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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:


Monday, September 5, 2022

Quiet Quitters

I hope on this Labor Day you are actually able to rest. Stepping back from the workload is generally a good thing. Unless you’re one of those recently named “quiet quitters.”

A September 12th article in the Wall Street Journal reviews this new form of work slowdown. It’s said the phrase “quiet quitting” is getting millions of views on TikTok mainly from young professionals. The game being played is to stay on the company payroll while focusing time on activities done outside the office.

There is some good mixed in. There are advocates for not working overtime if it costs you more in family relationships. Another personal favorite of mine is to separate what you do for a living and your identity. A definite plus.

Covid-19 work restructuring has given new perspective to these young professionals. One of the TikTok videos has a fellow saying he works just as hard as he used to but has adjusted in other ways. “I just don’t stress and internally rip myself to shreds,” he explained. A wise young soul.

The Gallup research organization reports that worker engagement across generations is falling. I don’t consider that a good thing. Work is a very important part of life. We should view our contributions as important and worth serious engagement.

There’s an old joke that my wife and I still exchange. I might perform some task for my wife and say, “It’s the least I can do. And, you know, I ALWAYS do the least I can do!’’ For some reason, she thinks it’s funnier when SHE says it.

It reminds me of my time in the military. I’d occasionally hear a fellow soldier say, “It’s good enough for government work.” The Grammarist explains, “'Good enough for government work' and 'close enough for government work' are both American idioms to describe something that is merely adequate, something that meets the bare minimum standards, something that is subpar.”

I don’t like that. In fact, it borders on sloppiness. Even sloth—which the dictionary defines as “reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.” People serious about their faith should run from that approach to work.

On the other side, I recall meeting with a renowned radio consultant in a former job. At breakfast he asked me, “What is the first thing you think about when you awake in the morning?” No one had ever asked me that before.

As I gave my response to the basics of “rise and shine,” he was unimpressed. He told me that “great radio talent” wakes up and starts thinking immediately of their work and things to talk about. I guess that may be true.

That being said, I’ve always put a lot of work into my work. I wanted to get better at my craft. And I definitely wanted to stay engaged. But I’ve never wanted to be “owned” by a job. Any job.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or even knows anything.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Keep in mind Solomon also found pursuing work at all costs was nothing but vanity.

I’m no “quiet quitter.” And I hope you are not either. But a good amount of rest makes life a lot better.

So, yes, it’s Labor Day. But I plan to take a good, long nap.

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: