Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love is a Mystery

Yesterday I officiated my first ever wedding in West Virginia. I co-officiated Jenna and Jason's wedding in Wheeling with Father Jim Sobus. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their friends.

Love is a mystery. Though scientists may be able to technically explain love, I feel they will never properly elucidate it. Now that may seem, at first blush, distressing, as mystery can be scary. We, as humans, desire first and foremost to understand our surroundings. After all, we are arguably the descendants of those who eons ago on the African savannah understood their environment, and were hence able to pass their genes down to us.

That said, I believe that mystery, at times, gets short shrift, and love will remain mysterious; its beauty being embedded in this very nature. Indeed, ask Jenna about Jason, and she will tell you, “I have never felt so loved in my entire life, and have never loved anyone like I love Jason. It is kind of hard to explain, but we just seem to click. He is the only person that truly understands me and knows what I am thinking at any second of any day.” Jason will, in turn tell you, “Jenna is the most important person in my life. The past nearly 3 years have been incredible for me... I have accomplished more personally and professionally with Jenna in my life than ever before… There are times where I look at Jenna and words can't express how much I love her.” It is clear, that this couple before us is not afraid of the mysterious. They lovingly and willingly embrace it, and are better for it.

So, Jenna and Jason, thank you. Thank you for reminding us to embrace the mysterious in our lives and our relationships. Continue to keep the mystery of love alive in your relationship. Relish it, thrive through it, and I have no doubt, your bond will remain absolutely unbreakable.

Monday, July 25, 2011

King James Got It Wrong, Caitlin and Ben Got It Right

On Saturday I co-officiated the wedding of Caitlin and Ben with my friend and colleague, Dr. Bill Longsworth, at his beautiful historic church, FUMC of Fort Worth. Here are the personal remarks I shared with Caitlin, Ben and their guests:

Caitlin and Ben marry in an auspicious year, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. This translation of the ancient text had a profound effect on the development of our culture in the English speaking world. So profound is its effect, that even erroneous translations in the King James Bible have eclipsed the correct meaning of those words. One of the best examples of this is in the Second Creation Narrative in Genesis Chapter 2. We all know the story. God creates Adam or “the Man”, and unsuccessfully tries to find him a partner among the animals. So, God puts Adam under, takes one of his ribs, and from it “builds” “the Woman”, right? Well, wrong. What really happened there? Caitlin and Ben tell us.

When I asked Caitlin why she wanted to marry Ben, she wrote following, “Ben makes me a happy and a whole person. I know, with everything in me, that he will always take care of me, worry about me, make me happy, and love me.” Ben writes, in turn, “I consider her my backbone. Without her support I don’t think I would be the same person I am today.” Now, each of them wrote these comments separately without seeing what the other wrote. That fascinated me, because, again, when you take their comments and put them together, they reflect what the Bible is really saying in that ancient myth.

You see, the Bible does not say that God took Adam’s rib. It uses the word “tzela”, which sometimes means rib, but which more often means “side”. The Bible imagines God creating not the first man, but the first human, the first Ah-dahm, as an androgynous being with two sides, two faces, one female and one male, back to back. When God performs his surgery on this being, he splits it into two halves, man and woman. This is why the Bible tells us that man leaves his mother and father, cleaves to his wife, and they become, whole again, one flesh. What this myth is, in fact, telling us is what Caitlin and Ben are telling us. Marriage is where one finds one’s backbone, marriage is where one becomes whole.

So, Caitlin and Ben, thank you for reminding us of this important lesson. May you throughout your lives together share a profound and mutual love, where you make each other feel more complete more whole than you ever felt alone. And, may each of us be so fortunate to so deeply appreciate our lovers, as you appreciate each other.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Extension of the Golden Rule

This last Saturday I officiated Pauline and Nate’s Jewish-Filipino interfaith wedding. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have lived on three continents. I have lived in New Zealand and in the American Heartland where people are very cordial and tremendously polite, but it is really difficult to figure out what they really think about your actions in any given situation. On the other hand, I grew up in Israel, and Israelis are perceived by most non-Israelis as brash and even aggressive, but you always know where you stand with them. Think New Yorkers on Speed, and you get the idea.

Now, in our multi-cultural environment it seems usually taboo to talk about positives and negatives of cultures. To me there is something disingenuine about such an approach. Should we not admit, without judging individual persons, that every culture has its plusses and minuses? Is not true multi-culturalism about learning from other cultures, which means using some discernment regarding their qualities?

Is it not obvious that if one could, it would be best to exhibit the warmth and cordial nature of the Midwest and American South, along with the openness of our Israeli brothers and sisters? I have often thought about this, and when I met Pauline and Nate, I found exactly these qualities shared by both of them. This made it tremendously refreshing to interact with this lovely couple. They are the most pleasant individuals and at the same time they say what they mean, and mean what they say. How cool is that?! In this I think they are emblematic, once again, of how we should live and learn in this multi-cultural and multi-ethnic world we inhabit.

Now, really, there is nothing new here. Every religion tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated. Each of us wishes to be treated kindly, and also to know where we stand with others, so that we may navigate the world properly and pleasantly. Therefore, what Pauline and Nate do in their day to day life is just an extension of that golden rule.

Pauline and Nate, what do we wish for you? We hope and pray that you continue to enjoy happiness and love through your openness and kindness with each other and with others. We are confident that with this, you will continue to enjoy a wonderful life together, and inspire others to do the same.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Luckiest

This last Saturday I officiated my 100th wedding, right herein Frisco, Texas, at the fabulous Fairy Tale Manor.Here are the personal remarks I shared with Betsy and Billy and their guests:

Betsy and Billy have made quite an impression on me. You see thesefolks are not really big talkers; they are more quiet by nature. However, ifyou listen carefully, you can pick up on two fascinating interconnected factsabout them and their relationship.

First, you get a sense that they are extremely content together, whichI believe is a step beyond just being happy. Second, they share a profoundmutual sense of good fortune in having found each other. Betsy and Billy willtell you that they were not “looking” when they met each other. Itwas really a grand stroke of good luck. Now, some may denigrate luck, but Ihappen to be fascinated by it. After all, scientists tell us that we are allhere because of one cosmic and biological lucky break after another.

These two aspects of their relationship, a content feeling and afeeling of profound fortune, got me thinking about a quiet hauntingly beautifulsong by Ben Folds, called “The Luckiest”. Let me read you just afew words:

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

These few words are very deep and multi-layered. Folds’ charactertalks about stumbles along the way, but there is not a shade of bitterness. Heis very content, and feels tremendously lucky to have his lover by his side. Iam not surprised this reminded me of Betsy and Billy’s love story.

Betsy and Billy, our wish to you is that you continue to enjoy a senseof good fortune from having found each other as life partners. Our hope is thatyou continue to exhibit for others what a true life of content, born from therecognition of that good fortune and from ongoing deep love, really and trulylooks like.