Sunday, October 14, 2018

Conquer Anything, Together

Saturday evening, Reverend David Harry and I co-officiated Natalie and Dave’s wedding ceremony, at the Brik Venue, in Fort Worth Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Doing what I do, I hear many different stories about how people met. Usually, I do not need an elaborate explanation of the mode of transportation they were using at the time. I usually understand what you mean, if you tell me you met on a train, a plane, or a cruise ship. Though I may be not as well versed in the intricacies of how these machines work, as my grandfather, the airline mechanic, was, I understand them well enough, that I can concentrate on the story. But a Pedal Hopper? Seriously?! What on earth is a Pedal Hopper?

Dave, in describing how he and Natalie first met, helpfully clarifies what this is: “Natalie and I met on a Pedal Hopper bar crawl in Denver, CO. It is essentially a street car that you can rent for a group of 10-12 friends, and it is powered by the group’s ability to pedal across town from bar to bar.”

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Recently, I did marry a couple of serious bike riders, who found in each other kindred spirits, and fell in love through biking. That is even how they met the – I am not making this up – Disciples of Christ pastor, who co-officiated their wedding with me. Natalie and Dave, are, um, different… 

Listen to Natalie: “The physical element of the bike crawl turned out to be a real pain… so I made sure to find the broken seat on the contraption and pretend to pedal in an effort to not get called out…” Dave shared her lack of enthusiasm: “Natalie and I both found each other through a mutual distaste for pedaling, and struck up a conversation while the rest of the group picked up our slack.” 

You might think that shared slacking off wouldn’t be strong enough a spark to light a relationship. You would be wrong, because Natalie says, “I’ve never felt so connected to another person so quickly on our first date. From that point forward, we were never apart.”

Now, you may be thinking that I shared that story, just for humor’s sake. To that I would say, shame on you. It wasn’t JUST for humor’s sake. I really believe that this activity, or inactivity, as the case may be, has some really important lessons for marriage. 

Some people like to speak of “traditional marriage,” as if marriage has been static through the generations. In actuality, marriage has changed with every generation. 

Fortunately, like most things we take for granted in modern life, and contrary to the naysayers, marriage today is better than it was in the past. Marriage today has the potential to be a true partnership, like a riding a tandem bike, at first, and eventually, when you have a family, like driving a pedal hopper, where the couple needs to all the pedaling. (Sorry, Natalie and Dave.)

However, we should not misconstrue what the word partnership means. It does not, and I would even say, almost never is, a 50/50 proposition. Sometimes one person does more of the pedaling, sometimes the other does. Sometimes, both individuals might be pedaling, but one of them directs where the vehicle is going, say to Texas, and the other obligingly follows. And, sometimes, the couple needs to take their feet off the pedals, and let their family and friends pedal for them. That is why Pastor David just asked all of you to commit to uphold and support the couple in their marriage. 

The most important thing, friends, is to continue to be there for each other, like these two have throughout their relationship, whether you can pedal or not. If you play your cards right, the moments when one or both of you cannot pedal, will strengthen, not weaken your relationship. As Natalie says, “I thought I loved Dave as much as I possibly could; the way he unequivocally cared for me without hesitation or pause, made my love for him grow deeper.” And, as Dave says, “With Natalie, it never felt like it was too much. Every challenge felt achievable, and every problem felt solvable… We have worked so incredibly well together… I feel no fear looking into our future together, because we have already proven our ability to conquer anything, together.”  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Listening is Where Love Begins

Thursday afternoon, I officiated Lacy and Jeff’s wedding ceremony, at the Murphy Community Center, in Murphy, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lacy and Jeff have each lived such interesting lives, and have accomplished so much. They are both great conversationalists. You really can learn a lot just from talking to them. They each have fascinating stories to tell. 

I believe, though, that that might throw you off in discovering the secret of their relationship. I wanted, therefore, to steer you back in that direction. 

You see, there is a danger in having lived an interesting life, and having the gift of telling a good story. You might begin to think, that it’s all about you. That can be lethal, not only to a romantic relationship, but to any relationship, period. 

Two Jewish comedians, twins who refer to themselves as the “Sklar Brothers” touch on this in their comedy. They claim that many celebrities’ downfall stems from this problem. The remedy they suggest is that each celebrity have a designated “No Man”. This person’s task would be, when everyone else tells the celebrity that because he is the greatest, there is nothing he should not do, is to say, “Dumb idea; not everything is about you.”

This is, actually, an ancient Roman idea. When a victorious general would parade down the streets of Rome, in triumph, there would be one slave, whose job it was to stand with him in his chariot, and whisper that this is all fleeting. 

The common element to these ideas is listening. It is through the act of listening that one realizes and remembers that it’s really not all about you. And, you have to listen even when the other person is not speaking. 

That last part might sound odd. How can you listen when the other person isn’t speaking? Jeff recounts a simple act on Lacy’s part, that clarifies what I mean. They were about to meet for the first time. “We agreed to meet at a Starbucks in Wylie. Shortly before the time selected, she texted me saying she would be late. That showed me that this was an intelligent person with feelings for the other (unmet) person - me”. 

Lacy tells us about this first meeting too: “In our first meeting, I was drawn to his interesting life, knowledge and travels, and he listened to me.” There it is, again. 

They went on a great first date, and when he called a few days later, here’s what happened: “Lacy told me she was sick and feeling terrible. I thought that she needed some Jewish penicillin (chicken soup), and I made her a pot (from scratch) and brought it over to her. She was just amazed...” Again, Jeff listened, and listened deeply, focusing on Lacy’s needs, because he had inculcated himself to realize, that in life, in general, it’s not all about you. No wonder Lacy says about Jeff, “He cares for me like I have never been cared for. 

The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once said that “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” And, perhaps the most famous Presbyterian minister ever, Mr. Fred Rogers, wrote once, “Listening is where love begins...” 

Lacy and Jeff, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep listening, keep caring, keep loving, and you’ll go the distance, as you embark on your next shared adventure.