89 Names – Book Review

In my memoir, Hiking Naked , I write about how I turned to theologian Matthew Fox’s writings when I was in turmoil about the work I was meant to do. Fox’s book, The Reinvention of Work, spoke to me during some of my most uncertain times. “Work comes from inside out; work is the expression of our soul, our inner being. It is unique to the individual; it is creative. Work is an expression of the Spirit at work in the world through us.” I still intermittently refer to my worn, annotated copy of his book.

bookNow, I have another of his books, Naming the Unnameable—89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God. It’s already starting to show some of the telltale signs of a well-loved book.

Just released by Homebound Publications, Fox’s new book is one of the most recent by the independent press’s imprint, Little Bound Books . Fox drew on his expansive knowledge of sacred scriptures, the mystics, and science throughout history and from around the globe (such as Meister Eckhart, Aquinas, Deepak Chopra, the Bible, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Berry, and Hildegard of Bingen to name just a few) to identify “80 Names for God” and “9 Names for the God Without a Name.” At just under 150 pages (excluding the End Notes and Appendix), the 5-by-7 inch soft cover, with just one or two pages to define each name, is the perfect companion during my morning time of silence.

Undoubtedly, there are many readers who, like me, struggle to find the word or words that adequately describe our experiences of God. And I know I’m not alone in believing that the word “God” carries too much baggage­—it’s both too limiting and too varied to speak to everyone. In Fox’s introduction, “God Has a Trillion Faces,” he asks who he, or any of us, are, to choose only 89. “Well, first of all,” he writes, “this book is unfinished.” And that’s why he’s included blank pages at the end of each section so, “you may add our own most wonderful and useful names for God.”

Fox further invites readers to interact with the book with “practices” for each part. For example, for the 80 names described in the first part, he suggests that readers “pick out ten that are most meaningful and useful to you personally at this time in your journey” and then to reflect and journal about them. He also recommends, “pick out ten that you feel are most meaningful and useful to culture at large today” and to consider how culture would change if people were to experience God this way. Deepak Chopra succinctly summarized the book’s value this way: “Matthew Fox elegantly offers a contemplative practice that transforms the names of God to the experience of God.”

As a Quaker, I had no trouble relating to #33 God is Light. Fox claims, “it is one of the most universal names for God,” with references from science, the Bible, mystics, and many religions. Numerous other names were equally familiar to me including: Spirit, Breath, Joy, Wisdom, Beauty, and The Great Mystery. Others, though, open me to new understandings: Greening Power, the Artist of Artists, The Beyond, The Form Without Form, and The Newest and Youngest Thing in the Universe.

Fox_Feature-ImageIn a profile by Theodore Richards in The Wayfarer Magazine , Fox admits Naming the Unnameable, “…may be my most radical book I’ve written.” That’s quite a statement from this author of 35 books. His definitions and practices make the book reader-friendly, but its radicalness shines through. “I’m trying to set off fireworks in people’s minds about how wonderfully alive our language could be for divinity… I’m hoping that this book penetrates and opens up people’s hearts, minds, and consciousness to new meanings, which are based on experiences of the divine, not some kind of frozen dogmas about who God is and isn’t.”

Naming the Unnameable is available online here as well as everywhere books are sold. With those blank pages Fox leaves for us to add our own most wonderful and useful names, perhaps there will be a second volume in the future.

*Afterthought #80 – Good To Be Home

hn coverSeptember wrapped up an exciting year of sharing my memoir, Hiking Naked. I was fortunate to do a tour in the Northeast and Midwest this month, and here are some photos from events in Connecticut and Chicago.

I discovered how much I enjoy events that include interviews/conversations with others, like the ones I did at Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago with Homebound Publications author Theodore Richards Iris & THeodoreand at Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston with Quaker author Debbie Humphries.

 

 

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Leslie Browning

 

 

A highlight of my travels was spending time with Homebound founder, Leslie Browning, and meeting several other Homebound authors at CT Folk Fest and Green Expo in New Haven, CT.

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Then there was an event at Bank Square Books in Mystic, CT, followed by dinner at Mystic Pizza (yes, THAT Mystic Pizza).

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Katherine Hauswirth, Gunilla Norris, Leslie Browning, and I enjoy dinner at Mystic Pizza

 

Many thanks to my gracious hosts and people who joined me in conversation about writing memoir, life in Stehekin, and seeking balance.

 

 

cropped-office1And now, I’m grateful to be home on Lopez Island and back at a new writing desk as Writer-in-Residence with the Washington State Ferries. Seems like a good way to end the month.

 

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.

This I Believe

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This week I’ve been listening, reading, and watching about the confirmation hearings for our next U.S. Supreme Court judge. No, that’s an understatement: I’ve been consumed by this historic event.

Just this morning, I watched a video of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s entire statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. I also watched her responses to attorney Rachel Mitchell, questioning her on behalf of Republican senators on the committee. I was able to watch Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony and questioning live the day he appeared before the committee. I’ve read countless news reports about the testimony and the aftermath as well as opinion pieces in news outlets and on social media.

Here’s what I believe.

  • I believe I’m one of the rare women who hasn’t been sexually assaulted. I feel deep gratitude that I’ve been spared.
  • Ever since my teens, I’ve carried fear of rape or other sexual assault.
  • I believe I’m one of the rare women who knows details of only a few women friends who have been sexually assaulted. I believe many of my women friends have been assaulted and have chosen to not share their stories with me (and likely not with others).
  • Ever since my daughter’s birth, I’ve carried fear that she would be raped or sexually assaulted. Now I carry it for my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, too.
  • I believe Dr. Ford’s allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh.
  • I believe Judge Kavanaugh demonstrated at the hearing that he can’t maintain the kind of impartiality, decorum, and integrity our country requires of its Supreme Court justices.
  • I believe there are many men feeling as devastated by and furious about the recent revelations and displays of misogyny in our nation.
  • I believe we all have much work to do to name and end the misogyny endemic in all areas of our society.

I’m not yet able to say I believe we WILL end misogyny, but I’m willing to do whatever I can to get us closer to that day.

 

Listen to Black Women — Repost from Heidi Barr

Most of this month I’m traveling – a combination of work and pleasure – so my writing routine is erratic. Plus, my mind is whirring with issues I care about deeply – preservation of orca whales and the Salish Sea, white supremacy and white privilege, the Supreme Court nomination process, immigration policies, and Hurricane Florence to name a few.  I’m searching to find what I can do as a writer to contribute to conversations on these topics.

Fellow Homebound Publications author Heidi Barr is seeking, too. In a recent post, she expressed well my desire, like hers, to write about white privilege; I received Heidi’s permission to re-post her essay here.  I’ll continue to listen to black women and other people of color and examine my white privilege. And I hope I’ll have the courage, like Heidi, to risk saying the wrong thing. Remaining quiet is no longer an option.

Heidi invited readers to add to her list of resources at the end of her post.  Here’s one I recommend:  So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Thank you, Heidi, for speaking about racism. I look forward to more conversations.

“America would not be the wealthy country it is without slave labor. We would not have our power or wealth if we had not, for a very long time, depended on the unpaid labor of millions of human beings. I feel like I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but maybe I do. America was […]

via Listen to Black Women — Heidi Barr | Author