TURN to Winsomeness

When did the world get so mean?

I mean I know it’s nasty but at the same time, it’s been in my face lately. Probably you’ve noticed it too. The Olympics were a prime example. It’s supposed to be a competition for athletes. “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is the motto. It’s a good ideal for an athlete to aspire to. Good sportsmanship is part of it too. Or should be.

IMG_2140

In Rio, we saw some awesome feats of athleticism as well as some great displays of integrity and good sportsmanship. You have your favourites. I don’t need to list any for you. But then… there was some behaviour that wasn’t so winsome.

A majority of bad behaviour came from spectators who watched from miles away. I thought the point of having people watch your event was so that they could cheer you on? To give you the inspiration to eek out that last burst of energy and give it a hundred and ten percent. However, the opinion of the spectator became “the sport” so to speak. Many tweeted hurtful accusations and made nasty comments to the athletes competing. When did this become acceptable behaviour?

As I reflect on the Games, it appears that the bad behaviour is a reflection of what has happened all summer. Hate. It seems to make all the good pale in comparison. But we can’t let it. In this age of hate, now more than ever, we need to TURN to winsomeness and TURN AWAY from hateful bullying.

I already wrote about kindness earlier this summer and you can read that here. Kindness is key but there’s another component, I believe, to making a positive difference in this world.

In his book Esther, Charles Swindoll writes about Esther’s winsome personality. How that kind of attitude helped her regardless of her surroundings.  “A person who is winsome draws you to him or her.  We are intrigued by that person’s charming and gracious spirit.”  (Esther, p. 49-50)  He makes a great point.

If I remember correctly I think Swindoll even put the definition of winsome in his book.   I’m going to follow his lead because it’s not a word we hear much anymore.

I think we need it back in our vocabulary. We need to TURN to winsomeness.

The dictionary describes Winsome (adjective) as:
attractive or appealing in appearance or character: a winsome smile.

A person who is winsome in character is charismatic. They draw people in because most people are attracted to people who are good. Esther was kind. She wasn’t haughty even though she was beautiful. She listened to those in authority. She was smart. Winsomeness is well, it’s a winner. (Sorry couldn’t resist!)

If we TURNED to being winsome, what would our worlds look like? Our workplaces? Our homes? I know I could use a dose of it myself. My family would really appreciate it some days!

Being winsome is opposite of bullying. Stopping bullying, which is really just hate and fear wrapped up together, is only going to stop if we TURN AWAY from it. I mean us. The adults.

As a parent, I was disappointed by some of the comments I read on social media and I didn’t read much! I’m really glad my kids are not yet allowed to be on Twitter and Facebook. Kids can be mean. I see it in my own kids. I see it in their friends and on the playground. They are children after all. They need to be taught how to be kind. Winsome.

But it wasn’t the kids doing the cyber bullying. Most of these comments were made by adults.

There is something so terribly wrong with that fact. Why are we so surprised by cyber bullying with our tweens and teens? We’ve taught our children how to be mean. We do it as we write ugly comments on social media. We won’t go have a face to face conversation with that person but we’ll hide behind a computer screen. Or talk behind our hands. We don’t keep our comments to ourselves. Some things are better left unsaid. My world would be a better place if I stayed silent even half the time!

We tell our kids to be kind to each other but then we go and snipe at our spouses. We don’t practice self-control. I don’t think TURNING AWAY from this behaviour is optional. I know we’d like it to be. I definitely would like an optional button some days! It’s always easier to be hurtful than it is to be winsome.

Winsome is not perfection. A winsome parent can make mistakes. Apologies can go a long ways to building love, respect and winsomeness in our families, our workplaces and in our neighbourhoods.

If as parents, grandparents, adults we TURNED to winsomeness and TURNED AWAY from bullying and hate, modelled that for our kids, would the world be a different place?  It might be worth a minute to think about that.  Imagine it.  Dream about it.

We can only control our own behaviour. It might not be the whole answer but I think it’s a good place to start. What’s it going to hurt?

“When I read God’s Word, I don’t find that many stories about great crusades and city-wide revivals and mass meetings where God’s attention rested on an entire country or a whole community.  More often, I find individual men and women who made a difference, who set the pace or cut a wide swath or stood in the gap and changed their times.  From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s hand on the lives of individuals who thought and said and did what was right – regardless- and as a result, history was made.”   Esther by Charles Swindoll, p. 77

 

The Return of the Prodigal

“Once something breaks, you can never put it back together like it was. There will always be cracks and glue, stains and uneven surfaces.” Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

The prodigal has been on my mind for several months. I researched the story and spoke about it at a spring retreat. Since it was a woman’s retreat, I took some liberty and changed it to the prodigal daughter. It was parable to begin with…

I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since. The whole story is absolutely fascinating from beginning to end. We think we know it, only to come to the conclusion that we have barely scratched the surface.

The question that’s been rolling around my brain lately, is this; What happens when the prodigal returns home?

IMG_2564

We know about the beautiful welcome by the father, the party, the sulky brother. But after the party favours have been handed out, the feast eaten, the streamers cut down and the balloons popped, what happens then?

What happens when reality hits? When the family goes back to work, to school, to life? When the celebrations are over? What does the prodigal do then?

I’m intrigued. She was the one who left, after all. The one who traded in all that was good for much of what was questionable. Now she is back. What does this mean for her?

Is it simply a story of returning, repentance, and redemption? Or is it a slow climb back to where you’ve once been? A return to the familiar as a complete stranger? I wonder.

IMG_0349

Maybe it’s all of the above. For some it’s a return and jumping off spot to even bigger faith. For others, it’s a long, slow, journey back to a deeper, more intimate faith. But it’s not an easy path getting there.  It’s dealing with lingering doubts, consequences and going back to a relationship that was shaky at best.

In the bible, the father is good. Why did she run then? I think that at the core of her leaving, was a question about that one relationship. It might have come from miscommunication. Or it might not. Whatever it was, at one point, she became convinced that she could manage her life better than her father. She doubted his love for her. That he had her best interests at heart.

So that relationship, even though she came back in repentance, would be strained wouldn’t it? Until the question at the centre of the leaving, was answered. Relationships are so complicated. It would take time to iron out all that had gone before. To figure out who they were now and how they related to one another.  But it’s part of the process of returning and figuring things out. Of forgiveness.

I think it’s an important question to ask because prodigals come back and many struggle. They return to the familiar to find themselves a stranger. Like the prisoner released from jail who wrestles with trying to fit back into a “normal” life. Prodigals come back and people assume they’ll go back to who they once were. But they won’t. They can’t. They’ve already moved away from the person they once were by their leaving. They will never be that same person. They have grown and changed. As the quote from above says, there will be stains and uneven surfaces. Something was broken and the scars leave a mark in the shine. A rough edge to the surface. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just is.

It means the prodigal is not going to fit back into that same space she once filled. She is now a square peg in a round hole. She has to find her new normal. She needs the space to do that.

On the flip side, the family the prodigal returns to isn’t the same either. They have also had to grow, and learn and come to terms with a shift. They had to face the fact that the prodigal might never return. That alone never leaves a person unscathed.

So the return of the prodigal is a slow, complicated dance. We see that in the story in Luke with the difference in reactions to the prodigal’s return. Where everyone has to learn new steps to old rhythms.

The soul searching doesn’t end with the return. Not for the prodigal or for the family. The return marks the beginning of moving towards something new. The start of a whole new round of soul searching. Looking for answers to some hard questions and hopefully discovering new growth, new acceptance and place to move forward from.

The return, while the end of the story, is really just the beginning…

IMG_2666