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Monday, December 27, 2021

2022 Predictions...

What’s ahead in 2022? Wouldn’t we all like to know that? Well…maybe not.

I recall standing in supermarket lines years ago and quickly getting a glimpse of the National Enquirer’s predictions for the coming year. Those who claim to have “the gift” of seeing the future never apologize for all their mistakes. Isn’t that just like humans?

I was able to find a New York Post story where they published the predictions from a “psychic” named John Cohan. He’s been featured doing this for 35 years. Here’s a sampling of his 2022 prognostications – almost all in the entertainment world. Easy pickins’.

• Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney’s feud triggers a fistfight.
• Meghan Markle and the once-very royal Prince Harry have a trial separation. He’s welcomed back home.
• Judge Judy stars in a movie as an actress.

A word to the wise…don’t hold your breath on ANY of that.

A bit more realistic would be the tech-related ones put forth by Wired magazine about our very near future. These were offered by the magazine’s editor about two weeks ago. His bottom line prediction: The future will be increasingly ... synthetic.

Exactly what does that mean? He envisions “computer-generated movie actors, lab-grown meat, virtual worlds, augmented-reality overlays, organisms whose genetic code was written by humans instead of evolved by natural selection, stories and artworks created by AI instead of humans, decisions on where to go and what to buy and how to live shaped by algorithms that anticipate our desires—or reshape them. A future in which the question ‘What is real?’ takes on a whole new meaning.” Wow. And that’s all in just one sentence!!

You can find horoscope predictions for those who follow astrology (I don’t), financial and weather predictions, plus a number of sports predictions, including the candidates for the 2022 Heisman award!
Many of us are fascinated to see into the future. People pressed Jesus on that issue as well. 

In Matthew 24:4-14 (ESV), Jesus lays out what must first take place. He said, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”

What else? Jesus tells us: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

There’s more. Keep reading in Matthew 24. The siren is sounding in these times. Prepare to meet the King!

Happy New Year! We don’t know what the future holds, but we know WHO holds the future!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas: Love? Hate?

A really good headline should immediately draw you into a story. And so it was when breezing through my liberal-leaning Washington Post teasers I came across this: "Why I Hate Christmas." The hook was planted.

Brian Broome, the opinion writer of this piece, is the author of Punch Me Up to the Gods. To spare you searching, this book (according to a New York Times reviewer) “is a coming-of-age story that explores Black manhood and queerness in the Rust Belt." I won’t go further as that is not what the focus is of my blog.

Instead, it’s Broome’s distaste — even disgust—for what Andy Williams and a gaggle of others consider “the most wonderful time of the year.” So what is Broome’s problem? In a sentence, it’s that the Christmas season never lives up to the hype.

I can certainly sympathize with his irritation over commercials that sell a more blessed Christmas can be had with expensive jewelry or a new SUV. Only the blindest among us cannot discern that advertisers haven’t grasped the message of the Christ child. The satirist Stan Freberg hit the nail on the head when he composed his classic "Green Christmas” parody, which hit the radio waves in 1958.

Freberg had Scrooge heading up an ad agency. His team had found “innovative” ways to tie advertiser products into Christmas. Speaking up was Bob Cratchit, owner of a spice company. Bob’s firm intended to send Christmas cards with a simple message of "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men." Scrooge would have none of that.

Admittedly, most advertisers today would reject that simple peace premise. Sending joy to the world is best tied into a Visa or MasterCard promotion. Amazon deliveries, we’re told, can bring joy as well.

Mr. Broome tells us that he came from a Christian family. He admits to recognizing the significance surrounding the birth of Christ. In fact, he actually played a camel in a church Christmas play one year.

But then…we hear the grudge factor. Gifts under the tree were necessities, such as a scarf, new mittens, or socks. And heaven forbid, as he writes, “the dreaded underpants.” (For the record, I’ve never received or chosen to give underwear to anyone at Christmas. It would be at the “bottom” of my list.) Apparently all the better gifts went to the more fortunate.

Broome even disses his family Christmas tree! Hear his grief as he sees it “glowing bright in the middle of the living room (as) a beacon to disappointment.” At this point, even Santa considered resigning!

This may seem a bit harsh, but Christians are part and parcel of the problem. Many of us among the so-call “faithful” jump into the shopping fray around (or before) Black Friday. We play lots of Christmas music that drifts far apart from the hymns that teach the theology of the coming Christ. Our kids are often led to believe that behavior earns them presents from the watchful eye of a jolly fictionalized guy.

In spite of these distortions, we don’t need to “hate” Christmas. We need to redeem the occasion as a celebration of hope and joy and peace. When the world sees more of that from Christ followers, maybe the things of earth will grow strangely dim.

The birth of Jesus arrived with a promise: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV)

Mr. Broome has lost sight of the amazing gift Jesus brings—the willingness to forgive the worst of sinners who come to Him by faith. Miss that and your Christmas glass is half empty. Embrace the gift, and your Christmas glass will overflow.

God bless us. Every one. And Merry Christmas!

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 13, 2021

Duly Recognized

Are you a fan of awards shows? I’m talking about those programs like the Emmys, Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, etc, etc. One source listed 46 different awards programs that have been held over the last five years. The list includes beauty pageants and sports awards shows along with the entertainment field.

Frankly, I don’t watch any of them. I used to. But I’ve found over the years that award winners are often ones I don’t recognize or believe should have won. Also, program content has shifted to more offensive language, visuals, and political agendas. Forget a simple set of winner announcements.

One of the awards programs held this past week was what is called the People's Choice Awards. When these were first announced in 1975, the winners were people from the entertainment world determined by the Gallup polling organization. Since 2005, online voting provides us the winners. There were originally14 categories. Today, there are 74! And they include awards for talent in music, television, movies, and pop culture.

Some consider the Peoples Choice Awards to be the biggest pop culture event of the year. With online voting determining winners, it could be better said that this is the biggest popularity contest of the year. Somehow, Justin Bieber snagged 10 nominations! This made him the most nominated male artist of the night.

Once again, many of the names of these “popular people” I did not recognize. Glad I didn’t have to vote. Winners included Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson — the People’s Champion Award. Luca was chosen as the Family Movie of the Year. And Loki was named the “choice” TV Show of 2021.

Oddly, in looking over the “big list” of awards shows, I found at least one missing: the Dove Awards for Christian musical artists. Bill Gaither started up this ceremony in 1969. But the third annual results were deemed invalid because of claims of ballot stuffing by the southern gospel group the Blackwood Brothers. Apparently their “popularity” required a bit of help!

The business world is always ready to reward achievers. There is something about recognition that motivates us to do more. Marketers have all kinds of gimmicks.

Celebrating team members isn’t just a matter of achievement. Workers are equally impressed when they are shown appreciation. Lack of same is one of the major reasons why employees will leave jobs.

I found one website offering, “105 Unique Gifts for Employees that Will Boost Morale & Show Appreciation in 2021.” One sure to be a hit was “a beautiful gift box stuffed with high quality sweets, healthy snacks, and wine paired perfectly.” I kind of liked the Sherpa blanket with the company logo. And how about a “power-pack of branded tech gear, including a rubberized powerbank, spot pro Bluetooth tracker, charging cable, PowerBuds, and a custom greeting card.” Oooh. Maybe that would help me perform even better! 

A lot of things on this list were Christmas time suggestions. I think gift cards and cash also send a pretty good message. (And you won’t find these at garage sales.)

Financial guru Dave Ramsey is well known for throwing lavish Christmas parties to show appreciation for his employees. In December of last year, he decided to make his event a “maskless” celebration. Not everyone “appreciated” that.

Bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman followed up his famed Five Love Languages book with a variation titled: the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

His list:

  • Words of Affirmation – uses words to affirm people
  • Acts of Service – actions speak louder than words
  • Receiving Gifts – people like things to feel appreciated
  • Quality Time – giving someone undivided attention
  • Physical Touch – appropriate touch (pats on the back)

Our need for recognition and appreciation in life will always leave us wanting more. Best to appreciate your value in light of who you are in God’s sight.

I like the way the Amplified Bible translates 1 John 1:3. It reads, “See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to be] named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are!”

And so we are. Faith in Christ gives us all the recognition we truly need!

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 6, 2021

The 12 Scams of Christmas

I suppose crazy stunts have always been with us. Maybe since the beginning of time. (Who was the first earthling to pull somebody’s chair out before they sat down?) People love to play practical jokes. Or jump on board to test the limits of risky behavior. 

In my high school days, there was the “stuff the VW Beetle Challenge.” I’m sure that’s not the official title, but that was the objective. I never tried it.

But for the record — specifically the Guinness record — “The most people crammed into an old style VW Beetle is 20 and was achieved by the Asbury University Emancipation Project at the Lexington Rescue Mission in Lexington, Kentucky, on 9 December 2010.” A 1964 Beetle was used to draw attention to human trafficking.

So there you go. More recently, there was “gallon challenge” and the “cinnamon challenge.” And the famed “Tide Pod Challenge” by which you munch your way to a cleaner but possibly deadlier stomach. Well, okay, some were merely cooking them in frying pans, then chewing them up before spewing the soap from their mouths. Sheesh. 

But 2021 might be remembered for the rise of the popular Milk Crate Challenge. How does this work, you may ask? Participants walk precariously up a pyramid of milk crates, step by step, inching closer to…? The end could be a claim to greatness or, quite possibly, a trip to a hospital emergency room.

According to the Washington Post, when the victim lands, “throngs of people who’ve helped make the social media spectacle known as the Milk Crate Challenge into the latest viral phenomenon, proceed to sing a chorus of ‘oh!’ and ‘ah!’ as the pyramid collapses and a person’s body painfully lands on a milk crate or the ground.” The dangerous act can then be viewed by millions.

While practical jokes and stunts like those above had their own risks and dangers, it usually only involves a very limited group. Not so with the more troubling scams of our time. And Christmas season seems to bring out the worst of them. 

You’ve heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas? The Better Business Bureau has published the 12 Scams of Christmas to watch out for this season. 

Some general counsel from the BBB explains that many scams of the holiday season come to you through emails and social media platforms. Especially social media. Look out for “ads about discounted items, event promotions, job opportunities, and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers.” Make no payment or donation by wire or e-transfer, through third parties. Ignore requests for prepaid debit or gift cards.

So here are several of the naughties on the BBB Christmas Scammers list;

  • Social Media Gift Exchanges: A newer version of this scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; Another twist asks you to submit your email into a list where participants get to pick a name and send money to strangers to "pay it forward." There is even a twist about "Secret Santa Dog" where you buy a $10 gift for your "secret dog.”

  • Alerts About Compromised Accounts: Reports received about a con claiming your Amazon, Paypal, Netflix, or bank account has been compromised. Victims receive an email, call, or text message that explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts, and it further urges them to take immediate action to prevent the account from being compromised. Be extra cautious about unsolicited calls, emails, and texts. 

  • Fake Charities: Due to COVID-19, many organizations cancelled their usual fundraising events and are now inviting donors to support online. Donors are advised to look out for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in need. Avoid impromptu donation decisions to unfamiliar organizations. Where possible, donate to the charity through their website and use a credit card. 

  • Puppy Scams: Many families, especially those with children, may be considering adding a furry friend to their household this year. However, you could fall victim to a pet scam, which are on the rise this year. Request to see the pet in person before making a purchase.

Proverbs 21:6 warns, “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” (NASB)

Need I say more?

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 29, 2021

Jesus & Walmart

I crossed paths with my neighbor on Friday and was greeted with, “Happy-Day-After-Thanksgiving!” I retorted, “Or as it’s more commonly known, Black Friday!” And then I added, “But in reality, many people go deeply into the RED on Black Friday.”

The shopper’s bonanza that traditionally follows eating too much and gorging on about ten hours of football has changed. We now know businesses start their "Black Friday" sales early. I think it might now be March.

Anyone can readily tell that much of the purchasing is for self—not others. I mean, how many people are giving 80" televisions out over the holidays? I visited a Bath and Body Works (B&BW) store on Saturday and saw people scarfing up more wallflower fragrance refills than 2022 has weeks! Again, who surprises dear Aunt Doris on Christmas with a fragrance refill? (Although it might help that musty smell in her closet.)

Actually, I felt a bit guilty going to B&BW on Saturday. Especially after a morning read of an article titled, “What We Profess on Sunday Ought to Apply to Black Friday.” I don’t think this writer and I are on the same page. One example was her comment, “This free-market economy and the consumerism it has nurtured are not a reflection of all that we hold sacred. They are not a reflection of God’s economy.”

To challenge our habits of indulging our children’s wishes by cleaning out the Walmart aisles, she asks “What would happen if we thought about every dollar we spend this season as an expression of our faith?”

So who is this angel watching over our shoulder? Her name is The Rev. Rosa Lee Harden. Rosa is the executive producer of Faith+Finance. She was also a co-founder of SOCAP, the largest conference on investing for social good. We might consider her a “money critic.”

Her heart is perhaps best expressed when she ponders questions as to how the more spiritually-centered person should think. “We would spend differently. Would we spend our money in ways that help create a more just local economy, in ways that begin to address the racial wealth disparity and the needs of our neighbors? From what I understand of Scripture, that seems like a more fitting way to celebrate the birth of Christ.”

Such socially minded and somewhat anti-too-capitalistic shoppers will be pleased to know that Saturday was designated as “Small Business” Saturday. This was likely thought up by the myriad of merchants who knew they couldn’t compete with the outrageous activity on Black Friday. Their hope during Christmas was that you still had money left! Or credit.

Then, of course, there’s Cyber Monday. Online retailers offer a courtesy gesture to the weekend shoppers by giving us a break on Sunday. But then…wake up and smell the coffee, friend. AND, turn on your computer for even MORE great deals!!

Speaking of Sunday, so far I haven’t seen any retailers suggesting this: “Why not go to church on Sunday and write a big, fat check to support your pastor??” You’ll be pleased to know it’s not too late for this. And your pastor would certainly appreciate it.

Are we done doling out dollars yet?? Nope. There’s Giving Tuesday!! By this point, after all that earlier spending, you’ve looked inward and found your soul feeling a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge. And yet, there is the sweet Tiny Tim asking for a Christmas blessing. C’mon, man…'tis the season!

Speaking of the season, yesterday began Advent on the Church calendar. These are days of preparation to welcome the coming Christ. To help our children appreciate this time, there are even chocolate Advent calendars varying in quality and price. We picked up the ones at our local Aldi.

They also have the “adult”version. Online I saw you could buy “NIPYATA!® BOOZY ADVENT CALENDAR: 12 SHOTS OF CHRISTMAS®!” Hmm. What’s wrong with this picture?

Perhaps the best reality about this “holiday season” is to remind ourselves of two important truths: 1) we don’t really know when Jesus was born and 2) He never requested we celebrate His birth. Or get hyped up on sales and gimmicks for giving.

Frankly, I really don’t think it bothers Jesus if you shop at Walmart. (Oooh…I wonder if that 80” television can be returned?)

Monday, November 22, 2021

Presidential Falls and Pitfalls

Today marks the 58th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I not only remember where I was when the news reported the event (7th grade music class), I recall exactly where I was at the moment 25 years later where the crime unfolded.

We had just wrapped up worship time at First Baptist Church Dallas. It was just a few minutes past noon when we rounded the same corner onto Elm Street heading to Dealey Plaza. As always, there were people gathered in the area onto which the Texas Book Depository had its overlook.

I drove down the middle lane—the same as the Kennedy motorcade did on the fateful 1963 day. Even more ironic, we were owners of an older, used, formal limousine, which I was driving. (See picture) It was all too surreal.

