‘board of directors’ who provide the proper guidance, training, and advice. The future of a young firefighter could be steered in a disastrous direction without the proper counsel and support. For example, if one who is passionate and energetic about the calling of a firefighter becomes involved in a poorly led department with negative peers they may be tempted to fall into the trap of bitterness. Their passionate vision for the fire service may be snuffed out by being in a ‘vent limited’ environment.  It is truly sad to consider how many future leaders of the fire service may have given up due to the lack of support that they so desperately needed early on in their career.

As one moves forward into positions of leadership in the fire service the value of having a ‘board of directors’ becomes even more important.  In organizations, corporations, and the fire service as we move up into positions of greater accountability our board of directors may become smaller. As a firefighter we may have had ten trusted brothers or sisters we could call upon but now as a Battalion Chief we may have three individuals that we have absolute trust to share our burdens with.

In 2010, the author found himself in a dangerous position; discouraged, bitter, and with only one member on his board of directors. This led to many changes in his life. This writing is to encourage others and provide anyone, firefighter or not, with a principle based support system for life.  

Establishing A Personal Board of Directors: An individual’s ‘board of directors’ is based on understanding his or her strengths and weaknesses. A wise mentor once said that before I got promoted that I needed an ICN: An Informal Captain’s Network.  He instructed me to choose five trusted senior Captains (some active and some who are retired) and reach out to them. I learned to keep their phone numbers close and maintain this relationship by continual communication. 

This has been tremendously valuable to myself and has helped me through some very difficult situations (personally and professionally).  I then began to understand that my personal board of directors needed to be based on areas in my own life where I needed constant guidance, support, encouragement, and accountability.  Thus the board of directors follows the following format:

Elect a Chairperson: This individual is the ‘go to’ person for the big decisions of life. This person must have paid their dues through adversity, trials, failures, success and be willing to share those moments with you. For myself this person is my Father: Joe Starnes. He has checked on me every day of my career by calling me each morning after my shift. I am blessed with an hour ride home in which I have often spent that entire hour talking with him. It has been the best Critical Incident Stress Management Program that I could have. When my father goes to heaven, God will place an extra star in his crown for all that he has done in the service of others. For he has paid it forward especially in my life.    

Establish A Leadership Counsel: When we face the tough questions or situations in life what would we give to be able to pick up the phone and call the Chief of a large department and receive their counsel?  The world of social media has allowed many of us to establish relationships and bonds of friendship with fire service visionaries. It has blessed me greatly and I am so thankful that I have several members of the fire service that I can call who will take the time to speak with me on matters of leadership. 

It has been said that when an elderly person dies, the world should mourn as if a priceless library of artifacts has burned down. If you have someone in your life that has faced great adversity (World War II veteran, retired leader of an organization, etc.) consider yourself blessed. Go and reach out to them. Sit and listen to their life story and take notes. Our next lesson in leadership can either be paid through trial and tribulation or learned from the dues paid by someone much wiser than ourselves.

Council of Encouragement: Everyone will face hard times in their life at some point. The question for us all is this: “Do we let them destroy us or refine us?” It is when we are knocked down in life that we realize that our brotherhood of encouragement is so important. 

Many individuals have given up, lost hope, and made decisions that have had terrible consequences for their life. By having a strong support network of encouragement we can get through these dark times. 

“Two are better than one because…For if either of them falls, the one will lift up the other.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) 

For myself, I have three individuals that periodically check in on me. They know my mannerisms, my behavioral issues, and all of my past demons; and surprisingly enough they are still friends with me.  I am blessed that we check on each other with a phone call, breakfast after our shift, or a random visit to my house. They are angels on loan to me in my life and I cannot thank God enough for them. 

Remember, a kind word costs us nothing but the dividends they pay are eternal.   

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ” Galatians 6:9

Establishing Accountability: This is one of the most overlooked positions on an individual’s personal ‘board of directors’. Many of us want to receive guidance, encouragement, and support but we don’t like to be held accountable.  

In the fire service and in our lives, if we do not have accountability measures in place we are headed for disaster. In my own life, I am well aware of my weaknesses and sinful nature. I have come to understand that “I cannot possibly serve another in un-famed humility if I seriously regard their sinfulness as worse than my own” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 

Therefore it is not only necessary but vital to have an accountability group. I am blessed to have a few brothers that hold me accountable in my faith, in my family, and in the fire service.  They do not hesitate to inform me when I am slacking, heading in the wrong direction, or if I am blatantly wrong. They are the most important members of my ‘Board of Directors.’ 

All of the things that matter in my life hinge upon my ability to be obedient to God, the people I love, and my calling.  I can honestly say that without these trusted friends I would have been lost.  

“A rebuke goes deeper to an understanding person than a hundred lashes to a fool” (Proverbs 17:10). I have grown tired of the lashes and welcome my accountability members rebuke.

In closing, I share these words with you not to condemn or criticize anyone but to share my own personal failings in life. I know that I am blessed to be where I am and that I do not deserve the wonderful faith, family, and fire department life that I have but for some reason God has allowed these blessings in my life. I look back upon my regrets and my mistakes and now realize that if I had listened to instruction and had a ‘board of directors’ that I would have suffered less and learned even more. 

It is my hope and prayer that you would seek out your own personal ‘Board of Directors.’ Approach them in an attitude of humility and seek their guidance. And most importantly, when they share their counsel with you; don’t disregard it! They earned that wisdom through painful trials and tribulations and their hope is that we will not make the same mistakes as they did.  

Let us pay it forward by embracing their wisdom and applying in our own lives; thereby paying them the respect and honor that they deserve.

May God Bless You All!
Andy J. Starnes

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Answering the Call for Help

Answering the Call for Help

As we face hard times in life we must remember to share our pain with others. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are human.

Without others calling for help, the fire service would not need to exist. 

“The destruction of the weak is the death of fellowship” Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

With that in mind, begin by calling out to God and to our brothers/sisters for help. Brotherhood is lifting one another up just as we lift up others who call for help.

Consider this tactical benchmark check list for our lives:

Size-Up: Pray! Tell God what your facing and share it with someone you trust. “Pray without Ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Transfer Command: 
On an incident, the higher ranking officer takes command upon arrival. In our lives we don’t have to wait on God’s arrival. “He is our ever present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1. He is always there. Let Him take Command.

Follow His IAP: 
Immediately Apply Principles- God wants us to do our part; which demonstrates our faith (trust) in Him. Start mitigating the problem by following His plan.

Report to Rehab: As we work on the struggles we face we will become weary.

This is where we are to radio Command: “God, I am tired and weary”

And Jesus replies “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Remember as a firefighter, when we arrive at an emergency what do we do?

We go to work resolving the problem. Why?

Because we have confidence in our training and in knowing that help is on the way.

“Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear” Isaiah 65:24

So Pray and remember that our confidence is directly correlative to our dedication to God’s word. Our ‘training’ is our study and application of God’s word.

Then we are get to work on the problem knowing that help is on the way.

In closing, hard times WILL come but it is how we CHOOSE to respond to these moments that WILL impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

Let us practice the principles of God’s word as the ultimate training for the problems we will all face. For if we fail to train we are training to fail in the very purpose of our lives: our relationship with Jesus Christ.

God Bless,
Andy Starnes 

Is Life Tearing Your World Apart?

Is Life Tearing Your World Apart?

Is life tearing your world apart?

In the middle of our broken moments….

When we are at our lowest…

Remember the power of a kind word spoken…

Think of those who are also at the end of their rope…

When life attacks and we feel that we are spent…

What if we spoke words of peace and encouragement?

By choosing love instead of anger…

We are rescuing others from danger…

By practicing hope in the face of adversity…

We lift others up and find strength for our trembling knees…

By taking a moment to listen when life consumes us…

We take our focus off our own pain long enough…

To remember that in our fervent prayers that God hears…

The creator of heaven and earth takes time to lend us His ear…

In the broken moments of the journey of our lives…

Remember that “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

May we lift our eyes from our own troubles in the midst of despair…

And though it may last for a season we are not meant to dwell there…

For in the valleys of our lives, others are crying out…

We will never hear there heartfelt cry if we paralyzed by fear & doubt…

Lift others up even when we feel we cannot stand…

And in these moments, God will lift us up in His strong & merciful hands…

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Cultivation of Character

The Cultivation of Character

Have you ever noticed that people will stand up for just about anything except for their faith? 

Why is this so?

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

The courage to face adversity and opposition is one of the most difficult types of courage to cultivate. For it often only grows through the challenges of adversity. Faith, like our bodies, must be exercised regularly to stay ready and able.

As firefighters we risk our lives daily in numerous ways yet when it comes to having the moral courage to speak up for our beliefs we often shy away from the task. If we are honest, more of us are more fearful of being labeled rather than being known as a follower of Christ.

What then is Moral Courage? 

“The ability to do right in the face of opposition or discouragement.” (Pastor Greg Laurie)

To face the enemy known as fire we take a “calculated risk” based on our training, conditions, and resources available. Yet when we are faced with a moral dilemma we should remember to make our decision based on our faith, our core values, and the ever present truth in God’s word. We should remember our spiritual training.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

To have moral courage is to “stand firm in the faith” no matter the opposition personally, professionally, and politically.

In order to develop this characteristic, one must sincerely believe. They stand firm, not because of their own strength, but because of their hope in Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

The challenge before us is as Christians is no easy task:

Let us be clear and speak the truth in love. When we are confronted, persecuted, or ridiculed because of our faith do not speak to them as they did to us. 

Remember, Jesus is our example. When he was mocked, cursed, spit on, and persecuted He did not respond with anger but with love.

Jesus showed us the way. This is the mark of true courage: To respond to hate with love, to answer ridicule with wisdom, to turn the opposition into a conversation, and to lead a conversation into a relationship.

The world may hurt us, betray us, but we can have hope that Jesus didn’t let that stop Him from loving us. He loved through the hurt.

Let’s pray that God will give us the courage to love others even when they hurt us. May His words be on our lips and may His strength be in our spirit for we cannot stand on our own without you O God. 

We stand together in this fight with truth and suffer only because we trust in a God who has already won the victory for us. The Battle is won, we must trust and pray as we are being developed for a higher purpose. 

And when we see our fellow brothers & sisters standing firm in the faith let us come along side them. Let’s support them when they are ridiculed. Let’s lift them up and encourage them to stay true to their faith in Jesus Christ. 

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Book Release Preview

Book Release Preview

I am excited to announce, I will be publishing my first book in April of next year. I will be giving you previews of the book from now until its release. 
I ask you to pray for me as I finish this 5 year task and that God would use it to bless others. All proceeds will be donated to various charities and used to begin the founding of a benevolent fund to assist firefighters who are in need of counseling.

God bless,

Andrew Starnes

Brotherhood-A Re-introduction:
Let us begin…

There once was a noble profession known as firefighting and then those who loved it most fought for it the least. Their once unstoppable passion for the calling was replaced with the search for fame, recognition, and authority. Their once burning desire for the fire service was extinguished by the negativity of others. Rather than fighting the fires of our lives together we began to fight against each other. 
Division replaced our unity, bitterness gradually replaced brotherhood, for many the calling became a career, and firefighters gradually became employees. Supposed leaders who boldly charge into burning buildings would attack fellow firefighter’s verbally on social media but would lack the courage to speak to them directly. Many firefighters fell victim to their arrogance and followed these supposed leaders who ultimately were destroying the fire service with their anger and insecurity.

All the while, others saw this as an opportunity to continually to divide us. For if we are divided searching for our own success, our focus is distracted, and our strength is diminished due to our loss of the greatest tradition in the fire service: Brotherhood.

This is not a fictional story. This is the slow erosion of our values and beliefs right in front of our very eyes. Many have chosen to ignore it, and not believe that it is true but let us think for a moment about the following questions:

Are you tired of the negativity in the fire service?
Have you noticed the increasing trend of our brothers and sisters struggling?

Do you believe that we do a great job of helping others but fail at helping one another sometimes?

Have you ever felt this way? Has your once passionate desire for the fire service been diminished by others? 

Do you feel abandoned by the calling that you have dedicated your life to?

If so, you are not alone and this book is written out of one firefighter’s desire to restore the hearts’ of firefighters. It is written out of the painful heartache of letting others steal our joy. 

Consider this: Did we let others steal our passion or did we abandon our calling because of bitterness?

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion, I will bring you back” (Isaiah 54:7)

Have you come to such a place in your fire service journey where you felt abandoned? Several years ago, God put a burden on a firefighter’s heart. The fire service had become a spiritual detriment but then God opened the eyes of that blind firefighter and showed him what it truly is: a great spiritual opportunity to encourage one another!

With that in mind, God began the process. He wiped away the bitterness that had become part of the soul. He replaced it with compassion for those who had hurt, betrayed, and drained the soul of this lost firefighter. This lost firefighter has been found and now has begun to see others as God sees them. Firefighters everywhere are silently hurting, they need encouragement, and the painful realization that occurred is that God had not failed them. It was the firefighter who had failed. He chose to let the world drain his passion. He allowed others to change his attitude. He drank the poison of bitterness and blamed the world. He accused others of stealing his joy but in reality he gave it away.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone…

Therefore the mission was born. The mission of Bringing Back Brotherhood is to encourage first responders, firefighters, and all emergency services personnel with the hope of Jesus Christ. The hope that those who read these pages will experience an awakening; their passion will be re-ignited, their mind will be renewed, and their heart will be transformed. That when we look upon our brothers and sisters in the fire service we would see them as Christ did:

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38)

This message in these pages will be shared through the vulnerable and often painful moments that we all face. And that no matter what we have been through, or mistakes we have made, or pain that we have suffered that we are now uniquely qualified to help others. This is the power of our living testimony showing that we can endure, we can make a difference, and no matter the circumstances: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Through the power of sharing our lives and what God has done; therein lies the bridge to connect to our brothers and sisters who feel lost. If you have felt the call, the inner desire to do something more, here is an offering. An offering of one firefighters desire to light a fire in others; the offering of a broken heart that has been healed through Jesus Christ. An offering of pain, tears, and tribulation as an open book to you in the hopes that you will look to the one who will always provide.  

