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Monday, December 26, 2022

Telling You More than I Should

At the end of November, I posted the link to my personal blog—as usual—on Facebook and Linked In. Several hundred folk viewed my post about “Seasons of Change.” Apparently, people decided to peek at my thoughts about finishing up my latest “assignment,” more commonly called my most recent employment.

At its conclusion, I offered to provide some thoughts on my future plans. At the age of 71, I am cautious about suggesting such plans can be made with any degree of certainty. But I’ll take that risk to end this year.

I thought about calling this blog “Future Plans.” But I opted instead for the title seen, “Telling You More than I Should.” I’d better explain.

Most of my Facebook and Linked In connections know me for my radio work. I served as on-air talent for more than 40 years at seven different radio stations using three different names –Mark Elliot, Mark Johnson, and, my real name, Mark Elfstrand. I was also known as Erik Knight on a syndicated overnight radio show for two years.

This radio work blessed me with connecting to several hundred thousand listeners. Without seeing each other (except on very limited appearances), these listeners became friends. In the early days, I would hear from many by letter. Then email arrived. Wow. A massive new way to connect! It was always a pleasure to “work” and serve an audience!

Radio also afforded me the opportunity to travel. Rhonda and I took multiple cruises. We made four trips to Israel together. I’ve also journeyed to around 25 countries. Plus we’ve visited all fifty states.

I’ve met remarkably interesting people. Restaurateurs like Chick Fil A founder Truett Cathy, and Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame. I’ve interviewed a few thousand gifted souls including musicians, authors, politicians, astronauts, actors, actresses, and even comedians (including Bob Hope).

It’s been a wonderful life—as the movie might say. I never would have expected it to be so. I was never a good student. Mainly, because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) pay attention. Today they call it ADD or ADHD. One of my adult personality tests said it best: “The classroom is not your friend.”

But I made it through high school. Then one year of Bible college. They “suggested” I not return. 

Returning home, I worked two jobs, only to be drafted during the Vietnam War. I chose then to enlist in the Air Force. God’s hand was with me.

My father had died when I was a junior in high school. He was a loving, fun, and gifted man who stumbled into troubling business situations that left us always short on money. No college funds for us. When he passed, we owned no home and he had no life insurance. With two sisters out of the house already, I was “on my own” for the most part.

High school had brought out in me talents of which I was unaware. I became a debater, an actor (school plays and such), and even went to national competition in public speaking. I held offices in school organizations and liked the leadership arena.

But it was the Air Force that opened the door for me to cross-train into broadcasting. For a year, I was a television news and sportscaster on American Forces Radio and Television. I was known as the Hiking Viking on Channel 8 in Keflavik, Iceland!

From there on it was radio after leaving the Air Force. Then marriage to my bride of 46 years and we would have three children and seven grandchildren.

I’ve also been blessed to lead a men’s ministry, be co-founder of a prayer breakfast and a ministry to C-level executives. And perhaps most importantly, to find deep friendships with men meeting in small groups in several places.

There were crazy promotional things. A record that became a protest song. A devotional book after open heart surgery. A men’s ministry book.

All of this—and more. So…unexpected.

My faith in God assures me that His hand will continue in my life. How exactly, I do not know. And I do not need to know. I am open for His next assignment.

My web page already exists, which describes areas where I feel comfortable serving. ( I am likely to pursue writing, some speaking, and finding new ways to help “move people forward.” Several ideas are already forming. But who knows…? Someone does.

Psalm 138:8 speaks to my future: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake (abandon, give up on) the work of your hands.” (ESV)

My door is open. How may I help you?

Have a blessed 2023!

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, December 19, 2022

And the Winners are…

His resume would not give a clue to his rise to power. What we have witnessed in his public persona apparently was “derived from a lifetime as an actor on the stage, a specialist in improv comedy, and a producer in the movie business.” This we learn in a deep dive into Time Magazine’s 2022 Person of the Year: Volodymyr Zelensky—President of Ukraine.

He's become a hero in his country with his bold defiance of Vladimir Putin. By himself, Zelensky would not have anywhere near the adequate resources to put up such a resistance. Fortunately, he has many friends in the West. Including Joe Biden.

Zelensky, like all of us, is a complicated person. His presidential “rehearsal” came through a television show, "Servant of the People." It aired for four seasons (2015 through 2019), and starred Volodymyr as Vasily Petrovych Goloborodko, a high school history teacher who winds up becoming president.

The Ukrainian President has done some comedic routines on stage that are somewhat questionable. He joined three other men in a stage troupe doing “sultry dance moves while in high heels, form-fitting bottoms and black, skimpy tops.” Not quite your presidential style.

All things considered, Zelensky is one of the most talked about personalities on the planet during 2022. No question, he’s been an inspiration to his nation. And a thorn in the side of Putin. For all that, Time Magazine bestows the honor of Person of the Year.

Next we come to another year-end tradition of recognition: the Word of the Year. This one is not so easy. Competing dictionaries have offered up different words—or a phrase.

If you’re a Merriam-Webster fan, their editors selected “gaslight” as their word of the year. Meanwhile, the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary gave their nod to a Phrase of the Year—goblin mode. What-in-the-Charles-Dickens is that??

According to the website for Oxford University Press, “goblin mode” is a “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” Ben Zimmer, in making the announcement for the Oxford Word of the Year claimed, “Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression.” He believes people are looking at “social norms in new ways.” Goblin mode gives people “permission” to do this. I call it one more nasty distortion of life!! But there you go.

We could easily combine the Person of the Year AND the Word of the Year. In fact, we should simplify it by declaring this individual the Person and Word of All Time. Who possibly could fill the bill?

It should be obvious. There is only One candidate. As the gospel writer John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5, ESV)

The profundity of this is almost beyond human comprehension.

As John continues to write, he unveils more truth, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:12-14, ESV)

Christmas is the occasion where the "Person and Word of All Time" is celebrated as entering our world. The offer “to all who receive him” is the invitation addressed to you. There is no one more worthy of your heart’s devotion than Jesus the Christ.

Have a Merry Christmas!

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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 12, 2022

For Better or for Worse

For better or for worse
. Ever use that phrase? Its origination can best be traced to the Book of Prayer from the year 1549. It was commonly used (and still is) in marriage vows. It goes with the other phrases in those vows…for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, “til death do us part.”

My bride Rhonda and I recited those better/worse words in our marriage ceremony. Occasionally when I hear of a badly failing marriage, I will mockingly say “Apparently they didn’t figure it would get THAT much worse!!” In some relationships, it doesn’t take much.

Failure to abide by our vows often reflects on our character. “For better or for worse” tells others that you are willing to accept the positive or negative outcomes of any situation—even if those outcomes cannot or will not change. Is your word really your bond?

“For better or for worse” can apply to business decisions. To setting a course to try and improve a broken relationship. To offer a commitment to stand in loyalty to a friend.

It can apply to our national interests as well. I believe our country (and our communities) is best served when we have leaders who want moral truth to prevail. Their belief system that is unshakeable. These leaders truly work for the common good. Not self interest.

In November, a study from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University gave us a most troubling picture. Their surveys found that 71 percent of American adults agree that our political system is “being abused by people who are in politics for their own benefit or personal interests.” These results went all across party lines. Yet we continue to elect many of these same “public servants”—for better or for worse

Holding to strong moral values brings risks well beyond politics. It impacts all facets of our society where decisions are made based on principles and not on popularity. Those who speak are willing to face the consequences—for better or for worse.

As an example, recently the well-known actress Candace Cameron Bure explained her decision to leave the Hallmark Channel and pursue new movie projects with the Great American Family Network (GAF). Her decision came after Hallmark caved to “demands” to include LGBTQ characters and couples in their movies. Bure believes this is wrong and stood by her convictions. Her comments were featured in a Wall Street Journal interview on November 14, 2022, supporting traditional marriage.

Backlash was strong. Actress Hilarie Burton Morgan dissed Candace as “disgusting” and a “bigot” adding, “You ride that prejudice wave all the way to the bank.” Additionally, actress and dancer JoJo Siwa described Bure’s stance as “rude and hurtful to a whole community of people.” Ms. Bure chooses to love her enemies—for better or for worse.

In a somewhat related fashion, the tragic shooting at the “gay” club in Colorado Springs recently generated outrage at conservatives. The killer himself had a myriad of personal issues unrelated to any biblical position on homosexuality. His actions were described as a “hate crime.”

Not long after, the large sign welcoming visitors to the ministry Focus on the Family (FOTF) in Colorado Springs was spray painted with graffiti. Local TV station KKTV claimed the vandals accused FOTF “of complicity in the horrific massacre” at the nightclub. The graffiti read, “Their blood is on your hands.” One must ask, “Is defacing a private sign a hate crime against people of faith?”

One of the most challenging of all messages spoken by Jesus of Nazareth is found in His Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)

Your “enemy” might be a spouse. A political opponent. Anyone who rejects you or your beliefs. Jesus’ call remains the same. “Love your enemy.”

For better…or for worse.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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 5, 2022

Seasoned with Salt

I had a certain relative (in-law, actually) who was a polar opposite in terms of my politics. Inevitably, our family get togethers went somewhat sour if he and I engaged in what was happening in our country and how best to make it better. Our discussions seemed to make things worse.

This relative passed away years before the 2016 election. I cannot fathom what our conversations would have been like discussng the Trump vs Clinton contest. I’m sure, like millions of Americans, my in-law would have been stunned by the returns as they piled up in favor of Trump. The ensuing years after another election would deliver weeks of January 6th coverage and reveal a more divided country than since perhaps the Civil War. And now, The Donald is running again.

Russell Moore is a theologian and ethicist. Some would call him a preacher. He previously served as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. He left that role in 2021 to work for the magazine, Christianity Today. On August 4th of this year, Moore was selected as the magazine's incoming Editor-in-Chief.

No surprise to anyone, the political leanings of the ERLC are decidedly conservative. In past days, the same could be said for Christianity Today. That might not be the case anymore.

A November column by Russell Moore was titled, “Trump Won’t Divide the Church this Time (and That’s Not Necessarily Good News.)” Mr. Moore gives ample verbiage to his disdain for Donald Trump. He sees great damage in the church and society having resulted from the Trump presidency. In Moore’s words, “…even those who disagree with me lament that fact that denominations have been ripped apart, and friendships are gone—all because of politics.” He worries it will happen again. (Note: in a recent survey among Republicans, Trump led by 30% over other candidates.)

Michael Gerson, a leading evangelical voice in the media, recently passed away from cancer at the age of 58. A graduate of Wheaton College, he became a gifted speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.  I interviewed Gerson several years back. His more recent work was as a columnist for the Washington Post. Like Russell Moore, Gerson had no use for Trump. His columns reflected that.

But Michael Gerson was known for his quality of character and respect. In writing about his passing, a former associate, Jan Balderama, said, “I can’t claim to have known Michael Gerson in full; I had the privilege of editing him for less than two years…We probably would have disagreed on (Iraq) and plenty else. But none of that mattered… Mike was profoundly decent—warm, generous, full of gratitude for life’s gifts. He admitted fallibility. He had a huge heart. He could also be extremely funny, even in the darkest moments.”

Another media voice, Ruth Marcus, said of Michael Gerson, “Mike believed that the path to the just society we all want “was to take the high road, to not belittle others, to not demean others, to not cast doubt on people. You could disagree with people’s views without disagreeing with and undermining and attacking their motives and their honesty and decency.”

Following Gerson's death, Russell Moore would tweet, “It’s hitting me today that both of them, Mike Cromartie (formerly Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center) and Mike Gerson, are gone. They were two of the smartest, most effective, and most gracious Christian men I’ve ever known.” While true, it is always easier to praise men and women who agree with you.

For all of us—and especially those in the Christian community—we must take to heart the instruction of the Apostle Paul found in Colossians 4, verses 5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)

While these verses certainly address our spiritual conversations, they are also a most necessary reminder before our politics get completely out of hand.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, November 28, 2022

Seasons of Change or God-sized Plans

Just weeks before Christmas, a sizeable number of workers at Twitter were told they were no longer needed. Okay, maybe not in those words, but layoffs always leave that not-so-subtle message. Thanks (for your work here) but no thanks (we can do without you.). Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

To be fair, I feel for those kindhearted employers who simply must make those hard decisions to survive. And the same for businesses that just can’t make it. I know this. Simply closing the doors and never giving advance warning to people losing their jobs is just rude and insensitive.

Timing is also important. My son was going through a very difficult situation years ago with an ill child. He had moved to California from Idaho to join a small technology related company that valued his skills. The firm went belly up and gave him notice just before Christmas. Bad form.

Another failure of business termination is the great surprise farewell. Corporations and large companies are especially known for this. Everything seems to be normal at the workplace until one day it isn’t. And on that day, “x” worker is called in to an office and the human resources person is there with the manager. They hand person “x” walking papers (usually with all payroll settled) and tell him or her to pack up. The exit is usually carefully supervised. And no…you can’t say your goodbyes. Just turn in any keys, parking pass or whatever and get lost. (Well, that IS how it feels.)

I’ve been fortunate to have several departures that went much better. Whether in terms of weeks or months, I knew changes were coming. And I was one of them. Hey, it happens. Most often, I was treated well.

By God’s grace, He has perpetually moved me forward into my next “assignment” with seemingly perfect timing. That is about to happen again.

First, a little back story. In moving to Chicago in the summer of 1999, I was employed at Moody Radio in Chicago. It was my pleasure to help a couple hundred thousand souls start their day each morning. Just before Thanksgiving in 2013, my role came to an end. A few months later, another radio opportunity came up and I was back into talk radio.

After four and a half years at AM1160-Chicago doing talk radio, I was on to creating a YouTube program and podcast. And in the midst of this, our church needed help, and I took on a part time position to help navigate a pastoral transition. It started as a six-month commitment. That season will end on December 31st – three and half years from my start date! I did not anticipate my role would last this long.

Even though I’m 71 and “deserving" a rest, people consistently ask me, “So what’s next?” My best answer is, “I don’t know.” People often seem unsettled about my response. In part, it’s because we are so driven to have a gameplan for life. I gave up on that years ago.

I’ve become quite comfortable leaving the details of my future – the next day, week, year or whatever – in the hands of God. This does not mean I don’t make plans when needed (like for travel). But I’ve come to rely on God revealing to me the things I should pursue, in His perfect timing. And right now, I don’t plan to pursue anything after December 31st.

Does this diminish my sense of worth or identity? Not at all. I know what God has gifted me to do. And there are plenty of opportunities to use my gifts to serve. And while I’m not actively looking, no one has come knocking. Yet.

One of my favorite Bible verses reads, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3, NIV) My daily personal time with God finds me quoting Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (ESV)

Before year’s end — for those interested in my journey — I’ll expand on my “plans” to be available for service. 

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, November 21, 2022

Feasting on Thankfulness

A few days ago, I sat with our pastor as he shared a portion of a sermon from one of his favorite preachers. While I don’t know the title of the message, it was based on Ecclesiastes and it opened with a series of questions around, “What did you expect?” The speaker then detailed a number of painful life experiences of people he’s known where life fell way short of their expectations. As he surmised, underlying the question of “why” such things happened to them was the larger question of why GOD would allow such things in their life.

