Monday, May 30, 2022

Love is the Answer

Saturday evening, I officiated Rebecca and Ethen’s wedding ceremony at Silver Spur Resort in Canton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, and yes as a 49-year-old guy I get Facebook, but not really all the videos interspersed from other platforms. They just confuse me. Still, this one I watched the other day hit the spot. This woman calls her mom on speaker phone and says that she doesn’t like the kids at the sleepover, that the kids’ dad is just mean, and can she come pick her up. Mom replies that the kids are HER kids, and the dad is HER husband, so no.

Now, if you are not a parent, you just laugh, ha ha, isn’t that funny. If you are a parent, while you may laugh, you’re also like, not fair, mom. Seriously. 

This is probably why so many of us admire teachers, like Rebecca, and are somewhat distressed when they come under attack or are disrespected. Because face it, we’re stuck with our own kids, but these people take it upon themselves to not only care for but educate OTHER people’s kids. 

Lee Iacocca, one of the most successful business leaders of the second half of the 20th Century said it best, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.”

Now, the whole story with Rebecca is that not only is she a teacher, but if we go back to the funny video I started with, it would be as if a young woman knocked on the door, and said I am here for the sleepover, I can’t get enough of these kids, and I love their dad. This video would never make itself to my Facebook feed, because it’s not humorous, but in a more logical world, one that had social media companies that weren’t trying to actively destroy it, perhaps it would.

What is it that would make someone like Rebecca take this step? I wish I had a really sophisticated answer for you, but really it is the simplest, purest thing that this world has, love. Love can be and is outwardly irrational and thank God for that. 

Love, after all, is what made so many of our ancestors say, you know what, I am going to sacrifice my happiness and my comfort, and my wellbeing, and travel across the sea to a land I know not, so my children will have a better life. 

It’s well worth it, though, because love, and you see this manifest itself in Rebecca and Ethen’s mutual love story and their mutual love story with their children, gives your life meaning and purpose. Love, specifically of children, makes us, in fact, immortal. 

I like how England Dan and John Ford Coley sum it up:

Name your price

A ticket to paradise

I can't stay here any more

And I've looked high and low

I've been from shore to shore to shore

If there's a short cut I'd have found it

But there is no easy way around it.

Light of the world, shine on me

Love is the answer

Shine on us all, set us free

Love is the answer

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Love at First Moonwalk

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Lauren and Colton’s wedding ceremony at CCC Lake in Perry, Oklahoma. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

“So, what are you doing this weekend?” they asked me. Oh, nothing much. Just marrying a Wiccan and a Jew. In Oklahoma. Like you do… Seriously, though, I have learned so much, just getting to know Lauren and Colton. That is probably not surprising to anyone who knows them, because these are two very deep individuals. They are learners and seekers in the truest sense. You won’t be surprised, therefore, that I found the story of how these two met and how their relationship blossomed a fascinating tale.

Like most Wiccan-Jewish couples, they met at a Walmart in Stillwater, Oklahoma… LOL, as my kids would say. Two of their first three meaningful interactions revolved around relieving the store greeter, one of the most recognizable positions in the Walmart eco-system. I find this to be quite appropriate for seeker-learners like them to meet and interact this way, since this position, only became a hallmark of every Walmart as a result of Sam Walton learning from one of his employees.

Of course, if you know Lauren and Colton, you know I have buried the lead. It is what happened in between those two greeter related interactions that was most revealing. Lauren explains: “After I had been working at Walmart for about two months, I started noticing that Colton would go out of his way to say goodbye to me at the end of his shifts. Once, when I was helping a little old lady check out, he came by my line to tell me he was heading out for the night, and as he said goodbye, he moonwalked backward through my checkout line. The woman noticed this and asked me, ‘What was that all about?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘I think maybe he likes me.’ ‘I think he does,’ the woman responded. It was at that point that I realized that I liked him, too.” Isn’t that interesting? Sometimes, it takes the other person showing us a sign to make our own feelings clear to us, ourselves.

They both describe their first date and its aftermath affect on them, in a fashion that can only be described as deeply spiritual. Lauren says, “That first date at the (OSU botanical) gardens was perfect. The weather that September day was warm and sunny, with a light breeze as we walked through the gardens talking. We talked about all sorts of things, our hopes and dreams, our families, past relationships, and what we were looking for in our lives. A second date quickly followed, then a third, and before we knew it we were spending most days together, happily in love in a way that we had never experienced before.

And Colton says, “I fell in love with her on that first date. She was smart, funny, and beautiful. She had the most curly hair that flowed like water from a spring and a voice that would bring joy to my heart. I can genuinely say I have never met a woman like Lauren. She is the light in my life. She gives me a purpose and a meaning that I have never had before. When I’m with her, I feel complete. That missing part of me is gone when she’s around. Sometimes, it feels like the sun wouldn’t be bright if she wasn’t around.”

It is no surprise, therefore, that when you ask Colton why he wants to marry Lauren, this is his response: “I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life… Her love is sweeter than honey, her kindness is more healing than any medicine, and no one can compare with her beauty. Because not only is she truly beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside.”

Lauren sums it up similarly, when she says: “He values, understands, and adores me in a way that I have never felt before with anyone else. I never believed in love at first sight, until we fell into this whirlwind romance together. I guess it was love at first moonwalk for us.”

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Be Excellent to Each Other

Saturday evening, I officiated Erin and Alex’s wedding ceremony at Las Caletas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Erin’s telling of how she met Alex does not start off as the stuff of romance: “When I met Alex I was not looking for a relationship.” Ouch. Fortunately, Erin has a smart mom. Check this out: “At the time I had just moved back to Vermont and my mom and I planned a ‘date’ to go to the new frozen yogurt shop in town…  As we checked out… my mom couldn’t help herself but to point out the ‘cute’ man who helped us. In the past she has always been critical of people I dated so it stood out that she seemed so excited by this presumed prospect. While I adamantly refused to go back in and ask for a job application so that I could introduce myself (this was my mom's brilliant plan), I always remembered him. To me he was the ‘fro yo boy’.”

A smart mom figures into Alex’s side of the story too. When asked to explain his spiritual background, growing up in an interfaith family, Alex says, “’Be Excellent to each other, and party on.’ Although the radical time-travelling classic, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, is not often cited as spiritual inspiration, this quote is my mother's summary of our family’s interpretation and application of our two faiths.” I, personally, think that if more religious leaders followed Bill and Ted the world would be a much better place.

A little-known fact is that the movie, like Alex and Erin and Alex’s future offspring, is an “interfaith child” born out of the minds of Chris Matheson, who grew up Christian, and Ed Solomon, who is Jewish. People sometimes think that growing up in different faiths weakens a relationship. Alex knows this is nonsense: “In the sincerest sense of the word, I view her as my partner and she's the best one I could ever imagine. Our similar life experiences in our athletic and career endeavors have provided us with many shared values and traits, but I’m often more inspired by ways in which our different experiences in religion and otherwise created separate qualities that make us even stronger and more compatible.” 

And what Erin writes is downright inspiring, “For this next chapter I think it is obvious to both of us that we will build a far greater life together than either of us could build alone… It’s important to be able to celebrate this monumental moment with all the people who have made us who we are today… The significance of having an interfaith wedding shows honor to both of our families… It… represents what we will be passing along to our future children… raising them with an understanding of both family traditions and religions, teaching them to see the good in people and focus on how similar we all are despite our differences.” 

With that, let’s get on to the vows, because to quote the Wyld Stallyns, “The best place to be is here. The best time to be is now.”

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Combine to Make Each Other Happier

Saturday evening, I officiated Abbey and Austin’s wedding ceremony at the Carlisle Room, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have the privilege of being able to ask couples the kind of questions that anyone else would be perceived as rude for asking, namely, why do you want to get married and why now? I mean even an inkling of that kind of question would get you in trouble in any other setting. I do get many interesting answers to the why now question. Austin’s answer lets you in on his excitement, though it may indicate that he failed to understand the assignment: “Why get married now? Because I met Abbey, that’s why!” A little agro when you think about it, too…

On a more serious note, I feel like my entire gender owes something to Austin, because he redeemed us in Abbey’s eyes: “Before I met Austin, I used to think that I would probably be alone for the rest of my life; you know the crazy dog lady type, in a relationship with work because falling in love was just too hard. I could not see myself with a husband and kids. But our first date was refreshing and really opened my eyes and my heart. I walked away thinking, wow, this guy is different. 

