God In My Everything (review)

5 Comments

God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy GodGod in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Ken Shigematsu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s always a good sign when an author’s book comes from the requests of readers or hearers to learn more. That’s part of the tale of Ken Shigetmatsu’s book God In My Everything. I’m sure he never imagined, that Sunday morning he filled in for a no-show visiting speaker at his Vancouver church with the unrehearsed explanation of how he orders his life, a full-length self-help volume in the Christian Life / Personal Growth department would be the result.

His system of life rules began way before that, however, when he accompanied his friend and mentor Leighton Ford on a 10-day pilgrimage to Ireland. On that trip he visited the Glendalough Monastery and learned about the disciplines these early Christian monks practiced. Shigematsu was impressed with their practical faith that permeated every hour of the day and every task of life. He came away with the question:

“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?” (p. 17).

God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God answers that question with a resounding “Yes.”

Shigematsu begins by envisioning a spiritual ecosystem. He pictures it as a trellis. The three up-and-down slats (Roots) are Sabbath, Prayer, and Sacred Reading. They are our means of relating to God. The cross-pieces are three planks that address three aspects of our lives with each other. The Relate plank includes Friendship, Sexuality, and Family. The Restore plank addresses Body, Play, and Money. The Reach Out plank concerns itself with Work, Justice, and Wisdom. These trellis items then become the structure of the book.

In a total of fifteen chapters Shigematsu delves into each subject, laying out for us how the monks handled each aspect of life, describing how they challenge us as moderns, and explaining the life rule he has come to for himself. An appendix section at the book’s end lists his rules along with life rules of six other people, so we get a good idea of how this looks. A sampling:

Ken’s Rule
– Take a 24-hour Sabbath once a week.
– Begin each day with Scripture and prayer.
– Pray the Examen before going to sleep at night.
– Run 2-3x a week, swim 2x a week.
– Aim to be home by 5:15 p.m. each day, and to be home at least 4 evenings a week… etc.” p. 220.

Each chapter concludes with two items: a list of questions for discussion, and an empty page which readers are invited to use to create their own rule.

There’s much to learn and apply in this well-written and engaging book. Some things I especially appreciated were:

Shigematsu’s emphasis on creating bendable rules, i.e. rules that change as life situations change. He relates how his life rule in some departments changed when he got married and changed again when his son was born.

I liked the way this book addresses every aspect of life.

I really liked the chapter on sharing faith (Chapter 15 “Sharing the Presence”) with its helpful four-sided pyramid graphic made up of word, sign, life, and deed (adopted from Bryant Myers, a former president of World Vision International). Shigematsu explains:

“Depending on the context and leading of the Holy Spirit, you might choose a particular side of the gospel to lead with and, as opportunity allows, progress to sharing all ‘sides’ of the gospel. The ideal is to eventually share the gospel as an organic whole that encompasses life, deed, sign, and word” p. 204.

(Shigematsu explains “life” as character, “deed” as a specific act of kindness or help, “sign” as a miracle or unexplainable coincidence that God brings about; it could be one that you share from your life or one that the person you are talking to experiences, and “word” as the gospel message from the Bible.)

Some readers may have concerns with the Catholic origins of Shigematsu’s system and may stumble over some of the practices he endorses (for example lectio divina – pp. 71, 72 and Examen – pp. 160, 220). I personally did not sense any slippage from Protestant orthodoxy in his teaching, only a search for and acceptance of helpful truth wherever it is to be found, in the spirit of the proverb “All truth is God’s truth.”

For a helpful book on how to order your life in a hectic age, keeping God at its center, Ken Shigematsus’s God In My Everything is an excellent choice.

I received this book from the publisher as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews

Permission to write: Write!Vancouver – 3

7 Comments

Permission to Write was a panel discussion that was part of Write! Vancouver (May 25). The panel was moderated by Lesley Bentley. On the panel were K. C. Dyer (author), Marc Cote (Publisher, Cormorant Books), Ken Shigematsu (Pastor), and Ron Reed (Playwright, Actor & Creative Director of Pacific Theatre).

Permission to Write panelists - Write! Vancouver conference 2013

Lesley Bentley, K.C. Dyer, Marc Cote, Ken Shigematsu, Ron Reed – panelists. (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

Why I chose this workshop:

I would be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes think of quitting. A lot of things play into this: the amount of work it takes to not only write but then find a paying home for that writing, the long road to book publication and after publication, publicizing, marketing, and selling the books; the volume of words already out there these days—and the feeling that my words are just adding to the noise; and physical weariness. Writing may seem like a cushy job. But brain activity is exhausting, at least for me.

Permission to Write – Highlights from my notes:

Lesley Bentley invited the panelists to talk about what permission to write meant for them.

Ron Reed:

All kinds of things can interfere—things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.

He feels that God has given him permission but he has to give himself room, take seriously that permission to write.

He also has to separate that permission to write from the need to achieve, be good, be published. The play-writing process is essential to him. It’s a continuum of the kid in the sandbox (play) in the need to communicate. “To avoid writer’s block, which has to do with permission to write, you have to block out the need to get published.”

Ken Shigematsu: God In My Everything by Ken Shigematsu

Seeds of permission for him to write were sown by Leighton Ford 15 years ago. When Shigematsu said he wouldn’t be able to write like Philip Yancey, Ford said to him, ‘No one will be able to write like you.’

Ten years ago he started writing about adapted monastic rhythms. Interest sparked and he wrote some more. The writing was a reward in itself. (His book God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God is scheduled to be released by Zondervan in August).

K. C. Dyer:

Find time in the middle of other things. You have to get your butt in the chair, words on the paper. Speak it into your phone. It’s like any other job: if you’re a writer, it’s a job. If this is who you are, be true to yourself and do it. 500 words a day leads to a 150,000 word book after a year.

Marc Cote:

The only person who can give you permission to write is yourself. Don’t wait for it to come from outside. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission, but take it. Go from there.

“People who have to write, don’t think about permission too much.” (Don’t remember who said this but I liked it)

Marc Cote:

Writing to express oneself is not writing but journaling. Journaling is like the 5-finger exercise in piano. People write to communicate. Put your running shoes on first before you dream of the glories of winning a marathon.

Lesley Bentley:

How do you square the results you can see in measure with permission based on the premise that it doesn’t count without an evangelistic, or money result.

Ken Shigematsu:

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

K. C. Dyer:

There will always be roadblocks in the way. People put arts last in their lives. Sometimes we throw caution to the winds. We need to set aside the million balls in the air and work on it (our writing). Clear enough space in your head. Find your own place of peace where the ideas come to you. Fifteen minutes a day can become your time.

Ron Reed:

It is worth writing. We wouldn’t be in the room if we didn’t think it’s so. It’s worth doing it whether I win or not–for the doing of it. (“Im at the extreme end of intrinsic rewards type of guy.”) Whatever the reason it takes to get the fingers moving–do it. “I get demotivated when it has to be good enough for people. Permission to write has to do with motivation. Print the poster.” When you’re writing it, you can’t know what’s really great or not. Just type – it might be better than you think. Don’t get stuck on your first play.

Lesley Bentley:

Let’s explore the statement that permission to write has to do with motivation.

Matadora by Elizabeth RuthMarc Cote:

Told the story of an agent who sent him a manuscript from a writer he respected, but he didn’t feel he could publish it. He eventually was asked to explain to the author what didn’t work for him.

The author ended up turning down another offer on her book to take several more years to rework her story keeping in mind his suggestions. Coromorant Books recently published her book, it has been garnering good reviews and that day  (Saturday, May 25th) it (Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth) had a glowing review in the Globe and Mail (Cote waved the paper before us as proof))

Concerning motivation: “She carved out the time (years) to write the book that was inside her all the time.”

K. C. Dyer:

It’s like runner’s high. That moment when you know you’ve nailed it.

Marc Cote:

Part of the joy of it all is in the doing. It’s not going to come easy. When do runners experience a runner’s high? After a long run.

Ron Reed:

It’s worth doing. We’ve heard fifteen ‘worth it’s.’ We are highly encouraged to consume; we are not encouraged to create. God said it’s okay – Genesis 1-3: “It is good.” We are in His image and likeness: He makes stuff and enjoys it. It’s coded into us.

K. C. Dyer:

It’s very important that you read. Every writer comes to writing from being a reader first. Reading is significant to growth and ability as a creator. Always be learning. You can have this career for the long haul. Keep trying to get better. Read widely, often, and much.

Ron Reed:

Playwrights need to watch plays. You intuitively produce what you take in. If you want to write a literary book, you might be best not watching TV.

K. C. Dyer:

“It’s remarkable what you learn from reading poor writing.”

Marc Cote:

If your time for reading is limited, only read good things.

Ron Reed: 

Narrow your reading – not for your whole life but for the time you’re writing a certain play or certain thing.

Someone asked a question leading to a discussion on how to recharge when your writing (not necessarily creative things, but writing emails, and other assigned writing) makes you feel weary and like you’ve run out of words:

Ron Reed:

Finds photography a good reset button.

K. C. Dyer:

Writes by hand in her journal, vs. at the computer on a keyboard.

There was a question about permission to write what might offend someone. How do you get permission to write what you want to?

Some suggestions:

  • Pretend people are dead.
  • Leave the country.

K. C. Dyer:

Books are a safe place for your brain and ideas to meet. Pretend that no one is ever going to read it.

Ron Reed:

You can write with similar rawness to how you would write a journal.

“Get a tough enough skin. I didn’t write a role model. I wrote that play so other people could think about certain issues. It takes a certain brashness to put some things out there.”

Closing challenge was by Reed, who kept reminding us to keep putting words on paper/the screen He told the story of how he had begun a novel, quit and put it aside. Years later he came across it again and is now using ideas and snippets of it in a different project.

“Write stuff, and later you might find out what its purpose was. The words are what you’re going to carve something else out of. One thing can become another thing, and another thing. It can be a play, an email, a poem, part of a lecture etc.”

*************

My takeaway:

– I felt reassured by the advice to enjoy and revel in my urge to create; it’s God-given.

– I loved Leighton Ford’s advice to Ken Shigematsu: “No one will be able to write like you.”

– I could so well relate to the discussion around the fact that writing is a self-motivating job. As Reed said: “… all kinds of things can interfere–things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.”

– Another thought that I really liked was that we don’t always know, when we’re writing something, what it’s end-up purpose will be. We may journal and forget entirely about what we’ve written, only to reread it at some later time and find it is the perfect illustration for a talk, or the germ of a poem, story or essay.

I hope my recap of this discussion will help you find permission to write as listening to it firsthand did for me! What resonated with you?