This coming Thursday is our annual Thanksgiving celebration. We arrive at this occasion because, in previous generations, leaders of our nation have recognized the gracious Hand of God in His provisions for us as a people. No matter your country of origin, recognizing these fruitful blessings from the Creator should be a duty to which we all joyfully aspire.

But many don’t. And I fear a major underlying reason why my fellow Americans miss the beauty of Thanksgiving relates to the question of “What did you expect?” Because our provisions have been so ample for so long, we’ve come to expect that the Almighty is required to provide them. He is not. They come to us only because of His most gracious care and compassion for His creation.

A second reason of ungratefulness is a more troubling one with political implications. It can be summed up in the word “entitlement.” From our earliest settlers in this land – Native Americans certainly included – food, shelter, and clothing demanded that you work to provide them! Prayer became a staple of life for early settlers because you knew weather and natural disasters could destroy your shelter. It could kill off your crops. It could hamper whatever efforts were needed to secure clothing.

The America of today has become the Land of the Hand-out. Government programs of all kinds help you through the insecurities of life. Total misuse of credit cards and terrible decision making are frequently ignored, as legal firms push the idea that this debt is “not your fault.” Of course it is!! But their rescue is worse! You are “entitled” to be free from this burden by using lawyers!

Consciously or not, parents pass this sinister mindset along to their children. By indulging in supplying the wants – well beyond the needs – of our children, the kids have learned to say things like, “Well, Tommy has an X box. Why can’t I?” In other words, “You are not meeting my expectations!” Or my preferred version, “I’m entitled to this!”

I see this played out in the most basic of ways. Rain falls and we complain. Rain doesn’t fall and we complain. (See the western states drought as an example.) We have restaurant workers serving us and kitchen workers preparing our food and we complain if it’s not perfect. The list is too long to continue.

The rubber really meets the road when people can’t take but a few moments each day to thank God for all of His blessings. As the old hymn says, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your MANY blessings. See what God has done.” Even a simple table prayer seems to push the boundaries for many.

Anyone reading their Bible would find that the starting point to move past entitlement is gratefulness. Thanksgiving.

There are too many Bible verses to cite. But here’s a good one. “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.” Psalm 9:1 (NLT) Or read Psalm 111 in its entirety.

If you ever hope to have a meaningful Thanksgiving, best develop the practice of thankfulness all throughout the year. And teach it to your children. Let them know that God is the ultimate provider of all good things.

If we get that in perspective, we may quickly find ourselves on our knees. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1864, “that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust.”

Come…ye thankful people... come! The table is waiting.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, November 14, 2022

Losing Heart…a Bit at a Time

Is losing your “heart" for something the same as losing hope? I don’t think so.

Millions have seen the movie Braveheart directed by and starring Mel Gibson. It’s the story of the Scotsman William Wallace who led a revolt against the English after the woman he loved is slaughtered. Wallace is eventually captured and executed. But his bravery is an inspiration to thousands of men.

At one point in the film, Wallace challenges the troops with this: “I AM William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here, in defiance of tyranny. You’ve come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?”

Military battles and warfare challenge aspects of courage and commitment like none other. There is a point where, when watching a cause being defeated amidst the deadly shelling and brutality by an enemy,  it’s almost impossible not to lose heart. Bravery alone does not win battles.

Many are the ways we can lose heart. The recent elections across the nation pitted committed people with opposing views against each other. As the returns were counted, you could see the sense of defeat and loss of hope permeate election night gatherings of the losing candidate. All that work. All that effort. Gone.

You see it in a marriage that has failed. There at the altar, two lives commit to love each other til the end. They vow to stay together in sickness and in health. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. But then the hidden personalities get revealed over time. Good intentions were never going to be enough to save two badly broken people. The two hearts grow apart until neither has the heart for each other.

It happens in business. It’s common knowledge that around half of all new ventures fail in the first year or two of operation. And an even greater percentage in the first five years. I’ve walked that road. I know the pain of meeting with a small group of investors to tell them our dream is dead. At some point late in the journey, the heart to continue ran out.

I find that election nights are often one of my most depressing of times. It isn’t as much about the candidates as it is about the soul of what we term as politics. It’s the steady drumbeat of insults, mistruths, and half-truths about people running for office and issues that matter. It’s sickening. And it causes me to lose heart. A little more with each election.

This year, a rallying cry for the progressives was the “fight” to preserve the right to abortion. The people of Michigan were joined by voters in Kentucky, Vermont, and California, opening wide the door for abortions. By law. How excited these lost souls were at the idea that they can terminate the life of a divine creation made in God’s image even up until birth. They celebrate this. And in Montana, voters actually rejected providing healthcare for an infant who survives abortion!

Make no mistake. Illinois and all politicians who align with the governor of this state are on the same page. Lying through their teeth that this is about protecting “reproduction rights.” It’s about killing the innocent and the most vulnerable humans.

And that brings me to why I say that election night can be such a depressing experience. One can lose heart that the soul of our nation can be so dark. Because of my faith, I know that losing heart over lost battles is not the same as losing hope in the God who can change hearts. Hope is fuel for the soul to keep us going even when we lose heart.

The Apostle Paul taught us, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, ESV) Absolutely true. Love is the greatest force of all. But hope can’t be far behind.

And so, we press on.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, November 7, 2022

A Salute to Sanity

It must be a challenge to be military recruiters in our day. Their job is to balance putting the best spin on their branch of service, while not creating a distorted reality for the recruit. The constantly changing environment of the military makes this tricky.

Friday is Veterans Day. For us old timers, the past rules for military life seemed pretty clear. Do what you're told. Do it well. Or get out. For those candidating to be officers, I would guess the dropout rate was different from enlisted draftees of my era. Plenty begrudged their call to service.

Two classes of enlisted personnel emerged during the Vietnam era. There were the ones drafted who accepted the choice of Uncle Sam for a two year commitment. Usually that meant the Army or Marines. Guys like me opted for the service branch that they believed was the best match. That “choice” extended the term of service.

So the greatest number of grudge holders seemed to be those who were drafted and let the government decide. But not always. Resentment arises whenever our choices are taken away. And the military takes LOTS of choices away.

Times in the military have changed. To grasp to what degree these changes have impacted our various branches of service, I recommend reading an article by Thomas Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general who now serves as director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. The article is titled, “The Rise of Wokeness in the Military.”

The earliest usage of the word “woke” in a political sense first appeared in a 1962 New York Times Magazine article by William Melvin Kelley. It was titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It.” By the 2010s, being woke included an awareness of social inequalities and now involved identity politics and social justice. White privilege and slavery reparations are commonly discussed.

As General Spoehr explains, various forms of “wokeness” have been advancing in the military for several years. He believes the ideology undermines military readiness, saying “It undermines cohesiveness by emphasizing differences based on race, ethnicity, and sex. It undermines leadership authority by introducing questions about whether promotion is based on merit or quota requirements. It leads to military personnel serving in specialties and areas for which they are not qualified or ready. And it takes time and resources away from training activities and weapons development that contribute to readiness.”

As for recent examples of the wokeness problem? In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that opened military service to all transgender individuals. Since then, the Biden administration has decreed that active members of the military can take time off from their duties to obtain sex-change surgeries. All related hormones and drugs are at taxpayer expense.

General Spoehr cites changing fitness standards of the military, purportedly with a woke goal “leveling the playing field.” He writes, “The Army recently lowered its minimum passing standards for pushups to an unimpressive total of ten and increased its minimum two-mile run time from 19 to 23 minutes. The new Space Force is considering doing away with periodic fitness testing altogether.”

In 2021, Navy sailors had to watch videos to understand the proper way of using personal pronouns. Service members were instructed to create a “safe space for everybody” by using “inclusive language.” Gender-neutral job titles may follow.

Last summer, multiple media outlets reported on training materials featuring the problems of “whiteness.” These were found at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. One training slide read: “In order to understand racial inequality and slavery, it is first necessary to address whiteness.”

(A link to the article from General Spoehr is below.)

The prophet Hosea wrote, “Let whoever is wise understand these things, and whoever is insightful recognize them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9, CSB)

I’m hoping our country’s military finds it way back to the rightf way. It is then I will offer my salute…to sanity.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, October 31, 2022

A Ghost of a Chance

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one? I have a bit of family history involving the sighting of a recently departed “ghost.” It fit the dictionary definition of “an apparition of a dead person, which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.”

In such a case, we’re not talking about something appearing in a white sheet. Or a nondescript “Casper” who has a friendly disposition. But these apparitions can seemingly be people from the past, whether known or unknown.

In the case of my family, my maternal grandmother would swear that someone who died in the house in which she worked “appeared” in a garden. I think more than once. She was, if you’ll excuse the expression, quite “spooked” by the appearances. My own mother wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’ve always remained skeptical and have avoided sharing my Nana’s stories with any of my children or grandchildren.

I certainly leave an open mind to the possibility of such appearances. Personally, I think these “spirits” are demonic. And very unlike angelic appearances we read about in the Bible.

While living in Pittsburgh, I developed a friendship with a former Army officer who became one of three County supervisors. This man, Bob Cranmer, would later purchase a home that had, um, “issues.” Ghostly issues.

Bob eventually would write a book about the total weirdness of all this including exorcisms that took place at his home. The story is captured in his telling of The Demon of Brownsville Road. A series of television documentaries and dramatizations about this home were released between 2011 and 2016. The large home was opened as a bed and breakfast on Halloween in 2019.

Exactly what kind of supernatural phenomena did the Cranmer family witness? How about furniture that moved on its own. Blood-like substances coming out of the walls. Bent crucifixes. Even destroyed rosary beads. Seriously!

Halloween does one of two things with “ghosts.” We either make them out to be silly forms hung from trees in yards or fear-based characters in haunted houses. In neither case, do we give credence to a more serious concern.

I think an appropriate perspective is provided from a Christianity Today article titled, “Don’t Worry, There are More Demons than You Think.” It is written by Dr. Chris Pappalardo, PhD, a researcher, editor, and writer at The Summit Church.

In his summation of Halloween, Chris writes, “Many believers today don’t approach Halloween like our 9th-century Christian forebears. But in one sense, I think we should. Those believers recognized a pressing question, ‘Are there spirits among us today?’ and did their best to answer it. Halloween raises the same question for us today, but we Westerners tend to dodge it. We make spirits and ghosts into silly games, because—obviously—only the ignorant people of the past believed in stuff like that.”

He then cites several biblical references to the “spirits” of Bible times. You can find such stories in 1 Samuel 28:8-19,  Matthew 14:26, and Luke 24:37. These were men who thought they were seeing ghosts! If the presence of evil surrounding Halloween can offer a “portal to the other side,” Dr. Pappalardo is convinced one night a year of recognition is too little. As he says, “That portal is never closed.” 

As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

We must be careful where we dabble. You might believe that of your own strength you can handle the demonic. Frankly, I don’t think you stand a ghost of a chance.

Just ask Bob Cranmer!


That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, October 24, 2022

Death Becomes Us

Some may recall the 1992 film starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn titled, Death Becomes Her. It was a crazy premise for a movie. My comments today have absolutely nothing to do with that film. But seemingly as crazy is what Canadians have chosen as a path forward on euthanasia. More on that coming up.

First, last Saturday I arrived at my 71st birthday. I’ve had a blessed life in so many ways. But I’ve also faced many challenges—and still do. Due to several work changes for my father, I attended nine different schools growing up. Hard to build friendships that way.

I was likely ADD before they ever talked about it. Thus, radio turned out to be a perfect match for my work. The “scenery” changes constantly. School was a challenge for me. One personality assessment offered this: “The classroom is not your friend.” Yeah.

My father died very unexpectedly in the spring of my junior year in high school. It troubled me greatly. Having already lost two grandfathers and now my own dad, my mind shifted to fear that I was next! At 16! This fear manifested in panic attacks for several years.

At the age of 53 I was told I needed open heart surgery—immediately. A quintuple bypass. By God’s grace, I survived and have been blessed to know each of my seven grandchildren. Sadly, one of those beautiful kids would die from a genetic disorder less than a year and a half into his life.

There’s more to my life story, of course. But despite many ups and downs, my faith in God has strengthened me and motivated much of my work life. Nowhere in my 71 years did I contemplate suicide. A few of my acquaintances chose that path. But no family or friends.

That is why, in part, I am stunned to see Canadians more recently expanding their euthanasia policies. The Colson Center has shared two commentaries earlier this year about the situation.

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada removed a ban on assisted suicide. Just a year later, the Canadian Parliament passed legislation allowing “MAID,” or Medical Assistance in Dying, for those who suffer from terminal illness and whose death was “reasonably foreseeable.” And as the Colson Center reported, “Five years later, the 'reasonably foreseeable' language was dropped, as was the requirement of terminal illness.” 

More changes followed. Today, “ending one’s life with ‘medical assistance’ simply requires a physician and a witness to agree that physical or mental suffering is sufficient cause.’” And in 2023 this will be expanded to include anyone with a mental illness—even PTSD or depression!

Almost 20,000 lives were legally taken by assisted suicide in the last two years. And according to the Colson Center, “Next year, euthanasia will likely be extended to so-called ‘mature’ minors.'” Imagine, teens being taught that death is an acceptable way out of mental anguish. A sad commentary.

The mindset has moved from a so-called “right to die” to a perceived “duty to die.” Patients often made a death decision to avoid being “a burden” on friends or family.As one professor noted, this has made “a life with disability…automatically less worth living and that, in some cases, death is preferable.”

Despite several ongoing diabetic complications, God has given me the gift of life—well beyond what would have been, with the help of doctors. I can only be thankful.

The reality of our worth in God’s eyes is revealed in a Bible passage the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth saying, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (HCSB)

When the sting of death is seen as a blessing to others, it’s another example of humans having lost our moral moorings. When suicide becomes a preferable option, it appears death becomes us.


That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, October 10, 2022

An Imaginary Line

Two rather interesting illustrations of the integration of church and state were reported recently. The first involved the recently crowned King of England—King Charles III. His role includes the title “The Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.” One hopes the crown bears a witness to this charge!

The new king seems to have embraced this responsibility. Here is what the newly crowned king said in his official statement to faith leaders:

“I am a committed Anglican Christian, and at my Coronation I will take an oath relating to the settlement of the Church of England. At my Accession, I have already solemnly given—as has every Sovereign over the last 300 years—an Oath which pledges to maintain and preserve the Protestant faith in Scotland.”

Is there room in the heart of England for other religious views? Definitely so. As the king stated, “I have always thought of Britain as a ‘community of communities.’ That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty—less formally recognized but to be no less diligently discharged. It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for Faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”

King Charles III added, “This diversity is not just enshrined in the laws of our country, it is enjoined by my own faith. As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart. By my most profound convictions, therefore—as well as by my position as Sovereign—I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.”

Such comments clearly recognize that Great Britain is a pluralistic culture. No leader worth his or her salt can pretend otherwise, nor can they by any means of force attempt to coerce a singular view of faith. But one can state the case for personal beliefs and embrace the historic connection to the Protestant influence on England. Ireland is quite another matter.

The real test is whether the new King lives out the deepest call of the Christian faith—to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. One wonders in the history of Charles’ life as Prince exactly how deep his values run. Religion of convenience is quickly seen through. 

Perhaps observing the faith commitment of his beloved mum, Queen Elizabeth II, left a marked influence on his life. It would be most refreshing to hear the King speak prominently of the true King of all the earth.

A second story of the blurry line between church and state came from Tennessee. The governor of that state, Bill Lee, issued a proclamation that declared Friday, September 30th, as “a day of prayer, humility, and fasting." He also acknowledged the need for “God’s guidance” for the future of the state.

He went further, tweeting that he and his wife Maria "invite Tennesseans to join us in this tradition to thank God for his many blessings, seek His wisdom in all circumstances, and ask for His continued grace and favor in the days ahead." The proclamation calls for the forgiveness of past transgressions as well.

In both of these very public statements about faith, leaders chose to cross what we might term as an “imaginary line” of separation between church and state. Personal expressions of belief and commitment to a set of spiritual principles set a course for the conduct of government and its leadership. That should never be feared.

Mandating citizens to follow a particular religious path, however, must always be rejected. A God worth following desires only the loyalty of those whose heart is true and willing to accept His authority. 

Unbelievers live by their own rules.

The great Hebrew leader Joshua put it on the line to the shaky and faithless Israelites of his day saying, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV) And then he added his personal commitment, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Leaders afraid to boldly cross the imaginary line have little faith on which to stand.


That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, October 3, 2022

The Solid Rock

Last week my bride Rhonda and I journeyed to Wisconsin to tour The House on the Rock (THOTR). It is a most unusual, but beautiful, place nestled in hilly woods. Just a few miles away is the House on the Rock Resort and golf course—worthy of a stay.

Our two-day adventure was to link up with Minnesota relatives at a halfway point. Our first night we dined at a most charming place nearby, The Old Feed Mill. Also highly recommended.

What makes THOTR so distinctive? Several things. Construction started in 1945 by a Wisconsin-born chap named Alex Jordan who was simply looking for a good picnic spot. In his local journeys, he seemed fascinated by a rock formation that stood boldly above a field. As a young man, Jordan was able to lease a limited amount of property that included the rock. And he began to build his original structure (he called it a shack) on top of the rock tower, with a view of the surrounding countryside of nearly 30 miles!

That pinnacle is known as Deer Shelter Rock. Today, an extension exists from the rock. He called this The Infinity Room. Visitors can only walk part of the way in this paneled glass extension (3,264 windows) as it gets narrower and narrower the farther you go, giving a true sense of it leading out to infinity!

For my purposes here, it is impossible to give any reasonable perspective to the mass and variety of the collections Jordan accumulated in his lifetime. THOTR is divided into three sections. It would likely take days to read and make observations of everything in these sections. It truly is nearly “indescribable.”

Briefly, however, Section One of HOTR includes the Welcome Center, an Asian Garden and separate Japanese Garden, the history of Alex Jordan and his massive project, and the walkway to the original house and Infinity Room.

Section Two houses what must have been a favorite of Jordan – multiple carousels! Add to that the Spirit of Aviation, the Music and the Streets of Yesterday, the Tribute to Nostalgia and the Heritage of the Sea. All have thousands of individual pieces to gaze at. Again, too much to take in.

Section Three offers the Circus Room, the Doll House Room, the Organ room, and a variety of galleries. 

While THOTR does claim to be friendly for wheelchairs and “scooters,” they quickly add there is limited access for both. The uneven surfaces throughout proved a little more perilous to my tastes – and I had a walking cane! Miss the low ceilings in several spots and you’ll pay the price if you are over six feet tall.

Despite the seeming genius of Alex Jordan, he never seemed to figure out that his creative abilities came from a creator! In the Alex Jordan Center, it was noted that his father was not a “religious man” but his mother was. Alex appeared to have no interest – yet put angelic representations in various locations, perhaps as a tribute to his Catholic mother.

Another man of brilliance designed a place not far from THOTR -- Frank Lloyd Wright. The Welsh American architect’s estate, Taliesin, is located just a few miles down the road. People often mistakenly think that THOTR was designed by the legendary Wright. It’s easy to understand the confusion.

In the famous words of Jesus of Nazareth we call “The Sermon on the Mount,” it’s recorded He said these words:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Alex Jordan found a remarkable rock on which he built his life. Despite his apparent brilliance, his life missed out on the rock of eternal worth. His earthly legacy left me wanting — wanting a more solid rock on which to stand.


That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, September 26, 2022

Flippy, Sippy, and Chippy

Their names are Flippy, Sippy, and Chippy. And they seem to do their work tirelessly. The don’t grumble about their working conditions or their pay. They don’t ask for time off for the littlest things. And they cooperatively do the work that many teenagers today seem to reject.

In fairness, they didn’t come cheap. Their employer paid $5,000 to get them on board and ponies up $3,500 per month to keep them engaged. Yes, a seemingly hefty amount. However, Flippy, Sippy, and Chippy are available to work around the clock!

Perhaps you have figured out that these three “employees” are robots. They’re on an experimental program in restaurants like White Castle and Jack in the Box. Flippy’s first assignment at "the Box" was cooking up the French fries. This required the robot to drop baskets of fries and stuffed jalapeƱos into vats of oil, removing them when they were perfectly golden.

According to the Washington Post, the use of restaurant robots isn’t exactly new. As early as 1983, the Two Panda Deli in Pasadena, California, used robots to bring food from the kitchen to customers. Recently, Chili’s restaurants have been experimenting with robots they named “Rita” (use your imagination as to why). Rita will bring food and drinks to your table and even “walk” you to your assigned place when you first arrive.

The very practical use of robots may have as much to do with workers' safety. Hot grills and French fryers certainly can be harmful. Those who struggle with attention deficit could pay an awful price.

But let’s face it. Low paying restaurants are losing workers by the boatload. What for years has been a starter job for teens or a second income of part time work has more and more become a job that earns ridicule. Fast food places have tried to adjust by increasing pay and benefits. But drive around any town these days and you’ll still find a full array of help wanted signs.

If you haven’t noticed, there is no such thing as a free lunch when employees require increased wages. My wife and I went to Wendy’s after church a week ago. We’ve always enjoyed their chili. We can recall the days when a good-sized small container was 99 cents. (Maybe less—way back when.) Prices went up gradually. Until recently. It cost me $3.19 on that Sunday! That ended my love affair with Wendy’s chili.

Once a week I enjoy a visit to a Culver’s restaurant. So I was quite surprised recently to discover my six-piece shrimp basket meal was now over $12 – up some $2 from earlier this year. I’m now back to a kid’s meal!

If I were a franchise owner, the robot trend might make a lot of sense to me. But I’m also concerned that low-skilled employees demanding higher wages is going to have a negative impact beyond higher food prices. It may well mean the loss of starter jobs for teens living at home or that other part time income that many need. You can price yourself out of the market—even in low paying jobs.

It's too early to tell what the long-term effects will be on the fast-food industry with rising prices. But it’s not too early to tell that employers are always looking for ways to cut costs – and even employees – if they can find more affordable workers like Flippy, Sippy, and Chippy.

The Bible does not address the issue of using robots in the workplace. It does, however, remind employers to do right by employees. James 5:4 reads, “You refused to pay the people who worked in your fields, and now their unpaid wages are shouting out against you. The Lord All-Powerful has surely heard the cries of the workers who harvested your crops.” (CEV)

That is a call to be fair in dealings with employees in everything.

I hope this problem gets sorted out soon. My dining out budget will be shrinking in the days ahead.

In the meantime, domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.


That’s Forward Thinking. 

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, September 12, 2022

That Billy Graham Rule

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know how the female mind works. I can hear many an “Amen!” from the male community. But I have a very strong sense of how the male mind works. Quite often it ain’t pretty. Were it not for a redeeming influence from one place or another, men are best not left to their own devices.

I bring this up in light of the questionable communication stream that has hindered the ministry (at least temporarily) of the megachurch pastor Matt Chandler. For those who missed the controversy, here’s a brief synopsis. The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, is where Matt has served as lead pastor. Several days ago, he announced on a Sunday morning that he “had an inappropriate online relationship with a woman.” As such, he decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from preaching and teaching.

Chandler felt it necessary to explain that the online relationship was not “sexual or romantic.” He also indicated that both his wife and the woman’s husband with whom he had exchanged “frequent and familiar direct messages” over Instagram were aware that these coumunications were going on. In retrospect, Chandler decided those messages were “unguarded and unwise” and “revealed something unhealthy in me.” It was the elders at the Village Church who advised stepping back from ministry. Chandler said he was grateful for the disciplined response.

This matter caused the typical Internet firestorm of activity with sideline prophets opining. Among the many items raised was the oft-quoted “Billy Graham Rule.” It would be more appropriate to source it as the Modesto Manifesto, in which Graham laid out his belief that, especially in ministry, men should avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married.

I would say that it makes a lot of sense. Truly, common sense. Men, being men, are the weaker gender when it comes to resisting sexual temptation. Moreover, even giving the appearance of impropriety becomes risky. It also keeps men from facing false allegations of crossing the line.

But wait. Can’t married men and women be allowed to simply have friends of the opposite sex outside of their spouse? That is precisely the issue that Bronwyn Lea wrote about in her Christianity Today article, “Sex Scandals and the Evangelical Mind.”

Keep in mind her focus is mainly for those who work in churches. To which she writes, “The mission of God depends on men and women faithfully working together in gospel work. We cannot afford to shrink back from that work just because we’re too afraid to put our hand to the plough with someone of the opposite sex.”

As a personal example, during the most recent twelve months of my work at our church there was but one other employee: a female admin. Most days we were the only two in the building. Neither of our marriage partners – or our church leadership – suggested any modification to this was needed.

I had female producers in my radio work on several occasions. Sometimes that meant traveling together in airplanes or cars. Bottom line, it’s tough to fully practice “the Billy Graham Rule” in business or ministry.

The risks for these relationships turning south can easily be defined. Asking questions like,
  • How attracted (physically or emotionally) are you to the coworker?  
  • Are you spending too much time one-on-one?
  • Are others noticing any behavioral shifts in you?
  • Are you texting off hours on non-work related messages?
  • Are you having any spouse issues that put you at risk?
  • Is the other party sending you any signals of bad intentions?
Depending on your awareness of your weak spots, the Billy Graham Rule just might keep your life in good standing. And it doesn’t have to be in person. It’s just as easy to go down that road on Facebook or Instagram. Just ask Matt Chandler.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 states, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (KJV) Billy Graham understood the magnitude of that verse. And it served him well. We should all be so advised.

That’s Forward Thinking. 

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: