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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

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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 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

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, August 2, 2021


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

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: