Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lech L'cha: Go forth...Go to Yourself

One of my favorite aspects of reading/learning from Torah is the Universality of the stories, particularly in Genesis because they can be easily read as stories about a complicated family. All of us have complicated family relationships. We can connect to these "characters" and their lives on a pretty basic human to human level. Like the stories of our lives, however, there is always more below the surface; to just read the "story" without diving deeper is like looking at a person you just met and deciding by the way they happen to be dressed that day what kind of person they are. What a gross injustice this would be. We all know there is far more beneath the clothes, the facial expression, the skin of a person that is hidden in their heart, mind and soul. Torah is no different. There is the p'shat...the story on the surface, the plain text. There is the remez...the hints beyond the literal meaning of the words. There is d'rash...comparing this story to other stories in the Torah as a way to seek out deeper understanding of the text. There is sod...the mystical meanings that most of us can only learn from unusually blessed and wise teachers, but are difficult to discern on our own.

Why do I mention all of this? Because today I am comparing the literal story of God telling Abraham to lech l'cha to my personal story of lech l' d'rash. There are deeper levels to my story as well as Abrahams, that have not yet been revealed to me. I know this, and that mystery is part of not just my personal journey (or Abraham's) but yours as well. Abraham's story, my story on some level is your story as well. Every day of our lives the mystery is revealed a tiny bit more, but if we don't pay attention, we miss it. We miss the mysterious beauty, the tenderness, the awesomeness, the blessings hidden beneath the surface events of our lives.

I read recently (yes miracle of miracles I was able to finally read a normally sized font from a book!), in the brilliant and heart opening book, To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O'Donohue (may his memory be a blessing), about beginnings. Here is a passage that really struck me:

"Perhaps beginnings make us anxious because we did not begin ourselves. Others began us. Being conceived and born, we eventually enter upon ourselves already begun, already there...our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning. But these beginnings are out of our hands; they decide themselves. This is true of our breathing and our heartbeat. Beginning precedes us, creates us, and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over."

Sharing my personal story is risk, a risk I have taken before on this blog. Why? Because it is healing for me to express myself, and I often hear from others that reading my words is healing for them too. This seems a risk worth taking to me. Lets begin.

This weeks Torah portion Lech L' the story of God telling Abraham to leave his family go to an undisclosed leave behind all that is/was familiar and trust in this Entity...this One God that only he can set out on on a journey...the journey that will eventually define who he is and how he will be remembered to his progeny.

Who among us has not felt that Awesome call to set out on the Journey of our life? Perhaps for some of us we have "heard" the voice calling us to take several journeys (branches of the same journey?) at different times in our lives. Maybe some of us have been too busy with the ins and outs of daily living (understandably) to notice the "call", yet continue along our path anyway.

Some interpret the Hebrew text as "Go forth"...others say it is a call to "Go to one's self". I humbly submit my opinion, that it might mean both things at the same time.
I am not a scholar, just a curious learner and teacher. (We are all learners and teachers!)

First of all, lets back up to "hearing the voice of God"...for most of us (I imagine) this is not a thundering voice that is audible through our ears. It is a feeling, a knowing, a longing that comes from deep inside of us. It feels familiar and urgent. Maybe you would consider it your own inner voice...or maybe it is a voice slightly different from your own...and this "sounds" like the Divine One calling to you. I cannot say how other people experience this feeling. I can only speak from my own life.

Maybe "calling" is the wrong word here. Lets insert the word "sending" or "instruction", to leave the country (the life) you know and begin a strange journey into a territory you have no previous knowledge of. This "sending" is not a is simply the way it is. Perhaps that is how Abraham felt.

Right now, in my life, this is how I feel. I am being sent on a journey into a land of illness and self discovery that is completely new and unfamiliar to me.
Gordon and I found out on Thursday that my MS is more aggressive than we originally were led to believe. The reason I am not like other people's friends and relatives who are on such and such a medication and feeling because my disease is in a different phase of development. I really am feeling worse every day because the lesions are developing rapidly in my brain and probably my spinal cord too.

Talk about a journey into unknown territory. Talk about leaving behind the life I knew. The good news is that I get to take my family on this adventure with me. The tricky thing is discerning God's messages to, hope, gratitude in the midst of fear, pain and confusion.
And yet when I think about what John O'Donohue wrote, ..."our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning. But these beginnings are out of our hands; they decide themselves."

It is simply the way it is.
There is a drug option to slow down the disease that could put me into remission and allow me to enjoy life as an embodied being again...this of course would still be a move forward not a return to my former I am a bit different than I was when this all began (even if I established in a previous blog entry that I am still ME). To go on this medication, I must go through an approval process. Not everyone gets the company that authorizes use of this drug or by the insurance company to cover it (it is very expensive!)...on top of that it is a drug that carries a devastating risk; a brain infection that is incurable and could kill me. The chances of that happening are extremely low...but obviously the stakes are high. If I do nothing or stay on the medication I'm currently taking, my health will continue to disability will certainly become more profound. Staying is not really staying.

For Abraham, staying in Ur would have been disabling...he would not have grown as a human being, his ideas and longings would have been crushed...his understanding and faith in One God might have died. He had to go deep into himself and discern what it was this One God wanted him to do. He had to find the faith to lech l'cha.

I am at this point myself. What am I supposed to do? Stay or go. On the one hand, it's not even completely up to me. I have to wait for the doctors, the drug company, the insurance decide if I'm actually sick enough to go on this medication. On the other hand...if they approve it (which seems pretty likely) I still have to decide: do I want to risk this potent drug coursing through my body and brain. Do I want to risk the disability that will surely continue to worsen if I don't take the drug. Do I trust what the doctors are telling me about the potential for this medicine to put me in remission and give me a chance at a somewhat "normal" life? Do I have faith that God will be Present with me whatever I choose...because I have a few choices ...but in ulitimately I have already been sent on this journey and there is no turning back...the country (the life) I knew, no longer exists for me. As a wise man once wrote: "Perhaps the art of harvesting the riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally." So I think my decision is mostly made, I want to begin this drug now depends on the wisdom and generosity of "the powers that be" to determine if I am a suitable candidate for this medication.
Like Abraham's story...mine will unfurl, not from the parchment scroll of a Torah...but from the Torah of my life unfolding...breath by breath, moment by moment...and God willing, if my legs become strong again...step by gentle step.

How will my sweet daughters, Belin and Rosewillow, remember me someday? Will they want to share my story/their story with their children and grandchildren as I have shared Abraham's story with them? Will they understand that my choices were limited...that I was sent on this journey and that although this is not the path I imagined for them, for their Dad for me...that God said "lech l'cha..." and (back to the present) here we are in the midst of this incredibly strange, frightening and completely love infused journey?

When they look back at this time in our lives will they feel faith or fear, hope or pain, gratitude or confusion...will they re-experience all of that, or something different, something more?

I pray that what they feel is more...that it is the boundless love I feel for them, on my grumpy days, my joyful days, my sad days, my silly days, throughout every single day since each of them was born.

Boundless love.
..more "continuous acts of beginning".


  1. Hi Laura,

    This was one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read. Your honesty and faith are so apparent. My eyes filled up because of your courage.

    My prayers are with you that your insurance company approves the drug. We went through the same thing with my mother when she had cancer. She was given approval and it gave us more time with her.

    Life is all about risk and the one thing that I always admired about Abraham was his faith that all would be well if he followed God's will.

    I am sure your daughters are aware of what you are going through and your brave acceptance of your circumstances will stay with them. My mother had a very rare and bad kind of cancer. She handled it with grace and accepted her fate. I will always remember that and I am sure your daughters will always remember your faith and courage. And you never know what life will hold, you may be around for far longer than you think.

    With love, blessings, and prayers,
    Nadia - Happy Lotus

  2. Oh Nadia,
    I am so grateful for the blessing of technology that allowed us to meet online. I apologize for not responding to your last personal e-mail you can see it's been a complicated week! Thank you for you prayers, concern and wise, wise words.

    I appreciate you openness in talking about your Mom, clearly my story opens that sacred place in your heart reserved for your memories of you mother...and along with joyful memories no doubt are painful ones. Thank you for your courage in allowing that space to open and receive some light, I pray that if you are in need of some healing today you receive exactly that. Grief is a process that has no end point limitations. It can arise at surprising moments.

    I hope I will be around a long time too. My older daughter said this morning..."Mommy I want you to dance at my wedding"...something I've been thinking and wondering about often in the past few days...I told her if I can't walk, then God willing I'll dance from my wheelchair...but my intention is to be here...we'll see how life unfolds. First I'd like to focus on her little sister's Bat Mitzvah this major family event at a time! Really, one breath at a time.


  3. phew... this is some post! Appreciating the Torah class & your insights... then the understated way you interweave your story... anything i might say seems superfluous in a way, but know that i send boundless love x

  4. Hi, Laura,

    Thank you for putting your thoughts down in this blog and allowing us to share in your wisdom. We gladly accept your gifts.

    My heart goes out to you as you grapple with this journey. Healing can happen, although it doesn’t always unfold in the most predictable order or process you had imagined. And it’s certainly not straightforward. But healing will come.

    I wrote these words and then went back to my caringbridge site and found that I liked your articulation of healing better than mine, so here goes. These are YOUR words. I hope you find some comfort in them:


    If only prayers were like the simple wishes in fairytales-and God would just "fix and heal" every situation, every person we love in exactly the way we want it to happen. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. In my understanding of God, it's more like God is the Presence that gets you through each day so you can go on to do what needs to be done in the next. A silent partner who holds you up when you need it and sits and hugs you when that's what you require, and accepts your anger and blows with equal grace-sometimes I think God is just that receptacle that holds our physical and emotional pain between breaths and in our brief moments of relief. And maybe this is my simple justification for believing despite the horrible things that happen in our lives...maybe. I'll keep you in my prayers just in case...some kind of healing is possible, even if it is far away and not the type of healing you are wishing for in this moment.


    Finally, I know you are not looking for votes regarding this new drug — but I’m going to put in my ballot anyway. Go for it. Please, go for it.

    With love and admiration, Sheryl

  5. Oh Sheryl,
    Thank you for your compassionate response to my blog entry and for reminding me of what I wrote to you when Rich was so very ill. I still believe what I said back then. I remember feeling a bit of hesitation in posting those words to you...they felt bold and a bit audacious to share with you when you were dealing with so much...and yet they felt true and I hoped that they would bring you some kind of relief...a perspective on healing that perhaps you hadn't thought about yet.

    So thank you for holding up this magic mirror of my own inner wisdom. My vote is on the new medicine too...we'll just see what the other decision makers have to say...and take it from there one breath at a time.


  6. Laura,
    This is such a deeply moving piece, and one that both gives me courage to move forth myself, and at the same time - I feel so much for you, this longing for you to experience the life you want. Laura, whatever decision you ultimately make, I'm sure it will be the right one for you. And I'm also sure that what you're passing on to your daughters, this is something they will treasure...

    Peace to you, my friend...

  7. Dearest Laura,
    I am in tears writing this. Tears for you, your husband and your daughters that you are having to journey into such unfamiliar (and frightening) territory. I've said it before, you are a truly remarkable woman and I am so glad to have met you. I do not know if I would have the courage to walk as you are...

    Yet, because of your resilience, faith and trust, I sense you are already finding your way through the quagmire of decision making. I am holding you in heart, thought, and prayer as you traverse this crossing. I love how you have tied this into Torah and the story of Abraham. Layers of meaning here, all of which can speak to us (and our hearts) in so many ways. May you find strength and know that you are unconditionally supported and loved.

    p.s. I am putting "YOU" on my prayer altar right now...

  8. Thank you Jan and Lance...I am blown away by the abundance of authentic compassion flowing toward me from so many people around the country and the world...people like the two of you and others who have responded to my writing and have never even met me face to face. What a wondrous thing it is to have the power of a computer and internet access to connect people in real and meaningful ways...the whole concept of human community is completely different than at any other time in history.

    We are all so blessed aren't we?

    I am send out love to all of you who have responded so warmly to my latest all of my entries...I feel held and all of your prayers and well wishes are lifting my spirits. Many have written to me in these blog comments and privately through e-mail that your eyes are teared up. I hope that these tears are cleansing and healing for all of you. I AM NOT CRYING RIGHT NOW. My soul feels light, even while my legs are heavy and difficult to move. I wrote to one friend yesterday that we are all grieving for so many people/loves/losses in our your tears that might have started out being for me...are likely for yourself and your losses as while I am not crying now...if tears are what you need to heal old/or current suffering in your lives...let them flow... and when they have stopped...gently smile to yourself with compassion. Give yourself a hug and know that all will be well enough.

    gentle steps,

  9. It is humbling to read your post. The depth of your journey and the difficulty of it are awe inspiring. Your post speaks to me of faith, the faith in what comes to us. It such an expression of turning difficulty into opportunity. Thank-you for sharing it with us.

    with prayers & blessings for you and your family

  10. Laura~I find this blog world such a blessing. It is so wonderful to find you here. Thank you for commenting on my blog. I find it...ironic. I attempted to help a man with MS today with a device, that is relatively new, for improving his drop foot. It is called Bioness. He also spoke of this new drug where he might not have to worry about a brace... Anyway...i asked him all sorts of questions, as I do with all of the MS patients I encounter. I had an episode about 6 years ago that gave me the options of a brain tumor or the beginning symptoms of MS. My MRI came back negative for lesions and my optic neuritis cleared up...while I don't have any the back of my mind...i think maybe it's coming down the road. I believe that a "beginning" for me is to have met you...because somehow...i am going to need your inspiration to help me. And if it's not for me...i will direct others to you. life is good. tonight i lift you and your family up in prayer.
    blessings to you!!
    just BE.

  11. Upon reading this beautiful post, my physical posture is to bow my head, gently close my eyes and reach my hand out to hold yours gently in mine. Let's just sit together quietly like this for a moment ...

    My prayer is for you to continue to receive grace and beauty and faithfulness in your heart. May this journey honor your highest and greatest good. Namaste


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