Living ‘Til We Die

“I asked my doctor how long I have to live. She said, ‘Two months.’ Then, she paused, and said’ ‘Two to five, depending.'”

Jay and I had been friends for a long time. We usually meet for lunch once a month at our favorite restaurant, halfway between his home and mine, about a twenty-minute drive. I knew he had health issues, as most of us do when approaching our 70’s and 80’s. But Jay had mentioned, almost in passing at our previous lunch meeting, that he may be moving towards Hospice Care. I couldn’t believe it!

The man sitting across the table from me was fully alive. If you asked me to give you an example of someone who fit that description, “fully live,” Jay would easily come to mind. At 78, Jay had had at least four different careers during a long life that suddenly felt way too short. His current vocation was heading up a non-profit bestowing grants to organizations who confronted difficult population issues, usually in third world countries. For someone on their way to the end of life, Jay seemed as alive as ever.

There are people with whom our paths have crossed, that, looking back, seem more than coincidental. It’s as if someone other than me is writing this novel of life while placing certain characters in the plotline just at the moment I needed them. Jay is one of those.

I first met Jay when my first wife and I were heading towards divorce after 25 years of marriage. We sat down with Jay, a Family Mediator at the time, in a humble brick building on Park Road in Charlotte, while Jay laid out for us a plan to work out the terms of a separation agreement. Jay looked like a “dead head” wearing coat and tie — with his long, dark hair and beard. Affable, intelligent, and clearly a student of good communication and relational skills, my fears about the process settled down under the patient explanation of what my wife and I were about to face head-on. Three sessions, spaced several weeks apart, and we were done.

Fast forward at least 10 years, in my 50’s, recovering from a second divorce — the dreaded “rebound” marriage — I felt lonely and in need of male friendship. I needed men who weren’t married so we could talk about things only singles could understand. I had taken a class with Jay on “Faith Beyond Religion,” and was impressed again with his intelligence and his willingness to push the bounds of religious beliefs. So I found his phone number, and dialed.

“Hi Jay. I really enjoyed your class. Would you care to meet sometime?”

“Sure,” came the familiar resonant, deep voice. “I like walking while talking. Care to join me some evening after work on the greenway?”

“Sounds great to me.” I had an instant sense that a meaningful connection had been made.

It’s a mystery to me how these things happen. Carl Jung coined the term, “synchronicity.” We normally just call them “chance.” But I don’t buy it. What I believe now, after 10 years of a friendship that has had it’s highs and it’s lows, is that God was in my loneliness, and also in the friendship that unfolded on long walks and soulful talks over supper. It’s been one of those things that we refer to as, “It was meant to be.”

We live in a world that worships the material, the cause and the effect, explainable reasons and what can be measured or quantified. But for all that I have experienced with Jay over the years and what I have learned and what we have shared, I consider it to be true: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Jay is one of my Angels. And I trust that I’ve been something like that for him.

Where I Have Been

Darkness    In darkness and in light we are made.

But first, there was darkness before the wind of God’s spirit brought light. And each night, we are reminded that darkness is as much a part of life as is the light of our daytime lives. We receive equal doses of both.

So, I have been in darkness these past 12 months since my last posting: a period of gestation, of soul-searching, of existential wrestling with unseen angels. There has been light too; but in my soon to be sixty-second year, I am learning to treat darkness with more respect, and at times, I can even befriend the dark.

As children, we loved a “camp-out” under the stars. Just a few yards beyond our own backyard, we took our sleeping bags and flashlights, our comic books and playing cards, and loved the night. We loved the stars above and the stories we read in the night sky, it’s images and characters imagined as real, and the games we played in the night. With darkness, we felt a sense of freedom, a taste of trust in the natural world, and a certain camaraderie with our childhood buddies and friends.

When darkness comes unbidden — through some present suffering, or illness, or of simply feeling lost in the middle of our forward progress — it’s not such a chummy sensation. It may feel more like shame or guilt or disorientation. We want a way out, but feel stymied. Much like the time when I considered the possibility of divorce: I could not find a way up and out towards the light, so I decided the only logical alternative was the way down, deeper into the darkness. And that was how I found hope.

We are fascinated with darkness, and we fear it too. In Jung’s way of thinking, darkness is archetypal. Darkness is a spiritual reality that manifests throughout our lives in nature, in our relationships, and in our souls. Our efforts to get rid of our personal times of darkness usually result in making things worse. But if we get the hang of it — lighting a candle in the dark, inviting a trusted friend, or just waiting for the lesson our souls need — the darkness gives us gifts we otherwise would miss and be the poorer for missing such blessed offerings.

I have a new office, a new stage in my career as a therapist of soul, a new community, and a new home I share with my wife, Sarah, and dog, Theo. It’s a very good thing. Without the darkness, however, I never would have known what my soul was drawing me towards.


All is darkness
And distant drumming,
Walking along slowly
With shadows only as guides.
How is it that I am here?
Where am I going?
How can a dark road feel so much like –

Dark faces move
Do they mean me harm?
Are they really parts of me?
Or am I actually their creation?
From somewhere I feel a dare:
Join hands with these Others.
Jesus! These least of these?
Couldn’t I, instead, just run?

Come now.
We can do this.
In larger numbers we’ll go.
The drumming growing louder.
And Dancing!
And singing –
See it now!

A wrong road made
By love and grace
And risk.
We howl our tender mercies
As we claim their new light.
Roads that seemed right go
When we forget to celebrate faces in the

by John B. Rowe

Unlock the Meaning in Your Dreams: Program Helps People Connect to God

John RoweRev. Dr. John Rowe will lead an introductory workshop called “Dreamwork: God’s Forgotten Language” 7-9 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Davidson UMC Chapel, 233 S. Main St., Davidson. The workshop is free and open to everyone, and participants who want to learn more about Dreamwork can enroll in an eight-week study course and join a new Dreamwork small group that will being after the course. To register for the workshop or for information, call the Davidson UMC Counseling Center at 704-892-6135 or email to John Rowe at Child care is available if requested by Jan. 20. The idea that God speaks to people through dreams hearkens back to stories in the Bible’s Old Testament that were recorded thousands of years ago.

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In the past decade, the practice of connecting with God through dreams has seen a renaissance, as more people have become interested in analyzing their dreams as a spiritual discipline.

“In the early church, dreams were considered to be one of the best ways that God was trying to tell you about your life,” said John Rowe, director of Davidson United Methodist Church’s counseling center.

For a year, Rowe has led a group of about nine people who meet twice a month to help each other find meaning in their dreams. He said that, within churches in the Southeast, he has seen a growing interest in dreams.

Connecting dreams and spirituality went out of vogue around the fifth century, when dreams became suspect as church leaders began preferring people to learn about God through the teaching of orthodox dogma and belief, Rowe said.

The practice revived in the early 1900s with Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung’s theories of “individuation,” or the idea that people are born with an “authentic self” that people repress in favor of a “public face” they believe will be more acceptable to others.

Accessing dreams connects people with the authentic self in the subconscious, Rowe said, allowing them to understand essential aspects of themselves.

“People who are spiritual assume the authentic self can only come from God, and to know God is to know your authentic self deeply and (to know) the direction God is leading you in your life,” Rowe said.

Rowe’s small group was founded out of a workshop and a subsequent in-depth class that provided participants with tools to help each other interpret their dreams.

Each small group meeting begins with prayer or meditation. The facilitator will sometimes give a short talk or lecture, and then group members share details of recent dreams.

“We use techniques we’ve studied, and we begin working with the dream and give the dream back to the person at the end of our work to see what sort of insights they have from the Dreamwork,” Rowe said.

The group often works on three or four dreams each session. Usually, Rowe said, people find their dreams bewildering and can’t make sense of them.

“I’ve rarely heard of a dream that didn’t sound crazy,” Rowe said. “But as the group begins to work with the tools they’ve been taught to use, it’s incredible that something that can be so crazy-sounding can unfold in a deep and meaningful way for people.”

He encourages people to keep a journal, pen and flashlight by their bed to write down dreams, which often quickly are forgotten. The more people get in the practice of writing down dreams, often the better they remember them, he said.

Rowe said the Dreamwork group is devoted to meeting together, and friendships have formed as people have talked about their dreams and their lives.

“It really is a mixture of fun and is deeply meaningful,” Rowe said. “You can’t talk about a dream usually without a lot of laughter.”

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Marty Minchin is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at