Upon the fields of friendly strife…..

GEN Douglas MacArthur has a famous quote that I believe relates to this week’s chapter, especially about the importance of “competition”:

“Upon the fields of friendly strife on sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields, shall bear the fruits of victory….”

GEN Douglas MacArthur

McArthur’s quote is required knowledge for cadets at West Point, and is memorized during the first few weeks of Cadet Basic Training prior to even beginning the academic year as freshmen. (Just ask Jon Paschal or me this week…I bet we can STILL say it verbatim, 30 years later!) In layman’s terms, the lessons and experiences that athletes take away from competition will likely lead to more competence and confidence in battle and therefore, victory.

Our author discusses “competition, why it’s important, yet under the context of “healthy” competition: Chapter 7: Is Competition Our Problem?

Jon Paschal

Fair warning, this week’s lesson from Brooks does not favor the side of “everyone gets a participation trophy”! But if you are in the camp that believes in the merits of recognizing everyone….then bring your thoughts…and we’ll discuss….in friendly competition!

Speaking of Jon Paschal….he leads us this Friday. Please gather over Zoom starting at 7:30 am ET. Lesson starts at 7:45 am ET!

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Beat Navy!

For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn…..

When you read this week’s homework, Chapter 6 “Tell Me A Story”, you’ll recognize the title in this week’s reminder as the results of Ernest Hemingway’s bet with a friend that he could tell an entire story in six words…..

As I read through the chapter, it occured to me that this week’s theme is really common sense….but something we rarely put into application. Telling “stories”, our author explains, is the key to connecting with other people. He even cites some chemicals in our bodies / brains that respond to stories better than just simple facts and numbers.

Mike Lenhart

I’ll break it all down for you this Friday….but in the meantime, what’s your story? How would you describe yourself, maybe not in just six words (like Hemingway). Rather…could you come to our gathering this Friday ready to share your story…maybe in 12 words or less? That’s my challenge to you……

What’s mine? That’s easy….

“Complicatedly simple, time is ticking, thoroughly used up.”

See you at 7:30 am ET on Friday over Zoom.

Peace!

The “Identity” of Speed Dating

I’m curious to hear from any of the guys this week if you ever participated in Speed Dating as a single man. I did not…but knew of people who did. Mixed responses from those guys…..as for me, I tended to go off “referrals” from good friends back when I was single.

The opening pages of this week’s assignment, Chapter 5: The Power and Peril of Identity, had me wondering if the tendencies explained by our author likewise play out in speed dating. In other words, do “strangers” listen to what each other is saying during the lightening rounds of short discussions, or does it really come down to immediate common attributes like demographics, education, and job.

Luke Nelson

This week, Brooks talks about drifting away from what he refers to as our identity to some, and recommends finding unity by seeing people first and foremost.

Luke leads us this week and will navigate us through the challenges of “identity”.

Gather over Zoom at 7:30 am ET. Lesson starts at 7:45 am.

Peace!

Two Choices

Fast forward to the last page in this week’s assignment, Chapter 4: “How Can I Love My Enemies If They Are Immoral?”

Too many of us are like the Pharisee in Luke’s Gospel who prays, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” We should be more like the tax collector who, Luke tells us, “would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Arthur Brooks, p. 107
Jason Schubert

Now there’s certainly more to the chapter than just that final paragraph….so I’d encourage you to read the entire chapter! But, like me, perhaps you’ll start with that paragraph, put the book down and reflect…then begin with the first page of Chapter 4.

Jason Schubert leads us this week! I’ll look forward to seeing all of you starting at 7:30 am over Zoom.

Seize the day!

Peace!

Daddy…are we there yet?

Surely all of us can relate to that statement….”Daddy…are we there yet?” You’ve either said it….or heard … or even both!

Mike Lenhart

This week’s homework is reading Chapter 2, “Love Lessons for Leaders”. I’m signed up to lead…but am only half-way there….but I promise to be done with the chapter later today….getting us to the “destination” in plenty of time!

As I’m half-way through, I’m finding that the title is a little misleading. Maybe the second half of the chapter brings home some “love lessons”. Or perhaps it’s a play on words.

The chapter is a great continuation of the “don’t be a jerk” theme from last week, if that’s any consolation.

Same login for the Zoom meeting as last week. I’ll look forward to some quick fellowship at 7:30 am with you all. Then we’ll “get there” starting at 7:45 am.

Peace!

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!

Peace!

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!

Peace!

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!

Peace!