God's Roadmap

Now may the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God, who loved us and in his wonderful grace gave us eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail, encourage your hearts and inspire you with strength to always do and speak what is good and beautiful in his eyes (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 TPT).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holidays Were Meant to Bring Pleasure, Not Stress into Your Life

Lynn Johnston
I have a guest blogger this week, my friend and writing partner, Lynn Johnston. We are both members of the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers. Lynn is an elementary school teacher who spends her leisure time as a freelance writer. She is a member of the NWU and the Writing Center.She also is actively involved with the Writers 750 group and enjoys participating in writing contests. Recently, she has been asked to submit four short stories for two anthologies. Two of the stories were published in the anthology Giant Tales-Dangerous Days, that released in June 2014 and the other story appeared in an anthology called Violet Hopes that released in August 2014.

We all tend to do it...set strenuous goals for ourselves for Christmas. We push ourselves to do things that make the holidays more stressful rather than enjoyable. The worst part is we have actually convinced ourselves that we enjoy doing these things every year:
  • I have to be in charge of the company Christmas party....how elaborate can we make it this year?
  • It won't be Christmas if I don't....polish the silver and slave over a hot stove for three hours, make coffee cake....that's my job, bake those complicated cookies.
  • I have to help the grandchildren make a gingerbread house...even though it takes hours.
  • What will the neighbors think if my decorations look shabby? I guess it's time to upgrade mine to the nicer white icicle lights.
  • I have to come up with a fabulous Santa gift for my kids...hope my credit cards don't fail me.
  • We have to buy nice gifts for my Aunt Sharma; she always spends a lot on my kids.
  • Got to go to my sister-in-law's Christmas party and pretend to have a good time.
If any of these statements sound familiar, then you are allowing stress to run your life. Stress is caused by our ego. Our ego is the part of us that worries about competition and what others will think. Sometimes our egos become so in charge that we set unmanageable goals for ourselves that take all of the fun out of the holiday. The ego can decide that Christmas won't be Christmas unless we spend a certain amount of money or a certain amount of time doing things. These images we form in our heads of what Christmas needs to be is our perception. Our perception is a false reality that we deem as the truth. We can convince ourselves that our perception is the way it needs to be. The problem is our perception typically does not match everyone's perception. Meaning, we force ourselves to do things that may not be necessary to enjoy Christmas. The ego is not biblical and does not define Christmas at all. It allows conflict to take over and gives in to commercialism.

What can you do to fix this?
  • Check your EGO! Who cares what others think?
  • Prioritize what's really important and find a way to make it simple.

Put the charge card away.  Never spend more than you can afford.  The ego loves to impress, but that is not what the true meaning of Christmas is about. Some churches recommend that your children narrow their lists down to 3 items (Hence the 3 Wise-men). Where does it say that presents need to be elaborate? Try buying more practical gifts. Ask yourself how long Suzy played with that expensive toy last year. Chances are that $200 dollar toy sits in a toy box or your garage gathering dust this year. You are better off buying things for children that builds their imagination. Do the research.

Stop going to parties for appearances sake. If you don't enjoy being around certain people, why give up an afternoon or an evening for them?  Instead, show them love another way.  For example, giving hand made items or baked goods can be wonderful expressions of love. 

Avoid competing with your neighbors. Decorate to please yourself and your family. The ego loves competition, but that is not what Christmas is about either.  
Nice dinners can still be prepared without complicated recipes. Find out what your family really needs you to do to be happy. Do they appreciate the fact that you slaved over a stove for three hours and spent two hours creating a complicated gingerbread house? Are you happy when it's complete or just relieved that it's done?

Finally, just have fun and enjoy spending quality time with your family! 

Bottom line: Cut the ego and the perception that Christmas has to be complicated. If it's not fun, don't do it. Have a wonderful stress-free Christmas!

Share your ideas for keeping the holidays free of stress and anxiety.

Friday, November 28, 2014

New Sheets

Book Review Friday

by Barbara Latta

New Sheets, Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be by Cindy Sproles explores the world of the trials and triumphs of a wife, mother, and parent of a disabled child.

A reading for each day during the month will inspire and motivate a woman to be as refined as a new set of luxurious, Pima sheets. And while those do require maintenance, as Cindy says, so do we. And we have the God who can do it.

As she shares some of her ups and downs during marriage, divorce, and child rearing, Cindy’s insights identify with the struggles every woman has at some point in her life. Our attitudes and expectations through life can be transformed into refreshingly new outlooks and outcomes when we are willing to let God change us.

When you think you can’t go on, a daily reading of this devotional will encourage and inspire.

This book is available at amazon.com.

Do you have a favorite daily reading?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stainless Steel Shine

Tuesday's Tips

by Barbara Latta

It's holiday time and soon parties and celebrations will be in full swing. We all want our homes to be spotless when guests arrive. If you have stainless steel appliances that need cleaning, I found a good way to get rid of smudges and those mottled spots.

I tried every cleaner for stainless steel I could find and nothing has made much of a difference on our refrigerator. As I was fussing and fuming about it while polishing endlessly to no avail, my husband came in with a can of engine brightener that he uses on his bike.

We tried a small amount in an inconspicuous place to make sure it wouldn't discolor the finish. After using it on the entire front surface, the fridge has a new sheen and all the mottled specks are gone. It looks like new and I was amazed.

product is in a spray can so if you use it or something similar, make sure to keep it away from open flames and use proper ventilation while spraying. Also be careful if some falls to the floor because it can make it very slippery.

Do you have some useful tips for appliance cleaning you would like to share?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Football and Turkey

by Barbara Latta

From August to February each year we are inundated with football games on TV. Even after college games have ended, we have to endure the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl (which gets later on the calendar every year, I might add).

But have you ever wondered why football became one of the traditions of Thanksgiving Day? Along with your turkey drumstick, why do you have to have pigskin in there somewhere too?

It goes w-a-a-a-y back to 1893 when the Universities of Michigan and Chicago would meet on Thanksgiving Day for their annual game. However, this tradition ended in 1899 when the Michigan coach refused to split gate receipts with the Chicago team. They had a dispute about the location of the next game, so in 1900 the match up with Chicago Maroons was the Wisconsin Badgers.

High school teams have also been playing traditional Thanksgiving games. One of the oldest rivalries is between two Missouri teams, Kirkwood and Webster Groves. These two have played each other since the late 1890’s.

Pro-football has played games on Thanksgiving since the league began in the early 20th century. For two decades, except in 1952, the NFL played one game on Thanksgiving which was always hosted by the Detroit Lions. In 1946, the All-American Football Conference played a game on the holiday until the league folded in 1949.

When the AFL began in 1960 it had a game scheduled for that special Thursday. Then in 1966, Dallas Cowboys owner, Tex Schramm, saw a Thanksgiving game as a marketing opportunity so a second game for the day was scheduled.

You get my drift here, right? Rather than continue with the history, let’s just say it’s still going on, with more being added over the years. Now from lunch to bedtime and sometimes thereafter, an oblong leather ball with pointed ends is flying across your table wearing the colors of different mascots. The games last through the leftovers, chips, dips, pretzels, popcorn, and pumpkin pie.

East to west, north to south, college to pro, a Thanksgiving football blowout has become an American tradition. This year our son and daughter-in-law surprised us with an early Christmas present—tickets to Saturday's game for the Alabama Crimson Tide. So not only do we get to watch games on television all week, we got to see one from the direct view of the stands. It doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the game, whoever you root for. So now that you know some history of the holiday game, how do you weave this TV spectacular into your celebration?

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Astronaut Wives Club

Book Review Friday
by Barbara Latta

Flashbulbs popped and applause was spontaneous as the seven Mercury astronauts were introduced to the world by NASA on April 9, 1959. Never before had the country endeavored to complete such a feat as putting a human being into space. These men were instant celebrities.

But so were their wives.  In The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel delves into the behind the scenes lives of the women married to the spacemen. From Mercury to Apollo, ordinary housewives, some with no education beyond high school, were thrown into the spotlight and expected to be the perfect wife and mother. Supporting each other, they formed the club that would keep them bound to together even decades after the space program was over.

The public’s expectations went beyond normal as they were forced to thrive in the light of high society, husband absences, and the politics of NASA. Putting on a brave face amidst the threat of your husband not returning from space was the ultimate goal. LIFE magazine’s contract to follow their every move made this the first “reality” show. They were always “proud, happy, and thrilled.”

The stresses of putting on the fa├žade of perfection while everything was falling apart at home took its toll on more than one victim. Chain smoking, heavy drinking, and tons of tears were the diets of the club. And then there was the task of hiding things from NASA that could separate a spaceman from his job. What was Marge Slayton’s big secret that would get her husband, Deke, fired from the space program? And why was Marilyn Lovell afraid for NASA to find out she was pregnant with their fourth child before Jim’s first Apollo flight? What about those Cape Cookies they had to put up with? (It wasn’t a chocolate chip recipe).

The Astronaut Wives Club is a good read for those who followed the space program or want to know more about the ins and outs of NASA family life.

What do you think about this book? Do you have another one you would like to recommend?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Beginnings

by Barbara Latta
When the Thanksgiving holiday comes around every year, we think of turkeys, Pilgrims, and football. We reflect on the feast the first settlers shared with their Native American friends, but do you know when it became an official national holiday?

Many years after the 1620 settlers gave thanks to God for his protection and bountiful harvest, pastors, leaders, governors and presidents called for a day set aside to give thanks. But it took over two decades of persuasion from Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, to get a president to proclaim a national holiday to be celebrated annually. In 1863, President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Each year thereafter, the holiday was recognized, although the dates varied. Finally in 1941, Congress established the last Thursday of November to be the official Thanksgiving Day.

A lot of things are going on in the world and in our country today that are disastrous and lacking any recognition of God. However, we still have much to be thankful for. We can take a lesson from Abraham Lincoln who made the following statement in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. [1]

It was only three months before he made this speech that Lincoln stood at the graves of Gettsyburg, where thousands lay buried. It was here in the midst of a war, a severe trial of faith, that this president became a Christian. He made this proclamation during the worst time in American history giving thanks to God for blessing the nation.

Can we do any less? We have trials now. Decisions are being made that affect us all in negative ways, and God’s foundations are ridiculed by government leaders. However, America is still a great nation only because God has so blessed us. We can continue to be a light to the rest of the world.

We need to be thankful in the midst of the storm of politics, rhetoric, and scandal. Because we are still America the beautiful and America the blessed.

I am thankful for my God, my family, my freedom, my rights, my home, and my health. I am thankful for our military and civilian protection, my friends, my church, my talents, and my abilities.

And I am thankful to you, the reader of this blog, for your participation and input.

I would love for you to share some things you are thankful for.

[1] Celebrating Thanksgiving in America, www.wallbuilders.com

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Appreciation To Our Vets

by Barbara Latta

For most of us, daily routines are exercised with little thought of the process it takes to complete them. Putting on shoes, brushing our teeth, finding our car keys are all on the multi-item list of things we do without being conscious of our actions.

But what if it took so much effort to bend over and tie your shoes that you couldn’t even do it? Or comb your hair, pick up a book, or feed yourself? Then those tasks become major obstacles to ordinary life. 

Every day hundreds of our veterans wake up to world different from the one they knew before they went to war. No matter which war they fought in a heavy price was paid to preserve or win freedom, not only for those in other countries, but also to keep the freedom we have at home from being taken away. Because atrocities do not stop at borders.

The extreme injuries and sufferings of some our veterans is compounded by the recent Veteran’s Administration scandal. To have all these medical needs, and then have the door slammed shut by the very government that sent you in harm’s way on any aid you require, is an even worse tragedy.

We still have the best country in the world. It’s up to us, the ordinary citizens, to make sure our veterans receive the respect and honor they deserve. Without the heroic efforts of those willing to fight and die, from the Revolutionary War to present, we would not have a free America. We can’t undo their injuries and heartbreak, but we can appreciate them.

There are many agencies that support and provide healing to returning vets. We can help our heroes by supporting these groups, showing our appreciation whenever we meet someone who has served, and continue to encourage our elected officials to provide resources for our military. Cutting defense spending only reduces the resources they will have, and reduces the numbers in the military available to fight while the enemy continues to grow in numbers.

These are the citizens in our country that deserve the highest respect, the best medical care, and the continued thanks of us all.Thank you to all who have worn a uniform and served honorably in our United States military.

Feel free to share your appreciation for our veterans in the comments section.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Sermon at the Mall

Holiday shopping time is here. I would like to share a short allegory about Black Friday which will be here soon.It is not intended to criticize anyone who shops during this hectic time. I have enjoyed doing so myself. It is just a reminder to keep things in perspective. I hope you enjoy it.

