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Monday, April 30, 2018

Flight Fright

I just completed a roundtrip flight between Chicago and Sacramento, California. It never ceases to amaze me how much geography one covers in such a short time by flying. It also reminds me how thankful I am for a pressurized cabin.

There are downsides to air travel. When I drive, I never have to go through metal detectors or having my innards exposed on some weird X-ray machine. I don’t have to line up like cattle to board or risk sitting in between two people I don’t know and perhaps wish we’d never met. And when using the bathroom, I don’t have to figure out how fit my large Scandinavian body into those very tight spaces. (And as an aside, why can’t they figure out how to keep the toilet seat up?)

Well, all of us have our complaints. If you fly Southwest, like we often choose to do, you have the standing cattle boarding procedure. And God forbid you don’t sign up for early boarding and pay the extra bucks. Fail to do that, and you may wind up with that middle seat. And worse yet, you and your overhead baggage may be about plane length apart. Or you could be required to check that bag.

At least the soft drinks and coffee are complimentary. And the crackers are good. Mostly. Okay, sometimes—assuming they don’t run out of your favorites.

Fortunately, I’ve never been on a flight where they were so overbooked they had to yank a rebellious passenger off the plane. And I’ve not had them stuff my pooch into an overhead compartment only to discover a lifeless pet at the end of the flight. I’ve been blessed not to have a fellow passenger act like a mindless soul who demands the airline do something they can’t do. Like let him off the plane while in flight. Or give permission to smoke in the bathroom.

Airline mistreatment is a passenger’s greatest frustration. One fellow had his $3,500 guitar crushed by baggage folks. He received no reimbursement and no sympathy. More recently, another animal bit the proverbial airways dust between Chicago and London. Simon the Rabbit. Ironically, his fatal mistreatment happened at “O’Hare.” Then, United cremated Simon without permission. Oops.

Well, those are the exceptions. We hope. Flying is still the safest of all travel forms I’m told.

A few weeks ago, gave flyers a very good heads up on staying healthy when flying. This is a must read for flyers. The article is titled, “To Stay Healthy On Your Next Flight, Avoid Aisles and Stay Put.”

For example, I’ve ALWAYS chosen an aisle seat when available. With my size, I have no desire to climb over people — especially sleeping people — on long flights. They seem to not like it either. I’ll even put up with passengers and flight attendants carelessly whacking my elbows or upper torso to get by.

As the article describes, “The issue is exposure—not just to other passengers, but anything they touch. That means obvious hot spots (arm rests, tray tables, in-flight magazines) and less-obvious ones like aisle seats, which people use to steady themselves as they move about the cabin, frequently on their way to and from a lavatory.” I’m already feeling ill.

And as for staying put, this returns us to those lavatories on the plane. Microbiologist Charles Gerba claims they are overtrafficked and underserviced. Thus, many are swarming with E. coli. Gerba says, ”Your typical flight will have one (lavatory) for every 50 people. Sometimes it's more like one per 75."

Despite the bumps along the way, air travel gives us a special appreciation of God’s handiwork. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (NIV)

So all things considered, I still plan to fly. Usually now with rubber gloves. Even if I’m stuck in the middle seat.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Three Cheers for Convictions

Or…The Wrong Kind of “Fantasy” Football

What does a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader for her next job? I can only speak for one—whom we hired several years ago at a radio station in Dallas. She became our promotions director.

I thought about her recently after some negative media stories emerged about cheerleaders for pro teams. For example, the website wrote about the way Cowboy cheerleaders in this day have been told to “take it” when it came to groping or some forms of sexual harassment.

The story adds, “In interviews with dozens of current and former cheerleaders–most of them from the NFL, but also representing the NBA and the NHL–they described systematic exploitation by teams that profit by sending them into pregame tailgating and other gatherings where they are subjected to offensive sexual comments and unwanted touches by fans.”

Within days of that story, Fox News carried an interview with Kristan Ware. Kristan was part of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. She recently filed a complaint against the team and the NFL claiming discrimination over her Christian convictions.

Kristan spent three years with the team ending her cheerleading in 2017. In her view, she was held to a different standard. She felt her religious views and gender played a part.

According to the filed complaint, the Dolphin’s cheerleading director “ridiculed and disciplined her” after Kristan posted a photo of her baptism on social media. In a more extensive story in the New York Times, it was reported that Kristan claimed that she was mocked by other cheerleaders for sharing that she was a virgin and that she planned to remain so until marriage.

The Washington Post reported on Kristan Ware. The paper wrote that when Kristan posted a blog for the Dolphins’ website, “all mentions of her faith were removed except for a general reference to God. In her complaint, Ware stated that she was treated differently over her religious views compared to those of the players–who had a team chaplain.”

