The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse:
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)
As firefighters, we don’t like to admit that we often hurt. Not just a physical pain from our work but an inner torment. We often push down the emotions from the things we see, the struggles in our own lives, and the stress we experience. Then in one moment, we erupt as if our emotional pressure relief valve gives up. The tears come and they fall like rain. Perhaps, in this moment we could take the time to remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also shed tears.
Jesus experienced the same emotions that you and I feel. Every one of us has shed tears, tears of joy, and tears of sadness. We will face trying times and some of these moments will seem impossible for us to deal with. And as a follower of Christ, the more that we work for Him, the higher position we rise to, the greater the opposition we will face. It is a certainty that has been foretold by Jesus and lived out by Him and all of those who have followed Him.
“If you want to be my follower you must love Me more than your own father & mother, wife, and children, brothers, sisters-yes more than your own life.” (Luke 14:26)
In John 15:18-25 Jesus predicts our coming persecutions:
18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master. ’If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.
Many of us have fallen away when we have suffered for the sake of Christ but we must remember the words in 1 Peter 4:12-19.
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?
And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,
What will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.”
Every person that we can read about in the Bible struggled, suffered, and wept. Yet, do we realize there is such a thing as tears of joy. The actual chemical composition of tears of sadness and tears of joy are actually different. So when we feel the emotions flood our hearts let us not suppress them let us embrace them and remember:
God counts every one of our tears:
“Thou numberest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; Are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8
God Himself has shed tears:
“Jesus wept” John 11:35
God will wipe away our tears:
“4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. “(Revelation 21:4)
The tears of joy and sadness in life will come but let them fall knowing that God the Father counts every one, God the Son has shed tears, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day. We can take comfort Jesus was “made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
We are to remember that this world is the training grounds for heaven. We are made for a higher purpose, predestined for good works, and He will use all things to work together for our good and His glory if we will yet trust in Him. Hold the line, don’t let stop fighting the fires of your life, and remember He is with us though it all.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
A Personal Ventilation Profile:
How does one ‘vent’ when the pressures of life become intense?
As a firefighter, we understand the definition and application of ventilation. We are taught that during a fire there are several types of ventilation that can occur such as: Normal, Unplanned Ventilation, Tactical Ventilation, and Anti-Ventilation. We have witnessed the effects of when we vent too early, we vent in the wrong place, or we don’t vent at all. The fire can grow exponentially and get out of control. The fire can be directed towards an unintended path causing more damage. Or the fire can be shut down to a decay phase just waiting to explode when given the air it needs.
In our lives, have we not seen the same consequences when we vent improperly? We blow up suddenly, in the wrong place, and on an unintended person who ends up getting burned by our pent up wrath. This leads us to see that we as individuals can have a personal ventilation profile. By defining our profile it will help guide each of us through the process of how we can better deal with the fires of life. Our end goal can now be to understand our personal need for ventilation; so we may know what is healthy and what is not.
As firefighters, we relate through our experience and our stories. Let us examine some possible examples of personal ventilation profiles:
Normal Ventilation: This involves the exchange of air inside a structure with the outside air. As a fire develops, this exchange provides to support combustion and allows some smoke to escape. This air inside the structure has a significant impact on the fire development.
An individual who ‘vents’ normally allows the amount of air needed in and allows the ‘smoke (stress)’ to escape. This is a good example of proper stress management.
Unplanned Ventilation: This occurs when occupants leave a door/window open or the fire causes the window to fail. And in some cases, firefighters upon making entry can create undesirable changes in the vent profile. Wind can be a significant factor by increasing the air supplied to the fire and or creating draft effects.
An individual who suffers from an ‘unplanned ventilation’ may have left a door open to their past that because of their haste to escape the intensity of the fires of life. This person may have a sudden failure of one of their ‘windows’ in life.
By definition, a window is an opening in a building (our life) that allows in air, light, or both. Our windows in our lives are the things that are most valuable to us. For example: our families, our relationships, our health, our jobs, or our friends. When these ‘windows’ fail, as in a fire, we vent in ways we haven’t anticipated. We suffer outbursts, breakdowns, and rapid changes in our temperament that often injure others that are in our ‘flow path’. We convert to a uni-directional flow and they are in the exhaust.
These failures are often intensified by the ‘winds’ in our lives that tend to blow in just at the right time. The old expression, when it rains..it pours.
For example: If someone recently suffers a divorce and then their boss announces they laying off 10 employees and you happen to be one of them. Then the next morning, your car breaks down followed by your sanity breaking down.
