Former Sony employee and current Vancouver pastor Ken Shigematsu was brought to my attention by some folks here at St. Andrew’s who used to attend his church. I noticed his book “God in my Everything” in a shop the other day. I once wrote a paper on the Rule of St. Benedict because I thought it was a helpful outline for daily living to think about, even today, even outside of a monastery. So when I read that Shigematsu also thought along those lines and had written an entire book about it, I knew it was something I would have to read.
Shigematsu asks, “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?” and answers an resounding Yes. He argues for us modern folks to take seriously the truth that our daily lives will one day accumulate and be the lives we lived. Therefore, suggests Shigematsu, we ought to be intentional about how we spend those days, and the best way to be intentional is to build a rule of life, as Benedict built one for the monks serving under him.
Before you rile up against a rule and think it is too constraining and sounds too horrible listen to how Shigematsu describes a rule, “A rule of life is simply a rhythm of practices that empowers us to live well and grow more like Jesus by helping us experience God in everything.” That doesn’t sound so bad does it?
The book contains many inspiring illustrations that will find their way into my sermons for the next few weeks. It also contains sample rules as developed by Pastor Shigematsu and by several members of his congregation. They include daily time for prayer and bible reading, weekly plans for fasts, exercise, writing, and Sabbaths, Monthly plans for date nights, meetings with spiritual friends, and the like, and yearly plans for retreats and longer Sabbaths.
I have long thought that in an era where everyone seems so busy many would do well to slow down and ponder what takes up all their time. I don’t think it’s true to say we don’t have time for the good things in life and the sorts of things we want to do, like spend time with our kids, give charitably, volunteer, meet with people who could benefit from our conversation, I think we simply aren’t making time for these things, and I think we will come to regret it one day.
I have for a few years now been doing something pretty close to what Shigematsu is prescribing, intentionally allocating time for the various aspects of life (work, family, God, exercise, play, financial planning, etc.) and I have found it to be a life-giving practice, and one which has lowered my anxiety about the life well lived and whether or not I am living one. Like so many other aspects of life, we cannot hit the target if we haven’t got one, so if we never set up a rule, a goal, a target, then we mustn’t be surprised if in the end we have missed the mark.
Shigematsu offers loads of sounds advice about how to get this going, like be flexible, don’t beat yourself up if you fail, don’t set the bar to high, start low and build momentum. Start by reading his book.
Ken Shigematsu. God in my Everything. How an ancient rhythm helps busy people enjoy God. Zondervan. 2013. Is available online and many Christian Bookstores.