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Practical Happiness: A Young Man's Guide To a Contented Life Review by Lisa Kjeldgaard

By Bob Shultz
P.O. Box 2067
Eugene, OR 97402

Without a doubt, in my 15 years of reading literally hundreds of books aloud to my children, this book has affected me more than any other. I was drawn to this book before reading it because I was already familiar with the writing of Mr. Schultz who seemed to have a gift for understanding the hearts and minds of young men. As a mom to six young men, his books have already had an impact on my parenting and I was eager to read his newest work. The title intrigued me too as I have one son in particular who seems to struggle with contentment more than the others and I was hopeful we might find some help. What I didn't realize was how deeply this book was going to influence ME.

In 36 straightforward chapters, Mr. Schultz uses real life examples and simple stories to instruct and motivate his readers to a life filled with inner joy and lasting contentment. His easy, conversational writing style makes readers feel like they are listening to a friend and his illustrations had us both laughing and crying along with him. The transparent nature of the author really disarms even the most defensive of listeners and my children and I were challenged greatly by his writing. Certain key phrases and lessons learned have continued to be topics of conversation in our home months after reading it. Never before have I grabbed a read aloud title from my basket and brought it to the dinner table in the midst of a household of guests to read the lessons the Lord was teaching my children and me!

The chapter entitled, "A Look in the Mirror" especially hit home; being challenged to accept every job that needed to be done in my home as mine caused a huge shift in perspective. No longer was I frustrated that my children weren't doing their jobs; I found myself delighted in their sometimes-feeble attempts to help me at my jobs.

I learned that my home is filled with jerks; jerks learning to love one another, stick up for one another, forgive each other, and cover for the other's mistakes; jerks in need of the gospel.

The chapter on pain was especially meaningful as I was recovering from a difficult surgery and in immense pain myself. I cried, really cried, as I read this to my children and I was drawn to God as I learned to thank Him for the pain. My examples could go on and on through almost all of the 36 chapters; there are meaningful lessons abounding within these pages.

While boys as young as nine or 10 could easily read this book, I found tremendous value in reading it aloud and then discussing the meat of the lessons with my children. I promise, I was as challenged as they! The questions that follow each story help bring added depth to the conversations that are sure to follow each reading and our talks often continued for days as a topic resonated with a particular child and the Lord used it in his life. I went as far as to tell my husband that if our sons learned only the lessons contained in Practical Happiness they would leave our home well prepared to be Godly men, husbands, and fathers.

If I have any complaint with this book, it is namely that it is misnamed! With the exception of perhaps just one or two chapters, this book is equally relevant for girls (and moms!) as well as boys. A Young Christian's Guide To a Contented Life would be an even more appropriate subtitle!

It was with great sorrow that my children and I learned of Mr. Schultz's death shortly after this book was published. What a gift he has left his children and future grandchildren. They won't hear his stories while sitting on his knee, but they have the gift of his wisdom that Mr. Schultz was kind enough to share with us all.

Product review by Lisa Kjeldgaard, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2009