In the years since that tragedy, we have learned that John Kennedy had weaknesses. Like all of us. The Camelot king liked women and did not set proper boundaries. despite having a beautiful wife.

He also had enemies. In fact, some thought the only reason he picked LBJ to be his Vice President was to move him out of a powerful Senate position. Apparently, Kennedy had much bigger enemies. At least one who knew how to shoot a 6.5×52mm Carcano Model 38 infantry carbine rapidly and accurately. That is, if we all believe it was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Many believe Kennedy was very popular. At certain points, yes, but political mistakes and misfortune cost him. The Bay of Pigs fiasco gave him a short ratings bound upward. However, by September of 1963 Kennedy’s approval rating had dropped to the mid-50s. These fall numbers became the lowest of his presidency.

Compare that to the recent numbers of our current president, Joe Biden. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll published on November 8th revealed that 46% of those surveyed believed President Biden has done a worse job than they expected.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 64%, say don't want Biden to run for a second term in 2024—including 28% of Democrats. And Vice President Kamala Harris' approval rating is 28%—even worse than President Biden’s.

Perhaps the greatest concern of Americans can be explained by the former White House doctor during President Obama’s term. That would be a current Texas Congressman, Ronny Jackson. He’s been vocal in his concerns over Biden’s mental competency.

When Jackson appeared on a podcast with Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, he shared his belief that President Joe Biden is not fit to serve as commander in chief. This was not the first time he said this. And Jackson stated emphatically, “I know what that job entails, both physically and mentally, and how demanding it is. And I can tell you right now, I’m 100 percent sure that Joe Biden is incapable of doing that job.”

Perhaps we should also be concerned with the response from the former President. After Barack Obama heard what Jackson said, the Congressman received a “scathing” email from the former president. Jackson claims Obama said the comments about Biden’s cognitive health were a “betrayal of the trust that he and his administration had put in me.”

Must we prop up people who have significant competence issues? We must—if politics rules our ethics. Loyalty must only go so far.

The trouble is, others see the Biden problem as well. One YouTube video offers to teach people how to speak “Bidenese”—a form of gibberish pulled from his speeches. A Sky News Australia host, Rita Panahi, jokingly dubbed one of her segments “What in God’s name is Joe Biden trying to say?”

It’s not wrong to be critical of a president—or any leader—unless that criticism is patently offensive. Such is the case with the “Let’s Go Brandon” marketing items that really are sending President Biden a foul-mouthed message. Bad form.

No matter how good the leader is—even if he or she is perfect—there are critics. Even haters. Look at Jesus of Nazareth. The “whole world” was beginning to follow Him. A great teacher. A healer. A forgiver of true “sinners.” And look what they did to Him!

A truly good and wise leader needs to recognize when to give it up. And that’s before he or she becomes a national laughing-stock. One does that out of the greater good and love for their country.

As it says in Proverbs, “A nation will fall if it has no guidance. Many advisers mean security.” Proverbs 11:14 (GNT)

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 15, 2021

A Crushing Reality

It must have been a horrific experience. Some 50,000 people jammed together for a concert in Houston. Eight never made it out.

By now, I trust you have read the accounts of the deadly Travis Scott event called Astroworld held just over a weekend ago. It seemed a bit more real to us in Chicagoland since two of the victims were from Illinois. One of them graduated high school just a few miles from my home. Perhaps I passed him sometime at a store. Or sat in the same movie theater.

What’s surprising is perhaps that we are surprised at the outcome. In a Washington Post article titled, “Astroworld concertgoers struggle to make sense of what happened,” we learn how Travis Scott events attract a certain risk-oriented concert-goer. Note this:

“Hathim Khan and his friends had been looking forward to Travis Scott and his Astroworld Festival for more than two years.They wanted to experience the raucous atmosphere and “raging” mosh pits that Scott’s shows were famous for…’I wanted to lose my voice,’ said Khan, 21." He had flown to Houston with friends from Orlando for Scott’s concert.

Said a 22-year-old friend, Jesse Marcano, “I was ready to break a leg.” And Khan replied, “If I broke a leg, it was going to be a good thing.” Chiming in was Liselle Sanchez, 21. “Yeah, we would have made Travis proud.”

In a later story from WaPo, we read the testimony of Cynthia Lira. This 20-year-old woman was knocked to the ground during the concert and thought she would die. In the crush of people, under “a strata of bodies, everything sounded muffled to Cynthia—as though she were in an underground tunnel. The only color she saw was darkness.”

She would later compare this experience to being in a “sinkhole.” Several seconds before, she heard Travis Scott tell the crowd to “move side-to-side.” She instantly knew what was next: a massive wave would topple her. Sound like fun? Sounds like terror.

Instead, Cynthia claims a calm realization came over her—the reality that as a 20-tear-old, she could possibly die right there, crushed at a concert in Houston. Cynthia lost consciousness, and everything went black. By God’s grace, she has lived to fight another day.

Another boy who died was a mere 14. He also was a fan of rapper Travis Scott.

Okay, I admit. I don’t get it. I’ve never really been much of a concert goer. My first was a Peter, Paul, and Mary event when I was in 8th grade. That was at McCormick Place in Chicago. As you might expect, the crowd was civil. The trio faced a much bigger and boisterous crowd at the Peace March in Washington, DC, in 1971.

I would later attend an Ike & Tina Turner Revue concert in Seattle in 1970. Once the lights went dark in the auditorium, a gush of folks rushed forward for better seats. If anyone died at that event it’s because they ingested something they shouldn’t have.

Crowds tend to scare me. Because I know people. If self-interest in any form is at stake, people act out of impulse.

I guess I’m more perturbed about the fascination and dedication to “artists” like Travis Scott. I’m sad that the 14-year-old who died – and the many others in his age group – find the lyrics of Scott appealing. Beauty is not to be found in this rapper’s songs.

Most churches don’t have to worry about big crowds. Except for hyped special events. And, there too, the crowds can get ugly.

Jesus of Nazareth faced crowds everywhere in His day. I’m sure there were instances of unruly behavior. Hero worship does that to us.

On one occasion, Jesus had an enormous crowd. At least 5000 men plus women and children. It’s recorded, “Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” Matthew 14:19 (ESV)

That’s Jesus. Giving us food for the body. And leaving our souls satisfied.

Travis Scott left a crowd dazed. And confused. A crushing reality that also left eight dead in its wake.

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 8, 2021

Vetting Our Support

I would imagine this will be a more challenging upcoming Veterans Day for many families. There was something blatantly uncomfortable about the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. For 25 American families, the return home came in the form of a casket.

For many who served in this southern Asia land, it may have felt like defeat. Like America turned its tail and ran. Rebekah Sanderlin, the wife of a U.S. Army vet said, "There are a lot of veterans who are grappling with: ‘Was it worth it? Were all of our sacrifices wasted?’" Her husband was deployed to Afghanistan up to seven times!

The costs of trying to salvage peace in that country were high. More than 2,300 Americans were killed and 20,000 wounded in the 20-year war. It’s estimated the U.S. spent around $2.26 trillion in the Afghani war for freedom. Who can even count that high?

A Pew Research survey was conducted August 23-29 – before all American troops had left Afghanistan. At that time, apparently 52% of military veterans said the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from the country was the right one. Some 47% disagreed.

I’m old enough to remember Vietnam. In fact, I was drafted during that conflict. But I chose to enlist—and avoided the service branches sending ground troops to Vietnam. The Army and Marines who served saw the most action and the most fatalities.

More than 58,000 American service members died in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded. Many men who served in Vietnam and survived witnessed unspeakable horrors.

Returning home had its own trauma. The website cites the example of Steven A. Wowwk, an infantryman in the Army’s First Cavalry Division. He was sent to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, in early January 1969. By June, Wowwk had to receive advanced care.

While en route to the hospital by bus and strapped to a gurney, Wowwk and other wounded servicemen gazed out the window.They could see civilians stop to watch the small convoy of hospital-bound vehicles. Said Wowwk “I remember feeling like, what could I do to acknowledge them, and I just gave the peace signal.” He was given the middle finger in return.

Wowwk and his returning mates had invectives hurled their way. Naval officer Ford Cole remembers being spit on. Returning Vietnam vets were not met with celebratory fanfare, and few benefits, unlike an earlier generation.

Times have changed. A different American spirit emerged after the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Then, we witnessed flag-waving, yellow-ribbon cultural mobilization, and the grand celebrations. Vietnam vets were stunned. There were actually people cheering the return of soldiers.

Post 9/11, we’ve witnessed other patriotic gestures. Most notably, people saying, “Thank you for your service” to ALL who have served. American flags and pins are more noticeable.

The theme for Veterans Day 2021 is: “Honoring All Who Served.” All veterans make a sacrifice to serve their country, whether physically, emotionally, or by being away from their loved ones and missing important life moments. We can honor our military personnel by showing appreciation for their service and praying for their safety and for their families.

Mr. Wowwk is now 100 percent disabled from his Vietnam wounds. He appreciates the words of thanks he gets. But he also adds, “Deeds need to be done in addition to words.”

Sounds almost scriptural. James 2:14 reads, “Another person might say, 'You have faith, but I do good things.' Show me your faith apart from the good things you do. I will show you my faith by the good things I do.” (GWT)

Thankfully, many benefits for vets have been added since the days of Vietnam. Once again we see in this, actions do speak louder than words.

Wowwk asks, “What are you doing in addition to saying ‘thank you’?”

He asks a good question. Worth reflecting on this upcoming Veterans Day.

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 1, 2021

Coming Up Short

It was our basic monthly employee lunch last Friday. A trip to Culver’s. And I had a free birthday sundae coming. Oh boy.

Surprise! Three orange cones blocked the entrance. What? Another maintenance problem? (They closed the dining room in the summer when the air conditioning failed.) Nope. Blame it on another worker shortage.

Frankly, it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Even restaurants that are open are cautioning patrons about expectations of good (or at least fast) service. Fewer workers means longer waits for water, beverages, food, and even your bill.

Did I say expectations? Micheline Maynard wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post recently telling us all to “get real.” Her words, “Across the country, Americans’ expectations of speedy service and easy access to consumer products have been crushed like a Styrofoam container in a trash compactor. Time for some new, more realistic expectations.”

Micheline takes us back in time to earlier examples when we found ourselves wanting. In the 1920s, housing was in short supply. It’s odd that Detroit was one of those cities since it wasn’t too many years ago that you could buy a house in a certain Detroit neighborhood for around $1.

The second World War sucked our economy dry of a lot of our basic materials including shoes, metal, paper, and rubber. The only practical solution was to establish a rationing system. That’s exactly what the federal government did. Tires were the first of products to be rationed in 1942. Gasoline was rationed in May of that year.

I have lived through a gasoline shortage. It’s recorded that the first of the 1970s gas panics began in October 1973. That’s when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) raised crude oil prices by 70 percent. And boy did we pay!!

A few months later—in 1974, I was driving from Indianapolis to Minnesota after broadcast school ended. It was a Sunday morning. I had half a tank of gas. No problem. Plenty of stops along I-65. Which there were—only every gas station was closed or had signs saying, “No gas.”

Finally, exiting in the city of Chicago in a place I likely should NOT have been seen (and might have never been again) I found an open gas station with a line a half a block long. We waited. I filled. I vanished faster than one of my neighbors being invited to church with me. Yeah…I remember those days.

But this is different. We actually HAVE plenty of able-bodied workers. Yes, the pandemic has contributed to part of the problem. So did that absurd unemployment benefit policy by the fed. But beyond this, we are living in a time some experts are calling the Great Resignation.

That term was apparently brought to our attention by an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University named Anthony Klotz. He has identified four main causes for the many work departures: 1) a backlog of workers who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer; 2) burnout, particularly among frontline workers in health care, food service, and retail; 3)“pandemic epiphanies” in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers and start their own businesses; and 4) an aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely.

I honestly believe a day of reckoning will come. Mass frustration in a free economy forces creative solutions. We may not like them. And many may pay the price for refusing to work.

Proverbs 20:4 states, “If you are too lazy to plow, don't expect a harvest.” (CEV)

Yesterday was Halloween. Perhaps our biggest scare this year is that we may not get all we want when we want.

But here’s a life lesson: we never do.

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, October 25, 2021

It’s Viral

I had to make two health related decisions earlier this month. One involved the flu shot. The other, a third Covid vaccination.

May I say up front I have never cared for being sick with the flu. And I have no interest in being invaded by those ugly appearing spikey Covid thingies. They put the fear of God into millions already.

You can’t really run from it though. Or hide. The “flu bug” and coronavirus know how to seek. When the big Covid-19 scare of 2020 began, we were scrubbing down everything and putting our Target shopping bags in the garage for two weeks to make sure they were safe. But no more.

We also now seem to believe that social distancing only applies to doctors' offices, hospitals, and a few other rare types of business. Obviously it doesn’t apply to football stadiums on Saturdays and Sundays. Or concerts. Or Trump rallies. (Apparently they still have those.)

I think we do wash our hands more. And sanitizer dispensers can be found most anywhere. Even the smell of sanitizer scares off viruses.

But do the immunizations really work? Joe “I want everyone to have the jab” Biden believes so. Mr. Hold-my-finger-up-to-the-wind” Anthony Fauci is on board. But half of America isn’t sure.

I went ahead and received the flu shot. My wife thinks it’s a waste of time. But for now I said no to the third Covid vaccine. I know I’m an at-risk person.

Risk. You want risk? Get on the Dan Ryan or Stevenson expressways on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. It ain’t pretty.

You know what else is risky? Going to work!! I read an article a while back about workplace warriors who show up and share their germs. The New York Times reported that, “Charles P. Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist, placed a (harmless) tracer virus on the front-door handle of an 80-person office. Within four hours, he found the virus on more than half the workers’ hands and more than half the common surfaces.”

Gerba claims the presence of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in key public areas in the workplace reduced the number of infected surfaces by 80 percent. Now we’re talkin’!

Have you ever put your kids in school or daycare when they have any or all of those signs of sickness? Plenty of people do. Guilt does not stop them. Covid has made this a much greater concern. Kids are often the super-spreaders.

Here’s something people don’t think about. The workplace diseases not so easily treated. Selfishness. Greed. Lust for power. Corruption. These are sicknesses of the soul and require much deeper attention.

Jesus of Nazareth once said, “Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17 (NLT)

Flu-like symptoms may only need bed rest and fluids. The sin virus needs the Master’s touch. For a healthy workplace, I recommend treatments for both.

I’m also on a daily aspirin regimen. This helps me “Bayer one another’s burdens.”

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, October 18, 2021


I have a birthday coming up. A BIG birthday. The big “7-0.”

IF all works out, I plan to be in Carlsbad, California, with family as this memo is released. The state has many memories for me. Married in Sacramento. All three of our children were born and spent several years growing up in northern California.

In particular, I love the coastline of California. Highway 1 is among the most scenic drives in the United States as it winds through Monterey and down to southern points of the state. Gorgeous views of the ocean from various heights highlight the drive.

Just before my heart surgery in 2005, I was on a business related trip to Los Angeles. I took time to find a scenic walk along the ocean. I reflected that as much as I loved the experience, it was perhaps the last time I might see it. God had other plans for me. I’ve returned several times.

As I hit this birthday mile marker, I’ve become increasingly aware of a truth found in Psalm 39 (among other places). It reads:

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing[a] they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!” Psalm 39: 4-6

That reminder of “fleeting” time caused me to reflect on my “yesterdays.”

  • Yesterday I was a small boy living in Seattle walking with my father to the nearby Carkeek Park on a Saturday morning.
  • Yesterday I was playing Little League Baseball in Richfield, Minnesota, and watching the Twins play in nearby Met Stadium.
  • Yesterday I learned that God has gifted me to speak and debate and it gave me a sense of purpose.
  • Yesterday (1968) I would awaken on a Saturday morning to learn my treasured father had died. “Well before his time…” said so many.
  • Yesterday I was forced to grow up when a screaming boot camp sergeant jarred me out of sleep and into military reality for four years.
  • Yesterday I entered the world of media and became the TV sports personality on American Forces Radio and Television in Iceland.
  • Yesterday I met the beautiful Rhonda Sawyer in Sacramento, California. We dated and eventually married. 
  • Yesterday I held the first of my three children—experiencing life anew. Marshall, Adam, and Ingrid are all reminders of how precious life is.
  • Yesterday I would meet two men while working in Grass Valley, California, who would greatly influence my life: Chuck Gratner and Glenn Murray.
  • Yesterday I would find sweet fellowship in Grass Valley and Roseville (California), Dallas, and Pittsburgh with groups of men we called “fellowship groups.” Many of these friendships continue to this day.
  • Yesterday (2005) I discovered I had diabetes. Quintuple bypass surgery would come along quickly and I joined the “zipper club” by God’s grace.
  • Yesterday, after twenty years on two Chicago radio stations, I was told my services were no longer needed. I hold no grudges. No win doing that.
  • Yesterday my church offered me a leadership position that enabled me to continue using that with which God has entrusted me.
Among my “yesterdays,” I discovered a Bible verse that King David knew to be true. I claim it for myself. Psalm 138:8…”The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not abandon (give up on) the work of your hands.”

In all my yesterdays, the steady hand of God has guided and protected me. Even in the toughest times.

Seven decades of life. And the call remains to follow Jesus. It was just yesterday that He gave me life.

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, October 11, 2021

Is “Them" Us?

I must first admit I do not understand the transgender mind. Or that of cross-dressers. Or the myriad of other variations of how people seek to rewire human sexuality.

To some, that would immediately discount what I am about to share. Their response might be something like, “You’re right. You DON’T understand.” And there is some truth in that.

On the other hand, I do have a rather long and experienced history of watching humanity drift into what THEY don’t understand and accept it as “normal.” In the process, souls are dragged into various stages of confusion and often depression. But not as a result of those speaking truth.

In May, singer Demi Lovato announced to the world that she is “non-binary.” In her own words, from a video posted on Instagram. "Over the past year and a half, I've been doing some healing and self-reflective work. And through this work, I've had this revelation that I identify as non-binary. With that said, I'll officially be changing my pronouns to they/them."

Some of us need a little more explanation. So Demi is saying that identifying as nonbinary "best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression" and also "allows me to feel most authentic and true to the person I both know I am and am still discovering.” Who knows where this discovering may end?

Becoming “they/them” is kind of an in thing. No doubt, Lovato’s announcement to her millions of fans will likely lead some to reconsider their sexual identity. They will help us all become more confused.
Regarding gender transformation, consider the words of wisdom from Wesley J. Smith, an author and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism: “It is astonishing how the transgender moral panic has swept actual science aside,” Smith wrote in National Review. “... Rather than permit people to have their records changed, as happens now in all but two states—and to accommodate the potential future subjective, emotional desires of the very few—the objective biological reality for the many (in all but an infinitesimal number of births) must be sacrificed.”

The murky waters get murkier when we who don’t drink this "Kool-Aid" are asked to play along. This sometimes involves threatening actions by organizations if you fail to refer to these souls by their chosen pronouns. An example is what we learned in September about a policy at a university in Pennsylvania.

Point Park University likely claims to believe in tolerance. But their student body all received an email from the school's Office of Equity and Inclusion highlighting its Misgendering, Pronoun Misuse, and Deadnaming Policy. Campus Reform was able to get a copy of the correspondence which states, “any individual who has been informed of another person’s gender identity, pronouns, or chosen name is expected to respect that individual." If a complaint was filed then “action could be taken.”

Like what? Student Government President Dennis McDermott said he wasn’t sure, but felt it could reasonably be assumed that any violation, which in this instance applied to misgendering, misuse of pronouns, or incorrectly using someone’s deadname when you are aware of their preferred name and pronouns, could result in "a similar action to any act of discrimination against students on campus.”

Perhaps the school should review the findings of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Over the summer, these justices upheld a lower court ruling ordering the reinstatement of a northern Virginia gym teacher who said he won't refer to transgender students by their pronouns. The VA Supremes defended the teacher on free speech grounds.

I’m not good with calling people “they/them.” Or any other pronoun malfeasance. I might try, “Hey you.” Or, “Person in the third row 2nd from the back.” Forgive my rebel attitude.

What would Jesus do? I can’t speak for Him. At one point, He reprimanded the Pharisees for establishing rules of their own game for others to follow. He said, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Made up rules) (Mark 7:9, NIV)

The pronoun game does not deserve our respect. Clear thinkers must take us back to that which is rational and right.

The battle seems to be on between “us” and “them.”

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, October 4, 2021

God’s Love Language

I chuckled a bit when I saw this headline in Christianity Today: "Gary Chapman Doesn’t Know He’s Famous." There are possibly a few well known Gary Chapmans. There was the one who was married to Amy Grant. A few who have been arrested or served prison time. But if you simply do a Google search on that name, the New York Times bestselling author of The Five Love Languages—THAT Gary Chapman— is about all you see.

In the world of authors, I’m pleased to say I’ve had the joy of knowing several bestselling writers. There’s Kevin Leman who has made quite a living off of finding common birth order traits. There’s Jerry Jenkins who, along with Tim LaHaye, developed and wrote the immensely popular Left Behind series.

When I say these authors are successful, I mean mega-successful. Gary Chapman’s books have sold in the millions. The same for Jerry Jenkins. Kevin Leman must be up pretty high as well.

I’m a published author myself. A book I wrote for men sold just over 5,000 copies. I was thrilled. At print time, I had no delusions of grandeur.

Most self-published authors, it’s reported, will sell around 250 books or fewer. A Huffington Post article a while back claimed that a book selling 25,000 copies is described as “sensational.” So, yeah, Jenkins and Chapman are in the sales stratosphere.

According to the CT article, The Five Love Languages sold 8,500 copies its first year. Twice that amount the next year. By year four, it sold 137,000 copies. Thirty years later, Gary’s writing on love languages has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide!

How remarkable is this? CT reports, “Only six other evangelical books have reached the 10 million mark, including Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life (30 million), Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, and Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez.” Wow.

And yet, Sir Chapman doesn’t know he’s famous. He’s been on network television. On Oprah. Written up in papers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

I’ve been with Gary Chapman on several occasions. He’s as comfortable to speak with as your best friend. So what does it take to avoid the natural pride that accompanies great success? A true, honest sense of humility. And where does Gary Chapman find that? In the person of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul was on his journey to fame. But God radically changed his game plan. And in doing so, Paul learned to embrace humility. And here’s how he instructs true people of faith to live: 

“In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant.And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name…” Philippians 2:5-9 (NCV)

I believe this is what keeps Dr. Gary Chapman centered. He told the CT reporter, “When I wrote the book, I wrote it intentionally with non-Christians in mind.” He chose a writing style that avoids “psychology or theology terms.” Instead, his instruction is “based on a universal concept: the need to be loved.”

You owe it to yourself to read the CT article on Gary Chapman. (Link below.) It explains in detail his roots and his devotion to his faith. Despite millions in book sales, he continues to serve as a pastor. It’s all about priorities.

A well known Southern Baptist missionary, Lottie Moon, left a grave stone message for all to read about being ‘faithful unto death.” Dr. Gary Chapman cited it in agreement saying, “God, that is what I want. ‘To be faithful unto death.’”

Could it be humility is God’s love language?

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, September 27, 2021

All Mixed Up

Tomorrow I have the “opportunity” to have my third colonoscopy. I have never met the doctor who will perform this delicate and important procedure. Although we will have somewhat of an intimate relationship in the short term, I can only trust he’s truly qualified.

In between my previous colonoscopy and this one, I was permitted to use the Cologuard test. This is for “at-home colon cancer screening.” It turned out negative. Providing that company what they needed for testing was not really a positive either. But I managed.

Prior to my doctor visit on Tuesday, a Covid-19 test was required. This was my first. And in this age in which we live, it may not be my last. Fortunately, it’s become a much easier sampling to retrieve. But again, some technician was now invading my nostrils with a swab. It took a mere 30 seconds. And then the waiting game.

Today I start the process that is generally considered the most annoying. To put it lightly. It’s “prep” time. This, too, seems to have gotten a bit simpler than for my earlier tests. We start today with only liquids. All day. I guess I can pretend I’m fasting. For this procedure, I know I will be praying.

Tonight, it will my first round of cocktails—a mix of Miralax and some form of a Gatorade product. If I didn’t know better, I’d think gastroenterologists have a side deal going with both companies. Four glasses of eight ounces in a couple of hours pretty well gets things moving. Stay close to the bathroom. Consider diapers.

Then I’m told I can sleep. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday morning, it’s time to have the second cocktail party. Oh boy. I’m sure my colon will be celebrating.

We head to the doctor in the afternoon for my 3:30 p.m. appointment. Now the reality of Covid living begins to set in. Once at the office, I have to make a mobile call from my car to see when I can actually enter. Only me, though. No spouse or caregiver. I don’t like that. Rhonda is my support person and when the test is over, she’s there to make sure I get the instructions right about what’s next. I really feel for those who have serious complications and are being hospitalized.

The way most of us relieve tension or the discomfort of these kinds of doctor visits is to incorporate humor. For colonoscopy patients, it’s usually “bathroom humor.” Appropriate in this case.

The master of turning this procedure into something funny is humorist Dave Barry. In describing his initial appointment Barry wrote, “A few days later, [in my gastroenterologist’s office] Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.”

And about his prep? “You mix two packets of powder together in a one-litre plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons). Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes—and here I am being kind —like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.”

We now have the picture. Thanks, Dave.

On the much more serious side, colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest. If it can be caught early and treated, you have a chance. Thats’s why we go through all this.

I doubt King David ever had a colonoscopy. He was, however, insightful enough to write, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

Indeed it is. For which we should all be thankful. Even while drinking that famed Miralax mix!

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: