Sunday, June 16, 2019

New Purpose

Saturday night I officiated Melissa and Nick’s wedding ceremony at the Joule in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I realize this is going to sound cheesy, but if you can’t be cheesy at a wedding, where can you be? One of my favorite songs is You Are the Reason, by Calum Scott, specifically, the duet version with Leona Lewis. I have listened to it/watched it on YouTube numerous times. Thinking about Melissa and Nick, their relationship, their journey, their unbelievable growth, I couldn’t help think of this song.

The song fits them on so many different levels. Just listen to a few words from the crescendo of the song, which I will read, not sing (don’t worry):

… I'd climb every mountain
And swim every ocean
Just to be with you
And fix what I've broken
… Cause I need you to see
That you are the reason…
(I don't wanna fight no more)
(I don't wanna hurt no more)
(I don't wanna cry no more)
(Come back, I need you to hold me closer now)
You are the reason…
(I need you to hold me tonight)

I want to ask what might seem like an odd question: Who is the, “You”, in “You are the Reason”? You might scoff at the question. You might say, it’s obvious. The “You” is the person’s romantic partner.

On one level that is true, and you can see this in what Melissa and Nick say about each other, in a fashion reminiscent of the song. Nick says, “We have had one heck of a ride the past six years. We have been through so much together… We put everything aside and forgave each other, and figured it out… I really see what’s important to me in life, and I understand more… now than ever what it is to be married to someone you love.” And Melissa says, “Nick and I had a picture-perfect relationship on the outside, but for many years, we really struggled... Nick stuck with me through the worst…  I will be forever grateful for the way he has loved me through my darkest times... He is a true example of unconditional love.”

Melissa and Nick, however, clarify that there is another level here, another You, if you will. Nick says, “A wedding (now) means something totally different than it did before… We have God in our relationship guiding us, and with that there is nothing we can’t do.” And Melissa agrees, “I believe that God put us together for a reason… God has re-invented our relationship. Today it is better than I could have ever imagined.”

Still, if you just stay at that level of understanding, you are missing something extremely significant. After all, we have all seen some version of the t-shirt I saw once in the French Quarter, with these words: “God loves you. Everyone else thinks you’re not a really nice person.” (That’s not really what it says, but you get the idea…) And we certainly have seen folks that we wanted to gift that t-shirt to...

In the Ethics of Fathers, Rabbi Hillel, the Elder, clarifies the highest level of You, “If I am only for myself, who am I?” The highest level of You, the best way to find your purpose, is through making others people’s lives just a little better. As Melissa says, but really as we all should say, “Today we live for giving… We have found a new purpose in life, helping others.” That is the highest level of purpose in life. And both Hillel and Melissa use the present tense, because you should be doing this, not just have done this or commit to doing it sometime in the future. Because as Rabbi Hillel adds in a final admonition that Melissa and Nick do not need, but some of us may, as we follow their example, “If not now, when?”

Sunday, June 9, 2019


Saturday afternoon Father Mannie Pierre and I co-officiated Danielle and Mikey’s wedding ceremony at the Waterville Estate in Sante Cruz, Trinidad and Tobago. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every couple not only why they want to get married, but why now. I emphasized to Danielle and Mikey, that I ask every couple to address this, just so they wouldn’t take this question as an indictment. Because I’m sure they have heard the question, with just that in mind. 

I say, let’s indict the question, not the couple. I think there might be something to learn there. And I think this speaks to a larger phenomenon in our society. 

One of the most pernicious phenomena in my nation, the United States of America, is our lack of patience. We want it now. And now has become such a standard that we have come to assume it to be the norm. Naturally, I am writing this in a Starbucks, and the barista literally apologized three times, because they were low on blonde roast, and I had to wait five minutes for my coffee. It’s six weeks later, and I have only begun to recover...

Unfortunately, we have exported this pernicious phenomenon not only to our neighbor to the north, but to our neighbors here to the south. Just listen to Marissa Williams, a Trinidadian writer, whose family was very close to the great Trinidadian poet, Anson Gonz├ílez: “We have become a society that seems to reject beautifully crafted prose and lyrics in lieu of attention grabbing headlines and one paragraph sensationalized stories and pictures. Our voracious informational appetites has (sic) us almost addicted to ‘Google’ searches and social media outlets, spending more time skimming headlines and pictures and less time appreciating and digesting well written prose and poetry.”

This is why I appreciate the fact that Danielle and Mikey have taken their time, and carefully crafted their love story. Listen to how Danielle describes the result of this patience:

“Our relationship is one that has been built on communication and mutual respect. We work at listening to one another... We bring out the best in one another. We work as a team. When one of us has a success, the other shares in it and when one of us is saddened, the other shares in this burden. We offer each other support, comfort, laughter, and tough love when it’s needed... We share the same values and strive daily to embody these. We give each other space to grow and to evolve. We know and appreciate one another’s vulnerabilities.”

Mikey highlights the fact that their relationship was long distance for much of those ten years. He emphasizes how much it was worth the wait:

“We had... to make it through the long distance, keep doing what was best for us individually... and be patient to allow our relationship to succeed for the rest of our lives and not just for a couple years. It was not easy and we both struggled... But we never gave up because we couldn’t; she was everything to me and continues to be.”

This patience makes today so much more meaningful. As Danielle writes: “Now, after nearly 10 years, after having seen each other through so many life phases and so many highs and lows, I have never been more sure of anything… he is the love of my life, my most treasured gift, and the greatest life partner I could ever ask for.”

And Mikey sums it up: “I am ready to commit to her, her parents, her family and friends that I will be there for her and support her for the rest of my life.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

More and More Every Day

Saturday evening, Reverend Steven Fricke and I co-officiated Samantha and Riley’s wedding ceremony at The Joule, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

We almost didn’t make it here. Not because of something that happened recently, but because of what happened 12 years ago. Listen to Riley:

“Back when we were growing up, we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood in the summer for fun. During the summer of 2007, Samantha and her friend were riding bikes in the neighborhood and stopped by my parent’s house. I was playing basketball outside with a friend and noticed these two girls ride up on their bikes. They looked young so I went inside and grabbed my little brother and told him two girls were out front for him.” Wow, so this whole story almost never started!

Fortunately, Riley realized his mistake, and he course corrected. As Samantha says, “Fast forward a year, and we started hanging out... I thought Riley was the COOLEST boy in town because he was 16 and could drive a car. The rest is history.”

Now, you might think that this is but a meaningless anecdote. I don’t think so. This is emblematic of an important quality these two people possess, adaptability. There is great evidence of this, in how each of them has lived their scholastic and professional lives. They are better and happier for it.

In fact, they have harnessed this quality to enhance their relationship. As Riley says, “We have very different personalities and I think that makes us mesh together even better.”

Adaptability may be the most important quality for any lasting marriage. Because, it is not only the “I” of today that is making a commitment to the “you” of today. It is more importantly the “I” of tomorrow who is committing to the “you” of tomorrow. Those two people will be very different from the two people standing here. It is the ability to adapt, which will not only bind them together, but further enrich their marriage.

Samantha sees this in Riley, which is why she says, “Riley is the perfect life partner and is going to be the most incredible dad. He is patient, kind, funny, understanding, loving.”

This is why Riley says, “I grow to love her more and more every day... no matter what happens... we want to be together.”