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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

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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

Articles of interest:

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

Articles of interest: