After greatly enjoying a trip to Ireland to visit monasteries and monks, Pastor Ken Shigematsu came to the realization with a question that says, “Is it possible to follow the monastic way, enjoying God in every area of my life, while immersed in the busy routines of modern life” (17)? Pastor Ken’s new book, God in my Everything is an exploration in seeing some ancient practices of the Christian faith as an aid in enjoying God in our hectic lives. Ken is no stranger to business, for he was once what business types call the 7-11 man, waking at 7 in the morning, going to work and then arriving home after the day at nearly 11p.m. He knew there was something better in store for him than working to the bone. In this book, Ken seeks to promote a way of living that incorporates sustainable spiritual, social, physical and mental practices that help enliven one’s life. The book is broken up into five sections focusing around the terms rules, roots, relate, restore and reach out. In turn, what you find in the book is a trove of wisdom that centers on following God in the midst of life without the central message being do more and you will live well. Rather, Ken is more concerned with creating a quality of life that is sustainable that hinges more on who we are as believers and how God has made us than fitting us into a pre-cut mold.
The feeling of dread and despair that comes with adding more rules to one’s crazy schedule is ridiculous indeed. Yet, the monastic rule is never meant to bludgeon people with the axe long lists of works. Rather as Ken puts it, “As we begin to create our rule, particularly if our relationship with Jesus is newer, we might add certain spiritual disciplines, but as being with Jesus becomes a more habitual part of our lives, we will likely drop certain disciplines” (26). The spiritual life is not a laundry list of checkpoints so that we might cross one of when we’re finished. But, these disciplines help us see that time with our Savior is most important, developing in our lives as a means of grace. Part of this process of learning to follow sustainable practices is renunciation. No, this doesn’t have to be a withdrawal from all worldly things or giving all our money to the poor, but a clear intention to say not to those things that cause us to bear fruit. Often this pruning process is painful but necessary for the long haul (35). For me, this has been borne out in reflecting on my work schedule and seeing that I needed to be at home more with my wife and daughter. Changing my schedule would mean more nights at home and this choice has been a huge blessing.
Another aspect of the book that was really good is the prayer chapter. The concept of taking the Psalms and reflecting on our emotions is very powerful! Ken writes, “…we can bring any emotion we have to the Psalter and find it somehow purified on the other side” (64). The Psalms invite us to lay our burdens down, our emotions and those range of feelings we have, not to reject them but to find them purified. There is great comfort in knowing that in my sin I can find someone like David who was able to bring his brokenness to God and offer them up to God. Furthermore, knowing that people like David and other writers of the Psalms would consciously bear their soul before their maker gives me confidence that no matter I’m dealing with, God hears and understands the deepest desires of our hearts. The chapter on Sex and Spirituality was superb. In one of the sections on sexual energy, Ken writes, “A healthy rule of life that guides and directs our sexuality will not repress our sexual energy but help us to channel it so that we can more deeply connect with other people and bring them life” (96). Married couples connect intimately through sex while single people also have an opportunity to use their sexual energy to develop relationships with other people in fellowship or to help one another. Know your vulnerabilities, set some boundaries that respect your spouse or others, and communicate with a trusted friend are a few ways that Ken encourages those in the heat of the moment (99).
I really enjoyed this book! Even the section on work gave me a sense of Ken’s passion to promote a vision that work is created by God as good, and that even the lowest of positions deserves praise. I think this book will reach a broad swath of people from professionals, married couples, to college students.
Thanks to Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for review.