Sunday, December 9, 2018

Love Language

On Saturday evening, I officiated Arielle and TJ’s wedding ceremony, at the Howell and Dragon, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Nice guys finish last. That doesn’t sound right or proper or just, does it? However, based on the world around us today you could be forgiven for taking this cynical view of the world to heart. 

That’s why Arielle and TJ, and their love story gives me hope. I love their shared philosophy of living. Arielle tells us: “We each need to contribute, be kind to one another, and do our small part to make the world a better place. When you are good to the world, the world is good to you. And not just because (of) karma... I believe that when you are a good person and in a good mindset, you attract and welcome other positive things into your life... Helping others and doing good deeds... being grateful and appreciative of life.” 


It helps to have been raised with a positive outlook regarding people, the world and your place in it, like Arielle and TJ were. As TJ says, “My childhood was surrounded by educated, liberal and kind people who were very spiritual... I... have fond memories growing up... and making lifelong friends.” My most spiritual place is in the wild outside in nature. It always has been.”

One thing that can really enhance this philosophy of life is being lucky enough to find the right partner, who loves you, challenges you, and with whom you can experience mutual growth. As TJ tells us, this is them: “We’ve grown as people, partners, pet parents, and have brought a unique perspective to one another's life. We have learned one another's love language and that partnership and love is much more than a honeymoon romance novel...” 

And part of that is recognizing how lucky you are to have found such a person, and how you need to value that good fortune, since in TJ’s words, “That’s not something that is easily learned or achieved in most relationships.” That’s why he emphasizes how much he, “cherish(es),” their, “relationship and love,” and how much it “has evolved and continues to get better.”

Arielle agrees: “I’ve always wanted to find... my other half, someone who gets me and loves my quirks but also pushes me and makes me be the best version of myself and I do the same for them... I sought a deeper connection, one that will last a lifetime...”

That’s the kind of relationship that is worth waiting for. That’s why Arielle says, “Because it was so important for me to find the right person... I wasn’t in a rush... I wanted to wait until the right person came into my life... It took a while to find him but I did...”

Finally, when you have this outlook, waiting doesn’t even feel like waiting. As TJ says, “We didn’t decide to get married now... it felt natural to get married now.”

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Only Thing I’ve Never Questioned

This last Saturday afternoon, I officiated Viviana and Pablo’s English-Spanish-Hebrew wedding ceremony, at The Vineyards at Chappel Lodge, in Austin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Clearly, Pablo’s initial impression on Viviana is the stuff rom-coms are made of. My kids usually tell me not to be too corny, but I don’t care. I have to quote Viviana’s description of first meeting Pablo. I just hope I can get through this, without tearing up: “To be honest, I don’t actually remember when I met Pablo.” Oh, boy. Hmmm... Maybe Pablo’s description is a little more emotional: “(I was) hanging out with friends from high school and making (new) friends along the way... Among those new friends Vivi came along. She was about fifteen... We... called them the kindergarten group.” Oops...

Seriously, though, not that any of us can control how we meet our soulmates, the way Viviana and Pablo’s relationship developed is quite ideal. Pablo says, “After a couple of years Vivi... started going out with me and my group of friends, the older ones. Little by little we just started going out on our own...” And Viviana says, “The more I got to know him, the more I liked him and how he thought (about) and saw the world.”


Gradually, methodically, imperceptibly almost, they continued to slowly build on that solid foundation of friendship, and soon they were in love. You just can’t find a better way to construct your love story than that. I love how Viviana describes this: “What makes us the couple we are is that we have really grown up together, and are really truly great friends before anything else... I think we’ve both known we would get married eventually but, like everything else we’ve done together, we took our time until it felt right. We’ve really built a whole life together...”

This type of love can be so solid, that it warps your sense of time. As Viviana says, “All of a sudden, it’s been ten years...” And, as a fellow neurotic, I can think of no better description of Pablo’s certitude about this moment, “I always second guess everything I do, in school, at the work place, (and) with my friends. I always question everything that I do... the only thing I’ve never questioned is the love I have for Viviana.”

This is why Viviana says, “Marriage is this next natural step,” and why she says they are excited now, “to be able to share our life and future with all our loved ones in one place and make it official.”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Existentialism


Saturday evening, I officiated Rachel and Tom’s wedding ceremony, at Hotel ICON, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There is an interesting thing we do as humans: We often assume that the way things were in “the good old days” was the right way, and that for all of history things were done that very way. To top that off, we usually “remember” the past not as it really happened, but some idealized version of it.


Take, for example, the much-maligned generation Rachel and Tom belong to, the Millennials. You would think that every generation prior to this generation was hard working, responsible, and serious, but these kids today! Of course, if you read anything like a newspaper or magazine from 30-40 years ago, they were saying the exact same thing about that generation. There are even instances of this in archaeological records, because apparently even thousands of years ago, all the young people wanted to do was munch on avocado toast. Who knew?!

One of the things we hear is going to hell in a handbasket is marriage. Apparently, Rachel and Tom’s generation are destroying that institution too. (Not really.) And, yet, when you look just at the anecdotal record from this one couple, it seems like we may be headed in a better direction, than any other previous generation has.

Not that you would know that from the first thing Rachel says about how they met, which is (I am not making this up), “This is my version… He tends to fabricate the story of how we met; FYI.” She does concede that, “I was captivated by his blue eyes,” (Tom claims it was his muscles too), but she still says, “He seemed entirely too young for me.”

Still Kim, her roommate, was determined to set them up, and Tom was patient. Rachel eventually gave him a chance, and they became a couple. Rachel tells us that from, “the beginning of our relationship, I knew this was something special… organic and natural,” and Tom says, “It was effortless... She gave me that feeling, and it hasn’t gone away.”

Now, I don’t just quote them saying those things to be corny, though corny is almost a requirement in wedding ceremonies. What is hiding in these quotes, what this generation takes so much for granted, is that sense of equality between the partners, and the recognition that the ideal marriage, one that actually only fully came into being with this generation, is a partnership of equals.

I’m not sure even Rachel and Tom realize the enormity of this. They just take this as a given. When speaking of the fact that they spent two of their four years in a long-distance relationship, Rachel says, “We made long distance work, simply because we respected each other’s desire to succeed and become great.” And, she adds, “He continues to motivate me to accomplish my goals.”

This would be unfathomable in previous generations, and I often think about what how much potential was wasted in previous generations, because marriage was not such a partnership of equals. This is true for both women and men. It is this type of true and equal partnership, after all, that enables Tom to say, “She has been by my side, during the most challenging times in my life, and (has) simply been my rock.”

This is why Rachel says, “I am incredibly blessed to have him in my life, and I couldn’t be… proud(er) to call him my husband.” And, this is why Tom says, “She is my ride or die, and (is) the only person I could say, ‘I do’ to.”  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Incredibly Blessed


Friday morning, I officiated Jasmine and Colin’s wedding ceremony, at Event 1013, in Plano, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I’m an existentialist. No, I’m not a philosophy major. I can’t say that I’ve read enough philosophical works to write an academic paper on the subject. All the same, that’s what I am. So, whenever I run into a fellow existentialist, I pay attention. And Colin told me he is existentialist. Jasmine didn’t tell me, at least not as explicitly, but I think she is too.

The essence of existentialism is that if you have a why, you can deal with any what. No, really; that’s it. Oh, and nobody tells you what the why is. Not because they don’t want to; because they can’t. Only you can figure out what it is. It is not external to you; it is internal.


Existentialists are nihilists, but not in the colloquial sense. Nihilists believe that nothing has inherent meaning. Negative nihilists, which is the colloquial meaning of the word, believe that, therefore, nothing matters. Positive nihilists, which is what existentialists are, believe the opposite. Things matter, because you have infused them with meaning. Your what now has a why. That is why finding the why, finding meaning, is so important. And, it’s why it’s so sad that most people don’t take the time to do this, at an early enough age. I know I didn’t.

Jasmine and Colin did. When you really pay attention to how they have lived their lives, as individuals, you can see this. Each of them had an independent streak that showed up, while they were still in high school. They had been offered different answers to the question of why. There was nothing inherently wrong with those answers. They just weren’t theirs.

Each of them took their time, studying and working, working and studying. They explored their identities, and built their relationships with the world. They took their time, they didn’t hurry, they lived a little. They thought, and they read.

And then they met each other. They were a little older than their friends had been when they met that special person. Then again, they were a little older than their friends had been, reaching most adult milestones. They were better for it. They truly knew themselves.

That, I believe, explains what you are about to hear. Listen to Jasmine: “It was the best first date I had ever had. We talked and joked for hours! After dinner we didn’t really want the night to end so we hopped on over to the pub. It was the night of a world series game so it wasn’t the quietest place for a date but it didn’t matter, we still had an amazing time.”

That amazing time continues to this very day, and effortlessly. Just listen to Colin: “Life with Jasmine feels very natural and easy. From my perspective we didn’t have a honeymoon period, things have always been very even keeled and smooth... Interacting with her is as simple as breathing, which for an introvert like me is incredible.”

And, why again was this? Because they had taken the time to get to know themselves; they had taken the time to figure out their why, and so a shared why came more naturally. As Jasmine says, “Colin really let me open up, and be who I truly am. I had no reservations around him, and I always felt so good. That’s when I knew I couldn’t let him go.”

When two existentialists find that someone who mutually answers their shared why, an incredible thing can happen. It can help them deepen and enrich their individual whys too. That is why Colin says, “In our short time together we have contributed to the other’s personal growth by quite a bit, but mine especially. I can’t imagine life without her beside me and I’m often sad I hadn’t found her sooner.”

Jasmine sums up this idea and this journey of discovery and meaning beautifully: “He is everything I’ve ever wanted and needed in a man... I slowed down and thought it through... I waited for my partner and soulmate... I have found him!”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A True Origin Story


This last Saturday, I officiated Rachel and CJ’s wedding ceremony, at the Bryan Museum, on Galveston Island, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I love origin stories. Every relationship has one. It’s just not always obvious when it is an origin story, and when it isn’t. You might assume that an origin story is when you met. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

Take, Rachel and CJ. Here is how CJ describes the time they first met: “I technically met my future wife, Rachel Pink, freshman year at a frat part. I wish it was more poetic then that, but it is what it is. We were just passing ships at that point though. She was being introduced around the fraternity by a friend of mine. This friend had talked about Rachel... before... about how cool she was, how they were both from Texas, how she had a long-distance boyfriend.... A quick hello, and she was off. A vague memory for both of us.”


Well, so much for first impressions... Seriously, though, she does remember their meeting, and confirms the reason it didn’t go farther then: “I was actually not available at the time. Meeting single guys wasn’t really a focus of mine since I was in a long-distance relationship.”

Looking back, though, Rachel makes a profound statement: “I truly believe the universe had a plan for CJ and me, and that we were destined to meet.” Wow. Indeed, their next interaction happened just one week after the boyfriend was out of the picture.

Rachel picks up the story: “I went to a day party where I was briefly reintroduced to CJ... Then later that night, I was at my apartment cooking some dinner in my kitchen… when three guys walked in to meet my roommate before going to another party. One of those guys was CJ. He walked over into the kitchen where I was cooking and started talking to me. I... remember being a little thrown off but delighted that this guy walked away from where he was with the others to come talk to me. He stayed there with me in the kitchen talking to me and sampling my food until the others wanted to leave to head to their party.”

A little different from that first interaction, huh? Now, ladies, try to contain your excitement as I tell you the next thing CJ did, incorrigible romantic that he is. That’s right, he asked her to join him and his friends on a hike, so challenging that it has a name, the Devil’s Punchbowl. And, no, I am not making any of this up.

Seriously, though, Rachel says that, “on the way back from the hike (that I somehow survived), CJ... was asking me a lot of questions... He seemed to truly want to get to know me; not just... on the surface. After that, CJ pursued me... and I was ecstatic, nervous and blissful all at once... I could tell from the beginning that this was going to be something big... I knew he was really special, and I knew that I was about to start something with him, that was going to change my life.”

You know this is the true origin story of their relationship, because CJ confirms it and being a story teller, adds color to it: “Rachel was brought to another party by the same friend, but this time she was single. We were re-introduced... Later that night some friends and I went over to Rachel’s friend, and at the time, roommate’s apartment... I walked in to Rachel standing over a hot oven, or maybe it was a skillet... Here was this woman of mystery, someone I had been hearing off-hand about for over a year now but never got to really know; dark hair, dark eyes, beautiful and natural... I don’t remember what my friends were doing, what Rachel’s friend was doing, but I remember talking to Rachel in that kitchen. I wanted to get to know her... The hike was great fun for me (I learned later in life that Rachel hates hiking), but it was the car ride back that proved fateful. I don’t remember how I pulled it off but I remember deliberately sitting in the backseat of the car so I could talk to Rachel. It was my chance to really get to know her. It was also the day I got her number. From that day on, my sights were set... She was something different, she was special, and whatever I had planned for the rest that semester, year, college, life, had changed.”

That’s what a true origin story is all about, in my opinion. It is a moment, often realized only later, that diverts you from a previous course, and looked back upon sows the seed for something different, something great, something life-changing.

Importantly, and contrary to what you might think, this does not happen automatically. You have to choose to make what happened to you your very own origin story. In 2017, CJ made that choice. Here is what he says: “I visited a friend of mine... We started discussing the move and marriage. I knew I was going to marry Rachel, eventually. But it still at the time didn’t seem like something that would happen in the present; it would happen in the future. But that night, through the conversation with my friend, I decided that it was time to flip that switch in my mind... I was going to make it happen in the present... Within two weeks of that conversation I was putting in place plans for the proposal... And therefore, here we are…”

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Conquer Anything, Together

Saturday evening, Reverend David Harry and I co-officiated Natalie and Dave’s wedding ceremony, at the Brik Venue, in Fort Worth Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Doing what I do, I hear many different stories about how people met. Usually, I do not need an elaborate explanation of the mode of transportation they were using at the time. I usually understand what you mean, if you tell me you met on a train, a plane, or a cruise ship. Though I may be not as well versed in the intricacies of how these machines work, as my grandfather, the airline mechanic, was, I understand them well enough, that I can concentrate on the story. But a Pedal Hopper? Seriously?! What on earth is a Pedal Hopper?


Dave, in describing how he and Natalie first met, helpfully clarifies what this is: “Natalie and I met on a Pedal Hopper bar crawl in Denver, CO. It is essentially a street car that you can rent for a group of 10-12 friends, and it is powered by the group’s ability to pedal across town from bar to bar.”

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Recently, I did marry a couple of serious bike riders, who found in each other kindred spirits, and fell in love through biking. That is even how they met the – I am not making this up – Disciples of Christ pastor, who co-officiated their wedding with me. Natalie and Dave, are, um, different… 

Listen to Natalie: “The physical element of the bike crawl turned out to be a real pain… so I made sure to find the broken seat on the contraption and pretend to pedal in an effort to not get called out…” Dave shared her lack of enthusiasm: “Natalie and I both found each other through a mutual distaste for pedaling, and struck up a conversation while the rest of the group picked up our slack.” 

You might think that shared slacking off wouldn’t be strong enough a spark to light a relationship. You would be wrong, because Natalie says, “I’ve never felt so connected to another person so quickly on our first date. From that point forward, we were never apart.”

Now, you may be thinking that I shared that story, just for humor’s sake. To that I would say, shame on you. It wasn’t JUST for humor’s sake. I really believe that this activity, or inactivity, as the case may be, has some really important lessons for marriage. 

Some people like to speak of “traditional marriage,” as if marriage has been static through the generations. In actuality, marriage has changed with every generation. 

Fortunately, like most things we take for granted in modern life, and contrary to the naysayers, marriage today is better than it was in the past. Marriage today has the potential to be a true partnership, like a riding a tandem bike, at first, and eventually, when you have a family, like driving a pedal hopper, where the couple needs to all the pedaling. (Sorry, Natalie and Dave.)

However, we should not misconstrue what the word partnership means. It does not, and I would even say, almost never is, a 50/50 proposition. Sometimes one person does more of the pedaling, sometimes the other does. Sometimes, both individuals might be pedaling, but one of them directs where the vehicle is going, say to Texas, and the other obligingly follows. And, sometimes, the couple needs to take their feet off the pedals, and let their family and friends pedal for them. That is why Pastor David just asked all of you to commit to uphold and support the couple in their marriage. 

The most important thing, friends, is to continue to be there for each other, like these two have throughout their relationship, whether you can pedal or not. If you play your cards right, the moments when one or both of you cannot pedal, will strengthen, not weaken your relationship. As Natalie says, “I thought I loved Dave as much as I possibly could; the way he unequivocally cared for me without hesitation or pause, made my love for him grow deeper.” And, as Dave says, “With Natalie, it never felt like it was too much. Every challenge felt achievable, and every problem felt solvable… We have worked so incredibly well together… I feel no fear looking into our future together, because we have already proven our ability to conquer anything, together.”  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Listening is Where Love Begins


Thursday afternoon, I officiated Lacy and Jeff’s wedding ceremony, at the Murphy Community Center, in Murphy, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lacy and Jeff have each lived such interesting lives, and have accomplished so much. They are both great conversationalists. You really can learn a lot just from talking to them. They each have fascinating stories to tell. 


I believe, though, that that might throw you off in discovering the secret of their relationship. I wanted, therefore, to steer you back in that direction. 

You see, there is a danger in having lived an interesting life, and having the gift of telling a good story. You might begin to think, that it’s all about you. That can be lethal, not only to a romantic relationship, but to any relationship, period. 

Two Jewish comedians, twins who refer to themselves as the “Sklar Brothers” touch on this in their comedy. They claim that many celebrities’ downfall stems from this problem. The remedy they suggest is that each celebrity have a designated “No Man”. This person’s task would be, when everyone else tells the celebrity that because he is the greatest, there is nothing he should not do, is to say, “Dumb idea; not everything is about you.”

This is, actually, an ancient Roman idea. When a victorious general would parade down the streets of Rome, in triumph, there would be one slave, whose job it was to stand with him in his chariot, and whisper that this is all fleeting. 

The common element to these ideas is listening. It is through the act of listening that one realizes and remembers that it’s really not all about you. And, you have to listen even when the other person is not speaking. 

That last part might sound odd. How can you listen when the other person isn’t speaking? Jeff recounts a simple act on Lacy’s part, that clarifies what I mean. They were about to meet for the first time. “We agreed to meet at a Starbucks in Wylie. Shortly before the time selected, she texted me saying she would be late. That showed me that this was an intelligent person with feelings for the other (unmet) person - me”. 

Lacy tells us about this first meeting too: “In our first meeting, I was drawn to his interesting life, knowledge and travels, and he listened to me.” There it is, again. 

They went on a great first date, and when he called a few days later, here’s what happened: “Lacy told me she was sick and feeling terrible. I thought that she needed some Jewish penicillin (chicken soup), and I made her a pot (from scratch) and brought it over to her. She was just amazed...” Again, Jeff listened, and listened deeply, focusing on Lacy’s needs, because he had inculcated himself to realize, that in life, in general, it’s not all about you. No wonder Lacy says about Jeff, “He cares for me like I have never been cared for. 

The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once said that “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” And, perhaps the most famous Presbyterian minister ever, Mr. Fred Rogers, wrote once, “Listening is where love begins...” 

Lacy and Jeff, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep listening, keep caring, keep loving, and you’ll go the distance, as you embark on your next shared adventure.