My Thoughts on Evangelization

Evangelization. As Jesus’ followers, we are called to share the Gospel message with others.

“Go and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

I will be real with you all. The idea of evangelization terrifies me. There are so many friends in my life who aren’t Christians, and I truly do want them to experience the peace and joy that comes with having a relationship with God. However, I’m weary of bringing up the subject of faith because I don’t want to come off as preachy and make it appear as if I know all things about religion. I don’t. I have so many questions that I need to work out myself, but I believe there is a God who created this world and that he sent Jesus as a living sacrifice for our sins. For a long time, I have been praying for God to help me be brave in sharing the Gospel with others, but I have still been uncomfortable with the idea.

However, I was talking to some of my friends the other day, and they gave me some encouragement that I would love to share with you. They opened my eyes to a few key ideas. One, evangelization is not solely a verbal recitation of the Gospel to someone. In fact, when you look at Jesus in the Gospel, sure he preached, but he also spent so much time in community–building relationships, serving, and loving every member in society. Jesus spread the Gospel through both his words and actions. For such a long time, I had never considered my actions as a way to evangelize, but now I realize that for me, the best way to spread the Gospel is to live the Gospel.

If I go around preaching Gospel messages to love one another, to treat others with dignity and respect, or to put others above oneself, but my actions don’t correlate with my words, people won’t be receptive of Christianity. They will just see that I’m a hypocrite. However, if I live my life with love, peace, patience (all those good fruits of the spirit), maybe my friends or coworkers will notice that I try to live my life differently. That could lead to questions about why I live my life the way I do, which could open up a conversation about faith.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that evangelization varies from person to person. It may involve words or actions, but is not the door-to-door preaching image that I once had in my mind. The final thing I realized by talking with my friends is that my job as a disciple is spread the Gospel message. The process of conversion, however, is up to God. I don’t have the power to convert anyone; that is God’s power.

I hope that this is a little bit of encouragement for any of you who also have people in your life who are either not religious or Christian that you want to share the Gospel message with. I’m just trying to evangelize like Jesus did. Be friends with them. Build trust with them. Love them. That is the gospel, folks.

Lots of love,

Hannah

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My Love-Hate Relationship with To-Do Lists

Anyone can tell you that 99% of the time, I’m on top of my game. My number one strength is disciple, so I love order and routine. Not a day goes by where I don’t make a game plan and consult my plethora of to-do lists. To me, there is nothing better than structuring my day by making a list (or a few) and crossing off each accomplishment one-by one. Seriously, I get a little burst of happiness every time I get to check something off of my list– I’m crazy I know.

However, sometimes I feel like to-do lists can be harmful for people like me. Instead of being a tool to help someone stay organized, they almost serve as a measurement for how “good” a day is for me. The more items I accomplish on my list, the better my day becomes. My mind focuses only on tangible tasks, rather than meaningful moments. Because of this, it’s so easy for me to become this busy-body; from the moment I wake up I’m reading my bible, doing chores, going to work. Check. Check. Check. If every part of my life becomes part of my to-do list, am I really enjoying these tasks or just completing them to feel more productive and accomplished?

I don’t want to live my life in constant “work” mode. I don’t want to feel bad or lazy if I have a day where I spend time just recharging by reading a book or cooking. I want to shift my focus from finishing tasks, and instead focus on being in the moment during these events. When I am focused on being productive, I lose precious moments with those that I love. Instead of being present with my family and friends, my mind is preoccupied with what I need to get done next. How good a day is shouldn’t be measured quantitatively, but rather qualitatively. Maybe, one day I just spend time with my mom at the farmer’s market. Sure, I don’t get any chores done, but I’m fostering my relationship with my mom. This is far more important than checking off a to-do list.

What I am trying to realize now, is that the best moments in life cannot be defined by a to-do list. For example, I can think I am doing my job as a Christian by reading my bible, praying, and going to church. Check. Check. Check. Faith is more than a check-list. This is the same with so many other areas of my life. To-do lists can be helpful, but they also can be controlling. Will I stop using them? No, because they are useful reminders of things that I need to get done. I just need to remember that there is more to life than just checking items off lists. I need to shift my focus from completing tasks to enjoying the tasks in each day. A day can be great without checking many items off of a list. It’s okay to slow down sometimes and just enjoy the life that we have been blessed with.

 

Lots of love,

Hannah

Feeling God’s Presence in Nature

I’ll admit it. I hate Wisconsin a lot. It’s not really Wisconsin that I hate, though. I wholeheartedly despise winter. Sure, pristine, fluffy snow with 30 degree temperatures around the holidays is fine. However, that beautiful snow quickly turns to slushy mush. Thirty degree days turn into sub-zero temperatures with blasting wind chills. During this season, all I want to do is curl up into a ball with the warmest clothes that I can find and hibernate until summer. My negative feelings towards winter disproportionately have affected my view of Wisconsin as a whole. Wisconsin is actually a beautiful state–filled with vast flowers, trees, and wildlife. If I step outside my negative state of mind caused by my hatred of winter, I realize how wonderful God’s creation is. In fact, when I am able to get outside, I feel God’s presence most intimately.

Recently, I decided to go on a evening walk after work. Normally, I’m so exhausted from work that the only activities that I can do afterwards are eat and sleep. Anyways, I was proud that I could muster up the energy to get moving outside. What a powerful experience. I felt as though my whole walk was a prayer with God. Sometimes, I straight up talked with Him about my concerns or about petitions that I had for other people. The rest of the walk was almost like a mediation. I could feel God everywhere–in the clear blue sky swirled with cirrus clouds; in the smell of the blooming lilacs; in the simplicity of sheep grazing in front of a rustic red barn; and in the smiles of preschoolers as they played tee-ball in the field next to an old one-room school house.

Sometimes when I’m on vacation and I get to experience new scenery (the Caribbean, the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, etc.), it’s easy to feel God amidst His stunning creation. However, it’s easy to forget to notice God where you live because it’s familiar. This walk reminded me, though, that God’s presence is abundant everywhere if we take the time to notice it. As I walked along talking to God, I was able to view my familiar hometown with a new lense. I was able to appreciate the beauty that resides in Wisconsin, even though I still struggle to get through its winters. Being in nature fills me with such peace. In the craziness of this world, nature is still and pure. It’s always there, waiting to be admired and explored.

So if you are interested in a new spiritual experience, try going on a nature walk. Just walk and see where God takes you. If you let God speak, I bet you will see the beauty and tranquility that surrounds you.

 

Lots of love,
Hannah

Loving is Hard

I’m in the middle of my shift at work. Per usual, I’m sweaty and frazzled as I try to get all of my residents ready for bed. Call lights are going off; I need help, no one is around. Instead of joyfully and positively interacting with my residents, I find myself getting impatient and short even with the sweetest people. Just wait until I have challenging residents where my best efforts are never adequate for them; I struggle to just be cordial and respectful. In scenarios like these, it’s so hard for me to love others.

LOVE.

There are a plethora of verses about it, it’s at the root of Christianity, and yet it is one of the hardest concepts for me to live by. To be honest, I do a poor job at loving my family and friends– people who should be easy to love. If I can’t love the people closest to me fully, how can I ever genuinely love my neighbors, coworkers, residents, complete strangers, enemies?

What I have started to realize, however, is that love that is within me stems from God, not myself. I have felt God’s love working through me the most at Royal Family Kids Camp this year. My two campers were broken. I don’t know their stories, but at age seven, both have them have endured more trauma and hardship than I will ever encounter. They have been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused, and now are stuck in the cycle of foster care. For a week at camp, though, it was my job to forget about their pasts and just love them for who they are. The type of love that I felt was unlike anything that I have experienced before. It was more than sisterly or motherly love. It was God’s love in me that was shining on these girls. If it were just my love working, the craziness of camp, the rain, or little behavioral issues would have inhibited me from genuinely loving my campers. Instead, camp (even though chaotic at times) was a joyous place, and I was able to create beautiful relationships with my campers. Through God’s love, I was able to give my whole self to these girls. Whatever they needed–a friend, a role model, a hug, a smile– I gave to them. So yes, even though I was tired and cold, you bet I was tubing in the lake, dancing with the girls in the cabin during “quiet time” , or walking hand-in-hand with my campers as we explored nature. My experience with Royal Family has allowed me to grow in my ability to be compassionate towards others because I learned that my love alone doesn’t cut it. I need God’s love to work through me.

Now, if I’m in a situation where I cannot love a person on my own, I send a quick prayer saying, “Lord, I’m struggling to love this person. Your love is greater than mine. Help me to love them.” It’s amazing what a simple prayer can do. This worked even this morning as my mom and I went to the farmer’s market. I was starting to become a grouch around her, but I asked for God to help me be more loving, and it saved the trip from turning sour.

This tactic doesn’t work for me all the time because I’m human and I screw up daily. Loving unconditionally is something that I want to work towards because by loving others, I am showing love to God– the one who sent Jesus to die for all of my sins. I don’t want to be a Christian who can only talk the talk. My words and actions need to embody the loving spirit of Christianity. Hopefully, God will give the the strength to allow me to grow in my capacity to love, even in situations where it’s hard to.

Lots of love,
Hannah

Why I’m a Morning Person

I know this may seem contradictory, but I’m a college student who loves mornings…just let that sink in. Most of my friends have to drag themselves out of bed to get to their classes, but I choose to get up early. To me, mornings are sacred. It’s a time for me to start my day off right by focusing on my body, mind, and spirit before the the busyness of the day begins.

I have two different morning schedules: weekday and weekend. No matter what, they usually involve a workout, food, coffee, and reading (some my favorite things.)

My schedule this semester allowed me to workout 3 days during the school week–Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Those mornings, I woke up nice and early at 6:30 am. I usually stumbled out of bed, put on workout gear, ate a snack, and then walked over to the gym. Early morning workouts aren’t too intense for me. I really try to listen to what my body feels like doing. I love Zumba, yoga, walking, running, and various workout videos from YouTube. These workouts allow me to wake up, and again, focus on myself for 45 minutes maximum.

After my workout, I will shower, get dressed, and head to the cafeteria. My morning breakfasts ALWAYS include coffee with Silk Vanilla creamer, and something with banana and peanut butter (oatmeal, yogurt, toast, etc.) Banana and peanut butter are probably the best food combination in my opinion, so I eat it everyday. Plus, it’s a good balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, so it fuels my body for the day ahead. Normally, I take my sweet time at the caf. While I sip on coffee and eat my breakfast, I skim the news through a daily email newsletter The Skimm. The newsletter basically sums up the most important current events, while using a sassy style that keeps my interest. To be honest, I’m not very interested in current events, but as a citizen I feel like I should have a little understanding of the world around me. The Skimm is the perfect outlet for me to do that. If I have extra time, I also like to read a couple of Bible verses using the YouVersion Bible App on my phone or read a devotion from shereadstruth.com. By reading scripture in the morning, my mind and heart is focused on the Lord. It reminds me that this college experience is for Him, not for me. I am His servant that is able to use my gifts to help others. That’s something that I constantly have to remind myself. It’s not about me. Reading my bible everyday helps me to remember why I’m on this Earth in the first place.

My weekend routine is practically the same. I will admit that I sleep in….only until 8:30am max. On the weekends, I like to treat myself by getting coffee at a local cafe near campus. I also take extra time to dig into God’s word and to journal about the week. I find it so special waking up early on the weekends because no one else is awake. It’s just me and God basically. Mornings are where I find peace. I can ground myself and find comfort in the God who loves me.

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So if you are not a morning person, here my top tips for you.

  1. Wake up early so that you can savor your morning time. Sure, in the beginning it stinks, but it’s time that you can spend simply on you. I think part of the reason people hate mornings is because rush around trying to get themselves together in too little of time.
  2. Do things that make you feel energized. Try a new workout or simply go for a walk in the morning breeze. It wakes you up, trust me. You might even see the sunrise. Sunrises are so special to me. When I see the sunrise, I feel like I’m witnessing one of nature’s under appreciated wonders. So many people want to see the sunset, but they fail to see the beauty of the dawn.
  3. Get organized. Make your bed (I would if I didn’t have a loft bed. I used to make my bed everyday for a while, but its a hassle trying to balance on desks and ladders just to make a bed.) or write a to do list. I do this everyday because it makes me feel productive and I can visualize exactly what I need to accomplish.
  4. Journal/Pray/Meditate. With all the chaos going on in the world, it’s crucial to be introspective once and a while. Once I take a few moments of silence to think or pray, I have so much more peace, and I’m ready to tackle the day.

Mornings are such a beautiful gift. They are an opportunity to start my day off right. I can focus, think, and pray with little distractions, and as a result, I am more productive and happy. I love the mornings, and I hope that you all can learn to enjoy them too!

 

Lots of love,

Hannah