Why Good Manners Matter

This morning as I went to enter a coffee establishment, a young teen was just a couple of steps ahead of me. He surprised me by holding the door open for me and letting me pass through first. He wasn’t much more than fifteen. I thanked him and walked in. He left a positive impression on me. He had good manners. Some may not agree but in my books, he did. That simple act of kindness made me feel seen and that I mattered. It made me want to pass it on, that kindness, to someone else.

Good manners aren’t in vogue these days but they really never go out of style. Most people don’t complain about someone being polite or grateful. Why? Because good manners speak to so much more than being polite. Good manners generally signify that the person using them, respects others, thinks about someone other than themselves and has some character. “Please” and “thank you” show respect and acknowledges that the other person has value.

We are teaching our boys to have good manners. We aren’t perfect in this. It’s easy to let it slide because it’s such a forgotten art these days. However we keep trying and hopefully we will eventually have to remind less and enjoy the fruits of our labour more.

The other day, Mark reminded one of the boy to let me enter the house first rather than rush in ahead of me. And while some people will scream this is wrong, it’s interesting to me that when girls become of marrying age, these are the men who are considered the “good ones.” The ones who have been taught to respect a woman instead of looking at her like a piece of meat or a possession. The ones who have been taught to think of others first, who will put their wives and their kids ahead of themselves. Good family men. The ones who will care for people in their spheres of influence and take responsibility for their actions. The men, who have good manners and character, are the ones sought after. Isn’t it ironic?

As a mother of boys, I realize that teaching good manners is the first step in teaching them how to lead effectively, both in their families and in their lives. A true leader exhibits care, respect, and kindness to others. The first basic lessons in good manners. A leader who is all “Me, Me and Mine” isn’t a good leader.

A true leader is a servant to others. We don’t like to hear that. But it’s true. Take a look into history and have a good long look at those who were excellent, effective leaders. Take a look into your own lives, who do you respect the most? The ones who have your best interests at heart. Your children’s. The people who put a lot of thought into a decision that may or may not be one we want to follow, but is made with care, consideration and input from you and other parties involved. When one of our kids complain, “It’s not fair!” we tell them that fairness is not about equality. It’s about what’s best for them and what they need. It might not be the same for your brother. Leadership is a lot like that.

A strong leader will make the hard decisions and then help you through them. A strong leader empowers others to discover their strengths and skills instead of being threatened by another’s abilities.

A strong leader will not always agree with you but they will give you their respect and kindness.

Strong leadership is built on character, integrity and love. I want my boys to grow up to be that kind of person. That kind of leader.

Friends, I believe that one of the first steps to moulding them into that kind of man (or woman, if you have daughters) starts with teaching them good manners.

The Whole Story

Do you have a childhood dream that still sits in your heart and mind? That you go back to when you daydream?  Since I can remember, I have wanted to tell stories. Then it morphed into writing and then into writing articles and books.

I fulfilled part of that dream recently. I wrote a book and it’s being published next month. I wrote it with pastors’ wives in mind but it’s for anyone who ever felt they didn’t fit the role they were in. Pastor’s wife, ministry leader, mother…

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I set out to write a guide because I felt so lost as to what it was I was supposed to be doing as the spouse of a pastor. (Seriously, seminaries need to offer courses for the spouses! But I digress.) The book did not turn out to be a guide.  I never really figured out what I was doing so how could I instruct others?! Instead, it’s about how God can use each one of us, even when we think He’s made a mistake in choosing us because….you fill in the blank.

It took over ten years to write it. I began the project when my boys were teeny tiny. On Mark’s day off, I would head to his office for a couple of hours to write. On the way, I’d grab a Tim’s (that’s Canada speak for coffee), a bagel and cream cheese (those were the days I could eat cream cheese). Then I’d sit, savouring the food, the coffee and the quiet. Then I’d get to work.

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I didn’t own a laptop so I’d write old school or I’d borrow Mark’s laptop and then email my document to myself. I lost a whole chapter once. It wasn’t always easy or convenient but it was important that I carve out that time.

Many of those years were tumultuous and the writing was a cathartic exercise. It provided a way to put a voice on the last few years of ministry, marriage and motherhood. It provided me an outlet to vent my frustrations, anger and sadness. It opened a door to look for God in it all. It maintained my sanity.

I have a gem of a husband who not only encouraged me to go on his day off but insisted on it if I tried to get out of it. He knew I was a better mom and wife when I had time to myself, to do the things I loved. I realize that not everyone has this. I am so grateful.

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I tried to walk away from this book, this message, so many times. I didn’t always want to be the messenger.

I finished most of the writing a couple of years ago. I tried unsuccessfully to pitch the book with publishers but they felt it was too much of a niche book.

Last spring I heard about a Canada wide contest for non-fiction faith manuscripts by women. I decided to enter.

I didn’t win but I placed as one of the four finalists. It opened the door to publishing. And here I am. Scared out of my wits and crazy excited at the same time.

It’s been a lesson in perseverance. We want what we want right now. We are impatient. I am one of the worst. I am surprised that God stuck with me because honestly, I’ve been a bit of a brat over the years. But then, that’s grace, right? We are given what we don’t deserve. That’s love. That’s God, I Am.

If you have a dream, a vision, something laid upon your heart and you think there’s an expiry date, stop. As long as you breathe, there is no expiry date on your dream. Keep taking the next step.

The end result is worth it, but it’s the journey there, that gives it value. It’s in the journey that the message on your heart gets it’s first student. (You.) It’s the path there, that teaches the lessons, sustains growth and prunes the rot. In the end, you reach your destination (book, dream, etc.) which is totally awesome, but really, you are the prize.

Because along the journey, you have matured, deepened your relationship with God and are that much closer to being who you were created to be.

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It’s an awesome experience to see a dream fulfilled. It is humbling to put something you created out there for people to read, dissect and judge. They may love it or they may hate it. I have freaked out at both aspects. It’s taking me way out of my comfort zone.

In the bigger picture, beyond my comfort,  I am excited to see what God is going to do. This is not my book. It’s not my message. It’s His and I’m anxious to see where He’s going with it. I want to see Him do what He does best.  Work the impossible.

I’m going to enjoy this gift while it lasts, but I’m also looking to Him for the future, for the next adventure.

Day 1

Ministry. Marriage. Motherhood. There have been times I wasn’t sure I’d survive them. Sometimes they come together in a tsunami of life and I think I’m going to go right under.

Not a positive way to start the new year is it? Especially if it’s one filled with promise. Or maybe it’s already started on the negative and that kind of thought isn’t going to make it get any better.

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January 1 always comes wrapped up shiny and bright, luring us to raise our expectations, hope for better things to come and generally feel good. Until the first major crisis. For some of us, it didn’t take very long for that to happen.

That’s just it. Life happens. None of us can go through all 365 days and not have the stuff that makes up life thrown at us. It’s impossible.

So as we spit out the confetti and deal with loved ones, sickness, impossible situations, I think it’s important to realize that the whole facade of New Years is exactly that. A facade. Because any day can be a fresh start. Day 1. Any day can bring about rebirth. Rejuvenation. On any given day, we can choose to start over. Begin.

We put all our excitement into New Years’s only to be frustrated and disappointed when we stumble or fall. We think because we broke our resolutions, we failed. Why bother now?

Because that’s not what it’s about. Yes, we can decide that any day is Day 1 but the fact is we will probably have about twenty Day 1’s in a given year. Because we will stumble. We will fall. We will give in to temptation. It’s not about being perfect from Day 1 on. It’s about learning to get up when we fall after Day 1. It’s about growth and learning from mistakes. We move on when we learn from our messes. We don’t need to go back to Day 1 because we’ve already grown and so we can move into Day 2 or whatever day it is.

A new day or year cannot bring change. It’s only a starting point. So is our attitude. They both open the door to change. There is only one person that can bring about transformation.

It’s not us.

Our church’s mission statement is this: “Our vision at Bethany is to lead people into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)

We can hope to change all we like. We can work our tails off to change and we might succeed for a little while but we’ll end up disillusioned and exhausted. I know this all too well. I have to believe real change can only come through a relationship with Jesus because I’ve tried it the other ways. It doesn’t work.

A relationship can make a difference in a person’t life.  Think about teens and their friends. Good or bad influences can alter decisions our kids’ make and how they live their lives.  Think of the Holy Spirit as the ultimate good influence.  Giving His Spirit access to our minds, hearts, attitudes and bodies makes us different. He’s not transforming us into better versions of ourselves, although that’s a bonus.  He is making us more like Christ.  That is the only way transformation can happen.

And it can happen on Day 1 or Day 101.

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