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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: