Protocol Matters Lost a Friend

Protocol Matters lost a dear friend this last week. Sharon Howell was an enthusiastic supporter of PM, good friend, and fellow protocol instructor. This was a lady who understood the importance of etiquette as an expression of respect for other people. She knew how much right actions matter. She believed proper behavior enhanced cordial social relationships by its well- ordered codes of conduct. She died with brave and happy surrender in God’s sustaining grace with no known medical remedy for her peculiar brain disease. Such hard afflictions, also known as the snares of death, come with heavy sorrows. But, let me share the good news in honor of this special woman who died at a much too young age.

My thoughts involve her faith in Christ so if that offends your sensibilities you will want to quit reading now. Religious viewpoints (and we all have them even when we agnostically profess we don’t) work their way into how a person lives. One of the glories of following Christ is the gift of living and dying well. And, this my friend did. As her husband said in a recent note before her final day on earth, “What a lady!”

The sorrows of death, with its ugly tentacles, encompassed Sharon and her devoted family for over five long
years, but a wonderful thing happened in spite of its grip. Her Lord made a way through in two regards. First, though her valiant family’s years of loving home care. As they tended her, the Holy Spirit manifested His great love for her through them and His light continued to shine in her increasingly immobile mind. They were more than a great help and comfort to her—They were a manifestation of God’s loving compassion that completely enfolded her, thereby creating a strong defense against temptations of fear and bitterness.

Because strong adverse winds have currently blown into many of our lives with afflictions, economic reversals, other disappointments & hard events, I recently shared some words on this site about fear and the practice thanksgiving. I did so because lack of trust in the Sovereign God and ingratitude can, among other destructive things, interfere with our practice of good manners. It affects how we live and how we treat others. It impacts relationships. It messes with our soul. Fear paralyzes in two ways: withdrawal and/or lashing out. Bitterness nags and destroys. Both oppose God’s Word and His Will.  They become partners with sin–snares of death that pull us down. They can destroy both us and those around us. Serious stuff, is it not?

On Sharon’s part, early on she refused to open herself to either fear or bitterness when they came knocking with the doctor’s dismal reports. God maintained her cheerful spirit in the midst of declining mental ability. He supplied her with a joyful faith and sense of thankfulness. She was a bright testimony to His keeping power as well as to the victory of life in Christ in the face of death. Right up unto the end, she was still smiling and saying “thank you for coming” to her visitors, even when she couldn’t recognize them or remember their names.

Now, please don’t think her cheerful reactions a small matter. They’re huge in how they play out. Some say it was part of her illness. No matter, they were heaven sent. Thankfulness shut the door when bitterness tried to enter Howell’s household. Her child-like trust in God halted the intrusion of fear. Courageous trust is a gift from God. We can’t muster it up on our own but, like Sharon and her family; we can live well by believing His precepts and then, act upon them as situations warrant. Faithful actions, and day in and day out, have a cumulative effect.

Many in the church today need to understand the command to give thanks. It empowers. It supplants complaints. It wards off expectations of entitlement. Because good manners require expressing sincere “thank yous”, Sharon regularly practiced this Christian concept. She developed a “thanks “habit that became a part of her everyday decorum. It then served her well.  Please don’t miss this point: Apply the practice of thanks in your life. Does your day include multiple “thank yous”? When was the last time you sincerely thanked those closest to you for something they’ve done–especially your parents or your spouse? Have you thanked God for your hard providences and His keeping power in its midst? He intends good results for you.

Practicing thanks helped Sharon make the best of situations. It made her a delightful companion. Few complaints came from her lips. She was not a gossip gal that kept things stirred up, nor was she a manipulator. Over the years her joyful practice of protocol’s Christian based rules bent her personality towards rolling with the punches rather than demanding her own way at every turn.

The best etiquette opposes selfishness, so Sharon practiced generosity…something self-centered people have trouble with. She practiced hospitality in what many term as “five star”. She loved home making and saw it for the important role in life that it is. She did not believe the lies of this age that demean domestic duties, homemaking, hospitality, and rearing children. She delighted in setting a beautiful table as a means of serving others. She understood “rocking the cradle” as cultural warfare and knew that home administration was a high calling for women.

This special lady realized the importance of teaching etiquette to the next generation. Neither she nor I fooled ourselves that somehow we achieved or lived in social perfection. You know, never do the wrong thing or stub our toes. No, neither of us are the type of stiff perfectionists without a “boo-boo” to our name. We were very grateful that we had been taught and shown various aspects of gracious wisdom from past generations. After all, how do we learn—or have any toes left unbruised– if we are not taught such things?

In reality, the actions of gospel based manners allowed Sharon to be who she really was until the disease took its toll . (Even then, it couldn’t completely rob her of personality). Case in point: She was creative, loved bright colors, had a bit of cow-girl’s heart with a pioneer spirit of adventure and tenacity that in no way curbed her sophistication. Her life illustrates how the practice of Christianity’s good manners shapes individuality, contributes to the welfare of family and community and shapes friendships for the better.

So etiquette has lost a valuable example and contributor to its ways. But, like a blade of wheat that dies and falls into the ground, new life will spring up. This means that some of you, both men and women, who were influenced by her life,– or reading this and are captured by Christianity’s glad truth for your soul’s well being, –will hear the call to rearrange some of your manners or even help train young people so they walk worthy in practical and social ways honoring Christ.  Growing in grace and graciousness is a blessed experience.

The joy of living, as well as basking in the nurture of our Heavenly Father and His fabulous law principles, was Sharon’s frequent example and gift to us……I’m thankful for her friendship and will miss her. I appreciate her dear family and friends who honored her so beautifully during her last years and at her funeral. Their service on her behalf was a loving comfort.

Thank you for reading this. I hope touches a cord in your heart so that you know your kind protocol matters…. ……Everyday, anywhere,  everywhere,and eternally, by life in Christ.

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