Saturday, May 11, 2019

It Will Only Get Better

Saturday evening, I officiated Diana and Damian’s wedding ceremony at Prospect House in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Sometimes the temptation is just too great, that one must succumb to it. After all, there is no guarantee that I will ever be able to say this again: We are here today, because of what sounds like the set up to a joke: An Argentinian Jew and a Vietnamese Buddhist walk into a bar...

Seriously, though, roll back the tape, and one could hardly predict this. After all, Diana says, “You typically can’t find me at a bar during the week.” And, as a rabbi, you’d be kind of disappointed if I didn’t look for the deeper meaning of that chance occurrence bringing us here today, five years later. You would definitely expect me to go a tiny bit deeper than Damian who says, “I went to Marquis II to get a Long Island Ice Tea and met the love of my life. The moral being that Long Island Ice Teas are good for you!” You would expect me to agree with Diana who says, “I believe fate brought Damian and I together.”

Well, disappoint you I will. I will also do something you usually should never do: Disagree with a bride at her own wedding; at least somewhat. It’s not that I take Damian’s ice tea related lesson to be true; it’s that I feel that fate is not enough to explain what is happening here today. I think Diana is being too modest.

Something she says not about that original meeting, but about their shared life since, is instructive, “I feel like I have been on the best roller coaster of my life and it will only get better from here, as long as I have Damian by my side.”

Not to engage in pop explanations of a 2600 year old religion, but I believe that there is something “very” Buddhist about that depiction of life. Life is a roller coaster. There are ups and inevitable downs. Sometimes your world turns upside down, and the only thing holding you in your seat is the inertia of life and a safety bar. That’s life as fate. That is going to be true regardless of what choices you make.

However, and this may be more existentialist than Buddhist, you can still choose how to relate to that ride, and one of the smartest moves you can make is to find someone you can experience it with. That is what this couple did. They did not just accept their fate; they chose their destiny, to hold on to each other on this roller coaster ride.

Damian is pretty explicit about this: “Diana is my support group. Whenever I had a bad day or when I need to make a tough decision at work or life, she is there for me.”

Diana says this is mutual: “Damian has been my pillar of strength for the past 4 years. He is constantly rooting for me and my biggest supporter. He has been there for me during low and high points in my life.”

This is why Diana says, “It will only get better from here, as long as I have Damian by my side.” And this is why Damian says, “I cannot wait to have my best friend with me every day for the rest of my life.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hineni – I’m Ready

Sunday afternoon, I officiated Rachel and Will’s wedding ceremony, at the 1899 Farmhouse, in Princeton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Spend enough time with Rachel and Will, and you might forget their age. They have a level of wisdom, that seems beyond their years. You might say they are old souls. For me, this is particularly disconcerting, since I taught Rachel in high school! Don’t worry, though, just ask them where they met, and you snap right back, well conscious of their age cohort. That’s right, Jasmine’s Hookah Bar. Damn millennial hipsters…

Seriously, though, what really stands out about Rachel and Will, what makes me think of them as not only old souls, but kindred spirits, is the level of self-examination they have engaged in. Their honesty in following their minds and their hearts to where that self-examination took them is noteworthy and commendable.

I always try to be mindful of Alice Roosevelt’s description of her father, Teddy, of whom she said, “He was the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral”. I try to keep it about the couple. However, one of the reasons that I admire Rachel and Will and feel like we are kindred spirits is that I, too, went through a journey that has many similarities to theirs. They are just a little smarter than me, since they went through similar philosophical transformations much earlier in life than I did! Apparently, unlike them, I’m just a little slow.

Why is this important? Many people go through life, accumulate degrees, titles and prestige, but never really get to know themselves. They are too busy running the rat race, acquiring that one additional shiny object, reaching for one more brass ring. Try to have a meaningful conversation with them, though, and there is no “there” there. It’s all surface deep. And they keep running and running and running.

Then, one day they hear a voice. The Bible imagines such instances. Abraham hears a voice. Moses hears a voice. Notably, they are 75 and 80 years old, respectively, which is fine if you live to 175 and 120, respectively. In the world of reality, however, it’s a little too late. In this world, you may have won the race, acquired the shiny object, and the brass ring is firmly in your grasp. Meaning, however, has eluded you.

The Bible imagines Abraham and Moses using a specific single word, to signify that they understood what the voice was calling on them to do: “Hineni”. It’s difficult to adequately translate that single Hebrew word. In its most simple translation, it means, “I am here.” However, the context tells us that this not simple, but simplistic. In his haunting song, You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen is more accurate, in his translation: “I’m ready.”

Hearing that song, and those words, I could not help but think of Rachel and Will. They each heard a voice, an internal calling, and they each said, “I’m ready,” embarking on a journey to think, contemplate and probe their truth. This journey took each of them to some uncomfortable places. Through this, though, they each found themselves and their meaning in life. They know themselves, deeply and thoroughly.

And, as these individual journeys proceeded, they embarked on a journey together, trying, along with their individual truths, to find their shared path in the world. Not surprisingly, this shared journey, which could not be separated from their individual journeys, was a little more complicated, and took a little longer.

They stand before you today, having completed their individual journeys and their shared journey. They know themselves and each other, as very few individuals and couples their age do. Now when they say, “I’m ready,” It is a very different, much deeper, much more mature statement.

Rachel speaks for both of them, when she says: “I know the person I am and the person I want by my side. The same person who stole my heart ten years ago… He is my knight in tin foil, my gentle giant, my companion, my best friend, and so much more. Words cannot do it justice. There’s no one else I’d want to go with on this adventure called life… We are ready to take that final step forward in solidifying ourselves to one another.”

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Value of Balance

Saturday evening, I officiated Rachael and Tony’s wedding ceremony, at the Canyon Creek Country Club, in Richardson, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. In all the 800+ essays I have read, only one has included clearly demarcated subsections, as well as clearly demarcated italicized asides. She did not -- and I hope you hear the disappointment in my voice -- include footnotes, endnotes, or citations. I prefer APA style, for the record.

Now, you might think I mention this, just to get a laugh. How dare you?! I promise, I do have a point. This level of detail and order in writing about oneself indicates a high level of self-awareness. Self-awareness, wow. That may be one of the hardest to find commodities in today’s world.

There is a Hasidic tale about someone you might not expect to show up in a Hasidic tale: Napoleon. Bonaparte, not Dynamite. It is said that early on in his martial career Napoleon decided he would conquer the world. Then he says to himself, I should probably make sure I control Europe first. After thinking about it a little more, he decided it would be wise to make sure he thoroughly controlled all of France. He kept thinking, and he realized, that absolute control of Paris was vital before he tried to take possession of all of France. Finally, it hit Napoleon: He needed to make sure that he was in full control of himself before he went any further...

This logic is true not only for 18th-century revolutionaries, seeking to upend the world order. It is true for every relationship; and most of all for marriage. However, there is one big difference, aside from the fact that in marriage you don’t have to violate the Treaty of Westphalia. If you find the right person, you can become more self-aware through your relationship, and you can have an effect on your partner too.

Rachael illustrates this effect in her essay as it has played out in their relationship. She tells us that, “Antonio has a very straightforward approach to problems and situations, [which] helps him make quick and effective decisions, a skill which I admire and respect as it is not a skill I have myself. I am very concerned with making sure that no details or nuances are forgotten when making a decision. These approaches are complementary; when we make decisions together, I can help him slow down and think things through, and he can help me to reach a decision or resolution.”

Antonio seems to agree, as he tells us: “I will most often... jump into fixing [an] issue without thinking too long over it. Rachael, on the other hand, thinks about many different outcomes. We play off each other well.” Interestingly, these quotes side by side, illustrate, in their form, the very dichotomies they discuss: Specificity vs. brevity, accuracy vs. efficiency, and the great value of a balance between these qualities.

That’s why Rachael says: “Antonio is the person that I want to share the rest of my life with. I want us to approach our goals and challenges together, and share celebration in our successes, and raise the next generation of our family together, and when we’re both old and blind and senile, annoy the nursing home staff together.”

That’s why Antonio says, “I love adventuring with Rachael, exploring new places and... experiencing new things together. The joy on her face when she finds something she likes perfects even my worst days.” We should all be so lucky.

Friday, April 12, 2019

And You Shall Love

Tuesday afternoon, I officiated Wynter and Eric’s wedding ceremony, at Eric’s parents’ ranch, in Weatherford, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When I sat down to write these remarks, I could not help but think of a fascinating passage in the Talmud, the foundational book of the Jewish faith. What the Ancient Rabbis of the Talmud often did was interpret or even reinterpret a biblical verse, and find in it additional meaning.

In this passage, they discuss a verse Jews recite twice a day: “And you shall love the Lord your God.” Now, on its surface, the verse seems pretty straightforward and simple. Love of God is foundational to the faith. One would expect devout adherents of the faith, like Wynter and Eric to love God. And, I think those who know Wynter and Eric, can attest to their love of God.

The Rabbis say that it has an additional meaning, “that you shall make the name of Heaven beloved.” How should one do so? One should do so, “in that he (should) read and learn.” OK, those are really important in Judaism, but how does that help make God beloved? The Rabbis continue, “And he should be pleasant with people...” OK, that sounds nice, but how does that make God beloved.

Simple, say the Rabbis. Whether justified or not, people connect your faith to your behavior. If you are an unpleasant person, they say, “It must be his faith.” Conversely, if you are a pleasant person, they say, “It must be her faith.” So by behaving well towards others you cause your faith and by extension your God to be loved or conversely not so.

When Wynter and Eric contacted me, before I even met them, I knew they were the type of devout people who cared for others, and it showed. They were planning their wedding, but they were thinking not just of themselves, but of others too.

While it was important to them to have a Jewish wedding, it was as important to them to have a wedding that their guests would feel comfortable attending. This is how you make God beloved.

What we hope and wish for you, Wynter and Eric, is that you continue to make God beloved, not only today, but throughout what we pray will be a long and love-filled marriage.

Sunday, April 7, 2019


Saturday evening, I officiated Ramsey and Lorens’s wedding ceremony, at Sanders Hitch, in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry, not only why they want to get married, but why now. Lorens’s answer is, um, interesting: “To me Ramsey is like Wasabi.” This may be the first groom of more than 400 to analogize his bride to a condiment. Stick with him, though. He explains that what he means is that she has a spicy nature, which keeps him on his toes, and “makes things interesting and joyful... Her kindness and genuine heart, and joi de vivre would win any man over.” And then like every good Jew he answers a question with a question, “Why wouldn’t I want to marry her now?”

When I asked Ramsey to write about herself, she did so in a way that very few people do. She wrote in the third person. To me this is very telling. I believe that it says that the person is able to step outside of herself, see the world from others’ points of view, and understand that there is something greater than what meets the eye. That type of thinking is crucial to a successful marriage, because central to marriage is the understanding that it’s not all about you.

Lorens embraced this wise idea early on, and it strengthened inside him, as he matured: “Since I was a kid, I always questioned why things are the way they are... I always enjoyed talking with men of science or of faith – especially Rabbis, trying to figure out why something was the way it was. I always felt the presence of God, but when I went to engineering school, I... had a new-found appreciation of existence.”

It is this shared deep consciousness that moves Ramsey to say, I didn’t seriously date for years because I was sure it was impossible for me to find someone a quarter of the man my dad is. I was lucky enough to find this in Lorens.”

This is why Lorens says, “I always tried to figure out who the right one was... life guided me to the answer I couldn’t have dreamt of.”

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Extraordinarily Lucky

Saturday evening, Reverend Barron Bell and I co-officiated Renee and Jake’s wedding ceremony, at Parker Manor, in Weatherford, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have a split professional personality. I officiate interfaith weddings, and I work for a nonprofit charged with ending homelessness. In the latter role, I spend much time thinking about the idea of luck and privilege, and recognizing that you have it.

This is why I love what Jake says about you, his family and friends: “I have lived an extraordinarily lucky and blessed life. (I have) amazing friends and (a) loving family. I have so so much to be thankful for. (Pause for affect) Actually… so do they, because I am pretty great myself.”
Renee recognizes how lucky and blessed she is too. I got to see this with my own eyes, since the first time I met Renee and Jake in the flesh, as opposed to by FaceTime, Renee’s parents joined us too. You could tell from watching and listening to Renee, how appreciative she was of her parents, and how much she values them and her family.

Recognizing your privilege and your luck in life is tremendously important in any relationship, but especially in marriage. Marriage is the most intense relationship we have, and raising a family makes it only more intense, especially if your idea of a family is Renee’s. I am not making this up; here is what she wrote: “I can’t wait to be his wife and have 4 kids and a ranch with horses and cows.” Jake, I don’t know if her not mentioning the number of each animal is good or bad news. I won’t be around to find out… You will!

Fortunately, Renee and Jake recognize the privilege and luck they have in having found each other, and have formed their unique relationship that today they take to the next step. To wit, Jake says, “I love Renee. She is beautiful, smart, fun, kind, and generous. She inspires me and makes me better every day. She’s the life of every party, even though she always gets there late.”

And Renee says, “He can always turn my frown upside down. He has always been there for me. He supports me, teaches me, encourages me, and most importantly, loves me with all of his heart.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Experience Every Moment

Sunday evening, Reverend Ernest Myers and I co-officiated Lindsay and CJ’s wedding ceremony, at The Springs McKinney, in Anna, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Something Lindsay wrote really caught my eye. I think she expresses a feeling, that is not at all uncommon: “I have always been one of those people who feared ‘adulting’ and growing up because there is no way for me to predict what will happen.” 

Lindsay not only highlights this challenge, however; she addresses it too: “Knowing that I will get to be with CJ for the rest of the life, I am excited for the unknown because I know that I will get to experience every moment with my partner, my soul mate, my best friend – my husband.”

That phrase, “experience every moment,” reminded me of something CJ, in turn, wrote about Lindsay, “It has been amazing experiencing life with her. She is everything I have ever wanted in a partner. The years we have been together have only strengthened my belief she is the only person for me.”

Lindsay and CJ touch upon something really deep here. The best way to address the feeling of precariousness that today’s world sometimes induces is to slow down a little. Live a little more in the present. 

This is the basic idea at the core of Curtis Mayfield’s immortal song, It’s Alright: “It's all right, have a good time… We're gonna move it slow… When you move it slow, it sounds like more…” Curtis assures us, “When you wake up early in the morning, feelin' sad like so many of us do, hum a little soul, make life your goal, and surely something's got to come to you… It's all right, have a good time…”

And Lindsay and CJ speak to the fact that one of the best ways of doing just that is when you find that perfect person to experience life in the present with you.

Old Curtis agrees, so he ends his song making that exact point: “Someday I'll find me a woman, who will love and treat me real nice, then my woe's got to go, and my love, she will know, from morning, noon and night… It's all right, have a good time… now give yourselves a chance…”

That’s why Lindsay says, “Being with CJ makes me a better person… I used to be so cynical about love, but I know now that real love really does exist… When I am with him, no matter where we are or what we are doing, I am home…”

That’s why CJ says, “I can’t imagine my future without her… I am ecstatic knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate, and I cannot wait to tackle the challenges of life together as a team of husband and wife. I want to be the best husband I can possibly be to cherish and support Lindsay for the rest of our lives together as a couple.”

Strong Foundation

Saturday evening, I officiated Natalie and Corey’s wedding ceremony, at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

For our wedding, twenty five years ago, we still received a few telegrams. Note to my fellow non-millennials: You may need to explain to the Millennial and Generation Z guests what those are, during the reception. Anyway, do you know what the classic Jewish parent telegram says? Start worrying now. Stop. Details to follow. Stop. Of course, when I tell this to Catholics, they tell me that is the Catholic parent telegram. 

Now, I believe that one of the last things Natalie and Corey’s parents need to do is worry about these two. Why do I say that? Allow me to elaborate. 

Here is what Natalie says: “I am in love, planning a wedding, moving in with Corey, and I’ve never felt more relaxed… I think it’s a good start. (Everyone said it would be stressful… They don’t know him like I do.)”  How often do you hear that from a bride? Is that cool or what?

This calm that Natalie and Corey have felt with each other has been a theme of their relationship. Corey attests to that, when he says that at the beginning of their relationship: “We found that it was easy to talk with each other and never had any awkward silences.” And Natalie agrees: “I remember feeling like I was talking too much, but he was talking a lot too, and then I realized that I just felt so comfortable.”

And this was not just a fleeting situation. It has manifested itself so deeply, that Corey says, “Natalie gets me like no other person has or ever will.” Natalie agrees, when she says, “It just works, it’s effortless to be with him.”

And what is that made them feel so comfortable? What is that made this wedding feel stress free? Interact with them for even a short time, and you will know. It is the strength of character both Natalie and Corey possess. As Natalie says, she early on realized that Corey, “was just the kindest, most honest man I had ever known. The strength of his character is definitely one of the reasons I fell in love with him.”

When you realize that strength of character is what really matters, other things can fall into place. This is why Corey says: “I could not see myself marrying anyone but Natalie... I truly now know that Natalie is the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

This is why Natalie says: “I know we will build something very strong together... I know that Corey and I have what it takes to make a strong foundation.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

Happy Every Day

Saturday evening (3.16), Father Alfonse Nazzaro and I co-officiated Anna and Tom’s wedding ceremony, at The Filter Building on White Rock, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Anna and Tom’s story starts back in college. Anna says, “I remember seeing him walk through the door and thinking he was really cute and later in the evening we got to talking…”  Tom similarly recalls, “I do vividly recall seeing Anna standing in the corner of the room when I walked in and her being notably beautiful.”

Now, many stories start this way, and don’t go anywhere. So, what causes some couples to start this way, and at some point say, in the words of Jason Mraz and Meghan Trainor duet, “I wanna be more than friends…”

In Tom and Anna’s case, it might sound prosaic, but I believe it is anything but that. Just listen to Tom: “The day that my love for her really hit home was when we were just lying on the couch at her parents’ house on a Saturday afternoon. I noticed that I was just as happy doing absolutely nothing with her as I had been going out… and being constantly busy with friends in college.”

Love at first sight, if there is such a thing, infatuation, the flying of sparks, the crashing of lightning can be interesting, but that is not what love is all about. True love is being content with just being in each other’s presence, with nary a word spoken.

And what brings about such deep feelings, that make you want to spend the rest of your life with that person? Anna tells us: “I am confident I want to marry Tom because he is a genuinely wonderful person and truly cares about others. That kindness is evident all the time in our relationship because of how he tries to make me happy every day.”

Is it any surprise that Tom says, “I cannot be more thrilled to have the opportunity to get married… and start a life with the woman that I love.” And, perceptively he adds, “She’s way more attractive than me, so I know I have to lock it down soon.” Nuff said!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Make Others Happy

Sunday evening (3.10), I officiated Miriam and Steven’s wedding ceremony, at the Westin Dallas Downtown, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have every person I marry write an autobiographical essay. Generally, the groom’s essay is not as detailed as the bride’s, certainly not when it comes to feelings. Steven is no regular groom, though. Not only was his essay long and detailed, it touched on some pretty deep ideas.

Check this out: “Before Miriam I did not believe in falling in love. I am a very realistic person and my… (hope) at the time was (to find) someone I like who doesn’t get on my nerves. I am so lucky now too admit how wrong I was and how lucky I am to have never settled…” Wow! Not only did Miriam cause him to fall in love with her; she changed his perception of the very idea of love.

Now, Miriam may not have needed convincing of the very idea of falling in love. Still, she came to their first date, with eyes wide open, prepared for all eventualities. This part may actually make you hungry too: “Steven and I have a lot in common, but a big thing we have in common is food. We both really, really love food. So, it’s only fitting that the night I met Steven for the first time, I told my sister that I would text her in the middle of the date to let her know how it was going and would do so in code words related to pizza toppings – pepperoni meant good, green peppers meant neutral, and anchovies meant bad. Steven immediately earned a rating of 100 pepperonis – and the rest was history…”

What did Miriam do to change Steven’s mind about love? He tells us: “If you took everything in a person that was important to me, sweet, kind, generous, smart, funny, emotionally intelligent, hardworking, trustworthy, understanding and beautiful, she exemplified (it) all.”

And what caused Steven to earn so many cured meats, and to keep that coveted rating? Miriam admits that at that first date his good looks and charm did play a part. However, she quickly discovered that he was, “the most generous and thoughtful person I… ever met. He truly cares about other people and really wants to make others happy.”

What seals the deal for Miriam is this: “We have the same fundamental values, matching visions for our future, and love and respect for each other, and that is what is most important to me.” It is no surprise, therefore, that Steven says, “I’m so lucky to have her in my life and (I) feel so fortunate… (to have) the relationship that we have.”

An Even Better Love Story

Saturday night (3.9), I officiated Jessica and Matthew’s wedding ceremony, at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Roll back the tape to right before their first date, and you probably would not predict we would end up here tonight. Just listen to Jessica and Matt’s descriptions going in.

Jessica says, “I had been extremely unsuccessful in the dating world, so I had little expectations walking into the coffee shop.” She adds, “I had recently been on a trip to South Africa and loved it, so the fact that he was South African was intriguing. I knew even if the date was bad, I would enjoy the accent.” Talk about damning with faint praise!

Matt recounts how he had ended a relationship, and so he was not interested in, “anything that could resemble a long term relationship.” Despite that, Matt says that they, “seemed to click immediately in the messages that we sent.”

Even after their first date, Matt says, “I had told Jessica that I wanted to keep things casual early on and she agreed.” However, this is where things began to turn, because Matt admits, “the amount of time that we were spending together did not show that this was a casual relationship.” Jessica sums it up well when she says, “By the time we got to New Year’s Eve, despite insisting that we were very casual, it was evident that we had a real connection.”

Ronald Reagan once said, that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Jessica and Matt might agree, that in their case this was true. One bright day when Matt was told by his company that his services were no longer needed, the added coda to that from our government was, “See ya!”

Fortunately, Jessica stepped up to the plate. As Matt says, “Jess did everything that she could to try help me. She offered to let me move in with her since my lease was expiring and sell whatever I had accumulated in the US (she seemed a little too eager to sell all of my stuff) while I tried to figure out what my next step would be.”

Still, leave he had to, and Jessica says, “He left, and our relationship was rather undefined as we figured the distance would make things impossible.”

Then, something pretty incredible happened.  Jessica says, “It was that distance however that sealed our relationship. As hard as the past two years have been living apart, it is what has cemented our lives together. The distance made us both realize how much we loved each other and wanted to spend our lives together.”

Matt agrees: “I would not have realized how important she was to me to me or the depth of our love without leaving the US. Now, all I want is to be back with her and to start our life together, to make her laugh and to see the expressions that she makes, in person, when I rile her up.”

Now, though Jessica and Matt talk about these circumstances as the cause for their deepening love, I believe they are being a little too humble. None of this happened automatically. The deepening and cementing of their love story is due to Jessica and Matt making a choice. They would not allow their love to end. They would rise above their circumstances. They would harness their adversity to write an even better love story. And, that is a great lesson for all of us.

I Choose You

Saturday evening, I officiated Marissa and Brittney’s wedding ceremony, at the Stonebriar Country Club, right here, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The bond and connection these two share with one another is genuinely unique. Despite coming from very different places and backgrounds, the term bashert really conveys it best: They undoubtedly are meant to be. Don’t take my word for it, take theirs...

Brittney shared with me that, “From the first time I met Marissa, I knew, instantly, this woman was unlike any other: Always genuine, caring, and honest, beautiful, kind, funny, and just so intelligent. I could honestly list adjectives describing how incredible a person she is all day. It’s such a great feeling to be with someone who is always so true, someone who is so compassionate and gentle, someone who really does share the same ideals and morals as me. I don’t take this for granted, as I believe it is quite difficult to find!”

And Marissa shared with me: “When I think of the ideal person, one that we as individuals are supposed to emulate, each and everyday, I think of Brittney. She isn’t just patient, determined, hardworking, and honest; she is the kind of person that I really strive to be more like every day, and I truly believe that if people were more like her, our world would be so much more peaceful, beautiful, and easy going. She is my comfort, she is my family, and she is my home.”

These two are different in many ways. They come from different cities and different backgrounds. They have different hobbies, and different tastes in fashion. But they share what matters most: their passions, their dreams, their hopes, and their unrivaled love for one another. Destined to be together, Marissa and Brittney are living proof that love can always find a way to bring two people together and that love can and will conquer all!

There is a song that both Marissa and Brittney love. They believe that these lyrics sum up their relationship best:

And I'd choose you
In a hundred lifetimes I'd choose you
In a hundred worlds I'd find You...

And I'd say, "I do"
For the rest of my life
With all that I have, I do
And I will
When the sky is falling
I promise you I'm all in,
No turning back.
Every day, every moment, Every breath you take... I choose you.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

You are IT

Saturday evening, Father Milt Raybould and I co-officiated Veronica and Michael’s wedding ceremony, in the Crystal Ballroom, at the Rice Hotel, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the first things I ask each couple is how they met. Here is an atypical answer to this question, given to me by Michael here, “Veronica and I disagree as to when we first met.” Oh, well… He continues, “My first memory is her sitting right behind me in our property exam first semester of law school. She was having computer issues and I was trying to lighten the mood. Apparently, I failed as she does not remember this interaction.” Ouch!

Now, especially, in light of Michael failing to make that memory stick in Veronica’s mind, what she says next might surprise you, “I knew I wanted to marry Michael very early into our relationship. About 4.5 months after we started dating and after a few too many drinks out with friends, I was at his apartment and I remember telling him over and over again, ‘You are IT Michael Gross. You are it for me.’ I knew THEN that he was special, what we had was special, and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.” Michael also says, “I have wanted to marry Veronica for years.”

What was it that brought these two together, and caused them to know so early on that they were destined to be together? Surprisingly (not really), Veronica puts this into words a little better than Michael does, but I believe that she speaks for both of them. From interacting with them, you can see that the feeling is mutual:

“He is an incredible person. He is kind, smart, funny, caring, selfless, giving, thoughtful, intelligent, confident, energetic, and incredibly attractive. He has an infectious energy. He is always putting the needs of others before his own. He is the first to offer help if he sees someone needs it, and goes above and beyond without thinking twice about it… He respects me, he listens to me, and he supports me. He makes me want to be the best version of myself, and he helps me be just that. I have never had to question the love he feels for me and his commitment to me. He is truly my partner and I know that I am his.”

When you feel so strongly about someone, when you know that this feeling is based on the caring and devotion that person shows not just you, but other people, when that person makes you want to be the best version of yourself, is it any surprise that you know early on, that they are the one? Not at all. With that said, let’s catch up to where they were 4.5 months in, and make that law school dream a reality…

Saturday, February 2, 2019

We Fit Together

Saturday morning, Father Tony O’Donovan and I co-officiated Jenny and Dan’s wedding ceremony, at Wildwood Inn, in Denton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There was something mysterious about the first time Jenny and Dan met. Here is what Jenny says about that encounter: “When I, actually, first saw Dan and he smiled at me, I felt like I had known him before, and my heart was happy that he had come back to me.” This is what Yogi Berra would call “déjà vu all over again.”

There is, in fact, a Jewish tradition, that likely stems from an earlier Greek tradition, that contends that meeting that special someone is not meeting someone new, but returning to an original partner. The Ancient Rabbis argued, based on specific linguistic choices in the creation stories in Genesis, that the original human was created as one being, both male and female. Then, God put this being to sleep, and separated it into two beings, one male and one female.

Dan tells a story that illustrates this complementary wholeness Jenny and he bring to one another: “Jen and I would often have conversations about the future and I would tell her how important I think math and science are for kids especially in the current digital age. I jokingly told Jen that instead of teaching our kid letters and numbers we should teach them the binary system.” Now, Jenny does, actually, work with kids; she has for her entire career, in one way or another. The binary system, I suspect, did not come up often, in that work. She could not have been blamed for gently pointing this out to Dan. That is not what she did. Here’s what she did do: “One day, I discovered that Jen had created a Pinterest board for me and our future child, complete with science and math books for our future child to read.”

In this Jenny illustrated the proper understanding of the ancient tradition. It does not contend that the two parts of this original being were identical or even symmetrical. That would actually be rather boring, and would contain it very little potential for mutual enrichment. It tells us something very different. When we find that true partner, the one we were separated from, we realize what Jenny did, “I had never felt anything like that before… It just seemed that we fit together, and that he was the one that I had been waiting for, for so long.” 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Where One Ends and the Other Begins

Saturday evening, I officiated Brittany and Joe’s wedding ceremony, at the Westin Stonebriar Hotel and Golf Club, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One thing that fascinated me about this young couple is that they reminded me of something that I read about an old couple, a couple that has been married for more than 70 years, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter.

Friends of the Carters say their bond is so strong that it's, "difficult to know where one ends and the other begins." I got that feeling from spending time with Brittany and Joe, too. It was palpable in how they spoke of each other, looked at each other, acted together, and even in how they cared for their dog together. Not to be too cliché about it, they seemed perfect for each other.

Listen to how Brittany speaks of Joe, “He is my knight in shining armor, the hero of my fairy tales, the dragon tamer, the dog whisperer, and the man of my heart, my best friend. We elevate each other… He is kind… He chooses to be a positive, giving force…”

There is a second reason this couple reminded me of the Carters. Here is what Jimmy told Oprah Winfrey a few years ago, “We decided fairly early in our life to give each other plenty of space. Rosalynn has her own ideas, her own ambitions, her own goals in life, which, in some ways, are different from mine. I let her do her thing; she lets me do my thing.” Joe, too, says that there was no one he dated, with whom he liked spending time like he did with Brittany, and one of the things that most attracted him to her was her self-sufficiency.

Now, that would seem to contradict what the Carters’ friends say. Which is it: Are they one, or do they do their own thing?

When you consider these two aspects of a relationship just a little more deeply, you see that there really is no contradiction. In fact, the healthiest love is the love of two persons, who are fully developed as their own selves, each self-sufficient, each with their own goals, that they are able to give of themselves to that relationship, loving each other so deeply, that it is hard to know where one ends and the other one starts.

It’s not all that common, for sure, however, when you find that in another person, you don’t want to let go. Joe recognizes this. He says that, “To find all of these traits in the same person was unprecedented (to me), and after a few months I knew that I did not want to stop dating this person, ever.”

Not only that, when you find this type of person with whom you can share a love that straddles these two aspects of an ideal relationship, you know that you are in for a life of learning. As Brittany says, “Marriage is one more way Joe and I can grow together.” That is why she says, There is no one else I would rather be celebrating life’s challenges and joys with than Joe, my almost husband.”

With that said, let’s not wait one more moment, before we remove that “almost” modifier…