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I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat of grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it yields, it grows into a rich harvest.

This text from the gospel of John 24:12 has always startled my psyche from humdrum glitches and quickened my full awareness into the present moment. It carries an urgency I dare not heed.

In the time of Jesus of Nazareth, reputed to have spoken these words to converted Greeks who sought after him, the image of sowing fields was commonplace and often used as a metaphor. The death of the outer sheath of the wheat grain initiated the plant for further growth of roots, leaves, stem, head, and awn. Failure to actualize this process produced withered isolates and final death.

Even in our beginnings, there’s death: the sloughing off the placenta at birth, but it does not stop there. Awareness of sin or character defects warrant our full willingness to change as we experience life—To become our authentic selves before our allotted time ends.

Even more so, living with a terminal illness, the challenge looms. It seems as if Creator God implanted death within all of life: an irritant meant to actualize our potential so as to share with others.

Such enrichment surrounds us if we are willing.

Around 7 A.M., I awoke with this laughing dream, unlike I ever remember receiving:

Ellen Sheire, a close friend, invited me to join her for a weekend gathering of mixed artists, thinking I needed a change. My tension mounted as we drove through a heavily wooded area to the rustic house, built by the owners.

Games, unusual artworks crafted from materials taken from the environs, some painted in brilliant colors set everyone laughing. Off to myself, I marveled over the originality of the displays, also painfully aware that I longed to slough off my conservative attire, to laugh more, and to somehow become more colorful.

The last morning, I began cleaning up the dining room, littered by the guests, but Ellen stopped me and asked: “Don’t you know that half the fun of giving a party is cleaning up afterwards?”

This dream, rollicking with laughter—my jaws, my sides still aching from the hilarity—taught me to let up on my end-time babble. Everything that lives must die. My close friend and Jungian analyst in real life, Ellen Sheire, who knew me as no other ever did, always provided an antidote for the multiple complexes in which I stumbled and fell. And, here she surfaces in this dream with another antidote: No need to be spun around in grief’s vortex when there’s the option of laughter.

Again, like so many of those Friday morning hours, in her analysis room, I’ve been helped. I’m grateful and pray for fresh courage to laugh down the monstrous catastrophes spawned from fear of the unknown—as if there was no God to bring me home. In the meantime, there’s more psychic excavation to be done.

Only the whir of the potter wheel licked the stained walls of the studio as an apron-clad artist cupped a mound of clay slip with wet hands. Next to the wheel laid scalpel-like knives, sponges of various sizes and textures, wires strung to handles, other cutters, twigs, and leaves. But the potter’s sensitive hands, sinewy and dripping wet, caught my attention: He seemed to know when to pause, slow the wheel, add more clay, etch designs upon the lip, indent patterns, and so much more. With others, I looked on, hushed by the emerging bowl taking shape on the wheel.

After the potter slip-wired the bowl from the wheel and set it aside to dry, he focused upon his students and smiled. “You can do this too. It just takes practice—That’s why I’m here.” That was years ago.

Then, as well as now, this experience mirrors Potter God’s ongoing intimacy in bringing forth new life, within limits of time and space. Like the hollow in the earthenware bowl, my body of eighty-six years has held a treasure—despite chronic disorders. Light always emerged and I did find my way, albeit with new direction and resolve.

At some future moment, Potter God will slip-wire my body from the wheel of life and set me free from my present diminishments. Until then, I wait and pray… and ask you to do the same. I’m grateful.

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