Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Long and Happy Marriage

Yesterday (3/28) I co-officiated Eliot and Ben’s wedding ceremony with Father Steve Bierschenk at the Perot Museum in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When you ask Ben about Eliot, he says, and, yes gentleman, you want to jot THIS down in your play books, "I am lucky to have found the perfect woman." And he adds about the beginning days of their relationship, "She only got more beautiful each time I saw her." Guys, there is a reason this guy is addressed as "Coach"!

Now, humor aside, spend just a short time with these two, and you see that the bond they have is so strong, it easily overcame the differences in geographical background, cultural origin, and yes, religion too.

How did they do that? Well, I did say humor aside, but I was kind of lying, because I think that is half the answer. Don't take my word for it, though.

Eliot says, that their relationship from the very start was, "marked by a lot of laughter... he brings an overwhelming amount of joy to me – he makes me laugh and smile every day and I simply love being around him." Ben echoes this, "Everything with her was so easy and natural. Our personalities and sense of humor were perfect for each other."

Now, no joke, I am serious about this. Humor and laughter are an essential and critical ingredient to every serious relationship. We all realize seriousness is important to life. That's obvious, and you know these two have that. You can't coach or sell football, if you are not an absolutely serious person. We are in Texas, after all, where one of the largest religions is football, and this groom is just as much a clergyman as Father Stephen or me! However, we all know folks that take themselves just a little too seriously, and they generally do not make the best partners for pretty much anything, from the simplest pick-up basketball game to the slightly lengthier commitment we consecrate here today.

Once again, not Eliot or Ben. In this area, Ben needs no coaching, and you don't need a marketing presentation to convince Eliot either. They get it. In fact, what you get from them is that they have just the right mix of seriousness and light-heartedness, which ensure that this romantic partnership will result in a long and happy marriage. And THAT is no joke...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Fine Example

Yesterday (3/21) I officiated Vanessa and Nathan’s wedding ceremony at the Marty Leonard Chapel in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

It's quite interesting; anecdotally the most common partner for a Jew to have in an interfaith relationship is a Catholic. I don't think anyone has established, through any type of academic study, why this is. However, people have offered different theories.

Now, when we take a look at Vanessa and Nathan specifically, we find an interesting relationship that each of them has with their respective faiths. Here is how Nathan, for instance speaks of his Jewish educational experience, "Going to Sunday school and Hebrew school was not my choice... Had I been given the choice, I probably would have skipped out on both... My Bar Mitzvah... was a pain in the butt... Learning to read Hebrew without vowels was akin to pulling teeth." However, Nathan admits, "I am glad I was forced to go. It was helpful in my spiritual growth."

Now, Vanessa is not as colorful as Nathan. (Shocker!) However, she does not exactly go with the flow either. Though much of her education was in Catholic schools, she states, "My personal spiritual beliefs are always evolving... At this point in my life, I am much more comfortable having a personal relationship with God, rather than relying on a particular religion to tell me what it is I should believe and how I should believe it... I witness God’s presence in the world every moment."

So, it is not surprising that when you talk to this Jewish boy and this Catholic girl about what aspects of their respective faiths they most treasure, you get similar answers. What they most treasure are the interpersonal values their faiths teach. What they most treasure is how their faiths inspire them to conduct themselves in the world as good, honest, ethical people. What they most treasure about their faiths is how they emphasize not right beliefs, but right living.

This is where modern liberal Judaism and post Vatican II Catholicism find so much common ground. Don't worry so much about dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s of dogma. Don't fret over the fact that someone somewhere does not share your specific articles of faith. Do worry that there is injustice in the world. Do fret over the fact that many people everywhere are genuinely suffering.

It is this approach, right living as paramount, and making this world a better place as a priority, that perhaps brings so many Catholics and Jews together. It definitely brings Vanessa and Nathan together. In that, it makes them a fine example for their peers to follow.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Best Recipe for Marriage

Yesterday (3/15) I officiated Melanie and Kevin’s wedding ceremony at the Canyon Creek Country Club in Carrollton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Melanie and Kevin, through their love story, remind us of a very specific type of learning, perhaps the most challenging type. However, this type of learning makes for a fabulous love story.

Melanie's description of what she first thought of Kevin is, shall we say, interesting: "He was handsome (check) and an extremely talented bass player (check) but he didn’t seem 'boyfriend material.'” (Oops!)  Two years later, things changed. By then she says, "I learned a lot about Kevin since I first met him. For instance, he double majored in math and music, and graduated summa cum laude from UNT. Plus, he was valedictorian at Booker T. Washington High School. He also likes to cook. And he’s kind of a rockstar playing bass with many different bands. What a catch!"

So, this guy who was not boyfriend material, was on his way to becoming husband material! What happened? How did she so drastically change her mind?

As we grow up, and especially as we enter the adult world, we are told of the importance of first impressions. There is established science about how much we convey through our unconscious behavior, verbally and non-verbally. In turn, we are told that we make decisions about people in the first thirty seconds of meeting them. We are reminded, as we venture out into the world to keep these facts top of mind.

However, we seldom ask if it has to be that way. We don't usually think about how harmful this approach can be. We hardly ever imagine, how much more authentic and rich our lives could be, if we resisted this natural inclination. Well, just look at this couple standing hear before us, and you need not imagine.

This wonderful ability, of resisting that very natural, but highly inclination, is an ability which BOTH Melanie and Kevin share. Because it goes against our nature, it demands constant vigilance. It is so worth it though, because it can absolutely change your life. Melanie and Kevin, who were just friends, were able to open their hearts, they were willing to take a second look, they were happy to learn more and reconsider their initial impression. Can anyone argue with the results?

This approach relaxes the soul, and allows us to look at the entire world with new eyes. It makes us more forgiving and more loving of ourselves and of others. It, in Melanie's words about Kevin's affect in her, "encourages us to try new things and accept the inexactness of life."

This approach is the best recipe for marriage, because as anyone who is married will tell you, marriage is a rather inexact type of endeavor, to say the least. It is this approach that reminds us of the essence of what being in love with that special someone is really all about. In Kevin's words, "She... just wants me to be happy and be the best person I can be."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Love is Still Mysterious

Yesterday (3/14) I officiated Laurie and Paul’s wedding ceremony at the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When I reflect on Laurie and Paul's love story, their deep friendship, and how they interact with other, it is almost obvious that they would be matched through a scientifically accurate algorithmic formula. They are so comfortable with each other, there is such an ease to their interactions, that it is difficult to believe they are today celebrating just two years together, since they met. So, no surprise these two give you faith in science, formulas and numbers.

However, Laurie and Paul also remind us, if you will forgive the pun, that not everything can be accounted for. Love is still mysterious and not quantifiable. Love, for instance, can make you misperceive the actual passage of time. This happened on this very day two years ago. As Laurie describes, "We met at 7:30 that Thursday (March 14, 2013), and before I knew it, it was past 11pm that night... After that night, we were pretty much inseparable." Not very scientific or quantifiable, but if you too have been or are in love, you get it!

Laurie and Paul's love continued to grow, and the harmony of their life together felt so perfect, that six months later, the deal was sealed. Laurie mentions that some folks couldn't resist entertaining an audit of the situation. "Some people thought we were moving too quickly in our relationship, but we knew that we were meant for each other." Now, sure, there is no specific place for that type of sentiment on the ledger or the spreadsheet, but looking at them here and now, can anyone doubt that they made the right decision? All that is left now is to make that official, so without further ado, let's do just that!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Find Wholeness Again

On Saturday 3/7, I officiated Rachel and Sam’s wedding ceremony at the Red Corrall Ranch in Wimberly, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

As a father of a daughter, I fully empathize with parents who feel like no one is good enough for their daughter. We are kind of programmed that way. That is why my first introduction to Rachel and Sam really stood out. Leasy, Rachel's mom, spoke about Rachel and Sam, and I have seldom heard a future mother-in-law speak SO glowingly about her future son-in-law. She didn't come out and SAY he walked on water, but she came darn near close. It was clear from her that Sam had had a wonderful and positive impact on Rachel.

So, I was definitely intrigued to see what this Jewish-mother-endorsed guy had going. Then I heard from Sam how equally appreciative he is of the impact Rachel had had on him. He too was effusive. He talked about how she had changed it his life, and given it new meaning. Rachel, of course, just reiterated what her mom had said about Sam's impact on her own life.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to just a little bit of what they have to say. Sam says, "With Rachel, I am motivated to take better care of myself, to work harder, to enjoy life again. She is patient, kind, and warm. I want to marry Rachel now because without her there is no me. I was not a whole person and now I am."

Rachel says, "He makes me so unbelievably happy that I want to share my life with him and be there for him while both of us fulfill our own needs and dreams. I want to continue to feel connected with him and continue to grow with him emotionally. Sam is my other half and brings peace to my crazy world."

Wow. That's kind of tough to follow. What they are each talking about is reminiscent of an ancient Jewish teaching, based on language used in the Second Creation Story in Genesis. This colorful teaching speaks of the primordial human created by the divine as a being with two sides and two faces, one male and one female. This mythical being is then split into two, and man and woman are the products of this divine surgery. Of course, the result of that is that we yearn for that one person, with whom we can find wholeness again. Well, clearly, with Rachel and Sam the search is over. They have put that divinely created puzzle back together. With that said, let's make just that official!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

They Just Have It Made

Yesterday evening (2/28) Reverend Marty Younkin and I co-officiated Rani and Shawn's wedding ceremony at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There is one thing you can't help thinking about when you do what I do.. What is it? Simple: Will THIS couple make it? However, I never asked that question about Rani and Shawn. They are going to make it. No doubt about it.

So, how do I know? Just spend a little time with Rani and Shawn, listen to their love story, and observe how it continues to unfold, and how they nurture it. Rani says, in a characteristically straightforward manner, "The thing that I love most about Shawn is that he loves me so completely... I look forward to growing old together and hope we always stay a little weird. I love that about us." Shawn, not surprisingly, is very analytical: "She was strikingly beautiful... As I got to know Rani better, I realized that she was even more beautiful inside than out. What started out as friendship grew stronger. She was smart, witty, strong, sweet, caring……AND very pretty."

Now, all of that is important, vital, critical, but not enough. Rani and Shawn have that additional component that I base my prediction on. They have committed to doing the work that needs to be done. They show this by having done so in the past. As Shawn says, "We spent a lot of time on understanding us... (and) many of the challenges that (already)... wed couples may otherwise face." They continue to do so in the present. As Shawn says, "I feel like our relationship gets better every day and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with her." They will do so in the future. As Rani says, "I still think we can improve."

It is this type of recognition, that marriage is something you need to work at, that the wedding is just the beginning, and that your relationship can and should evolve into something that gets more wonderful every day that will enable Rani and Shawn to go the distance. They just have it made …