Wanda’s Journal

Live Like the Amish

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?

Family Ties

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?

Amish for a Day

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?

Amish Life

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?

Forgiveness

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?

Songs of Praise

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.

Thankful Thoughts

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 Joy of Helping

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?

Prayer Changes Things

The Amish pray before and after each meal, and many times throughout the day. They also pray several times during their church services. My husband and I witnessed this firsthand during an Amish wedding, and also when we attended an Amish church service. When it was time for prayer, everyone went down on their knees. It wasn’t a padded, carpeted floor we knelt on, either. It was a hard, cold, cement floor. I found it to be a very humbling experience.

In I Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing. Although some prayers might not be answered in the way we would like, God answers according to His will. We should never quit praying, for there’s power in prayer. Each time we pray our faith will be strengthened. Whenever we pray God always hears. When we see Him answering our prayers and meeting our needs, our faith will be strengthened, and our hearts will be filled with gratitude.

Remember that prayer is nothing more than making your requests known to God. Just as a flower reaches for the sun, we should reach out to God and let His Son bathe our souls. Is there someone you know who needs prayer today? Would you include me and my family in your prayers — for good health, wisdom, strength, and the ability to discern God’s will in all things? If you have a prayer request, feel to share it so others can pray for you as well.

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

During one of our visits to an Amish schoolhouse in Indiana, my husband made some twisty balloon animals for the children. Since Richard has been blowing up balloons for a good many years, his lungs are strong and he rarely uses a pump. The children were impressed at how easy he made it look, and several of the boys wanted to try blowing up a balloon. After a few attempts, all except one of the red-faced boys gave up. The determined boy had a bit more patience than the others. He continued trying to blow up the balloon, until he ran out of air and passed out for a few seconds. Undaunted, and unhurt, he picked himself up and continued blowing until his balloon was fully inflated.

Seeing the patience of this young boy made me think of how easily some people give up when they’re faced with a challenge. Sometimes we give up praying because we don’t receive an answer quickly enough. God wants us to wait patiently for Him, and He wants us to pray and continually seek to do His will.

Are you faced with a challenge today that seems un-daunting? Ask the Lord for the courage and strength to keep going. Ask Him for an attitude of patience as you wait for answers from Him.