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Monday, July 26, 2021

Nightmares from the Service Department

We all know this life brings us trials and temptations. And sometimes our trials become opportunities for temptations. Like when bad customer service might drive you to drink! Or think dastardly thoughts.

I’m not there yet. But I might have been getting close with events of recent days.

I’ll start with my auto accident in May. While waiting patiently at a stoplight near my work, I was suddenly jolted by a smack to my rear bumper. The family behind me had their SUV really whacked by the person behind them.

All the emergency vehicles showed up within two minutes. It was quite a colorful display. Fortunately, no one needed medical attention. My car hardly showed but a few scratches—something that required $4200 of repair work. Deductible $500. Ridiculous.

Thankfully, all three drivers were insured. That generally means good news. My insurer, State Farm, is always great with service. But after two months, they had received no response from the company of the crash-causer. We’ll call them company “A.”

So now, it’s arbitration time. This is the legal fix for the uncooperative types. And for the two parties awaiting reimbursement of deductibles and their insurance companies who paid for repairs, this is a totally unnecessary delay. Glad company “A” is not my insurance company!

The next to try my patience came when a minor repair of our relatively new refrigerator was needed. We cried “help” from the LG service rep. We got crickets. Like we didn’t exist.

More recently a warning message and light on my car dashboard urged me to get attention to my AEB—whatever that is. Off to the dealership. A recall item was also needing to be fixed.

Simple repairs? Nope. I dropped off the car on a Thursday. The car needed a part, which would arrive in three days. No loaners available. My warranty coverage included a rental. If I could FIND one. I couldn’t. Not within 25 miles!

Monday, the needed part accidentally was sent to the wrong location. I was told to be patient and it should arrive Wednesday. So two more days without a car. Wednesday I get the call that the part is in and my car will be done by evening.

Late Wednesday afternoon, we head to the dealership. Most service personnel have gone home. But at least the car is ready and waiting and all washed clean. I jump in, turn on the ignition and…whoa…there’s that nasty AEB message staring back at me!

C’mon man…wouldn’t the tech who drove the car out of the garage have plainly seen that?? I drove off to meet my wife for dinner and called the dealership. The service rep told me no worries—probably a reset button issue. “Come back and we’ll take of that. No appointment needed.”

Friday morning I returned with my car. After a short time to check in I headed to the customer service waiting room. Almost four HOURS later, I’m told they are not sure what’s wrong. Another part needs to be ordered. That should take care of the problem. Maybe. This time, they let me drive my car home.

Misery, it is said, loves company. Several others in the waiting room had to face pricey repairs. At least mine will be covered by my 100,000 mile warranty—with only 180 miles remaining. A blessing provided by a loving son.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (HCSB) When the frustrating challenges of life come upon us, we do well to remember this verse.

But I still have some work to do on that “love your enemies” teaching. Especially the service repairmen who won’t call you back. That’s when the nightmares begin.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Monday, July 19, 2021

Olympic Size Problems

Let the games begin! Over the past three decades, I’ve collected several goodies from the promoters of the Olympics. I have enough return address labels from them to mail things into the next century. I have a vest with the Olympic rings, at least a couple of hats, and several items that were passed on to thrift stores.

Now some of that has come at a price. Most apparel items required a financial gift to support our Olympic athletes. Something I have generally wanted to do. I say “generally,” because I really have no interest in supporting athletes who use the platform to diss the country financing the show of their achievements. And there have been several.

The first to really stand out occurred in the 1968 games. It happened in the medal ceremony in Mexico City on October 16th. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African-American athletes on the US team, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of our national anthem. The two men were on the podium having won medals in the 200-meter running event of the games. Both turned and faced the US flag and then kept their hands raised until the anthem had finished. A third medalist from Australia joined Smith and Carlos in wearing human-rights badges on their jackets.

It was written 30 years later in Tommie Smith’s autobiography that the raised fists were not a “'Black Power' salute per se, but rather a ‘human rights’ salute.” But who knows. What they did, however, has been considered among one the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics.

Of greater political drama were the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Early on the morning of September 5th, a group of Palestinian terrorists ambushed the Israeli team and took nine hostages. Negotiations to free them broke down. The terrorists took the athletes to the Munich airport where German police fired on them from rooftops. Three were killed. A gun battle followed, killing the hostages, two more Palestinian terrorists, and a policeman. What a waste of lives!

There have been others who chose to use the Olympics as their platform for their preferred causes. Raising questions of her loyalty, for example, BMX Freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe wrote on Facebook last year, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.” Chelsea “identifies” as a trans woman. Her issue was trans-related. Later she told Fox News, “One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it's not all of the bad things that we're known for.” Oh please.

More recently we had the display of hammer thrower Gwen Berry. She decided to turn away from the American flag during the playing of the national anthem while at the US Olympic Trials. Gwen explained that she believed The Star Spangled Banner “does not speak for black Americans.”

Here’s the deal. A LOT of what has happened in American history doesn’t speak for ALL Americans. The Native population that was on the soil of this nation before most any other ethnic group has been violated. How about the taxes we pay? The first income tax in the US was levied in the Civil War, but the federal income tax as we know it was officially enacted in 1913. The estate tax, gift tax, and Social Security taxes all were legislated in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve been “violated” all my life by those.

Worse yet, a huge number of my fellow countrymen and women (I love saying it that way) keep voting in people who choose to kill our babies through abortion! How UN-American!! Roe V Wade doesn’t speak for me!

But it’s still our country. Freer than almost any other. Better than most—if not the best. So if you’re on our Olympic teams, stop the showboating. And to the organizers, stop taking the rebels to the competition.

No financial contribution from me this year. I don’t care how many labels they send.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Murky Waters of Justice

It was the fall of 1968. My high school debate partner and I were given our first look at a national resolution on which teams would face off during the coming school year. It read, “Resolved: That Congress should establish uniform regulations to control criminal investigation procedures.”

Recent Supreme Court decisions were changing the ways arrests were being made. Criminals now had to be read specific rights. Cases brought to light were the Miranda and Escobedo decisions.

The Escobedo v. Illinois case established that criminal suspects have a right to counsel, not just at trial but during police interrogations. In the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision, the Supreme Court held that a defendant cannot be questioned by police until the defendant is made aware of the right to remain silent, the right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney present during questioning, and the right to have an attorney appointed if the defendant cannot afford one.

It was this season of debate that tweaked my interest in becoming a lawyer. Something I would not pursue – although it was what I told my classmates at graduation time. I felt, as many did, that justice was turning a blind eye to punishing criminal activity when justified. Yes, rights are important. But crimes should be punished. Conversely, people should not be punished for exercising freedoms that clearly do no wrongful intent.

Two cases in the news of the past couple of weeks provided examples of what seems like injustice. First, was the decision to release comedian Bill Cosby. There was nothing funny about his purported offenses.
In April of 2018, Mr. Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting one of many women who accused him of similar misconduct. He was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. Cosby was sent to serve his term at a maximum security facility in Pennsylvania.

On June 30th, Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction and the man went free. Many were shocked. #Me too. According to the LA Times, “Legal experts say the court’s decision, which didn't involve the facts of the assault but rather actions by the prosecutor, was based on an uncommon technicality and probably won’t have wider legal implications.”

Get that? He was released on an “uncommon technicality.” Keep in mind, some sixty women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct. Just bury justice in the ground somewhere, okay? Now he plans to return to the stage.

Case number two involves a sweet woman named Baronelle Stutzman. A florist in Washington State. Loved by her customers.

As the owner of the flower shop, Ms. Stutzman served everyone who came to her store. That included a longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll, a “gay” man she had graciously served for nearly ten years, designing many beautiful and creative floral art creations.

When Rob asked her to design arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding, Barronelle drew the line. She knew that her Christian beliefs about marriage would require her to say no. And she told him so.

Alliance Defending Freedom, who defended Ms. Stutzman, explains, “So, she walked Rob to a quiet part of her shop, took his hand in her own, and gently told him why she couldn’t do what he asked. Barronelle then referred Rob to three local floral artists who she knew would do a good job. They chatted a few more minutes about Rob’s wedding plans, hugged, and then Rob left the shop.”

However, Rob’s partner posted about the rejection on social media. News coverage of that post was seen by the Washington Attorney General, which prompted a lawsuit against Barronelle. The “offended party” not only went after Barronelle’s business, but also sued her in a personal capacity. Later, the ACLU also joined in, filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of Rob and his partner.

Now, after eight years of standing by her position, two trips to the Washington Supreme Court, and two petitions to the US Supreme Court, the high court recently refused to hear her case. So much for freedom of religion. So much for justice.

The Old Testament prophet Amos wrote, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 (ESV)

The legal waters seem awfully murky.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Declaration of Life

Yesterday, Americans offered up another celebration of what we call Independence Day. I doubt most of us have any recollection of the sequence of steps that led to the signing of the founding document known as the Declaration of Independence. But there was a process.

History records that on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion in Congress to declare our national independence. Not everyone in Congress was ready to lock and load, believing that several colonies were unprepared. Nonetheless, a Congressional committee was formed to draft “a declaration of independence.” Thomas Jefferson was selected to lead this effort.

Once completed, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams reviewed the original draft, keeping it mostly intact. However, certain passages likely to meet with controversy or skepticism were struck. (In particular, these were passages which blamed King George III for the transatlantic slave trade and those that cast blame on the British people rather than their government.)

The final draft from the committee was presented before Congress on June 28, 1776. Next came the unanimous approval by Congress declaring our freedom from Great Britain. That occurred on July 2, 1776.

A group was then formed to draft a document explaining all this to the public. That took two more days. Again, Jefferson became the main author. Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4th. Off went the original to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the Dunlap Broadside were made with that bold John Hancock signature at the bottom. Only 26 copies remain today. 

On July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read a printed Declaration of Independence to the public for the first time. The reading took place in what is now known as Independence Square. A version of the Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia by many members of the Continental Congress. It’s interesting to note that historian Herbert Friedenwald determined that the signers on August 2nd weren’t necessarily the same delegates at the July gathering when the Declaration was originally proposed and approved.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads…

”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Of course, it’s still troubling to try and understand how “all men are created equal” but not necessarily so in the late 1700s. At the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegate Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed that congressional representation be based on the total number of inhabitants of a state. Delegate Charles Pinckney of South Carolina agreed but his support seemed disingenuous at best. He knew most blacks were enslaved in South Carolina and none, slave or free, could vote or were considered equals of white citizens of the state. Later in our history, it took the 19th Amendment for women to fully receive the right to vote.

And then there are the “unalienable Rights” (or inalienable if you prefer)—those that cannot be given away or taken away. Three are mentioned: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. In America today, we still have adults who cannot figure out when a baby is “alive” and deserves to live. In a June press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to say if President Biden believes a 15-week-old unborn baby is a human being. So much for these millions of children who lost their “unalienable right to life.” Or liberty. Or happiness.

King David understood about being “endowed” by the Creator. He wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) You can’t change that!

Until America gets the right to life right, let’s not ask God to bless our land.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 28, 2021

Freedom or Minds of Mush?

An article in Teen Vogue magazine posted on their website last year was titled, "What Is Democratic Socialism and Why Is It Growing More Popular in the U.S.?" It should not come as a surprise that informing teens about something trendy should be written. Instead, it is the rise of the quasi-endorsements of the socialist mindset that I find troubling.

Here is how the article began: “Socialism. It’s back. Left for dead after the Cold War, revised by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential bid, and popularized by social media superstars like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the concept has gone mainstream.”

Well it certainly seems to have gone that direction. And why not? From middle school years through our colleges and universities you will find plenty of supporters. Popularizing ideas as failure-driven as true socialism must find advocacy somewhere. Who better to shape young minds than our educators?

Is this “popularity” real?? A 2018 Gallup survey reported that 51% of Americans age 18-29 held a positive opinion of socialism. Among Democrats, the number rises to 57%.

The Pacific Institute sees a definite connection to this embrace of socialism in our education system.They cite a 2015 article in The Washington Post in which they reported on research that exposed the most liberal and conservative jobs in America.

Here were some findings:

First, among actors and actresses there are 90 Democrats for every 10 Republicans. 

As for our schools…
  • Among English teachers, there are 97 Democrats for every three Republicans.
  • Among high school math and science teachers overall, there are 87 Democrats for every 13 Republicans.

Furthermore, Dr. Greg Forster, Friedman Fellow at the school-choice organization EdChoice, explains that university education schools indoctrinate future teachers in left-wing ideology. In his words, “Peruse the course catalog of any major education school, or read the Twitter feeds of the professors,” and you will “find yourself swimming in an ocean of hard-left ideology: ‘critical theory’ that says there is no truth, only power.”

Teen Vogue surmises that the pandemic has “lent new urgency to discussions about creating a more fair and equitable economic system.” But, sadly to the writer, “not everyone’s a fan.” Former President Donald Trump is “among the holdouts.”

The magazine sets up a poster boy for an attack on capitalism: Jeff Bezos—founder and CEO of Amazon.  Teen Vogue tells the teens his billions “gives him real power.” And worries, “Ask yourself: Who controls the American economy? Who calls the economic shots? Ordinary working people, or wealthy capitalists like Bezos?”

Can’t you see the picket signs ready to be printed?? Get the masses ready to march! Hold a Marx-fest at your neighborhood park! Rally the forces and prepare the overthrow….!

Wait! No need for radical action! Instead, just vote the socialists into power! Like in Buffalo, New York! This past week it was announced there was a stunning upstate upset. A Democratic-Socialist insurgent named India Walton was able to defeat a four-term incumbent and former Buffalo Mayor. It was a primary election in which Walton clearly communicated her socialist commitments. She was the favorite of the Buffalo chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Teen Vogue offers teens a vision! “Rather than allowing a tiny elite to call all the economic shots, modern socialism wants to empower ordinary people to make these decisions collectively. Under democratic socialism, major industries and large corporations would be brought under social ownership and control.”

America is soon to celebrate our Fourth of July Independence Day. Freedom is a very biblical concept. Psalm 119:45 reads, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (NIV)

Our freedoms are being fiercely challenged on many fronts. Free enterprise is being threatened.

Unless we aggressively work to change the education mindset on capitalism, forget dreams of true prosperity. Instead, we will settle for socialism’s “minds of mush.”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Game I Left Behind

The year was 1977. Radio Shack was selling tons of CBs. (Citizen Band radios, for those too young to remember.) In this pre-smartphone era, this was a way for people to communicate with friends as they went about in their cars—or homes—just like truckers had been doing for years. CBers had their own language.

Terms like “bear” or “smokey” referred to police officers. Look out for them. An “angry kangaroo” was a truck with one or both of the headlights out. A “pregnant roller skate” was a VW Beetle. And there were numeric communications as well. Like “10-4” meant (and still does) either agreement or you’ve been acknowledged. Truckers use “10-7” to sign off.

That same year—1977—Radio Shack began selling their first video game. It was called “Pong.” About as basic as you can get, you could play by yourself or with someone else, and hit a video “ball” back and forth. Like ping pong. You could speed it up or slow down the game to your choosing. The video ball would bounce around the screen and, if you missed it, your opponent got the point. Game to 21.

That was the first and only video game I’ve ever mastered. I make no apologies. Video gaming has grown into a multi billion dollar business. Real numbers look like this. Global video game revenues in 2020 topped $179.7 billion! That means this industry is a bigger moneymaker than the global movie and North American sports industries combined. It’s left me in the dust.

I’ve been mostly able to ignore all this hyper-video activity as I’ve aged. Our own children were getting into the games to play on computers or with units that hooked up to the television. Now, my grandkids all have plenty of video games on their smartphones.

I mindlessly have been going about my own business. Until this past week. Our grandson from California came for a week. He was loaded up with his portable video game player and multiple very small chip-based games. Plus those on his smartphone. Like many kids—and adults—it becomes not just a time filler, but an addiction.

His week with us culminated with a trip to GameStop. Heaven for “gamers.” I was lost. They did have a video screen to watch. Streams of something like vlogs reviewing the latest and greatest video games. In language that belongs somewhere on another planet. The stars of the gaming universe also have PLENTY of podcasts as well. It’s like listening to a conversation in a Star Wars bar!

I’ve certainly not turned a blind eye of realization to know that there are very dark games in this foreign world. Things no one need to “play” as a game. I do not need to expand on this. Simply do a web search for “video game ratings for parents.” Start there.

The gamers have more than just the games and the language. They have special goggles (or whatever they call them) to wear. And there are special gaming chairs to sit in while watching your life fade away.

What? Me—a cynic? Yeah…I guess. What starts as a bit of entertainment becomes a mesmerizing addiction to many of our kids. And—yes—adults.

Ephesians 5:16-17 reads, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (ESV)

Those are haunting words to me. The world offers so many distractions. I’m tempted by many. Becoming a “gamer” is not one of them. Despite my fling with pong.

Wow. I’ve been left well behind.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 14, 2021

What Rightfully Belongs to God

Decades ago, our small group in California used a book study from Chuck Colson. Loving God was a Gold Medallion award winner for Colson. It proved to be true spiritual enrichment.

In the preface of that book, Colson explained how his reading of The Holiness of God by Dr. R.C. Sproul brought Chuck to his knees. I was then determined to read the work by Sproul. I did – and over subsequent years interviewed R.C. on several occasions.

Here’s a brief overview of his book: “The Holiness of God examines the meaning of holiness and why people are both fascinated and terrified by a holy God. It explores God’s character, leading to new insights on sin, justice, and grace. The result is a new awareness of our dependence upon God’s mercy and a discovery of the awesomeness of His majestic holiness. Dr. R.C. Sproul says, ‘The holiness of God affects every aspect of our lives—economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything with which we are involved.’” (You can order a copy on

No other descriptor of the God of the universe carries the same importance as “holy.” The word is used three times to describe the Lord in Isaiah 6:1-3. The same triple use of “holy” is found in Revelation 4:8. That emphasis is significant.

What exactly does being holy mean? The holiness of God reveals that God is distinct from all creation. He is truly "set apart." That word “holy” appears more than 600 times in the Bible, describing something or someone set apart from all else. Regarding the Almighty, this means He is completely without sin and void of any imperfection.

Mankind has NOT been kind in the use of this word. In fact, it’s abusive to the very idea of holiness. Common phrases like holy cow, holy moly, holy mackerel, holy smokes, holy crap (and the more polite holy crow and the less polite holy sh__) reduce holiness to a mere element of surprise. We have taken this attribute of God and treated it carelessly. Rudely.

As a child, I somehow found there was a pecking order of offensive words, or what are commonly termed “swear words.” My family did not tolerate them. At the top of that list was the phrase “G-D.” It was truly a way for someone to “curse” whatever stood in their way.

I recently heard a song on a SiriusXM music channel that repeated that offensive phrase several times. It’s by the group Panic at the Disco titled, I Write Sins Not Tragedies. My soul burned a bit with anger in hearing it – mainly because of the insensitivity of SiriusXM to play this trash. I then did a web search on the term “G-D” and found there were several even more offensive songs spewing it out– taking God’s name seriously in vain.

Another example of misrepresentation of God involves the Bible story about Noah and the Great Flood. This is God’s rescue of a fallen world by saving a bit of humanity to carry on. He symbolized His great grace with a permanent reminder that He would not destroy mankind again in such a way. Grace displayed in a rainbow! Today, rainbows are everywhere—seen prominently as a “pride” symbol for sexual aberration. Apparently, those unfamiliar with the Noah story are unaware of why the Great Flood occurred in the first place!

Another word used to describe God is “awesome.” Singer Rich Mullins penned the very popular worship tune Awesome God in the 1980s. It’s still sung in many churches with frequency. Today, we can find people praising even the smallest of activities as “awesome.” It’s lost its meaning.

One more. There are certainly appropriate times to call something “perfect.” But the other day in a restaurant I ordered a soft drink with my burger and the waitress said, “Perfect.” And said it again several other times with other trivial requests.

Note, however, that “perfect” is another aspect of God’s character. As it is written, “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! Deuteronomy 32:4 (NLT) Perfect is what makes God holy!

As for me? I’m imperfect. And I surely know it. Like most, I carry the weight of knowing how much I rely on His grace and mercy to keep my soul free. Daily.

But He is worthy of our utmost praise and honor. Greater attention should be paid to words that describe the Living God. And not abuse the language of tribute that rightfully belongs to Him.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: