Book Review: Naming the Unnameable

Naming the Unnameable
89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God
…Including the Unnameable God
by Matthew Fox

namingtheunnameable

I was intrigued by this book because of its stated post-modern approach to reflection on the Divine. As someone who works in an interfaith setting, there are few resources with scholarship and attention to the faith traditions beyond Christianity. This small volume is packed with images and spirituality to enrich your meditation and reflection times.

Matthew Fox is a historian, scholar, and founder of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California. His past works are numerous and much-loved. This book draws from mystics that will be familiar to many, including Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bingen. But it also engages the wisdom of Rumi, and the classics such as Thomas Aquinas, plus a wide spectrum of wisdom literature across many religious traditions.

Fox includes 89 Names of God, but goes beyond the Hebrew and Christian texts for reference. There are theologians, scientists, artists, and mystics included in the Naming. The entries invite new visions, new impressions, new challenges to close-held images of the Divine. After each section, there are blank pages, for, as the author notes, there are infinite ways to name God, and perhaps one would want to pen one’s own addendum!

The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1: Cataphatic Divinity: 80 Names for God
Part 2: Apophatic Divinity: God without a Name
Part 3: Practices to deepen meditation.

I found each entry having something to draw in my mind to reflection. But in particular, I was intrigued by entry #29: “God is Greening Power.” The images and referenced words of Dylan Thomas and Hildegard of Bingen spoke powerfully to me of the Divine creativity and inspiration. I will likely return to this page (and others!) for deeper reflection.

In Part 3, there are suggestions for reflecting further on the 89 Names. They invite creative, deep, personal meditation. My intention is to engage further with these during Lent.

This is a small volume, but one worth adding to your personal library. I commend it to you.


Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful names for God …Including the Unnameable God. By Matthew Fox. Pawcatuck, CT: Homebound Publications, 2018. Paperback: 197 pages. ISBN-13: 9781947003941.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Back-to-Something-Else

Back to my desk

For the first time in 21 years, neither one of our daughters are going back-to-school. Both are college graduates. Both are making inroads on the job market. Both are strong, lively, caring young women. But there’s no “Back-to-School” this year. It’s now “Back-to-Something-Else”!

From their public school days, I don’t miss the homework assignments that the student does not understand. I don’t miss the “creative” book report assignments. I sure as hell don’t miss the group projects. (And I suspect my daughters would agree!)

There’s plenty of appointments on my calendar. But there’s no dorm room to fill. No sweaty elevators or staircases. No jaunt to buy desk supplies or refills for the printer. No awkward good-byes (and tears by Mom in the car on the way home). 

I gotta tell ya, it feels a little weird. 

Ok, a lot weird. But in a good kind of way. 

Now our years now fall into the natural seasons of Creation. The year doesn’t reboot in September every year. Instead, each new day is a new start. 

I’ve put a new practice back in my life called The Daily Examen. You can use the website or an app (scroll to the bottom for the links). You can write out your own questions for daily reflection. It doesn’t matter how as long as you do it. 

When the house is quiet in the evening, I pause and do a mental reset. I wait. Sometimes I worry. I pray. Sometimes, I rage. But always, I feel re-engaged and ready for sleep. 

So whatever your fall season brings, I invite you to embrace it. With questions. With honest reflection. With integrity. And then with action. 

Holy Week: Walking Towards the Resurrection

It’s Holy Week. One of the busiest times of year for pastors (and chaplains), and one where I so desperately need some strength and rejuvenation!

IMG_7819I was reminded by a Wise Woman to be intentional in my Holy Week activities, busy as I am. I was exhorted to keep the space around my heart and my mind refreshed and clear.

So this afternoon, with laundry piled high (isn’t it always?) and chores to do, I took her advice.

I sat in the chilly spring air, and stared at blue sky, and puffy clouds, and noticed the maple buds swelling.

I watched the chickadees and cardinals go to the feeders, flitting back and forth to the trees and bushes. I listened to a woodpecker drumming on the dead apple tree branch. And I heard the sound of branches creaking in the light breeze.

I breathed deeply. Chores can wait. Books will gather dust. Essays and charting and blog posts even will get done… or not.

IMG_7813What I really needed to do was be IN Creation. To jettison the expectations I put on myself, and to remember… to pray… to reflect on this Lenten journey, soon to be ending with the celebration on Easter morning.

I sat on a bench in the sun, drinking it all in. I walked the labyrinth in the back yard and realized it needed attention. It was time to clean away the deadfall of branches and rake away the leaves. To stop and look around me and see the change coming and relish it. To see the traces of winter, the places where the ground is still hard and cold, and also the places where the grass has begun to grow.

I sense the stirring. I know that the songs of the Resurrection are coming. But first, I wait and walk and wait some more.

IMG_7817I noted this old fencerow on our property. It is part of an old orchard road where, generations ago, the apple trees were planted and the fence strung up to prevent livestock from getting in the orchard. It reminded me that the echoes of generations past gave me life and purpose and fire to keep going, keep growing.

This is the work of the Spirit in my life. She leads, suggests but never presses. She points out the fenceposts and reminds me of the paths of the faithful. She highlights obstacles and suggests a way around it. She breathes life into my tired, cold, wintering-over heart.

And I realize, with a kind of dull and slow awakening, that even in the days where I felt it was pointless, and basically “phoned it in” at work and home, God was working. Through me. In me. In spite of me. From the pile of dead branches to the leaves that blew in across the fence, God has been and always will be at work, behind the scenes, underground, in the coldest, driest, hottest or iciest days.

Joan Chittiister wrote:
“Everywhere I looked, hope existed – but only as some kind of green shoot in the midst of struggle. It was a theological concept, not a spiritual practice. Hope, I began to realize, was not a state of life. It was at best a gift of life.”

IMG_7802Wherever I go, in my next steps and moments, I walk with a little more confidence and faith in the God who walks with me.

In the struggle, there is peace. And there is surely growth.

Walking towards the Resurrection this week – may you experience the encouraging words of the Spirit.

TBTG