I am eternally grateful to my high school English teachers who not only taught me the fundamentals of reading literature and writing in different styles, but who immensely sharpened my skills. But can you imagine having C.S. Lewis as a writing mentor? That’s what you are getting when you read The Art Of Writing And The Gift Of Writers.
This book is compromised of essays and book reviews written by Lewis, interviews that Lewis gave, and even a transcript of an extemporaneous conversation with other authors who had congregated in Lewis’ rooms at Magdalen College.
Learning how a gifted writer like Lewis crafted his own books was insightful, as well as how he interpreted the writing process of other authors. He even talked about how he choose to handle literary critics. But most energizing of all for me was the freedom he gave me to be myself in the writing process. He made it abundantly clear that other authors shouldn’t try to emulate his literary style—nor any other author’s style either—but to use their unique talents to write their unique works of literature.
Since Lewis has been one of my favorite authors for most of my life, I found the journey into his mind to be absolutely fascinating. I would recommend this book for any author, aspiring author, or fellow fan of C.S. Lewis’ books and essays.
General George Patton gives us an insightful leadership look into how his army was able to accomplish so much during such a short time in World War II. Check out my full book review by clicking here.
“An ounce of sweat saves a gallon of blood.”
“This is another example of the many I’ve encountered in life where great disappointments have proven to be the road to future success.”
“Successful generals make plans to fit the circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.”
“The 8th of May, 1945, marked exactly two-and-a-half years since we had landed in Africa. During all that time we had been in practically continuous battle, and when not in battle had been under the strain of continuous criticism, which I believe is harder to bear.”
“It is unfortunate and to me a tragic fact, that in our attempts to prevent war we have taught our people to belittle the heroic qualities of the solider.”
“Wars are not won by defensive tactics. … The best armor and the best defense is a rapid and well-directed fire.”
“An army commander does what is necessary to accomplish his mission, and that nearly eighty percent of his mission is to arouse morale in his men.”
“Don’t delay. The best is the enemy of the good. By this, I mean that a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”
“Fatigue breeds pessimism.”
“The Lord uses critics to show us our own hearts, even if what they say is not fully true, informed, or even fair. There is almost always a germ of truth in what our critics (in their own pain and disappointment) shout at us. The wise leader will humble himself and look for the truth embedded in every oppositional interaction.” —Dick Brogden [see 2 Samuel 16:5-12]
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” —Ken Blanchard
“Criticism can be received as a gift from God. It is an opportunity to pray, search Scripture, evaluate your own heart, and offer grace to others. The right response to criticism should not be retaliation or pride (which just perpetuates hurt), but rather humility.” —Jeremy Carr
“There is a growing trend to attack, criticize, and resent anyone who has talent or achievements that sets them apart from others. This tendency extends to those who resent the efforts of leaders who challenge the status quo. Opponents of change initiatives often attempt to marginalize leaders by attacking their character and questioning their motives. If the messenger is flawed, then the message and vision they offer cannot be trusted. As disappointing as it is, these challenges come with the territory of leadership.” —Dr. J. Lee Whittington
“If I were to attempt to answer all the criticisms and complaints I receive, I would have no time for any other business. From day to day I do the best I can and will continue to do so till the end. If in the end I come out all right, then the complaints and criticisms and what is said against me will make no difference. But, if the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels coming down from heaven to swear I was right would still make no difference.” —Abraham Lincoln
“If a ministry is God-anointed, it doesn’t matter who criticizes it. If it’s not anointed, it doesn’t matter who praises it.” —Rick Warren
“Your critics have information that your friends are withholding.” —John Maxwell
“God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” —Oswald Chambers
“No leader is exempt from criticism and his humility will nowhere be seen more clearly than in the manner in which he accepts and reacts to it.” —J. Oswald Sanders
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body: It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill
“Every man needs a blind eye and a deaf ear, so when people applaud, you’ll only hear half of it, and when people salute, you’ll only see part of it. Believe only half the praise and half the criticism.” —C.H. Spurgeon
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” —Dale Carnegie
“A mark of a godly leader is one so focused on God’s plan that he pays no attention to his critics or enemies.” —Craig T. Owens
“Never be afraid of honest criticism. If the critic is wrong, you can help him; and if you’re wrong, he can help you. Either way, somebody’s helped.” —A.W. Tozer
“It’s so much easier to teach correct principles than it is to know and love a person. It’s so much easier to give brilliant advice than to empathize and be open. It’s so much easier to live independently than to live interdependently. It’s so much easier to be a judge than to be a light. It’s so much easier to be a critic than to be a model.” —Stephen Covey
“When is it inappropriate to praise a critical person? One: When you are being criticized for outright sin, and the criticism is accurate. If what is said is true, the tension you feel will be relieved only one way: confession. Two: when you are falsely accused of sin. Sin is a serious charge, obviously more serious than those ‘against you’ realize or they would have done their homework.” —Blaine Allen
“Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.” —Mark Batterson
“There is no better antidote for unjust criticism than a clear conscience before God.” —James Hernando
“It is not the critic who counts; nor the many who point out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.” —Teddy Roosevelt
Oswald Chambers has unlocked the Sermon on the Mount for me like no other Bible commentator has before—deeply and practically. Check out my full book review by clicking here. I have already shared numerous passages from this book in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” series, but here are some other quotes that caught my eye as well.
“Beware of placing our Lord as a Teacher first instead of Savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. … If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He could do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.”
“The disadvantage of a saint in the present order of things is that his confession of Jesus Christ is not to be in secret, but glaringly public. It would doubtless be to our advantage from the standpoint of self-realization to keep quiet, and nowadays the tendency to say—‘Be a Christian, live a holy life, but don’t talk about it’—is growing stronger. Our Lord uses in illustration the most conspicuous things known to men—salt, light, and a city set on a hill—and He says, ‘Be like that in your home, in your business, in your church; be conspicuously a Christian for ridicule or respect according to the mood of the people you are with.’”
“Our Lord goes to the root of the matter every time with no apology. Sordid? Frantically sordid, but sin is frantically sordid, and there is no excuse in false modesty, or in refusing to face the music of the devil’s work in this life. Jesus Christ faced it and He makes us face it too. Our natural idea of purity is that it means according to obedience to certain laws and regulations, but that is apt to be prudery. There is nothing prudish in the Bible. The Bible insists on purity, not prudery.”
“All our righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’ unless it is the blazing holiness of Jesus in uniting us with Him until we see nothing but Jesus first, Jesus second, and Jesus third. Then when men take knowledge of us, they will not say that we are good men, that we have a wonderful whiteness, but that Jesus Christ has done something wonderful in us.”
“The Spirit of God comes through the different writers with the one steady insistence to stir up our minds (Philippians 2:5; 2 Peter 1:12-13). … Unless we learn to think in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, we will drift in our spiritual experience without thinking at all. The confusion arises when we try to think and to reason things out without the Spirit of God.”
“Jesus does not use the illustration of the birds and the flowers by accident, He uses it purposely in order to show the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious about the means of living. Imagine the sparrows and blackbirds and thrushes worrying about their feathers! Jesus says they do not trouble about themselves at all, the thing that makes them what they are is not their thought for themselves, but the thought of the Father in heaven. A bird is a hard-working little creature, but it does not work for its feathers, it obeys the law of its life and becomes what it is. Jesus Christ’s argument is that if we concentrate on the life He gives us, we will be perfectly free for all other things because our Father is watching the inner life. We have to maintain obedience to the Holy Spirit, Who is the real principle of our life, and God will supply the ‘feathers,’ for are we not ‘much better than they’?”
“We enthrone common sense as Almighty God and treat Jesus Christ as a spiritual appendage to it.”
“At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements are those of a fool; but bring them to the bar of faith and the Word of God, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God.”
“No man is born with character; we make our own character. When the man is born from above a new disposition is given to him, but not a new character; neither naturally nor supernaturally are we born with character. Character is what a man makes out of his disposition as it comes in contact with external things. A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence.”
“The Holy Spirit does reveal what is wrong in others, but His discernment is never for purposes of criticism, but for purposes of intercession.”
“Prayer is not only asking, it is an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural, and Jesus says, ‘everyone who asks receives.’”
“Fasting is much more than doing without food, that is the least part, it is fasting from everything that manifests itself-indulgence.”
“When we are saved by God’s grace, God puts into us the possibility of not sinning, and our character from that moment is of value to God. Before we were saved we had not the power to obey, but now He has planted in us on the ground of Redemption the heredity of the Son of God, we have the power to obey, and consequently the power to disobey. The walk of a disciple is gloriously difficult, but gloriously certain. On the ground of the perfect Redemption of Jesus Christ, we find that we can begin now to walk worthily.”
“Never trust the best man or woman you ever met; trust the Lord Jesus only. … We are never told to follow in all the footsteps of the saints, but only in so far as they have obeyed God.”
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning
A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence. … In Matthew 7 our Lord is dealing with the need to make character. First up: The uncritical temper.
Criticism is part of the ordinary faculty of the man, he has a sense of humor—a sense of proportion, he sees where things are wrong and pulls the other fellow to bits; but Jesus says, “As a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper.” In the spiritual domain, criticism is love turned sour. In a wholesome spiritual life there is no room for criticism. …
No human being dare criticize another human being, because immediately he does he puts himself in a superior position to the one he criticizes. … That is never the work of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost alone is in the true position of a critic; He is able to show what is wrong without wounding and hurting. … If we let these searchlights go straight down to the root of our spiritual life we will see you why Jesus says, “Don’t judge”; we won’t have time to. Our whole life is to be lived so in the power of God that He can pour through us rivers of living water to others. …
Jesus says of criticism, “Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.” … It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint and maintain a critical attitude. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is to give us a spring-cleaning….
From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount
The dictionary defines criticism as the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality something. Jesus is looking for disciples whose character-in-action brings glory to our heavenly Father.
One area in which we all need to have the loving, penetrating searching of the Holy Spirit is in the area of our criticism We can criticize—but only ourselves; never others. We can criticize ourselves—but only in the loving eyes of the Holy Spirit who knows best how to give us a proper spring-cleaning.
These are wise words from John Maxwell in The Maxwell Leadership Bible…
Leaders can bank on two truths. First, they will be criticized. Second, criticism always changes the leader. Unhappy people tend to attack the point person.
Moses’ only family criticized him. Notice what God and Moses teach us on how to handle criticism (Numbers 12):
Beyond that, consider the ways leaders should handle criticism:
You might also want to check out—
As the title hints, Ken Blanchard makes the case that the heart of great leadership is a leader’s great heart. You can check out my full book review of The Heart Of A Leader by clicking here.
“Remember, the best leaders are those who understand that their power flows through them, not from them.”
“Many well-intentioned leaders wait to praise their people until they do things exactly right, complete the project, or accomplish the goal. The problem here is that they could wait forever. You see, ‘exactly right’ behavior is made up of a whole series of approximately right behaviors. It makes more sense to praise progress.”
“An effective leader will make it a priority to help his or her people produce good results in two ways: making sure people know what their goals are and doing everything possible to support, encourage, and coach them to accomplish those goals.”
“If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done.”
“Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running in a different race.” —Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale
“Being too hard on yourself is counterproductive. Don’t expect instant perfection. Though self-criticism is healthy, it should not be destructive. It’s unfair to be hard on yourself the first time you attempt something new. It is also unfair to expect others to meet such an unrealistic expectation. Keep in mind that it’s unnecessary to do everything exactly right the first time.”
“Here’s a great rule for doing business today: Think more about your people, and they will think more of themselves.”
“When you ask people about the best leader they ever had, one quality is always mentioned: they are good listeners. These leaders have learned to ‘sort by others.’ When someone says, ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ they respond by keeping the focus on the speaker. For example, they’ll respond, ‘It sounds like you’re pretty happy today.’ Poor listeners ‘sort by self.’ If you express a concern you have, they will express a concern they have.”
“Leading people is the opposite of trying to control them; it’s about gaining their trust through your integrity, developing their potential through your partnership, and motivating them through your affirmation.”
“Consistency does not mean behaving the same way all the time. It actually means behaving the same way under similar circumstances. … When you respond to your people in the same way under similar circumstances, you give them a valuable gift: the gift of predictability.”
“Remember that the primary biblical image of servant leadership is that of the shepherd. The flock is not there for the sake of the shepherd; the shepherd is there for the sake of the flock.”
“…they thought to do me harm” —Nehemiah
Enemy’s tactic #1—Get Nehemiah preoccupied with attending meaningless meetings.
Nehemiah’s response—“I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”
Enemy’s tactic #2—Send out letters slandering Nehemiah.
Nehemiah’s response—“There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.” Then he prayed, “God, give me strength.”
Enemy’s tactic #3—Try to scare Nehemiah into running away.
Nehemiah’s response—“Should someone in my position run from danger? I know that God wouldn’t like that.”
Nehemiah had a vision from God and he stayed focused on that.
The result: “When all our enemies heard [that we had completed our project]…they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.”
This is Part 7 in my series on godly leadership. To read my other posts, please click here.