Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deep with a Capital D

Last night, Saturday 11/30, I officiated Sowmia and Matt's wedding at the Memory Lane in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You know those stories about love at first sight? Two people see each other across a crowded room, their eyes lock, and then and there they know, they were meant for each other. Cue the music, and we see the montage of them meeting, embracing and riding off into the sunset...

Yea; not this couple. In fact, they are very open about the fact that it took each of them some time to figure the other one out. Then again, these two are way too intelligent and too deep for any fake Hollywoodesque love story.

No, their story, their thoughts about themselves and their place in the world are so much more evolved. This is not surprising, since as their friends will tell you, these are two sophisticated individuals. I ask each person I marry to write a short autobiographical essay. Some are more detailed than others, but the essays these two wrote are Deep, with a capital D.

Listen to this from Matt; this guy will certainly publish, not perish. Despite his lingering uncertainties about life he says:

"I knew that there was nobody I could love more than Sowmia... I was, and am, more certain of her than I am of myself: that she loves me, trusts me, and wants the best for me...
I know that I'm a better person for having known her... I live a happier, healthier, more open, and more moral life... Other people who have known me for a very long time have told me that I'm much better with her...

My instincts with love are to question what it means to love and be loved, but I know... that I love her... She is more caring than anyone I know, and... she is the one I want to wrestle with uncertainty with and... enjoy happiness with. This kind of certainty is rare for me, but that's fine, because it makes me feel very lucky..."

And Sowmia, she describes the past, the present and the future of this team so beautifully. About Matt once she started to get to know him, she says:
"He was... remarkably caring – he was always willing to listen... Maybe what I liked most about Matt was his ability to make me laugh.  He regaled me with stories of pure ridiculousness, and could find humor in just about any situation...

Matt’s unconditional support of me makes me more confident in myself, and makes me into a stronger person as a result. When I’ve had a bad day... Matt is the first person I turn to – and as cheesy as this sounds, he just makes my heart happy.

When we have kids, Matt will be a fantastic father; loving and funny and charming as always, but also a great role model of our values... I am so lucky to have found such a wonderful partner."

Sowmia and Matt, you both feel lucky to have each other. We feel lucky to take part in celebrating such a mature and deep love story like yours. May that love, indeed, continue to deepen with each passing day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cannot Imagine My Life without My Best Friend

Last night, Saturday 11/23, Reverend Mary Collier and I co-officiated Riley and Bennett's wedding at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Arguably, one of the most important traits each person should develop is a well honed sense of gratitude. Think about it; would you like to hang out with the person who feels like everything they have they deserve, and are entitled to it and more? Or would you rather hang out with the person who feels tremendously lucky for what they have, is happy with it, and is full of thanks and gratitude for it? One of the things that really stands out about Riley and Bennett is that they are definitely in the second category.

You know people have that quality especially when they recognize the smallest gestures with gratitude. Here is one of the first things Riley remembers about Bennett, "I knew I was going to fall... for Bennett right away because he was such a gentleman on our first date, and even opened the car door for me! I hadn’t had a boy open a car door for me since High School (after my Mother told him that he should do so…embarrassing!) It’s hard to find that kind of charm these days... He’s treated me just as great as he did that night on our first date ever since, and I am so thankful for that every single day."

You know that people have that quality when they are able to admit and express how thankful they are even for something that they initially weren't thankful for. Bennett, for instance, was not entirely sure about Riley adopting a dog. Here is how he describes his turning around on that and his gratitude to Riley in the aftermath, "Turns out, in a lot of ways, this brought us closer together, as we consider this dog part of our 'family'."

This quality allows you to open your eyes, and look at life and its simple pleasures together as a true adventure. Riley describes in detail the many experiences they have had and continue to have together, with just that sense of wonder. Bennett sums it up in simple yet profound words, "Throughout it all we were always happy to just be together doing anything. I knew that a life with her would only be continuing that feeling and knew it would only grow stronger...

And so to Riley and Bennett, what we are doing here today is just a no brainer. "Simply put," says Riley, "I cannot imagine my life without my best friend. When I am with Bennett, I always know that life will be an adventure!" And Bennett agrees, "We already feel married...To me, the ceremony... is just going to make the whole thing official. I can't imagine being with anyone else..."

Wow... Anything I would add to that would just be superfluous...

