Tag Archives: Bible verse

As soon as I could read the writing on the wall

woman lying on area rug reading books

Photo by Renato Abati on Pexels.com

Hannah’s house had eight-foot-tall bookcases shoved against its white cement walls. Seven-year old Hannah loved to read everything, especially Boxcar Children and American Girl books.

But she was very smart and she got bored when she knew it already. Like the Beginner’s Bible stories each night before jumping under the mosquito net. Usually Mom and Dad still read from that Bible so the younger kids could understand.

One day she was lying on her daisy comforter-covered bed with a kids’ Bible she hadn’t seen before. It was probably a Christmas present, maybe from Grandma Rasmussen.

There were the usual stories, Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Jesus, you know. But then there was a picture with a hand – with no arm – writing letters on the wall. That wasn’t supposed to be there. There weren’t any Bible stories about that, silly! But it was, and it had right under the title the actual verses straight from the real adult Bible.

What if there were other stories in the Bible that the adults never taught the kids?

~

Grandma Rasmussen taught Hannah how to bake cinnamon rolls, and how to iron, and make beds, and learn the three- and four- times tables. It was because she used to be a home economics and math teacher.

She and Grandpa were pastors too. She tried to teach Hannah the song, “Come everybody let us tell, the books of the Bible we know so well… Genesis, Exodus…”

Hannah knew the tune, but the words she knew were Swahili syllables she just tried to copy in her mouth. Later, she read the Table of Contents from the Swahili Bible and figured out what they had been teaching her to sing in PEFA Sunday School. It was the only thing she learned from ten years of PEFA Sunday School.

~

But Hannah learned things at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp in Minnesota. It was for the whole family, but she was eight so she was with the other kids. At craft time she learned how to make “God’s eyes” by crossing two popsicle sticks and winding bright colored yarn around them. She was really good at not letting the yarn overlap. She learned the theme verse that year, which was Jeremiah 29:11. And she learned that the lady up front was called Rebecca H. and she was very nice to Hannah because she was a missionary kid from East Africa too.

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In East Africa at school on Monday mornings, all the kids had to walk in a line to assembly. Everyone had to have their white and blue uniforms tucked in. The Headmaster made us sing songs like “Oh Cinnamon, where you gonna run to, all on that day?” Later Hannah figured out that it was the British way to say “sinner man.”

The headmaster usually told the story of the Good Samaritan, and that it meant we should all be nice to each other, and that Gandhi and Mohammed and Jesus all got the idea about how to be good people. Pretty much all the kids were Muslim Indians, and everybody liked the really Christian science teacher and hated the headmaster, who was Anglican or something. He always ended by telling all the kids they would look like spoiled brats if they littered. They could tell he didn’t mean it when he sang about “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

Hannah and her atheist Dutch friend talked about God as eleven-year-olds. Hannah started wondering if she was lying when she sang the songs about loving God and believing him.

~

Then Hannah left that school and moved to Chicago. Dad taught pastors at a Bible school in Tanzania but God told him to get more training at Trinity. She made friends with Rachel, the brave New Zealander, and Neema, the tomboy from India. They went to Kids on Kampus together.

Mr. Mike was the leader of Kids on Kampus. He loved puns, taking kids out for ice cream, and the Bible. Once he gave the kids a talk about how “as long as it is called today” we need to respond to God. It was really real to him. Maybe Hannah didn’t know it already. Maybe the Bible was sixty-six books on an eight-foot-tall bookshelf. Maybe thought she had read them but had only read the blurb or looked at the pictures. That happened sometimes.

~

Hannah didn’t have to read the kids’ Bibles anymore. For her birthday, Grandma Rasmussen gave Hannah a card with Jeremiah 29:11 at the bottom (as always) and a Daily Bible. That meant it was arranged in chronological order because she wanted to read each day together with “my special Hannah.” Hannah tried really hard for a while but had to skip through parts of the Law because it got too boring, and gave up partway through Psalms, or maybe earlier.

Hannah also got a real Bible, an NIV Teen Study Bible from the Trinity bookstore. She and her Trinity friends always biked there to buy candy, listen to free music samples, and hide behind the shelves reading in the teen section. She made a goal to read one to four chapters of the New Testament every day. She almost always ended up reading four chapters, and wrote a lot of pencil marks on the sides.

Rachel, Neema and Hannah all started reading the Bible because of Mr. Mike. They got together and talked about God and doubt. They met on a field on the other side of campus a couple times and gave each other sermons they wrote themselves.

~

The Trinity kids were very different from the rest of their school. There were a lot of Catholics and Jews with ipods, au pairs, North Faces and Birkenstocks. Michael Jordan’s kid was in Hannah’s 22-person eighth grade art class. Hannah took eighth grade art and math instead of seventh grade math like all the other kids her age. So every week the boys threw their dodgeballs at her and her Trinity friends.

Jewish Ian put a Time Magazine cover on the locker next to Hannah’s that said, “Looking for the Real Jesus?” and signed it “Jésus”, his name in Spanish class. It made the three friends angry. They started to call themselves “Friends Always Through Christ Around the World” and became closer because of the tough times.

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Hannah left the F.A.T.C.A.T.W. at the end of the second year to go back to the house with the white cement walls in Tanzania. At the last night of Kids of Kampus, Mr Mike and all the kids prayed for her and her family. The songs on the overhead seemed to pop out at her: “Prince of Peace,” “Emmanuel,” “Friend.” “Blessed be your name when the road’s marked with suffering…” And Hannah knew God was telling her there was a Friend who would be with her wherever she went.

~

While Hannah had been gone from the British Anglican school, her best friends had moved away. Her classmates now loved celebrities and partying and Hannah loved God. So she ate lunch with a new girl, another Dutch atheist.

Before school in the morning, Hannah read the Daily Bible Grandma Rasmussen had given her. At night, she wrote angry tearful letters to God for not being her friend. Then right before bed she sung a made-up tune to a Bible verse ten times that she’d written on an index card, a different one to memorize every week.

Back when Hannah gave her sermon to Rachel and Neema, it was on the “What Will They Think” factor from Galatians 1:10. Now, she said it like a rap to memorize it: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men/ or of God or am I trying to please men/ if I were still trying to please men/ I would not be a servant of Christ Galatians one ten.”

~

Slowly Hannah realized she had been blaming God for not keeping his promises but maybe it was her fault for being angry and very picky about friends. Then she realized God wasn’t picky about friends, and she shouldn’t be either. So she made three other friends. Then Dad and Mom told Hannah they might be moving to Kenya.

Hannah cried because she knew deep down it was meant to happen, but it was scary. They said goodbye to the house with the white cement walls, and went to visit the States for the summer before school started in Kenya.

At Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp again, one of the workshops was about listening to God. Hannah laid down on a pew. She remembered the theme verse from last time she was at Sand Hill Lake when she was eight and from Grandma Rasmussen’s birthday cards: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Then she remembered verses she had memorized before bed: “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

And this time Hannah wasn’t going to blame God for not keeping promises. For the talent show at Sand Hill Lake, she did a song she’d written about the last move. The chorus went, “Not in the gale of wind, not in the fire, not in the earthquake, but in the gentle whisper You are there, saying, ‘I love you more than life itself, Trust Me, Trust Me, I am Emmanuel.’”

~

And Hannah had more sleepovers in the first six weeks in Kenya than in the previous three years in Tanzania. Her new friends read the Bible and prayed together, because all of the friends were friends with God too. And Hannah realized maybe the Bible was God’s letters – sometimes angry and tearful – to God’s people for not being his friend. Why couldn’t everybody be friends?

Originally written for a college English assignment about my experience with the Bible.


No new goals for me. I’m still recovering from last year

Australian Paralympic Committee [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This past semester I experienced conflict, frustration, or loss in almost every area of my life. I desperately needed support, but many of my support systems were shaky. I didn’t want to talk badly about any given person to a mutual friend or online, and I didn’t want to dump my burdens on someone I was just getting to know – so I struggled to find people I could share appropriately with who were also available.

Sometimes I feel that I should be over more of it by now. I do have peace in certain areas, but I’m still recovering. Today I’m acknowledging just how tough this was and just how brave and strong I was. Even when I felt rejected, I kept reaching out to others. Even when I was tempted to take things personally, I clung to the truth of God’s love for me and my worth. In the midst of everything, I still excelled in my classes, found fulfillment at work, and invested in my communities. I apologized, gave constructive feedback, journaled, prayed, forgave, and grieved. I continued to trust in and cry out to God.

It’s okay that I’m still in process and don’t have all the answers. It’s amazing that I even survived, much less maintained healthy habits and processed so much already. It’s really a testimony to God’s grace. I’m grateful that God sustained me, including through many unexpected people who stepped up with support.

So as I enter 2018, I’m not quite ready for new goals or challenges. I’m taking comfort in the words of Psalm 147:3, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Here’s hoping for a year of healing.


Holy Week Women (Spoken Word Video)

Cover Hannah RasmussenIn preparation for Easter, I’m asking: how the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection relate to mine?

Through spoken word, I tell how God gave women big roles in the first Passover, Good Friday and Easter – but we don’t always hear the whole story.

Click these links to watch the video or read the words.

This is part of my group guide for young adults curious about gender and the Bible, which Christians for Biblical Equality is publishing this year. Let me know if you’re interested to learn more.


Labyrinth: A Patchwork Psalm for the Road

Birthday card (from Amani ya Juu in Kenya)

Birthday card (from Amani ya Juu in Kenya)

Exactly 22 years after
crowning at my dawn birth
and nearly a month after
cap and tassel crowns me an adult

I stand at the crossroads and look.

Behind me are
the jobs I turned down and the ones that turned me down,
the housing offers I passed up
because my gut wouldn’t settle.

Ahead of me is
where the sidewalk ends
and before the street begins.

I used to walk
hoping the length of my strides
would project strength I didn’t have on the inside.

This time I humble my pride,
silence myself to seek the ancient paths.

A ring tone
an editor
tells me my writing will be published.
a coauthor
quotes Antonio Machado
“Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.”

In Walden’s solitary naturescape
feet padding to the pond
wore a groove through the grass.

A ring tone
a stranger
calls me
to work on the Africa Study Bible team.
the job
calls me
to move to Nairobi.

I wanted to settle
two more years at least in Minnesota
but my gut
freed me of job or house ties.

There is no reason I couldn’t.

A ring tone
my pastor
calls me
to read Isaiah 42:16:
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not seen
Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.”

For my birthday my parents give me
a card from Kenya –
flipflops and a proverb:
“The path is made by walking.”

I will be collecting proverbs
connecting them with scripture’s wisdom.

I have already started.

New things shown
God
calls me
“This is the way, walk in it.”

I have already started.

Sing into the unknown
I
call out:

“If you will be with me
   On this journey I am taking
If you will give me food to eat
   And clothes to wear
So that I return safely
   To my father’s household.
Then you, Lord, will be my God
   And I will follow you.

“Like in blindfolded partner dodgeball,
Your voice will tell me “This is the Way.
Through a shadowed valley,
    Your word is my streetlamp.
I wait for your direction
I listen to your commands.
If I do what you want
   You will make certain each step I take is sure.
You hold my hand
   So if I stumble, I still won’t fall.
Knowing you will never forsake me,
    I walk with grace and confidence.

“You go before me,
   You hem me in behind.
I trust in you,
Because you are the path-maker.
I step inside your footprints
You have already pressed the snow smooth.

“Your ways are higher than mine,
You see the labyrinth’s end from a bird’s eye view.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   Too lofty for me to attain.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

I have already started.