Once a year it is my privilege to get together with my dear friend Deacon Charles Barnhart of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Charlie serves as the chaplain for the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firefighter's Association (CVVFA) and over the course of the past 10 years he and I have spent a great deal of time sharing ideas as well as sharing our love for the Lord. Let me suggest that over time I have learned that Chaplain Charlie has a special way of stimulating my thought processes.
We spent a great deal of time at the CVVFA 110th Annual Meeting in McConnellsburg, PA catching up on life in general. I spoke of my daughter's wedding engagement and my son's ordination as a priest. Charlie shared the fact that his Bishop in the Lutheran Church granted him the ability to carry out all of the necessary services which a pastor is allowed to perform. We had a good time catching up on life in general and our church work in specific. He then asked me to pay close attention to his sermon during our annual memorial service which we hold to remember association members who have passed away during the past year. He thought I might find it interesting.
The first lesson, which was from the Book of Ecclesiastes, set the tone of the day for me. It covered the essence of life as we know it today. It was the verse which tells us that for everything there is a season. There is a time to be born and a time to die. Let me take it in a slightly different direction my friends. Let me suggest that there is a time to lead and a time to follow. There is a time to stay the same and a time to change. The key for you and me is to make sure we are doing the right thing at the right moment.
My friends, is it not possible that when we fail to note the changing seasons around us, that we begin to go in the wrong direction? I am not referring to the obvious changes like day to night, summer to fall, and fall to winter. No, I am referring to such things as the way in which people seemingly age and die and the way that new people come and older folks step aside. In addition I am referring to the societal changes which creep up on us each and every day. But there are certain rock solid precepts that we must always adhere to.
The famous hymn, "Amazing Grace" served as the foundation for Chaplain Charlies' message to us. It served as a solid foundation for his comments on grace, mercy, and peace. One of the major points of his presentation suggested that all of our success and good fortune in life came about as a result of the Lord's Grace. More importantly, he equated the concept of grace with love. He noted that each of us turns out to be what we are because of the Lord's love. How can a person go wrong if they meet life with the love of the Lord as a core value?
Sadly, my friends think of how many in the secular world scoff at you and me when we speak of our faith and our love for the Lord. The rules are really simple. My first priority is to live by the Golden Rule. I have often felt that if I was busy treating others as I would ask them to treat me, how could I be headed in the wrong direction. I have placed my faith in others many, many times, and rare has been the case when my faith was not met in like kind.
How often have I shared with you the message that you need to have the respect and support of your fellow travelers in your journey to be an effective leader? As one who has served in a variety of leader and follower positions, I feel comfortable in stating that one of the important things a leader must do is protect and defend their people from unnecessary and unwarranted criticism and interference.
Back in the day when I was serving as a chief officer in the Newark Fire Department, one of my critical personal goals was always to take care of my guys. Let me assure you that this was never an easy job. It seems as though I was working with and for people whose top-most goal in life was to avoid responsibility and assign blame to others. They never wanted to get any mud on their skirts. My job was to stand up for my guys and take whatever nonsense the front office would send our way.