Amish Principles for Today's Families

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Posted 3/23/14 at 10:36 AM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: Volunteerism

"People with a heart for God have a heart for People." Amish proverb

Contrary to some misperceptions, the Amish do extend the hand of friendship and care beyond their church community borders. They spring into action, but they do it quietly.

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

Some of the men are members of local volunteer fire companies and emergency medical units. Women gather together to sew comfort quilts for the needy. They have provided foster care to babies and children of incarcerated women. After a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flood or fire, Amish crews will travel by van and bus to disaster sites to help rebuild. They work closely with Mennonite-based Christian Aid Mnistries (CAM), a national agency that responds to disasters.

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

I met two Old Order Amish brothers in Pennsylvania, both in their early twenties, who had donated weeks of time one summer to help rebuild Ward 9 in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They came home, helped on the farm, then hopped on another bus and went west to help fight forest fires. "We like to help," one brother said. With a grin, the other chimed in, "And we love to travel." FULL POST

Posted 2/7/14 at 10:35 AM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: How to Avoid Moral Mud Puddles

The Amish have a rich tradition of proverbs. Easy to remember, proverbs can clarify the difference between right and wrong, good and evil; they help an individual avoid moral mud puddles.

(C) Bill Coleman/ amishphoto.com

With colorful language out of an oral tradition, these sayings evoke vivid word pictures: “You can smell scorched soup from afar” is a reminder that gossip spreads like wildfire. “Much straw but little grain” is a person who is all talk but no substance. This one needs no explanation: “They who trim themselves to suit others will soon whittle themselves away.”

Here are a few proverbs to enjoy on this cold winter weekend:

A woman's work is not seen unless it's not done.

Don't sell a poor horse near home. FULL POST

Posted 2/1/14 at 11:34 AM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: Remembering Photographer Bill Coleman

Internationally acclaimed photographer Bill Coleman passed away earlier this week at age 88 from complications after a heart attack. This post came from an interview I had with Bill a few years ago. To learn more about this remarkable man and his work, go to amishphoto.com.

Remembering Bill Coleman

Pray for a good harvest but continue to hoe. Amish Proverb

For thirty years, Bill Coleman owned and operated a successful portrait studio in State College, Pennsylvania. “I was photographing the most beautiful coeds [from Penn State] in the world,” he said.

Life was good. But life got even better.

(C) Bill Coleman amishphoto.com

When Bill was in his mid-forties, a friend offered to take him on a road trip that would take his life in a drastically different direction. They drove out to a remote, isolated Amish village. “I couldn’t even spell Amish! I had no idea Amish even lived around here. I’d heard about the Amish in Lancaster, but that’s a massive tourist trap. I learned more in one month there than I had in thirty years.” FULL POST

Posted 1/10/14 at 4:03 PM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: On the Road!

I'll be heading to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina next week for a book tour. Come see me if you live nearby!

Posted 1/2/14 at 7:13 PM | Suzanne Fisher |

1 comment

Plain Talk about the Amish: The 150 Rule

"No one is strong enough to bear his burdens alone." Amish proverb

People need people. Everyone needs a community. Isn't that what is behind the exploding success of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter? People seeking people. We have a longing to be needed and to belong to something bigger than ourselves. It's just the way God wired us.

But how big?

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a chapter on the natural limits of human beings. He found people can only handle so much information at once. Even so many acquaintances at once. Once we pass a certain boundary, he wrote, we become overwhelmed.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell cited the work of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who called that boundary our social channel capacity. Dunbar came up with an equation to determine that one hundred and fifty seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship. FULL POST

Posted 10/31/13 at 1:16 PM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: "One Light Still Shines"

"Faith is the bridge over which we can cross all the unknown waters of tomorrow." Amish proverb

One Light Still Shines isn't the book you might be expecting to read of the "untold story" of the Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse shooting. Without glossing over the tragedy nor the bumpy road of recovery, Marie Roberts Monville, the wife of the shooter, invites readers into her thoughts as she processes the unimaginable that began with an eerie phone call.

A few themes were particularly inspiring:

Marie's startling wisdom about how to handle a crisis of this magnitude. She knew her children's lives would be forever affected by their father's violent actions. She was cautious about how much her children needed to be told and when--but she never avoided the reality of what they had to absorb. By week's end, she was resolved to regain "normal" for her family--moving home again, getting the children back into school. And most impressively, she sought to help them cherish good memories of their father. FULL POST

Posted 9/10/13 at 10:09 AM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: A Farmer's Life

"Mer muss Hoi mache, wann die Sunn scheint." Amish proverb

Translation: "Make hay while the sun shines."

A busy September sometimes makes late nights for the farmers, so they like to catch a snooze whenever they can. This one weary farmer was in the field raking hay one day last week when a shower of sprinkles went through.

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

He decided to just wait it out, out in the field, and lay down on the windrow for a snooze. He had just dozed off when a police car came across the field. Someone from the road had seen the horses, with the farmer lying on the ground. Thinking there had been an accident, they reported it to the police, who came to check it out.

 Next time, honey, sleep under a tree.

From a Scribe's letter in The Budget.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, including The Letters, book 1 in the 'Inn at Eagle Hill' series. She has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, for iPhone or Android, that delivers a daily Amish proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

Posted 7/16/13 at 5:51 PM | Suzanne Fisher |

1 comment

Plain Talk about the Amish: A Woman's Prayer Cap

"It may be difficult to wait on the Lord, but it is worse to wish you had." Amish proverb

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

Mary Miller is a thin, attractive Amish woman of 46, a mother to eight children born within a span of eleven years. During the day, Mary wears a starched white organza prayer cap over her tightly pinned hair bun. In the night, she wears another covering. Why does she wear a head covering at night? “In case I wake up in the night and need to pray,” Mary explains in a tone that suggests it should be quite obvious. “And with eight children, I do. Often.”

Religion is 24/7 for the Amish. Everything they do, especially the manner in which they dress, is based upon their faith. Their simple clothing—a tradition of the Amish and the reason they are also called thePlain People—is a tangible reminder that they are a people set apart, belonging to the Lord. The Kapp or “head cap,” worn by every woman and even by infants, might be the most symbolic garment of all. As girls become young teens, they start to wear the cap: black for Sunday dress and a white cap at home. After marriage a white cap is always worn. The style and size of caps can vary among church districts, but it is essentially the same cap as that worn by the Palatine women of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Back in those days, the Amish were perceived as radicals. FULL POST

Posted 6/24/13 at 4:00 PM | Suzanne Fisher |

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Plain Talk about the Amish: The Disappearing Childhood

by Suzanne Woods Fisher

"The kind of ancestors you have is not as important as the ones your children have."

Amish Proverb

(c) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

Not long ago, I was asked to speak to a young mothers’ group. The topic focused on incorporating some Amish child-rearing values into today’s modern families without “going Amish.” Later, a woman approached me to share a story. Attached like Velcro to her knee was a two-year-old girl, her curly-haired daughter. “Just last week,” this woman said, “a friend told me that I really need to have more scheduled activities for my little girl. We do attend a Gymboree class once a week, but that’s not enough, this friend said. She thinks I should sign my daughter up for soccer.” FULL POST

Posted 5/24/13 at 7:05 PM | Suzanne Fisher

Plain Talk about the Amish: Why is Amish Fiction so Popular?

Valerie Weaver-Zercher

Valerie Weaver-Zercher is the author of the newly-released Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels (Johns Hopkins Press). Valerie is a writer and editor whose work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Mennonite Weekly Review, and other publications. Valerie has been kind enough to answer some questions about the popularity of the sub-genre of Amish fiction.

Why is it important to know what draws readers to Amish fiction?

The sheer number of Amish-themed novels on the market made me realize that something substantive was going on in terms of readers’ desire for this particular kind of novel, and I knew it was an important part of my task to figure out what was driving readers to yearn for Amish stories. Readers of Amish fiction frequently told me that the novels provide “escape” or transport away from their daily lives. So as I began to question them about what, exactly, their daily lives consisted of, or what they were trying to “escape” for a while, I listened carefully to try to hear any common themes that might emerge. I became convinced that two main factors—hypermodernity and hypersexualization of popular culture—were at the root of Amish fiction’s appeal to its readers. FULL POST

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