Monday, November 13, 2017

Greece and Judea – Inseparable

Saturday evening, I officiated Stacey and Dean’s Jewish-Greek wedding ceremony at the Samuel Lynne Galleries, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:


What struck me about Stacey and Dean, is that if you didn’t know otherwise, you wouldn’t believe they had only been together for three years. In that sense, they are reminiscent of their respective cultures. To us, in the 21st Century, it might seem like the interactions between the Greek and Jewish cultures are fairly new. However, when you look a little closer, you discover that our relationship goes back a very long time, and our cultures mutually influenced each other, across history. 
 
Our cultural relationship began through a brief introduction, just like Stacey and Dean’s did, with the Persians likely serving as the Karen of Stacey and Dean’s story. We each liked what we saw. There were clear similarities in our Mediterranean ways of life.
 
With Alexander’s conquest and the advent of the Hellenistic Culture across the empires founded by his generals, came one of the most significant events in Jewish and Greek history, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. And, so while Jews throughout the world were exposed to Greek ideas, the Hellenistic world was exposed to the ideas of Judea.
 
None of this would have been possible without mutual respect, patience and understanding. The same was true in Stacey and Dean’s story: Just like Judea and Greece, Stacey and Dean came together from different backgrounds and each had busy lives, but together they found common ground. 

The relationship between Greece and Judea continued to grow. From acquaintances, we moved on to become friends. Eventually, we became so close, our lives became so intertwined, that you couldn’t even picture us apart. And guess what? That is exactly what happened to Stacey and Dean!

Now, like Stacey and Dean, Greece and Judea were different. We came from different places, had slightly different accents, sometimes spoke very different languages. However, like Stacey and Dean, we were confident in our relationship. We knew we were inseparable. 

Eventually, a strong succession of rabbis came along and affirmed something fascinating: If you are just Greek, without that relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you’re not the best Greek you can be. And if you are just Jewish, without that relationship to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, you’re not the best Jew you can be. 

If you know Stacey and Dean, you see that same sentiment not only in their verbal interactions with each other; you see it in their body language. Stacey is essentially saying, I am not the best Stacey I can be without Dean. And Dean is essentially saying, I am not the best Dean I can be without Stacey. 

That is probably why Stacey told me a few weeks ago, and I quote, “Now marry us. The girls and I can’t wait for Dean to be my husband and (their) step dad.” And if have learned anything in the last decade, it’s this: Don’t argue with the bride, Jewish, Greek or otherwise, so let’s get to it!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fluid Properties

Saturday evening, Reverend Kip Gilts and I co-officiated Jenn and Ian’s wedding ceremony at Moffitt Oaks, in Tomball, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. I think Jenn is the first person who included the title of her thesis. Don’t get me wrong; it does sound like a page-turner: the Influence of Fluid Properties on Geometric Complexity and Breakdown Pressure of Hydraulic Fracture. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read it...
 
Seriously, though, this title might surprise you, once you discover that she started off as an English major. She says she was in it for the money. (Not really.) Interestingly, the way she started dating Ian reminded me of Pride and Prejudice, just the other way around.
 
I, unlike Jenn, never studied English that seriously, so my understanding of that book is largely based on the acclaimed BBC miniseries. One of the themes that comes up again and again is the complex set of rules surrounding asking people out. And, of course, we heartily laugh at the wacky situations that result from those arcane ways.
 
Except, we do the same today too! Listen to Jenn: "I met Ian when he was working at the corporate fitness center at Noble. The group I was in at the time worked until 6 or 6:30pm, and afterwards some of us would go to the gym to blow off steam from the long workday. Ian and I would have casual conversations when he’d be at the front desk, and we always made each other laugh. Eventually I started taking longer in the locker room after the workouts so that we could talk more as he was closing up the gym and we’d walk together to our cars. I could tell that he was enjoying this, because he would nervously talk nonstop, and he also does a high-pitched laugh when he’s happy/nervous. I figured that he probably wasn’t allowed to make a move because of his job, so after a few weeks of this I gave him my phone number..."

Another theme in Pride and Prejudice is the utter and non-ironic seriousness with which the characters take themselves, and with which they feel a need to present themselves. We, as the audience, get to laugh at this, because we never do that, right? Well, this is not a humorous statement when it comes to Jenn and Ian!

Listen to Ian, "​I desire to marry Jenn because I truly believe she is my perfect match and soul mate. We complement each other in almost every way. Things I am not great at she is great at and vice-versa. We have different personalities in a lot of ways but we both view that as a good thing. Dating ourselves would never work. I love her quirks and oddities, the things she is passionate about and the things she does not like. She makes me laugh constantly and also laughs at my jokes (or just at me in some cases). She keeps me on my toes."

Now, there is one other important theme in Pride and Prejudice, as well as in modern adaptations of it, like Bollywood's Bride and Prejudice or Hollywood's Bridget Jones' Diary. Most of the characters' neurotic behavior has to do with the fact that they live entirely in the future, and not in any positive way. They spend most of their time worrying about what will be, and assuming the worst. This is an area where these fictional characters could really learn from this very real couple.

Listen to Jenn, as she looks back on the entirety of their love story. This really needs no further commentary from me: "Ian took me on fun and thoughtful dates, and pretty soon into seeing each other I could tell he was something special. He has this fun-loving and easy-going nature that I admire so much, and he’s so passionate about everything he does. It’s rare to see someone who is equally laid back and passionate about life. He’s taught me that it’s okay to relax and not rush things, because you miss out on the entire experience in the process. Being with Ian has helped me enjoy and appreciate more of the individual moments, rather than just focus on the end game. I’ve never been a big risk taker because I’ve always been afraid of not knowing how things would turn out. But when I’m with Ian I’m not afraid of the unknown – I’m excited."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In Love with My Best Friend

Sunday evening, I officiated Evonne and Roberto’s wedding ceremony at Ma Maison, in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
At a recent wedding I officiated, the groom walked out to a string version of one of the best songs about romantic relationships, in my opinion, Lucky, by Jason Mraz. When I sat down to write these remarks about Evonne and Roberto, I couldn’t help thinking about this song, not just because of the name, but particularly because of one specific line. I think it speaks to the deep love these two share. Jason sings a duet with Colbie Caillat, and it’s kind of a dialogue between two lovers:
 
Do you hear me, I'm talking to you
Across the water across the deep blue ocean
Under the open sky, oh my, baby I'm trying
Boy, I hear you in my dreams
I feel your whisper across the sea
I keep you with me in my heart
You make it easier when life gets hard

I'm lucky I'm in love with my best friend…
 
Why did this remind me of Evonne and Roberto? Well, the last line I just quoted tells us that the characters in the song didn’t just have a fling, or some type of superficial love at first sight nonsense. No, this is a deep relationship, where the lovers have a deep connection based on a foundation of friendship. That, my friends, is Evonne and Roberto’s story. Luck may have brought them together, but they took it from there.
 
Evonne says, “Roberto and I met through a summer internship program… I can still remember the very first day we met and it wasn’t long until I knew that him and I were something very special – two old souls…” Roberto says, “I could tell there was depth there. We started dating shortly after when I asked her out to dinner, [and] we… designated Wednesday nights as our date nights away from the group. Through these dates we built a bond of friendship…” And what did this bring about? Evonne tells us, “I remember the very last day of the program when Roberto’s flight was hours before mine. He calls my cell phone to say hello and not long into the call we became emotional. I believe in this moment I knew – he was for me as I was for him.”
 
Wow, is that cool or what?
 
There is one hazard, not often thought of, connected with this type of thinking, and that is that you might take yourself too seriously. Not Evonne and Roberto, though. Roberto says that they “always keep… life together interesting,” and he adds, “If there’s one thing I know [it] is that we strive to always remember to enjoy life.” And Evonne tells us, “There is nothing that compares to the joy this man brings into my life. He makes me laugh until my stomach hurts, and this to me is his greatest quality.”
 
Evonne and Roberto, what we wish you is that continue to follow this path of deep love and friendship, continue to recognize how lucky you are, and continue to laugh together as often as possible. Do that, and you will have this “marriage thing” made… 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Successful Campaign

Saturday afternoon, Father Steve Cook and I co-officiated Allie and Alex’s wedding ceremony at The Guild, in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
The beginning of Allie and Alex's relationship was, how can I put this, interesting. Here's Alex describing their first interaction: "On her first day, I was driving to lunch and almost ran into her as she was walking around the corner in our campaign parking lot. I like to say that I was so enamored by her I got distracted, but I’m also a klutz."
 
And, here's Allie describing their first date: "Alex spilled pizza sauce on his shirt... I knocked into the table as I slid out to go to the bathroom. I should have realized then and there that I would always be able to be myself around him and vice versa.
 
Seriously, though, there is something deeper here that Allie and Alex's relationship is emblematic of. You see, Allie had studied well, and was working not one, but two internships. She knew what she wanted to do, and where she wanted to work. Alas, there were no openings there, so she went to work on the McCaskill campaign, just for the meantime.
 
And Alex? He knew what he wanted to do too. He needed a change of pace in his work, and he saw that in working on the McCaskill campaign. And, he very specifically was putting his dating life on hold.
 
Care to guess what happened next? Alex's plans to put his dating life on hold got pizza sauce all over them. Allie's plans to quickly return to the place she had planned to work, knocked hard into a restaurant table. Alex says it succinctly, but than again you would expect that from a marketing guru, "As these things so often happen, the moment I stopped looking for a partner I found one."
 
So, why did Allie and Alex upend their lives, and change their plans? They followed the maxim, "Seize the day!" This does not mean don't plan. Plans are a great thing to have. The best type of planning, though is looser and ongoing. It's planning that still allows you to, "Suck the marrow out of life!" Come to think of it, this is the flexible type of planning that makes for a successful political campaign. Just ask any successful politician.
 
Wonderful things can happen, when you live your life this way. You can find someone like Alex, who Allie describes as, "the kindest, most selfless person I’ve ever met. He is incredibly smart and hardworking... He allows everyone, not just me, to be their true, genuine selves. He makes people feel at ease and comfortable... What an amazing partner to find and to have."
 
And you can find someone like Allie, who Alex says, has made him a better person: "Being with Allie has opened my eyes to the importance of slowing down and spending time with the people you love... I’m much more emotionally available than I was five years ago and that is entirely because of her. Allie and I make a great team..."
 
With that in mind, Father Steve, I think the phrase used in the Royals' dug out would be, "Batter up!"

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hans vs. Severus

Saturday evening, I officiated Sharon and Tim’s wedding ceremony at the Trophy Club Country Club, in Trophy Club, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

 
One of the most iconic movie villains in the history of American Cinema is the villain in Die Hard, a man named Hans, who arguably had the best last name a movie villain could have. That's right, Gruber. Hans is up against the hero of the film, played by Bruce Willis, a New York City cop.

One of the reasons that this movie was so popular and remains iconic today, even though it has not aged well, and is barely watchable, is that it is SO American, and not in a good sense. It portrays a battle between good and evil, as one between two quintessentially flat male characters, full of bluster and bravado. Good is absolute, evil is absolute. All other characters are mere props.


And, so, naturally, even though the whole plot rests on the fact that the hero and his wife are estranged, largely due to the hero's behavior, all he has to do is vanquish her captors, and she, the prize, falls into his arms.

It is almost poetic that later in life the same man, who played my erstwhile and flat cinematic relative in that forgettable film, played one of the most complex figures in modern popular literature, Severus Snape. And the world Severus Snape inhabits is as rich, as Die Hard's world is flat. Perhaps that is why Alan Rickman said, "When I am 80 years old, and sitting in my rocking chair, I'll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, 'After all this time?’ And, I will say, ‘Always.’"

Now, if you know Sharon, you know that she could have uttered those very same words. That is why Tim proposed to her at, that's right, Nakatomi Plaza... No, not really. He proposed to her at Harry Potter World.

I, like, Sharon, and so many others across languages, cultures and borders, love this world, because of its complexity, its depth, and its characters' struggles. This makes so much of what happens in that world much more realistic than the world of Die Hard, and certainly more applicable to our lives.

Harry, and his friends, are introduced to us and to each other through a world of magic. You might not know this, but Sharon and Tim were introduced to each other through magic too. After all, as Arthur C Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." You have to admit that the complex array of electrons and algorithms that brings people like Sharon and Tim together in our world is hardly distinguishable from the Sorting Hat, that brings people together, in a slightly different way, in Harry's world.

What makes that world so easy to identify with, though, is the realism of the internal lives and interpersonal relationships of the characters. Few can see themselves in John McClain from Die Hard, but magic aside, we can see ourselves in Harry, Ron, Hermione or Ginny. And the friendships and romantic relationships in that world are very very real, with all of the messiness and beauty that comes with them.

And so, we know that Hermione and Ron could truly identify with how Sharon describes her relationship with Tim, "He is my best friend and there is no one that I'd rather share all of life's experiences with." And, as we see the closing scene in that magnificent series, in just the body language, we know that Harry and Ginny could identify with how Tim describes his relationship with Sharon, "We are a team, which is one of the things I love most about her. Together we are unstoppable!"

Unlike the characters in that closing scene, we don't get to see where life will take us. And, even in that scene, the lesson is that the future is not predetermined. However, interact even a little with Sharon and Tim, and I believe you can see them in that scene, years ahead from now. You know that Tim can see that, when he says, "Sharon is the love of my life. I want to spend the rest of my life and grow old with her." And you know that Sharon can see that too, when she says, "Ultimately, Tim is everything I could want in a life partner, and my life is better with him in it."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amazing

Saturday evening, I officiated Ashley and Erez’s wedding ceremony at the Blue Sky Ranch, in Wanship, Utah. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. When reading Ashley's essay, I noticed a word repeating itself: Amazing. 

 
Ashley tells us that her brothers are amazing, that they married two amazing women, and that together they are raising amazing children. Ashley tells us that Erez's sons are amazing. And, finally, Ashley says, "We... want to grow our family and having the commitment of marriage is part of that amazing journey." Can you sense a theme here?
 
So, how does a couple end up with amazing children? Put a little differently, and this is the way I like to think about child rearing in my own life, how do I ensure my children will only need a minimal amount of therapy... Seriously, though, how do we, as parents, raise a child that ends up describing his youth like Erez does, "I always had a good head on my shoulders, treated people with respect and tried to enjoy life."
 
The answer isn't really that complicated, the entire industry of child rearing books notwithstanding. Part of it, like anything in life, is luck. Another part, and this is easier said than done, is treating your kids like you would others, when they do things differently than you. Erez says, "I have a tremendous respect for people and their choices, so I don't judge." And, he is consistent, in that he practices what he preaches with regard to his kids. 
 
The most important prerequisite for ending up with amazing children, though, is unconditional love. Ashley says about her parents, "I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today, if it wasn’t for all of the continuous love and support they have provided me throughout my life." 
 
Now, by this point you might wonder, are we at a wedding of two individuals or a parenting seminar. Well, neither. As I mentioned earlier in the ceremony, this day celebrates Ashley, Erez, and Erez's sons becoming one family. 
 
That said, if you think about it, the ingredients I mentioned for raising great kids are, not surprisingly, great ingredients for a successful marriage. You need a little bit of luck, say like joining the right workplace soft ball team, and playing positions on the field that are fairly close to each other. 
 
You need to respect the fact that people are different, and will do things a little differently, say, and this is just a random example, that that person may be a fairly secular Jew, while you are more of a traditionally minded Catholic or vice versa. 
 
And, you need unconditional mutual love. This kind of love might cause you to repeat that word we started with. You might say, as Erez does, that, "Ashley is an amazing woman. She's fun, smart and makes me feel like a better man." This kind of love, if you were Ashley, might cause you to say, "I’ve always dreamt about my wedding day and who would be my husband. I’ve found him. We’ve been together for over 4 years and I’m ready to wake up everyday to call Erez my husband."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Live Our Path Together

Saturday evening, I officiated Sam and Beau’s wedding ceremony at the Pine Creek Cookhouse in Aspen, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I always ask every person I officiate for to write their life story. Most do not get into the details of their birth. Interestingly, both of these individuals did. Listen to Beau, first: "I was six weeks premature and needed to be in an incubator. The same day I was born, a nurse walked by my incubator and realized I was not breathing. She resuscitated me and I remained strong from that point on. Because I was so premature, a nurse who had worked with me from the day I was born, took me to live at her home with her husband as a foster child so that she could make sure I was well taken care of, and had the direct attention of a health professional. The nurse fell in love with me, and fought to become my mother."
 
Now Sam's birth, while less medically perilous was no less, shall we say, interesting: "Having put my parents through three fake labors, I finally came into this world upside down and backwards. It was definitely a dramatic night, and a sign for the future."
 
Sam ties this to her path in life, when she says, "Thus began my journey… of unfolding and discovering my truths, choosing and creating my fate, connecting to my higher Self." And, Beau too has embraced the perfection and imperfections that life has lead him through, to arrive here today. Together, as a couple, as well as each of them individually, they have embraced a simple sentence that guides their lives, "We each have our own journey."
 
And, what a journey each of them has had, and they, as a couple, have had together. Their stories are fascinating and inspiring, specifically, because it has NOT been one long uninterrupted fairy tale. They have led interesting and complicated lives, and have taken the time to reflect on and learn from their experiences.
 
And these led them to that wonderful, elusive, messy thing – love. Listen to Beau, reflecting on a difficult yet pivotal point in his life, and in what brought him back to hope in and for the future: "I came across a drawing... It was Guanyin, the Tibetan goddess of love and compassion. At that point, I deeply lacked love and compassion for myself, and therefore had nothing to spare for those around me. I realized that this was a sign... and had the drawing of Guanyin tattooed on my left arm to remind me that I along with everyone in the world need and deserve love and compassion no matter their story or situation..."
 
And, Sam speaks of an evolution towards love and compassion in a very similar way: "I slowly left the dogma of structured religion and focused more on my own personal connection to a higher power and life lived fully in right action and attitude. My heart exploded with love and compassion and desire for adventure and new experiences."
 
And, Sam sums up beautifully how this love for everyone and each other guides their next steps together, in a few short words that Beau could have written too: "So, through my... messy journey of heartache, perseverance, strength, will, love, and gratitude... my personal and spiritual journeys define big parts of who I am and who I strive to be. They have not only gotten me where I am, but they have lead me to Beau and allow me to fully experience and live our path together."