Category Archives: stories and values

Hidden Treasure

If everything happens for a purpose then Mira Kirshenbaum offers a fifth reason– the ability to discover buried talents within ourselves which will change our lives for the better. She writes that when we look carefully at the bad things that happen to us, we oftentimes find that a “…talent exists just waiting to be discovered.”

I agree with Kirshenbaum, that is, sometimes, after suffering loss we do become aware of a hidden talent. It’s not the only way to have a special ability come to our attention but there does seem to be a connection between personal loss and the use of a new ability according to experts in the fields of sociology, health, and psychology seem to agree.

For example, the ARTC (pronounced artsy) is a program funded by the Franklin County Children and Families Community Resource Board in Wisconsin. The program offers creative art workshops and seminars to help those with drug addiction. In comparison, the Center for Grief Recovery and Creativity in Wisconsin quote Robert Fulghum, author and Unitarian minister, as one of their guiding principles to recovery. He writes: “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief… that love is stronger than death.”

Further, the American Psychology Association (APA) found in a recent study that creativity and creative endeavors are part of sustaining a purposeful, wholesome, and balanced life. They also found that creative endeavors are a key or important part of recovery.

SeekLifeOne of the things that I’ve learned over the last 25 years of study about creative endeavors and children’s stories is that stories are powerful because they prepare our hearts to receive a truth. Life truths help us to make sense of things that are perplexing which is extremely valuable for healthy and wholesome living. For example, think of the story that Jesus told his disciples of a hidden treasure that a trespasser had stumbled upon in a field (Matthew 13:44).

In the hidden treasure story, we learn an important life truth: there are times that we feel emotionally, mentally, or spiritually like trespassers, interlopers, or uninvited guests. The familiarity and comforts of home are suddenly gone. Because of loss or grief, we find ourselves traveling through an unfamiliar place; we’ve lost that which is comforting like a family member, job, position, or anything else that had previously helped to define us and who we are; we feel like we are stumbling along without a plan or purpose.

Interestingly, what the hidden treasure story tells us, like Kirshenbaum, is that it is highly likely that despite the feelings of loss and anxiety there is secret wealth placed inside of you by God–waiting to be accidentally discovered. This treasure will redefine who you are (from trespasser to titleholder). And, perhaps most importantly, because it is not a mere distraction, your hidden treasure will redirect your life interests and activities toward recovery and life.

Living Life’s Way in 2014,



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The Power of Forgiveness

LoveWarmsHeartThere’s very few of us who have not thought a lot about some of the ways we’ve been hurt or disappointed. In fact, Mira Kirshenbaum, Everything Happens for a Reason, reveals that anger, guilt, envy, and not feeling safe are all signs that we carry a heavy burden of not being able to forgive—ourselves or others. But forgiveness does not always come easily or quickly because of two key reasons: shame and guilt. And both are the result of a basic need to point an accusing finger at ourselves or someone else.

Kirshenbaum sees our need to blame someone or something as part of our natural perspective in life. She writes: “Part of what can make it so hard for us to forgive is the automatic way we orient ourselves in life through blame. If anything goes wrong anywhere, the first thing anyone thinks about is who to blame… Blame is a very deep instinct because it makes us feel safe.” (p. 111) and, no one wants to feel as if they are constantly living under personal attack.

As I thought about Kirshenbaum’s examples she gives for Reason #4: To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness–or, perhaps said differently, to bring us to a place where we can accept the “…possibility there’s something else besides blame…” I found myself asking: What is there besides hate, fear, blame, and the inability to forgive? Are there legitimate reasons to forgive the cruelty of something or someone?

Mira Kirshenbaum offers her readers a spectrum of reasons for putting away finger pointing and accusations. She asks us to consider forgiveness when:

  1. The other person’s cruelty was because “he or she was sick, damaged, or limited somehow”;
  2. We see that the other person has “suffered enough…even if they haven’t suffered as much as we have”;
  3. We realize “we are safe now”;
  4. We recognize that “we don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t forgive”;
  5. We find that the other person makes up for what was done;
  6. We understand that “if we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who are hurt the most.”

Life is not perfect and neither am I.  There have been many things and people in my life that were incredibly cruel. There have been many times that my Christian values stood in conflict with my feelings.  As I remain open to God’s  leading, however, I’ve found that His amazing grace helps me to substitute finger pointing with the power to forgive. But forgiveness does not come cheap; it takes great inner strength and commitment. I’m reminded of what Gandhi said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

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The Gift of Life’s Struggles

We are shaped by those people, places, and events around us.

We are shaped by those people, places, and events around us.

Have you ever walked into a room and felt out of place? You experience a feeling of discomfort, look for the nearest exit, and then make a bee-line toward it? According to Psychology Today, you are not alone. All of us desire to feel safe and secure or “at home” in familiar surroundings instead of apprehensive and fearful in unfamiliar places. So what should we do with all these painful or stressful events?

In Part 2 of her book, Mira Kirshenbaum asks us to look at difficult or fearful events and life-long struggles as a gift for many reasons. She believes that these events will prove themselves beneficial if we give it enough time. Among ten explanations, her Reason # 1 is: these events happen in order to help you feel at home in the world. She believes that when the life we are living, similar to a pair of ill-fitting boots, becomes uncomfortable and painful, it is for a reason. The painfulness we feel acts as an encouragement to look for a life that fits who we really are.

Kirshenbaum gives several examples of distressful life events. Among them she describes: a close artist friend (and restless soul) who writes a letter explaining how kidney failure helped her to savor her life despite the physical pain; an orphaned 13-year-old becomes emotionally pained and embittered when suddenly left to the care of an aging stern grandmother; and, a wealthy spoiled young woman who finds herself physically and emotionally imprisoned inside a women’s prison in Central America. In each case, the life ordeal turned each of the individuals into more confident and caring people.

With these examples, Kirshenbaum reinforces that pain and suffering as well as the awkwardness of feeling out-of-place as natural and necessary; it is part of how we learn about the true nature and meaning of life. She writes: If anything about nature is true at all, it’s that the natural world is a place of learning…Valuable lessons are always being learned and there are endless wonderful gifts waiting for us, especially as a result of tough breaks we have to deal with… and this learning gives meaning to our lives (p. 34).

Importantly, Kirshenbaum establishes a spiritual side to life’s classroom. She believes that God’s goodness and presence is ever-present in this learning environment. This belief situates us as living beings of great value and importance as we are called by God to be more, not less of our true selves. She argues that we have free will to choose and that God has “custom tailored” learning experiences as opportunities to choose. These learning experiences result in our being the very best we can be. For Kirshenbaum, Cosmic Kindergarten is a place where we find about our true spiritual nature and develop our abilities to handle such forces as: life, insight, knowledge, faith and love among many others.

I agree with Kirshenbaum’s call for a deeper understanding of life being more than just food, drink, shelter, or clothing. The human spirit is an incredible creation which requires training in recognizing what is good and what is bad. One very valuable way of training is through exercising not only our emotions but our physical senses.

Additionally, her writing made me think about who I am and my own identity. I learned some years ago in a class I took on social media that our identity can be categorized in many ways—spiritually, socially, economically, even psychologically. I discovered we are not out here by ourselves, each of us living in separate untouchable spaces. Rather, everything that happens to us shapes who we are and how we know and interact with each other—every experience, every action, every word, every thing.

My prayer? …that in response to life struggles, all the painful and stressful events… that my choices result in my good and the good of others.

Side note:
As I thought more about the concept of a living spirit in training, it led me to create a 12×12 digital artwork to express the force and shape of this “becoming” a full spirit being. It is entitled: Identity.

I invite you to think about who you are becoming through all of your life experiences, listen for the voice of God’s living spirit, and then celebrate the creative spirit you are becoming.

Living life’s way in 2014,

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True Meanings

SeekLifeIn my last post, I mentioned Mira Kirshenbaum’s belief that everything in our lives, everything that happens to us, happens–for a reason. And, in her book, she further explains among the ten reasons, her readers might find one or more that will quench our natural desire to answer the question: Why me?

I’d like to share her list in addition to noting that her answers are 10 among many others. They are an excellent starting point as we begin to make sense of life, understanding, and love. We are individuals, however, that don’t fit into a rigid life perspective. So I invite you to read her list and then add to them as your experience and wisdom gives you understanding.

The Ten Meanings of the Events in Our Lives (Kirshenbaum, 2004, p. 20)

1. To help you feel at home in the world.

2. To help you totally accept yourself.

3. To show you that you can let go of fear.

4. To bring you to a place where you can feel forgiveness.

5. To help you uncover your true hidden nature.

6. To give you what you need to find true love.

7. To help you become stronger.

8. To help you discover the play in life.

9. To show you how to live with a sense of mission.

10. To help you become a truly good person.

Helen Keller once said that life’s purpose was to experience the invisible and to gain wisdom and understanding:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touch. They must be felt with the heart.”

Living life in 2014,

M Buck

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