I was impressed that at the college level, male cheerleaders take a lead in protecting their female counterparts. A former Hawkeye cheerleader told me, “Thankfully we had a male partner who was kind of like a body guard on game days. We also had a male coach who was very protective of the female cheerleaders. The most common 'unwanted advances' were from people in the crowd who made unnecessary comments about appearance and such. Typically our coach or one of the game security people would tell them they need to back off/calm down.”

And our former promotions director, Lori Sandridge Pollitt, told me: “I find that for the most part, my memories are exclusively positive. I cheered for the Cowboys back during the Tom Landry years. Auditions to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader were grueling. Prior to my rookie year on the squad, close to 2300 girls representing 42 states, Canada, and Mexico set out to secure one of only 36 spots on the squad.”

Lori added, “Our director, Suzanne Mitchell, was known to be extremely tough on us and there were strict guidelines and rules we were expected to follow to the letter of the law. It was simple, abide by the rules or take your pom poms home.” Too bad times have changed.

For a young woman, I’m sure it seemed like such an honor to be selected as an NFL cheerleader. Travel. Lot of attention and even signing autographs at functions. Dramatic photoshoots. And, of course, the national television exposure on games. Perhaps all along we’ve suspected a dark side.

It’s about time we learned the truth about another kind of “fantasy football.” Sports teams need to know when to call a foul on this issue. And punish offenders…especially for illegal use of the hands.

Period. #HandsOff.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Light It Up!

This is is my third blog on a common theme. It might have the most practical application for leaders who want to make any real impact.

Following an interview with Reggie McNeal on his book, Kingdom Collaborators, I could see a straight line from his ministry orientation to the work of community organizers. So I blogged on that two weeks ago.

Then I saw parallels to the recent student led protests by David Hogg and his Parkland High School alums. Definitely some prospects for future community organizers. That was last week’s blog.

Today I’m going to share a summary of the “Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down” from McNeal’s book. I’m using an excellent summary of a talk by Reggie McNeal to about 50 congregational and ministry team leaders at the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Christa Meland gave me permission to use her summary. (Article link below)

Here is the way Reggie McNeal described eight characteristics of leaders who are kingdom-centered rather than church-centered. They are:

  1. Kingdom leaders pray with one eye open. They’re not trying to shut out the world while they pray. Instead, they have the world in the cross-hairs of prayer efforts. Their prayers are informed by what’s happening in world.
  2. Kingdom leaders agitate well. They don’t just get people riled up—they get people riled up to do something. They are intentional about agitating for justice and joy. They are great about selling a problem around which people can rally to work toward a solution.
  3. Kingdom leaders combine social and spiritual entrepreneurship. If you want to help eliminate hunger in your community, for example, get different volunteers to help people find housing, locate jobs, and provide meals to children so they’re well-nourished and can focus at school.
  4. Kingdom leaders marry vision with action. They don’t just sell a passion; they build on ramps for people to get involved in it. They answer the question “So, what should I do?”
  5. Kingdom leaders shape a people-development culture. They constantly help people live a better life. It’s not how many people are in worship or participating in church activities. They measure success by the number of people who are living more abundantly as a result of their efforts.
  6. Kingdom leaders curate curiosity. McNeal cited Don Clifton, a United Methodist minister who developed the StrengthsFinder tool. His insatiable curiosity about what would happen if we focused on what was right with people instead of what’s wrong with them led him to develop a resource that’s been used by about twelve million people nationwide.
  7. Kingdom leaders call the party. Having built relationships in their community, they can easily convene a crowd. Following their passion to do something, they know how to get people around a table to make it happen. They know that leadership is not just positional, it’s personal.
  8. Kingdom leaders maintain a pain-tinged optimism. McNeal said Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech avoided a focus on what was wrong in the world; it painted a picture of a more hopeful future. All great kingdom leaders, in moments of rest, carry the pain of something that still isn’t right or needs to be done. But they convey hope because hope inspires. Dreams and hope are a vestige of the Kingdom of God.

Keep in mind Reggie McNeal wrote Kingdom Collaborators for a ministry-minded audience. Certainly his eight characteristics apply to leaders of both for-profit and non-profit organizations wanting to make a difference. And especially for community organizers.

Jesus said, “You are the world’s light—it is impossible to hide a town built on the top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house. Let your light shine like that in the sight of men. Let them see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Phillips)

There are your marching orders. Light it up!

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Be a Nehemiah!

Watch out for David Hogg!

You know the guy, right? Following the tragic Parkland school shooting in Florida, David was one of several students from that school who became the voice for demanding change in our culture. From my perspective, the only plea for change that was offered that seemed to matter to him was gun control. Wise people know our cultural problems run much deeper.

Nonetheless, David has became a popular media “go to” person to urge action. He’s a young man of passion. I’d say he’s fairly well spoken except for the vulgarities that he can’t resist using to belittle those who miss his message. Or who disagree. His national platform on television and in other media no doubt has given him star-like quality among his peers. It’s just too bad it comes at the expense of those who have lost their lives at Parkland.

David Hogg drew more national attention recently when it was learned that despite his ambitions for future education, he faced some rejection. It’s not his grades. He carries a 4.2 GPA and had an SAT score of 1270. David’s preferred fields of study would be journalism, political science, or photography. And so he applied to a half-dozen universities with programs that matched his interests toward a career as a journalist or filmmaker. Three of his college applications were rejected. Three were accepted.

As the New York Times reported, “The Parkland students are a case study in civic engagement. They are among the leaders of the #NeverAgain movement, collectively delivering fiery speeches that demand change, promoting their message on social media and organizing the March for Our Lives rally…Much of their leadership and community work, driven by the loss of classmates and friends, might not have been considered in the college admission process.”

Hmmm. I know the perfect career for David Hogg. Community organizer. Last week, my blog focused on what that job looks like and the man who achieved the most from this role by becoming president of the United States. Barack Obama.

Catch this description from the website “By most definitions, community organizing is a specialized field in social work that is devoted to restoring democracy at the grassroots level and energizing citizens to become a more active member of their society. Community organizing focuses on fixing broken social systems, bringing about meaningful changes to peoples’ lives, and empowering vulnerable or oppressed populations. Community organizing has the goal of uniting local citizens around a common concern, ranging from preventing crime and reducing toxic wastes to fighting prejudice and creating community-building projects.”

What does that sound like? To me, it sounds like David Hogg. At least at this stage of his life.

Until I saw the story about David in the New York Times last week, I had planned on relating how this endeavor known as Community Organizer has a definite connection to giving vision for Kingdom Building. But I will wait one more week to share those insights.

In the meantime, I’m reminded of several very strong community organizers in the Bible. Moses being one of them—albeit reluctantly. And then there was Nehemiah–a man who led the charge in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem after the fall seventy years earlier. In this case, it was the people who were reluctant to rebuild in the face of opposition. But Nehemiah inspired the people to a great achievement. Just like a community organizer would.

Take time to read the short Bible book of Nehemiah. It might inspire you in your job to take new steps at improving your world. Even if it’s from inside a cubicle wall.

P.S.: Next week I’ll be sure to share more on Reggie McNeal’s Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Community Organizer

Of all the opportunities in the work world, I’ve never heard a little boy or girl dream of being a community organizer. I certainly didn’t dream of such. And neither did any of my friends. Frankly, no high school counselor I’ve met encourages a young person that direction.

In one sense, that is a bit surprising. Community organizers are people of influence. Or at least they hope to be. A person might even pursue this in college once it’s known as a viable profession. I learned this from the website, Social Work Degree Guide. (Link below)

In response to the question, “What does a Community Organizer Do?,” we read, “After earning a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree with a concentration in macro community practice, some graduates choose to pursue their interests in community empowerment and program development by becoming a community organizer…. In short, community organizers are responsible for uniting people to work together to solve social problems and make the world a better place.”

Sounds useful. But what do you actually DO on a daily basis? Apparently, the skill set involves being a good listener. You would need to focus on building social organizations. Creating options and alternatives. The community organizer must be a strategic thinker, a good recruiter, and fundraiser. There are member meetings and training sessions requiring attention as well. The objective end is to build a group of people or an institution to “work toward a common goal through collective action.”

Now that the stage is set, who is the most well known community organizer of the last thirty years? I would hope one name would immediately come to mind: Barack Obama. Some have called him the “Community Organizer in Chief.” 

In December 1995, reporter Hank De Zutter of the Chicago Reader wrote a definitive lead in an article entitled "What Makes Obama Run?" He stated, “Lawyer, teacher, philanthropist, and author Barack Obama doesn't need another career. But he's entering politics to get back to his true passion–community organization.”

In Barack Obama’s own words, “It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago and became a community organizer that I think I really grew into myself in terms of my identity. … I connected in a very direct way with the African-American community in Chicago.” This was quoted in David J. Garrow’s book on the former president, Rising Star.

Regardless of your political views, it is certainly apparent that President Obama learned this trade. He developed a mastery of building relationships and connections. It helped him build a team that took him on quite a journey.

What sparked my interest in this topic? A recent guest on my talk show. Reggie McNeal is a long time pastor and church leader. He is currently working with a group out of Minnesota that thrives on making a difference. McNeal’s bio reads, “Currently, Reggie is working with community leaders around the country to build cross-domain collaborative efforts that can move the needle on big societal issues.”

What does this sound like? To me, it sounds like a variation of the theme of being a community organizer. Reggie’s latest book is titled, Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down.

As I discussed his involvement in community change and his passion to help the church look at a bigger picture of living out the Kingdom of God, I saw a powerful way to revisit spreading the Gospel. What began in the first century church and became a movement made much more sense.

In my next blog, I want to share the eight practices he mentions. I think they offer far reaching possibilities to live out the Great Commission, “Go and make followers of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do all the things I have told you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLV)

For all I know, this may inspire you to become a Kingdom-driven community organizer. I hope so.

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

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: