Spiritual Formation: Attentiveness (part 2) — Carolyn Carney

Does your life feel like an avalanche sometimes?  Things coming at you so fast that you can’t decipher what just happened or flew past? Someone asks you what’s going on and all you know how to answer is, “Busy,” because you cannot recall single events in the whirl of activity.  By the end of the day you throw yourself in bed, just grateful to stop the movement.

fast paced

An Examen may help you.

Now, don’t break out into a cold sweat!  I didn’t say exam!  Whereas an exam tests your knowledge of a certain subject, practicing an Examen will help you recognize how the invisible God intersects your life.  This kind of attentiveness prevents an avalanche of activity and conversation from derailing your ability to encounter Jesus who is always present with us.  The flurry of activity will not disappear, but with the Examen you’ll be able to spot God’s activity through the flurry. This practice will lead you to a greater self-knowledge and spiritual growth.

An Examen can be done in 5-10 minutes.  I find it best to do at the end of my day.  There are plenty of Examens you can find on the internet.  “Rummaging for God” by Dennis Hamm is a great read.  Here is a simple synopsis of the practice extrapolated from Hamm’s article:

  1. Pray for light.  We need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, to bring to the surface the “meat” of the day.  We are not just reminiscing about our day, we are mining for treasure.  Miners need light to see.  So do we. Find a quiet space and pray for light.
  2. Recall the events, activities and conversations of the day.  Don’t pass judgment on yourself.  (There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:1). Just look at your day—the good, the bad and the ugly– as if you were watching a film.
  3. As you recall your day, pay attention to the feelings that surfaced for you.  Some of us have an easier time than others identifying feelings.  But feelings are a clear indicator that something has gone deeply into us.  It is an invitation from God to pause and pay attention.  Also, in what ways did you experience God showing up?
  4. Is there one feeling that stands out from the rest?  Pray from that feeling.  What was the source of that feeling?  What was going on in you that prompted that inner reaction?  Bring that feeling to God and invite him to speak to you about it.  Listen.
  5. Look to tomorrow.  What will you be engaging in?  What are you looking forward to?  What are you anxious about?  Tell the Lord.  Invite him to be with you, to make himself known to you in your day.

If you find it simpler, here is a file of me reading an examen.   

Share in the comments your experience practicing the examen.  How are you noticing God in your day?  How are you growing?


Spiritual Formation: Spiritual Practices for Leaders: Attentiveness, Part 1 – Carolyn Carney

What would you do if you were on your way to get to class on time, to get to work, to make your train or to see that special someone in your life, and you noticed a strange, out- of-sync occurrence like the red hot glow of a fire in a mesh garbage can yet the stuff in the can was not being burned up?  Would you take the time to stop, or would you pass it by, maybe thinking about the phenomenon as you carried on?

Most of us would probably keep walking or driving by.  We’re busy people, with places to go, people to see, things to do.  But what if that occurrence was a calling card from God: God trying to get your attention to show you something?

flower rubble

Ok, so you’re on to me.  I guess that was a little obvious, but yes, I’m trying to talk about Moses and the burning bush here.

At this point in his life, Moses is living in Midian, married to the daughter of a Midianite priest.  The Midian religion was probably one in which many gods were worshipped.  But Moses was born a Hebrew and raised as a privileged Egyptian, until he fled as a wanted man to Midian.  He was a shepherd now, just minding his own business, tending his flock.  He had stuff to do.  But when confronted with this wonder he says,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up. (Ex 3: 3)

Unlike many of us, he stops what he’s doing. This is not some mere distraction or bunny trail or tangent taking him away from his responsibility.  There is a tug in his spirit.  This is where the Spirit of God intersects the human spirit and interjects inspiration.  I must turn aside.  I’ve got to see this thing.  There might be something in here for me.

This happened to me recently when I, on my usual walk to the train, passed by this construction site that has been going on for months: broken up concrete, rebar, bricks, rubble and a flimsy chain-link fence between all the mayhem and the sidewalk.  But on that day, I noticed the beautiful, volunteer clematis vine making what looked like it’s impossible weaving way up the fence!  No one planted this!  Against all odds, here was beauty and life amidst rubble and destruction.

Here’s my point: I’d been walking, my mind filled with concern and worry about the bad news I was waiting to hear about my husband’s health.  Against all odds here was my sign of beauty and hope and the impossible, right in plain sight of ugliness and destruction.  God was speaking to me about resurrection hope.

But, look what happens in the text after Moses chooses to turn aside:

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him…(Ex. 3: 4).

God wants to make sure that he’s got your attention before he speaks a word to you.

Finally, think about this: Moses may have never become a leader if he hadn’t been attentive to God’s invitation.

Practice being more attentive.  Before large group begins take a look around the room. Really see people.  Be attentive to agitation, guilt, and energy at your leadership meetings. Give yourself more time to get to class.  Don’t be in such a rush to get places.  Take time in prayer to listen to God, just don’t talk at him. Keep your ears and eyes open.

Next time: A tried and true method to improve your attentiveness.


StartLeading: Vision Starts with the Why — Jason Gaboury

“What brings you to Hunter College?” I asked.

“Pre-nursing.” The mixture of hope and anxiety in her eyes was typical of freshmen attempting to major in nursing in Hunter College’s elite program.  “I guess I want to help people.”  She went on to tell a personal story about illness in her family, a compassionate nurse, and a desire to be that for others.

“Wow. You experienced compassion, and you want to pass that on.” I took a breath.  “What are you going to do while you’re in school to develop your compassion, this gift that you want to give to others?”

Her eyes moved up and to the right.  “I don’t know.”

“What about joining a community of people that believed compassion was the most powerful force in the world and wanted to help each other learn to live that out?”

I then introduced her to InterVarsity.


Simon Sinek gave a TED talk called, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”.  In his talk he argues that most vision communication moves from the outer rim of the above diagram to the middle, from the most concrete to the most abstract.  “But”, he says, “the great leaders communicate from the inside out.”

Here’s an example from NSO.  A student asks, “What’s InterVarsity?”  A typical response might sound like this.  “Oh, we’re a Christian group on campus.  We have small groups, large groups, and God Investigation Groups…we build really great community.”  Would you want to come to a group that just wanted to keep you busy?

What if we said instead, “We believe that no student is here by accident, but that every one of the 14,323 students on campus are loved by God.  Tragically most students don’t know it.  Our events, activities, and service projects are all set up to help ordinary students connect with each other and experience God’s love in tangible and transformative ways.  Our next event happens tonight, wanna come?”

See the difference?

Write out your answers to these questions and share your vision message in the comments below:

  1. Why does your chapter exist?  (Hint: See InterVarsity purpose statement)
  2. What are your events and activities designed to do?  What impact are they designed to have on students’ lives?
  3. What is one specific action step you could invite the listener to do? 

Student Power in Mission – India Edition

This post is from the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) prayerline. the IFES is a federation of student ministries (including InterVarsity) that works in over 154 countries around the world. You can find out more about IFES at their website: www.ifesworld.org.

Why did you choose to study at a particular university? Was it to get the most
prestigious degree? Because you wanted to get a good job? Because it was close to
home and family?

Some UESI India (the InterVarsity-sister movement) students from Andra Pradesh chose their university for a different reason. They decided to be like Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who, far from home and in a very different culture, pursued studies in Babylonian Language and Literature and had an amazing impact on
those around them. So these Indian students left the comfort of home to bring the gospel to unreached universities in a North Indian state.

The vision
Student ministry is well established in the south and northeast of India, whereas the North has been largely unreached. So Andra Pradesh, a South Indian state, adopted Uttarakhand as its partnering state. In 2005, Mr P Venkateswara Rao, who had just become a staff member withUESI, took a group of students to Uttarakhand.

One key student in this group was Narasimha Rao. He went back to his home state of Andra Pradesh and talked excitedly to his friends about the possibilities of outreach in the North. He and four other students came up with a plan – to enrol in universities in Uttarakhand. So all of them took admission in unreached universities and colleges there… and started UESI groups.

In the next year’s mission conference in Andra Pradesh, many more students committed themselves to go to North Indian universities. So every year an average of three students went from Andra Pradesh to Uttarakhand, were admitted in different unreached universities and started new UESI groups.

The challenges
India is a land of great diversity in culture, language, geography, food and climate, and Andra Pradesh is very different from Uttarakhand! Commenting on the difficulty of learning language, one student said, ‘During my initial days I communicated with sign language to my friends and shopkeepers until I learned to speak broken Hindi.’ Another student commented, ‘At first I had to face constant stomach upsets as the food was different from what I got in my home state.’ Travelling in hilly places was sometimes a big challenge for students who come from plains in Andra Pradesh.

When asked ‘What motivated you to stay here in spite of difficulties?’ one of the
students said ‘Constant encouragement from people in my home state, regular quiet times and fasting prayers gave me strength to overlook the struggles.’

The impact
With the arrival of these missionary students, ministry started to penetrate into the interiors of Uttarakhand. Also many of these students took jobs in Uttarakhand after their education and remained actively involved in the ministry. UESI gradually developed throughout the state until it was necessary for ministry effectiveness to divide the state into two regions and form regional committees. One of the UESI staff workers in Uttarakhand, Mr Anjaneyulu, notes the impact of these students from Andra Pradesh: ‘Today 80% of the regional committee members are from Uttarakhand. We have also seen people from Uttarakhand owning the ministry and even committing themselves to full-time ministry among college students.’ Commenting on the wider impact of UESI he adds, ‘These missionary students have helped in the development of local churches.’

Let us pray that the spark initiated in Uttarakhand will continue to spread like a wild fire. Let there be a new wave where students from Uttarakhand themselves take up the challenge to go as missionary students to other unreached universities and colleges!

Question: Describe a time God sent to you to person or place to be salt and light? What impact did you have? Share your experience in the comments.