Sunday, April 29, 2018

Nothing Can Stop You

Saturday afternoon, Father John Hiers and I co-officiated Whitney and Sam’s wedding ceremony at the Church of the Ascension, in Clearwater, Florida. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I love origin stories of any kind, but particularly of couples’ relationships. With more than 375 weddings in the last decade, I have heard quite a few. This one, though, is a doozy!

See if you can keep all the characters, twists and turns here straight. “I knew I liked her immediately...” writes Sam, “I was dead set on getting to know her. Whit, however, had other plans. Through a mix up of who’s who, Whit thought that I was my friend Adam, who liked one of her friends. With that in mind, Whit gave me the cold shoulder most of the night, which only made me want to talk to her more! When my friends left the bar and Whit’s friends moved on to another locale, I asked for her number in the hopes of tagging along. When Whit let me know where her friends had decided to relocate, I made my Uber drive turn around immediately and drop me off where she was. I was making progress. At the end of the night, after I had used my secret technique of wearing her down with questions until she could no longer ignore me, Whit and I grabbed a late night bite to eat. As luck would have it, Adam strolled by the restaurant as we were walking out. I promise it wasn’t planned. I exclaimed, “THAT’S Adam!” I’m still not sure if she believed me right away, but it was enough for her. And the rest is history.”

This origin story becomes even more significant, when you realize that a short time before that Whitney had written, not said, written, “I am done with dating.” And, Sam? Well, he had given up on the dating game too.

With that set up, it might surprise you, and I don’t say this often at weddings, I know this one is built to last. No doubt. How do I know? Just listen to how they speak about marriage, how they conceive of it, and what it means to them.

Whitney says, “I never wanted or expected the fairytale, I want a partnership. I feel so acutely aware of how difficult and simultaneously rewarding marriage can and will be and it has never discouraged me from making it happen with Sam. I love him for who he is and who he isn’t. I love how he pushes me to be better, while always allowing me to be myself. I love our ability to have fun and communicate about the really difficult things in life... I am eager to build a life that means something with someone who will push me everyday to do so. I can honestly say if I had to do life without a romantic partner, I could do it. The thing that makes me most confident about this decision right now is I do not want to do this without him. I know our marriage will not be perfect and I know life will challenge us, but I really feel like I am at a point in my life where I am ready to share everything with someone and I am so happy that person is Sam.”

And, Sam says, “I desire to marry because our relationship brings a wholeness to my life that I couldn’t experience alone. I am the best version of myself with Whit. I also desire to marry because I understand the challenges that accompany life as an adult and I believe that the right partner can help weather life’s storms. Similarly, marriage makes the best experiences in life all the better because you experience them with someone else that you care deeply for. Marriage provides an unparalleled opportunity to tether your existence to that of another, and with the right partner, your relationship is greater than the sum of its parts. So is the mark that you leave on the world... I am aware of the risks and challenges of marriage, yet I am committed to pursuing the rest of my life putting “we” before “me”, compromising for the benefit of our relationship and our family and taking on life as a unit.”

This is why I believe that what Whitney and Sam have is built to last. They understand what takes many couples years to understand. It’s not about you, it’s not about you, either. It’s about recognizing that in marriage there is a third entity that needs to be cared for just as much, the marriage, the we. And, if you put that first, like Whitney and Sam do, nothing can stop you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

First Impressions

Saturday evening, I officiated Erica and Jonathan’s wedding ceremony at the Dallas Arboretum (Crape Myrtle Allee), in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

They say first impressions are pivotal. Erica says about the first time she met Jon, “I honestly do not know whether I met Jon at that first party or on one of the subsequent get-togethers.” Well, maybe first impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be...

Seriously, though, for most of high school and college, this bride and groom were just friends. What really counts as a first impression as individuals came much later, with a twelve hour road trip to Emory University. Erica says, “Before this, we had not spent a lot of time one-on-one. It was usually in some kind of group situation. So, it surprised us both how easily the conversation flowed for the entire twelve-hour drive from Dallas to Atlanta. We literally did not stop talking the entire time.” 

Jon, in turn, says, “I can’t remember any particular topic or discussion, but I can distinctly remember how comfortable it felt. I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a break in the conversation for twelve hours.”

This time the impression stuck. Listen to what Jon says retrospectively: “Now, it feels as if we have always been together.  It is nearly impossible to imagine my life without Erica. That doesn’t just mean imagining a future without her but also the time before we were together.” Erica, it seems like you have disrupted the time continuum for this guy. Good job!

This type of paradoxical affect is mutual. Erica says, “Jon challenges me and encourages me. He makes me want to be better, even while making me feel like I am already enough... He’s equally willing and able to be completely silly or to have an intellectual debate... He defies my expectations and surprises me constantly.”

What Erica and Jon show us is that there are first impressions and there are first impressions. Sometimes, your soulmate is hiding in plain sight, just waiting for you to discover them, perhaps on a twelve-hour drive to Atlanta

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Sum of All Loves

Saturday afternoon, Rev. Mike Spitters and I co-officiated Cassie and Corey’s wedding ceremony at the Expedition Church, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Have you heard of the sum of all fears? Now, if you could see my notes, you would see that I didn’t capitalize these words. That would tell you that I am not referring to the excellent Tom Clancy novel or the abomination of a movie based on it.

I am referring to the original phrase uttered by one Winston Churchill: "Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears."

Churchill’s concept of adding up emotions is fascinating. Each of the three at his table come from a different vantage point, a different military culture, and thus contribute to a sum of those emotions. There is great power in that sum, which may be greater than its parts. Since it is fear, Churchill sees it as a problem to overcome.

What if, however, we found a situation, which involved a sum of a different more positive emotion, love. What would a sum of loves look like? Well, I dare say you may be looking at one, and it is the creation of Cassie and Corey, here today.  To paraphrase the old prime minister, “Why you may take a West Coast Buddhist bride, an East Coast Jewish groom, a Disciples of Christ minister and a Rabbi, put them under a Chuppah in a Texas church. What do you get? The sum of all loves.”

Now, humor aside, this is really how Cassie and Corey have lived their lives. They have both, as individuals and as a couple, followed the maxim of Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish sages and philosophers of the Middle Ages, “Accept the truth from whatever source it comes.”

This might sound obvious, but it is not at all so in our world. Frequently, and this may be one of the greatest causes of our problems, we judge the truth of something by where it comes from. Is it from my “team”, my “tribe”, those who look exactly like me, those who think exactly like me?

This is not how Cassie and Corey approach the world. (Except if we are talking about the New York Mets. I mean, there have to be some limits!) Cassie has a deep connection to her Buddhist roots, but she has mostly found spiritual sustenance, through volunteering and other good works, in Christian churches. Corey has a deep connection to his Jewish roots, but he has mostly found spiritual sustenance not through any classical texts, but through more universal ideas of deep connections to loved ones, both past and present.

And, together, Cassie and Corey have nurtured their bodies and souls, through cycling, and not just because they cycle with the pastor standing next to me. They even, and for me this a first, have a theme or motto for this wedding. This really says it all, and I think even old Winston might crack a smile at hearing it: "Bridging two worlds together, one pedal at a time".

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Compassion, Joy, Humor and Gratitude

Saturday evening, Rev. Bruce Buchanan and I co-officiated Stacy and Jared’s wedding ceremony at the Trinity River Audubon Center, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You know what stood out about Stacy and Jared? Their compassion, joy, humor and gratitude.

Compassion has served as clear guide to Stacy and Jared. This attracted them to each other, and is key to their relationship. It is the commitment to compassion that led Stacy to social work and working in hospitals, as well as to her involvement with The Stewpot. It is the commitment to compassion that led Jared to work in the home health care world, and to, for years, organize holiday parties for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Listen to this little snippet from their very first date. Stacy recounts how, “Jared showed me a video of a mother wildebeests and the herd saving her babies from predators. He was quite taken with the sweetness of that, and I realized from that and many other things he said that night that he had a huge heart.” Jared saw the same thing in Stacy. He too could tell from that first date, that Stacy, in his words, exhibited “big hearted empathetic compassion for God’s creatures.”

Joy has served as a clear guide to Stacy and Jared. Jared says, “When I reflect on being with Stacy for the rest of my life, I am so in awe, because I never realized that a relationship could be so wonderful and special. This has enabled me to experience a level of joy and fulfillment like I never have before.”

Stacy finds joy in this relationship that is reminiscent of the joy she saw in her parents’ love story. They had always told her that she would know when she met her soulmate. “My heart and soul danced when I met Jared. I just knew, this is it, he was the one,” Stacy confesses.

Humor has served as a clear guide to Stacy and Jared. Stacy says, “We are constantly laughing together. I absolutely love his sense of humor and I know that he’s so appreciative of that.” And, Jared’s favorite line from the song to which Stacy walked down the aisle is, indeed, “Let me drown in your laughter.”

Last but not least, gratitude has served as a clear guide to Stacy and Jared. Jared says, “I have a deep sense of gratitude for the vast number of blessings of family and friends and fortunate circumstances in my life.” Stacy shares this sentiment, and finds it to be at the very core of their love connection, “We each feel so blessed to have found each other.”

Well, there you have it folks: Compassion, joy, humor and gratitude. Excellent ingredients for a great relationship.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Monday night, Rev. Glen Reddell and I co-officiated his daughter, Debbie and Mike’s wedding ceremony at Huckleberry’s, in Comfort, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. What a joy it was to read the essays of Debbie and Mike. They have both lived rich lives and have a wonderful capacity for self-reflection.

Debbie reflects on the upbringing she had, and how it taught her the importance of love. She writes that her parents emphasized this through word and deed, “through their love for each other and their love for us, (and most) importantly (to) show God's love for others by the way we treated people. That lesson still resonates with me daily... I agree with my dad's philosophy that at the end of the day we are ALL God's children...”

Mike can attest that this PK (preacher’s kid) practices what she preaches: “I’ve found a partner in Debbie who will keep me centered, well focused and committed to all that true love provides. I’ve found my best friend and I’ve found my heart in the process.”

“I’ve found my heart in the process.” Isn’t that a fascinating statement? We think of love as finding something or someone who is external to us. But what if love is about finding ourselves? Because if you listen to Debbie and Mike tell their stories, as individuals and as a couple, and if you watch their story continue to unfold, that is exactly what they are all about.

This idea that in finding your true love you find your true self is beautifully reflected in a parable related by the great Rabbi Nachman of Breslow, a great mystic who lived around the time of our own Founding Fathers.

A man living in Prague, an Austrian possession at that time, had a recurring dream, that there was a treasure buried under a bridge in Vienna. He traveled to the capital city, found the bridge, and discovered it was right outside the Austrian monarch’s castle. Digging up the treasure was going to be a problem. Indeed, a castle guard approached him asking him to state his business. The man came clean, and explained his dream.

The guard started laughing, and he explained that he too had a recurring dream that under a specific house in Prague, which he carefully described, was buried treasure. However, the guard said, he is not foolish enough to drop everything and go dig under some house in Prague.

The man politely thanked the guard for steering him straight, and left. What he did not tell the guard was that the latter had described the man’s house to a “t”. He returned home, and dug up the treasure.

He found the treasure. That is exactly the language that Debbie uses about Mike, “I feel so blessed and fortunate to have found him at this stage in my life. He is my treasure.”

There’s another specific part of Debbie and Mike’s story that reminded me of Rabbi Nachman’s parable. Listen to what Mike writes about the first time he and Debbie visited the town we are gathered in today: 

“Neither one of us had ever been to this small town. From the moment we arrived, I was overcome by a sense of calm and tranquility. We shopped the small town, drank wine, spoke to those in the stores and just had a wonderful time – among the best that I had with Debbie to that point. We had a blast and we both committed to returning at another time. It dawned on me a bit later that the town was not the reason, it was the person that I was with. Our visit to Comfort brought comfort to me on many levels and I can say that being there that day opened a new chapter in my relationship with Debbie. That experience is an integral contributor to who I am today and the kind of future that I want to share with Debbie.”