By Barbara Latta

The line was all the way down the sidewalk, around the corner of the building and growing steadily as time passed. People looked at their watches while they drank their lattes, murmuring about the wait. Some shuffled their feet trying to keep warm. Need raised up from the cold ground where he had been sleeping and drew the thin blanket around his shoulders as he watched the spectacle across the parking lot. A shiver ran through him as the icy fingers from the earth grabbed his skin.
“Hey, come on, it’s 4 a.m. already, why don’t they open the doors?” Impatience shouted.
“Yeah, what are they waiting on?” Grumbler said.
About that time a clerk in a red vest appeared on the opposite side of the glass doors. The crowed peered through like hungry piranha waiting on prey. Black Friday was about to begin. The lock clicked and before the clerk could open the door, the mob did it for him, pushing and shoving each other out of the way.
Need walked to the sidewalk which had miraculously cleared. He reached down and picked up a discarded cup of coffee. It was still warm. He wrapped his cold hands around the cup savoring the heat for just a moment before he took a long swig. His stomach growled, but this would have to do unless he could sneak some free samples from the bakery inside the store.
He went inside to the mayhem of the dollar. The zoo was calmer at feeding time than this frenzy. Need worked his way through the maze of bodies and walked into the beginning of a battle.
“That’s mine, I saw it first,” Covetous said. She pulled a purse off the shelf before another could reach for it. Greed grabbed to pull it back, missed, and her elbow flew backward hitting Need in the eye.
“Ouch,” he cried, covering his wounded eye with his hand.
“Get out of the way, old man.”
He was shoved back as they continued their fight over the designer bag.
The aisles were already strewn with merchandise that had been perused and discarded for better choices. Need had to step carefully along the floor to prevent crushing toys and books. The smell from the bakery was beckoning to his stomach. He hoped he could get there before all the free samples were taken.
“Attention Shoppers. We have five 50-inch TV’s at a special price of just $200 each,” a voice on the intercom announced. He looked up just as a flood of bodies ran toward him with no intention of going around. Need moved away, but not fast enough. He was trampled as if he were part of the floor. He picked himself up and examined every body part to see what might be injured.
He tried to find a way out of the mess he was in but was surrounded by a sea of humanity with only one thing on their minds. He moved against the flow only to be pushed back two steps for every one he took. He felt the buttons on his shirt pop as someone beside him pulled on it.
“Ewww,” Mocker said, “why don’t you go to the deodorant aisle fellow?” He wiped his hands on another’s arm.
“Hey, don’t wipe his dirt off on me,” Haughty said as he flicked the offense off his sleeve.
Need swallowed the lump in his throat and said nothing. His hunger had driven him into the store hoping for a morsel of free food; otherwise, he wouldn’t be in the middle of this chaos. He escaped the claws of ridicule and continued toward his quest.
“Why did they put the bakery at the back of the store?” He muttered to himself.
He reached the counter just as a new batch of hot donuts had been put on the table. The sugar was still melting down the sides. Need’s mouth watered. He grabbed some napkins from the dispenser and put two donuts in his pocket before he could be spotted. He grabbed another and wolfed it down in two bites. He was so hungry he didn’t taste it, but it helped the ache in his belly for a few moments.
“Hey, you, those are samples not a meal. Leave some for the other shoppers,” Gluttony said from behind the counter. Sugar flakes were falling from her chin as she spoke.
“Oh, it’s you again. Haven’t you been told enough times to stay out of here? You’re just a bum looking for a handout. Now get out of here.” She walked around the glass pastry display case and picked up the platter to keep Need from taking anything else.
Need left the store grateful for the little he had been able to get. He patted his pocket where the pair of donuts lay in wait for lunch. The cold wind assaulted him as he walked into the parking lot. He passed a car where a woman and child were having an argument.
“No, Mommy, I want to go inside, too,” Abandon said.
“No, you will only get in the way. I wouldn’t have brought you if I had anyone to leave you with. Now stay in the car and don’t make any noise to draw attention to yourself. I am going to get that jacket I want no matter what I have to do,” Selfish said. Need watched Selfish lock Abandon in the car and walk away.
With a deep sigh and a shake of his head, Need walked back toward the grassy area where he had slept last night.  He sat down on the cardboard box he had used for a bed thankful the wind hadn’t blown it away, and then reached behind a shrub for the blanket he had stashed there when he went into the store. Wrapping the holey garment around his shoulders, he laid down to try to get some more sleep. At least if he could sleep, he wouldn’t know he was hungry.
He was awakened later by small fingers poking him in the shoulder.
“Hey, Mister.”
Need opened his eyes and looked into a small face with big, blue eyes that were starting to shed tears.  He recognized the child who had been left in the car.
“What do you want, kid?”
“I’m lost. I got out of my mother’s car to walk around and now I can’t find it.” Need thought about helping her and then realized how it would look if someone saw him with another person’s child. He couldn’t risk that.
“Well, I can’t help you.”
“I don’t see anyone else out here and you are bigger than I am.” She sniffed.
“Maybe I can help,” a voice from behind them said.
Need and Abandon looked up at the stranger who had approached them.
“My name is Emmanuel.” Need’s hand was grabbed by a stronger, calloused one and deep scars were exposed on the man’s wrists as the two shook hands.
“Your mother’s car is three rows over.” Emmanuel lifted Abandon up so she could see over the tops of the cars.
“Oh yes, I see it now.”
He hugged her tight before putting her back down. Abandon tried to hold on a little longer.
“You’re a nice man,” she said.
Emmanuel smiled at her and cupped her chin. Abandon looked down at the scars on his hands.
“What happened to your hands?”
“I was beaten and put in prison for something I didn’t do.”
Need and Abandon looked at Emmanuel in surprise.
“It’s ok now. Everything has been made right. Today is my birthday. Would both of you like to share this with me?” Emmanuel picked up a bag off the ground that had gone unnoticed until now. Out of it came the most amazing aroma Need had ever smelled.
“Are you having a party?” Abandon asked.
Emmanuel looked around the parking lot. A man was trying to squeeze an oversize TV box into the back of a compact car. Several shoppers were running with carts to unload their purchases so they could go back for more. Greed and Covetous came out of the store with frowns on their faces.
“No, I don’t think anyone would have time to come. How about the two of you? Could I share my birthday meal with you?”
Need and Abandon both nodded. Emmanuel spread a feast before them worthy of a king. They ate until they couldn’t hold anymore. Need was feeling Full and Abandon was feeling Loved.
“Where did you get all this?” Need asked.
“My father is very rich and he provides sumptuously.”
“He sure does. But why did you want to share it with us?” Need said.
“Because you were the ones who accepted it. I invited all those here. But no one would come.”
“Abby, Abby!” A woman’s panicked cry pierced the air.
“You better go back to your mother,” Emmanuel said.
“No, I don’t want to. She will be angry because I left the car.”
“I think you will find her different now.”
Abby started walking back toward the car and met her mother who was running toward the three new friends. Mother knelt down and embraced the child while Need and Emmanuel looked on.
“Oh, Abby, I’m sorry I left you in the car.”
“Did you get your jacket, Mommy?”
“Yes, but when I couldn’t find you I didn’t care if I had it or not. I will never be that Selfish again.”
Emmanuel looked at Mother and nodded in approval.  Mother took Abby’s hand and led her back to the car.
Emmanuel pointed across the parking lot and told Need, “Go over to that store. Ask for Generous and tell him I sent you. He will have a job for you.”
As Need walked toward the store for the promised job, he watched Emmanuel moving among the shoppers returning to their vehicles with their Black Friday discounted loot.  He saw Greed and Covetous hurrying to other stores, barely able to get into the door with the bulging bags at their sides. Indifference walked past a Salvation Army kettle counting the bills in his hands and then stuffing them back into his pocket. Gluttony waddled out to her car and drove to a nearby drive-thru and ordered the super-size value meal.
Emmanuel approached a man unloading signs from the back of his truck. “Do you need some help?” Need heard him ask.
“Sure,” the man replied as he handed Emmanuel an armful of signs. “I’m putting these up around the parking lot.” Emmanuel smiled at the message it contained. 
Need walked over and read one of the signs.
 “Do you know the Reason for the Season?” was displayed in green and red letters with a glittery star at the top.

As the last post went into the ground, Need heard Emmanuel say to the sign maker, “Today is my birthday. Would you like to share a meal with me?”
The End

What are your thoughts about how holiday shopping is handled?