Friday, November 22, 2013

And We Danced All Night

Last night, Thursday 11/21, I officiated Jackie and Eli's wedding at the Riu Palace in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Both (but especially Eli) are huge fans of the legendary band Phish. So, of course, I couldn't help but include quotes from two of their songs in my personal remarks. The title of the post is a quote itself too. Here you go:
 

Jackie and Eli exhibit an enviable relationship. You see, life can and will throw you some unexpected punches. You can't really plan for each one; you just have to have the right attitude. This is what these two cats have.

They are, as individuals and as a couple, really comfortable in their own skins. They don't take themselves too seriously, and their philosophy of life and living is refreshingly uncomplicated. These are just really happy people. Eli, speaking for both of them puts it so well, "Ultimately I believe in just doing things that make me, and the people around me happy."

It is this approach that allows them to comfortably face the future, and confidently say, in the words of the song, Summer of '89:

As the bus rolled out of town
We were driving blind
No clue where we'd arrive...

I closed my eyes
You touch my hand
You smile
And I'm there...

It is this approach that allows them an ease in their relationship that many couples can't find. As Eli says, "You know when you have a gut feeling, and it turns out to be right? That’s exactly how I feel. Not to sound cliché, but Jackie and I were meant for each other."

It is this approach that causes their love to keep on growing. As Jackie says, "I have never been happier... and my love for Eli continues to grow more and more each day."

Just to reassure you, these two are not starry eyed or naive. They, in the words of Jackie, "know there will be obstacles and challenges to come our way." They know they have their differences. As Eli reminds us, "We compliment each other, and contrast each other." They know, though, that with their approach to life, they can make this all only enhance and deepen their love. And so, they can say to each other, with confidence, in the words of the song, My Sweet One:

Oh with you, I'd travel thick
And with you, I'd also travel thin
And all the spaces in between
I'd travel with you, you're my sweet one.

Jackie and Eli, continue to embrace and cherish this approach to life. Continue to put out those positive vibes to all those around you. Through this may you, in many years from now be able to look back on this day and say (Jackie, you just insert tux instead of dress and boy instead of girl...):

I see you standing there
In that dress you used to wear
You stole my heart
But I didn't mind...

You're the same girl I loved back then
For now and all time
You'll be that girl of mine...

And we danced all night
And we danced all night


Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Open Heart

Last night, Saturday 10/26, I officiated Lauren and Yoni's Jewish-Quaker wedding ceremony at Terrell House in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the most important concepts that the great Quaker educator, Parker Palmer, speaks of and writes about at length, is one that Lauren and Yoni really live by, having an open heart. An open heart, says Palmer, causes us and calls us to learn a new set of habits of the heart. It calls us to be fully open, fully engaged, fully invested in the world. Sounds like this couple, right?

Now, Palmer reminds us that the heart, to the ancients, symbolized not just emotion, but wisdom too. So, having an open heart means being joyously open to new experiences that bring with them new learning, and supporting each other in the learning process. This is something Lauren most treasures in Yoni. She tells us that, "He is the most easygoing guy I’ve ever met, and willing to try anything once. In our years together, we’ve had many great adventures, from swimming with wild ponies in Virginia, to skydiving, to skiing in New Hampshire and swimming with sharks in the Dominican Republic. It’s great to know that I have someone who will travel with me anywhere, and someone who will make whatever we’re doing fun." Yoni, in turn, says that it is Lauren who inspires his openness and light heartedness, "Her whimsical spirit keeps me lighthearted and her fearlessness inspires me to be bold. Lauren taught me to ski while she went downhill backwards, and in many ways I feel that she is still helping me learn to keep myself upright when left to my own devices I might fall."

Palmer reminds us that having an open heart means that we quietly listen to what Quakers call the Inner Light, and Jewish mystics call the Sparks of Light that inhabit us and the rest of creation. When we quietly listen, we become kinder, more loving and more accepting of others. This is what makes Yoni, in the words of Lauren, "the most accepting person I know, (who) I learn from everyday." This is what makes Lauren, in the words of Yoni, an “inspiration for her kindness to those in need." This is what Lauren speaks of when she tells us this about Yoni: "He has opened my world to love and dedication I could have never imagined," And Yoni says it was actually Lauren, who made him vastly more confident in himself and in his ability to love, than he was before he met her.

Lauren and Yoni, thank you for inspiring us. May you continue to serve for your friends as a true example of how to live a full and joyous life, through true open hearted engagement with the world and all who inhabit it, with the acceptance, kindness and love, that come from a truly open heart.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not a Bad Recipe


Saturday evening, 10/19, Father John Schultz and I co-officiated Mackenzie and Travis' wedding at the Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

It is often said that if one asks a clergyman what time it is, one should expect to hear how to make a watch. This might be why I love simple messages. And Mackenzie and Travis have really simple and straightforward reasons for why they belong together.

