Being a Jerk

We’re moving along with the new series, Love Your Enemies….and this week we’ll discuss Chapter 2, “Can You Afford to Be Nice?”. This chapter’s title begs the age long statement: Nice guys finish last!

Hmmmmm…..what do you think about that?

There’s a belief in politics and somewhat in life, in order to succeed you have to be a jerk. But this kind of behavior often brings a ton of anguish, especially to those who have to be something (or someone) they aren’t. In fact, some leaders have said years later that they had to be someone they didn’t admire in order to succeed.

Arthur Brooks writes on page 62:

“Is being nice difficult? Sure…it requires skill and practice, like anything else that’s worthwhile. But it is not impossible…”

Ernie Meland

Do you believe that?

What has made you successful? Building unity or building power?

Ernie Meland leads us this week as we’ll dig into this week’s chapter.

Don’t be a jerk! We’ll see you starting at 7:30 am ET via Zoom. Ernie kicks things into gear promptly at 7:45 am. Have a great rest of the week. I’ll see you on Friday!


Easier Said Than Done

Mike Lenhart

We’re back at it this week with our new study, “Love Your Enemies”. Homework this week is to read chapter one. Don’t wait until Thursday night….the chapter is a good 24 pages….so allow yourself some time to read and reflect.

Lots of great material that I’ll lead the discussion this week. Several great themes but what stands out to me is the story our author shares in meeting with the Dalai Lama. When asked how to respond to contempt in our lives, the Dalai Lama responds:

“Conquer anger though gentleness, unkindness through kindness, greed through generosity, and falsehood by truth.”

Dalai Lama

Easier said than done, right? I’m curious to get everyone’s thoughts on how we can do this. Is it even worth the trouble?

I think so.

Zoom invites should be in your email. Same details as last week’s gathering.

See you starting at 7:30 am ET this Friday!


NEW Study Series Starts This Friday!

New Study Series

Happy New Year, gents! Looking forward to seeing everyone this Friday as we START a new study series, Love Your Enemies by Arthur Brooks.

Homework this week is to (only) read the Introduction section of the book. Jon Paschal will lead us this week and will introduce the new series. The SignUp Genius is updated with opportunities for men to grab a Friday to lead. I’d encourage you (and ask) that you consider doing at least one week during this new series.

Jon Paschal

The new series is very timely….I think that’s something we can all agree on. Psalm 133 proclaims:

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

This piece of scripture (and others) serve as the foundation of this new study. Can’t wait for our journey the next couple of months!

Calendar invites for the Zoom meeting have been updated. As always, reach out to me if you don’t have that information.

Remember, too, that starting a new series is a great opportunity to invite someone to join us. We all have friends, relatives, and co-workers who might benefit from our weekly fellowship. And in the world of “virtual” gatherings, you don’t need to be here in Charlotte to join our weekly time together……yet another reason to extend the invitation out to someone you care about!

Have a great rest of the week. I’ll see you on Friday starting at 7:30 am ET.

Christmas Message: Angels We Have Heard on High

Merry Christmas friends. Missing everyone and looking forward to when we gather again in January.

I wanted to share a Christmas blog I wrote four years ago. Things were very different in the world then but the message is timeless.

You know what my all-time favorite, churchy Christmas song is this time of year?  That’s an easy answer…..”Angels We Have Heard on High“…. Simple lyrics with a mash-up of Latin thrown into the mix:

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing through the night

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their brave delight

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

For years the story of the Christmas miracle, that miracle of the birth of a Savior, tends to focus on a young virgin woman, unmarried, and somehow pregnant.  Today, I want to share some thoughts on another side of this miracle.  Imagine if you will that God has assembled a platoon of his best angels.  He tells them he is going to send his son to the world, and that this son, born human, will be a savior to all people.  God tells the angels, “Come with a plan on how we’ll announce this spectacular event….and let me know your thoughts ASAP.”

God leaves the room and the angels are left to come up with a plan.

The Bible shares stories about angels throughout the chapters.  Angels are used to deliver important messages such as:

  • Life and Death
  • Victory and Defeat
  • Judgement and Mercy

But this would be the most spectacular news yet.  The angels know they need lots of flash, bang, and fanfare.

The leader of the angels might be heard saying, “Let’s make a huge splash with the announcement.  Maybe have angels descending onto a huge gathering of elders and chief priests in the most important temple in all of Jerusalem”.

The angels package up their plan and God returns to hear their idea.

They pitch the idea….and it falls completely flat on our Heavenly Father.

Now God delivers his plan to the angels to implement.  It goes something like this.

God says, “You’re going to deliver the good news of the saviour’s birth….to a handful of shepherds who are tending to their flocks.”

The angels are stunned.  “Huh…..”, they must have said back to God.

“Okay, Father,” says one of the angels….”Then will the shepherds race to the temple, interrupt the high priests and announce the great news?”

“Nope”, says God.  “You’re going to alert the shepherds in the middle of the night.  It will be cold, and lonely, and quiet and no one else will be around.  Even the sheep will be sleeping.”

“And you know what else,” asks God.  “My son’s earthly parents won’t be married.  Mary, my son’s earthly mother, will be a virgin yet pregnant.  And this will be a source of great controversy”.

“But, Father,” the angels will plead one final time.  “Surely, the birth will be at a place of great splendor, because only under those conditions could a future king arrive?”

“Wrong again.  Mary and Joseph, my son’s earthly parents, will travel to the city of David, called Bethlehem.  Mary will travel on the back of a mule and they will not be able to find any comfortable place to sleep.  There will be one small inn…but no rooms will be available.  But a kind-hearted inn keeper will allow them to rest in the barn behind the inn.” says God.  “And that will be the place of this great miracle….”.

Probably not the actual planning session that took place in Heaven.  But I hope you can see my point.

I’ve often talked about shepherds in some of my devotionals.  I love the stories of shepherds and sheep.  God knew he could announce the birth to shepherds watching their flocks at night because they would not think twice about the message.  They’d take it at face value.  In fact, scripture reminds us that upon hearing the news, the shepherds “hurried off” to see the Christ-child.

Where are you looking for our Saviour this Christmas season?  Are you looking at all?

2020 has been a year like no other. My hope and my prayers for you today is that we all find our Saviour in the simple ways all around us.  God doesn’t want us to honor this season with fireworks and fanfare.  Be kind.  Love one another.  Be peaceful.  Be humble.  Think of others less fortunate.  Pray.  And remember the reason for the season.

I’ll leave you with a great quote from a very smart man:

“There are two ways to live your life.  One is as if nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is….”  Albert Einstein

Look for the miracle of Christ’s birth.  And look for the miracles all around.

Merry Christmas and blessings to all

Holiday Guest Speaker: Sarah Verardo on “Enduring Faith as a Battle Buddy”

Last week, NFL veteran and ESPN/SEC Network analyst, Roman Harper, shared his testimony titled, “Family, Football and Faith”. This week, Sarah Verado will close out our 2-part holiday guest speaker series with her special testimony titled, “Enduring Faith as a Battle Buddy“.

Sarah is another personal friend of mine who is the current CEO of The Independence Fund (TIF), a national non-profit organization with its headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The mission of TIF is:

“To empower our severely wounded Veterans and their Caregivers to take control of their lives. (We) provide the resources and tools that enable Veterans to regain their independence, and fight for their ability to sustain it.”

Speaker bio: Sarah Verardo

Sarah Verardo is a national advocate for wounded Veterans and their Caregivers. Her husband Michael was catastrophically wounded in Afghanistan in 2010, in two separate IED attacks that took his left leg, much of his left arm, and left him with polytraumatic conditions that have required more than one hundred surgeries and years of speech, visual, physical and occupational therapies.

Sarah Verardo

Starting as a volunteer with The Independence Fund, Sarah’s steadfast devotion, experience, and drive led to her eventual selection as the organization’s first Chief Executive Officer. Sarah carries on the legacy of The Independence Fund’s founder by continuing the hallmark all terrain track wheelchair program to provide mobility to wounded heroes. She also created the nonprofit’s Caregiver, Family, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs, and recently developed a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs that will combat Veteran suicide through reunions of some of the hardest hit units of the War on Terror. This revolutionary program, Operation RESILIENCY, works with VA and DOD to recall units for peer support, relying on bonds formed during war and keeping the commitment of shared experience and brotherhood alive back home.

Sarah advises Administration officials and members of Congress on the experiences of the families of our severely wounded Veterans and has been instrumental in shaping national policy for our warfighters and their families. Regularly appearing on cable news to commentate on the sacrifice of Veterans and Military families, Sarah is a respected subject matter expert in the field.

Since this is our last gathering for the year, I’m inviting spouses to join us for this week’s program. Sarah’s faith-based testimony is powerful and you’ll want your spouse to join you in this Friday’s program!

Same Zoom info as last week….please ping me if you need those details. As always, gather at 7:30 am ET. I’ll open us in prayer at 7:45 am ET and will then turn the mic over to our guest speaker, Sarah Verardo.

Have a great week!


Holiday Guest Speaker: Roman Harper on “Family, Football and Faith”

We’re currently in-between study series so for the next two Fridays before the holiday break, we’ll have guest speakers:

  • Friday, DEC 11: Roman Harper, former NFL player and current SEC Network analyst
  • Friday, DEC 18: Sarah Verardo, CEO of The Independence Fund

More on Sarah with next week’s reminder email/post.

Speaker bio: Roman Harper

Super Bowl Champion and former NFL Pro Bowl safety Roman Harper signed a multi-year deal to join SEC Network in the summer of 2020, filling the fourth chair on SEC Nation. Harper, an all-SEC performer for the Alabama Crimson Tide, joins host Laura Rutledge and analysts Tim Tebow and Nation newcomer Jordan Rodgers behind the desk. Harper also appears regularly on additional SEC Network studio shows, including SEC Now and The Paul Finebaum Show.

Harper, who spent nine of his 11 NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, was recently announced as a 2020 inductee into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. The Alabama alum, who was a team captain when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, played with New Orleans from 2006-13 and finished his playing career with the organization in 2016. Harper also spent two seasons (2014-15) with the Carolina Panthers, helping lead the team to Super Bowl 50. As a broadcaster, Harper spent the past two seasons as a Saints analyst with WDSU in New Orleans, worked for Charlotte’s FOX 46 and currently hosts “The Clubhouse Podcast” with Kyle Bailey.

Born was born and raised in Prattville, Ala., he is the founder of Harper’s Hope 4*1 Foundation, which focuses on strengthening families and encouraging children to reach their unlimited potential, regardless of their circumstances. The nonprofit does outreach in the Charlotte and New Orleans communities and throughout the state of Alabama.

Harper lives with his wife and four children in Charlotte, NC.

In full transparency, Roman is a neighbor of mine and since meeting him, I’ve gotten to know him not so much as a great former football player, but rather as an individual with high character, a strong sense of community, and Christian family values. He can also hit a golf ball a country-mile…but that’s another conversation! The video below shows Roman a couple years ago as he was leaning into retirement from the New Orleans Saints and preparing for the next chapter of his life. I know he’ll share some of those decisions and impacts this Friday to our men’s group.

Roman Harper, July 2017

As always, please gather virtually over Zoom starting at 7:30 am ET to “catch up”. I’ll open us in prayer at 7:45 am ET before quickly turning the Zoom microphone over to this week’s guest speaker, Roman Harper.


Featured image copyright: Jeremy Brevard

Giants to Kill and Dragons to Slay

Men….this week marks the completion of another book study; another series designed to build our character, call us to look inward and outward, and hone our skills as leaders. Many times, when we reach the end of a series, we’ll do a fair summary, discuss what we learned as the “bigger themes” and then move on to talking about the next study.

I don’t want to do that as quickly this time however. Like many of you, I’ve loved this book. Maybe it’s the video primers we’ve watched each week were Erwin McManus really personifies the messages. “Visuals” certainly help, right? But more than that, in Chapter 10 for this week, our author talks about being “battle ready”.

So….are we battle ready? Do we feel ready to “kill the giants and slay the dragons”?

And what are the battles we need to be ready to fight? Let’s talk about it this week.

Reminder that we’ll gather in-person at Community Matters Cafe, for those who feel comfortable doing so. We’ve reserved the back room beginning at 7:30 am. I’ll also have the Zoom up and running per normal so we can dial in those who can’t meet in person.

Mike Lenhart

Sharing the Chapter 10 video below. I’ve watched it a couple times now…and love what Erwin has to say. Here’s my favorite quote:

“…how will we ever know how much is in us? How will we ever discover the strength that God has placed in us? How will we ever know the courage that is waiting to be awakened in us; the hero that’s waiting to be awakened in us…..if God doesn’t trust us with the great battles? There are giants to kill….and dragons to slay….”

Erwin McManus
Chapter 10: Battle Ready

Have a great rest of the week. I’ll see you on Friday.


Being Thankful….

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving….and some might be saying, “This is 2020….global pandemic, political discourse, natural disasters…..what do I have to be thankful for?”

Hey, I’m right there with you!

I did a quick Google search on “being thankful” and came across a great article about writing a gratitude journal.

I’m certain the men in our group might be thinking, “I don’t have time to do something like a gratitude journal.”

How about this as a simple challenge…..spend time over the next few days with this list below. These are “teasers” … simple ways for you to think about all our blessings and even great conversation starters with family and friends.

  • What is something you have today that you didn’t have a year ago?
  • What is a personality trait in yourself that you are thankful for?
  • What is a possession that makes your life easier?
  • What do you like about your job?
  • How are you able to help or give to others?
  • What is a tradition that you’re grateful for?
  • How does your family make your life richer?
  • What are five positive memories from the last year?
  • What are three good decisions you’ve made this year?

Last week, I closed out our lesson sharing a 2-minute video about “How to Love Your Enemies at Thanksgiving”. (Sharing it again below…)

Thanksgiving, 2020

We won’t gather this Friday…but we’ll wrap up next Friday, DEC 4th at Community Matters Cafe. I’ll have the Zoom up and running as well for those who can’t join in person.

Peace gents….!

The Gospel According to Mick Jagger

Years ago, I heard Andy Standy give a sermon that said “maybe Mick Jagger was right all along…..”

No, you can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometime you find

You get what you need….

The Rolling Stones

Andy’s point in that sermon was more about God not always giving us what we want…but what we need.

Similarly, this week’s assignment, Chapter 9, talks about our wants….or really, our lack of knowing what we “want”.

Unlike “Reverend” Mick, however, this week’s chapter is more about figuring out what we want, then asking God to fulfill what’s in our heart.

A slightly different turn on that earlier sermon I heard years ago.

See what insight you pull from this week’s chapter as well!

David Parker leads us this week. Same Zoom as last week. Gather at 7:30 am ET then our lesson starts at 7:45 am ET.

David Parker

Reminder that next week, NOV 27th, we’re off for Thanksgiving.

Then, for those that want to meet in-person, we’ll gather at the back room at Community Matters Cafe the following Friday, DEC 2nd. We’ll also have the Zoom up and running for those who can’t be in person that day.

This week’s video primer is below. I’ll see you on Friday!

Chapter 9: Know What You Want

Go Fast, go alone; Go Far, go together

Hopefully when you read this week’s chapter, “Find Your People”, that African quote will jump off the page to you as it did for me. This week’s lesson is all about “teamwork”…..something McManus refers to as “our tribe”.

Teamwork is not necessary a new Biblical teaching. But maybe something that’s not made a priority to many of us. With all the earthy focus on “wealth”, does this mean we put relationships aside, easily burning bridges?

Mike Lenhart

I’m excited to lead this Friday and I’d ask that you come prepared to share stories of where you went at something alone….and when you went as a team.

Same Zoom invite as before. I’ll see everyone beginning at 7:30 am ET. Lesson starts at 7:45 am ET.

Chapter 8 video primer is below.


Chapter 8: Find Your People