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Monday, January 26, 2015

Success Though Marriage

A careful look at life in the rearview mirror will always reveal key moments, decisions, and opportunities that helped shape us. Some have chosen to express these treasured experiences as kairos moments. This comes from an ancient Greek word that includes meanings like “opportunity,” “season,” or “fitting time.”

A few of mine easily come to mind. Early in my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from Minneapolis to Sidney, Montana. The student body in Sidney was about one fifth the size of my previous school. This new “season” afforded me the occasion to rise from relative oblivion among many to enjoy greater opportunity in the smaller setting. It was life changing.

Another of my kairos moments came while at Bible college in Seattle. My roommate and I were quite dissimilar. We had different upbringings and interests and rarely hung out together. But after our spring break, he arrived back on campus with a hobby of his — a 10 watt radio transmitter. He arranged to hook this up to my record player and we broadcast a radio signal on our campus. Again, it changed my life. I was introduced to the world of radio and it became my vocation.

A third kairos moment came a few years later while at choir practice at the chapel of McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. Having recently exited the Air Force, I was offered free housing for a few weeks if I agreed to sing in the choir as I had during my active duty time. At one rehearsal, the wife of a Chaplain turned and asked me if I would be interested in dating her daughter who was soon to visit. After seeing a picture, I agreed. We met. Fell in love. Married. And, again, the rest is history. Rhonda and I just celebrated our 38th anniversary this month.

Marriage changes our lives in many ways. Aside from the obvious challenges of learning how to live with your mate, there are the myriad of experiences you navigate. Marriages rise and fall on the trials you may face. If there is no serious commitment, danger lurks everywhere.

On the other hand, a spouse can and should be an enormous blessing. Perhaps more than we are even aware. Catch this line from an article I read recently on the impact of a spouse: “Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.”

The author was careful to avoid suggesting that selecting a marriage partner should be based on only selective advantage criteria. Likewise, one should be advised against ending a marriage if the spouse is not a perceived asset to a career.

My point is that I have been blessed with a wonderful wife who adds immense value to my life in so many ways. She has advanced me socially and supported me in my most difficult seasons. Rhonda is an asset in any environment in which she is present. I am very proud of her no matter where we go. Truly, she has helped me personally and professionally.

Incidentally, the Bible uses the word kairos or related term 86 times in the New Testament. In one particular reference, we hear the apostle Paul challenge us all who hear the message of the Good News of Jesus this way: “I tell you, now is the time [kairos] of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NIV)

I am very grateful for God’s guiding hand in providing these kairos moments — or whatever you choose to call them. My life and my faith have been shaped by them. I advise you — be on the lookout for them.

And watch out who you sit next to in choir.

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

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Priority Redux

A recent technology study has reminded me how difficult it is to stay on track with priorities. January is a good month to clean things out and make some lofty goals for accomplishment. It is also a good month to evaluate and reorder priorities.

My priority learning curve was shaped in the early 1980s. As a 30-something, I was hitting stride in several areas of life. Work was going well. I was taking night classes. My church wanted some of my time. A community service organization wanted my involvement. All of this began to take its toll. My wonderful wife and three young children were getting less and less of me.

I sought help. My wise counselor turned out to become an important spiritual mentor in my life and a good friend. He simply took me through a couple of stages of priority thinking.

First, he asked me if I had priorities. I did. Well, in my head. He urged me to write each of them down and then describe in a few sentences what each of them meant. Next, I was to keep track of my time over the course of a week without trying to do anything different in my schedule.

It was clear in this process that what I said was important and what I did with my life did not match up. So it was a matter of alignment. Or realignment.

For many years after, I would review those priorities and look at my time commitments. Such a simple process. Such a difficult challenge to fix at times.

So this article on technology has me back on that thinking process. I always have more on my to do list that I can actually do. And technology, while wonderful, complicates life even more. I’m not blaming innovation, just admitting my frustration with it.

The new study comes from the Pew Research Center and Rutgers University. Here’s a summary statement from the article: “Frequent Internet and social media users do not have higher stress levels than those who use technology less often. And for women, using certain digital tools decreases stress.”

Ah c’mon. I have three email accounts, a Facebook page and am on Linked In. My access to the Internet is an invaluable asset to my work. However — I find many more interesting articles to look at than I can handle. In truth, I’m mainly on Facebook to know what my wife is doing! She has virtually hourly updates and if I don’t keep up, OTHERS are telling me about her life.

So the bottom line message is that these advances create a significant challenge to maintaining priorities. I try not to have a complicated life. Reality reveals I drive eighty miles back and forth to work each day. I put in an average of eight to nine hours for work. I have a wife, three adult children and six grandchildren. I serve as an elder at our church. Add in my technology. AAUUGGHH!

If we don’t know our limits, set boundaries, establish priorities and deal with all the technology, we will struggle. And our spiritual life can easily get cast aside. I may feel badly in not keeping up with all my online friends, but this is life in an overcrowded world.

No one lived a simpler life than Jesus of Nazareth. He knew the problems of encumbrances in life. At one point, in sending out his disciples for mission work, he gave this instruction: “Don’t take any money with you; don’t even carry a duffle bag with extra clothes and shoes, or even a walking stick; for those you help should feed and care for you.” (Matthew 10:9-10, The Living Bible)

I don’t know what Jesus would have done about Facebook. Or Pinterest. Or Linked In. Given the option, he might have used Twitter. It’s a pretty efficient way to send the important stuff to followers.


