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Posts Tagged ‘Amos

What Does it Take to Listen? Amos on Hearing.

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The power was in the message not the prophet.

The power was in the message not the prophet.

For several weeks a few of us have been talking our way through an ancient text written by a shepherd named Amos. He came to the task of writing with no credentials and claimed only to be articulating stuff the Almighty had been roaring.

Like a finger circling a map before punching hard on the destination city, Amos’ started with a talking tour that included cities and regions where residents had stepped away from honoring God. But eventually Israel was the focus of this roar. And by the middle of chapter two, it’s clear the relationship between God and people was broken. The prophet prompted the people to remember how the Almighty had acted in their lives: destroying enemies as they made their way from slavery through a wilderness to a place of promise. The Almighty even equipped them with people specially tuned to hear more of what He was saying: Nazirites and prophets. But the actions of the crowd drowned God’s voice. The nation happily trampled the poor if it meant more money for them. They damaged their marriages and invented their own gods. Whatever worked.

That the people thought this was no big deal was key to what happened next.

Stuff happens for a reason, the shepherd/prophet said (Amos 3.3-8) and present sufferings will give way to something much worse, so now is the time to return. The predictions only get more violent as the book progresses and Amos does not spare the detail. That the nation collapsed within the generation puts even more muscle behind Amos’ words.

By the end of chapter four, the people had refused to hear and continued to invent their own terms of engagement.

What I learned:

  1. If I want to hear something bigger then myself, I need to listen beyond my own desire. It’s a matter of pulling out of the evil I’m participating in (a prophet worth his or her salt would say “Repent!”) and “returning” (which occurs five times in Amos 4) to God before being forced to meet Him on much less ideal terms (compare Amos 4.6-11 with 4.12-13).
  2. It’s good to remember the milestones and turning points God creates in your life. In our family, we’ve got dozens of places where we’ve sensed a divine hand reaching down and turning the course of our lives. Those times make for good stories—plus they actually inform present dark times with hope and light.
  3. God does stuff to get our attention. It’s better to develop a listening spirit than not.
Let the Packway Handle Band tell the story (starts at ~5:15).

Start listening at 5:15


Written by kirkistan

March 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

Blinders, Diamonds and Choices

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Do our life choices change the reality around us? Or do our choices fit us with a set of blinders so we pay attention only to what is of immediate interest? Winifred Gallagher in “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life” argues that our senses are fine-tuned to track the smaller set of interests that are important to us. Her masterful book shows the physiological and neurological changes—and the enormous benefits—that happen when we pay attention. But it is also true that life choices change the reality around us.

You'll be glad you read this.

A few of us have been reading the minor prophet Amos. Amos spoke against the treatment of the poor—over and over again. That’s what prophets do: with little personal authority (Amos was a shepherd), they get tricked-out with a much larger message (larger audience, bigger content, massive ramifications) and they…say it. Out loud. Come what may.

Which is what Amos did. He spoke out against nation after nation for taking advantage of their helpless (among other things). He had a special harangue against nations that should have known better, nations who should have had top-of-mind recollection about how they were recently saved from helplessness themselves.

As we talked about Amos, I mentioned how the poor seem almost invisible today. There are the homeless, but because I’m not paying attention (I’m not actively looking for them), I don’t see them. A couple students in my “Writing for Community” class are doing a masterful job bringing attention to the faces and people-ness of the homeless here. But how can I, how can we begin to see the poor among us? And more importantly, how can I/we keep from choices that trample on them? This spot hints at the effect of our choices:


Written by kirkistan

February 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Entering an Ancient Text

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Our small group is reading an ancient text together. It’s reproduced in a contemporary volume and to my eye looks like the same English words and punctuation I might find in today’s StarTribune. But the prophet Amos is writing from a very different time and place. He was a shepherd back in the B.C.’s when kings ruled the peoples. And though he was (again) just a shepherd, he spoke a message that came from the God whose roar could wither a mountaintop and drop a pasture into mourning.

The text works on the reader

John Walton, in his introduction to “The Lost World of Genesis One” (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009) writes that understanding an ancient text is not a matter of translating the culture but entering that ancient culture—as much as possible. I picked up Walton’s book because I am fascinated by the huge task taken on by the writer of Genesis 1 and mirrored in John’s Gospel (John 1). Who doesn’t wonder how everything began? And this: what do those deep roots say about life today?

Entering into Amos’ ancient culture will be our task. We’ll do it as a group. We’ll bring supporting sources and texts that point us toward that ancient culture as we walk through those nine chapters. We’ll look at how the author uses his words, what he repeats, what he emphasizes. How he frames his argument. We’ll take a bunch of conversational stabs at understanding the text and I expect to be deeply challenged about the ephemerals I fixate on.

And…I’m expecting God to show up. I’m listening for that roar.


Written by kirkistan

January 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

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