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Monday, April 26, 2021

Trickle Down Kindness

Oh, to be rich. So rich that you can walk away from royalty. And still make plenty of moola.

So rich that you can escape to anywhere in the world you wish and leave the problems of others behind. So rich that you can avoid prison time or serious fines because of the influence your wealth affords. So rich that your children can attend the finest of schools and are taught by the world’s best educators. So rich that you can afford to be rude to others and they still must treat you like the king or queen you pretend to be.


We would all benefit by having our eyes opened a bit more to the reality of working with the wealthy. A recent Huffington Post article articulates the pathetic nature of this well. It’s titled, “I Work in a Ritzy Restaurant and I've Seen Some Unbelievable Behavior During COVID.”

What we learn from the writer is exactly what we expect. She lives in a wealthy ski community, but not in any extravagance. Her place is a simple studio apartment. She works in a restaurant helping create “a luxurious dining experience for the guests who walk through our door.” And make no mistake, these guests are among the super-wealthy of our world.

The patrons where she’s employed have frequently asked for more than they should. But the pandemic made things worse. One middle-aged woman was seated in an outdoor tent created so the establishment could stay open amidst restrictions. Apparently, the disgruntled customer said she didn’t care “for the ambience” where she was seated. Our server found her an inside corner table. The diamond bearing “queen” instead asked for something unattainable – a center area placement. When told that was not possible because of restricted seating, she and her mate walked out the door.

Our “always try to please” server said many of her guests fail to make eye contact as they make their demands. Some drop names of celebrities they know to get favors. Or they’ll ask for “the best table in the house,” presumably because they deserve it! She notes one customer threatened to get her fired. The poor man’s drinks weren’t strong enough and he knew the resort owner, a fact he used to try and intimidate her.

When serving at private functions, the host and guests often failed to do the basics to keep the virus away. Obeying the county, state, or federal mandates didn’t seem to apply to them. After all, they’re rich! As one couple dined outside, one fur-coat-draped woman got cold, prompting her husband to offer a bribe to the server to seat them inside–against all policies.

There were plenty of other examples. But to be fair, our oft-mistreated server explained that she had an ample share of gracious and concerned well-to-dos. And during the worst of times, several left extravagant tips and asked how she was faring in life. Wealth does not need to come with arrogance or lack of caring.

A few of her concluding observations:
  • “I’d like to think this pandemic might teach us all something about humility; that we might be humbled by the unpredictable way this virus has shaken our lives.”
  • “I’m thankful to have had a job during the pandemic ― I know many people did and still do not.”
  • “I’m choosing instead to focus on the generosity and empathy I’ve witnessed some of our other guests offer. They’ve inspired me to make my own much smaller acts of giving when I can. Maybe that will set off a kind of trickle-down kindness.”
Wealth and power can breed some bad habits. Perhaps why Proverbs 30:8 makes this bold request, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (NIV)

Oswald Chambers said, "The most exacting test of all to survive is prosperity."

I think we need more biblical wisdom to trickle down. 

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, April 19, 2021

The Slow Death of Commitment

Here we go again.

The good people of Gallup have determined that church membership continues to decline. According to their researchers, the number of committed faithful members has dropped below 50 percent. This is noteworthy as it the first time that low number has happened since Gallup first asked the question in 1937. Back in those golden-olden days, church membership was 73 percent.

Specifically, those who report belonging to a church, synagogue, or mosque is now at 47%. We might say that the news gets worse! Those claiming that “religion” was very important to them dropped to 48%! That also is a new low.

What is the breakdown by ages? The Gallup report reveals 66 percent of American adults born before 1946 belong to a church, compared with 58 percent of baby boomers. Then it drops to 50 percent of Generation X, and 36 percent of millennials. One observer suggests that church membership is perceived as a “relic of an older generation.”

I think it’s a deeper issue. And I say that in sensing a correlation to marriage. Consider another Gallup report from December of last year. Their study was featured in an article titled, “Is Marriage Becoming Irrelevant?” Yikes!

Notable from the research: “Fewer U.S. adults now than in past years believe it is ‘very important’ for couples who have children together to be married. Currently, 29% say it is very important that such a couple legally marry, down from 38% who held this view in 2013 and 49% in 2006.”

And now it gets really serious. Gallup tells us, “Sixty-six percent now believe it is morally acceptable to have a baby outside of marriage, an increase from 53% the first year the question was asked in 2001. Moreover, 72% percent—up from 53% in 2001, consider sex between an unmarried man and woman morally acceptable.”

The numbers continue… “Another 31% of U.S. adults currently say it is ‘somewhat important’ for couples with children to be married, bringing the total to 60% who consider it important to some degree. Meanwhile, four in 10 say it is not too (18%) or not at all (22%) important.”

Do you see what is happening? One of the core, fundamental building blocks of a healthy society is families. Statistics about children raised in two parent families leans indisputably toward better lives for all. Less crime, less divorce, more well adjusted kids…just about any cultural stability category you can find.

This mindset shift on the importance of marriage is tragic. The price is an increased risk to a stable society. Warning signs are literally everywhere.

What is the common denominator I see between the decline of marriage and church attendance? Commitment. Or better said, the lack of same.

Without committing in marriage, you have the freedom to walk away. Without making the decision to belong to and be involved in a church, you have no attachment or sense of obligation. In both cases, “freedom” is your principal value. The freedom to abandon.

Try telling this to your kids. “We birthed you. But we’re not obligated to care for you or about you.” Or say to your church brethren…”I may come here but I want no commitments to help or serve. I only do what works for me.”

Succinctly stated, this mindset says, “It’s all about me and my convenience.” That is a sure way to make a sick world. And that is where we are heading.

God, on the other hand, offers a different path. Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’” (NLT)

Stories of true love are built on sacrifice and commitment. It’s what marriage vows are all about. It’s what membership means in a church.

Pitiful are the people who mainly take—offering little of substance in return. And noting the Gallup statistics, we are witnessing the slow death of commitment.

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, April 12, 2021

Opinion or Persecution?

In my late teens, I remember reading a joke about a man who was on his deathbed. A chaplain came to the hospital room to pray with the man. Seeking to ensure safe passage to heaven for this gent he asked him, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works?” To which the dying man replied, “At this time, I prefer not to make any enemies.”

It seemed funny at the time and I’ve repeated the joke on several occasions. But I’m finding it less humorous in the age in which we now live. Especially when I consider what Christ followers may be asked to renounce in life and work in America.

This was crystalized even more clearly for me in a recent editorial that was published in the USA Today. The opinion piece was titled, “Oral Roberts University ORU) isn't the feel good March Madness story we need.” The author is a woman named Hemal Jhaveri.

Ms. Jhaveri’s beef with the Oklahoma based school should clearly and properly be defined as anti-biblical bias. She argued that ORU didn’t belong in the NCAA Basketball Tournament because of their spiritual perspective on human behavior, specifically human sexuality.

In her words, “That Oral Roberts wants to keep its students tied to toxic notions of fundamentalism that fetishize chastity, abstinence and absurd hemlines is a larger cultural issue that can be debated. What is not up for debate however is their anti-LGBTQ+ stance, which is nothing short of discriminatory and should expressly be condemned by the NCAA.”

Rather than simply recognizing that we do not all agree on many moral issues of our day, she lobbied to have voices she didn’t like banned from the tournament! Again, in her words, “The fact is, any and all anti-LGBTQ+ language in any school’s policies should ban them from NCAA competition.” And she added that ORU is a “hotbed of institutional transphobia, homophobia with regressive, sexist policies.”

Talk about bitter. One sided. Control driven. Spiteful. (I could keep going.)

As one person who responded to her editorial property noted, “And are you so naive to think that there are not other young men and young women playing on the other teams in these tournaments that believe the very same way because they too identify with Christ and were raised in a Godly home?”

Of course there are. And on top of that, plenty of parents, who sent their kids to schools also competing, hold the same views. And very likely a handsome number of professors, administrators, and other employees within secular schools hold those views.

But now here’s the rub. Are all those voices allowed the freedom to express those views without being sentenced to exclusion? Or as we prefer to say in this age, being “cancelled?”

The devil’s gameplan in this is sinister, as is his style. Most dedicated Christ followers if asked to deny their Lord would absolutely refuse. Likely the devil knows that. BUT…will these same followers be willing to stand up in defense of biblical truth on morality if it costs them worldly gain? Or rejection? Even being mocked for their faith?

If people like Jhaveri have their way, exactly what will churches face as a result? No zoning permits to worship? No right to raise children and disciple them as we choose? No private or home school curriculum that teaches biblical values unapproved by the state?

Shall anti-biblical bias be given the privilege to destroy the dreams of our young?

Jesus gave His followers advice on this. It applies to all who claim His name. He said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

Persecution has a truly ugly face. And we’re staring at it in commentaries like Ms. Jhaveri’s, which the USA Today should have readily rejected. Opinions to deny freedom of thought are simply not worth hearing.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Getting Chippy

On March 27th, I joined the league of immunized Americans who have received the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. You can research what exactly the vaccine contains. Frankly, I’m not able to discern whether it should concern me or not. For now, I’m thankful for some protection from the nasty virus.

My cardiologist and my primary care doctor both advised getting immunized. Both my wife and I had some reservations. There has hardly been enough time to determine both the effectiveness and the possible consequences of getting the vaccine. But now, we’re both covered.

One thing of which I am quite confident. no one injected a microchip into my body. I know, many find that idea absurd. But not everybody.

In June of 2020, the one-time-possibly-then-crazy-minded candidate for US President—Kanye West—declared he had contracted the coronavirus. Here is what he said: “It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed. So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.”

Hmmm. Kanye, please, lie down here on my couch.

Where would he get such an idea? From those who fear Bill Gates! Bill has all kinds of ideas on how to best save the planet. One of those involves tracking our health. So rumors began to spread that Bill supported the idea of having that done through implants under the skin. 

Maybe Bill does like that idea. But Reuters news service apparently got from “the horse’s mouth” something different. They reported, “Bill Gates foresees the use of ‘digital certificates’ with health records, but did not say these would be in the form of microchip implants. There are no plans to use this future technology during the coronavirus outbreak.” Whew.

This is not to say we’re not heading that direction. In fact, the countrymen of my Swedish ancestry are already feeling “chippy.” In that country, some 4000 Swedes have adopted the technology with microchips inserted into their hands.

According to an NPR story, “The chips are designed to speed up users' daily routines and make their lives more convenient—accessing their homes, offices, and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers…They also can be used to store emergency contact details, social media profiles, or e-tickets for events and rail journeys within Sweden.”

Call me a technophobe, but that sounds creepy. Invasive. None-of-your business kind of invasive. My dog doesn’t seem to care if you implant a chip in him, but Pepito isn’t concerned with identity theft.

And get this. Erik Frisk, who is a web developer and designer, uses the chip he had implanted in 2014 to unlock his office door. And when he moved into the house he began sharing with other roomies in 2018, Frisk organized a “chipping party” for the housemates. Yes, a chipping party! Perhaps one day you’ll be invited to a Pampered Chipper gathering!

I also admit to keeping a watchful eye on something I strongly believe to be true: the end game of that worrisome “mark of the beast.” In Revelation 13:16-17 we read. “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” (NIV)

This Scripture may sound wacky, but you know a new national ID card was going to be required (or a passport) for air travel. And concerns over Covid-19 may also see airlines requiring you show your immunization card to fly. And what’s next? Just sayin’!

What…me worry? I’ve now received my two doses of the Covid vaccine. And I’ve not had any issues yet. Except for bizarre impulses to buy Microsoft products.

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: