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Monday, May 31, 2021
Today is Memorial Day. Rhonda and I will no doubt continue our tradition of visiting a local graveyard to seek out graves with flags on them. We’re looking for ultimate patriots—those who not only served their country, but died in the process. That is why we have a Memorial Day.
Try as I might, I can’t think of anyone I’ve known personally who died in combat. In my Air Force days, we processed many people to Vietnam for temporary or long term assignments. Very few could I say were friends. None of them died. Nor any high school friends.
It’s a stunning thing to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. And it is even more graphic to visit military graveyards and to see the places where some of our youngest soldiers have been laid to rest. Or at least that’s what we say.
The website history.com gives us some important background for how this day came to be recognized: “On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. ‘The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,’ he proclaimed.”
Back then, it was known as Decoration Day. That’s because there was no particular battle associated with the date. And on the first Decoration Day, a ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery. General James Garfield made a speech, and 5000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.
Truth be told, Memorial Day is about heartbreak. Not celebration. We’ve turned it into something far less meaningful than it should be.
US Army veteran and retired Colonel David Dodd served more than 27 years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. He is a man of deep faith, a husband and father. When asked to give some suggestions for recognizing Memorial Day, he offered this practical input.
If and when possible, try to spend the day with friends, family, fellow military members, and veterans. This is a time to share memories, reflect on the sacrifice made by fallen warriors and their families, and discover new ways to encourage those who are serving and have served.
Children need to relate to the reality of sacrifice of our military men and women. That service to America includes training, deployments, combat, and prolonged separations that resulted in missed holidays, sporting events, birthdays, anniversaries, births of children, funerals of loved ones, and so many other key life events. Teach kids the importance of military service and to pray for those who serve.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (ESV)
Perhaps you have no connection to those who have lost their lives in the military. But I hope you’ll be inspired by their courage. Bottom line, make this a meaningful event on the calendar.
Because it is. But really, it’s hardly a “celebration.”
P.S. Consider making a Memorial Day gift to a military group like shieldsofstrength.com or one of the other wonderful organizations that support our veterans.
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
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Friday, May 28, 2021
I know people who can’t stand watching golf. It moves way to slow for them. Waiting and waiting for shots to be lined up and, most often, missing the desired target.
Count me among the faithful followers of the sport. Seeing a putt go awry on the final hole of a tournament can cost a man over a half a million dollars…it reeks of pressure. Disappointment. Even failure in front of an audience of millions. It’s high drama to me.
I have a most favorite golfer. It’s Phil Mickelson. You should have heard of him by now. He’s been playing the game professionally since 1992. He has won 55 tournaments. And on May 23rd, he celebrated victory in one of golf’s most prestigious annual events at the age of 50 years, 11 months and 8 days. That makes him the oldest player to achieve a win at a major. And it was glorious.
The odds were stacked against him. “Lefty” was considred to be a two-hundred-to-one long shot as the PGA Tournament got underway this year. In other words, don’t put any money on the old guy.
In the final round, he was paired with another golfer who has proven to be a very tough competitor: Brooks Koepka. He’s also a favorite of mine. Brooks has been dealinig with significant pain issues for several months. He’s still a good half-year away from full health. Yet me pushed through to finish second.
But the end of the round turned out to be extra painful for Koepka. Now it wasn’t just his knees. It was an aggressive–overly aggressive– crowd that moved onto the fairway on that final hole. Phil had a hard enough time making it through. Koepka found himself getting “dinged” by the insurgent group as he struggled to the finish line. And it made him angry.
Here’s how Brooks saw it: “It would have been cool if I didn’t have a knee injury and got dinged a few times in the knee in that crowd…I don’t think anybody really understands until actually you’re coming out of surgery how… get a little skittish.” Koepka had the surgery on March 16th to deal with a knee cap dislocation.
The CEO of PGA of America, Seth Waugh, felt the need to apologize to both Mickelson and Koepka for the out-of-control scene. It brought spectators rushing past the barrier ropes, marshals, and security as the two golfers played the 72nd hole of the tournament. Waugh admitted that the scene “made two players and their caddies feel vulnerable” as security felt overwhelmed.
All that being said, it was Phil’s day to shine. He didn’t excessively dish out praise, but appropriately recognized his strongest supporters. “With the help of my wife Amy, my brother Tim, and my coach Andrew Getson, I’ve been able to get back to playing golf at the highest level and it’s so fulfilling and rewarding, and this is a moment I will cherish forever,” said Phil before receiving the Wanamaker Trophy.
Mickelson added that he “just believed that it was possible, yet everything was saying it wasn’t. I hope that others find that inspiration.” He had faith in his game.
Hebrews 11:1 is among the most well-known verses on spiritual faith. It reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) Our future with the God of the universe rests in our application of true faith.
Jim Nantz was eloquent in summarizing the remarkable achievement and the enduring popularity of Phil Mickelson. He commented, as Phil approached the final green with his throng of fans following, “Phil defeats Father Time.” It certainly appeared to be true.
I can say this. He was an inspiration to me. I hope Lefty realizes God gave him that talent.
Monday, May 24, 2021
The Chicago Tribune has new owners. The historic paper will soon follow the directives of Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund based out of New York. NPR in reporting the transaction chose this for their headline, “‘Vulture' Fund Alden Global, Known for Slashing Newsrooms, Buys Tribune Papers.” I guess we know where they stand.
Several other papers are included in the purchase. The Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News, and major metro papers from Hartford, Connecticut to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No doubt journalists in all of those newsrooms are starting to shake in their boots. Vultures can scare people.
The union members in several cities made their voice known they were unhappy. One education reporter referred to the pending sale as “Project Mayhem.” Other suitors showed up, but none could prevail. That included some fairly wealthy business types who may, in their own way, be vultures. Who knows? One man’s liberal thief is another man’s vulture.
Wish I had the money. I’d like to buy out the nation’s second largest newspaper—the USA Today. Once one of my favorites, the incredibly shrinking daily has much more frequently become an enemy of conservative thought. The faith community included.
A most recent example was the editorial they featured from one of their sports columnists, Mike Freeman. His piece, published in their May 5th edition, bore the headline, “Don't use Dallas Cowboys' name, AT&T Stadium to mainstream anti-trans hate.” Now what “haters” is he talking about?
Why none other than the highly Gospel-centered, manhood strengthening, and encouragers to “love your neighbor”group—Promise Keepers (PK)! If you’ve never attended a PK event, you’re missing out. Thousands upon thousands of men join together as brothers—praising God and hearing how to live a God-centered life.
For columnist Freeman, the line is crossed when “God-centered” doesn’t agree with his own version of the commandments and the Bible. As you can well imagine, his resistance finds its home in the PK view that the LGBTQ lifestyle is contrary to biblical teaching. Is this a shocking thing? Today it seems to be.
Okay. So Freeman disagrees with that view. He has his right. But he doesn’t simply stop by saying he has a negative view of Promise Keepers. Instead, he wants to control their right to meet in a city-owned facility: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Perhaps he mistakenly thinks that the Dallas Cowboys OWN the joint. They don’t. Nor does AT&T. They have naming rights. Regardless, Mr. Freeman wants Jerry Jones and the liberal AT&T hierarchy to use their power and influence to stop Promise Keepers from holding their event at the stadium.
I don’t know this reporter’s “persuasion,” but he uses the typical garbled thinking to suggest that the truly spiritually minded among us “hate” those who don’t share our views. I’m not sure how much time he’s spent with a small group of PK men, but it would be eye opening if not life changing for him.
Freeman considers himself a social issues hero for wanting men who claim to be women to play competitive women’s sports. He also takes a cheap shot at the declining numbers of self-described “Christians” in our culture today. His axe has much to grind.
So does mine. Like I said earlier, I wish I had the resources to acquire papers like the USA Today. The Tribune news outlets fear for their journalistic lives with cost-cutting. My axe would not focus on stripping away what’s needed to make a great paper. It would fall on people who turn it into a journalistic rag by character assassination of truly good works in our society. Like Promise Keepers.
Jesus said, “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:23 (ESV.) The “nation’s newspaper” deserves better than ambassadors of darkness.
Yeah, I would tighten the reins. But just enough to choke some of the evil out. I doubt Alden Global Capital will be so kind.
Monday, May 17, 2021
The last time I checked, Disneyland in California has not yet reopened. However, Downtown Disney with its shops and restaurants has been steadily reopening. That would include the Disney store.
In Orlando, things are different. Along with the free access to shops and restaurants at Disney Springs, Epcot, The Magic Kingdom Park, and other venues have reopened with varied restrictions. So time to open those billfolds and use those credit cards!!!
Not me. Aside from the free access places connected to the Disney parks, I’m not supporting the agenda-driven pretense to be the “happiest place on earth.”
My un-happy feelings began in paying exorbitant park entry fees. That amount is now $109 per day. Those feelings worsened when I discovered the typical closure of several rides for complete upgrades or repairs. (No discounts on tickets, of course.)
Covid-19 has significantly changed the environment for visits as well. No need for me to describe. But one thing hasn’t changed: the social agendas. You find it in the steady modifying of several formerly popular theme park attractions.
For example, three years ago, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was modified so that a woman (formerly known as a wench) once sold as a bride has now become a pirate herself! I’m sure real pirates would be surprised at this progressive move. About a year ago, the Splash Mountain flume ride got a makeover. This attraction had a story line inspired by Song of the South—an earlier Disney film now considered outdated. In fact, Disney no longer makes the film available. Apparently, we can’t have any positive perspective post-Civil War plantation life depicted.
Ever taken a ride on the Jungle Cruise? Recent modifications remove what the “woke” culture considered “negative depictions of ‘natives.” New elements were added for a better impression and timed well for a new summer movie release!
Then, of course, there’s been Disney’s growing affection for LGBTQ lifestyles. Come June, they usually set aside a week for “Gay Days.” But alas, this year’s “celebration” has been postponed until 2022! Probably because of the limitations on attendance.
But never fear! Disney has found a way to be the social advocate and still get your money! Recently announced was the Mouse’s new Rainbow Disney Collection. We are NOT referring to God’s covenant with His creation. Rainbow t-shirts for kids and adults for just $29.99! A plush rainbow Mickey for $24.99. Rainbow face masks to wear your “pride” out and about–2 for just $12.99!
On the website, one picture with two pride-filled people tells you “Pride is Magical!” Another encourages you to wear your gay feelings “Loud and Proud.” And, of course, you can’t miss the purported “love” messages on several items.
So your trip to Disney puts all of this in your face while you take the children and spend bookoo bucks to supposedly buy a dose of happiness. Don’t kid yourself! If a trip to Disney is what it takes to be “happy” you definitely have the wrong Kingdom in mind.
I may have to re-think getting those older good movies once produced by Walt & Company and now on the Disney channel. Their cartoon series The Owl House included a bisexual main character. Last year, the Disney-Pixar animated film Onward included a character who was a lesbian.
No one can deny we are living in a rapidly changing world. The influences on us to bend our convictions on matters of sin is ever growing. It’s a huge challenge to help our children and grandchildren understand this. It’s even worse when we spend the resources God entrusts us with to support the messengers of evil.
As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For this you know with certainty, that no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, which amounts to an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5 (NASB)
Followers of Jesus must decide–with which Kingdom do you stand?
Monday, May 10, 2021
Optimists have a lot going for them. Much more than people realize. I count myself as one. And I enjoy the fellowship of those of like mind.
Bestselling author and business leader Harvey Mackay said, “An optimist understands that life can be a bumpy road, but at least it is leading somewhere. They learn from mistakes and failures, and are not afraid to fail again.”
It was Helen Keller who reminded us, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”
One of the better articles on this subject I’ve read recently is titled, “Why Positivity Matters.” The author, Ginny Graves, is a self-described pessimist. Perhaps that is why she chose this subject to learn more about.
Simply put, optimists tend to believe that good things happen. They are prone to having “rose-colored glasses.” The possibility of negative outcomes does not dominate their thoughts.
The questions we must ask are, “Does it matter? Are optimists any better off?” Apparently so.
Ginny’s article cites a 2019 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers there discovered that optimists, in general, “are exceptional agers.” One of the study’s authors reported, “We controlled for a number of factors that we know can affect health, like socioeconomic status, underlying health conditions, depression, and health behaviors—and optimism was still correlated strongly with living to be 85 or older.”
Another source, Dr. William Chopik, works as director of the Close Relationships Lab at Michigan State University. He tells us, “Studies show that optimists have longer-lasting, deeper, and more supportive friendships, even though they don’t necessarily have more friends than less optimistic people. They’re better at solving problems with friends and loved ones too.” Ready to start looking up?
How does this optimism contribute to a better work life? Two other researchers on the topic of optimism discovered that “so-called visionary work optimists—those who scored in the top 25 percent on an optimism assessment—were 40 percent more likely than pessimists to get promoted in the coming year, six times as likely to feel highly engaged at work, and one-fifth as likely to burn out.” These results were determined after their study included professionals at hundreds of companies.
Michelle Gielan, one of the researchers of that work study, explained: “Optimists don’t just believe that good things will happen; they believe their behavior matters and that they have the ability to change things, so they’re more likely to take action and make progress toward their goals.”
Another interesting item I found in “Why Postivity Matters” involves exercise. German researchers have determined that 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise increases life expectancy by between 0.4 and 6.9 years. I put in 30 minutes a day, every day, on my exercise bike. It’s probably my least optimistic time–but I press on.
Can a pessimist become more of an optimist? Ginny Graves thinks so. Her researchers offer this advice. Send a short email to someone every day–praising or encouraging them. Setting and achieving goals will prove you are indeed a “can-do” person. And Ms. Gielan added, start the day with gratitude. I’m sold on that!
The apostle Paul tells us this, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
The novelist L.M. Montgomery who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series gave us this bright insight: “Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
This bottom line advice I embrace from an unknown source: “Everything will fall into place, just be patient.”
In Chicago, we have a simple definition of a true optimist. It’s the one who says, “THIS year the Bears will win it all!”
Monday, May 3, 2021
I like the line, “What a strange breed we are” when it comes to humans. But it’s getting stranger. There’s some monkey business going on.
In case you missed it, scientists in China (wasn’t that where the coronavirus originated?) have fertilized eggs extracted from cynomolgus monkeys and grown these bad boys in culture. Simply put, these not-so-divine embryos are part human and part monkey.
According to a Nature story, “Six days after fertilization, the team injected 132 embryos with human extended pluripotent stem cells, which can grow into a range of cell types inside and outside an embryo. The embryos each developed unique combinations of human and monkey cells and deteriorated at varying rates.”
Why do such research? The playful minds at work on this hope that the hybrid humans could maybe…a) be used to test drugs and b) be used to grow human organs for transplants. They call them “chimaeras.” (Now I’ve got Dick Van Dyke singing some absurdity from Mary Poppins in my head!)
The monkeys, though, are new territory. Four years ago, a series of other hybrids were reported, These included “pig embryos grown with human cells, cow embryos grown with human cells, and rat embryos grown with mouse cells.” Seems like there’s a country song in the making.
Developmental biologists are not so sure about this latest development. That’s because the monkey primates get a little too close to home in some respects. And the rules for playing the breeding game get very different with homo sapiens. I’ve long had suspicions about Planet of the Apes!
Voices I tend to trust on such issues include friends at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In describing their organization’s philosophy, they state, “Mind, not matter, is the source and crown of creation, the wellspring of human achievement. Conceived by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Christians, and elaborated in the American Founding, Western culture has encouraged creativity, enabled discovery, and upheld the uniqueness and dignity of human beings.”
Note that important last line…upholding “the uniqueness and dignity of human beings.” In writing about this human-monkey hybrid experimentation, Discovery’s Wesley J. Smith has gripes. For one thing, he doesn’t like it that U.S. and other Western scientists who could not get funding for such research instead flew to China to conduct the experiments.
His second objection was that he feels the work “cuts across crucial moral boundaries.” The cells being bred go beyond having “bone or kidney tissue, but also brain neurons.” Smith asks, “What might result from such a combining? I don’t think we should find out.”
Thirdly, there’s the lax policy on regulations internationally on this research. Scientists are unwilling to commit to strong restrictions. And Smith notes the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) only offers general guidelines which are way too lax–essentially deeming them worthless.
In fairness, it’s a very premature form of research. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, director of the Salk gene expression laboratory, led the research effort. He explained that the human-monkey chimeras can’t survive longer than 19 days. At present. And Dr. Izpisua Belmonte said, “It’s never been our intention and never will be to create a living chimera in a monkey host.”
In reporting on this development, the Wall Street Journal recalled some earlier experimentation: “In a glimpse of the potential effects, researchers at the University of Rochester in 2014 transplanted human fetal brain cells called astrocytes into young laboratory mice. They discovered that within a year the human cells had taken over the mouse brains. Moreover, standard tests for mouse memory and cognition showed that the altered mice were smarter.”
It certainly causes us to question, “Are you a man or a mouse?” Hmmm.
In God’s creation story, the Bible says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25 (NIV)
God didn’t mix them up then. And we shouldn’t mix them up now.
No more monkey business.