If you have become lost that you will come home. Know that there is one who is searching for you and He wants you to come back home. The Ultimate Primary Search is being conducted for your heart and He will not stop until you are found. He offers you hope, comfort, and encouragement that the world can never take away. Begin your journey home today! Don’t let the world destroy our calling, let’s Bring Back Brotherhood one changed life at a time beginning with our own life!
Andrew Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

The Cost of the Fire Service

The Cost of the Fire Service

The Cost of the Fire Service:

Another week has flown by, and I am reminded how blessed I am to return home safely from another many hours away from home. But, many times in life we work these long hours without thought of the great cost that is paid on our behalf in our absence.

For example, in this one week consisting of 168 hours, I will have missed over 100 hours of it with my family. Double shifts and teaching all seem to fall into the same week but those hours I missed also consisted of:

My wife taking our daughter to church alone…

My wife taking our daughter to school all five days this week all while she has to work as well…

My wife setting up a babysitter for two of these days where our work schedules overlap…

My wife running the necessary errands, keeping our household running, paying bills, preparing meals, and keeping up with family concerns….

My wife getting our daughter to her Wednesday night church group (AWANAS) …

My wife does this each week and so much more all the time. She gives of herself and sacrifices her time (and many times her sleep) to get it all done.

So when each of us work a long week and we return home tired (and often frustrated) we need to remember the great cost that is being paid on our behalf.

Remember that our wives are often tired and carry the same burdens we carry. Remember that our wives our modeling Jesus’ sacrificial love to us in their daily acts of commitment to our marriages.

Remember the words of Proverbs 31:10-11-

“Who can find a capable wife? 

  She is far more precious than jewels.

  The heart of her husband trusts in her,

  And he will not lack anything good”

Give thanks this day that we have wives that are capable and precious to us. And make sure that they know how much we appreciate them. Let’s show them our love every day through our words, actions, texts, and more. 

Give thanks each day for a spouse that completes us, works with us, and puts up with us through it all. 

God bless,
Andy Starnes 

Firefighter Burn-Out: The Decay Phase

Firefighter Burn-Out: The Decay Phase

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31

As one travels along the path of life, we can become weary from the issues of life. Our fiery passion that we all began with is often snuffed out by negativity, conflicts, tribulations, and the diminishing number of passionate firefighters around us.

What can we then do to reignite the fire in our lives?

Our fire has entered decay phase has consumed all of the available oxygen around us and begins to darken and diminish but it still remains hot. This is a description of our hearts when we begin to burn-out. Our fire isn’t lacking fuel but merely the air to support its growth until someone comes along and opens a door, a window breaks, or ventilation is accomplished and our fire will grow to even bigger than before.

In our lives as we passionately pursue our objectives the very air we need for growth (which can come from the encouragement of others) can be consumed by the darkness of bitterness (which can be from the negativity of others). 

Negativity can consume our passion and make us believe that there is no hope in reignition. But then, someone recognizes the potential within us. They see a fuel rich environment! And they provide the encouragement that gives our fire the breath of fresh air that was so desperately needed.

A fire needs fuel, heat, air, and the uninterrupted chemical chain reaction to continue to burn. So as we pursue our calling to love, serve, and lead others let us remember the following:

1) Fuel-To continue on our journey we need fuel to keep burning. Those who are the most passionate can and will experience burn-out without replenishing their fuel. This can be prevented by surrounding ourselves with likeminded individuals who can provide guidance.

2) Heat-A fire must continually heat the fuel to pyrolize the material producing the combustible vapors necessary to support flaming combustion. Once we receive guidance from our fuel we can provide heat (positive reinforcement) by training, going to conferences, changing our environment (changing our station assignment), and developing disciplines that keep us burning with passion. These disciplines are prayer, study, teaching, service, and continuous improvement.

3) Air-Without air our fires will go out! This can be accomplished by developing relationships with encouraging individuals who seek out the best in us no matter what we are going through. They always seem to have the right words, at the right time, and they check on us periodically. This is a gift from God to have friends like these. Remember to thank Him daily for encouragement from His word, from others, and for the opportunity to provide encouragement to others.

4) Uninterrupted chemical chain reaction- This where we as firefighters behave differently. Everyone needs an interruption every now and then. The fire service is NOT everything to us, it is a way of life, and our calling but one day we will retire. What then? Is our identity so deeply intertwined with our title that we will lose all hope once we lay down our helmets? NO! The fire service is a part of us but we need time away to refocus, recharge, and rest in God’s peace.

Remember He gave us six days for labor and one day for rest. This was done for our benefit. Practice this by taking mini-vacations from the fire service and we will find that we are renewed and burning with even more intensity for the calling we are blessed with.

I pray that we all keep God’s Holy Fire burning within us and that is a fire no one can ever extinguish.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries