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Monday, December 31, 2018

Well Worth the Work ... in 2019

As we come to the end of 2018, I’d like to reshare some thoughts from one of my earliest of these blogs known as The Way WE Work. I chose that title for them as a way of saying that people of faith should approach our work differently than the way people who do not think spiritually about their job. Thus, I finish each of my blogs with a thought or two that would connect work to faith.

Moreover, I was blessed to have the opportunity to address a men’s ministry group earlier this year on the subject of influence. I summarized some of my thoughts in two earlier blogs. So it seems appropriate to reach back and capture my reflections on this topic from a few years back. I hope it bears some fruit for you for the coming year. So here goes…

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 he’s an exceptional writer.

Gladwell, for those not familiar, is the author of bestselling books titled Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath.

I got connected to Gladwell’s writing at a strategy workshop put on by a former employer. In one of our small group breakouts, we all received a copy of Tipping Point. Each of us in the group was asked to read a different chapter of the book. Then we were to report our summary discoveries from that chapter. I found it to be a great exercise.

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. It happens when a significant group of influencers begin purchasing products or services and others soon follow the leaders, so to speak.

From Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about thin slicing, and John Gottman—the psychologist and mathematician. Gottman’s seminal work studying more than 2000 married couples has provided us with powerful perspectives 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 dangerous of those is contempt. By helping couples to see the damage these relational breakers were causing, Gottman significantly enhanced his skill as a marriage therapist.

In Outliers, Gladwell’s research gave us understanding that success is not accidental or by “luck.” Although many of the world’s most successful were talented, it took them hours and hours of work and practice to yield that success. Gladwell’s benchmark was 10,000 hours of commitment and hard work.

I have not read a later book by Gladwell titled David and Goliath. It is a book about “Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.” I learned that while writing this book, Malcolm Gladwell returned to his spiritual roots and regained his faith.

As he notes, he grew up in an evangelical home. But he admitted, “I had drifted away a little bit. This book has brought me back into the fold. I was so incredibly struck in writing these stories by the incredible power faith had in people’s lives, it has made a profound impact on me in my belief.”

Gladwell’s contributions to the world of business have made him an extraordinary influencer. Each of his works are well worth reading. Perhaps Gladwell would agree with this idea: True wisdom and incredible insight into life can be found in another bestselling book: The Bible.

And it won’t even take you 10,000 hours to learn its most valuable lessons.

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, December 24, 2018

One Solitary Love

The message of “One Solitary Life” is often sent along via Christmas cards. I don’t recall when I first heard or read it. But I’ve always found it a stirring reminder of the impact the Christ child brought.

It seems this famous short essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis in The Real Jesus and Other Sermons published in 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia.

Even if you’ve heard or read this before, it’s worth a re-read as we consider the impact of God’s son:

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth–His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

On an Irish website that shared this wonderful piece by Dr. Francis, there was also a clever re-working of 1 Corinthians 13. I think it is also worth sharing.

1 Corinthians 13 – a Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with streamers, 
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, 
I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of mince pies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, sing carols on the Church steps and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I decorate the tree with baubles and fairy lights and attend a myriad of pre-Christmas parties but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. 
Love sets aside the decorating to listen to loved ones. 
Love is kind, though harried and tired. 
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. 
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, 
but giving the gift of love will endure.

May the one Solitary Life who came to love and to save lift your heart again this season.

Merry Christmas! 

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, December 17, 2018

You’re a Mean One, Missy Grinch!

You’ve likely heard the phrase about the aggressive workplace worker who is willing to do most anything to climb the corporate ladder. These folks are ready to “claw their way to the top.” The McGraw Hill Dictionary of American Idioms explains this means “to climb to the most prestigious level of something ruthlessly.” Giving humor to this out-of-control behavior is the excellent resource by Dave Barry, Claw Your Way to the Top : How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week.

Knowing the almost inherent competitive nature of men, we might expect more rough and tumble workplace behavior from the guys. But not so fast. A recent blog from discusses many young women find a toxic atmosphere when they enter the workplace. “Very often, this atmosphere is created by fellow women.”

Adrenna Alkhas was interviewed for this blog article titled, “Women in the Workplace—Preventing a Toxic Work Environment.” Adrenna is the author of the new book, EmPOWher and is a strong advocate for inspiring young girls toward leadership in their communities. By day, she is a marketing and communication director and she lectures at her local community college. Her marketing strategies and tactics have been widely noted. Recently, she was named "Publicist of the Year" by PR News.

Adrenna describes several of the more troubling attitudes and behaviors some women act out in the workplace. This includes gossiping about each other, playing into their insecurities, and allowing jealousy to take hold. She believes women tend to “over think things” and jump to conclusions quicker.

A few years ago, the USA Today ran a story titled, “At Work: Beware of the Mean Girls in the Workplace.” This writer echoes the sentiment that “You would think that most women want to help their female colleagues succeed. After all, they know better than anyone how hard it is to get where they've gotten. But that's not necessarily the case.”

This article cites the findings of Katherine Crowly and Kathi Elster in their book, Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal. They call out several types of “mean girl behaviors” saying, at their worst, mean girls and women can often be vicious, cruel, and vengeful. This shows up when “they act like workplace bullies, say cruel things that make other women cry or become jealous of anyone else's success.”

From the authors' perspective, woman-to-woman relationships are naturally intense. They write, “The biological imperative that compels women to 'tend and befriend' can generate amazing friendships and incredibly productive work teams. But women are complicated. They want to be kind and nurturing but "we struggle with our darker side—feelings of jealousy, envy, and competition."

It is their perception that men tend to jockey for position more overtly while women compete more covertly. The passively mean girl thinks in terms of “being nice.” Instead, her competitive drive brings out passive-aggressive behavior.

Adding one more symptomatic warning, the authors write, “If you're dealing with a woman who ‘accidentally’ forgets to invite you to important meetings, is friendly one day and cold the next, praises you in public then puts you down in private, you may have a mean girl situation on your hands.”

Harvard Business Review added to this discussion as well. Their 2009 article is titled, “How to Stop 'Mean Girls' in the Workplace.” Concerns raised here about workplace bullying are how it affects the bottom line, including “affecting productivity, wellness (with subsequent rise in employer benefit costs), attrition, attraction and retention.” They spell out specific dangers from woman-on-woman bullying.

From personal experience, I’ve heard women comment about the “cattiness” of other women in the workplace. I do believe women take this offensive behavior quite personally. And it’s disruptive.

Often, people of faith refer to the “godly woman” described in Proverbs 31. Of particular note, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26, ESV)

This Christmas, let’s ask Mr. Claus to send more of that spirit of wisdom and kindness. And a whole lot less of Missy Grinch.

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, December 10, 2018

Candy Canes All Around!

Many moons ago, I “represented” Santa in our small community in California. The job was as you would expect—be large, welcome the little ones, listen to their requests, try to encourage the fearful, and be sure to hand out candy canes. One of the more apprehensive toddlers to sit on my lap was my own son. I’m grateful he chose not to yank on my beard.

Back then, the visit with Santa did not include an expensive photography package. You could even take your own pictures with the now-outdated Kodak camera. Smart phones make these photo ops simpler these days, but the mall Santas won’t allow you to do that. You have to buy THEIR photos. Makes you wonder if The Grinch is underneath that red outfit.

These are tough days for mall Santas. That’s because they are even tougher days for malls. Major name retailers are disappearing and as they go, the customers go, too.

The second factor for the diminishing mall Santa is online shopping. There is a stunning increase this year over last in the amount spent online over the Thanksgiving shopping weekend. Sorry, Santa.

So what’s a skilled Mr. Claus to do? Innovate! Last year, the Chicago Tribune shared, “Santas are finding ways to adapt, often trading in one steady mall gig for a series of hourly appearances. Some are taking up residence at stores like Bass Pro Shop and American Girl or booking more private parties. Others are finding work at outdoor shopping centers, which come with the added challenge of inclement weather.” (link below)

And then there’s Ed Taylor. This creative Los Angeles-based Santa finds himself increasingly going where the children are. Ed makes video calls to kids' iPhones and iPads. He’s been doing this for 15 years. He also runs an online school for aspiring Santas.

As the Tribune reported, “Taylor has outfitted his home office to look like Santa's workshop. He uses a web cam stationed nearby to talk with his young clients, some of whom like to give him tours of their homes or show him their Christmas trees.” I love this creativity.

Even the US Postal Service has recognized that Santa needs to be reachable on line. Postal rates are now 50 cents for a first class stamp. Why would a kid pay that when he can connect through the USPS for free?

This year, seven cities are participating in a digital version of Operation Santa. For 106 years, a gaggle of folks have offered to write response letters to those who reached out to Santa via mail during the holidays. The Christmas Good Samaritans are found in New York City; San Diego; Phoenix; Washington, D.C.; Indianapolis; Austin, Texas; and Pittsburgh.

But it isn’t just letters being answered. Some of Santa’s pen pals receive gifts from the responders. They may choose to adopt letter requests as an individual or as a team.

This year, the San Diego contingency is making a special effort to help those in northern California displaced by the tragic (Camp) fire. The letters that come from this part of the state are marked by a special heart on the envelope. Those letter adopters who choose to send gifts to northern California must pay the required Priority Mail postage.

There are disputes over whether we should perpetuate a fictional tale about this Christmas character with our children. My take is that connecting with Santa provides kids with a hope that a good-hearted servant cares about them. And wants to hear what they desire.

Jesus of Nazareth loved children. He welcomed them. And He told the adults: “I promise you this. If you don't change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3, CEV)

The Heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts. We should ask Him for more of those good gifts. He’s willing to listen. To share. To give us hope. And that’s why the real St. Nick put his faith in Jesus.

I’ll take that candy cane now.

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, December 3, 2018

Famous Pride

We live in an age where building an image for yourself has never been easier. Social media platforms turn people into overnight stars. Facebook “shares” put you in a spotlight around the world.

But the biggest personal fame maker of all may be YouTube, which was created in 2005. The first video was Me at the Zoo. From that point, well over a billion people have set up YouTube accounts. This year alone people watch nearly five billion videos each day. YouTube reports people upload 300 hours of video to their site every minute. Every MINUTE!

Admittedly, a lot of the most popular videos wind up being recording artists or clips from well known personalities. I have found historic television moments fun to re-watch. But it’s often the creative and sometimes bizarre acts of ordinary people that generate YouTube renown.

Athletes, entertainers, politicians, and very successful business people also achieve the status of fame. So do criminals. Heads of non-profits. Doctors, scientists…etc, etc. And once fame is achieved, it is usually very hard to release the desire for it. Public interest in you, and adulation from fans, gives the impression that you are not only important, but a person of value!

And that is one of the great misconceptions of fame. It is centered around what you do or have done that determines your worth. As we have likely all heard, fame is fleeting.

It was General George Patton who famously said, “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments…A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

Fame almost always has a price…one most people don’t like. The famous soon discover that people’s interest in them is surface. And often for self interest. Notice “selfies” are taken with the famous. Praise often follows. When the lights dim and the fame decreases, interest in the person fades as quickly.

This is why having a deeper appreciation of your identity is so important. Tim Tebow understands this. From his book, Shaken, Tim writes: “Being cut hurt. No doubt, being told I couldn’t do something that I loved doing and was so passionate about—playing quarterback—left me shaken.” He then correctly postulates, “Identity comes not necessarily from who we are, but from whose we are. I am a child of God. My foundation for who I am is grounded in my faith. In a God who loves me. In a God who gives me purpose.”

Another young budding football star has learned this lesson early. Trevor Lawrence. He’s the 6-foot-5 true freshman quarterback for the Clemson Tigers. Here is what he told Sports Spectrum: “Football’s important to me, but it’s not my life. It’s not the biggest thing in my life. I would say my faith is. That just comes from knowing who I am outside of that. No matter how big the situation is, it’s not going to define me.” And he added, “I put my identity in what Christ says, who He thinks I am and who I know that He says I am.” Trevor is 19 years old.

If you are grounded in the knowledge of “whose” you are and God’s delight in you, then you are able to withstand the perils of fame. And the loss of it.

Paul advises us in the book of Romans, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3, NLT)

A strong faith and a realistic perception of yourself are like guard dogs against another human weakness: pride. Something fame seems to breed.

I wonder if that will preach on YouTube?

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: