Ah summer … ah books

MelissaMillerPorchSwingEdited

By Melissa Miller, secretary of MennoMedia board

Musician Frank Zappa lamented, “So many books, so little time!” For some of us, summer slows down enough that we can indulge in our love of reading, nearly to our heart’s content. I am one of the fortunate few who finds enough time for books during the warm months of the year, and even more fortunately, a professional obligation to read.

Herald Press often fills the bill. This summer that has included the lighter, yet still meaningful fare from the Plainspoken series, Called to be Amish: From Head Majorette to the Old Order (by Marlene C. Miller) & Chasing the Amish Dream: My Life as a Young Amish Bachelor (by Loren Beachy)

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I’ve enjoyed these up close reflections from writers who speak out of their personal experiences. I’ve had little contact with Amish over the years, except through visits with my in-laws in the Amish-saturated Kishacoquillas Valley of Pennsylvania (where there are actually four separate tribes of Amish among the 13,000 inhabitants).

For denser material, and to aid in sermon preparation, I am working my through the Believers’ Church Biblical Commentary on John by Willard Swartley. I am grateful for the work that Swartley and other scholars do on our behalf, bringing the riches of their research and knowledge to us that we may deepen our understanding and appreciation for the treasures of the Bible.

BCBC JohnJohn has been one of those books I have puzzled over with its complex, intertwined themes. As one professor said, “John is like a bowl of spaghetti. You try to pick out one noodle (one theme) in a passage, and the whole mess comes out with it.” Swartley’s diligent, loving exegesis enables me to identify the different themes in “the pasta bowl”. It also leads me to appreciate the biblical author’s extraordinary skill and passionate call to faith in Jesus.

Last fall, when I jumped into teaching Sunday School with our church’s young children, I was delighted with the still-new Shine curriculum. In the busy-ness of life, I had just a few moments to skim the teacher’s manual, Shine Together: The Essential Guide for Leaders and Teachers.

ShineTogetherWhat I encountered there warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes, like these words from the introduction, “Let children’s imagination, sense of mystery, creativity, and boldness inspire Christ’s church today…Children’s spiritual wisdom can be found in the midst of exuberant play, settling arguments, work, mealtimes, and conversation. The child’s spiritual learning environment is everywhere, anytime. Where the child is, God is already there.” (p 9)

With the slower pace of summer, I look forward to savoring the manual’s nuggets mined from the writers’ deep faith and insight.

May your summer include gems such as these. And thanks to MennoMedia for continuing to provide them!

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To purchase any of the above books or other resources, check the store. (Although currently closed through June 30 for inventory. Sorry. But sign up here to receive timely email news and specials from MennoMedia and Herald Press)

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What is on your reading list for this summer? Anything from Herald Press or MennoMedia? We’d love to hear and may feature your comments in a follow up post or on Facebook. 

MelissaMillerPorchSwingCroppedMelissa Miller fulfills some of her love of summer reading while seated on a swing (ted by her husband from Pennsylvania oak) at her Winnipeg, Manitoba home. She is a Canadian member, and secretary of, the MennoMedia board.

Amish Author Loren Beachy Answers Your Questions

Loren Beachy Answers Your Questions (Part 1)

We [Amish America] got your questions over to Loren last week, and on Friday I got a fax back from him.

“This is what I’ve got so far,” Loren writes. “I plan to give the other questions some attention, too.” You’ll find about a dozen-and-a-half responses below. I’ll get the rest up [at AmishAmerica.com when I get them in from Loren. Until then, I hope you enjoy. — Erik Wesner

[Editor’s note: Mistakes in spelling/usage etc. from readers are left in.]

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Loren Answers Your Questions

Trish in Indiana: Sometimes, I wonder what it must be like to be so “visible” to the community around you, and to know that there are tourists who actually travel from miles around to see Amish people.

Can you tell me if you believe many Amish feel a “burden” of responsibility at being so identifiable to the public?

Thanks, Trish. Jesus calls us to be a “city on a hill”. Yes, that’s a burden, but an opportunity, as well. We are conscious of the scrutiny you mentioned (we even hear it in sermons occasionally), and it is probably good for us.

Bill Rushby: What don’t you like about being Old Order Amish? (Please forgive the impertinent question!) 

Nothing major comes to mind. You’re forgiven, go and sin no more.

Slightly-Handled-Order-Man: We’ve read through different Amish America posts that the farm life is not as lucrative as it once was for many Amish (and non-Amish alike) and that many Amish people seek out careers outside of the home / farm, for instance the biographical information provided for your book states that you are both a school teacher and an auctioneer in addition to author and columnist. Acknowledging that, have you ever found resistance among your community toward your career paths as perceived to be immodest, very much unconventional or against community rules, or perhaps just against the personal opinions of other people?

Amish communities across America vary widely in how conservative we choose to be. In more conservative communities my auctioneer career would not work. In our community, as in most large communities, it is accepted. I have encountered very little resistance and much encouragement from my community members in my careers.

Al in KY: Two questions:

How many Amish auctioneers are there in the U.S.?

Are there other training schools (like Reppert Auction school) for
other occupations that are OK with Amish districts for Amish men and women to attend?

Lots. Probably hundreds.

My dad attended a farrier school when he was young. There are probably others, like tax clinics for bookkeepers and so forth, though it’s not exceedingly common for Amish to go.

Kim Shinn: This sounds like a very unique book to be written by an Old Order Amish gentleman…can’t wait to partake in the humor! I am interested in knowing what percentage of the teachers are male, as Loren is, compared to the customary young females that are teachers. 

Thank you, Kim. In the past decade or so, the percentage of male teachers in our community has risen to perhaps 20 percent (my guess). In Pennsylvania, there are almost no male teachers.

HDL: As a school teacher, are you concerned with the federal government interfering with what and how you teach?

Not yet.

Theresa H: We have Amish friends in New York and one of their boys wants to be an Auctioneer when he grows up. Is their any books that we could get for him to read about Auctioneering?

Sorry, I don’t know of any.

lincolnlady1121: I would love to read your book. Seeing you are a bachelor I was wondering if there was a certain age that Amish men and women are expected to be married by? Are there many Amish who remain single all their life? If you were too marry, could you retain your job as a teacher or would you have to get another occupation? 

Thanks.

Not really, though I think the average is something like 22 years old for men and 20 for the ladies. There are some who remain single–I’m going to guess between 5 and 10 percent.

I could keep my job as a teacher, though some men quit upon marrying because of financial considerations.

tjk: I was wondering how far you travel for auctions, and is this your first book?

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The rest of AmishAmerica’s blog post of Loren Beachy’s great and fun answers to questions that inquiring minds want to know can be found here.

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[Editor’s note: Feel free to ask your local bookstore to order or carry Chasing the Amish Dream, or you can buy it at our store, here, for just $12.99.]

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If you’d like to know how our designer came up with cover design, check this blog post from Merrill Miller. And no, the man running behind the buggy is not actually Loren!

Do You Have a Book Group? Some Book Ideas — by Mary Ann Weber

A soldier returns to the United States after the worst day of his life—a day when a fierce battle took the lives of some of his friends. A young woman finds herself working at a police precinct and is mesmerized by the recent hire of a young woman who seems to lead a much more glamorous life. An Indian Catholic sister working in Ethiopia dies while giving birth to twins, one of whom grows up to be a physician.*

These brief plots are from books I’ve read for the book group I meet with each month. Aside from the fact that I love to read, one reason to be part of such a group is that I read books that I might not have chosen on my own. We’re assured of a variety of genres and writing styles because we take turns choosing books.

Thinking about book selection led me to wonder what would happen if a book group read only MennoMedia titles? Keeping in mind a variety of books, what would I recommend?

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1. Shine On: A Story Bible. This book might not, at first glance, seem like a good book for adults. In this volume, numerous Bible stories are written and illustrated with children in mind. Yet, the stories are skillfully told and the illustrations are captivating. Each story contains ideas to help readers explore the story further and connect with it. Choosing some of them would generate excellent group discussion.

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2. Extending the Table. Cookbooks are not traditionally circulated among book groups. But what if everyone prepared their favorite recipe from the book and brought it along to the group? From Afghanistan to Zambia, Extending the Table includes recipes from all over the world. Perhaps some foods will be new, while others will remind group members of travels and of living in places outside of their own context. What a tasty meeting!

recon3. Reconcile by John Paul Lederach. Lederach has worked in conflict situations around the globe and he takes seriously that reconciliation is a central part of the Bible. Using personal stories and Scripture, Lederach illustrates how Christians work toward resolving conflicts peacefully. Practical ideas and resources are included, as well as a study guide for group discussions.

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4. Chasing the Amish Dream by Loren Beachy. Amish fiction is quite prolific these days and is written by outsiders. So how about getting the authentic voice by picking up this book? Beachy is a member of the Amish church with a gift for both writing and humor. Book groups will learn about real Amish life from someone on the inside.

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5. Making Friends with the Taliban by Jonathan P. Larson. This true story about Dan Terry, who worked as a peacemaker in Afghanistan, is both inspiring and challenging. What does it mean to work for peace in a world of conflict? How do we learn to understand cultures and people? Are we ready to give our lives for peace? This book provides many conversation topics for book groups.

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6. Radical Jesus edited by Paul Buhle. Most book groups don’t read graphic novels, and that’s too bad. Many have good things to say in the way they use both words and pictures to tell a story. This book highlights the life and teachings of Jesus, and then features those who have lived by those teachings throughout history. Many elements of the book will spark good conversations and a study guide is available at: http://www.heraldpress.com/Studygds/

What are some books you recommend to a book group?

I wish to also remind you that most books MennoMedia sells are available at a
25 % discount with the “Study Shelf” discount. See details and book ideas here.

Happy reading!

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*Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, Cutting for Stone by Abraham

 

Mary Ann Weber, Managing Editor, Curriculum