Criticism Wanted…

I have asked several people to critique my book. Unfortunately, only one person has accepted that challenge and done so. Most authors/writers would pay someone for this critique, but since I make no income from my writing, I hate to make the hubby pay for yet another one of my writing adventures.

I have pretty much exhausted the free types of services. Then I thought, “Why not allow my blog fans to have a whack at it?”

So, if you’re game, I will put out the introduction to my book in this post and then one brief chapter of the book in another post. What I need most is to know whether or not it makes any sense to you. If not, please be specific about what wasn’t clear, so that I can work on correcting that.

Also, would you even pay a couple of bucks to download such a book on your e-reader? If not, I need to either scrap this writing idea or work really hard to make it worth such an expenditure.

I don’t plan to have a traditional publisher involved, for a bunch of reasons, but mainly because I will just be happy if I can say I published something I wrote.

I am scared to death, my beloved readers. I know this isn’t ever going to make the “Classics” list or the NY Times’ Best Seller List and the internet can be very mean to writers. Even writing it has been a chore because my fear is that big! (And this book practically wrote itself!)

So, yes, please criticize, but when doing so, it would be great if you could do it constructively and with as much tact as you can muster. You are welcome to message me via my contact page if you prefer for your commentary not to be posted publicly, but either is fine with me. I’ve got to toughen up and allow people to tell me where I’m making errors, etc.

So here is the Introduction to “As God’s Scribe”:

What you are about to read are the impressions I received while doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius’ retreat. Until beginning my spiritual direction training program I had never encountered the Spiritual Exercises.

I both struggled and rejoiced at Ignatius’ notion that our imaginations are God-given gifts and therefore, I could use that gift to envision myself in the various events surrounding Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection as an observer.

What caused me to rejoice? As a teen, I had the good fortune to encounter Mrs. Sandra Miller as my Creative Writing teacher. Her encouragement and assignments caused me to select some pictures from Life magazine and write as if I was the person in the photograph. I deliberately didn’t read the articles associated with the picture—I merely examined every detail about the photograph and tried to put myself in that person’s shoes and convey the thoughts and emotions that a person might be experiencing. It was remarkably easy for me to write one to two pages from each viewpoint. Perhaps a penchant for acting also helped here—I seldom had little trouble “getting into character.” I also have a master’s in psychology, so understanding what a person’s expression means is a little easier for me than the average non-“shrink” person.

With this in mind, one may ask, “So, why would you also struggle?” I struggled because we are talking about Biblical events and characters and even on a practical level, it’s difficult to know what a person in those times, thought, felt, and experienced from the vantage point of a 21st century American. This time I had no face or faces to look upon—no background—no apparel—only what I already understood about Israel at the time of Jesus’ life on Earth. Granted, that was a considerable amount compared to some because I was raised in a Christian home all of my life. But, we were specifically instructed not to seek out additional references, even in the Bible itself, as we encountered these Scriptures and tried to imagine ourselves as part of the story in at least a small way. I would love to tell you that I obeyed those “rules” completely, but that would be a falsehood for a few of the “essays” you are about to read.

While I could easily imagine myself as just “someone in the crowd” for the Scriptures referring to Jesus’ ministry, it was pretty difficult to do that for other Scriptures where only Jesus or Mary or one or two other people were present. It seemed irreverent, disrespectful, and blasphemous to be one of these people, particularly when it came to Jesus himself.

As I had been taught by my HeartPaths training program, I finally gave the matter over to God, stilled my mind, and tried to hear what God wanted me to do about it. I decided He might want me to do things differently for each Scripture, so I simply asked, “Who am I in this reading?” Almost instantly, I felt as if I had taken off my “MaryAnn suit” and “put on” someone else’s. I recorded my impressions as that person as if that person was dictating them to me personally. As one sentence ended, another came to mind, until I had recorded several pages in my spiritual journal.

Sometimes I was just that “person in the crowd,” as I thought I surely would be. But God often shocked me with whom He selected me to be and thankfully, I just tried to embrace it, even if reluctant at first. God was gracious—he started me with people who were largely unnamed in the passage or were “insignificant” parts of the story, such as Simon’s wife (who is never mentioned, but probably existed, if I had to guess) or one of the friends who lowered his friend through the roof of a house so Jesus could heal his friend.

But as I progressed with this pattern of asking who I was and responding with whatever was given to me to write, I was challenged to be other “beings.” In the reading where Gabriel appears to Mary regarding becoming pregnant with Jesus, I was an angel guarding her family’s home. Do I think I’m an angel? No! Not by a long shot. But for a brief time, I got to see the possible world through an angel’s perception of it. What a perception and a gift!

For the Scripture regarding Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, I was especially challenged. The reading came early on and so, being an angel was about as far as I was willing to go with seeing life as someone or some creature other than myself. I wrestled with being the mother of the Lord Himself and with Joseph, who was obviously, a compassionate, obedient Jew. I might have, in the latter Exercises, been okay with being Jesus, but even if so, a baby or toddler’s perspective would have been limited. Who else could I be? They fled in the middle of the night and the angel had already come and gone. No one else was present!

God answered with the most unique answer: “Be the donkey.” What?! “Be the donkey.” As I wrote from the donkey’s perspective, I realized that creatures who cannot speak verbally, see much more than those of us who can speak! And yes, I instantly guffawed about God asking me to be the “ass” in the scene. I am much more comfortable with that notion!

My spiritual director challenged me to try being Jesus as she learned how I was approaching these Exercises. I was, honestly, repelled by that! How could I be God on Earth? But, one day I finally attempted it.

Those doing the Exercises are often asked by Ignatius to do the “Triple Colloquy.” In the Colloquy we envision ourselves speaking to Mary, Jesus, and God about our imaginary experience with the passage. When I finally attempted seeing Israel and its inhabitants as Jesus, I asked Jesus, in that Colloquy, if it was okay to be Jesus. He humorously answered, “As long as you remember that you are not me.” That’s an easy one, Jesus—there is no comparison between you and me, even on a “good day.”

I also had difficulty with one other character in Jesus’ story. His name is John. John’s gospel drives me crazy, quite frankly. He writes like a poet—ethereally, a good portion of the time, and many of his passages are so “circular” in argument and word usage that I feel like I’m tied up in knots afterward. Even when I can “untie the knots,” I just can’t quite seem to relate to the “Beloved Disciple.” He seems too wise, too peaceful, too relaxed for my hyper, anxious, trial-and-error approach to life. I more readily identify with Peter, who “gets it” half the time and blows it the rest of the time. Peter often acts impulsively in both good and bad ways. He wrestles with the pull of evil lurking at his back pretty often.

John seldom seems to wrestle with anything, except extreme fatigue when Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray on the night of his betrayal. But, finally, God asked me to be John. I was less than thrilled with the request!

But, as John, I got a perspective of Peter I could never have gotten anywhere else. John, as one of the “favored three,” watched Peter’s transformation from fisherman to the “rock.” And even unflappable John marveled at it. And because of John’s perspective, I also marveled at it. It is the epitome of what Jesus wanted for all of us—a transformation so complete that we become what we thought we could never become—love’s outreach to all who need it.

I only offer what you are about to read because I strongly feel God wanted it written and published. Do I think that what I wrote happened? Who knows?! Probably not.

But I don’t think that’s why I was asked to write it all down. I think I was asked to journal it to solidify my faith in Him and to gain a perspective I could never have gained if I had approached these Exercises any other way.

Some of the gospels are at odds with each other, even when describing the same story or event. That comes as no surprise to serious students of the Bible. So, I tried not to let that get in my way and just accept the account from that gospel writer’s perspective. That meant, in one or two cases, that one “take” on it is completely contradicting another “take” on it.

I think that’s allowable simply because we humans often have different accounts of the same story ourselves, even if the events described are turning points in our own lives. It makes sense to me that the God of the Universe, who made us all so differently and uniquely, could have different “lessons” to teach us from the very same event or story. We may each need something different from that story, but if the same story can teach us many things, why not use it as “economically” as possible? God’s version of “recycling,” perhaps?

Will my “take” on an event jive with what we know from historical sources? It will probably jive in a few places and probably not jive in others. But, God was dealing with MaryAnn and gave me these “accounts” to teach me something about the relationship I should have with Him and my “world.” So, it’s possible that He phrased certain things to me in a certain way so that it would not confuse 21st-century MaryAnn.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is the passage where I felt that God just wanted me to be, well, me. This journal entry still makes me tear up because I can still “feel” the intense gaze from a loving Jesus when He placed his hand on my heart. The words he spoke awe me still. They may not seem significant to others, but they are certainly significant to me. And of course, this event is never recorded anywhere in any of the Gospels!

Likewise, I suppose God could take words from these writings that I feel are inconsequential to my walk with God and have them significantly touch someone who reads them now. That is the extravagance and impossible ability of the God I love and the God I hope you, dear reader, also love.

If that does happen, I hope that God uses such an incredible occurrence to improve your corner of the world in whatever way is most important for your corner of the world. I prayed toward that end and will continue to pray toward that end for you as you read what I wrote as “God’s scribe.”

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 26th, 2019 at 2:11 pm and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. August 27th, 2019 | Bob Arnold says:

    I would be glad to do the review and critique. I would also be willing to pay for the preview. Let me know what you need.

    Love to all –

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