Friday, December 9, 2011

Amish Values for Your Family by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I want to blog about a book, which is not about Christmas per se, but its message is very apropos at this time of year when we are all tempted to overindulge in material goods and lose sight of the reason Christmas is actually celebrated.

Not long ago, I found a neat little book with an intriguing title on our local library’s new releases shelf: Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn from the Simple Life.  The author, Suzanne Woods Fisher, is not herself Amish.  But her grandfather was a member of an Anabaptist church in Pennsylvania, and Ms. Fisher has been fascinated by Anabaptist cultures for a long time.  She has spent significant amounts of time studying the Amish.  She apparently hosts a radio program called Amish Wisdom, and she has written a number of books on topics involving the Amish.  The back cover of this particular book sums up its focus:

Amish values like community, forgiveness, simple living, obedience, and more can be your family legacy—without selling your car or changing your wardrobe.

In short, the book is written for a Christian, but non-Amish audience.  Ms. Fisher shares via a series of anecdotes with commentary some of the virtues of Amish culture and suggestions on how to live more like the Amish without discarding electricity or withdrawing from the mainstream culture.

The book is composed of a series of short chapters.  I read it over several weeks as a devotional, reading just a chapter or two each day.  It was such a joy.  I absolutely loved this little book and recommended it to several of my Christian mommy friends.  We all have a great deal of respect and admiration for the Amish. 

The friends with whom I shared this book are all well-educated, professional women with young children.  We live in suburban homes with plenty of modern conveniences and material goods.  None of us are rich by American standards.  We probably would not even be considered upper middle class in this country.  But we certainly live a luxurious lifestyle compared to most of our human brothers and sisters in the world.  We are Christian women who want to raise our children to love God and his people, to be grateful for our blessings, and care for the vulnerable among us.  With the ubiquitous influences of a hedonistic, shallow secular culture, this is no easy feat!

My friends and I are not alone.  Many moms (and dads) want to raise their kids in such a fashion.  Ms. Fisher’s book was written with such families in mind.  As a woman who lives in my culture, but knows Amish culture so well, I love how Ms. Fisher focuses on aspects of Amish beliefs and customs that are so different from the mainstream culture.  And she gives practical advice on how to weave the essence of Amish living into our modern American lives.

I admire many aspects of how dedicated the Amish are to living their Christian faith.  It is not a once-a-week-on-Sundays type of faith.  It is an intrinsic part of their everyday life.  Their faith guides and shapes their culture.  Their strong emphasis on community and family are based on Jesus’s teaching to love and care for one another.  The Amish apparently have a saying: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”  (p. 105) As an Amish minister explains the saying, “There’s no point in knowing God’s Word if you don’t walk God’s Word.” 

For example, the Amish value the vulnerable among them in a real and not abstract way.  Children are loved and constantly taught as their parents go about their household work.  The Amish take their responsibility to” train up” their children very seriously.  Children are given age appropriate responsibility from early on.  They don’t spend time in front of a television or computer.  The family works together. 

The elderly are valued as well.  Caring for aging relatives is not seen as an imposition.  They are cared for at home.  They are valued for their wisdom and contributions in helping to raise children.  There is a beautiful chapter about a family singing to an elderly relative who was dying.  She had always enjoyed music, so the singing brought her comfort as her physical body failed her.

Job 12:12 (DARBY)

With the aged is wisdom, and in length of days understanding.

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