The Amish believe in extending forgiveness quickly. This is a practice they take seriously. An example of this is how an Amish community near Lancaster, Pennsylvania responded in 2006 when a man entered an Amish schoolhouse and shot several children. The media, as well as many people in our nation, were shocked when the Amish forgave the shooter. In that, there is a lesson to be learned. If we don’t forgive, it affects every aspect of our lives. How can we come to a place of forgiveness when someone has hurt us or a member of our family? What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Last month I discussed one way we can live like the Amish without having to join the Amish faith. It involved prioritizing faith and family. Today, I’d like to share with you a second way I believe we can live like the Amish.
Make the needs of others a top priority. My Amish friends have a true heart for people. They’re just as busy as we are with life, but when they see a need, they drop everything to respond. I have seen this firsthand many times. The love the Amish show for others draws me back to their commitment of putting God first and then family and friends second. Their desire for people over things is a lesson we can emulate in our culture of excess.
Is there something special you have done for a friend or family member this week? Has someone done something to help you?
In an interview I did a few years ago, I was asked to name 5 ways we could live like the Amish. In this journal entry I will list one way, and in subsequent entries list the other four:
Prioritize Faith and Family: We live in an instant culture, especially due to advances in technology. My Amish friends, however, remain deeply connected to their roots and make faith and family their number one priorities. To them, this means saying no to television, phones in their homes, movies, and other things that can often draw attention away from these priorities. Instead, the Amish fill their lives when not working with fellowship, family fun, nature, and God. Some also enjoy traveling, but of course, that means either hiring a driver or taking a bus or train.
Amish children are taught from a young age to put their focus on God and family and not things of the world. The Amish don’t think electricity is sinful, but it can serve as a temptation to have more or do worldly things. We English may not want to get rid of our TV or phones permanently, but we might consider taking a break from technology from time to time.
Have you given up anything or changed the way you do something to become more like the Amish?
In my novel, The English Son, Joel Byler left his Amish roots to explore the English world and gain modern things. By leaving the faith in the way that he did, Joel hurt his family as well as his girlfriend.
There are many reasons a person may move away from their family, but when they do it in a hurtful manner, or only visit when they want something, it puts a strain on everyone. Bitterness and strife can take root as well.
Have you ever been hurt by a family member who either left home for selfish reasons or only came around when they needed something? How did you deal with the situation? How do you think God wants us to treat wayward family members?
I’ve experienced the pleasure of knowing, even in some small way, what it feels like to be Amish whenever I spend time with our Amish friends. A few years ago my husband and I were invited to stay with some of our Amish friends for several days. While we were there, I enjoyed washing the dishes, hanging freshly washed clothes on the line to dry, and helping to cook a meal on a propane-operated stove. I gave up watching TV, curling my hair, working on the computer, and communicating via my cell phone with emails and text messages. Instead, I spent many hours visiting, singing, watching Amish children play, and becoming one with nature. That Sunday, my husband and I attended church with our Amish friends, and rode in their horse-pulled buggy. We may not have understood all the words being said during the three-hour service, but we felt a worshipful spirit as Amish voices were lifted to the rafters in praise to God.
Have you ever tried being Amish for a day, or even a few hours? If so, what did you do and how did it make you feel?
My husband grew up in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Getting to know my Mennonite relatives gave me a sense of yearning for the simpler life. When one of our Mennonite friends introduced us to an Amish man he worked with, my desire went deeper. When I discovered that my great-great grandparents were part of the Anabaptist faith, I realized why I had such a deep yearning to know the Plain People. It wasn’t long after that and we began making friends with many Amish families in several communities across the country.
Back in 1996, I decided to write Amish-themed novels so my readers would have a better understanding of the Amish people and their way of life. What have you learned about the Amish from reading my novels, devotionals, and cookbooks? Have you put any of the Amish ways into practice in your own life?
In my upcoming novel, The Restoration, the third book of the Prairie State Friends series, Priscilla Herschberger finds herself pursued by Elam, a childhood friend from her community. David, an outsider, raised in the modern world, also takes an interest in Priscilla. Elam would do almost anything to convince Priscilla that David would never fit into the Amish way. When flames of jealousy rage out of control, Priscilla must decide if she will forgive the person who has hurtfully wronged her.
As the year 2016 begins, many people will make one or more New Year’s resolutions. For some, it might involve forgiveness. In Matthew 6:14 (NIV) it says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Wouldn’t this New Year be a good opportunity to forgive someone who has hurt you by something they have said or done?
When we forgive those who have wronged us, our relationship is often strengthened, or a new friendship can take place. How has someone hurting you affected your life. If you forgave that person, how did it make you feel?
The Amish use no instruments to accompany their singing during church, yet whenever I hear them lift their voices in song I know they’re offering praises to God. Many of the hymns in the Amish Ausbund, as well as those hymns found in other denomination’s church hymnals, were written to help us understand the beliefs and suffering of those who wrote the hymns of old. These songs are a reminder of the songwriter’s faith, and were often written during times of suffering, although many of the hymns are songs of praise.
God likes it when we praise Him. In Luke 19:40 Jesus told the Pharisees who had rebuked the people for praising Him, that if the people didn’t praise Him, the stones would cry out. Songs that glorify God can reach the deepest level of our hearts. What better way for us to praise God than through singing songs of praise?
One of my favorite hymns is The Old Rugged Cross. What are some of your favorite hymns? In what way do the words of the hymns speak to your heart? The next time you sing a hymn try to visualize the time period it was written, and the condition in which the writer of the hymn lived. Think about the praise it offers to God when we sing songs to Him. Think about the joy it brings to you.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of the importance of being thankful. The trials we face on our earthly journey can sometimes tear us down, make us feel depressed, and cause negative thinking. Ephesians 5:20 reminds us to give thanks in all things unto God. While we may not feel thankful for the trials we face, we can offer thanks for the knowledge that God is always with us, helping us, and guiding us every day. He hears our prayers and understands our pain.
Negative thinking tears a person down, but giving praise, honor and thanks to the Lord lifts our spirits. Despite any unpleasant situations we may face, there is always something to be thankful for.
Today, as I sit at my computer, looking out my office window, I am thankful for the much-needed rain we have received this week. I’m also thankful for my family, whom I love so dearly. Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me and always hears my prayers. What are you thankful for today?
The Amish don’t have insurance, so when they get sick, lose a house or a barn, or someone in the family dies, they must rely on financial support from others. Often this is accomplished through a community benefit auction. My husband and I have attended several benefit auctions, and it’s always heart-warming to see the large crowd of Amish who come out in support of others in their community with a financial need.
In our world we hear a lot about ways to become rich so we can provide for our own needs. But the Bible clearly teaches that a Christian’s life should not be all about money. It should be about the richness of our relationship with the Lord. It should be about the joy of helping others with a need. Realizing the value of people we care about is more important than all the riches in the world. Acquiring worldly treasures won’t bring us happiness, and love is never afraid of giving too much. Is there someone you know who could use some help? Is there a way you or your church can help that person with food, clothing, or financial support?