Read an Excerpt
The One Year Book of Amish Peace
Hearing God's Voice in the Simple Things
By TRICIA GOYER
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2013 Tricia Goyer
All rights reserved.
Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17
An Amish family gathers around the kitchen table to celebrate God's goodness in bringing a new year. Grandparents, parents, and children join together with the glow of the lantern casting rings of light upon their heads. A pot of pork and sauerkraut sits in the center of the table. True to the Swiss-German heritage, pork—more specifically, fattened pigs—symbolizes wealth and looking to the future. Interestingly, unlike most animals, which can easily turn their heads, pigs can't look backward. We should all be so forward thinking!
After dinner the Amish family joins in a traditional New Year song: Die Zeit ist angekommen, das freudige Jahr. Gott wolle euch geben ein gutes Neujahr. "'Tis time now to welcome the happy New Year. God grant you to live and enjoy the new year."
Amish families sing of fortune and blessings, but even as they look forward to the coming year, their gazes also lift to unseen eternity. The song continues, "In heaven before the great heavenly throne, God grant you reward in that heavenly home."
What are you looking forward to? Perhaps you smile as you anticipate family togetherness, a graduation, or a new life to come. Or perhaps, as one year rolls into the next, you're in the midst of a season of sadness or loss. Whether you look ahead with hope or anxiety, remember Who sits on the great heavenly throne. Because we belong to Jesus, we can say, "The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" He is our reason to celebrate the new year, the days and seasons of our lives, and an endless eternity of rejoicing.
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Heavenly Father, the newness of the year pales in comparison with the new life You give through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Help me to look ahead to eternity with a grateful heart, no matter what this year brings. Amen.
The Rhythms of Nature
Even the stork that flies across the sky knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know the Lord's laws.
Snow covers the silent ground, and an Amish couple sits by lantern light looking through a seed catalog. Outside, a cold wind rattles bare branches, but in their mind's eye the husband and wife are considering the seasons to come: the earth's thaw and a hint of warmth on the breeze, followed by spring planting. Green shoots sprout, and fields are cultivated to protect young plants from the threat of weeds. Then, later, comes the harvest. Cutting, raking, bundling, drying. The loving Creator designed an arc of life and growth. Even when winter's cold grasp holds the world outside our windows, we know that it only lasts so long.
Sometimes in our world of to-do lists and electronic devices we miss the rhythm of nature. We trade our fall sweaters for winter parkas but forget that seasons are about more than simply adjusting our clothing choices. God's creatures know the journey of the seasons, and the Amish understand too. They live and work in the rhythms of nature. Just as spring is a time of hard work, winter is a change of pace. Do you live by this too?
Have you lost touch with the rhythms of nature? Do you forget to pause and consider the natural world? Take a moment and look outside your window. What we see outside is a reminder to us to still our lives and our hearts. There is a time to plow, a time for growth, a time of harvest, and a time to be still.
Is there a way to add stillness to your day? Do you have ten minutes to sit before God? Look at your calendar. Can you carve out some extra time for rest or quietness, knowing that another season of work is right around the corner?
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Dear heavenly Father, treating each season of life as the same is so easy—with a similar to-do list and the same urgency about my work. Help me to rest today. Open my eyes to the rhythm of nature and still my heart—not for the sake of stillness, but so You can speak. Amen.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.... Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Where do the roots of your faith come from? I didn't meet my biological father until I was twenty-eight years old. After we met—and forged a relationship—I discovered the roots of my own faith. They were deep roots. My grandfather had been a church planter. My great-great grandfather had been a missionary in Canada. My great-great-great grandfather had been a missionary and circuit preacher to early settlers of Indiana. There are even Christian books written about some of my ancestors. Amazing!
Likewise, the roots of Amish faith go deep. Amish roots stretch back to sixteenth-century Europe. During the time of the Protestant Reformation, the religious ancestors of the Amish were called Anabaptists (rebaptizers) because they baptized adults who had previously been baptized as infants in a Protestant or Catholic church.
These Anabaptist groups spread rapidly, and religious authorities rose up against them. In a span of just a few decades, more than twenty-five hundred men and women died in prison, were burned at the stake, were drowned in rivers, or lost their heads to executioners' swords. Yet instead of withering or dying away, the persecuted Anabaptists scattered into rural hideaways, where the groups continued to grow and bear fruit despite the hardship. As these people gradually fled to other parts of the world, they carried their faith with them.
The type of faith these men and women had comes only when we sink our roots deeper into the living water and discover God is always enough. Think about your personal history. Do you have a heritage of faith? If so, thank God. If not, ask God to make you the one who will spread the Good News to anyone along your path.
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Lord, thank You for the Christian believers who went before me, for their faith and their example of staying strong and letting their roots grow deep into You during hardship. Help me, Lord, to trust in You with that same hope and confidence.
Knots of Faith
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world.
Every other week the Amish hold worship services. Instead of meeting in a church building, they take turns hosting worship in their homes. They gather to hear God's Word and to worship, and they sing songs without instruments—twenty, fifty, or even a hundred voices praising God together, just as their forebears have done for hundreds of years. The songs are sung slowly, with each syllable stressed, the joined voices swirling around the women's prayer kapps and the men's bare heads.
Amish hymns are drawn from a collection called the Ausbund, first published in 1583 and the oldest Christian songbook in continuous use. At the core of the Ausbund are fifty-one songs written by Anabaptists imprisoned in the Passau (Germany) castle dungeon between 1535 and 1540 for their beliefs. These hymns embody the prayers of those prisoners. What peace the Amish must draw from these hymns, knowing their ancestors faced harsh challenges yet found a way to set their prayers to song.
The one who is not faithful in the smallest thing, and who still seeks his own good which his heart desires— how can he be trusted with a charge over heavenly things? Let us keep our eyes on love! Ausbund 119:14
Like the Amish, we, too, can draw strength from worshiping with other Christians and from realizing that the God who cares for us is the same God who has strengthened and uplifted believers through all the moments in history. Each of us has a place in passing on the praise. May we be faithful to do our part.
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Heavenly Father, how thankful I am for the men and women who've gone before me, who've faced hardships and still lifted their prayers to You through songs of worship. May my life become a knot on a thread of faith that stretches before my life and beyond it. Amen.
Cold Winds of Trouble
God's breath sends the ice, freezing wide expanses of water.
The news hit me like pellets of hail from the gray sky outside. Bad news about the health of a family member numbed me. Even though the sun still shone outside the window, the world around me felt faded, chilled. Lord, why did You let this happen?
Like everyone else, the Amish face hardship. Accidents happen, children stray, a life is cut short. Yet as trials hit, the Amish, in spite of their pain, find the strength to offer a difficult but simple prayer: "Thy will be done." They wouldn't think of questioning God—how prideful that would be!
Accepting the pain this world brings is hard at times. Our souls are made for eternity and long for the "no more tears" that heaven promises. Yet having faith in God means trusting Him in the hard moments of life—through the pain that numbs us and the hardships that make us lose sight of the good gifts God gives us. The truth is, we need God's light most during those dark days.
Second Corinthians 4:6 says, "God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ."
What season is it in your heart today? If cold winds of trouble blow around you, can you still feel a hint of warmth as you worship God and read His Word? Consider God's light shining in the darkness. Picture the "glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ." The truth is, we may always love Jesus—even on the bright days—but we see Him in a new way when He shines brightly in the darkness of difficulty.
The sun will emerge again in God's proper time. Until then, draw near to God, and continue to seek Him no matter what season of life you're in.
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Heavenly Father, it's winter not only outside my window but also, in some ways, deep in my heart. I desire to draw near to You. Give me the willingness to do so. Help me to see Your glory in the face of Jesus, and warm my heart with Your presence. Amen.
Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
In a dark time in history a light shone. God's glory encased itself in the small form of a babe. When the Lord shines in our lives, we have reason to celebrate ... and you may be surprised that for many Amish, January 6 is the day chosen to do just that.
People all over the world celebrate Christmas on December 25, but many Amish communities celebrate on January 6, or Old Christmas. Tradition states that twelve days after the birth of the Messiah, the wise men arrived in Bethlehem and, upon finding the baby Jesus, offered precious gifts.
The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was inspired by twelve days of feasting that culminated in "Old" Christmas. Like the December 25 celebration, Old Christmas is celebrated with family gatherings and simple decorations and gifts. Considered a more holy day, many Amish families fast until noon and then celebrate together with a large meal. On our calendars you'll see the date marked as Epiphany.
Whether you choose to celebrate Christmas on December 25 or January 6, remember that every day is one worthy of celebrating the Light of God, Jesus Christ. Take a moment and consider how His light has transformed your life. Remember that the light of Jesus coming to earth is just a glimpse of what we'll experience some day in eternity: "No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory," we read in Isaiah 60:19.
In response to Christ's gift to you, offer a simple gift to a friend today, whether it be a kind word, a hug, or a warm smile and prayer.
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Dear heavenly Father, we spend the days leading up to our Christmas celebrations attempting to make Jesus "the reason for the season." Instead, Jesus is the reason for life, hope, and eternity! As many Amish families celebrate the birth of Christ today, I desire to join them in my heart. I rejoice in the indescribable gift of Your Son!
Winter to a Mother's Soul
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.
Scripture refers to mothers as fruitful vines and to children as olive trees. Most Amish homes are very good at producing "trees," with six to seven children (and some have more)! Can you picture the smiling faces, from toddlers to teens, surrounding the table? Can you picture all the bare feet that need to be scrubbed at bedtime, and all the dirty laundry?
For an Amish mother, raising children is best compared to gardening. There are seasons of planting, sowing, work, dirt. Then, like the coming of winter, the harvest arrives, and the empty plot remains. Winter arrives in a mother's soul when her children are sent out—to work in another area or into their own homes to "grow" their own families.
You'd think mothers of large families would get used to their children moving away as they venture into adulthood. For most Amish this means marriage, but it could also mean an older son leaving for work or an older daughter taking a job in another district as a maud (maid) or teacher.
Letting go of a child is never easy—not even for Amish mothers. Children are held close for many years and then are released with tears. Yet just as a garden nourishes a family, the time and attention a mother offers are not for her own enjoyment. Sometimes the work of mothers is most fruitful when it benefits others, as children have a positive impact on the community, begin new families, and send "shoots" of their own.
Consider the young people in your life. Offer prayers for them today. If you are rolling up your sleeves and doing laundry or dishes for little ones, use this time to lift up prayers for them. If the children in your family or extended family have already left home, consider spending a day helping and encouraging a young mom as she cares for her own family. In either act of service, God will be glorified.
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Dear Lord, sadness comes when I see my children, nieces, and nephews growing older. Sometimes I want to freeze time and enjoy the young ones for just a moment longer. Instead, help me to do my part in sending out shoots that will benefit Your Kingdom. Amen.
Excerpted from The One Year Book of Amish Peace by TRICIA GOYER. Copyright © 2013 Tricia Goyer. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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