God In My Everything (review)

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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.

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20,000 Days and Counting – Robert D. Smith (review)

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20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. SmithAround the time Robert D. Smith had lived his 20,000th day, he took two of the next 20,000 (or however many he has left) to plan how he would spend the rest of his life. In his book 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now, he divulges what he did during his two-day retreat, and explains the philosophy on which he bases his life—a philosophy he sums up in statements like:

“There is no thought that will purge your priorities of worthless and worldly tastes like that of your impending death. Ponder the kind of life you would like to look back on when you come to die… “

and

“The best preparation for living is to be prepared to die at any time … imminent death inspires clarity of purpose, a rearranging of what really matters” – Robert D. Smith, 20,000 Days and Counting, Kindle Locations 554 and 573.

However, the book is anything but morbid. For this man, who has spent most of his career managing entertainer and author Andy Andrews knows how to show us a good time. The book’s tone and content is upbeat, encouraging, helpful, and practical.

In it he suggests exercises that will help readers discover their life’s purpose and gives them ways to  live responsibly and constructively. Some of his suggestions that resonated with me were:

– You increase motivation by increasing productivity.

– Be open to saying “yes” more than you say “no.”

– Take ownership. “Start thinking I am the problem … when you do that…. Suddenly you have power” (Kindle Location 771).

The book is a fast read and worth every minute spent immersed in it. The few hours it took me to read it are already proving well spent in their impact on my 2013 goals and resolutions. This is a book that will clear your vision and help you live with a “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” mindset (Psalm 90:12—one of numerous Bible verses he quotes; the book is consistent with a Christian perspective). I recommend it!

By the way, how many days have you lived? Want to find out? Visit TheRobertD’s website and plug your dates into the widget there. (And while you’re on the site, you may also want to sign up for his newsletter and get the free e-Book Battle-Tested Branding, another great little resource!)

Book Facts:

Title: 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering the Rest of Your Life right Now
Author: Robert D. Smith
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, January 2013,  99 pages-Kindle edition, available in hardcover.
ASIN: B009PN6M3M

I received 20,000 Days and Counting as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.