Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Tour: Amish Peace (includes an interview with the Author)


Peace.

It almost seems like a foreign concept in today’s hectic and frenzied world.  It may be an impossible concept for most individuals to grasp or obtain – a way to find peace in the midst of life’s chaos.

Suzanne Woods Fisher knows people have an innate desire for peace.  She also understands that most have a tendency to confuse peace with happiness, personal achievements or the accumulation of wealth.

However, unlike the regular world, members of the Amish or “Plain” community find peace not in achievements or wealth, but rather, in one, singular source – God.

It’s that peace that Fisher explores in her newest release, Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World.

“They [the Amish] have a deep regard for the sovereignty of God, coupled with humility,” Fisher explained. “Rather than fight or control their circumstances, they yield to them. They believe that God will right the wrongs, that forgiving others is imperative. To their way of thinking, how can we possibly ask God to forgive us if we don’t forgive others?”

At the urging of a book editor, Fisher dug into her family “roots” to discover what she could learn about this form of peace. She began her manuscript by pulling together sample stories based upon the lives of her extended family.

Her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, was one of 13 children born into an Old Order German Baptist Brethren family. Raised in the “Plain” tradition, Benedict later left the Old Order to pursue an education. He eventually became the founding editor and publisher for Christianity Today.

Throughout her childhood, Fisher grew up with numerous family members who were “Plain.” This sparked a sparked a “keen interest” in their lifestyles.

“I started with a great respect for the Amish,” explained Fisher. “I ended with a tremendous admiration for them and a desire to be more like them.

“I think by living a life less cluttered with materialism and distractions (both tangible ones, like “too much stuff” and intangible ones, like “pride”) they are able to remain closer to the heart of Christ.”

In addition to interviewing her family, Fisher found herself meeting a variety of other individuals, often through unexpected meetings.

“Writing Amish Peace was an amazing experience – a blessing by God,” she said. “I started with a handful of contacts within the Amish community. One [contact] led to another, to another, to another.”

Fisher said many of the relationships came as she made stops throughout the Pennsylvania and Ohio areas.

“I’m a believer in ‘full disclosure,’ so whenever I met with the Amish, I was upfront about wanting to write a story about them,” Fisher said. “Afterwards, I sent them the completed essay and asked for permission plus corrections. There were times when I was asked to change the names or identifying details about the subject, but everyone gave permission.

“I also interviewed experts-in-the-field, so that I felt sure I understood theological issues correctly. All in all, I have developed some lovely friendships with many Amish families, of whom I feel very protective.”

Five Elements of Peace
In Amish Peace, Fisher focused on five areas of peace: simplicity, time, community, forgiveness and trust in God’s sovereignty.

“I tried to find areas of major emphasis in the Amish life that could provide ‘takeaway value’ for non-Amish readers,” Fisher explained. “The point of Amish Peace was just that…you don’t have to ‘go Amish’ to incorporate some of their principles.”

In addition to the five main areas, Fisher said the Amish has another value known as “Gelassenheit,” which is foundational to their way of thinking.

“It’s a word that has no direct English translation. It combines humility, yielding, meekness, calmness, a gentle spirit, caring for the good of the community,” she explained. “Gelassenheit is a challenge for our non-Amish minds to grasp.

“ ‘We are people who value ‘being special.’  Independent. Self-sufficient. The Amish are people who value being ordinary. Dependent on God. Dependent on their community. It’s like putting on a pair of eyeglasses! They view life in a completely different way.”

What it means to be Amish
In a nutshell, members of the Amish faith trace their roots back to the Anabaptist movement in Switzerland in 1525, during the Protestant Reformation, when the Anabaptists emphasized voluntary adult baptism over infant baptism.

“It seems like a minor thing to us, but it was a ‘deal breaker’ for them,” Fisher explained. “They were considered to be radicals and martyred for their beliefs. In 1693, the Amish formed their own group under leader Jakob Ammann. He held more conservative views than other Anabaptists.”

Most know descendents of this Anabaptist movement today as the Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Hutterites, Church of the Brethren and Brethren in Christ.

“The roots of all Protestant faiths, including Anabaptists, originate at the same point in history: The Reformation,” Fisher said. “From that taproot has come many forms of expressing one’s faith—including your denomination and mine.”

For most people, continued Fisher, “being Amish” means they are born into the tradition, as very few individuals convert and become Old Order Amish. It is both a Christian religion and a way of life that affirms the beliefs.

An Amish belief, most known to the public, revolves around a form of simple, non-materialistic living.
This lifestyle includes a rejection of electricity from public utility lines, a distinctive form of dress, a prohibition against television and computers, using a horse and buggy as a primary means of transportation, ending education at the eighth grade and meeting in homes for church.

“But there’s so much more to the Amish than the buggies and the beards,” Fisher said. “[The Amish] truly believe they are living the life God wants them to live. The Amish place a special emphasis on values such as simplicity, community, separation from the world and pacifism. They place a great deal of emphasis on the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 5-7.”

One of the biggest misconceptions people have concerning the Amish is that they live an “old-fashioned” life.

“They do live ‘off the grid’ – they are not dependent on public utility lines—and they eschew television, radio, computers -- but they are very resourceful people,” Fisher said. “Their homes are powered with all kinds of energy sources: diesel generators, propane tanks, kerosene lamps, solar cells, battery packs. Sometimes, I think we will all be living like the Amish—using multiple sources of energy, such as solar cells, windmills, battery packs, and clotheslines.”

Amish Wisdom
At the start of each chapter, Fisher intersperses a variety of Amish proverbs or “wit,” many of which she grew up hearing at family gatherings.

She found the other sayings while researching Amish Peace, through her subscriptions to a variety of Amish newspapers and magazines.

Fisher said much of her collection will be released in August 2010, in “Amish Wisdom: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life,” by Revell.


More about Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher is an author, a wife, a mother and a “raiser of puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind,” as well as a cook and a gardener – although she admits, the latter two things take place with sporadic results.

“I’ve written for magazines for many years and was a former contributing editor to Christian Parenting Today magazine,” Fisher said. “I took the plunge into book writing a few years ago. Soon to follow Amish Peace are three novels about the Amish, starting with The Choice on Jan. 1, 2010. I am grateful for the opportunity to write!”


A Review of Amish Peace
I’ll admit, I’ve grown a bit tired of all of the Christian novels which seem fixated on the Amish.

It seems like every “big” author on the Christian circuit has come out with a book focusing on the anguish, betrayal and upheaval within the Amish community – all with a happy ending of course.

Fortunately, Suzanne Woods Fisher’s book is different and stands out among the crowd.

With her family deeply “rooted” in that Amish tradition, Fisher has gathered numerous real-life stories from a variety of sources highlighting the inner peace found among many members of the Amish community in her newest book – Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World.

Fisher’s manuscript focuses on five areas of peace – simplicity, time, community, forgiveness and their faith. These areas lead to one common trait – an inner tranquility, centered in a faith in God.

These are lessons everyone, regardless of tradition, can take to heart – especially those concerning community, which is a vital part of the Amish faith and lifestyle.


Valuing Community
The Amish value and nurture relationships, particularly when it comes to their passion for visiting family and friends.

“For the modern church, this is what small groups are all about,” Fisher said. “Their [the Amish] believe in face-to-face visits rather than telephone. Their calendar is filled with fellowships, quilting or canning ‘frolics’ (work parties), barn raisings, youth singings.”

Those twice-a-month church services are all-day affairs – with three hours of worship followed by a fellowship meal.

“To a typical American, the individual comes first,” she said. “To the Amish, the community comes first.’ For the modern church, this is what small groups are all about.”


Forgiveness Beyond Face Value
Another section of Fisher’s book focuses on an issue, unfortunately, which is too familiar to everyone, regardless of location or faith tradition.

It was a story that shocked the nation – a lone gunman holds Amish children hostage in a one-room schoolhouse. Before the event is over, numerous children are hurt or killed.

Could you forgive the person who killed, injured or traumatized your child and community?

For members of the West Nickel Mines School community, forgiveness was not only necessary; it was a vital part of the healing process.

Through her Amish contacts, Fisher’s includes several stories from this tragedy, all containing a central theme – finding calm in the midst of tragedy by trusting in God’s sovereignty.

“We just have to keep going on,” remarked one Amish woman whose family members were among the victims. “People think we’re perfect, but we’re not. Yet we can’t dwell on what happened. We have to leave it in God’s hands.”

Fisher said that fundamental belief also enabled the Amish community to extend incredible, almost immediate forgiveness to the gunman and his family.

Going Amish
You don’t have to ‘go Amish’ to find true peace – that’s a message Fisher weaves throughout the book. Instead, she said, people can learn from their examples and incorporate some of the lessons within their lives.

“That’s what Amish Peace is all about—being inspired by the best of the Amish way of life,” she said.

I’m glad I didn’t let the title or the subject matter stop me from reading this devotional. I would have missed a treat – a true oasis in the midst of a chaotic world.

This book truly stands out among other books highlighting the Amish faith.


Others are discovering Fisher’s book. It’s been chosen as a book selection for Doubleday, Crossings, Book of the Month 2 and Bookspan.

Want to learn more about Fisher and her books, visit www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

Enabling alert - her first Amish novel, The Choice, will be released in December....

Don't forget about the "Book Bomb"
Buy a copy of Amish Peace, either online or at your local bookstore, on Monday, Oct. 5, and enter to win a basket of books published by Revell.

Once you buy the book send Suzanne an email (suzanne@suzannewoodsfisher.com) or leave a comment on her blog (http://suzannewoodsfisher.blogspot.com) or Facebok page or email Amy (amy@litfusegroup.com) stating where you bought the book and how many copies you purchased.

Questions? Email Amy at amy@litfusegroup.com

*Note: Amish Peace will be available in October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group/Baker Books. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kaylea! Thank you for such a thoughtful, well-written review! I appreciate the care you took...I used to review books and it's harder than it might seem. You do a great job! Describing the book, sharing your thoughts, providing takeaway value for the reader. Thank you! Suzanne

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