Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Moving ego off the stage

Perspective is EVERYTHING and God gives us a dose of it every once in awhile to humble us and call our attention to what really matters.

The past two weeks have embroiled me in working to save our neighborhood school. It's been an incredible journey and one in which I could see Spirit at work. That hit a snag Sunday when I opened my studio to discuss possibilities and one loud group took center stage announcing that the only way to go is to support the efforts of two children to tear the building down and create a park. They aim to raise $1 million. The park idea is lovely, but I don't believe the expensive tear-down is. At least, I desire to explore ALL of the options first. The park group believes, second hand, that they have been exhausted. But I know artists imagine things in a completely different and transformative way. My shamanic counselor has taught me a solution is never either/or (save or tear down), but a "whole rainbow of color choices."

After a three-hour meeting Sunday, I returned home exhausted and with anxiety about all that we had just accomplished. That lingered through the wee hours, even though I kept telling myself to let God handle it. I was buoyed yesterday by two conversations with out-of-the-box thinkers with a genuine concern for the community.

One of those was late in the day and I arrived home late and ready to unwind. I barely had my boots off when I heard a gusty knock at the door ... one that demanded to be answered. I complied and lit up to see two of my Artsy Fartsy girls ... two who have stuck with me three years. They had been shopping out in the cold for four hours -- one only dressed in a sweatshirt -- and wanted to warm up and ask for a ride home. I gave one a clean pair of dry socks and we sat in the living room chatting about their after-Valentine's Day bargains. One got a text that it was time to be home. As I led them through the kitchen, they were enticed by the smell of the cooking meatloaf. I wished it had been ready then and I could have fed them. Instead, I ferried them back to one of the stores where they had forgotten a package. "If he doesn't give it back to me, something's gonna go down," one crowed. "How about I go in with you, just in case." "Good idea," she agreed. "Now, don't embarrass me or I'll act like I don't know you," I teased.

We successfully retrieved her bag and I drove them to warm homes. Their visit and the ease of our relationship dispelled any coldness in me from the weather and the fate of the building. The art I make in the building is about the kids, not where we do it. I told them the project and its tear-down were rejected and they were excited. "Where will have Artsy Fartsy if not there?" they both chimed in. "We have lots of temporary offers, but I am not worried about it. We'll figure it out."

I slept incredibly well and even braved the extreme cold to do laps in an 84° pool. I sailed into the studio for a full day of writing when the phone rang. My mom had tripped last night, broken her hip and they were in a hospital awaiting surgery.

OMG. Could a building or any petty conflicts about it come before her?

People, God says pretty clearly, come first. Even before my Do-Gooder reflex and how I hope things could be in my community.

I needed the reminder – thank you, Wise One.

• How do I let myself get carried away?
• When do I need to be jolted out of my ego-centered world?
• How does God give me perspective?
• What spiritual practice can also grant me the larger view?
• What is my prayer for the wisdom of perspective?

Dear One,

Whom I love with
all of my heart

Who knows me
better than I can
ever pretend

Please continue
to guide me
even when I resist

When ego is
front and center

Remind me
what matters

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Spirit stamped all over

I don't consider myself any kind of evangelist even if I do write about matters of the spirit. However, I am still dancing because Spirit made the impossible possible. And I must publicly share my gratitude.

Even just days ago as I sat down at this computer to write, I was forlorn with the impending and seemingly certain fate of this wonderfully blessed space. The school district finally had a buyer, who dreamed up a plan that had sailed through planning-commission and board-of-zoning-appeals approvals. I had attempted to test the waters of public support for the building for months. Many people waxed nostalgic and wanted to keep it, but few were committed to action.

In this case, money was speaking.

I was repeatedly asked where I would move. I had no real idea. Certainly, there were kind offers for temporary space, but no permanent home, Uncharacteristically, I had no plan and I was oddly at peace. All I knew was to stay here as lonely and isolated as it seemed. Stay and be a beacon of light showing the transformation that can and does happen right here in this old building. I have witnessed wily children ripen into trusted mentors, misbehavior channel to creativity, marginalization become confidence, a bland peeling classroom morph into a bright refuge, bitter enemies bond, artists with gifts offer them generously, volunteers with big hearts stretch them larger and children asked to grow up too quickly soften, relax and feel safe. HERE.

Then, suddenly, I wasn't one of the few. Neighbors joined neighbors and the energy spread like wildfire. And I knew it was time to invite people in. They created their own energy, renewing what I was beginning to feel once again, within these walls.

Several weeks ago I trolled the halls looking for peace and quiet only to turn up abandoned bulbs peaking out of the soil. Now tended, the 18-inch stalks are leaning and lengthen every day. Then,  I recognized it as a sign of life. My spiritual director had advised me that in finding the energy, I would find guidance because that is where God resides. I knew She was telling me something with the blooms. Don't give up hope, what you think may be dead is not.

In dizzying days of meetings, e-mails, letters, petitions, phone calls, Facebook chats, yard-sign distribution and prayer I was energyzed. People adored the studio, the work we do here and the fact the building was in better shape than some would admit. These concerned residents brought more and new energy with them. It was the energy of being united and while some may not view it as spiritual, I knew its source.

Each of us added a piece and brought  more away as our gatherings broke apart. Most of this was unbidden. I only see it now. I kept tending and watching the paperwhites. They grew as the momentum did. I pointed them out to the group. Which either made me seem wise or nuts.

All was riding on Tuesday night's council meeting when the body would make the final decision. A denial required five of seven votes. City staff reversed its recommendation after studying the impact on emergency services. That was hopeful and paralleled the paperwhite's rise. Opposition signs sprung up in 500 yards across town. Neighbors from all ends collaborated. Many pitched in legal fees to hire an attorney to write a letter. I was not one of them, believing in what I saw happening. I also didn't agree that we needed legal representation before our elected representatives. In one last e-mail before the vote, that's exactly what I told council members. That I trusted them and the system. It was Spirit that I really trusted.

I raced from a downtown grant presentation to get to the council meeting, where several neighbors and new friends had a seat waiting. The swell of energy and tension could have been cut. The city manager read the new position and the developer was given time to respond. He began by reintroducing himself because "most people have it all wrong, I am an investor in your community .... I gave money ... for your rained-out parade." I was sad at his defensiveness and separation. He called the fire chief's figures "arbitrary and capricious." 

I can not imagine how devastating the reversal must have been for him. He'd spent months, money and time crafting a lucrative plan. What he'd neglected to do was really listen to those of us looking for something with a community focus. He wrote us off. He wrote me off as an artist who "contributes nothing" to the building and the welcome letter I sent him with grant suggestions as "nothing I can take to the bank." He had the audacity to tell me those things in my studio. Yet, somehow that negative energy dissipated. And I haven't been angry with him, just understand that our goals are so divergent.

After his allotment, it was time for council members to explain how they would be voting. Hallelujah. Not just a vote, but an explanation.

The mayor began, armed with discrepancies, homework and a litany of reasons she was rejecting the plan. My side of the room erupted with applause and hope. When the second council person said no, we held our breath and signed with relief. In quick succession, the   third and the fourth, the fifth and the sixth voted with their peers and against the proposal. The final voice dissented. Six-to-one the development was denied.

I had prayed up and down the halls of the building for something like this. All of the prayer warriors were on it. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears, but in my heart I knew God had been at work. During a break after the vote, staffers, elected officials and residents united in a way I have never experienced. We were ONE. 

We meet again Sunday for strategy and next steps. Although the sale of the land from the school district to the developer was contingent on the zoning approval, the school board president says it's still intact.

Now I pray for the developer and total unity. Join me if you would. Amazing things do happen. Thank God.

• How have I experienced God at work?
• When was a hopeless situation reversed?
• How long before I was aware of Spirit's hand in it?
• When have I experienced utter unity?
• How do I pray for more?

since early
last spring

would have
thought them

just like
the fate
of this
old building

in the dark
and secret

were working

new life
and energy

all over

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