What about Tactical Ventilation and Tactical Anti-Ventilation? They are efforts performed by others to help control the fire while well coordinated suppression efforts are being conducted. In our lives, we need to be able to allow those that care about us to help us ‘tactically’ address our problematic fires that often burn for long periods unchecked. When we tactically address the fires that stress us to the point of flashover we begin to identify the triggers that set us off and mitigate them before any undue harm is caused. This can be accomplished through many different means but the key to this is to be consciously aware of the our stressors, our weaknesses, and to have a means of releasing this pressure in a healthy way.
In order to be understood we must first seek to understand. With that being said:
What is it that has kept us from allowing others to ‘tactically vent’ our stress?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). As firefighters we take pride in our job but if we are not careful our pride can be our downfall. When our pride gets in the way, we refuse to reach out for help or even admit that we have a problem. We are the ones others reach out to and we feel as if we have failed when we can’t manage our stress on our own. This is not a sign of weakness but a sign that we are human. We all need someone to talk to, someone that understands, and someone that has been through our same struggles.
In these moments that we have suffered, what do each of us think would have helped us through it all?
Have we not seen the power of teamwork in our profession? We do nothing alone, so why is it that we feel that we should suffer alone? Our brothers and sisters
Where do we draw our strength from in trying times?
Who do we rely on when others fail us?
As leaders in our homes and in the fire stations we must begin to learn the value of strength in fellowship, the power of petition, and the comfort of allowing another to bear our burdens with us. Whether you believe as I do or not, know that there are those who care more about your life than you may care about your own. How is this so? Because they have been where you have been. Because they have felt your pain and they know the comfort that God provides. They know that God has placed us in others lives to lift them up, to bear their burdens, and comfort them with the comfort we have received from God Himself.
They know their personal ventilation profile and how to properly vent when the stress of life becomes too great. Let those who have suffered and learned from their pain help you today.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
A Heart of Stone
The world that we live in can often cause us to grow calloused and cold. We see so much violence and hatred that we become conditioned to it. Terrible things no longer shock us or impact us and as firefighters we treat the dilemmas of our own lives with a ‘tactical-practical’ mentality. There lies an inherent danger of becoming removed from ourselves.
Before long, we wonder if we can even feel anything at all. In an effort to protect our hearts we have actually cut off the source of life and warmth. Consider the words of God in this case:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36: 25-27)
The power of God within us causes us to be vulnerable, to be more than we can be on our own, and to be painfully real to those around us. This is far from comfortable or easy. It causes us great difficulty because even though we are brave and face down chaos we are often fearful of showing our true selves to others.
Consider the great needs of those around us; as they are also seeking sincerity, truth, and genuine love. Can they find what we withhold? Can others see Christ in us when we have built walls of stone around Him in an effort to protect ourselves? Our efforts to protect ourselves may be limiting and harming other’s by withholding God’s love.
The world will often hurt us but dear friends it is when we are broken and real that people see our true faith. We cannot be two persons; personally and then professionally. The longer we hide our true selves we will find ourselves in inner torment.
Call upon God and ask for a new Spirit, His Spirit, to be placed in us. Call upon Him for the courage to be real and share our wounds, our brokenness, and most of all His love.
Firefighters claim the phrase that we are ‘combat ready’ but the challenge that is before us is to be spiritually prepared for battle. For if we call upon His strength, and are filled with His Spirit, and are wrapped in His Armor there will be no falsehood in us. This way the world will see Jesus in us and that is who we are truly meant to be.
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries-The Vent Group:
Have you ever felt the pressures of life, the job, and stress mounting up to such a point that you felt you were going to explode?
We know that pressurized cylinders & containers have devices in place to relieve the pressure if the pressure reaches a dangerous level. These PRV’s are there to help alleviate the pressure and bring things back to a manageable level.
Bringing Back Brotherhood is offering a very simple concept to firefighters. It is called the Vent Group.
We are in the process of gathering fire service leaders to serve as Vent Group Supervisors. They will conduct a video conference on a fire service topic and model how the group should be coordinated.
It is our goal to help develop groups like these across the country for firefighters. It will be a place to relieve pressure, receive encouragement, and support.
Are you interested in being a vent group supervisor? Are you interested in being a part of a vent group? Let us help you help one another.
It is our mission; will you be a part of it?
The Vent Group: How to get involved
The Vent Group will be made up of 5-7 fire service members (including the Vent Group Supervisor).
The Vent Group Supervisor will be responsible for setting up the Vent Group Assignment. These groups will meet every four weeks. The meeting will last between 30 minutes up to and not to exceed 1 hour. If the group feels that they did not finish or give adequate attention to the topic they will resume the discussion in their next meeting.
Each group can meet face to face if their schedules permit or the Vent Group Supervisor can schedule a Vent Group Assignment via their choice: Google Hangout, Skype, Goto meeting.
The Vent Group’s topics for discussion will be determined after the first meeting. Each member will introduce themselves and voice any particular topic they would like to discuss. After the meeting the Vent Group Supervisor will have taken extensive notes on each member and pray about the topics to discuss over the next year. Each topic should build upon the last. Each discussion should establish greater trust, comfort, and encouragement as you move forward. These discussions are to serve as a place for the fire service member to get things off their chest and to hear someone’s words of comfort not criticism.
An example of a 12 month topic discussion could be this:
1) Introductions, background, particular topics of interest
2) How did you get involved in the fire service?
3) What was your first incident that you had difficulty dealing with?
4) Suicide, LODD’s, Disasters, tragic death of a child, etc
5) Where do we go from here? Sharing pain and helping them see that they are not alone
6) Where do you struggle?(go over symptoms of PTSD) Irritability, lack of sleep, dreams/nightmares, avoidance, detachment from family/friends, marital issues, hallucinations, substance abuse, difficulty concentrating
7) Forgiveness-Forgiving yourself, others, and asking God for His
8) Reconciliation-Using tragedy and personal experiences to lift others up
9) Writing their testimony
10) Preparing them to lead others
11) Situational Awareness-Now that you have been through a group setting, who do you know that could benefit from what you have learned?
12) Sharing the Gospel and Multiply the effort-
Vent Group Supervisor:
A fire service leader, mentor, who is respected and cannot be directly connected to any of the individuals in the group by department, relation, or position of bias. Preferrably someone trained in CISM, counseling, ministry,
Vent Group Supervisor must:
1) Possess good people skills ability to read the room and know how to keep the process moving forward.
2) Have served in a leadership position with significant background experience in dealing with personnel issues and conflict resolution.
3) Be an individual of integrity. The Vent Group Supervisor isn’t perfect but they must be exemplifying the characteristics of a mentor. They have suffered much therefore they have much to offer. There is no testimony without a test.
4) Be willing to share but most of all be willing to listen, encourage, comfort, and motivate
The Vent Group Supervisor’s roles and responsibilities- Pick a topic to discuss that is personally related to him/her and the fire service. This topic must be something The Vent Group Supervisor has personal experience with. He/She will open the group by welcoming everyone, brief intros if necessary, and then introduce the topic.
The vent group supervisor will then share a very personal testimony about the topic. It requires someone who is willing to be vulnerable. In order for others to trust you with their wounds they first must see yours. This should take no longer than 5-10 minutes.
The Vent Group Supervisor will then facilitate discussion but not force it. If a member isn’t comfortable yet do not beat them into opening up. This is not a “fix it” group. It is a place of comfort, confidentiality, and encouragement.
This environment is a ministry effort. We will be upfront with each member that it is led by Christian men and women. We will tell them in the very beginning that it is our hope that they would have a close and personal relationship with Christ but we will not shove it down there throat. The Gospel is meant to be shared not shoved.
This environment will first cultivate the soil of there soil as to prepare their hearts for the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is a process of sharing our personal testimony then the word of God. It is by telling our personal “Jesus story” that we will share His love. It is ultimately up to God and their heart to decide if they want to take the next step but it is our responsibility to share His love.
The Vent Group Supervisor will remind the group throughout the discussion of the basic ground rules.
Vent Group Rules:
When discussing personal issues names of individuals and department names must be omitted. The group will not share any of these issues or topics outside of itself with only one exception. If any individual threatens to harm themselves or another individual it will be reported. We are not mental health professionals and will seek to save our own if the need arises.
* Speech: Profanity is not encouraged but if someone has a loose moment we will not criticize them. As fire service professionals we understand the pain and the language that often comes with it. We want to encourage the members to open up even if at first it’s a little rough on ourselves. The Vent Group Supervisor will remind them that their prayer is to have a heart big enough to hurt with them but not absorb their pain.
* Be Nice-When one individual is sharing there will be no firehouse banter or jokes about their story. We will not allow quick fix answers. This simply invalidates the person and makes them feel small. Their problem is important to them and it is more important for them to talk through it then for you to fix it. Negative or Angry speech towards anyone within the group will be grounds for removal from the group.