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Monday, September 30, 2019

Nothing to See Here

Exactly what is a “wacko?” I looked it up. Merriam Webster explained it’s a person who is wacky. Yeah. And what exactly defines that? How about this: absurdly or amusingly eccentric or irrational. It could even mean…crazy.

We’re hesitant to make references like this to people. I mean, would Jesus refer to someone as “wacky”? There is a Yiddish term that fits the bill: meshuga—an adjective which means crazy or senseless.

In the world today, there may be more meshuga type people than we realize. Recent news headlines tend to bear this out. You don’t have to look far.

Take this gem. Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family has alerted us to the latest addition to the Mattel doll collection. It’s called the Creatable World doll.

As reported in Baptist Press, “Mattel released its Creatable World line of dolls on Sept. 25th, describing the six dolls in the series as gender-neutral and coupled with short and long wigs and male, female and gender-neutral attire. At play, children can dress the dolls as male, female or some combination of both, according to Mattel. The dolls debuted at $29.99 and are intended to allow ‘all kids to express themselves freely,’ Mattel said in a press release.”

Glenn Stanton posits, "These are dolls created by adults for adults to make them feel good about their radical gender theories…parents are not clamoring for this. Kids are not clamoring for this.” Duh.

Or how about this meshuga idea from a so-called “Christian” school. Columnist Michael Brown exposed the insanity at Union Theological Seminary on September 17th. It was in a tweet that read, “Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt, and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.”

Seeking to find any possible wisdom in such an act, Brown inquires “What do you confess to the plants in your life?” Of course there’s an answer. And it came in another tweet: “Here was my confession. ‘I confess that even as I’ve waxed poetic and theological about how indispensable you are, I’ve privileged my own comfort and convenience over your wellbeing.’”

However well meaning wackiness might be, it still is, well…wacky. And I’m forced to conclude that supposedly reasonably bright seminarians who’ve made it this far in life with a brain are, in part at least, wacky. And the same goes for those Mattel designers!

There is also borderline wackiness. Although some may believe that this line was crossed with the recent Storm Area 51 gathering. Crowd estimates were around 10,000 who gathered near the towns of Rachel, Alamo, and Hiko, Nevada, on September 20th. One guy was arrested for public indecency. A couple of million people had logged on to the website for this charade.

There were a number in the crowd who were dressed up in tin hats and full alien-like costumes. I’m sure the REAL extra terrestrials inside Area 51 were amused. Or NOT!

Perhaps the safest way to address the meshuga behavior of these wayward souls is to say their behavior is wacky. True wackos are dangerous. These types I mentioned are just painfully annoying.

The book of Proverbs does not hesitate to refer to “fools.” In Chapter 26 we’re advised, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” (Proverbs 26:4, NIV)

To all this wackiness I say, “Move along. Nothing to see here.”

At least nothing worth your time.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Hold that Raise!

“Show me the money!”

It was one of a handful of memorable lines from the movie Jerry McGuire—the romantic comedy that millions watched in theaters in 1996. The film starred Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger. Cruise played the role of sports agent Jerry McGuire. (The original screenplay was written for Tom Hanks!)

If you’ve not seen the film or have not watched it lately, Jerry finds himself out on his own after leaving a powerful sports agency. A client of his was a wide receiver named Rod Tidwell (Gooding). Rod is very unhappy with his current contract with the Arizona Cardinals. McGuire wants to keep representing him. Tidwell has the answer: "Show me the money!” He repeats it several times on the phone with McGuire and insists that Jerry scream it back at him. It’s a very funny exchange.

Interestingly, the film had the benefit of input from the man who inspired it: Leigh Steinberg. Anyone who follows sports knows Steinberg is one of the class acts in the sports agency business. He’s represented more than 300 professional athletes in football, baseball, basketball, boxing, and Olympic sports. Leigh served as a technical consultant for Jerry McGuire.

I have to wonder what Steinberg thought when he heard about the recent news involving Tony Bennett. Not the singer. The head basketball coach of the 2019 NCAA Basketball Champion Virginia Cavaliers.

A nice piece in the Washington Times recently tells the story. Award winning columnist Deron Snyder wrote that Bennett “knowingly violated his association’s unwritten rules, the unspoken agreement that members will always prime the pump for the members coming behind.” Get this. Bennett turned down a pay raise!

For those struggling to make ends meet, you need not feel too sorry for Tony. It’s reported that Coach Bennett netted around $4.15 million last season. This included a $1 million “longevity payment.” According to Snyder’s story, “The Daily Progress reports that his (Bennett’s) annual base salary was $500,000 in 2017, with the remainder of compensation paid for by sponsors and donors.” How gracious.

It was also noted that the famous Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, enjoyed a huge salary spike from $4.1 million in 2011 to $8.9 million in 2018. Alabama’s super-duper football coach, Nick Saban, went from $4 million in 2007 to $8.7 million this year. So you can see why there is shock and awe when a coach who wins a national championship says, “no más.” At least for now.

But why do such a thing? Here were Tony’s words from a news release. “'[My wife] Lauren and I are in a great spot, and in the past I’ve had increases in my contract.' He added, 'We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA.'”

And if that notion of contentment being shared wasn’t enough, Tony piled on a little more generosity. By offering to share the wealth with others! He said, “… I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”

What kind a man is this?! Well, after his team won the championship, the coach said during a press conference, “…I know I have…in the love of my family–unconditional acceptance and love. That's huge. And I know I have that in my faith in Christ. That's, for me, where I draw my strength from – my peace, my steadiness in the midst of things.”

This mindset is one that the movie character Rod Tidwell might never understand. Money does not buy contentment. And quite often, more money only buys more problems.

Tony Bennett has discovered there’s a God who can fill the hole in one’s spiritual heart. He can bring peace…in times of turmoil. He alone is the answer to our deepest longings.

Tony might even say it this way. “God…YOU complete me.”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at and respectively.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

The Great Pastry Shortage of 2019

Go ahead. Hold my common sense hostage.

For the last couple of weeks, our local Starbucks has featured empty pastry shelves. Well, not quite empty. There were a few leftover items that leave one wondering how long those not-so-fresh items have been around!

Why no food? Depends on who you ask. According to the Chicago Sun Times, it’s an internal mixup. The paper quotes a spokeswoman for the coffee chain (Ms. Abanesi) as saying, “Some stores in the area had too much while others had too little. Store managers are working to balance that supply.”

Excuse me while I laugh. Or choke as my common sense is being squeezed out. Are you sure that’s the reason and not some, hmmm, labor dispute?

A labor dispute? Yup. It seems the Teamsters Local 710 are having a tiff over the length of a work contract with DPI Specialty Foods. Now both Ms. Abanesi and a spokesman for DPI are in the denial business on this one. They both claim there’s no connection to the empty pastry shelves and angry union members.

Meanwhile, here’s a Chicago Tribune story from September 3rd: “Can’t find that Starbucks croissant? Teamsters dispute could be the reason why some coffee shops’ shelves aren’t filled.” So what’s the scoop…as the say in barista-land?

Apparently, DPI—a Canadian company—has been supplying over 900 Starbucks in three metro areas: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. There’s a hint that Starbucks might be looking to move their business to another firm. This might well worry DPI enough to only offer a 7-month contract instead of the usual 5 year agreement. Union members gave that idea thumbs down.

There’s truth out there somewhere. I could not find any stories related to shortages in the Twin Cities or Indianapolis. Doesn’t mean they’re aren’t any.

But this is where corporate stubbornness—or stupidity—gets in the way of serving customers. Are we to believe that this major coffee supplier with chains across the country cannot manage to figure out an inventory plan for muffins and pound cake? Oh pllleeeazzz!

Even I could figure this out! Chicago has a bunch of super quality bakeries. If the Starbucks folk are really (and unbelievably) incapable of getting their usual goodies, get replacements! Unless…unless there’s something bigger going on. Like, say, not wanting to cross a local Teamsters group in Chicago. Do that, and you might have replacement Paczkis shot through your windows!

This kind of situation is why I can’t say I’m a big fan of unions. They may not be responsible for the Great Pastry Shortage of 2019 at Starbucks. But unhappy union pickets can keep us from flying on time. Or sending our kids to school. Or having garbage picked up. And if you’re not a union fan? You’re a rat!

I certainly don’t begrudge those who are in unbearable working conditions from finding relief. Usually, arbitration on such matters can find resolve. But when someone’s gripe over the length of a contract or more vacation or “cost of living” increases keeps me from my Starbucks donut, that’s going too far.

I often turn to the Bible for answers to difficult problems. Does the Bible say anything about labor unions? No. But it does speak to employers about the issue of pay. James 5:4 reads, “You refused to pay the people who worked in your fields, and now their unpaid wages are shouting out against you. The Lord All-Powerful has surely heard the cries of the workers who harvested your crops.” (CEV)

As for me, I’d prefer not to have the Lord All-Powerful holding my company up as an example of a bad business apple. Better to do the right thing. And if the same Lord catches greed and corruption taking place among the working ranks, don’t expect any favors on your account. You’ve got no case with the True Judge.

Looks like both sides have work to do. Come. Let us reason together.

My coffee is getting cold.

ADDENDUM: Good news! The shelves have been replenished and your sweet tooth is once again safe.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at and respectively.

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Monday, September 9, 2019

The King of Comebacks

I decided long ago that I would not run for president. No doubt, many are relieved to hear this. My wife being one of them.

My decision was based on multiple factors. One being the intense scrutiny that even the most credible candidates face. Every past event that can smell like a personal failing or character flaw is brought to light.

Another reason is the sheer demand of time and energy it takes to live through a campaign. Presidential candidates are often speaking multiple times a day and in different cities. They’re either consuming massive quantities of Red Bull or have a stamina gene that average humans (like me) do not possess.

A third reason is that I’m not good at kissing babies. People say there is no such thing as an ugly baby. I believe those people have a very small exposure to the larger world. Admittedly, many humans who don’t look so great as infants mature into very normal looking people. (Like me.)

A fourth factor in my decision not to run is the impossible task of mastering seemingly every issue and addressing it intelligently. I’m known to be a competent public speaker. I’m good at answering questions on the spot. I am not so good at recovering from saying something I regret or that sounds stupid.

Recently, one of my former work associates at a past radio station announced he is running for president. Against Donald Trump. You say, fine—there are a bunch of Democrats doing that. No, wait. This chap is a REPUBLICAN.

In my exposure to this particular “candidate,” I’ve known him to say some pretty outlandish things. But hey, he’s a talk show host! No doubt I’ve said some things as a talk host that fit the same bill.

All candidates mess up. Even Barack Obama. He once said, “I’ve now been in 57 states. I think one left to go.” Or Sarah Palin who warned us that “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people on too many parts of our planet.”

Some slip ups reveal true character. Former presidential candidate John Edwards offered up this quote after cheating on his wife: “First of all, it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer.” Oh…that explains it. Yuck.

Joe Biden seems to have mastered the gaffe. And he’s known for it. So much so that while stumping in New Hampshire recently he said, “I want to be clear: I’m not going nuts.” Well, that’s reassuring. He also forgot what state he was in at the time—referring to it as Vermont. Nutty.

Sometimes, even a president will say things he regrets. Or should. In his personal battle with Senator John McCain, President Trump offhandedly said, “I like people who weren't captured.” Obviously, this act of disdain towards the naval aviator who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp and faced torture was highly insensitive—as any patriotic American could recognize.

My final reason for not running for president is I’m not real fond of criticism. I can take it, but sometimes I fail to hold back in dishing out an unkind verbal response. And I know better. The Bible teaches us this, “Losing your temper causes a lot of trouble, but staying calm settles arguments.” (Proverbs 15:8, CEV)

Jesus of Nazareth often confronted difficult questions from His critics with His own questions. That is actually a very wise way to step back from giving ammunition to those who are setting a trap for you. I don’t think current media would have liked Him.

But I do. Jesus was the King of comebacks. He put truth above all else. Still today, He loves us enough to call even the worst of sinners to account.

Even me.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Watch for a new YouTube program and podcast with Mark Elfstrand very soon.

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Monday, September 2, 2019

Life in the Slow Lane

For almost half of my career years in radio, I’ve shared the road with commuters. Although, to be fair, my hours gave me a break from the “rush hour” crowd. Starting at 4:30 a.m. and then later with a 2:00 p.m. start time in the office, the concrete jungle had far fewer animals with which to contend.

Occasionally, I would attend a ball game or have some other commitment that put me in the throes of the blood pressure building masses. I hated it. And I pitied those who had to endure this tortured life on a daily basis. A few business and personal trips to Los Angeles convinced me to stay out of that part of the world. “The 10” and “the 5” and the other California freeways ought to have their own misery index.

The Chicago Tribune informed readers recently that rush hour in Chicago is an “archaic concept.” True. A traffic engineer claims as much as a third of delays in the Windy City are now found outside the traditional peak morning and afternoon commuting times.

The study was undertaken by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. We’ve learned that Chicago now “ranks third in the nation for total hours of travel delays.” Our residents found themselves stuck on the concrete hell 73 hours in 2017. That number rose from 31 hours in 1982.

The Trib writer did the math for us, stating, “That adds up to 42 additional lost hours—more than a full work week watching someone else’s brake lights.” Not a pleasant thought.

Within the numbers there was supposedly a bright spot. Chicago wins a bit of the race to work in terms of time lost on expressways compared to several other cities. In our city, the so-called expressway trip during peak hours takes almost twice as long as it would during light traffic. Compare that to Los Angeles where the difference amounts to almost three times as long. Feel better? I didn’t think so.

I’m sure some drivers find a way to make it more palatable. Perhaps a ride sharing buddy helps the commute be more interesting. There are podcasts galore from which to select. Or radio traffic reports that let you know others are suffering with you. Maybe a few phone calls will ease the journey. At the end of the day, it’s still a lousy way to part with important hours of your life.

All things should be held in perspective, I suppose. At least we can commute in climate-controlled, comfortable seating, and acoustically-designed travel cabins. Better than stage coaches, to be sure. Or on mules, horses, camels, or being pulled on frozen surfaces by a dog sled team.

God help the driver of the big rigs who have to put up with drivers who pull in front of them and then slam on the brakes during the busiest traffic times. Or the construction workers who watch speeders carelessly ignore the “slow down” signs.

I’m hoping my days of commutes are over. For almost two decades, I’ve faced two forty-mile commutes each day to different locations. Thinking back on my own road frustrations, I’ve wondered how much life is sucked out of people who feel the stress of rush hour madness.

The writer of Ecclesiastes puts forth the proposition that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NLT)

I doubt he had in mind a two hour daily commute in a field of exhaust.

Happy Labor Day. Enjoy your break…from the brake lights of the slow lanes of life.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Watch for a new YouTube program and podcast with Mark Elfstrand beginning soon!

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