I was excited to hear about Ken Shigematsu’s new book, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God (Zondervan 2013). I’ve heard him speak at his church in nearby Vancouver. I’ve admired his congregation as a vibrant, multi-ethnic church active in its community. And since his book is broadly in the area of Christian spirituality, I wondered how his approach might overlap or be different from my own Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal.
Ken begins with his own experience, and describes how a trip to Ireland awakened his interest in the monastic way of life, which resonated as well with his Japanese samurai heritage (which, as an aside, I found especially interesting since my husband is also from a samurai background). Both monks and samurai followed a particular way of life: “a life patterned on proven practices that helped them cultivate their character and contribute to the world” (18). Over time, Ken began to develop his own rule of life.
There is much that I find familiar in Ken’s book, since he draws on some of the same portions of Scripture and some of the same writers of spirituality as I did in writing Sacred Pauses. But his book also goes further as he describes a comprehensive rule begins with Sabbath, Prayer, and Scripture, and embraces friendship, sex, family, play, money, and every other part of life. He likens it to a trellis that gives structure and supports the growth of a vine; in the same way, a personal rule of life is like a trellis that supports healthy living.
The book includes many personal and practical examples, questions for reflection and discussion, and a chapter-by-chapter guide to writing one’s own rule. An appendix includes samples from people at different stages of life, including Ken himself, a graduate student in her 20s, a married woman with a young son, a married man with young children, an artist in his 50s.
I haven’t actually started writing my own rule of life yet. Even though Ken describes it as a flexible rule that bends, I’m not sure I’m ready to live by the regular ringing of the monastic bell even figuratively speaking. I identify more with the freedom of the Spirit that blows where it wills. And yet this book has helped me identify that my life already has a kind of trellis:
- reading Scripture (right now that means reading through the Old Testament in The Message, and I’m now in the book of Amos, page 1657!)
- deliberately pausing throughout the day to turn toward God
- taking at least a 24-hour social media Sabbath each week
- tithing my salary plus giving monthly to support a community youth worker
- weights/walking/step aerobics (although I’m not as regular about this as I’d like to be, and no, step training wasn’t just a fad that disappeared in the 90s)
To turn this informal list into a rule of life, I’d need to add some deliberate times and be more regular about these things, but in the classic language of spiritual discipline, this is at least the beginning of a rule of life even if I don’t usually think of it that way.
Ken ends his book with a reminder that “the goal of the rule is not the rule itself but Christ at the center of all that we are and do” (216). God in My Everything isn’t about legalism, but about developing a personal and practical way of acknowledging Christ at the centre of all of life. Thank you, Ken, for sharing your experience and writing this practical resource.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Do you have a rule of life? Why or why not?
Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.
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