Saturday, June 21, 2014

A True Miracle

Yesterday, Friday 6/20, Dr. Bob Ness and I co-officiated Jennifer (who happens to be Dr. Ness's daughter) and Steven's wedding ceremony at Harmony Chapel in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the known challenges of communicating through the phone and other technologies where we can only hear, but not see the person that we are talking to, is that there can be mix ups and confusion. So, we use different tools to compensate. For instance, we won't just say that Parker starts with a P, rather we'll say P as in Peter. The first time I spoke to Steven, I asked what his future bride's name was, and he said, her first name was Jennifer, and her last name was Ness. Now, he did not say, Ness with an n as in Nancy, or Ness like the prohibition era G-Man. Since he knew that I knew Hebrew, he said, Ness, like miracle, because the word for miracle in Hebrew is in fact Ness.

Now, you could argue that this was just a technical way for Steven to clarify her name, but then he could have used one of those more conventional clarifications. Having gotten to know Jennifer and Steven, I think there is something way deeper going on here.

There is in fact a fundamental disagreement amongst medieval Jewish philosophers, as to what constitutes a miracle. Some feel that God created the world, set up the laws of nature, and wrote whatever miracles he planned on already into the programming code, so to speak. Some feel that God created the world, set up the laws of nature, and once in a while tosses in a miracle, here and there, but they were not written into the original code. Others still, feel that while we perceive there to be laws of nature, really every single thing happening in the world at every moment is due to the will of God, and so in essence everything is a miracle.

Now, you might ask yourself, what's the difference? All their views are trying to reverse engineer the same reality, and there is no way of really knowing who is right, as this issue is untestable. If you understand, however, that what we are really talking about is not reality, but how we perceive reality, this makes all the difference.

Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of finding your soulmate. How else can we understand that word "soulmate" even? How else can we understand any two people feeling like they belong with other, in Steven's words, "meant for each other," if we do not perceive the miracles of our own reality? How else can we understand two people with diverse backgrounds, and distinct life experiences, coming together, and fitting together so well in every possible way.

The way Jennifer and Steven approach life helps us sharpen our understanding of what is going on here. The miracles we experience are an issue of perception. If you approach life like Jennifer and Steven do, being thankful for the experiences you had, have, and will continue to have together; if you wake up every day, and look forward to the adventures life has in store for you, as individuals and as a couple; if you see your being and your relationship, in Jennifer's words, as "a surprise and a delight"; well then you have it made. Your relationship, like the one these two have, will never go stale, will never lose its vitality, will always and every moment be a real Ness, a true miracle.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Transcending Space and Time

Yesterday, Saturday 6/14, I officiated Marcela and Rich's wedding ceremony at the JW Marriott in Buenaventura, Panama. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

An interesting detail in Marcela and Rich's story caught my eye. It reminded me of one of the most beautiful love stories in the Hebrew Bible. Jacob is forced to flee his homeland, fearful of the wrath of his brother, Esau. He then meets the love of his life, Rachel, and offers to work for her hand in marriage for seven years. Scripture tells us about those seven long years, "And they were in his eyes as a few days, due to his love for her." Rich tells us a similar thing about the love story he shares with Marcela, "Upon meeting Marcela I fell in love with her as she was an amazing person... I became more fond of her and the time passed so quickly that before either of us knew it, we were having our one year anniversary." So strong was the love of Rachel and Jacob, so strong is the love of Marcela and Rich, that it actually alters the sense of time of the lovers. How did they do it?

I suspect that once again both couples share a critical quality. They did not allow space to control their individual lives and shared destinies, and so they were able to able to transcend time itself. In the biblical story, first Jacob and then Rachel, did not allow themselves, their lives, or their love to be constrained by the space they happened to be born into. Jacob was not afraid to leave his homeland to forge a new life for himself, and to find love far from home. Rachel did not allow the fact that Jacob was from far away land to hold her back from loving him, and when he wishes to return to his homeland, Rachel gladly welcomes the adventure of now she traveling to a land far from her home. So too, Marcela and Rich. Marcela did not think twice about letting space hold her back from seeking the best education far from home, nor did Rich allow distance from the familiar to hold him back from pursuing professional opportunity. More importantly, they did not allow their cultural and religious differences to hold them back from forming a relationship reminiscent of Rachel and Jacob's love.

Marcela and Rich, what we wish for you is that you indeed continue to have such a close and strong relationship, where the space-time continuum itself seems altered, for the rest of what we hope are long and happy lives together.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Beshert in Español

Yesterday, Saturday 6/7, I officiated Anukie and David's wedding ceremony at David's home in Mexico City, Mexico. I officiated the whole ceremony in Spanish. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests. (An English translation follows):

En mis pláticas con Anukie y David, David dijo algo realmente fascinante, “Verdaderamente creo que yo fui hecho para Anukie, y que ella fue hecha para mí”. En Yiddish, el lenguaje germánico de mis antepasados europeos y los de David, existe una palabra específica para este concepto: Beshert. Esta palabra básicamente quiere decir hecho para el otro, o hecho en el paraíso. Dependiendo del contexto, puede tener significados un poco distinto; por ejemplo, Anukie puede decir “David es mi Beshert”, mientras David podría decir “Fue Beshert que los dos tuviéramos programas de radio consecutivos en la universidad, nos conociéramos, nos hiciéramos amigos, y después pareja”.

Estas palabras reflejan una creencia que precede la evolución el Yiddish a través de cientos de años. Los antiguos Rabinos nos dicen que antes de que un feto sea creado, una voz celestial anuncia con quién el feto eventualmente se casará. Así, que hace poco tiempo, podemos imaginar a esa voz proclamando “Anukie se casará con David”.

Ahora, podemos hacernos la siguiente pregunta, ¿los Rabinos verdaderamente creían esto?, ¿debemos creerlo nosotros? Cada uno de nosotros puede tener su propia respuesta. Lo que es realmente importante e interesante es preguntarnos ¿qué podemos aprender de esto?

Yo creo que Anukie puede tener la respuesta. Una de las primeras cosas que me dijo cuándo se describió a si misma fue “me considero una persona espiritual que confía en lo que Dios tiene para mí en cada aspecto de mi vida, mientras creo que es mi responsabilidad trabajar para intensificar todas las bendiciones que se me han dado”.

Decirid pasar el resto de tu vida con alguien es una decision muy grande, tal vez incluso la más grande que podemos hacer. Todos nosotros debemos tomar responsabilidad y hacer esa decisión de forma metódica, cuidadosa y deliberada como Anukie y David hicieron. Sin embargo, cómo no hay manera de predecir el future, debmos balancear nuestras vidas con nuestra confianza en el futuro. Dependiendo de quiénes somos, y en lo que creemos, además de en quién o qué confiamos puede ser un poco distinto. No obstante, debemos tener la voluntad de tomar el siguiente paso, donde el conocimiento humano y los cálculos fríos terminan. Ustedes tienen que encontrar el balance entre hacer lo mejor que pueden y tener la voluntad de ir más allá de dónde el conocimiento humano termina. Deben apegarse entre ustedes en la vida, el amor y el matrimonio, de la misma manera que lo hacen Anukie y David.

English Translation:

In my discussions with Anukie and David, David said something really fascinating, "I truly believe that I was made for Anukie and she was made for me." Yiddish, the Germanic Jewish language of my and David's ancestors back in Europe, actually has a special word for this concept, "Beshert". This word basically means made for each other, or made in heaven. Depending on the context, it can have subtly different meanings, though. Anukie could say, "David is my Beshert," while David could also say, "It was Beshert that we both happened to have consecutive radio shows at university, and so met, became friends, and then lovers.

Now, this word reflects a belief that preceded the evolution of the Yiddish language by hundreds of years. The ancient rabbis actually tell us that before a fetus is created, a heavenly voice announces who the fetus will eventually marry. So not all that long ago, we can imagine that voice proclaiming in heaven, Anukie will marry David.

Now, we could ask the question, "Did the rabbis really believe this? Should we believe this?" Each of us might have their own answer. What is a far more interesting and useful question is "What lesson should we learn from this?"

I think Anukie may have an answer. One of the first things she told me in describing herself is this: "I consider myself a spiritual person who trusts in what God has for me in every aspect of my life, while I believe that is my responsibility to work and enhance all the blessings he has given me."

Deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone is a big decision, perhaps one of the biggest one can make. We really have to take responsibility and make that choice very methodically, carefully and deliberately like Anukie and David did. However, since there is no way we can predict the future, we must balance all of that with trust in the future. Depending on who you are, and what you believe in, who or what you trust in might be a little different. Regardless, we have to have the willingness to take that next step, where human knowledge and calculation end. You have to have that balance of doing your best, with the willingness to move forward where human knowledge ends. You have to hold tight on to both in life, love and marriage, just like Anukie and David are...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Building on Your Differences

Yesterday evening, Saturday 5/31, I co-officiated Carol and Josh's wedding ceremony, with Josh's dad, Reverend Terry Parker, at Artspace 111 in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have each couple I marry write about themselves. In what this relatively young couple wrote about themselves and each other there was a maturity far beyond their years. Listen, and you'll see what I mean.

Carol writes, "I can’t imagine the rest of my life without him by my side. I love that Josh can make me laugh even when it’s the last thing I want to do... He’s definitely the yin to my yang, in the best way... He has always made me feel secure and loved despite some periods of long distance in our relationship, so I know he will make an amazing life partner and eventually a father. Josh has taught me how to love unconditionally, and that I can always be myself without judgment. I love that we aren't dependent on each other for happiness, but that our relationship adds such brightness to my life. I know there will be times when we will drive each other crazy, but I also know he’s the person I want driving me crazy..."

Josh writes, "I had realized that Carol was the strongest and most supportive woman I had ever met. Instead of avoiding a relationship with me because I was about to deploy, she put herself through the loneliness, the constant worrying and overall stress of being in a relationship with a deployed infantryman... I want to get married because I have never been around someone that I can be completely vulnerable with, like I am with Carol. She is truly my best friend and makes me a better person. I believe she will be a great mother, and I am looking forward to one day raising a family with her."

It is not that often in these essays that a person will talk about how her or his beloved will be a great parent, and even rarer that both do. So, the fact that both Carol and Josh went there is noteworthy. How do they know this? Well, I don't know if they know themselves, but if you listen to the rest of what they say, it is obvious.

They have a relationship that has withstood distance and danger. They view their relationship not as co-dependent, but as complementary. They realize that the only way you know you are in a relationship of true love is that you can shed all the masks of pretense with the other person. Most importantly, they recognize that an essential part of true love is the difference and distinctiveness, sometime maddening, each lover brings to the relationship.

Now, if you think about it, the extra dimensions that parenting demands are exactly those they have mastered. To be successful at parenting, you need the ability to deal with difficulty, the recognition that we need to complement each other as parents, the willingness to shed our masks of pretense, and learn who we really are in a role we have never been in before, and the recognition that our different parenting skills and inclinations, while they may drive us nuts sometimes, when used constructively will make our children's lives much better.

So, Carol and Josh, what we wish for you is simple, keep doing what you are doing. Keep being great lovers to each other, finding comfort in the other, complementing each other, being true to the core with one another, and building on your differences together, while driving each other just a little nuts…