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Monday, December 30, 2013

Pay No Attention

There was once a great teacher. He had many followers. Some were more dedicated than others and chose to frequent his classes and public presentations. His message became familiar. Too familiar.
Over time, while the teacher was speaking, those who thought they knew his words all too well disengaged. Not intentionally. They simply occupied themselves with other interests. Specifically, smartphones and tablet devices. It seemed quite productive.

Gatherings of any kind with the teacher enabled his followers to text friends. Make appointments. Catch up on emails. Read up on the latest news. Some of them were even caught laughing out loud at memes. Or their smartphones would ring. Now that was embarrassing.

Occasionally, an announcement was made before the teacher began to speak. It said, “Please. Refrain from distracting technology so that what is being said can be learned and applied.” But many paid no heed.

It was not too long before even the most dedicated followers found the teacher’s messages passé The thrill of social media and being “in the know” captivated them more than the wisdom from the teacher. They became fad followers. And many of them lost common sense.

My fictional story may have a not so obvious point. I have become increasingly troubled by what has become nothing short of rude social behavior. Rude with no words being said.

I’ve been in meetings and gatherings where many in the crowd “tune out” what is being said or done for the pleasure of their technology. It would be one thing if devices were used to take notes or contribute to the purpose of the gathering (e.g. tweeting a highlight at the speaker’s request or with permission.) But this is quite often not the case.

People are just deciding that their private world takes priority over the very reason they are in the group. It’s less noticeable in a larger setting. Yet I’ve sat in small groups with people sharing ideas and personal thoughts and watched other group members disengage and start texting. Really!

I thought about this as it relates to the true Great Teacher, Jesus. His disciples followed Him around every day. And likely got very familiar with the content of His messages. Imagine that group emailing, texting, and laughing over memes with each other while Jesus “droned on” to the masses.

Even more so, imagine the pleas of your heart for yourself, your child, your most precious need … going unnoticed to a God with a gadget. Imagine Jesus constantly checking texts instead of gazing deeply into the eyes of His followers; and listening closely to someone … like you.

For the record, I’m gadget equipped. But when a technology asset becomes a liability, it’s time for a gut check. And if you find yourself addicted to the latest update at the expense of good social behavior, I have a word for you: repent!

That, my friend, is common sense. And a good resolution to start 2014.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Showing up with Gifts

This week is Christmas. Songs of the season will reach their zenith this week. And then, gone for another year. Let me focus on one to suggest how to make it last all of next year.
Most, if not all, who read this blog will know the song The Little Drummer Boy. Let’s put aside the “pa-rum-pah-pum-pums” for a moment. The message of the song is about the boy who was told to visit a newborn king, with others, to bring their finest gifts to lay before the King, and thus, to honor him.

Of course, the boy was poor and had no gift to bring that was fit to give the King. But he inquired of Mary if instead he could use his gift of playing the drums to honor this King. Mary nodded, the animals kept time. And the baby smiled. Obviously, a fan of the drums.

I believe that the little drummer dude was given the gift of 
rhythm. He may have practiced and practiced and nurtured his innate ability. But his talent to play originated with a gift given to him by his Heavenly Father.

And so it is with you and me. God has put His imprint on us a number of ways. Having talent is one of those ways. There are several verses in the Bible that connect us to our gifts. There are the professional gifts as mentioned in Exodus for those who were involved in building the temple.  (Exodus 31) 

There are the spiritual gifts as mentioned in the New Testament. Most of us take these gifts for granted every day. We fail to appreciate how any ability we have has come to us through God’s goodness. Notwithstanding our efforts to excel, one small brain malfunction could render any of us incapable of producing the music of our work. You have much for which to be thankful!

Now … what you do with those gifts of yours can make a big difference in our world. Play the music only for yourself and others are robbed of its beauty. Played with a heart to please the King and you’ll provide a true blessing to others. Are you able to read between these musical lines?

You may march to the beat of a different drummer. No matter. Every gift given by God yields a return when played with an inspired servant's heart. (Colossians 3:23) This Christmas, why not commit to play your life music for the King during the coming year? It will be a sweet sound to God and a gift He can use to impact the world. Even a little drummer boy can figure this one out.

And the beat … goes on. Pa-rum-pah-pum-pum.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Just Ask Chuck E Cheese

Imagine for a moment a Kingdom where a mighty and good king reigns. He is truly the kind of king humans dream of having as a ruler. As time passes, people come to take him for granted. In fact, it comes to a time when even his birthday is ignored. His greatness is dimmed as his special day goes unnoticed.
[Don't get ahead of me here. I have a workplace application from this story. One that puts you a step ahead.]
Many years ago, I would make it a point to find a way to determine a business associate's birthday. And before Outlook, I would put these days on a calendar. Then I used a spreadsheet program and sorted these birthdays by date for easy reference.

I did this for many of my radio coworkers over the years as well. It was a kick to announce them on the air. That way, they got LOTS of recognition. In fact, in a smaller community where I worked, people would call in and tell us someone's birthday and we would share the list a few times during the day.

Sales people are often taught to do this kind of remembrance for clients. When it becomes routine, it loses true value. A generic card with no real message is better than nothing, I suppose, but not by much.

I would encourage you today to take better notice of birthdays. Few days are more special to a person than the day they first showed up on this planet. A quick call, note, email, Facebook salute, or text will brighten their day. And be sure to tell this person in a sentence something special.

Two of my grandsons have birthdays in December. (One of them is tomorrow, December 17th!) Kids' birthdays are a big deal. A VERY BIG DEAL!  Just ask Chuck E Cheese!  

The greatest King to ever live has a birthday we recognize this month. Interestingly, Jesus of Nazareth never asked us to celebrate His birthday. In fact, we don't really know the exact date. We’re almost certain it is NOT December 25th. 

That reality caused me to reflect on how odd it is that the actual day passes every year without any fanfare or notice. Imagine that. The One Person who has impacted humanity the most has a birthday in history that actually goes unnoticed!

Is it a big deal in heaven? Or is "every day with Jesus sweeter than the day before"? Don't know. But my life has been forever altered by His arrival. And I think it’s the most important day in history.

Want to let Jesus of Nazareth know His arrival on this earth really is important? Tell Him. Today. Tomorrow. Every day. No need to bring cake.

Want to let your coworkers, friends, and clients know that they are important? Tell them. At LEAST once a year.

If Jesus were physically present on Earth today, he would be around 2,016 years old. And there’s a lesson here, too. Best not to ask a person’s age on their birthday. Unless they’re a kid. Just ask Chuck E Cheese.

And thats The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Zig Ziglar and the Legends of St Nick

Ho Ho Ho! It could be jolly old St. Nick that comes to mind. Or it could be us laughing at some of the legends that are associated with the real St. Nicholas. Indeed, some are far fetched.  Legends, of course, most often include a body or collection of such stories believed to be historical. Often romanticized.
Before I go to Nicholas, allow me to embellish another legendary figure, Zig Ziglar. I was privileged to be a member of First Baptist Dallas in the 1980s. For two years, I sat along with almost 1000 other folks on Sunday mornings, enjoying the class taught by Zig, the master motivator.

There may never be anyone quite like Zig, who died just over a year ago. His remarkable success as a cookware-salesman-turned-sales-trainer has inspired thousands. His materiel of books and recordings were best sellers. And remain so.  

In this season of giving, Zig gave us too many gems to count. One of his best lines was, “You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want!” He was zealous in helping people overcome “stinkin’ thinkin’." His wit was matched often with humor, as in "Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you."

(Side note: If somehow you have missed out on the experience of time with Zig Ziglar, you can find his materials at YouTube has videos clips of his for free viewing as well. Anyone in sales should catch the Ziglar magic. You’ll be better off for it.)

One of the greatest gifts from Zig was the sharing of his faith. Those who were new to his adult class at First Baptist Dallas got an invite to his home. Pretty special. It was there you would hear about his most important relationship: the spiritual one with Jesus. Each person would receive a gift copy of his book, Confessions of a Happy Christian.   

Make no mistake about it, Zig had his hard times. A daughter preceded him in death. He took a fall in 2007 that affected his short term memory. Yet he continued his work, often assisted by another family member.

For many of us, Zig was bigger than life. He was, in essence, a legend. But if you knew Zig Ziglar, you would also know his deep and humble perception of the real man he knew best: himself. Like all of us, he was aware of his weaknesses. But he learned to overcome them.

Christmas time brings us annually face to face with another legendary figure: Santa Claus. Better said, St. Nicholas. The web link provided earlier will give you a much deeper perspective on the man held so highly in church history over the centuries. And yet the legend seems to be much bigger than the real man. Still his story inspires us.

The trouble with legends is that they often make more of the story than should be told. Zig truly was a wonderful man. And St. Nicholas as well. But if you are looking for hope, and peace, and truth, both of them would quickly point you past themselves to the Christ figure. They didn’t just know about Him. They KNEW Him.

Jesus made the most amazing and legendary claim that any human could by saying, “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE."  And from what I’ve learned and experienced, Jesus is the only man that actually lives up to the legend. That Christmas story is worth sharing.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Radio is not My Identity

Today will be a very personal blog. Thousands of people will miss what I am sharing. And it's an important message.  
I start this week officially “unemployed."  (Sorry, President Obama, you'll have to add me to the list.) Whatever negative baggage comes with that term, that is not me. Even more importantly, my last job was not who I am.

For the past 14 plus years, I have served as executive producer and host of a Chicago based morning radio program. That's right … 3 AM wake ups, many 80-mile-per-day commutes, along with the daily pressures of finding interesting topics and conversation starters. And did I mention being not only awake, but energetic and excited at 5 AM sign on? Every day.

Make no mistake, here. I ENJOYED it! Radio is a wonderful line of work. The connection to people from all walks of life … travel ... the opportunity to be creative and use your gifts … are all such a blessing.

But radio can also be a very transient line of work. Most of us in this business have experienced changes in station ownership, management, and formats at some point. It often required that we move along, and take our talents with us. Thus, I've been blessed with tours in Sacramento, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

The radio management team where I've served in Chicago recently decided to make a change in morning programming. Like most changes, "in with the new and out with the old." Marketing impact is always made with "new and improved." That's usually how I came to get my jobs!

Most of my work life has been as a radio personality. (I dislike the term "deejay" since it implies my role is to "spin records."). Formats I've been involved with have been quite varied. Some involved music. My talk radio work did not. But it was personality radio that kept me employed.

Having said that, radio is not who I am. My identity is not wrapped up in being a radio personality. I've also been a radio sales manager and program director. I've helped launch two nonprofits, headed up operations for a trade show company, and been involved in two business start ups. I've authored two books. NONE of this activity truly defines me.

I share this with you because, in the world of the unemployed, it is very easy to lose sight of your worth. For a season, you're not on the "WANTED” posters ... you become unwanted. And I refuse to go there. Moreover, I want to help others not go there.

But know this: our work should never define us as human beings. God created in each of us something much greater. The Creator of all things has made every human being in His image. He doesn't stamp us with a job title. He gives us His divine imprint. [Pause, please, while I reflect on this amazing truth.]

When we are around the unemployed, we have in our presence people uniquely gifted by God. People of such great value that God sent His only Son to die for them. (John 3:16). That's who I am. And no one can ever take that away from me.

This is not a new revelation to me. I've held onto this truth for years. And perhaps in the days ahead, I will find a way to make this message come alive more powerfully in the workplace.

As we say in the radio business … STAY TUNED!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Graceful Thanksgiving

For my audio blog this week, I would like to pay tribute to a fellow Minnesotan. Frankly, I did not know that one of my most favorite photographs had its origins in my native state. 

In pondering what message I could share for this Thanksgiving, my mind went almost immediately to this simple, but powerful, photograph. My parents had it in our home while I was growing up. I’m not sure why I have not purchased a copy.

The picture is titled simply Grace. Eric Engstrom took the photograph in 1918 in his home studio in Bovey, Minnesota. The photo, known around the world, shows an elderly man. His head is bowed in a mealtime prayer of thanksgiving.

The picture occurred when a bearded peddler appeared at Engstrom’s door. Engstrom was captivated by the man’s saintly, kind face. Engstrom set a basic table with a family book, some spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. The kindly peddler then posed as for prayer. Have you seen it?

Engstrom was preparing a portfolio to take to a convention. He offered his perspective behind this memorable photo, saying, "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for."

It conveys to me, as I’m sure to others, two powerful thoughts on thanksgiving. First, there is only gruel and bread. It challenges me to ask, Am I thankful for the simplest of provisions? And secondly, Am I thankful to God, knowing He is the supplier of all good things?

It reminds me of a print we DO have in our home. With a similar theme.( 

This one is by the French artist Jean-Francois Millet from the 1800s. It is entitled the Angelus

A man and a woman, obviously farmers, stand in a field. The man holds his cap reverently with head bowed. The woman in her apron and cap clasps her hands as if in prayer. At their feet is a basket of potatoes. And nearby, a wheelbarrow full of empty sacks. It is left to the mind’s eye to determine what it is they are praying about. But one thing is obvious: they are connecting with their God over His provisions for them.

Mealtime prayers are common for our family. While they often extend beyond gratefulness for the food on the table, I want to never forget the blessings God has provided. Including that meal.

As you gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings this Thanksgiving, I urge you to first THANK Him for His blessings.  Thank Him for your home, your work, your loved ones, and whatever else is placed on your heart. As the apostle Paul instructed the Thessalonians, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS)

This is my final audio blog for Moody Radio. Thank you for letting me be a voice in your life. It has been a blessing.

Future blogs can be found at my website,  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Extraordinary Influence

In the work world, a treasured role is to be a person of influence. Whether or not you agree with all of his conclusions from his research, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell is a person of extraordinary influence. And an exceptional writer.

Gladwell, for those unfamiliar with his work, is the author of bestselling books titled Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and his most recent, David and Goliath.

I got connected to Gladwell’s writing at a Moody team event several years ago. In a small group breakout, eight in our group received a copy of Tipping Point. Each of us was assigned to read a certain chapter of the bookdifferent chaptersand then report our findings. Great idea.

It was there I learned how Hush Puppies – the shoes, not the food – regained popularity after almost going out of business. And how markets are developed and shaped in surprising ways.

From Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about thin slicing, and about John Gottman, psychologist and mathematician. Gottman’s seminal work studying over two thousand married couples has provided us a powerful
perspective on relationships.

Through scientific observation and mathematical analysis, Gottman and his associates at the University of Washington could predict—with more than 90 percent accuracy—whether a marriage would succeed or fail.

Gottman defined “four horsemen” that drive relationships apart:  defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. The most potent of those being contempt. By challenging couples to see the damage these relational breakers were causing, Gottman has become a remarkable marriage therapist.

In Outliers, Gladwell’s research presented this idea on success. It may seem that some of our greatest and best in the world were just given exceptional talent. Instead, the reality shows it took hours and hours of work and practice to achieve superior levels of achievement. The benchmark “10,000 hours” became a trademark view from that book.

Gladwell’s latest work titled David and Goliath has been published. I’ve not yet read it. But I have read that while writing this book Malcolm Gladwell has returned to his spiritual roots and regained his Christian faith.
Reading this news, I rejoice that Malcolm Gladwell’s soul is seeking and finding spiritual renewal. I’m cheering for him. Even if he doesn’t sell another book. That is truly secondary. As Jesus said, “What will you gain if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?  (Matthew 16:26)

Gladwell’s contributions to “business think” have made him an extraordinary influencer. Each of his works are well worth reading. Perhaps Malcolm Gladwell would now agree with this idea: true wisdom and incredible insight can be yours with one single book. A bestseller. The Bible. And you don’t need 10,000 hours.

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fear Not. Easier Said than Done.

Don’t you just love hearing or reading a Bible passage where angels show up unexpectedly in their mystical form and the first thing off their angel lips is … "Do not be afraid." Easy for them to say. They are experiencing the very real presence of God.

Fear is a paralyzing thing. What do people fear most? While they list no source for this answer, Ask.Com offers the top ten things that people are afraid of: fear of flying, fear of public speaking, fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of intimacy, fear of death, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of spiders, and fear of commitment.

Do you resonate with any of those? Business people deal with fear every day.  One business owner I knew in California was quite successful in the title insurance business. Yet he said he often woke up in a cold sweat fearing he would not have another customer. It only settled his soul to see that first business order come in the next morning.

A book I’ve really enjoyed reading is from talk radio host, Ken Coleman.  It’s titled, One Question. Ken has interviewed hundreds of leaders from all walks of life. He selected thirty six of them to provide answers to life changing questions. This included how to deal with fear.

Ken asked Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, about how he has had to push through fear often in his life. Here is what this very successful business leader said, “I think that fear is the number one obstacle that most people face.” Hyatt has lain awake many nights wondering what will happen to him, his company, and his family.

His solution? Hyatt says, “When I am afraid I have a practice of walking right into my fears. Most of the power of fear is in your mind. It doesn’t really exist.” Powerful words. Except in dealing with spiders.

The Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18). That would be the debilitating type of fear. Interestingly, the Bible also talks about another kind of fear. A healthy fear known as “the fear of the Lord.” This fear brings blessings and benefits. We’re told it is the beginning of wisdom and leads to good understanding.

One might conclude that the best relief from the bad kind of fear is the good kind.  We must come to know and believe deeply that God has provision for everything and that all power is His. In this secure environment, personal and professional fears cannot hold ground.

Are you in the grip of fear today? Like Peter trying to walk on water, grab hold of the One who knows no fear. He loves you. Even if you can’t walk on water.

That's the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When Life Is Not Fair

Often, Jesus's parables are difficult for us to understand. Even with explanations. One particular parable that challenges our perception of fairness and equality is found in Matthew, Chapter 20. The parable of the workers in the vineyard. It is intended to give us perspective on Kingdom thinking.

Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. The master finds some in the marketplace and hires them for a fee. Later, he finds more. And hires them – at the same rate. And get this, he does the same thing again. And again. All the workers got the same amount, regardless of length of their work day.

When it came to get their pay ... you guessed it. Those who worked the longest were angry that the short timers got the same amount. So the master says to the complainer, "'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last."

From the conversation previous to this parable, we know there is a perspective shared here on God's mercy for last minute conversion to faith.  But the application can readily be applied to our sense of fairness.

How do you react to this parable? If you want fairness and equality, this bites you. How is it right and fair that some late arrival gets the same pay as the one who worked all day? We ought to be able to grumble about this.  Right?

Think about your own gifting for a moment. How did God bless you? Was it fair you were born or are living in a free nation with benefits galore ... while others are not so blessed? Are you gifted in ways others are not? Do you have all you need for today?

While many examples could be given of how this plays out daily in our work life, let me focus on these points:

  • Life is not fair. An early lesson to teach your kids. When it happens, relax. You're going to get your share of unexpected and, likely undeserved, blessings.
  • When it is not fair, we get no relief when we grumble, mumble, or complain. Trade a pass ... for personal peace.
  • As we are given opportunity to bless others in our sphere of influence with mercy, let's do it.

Bottom line, don't argue with God on the merits of His decisions. Be grateful you're blessed to be called His child. Amazing. Grace.

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ready to venture out?

One of the greatest benefits of living in a free society is the opportunity to start a new enterprise. Whether it’s a for profit or not-for-profit venture, giving vision and thinking over possibilities can energize the soul. It’s part of the creative beauty given to us by God.

Not all ideas pan out, of course. And some shouldn’t. But if God plants in you a seed, and you have the passion, good things could happen.

Are you entrepreneurially minded? An article I’ve found on might be of immediate help. It’s titled, 23 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know.  Like all lists, one must ask … "Is that everything?" And the answer is, "No." But it’s a good list.

I can’t cover all 23, but here are a few of my favorites. Like … the most important decision you can make is "where do you want to spend your time?"  Time. The non-renewable asset. Lose it, it’s gone forever. Find the discipline to determine where your time has the greatest payoff.

Next: The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas. Okay. Wait for it … They solve market needs. Great ideas with no market value might be fun to dream up, but they have no life. Put your best energy into meeting real needs. 

Here’s another good one. You need to be able to turn every obstacle into an asset. What a difficult truth! Those who venture out in uncharted waters need to be prepared to be overcomers. Naysayers and unseen obstacles await you. THAT is guaranteed.

One more for the road: Here’s the only market research you need. Get your product out in the marketplace and see if it sells. My friend, there are many hours and dollars to be wasted in using research to find out if your ideas are valid. If you have buyers, you likely have something worth developing.

Earlier I stated that this was a good list for both for profit and nonprofit ventures. Ministry leaders of every stripe would be well served learning from a list like this one. Not everything applies, but business done right is about serving customers. And serving them well. We should never lose sight of that core mission principle: to serve others.

If God has gifted you with the desire, the vision, and the passion to start something new, I hope you take the next step. These two words from Genesis, Chapter 1, are powerful: God created. And you have been created in His image.  Use that creativity!

Starting a new venture often has so many challenges, it will drive you to your your knees. Which, by the way, is a reminder the Forbes article missed.  A wise entrepreneur will learn to pray every step of the way.

That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Sour Blackberry

I never owned a Blackberry device. But when the deals made them so affordable – just $49 – I was able to convince my wife to toss her flip phone and move into the smartphone world. Eventually, she moved on from Blackberry ... as did most of the world. She might now be considered among the addicted class. 

The New York Times piece on "When the Blackberry Reigned and How It Fell" displayed a brief history of the company. Discussion continues as to the future of the former hand held champion. Buy outs. Break ups. Buy backs – perhaps from the cofounders. Will it matter? ( ) 
As the Times makes note … the “co-chief executives missed the real threat: they initially dismissed Apple’s iPhone as “little more than a toy.” And all those apps available were simply too much. Too bad there wasn’t an app for how to fix Blackberry’s problem.
Having started a few small ventures – both for profit and not for profit – I feel badly when a company fails. People lose jobs, feel a lot of stress, and sometimes good products go away.
You know what? Some are predicting the demise of the church. That is not new. But maybe some of the concerns are.
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hills Church in Seattle put out this vivid description:
"Christians are being ostracized, gay marriage is being legalized, the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and has started running over us. The church is dying and no one is noticing because we're wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing. ... The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer. This is not the hour to trade in work boots for flip-flops. You didn't think you were here to kill time listening to Christian music until Jesus returned, did you?"
Ouch! Is he right? This message came from a letter he addressed to “Christian” and was given to participants at the 2013 Resurgence Conference.
As the skies darken in our world in so many ways and so many places, our faith might well be called into question. We will be tested on the authenticity of our beliefs. The world will examine how closely we respond to larger needs than our own.
In other words, our spiritual life is on the line. We need renewal! And Driscoll sees the problem. There are no buyouts available. Hopefully, we don’t sell out. And certainly, there are no apps for that.
That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Billboard Beliefs

I admire well designed billboards. The means of communicating a very brief, yet powerful message to a commuter whizzing along at 70 miles an hour is true advertising art. 
Often, I play my own game of billboard critic … attempting to get the message while driving, but often failing to do so. Too many words. Blurring graphics. Poor color choices. Weak messaging.  Small print. Unfortunately, it’s bad form ... and a waste of money.
Three Christian Post stories of billboards trying to send a religious message have surfaced recently. One promotes a campaign known as "Jesus Tattoo."  Fifty-nine billboards near Lubbock, Texas, depict an image of Jesus clad in tattoos with the words “addicted” and “depressed” along with other negative word pictures. (
The intended message is to convey Jesus loves people unconditionally. Jesus becomes the tattoo artist to help. The group has a website and video to help advance their perspective. Well, it certainly gets attention.
Then, the ministry Answers in Genesis has posted billboards in New York City and San Francisco challenging atheists with this message: Thank God You’re Wrong. They even sponsored a digital spectacular in Times Square displaying the message. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, is seeking to respond to atheist billboards being posted in a number of places. (
Not to be outdone, atheists in Michigan have their own billboards. The message?  “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.” That apparently is to help us overcome negative stereotypes of non-religious people. (
Frankly, those billboards would have no impact on me. I already know atheists can function somewhat happily without a religious faith. I know Jesus's love is unconditional. And I already believe that atheists are wrong in their view that there is no God.
Personally, I think billboards that work connect with ideas like … "McArches … all size drinks. $1."  Or … "Sleep well tonight at Red Roof Inn. Just $49." One life-altering billboard I’ve seen simply asks if you’re pregnant and need help. They give a web site and phone number. Good job!
In my earlier years, I developed advertising concepts for clients. I would advise them not to use billboards if something needed to be explained. And you’d better be able to read the critical piece of the message from a quarter mile away. And here’s the key: meet a need in the simplest of terms.
Communicating our faith needs careful attention as well, regardless of medium. Jesus managed to teach the most important life lessons in short stories. And the impact lasted for mile after life-changing mile. My advice … Go thou and do likewise.
That’s the way WE communicate. For Moody radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.   

Monday, October 7, 2013

Should “Messies” Clean up?

A while back I watched an interview with a brilliant academic. He may well have been very bright, but his office was a mess! And it made me feel better.
I admit to it. I can work in a messy environment. In fact, that is my "normal."  And a recent study published online in Psychological Science gave me hope.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota wanted to find out if neat environments can produce good habits. College students were brought in for a test and put in adjacent office spaces. One was exquisitely neat. The other … very cluttered. After ten minutes, as subjects were leaving, they were offered a choice of an apple or chocolate.
Remarkably, the apples were the food of choice for most students in the clean room. And this group also seemed to trend towards more socially conscious behavior on such decisions. Score a big point for cleanliness.
But wait! A second experiment claimed a point for those working amidst chaos! In this test, participants in those same mixture of clean and cluttered offices were asked to come up with new uses for Ping-Pong balls. The messy office team proved significantly more creative at this. Yes! Score one for the messies!
In a third experiment, volunteers in the messy space were more likely to take a risk on trying a new flavor of lunchtime smoothie than the tidies. The environment seemed to prompt them to more risks. Score another point for messies.
In fairness, the experiments were demonstrating examples of cause and effect. Regardless of the personal style of participating, their work environment did influence the way they responded in several key areas. 
I am not advocating for either group. But I am refreshed to know that those  – like me – who work among our “stacks of stuff” are okay. And possibly, it helps our creativity. So in your office, give the messies a break … IF you want some creative results.
Any spiritual perspective here? Well, the Bible tells us in the creation account in Genesis that God brought order out of chaos. I’m grateful He did.  The exchange between God and Job also opens our eyes to the way God constructs the world in our behalf. Thirdly, 1Corinthians 14:40 instructs us about worship stating that “all things should be done decently and in order.”
On the other hand, our individual lives are often messy … filled with chaos. But there’s hope. As those created in God’s image, He offers us the wonderful gift of creativity to solve problems both big and small. 
Our grandkids love playing with a bag of foam shapes. We toss them on the floor and then build things. And then knock them over. Chaos … order …chaos … order. Fun stuff.
I’d love to keep going on this topic but, quite frankly, my garage is calling.
That’s the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Self-Serving Service

Recently the Chicago food chain Jewel-Osco made an interesting announcement. Several of their stores are saying goodbye to the self service checkout lanes they installed several years ago. The chain said it’s an effort to reconnect personally with customers. This decision comes despite the reality of higher costs of such a move.,0,7322858.story

There are also some self serving benefits to such a move. The company has observed a theft problem in self checkout. And quite often, a store employee must get involved in a problematic transaction. One consulting firm says other companies are making this decision, noting some inefficiencies and slowness when customers have a lot of items.

I liked the idea of reconnecting personally. Frankly, it’s one of my pet peeves, however, when that personal connection fails to occur. I find it refreshing to have a clerk at any store greet me and engage a bit at checkout.  Quite often that ISN’T the case.

Instead, two store employees are talking with each other. I’ve witnessed a clerk take a phone call and chat with another party while I’m checking out.  Or there is the silent type that might give the sole welcome of, “Next?”

Recently, I rented a car and the person handling the transaction gave me the keys and said, “There’s your car.”  No walk around to check for damage, no instructions about operating the car. I wonder what the company mission statement says, or their values proclaim about customer service. In one sense, it’s self-serving service.

I believe the problem exists for multiple reasons. Some employees might not be so called “people persons.” Others don’t receive good training. But honestly, I think a good number simply don’t really like the idea of serving people. It’s beneath them.

Recently, a grocery store near us changed managers. And I can see the difference already in the attitudes of employees and their willingness to help.  And a hardware megastore near me has their employees walk you to find the product you need. Now that’s service.

Christ followers should certainly be way ahead of the game when it comes to looking after customers. People should sense a difference in our attitudes of joy and a desire to help. How refreshing to find a soul who cares.

The marketplace is a great place for ministry. Jesus said he came to serve, and not to be served. If it was the mindset of the living God incarnate to live that way, I think we can manage it as well. Right?

That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pods Are Blooming

Given the choice, would you prefer to work outdoors ... or indoors? Chicago weather makes that question a bit more challenging. Hot, humid summers and sometimes bitterly cold winters can turn one indoors rather quickly.

But for those more moderate climates, the company known as Well Design is turning cubicle assignments on their head. They've developed a Workaway Outdoor Pod. It's a cut-out cubic design that can be placed in parks, plazas, and lots of other places.

With the pod comes a work surface and shade, built in seat, and it’s even equipped with WiFi. A smart phone app is used to reserve the “pod on the move.”

It's easy to see why some, who find their creative juices flow better in the open, would love the pod. Detail-oriented work likely might get better focus than in an inside cubicle. And who is going to gripe about working alongside a beautiful stream on a sunny summer day?

That being said, someone at a recent NeoCon exposition in Chicago asked the question, “Why can't developers make better use of premium outdoor space.” Well Design is apparently thinking in those directions.

In the article "The Coolest New Trend in Office Space", it was recommended that a company consider both pluses and minuses of such work zones. Concerns over places with four seasons should be obvious. Security is another issue. And, of course, will people actually LOSE focus enjoying nature scenes? That would be a third concern.

My dentist has a great compromise. He has his office in his home ... with patients' chairs looking out on tree lined property and fish swimming in the ponds in his covered indoor nature area. It doesn't replace Novocain, but it helps.

I've seen people put up nature posters to give them the outdoorsy feel. Lots of plants or flesh flowers may help the indoor blues. Relaxing, reflective music in headphones is a lot more common.  I've taken a walk or a drive during my lunch hour at some jobs. 

Wonder what your workspace will be like in heaven? Or are you thinking you won't be working in heaven? Paradise for Adam and Eve included daily work. And I think we can reasonably conclude they enjoyed their work and their workspace. 

I'm counting on there being work on the new earth when all is made new. And I think we have good reason to make work on this earth a lot more fun than it is. In a few of my not-so-heavenly jobs, coworkers and I have found unusual ways to make our jobs more enjoyable. Details available upon request.

Bottom line, the curse from man’s sin did not mean work has to be miserable. Just more difficult. 

I hope today you'll find a way to consider those marvelous lyrics Louis Armstrong sang years ago ... I see trees of green, skies of blue … and those roses. Truly, it's a wonderful world.

That's the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best Company to Keep

In case you missed it, the list of "Best Companies to work for in 2013" was released a few weeks ago by Glassdoor.  It’s their fifth list of the fifty best places to work this year. A recent article on the Forbes website gave details of the story.

Glassdoor claims their process of soliciting anonymous responses to their surveys gets more accurate results. Eighteen questions were posed to some half million employees in the US. Those who responded rated career opportunities, compensation and benefits, work-life balance, senior management, culture, and values.

At the top of the list was Facebook. And who wouldn't like this deal?  Along with paid vacation and healthcare, employees get free food and transportation, $4000 in cash for new parents, dry cleaning, day care reimbursement, and photo processing. And as a bonus, your job entitles you to impact a billion people. Sweet! Even without the photo processing.

McKinsey and Company came in second. In third place, a tech firm named Riverbed. Ten companies have been on the Top 50 since the list was created in 2009. Firms like Apple, Careerbuilder, Google, and others are top dogs.

Glassdoor says what works for one company may not work for another. But opportunities for advancement, clear cut business priorities, and solid company cultures are the common themes. Well, and those unbelievable perks.

Sounds great ... but what about the ga-zillion small business owners and medium size employers who can't pony up like Facebook, Google, and the like?  What about struggling ministries?  And what does the Bible say about employee culture and perks?

It doesn't say anything on employment benefits. But Paul tells his protégé Timothy that a worker is worthy of his wages. And that those in charge should take care of the people who work for them. 

Probably the best advice to the spiritually minded business leader is to apply Jesus's words we often call the Golden Rule. No ... not the rule that says "he who has the gold makes all the rules." The one that says "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Play that out in the world of compensation, benefits, etc. and you will likely be much more generous and perk minded than you would be otherwise.

And getting employees involved in mutual care of each other helps build a pretty strong culture. This stuff isn't magic. It's good spiritual common sense.

And that, my friend, is one of the perks of a spirit led life.

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Purposeful Work

When it comes to meaning and purpose in our lives, I can't recall anyone weighing significance in terms of bits of information. Until recently.

From an article on productivity and purpose, (  I learned that the human brain can handle about 100 bits of information per second. Reading quickly takes roughly 50 bits per second. Everything in our perceptual world uses up this brainpower. Sights ... sounds ... everything. 

So, let's say a person lives to the age of 80 and, accounting for 8 hours sleep per night, that works out to 150 billion bits of information processed. Included here are emotions, thoughts, sensations ... and conversations. That sums up who you are.

When you think about life in those terms, it seems sterile. But then we must realize that we can make decisions about most of that data. We determine where those bits are used. And what counts as important.

The article I was reading on this subject challenged us to focus on purposeful living, not just productivity. The challenge is to align your attention with who you are and what's truly important to you. Good thinking.

But I would add a bit of a different perspective, so to speak. I've known so many people who spend most of their waking hours in a bad work situation. It could be they don't like their job, their work environment, or the stress that they live under. A good part their attention has negatively-focused bits. 

Contrast that to a person who enjoys their work. Or least their attitude gives them an edge toward millions of more positive bits. The article did not categorize brain processing in terms of positive and negative bits of information. But let's face it. More positive than negative must have an impact on us.

The Bible says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7 AMP). As you consider your work life ... in fact all of life ... learning to make every bit of life more positive is a good challenge for all believers. Some call it positive thinking. It certainly results in more positive living. 

The importance for a Christ-follower is to know that this is a discipline. It requires effort. Positive living impacts not only us, but also all those we influence.

Why not make a decision today to shift into that more positive gear ... at work AND at home? I can see you changing your world, one bit at a time. 

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.