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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: