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Monday, December 28, 2020

It’s time we said farewell to the year 2020. Or as many might otherwise say, “Good riddance!!” C’mon, has it really been that bad? (You answer.)

At the top of the list of year-end wishes is to send Covid-19 packing. Perhaps it will happen. Thanks to Pfizer and other brilliant pharmaceutical research minds that have developed effective vaccines. Let’s pray they are effective without any long term harmful effects.

The past year, we witnessed the Hallmark Channel bidding farewell to family friendly programming. Under intense pressure from LGBTQ groups, the cable channel promised to add homosexual storylines in its Christmas movies. One such episode included a “couple” adopting a child. Well, yeah. So called “married men” can’t have kids the way God designed!

Soon we’ll by saying goodbye to The Donald. Mr. Trump is accustomed to saying, “You’re fired!!” but not so accustomed to hearing it. His loss is mostly attributed to his unapologetic behavior. Had he listened to his numerous spiritual counselors and matured with a spirit of humility, perhaps his future would have been different.

We can also kiss goodbye to an era of policies that save the lives of babies. That’s because Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” (Biden and Harris) couldn't care less about the personhood of the most vulnerable humans: babies. They’ve let it be known that no life in the womb will be safe under their leadership.

Late this year, it was hasta la vista to the ridiculous policy of allowing just about any creature to be allowed on airplanes as “emotional support animals.” Thankfully, the Department of Transportation brought some common sense to this issue. The policy change came after incidents including a woman from New Jersey who attempted to get a peacock named “Dexter” onto a United Airlines plane. She was denied. As was the lady hoping to have her “emotional support squirrel” on board with her. The DOT considered miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys as flying companions but finally said no. Sanity prevailed.

The year 2020 leaned us further into rejecting American heroes from our past. People like Thomas Edison, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt. All of them are on the “bad” list of the San Francisco Unified School District for some form of “offensive” behavior in the eyes of the district’s school name committee. The hearing in October listed 44 bad boys in all. They are hoping to force the re-naming of one-third the total number of schools in the district.

Edison gave us the light bulb but apparently his not-so-bright action was to electrocute animals. Perhaps in the future our streets and buildings will follow the lead of the formerly named Washington Redskin football team—now just known as “The Washington Football Team.” (Until they decide to remove WASHINGTON from the team name.) In the future, honor only PERFECT people.

We were unable to brush away the hyper-sensitivity groomed “snowflake” behavior. These are the persons who are quite easily offended. A last minute nominee for this year’s Snowflake Award included the person who sent a Minnesota nurse a complaint letter over Christmas lights. The letter said the lights are a “reminder of the systemic biases against our neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas or who can’t afford to put up lights of their own.” I doubt Halloween decorations were found so offensive.

Lastly, goodbye to good taste in Nativity scenes. Even the Vatican manger scene in Saint Peter’s Square generated several reviews of what was considered “distasteful.” Comparisons included “Mummified Mary,” “Weeble Jesus,” “Martians,” “toilet paper rolls,” and “astronauts”—all describing the figures set out to represent the Holy Family, the Magi, and the shepherds at Bethlehem.

Adios, 2020. My challenge to 2021 is to reject absurdity. An almost impossible task, no doubt. In fact, it’s likely to get worse!

As Jesus of Nazareth foretold, there will be “People fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Luke 21:2(ESV) The end times will be brutal.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Grinch's Gift Guide

In the workplace, celebrating Christmas can become something like a Tim Burton bit for The Nightmare Before Christmas. That’s because many employers dread the thought of giving any obligatory gift or bonus. Second, it can be nightmarish in the way these items are presented. Thirdly, most employees expect more or better than what they receive. Aside from those things, employer Christmas gifting is a beautiful practice.

So here’s a little help. Let’s start with a list compiled in 2014 by the USA Today as eight of the worst office Christmas gifts ever. Off the bat, we learn that “a study by Consumer Reports from a few years back found that around 30% of people agree that coworkers and bosses gift the worst holiday gifts.” Not a good start.

Here are several of the not-recommended items from that list as your guide:

  1. A self-help (or how to do your job better) book. I laughed out loud when the article posed, “If you draw your boss's name, would you ever think about giving him a book entitled Management for Dummies?” So, bosses, self improvement books are NOT a good gifting idea.
  2. Toiletries or beauty products. On the restricted list is “perfume, deodorant, or any other hygiene product…anything that could insinuate that he or she smells bad or looks bad in any way.” Duh. Gift cards to Bath & Body Works? Maybe.
  3. A Bible or religious gifts. Unless, of course, you work in a “religious” organization. A woman with a very religious boss handed out books that offered "answers to all the big questions in life" and one that explained "why other religions are wrong.” Religious trinkets or “kitsch” should be avoided. And no need to send a note saying, “I’ll be praying for you this Christmas and in 2021” as your “gift.” 
  4. Anything marijuana-related. Keep in mind this list came out in 2010!! That’s when most states had not legalized the weed! But it’s big business here in Illinois. Make sure it’s not YOUR business practice to hand it out. 
  5. A 10% off coupon…or any other coupon. Even Kohl’s cash has expiration issues and looks cheap. 

Apart from this list comes an item put on the no-no in 2018. Details were given in the New York Times article, “Lottery tickets are nice, boss, but I could really use my bonus instead.” Ya think?

I had not heard of this example, but as the Times writer tells it, “It seemed like an epic blunder: United Airlines announced that it was replacing a standard bonus with a lottery that would give nothing to most of its roughly 90,000 workers while awarding lavish prizes, such as US$100,000 in cash and Mercedes-Benz sedans, to a few lucky winners.”

Apparently, the airline believed this penny pinching idea would “build excitement and a sense of accomplishment.” Workers did not see it that way. The skies became less friendly as workers “deluged the company with hostile comments.” United wisely hit the pause button.

Let’s face the facts. Giving Lotto tickets may seem like a way to generously bless an employee if they win. But otherwise—and in most cases—they lose. Give them the money and let them gamble away their future if they choose.

One other caution: the practice of “Secret Santa.” These and other coworker gift exchanges should be given careful consideration. Some coworkers have given something completely inappropriate, something insinuating a very wrong message. If your business goes down this road, better advise what NOT to give.

Here’s a headline from the Chicago Tribune for “giving” in 2020: “Zoom scavenger hunts, Champagne deliveries: With office parties canceled, Chicago companies get creative.” Giving programs may be re-written this year.

Here’s a good guideline for life that may help the “bonus” mindset: “…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV)

Sow wisely with your employees. And remember, cash gifts never disappoint. Even the Grinch likes the color green. 

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Good ‘Ol Days

Most of the “average” Americans I know have watched the Christmas classic movies. You know, like It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and Holiday Inn. I’ve seen none of those. (Please try not to lose respect for me.)

And until Friday evening, neither my wife nor I had watched the popular holiday season film, A Christmas Story. This will likely come as surprising news to one of my best friends, whose son was a star performer in the Broadway production of that show a few years ago. He played Ralphie.

The film debuted in 1983, which explains why bad language shows up in numerous scenes. There was certainly a “Christmas” theme, but was packaged around the secular aspects of celebrating. It is now considered a seasonal “classic,” although I would not likely watch it repeatedly, nor share it with younger minds.

There are several humorous aspects to A Christmas Story. The one most central to the film’s main character (Ralphie) in that he wants a particular kind of gun for Christmas and is repeatedly told “no”—because he would “shoot his eye out.” Yes, that was a common refrain from parents in the era where guns that actually shoot various pellets or plastic bullets were found under many a Christmas tree. Today I’m not sure if fake weaponry is allowed on any kid’s list! Except in video games where real looking characters actually get knocked off amidst LOTS of violence.

What warmed my soul, however, was a scene where Ralphie and several friends were looking into the big picture window at Higbee’s department store. Inside were all kinds of toys and decorations with electric trains, stuffed animals, and…the aforementioned highly desired attack weapon, a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle! (Don’t worry, there’s no spoiler alert here.)

Growing up in my very young years in Seattle and later Minneapolis, department stores were real life Higbee’s at Christmas time. I learned from A Christmas Story website that “Higbee’s was the first department store in the greater Cleveland area. The 12-floor Higbee Company building was the anchor for Cleveland’s Public Square from its open in 1931 until its eventual close on Monday, January 7, 2002.”

In my youthful years, Dayton’s department store in downtown Minneapolis was the go-to place at Christmas. Windows around the block were beautifully decorated. And on the 8th floor of the old Dayton’s multi-story building, was the “Christmas Show.” It was once considered “the most magical place in the Twin Cities.” The politically correct crowd got the name changed to “The Holiday Show.”

From the beginning, the Holiday Show had a different theme every year. Earlier themes included The Grinch, Cinderella, and The Nutcracker. Then in 2008, and ending in 2016, the same theme was used: A Day in the Life of an Elf.

The “Holiday Show” was where you would take a photo with Santa. There were highly animatronic shows that made the experience seem “enchanted.” I recall riding on an indoor train they had set up in the 1960s.

Ahh…the good ol’ days. I know…I know. We are not supposed to pine for those “good ‘ol days.” Such time periods vary according to our own life experiences. I’m limited (as you are) to the ones I can remember.

Christmas past was also a time when we all mailed out Christmas cards—unless your religious views dictated only a “holiday card.” From my earliest recall, I remember carolers coming to our home. Sweet times indeed.

Back then, visits with Santa were free. Yes, free! Then malls began putting expensive photo packages in place of a simpler act of goodness to visitors. Now, a Santa visit requires a plastic shield! Or the new in-thing…virtual Santa visits!

So, yes, I am longing a bit for Christmas past. The Bible says, however, “Don't long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NLT) Hmmm.

Maybe some bold retailer will one day re-create a Christmas celebration that puts the wonder back in the eyes of children.

I triple dog dare ‘ya.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: 

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Date that has Lived in Infamy

The movie Pearl Harbor tried its best. As all war movies do. It’s the valiant effort made to show us the horrors of war. But it’s nothing like really being there. Nothing.

Take your pick. Patton. Full Metal Jacket. Hacksaw Ridge.

Last year, shortly after Veterans Day, a columnist named Brittany Ramjattan wrote a piece titled, “Movies with the Most Realistic Combat Scenes, According to Veterans.” The objective was to hear which movies vets believed treated “its combat with the most respect and realism.”

Here’s were several picks of these veterans:

Dunkirk. Acclaimed as one of the best World War II films to this point, the film recounts the story of trapped British and French forces attempting to evacuate a war-torn beach in May, 1940. German forces closed in. “Dunkirk recreated the plight of tending to your fellow soldier while being under constant threat of bombardment,” said Tan Vega, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Saving Private Ryan. Empire Magazine reviewed the Omaha Beach landing as “the best battle sequence of all time.” Portrayal of characters and the depiction of realistic war events was unique, in contrast to previous cinematic efforts. Saving Private Ryan is the story of a few soldiers who venture behind enemy lines to save Private James Ryan. “The most realistic thing about Saving Private Ryan is nothing is off the table,” said Gay Dimars, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “The water’s bloody, the soldiers are nauseous, and as an audience, we’re there with them.”

Platoon. Brittany Ramjattan’s article reveals, this “was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War. The script capitalizes on Oliver Stone’s experiences in various combat units to expertly depict the severity of combat as well as the rippling effects of war.” Stone’s former platoon-mates were some of his toughest critics, saying “they felt too exposed after the film’s release.” In Platoon, the audience was able to sense “the confusion, psychological trauma, and deep-seated violence Vietnam veterans endured.” 

Black Hawk Down. “The combat is realistic, but many details miss the mark,” said Sharm Ali, a US Air Force veteran. “What it does really well is explain how a noble cause could go south really quickly.” This was the Battle of Mogadishu. US service members were sent to kill or capture a Somali warlord, hoping to stabilize a country facing a humanitarian crisis. Instead, Somali forces shot down US helicopters and effectively trapped soldiers on the streets of the foreign country. This forced them to fight their way out. Filmgoers witnessed the harsh realities of urban combat that our soldiers were forced to endure.

And then there’s Pearl Harbor. The movie starring Ben Affleck. Nine members of the Toledo chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association attended the first screening near Toledo 60 years after the attack.

The men sat stoically as wave after wave of Japanese planes bombed ships at anchor in the harbor and grounded planes at the airfield. Paul McKinney was 20 years old when he left his mess hall in Pearl Harbor and first saw the planes. “They had red dots on the sides,” he said. “We didn't know what they were at first. Of course, turns out they were Japanese.”

From the nine Pearl Harbor survivors, seven described the movie as lame. The most common complaint? “Too spectacular.” Too many explosions, too many bodies tossed into the air—a historical event on steroids.

Tom Child was a 21-year-old torpedo officer at Pearl Harbor. He called the movie “…a disappointment. Overkill, overkill, overkill. The Japanese planes did what they were supposed to do and got out of there. They didn't fly around all afternoon like that.”

The Bible is replete with war stories. Killing upon killing. Blood flowing everywhere. Makes you wonder how God puts up with us. Yet the blood of one man paid the debt for the most gruesome transgressions of mankind. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 (NLT)

War movies are only partially about telling a story. The behind-the-scenes reason for such films is the making of money. That’s why producers pump out $135 million for a movie on Pearl Harbor. (In 2001 dollars)

That’s a steep price. But it was nothing…compared to the real price paid by American servicemen and women on this date 79 years ago today.

(Note: When it comes to what really happened on December 7, 1941, you might try reading this:

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Strangers at Thanksgiving

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered… “what would the Pilgrims think of our modern day celebration of Thanksgiving?” Or, maybe that’s never crossed your mind. This year, it really hit me.

First, the Pilgrims, who referred to themselves as the “Saints,” would have been very sad to discover the New York Times to be fairly clueless on the real events of life in the early 1600s. The paper tried to “help us” get educated with their’ 1619 Project, which came out last year. The Times version wants American history rewritten with our new awareness of “anti-black racism” that purportedly exists “in the very DNA of this country.” Like when those Pilgrims sailed aboard the Mayflower to reach the New World.

Pilgrim scholars Richard Land and Michael Haykin have a different view. They assert that those early settlers who arrived at Plymouth were neither irreligious nor enslavers. Richard Land states that Pilgrim principles were “the ground out of which the Declaration of Independence grew.” He adds that the first Pilgrim colony’s governing document, the Mayflower Compact, is “the American Magna Carta.”

It took those early seafarers 11 weeks to voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Some 102 Mayflower passengers made it—reaching Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1620. About 40 of them were known as Separatists–Christians who had separated from the Church of England. They found the idea of a state-run church to be toxic. They fled seeking religioius freedom and a better moral climate than they had witnessed in their time with the Dutch.

The remaining Mayflower passengers were known as “Strangers.” Their focus was more economic. Unlike the Separatists, faith in Christ was not their centerpiece for coming to the New World. It can be well assumed that writers for the New York Times would mostly be “Strangers.” Their columns often verify this.

When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, they had plenty of good reasons. It should be noted that while our focus is often on the food, that first gathering in 1621 was dedicated more to prayer. Days of it—not minutes. Along with their survival, they were grateful for the colony’s first successful harvest.

If time travel were possible, we could bring them into the American version of Thanksgiving in 2020. Certainly they would be praying for our safekeeping amidst the pandemic. And for God’s Divine Intervention. The Pilgrims were big on that.

But wait until they hear about OUR traditions based on the holiday. Including the newest addition—Green Wednesday. Yes, my friends, Green Wednesday—now known as a “High Holiday”—may break cannabis sales records in 2020. Wow.

A veteran in the buzz-business referred to the “holiday” as homage to the “stress-reducing, sleep-enhancing, appetite-stimulating benefits” of weed and “the perfect opportunity to prepare for food fights with in-laws, all-day baking affairs, and defeating the indomitable itis.” I see the Saints shaking their heads in disbelief.

But wait until they find out that the day AFTER Thanksgiving is dedicated to a buying frenzy known as “Black Friday.” We might explain that this was supposed to be exuberant gift-buying activity for others. Nah. It’s for OURSELVES. More Pilgrim head shaking.

Then we’d have to explain Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. And Get Your Sanity Back Thursday. And Dread-the-Post-Office-Visit Saturday. (Okay, I made that last one up.) My…how we love our special Thanksgiving days! By now, many of the Pilgrims have suffered cardiac arrest and are no longer with us. Oops.

Instead of “Where Are You, Christmas?”, maybe Faith Hill could challenge us next year with “Where Are You, Thanksgiving?” Something went very wrong as we became “progressive.” It usually does.

Those of us who claim to follow Christ have often gone right along with all of this. Well, except maybe the weed thing. Maybe.

Jesus' words to us might well be the same as what He revealed to His friend John about the church in Ephesus, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” Revelation 2:4 (NLT)

I think God might well be calling us to again be Pilgrim Saints—true pilgrims in Divine faith.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving Peanuts

"What's this? A piece of toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn!" she says. "Where's the turkey?!” And so goes the conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Charlie Brown with the gang of Peanuts fame. The question comes from a very disappointed Peppermint Patty in the television special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving that first aired in 1973. (This year you can watch it on PBS or on Apple+ TV)

In this animated story, Charlie Brown and Sally were intending to go to their grandmother's house for Thanksgiving dinner. The plan gets interrupted when Charlie Brown gets a phone call from the aforementioned Ms. Patty. She ungraciously invites herself to Charlie Brown's house for the annual feast.

This actually leads to TWO Thanksgiving dinners. The first was Charlie Brown’s unworthy offering to his companions—served up by the always helpful Snoopy. That’s the one our Peppermint friend dissed in her role as the designated complainer. However, Grandma comes to the rescue! All are invited to her place for the real meal deal. Thanks abound!

In 2020, we are likely to hear many conversations around the Thanksgiving table that reveal far less than gratitude. It may all start with a complaint over the limits placed on the size of our holiday gatherings. Here in Illinois, the strong suggestion has been made to feast only with your nuclear family.

Next, we may hear a round of grumbling about what it took to get the fixings! Stores are expected to be crowded with lines, perhaps, strung out in waiting queues. Just like the olden days of March of 2020! Fine, I suppose, if you're in Florida or other warm climate locations. But standing outside in Chicago??

Then let’s hear it from those most impacted by the COVID Holiday Catastrophe. Hospital workers, angry with no room in their inns for patients. High school athletes forbidden from playing winter and maybe spring sports, based on our Governor’s edict. Business owners sweating bullets over another undetermined length of closures, which may kill them in the not-so-long run. It’s enough to make Peppermint Patty lose all her flavor.

But back to Charlie Brown. Indeed, his feelings were hurt by the ungrateful Ms. Patty. But now Marcie assumes responsibility for turning the conversation in the right direction and explains to all what the day is really about. In her words: "Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,' Charlie Brown.”

In our hard times, can we truly be thankful? Of course. Leaders should help inspire us to do that.

George Washington offered us these opening words in his Proclamation of 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…"

This tradition of proclamations advocating a national day of Thanksgiving have continued over the years. Even in our nation’s hardest times. If our leaders can find a way to do it, so can we.

Colossians 3:15-16 tells us, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (NIV)

And thank you, Marcie, for reminding us what this day is about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Monday, November 16, 2020

Kiss of Death

Slowly it turns. Step by step. Inch by inch.

I’m speaking of the progression of including LGBTQ characters into television programming and movies. It goes well beyond cable programs now. We see same sex actors and actresses in full embrace and kissing on network television shows. The pressure must be intense.

So intense, in fact, that even the Hallmark Movie Channel has succumbed to that pressure. In August, the “family friendly network” debuted a film featuring a same sex wedding ceremony. Earlier movies have created same sex attraction scenes but never a wedding. Ironic that Hallmark has a ton of Christmas themed programs. So now, in a sense, “Christ” gets in the middle of this.

Yet I find something about this purported trend quite interesting. Despite all this pressure and the unsubstantiated claim that the LGBTQ lifestyle is everywhere, it really isn’t visible on most media. Overwhelmingly, romantic relationships portrayed on television are between male and female. This includes network and cable programming and commercials. Same for magazine ads. And billboards.

There are exceptions, of course. But a question looms for the “bold ones” who decide to pursue forcing the “gay agenda” on the marketplace. That question is one of "turn off." It’s one thing for the public to become more accepting of the lifestyle—as long as it’s done privately. My well-educated guess is that for most Americans, they want PDA among the “gay world” to be done out of their sight.

The Pew Research Center gives us an annual or bi-annual look at attitudes in their Global Attitudes Survey. In what I personally consider to be a disturbing trend, the findings released this year, “show the opinions on homosexuality from religious believers of all faiths and the religiously unaffiliated—defined as identifying as atheists, agnostics, or saying their religion is ‘nothing in particular’—having little variance.” The study included 18 countries.

Depending on the religious types or groupings, you will find more dedicated views aligning with Scripture on this issue. The Pew research revealed that in all countries with data on the LGBTQ issue, except Mexico, people holding religious views were less likely to think homosexuality should be accepted by society than nonbelievers did. Not something to be real cheery about.

Apparently in Finland, they are so prone to show their openness to alternative lifestyles that even Burger King has jumped on board. With Ronald McDonald! Newsweek reported the story of an ad that is titled, "Love Conquers All.” It was part of a September campaign for Helsinki Pride. Burger King Finland was an official brand partner for the Finnish Pride promotion. The two burger icons were portrayed as a single heart.

Kaisa Kasila is Burger King Finland's brand manager. According to Adweek, Kasila said, ”Burger King has always stood for equality, love, and everyone's right to be just the way they are. We thought, what a better way to convey our values than by portraying an all-encompassing kiss between Burger King and Ronald McDonald. We wanted to show that, in the end, love always wins. And we know McDonald's stands for the values we stand for, too.”

Well, McDonalds didn’t exactly grab on to partnering in this promotion. Then-CEO Steve Easterbrook posted, "We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference.” A polite way out.

And a wise decision. Most people on the planet still understand how God designed us—male and female. They know that sweet and special children aren’t created in the pretend world of LGBTQ “equality.” Yes, a large percentage of folk are more willing to “live and let live” with those of different lifestyles. But don’t be confused. That is far different than endorsement.

Jesus clearly explained the right view saying, “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” Matthew 19:4-5 (NIV)

Male and female. Male and female. Quite simple, really.

Apparently, Burger King doesn’t get it. And going down that advertising road, might well lead them to the kiss of death.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Veterans and Heroes

Wednesday is Veterans Day. It is on this day we find tributes to all who have served faithfully in our U.S. military. This differs, of course, from Memorial Day when we honor those who have given their lives in service to our nation.

This annual recognition of service men and women is often marked by parades in communities of all sizes. COVID-19 has changed that. In Indianapolis, they’ve declared, “The Veterans Day Council’s decision to cancel its in-person events was taken out of a great abundance of caution for safeguarding the health and well-being of spectators, participants, and volunteers.”

No doubt similar decisions have been made around the nation. Instead, veterans will have to accept virtual tributes. For example, the American Legion Mall in Downtown Indianapolis will feature a “Veterans Day virtual service and awards ceremony to honor veterans.”

Speaking of the American Legion, a long standing chapter in Wilmette, Illinois, has decided to call it quits. Again, blame it—at least in part—on COVID-19. The Legion does. The building will be demolished and the post is planning a farewell, 21-gun salute on Veterans Day.

And here’s the ironic twist. The Wilmette American Legion location is named after Peter J. Huerter. This 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier from the Chicago area died during the influenza pandemic of 1918! Peter had hoped to serve in World War I but he passed away on board a ship headed to Europe and was buried at sea.

Reporting on this story, the Chicago Tribune explained that spokesmen from the American Legion and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) claim that falling membership numbers have hurt them for a while. But COVID-19 shutdowns have been crippling to their revenue streams. The typical moneymakers including BINGO games, spaghetti dinners, and banquet space rentals all faced cancellations with concerns over the virus.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is no respecter of persons and, often, refuses to take prisoners. The House Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee got an earful on this in July. Rep. Neal Dunn, MD, from Florida said that "due to multiple inherent risk factors such as age, health, and difficulty physically distancing, veterans in state homes are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.” Several states had reported numerous cases and deaths by mid-summer at veterans homes.

On September 28th of this year, CBS News laid claim that military suicides have increased by as much as 20% this year over 2019. Additionally, incidents of violent behavior “spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters, and civil unrest…Army and Air Force officials say they believe the pandemic is adding stress to an already strained force.”

Early on in the pandemic, those who have already served were ready and willing to engage in the new battle against COVID-19. In March, the Army sent a notification to more than 800,000 retired soldiers to determine their willingness in returning to service in a volunteer capacity.” Initial response was very positive.

More than 9,000 retired soldiers re-upped to the Army’s call for retired medical personnel to assist in response to the pandemic. Additionally, hundreds of active duty soldiers were deployed to support field hospitals. In Chicago, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois National Guard refurbished McCormick Place to treat victims. It turned out to be unnecessary. But thank you, vets!

For those veterans alive and well, they might feel particularly blessed this year by the restaurants and other businesses who continue to offer gifting tributes on November 11th. It appears this is not about to be curtailed as much as one would have thought—although access to these places may vary across the country. Everything from meals to car washes to haircuts and more were listed as available as recently as October 12th. (link below)

Yes, Veterans Day 2020 joins the list of celebrations gone awry. But for those who’ve served our country with honor, a simple word of thanks goes a long way.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, November 2, 2020

Conscientious Protector

Tomorrow is election day. For millions of Americans, the ballot has already been cast. Early voting and mail-in voting means you do not have to go to actual polling places tomorrow.

It seems to upset a lot of people that we have something called the “electoral college” that is the final determining factor of who becomes our president. It doesn’t offend me. In fact, the concept was another piece of brilliant thinking from our “founding fathers.”

It parallels the wisdom of creating a legislature that has two separate and distinct political power centers: the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The two have different responsibilities and limit the rule of one over the other. This system also helps to keep some balance in governing by tipping the scales away from states with huge population numbers.

Actually, I should have no need to explain this to any American who has taken basic civics classes. In their lessons, students should have found a clear explanation of the purpose and value of the electoral college system. Alas, I find that the main opponents of this system are those whose preferred candidate may win the popular vote, but find the final decision honoring more marginalized states to be offensive.

I get the frustration of electoral college opponents. They are simply…wrong. Fairness should prevail. Representative government is how our republic works. The winner is not chosen by a popularity contest of individual votes. Enough said on that point.

The next big disagreement of the 2020 election is what to do with Donald Trump. Admittedly, the man acts in a more bizarre fashion than any president I have witnessed in my lifetime. I doubt I could ever report directly to him, though obviously he has his devoted fans.

In many cases, his values are not my values. I was never fond of his television series, “The Apprentice.” My heart goes out to any hard working and dedicated employee who gets belittled in the process of hearing, “You’re fired!” The American people may well decide to slap Mr. Trump with that message in this election.

On the other hand, many of his stated values…ARE my values. I’ve totally lost confidence that elected officials really understand the term “public servants.” And the way candidates portray their opponents in elections is pathetic. Thus, one of my main values related to government is that it be limited. Smaller is better than bigger.

I’m also keen on what has been given to us as freedoms in the First Amendment. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I’ve figured out which political party truly supports religious freedom.

I’m also quite fond of our Declaration of Independence. It opens this way, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

High taxation and stealing great sums from the wealthy wickedly defeats the pursuit of happiness. As for liberty, I found it almost humorous as I searched to find how many federal laws are currently on the books that one site said, “No one knows.” We have often regulated away liberty.

As for life, this is a clincher. Nothing, I repeat nothing, offends me more from the political voices than a defense of killing babies and calling it “choice.” The horrific description of partial birth abortion should, at minimum, repulse us sufficiently to reject those who support it. In this election, that choice is clear.

Jesus was always an advocate for the disenfranchised. (Matthew 25:31-46) A strong America would be one that creates opportunity for everyone. Its leaders would inspire us to work together and look after each other while not creating dependence on government. And tender-hearted politicians would protect babies.

Those are my values. Tomorrow I make my vote. May God guide my conscience.

And yours.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, October 26, 2020

9 Lessons on Teamwork

Last week, I chose to offer up some “pearls of wisdom” that have blessed by life. Today, I’m sharing a blog originally posted by Rick Ezell on September 7th. (I’m on vacation this week.) Rick is a workplace chaplain with Employee Care of America. (link below) Perhaps these pearls that he values will give you some extraordinary insights.

From Rick: 

We were not built to function well alone. We work best in teams.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”—Helen Keller

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”—The Harvard Business School

Some lessons on teamwork:

1. A compelling direction is needed.
Everyone needs a compelling direction that energizes, orients, and engages its members. Goal, purpose, cause, passion.
Everything begins with a vision. Ideas become reality, but first there must be the idea. Begin with the end in mind.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”—Henry Ford 

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.”—James Cash Penney

2. Planning is required.
“Make time for planning: Wars are won in the general’s tent.”—Steven R. Covey

Planning is the process of creating your organizational future before it happens. 

Planning is creating your actions in advance so that life will respond to you. It is writing history in advance.  
Proper planning prevents poor performance.

3. Focus on systems instead of goals.
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”—James Clear, Atomic Habits

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.”—Stephen Covey

“The score takes care of itself.”—Bill Walsh, Super Bowl winning coach

4. Make good use of people’s time.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”—Paul J. Meyer

5. More is accomplished together than alone.
TEAM: Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

6. Fun is necessary for fruitful work.
“If work isn’t fun, you’re not playing on the right team.”—Frank Sonnenberg

7. Rest and socialization must be taken regularly.
“Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”–Ovid

8. A high level of trust is demonstrated.
“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

9. Common people can attain uncommon results.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”—Andrew Carnegie

The 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team was a group of common men who produced uncommon results by defeating the Russian team and the Finnish team to win the gold medal.

Thanks once again for your refreshing insights, Rick! 

If this resonates with you as something from which your company might benefit, check out Rick’s website for more information. Contact him at: or phone him at 864-770-3560.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Pearls of Wisdom

Thursday, Lord willing, will be my 69th birthday. There are ample sources of quotations to inspire us as we journey in life. Obviously, some resonate more than others on a personal level. It is with that in mind that I’ve decided to share of few of my favorites that give me pause to reflect and, in several cases, act upon.

I’ll begin with a treasure from William Gladstone, who was a British statesman and politician. During his 60 year career, he served for 12 years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. His four terms began in 1868 and ended in 1894. Here was an example of his wisdom:

"To comprehend a man’s life, it is necessary to know not merely what he does, but also what he purposely leaves undone. There is a limit to the work that can be got out of a human body or a human brain, and he is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is still wiser who, from among the things that he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best.”

Next is a powerful reminder from John Newton. Having had early religious instruction from his mother, who passed when John was a child, his religious convictions had faded. His father was fond of sailing the seas, and young John followed in his footsteps—eventually becoming captain of his own ship profiting from the slave trade.

On a particular voyage, while attempting to navigate through a violent storm, Newton would experience what he termed as his “great deliverance.” At one critical moment all seemed lost. Confident that the ship would surely sink, he cried out, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” His journal tells us that later reflection about his mercy plea led him to believe that God had reached out to him through the storm and that grace had been bestowed to him. Newton’s conversion was dramatic, calling him out of the slave trade. He is known for penning the words to the song, Amazing Grace. I love this quote from John Newton:

"If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, his arm is over us, His ear open to our prayer, His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.”

Les Brown is given credit for this next gem. Leslie Calvin (“Les”) Brown was born in 1945 and held a variety of jobs. He’s a former Ohio politician having served in their House of Representatives, also an author, a radio DJ, and former host of The Les Brown Show. Brown is also a motivational speaker, often using the catch phrase, "It's possible,” as he encourages people to follow their dreams, as he had learned to do. This quote reveals the way he sees life…

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.” Love it.

I’ve been unable to trace the source of this next maxim—but I’ve pondered the significance of it on many mornings.

"All men are created equal. At birth and at death all men are the same, all are equal. It is life that is not equal. Life is the time given each one of us from our first breath to the last. To live life all we have to do is to decide what to do with the time given us. Will you live life or let life live you?”

I will end with this one. It is, in essence, something of a life verse I recite almost every day. It gives me hope: "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8 (ESV)

Perhaps you will agree with my assessment of the quality of these quotes. Pearls of wisdom can take us a long way.

May you be blessed.


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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Watch Out! You’ve Got Mail

“Oh look, honey, somebody is sending free money!” And indeed! Sometimes it happens. For example, I recently received a check from Melania Trump. Unfortunately, it wasn’t made out to me. The $45 was to be endorsed by the political party of her husband. Dang it.

Occasionally, we get an envelope with a crisp, new $1 bill tucked inside. This is an “incentive” gift encouraging us to multiply it many times over and support some charity. The smaller version of this comes from the March of Dimes which sends us—you guessed it—a dime.

We’re thankful for this free money. And we graciously keep it. Helps to pay for our coffee habit at Starbucks.

And then there are the address labels. I think at last count I have 8,327. Unfortunately, some company got my middle initial wrong so I now have 1,641 of those with an “R” instead of a “J.” But I save them. You can never have enough return address labels. Or note pads. Gobs of note pads.

’Tis also the season for free Christmas cards to arrive. Just received a package the other day. Useless. They’re from a respected charity—one to which I have previously contributed. Three of the cards say “Seasons Greetings.” One says, “Let it snow.” (Please, no.) Another has a quote, “The ornament of a house is the people who frequent it.” None of them said… “Merry Christmas!!” Watch my lips, “No moolah for you!”

The most extravagant freebie mailing came a week ago. It was from a national organization whose mission is “saving children and healing families.” I like that. To my recollection, I’ve never given them a dime. (Not even the one we got free in another mailing!)

Inside the 1 1/4 inch mailer was a treasure trove of un-requested items. There were eight cellophane wrapped Christmas cards. All but one offered true Christmas greetings. There were multiple calendars of various sizes. A crossword puzzle booklet was enclosed. More mailing labels. And…a partridge in a pear tree. (Okay, slight exaggeration.) I have never received so much free stuff to tempt me to give. But I resisted.

Why? Is it because I am a heartless penny-pinching heathen? I hope not.

No, it’s because all of these gimmicks—and that’s what they are—are intended to create an implied obligation. Since the organization has blessed me freely, perhaps I should pony up a return cash gift to say thank you. Plus, my name is now added to the Mailing Lists From Hell which are sold or traded among these groups. That’s why I keep getting offers to Mark “R.” Elfstrand!

Another mail manipulation is the so-called free shipping. It’s explained in the article, “The Email Strategy that Made $47K+ by Giving Away Free Stuff.” Here’s an excerpt. “There’s no denying the power of the free shipping campaign when it comes to getting new new customers…People love free stuff. It’s why so many companies have simply priced shipping into their items and then claimed ‘free shipping.’"

Here’s a twist. A small item is offered to a client’s email list for free. The customer just needs to pay shipping. Say it’s a $5 “free” item. You charge $10 for shipping and handling—$3 more than the cost. You get the profit on the item AND $2 bonus on the shipping. As the writer explains, “the psychological desire for free stuff fuels incredibly successful sales campaigns.” A mind game in which you lose.

Even that “free test drive” invitation from your local car dealer is a quasi-obligation incentive. The dealer and salesman know they’ve not only increased the temptation to buy, but you’ve taken up their precious time and used their vehicle to drive around. Don’t ya kind of feel like you owe them? Most likely, they do!

Not all incentives are evil. But all “great offers” are designed to move your mind toward something you may or may not have been thinking you need or want.

Manipulation. Watch out! The wicked witch is calling. “Come here, children. I have some free candy for you!” Riiiiiiight.

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

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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