Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Things I've Learned from the Amish

by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Posted December 17, 2012 on the Not Quite Amish blog

The Not Quite Amish blog begins with these words:  "Not Quite Amish is a community blog for those who love Amish communities, simple living, vintage style, and have a desire to be in growing relationships with friends, family, and God. . . . You want more peace in your life, in your home, in your family, and in your heart. You want to try a new recipe and pick up a needle and thread. You want to learn to simplify and care for God's green earth (and teach your children to do the same)."

Even if you don't read Amish fiction, you will probably enjoy author Suzanne Woods Fisher's list of "10 Things I've Learned from the Amish."  Any thoughts or comments?  Can you relate to Suzanne's list?  Are there some things that you admire about the Amish lifestyle?


10 Things I've Learned from the Amish

Being Amish is not a lifestyle. Life among the Amish has to do with faith. Faith can’t be squeezed to an hour or two on Sunday morning; it infuses their entire life like a teabag in hot water. What they do and how they do it is rooted in the spiritual question: What is pleasing to God?

Amish proverb: “Letting go of earthly possessions enables us to take hold of heavenly treasures.”

The Lesson: To pray about my day’s activities and offer them to God, first, for His purposes. And then trusting interruptions (such as bumping into a chatty friend in the grocery store) or de-railings (those frustrating days when everything goes wrong) to be God-managed.

Life isn’t trouble-free. The Amish believe the biblical explanation that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.” When faced with difficulties, they quickly move on, adjusting to the circumstances. The barn raising might be the best metaphor to illustrate how the Amish handle adversity. When a barn burns down, they don’t dwell on why it burned, they gather together to rebuild. And then they praise God: for the lumber, the nails, the caring community that skillfully puts it together, the animals that will inhabit it, and for a chance to start again.

Amish proverb: “You can tell when you’re on the right track. It’s usually uphill.”

The Lesson: Peace is not simply the absence of difficulties. God’s peace can exist even in the middle of problems.

Enough is . . . enough. The Amish believe that setting limits on almost everything is one of the foundations of wisdom. They put the brakes on accumulation and all the distractions and complications that come with it. There’s a point, they believe, where enough is enough, especially if it interferes with what is truly important to them: faith, family, community.

Amish proverb: “We live simply so others may simply life.”

The Lesson: As the holiday season approaches, consider scaling down. Buy less. And think twice about what you do purchase. In the upside down world of Christianity, living with less ends up giving you more.

Just enough for today and not a penny more. The Amish believe in hard work and frugality, but they strive to prevent affluent living, keeping up with the Joneses, and social status. In fact, they don’t even value the indicators of success that we prize: income, education, luxuries, and symbols of prosperity. To the Amish way of thinking, “If fools have much, they spend much.”

Amish proverb: “He who has no money is poor; he who has nothing but money is even poorer.”

The Lesson: Money is a tool, not a goal.

Cherish your family. A family that works together, grows together. Amish families spend a lot of time together and try to keep their work close to home. Children are valued as gifts from God, wanted and enjoyed. They’re included in all of Amish life—from barn raisings to three-hour church services. An Amish bishop once said, “We don’t prepare our children for the future, we prepare our children for eternity.”

Amish proverb: “Tomorrow’s world will be shaped by what we teach our children today.”

The Lesson: Involving children in chores and activities may not be the most convenient or efficient way to accomplish a task, but the benefits are long lasting. Look for ways to get everybody involved—cook together, sweep out the garage together, set the table together. And have fun while you’re doing it!

Draw a line in the sand. The Amish want to be good stewards of God’s resources—time, money, material goods. They know that convenience comes with a cost. They don’t want to be dependent on outside sources (such as electricity or gas!). Convenience means loss of something valuable. For example, fast food means less nutrition. More stuff means more maintenance. They’re willing to say no.

Amish proverb: “Things that steal our time are usually the easiest to do.”

The Lesson: Technology has its limits. And technology isn’t all good. Evaluate purchases more thoughtfully. Think of where a purchase or an added expense will lead your family. More time together or less? More stress or less? Reframe your view of time and money and goods as God’s resources.

Watch your words. The Amish continually stress the importance of filtering their speech.

Amish proverb: “Words break no bones, but they can break hearts” and “Mincing your words makes it easier if you have to eat them later.”

The Lesson: Say less. Pray more.

Nothing replaces face-to-face visits. Back in the day when telephones emerged on the scene, the Amish bishops made a deliberate decision to keep the telephone out of the house. They didn’t want to interrupt family life. But they drop everything for a face-to-face visit.

Amish proverb: “Use friendship as a drawing account, but don’t forget to make a deposit.”

The Lesson: Nurture relationships by investing face-to-face time in them. No technology can substitute for the real thing.

Honor the Sabbath. An Amish person would never think of working on a Sunday. But it’s more than that—they truly cherish their Sabbath. They spend time on Saturday to make Sunday a smooth and easy day.

Amish proverb: “Many things I have tried to grasp and have lost. That which I have placed in God’s hands I still have.”

The Lesson: Strive to make Sunday a different day than other days. A day of rest is important on so many levels—time to worship, time to reflect, time to re-energize. A re-charge your battery day.

Waiting isn’t a verb. It’s an attitude. For the Amish, time is not something to be mastered, but respected. What a contrast to the non-Amish perception of time: there’s never enough of it!

Amish proverb: “Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait.”
The Lesson: The Amish can teach us to slow down. They remind us that Christians should look at life from a different perspective because we are part of a different kingdom—one that stretches into eternity.


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