Winsomeness motivates. It releases the strangle-hold grip of the daily grind. It takes the sting out of reality. Winsomeness simplifies. Things suddenly become less complicated . . . less severe . . . less bothersome. The hole at the end of the tunnel becomes far more significant than the dark passage leading to it. Winsomeness encourages. Without ignoring the wrong, winsomeness focuses on the benefits, the hopes, the answers. Even when it must deal with jagged disappointment or inescapable negatives, winsomeness stands tall and refuses to spend the night in such dwellings.

Winsome humor is an asset beyond value in the life of a missionary. Indeed, it is a most serious deficiency if a missionary lacks the ability to find something to smile about in diverse and difficult situations. I recently read of a Swede who was urged by friends to give up the idea of returning to India as a missionary because it was so hot there. "Man," he was exhorted, "it's 120 degrees in the shade!" "Vell," countered the Swede in noble contempt, "ve don't alvays have to stay in the shade, do ve?"

Some frowning, neurotic soul is reading this and saying, "Well, somebody's got to do the job. Life is more than a merry-go-round. Laughter is all right for schoolgirls-but adults, especially Christian adults, have a task to perform that's deadly serious." Okay, pal, so it's serious. So it isn't all a joke. Nobody's going to argue that life has its demands and that being mature involves discipline and responsibility. But who says we have to have an ulcer and drive ourselves (and each other) to distraction in the process of fulfilling our God-given role? No one is less efficient or more incompetent than the person on the brink of a breakdown, who has stopped having fun, who is nursing a bleeding ulcer, who has become a pawn in the brutal hands of relentless responsibilities, who has begun a one-man crusade for whatever, who has lost the ability to relax and laugh and "blow it" without guilt. Our hospitals are full-literally jammed-with victims of the let's-cut-the-fun philosophy of life. And today, quite frankly, they really aren't much of an asset to society-nor to the cause of Christ. That is not a criticism-it's reality.

By a sense of humor, I am neither referring to distasteful, inappropriate, vulgar jesting, nor foolish and silly talk that is ill-timed, offensive, and tactless. I mean that necessary ingredient of wit-enjoyable, delightful expressions or thoughts-which lifts our spirits and lightens our day.

How is such winsomeness cultivated-and communicated-in our homes and among our other contacts? What practical steps can be taken to yank us out of the doldrums? I suggest three specific projects:

1. Start each day with pleasant words. Your family will be the first to benefit (better have the glycerin tablets ready). No need to dance around like Bozo the Clown or force jokes into your sleepy mate's ears. Just be pleasant in your remarks, cheerful with your greetings. As you are slipping out of bed, thank God for His love . . . His calm, fresh reminders that this new day is under His control. Quietly state the encouraging truth: God loves me.

2. Smile more often. I cannot think of many occasions when a smile is out of place. Develop a cheerful countenance. A frowning face repels. A smile reaches out and attracts. God gave you this gift that radiates encouragement. Don't fence it in . . . loosen up, break that concrete mask-smile.

3. Express at least one honest comment of appreciation or encouraging remark to each person you are with during the day. As a Christian, you want to share Christ's love. You want to lift up hearts that are heavy. Spot strengths-and say so. Steadfastly decline to camp on other's weaknesses. Ask the Lord to make you genuinely interested in others instead of so occupied with yourself. Ask Him to enable you to take the risk and reach out. Ask Him to be winsome through you.