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

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hidden Talent

Over the weekend I watched a “bit” of football. Another story surfaced of how a running back who had exited the NFL and was working in some “menial” job got called up because of injuries to other players. In just a few weeks, this man’s skills abounded and he became an essential contributor to the team heading into the playoffs.

I love those stories. Crane operator…house painter…garbage man one day. NFL star the next. What transformation!

Of course, we know that the talent was there all the time. It simply needed some opportunity to come alive in the right setting. In a sense, it was hidden talent.

A new season of American Idol began recently on FOX. And NBC has The Voice. In the summer, there’s the program, America’s Got Talent. These programs also exist for the up and comers in the business world. All have similar Cinderella qualities of finding these talents that heretofore were unrecognized for their greatness.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How many more extremely talented people exist who never even try out! And how many others in different fields have the raw talent but never get coached to greatness.

I’m on Linked In. Again this morning, I received notice that several people had endorsed me for what they perceive are my personal strengths. Sometimes I go, “Really?” It’s nice to be thought well of, though.

So I began thinking about talented people that never quite get the opportunity to shine. I began to wonder if there is a way in the business world to seek out top performers like they do on these talent shows. Perhaps in the market place we get so focused on our day to day required duties that we miss taking time to find that gem of a person who could take our company to another level.

My radio career changed overnight while working in Sacramento, California, in the 1970s. I was the afternoon drive radio announcer at a country music station. Midway through my program, a local legend in radio (Chuck Roy) called me off air and asked me to interview with him about a job in a small radio market nearby. I did. We clicked. And I followed him later to Dallas and then Pittsburgh for radio jobs.

Chuck was “surfing the dial” and looking for talent. He liked my sound. About the same time, he heard a disc jockey at a roller rink and hired him, too! Today, George Rath works for one of the largest radio operations in Christian music.

The point here is that while both George and I had talent, someone took the time and challenge to find it. Groom it. Develop it.

What does your company do to find hidden talent?

Jesus of Nazareth was seeking to influence some religious leaders’ views on people others considered as “wasted lives.” His illustrations included the famous story of the prodigal son. And one about the lost sheep.

He also used this story: “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:8-10 (The Message)

Finding value in people serves multiple purposes. It redeems their lives and gives them a sense of purpose. It can give your business exactly the lift it needs. And it makes a great story. But often you have to seek for that talent like the lost coin.

Hi ho, Silver!

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

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, January 5, 2015

You Make Your Coworkers Sick!

This has been a particularly nasty flu season. The bug infiltrates schools, churches, shopping malls, and, of course, workplaces. Children bring it home from daycare centers. It’s everywhere. And it’s been ugly.

When this happens, a revival of discussion over the value of flu shots occurs. I get mine every year, regardless of naysayers. As one who had open heart surgery and is diabetic, my doctors tell me it’s very important. My wife, on the other hand, passes.

Adding to the army of those who are predisposed NOT to get a flu shot, we saw news reports in December telling us that this year’s flu shot has not been as effective against a current aggressive strain. Many took that to mean a lesser need for immunization. Bad choice.

IFLScience reports it this way: “Even if H3N2 has drifted and the vaccine does not provide maximum protection against that particular strain, it may still be able to lessen the severity of the illness. Additionally, the vaccine also protects against other strains that a patient may encounter, so health officials are still recommending the flu shot to anyone who has not yet received it.”

But that’s not the real point of my blog today. It’s the spreading of the cold and flu viruses in the workplace that we must think about. In an article worth reading on workplace warriors who show up and share the germs, a sobering reminder: “Charles P. Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist placed a (harmless) tracer virus on the front-door handle of an 80-person office. Within four hours, he found the virus on more than half the workers’ hands and more than half the common surfaces.”

This same researcher had some comforting advice. He claims the presence of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in key public areas in the workplace reduced the number of infected surfaces by 80 percent. Bring on the Lysol.

But the real question comes when determining whether you should bring your sick children to daycares and schools and bring those flu bugs to your workplace. Why do we do this? Is it true dedication to the mission? Or because we can’t afford time off or to take sick days? In either case, we can easily make our coworkers sick!

Here was surprising information to me. Science suggests adults are not the primary culprits of spreading the influenza bug, but children! As reported, “Kids start shedding the virus several days before the onset of their symptoms, and can remain infectious for up to three weeks after. For grown-ups, the window is much smaller — just a few days on average.”

The article from the New York Times assesses that illness become a “threat to productivity.” And the advice is to slow things down and not frown upon those who take time off to let sickness pass. We would all be better off.

I am so thankful we live in a society where we have access to relief methods of dealing with the flu and even ways to prevent it. What a blessing! Thank God for doctors, and the great Physician!

Other workplace diseases are not so easy to treat. Selfishness. Greed. Lust for power. Corruption. These are sicknesses of the soul. They require much deeper care.

Jesus of Nazareth once said, “…Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17, NLT)

Flu-like symptoms may only need bed rest and fluids. The sin virus needs the Master’s touch. For a healthy workplace, I recommend both.

And Christians, keep aspirin nearby. So you can help “Bayer one another’s burdens.”

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

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoon from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here