Thursday, March 14, 2019

Being an Example

To be up front with you this is more of a tribute than a blog post. I had the opportunity to be part of the celebration of life of my friend Scott yesterday. I knew him for the last 15 years of his life and I am a better man because of knowing him. Scott and I weren’t best friends or even close friends, we were brothers in our faith; which is deeper than many friendships, regardless of the time we spent together. What I will always have because of my time with Scott is wisdom that can only be gained by 2 guys being confused together, trusting God for the answer and then being obedient to follow though on where He leads you. 

The only way I can truly express what this guy meant to me and those he interacted with is the story about him almost getting fired months after we met. Scott had just started at a new church in our area and was tasked with connecting with the local residents around the church. So he wandered around the neighborhood and did something novel for a church leader and talked to the people he met around the church. After a while, he came up with an idea to help connect with the folks he was meeting in the neighborhood. So he sent out invitations and people came to the church. When they arrived, Scott had moved all of the pews in the church and rented a blow up bouncy house castle sat in there place. That night the people of the neighborhood sat in a blowup castle and learned about the kingdom of God; some for the first time. The thing I loved about Scott is how he was able to bring the Bible to life and he did it in spades with the bouncy castle. In doing so, he showed everyone who sat in that castle that he cared about them, cared about them enough to do something special just for them. After the successful event, the church board who called him to connect with the community now wanted to fire him for moving the pews. As I talked to Scott about the situation, he said something that will aways stick with me, “I am a recovering legalist, it’s way easier to love people then to condemn them”. 

That’s how Scott lived his life, he loved people, helping them know who God is and what He did for all of us in spite of ourselves. He was the pastor of a small little church but his son said it best, “Dad was a pastor to all that he encountered”. He was and will be an example for all of us on how to love people, serve God and meet them where they are at, even if it’s in a bouncy castle.

Geremy Olson
ND AIM Tournament Director, Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

You Can't

Last week during a really early morning when I couldn’t sleep again like most nights….this sleepless night wasn’t because of nightmares, I was excited and I had a really dry hotel room. For starters, and to get it out of the way, what engineering feat would it be to make a hotel room just a little bit better than a dehydrator? I’m sure if you left some meat sprinkled with some seasoning on a rack in most hotel rooms you would have a good batch of jerky by the end of a show.  Oh, the “show”, that’s where the excitement comes into the story. I was setting up for an ice fishing vendor show that I was helping Peter and Andrew with and had the opportunity to teach a seminar with Peter on “Hunting Big Pike” when God jumped in and did what he does. But before we get to that we need to look at the reason why it was so exciting.

I grew up in a hard working North Dakota home where your work ethics and self sufficiency were cornerstones to an upbringing. Along with that, was financial responsibility and planning. All of these principles were rooted in scripture and taught more by example than anything. After getting hurt, one of the hard things for me, because of this mindset, was accepting help and accepting the fact that I still had any personal worth even though we had to claim insolvency and lost everything we had because I volunteered one day.  Going through this in life was really hard, but I and my family learned some additional Biblical principles that bring balance to what most of us are raised with in rural communities. Reliance, yep that’s right, reliance. It doesn’t take long to figure out how God has taken care of me and my family over the years and it never fails to amaze me at how He does it and when.

What’s frustrating and hardest for me to work though is all the people that make it a point to interject their knowledge and wisdom into our life without looking at the facts of what God is doing. The hardest is when we hear the line, “you can’t live your life like that, you need to take care of yourself.” Now, the last time I checked, I chose to volunteer and did not choose the financial situation I am in because of that choice to volunteer. However what I and my family learned is how when we rely on God, He never lets you down. What’s frustrating is when people tell us,“you can’t live your life like that” they are saying you have to stop relying on God. What’s sad is that they don’t even know what they are saying. 

Which gets to the excitement of the trip. This has been a better year for business but as many business people know that means you don’t always have the cash on hand when you would like it. Planning for a series of video shoots and ice fishing vendor shows one after another means you need to be frugal with your cash and pray that God will supply what you need and this last weekend He did. For starters, the old Missouri Secrets suburban is on it’s last set of tires and we needed a vehicle to pull the trailer to events. What do you know, God supplied both the money and the truck. I can tell you that interesting story another time. For a couple of weeks before the show, we talked as a family about how tight finances are and how we needed to think through every purchase and that if God wanted us to have anymore, He would supply it. On the night before the show, the boys were helping a friend set up his booth because that’s what friends do. As the boys walked out to the truck afterwards, they apologized to me for accepting the money our friend gave them for helping. As we got in the truck and were driving away, I reminded them that we were praying for God to supply our needs and that He just covered all of our meals for the trip with that money. Andrew said, “wow I never thought about it that way.” That’s what’s exciting about this trip, and maybe even this sleepless night, learning about reliance and hard work at the same time with my kids. It’s exciting to see how and when God answers prayers and how we are the answer to peoples’ prayers and don’t even know it. 

Before you tell someone “you can’t”, remember to get the entire story and let God do His thing.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Plagiarism 101

For all of you that know my story I think most of you would agree that I have seen my fair share of stressful situations. In spite of all of my near death experiences there may be one that sticks out in my mind as being the most memorable. It is not the time I fell on a bow saw in third grade cutting my neck wide open, nor is it the time I thought to my self, “If fish can breath underwater why can’t I.” For the record, nearly drowning is off my to do list. No, one of the most death defying events in my life happened when my mouth engaged before my brain and I said the wrong thing to the wrong person. You are also wrong when you sit there reading this and are laughing while waiting to see what I said to my wife. Granted I have said many things to my wife that would be classified as brave, dangerous, or down right stupid, but these pale in comparison to this, my most death-defying action. I looked a librarian in the eye and said these words,”the key to innovation is plagiarism.” Yep, I said it. With that look that only a librarian can produce with a finger up to their lips and eyes that could bore a hole to China in seconds she looked at me and said, “excuse me?”. Yes, I did it. I repeated myself. What is interesting is after explaining myself, she had to agree with me. So I lived to write this blog.

I work with folks all the time who struggle with getting their message across. They spend no time at all on their message or way to much time trying to find a new way to tell their story. There are other organizations that are chiseling their message in stone and are looking for another chisel. What’s funny about this is the dyslexic guy knows there are less than 40 possible plots for any story. Some say there are only four plots. So for starters, if you tell a story you just changed the characters. 

Contrary to popular belief, I am not fond of making mistakes. Especially the ones that hurt me or other people. It kills me to watch people make mistakes that are avoidable. Understanding current and past history is a great way to learn from others’ mistakes and not repeat them. Learning from others’ mistakes is usually simpler and protects us and those we affect. My dad always says learning is what happens when you read the manual and an education is what you get when you don’t. Maybe you need to be dyslexic like me to find the humor in the statement that “plagiarism is copying anyone without giving them credit”. Well, quite frankly I can’t even spell the Ikea guy’s name who wrote the directions when putting together their furniture (how do you give the guy credit if you can’t even spell the guy’s name??). Yet I am supposed to copy whatever he drew on the directions?

I think I am done rambling and ready to get to the point. Every successful advertising campaign, leadership fad, program, fill in the blank has one thing in common. It worked before with another name. All that someone did is make it understandable to a new audience or generation. So if your company, organization or church is having a herd time getting your message across, take a look back and see when it quit working, then look at your audience and see how they are communicating and tweak the message as needed. Take a close look at others that are successfully communicating and copy it with your unique signature. A great example is  missions. Many churches across the country are struggling with declining numbers. Their message and actions haven’t changed in decades and they are confused why they aren’t getting anywhere. They do this while supporting missionaries around the world that have churches that are growing and thriving. The churches that take the basic principles of the missionaries they support are also growing and thriving. When fire professionals take basic pastoral care principles and apply them to people effected by disasters, people are thankful and calm. When the old, cold tactics are implemented, people are angry and frustrated. See? The key to innovation is plagiarism. Take what works and use it to positively change lives without hurting people or yourself. Within your area of influence it is considered innovative. For those who understand history, it is wise. Just don’t tell the librarian.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Monday, August 20, 2018

Staying onTarget

Last week I had one of those nights in parenting that could have gone horribly wrong. I did take my own advice and I took a deep breath, thought the situation through, waited to open my mouth until I was sure I would say something intelligent, useful and educational. We have all been there as parents and as kids, when something didn’t go right and someone jumps to the worse case scenario and freaks out as if being on fire without a fire extinguisher would be better then what they are encountering. Like freaking out has ever helped anything ever, yet it is the go-to for most people in perceived stressful situations. So as things seemed to be going downhill fast, I looked at Peter, who wasn’t sure if he should be concerned or not, and said, “it’s usually the little things that cause trouble, don’t think worse case.” He said OK as we are driving home with randomly dimming headlights, surging engine, gauges flickering and way more wacky things happening that would make any movie special effects coordinator happy as could be. For the three of us in the truck, we were thinking about the possible long walk home. Peter was wondering how he was going to pay for repairs and/or get to the fishing tournament that was on the schedule that week, with a truck that was behaving like the leading character in a horror movie. However, Peter trusted my word and as we made it home we agreed to take a good look at it in the morning and then see if it was ok to get concerned about it.

Five years earlier, Peter and I went through an interesting chain of events that taught both of us a lot about looking at the whole situation before jumping to conclusions. When he was eleven years old, Peter bought a new bow for his first year of archery hunting. Over the last two years he had worked diligently to gain the needed proficiency and strength to go deer bow hunting. There are some out there who love to say this is too young, but the trouble with objective standards is age has little to do with them. The fact was that he was ready and his older brother and I were not. Peter had a consistent three inch group from all shooting locations out to 30 yards. On our first trip to the stand we were two and a half hours into the hunt when a deer walked in at 12 yards. My heart was pounding like never before as Peter stood up and aimed like he had been hunting forever. He gave me the nod and I gave a grunt, the deer stopped and Peter released the arrow and time stood still. I was shocked when the arrow went wide right hitting the deer, but way forward of where it should have been. We stayed in the stand and waited as the deer ran off. I was lost for words as we looked for 3 days for that deer before seeing it alive and well with a graze mark on it’s brisket. As we drove home that night of the miss, I was consoling Peter and justifying in my own mind why he missed that give-me, 12 yard shot. I explained to him that in the heat of the moment everyone gets excited and grips the bow too tight and that throws off the shot. For the next two weeks I worked with him and tried everything I could do help him focus on getting back that three inch group. All to no avail, his shots were flying left and right covering a six to eight foot area. He was hitting dead-on only about half the time. What was most frustrating to me is that I couldn't see what he was doing wrong and he was frustrated because he was doing every thing the same every shot, which is the key to archery. A mentor of mine recommended that I lighten up on the training and just spent time in the tree stand with him. If it is in his head the only way to get it out is with a good clean shot, he recommended. As we were walking out to the stand that trip, Peter look at me and asked, “Dad why is my sight moving?” What in the world? His sight is loose. I pulled out the allen wrench from my pack and tightened up the one screw that the archery shop never put lock-tight on and he was back to his old self and 2 hours later we were tracking the deer he hit at 22 yards with a perfectly placed shot.

Getting back to our seemingly possessed pick up truck. Peter and I went to the place of wisdom and endless knowledge, both useful and worthless, that’s right; YouTube. With less than 5 minutes of searching we found multiple videos that showed the same possessed pick up symptoms that we were encountering and the solution was annoyingly simple. Turns out there is an 11mm bolt on the back of the engine compartment that holds the grounding wire tight. We tightened it up and the truck lost all hopes of ever starring in a Hollywood feature movie. 

What I love about parenting is learning together with my family. Freaking out about something never helps and never ever makes things better. Think of how much it would have cost if we had rushed to a dealer to have someone else fix our problem without thinking it through. Peter would be broke, he and his brother Andrew would have missed weighing their personal best in the fishing tournament. If I would have scolded Peter for missing the deer he may have never bow hunted again. I would have never figured out that he missed that deer because of a simple mechanical problem that I and the archery shop neglected to find. Most long term hurts in life are a result of losing sight of the target. It’s our job to teach others what we have learned. When we assume what is wrong instead of fully assessing the situation, we hurt people. But when we learn together, we find the real problems together, make the needed adjustments together and hit the target together. No freaking out required. Besides fun stories and laughing about silly little stuff is way better than hurting people because of short sightedness.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

You’re Not Really….

I had an interesting discussion with someone last week. We were talking about statements like these: 
“You’re a volunteer, you’re not a real firefighter.” “You have a job so you can’t be in ministry.” “You’re at the bottom of the seniority list you can’t be a leader.” Take a minute to come up with the list of statements like these that you have heard over the years. If you are the one making comments like these, please read the whole blog in context before passing judgment. 

What’s intriguing about comments like these is where and when they are made. Typically these comments are made in the context of an occupation, whether someone is paid for the activity or not. Secondly, these comments are made within the confines of a organizational chart. Another thing about these comments is where they pop up and where they don’t. I have never heard someone say, “you’re not a fishermen because you only fish weekends.” “You’re not a high school football player, you only play 8 games a year.” “You can’t be a wood worker, you don’t own a business.” But when it come to areas of life involving leadership and life safety, these statements come out of the woodwork…sorry couldn't help the pun. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of principles before we look at the statements above. My son Andrew asked me a question the other day after attending his drivers ed class. “Dad there was an ad for a first aid kit that said I am a first responder. Is that right?” I responded “yes”.  Regardless of who you are, if you are the first person on a scene you are a first responder. What makes the difference is what level of training and experience you have. I know life guards who have never had to make a save. I know people that just as part of life, have a half dozen or more. Whether you are paid or just in the right place at the right time, you are the one who saved a life, if you took appropriate action. It’s all about being available and then acting when a need is evident. The second thing to look at is leadership. It’s tough for many people to handle, but here it is. Leaders are people that others follow, not a position on an org chart. Someone may have all the titles they want before and after their name, if they are not a leader, no one’s going to follow them. Leaders are people that have many different qualities and styles but through their actions, compel people to follow them anywhere, through anything.

To start summing this all up, it boils down to this. You are what you are made for, what you step up to do when it’s needed and what you specialize in. There are many kinds of firefighters and they are all firefighters. The kid digging line, the logistics unit leader, the finance team, the runners, the radio dispatchers and all the other positions on the team are firefighters. Regardless if their job at home is biologist, business owner, full time, part time, volunteer, retired or housewife. They are all still firefighters regardless of anyone’s opinion or expectations. 

The same is true when it come to spiritual things. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, church worker, new Christian or lifer. Your availability to meet the needs at hand have more to do with your ability to minister than any title or pay grade. Here is another hard pill for many to swallow. If you are not willing to live life with people, you are incapable of carrying out the Great Commission. Let that soak in a little bit. Remember, you are what you are made for, what you step up to do when it’s needed and what you specialize in. Whether you are paid or not, it’s about being available and taking the appropriate action that saves lives. 

Over the years, I have found one other similarity in pretty much every person I have heard who the beginning statements are made about. They are almost always servant leaders. They don’t care about accolades, position, or power. They care about being available to do what God made them to do. They care about meeting the needs of those who have needs. They put others first because it’s the right thing to do. I heard an EMT tell a reporter one time, “I just do what I hope someone would do for my family if they were in need.” 

These beginning statements are made in ignorance, with uninformed expectations and non-practical standards. If you hear someone make them, put them in their place. If you make these statements, think about what you are saying. Realize that your understanding does not determine other’s understanding and most importantly their willingness to be available when needs arise.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fix It

So here are a few comments that I keep hearing about the church. “It’s our church so we go.” “It’s full of sinners, you just have to accept that’s the way it’s going to be.” “It’s not perfect, but you still need to go.” “That’s just the way they are, we need to show grace.” “Every church is good at some things, you need to find the one that’s right for you.” I have spent years trying to figure out how to answer these false statements but seem to struggle at every turn. For those of you reading this that like to jump to conclusions, this is not an anti-church blog. On the contrary, it is a pro-Biblical church blog and a call to many to look in the mirror; to see what they are justifying instead of fixing. 

It’s kind of funny, really, when you step back and look at it. If every time you took your car to a mechanic where it never got fixed and sometimes got worse, would you still go to that mechanic…nope. What would you do if you took your clothes to the dry cleaner and when you went to pick them up they were mostly clean, except for one new stain that wasn't there before. When you inquire about the stains the answer is, “That’s just the way it is.” My bet is you’re never going back. 

For the sake of space, I am going to break the building blocks of the church down into a few simple points (this is because there is not room to quote all 66 books of the Bible here). The Church is where we are to learn and grow in Christ together. The Church is where we are to eat, pray and worship together. The Church brings people together who, outside of Christ, would never hang out together. The Church meets peoples’ needs.  Finally, the Church lives life together praising God in all that they do. When the Church does all of these things it grows and is healthy.

