Buttons and Straight Pins
I began writing about the Amish a week or two ago. I wound up writing about chickens. Let's see how it goes this time.
When my children were small, our idea of a big vacation was to travel about an hour and a half north of our home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The heart of Amish country. There was a resort up there back in the day called Willow Valley, and we loved that place. They had a wonderful restaurant with all kinds of delicious homemade food, and several fabulous pools for the kids. The grounds were beautiful, with a big covered bridge and a duck pond, as well as a tiny church and a golf course. We could spend two or three days there and we wouldn't even have to leave the property if we didn't want to, except to go across the street to the grocery store to buy snacks. But the real treats came from the onsite bakery, where you could watch through a huge window as they prepared the sweets and iced the cakes.
We would sometimes head on out and explore, and the children received an education in Amish living. When your mom is a teacher, everything is a learning experience, and the kids were used to it. I had actually written a thesis on Amish life when I was in high school, so we started out knowing a little. An Amish community is a group of traditional Christian fellowships that are distinguished by simple farm living, very plain dress, and a shunning of the conveniences of modern technology. That means that for the most part they live without electricity, cars, phones, tractors, and modern appliances. Lancaster is a bit commercialized, and so not the truest example of Amish life. But it's pretty interesting, nevertheless. And you always go away having eaten too much fattening food. It's a good thing they do so much manual labor, or all of the Amish would be as big as a house.
So we moved to Southern Maryland twenty-five years ago and I was happy to find that we were living right on the edge of an Amish community. This one was more authentic, because no one outside of the area seemed to even know that it was there. No tourists. Perfect. Throughout the years, I've had dealings with many of the Amish and have become friends with some. I told you about Stevie in the 'Amish Chicks' post here. Our community is sprinkled with Amish stores; some with small, handmade signs, and some with no markings at all. You just have to be in the know. There are grocery stores, dry good stores, nurseries, quilt and fabric shops, lumberyards, hand crafted furniture shops, and even places where you can buy sheds nice enough to live in, as well as prefab homes. I've shopped in all of them, except the one for prefab homes. But I spend a good part of a day there the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year. That's where the annual quilt auction is held. Big doings!
The Amish call us non-Amish people 'English'. It doesn't matter your nationality, you are English. Rachel, the owner of Pineview Grocery, became more and more friendly to me throughout the years. My girls were in college. I was always buying things to send them in care packages, and she would ask me what Bible College was like. I shared stories. (Imagine that!) We shared a love of snow. She asked me about my church and what we believed. I told her that we believe the Bible. She liked that. Several times she asked me to watch the store for her so she could go plate up dinner for her husband, who was coming in from the fields. One day she told me quietly that I was the closest to Amish English person that she had ever met. She meant it as a compliment- I think. :) We would be chatting away about every little thing...and then other Amish folks would come in to shop. Then she barely knew me. I understood. Fraternizing with the English is considered sinful. And so is the real flush toilet that she had in the backroom. Shhh!
Several more stories come to mind, but I'd better get where I'm going. I'll save them for another day. Ever since I was a teenager, I've wondered about the Amish and their very great degree of separation from the world. I'm a big fan of separation from the world, by the way. I guess that's why Rachel thought I was almost an honorary Amish. Lol! But it's extreme, the way they live. They don't even use buttons for their clothes. Buttons are too worldly. They close their clothes with straight pins. And they work so hard, when a few conveniences would make their lives so much easier. I get it. I totally do. They do it for the Lord. They want to please God. But I've always wondered...
I have a dear friend who is very acquainted with the Amish on a much more personal level than me. And so I asked her one day. What percentage of the Amish do you think are truly trusting in the shed Blood of Jesus for their redemption and their sole way of obtaining heaven? And how many are trusting in their good works and great sacrifice to earn favor with God? Works salvation, which is no salvation at all. That's dead religion.
She is a person of careful thought, and I watched her slowly ponder the question before she answered. Then it came. "Fifty percent", she replied. Fifty percent! What?!? Half living a life to please Jesus, their Saviour; to show Him their love. And sadly, half living a life of religion, offering to God their good works, which appears to Him as filthy rags. We'll talk about those rags some day. But it's just like Cain and Abel. Abel offering the blood sacrifice- God's way, and Cain offering the works of his hands- rejected by God.
And after that conversation with my friend, I never visited the Amish again without wondering in my heart what they were trusting in; the payment for sin that Jesus made on the cross, or their own empty works? How sad it would be to live a life of such sacrifice, only to find out at the end that it was about giving your heart to Jesus, and that it was not of ourselves at all. It is a gift of God. There is no sacrifice on our part that will do.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." ~Ephesians 2:8-9
If you are just now jumping in and never knew that about trusting in Jesus alone to get to heaven, today is a great day to take care of that. There is another blog post you'll find here entitled 'Redeemed'. It will show you from the Bible what you need to know to get things settled with God today! :)