Search This Blog

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: