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Monday, August 22, 2022

The Definition of Sanity

Last week was the great tradition of the Illinois State Fair. It’s the time of year when people from all over the state gather to gaze at prize winning animals, eat way too much fatty food and then get on carnival rides that make them wish they hadn’t. It’s a festive time of togetherness.

Unless, of course, you’re into politics. Then you hear embittered speeches from ungracious politicians representing Illinois. Take for example, the words of Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Susana (a Democrat) considered the former gov—Bruce Rauner (Republican)—as “the worst governor ever.” She added that while he was in office—“metaphorically speaking”—she would “kick him in the groin with much joy and pleasure.” (See the Chicago Tribune link below)

Meanwhile, the current Democratic Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker, offered these inspiring words to the annual Democratic county chair association brunch:

“In America, in the face of what the Supreme Court and the radical right wing are trying to do to the fundamental rights of every American, we, the coalition of the sane, owe something better to our children and our grandchildren.”

I suppose if it were possible, I would have jumped out of my skin at such a claim. Pritzker has somehow come to believe that those who oppose his way of life are likely not of sane mind. This should lead us to ask, what is “sanity?”

Many Illinoisans felt Pritzker himself was off his rocker when he doubled the price of car registrations. We watched our state’s citizens cry out when seemingly absurd Covid-19 restrictions forced many businesses to close. Depression was felt statewide. We’ve now discovered an amazing amount of tolerated fraud that occurred in the state’s unemployment system—payouts to falsified claims. And then his “sane” mind justifies northing short of the murder of babies in the state’s liberal abortion policies.

Sanity. How about this. The Cleveland Browns' quarterback Deshaun Watson had his “punishment” for violating the league’s personal conduct policy based on numerous allegations of sexual misconduct increased to a suspension of 11 games and a fine of $5 million. He agreed to this. How generous. This, after he received a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract in March. Think he’s hurting?

I’m guessing that if virtually anyone had the same number of women make the same allegations against NFL leadership, they would lose their jobs. But NFL quarterbacks are in another “league.” A protected one!

Then we have the insanity of America’s love affair with transgenderism—right down to our children! A most interesting commentary from Breakpoint writer John Stonestreet this past week explains how the UK has reversed course on permitting children to be abused in childhood gender transitions. In fact, as Stonestreet’s article points out, “The vast majority of younger patients were prescribed puberty blockers, drugs that are now known to cause brain swelling and vision loss."

A major “clinic” for such procedures has been shut down. As the Breakpoint article states, “Other European countries are also pumping the brakes on these sexual experiments on children….countries like Sweden and Finland that have pushed back ‘firmly and unapologetically’ against such interventions.”

But not…in the U.S. Our politicians won’t go there. Try asking our “sane” governor about his views on this.

The Oxford dictionary defines “sanity” as "the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health.”

The Bible defines sanity under the microscope of wisdom. And this “wisdom” is not simply intelligence. Or knowledge. But to act with choices that serve human beings in the best way possible. Godly wisdom. Which, by its nature, comes from God.

Isaiah 48:17 reads, “This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am the LORD your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go.” (CSB)

The truly sane are those who find their way in the wisdom of the Living God.

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, August 15, 2022

Don’t Rush to Russia

The National Football League pre-season is underway. Unless you followed the off season activity closely, you may find plenty of surprises of who is and who is not on your team. For example, Russell Wilson is now playing for Denver. Khalil Mack was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers. The legally-troubled former Houston quarterback, DeShaun Watson, was traded to Cleveland. And the former Cleveland QB — Baker Mayfield — was traded to Carolina.

Apparently, governments get into this game as well. The latest on this front is a pending deal where the United States would send Russia a known arms trafficker — Victor Bout — back to his comrades in exchange for WNBA rebel superstar Brittney Griner and another American prisoner — Paul Whelan. He’s a 54-year-old former Marine, a security consultant arrested in 2018, whom the Russians convicted of spying in 2020. He says he was framed. The Russkies gave him a 16-year sentence anyway.

As for Griner, in her travels to Russia last February, she was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Authorities there found two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. A minor amount, but the substance is banned in Russia. The court did not consider this a misdemeanor, but instead, handed out a 9½ year prison term to Griner. Lawyers for the athlete plan to appeal. Good luck in that.

The United States government has already made one trade earlier this year. In April, a retired U.S. Marine named Trevor Reed came home after negotiators worked out a swap for Konstantin Yaroshenko. This bad boy was a convicted Russian drug trafficker!

So what was Brittney Griner doing in Russia anyway? Playing basketball, of course. She apparently has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason. Maybe she was checking out whether Mother Russia treated people better than the way she thinks we do in the U.S. She’s made her feelings about our country known before.

Anyway you slice it, these are not particularly good days to be making travel plans to Russia. Hey, if you really want one of those Matryoshka Dolls, you can find them on Amazon. Or eBay. Some even offer free shipping! Russian vodka is easy to find as well. Uh…I think.