Falling for Austin wasn't really falling at all—it was like walking into a house and knowing you're home. He accepts me for me and has helped me feel like I finally fit in, like I have found my life partner. Our relationship has been tested, especially considering the fact that I moved in with him right before the start of the pandemic, but our love has been steadfast and strong. In the past three years Austin has become my best friend, my rock, and my biggest supporter. He makes me belly laugh and has filled my life with a happiness that is indescribable.”

Now, Austin went through a similar though not identical process: “When I moved to North Carolina I dated a little, but nothing worked out, and for a while, I was content in being alone. I even had some of my deepest faith revelations and discoveries about God, while I lived alone. But I soon realized that being alone was not for me, and when I moved back to Dallas and met Abbey, being with her made me feel safe, and assured, and completely in love. With Abbey I can be completely vulnerable, and I know I have a partner that will love me for exactly who I am, and I, her. 

I was told by a therapist I’ve seen through the years that the Jerry Maguire ‘You complete me’ idea of a relationship is the biggest fallacy ever spewed. A healthy relationship that lasts consists of one whole person and another whole person, who are independently happy, but combine to make each other happier. This is exactly the type of relationship we share, and it continues to grow, and I continue to fall in love more every day.” And Abbey agrees with this therapist’s very smart insight: “I love that we are two individuals that are just better together, and I am ready to start my future with him; forever and always.”

Sunday, May 1, 2022


Saturday evening, I officiated Liz and Jake’s wedding ceremony at the RT Lodge in Maryville, Tennessee. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The serendipity that brought Liz and Jake together is fascinating. Girl from Nashville and boy in law school at Duke meet randomly in Asheville. What are the odds? But Girl from Nashville and boy in law school at Duke meet randomly in Asheville two days in a row. I mean, it’s not New York City, it’s Asheville, but still. Then four months later, girl from Nashville gets transferred to Raleigh?! That is true serendipity. 

Now, some people might say that these types of things happening makes them meant to be, somehow. We all entertain these thoughts now and then, and if that works for you, that’s great. However, as an existentialist I don’t really believe in that. I see serendipity just as it is dictionary-defined, “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” The question than is, in the mind of the existentialist, what do you do with that occurrence?

Here’s what Liz did: “Not knowing a single person that lived in Raleigh or the research triangle area, I realized Duke wasn’t too far away. I thought about Jake who I had met in Asheville, and I texted him to see if he would be interested in hanging out. He suggested that he take me to a Duke basketball game. It’s nearly 5 years later, and he has yet to take me to one! The first weekend after I moved to Raleigh, we went on a date to the Raleigh Beer Garden. That night we stayed out until 2 AM talking and having so much fun together. The rest is really history!”

The affect Liz has had on Jake has indeed met the dictionary-definition of serendipity. Check this out: “Liz is the best thing that has ever happened to me… I am normally stoic and unemotional. That was until I met Liz! Liz, through constant, unending love and compassion has opened me up. My friends all call her the “ice pick” for taking my icy exterior away. Where I am more introverted and transactional minded, Liz is extroverted and overly compassionate. She is, in other words, truly my better half. Liz, just by being herself, makes me be a better person and makes me want to continue to be a better person.”

Jake’s response to why he wants to marry Liz now is existentialism at its best: “I want to marry Liz now because I want to make sure that our family is there to witness our love for each other, and to be there for each other as we begin our marriage journey… The pandemic… made me realize that life is truly fragile and tomorrow is not guaranteed.”

Jake cites the loss of their grandfathers following their engagement to underline this sense of fragility: “I feel extremely lucky that both were able to celebrate our engagement and know that we would be married. When life is fragile and tomorrow is not guaranteed, there is no point in waiting to marry the person I love and plan to love forever.”