Monday, January 24, 2011

If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself. (Advice from Amish Cont.)

“How much does if cost of a cord of split wood, Harry?” I asked my paraplegic Amish friend.
“I don’t know. The People fill my woodshed every year, since I can’t split wood,” he said.
Harry story is not uncommon. I’ve seen the effects of the Amish slower paced life; they have time to value what’s really important: faith, family, and friends.
There was a survey done in 2007 to find out who are the happiest people in America. The results showed, to everyone’s surprise, the Amish. I wasn’t surprised though. We all long for strong family ties, life-long friendships and a faith that permeates all we do.
The Amish place such high regard on the family, especially aged parents. They build them smaller houses called a dawdyhaus (grandparent house) and take care of them in their old age. If the aging parent suffers from any impairment, they take care of them in the home. My friend in Smicksburg told me a stoke patient, who was paralyzed, was taken care of around the clock by family.
Friendships in America are at an all-time low. Duke University did a study called, “Social Isolation in America.” It found that people have fewer friends outside of their immediate family, due to long work hours. Internet friendships have also replaced face to face communication, and people are feeling more isolated than ever. The Amish, by contrast know the importance of friendship. When someone dies, they can expect to be visited by friends weekly for a year, until their grief subsides. I find this amazing.
The Amish are a Christian sect, that tries to live out the words of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 It can be broken down into five categories. The first in the Beatitudes, blessings to comfort believers, such as “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” and “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  The second category is New Laws, such as going the extra mile and loving your neighbor. The third category is the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father, as some people call it. The fourth is about the dangers of the love of money, and the fifth is on warning to be wise verses foolish.
I’m challenged by this in many areas. Turn off Facebook and visit people face to face. Our family has decided to have Sunday dinners again, and I’m reading Matthew 5-7 a lot more, seeing how I can put feet to my faith.
Karen Anna Vogel

Monday, January 17, 2011

If you admire our community spirit, build your own.(Advice from Amish Cont.)

The Amish community is strong, even though they're very busy people working long hours. They incorporate work with fellowship. Work frolics are popular. Work and frolic don't seem to fit together .It's like saying "work festival". But this is how they kill two birds with one stone. They combine work with fun. For example, if a family builds a new house and the inside needs painted, they get together and paint and have fun talking as they work.
Amish barn raisings are the most commonly known work frolic, but there are many others. Canning, quilting, shelling's endless really. Anything that can be done together to make the burden lighter and to have fun can be made into a frolic.
I visited an Amish friend last week and saw something very unique. A group of ten men were cutting ice blocks from a pond and hauling them to the icehouse on a huge wagon, pulled by draft horses. They paused to talk, laugh and sing. Yes, sing. The Amish sing when they work. When they replaced the roof on our house they were up there singing in German. It was awesome to listen to them.
Besides work frolics, the Amish make holidays. One I'd like to see in the English world is "Sister Day". I have two sisters and our relationships need to be celebrated. We do on birthdays etc., but to have one day a year to really reflect on what sisterhood really means and to plan how to strengthen our ties would be awesome.
The Amish also have two Christmas dates: Dec. 25th and Jan. 6th. Their ancestors celebrated Christmas on January 6th in Germany, so they celebrate it twice. They don't buy expensive presents, but have a feast similar to our Thanksgiving meal.
In our busy world, we could learn from the Amish and either have work frolics or special holidays.. My garden is always too big, so instead of trying to pick all the produce ourselves, we invite family and friends over at harvest time. Something my daughters and I started was 'Girls only Weekend." My husband and son created "Guys only weekend." My sister's having a Christmas party in May! I love it.
The Amish are the considered the happiest people in America. I believe our fast paced culture has put relationships on the backburner, and people in fellowship takes away the feeling of being alone. If you have an idea for a "work frolic" or "special holiday", I'd love to hear from you.
Karen Anna Vogel

Friday, January 14, 2011

If you admire the simple life, cut back.

"If you admire the simple life, cut back." (Advice from the Amish Expanded) 

The "Small House Movement" amazes me. People are living in not small, but tiny houses, some only 300 square feet. They claim they've never been happier and I believe them. The MacMansions of the 1980's are not in vogue anymore, since people are realizing they were working quite hard for a status symbol, but were slaves to their work. Books like "Not So Big House" and "Not so big Remodeling" by Sarah Susanka  really free up my husband and me when we remodeled our 1897 farmhouse. We could have put on a giant sized addition, but we decided on a modest one. We didn't realize just how "keeping up with the Jones" was ingrained in our thinking.

One of my favorite Amish men, Noah Colbletz from Smicksburg, helped build our addition. One day when I went to pick him up for work, I was quite surprised that he had switched houses with another relative. He said they needed a bigger house, so they switched. Talk about holding all things lightly! So here my husband and I sit with a three bedroom house of medium size, and my daughter and her husband are looking for a house to raise a family. Should we give them our house and build a small in the back of our two acres, like the Amish do? I am always challenged by these people.
My favorite author is Richard J Foster. Here's his thoughts on cutting back in a materialistic society:
"We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. 'We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.' ...It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick."  (Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth)
Cutting back can also mean getting rid of things that clutter our time. I think television is a big time stealer along with video games. In this area, we're almost Amish. We like relational activities like playing cards, visiting, board games etc. When I first got to know the Amish, I asked them bluntly, "How do you live without television? I'd die!" Susan Hershberger's face lit up. "Raising white pigeons, bird watching, astronomy, reading, quilting, visiting, sledding...." Her list went on, and I felt sad. She was really living, and I was wasting my life through television. I decided then to cut back. Ten years later, we only use Netflix for movies, and I watch shows online. You can watch most anything live streamed these days, and watch it when you like.

I'm always on a quest to cut back on "trifles" as William Penn called them...things that just take our time and have no meaning.  If you have any ideas or stories of how you've cut back, let me know. God bless! Karen Anna Vogel

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Advice from the Amish

This is a clip of an article from The Budget, an Amish newspaper.
    “A common question now in America. How can I become Amish? Answer: If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself."
Community stands out to me in this passage. I’m crocheting a prayer shawl for my friend who’s mom and husband passed away within 3 days. Community among the Amish is strengthened during times of need, whether making quilts to sell for their hospital fund, or making friendship bread to take to a sick friend.
Today while the snow flies in PA, I’m crocheting for a friend in need. Blessings! Karen Anna Vogel