In the 1990s, the well-known Christian apologist Josh McDowell made a number of trips to Russia. Somehow during his many excursions to the communist country, Josh had developed God-led friendships with leaders in the military, government, and business. At that time, a significant amount of freedom existed, which allowed Josh to print and share materials in the Russian language about Jesus and the Christian faith.

McDowell then organized a number of trips to the former Soviet country recruiting people from his mailing lists and radio advertising. I was one of several radio broadcasters invited to travel with Josh in the mid-1980s to witness the open opportunities of handing out literatures and meeting the Russian people. My eldest son, Marshall, later would travel with Josh and experience this openness as well.

Those days are over. Vladimir Putin put an end to such liberty. Not only for Americans with evangelical zeal, but for churches not blessed by Emperor Putin himself. One might think he’s a control freak.

So now Americans are expected to give up a true drug trafficker and known arms dealer for, well, who knows what we’re getting back. I do know that if any of the three Americans were my relatives, I’d hope we’d try something reasonable to get them home. And we are trying. Why? Because contrary to Griner’s perception, America still has a soul. One tied to freedom.

One of my daily prayers recognizes that what seems impossible requires but a nudge by God to move in a new direction. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The LORD controls the mind of a king as easily as he directs the course of a stream.” (GNT)

May God’s hand move favorably in these matters. But in the meantime, I don’t recommend you rush to Russia.

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, August 1, 2022

Wisdom Personified

There were certain television programs during my very young years of the 50s and 60s that were not to miss. First was Zorro—"the fox so cunning and free.” Famous for leaving his mark: the “Z.” He was able to out-duel, outrun, and outsmart anyone. Especially the rather hefty Sergeant Garcia.

Two of my other favorite adventure programs were Sea Hunt (starring Lloyd Bridges) and Whirlybirds, the helicopter aces, starring Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill. That last show only had a three-year run but I wouldn’t miss it. And the same for Sky King on Saturday mornings!

I know. I know. All of those programs are likely lost on Gex X and Gen Z readers. I don’t think you can find the reruns anywhere. At least I haven’t found them.

There were several wonderful family oriented programs in that era. The Donna Reed Show. My Three Sons. Ozzie and Harriet. And the king of them all, Leave it to Beaver. Just about everybody has heard of the Beaver, his brother Wally, and the rest of the cast that included the always annoying trouble maker friend of Wally, Eddie Haskell!

Without making any blanket indictment, it seems that by-and-large, the “stars” of yesterday did a pretty good job of keeping their lives together as they aged. The family life portrayed by these actors and actresses seemed to be something they truly embraced. In my estimation, they saw their roles as influencers as being important.

This was brought to mind this week as I read of the passing of Tony Dow, known for his role as Wally in Leave it to Beaver. Sadly, his death was reported twice, once prematurely. Tony suffered from cancer and that is what sealed his fate at the age of 77.

He was married twice. The second lasted until his passing. That knot was tied for 42 years. Tony fathered one child – a son, Christopher Dow.

The “Beav” (Jerry Mathers) had this to say about his actor friend on a Facebook post: (Tony Dow) was "the kindest, most generous, gentle, loving, sincere, and humble man," whom he had the honor of knowing for nearly 65 years. Few of us could likely attain to such a tribute.

Dow’s son Christopher weighed in on what kind of father he witnessed, saying on Facebook: “He was the best dad anyone could ask for. He was my coach, my mentor, my voice of reason, my best friend, my best man in my wedding, and my hero." Worthy of tears to almost any father’s eyes. 

Eddie Haskell, played by Ken Osmond, preceded Tony Dow in passing. So it was Dow who paid tribute to him in May of 2020. As he noted then, “We remained friends for sixty-three years. Plenty of memories!!”

Jerry Mathers commented on Osmond’s acting skill, saying he was the best actor on Leave it to Beaver. Why? Because "in real life (Ken’s) personality was so opposite of the character that he so brilliantly portrayed." He went on to describe Osmond as a "devoted family man," "decorated police officer," and "a wonderful friend."

Decorated police officer? Indeed! While Osmond sought out other acting work after his Eddie Haskell days, apparently producers felt he was too “type-cast.” Years later, the memory of that character faded and Osmond returned to some acting roles. (Imagine being pulled over by policeman Eddie Haskell!)

Fame, and accompanying resulting wealth, will often change or reveal someone’s character in really negative ways. Arrogance can set in. People start believing their own press.

This can happen just as easily to people in business. In the nonprofit world. And, of course, in the ministry.

The writer of Proverbs assessed life this way, “I ask you, God, to let me have two things before I die: keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor. So give me only as much food as I need. If I have more, I might say that I do not need you. But if I am poor, I might steal and bring disgrace on my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9 (GNT)

That…is wisdom personified!

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: