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Monday, December 27, 2021

2022 Predictions...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas: Love? Hate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us. Every one. And Merry Christmas!

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, December 13, 2021

Duly Recognized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His list:

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

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

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

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

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest:

Monday, December 6, 2021

The 12 Scams of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need I say more?

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

Articles of interest: