Monday, May 30, 2011

Questioning is Key

This last Sunday I co-officiated Misty and Brian’s wedding at the Four Seasons in Austin, Texas, with Reverend CJ Taylor. I talked about a concept that to me is one of the most important, questioning:

I believe that central to each of these two individuals before us is that they never shied away from questions. Each of them separately and before they met, showed the same intellectual honesty of questioning their faiths, not just accepting everything, hook, line and sinker. They each developed an understanding of the role they wished religion and spirituality to play in their lives. In turn, when they became a couple, they again did not ignore the challenges inherent in two people coming together from two different faith traditions. They knew they had to ask questions of themselves and each other, and arrive at answers together as a couple, regarding the place and manner religion and spirituality would play in their lives.

Now, some may see questioning of one’s faith as disrespectful or out of place. Nothing can be further from the truth. After all, the most central book in the Jewish faith is the Talmud, a book of questions, even heated arguments resulting from fierce questions. Christianity too is born of questioning the religious establishment of the time.

So, Misty and Brian, I urge you to continue setting an example for others. Continue on your path of questioning, thinking and reflecting. Continue to make that a part of your relationship, and make it a part of the lives of your future children. Remind yourselves again and again that answers are important too, but that questions and challenges are what keep us alive and kicking. Follow that path and I have no doubt, your bond will remain absolutely unbreakable.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Unity, Not Uniformity

This last Sunday I officiated Angela and Kevin’s wedding in Fort Worth, Texas at the elegant Historic YWCA. Here are the personal words I shared with them and their guests:

There is an assumption on the part of some, and that some includes some members of the clergy unfortunately, that an interfaith relationship will serve to weaken, or even dilute the faith of an individual. What I have found regarding most couples, and Angela and Kevin stand out as a strong example of this, is that it is actually the opposite.

Falling in love with, developing a relationship with, and marrying someone who is of a different faith tradition, can actually strengthen one’s connection to his or her faith tradition. Kevin is very open about the fact that Angela’s commitment to her faith has inspired him to bring the Jewish faith back to a more central place in his life. Angela is explicit about the fact that her relationship with Kevin has served to perfect and mature her Christian faith.

Angela and Kevin find their respective connections to their faith traditions strengthened, because of one key concept. They both understand that unity does not have to mean uniformity. They understand that diversity is not a dirty word. They understand that they each can be strong in their differing beliefs, and also have a powerful and loving mutual bond.

Angela and Kevin, our prayer is that you continue to live a life of learning and growing together. Our hope is that you continue to strengthen each other. Our charge to you is that you inspire others to do the same.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Apples and Trees

This last Saturday morning I officiated Lanie and Farron’s wedding at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas. I shared with them and their guests a message that had some similarities to a recent message I shared at a baby naming, coming at it from a different angle:

So here’s the deal with these two – they have the full package – they really do. They are deeply connected to their families, they view each other as allies and best friends, not just lovers, and each one of them will tell you that their relationship has brought about mutual improvement and growth. What is their secret?

Well, from what I can gather, it seems that if we look at the trees, we might have an answer regarding the apples. You see, quite often, the most significant adjustments in any loving relationship have to do with what is the “normal” way of doing things, and the translation of “normal” really is “the way my folks do it”. My wife and I are a great example. A few days after we married 18 years ago, I suggested I make scrambled eggs for breakfast, and she enthusiastically agreed. She left the room for a few minutes, as I began to make the eggs. When she returned, she had a horrified look on her face. I was perplexed, and I asked her what was wrong. She, her voice quivering, said that I had broken the eggs into a glass, and not a bowl, which is the normal way to do it. I looked at her like she was crazy, and I insisted that normal people break their eggs into a glass. Again, instead of normal insert, “the way my folks do it.” Now, of course, in our home today, we break eggs into a bowl, because that is what normal people do… but that is really beside the point.

Now, I do not believe any couple since the dawn of time has escaped such adjustments. Every couple has the type of adjustments my wife and I dealt with. It is though, I believe, in the hands of parents to raise their children in a way that can minimize these. It is up to parents to raise children with not only a set of standards of behavior, but also with the understanding that different people do things differently, and that that is OK. It is up to parents to raise children that understand that, sure there are things that are black and white, but most of the world is pretty much gray. It is up to parents to raise children who are open to learning, and are not afraid to try new ways of doing things. It is up to parents to broaden the scope of what is normal.

Lanie and Farron, from our discussions, from what you told me orally and in writing, I think this is your secret. Your upbringing by your parents is what brought you together in such a harmonious relationship. You see, in a way, in my introduction, I told the truth but not the whole truth. I talked about learning from couples, where really many times, and this is just one more of those times, I find myself learning from families too.

Lanie and Farron, what we wish for you is that you do the same. You may come from different cultural and religious traditions, but I encourage you to continue the shared tradition of your parents. Build a home where pluralism is central. Raise a family where the words "my way or the highway" never come into play. Inculcate your children with the spirit of learning and growing your parents inculcated you with. Through this you and they will find complete, utter and true happiness.