Friday, October 04, 2013

God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu

This is a book directed at helping Christians develop a full-orbed spiritual life. Many evangelicals in particular have "spiritual life" tucked into corners of their lives: quiet time here, prayer there, church for a couple of hours on Sunday. The rest of the time, God is not really in their thoughts. Mr. Shigematsu, pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver aims at helping people change this by thinking differently about what spiritual means, and also by thinking in terms of a rule, that is, a rhythm of life, in which we make a conscious effort at centering our lives on God.
He draws from a variety of spiritual resources, mostly Catholic and the broader Christian tradition. His illustrations are helpful. The book is probably most profitably read a little at a time. The fifteen chapters could be spread out over a month, or even one chapter a week. That way his points don't get lost in the flood of words. He begins by warning people to begin small and to build slowly. This is good advice, as those who want to introduce significant change into their spiritual lives tend to try to do it all at once. The all-at-once approach generally ends in failure and disappointment.
For me, the best part of the book was the Appendix, in which several people line out their own "Rules of Life." These help make it clear that even a full-orbed spirituality is going to look different for different people in different walks of life. The rhythm of the spiritual life will also look different for the same person at different points in his life. So, the examples include a single woman in her twenties (a graduate student); a working mother with a young son; a married man in his thirties with young children; and a married man in his thirties with no children.
There were, to my mind two significant shortcomings to the book, that are related. The first is an real appreciation for the role of the church in the spiritual life of the individual. He does have a place for attendance at worship, but that seems to be the extent the involvement of the church. The second is his identification of the Sabbath as simply a day of individual rest, set apart from the remainder of the week, and primarily focused on the individual. The idea of the Sabbath rest as a rest from our labors and a rest unto God is entirely absent. In addition, while he devotes a chapter to the importance of friendship, he does not tie it into the life of the church body.
Ultimately, I'm not sure the book is worth the price. Brother Lawrence's classic, The Practice of the Presence of God is much shorter, plainer, and available free online. For those in the Reformed tradition, I would suggest Henry Scudder's The Christian's Daily Walk, which is longer, and would require more labor to go through, but is also available online.

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