Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve - the Backward Glance

Something old seems new in present circumstances. Do you look back on brokenness? What comes next?

Mary's Ointment

Have I been broken…nothing works.

exposed I try to be good

That was lovely once upon a time

I thought you loved wouldn't

Be safe, but glorious. I never

spitting blood dragging limbs

Dreamed true.

He was smell the myhrr shattered

alabaster. Fool. Spent too much

To tell a dead man scent-gilded hair

she'd mourn. All one: feet or floor,

Puddled perfume mortar won't she

Artist! clean up this

Perfect mosaic of Redemption!

Let me bring the shining shards of ruined

Hopes, of half-made glories

To You whose broken body is my health.

Make me, like You, to show

In glittering tesserae God's grace as I could

Never know or tell

While whole.

Copyright 1996. Kim Anderson. All rights reserved.

Photo of Sonia King's mosaic, "Spinoff".

Seedlings in Stone: Giving Away a Beginning

Seedlings in Stone: Giving Away a Beginning

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lizard Woman

Well, I'm officially ready for the freak show. The steroids finally got ahead of the burning hands, but now everything that burned is peeling. Aaand the hair is going.

To tell the truth, it does feel like I'm half dead. Nothing tastes right. I'm touching life through a stiff film that flakes off as I bend. Even my eyes fog over like some snake shedding its skin.

"Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?" Ps 88:10,11.

David thought the answer was "of course not"; he was asking for deliverance. I think that since Jesus' resurrection the answer is actually, "Exactly! Yes." The dead rise to praise Him every day. So will I.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Stories

One of our traditions at Christmas is to tell each other stories, sometimes in person, sometimes in print, sometimes in music or video. We want to savor new aspects of that richest story we enter at Advent. Won't you join us?

An Epiphany

We've never been rich, but we thank God. There really is something about scarcity that sharpens the sensibilities. When it comes to gift-giving times, the desire to be able to gift the ones you love with something of real value is almost a physical ache.

And it brings into clearer focus some of the reasons why Jesus came to us in poverty and lowliness - not only to feel our weaknesses, our miseries, but also to feel that sharp longing to have something to give...

On my birthday near Christmas, three little packages shone bravely from the festive table. The first, urged upon me eagerly by Elizabeth, our eldest, was wrapped in an origami envelope of Byzantine complexity. The shining contents cascaded and clicked sensuously into my hand: a necklace gathered of all the lost and secret bits of the jewelry our sometime princesses have worn in their day. She had even sacrificed a couple of real Venetian glass beads that had been handsome vases in her dollhouse. Together they were a talisman of childhood's delights.

Then Winston, with ingenuous grin and self-deprecating wag of the head, thrust two carefully folded sheets of paper into my hand. "I love you, Mommy!" he breathed. The papers showed a four-year-old's pen and ink jungle inhabited by an ark-full of dinosaur stickers. Just days before, feeling wealthy with the proceeds of her first babysitting job, Elizabeth had bought each of her siblings a small present. These dinosaurs had been Winston's.

With a miserable sigh, Anne pushed her offering closer and handed me another origami envelope. She plopped down next to me, studying my face as I read the careful second grade script, "I didn't have much to work with. Love, Anne". I blinked and swallowed hard. Inside her box was a bird, soaring wings outstretched. It was too large to make a convenient ornament, but its curves whispered, "touch me". Anne alone had seen hidden possibilities in it as it lay in a jumbled garage sale box last summer and had rescued it with her last nickel. Now it wore fairy tale colors and sparkled with a crusting of make-believe gems that would have done credit to the Emperor's nightingale.

Anne glowed like a star next to me, urgent with the hope that I, too, could now see the fabulous beauty in this homely bit of plastic. And those wings arched with a burning radiance, thundering accompaniment to the heartbreaking "Gloria!" blazing from otherwordly throats, the love song of the Bridegroom, argent with the hope that we, His beloved could see our ransom, our resurrection, our Redeemer in a pauper's newborn.

With such gifts, we shall never be poor.

December 1996

All rights reserved.

Kim Anderson

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent: Crushed Head, Bruised Heel

Advent invites us to consider - no, to dance - the measure of memory and of longing. Christ has come; Christ is coming. It is not enough merely to think. It might be enough to journey, to wait, to bear the shame to shudder under the angels' song, to labor, to cradle, to wonder. It might be enough to live His coming. Every year He comes into a new place in each of us personally. And He uses the wildest media. The things we discard, disregard, dread.

This year, for me it is illness and humbling. I have cancer. I am not in control. My cells have forgotten their duties. I have forgotten what it means to be human. Judah had forgotten what it meant to be God's people. Surgery at the end of the old Church calendar carved out the deadly flesh that spread still more death. The chemotherapy coincides with the beginning of Advent, the new year of our Lord.

I am looking for Him. Will He "reconcile the violence in my heart"? Will He purge the demons of my past and read, somehow, the longings I have buried under the limping drive to make some kind of a difference to His Kingdom? What kind of new birth can I expect in the stabled darkness?

Surely He will come. Even Time serves Him. I expect to hear the Gloria, to rock the limp weight of new life...something. But I will not settle for a substitute.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Artwork by Kim Anderson. Crushed Head, Bruised Heel. Ink on glass, 1978.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How NOT to (merely) survive cancer

Did you catch Kyle McDonald's One Red Paperclip? In which, an enterprising guy traded for a year for a house, starting with one red paperclip? Maybe you saw SuperSize Me! in which a brave guy with questionable intelligence ate only McDonalds fast food for one month and proved that it will make you sick - and fat. These short term projects or STPs are the thinking man's reality TV.

Well, some are born to STPs, some achieve STPs and some have STPs thrust upon 'em. A few days after my last post God thrust upon me a one-year STP: breast cancer. One year to lose hold of all the projects I’ve chosen. One year to be the needy one, the un-able, the circumscribed. One year on the Tilt-a-Whirl of chemo, radiation and clinical trials. One year to focus on saving my own life (something about that just seems wrong to a lifetime, frontline Christian :p).

Nevertheless I still have choices, in the grace of God. So the STP that I chose is: How NOT to (merely) survive cancer. I will be looking for opportunities that come to me uniquely because I have cancer. Hands in the air, screaming my lungs out, I will be hoping to step off the ride next Thanksgiving, wobbly with triumph, with something more than (merely) my life in my hands.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Entering the Story

In preparation for Advent, our church commissioned me to write and direct several short scenes for our living history installation: Journey to Bethlehem. I'm posting bits of it here so that I can work out the kinks before we go to rehearsal. Please leave a comment to help me refine it.

We want our audience to be invited by our scenes to enter the story of redemption for themselves. We hope that these vignettes will help modern people connect with the ancient story and, more importantly, with the Word Who lives.

The two scenes below sketch the story of Joseph's family. It is the story of every "good Christian" family. We all have dreams about how our lives will look if we "do things right". We think that we dream big enough, and we think that the moral & relational capital we generate by 'doing things right' is for us to use as we please. But God has bigger plans, and our treasures are to advance His Kingdom. We struggle to accept this and ultimately, it takes a deep personal encounter with the living Lord to bring us to joy in His will. Not shown in this script is the reconciliation between Joseph and his mother, Rahab, which will be played in pantomime in the living creche we will build at the climax of the concert.

A blind beggar, Mephibosheth, comes into the last scene as well. He is modeled after the spunky blind man Jesus heals in Jn 9. As a social outcast, he sees in the babe carried by that other outcast - Mary - a promise of Light and Life. I hope his story helps us all to connect with the already-but-not-yet aspect of God's work that we experience living in a world that is both fallen and redeemed.



This group is on a shopping trip. The children

have their arms full of baskets and burlap bags of

food. Boaz has an especially large bag or, if it

can be found, a wine amphora or wineskin. The

women have baskets full of packages. They stop to

rest a moment at the well under a tree.

Lights in the square come down slightly. Subtle

spotlights on well

BOAZ (Joseph's brother)

So, do we have everything?

CHAVAH (Boaz' wife, Joseph's sister-in-law)

Let me think…we got the cheese, the wine, the raisins…

RACHEL (Boaz' & Chavah's daughter)

(advocating for more of her favorite


…the dates? Do we really have enough dates?

(Adam waves a big package, which she

grabs & hugs)

RAHAB (Joseph's & Boaz' mother)

Remember Itzak’s family will be staying with us as

well as Leah’s. I don’t think we have enough lentils

at home.


No, Itzak is staying with Uncle Lev, because your

brother needs a place to stay with his new wife. You

know her time is nearly here, and I’m the best hand

with births.


Oh, that woman! She certainly had us all fooled. We

all thought she was so godly, such a good catch…Why

Joseph didn’t put her away, I’ll never understand.


Mother! We agreed we’d wait and see how it goes.

ADAM (Boaz' & Chavah's son)

Joseph saw an angel! And He told Joseph this babe

would be the Messiah!


(snorting derisively)

He dreamed an angel!


Just like he dreamed you would recover from your fever.


Bah! That was just kindness.


But it gave you hope to fight for life. You’re still

with us because of Joseph’s kind word…and besides,

maybe he did see an angel.


Angels! Well, he always was a dreamer – just like his

namesake in Egypt. And he got into just as much

trouble with that as our Joseph. Sold into slavery by

his brothers! Dumped in Pharaoh's deepest dungeon



But it turned out in the end to save our whole people.


Well these dreams of our Joseph's - they're dangerous.

And what about the ordinary dreams of sane people? The

whole family gathering in peace around the Sabbath

candles... Being able to hold my head up in the

synagogue because my children have spotless



(sad & gentle)

Would that be enough, mother?


(grumpy, defensive)

It's little enough to ask.



It's little enough to aspire to. Our fathers asked for

more...a glimpse of God's glory, freedom after slavery,

a king over all kings...


Dangerous dreams, indeed!


Caesar wouldn't appreciate them.


That reprobate! Why can’t he just leave us in peace?


Is that why we have to swear allegiance to Caesar?

Because he's afraid of the king God promised would



Rome must believe that there is no threat to Caesar’s

rule from us. So we of the royal clan of Judah must

particularly swear allegiance to him to keep our people

invisible to him.


But Papa, if Joseph’s dream is true, then this baby

would be…


(cutting him off)

...too good to be true!


Enter Mary & Joseph walking toward the well.

Joseph has the luggage. During the scene,

villagers pass by, noticing the notorious couple,

and turn away, whispering. Two soldiers patrol the

square. Adam, Joseph’s nephew passes through

during the hubbub with the beggar. Spotlight on

the well group.


Whew! Now I know how the donkey feels at the end

of the day.


Me, too. Caesar really should have checked with our

midwife before he scheduled his special census. After

all, he considers all the house of David potential

royal rivals.

(They arrive at the well. Joseph dusts

off the edge with a flourish, and helps

Mary sit down. He is worried about her.)

Your throne, your Majesty! How’s the prince?


Well he’s been the prince of peace up to now, your

Grace. But he’s getting restless.

(laughing, she sits carefully on the

edge of the well)


I’ll just hail a passing servant for a drink for you.

(He waves at a pair of girls coming to

draw water))

Tamar! Olivia! Will you draw us a drink from the well?

(They stop, embarrassed, and run away.

Joseph is embarrassed)


(rescuing him)

They are too awestruck to approach, your Majesty.

(They laugh)

Is there still bread in the saddlebag?

(he looks)

Enter Mephibosheth, the beggar, working his way to

the well, begging from the customers at the Inn on

his way. Follow spot on the group. Two gangly teen

boys grab his cane and start shoving him around in

a sort of blind man’s bluff, tossing the cane to

each other, smacking Mephibosheth with it.


Alms! Alms!

LOT (a village bully)

What’s the matter, old man?

ANDREW (another village bully)

Can’t you stand up?


Where’s your cane?


What’s your story?

This is nothing new to Mephibosheth. He steadies

himself, catches the cane as it whistles towards

him and hangs on. He whirls the startled guy on

the other end around him like a hammer thrower,

toppling the other bully and scattering onlookers.

The second bully picks himself up and wrests the

cane away. Mephibosheth sprawls on the ground.Two

Roman soliders, who are patrolling the square, are

drawn to the ruckus. They catch the boy’s hand as

he is about to smash the cane down on the fallen

beggar. They take the cane away, looming

menacingly over the boys.

LUCIUS (an old Roman Legionnare)

(clicking his tongue)

Can’t have bullying in the square. Can we now, Gaius?

GAIUS (Lucius' buddy, a veteran of many campaigns)

No indeed, Lucius. Bullying is strictly forbidden.

(They laugh threateningly, shove the

boys. Lucius gets one boy in a choke

hold with the cane.)


Hey! My cane!


What's this?

(grabs M’s begging bowl, pours out the



Looks like more tribute for Caesar.


Tax day!


No! Someone....please!

Just as they are about to complete the robbery and

start on the boys again, the Centurion slaps a

heavy hand on the soldiers’ shoulders. They snap

to attention, dropping everything. Mephibosheth

scrambles to retrieve his things. The boys are



We’ll be mustering now to clear the square for the


(in a ferocious whisper, steering his

men out of the square)

What in the five hells are you thinking? Caesar’s

census hasn’t exactly made the provincials love us!

(His eye falls on the boys. In a louder


You there! You carry their gear!

(The soldiers grin & shake off their

packs. They boys grimly pick them up.

The five of them exit. Mephibosheth

makes it to the well with Joseph’s





Sorry, friend. But what I have, I’ll share. Bread?

(He breaks some off)


Are you hurt?


Not really. No more than usual.


This happens often?


They see that I’m afraid. Sometimes I’m afraid in a

place where I don’t know my way. If I could only see, I

wouldn’t be afraid. I wouldn’t let them push me around.

I’d make them see the light!

(He devours the bread)


What's your name, young man?


I’m Mephibosheth, ma’am.

(he rises to bow & take her hand, but

misses, falls, rolls and jumps up in one

smooth move.)

I meant to do that!

(They all laugh)


You aren't from around here, are you?


No, sir. I’m from Jerusalem. My parents brought me

with them when they came to pay the tax and sign the

registry. I don’t usually get to go anywhere... Born

blind... But we hoped this would be a good place for me

to beg while so many are here for the census. Besides,

the Romans even tax blind beggars!


So we saw!


It sure is quiet right here. It being the inn well and

all. I’, but I usually don’t scare

people away from a well….Say! You must be that couple

everybody’s talking about.

(he realizes this is a faux pas)


Why would you think that?


Even a blind man can see you’re being shunned….Some of

them say your baby is the Messiah! Is it true? He’s

royal blood – son of David - or you wouldn’t be here.

Will he be king one day?


(putting a protective arm around Mary)

Messiah? Yes, so the angel has told me. “A virgin shall

conceive and bear a son and shall call his name

Immanuel, God with us.”


But, 'king'? We have no word of that.


When I was little and I had been beaten on the streets,

my mum used to comfort me with stories of the Messiah.

She said “Behold your God will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” (pause) Is

your time very near, like they all say?


yes, very...

(she takes his hand and places it on her

belly. He shouts, jerks back as if

burned, then reaches again)


What!? What?!


What! What is it?


I...don't know! Something....

(He tears the bandage off his eyes,

opening them wide - but blindly.

Crestfallen, he dashes tears from his


I have to go now. We are leaving tonight. I won’t get

to meet Him.

(reluctantly he rises to go, then turns


Wait! My mum told me that the Messiah would come to the

Temple – in Jerusalem. That’s where I live! I will wait

for Him there... Every day... Tell Him. I’ll be


(As he leaves, Joseph begins to gather

up their belongings)


We should be going, too. It will be dark soon and we’re

almost home. Boaz will have a lamb roasting and Mama

will have the place all decked out for all the family

coming in for the census…

(he breaks off, seeing Mary’s flaming



Will they? Will they have room for all of us? After

the wedding…


The wedding isn't the whole story..


It is for your mother...It is for the town.


I’ve written to Boaz. He understands…he believes.

He’ll welcome us… all of us. And he’s the head of the

household now. Mama will do as he says.


Boaz is a true son of David, but he can't...


I can! God has appointed me to protect His promised

Messiah, and to defend his mother. It starts here…


Then don't ask me to birth this child in your mother's

house. Think of something else.


It would be the gravest insult to my family not to go

to them while we are here in Bethlehem. You know that.

Boaz, Rahab, Rachel & Adam enter. Boaz calls

across the room. Lights catch them in the crowd.


Joseph! Mary! Adam told me you had arrived, but we

didn’t see you at the house.



(he with joy, she with dismay. Joseph &

Boaz embrace. Joseph hugs everyone. Mary

is left out)


(cuffing Adam affectionately)

Where are your manners? Why didn’t you bring them with

you as soon as you saw them?

(turning back to Mary & Joseph)

I was afraid you wouldn’t come to us. Mary! Welcome.

You will always have a place in my home.

Mary smiles at him but looks past him to Rahab.

Joseph and Boaz exchange worried looks over her

head. Rahab won’t look at Mary. The brothers turn

to Rahab expectantly.



(with a forced smile)

Hello Mary. I wish we were meeting under happier


(she catches Joseph’s warning look)

The census. Caesar is most inconsiderate.


(with stiff politeness)

How are you?



(under her breath)

...until today.





I am an old woman! She is about to give birth.

Neither of us has time for these games! How am I? NOT

fine! There is nothing fine about any of this!


Did the angel’s message in my dream mean nothing to



I too had a dream! I dreamed I had a son who would

bring glory to God and joy to my heart! This is not a

dream. This is a nightmare!

There is a long tense pause. Mary groans in

labor. The Roman squadron enters. Everyone starts



It's time! He's coming!


No time to get home now!


Rachel! Run fetch you mother. We need her midwifery


(Rachel runs)


I’ll speak to the innkeeper!

(they all turn to stare at her. She

shakes her head dismissively.)

I would do this for anyone.


The square is closing for the night! Go home, everyone!

He and the soldiers keep interrupting with this

message as they begin to clear the room. Lights

come up near inn.


(crossing to the inn)

Daniel! Have you got space for Joseph and his wife?

She’s just gone into labor. She won’t make it to my

house tonight.


It’s really packed. Besides, the birth will make all

my guests unclean! They’ll complain. She’ll be



She’ll be miserable anyway, you oaf! How about the



The sheep are all out for lambing. Isn't it nearly



Well...yes. and there's fresh straw ready to be strewn



Boaz! Adam! Help Joseph get the stable ready for this


The family group exits to the stable. The

soldiers clear the room, lead by the squadron's

piper, escorting everyone to the concert. Lights

come up in the room. Remaining characters &

shopkeepers open the auditorium doors, helping

everyone to leave.

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