Now, the comment I hear all over the place is, “but people are sinners, it doesn’t work that way.” One of my mentors in ministry puts it this way, “the Church is God’s perfect institution entrusted to sinful people.” The Church will never be perfect and we do need to operate with grace. What we can’t do is ignore mistakes, ignorance and sins in the name of grace. We need to repent of our mistakes, ignorance and sins, seek reconciliation and make the necessary changes to prevent it from happening again. When we justify mistakes, ignorance and sins in our churches, we hurt people and lose track of the foundation of the church.

Here is the painful reality many in churches are unwilling to accept. Church is not an excuse. Regardless if it’s a mistake, something done in ignorance or a sin, it is something that needs to be identified, repented of and not repeated. When these things are ignored and justified they are rewarded and they replace the Biblical building blocks of the church. Churches with these weaker foundations still do some good but are like an engine running on five of it’s eight cylinders. They have all sorts of great stories that sound good about things happening in their church but are leaving a wake of spiritually and emotionally hurt people. 

What is sad about this problem is it has a simple fix. If your car needs oil, you add oil, you don’t say, “that’s the way it is.” If we make a mistake, we need to say we are sorry and work hard to not repeat the mistake. If we don’t, then we are now justifying our actions and are guilty of sinning. We need to listen to others and the Holy Spirit so we can recognize when we have done something wrong and instead of justifying it we need to make amends, repent and take actions to keep it from ever happening again. The goal is not to be perfect, it is to help people, not to hurt them. Because what is rewarded is repeated, what isn’t corrected is assumed to be correct. It kills me to hear church leaders sit around asking why their church isn’t growing, while refusing to look in the mirror or the wake they are leaving. If they did, they would see what building blocks they need to attend to. We can only fix that which we are willing to look at. So don’t be afraid to identify what’s wrong in your church and fix it. 

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Catching Fish

I had someone ask the other day, “why is it that you catch so many fish and we can’t seem to catch a fish at all.” Before I could answer I had to get more information. They preceded to tell me about all the things they had tried and went into great detail about all the work they put into planning every trip. After they were done filling me in on everything they had to say, I saw the problem. Every decision that they made was based on something they wanted. Their trip was scheduled on what worked for them. They went to the part of the lake that they had success before, even though the lake has changed a lot since then. Finally, they were fishing with the latest lure they saw on tv. What I told them was not revolutionary or even a secret. It’s the way people have successfully fished for countless generations.

First, you need to go to where the fish are. Fish can change location at any time and for many reasons. If you are fishing where they are not, you’re going to get skunked. To figure out where the fish are, you need to understand the fish: how they see, what they eat and what conditions they are most comfortable in. To understand what make a fish tic takes time on the water. Time observing and learning. Fishermen that catch fish understand that they have to go to where the fish are.

Timing is everything when your fishing. Knowing how to predict where and when fish will be is the second step to catching them. You see, if you plan a fishing trip on your schedule it almost always leads to a boring trip without fish. But when you plan your trip around the fish, it’s amazing how exciting that trip can be. And when you are willing to drop everything and go fishing when you get word that they are biting, those are the days that you will never forget. It really stinks when you hear, “man you should have been here yesterday.”

Once you have found the fish, if you want to catch them, you need to give them what they want. This can change day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Sometimes they are active and they will chase your presentation and other times you need to give them something right in front of their face before they will bite. Color can make all the difference in the world. Red can be the hot color one day and other days you have to cycle through gold, black, green, blue and white to trigger a strike. It is also important to understand what they are hungry for. If it is a worm bite and you are using minnows, color may not matter, you’re not going to catch anything.

If you want to catch fish you have to learn to ignore what you want and like and start understanding what the fish is looking for and what they are reacting to. You see, fish react to their environment. They make decisions based on the environment they live in, not based on what we think or even want. Productive fishermen have figured this out and that is why they catch fish. They are not lucky, they are purposeful in their pursuit of fish. 

The question we need to ask is, do we want to fish our way or God’s way?  Here are a few resources to look up to help you answer the question. Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 28:16-20, John 13, 1 Corinthians 9:21-23 & Philippians 2. These are just a place to get started on learning how to catch fish the way Jesus called us to.

Tight lines.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker