Monday, July 9, 2012


My husband and I traveled  to the Rocky Mountains to see family and friends and to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last summer.  The experience of being in the splendor of the mountains was refreshing and invigorating, yet following the continental divide down from Montana, we also found a tragedy taking place within this landscape.  The pine forests are stained red, dying from the inhabitation of the pine tree beetle.  Mountainsides of trees have been infiltrated with beetles without the long periods of freezing temperatures needed to stop their spread.  The blight caused by the beetles has contributed to the recent spread of fire there. Upon reflection, I have found similarities between myself and these vulnerable trees under invasion by the pine beetle, though my enemy goes by a different name.

The discrepancy between what I offer to others and what I live out runs deep.  As one who longs to love God with my heart, mind, soul and strength and to encourage others on this path, I acknowledge that I have an impure heart – though with the depth of my soul, I long for a pure one.  I have ungodly attitudes in deep need of Christ’s perspective, with longings that aren’t steadfast on God, though I beg for immovable desire for Him alone.  I live with failure in not giving my life and strength fully for God’s glory.  How desperately I require a Redeemer.

Isn’t it amazing how in the midst of our death and fallenness, God’s love prevails - not only for others - but also for ourselves?  Not only does He continue to draw us closer to Himself, He also entrusts us with His divine purposes.

During an evening gathering I attended, author and spiritual director Jeanette Bakke spoke on the theme of entrustment. An example given was of the entrustment that God the Father gave to Jesus His Son.  God entrusted Jesus to be the Savior of the world through His birth, growth, baptism, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection.  He entrusted Him to save humanity from their sinful nature and to bring God glory. The question that Jeanette left us with from her presentation was, "What is it that we are entrusted with by God?"

I believe the answer to that question lies in Jesus’ words contained in John 13:34, where he says, "a new command I give you: love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another." In our work as counselors, pastors, academicians and sisters and brothers in Christ, we are entrusted with loving one another as Jesus has so willingly done and continues to do through us.  As Christ followers, we are called to live out life with the possibility of some level of anguish; and we are called to a place of sacrificial love in Christ’s stead.  This sacrificial love compels us, at the very least, to set aside our own drives and agendas in order to listen and attune ourselves in new ways to the life challenges people bring to us.

At the beginning of Jeanette’s presentation, she had invited us to listen to others with three ears: one ear listening to the Holy Spirit, the second ear listening to our inner selves; and the third ear listening to the content of the messages we receive. As we walk alongside our clients, parishioners, and students, as family in Christ, let us consider how we attune ourselves to what God is doing in them. From my small perspective, this means attuning ourselves to the Holy Spirit with DILIGENCE; attuning ourselves to our own inner movements with DISCRETION; attuning ourselves to messages we receive with DISCERNMENT; and attuning ourselves to God’s calling upon us when we are to walk in self-DENIAL and sacrificial love.

DILIGENCE, as applied here, is a heart commitment to seeking God's kingdom first in opening ourselves up to Him.  As we meditate on the living Word, the life of Christ, the lives of God's saints, and the wonders of creation, we become more and more attuned to God's truth indwelling in us. With this knowledge (beyond thinking to truly knowing), there is increasing capacity for His kingdom to be lived out through the Holy Spirit working within us.

Our journey of DISCRETION is a sifting of our own internal state. Here, we seek an awareness of the anxiety, anger or accusatory stances with which we battle. At the other extreme, we uncover the defensive, self-justifying, self interested movements that get in the way of the truth of our love relationship with God, our love of self, and our love of others. These tender places are to be acknowledged before God and surrendered to Him. His call is to have neither an inadequate low view of self or others, nor an idealized high view of self or others. God calls us to a discretionary balance of His perspectives of who we are and who our sisters and brothers in Christ truly are, in the midst of the implanted lies that the enemy would want us to believe.

DISCERNMENT of truth comes by sifting external messages through God’s Word, truth in the world, and discovering and uncovering truth in our lives and in the lives of others.  This sifting process is essential to our on-going call of loving God, loving self and loving others. God’s vision is often not what we see.  Our own visions can blind us to what is true. Discernment enables us to encourage the uncovering and releasing of the broken pieces of peoples’ lives to the truth-giving redemption of Jesus Christ.  For this, we need God's eyes and God's counsel through the Holy Spirit, and through the body of Christ, so that we share and acknowledge His truth and His truth alone.

Furthermore, our calling for our ministries and as fellow Christians is a call to DENIAL of self. This is not a denial of our true value or true identity, but rather knowing more and more who we truly are, and then making the choice, as Christ did, to lay down our lives in sacrificial love. This is the way that Christ loves His church, and the way Christ ministers to her and encourages her. Ultimately, this is His call on our lives as we care for one another.  Our prayer is that we find this journey of DILIGENCE, DISCRETION, DISCERNMENT and Self-DENIAL a blessing as we follow in His footsteps, entrusted to bring His blessings to others.

As for the death caused by the pine beetle and the burned forests along the Continental Divide, it is also the ground for new life.  Only with extreme heat do the pine trees on these mountain slopes release their seeds to spread rebirth.  New growth blossoms up under death.

During our travels, we were witness to God’s glory in this.  He revitalized our prayer life with a message from a dear friend. He opened church doors for my sister that had been closed for a decade.  He redeemed broken relationships with Michael’s two sons and, in that, he tore down the walls of separation and opened a garden of acceptance for us as grandparents to the eldest son’s new baby boy.  New Life, New Growth, New Creation, even in the driest of times.

Valerie Murphy is a licensed counselor and spiritual director whose life work is focused on the building up of those she serves through encouraging holistic loving of God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength and the loving of others and ourselves as Christ loved us.  The grounding of her work comes from a Genesis-based world view. She serves as founder and director of Foundation Counseling and Training.

Valerie Murphy, LCPC, SD, BCPCC
Licensed Counselor and Spiritual Director
Foundation Counseling and Training

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