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Monday, September 13, 2021

Killing the “Crazy"


I read a most disturbing news item a couple of weeks ago. It involved a professor at Duquesne University, a school in the Pittsburgh area. The instructor is named Derek Hook and involves a video of comments shared by him in a summer session that he hosted.

In that video, at the top of his presentation, it says “White people should commit suicide as an ethical act.” Purportedly, Hook was quoting a South African philosophy professor named Terblanche Delport. In 2016, Deport wrote about white people killing themselves amid racial division in the former apartheid state.

Quoting from the news story, (link below) “‘The reality [in South Africa] is that most white people spend their whole lives only engaging Black people in subservient positions … My question is then how can a person not be racist if that’s the way they live their lives? The only way then for white people to become part of Africa is to not exist as white people anymore,’ Hook says, quoting Delport on a slide in the lecture.”

The added portion of this quote takes the dramatic turn, “If the goal is to dismantle white supremacy, and white supremacy is white culture … then the goal has to be to dismantle white culture and ultimately white people themselves. The total integration into Africa by white people will also automatically then mean the death of white people as white as a concept would not exist anymore.”

Duquesne University is a Catholic school. When contacted by Fox News about this incident, they aggressively denied there was any such intent of real “killing.” Their report claims, “He (Hook) did not make a statement advocating anything like what was suggested. In fact, he said that the statement in question was ‘crazy.’ He also said that the provocateur who used this example was wrong in suggesting any such radical action.”

Maybe. I have not been able to find anything that would convey what the takeaway from the students in this class was. And what was the objective of Professor Hook?

It is this kind of “crazy” approach in dealing with racism that keeps the issue a hot button in our culture. Moreover, there actually is ample evidence of calls being made for white people to apologize for who they are or what was done in the past. An entire industry has developed to help “correct this.”

What I do know is that for all the efforts that have been made to reduce prejudicial behaviors in America, “white privilege” still remains. I benefit from it. But I didn’t ask for it. And furthermore, I do not feel the need to apologize for my skin color. I had nothing to do with creating it—only advancing the potential for it by marrying a Caucasian woman and having children. But the last time I checked, which can be often, I’ve not witnessed discriminatory attitudes toward another race in any of my children.

In many people of color and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, I have witnessed remarkable attitudes that enable forgiveness, overcoming, and pressing forward in spite of the inappropriate actions of others. A pastor I know personally who champions this mentality is Pastor James E. Ward. His website shows he is an advocate for “empowering people to be their best.” His book, Zero Victim, sets the right tone for discussion. It is subtitled, Overcoming injustice with a new attitude. It’s exactly what he has done. And countless others.

Is there a legitimate call for those of us who have benefitted by a certain skin color to respond to others with true brotherly love? All we need to do is to review Jesus’ powerful story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) Here we find the challenge not to apologize for our ethnicity, but to love others with the same authentic passion as we would those of our own family.

I am blessed and grateful for the diversity of friends God has given me in life. I know God sees us of equal value. My job is to make sure I’m always seeking to do the same.

I don’t plan to “kill” myself to get there.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, September 6, 2021

Don’t Quit



Today is Labor Day. Supposedly, we are to celebrate the advances made in our work world because of organized labor. But we seem to be having a shortage of labor.

Our local Patch “newspaper” recently reported this story:

JOLIET, IL — The Panera Bread restaurant inside the Louis Joliet Mall is no longer open for business. The Louis Joliet Mall website lists the Panera Bread as being "temporarily closed.”

They added that if you actually called that Panera Bread location, a voicemail message said, "Thank you for calling Panera Bread. This bakery-cafe is temporarily closed due to shortage of staff. We look forward to serving you in person as soon as possible.”

Our church also received a phone call about the Panera location near us. Same message. “Temporary closure.” They did not explain why, but personnel shortages are everywhere.

But why? Getting a handle on this is not so easy. It depends on whom you ask.

If it’s the heavily liberal leaning Washington Post, that rarely finds any fault in government handouts, they’re convinced those overly generous unemployment benefits aren’t the problem. They’ve made several efforts to convince you of this.

A May 13th story this year was headlined, “No, unemployment benefits don’t stop people from returning to work.” They even acknowledged, “Too many American workers, the argument goes, would rather stay home, play video games and collect unemployment than go back to work. And the rest of us are suffering as a result.” Well, yeah. But WAPO tells us study after study has “debunked this myth.”

In June, the paper ran this story, “Worker-shortage worries are real. But are they really so urgent?” Well, no, unless you’re one of the thousands of companies trying to stay in business. And then, like Panera, you either close until the problem is fixed, you close early because you have no workers, or you bribe those who will work by offering same day pay like a nearby Taco Bell.

To further their case, WAPO published another item on July 27th. Here’s the headline: “These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more.” Fine, if that was really the issue. But we’ve seen several stores offering that wage—or even more—that still weep for more workers.

On August 27th, INC magazine gave us this admission: “The Great Resignation is Here, and It's Real.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Or not.

Consider these numbers: “According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the months of April, May, and June, (2021) a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. Recent studies indicate that it's likely not over. A survey of over 30,000 workers conducted by Microsoft found that 41% are considering quitting; that number jumps to 54% when Gen Z is considered alone.”

People not being downsized. Not getting terminated for one reason or another. Just quitting.

LinkedIn reports 74% of those surveyed indicated that the time spent at home—either during shut-downs or working remotely—during the pandemic, had caused them to rethink their current work situation. Over half in several surveys cite stress and burnout in their current position. Others point to dissatisfaction in “jerk cost-cutting actions by their current employer in response to COVID-19.”

There were other reasons. Lack of fairness in promotions or merit increases and indiscriminate layoffs were mentioned. Some discovered that the benefits of a two income household no longer outweighed the costs. And the truly adventurous decided to try and start a business venture.

But the number no one can really give us with clarity are those who simply have decided they can make more money by not working. Or through the so-called “black market.”

One thing we know. When the party of free money collapses or the dreams fade, the jobs may have already been lost. A restart may take much time. Unless…unless…we feed the frenzy of free government handouts. But from whose pockets?

Proverbs 13:4 reads, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” (ESV)

I’m cheering for the diligent worker. That person has a future.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:
https://www.washingtonpost.com › business › 2021/06/10
https://www.washingtonpost.com › business › 2021/07/27

Monday, August 30, 2021

Vanity, Vanity … Sports is Vanity


I must confess that watching college and pro football games gets too much of my attention. Worse yet, it triggers unfortunate emotional outbursts at teams and players who underperform and stink up the joint—meaning stadiums. Judging by fan reaction in the stands, I’m not alone.

With our Comcast subscription, I am able to watch NFL Live—a one hour gabfest that often includes two to three female football enthusiasts, several former players, and the inimitable Adam Schefter. He’s 54 years old but must spend an inordinate amount of time getting facials. He looks 36. He’s both a writer and a television analyst.

The program almost lost me during the NFL downtime that runs from February (after the Super Bowl) into August. There’s one huge NFL coverage event in April known as the NFL Draft—which now has become a colossal multi-day over-dramatized event bringing in millions of ad revenue.

As this year’s draft was about to get underway, “Schefty”—as he’s known by colleagues—broke the “stunning” news that Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers was having a snit fit with Packer management. For the next two to three months, Rodgers became talking point number one for the hosts. Each weighed in on meaningless thoughts about whether he would stay or go. And…if he would leave, which team should sit up, speak, and roll over to pursue this multi-zillion dollar QB.

The NFL Draft itself is all about first round draft choices and how much money they will get. Any simpleton knows that agents for these players have dollar signs hidden within their corneas. The more the player is paid, the bigger their share.

To be fair, this money grubbing isn’t just an NFL specialty. It happens in most sports. But I’m particularly turned off in hearing about some outrageous financial package given to a player while “Schefty” and company proclaim, “He’s worth it.” No…he’s not.

The latest bonanza of money bills was just awarded to, appropriately, the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Once again, “Schefty” was on top of this story. He let us know that QB Josh Allen and the Bills came to agree on a six-year contract extension. According to ESPN, Josh hopes to be paid the full $258 million. He’s reportedly guaranteed $150 million! For six years of work.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is Patrick Mahomes. He signed a 10-year contract extension worth up to $503 million last year. The record-setting deal locked him in with the Chiefs through the 2031 season. Who knows, by then he might OWN the team!

After the Josh Allen extension was signed, the NFL Live hosts were gleefully mentioning several quarterbacks likely salivating over the riches awaiting them in the days ahead. That’s because every time a speciality player (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or star defensive player) is blessed with a new deal, their fellow competitors often threaten to sit out the next season unless their cushy contract is “renegotiated.”

Oh I’ve heard the arguments. Players have short careers. They risk job-ending injury. They’re “elite” talent. They also play one game a week. Seven games a season. They sit for a good part of each game. And have months off.

On top of their paydays from the team, players also can cut generous deals for sponsorships. They get treated like royalty in many cities. Heroes. Truly special people. And now, college athletes are getting in on all these goodies!

It only works because our football addiction generates gazillions from media coverage and advertising revenue, ticket sales at games, merchandising, and any other way people find to squeeze money out of fans. When you’re hooked on anything you become easy prey.

Athletes, like all who have special gifts and talents, have been given these abilities by God. Their true eternal value is measured only by their Kingdom pursuits. Fame and wealth often become their downfall.

The wealthiest man in time, Solomon, at some point wisely asked God for this, “Make me absolutely honest and don't let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need.” Proverbs 30:8 (CEV)

He looked upon the glories gained on earth as “vanity.” So should we.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, August 23, 2021

Transitioning Values


“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

The term “moorings” most often refers to a place where a ship, boat, or aircraft is fastened or tied down. But it also can mean one's stability or security. This is what I find steadily being called into question. Our rational stability.

Here in Illinois, as in many other places in our nation, we have lost our moorings on human sexuality. This, in turn, has led to our loss of common sense in balancing the rights of people. The consequence has generated absurdities in such things as restroom policies, legal judgments, and unbelievable financial settlements.

To illustrate this, I refer you to the recent developments with a person who has pursued a “sex change” and has been employed by Hobby Lobby in East Aurora, Illinois, since the early 2000s. Early on, this person was decidedly male. Born that way.

In 2007, Mr. Sommerville decided to make a medical transition from male to female. A few years later, M. Sommerville (which I will use) legally became known as Meggan and began dressing and wanted to be introduced as a woman at work. At the same time, Sommerville formally told the Hobby Lobby manager that “she” now intended to use the women's restroom.

Hobby Lobby has clearly self identified as a firm that believes in the Holy Scriptures. They believe what was said in Genesis, chapter 1, on God creating two sexes—male and female. Thus they, like all rational establishments for the last several thousand years, provide restrooms for guys…and gals.

Since we have gone down the bizarre road of gender reassignment surgery, matters of restroom use have become “complicated.” As Hobby Lobby discovered. Their unwillingness to allow “Meggan” to use a restroom she would never have used earlier in life cost them big bucks. To the tune of a $220,000 legal settlement.

The award was given because Hobby Lobby discriminated. But did they? M. Sommerville worked at the company all through his transitioning surgery. While Hobby Lobby may not have agreed with this, nonetheless the person was treated respectfully and fairly. Not with discrimination. Just please use the restroom that you were biologically created to use.

But our modern forms of government don’t see things this way. Unlike the Bible, within the Illinois Human Rights Act, "sex" is defined as the status of being male or female, not necessarily pertaining to a person's reproductive biology. Our courts uphold such nonsense.

M. Sommerville explained to the court that such treatment “led to disturbing, recurring nightmares, severe anxiety and physical issues related to avoiding using the restroom at work.” But hold on. Suppose the other employees had shared with the court that if M. Sommerville used the wrong restroom, THEY were having nightmares! Would their “rights” be protected? Not in today’s misguided system.

However, apparently Hobby Lobby offered to change its criteria for who could use each restroom. Sommerville was reportedly advised “she” could use the women’s facility if she underwent genital surgery or showed a birth certificate that identified her as female. Not gonna happen.

Of course, this is the same battle being waged by the gender fighters who want to use their choice of dressing and locker rooms and showers even at the high school level. Again, our Illiinois schools and courts have much higher regard for the one person who wants this accepted versus the many who don’t.

Back to the Bible. Fortune Magazine reported that in reference to gender expression, “the LGBTQ advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, argues those opposed to transgender identity are ignoring the most revered lessons from the Bible about love, acceptance and judgment of others.”

Those are certainly godly ideas. Maybe the HRC missed this godly affirmation in Matthew 19:4, “Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female?’” Duh.

Transitioning values have loosened are moorings. What will you hold on to for stability?

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Courage to Lose


With the Olympics ending, we are ready to resume the schedule of America’s Got Talent (AGT) episodes seen each Tuesday night on NBC. And now it gets really interesting. Only 36 acts were chosen to move forward from the myriad of “talent” that applied. Earlier auditions gave us a glimpse of the truly talented, along with the bizarre and those who should have had a reality check before applying.

Those moving on now do live performances and were selected by the four judges: Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, and Heidi Klum. Cowell created the program as well as the British version. And he is clearly the one who feels most comfortable handing out rejection notices.

I enjoyed the show when it first started, but then I quit watching for several years. The reason? Two words: Howard Stern. Let’s just call it “a personality disagreement.” I’m sure I’m not his “cup of tea” either.

In my return to watching AGT, I was surprised that a number of contestants were not actually from America. They’ve been fun to watch and it’s to their credit that several travelled great distances to participate. But…it IS called AMERICA’S Got Talent.

The reason why the program appeals to me can be easily summed up. The acts draw out strong emotions in me. Few people ever see me shed tears. But I do often while watching AGT. Call it cheering for the underdog. Or joy in watching the remarkable giftedness often hidden that is now exposed to cheering crowds. Often, it’s the memorable and sad stories that accompany an act.

It certainly happened this season. Stories like Jane Marczewski’s, aka Nightbirde. This musical artist garnered a standing ovation when she auditioned for AGT in June. You can still watch the video of her stunning performance. It’s received more than thirty million views on YouTube.

Jane’s story is particularly compelling in that she has been dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis. The woman was given a 2 percent chance of survival. After her performance, here is what she told the four judges, “It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.” After this, the normally less-sensitive Simon Cowell walked up on stage and hugged her. Very moving.

But Ms. Marczewski’s road has taken another dark curve. A few weeks ago, her Instagram followers (over 700,000) were given this message: “Since my audition, my health has taken a turn for the worse and the fight with cancer is demanding all of my energy and attention. I am so sad to announce that I won’t be able to continue forward on this season of AGT.”

Then we have the husband and former school teacher whose wife died in the helicopter crash along with basketball star Kobe Bryant. He sang a song dedicated to his deceased wife as his three children looked on. And then there was the man whose female dance partner is 95 years old! He was swinging her around like she was 20! 

Those who come to perform as stand-up comedians are among the group that gets the most respect from me—if they are good. One of the judges, Howie Mandel, is a comedian himself. He appreciates how hard it is to genuinely make people laugh. Oddly, once you are very successful at it, you can get laughs when you come onstage. People KNOW you are going to be funny ( see Steve Martin).

Other television series showcase talent—mainly musical performers—shows like The Voice and American Idol. And those dance competitions. But AGT is different. The variety they feature creates many surprises. This includes the very young who display remarkable poise and talent as their parents cheer from the sidelines.

Jane Marczewski summed up what many contestants discover in their efforts to win the million dollar prize : “Life doesn’t always give breaks to those that deserve it—but we knew that already.”

King Solomon said it this way, “Here is something else I have learned: The fastest runners and the greatest heroes don't always win races and battles. Wisdom, intelligence, and skill don't always make you healthy, rich, or popular. We each have our own share of misfortune. (Ecclesiastes 9:11, CEV)

Yes, it takes a lot of courage to risk losing. With millions watching.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Monday, August 9, 2021

Be All You Can Be


How much “potential” do you have? It was Napoleon Hill who challenged his followers with this maxim in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich: “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Defenders of Hill will acknowledge various absurdities are not possible. Just because you believe you can fly doesn’t mean you should jump off a building or a bridge or out of an airplane to test it.

Certain parameters must be met. Like living in reality! My own wife was inspired by her mother telling her “You can do anything you put your mind to.” and “If those other people can do it, so can you!”

Recently, I read an article about Elon Musk. You could almost conclude that his drive for success was so powerful, that he willed Tesla into the amazing company it is today. He apparently has crushed an undetermined number of lives in the process of developing this company.

Steve Jobs also proved to have a remarkable ability to take an idea and guide it successfully into business orbit. Sort of like a Musk rocket. Except Jobs went on his mega-run with something called the iPhone.

Both men were able to conceive something remarkable. They believed in their ideas. And they achieved “greatness” in terms of worldly success. Musk, of course, is still expanding his empire.

But what about you? How much potential do YOU have? Via the internet, we can learn that the 1950s and ‘60s were when the “human potential movement” (HPM) gathered steam. Glenn Doman and Carl Delacato were founders of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in 1955. Doman was quoted as stating, "Every child born has, at the moment of birth, a greater potential intelligence than Leonardo da Vinci ever used.” Impressive! You go, girl! Or…guy!

There seems to be some evidence that the HPM can be tracked closely to Abraham Maslow’s theory of self-actualization. Wikipedia notes that “He (Maslow) also coined the term 'metamotivation' to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.” Ah…the great untapped potential.

If you need help developing your unused and untapped resources, there are places you can turn. A web search on human potential can get you started. But be careful. Some organizations seem to lead to odd spiritual involvement – even cultish.

I found an article on livereal.com titled “What is ‘Human Potential’? A Brief Introduction” that helps sort out the questions.

When we use the words “human potential,” what do we mean, exactly?

  • Is it something far-out, wild, extraordinary, and utterly beyond the reach of our puny imaginations? In this sense, “human potential” is trying to get at something wonderful and extraordinary.
  • Or is it something fairly mundane? We all have “potential” to do some everyday tasks at least a little more effectively.
  • Is it something rare? One guy can hold his breath for hours; someone else is a math genius; someone else actually can make trumpet noises with his belly-button. These are all possible, but rare.
And then, this reality check… 
  • Or is it something commonplace? Maybe everything is what it is, and well, that’s pretty much it. There are no great “potentials.”

I’m fairly confident that the increase in the number of “personal coaches” is an indicator that people both want and need to be pushed harder to reach their potential. Usually, you find such coaches retained by the self employed. In most businesses, management serves as the “motivator.” Like Elon Musk. (Gulp!)

In the sports world, coaches serve this purpose. Great coaches know how to push (or pull) talented athletes to the next level. Good teachers can do that as well.

In the spiritual life, the Apostle Paul was such a person. He was always encouraging followers of Jesus by saying things like “press on,” “renew your mind,” and “stay the course.”

If there’s one simple lesson to be remembered about potential, it’s that you are not yet what you could be.


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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, August 2, 2021

Shrinkflation


True or false: Candy bars are smaller than they used to be. The answer? Depends. Some have increased in size. Others have shrunk. Getting to the bottom of the wrapper on this issue is a bit more difficult than you’d imagine.

MoneyGuru studied this question. They were able to determine that more than 2,500 products in the UK have been shrinking in size. Chocolates were highly affected: as much as 17% from their original size.

And boy do we love our chocolate! If you are an average American, you will consume 22 pounds of candy per year. Almost half of that will be chocolate!

And what is the most popular chocolate candy? Again, tough to get a fully accurate read. Two surveys blended together came up with a top 3…Hershey bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and…Snickers.

Snickers held the top spot for years. When first introduced in 1930, the price was a mere five cents. Obviously, economic times have changed. Snickers is now sold in over 70 countries around the world.

Truth is, many products have shrunk in size but not in price. This is commonly known as “shrinkflation.” CNN Business wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. They attribute customers’ awareness of size differences to the more significant notice of price increases.

Increased costs for commodities, transportation, labor, and a number of other expenses require action. Manufacturers then raise prices and pare down the sizes of the products. Who pays for this game? You do.

This shrinkflation can be found in products well beyond candy. Various kinds of chips, ice cream, and even toilet paper rolls are victims. Apparently, there is a watchdog source to check this: Reddit forum. Their mission is to document “everything from smaller deodorant sizes to iced tea bottles.”

I’ve noticed this in breakfast cereals over the years. Was it my imagination? Not at all.

A CNN source relayed that in Massachusetts he discovered that the Cocoa Puffs family size box had dropped from 19.3 ounces to 18.1 ounces. Simultaneously, Cinnamon Toast Crunch had fallen from 19.3 ounces to 18.8 ounces. Did the price drop accordingly? Surely you jest. No, both sizes were priced at $3.99. You just lost out on a bowl of cereal in that smaller box!

Perhaps one of the true artists of price manipulation is Walmart. Consumers will travel through the aisles and see the signs saying, “New Lower Price!” Walmart has run many ads showing price dropping signs. It creates an impression that this is happening all the time. Do you ever see any signs that tell you when they raise their prices? That IS something they do all the time. And I’m quite sure other companies use the same tactics.

Where it becomes morally delicate is when you think you are getting the same amount of something but you aren’t. Like in the cereal example. Note—no wording on the box tells you, “New Smaller Quantity!” Of course not.

Concern over giving people what they think they are getting is not new. Early on in the Bible, the issue was addressed: “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 25:13-16 (ESV).

Later, this principle is applied to paying employees! “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” James 5:4 (ESV)

The Bible doesn’t say shrinkflation is evil. Trying to deceive people, however, is.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, July 26, 2021

Nightmares from the Service Department


We all know this life brings us trials and temptations. And sometimes our trials become opportunities for temptations. Like when bad customer service might drive you to drink! Or think dastardly thoughts.

I’m not there yet. But I might have been getting close with events of recent days.

I’ll start with my auto accident in May. While waiting patiently at a stoplight near my work, I was suddenly jolted by a smack to my rear bumper. The family behind me had their SUV really whacked by the person behind them.

All the emergency vehicles showed up within two minutes. It was quite a colorful display. Fortunately, no one needed medical attention. My car hardly showed but a few scratches—something that required $4200 of repair work. Deductible $500. Ridiculous.

Thankfully, all three drivers were insured. That generally means good news. My insurer, State Farm, is always great with service. But after two months, they had received no response from the company of the crash-causer. We’ll call them company “A.”

So now, it’s arbitration time. This is the legal fix for the uncooperative types. And for the two parties awaiting reimbursement of deductibles and their insurance companies who paid for repairs, this is a totally unnecessary delay. Glad company “A” is not my insurance company!

The next to try my patience came when a minor repair of our relatively new refrigerator was needed. We cried “help” from the LG service rep. We got crickets. Like we didn’t exist.

More recently a warning message and light on my car dashboard urged me to get attention to my AEB—whatever that is. Off to the dealership. A recall item was also needing to be fixed.

Simple repairs? Nope. I dropped off the car on a Thursday. The car needed a part, which would arrive in three days. No loaners available. My warranty coverage included a rental. If I could FIND one. I couldn’t. Not within 25 miles!

Monday, the needed part accidentally was sent to the wrong location. I was told to be patient and it should arrive Wednesday. So two more days without a car. Wednesday I get the call that the part is in and my car will be done by evening.

Late Wednesday afternoon, we head to the dealership. Most service personnel have gone home. But at least the car is ready and waiting and all washed clean. I jump in, turn on the ignition and…whoa…there’s that nasty AEB message staring back at me!

C’mon man…wouldn’t the tech who drove the car out of the garage have plainly seen that?? I drove off to meet my wife for dinner and called the dealership. The service rep told me no worries—probably a reset button issue. “Come back and we’ll take of that. No appointment needed.”

Friday morning I returned with my car. After a short time to check in I headed to the customer service waiting room. Almost four HOURS later, I’m told they are not sure what’s wrong. Another part needs to be ordered. That should take care of the problem. Maybe. This time, they let me drive my car home.

Misery, it is said, loves company. Several others in the waiting room had to face pricey repairs. At least mine will be covered by my 100,000 mile warranty—with only 180 miles remaining. A blessing provided by a loving son.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (HCSB) When the frustrating challenges of life come upon us, we do well to remember this verse.

But I still have some work to do on that “love your enemies” teaching. Especially the service repairmen who won’t call you back. That’s when the nightmares begin.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com


Monday, July 19, 2021

Olympic Size Problems


Let the games begin! Over the past three decades, I’ve collected several goodies from the promoters of the Olympics. I have enough return address labels from them to mail things into the next century. I have a vest with the Olympic rings, at least a couple of hats, and several items that were passed on to thrift stores.

Now some of that has come at a price. Most apparel items required a financial gift to support our Olympic athletes. Something I have generally wanted to do. I say “generally,” because I really have no interest in supporting athletes who use the platform to diss the country financing the show of their achievements. And there have been several.

The first to really stand out occurred in the 1968 games. It happened in the medal ceremony in Mexico City on October 16th. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African-American athletes on the US team, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of our national anthem. The two men were on the podium having won medals in the 200-meter running event of the games. Both turned and faced the US flag and then kept their hands raised until the anthem had finished. A third medalist from Australia joined Smith and Carlos in wearing human-rights badges on their jackets.

It was written 30 years later in Tommie Smith’s autobiography that the raised fists were not a “'Black Power' salute per se, but rather a ‘human rights’ salute.” But who knows. What they did, however, has been considered among one the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics.

Of greater political drama were the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Early on the morning of September 5th, a group of Palestinian terrorists ambushed the Israeli team and took nine hostages. Negotiations to free them broke down. The terrorists took the athletes to the Munich airport where German police fired on them from rooftops. Three were killed. A gun battle followed, killing the hostages, two more Palestinian terrorists, and a policeman. What a waste of lives!

There have been others who chose to use the Olympics as their platform for their preferred causes. Raising questions of her loyalty, for example, BMX Freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe wrote on Facebook last year, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.” Chelsea “identifies” as a trans woman. Her issue was trans-related. Later she told Fox News, “One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it's not all of the bad things that we're known for.” Oh please.

More recently we had the display of hammer thrower Gwen Berry. She decided to turn away from the American flag during the playing of the national anthem while at the US Olympic Trials. Gwen explained that she believed The Star Spangled Banner “does not speak for black Americans.”

Here’s the deal. A LOT of what has happened in American history doesn’t speak for ALL Americans. The Native population that was on the soil of this nation before most any other ethnic group has been violated. How about the taxes we pay? The first income tax in the US was levied in the Civil War, but the federal income tax as we know it was officially enacted in 1913. The estate tax, gift tax, and Social Security taxes all were legislated in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve been “violated” all my life by those.

Worse yet, a huge number of my fellow countrymen and women (I love saying it that way) keep voting in people who choose to kill our babies through abortion! How UN-American!! Roe V Wade doesn’t speak for me!

But it’s still our country. Freer than almost any other. Better than most—if not the best. So if you’re on our Olympic teams, stop the showboating. And to the organizers, stop taking the rebels to the competition.

No financial contribution from me this year. I don’t care how many labels they send.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Murky Waters of Justice


It was the fall of 1968. My high school debate partner and I were given our first look at a national resolution on which teams would face off during the coming school year. It read, “Resolved: That Congress should establish uniform regulations to control criminal investigation procedures.”

Recent Supreme Court decisions were changing the ways arrests were being made. Criminals now had to be read specific rights. Cases brought to light were the Miranda and Escobedo decisions.

The Escobedo v. Illinois case established that criminal suspects have a right to counsel, not just at trial but during police interrogations. In the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision, the Supreme Court held that a defendant cannot be questioned by police until the defendant is made aware of the right to remain silent, the right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney present during questioning, and the right to have an attorney appointed if the defendant cannot afford one.

It was this season of debate that tweaked my interest in becoming a lawyer. Something I would not pursue – although it was what I told my classmates at graduation time. I felt, as many did, that justice was turning a blind eye to punishing criminal activity when justified. Yes, rights are important. But crimes should be punished. Conversely, people should not be punished for exercising freedoms that clearly do no wrongful intent.

Two cases in the news of the past couple of weeks provided examples of what seems like injustice. First, was the decision to release comedian Bill Cosby. There was nothing funny about his purported offenses.
In April of 2018, Mr. Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting one of many women who accused him of similar misconduct. He was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. Cosby was sent to serve his term at a maximum security facility in Pennsylvania.

On June 30th, Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction and the man went free. Many were shocked. #Me too. According to the LA Times, “Legal experts say the court’s decision, which didn't involve the facts of the assault but rather actions by the prosecutor, was based on an uncommon technicality and probably won’t have wider legal implications.”

Get that? He was released on an “uncommon technicality.” Keep in mind, some sixty women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct. Just bury justice in the ground somewhere, okay? Now he plans to return to the stage.

Case number two involves a sweet woman named Baronelle Stutzman. A florist in Washington State. Loved by her customers.

As the owner of the flower shop, Ms. Stutzman served everyone who came to her store. That included a longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll, a “gay” man she had graciously served for nearly ten years, designing many beautiful and creative floral art creations.

When Rob asked her to design arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding, Barronelle drew the line. She knew that her Christian beliefs about marriage would require her to say no. And she told him so.

Alliance Defending Freedom, who defended Ms. Stutzman, explains, “So, she walked Rob to a quiet part of her shop, took his hand in her own, and gently told him why she couldn’t do what he asked. Barronelle then referred Rob to three local floral artists who she knew would do a good job. They chatted a few more minutes about Rob’s wedding plans, hugged, and then Rob left the shop.”

However, Rob’s partner posted about the rejection on social media. News coverage of that post was seen by the Washington Attorney General, which prompted a lawsuit against Barronelle. The “offended party” not only went after Barronelle’s business, but also sued her in a personal capacity. Later, the ACLU also joined in, filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of Rob and his partner.

Now, after eight years of standing by her position, two trips to the Washington Supreme Court, and two petitions to the US Supreme Court, the high court recently refused to hear her case. So much for freedom of religion. So much for justice.

The Old Testament prophet Amos wrote, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 (ESV)

The legal waters seem awfully murky.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Declaration of Life


Yesterday, Americans offered up another celebration of what we call Independence Day. I doubt most of us have any recollection of the sequence of steps that led to the signing of the founding document known as the Declaration of Independence. But there was a process.

History records that on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion in Congress to declare our national independence. Not everyone in Congress was ready to lock and load, believing that several colonies were unprepared. Nonetheless, a Congressional committee was formed to draft “a declaration of independence.” Thomas Jefferson was selected to lead this effort.

Once completed, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams reviewed the original draft, keeping it mostly intact. However, certain passages likely to meet with controversy or skepticism were struck. (In particular, these were passages which blamed King George III for the transatlantic slave trade and those that cast blame on the British people rather than their government.)

The final draft from the committee was presented before Congress on June 28, 1776. Next came the unanimous approval by Congress declaring our freedom from Great Britain. That occurred on July 2, 1776.

A group was then formed to draft a document explaining all this to the public. That took two more days. Again, Jefferson became the main author. Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4th. Off went the original to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the Dunlap Broadside were made with that bold John Hancock signature at the bottom. Only 26 copies remain today. 

On July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read a printed Declaration of Independence to the public for the first time. The reading took place in what is now known as Independence Square. A version of the Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia by many members of the Continental Congress. It’s interesting to note that historian Herbert Friedenwald determined that the signers on August 2nd weren’t necessarily the same delegates at the July gathering when the Declaration was originally proposed and approved.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads…

”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.”

Of course, it’s still troubling to try and understand how “all men are created equal” but not necessarily so in the late 1700s. At the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegate Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed that congressional representation be based on the total number of inhabitants of a state. Delegate Charles Pinckney of South Carolina agreed but his support seemed disingenuous at best. He knew most blacks were enslaved in South Carolina and none, slave or free, could vote or were considered equals of white citizens of the state. Later in our history, it took the 19th Amendment for women to fully receive the right to vote.

And then there are the “unalienable Rights” (or inalienable if you prefer)—those that cannot be given away or taken away. Three are mentioned: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. In America today, we still have adults who cannot figure out when a baby is “alive” and deserves to live. In a June press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to say if President Biden believes a 15-week-old unborn baby is a human being. So much for these millions of children who lost their “unalienable right to life.” Or liberty. Or happiness.

King David understood about being “endowed” by the Creator. He wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) You can’t change that!

Until America gets the right to life right, let’s not ask God to bless our land.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 28, 2021

Freedom or Minds of Mush?


An article in Teen Vogue magazine posted on their website last year was titled, "What Is Democratic Socialism and Why Is It Growing More Popular in the U.S.?" It should not come as a surprise that informing teens about something trendy should be written. Instead, it is the rise of the quasi-endorsements of the socialist mindset that I find troubling.

Here is how the article began: “Socialism. It’s back. Left for dead after the Cold War, revised by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential bid, and popularized by social media superstars like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the concept has gone mainstream.”

Well it certainly seems to have gone that direction. And why not? From middle school years through our colleges and universities you will find plenty of supporters. Popularizing ideas as failure-driven as true socialism must find advocacy somewhere. Who better to shape young minds than our educators?

Is this “popularity” real?? A 2018 Gallup survey reported that 51% of Americans age 18-29 held a positive opinion of socialism. Among Democrats, the number rises to 57%.

The Pacific Institute sees a definite connection to this embrace of socialism in our education system.They cite a 2015 article in The Washington Post in which they reported on research that exposed the most liberal and conservative jobs in America.

Here were some findings:

First, among actors and actresses there are 90 Democrats for every 10 Republicans. 

As for our schools…
  • Among English teachers, there are 97 Democrats for every three Republicans.
  • Among high school math and science teachers overall, there are 87 Democrats for every 13 Republicans.

Furthermore, Dr. Greg Forster, Friedman Fellow at the school-choice organization EdChoice, explains that university education schools indoctrinate future teachers in left-wing ideology. In his words, “Peruse the course catalog of any major education school, or read the Twitter feeds of the professors,” and you will “find yourself swimming in an ocean of hard-left ideology: ‘critical theory’ that says there is no truth, only power.”

Teen Vogue surmises that the pandemic has “lent new urgency to discussions about creating a more fair and equitable economic system.” But, sadly to the writer, “not everyone’s a fan.” Former President Donald Trump is “among the holdouts.”

The magazine sets up a poster boy for an attack on capitalism: Jeff Bezos—founder and CEO of Amazon.  Teen Vogue tells the teens his billions “gives him real power.” And worries, “Ask yourself: Who controls the American economy? Who calls the economic shots? Ordinary working people, or wealthy capitalists like Bezos?”

Can’t you see the picket signs ready to be printed?? Get the masses ready to march! Hold a Marx-fest at your neighborhood park! Rally the forces and prepare the overthrow….!

Wait! No need for radical action! Instead, just vote the socialists into power! Like in Buffalo, New York! This past week it was announced there was a stunning upstate upset. A Democratic-Socialist insurgent named India Walton was able to defeat a four-term incumbent and former Buffalo Mayor. It was a primary election in which Walton clearly communicated her socialist commitments. She was the favorite of the Buffalo chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Teen Vogue offers teens a vision! “Rather than allowing a tiny elite to call all the economic shots, modern socialism wants to empower ordinary people to make these decisions collectively. Under democratic socialism, major industries and large corporations would be brought under social ownership and control.”

America is soon to celebrate our Fourth of July Independence Day. Freedom is a very biblical concept. Psalm 119:45 reads, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (NIV)

Our freedoms are being fiercely challenged on many fronts. Free enterprise is being threatened.

Unless we aggressively work to change the education mindset on capitalism, forget dreams of true prosperity. Instead, we will settle for socialism’s “minds of mush.”

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Game I Left Behind


The year was 1977. Radio Shack was selling tons of CBs. (Citizen Band radios, for those too young to remember.) In this pre-smartphone era, this was a way for people to communicate with friends as they went about in their cars—or homes—just like truckers had been doing for years. CBers had their own language.

Terms like “bear” or “smokey” referred to police officers. Look out for them. An “angry kangaroo” was a truck with one or both of the headlights out. A “pregnant roller skate” was a VW Beetle. And there were numeric communications as well. Like “10-4” meant (and still does) either agreement or you’ve been acknowledged. Truckers use “10-7” to sign off.

That same year—1977—Radio Shack began selling their first video game. It was called “Pong.” About as basic as you can get, you could play by yourself or with someone else, and hit a video “ball” back and forth. Like ping pong. You could speed it up or slow down the game to your choosing. The video ball would bounce around the screen and, if you missed it, your opponent got the point. Game to 21.

That was the first and only video game I’ve ever mastered. I make no apologies. Video gaming has grown into a multi billion dollar business. Real numbers look like this. Global video game revenues in 2020 topped $179.7 billion! That means this industry is a bigger moneymaker than the global movie and North American sports industries combined. It’s left me in the dust.

I’ve been mostly able to ignore all this hyper-video activity as I’ve aged. Our own children were getting into the games to play on computers or with units that hooked up to the television. Now, my grandkids all have plenty of video games on their smartphones.

I mindlessly have been going about my own business. Until this past week. Our grandson from California came for a week. He was loaded up with his portable video game player and multiple very small chip-based games. Plus those on his smartphone. Like many kids—and adults—it becomes not just a time filler, but an addiction.

His week with us culminated with a trip to GameStop. Heaven for “gamers.” I was lost. They did have a video screen to watch. Streams of something like vlogs reviewing the latest and greatest video games. In language that belongs somewhere on another planet. The stars of the gaming universe also have PLENTY of podcasts as well. It’s like listening to a conversation in a Star Wars bar!

I’ve certainly not turned a blind eye of realization to know that there are very dark games in this foreign world. Things no one need to “play” as a game. I do not need to expand on this. Simply do a web search for “video game ratings for parents.” Start there.

The gamers have more than just the games and the language. They have special goggles (or whatever they call them) to wear. And there are special gaming chairs to sit in while watching your life fade away.

What? Me—a cynic? Yeah…I guess. What starts as a bit of entertainment becomes a mesmerizing addiction to many of our kids. And—yes—adults.

Ephesians 5:16-17 reads, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (ESV)

Those are haunting words to me. The world offers so many distractions. I’m tempted by many. Becoming a “gamer” is not one of them. Despite my fling with pong.

Wow. I’ve been left well behind.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

Monday, June 14, 2021

What Rightfully Belongs to God


Decades ago, our small group in California used a book study from Chuck Colson. Loving God was a Gold Medallion award winner for Colson. It proved to be true spiritual enrichment.

In the preface of that book, Colson explained how his reading of The Holiness of God by Dr. R.C. Sproul brought Chuck to his knees. I was then determined to read the work by Sproul. I did – and over subsequent years interviewed R.C. on several occasions.

Here’s a brief overview of his book: “The Holiness of God examines the meaning of holiness and why people are both fascinated and terrified by a holy God. It explores God’s character, leading to new insights on sin, justice, and grace. The result is a new awareness of our dependence upon God’s mercy and a discovery of the awesomeness of His majestic holiness. Dr. R.C. Sproul says, ‘The holiness of God affects every aspect of our lives—economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything with which we are involved.’” (You can order a copy on wwwligonier.org)

No other descriptor of the God of the universe carries the same importance as “holy.” The word is used three times to describe the Lord in Isaiah 6:1-3. The same triple use of “holy” is found in Revelation 4:8. That emphasis is significant.

What exactly does being holy mean? The holiness of God reveals that God is distinct from all creation. He is truly "set apart." That word “holy” appears more than 600 times in the Bible, describing something or someone set apart from all else. Regarding the Almighty, this means He is completely without sin and void of any imperfection.

Mankind has NOT been kind in the use of this word. In fact, it’s abusive to the very idea of holiness. Common phrases like holy cow, holy moly, holy mackerel, holy smokes, holy crap (and the more polite holy crow and the less polite holy sh__) reduce holiness to a mere element of surprise. We have taken this attribute of God and treated it carelessly. Rudely.

As a child, I somehow found there was a pecking order of offensive words, or what are commonly termed “swear words.” My family did not tolerate them. At the top of that list was the phrase “G-D.” It was truly a way for someone to “curse” whatever stood in their way.

I recently heard a song on a SiriusXM music channel that repeated that offensive phrase several times. It’s by the group Panic at the Disco titled, I Write Sins Not Tragedies. My soul burned a bit with anger in hearing it – mainly because of the insensitivity of SiriusXM to play this trash. I then did a web search on the term “G-D” and found there were several even more offensive songs spewing it out– taking God’s name seriously in vain.

Another example of misrepresentation of God involves the Bible story about Noah and the Great Flood. This is God’s rescue of a fallen world by saving a bit of humanity to carry on. He symbolized His great grace with a permanent reminder that He would not destroy mankind again in such a way. Grace displayed in a rainbow! Today, rainbows are everywhere—seen prominently as a “pride” symbol for sexual aberration. Apparently, those unfamiliar with the Noah story are unaware of why the Great Flood occurred in the first place!

Another word used to describe God is “awesome.” Singer Rich Mullins penned the very popular worship tune Awesome God in the 1980s. It’s still sung in many churches with frequency. Today, we can find people praising even the smallest of activities as “awesome.” It’s lost its meaning.

One more. There are certainly appropriate times to call something “perfect.” But the other day in a restaurant I ordered a soft drink with my burger and the waitress said, “Perfect.” And said it again several other times with other trivial requests.

Note, however, that “perfect” is another aspect of God’s character. As it is written, “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! Deuteronomy 32:4 (NLT) Perfect is what makes God holy!

As for me? I’m imperfect. And I surely know it. Like most, I carry the weight of knowing how much I rely on His grace and mercy to keep my soul free. Daily.

But He is worthy of our utmost praise and honor. Greater attention should be paid to words that describe the Living God. And not abuse the language of tribute that rightfully belongs to Him.

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 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com

Articles of interest:

https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/denison-forum/protecting-our-kids-and-proclaiming-our-faith.html?utm_source=Crosswalk&utm_campaign=Connecting%20through%20Crisis%20-%20Crosswalk.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=4871477&recip=551193271