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Monday, July 29, 2013

Bottoming Out

In the workplace, what could be more noble than to be in public service?  As it turns out, if public service means being a politician, almost anything is nobler.

This from a recently released poll by the USA Today's Bipartisan Policy Center.  A bulk of Americans now believes the best way to make positive changes in society are through volunteer organizations and charities , not by government involvement. Those younger than 30 are particularly put off by politics.  (

The greatest interest for careers was business ownership. 46%. More than a third polled like the idea of working for a small business or nonprofit group.  One in five put strong interest in working for the government, a large corporation or the military. And at the bottom of the list? Being an elected official or working for one.

There is a significant consequence to this. It means that some of the best and brightest and, might I add, people of character are avoiding public service. Analysts say this downward cycle is unlikely to change as perceptions of dysfunctional and corrupt politicians get worse. How sad!

When the USA Today published their findings recently, a companion article in the business section had more troubling news. It told of how moral failings have had little impact on many politicians' careers!

Columnist Michael Wolff writes, "Scandal does not tank your career any more. Scandal is, in many instances, no more than a résumé item that needs to be explained and integrated into a life story. Scandal is, arguably, an advantage, filling out that life story, adding a human dimension to it, and best of all, providing a bit of drama and a leap of name recognition." His words ... not mine. (
Columnist Wolff should have added, "And all that failing and corruption has left us weakened as a nation, as a people ... and as a culture.” My words...not his.

Make no mistake here. Scandal is not new to this age. The Bible has many characters, men and women alike, who were leaders that missed the mark. Their behavior was never intended to be the model.

But in the Christian faith, we are called to not only higher standards, but the highest standards. Proverbs 2, verses 20 and 21, puts the call out this way:  Follow the example of good people and live an honest life. If you are honest and innocent, you will keep your land.” (CEV)

Thank God for those who serve in government with noble hearts and a life of integrity! Thank God for those who pursue public service in its best form! We should pray for a revival of political integrity. Maybe millennials will help lead the way.

A political class with solid Kingdom values will appear like knights in shining armor in this age. Especially if they can avoid that armor … getting tarnished.

That's the way WE work.

For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Miracle Makeover

Have you ever wandered into a store or restaurant and thought, "If I were in charge here, I would do this differently." For better or worse, I've had this thought often. And it happened again recently. This time with Kmart.

Here's a large chain discounter that needs help. A current ad campaign for back to school has kids trading insults. Bad move … since parents are the ones spending the money and don't need more insults from those often braggadocious children.

But the larger problem is a store that needs a makeover. A miracle makeover. Earlier this year, an MSN Money blogger (*) shared this review:

"Kmart is stuck in a rut … In the first nine months of its current fiscal year, the chain posted a $98 million operating loss and saw sales slide 5.5%.” 

He adds …“The Kmart stores that I've been to are remarkably similar. They're dirty. The shelves are cluttered, yet the customers are gone. Employees are nowhere to be found." He recommends they close. Wow.

So if I were in charge, I'd redesign a concept store between club membership stores like SAM’s and Costco. Anyone could shop at these stores, but members would instantly save 5 to 7% on purchases. And no membership fee. Simply agree to give us instant feedback as you shop on several items you try. 

I'd change the look of stores to create more of a stepped up warehouse store experience. House brands would have super deals. Use self-checkouts, unlike the fee based warehouse stores. Finally, I'd change the name ... to K-Club. And fix that advertising.  

The most successful businesses are in renovation mindset mode all the time. We call it “new and improved.”

I know. Everybody has got a better idea. I’m sure Kmart management has tried.

You know ... I’ve witnessed miracle makeovers. They are in human form. Here's what happened. Millions upon millions have become new creatures ... in Christ. The Bible tells us that when we experience spiritual renewal, the old has passed away. The new has arrived.  

Christian recording artist Brandon Heath experienced this and reflected on a past relationship that had become painful. His message ...

I wish you could see me now,
I wish I could show you how,
I'm not who I was ...

Friend, if you're tired of living like your past, go for the miracle makeover. No membership fees. Lifetime guarantee. Unlimited opportunities. The whole package is explained in writing. Let me know if you need a copy.

That's the way WE work.

For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand

Monday, July 15, 2013

Have You Ever Been Vetted?

Paula Deen. Ever heard of her?

Of course you have, if you enjoy food. Paula has made her living as one of the plethora of food experts to be found on cable television these days. There’s Emeril, Bobby Flay, Guy, and Rachael Ray. And … Paula.

The work Paula loved loved her back, with a lot of success on a leading food channel. And that, in turn, created opportunities galore for endorsements, speaking, books, and corporations to go along with branding. And let’s not forget those restaurants! Wow. 

Who could blame her for loving her work? In this case one could truly say, You are what you eat.

But then, Paula Deen was vetted. And now she is past tense. Her offense was using racist language years ago as a restaurant owner. Paula has admitted to the wrongdoing. And apologized. Not good enough for her corporate sponsors and television network. Her goose … is cooked.

Ironically, vetting also discovered a well known US Senator not only was a former KKK member, but led his local chapter. And yet, voters in his state re-elected him several times after the disclosure. Go figure.

Vetting has become in vogue. Often, it refers to those exhaustive background checks on politicians. The kind that reveal that some of our most trusted politicians and candidates don’t have the perfect character we might have hoped for in a public servant.

Vetting defined makes a careful and critical examination of something. Or more definitively, vetting seeks to ensure that someone is suitable for a job requiring secrecy, loyalty, or trustworthiness. 

You ever been vetted? It could be ugly. Imagine your current job being held in jeopardy because of the revelations of an unclean or immoral thought or act from your past. Imagine your trustworthiness coming into question because of white lies, minor indiscretions, and such.

In Proverbs 22, we find these words of wisdom: Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.

Truly ... who can stand before a righteous judge? None of us. All have sinned. We not only fall short of the glory of God, but we often fall short of the admiration of our fellow man. 

But Christ followers are challenged to be above reproach. To make clean dealings in our work and be people of integrity. Do that, and you need not fear vetting. Do that, and your work delivers richness in reputation. Do that …and there’s no need to try and “butter up” later.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Commentary: To steal or not to steal … that is the question.

Recently, I read an article by Michael Forest Jones, who works for a sizeable hotel chain. He asks the question, “When is it stealing to take things from your hotel room?” As it turns out, there are some gray areas. 

First, the no-no’s. Hair dryers, lamps, televisions, alarm clock radios, comforters, coffee makers, bedspreads, and … furniture … are verboten.  Oddly, it seems TV remotes disappear from hotel rooms quite often. The take-home green light goes to consumables: soap, shampoos, lotion …well, most of those items you find for your hygienic use at the hotel.
And now to the gray areas. What about those bathrobes?? According to Jones, some upscale hotels are not only okay with them going home with you, they consider them good for marketing. And in some rare cases, even hotel comforters can be sent home with patrons as a gift. Who knew? And if the hotel has ceramic coffee mugs? Jones says his company actually plans on losing one out of every five or six mugs placed in rooms. Not a big issue, apparently.

Does the Bible give any clear indication on what to take or not take from a hotel? Sure it does. The eighth of those ten commandment clearly says, Thou Shalt Not Steal! Ahhh … but what is stealing? How about this: taking something that someone else owns and does not want you to take. A simple solution with your favorite hotel is to ask … if you really have questions.  With permission, it isn’t stealing.

The really interesting twist in this article on what is stealing during your hotel stay, was … ready? Those Gideon Bibles. Jones says it’s a gray area.  But not to the Gideons! Apparently, those Gideons get, well, “giddy” knowing that people are in need of a Bible and care enough to take one from the hotel. It’s an item the Gideon’s will happily replace. Again, who knew?

During my last hotel stay, I not only found a Bible, but a Book of Mormon.  I wonder if the Mormons mind if you take THEIR book. I was tempted … but probably not for the right reasons.

This reminded me of how simple a gift a Bible is to pass along. You can buy Bibles in bulk for a nominal price. A few years ago, I sent out a devotional I had written to all 115 people who received my Christmas cards. It was a hit.  Maybe this year I’ll send out Bibles. Now my friends won’t have to worry about stealing one from a hotel. Well, some of my friends.

One last questionable item to take with you on your hotel departure: the bathtub ducky. Michael Jones says … “fine by him.”  So … ducky down is okay. But leave the down comforter in the hotel room!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Want to Be a Rockstar

The musical group Nickelback – not Christians to be sure – recorded a song a few years ago titled Rockstar. The song devotes lyrics to the absurd world of fame and fortune that falls upon those who truly make it big in the music biz. It is an “absurd world” in that their extravagance is so extreme, most of us cannot relate. Rockstar is a lesson in hedonism. The chorus says it all … "because we all just want to be big Rockstars and live in hilltop houses driving 15 cars" … and so forth.

A few weeks ago, I heard a well known business leader use "rockstar" to describe some of his top employees. I attended the EntreLeadership course in Nashville, led by Dave Ramsey. It was terrific. 160 people devoted a full week to discover how to make a business enterprise work. They ate it up!

For Dave Ramsey, rockstars put their talent on the line in the finest of ways. They are passionate. They do whatever it takes. They excel in their work. But for Ramsey, that passion and commitment needs a moral base and guidance from the world’s bestselling guide on moral excellence, the Bible.

I like the way Dave Ramsey praised his team members. Frankly, every organization could stand a lot of encouragement like he provides.

Our Morning Ride team recently celebrated two of our rockstars, Brian Dahlen and Alex Bersin. Both men received recognition for special anniversaries at Moody Radio. Alex does the technical engineering for the daily Morning Ride program.  And Brian is our Coordinating Producer. Top performers. No doubt about it. We are blessed to have them.

God has His own way of evaluating so called rockstars. The Bible teaches us that man looks at the outward things, but God looks at the heart. (I Samuel 16:7) When God evaluates our lives, He’s looking for top performers, too. All of us have imperfections. But how we deal with those, and change our ways, will set us apart.  

The Bible names some of God’s rockstars. Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Moses, whom he called to lead His people out of the wilderness. And what about David … a man after God’s own heart. 

I’m sure God has His eye on you as well. So today, go show your Kingdom stuff and perform at the top of your game.

Look how David changed his world with that slingshot … and five smooth stones.  A classic rockstar.

For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, July 1, 2013


George Zimmer recently lost his job. A lot of people lose their jobs. But Zimmer was the founder and chairman of the famed suit company, Men's Wearhouse.  He built the company from nothing, really, even using a cigar box as his cash register in the earliest days. Zimmer was more than the business mind behind the scenes. He was the literal face of the company, personally doing the print and television ads for decades.

His departure was, for the most part, unceremonious. Two interesting reasons surfaced for why he's now gone. First, while now a significantly minor stockholder in Men's Wearhouse, he wanted to remain a powerful voice of influence in company matters. But the more troubling explanation for his ouster was that he had become irrelevant to a younger market. 

Too old ...  Or old fashioned.

Regardless, my heart goes out to the man; And to anyone who has worked hard at a job only to find themselves unwanted.  Irrelevant. 

Have you ever been downsized or fired? Become unwanted? Notice how few friends come around.  It's happened to me. How refreshing to the soul to have one or two former coworkers call or write a note telling you or me that we are not irrelevant. That we made a difference.

In the pain of the moments of rejection or indifference, we should note that no one understands better than Jesus. The prophet Isaiah wrote this about the coming King …

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

He knows our pain. We can turn to Him. He wants to help.

How about you?  If you follow Jesus, consider sending a note of encouragement to someone who now feels irrelevant. Your words may lift them out of the mire of pain to their next great achievement. And you'll feel pretty good, too.

In fact, I guarantee it.

That's the way WE work.  I'm Mark Elfstrand.