The Gift of Song from my Amish Family

A copy of the Amish hymnal called the "Ausbund", printed in 1835.

A family copy of the Amish hymnal called the “Ausbund”, printed in 1835. The Ausbund is used to this day in the Old Order Amish Church services.

Singing is an integral part of my Amish family, and evokes some of the most powerful memories of times with them through the years. Science shows us that music has a profound effect on us both physically & emotionally. I can attest to those findings, and I’m sure you can as well! In contrast to songs of American pop culture defining my musical memory, the songs my family taught me are rooted in Biblical truth and melodies of praise.

“Music is one area where the Amish work at holding back the wild horses of modernity and secularism by carefully selecting the texts and tunes that nurture godliness, kindness and mutuality. I argue that music serves as one of the scaffoldings by which the Amish build and maintain boundaries and healthy community structures.” D. Rose Elder

The beauty of my Amish family’s musical heritage is its simplicity. The only things required were people, their voices, and their willingness to sing. There were no instruments, no sound equipment and no special venues. The only objects added at times are a songbook and a pitch pipe. But most Amish and Mennonite people have a large repertoire of hymns in their memory, and can sing for hours with no help from lyrics on a page.

Grandma had songs for all times of the day. There was “Good Morning Sunshine” when we woke up, “When We All Work Together” while doing chores, “Building Up the Temple” while playing with the babies…and the list goes on and on. We still sing a mealtime blessing learned at Grandpa & Grandma’s house, in our home today: “God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for our food, By His hand we all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread, Amen”. In addition to singing, I smile when I think of my musical Amish Grussmommy playing her harmonica, and the way my Grandma filled the house with her whistling all through the day.

My grandparents were fond of many songs, but there were some particular favorites for each of them. Grussdaudy’s was “Amazing Grace”, and Grussomommy especially loved the German hymn “Gott Ist Die Liebe”. The lyrics of “One Day at a Time” were very special to my Grandpa, and I remember my Grandma often singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.

When extended family meets (on both my father and my mother’s sides), singing is always a part of the gathering. One of my favorite songs during family reunions is “Come and Dine”, which we all sing together at meal time. And the singing over the holiday seasons is truly a generational treasure! Grussmommy loved to sing with her sisters. How I wish we had videos of those special times.

In addition to singing as a family, the Amish and Mennonite community has a social culture built around song. I have fond memories of Sunday evening “Singings” with my parent’s friends, where we joined in a home and beautiful acapella harmonies filled the room.

Inside the Ausbund

Inside the Ausbund – Page 770 is always the second song sung in the Old Order Amish Church Service.

As a child, I had the immense privilege of visiting both my Old Order Amish and New Order Amish grandparent’s churches. When I reflect on the singing during those services, I am overcome with emotion. There’s something very special and so sacred about being surrounded by believers, immersed in a room filled with the voices of men, women and children of all generations, reverently singing praises to their King, with all “worldly” distractions removed from the environment. It’s a communal experience where you feel part of something bigger and more important than just yourself, but at the same time it’s very personal. Ah, the deep and meaningful simplicity of voices united in song! It is a treasure for the ages.

From my Amish family, I learned the power of music and song. First, it is a gift from our Creator, and singing praises to Him is something He designed for us to do. It brings joy to Him and to us! It reminds us of His promises, His faithfulness and His goodness in our lives. Second, it brings together families and communities, powerfully uniting them with meaning, purpose and sweet traditions. My heart floods with gratefulness to God for the gift of song He has given me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 13 of a 31 day series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Thank you for following along!

Links:

Johns Hopkins University “Why the Amish Sing”

Portion of book by D. Rose Elder, about Amish Singing

Ending clip (from a full length video), with the song Gott Ist Die Liebe

Come and Dine

 

The Habit of Prayer {31 Lessons From My Amish Family}

 

The Lord's Prayer in Deutsch Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

The Lord’s Prayer in Deutsch
Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us. God involved in the details of my life.” ~ Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life

My sister and I were sharing memories of our grandparent’s prayer habits today. After we conversed I was utterly overwhelmed by this priceless fact: As grandchildren, our most precious and vivid memories of our dear grandparents are the habits of prayer they humbly and beautifully displayed to us day in and day out. God was at the center of every part of their lives.

They prayed in the morning. They prayed before and after meals. They prayed during evening devotions, and again before bed. They prayed when times were good, and they also prayed through the most difficult seasons imaginable. Prayer was such an integral part of their daily routine I cannot even imagine trying to describe their lives without it.

When meal time came at Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s house, we joined around the table and reverently bowed our heads in silent prayer, giving thanks to God for His provision. Grussdaudy sat in a beautiful old wooden chair on rollers placed at the head of the long handcrafted table, with sweet Grussmommy seated to his right.  Us grandchildren were lined up on wooden benches along each side. The Old Order Amish pray silently before and after their meals. We knew the prayer was over and we could lift our heads by the squeak that came from Grussdaudy’s chair as he leaned back.

As my maternal grandparents were New Order Amish, they spoke the mealtime blessing aloud. My sister recalls Grandpa’s dear & familiar prayer.

“Grandpa’s mealtime prayer, as I remember, always started out with, “Our kind, righteous, eternal heavenly Father…, we come before you this… (morning, noon, evening…) hour. We thank you for your many blessings…We thank you for Jesus…We thank you for the cross. We thank you for this here food that is set before us. We…ask that you would bless it and bless… the hands that…have prepared it. In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.”

The memory of my grandfathers leading their families in prayer throughout the day is so strong and dear to us that it literally brought my sister and I to tears while reminiscing.

I remember walking by Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s open bedroom door at bedtime, and seeing the sillouette of them side by side, kneeling in prayer at their bed. What a powerful picture of humility and reverence it burned onto my heart. My sister shared; “I also vividly remember Grandma and Grandpa praying together on their knees that all of their children and grandchildren would follow the Lord”.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
Psalm 16:6 (NASB)

Thank you Lord for praying grandparents. Their legacy of faith is the greatest treasure any grandchild could ever ask for. You have blessed me indeed!

My grandparents taught me what it looks like to live a life with the habit of powerful, continual, grateful, humble and beautiful prayer. May we all display such constant light and truth, and leave an impression of Jesus on the memory of those who walk through life beside us.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number eleven of a series I’m sharing called “31 Lessons From My Amish Family”. Click here to read more. 

Links: 

Müde Bin Ich, Geh’ Zur Ruh
Translation by Margaret Loewen Reimer

Müde bin ich, geh’ zur Ruh, (Weary now, I go to rest,)
Schliesse meine Augen zu. (Close my eyes in slumber blest.)
Vater, lass die Augen dein (Father, may Thy watchful eye)
Über meinem Bette sein. (Guard the bed on which I lie.) Amen

My mother taught this German prayer to us as children, and I’ve done the same with my daughters. Saying the prayer is one of our favorite bedtime traditions. Click here to read a beautiful piece on the history of this traditional German children’s prayer. Three additional verses can be found as you scroll down to page six of the document. Here’s a video link to the prayer: 

Click here to hear The Lord’s Prayer in High German, as my Amish Grandfather prayed in closing of the family’s evening devotions. 

Justice Issues – The Single Most Important Thing Families Can Do

The most important thing a family can do to end injustice is pray together

This broken world is full of ugliness and injustice everywhere we look. Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child slavery, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and abortion, among countless other issues. If we’re not aware of the facts, we’ve simply chosen to comfortably close our eyes.

There are many ways families can become involved with solving and ending these atrocities. But where do we start? What can we possibly do in our own little corner of the world…with babies and toddlers and students and work and school and LIFE?

I believe the single most important thing a family can do to end injustice is PRAY TOGETHER. Informed intercession is a powerful thing. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:11-13, NASB

Children are incredibly important in the Kingdom of God. The prayers of our little ones are a powerful thing. 

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 NIV

A praying, believing, unified family is a powerful thing.

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19 ESV

Several things happen when we intercede on behalf of the people who so desperately need justice, and can be found in every area of our planet.

First, God answers our prayers. He really does! Our prayers are effective! He is for the downtrodden, for those in bondage and slavery. He cares deeply about the widows, the orphans and those who are being mistreated. He loves to answer our prayers on their behalf!

Next, as our families pray for these people, our hearts begins to come in line with the Father’s heart on these issues. And as we are given His understanding and insight, we begin to know what it looks like for us to take action as a family. Together, our family can ask God, “what do you want US to do about these horrible things?” And when we have chosen to become informed to these issues of injustice around us, God will make it abundantly clear to us what it looks like for OUR FAMILY to get involved and be part of the solution. However small the action may seem, it is not insignificant. Rather, it is of vast importance in carrying out God’s purposes and sharing His love and redemption.

So, how does a family pray for “justice issues”?

Here are three ways to get started:

1. Decide together as a family to become informed and to pray on a regular basis for these things. We need not go into the dark details of what is happening with our young children, but simply explain that there are people who are being treated unfairly, and they need us to pray for them. Little ones have a great sense of justice, and understand far more than we give them credit for. Children love to pray for people! Show them a map of the world and point to the places and areas you are praying for together.

2. Our prayers must be saturated with the Word of God and guided by the Holy Spirit. Look up verses about God’s power, justice and might together. Find out what He says about orphans, the downtrodden, and those who are unfairly treated. Look together in the Bible for descriptions of God’s character; His faithfulness and everlasting, never-ending lovingkindness, and the way He loves to rescue people. Then pray from that understanding. It’s that simple! Our prayers do not need to sound fancy or “religious”. All that matters is our fervent heart, coming from a place of understanding what God has done for US, and how He has saved US. We also love to play praise and worship music in the background while we pray, and join along and sing at any time.

3. Find other families who have the same passion for human trafficking and justice issues, then set time aside to join in your home and pray together!  

In closing, this is my prayer for your family:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12 ESV

May you be blessed as you live & breathe, and see & move & pray through the lens of His love for us and for the world.

~ Justina Dee

Link : Human Trafficking Prayer Guides 

The Frontlines of Motherdom

Portrait by E. Dubufe

Portrait by E. Dubufe

 

The mother stood immovable at the door of her family’s home built on a great Rock, and she boldly faced the world outside. A storm was raging in the night all around her. She held a lantern high in one hand and wielded a sword in the other. The light and warmth from her lamp shined a clear, unapologetic beacon outward, and she peered valiantly into the obscure and cold darkness. An exquisite scarlet curtain hung over the door, marking her humble home with royal Grace and Beauty. The little house on the hill shone brightly behind her, and her family slept safe and warm in their peaceful beds.

As she surveyed the dangerous scene around their home, she saw ferocious enemies taking cover in the darkness. This mother knew there was a battle raging around her, for the very hearts, souls, minds and strength of her precious children. Some mothers who could not see the enemy scoffed at her for the extreme actions she took to protect her little lambs, but nothing could dissuade her from the important mission she was carrying out. She was keenly aware of the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers that lurched in the shadows. But this mother had no fear, because she was armed for battle, and knew not only how to stand her ground, but how to send the enemy away in defeat.

There were days the adversary was evident. He brazenly stalked the children like a lion. His dark shadow caused terror to fall upon those around him because of the sheer evil emanating from it.  Other times he was much less visible, as he crept in through open doors and unguarded gates & passages.  Sometimes he would even disguise himself, and appear as an angel of light, walking into the midst of her undiscerning neighbors and destroying everything around him.

But this mother was qualified, equipped and prepared for the battle at hand. The experiences in her life had readied her for this time of motherhood. She remembered the combat from her past. There was the time when an evil dragon sat looming as large as a tree outside her home. She prayed and spoke the Words of the Eternal One into the atmosphere, until he soared away, never to return. Once when she was walking along an obscure path, a cougar who was stalking her jumped from above. She drew her sword, and it fled in defeat. She remembered her dream warning of evil men with intention to annihilate a friend. She joined with others who warred, and together they prayed till the danger of murderous evil had passed. She thought about the times she saw glimpses of messengers and warriors of Light, who were sent by the King to guard her, and battle the evil forces. They resolutely guarded the paths all around their house, went up and down the stairs and walked the rooms throughout their home, guarding the family while they slept at night.

After she became a mother, she grew in discernment and wisdom. There was a time when she learned that the enemy was scheming to take her children away into the darkness. She gathered her darlings and hid them in the safe place she had prepared ahead of time, until the danger passed.

She knew her children had a great purpose and many things to accomplish during their time on earth, and so she fearlessly and earnestly guarded each of them. She knew they would be brave rulers and fearless prophets. She recognized they would serve the world with love, and they would bear mercy to the nations. She understood they would be world-changing exhorters, beloved teachers, and generous givers. She was utterly mindful of the significance of each child’s life, and the influence they would have on history itself.

She believed the Creator himself knit each of her children together in the womb, and she was determined to equip her children to carry out their lifework. From the time she nursed and carried her infants, she taught them to love the precepts and beauty of Noble things, and through the actions of her life, she modeled to them what trust in the Eternal One looked like. When her babies woke with screams in the darkness of the night and wee hours of the morning, she held them close to her heart. She rose above her weariness, and soothed them with songs and quiet words for hours on end – and she cherished every moment with them.

At times other adults who were fighting battles with her wanted to send the children away, as they thought they were too young to understand kingdom matters, but this brave mother wouldn’t hear of it. Even while the menacing enemy lurked and growled nearby, she roused her children around her and led them to sing songs of victory, with shouts of joy, laughter and delight. The ordained praise from their lips silenced the avenger, and he and his minions cowered away in defeat.

She was intent on guarding and nurturing the important calling of each child’s life. She said she would rather be drowned at the bottom of the ocean than to harm the hearts and purposes of her children in any way.

Sometimes there were battles that raged on for days around their little home on the hill. Thousands of people fell on all sides, but her family’s dwelling was covered by an Almighty Hand, and there was nothing in heaven or on earth that could harm them. There were times when the mother guided her children through dark valleys filled with fearful shadows, and the journey was long and hard. There were seasons when she was too weary to take another step. It was then, that she felt strong and gentle Arms lifting her, then carrying her and her little ones away from all danger, to a safe haven of rest.

This mother trusted her children to the Great Protector and knew that one day they would have to leave the refuge of their home, and go out into the world without her, to carry out the mission for which they were created.  So she tirelessly taught them how to use their armor, about the companions they should choose, and how to fight and defeat the enemy. She told them that as they left their home and the people they loved, to do the business of the Kingdom, they would be blessed one-hudredfold.

She had no want of confidence as her children grew and went on their way, for their Creator himself had placed love like crowns on their heads and wisdom like bracelets on their wrists. There was a seal on their arms; stronger than death itself. This mother had blessed her children with the gift of faith. They knew that they would be strangers and foreigners in this land, but in the distance they could see the promise of a heavenly country. She knew her children understood that even though the battle was very real, their world was only a shadow, and they were pressing onward to a better city which was being prepared for them – where there was no more darkness, heartache or pain. Never again would there be danger from the evil enemy, because of the great and eternal love of the Victorious One who came to rescue all who believed in Him.

In closing; there are mothers who have one child, and mothers who are blessed with many sons and daughters. There are mothers who rescue orphans and bring them into their arms, adopting them as their own blood. Sometimes caring for these precious ones for brief weeks, and other times they are able adopt them into their homes forever. But no matter how short or long the time, these mothers never stop fighting and praying for the little ones they love. There are precious mothers who bear the sorrow of losing children they loved and protected in their womb, whose feet never walked on the earth beside them. The spirits of their beloved babies went straight to the Beautiful Place, where the battle over death is forever won. Then there are those beautiful women who never carried babies in their own womb, or in their own home, but are nevertheless mothers, nurturers, teachers, and defenders of children in their village and everywhere they walk. Their magnetic love draws children close to their protecting spirits wherever they go, and the lives many children are forever impacted by their love and prayers. There are other mothers whose children were now grown, who come alongside younger women, giving wisdom and encouragement. Together all of these radiant and brave women blaze trails, go to battle, and raise generations of faithful men and women who carry eternal Light and Hope to countless multitudes.

Dedicated with love to Jocelyn; one of the bravest mothers I know.

~ Justina Dee

 

Scriptures referenced in this story:

Ephesians 6:11-13

2 Timothy 1:5

1 Peter 5:8 

Moses’ Mother

The story of Jehoshabeath

Hezekiah’s Mother

Psalm 139:12-14

Samual’s mother Hannah, Mary the mother of Jesus & Elizabeth the mother of John– who understood the plans God had for their babies

Psalm 22:8-10

Isaiah 49:1

1 Thessalonians 2:7

Psalm 8:2

Matthew 19:14

Luke 17:2

Psalm 91

Isaiah 40:11

Psalm 131:1-3

Isaiah 66:13

Proverbs 1:8

Proverbs 31:1

Song of Solomon 3:10-11

Song of Solomon 8:2

Judges 4-5 (Deborah & Jael)

2 Chronicles 29:1-3

Psalm 113:7

Psalm 27:9-11

Isaiah 66:13

Matthew 10:37

Matthew 19:29

Hebrews 11