Tuesday, August 25

The Sir Winston Method--Lessons from a Master Orator

The Sir Winston Method: The Five Secrets of Speaking the Language of Leadership

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Winston Churchill believed oratory was an entirely different form of communication than the written word, and as perhaps the twentieth century's best English orators, he probably has a shred or two of credibility. He studied oratory and painstakingly developed a number of strategies for excellent spoken communication, which have then been studied in turn by James Humes, a Churchill expert.

Not content to mine the wealth of Churchill's thinking on speech-giving, Humes has also studied Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and other outstanding orators. As a matter of fact, he himself served as a speech writer for at least five U.S. Presidents; so he has a shred himself.

I really enjoyed this book. While I wouldn't say it was the best prose I've read--perhaps because Humes is an expert in speech-writing, not in book-writing--the lessons he gives are excellent. Every page has one or two anecdotes that make it a worthwhile read for history buffs.

This book and Humes' more recent work, "Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln" overlap quite a bit, but I found them both worth reading. Humes tells enough different stories and approaches the same topic from different enough angles that I found both thoroughly enjoyable.

From a speaking perspective, this book is chock full o' nuggets that will improve any public speakers' abilities, from giving announcements to giving sermons.

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Monday, August 10

Made to Stick--Book Review

"The best book on communication in the past decade," my organization's director of communications said. And I agree: this book is fantastic. It's a great read--very accessible, fun, and easy to grasp, because they follow their own advice. It's chock full of examples and anecdotes.

I think every person who has to communicate as part of their job or life (even parents and coaches) would benefit tremendously by reading this book.

This one I'm willing to put a challenge on: read it, and if you don't like it I'll buy your copy from you.

Tuesday, October 14

Vine or Branch?

One more little gold nugget from Roy Hession, in We Would See Jesus, responding to Jesus' teaching, "I am the true vine." He writes: "We start the day as if it were our day and we make our plans for our day and fully intend to do our best for the Lord. The responsibility and government is really on our shoulders, and we have subtly become the vine. But just because it is our day and we are the vine, things soon go wrong. People and circumstances upset our schedule and interfere with what we wanted to do, and there is a reaction of hardness, irritation, and resentment in our hearts, and often the sharp retort on our lips. The very responsibility of being the vine makes us tense, and tenseness always predisposes us to further sin. . . . 

"The way of repentance, however, is ever open to us. Our true Vine, Jesus himself, has, like many an ordinary vine, been tied to a stake, the stake of Calvary. He invites us to return to him in repentance and to confess the source of these things as being our attempt to be ourselves the vine, receiving from His hands forgiveness and cleansing. Immediately he becomes the Vine to us again and we become the branch that rests in him. And in the very place of failure, we have the fruits of the Spirit, the products of his life and nature" (p. 91).

". . . there must be the willingness to be broken and become available to Him as a branch. A branch has no independent life of its own. It exists only to bear the fruit of the Vine. So it must be with us in our relationships to the Lord Jesus. What a battle there is in our hearts so often with our selfishness and personal interests! So often we are just not available to him because we have lapsed back to our old center, self. But it must be surrendered if we are to be available to him as his branch, and that not just in one sweeping surrender, which we may make in a solemn moment of dedication, but just as things come up and as he deals with us. This will involve a continuous dying to self and its rights and wishes, but only so can the Lord Jesus bring forth his fruit on the branch."

Is Jesus the Means or the End?

Another insightful quote from Roy and Revel Hession:

". . . there was not always the mighty working of God that I thought there should have been. The reason is now clear. Our repenting and getting right with God was a means to an end, the end being that souls should be saved--an end other than Jesus himself. . . . We were repenting . . . as a sort of bargain with God" (p. 78).

This challenges me: do I "get right with God" in order to see my family blessed, my ministry blessed, my borders enlarged? Or am I really seeking Jesus himself, and trusting him whatever he may bring?

We Would See Jesus--Book Review

We Would See Jesus We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession

My Goodreads.com review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a solid little devotional book, very helpful to me in thinking about why focusing on Jesus is the beginning, middle and end of what we need and do as his disciples. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a solid conception of the "dark night of the soul," because this book would leave you with the impression that if you're experiencing dryness or darkness, you must simply repent and look to Jesus, perhaps praying more, and all will be restored. Actually, many have found that Jesus seems to be absent or distant despite all repenting and praying, even for a long season. Later, they look back and see he was doing a much deeper work in their soul and had to let them experience that desolation. Roy and Revel Hession wrote in the mid-twentieth century, when that idea was almost completely lost to the Protestant world.

This book was worth the read for its many gems, including:

"To concentrate on service and activity for God may often actively thwart our attaining of the true goal, God himself. At first sight it seems heroic to fling our lives away in the service of God and of our fellows. . . . Service seems so unselfish, whereas concentrating on our walk with him seems so selfish and self-centered. But it is the very reverse. The things that God is most concerned about are our coldness of heart towards himself and our proud, unbroken natures. Christian service of itself can, and so often does, leave our self-centered nature untouched. [Now listen to this!] That is why there is scarcely a church, a mission station, or a committee undertaking a special piece of service, that is without an unresolved problem of personal relationships eating out its hear and thwarting its progress. . . . In this condition we are trying to give to others an answer which we have not truly and deeply found for ourselves" (pp. 14-15).

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Thursday, June 19

Excellent tool set for people who need help getting organized

This book has helped me so much! I have read it once and am starting to work my way through it again, because it's easy to read but takes real discipline to implement. I am by nature highly disorganized--my desk is perennially piled high and deep, and bills may be found anywhere in my house.

By taking the first steps towards implementing this I've already become more confident in my ability to manage the almost overwhelming amount of responsibilities and tasks that multiply like bunnies.

I think the subtitle is a little bit of exaggerated advertising..."Stress-free" is probably unattainable for most of us; but this book WILL help you lower your stress levels quite a bit if you have trouble managing all your responsibilities, and if you put it into action.

It's chock full of fun and wise quotes, which keep it interesting. And David Allen gives some excellent advice that can improve your personal quality of life and any organization's culture. I recommend it for leaders, managers, and anyone who's naturally not super organized.

Friday, June 6

Book Review--True Story

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book bursts with fantastic theology and, simultaneously, a great method for holding it all together in your mind and even communicating part or all of it to others. If you want to read a novel, this book isn't the most gripping thriller. But if you want theology, it reads as close to a novel as I think you could come while still packing a walloping dose. Reading it help you gain a more holistic understanding of the gospel, and may reveal some of the popular culture beliefs we hold that actually aren't biblical.

If you want to become an effective communicator of the gospel, this book will give you an excellent tool. I have used a streamlined version of this diagram a number of times, and I appreciate its clarity and how compelling it is for people in today's generation. Does the gospel have anything to say about war and violence, racism, sexism, or the environment? You will find a clear and, I think, compelling " yes!"="" here.="">

Great job, James. I'm amazed at how much you put in. This book is a gift.

It's a fairly quick read, although the worldview may take a good amount of time to digest.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, May 28

Humble Service

More Mother Teresa quotes:

"She had broken her shoulder bone and fractured three ribs due to a fall in Rome, but this was not enough to keep Mother [Teresa] in bed. She was always in haste to give Jesus and gave no thought for herself. At the age of over 80 it surely was not easy to have a hectic day followed by handling the mail each night. However, Mother gave herself completely."

A sister wrote, "I remember once when Mother came to Baton Rouge, I was watching Mother's every step. After we had lunch, Mother helped us to wash the dishes and she was the first one to take the duster to clean off the table. People were crowded outside because of Mother, and here Mother is doing the humblest act like a sister."

Brian Kolodiejchuk, her biographer, notes: "Mother Teresa accepted all the interior and exterior sufferings God gave her as a privilege, using them to fulfill the aim of her congregation. Yet it was not with a sense of helplessness or passive resignation that she lived; rather she radiated the joy of belonging to God, of living with Him. She knew that after the pain of the Passion, the joy of the resurrection would dawn." 

Come Be My Light, pp. 324-5

Friday, May 2

Moments of Savoring

I'm struggling as I write this book on Joy. How do we maintain joy in the midst of all life throws at us? I liked the quote my spiritual director recently read to me from Brother Lawrence. It's helped me a lot this month:

"The most holy, most ordinary, and most necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means to take delight in and become accustomed to his divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him all the time, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way, especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even unfaithfulness and sin. We must continually apply ourselves so that all our actions without exception, become a kind of brief conversation with God, not in a contrived manner but coming from the purity and simplicity of our hearts."

"Whatever we do, even if we are reading or praying, we should stop for a few minutes -- as often as possible -- to praise God from the depths of our hearts, to enjoy Him there in secret."

--Practicing the Presence of God, part 3, Spiritual Maxims

I love this focus on savoring Jesus' presence. But wow..."even [in times of] unfaithfulness and sin." That's a stretch for me! But it helps me when I do...

Thursday, May 1

Pride or Joy?

Mother Teresa had taken a vow never to knowingly deny Jesus anything he asked. Two questions: Wasn't this an arrogant act? And didn't it suck the joy out of her?

Maybe for most of us it would be prideful. She, however, waited to make the vow until her spiritual director agreed she wasn't misguided. Her writings and comments from that time forward continue to be peppered with phrases like, "I am nothing. Jesus is everything." Sometimes I hear people say those things, but somehow I'm not convinced. 

Mother Teresa, on the other hand, in almost all her letters beseeched friends, mentors and counselees to pray for her. She talked often of her weakness. As the ministry grew, she marveled that Jesus had chosen her to launch such a work.

Another piece of evidence: she became known for rapid responsiveness. She acted very quickly once she thought Jesus was asking her to do something. In fact, some of those around her thought of her as somewhat rash or impetuous.

I've noticed children are quick to refuse to do something they're asked to do; or if they don't outright refuse, they can be very slow to obey. I've noticed I'm not much different. It really does require humility to respond quickly, and I think that accounts for her quickness to respond.

As for joy: One of the sisters in her community wrote that she was "full of fun" and "enjoyed everything that went on" (Come Be My Light, p. 33).

Her own comment reveals her internal experience: "When I see someone sad, I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus" (p. 33).

She inspires me to greater humility. Lord, help me become quick to respond, by your grace.