Today’s devotion is out of the blue. It doesn’t revolve around Christmas or the New Year. It has no place within our current series, The Negatives in the Bible. But the idea came to me as I read through my devotions this morning, and I wanted to share it with you.
When we took our trip to the UK back in May, I felt sure the most difficult things for me would be the time difference, the food, and adjusting to the accents. But I was wrong. I actually adapted to those things quickly. (I know, I was shocked too.) As it turned out, the hardest thing for me was forsaking the years and years of Southern manners I was taught from the time I was old enough to know better.
It’s not that the people of the UK are rude; they merely live by different rules, particularly with the use of “Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.” Across the pond, such phrases have unspoken rules about them. They are used only when speaking to royalty or occasionally to the elderly (and I mean VERY old). When answering anyone else, it’s “Yes” or “No.” Do you have any idea how difficult that was? Well, I’ll tell you it was so hard that I failed at it repeatedly. I rehearsed this mandate repeatedly in my head, but as soon as someone asked me a question, my ingrained manners took control of my mouth, and inevitably, a “ma’am” or “sir” ushered its way through my lips, causing me to cringe as soon as I heard it. I couldn’t help it! I wasn’t trying to be uncaring of their ways or disrespectful to the crown. It’s just that Southern manners have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to recall the rules; they just happen instinctively. Fortunately, everyone there seemed to understand.
The thought that crossed my mind this morning was this: Why was it so difficult to forsake my manners yet often so easy to forget to be thankful? Shouldn’t gratitude be ingrained in me as well? You would think. After all, part of those Southern manners included phrases like “please” and “thank you.” Yet, thankfulness and praise don’t flow out of me effortlessly as my manners do. Sometimes, they even seem forced because I don’t feel like being thankful, but I know I should be. Have you ever been there?
Thankfully (pun intended), God has offered a solution—a course in spiritual manners, if you will. It’s called practice. Remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, it’s true. The more we practice praise and thanksgiving, the more natural it will become. Even during those times when my appreciation seems insincere, something stirs within me and reminds me that God is good even when my circumstances aren’t. I can pout, or I can praise. Pouting only prolongs my agony and bad mood while praise holds the key to free me from the chains of despair.
I am a Southern girl, and that fact becomes apparent the moment I open my mouth. I am also a Christian, so that, too, should be clear by the words I say and even how I say them. Not only will my praise and testimony inspire others to join in, but it will encourage me to be more thankful and full of praise. Thankfulness breeds thankfulness. Praise produces praise. And Southern manners? Well, they breed a well-meaning redhead who is appreciative of all those who understand that forty years of instruction can’t be unlearned in a few days.