Monday, June 8, 2015

Book Review: Sixty Ways to Energize Your Life

A Fair Trade Book

Book Title: Sixty Ways to Energize Your Life

Author: Jan and Kay Kuzma, et al.

Authors' web page: http://www.familymattersministry.com

Date: 1998

Publisher: Review & Herald

ISBN: 0-8280-1411-6

Length: 120 pages

Quote: "The simple formula of John 3:16 had become a 100-pound backpack. But Jesus set the record straight."

This is not a logically organized or methodically written book, nor is it easy to review, but here's a quick summary. The sixty ways, as best I can figure them out, are (in order):
  • soybeans
  • exercise
  • singing
  • observing one full day of rest from your regular business
  • parks (only the chapter about parks turns out to be more about the day of rest)
  • simplifying your life
  • believing that hardships are supposed to make people stronger (??)
  • believing that hardships will melt away in Heaven
  • self-examination
  • an article that starts with a story about adopting a child and then shifts in the direction of Being Saved (even though this book was distributed only to Christian audiences)
  • weight control
  • going to parks on your day of rest (again)
  • "giving up the bulge" that may be "keeping you from reaching your desired goals"
  • brushing teeth before bed, or maybe this chapter is about avoiding sins
  • exercise (again)
  • breaking addictions
  • fresh air, or maybe this chapter is about prayer
  • appreciating nature
  • getting away from sensory overload
  • grieving for a stillborn baby, or maybe this chapter is about Salvation (again)
  • believing that there is some sort of "blessing" about Alzheimer's Disease (??)
  • praying for healing
  • spending time with family
  • avoiding the commercial media on your day of rest
  • believing that feeling guilty will help you to "accept" other people
  • getting more calories from the complex carbs in vegetables rather than from saturated fats
  • eating for health
  • scheduling time to relax (again)
  • having a cardiac procedure called ablation, or maybe this one is about meditating on the love of Jesus
  • delegating work
  • losing weight (again)
  • believing that the unique learning experience of a brain-damaged patient has something to do with the "God-given possibilities" in every person
  • teaching children about "the built-in benefits of choosing to live by [God's] principles"
  • giving away money
  • gardening
  • exercise (again)
  • forcing laughter as a therapeutic exercise
  • sunshine
  • occupying your mind with learning something rather than gossipping about people
  • exercise for flexibility (again)
  • getting enough sleep
  • intimacy
  • cheerfulness
  • sweat
  • believing that "God will stand by my side in my most embarrassing moments"
  • learning to cook
  • exercise (again)
  • training yourself not to worry
  • pushing your physical limits
  • believing in faith healing for cancer
  • believing in faith healing for loneliness
  • believing that you can deny passing emotions a chance to become long-term "feelings" (???)
  • believing that somehow your life will exude perfume if it's been "broken" enough (?!?!)
  • drinking enough water
  • practicing integrity
  • not compromising your principles
  • trying to balance physical health with "the social, the intellectual, and the spiritual" aspects of life
  • trying to avoid stress by repressing "negative feelings"
  • believing that the purpose of good health is "to serve others better"
  • making New Year's resolutions to be healthier next year
The book was actually written this way on purpose; people who feel that their energy is very low are presumed to be scatterbrained types with very limited attention spans and a need to be reminded.

I don't try to sell books unless I believe they have some value. There are people for whom Sixty Ways to Energize Your Life may be helpful. I have to warn readers, though, that I'm not one of those people, and if you're a typical book lover (as distinct from a typical yuppie) you might not be one of them either.

For me, personally, the fatiguing effect of being around Seventh-Day Adventists became overwhelming when I had mononucleosis. This physical illness produces the usual flu-type symptoms, plus swollen lymph nodes, but its most noticeable symptom is weakness and fatigue. Talk about "chronic mononucleosis" in the 1980s prompted doctors to remind us that all mononucleosis is "chronic" in a sense; the virus that causes the symptoms is lurking dormant in the livers of most adults, and may resurge under stress. I've been free from symptoms of mono for twenty-some years, but when I spend time among Adventists that all-prevailing weariness starts to return. Sixty Ways to Energize Your Life explains why. So there may be some other readers of this book for whom the most helpful tip would be: "Avoid people like the Kuzmas."

I find that the most useful tip for dealing with emotions (mine, or someone else's) is the Five F's Rule: Fix Facts First--Feelings Follow. There's a tendency for too many Christians to bog down in the feelings. I think this is what St. James had in mind when he described a ragged, hungry beggar coming to a church and being told "Depart in peace, may you be warmed and fed" (presumably somewhere else). This isn't helpful; it isn't Christian love; it is what the Bible calls "vanity." You can pray for the beggar's peace of mind if you like, but what you've been told to do is fix the facts--sharing food and clothes with him. God can take care of the beggar's soul. What God has appointed the Earthly Body of Christ to do is take care of his body.

I also find that much stress can be avoided by giving up the attempt to like everybody. "Accept people"? What does that mean? All those other people who happen to go to the same church, work in the same business, or take classes at the same school with you have not been shipped to you C.O.D. Nor have you been shipped to them. It's easier to get along with people when we give up the pretense that all behavior is equally "acceptable," and just show respect by leaving each other alone.

Even more stress can be avoided by giving up the burdensome belief that every manure pile has to contain a pony somewhere. Life is easier on our hands and backs, and smells nicer, when we learn that ponies are usually found at the other end of the paddock, and are more likely to visit our end when we stop sorting through the muck and just chuck it out.

So for me, personally, this book has little to say that's useful. And my experience of Seventh-Day Adventists who try to take the Kuzmas' advice about emotions seriously is that they're not good role models of how to deal with stress; they are frazzled. They think they're supposed to feel as chatty, bouncy, and perky as a teenager with severe attention deficiency disorder, all the time, and at the same time be responsible adults who hold jobs and bring up children. Since this is impossible, they're guilt-ridden and apt to snap at any suggestion that they actually try doing the things Jesus did for people, which did not include nagging at those people about their "feelings."

That said, I need to add that large-scale studies have shown that Adventists who follow the traditional teachings of their denomination on things like diet, exercise, rest, temperance, and stewardship are measurably healthier than the general population. Thin vegetarians rarely have heart attacks; lifelong nonsmokers rarely have lung cancer. Using the practical, factual parts of the Kuzmas' advice really might energize your life.

The Kuzmas are still alive. Still active. Seventy-something. Well preserved. Maybe their approach to social life and emotional wellness works for them. Being an introvert, I can't really claim to know how extroverts survive--or why--but I have observed that it's not typical for extroverts to be active and well preserved if they live beyond age seventy. So, are the Kuzmas real examples of extroverts for whom these psychological ideas offset extroverts' natural tendency to age fast and die "old" at an early age? I have no idea.

I would recommend, though, that if you are or know an extrovert who's about to flame out, you consider the advice in Sixty Ways to Energize Your Life for whatever it may be worth to you/him/her. In theory, if some people could take this advice to heart, it might not only energize their lives but save their lives.

This is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, by sending $5 per book + $5 per package for shipping to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo.com, we'll send the Kuzmas or a charity of their choice $1. If you buy ten copies, you send us $55 and we send the Kuzmas or their charity $10.