Monday, September 28, 2009

Got Peace?

I had been eagerly anticipating receiving my copy of Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher, and I was not disappointed. I've enjoyed her previous books, and she's become a dear bloggy friend. As I began reading, my initial response was to inhale the book as I typically do. I'm a fast reader, and when I enjoy a book, I fly through it. But a few chapters in, I caught myself and realized what an oxymoron it was to rush through a book such as this! So I set it aside and read it in small bits, ruminating between sittings on what I read. Ahhh, the difference was amazing!

While there have always been a fair number of books about the Amish, particularly in the Christian fiction genre, the shooting at the West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 resulted in an increased interest and focus on this sect by the secular world as well as believers. Their response as a community to the tragedy was heart-warming, and the immediate spirit of forgiveness they demonstrated was mind-boggling.

And although we have more time-saving devices at our disposal than ever before, many of us find ourselves overcommitted and stretched so thin that we no longer take time for the simple pleasures of life such as a sunset or a quiet conversation with a friend. What lessons can we learn from these folks who have made the deliberate choice to live apart from the demands of modern life?

The point of Amish Peace is not to convert us all to the Amish faith. Suzanne makes that clear at the beginning. In fact, she said a newspaper once published an article about the number of people who had inquired about how to become Amish. She quotes a wise Amish man who responded:
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. (p. 15)

No, becoming Amish isn't the answer. In fact, as with any group of individuals, the Amish aren't perfect. (Nor is their theology.) But as the book points out, they do have some convictions and values that we would be wise to emulate.

Divided into five sections -- Simplicity, Time, Community, Forgiveness, The Sovereignty of God -- each chapter is a picture of Amish life. Traditions, stories, and conversations from Suzanne's personal visits made me feel as though I were present in those big farmhouses as well. There is much wisdom and food for thought to be gleaned from these pages. One conversation that made a particular impression on me was regarding the intentionality of the heating of the house (or lack thereof). After dinner, everyone in the family gathers in the kitchen and family room.
"It's the only room that's heated," Viola explains. "At night, the entire family gathers here. Everyone is together. The kids do their homework, Dad reads, I'll be finishing up something in the kitchen."

Wouldn't it be simple to heat the other rooms? Granted the Amish don't have central heating, but it couldn't be that hard to lug a kerosene heater upstairs so the kids could study quietly. Would it?

The answer comes swiftly.

"No!" Viola says, eyes wide. "We love being together. It's our way. Why, if other rooms were heated, everyone would. . .well, they would scatter!" She says it as if it were a sin. (p. 42)

Quite a contrast to many in our society who strive to have a separate bedroom and bathroom for every family member! I'm thinking our families would be less fractured if they were not so spread out!

Amish proverbs begin each chapter and are sprinkled throughout the book, and each chapter ends with a few questions for Reflections, making this an ideal book for a discussion group.

Here is one of my favorite Amish proverbs from the book:
Before we can pray "Thy Kingdom come,"
we must pray "My kingdom go." (p. 211)

And to celebrate the book's launch, and to give you a chance to get to know Suzanne. . .


A Facebook Launch Party is scheduled for Monday, September 28th from 5-7 pm Pacific time (which is 7-9 pm Central or 8-10 pm Eastern) You can chat LIVE with Suzanne -- and maybe win some great prizes. Click here to sign in! More information and a schedule can be found on Suzanne's blog.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Dunkard Brethren Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne's work has appeared in many magazines, including Today's Christian Woman, Worldwide Challenge, ParentLife, Christian Parenting Today, and Marriage Partnership. She has contributed to several nonfiction books and is the author of Amish Peace and three novels.

You can read an excerpt here. Amish Peace can be purchased directly from the publisher or other online and local stores. Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I highly recommend this book!


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quilly said...

This will be tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. for me. I hope I am not busy! Will I see you there?

Suzanne said...

Hi Linda! Thanks for such an awesome review! And also for posting it on Amazon. And oh are such a good writer! WHEN WILL YOU WRITE YOUR BOOK????
~Your bloggy pal, Suzanne