Travis highlights how lucky he feels: “Although Mackenzie would never take credit for it, she makes my life infinitely better than it was before I met her, and has made me a very lucky man.”

Mackenzie highlights the pure joy this gentleman brings to her life: "Travis always seems to find a unique way of making me smile. I know our lives will be forever filled with laughter, love and companionship."

Travis talks about their shared vision: "Mackenzie and I share the same values on important issues like family, morality, the importance of friends, trying to help others and living by the Golden Rule."

Finally, Mackenzie talks about how much they have mutually improved each other’s lives: "As much as he may say that I made his life better, I fully appreciate all of the gifts that he has brought into my life."

So there you have it. Keep it simple. Feel lucky to have your partner, bring each other joy, share a vision, make each other better. Not a bad recipe for a successful marriage...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Certainty and Uncertainty

Last night, Saturday 10/12, Reverend R-J Heijmen and I co-officiated Julia and John's wedding ceremony at Arlington Hall at Lee Park in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Both Julia and John contend that having the other has made them better as persons. To quote John, "(She) brings me closer to the man that I want to be." Julia in turn says, "He pushes me to be the best me..." Now, these may seem like simple statements, but the way they are phrased points to a particularly deep idea.

You see, some philosophers see the human being as a tabula raza, a clean slate on to which one's values are etched. Others, and in light of evolutionary psychology they seem much closer to the truth, contend that there are certain innate values we have already. However, even the latter do not see these values as built in or there to stay. They are there in potential. Through the right education in the broadest sense possible, they can and may be brought to the surface, and become part of who we are. Through ongoing vigilance, they can remain too. Just look at Julia and John, how they were raised, and how they continue to strive for the highest moral standards, and you see what I mean.

Here is where the last generation and a half before Julia and John's cohort comes in. Have we abided by what should be self-evident values? Having brought the world we built to the precipice, we must answer this question, shamefully, in the negative. The consequences have been unimaginable, and they will reverberate throughout the lives of this younger cohort.

Through our behavior, we have created a world rife with uncertainty. What is a young generation to do in the face of this? John worried about this when he proposed to Julia, and he quotes her brilliant answer. Listen to this; this is gold. "With all of the uncertainty in our lives I know one thing for certain. I know that I love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life."

Now, Julia's answer needs no translation, but there is something still deeper here. What was the cause, after all of the moral failings that birthed this age of uncertainty? I believe the answer is clear - a lack of love of and empathy for the other. The only way, in turn, to decrease our uncertainty is to increase love in the world, the kind of love that Julia and John have for each other. It is, indeed, this kind of love for others that gives them, and should give us all a sense of renewed and ongoing true purpose in life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Loving Sharing

Last night, Saturday 10/5, I officiated Ariel and Paul's wedding ceremony at the historic Belmont Hotel, overlooking the downtown Dallas, Texas skyline. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In life, from the large moments to the small: what does it mean to share? Of course, the context here today would be what does it mean, specifically, as a foundation for a successful marriage. I believe that this couple has more than an insight or two we can learn from, regarding this pivotal question.

Paul talks about going on mission trips in the Yucatan at a young age, and sharing with people who had much less. This sense of giving and sharing is vital to the marital relationship. This is not only because giving is so important in marriage, but because when we learn to give selflessly we receive much more.

However, sharing of yourself means more than that. It means sharing ideas and your most deeply held beliefs and thoughts. Paul talks about the ongoing open dialogue with his parents on faith and reason. It is this love and openness that he desires to share with Ariel as they learn and experience life together.

Ariel too has had an ongoing dialogue with her world view, from growing up in Schenectady, New York, through spending extended amounts of time in China and Israel, to living in Dallas, four places, which to say the least, offer very different viewpoints. Through these different experiences, Ariel has been flexible and adaptive, picking up pieces from each culture and sharing a bit of her own as well.

Ariel and Paul’s larger views are often captured through smaller moments. Ariel talks about Paul and the first stages of their relationship: making her laugh with his witty jokes and Simpsons references. He introduced her to Dallas – even kept a straight face while she ordered dumplings in Mandarin, utterly confusing the waiter, who kept staring at Paul. He taught Ariel how to eat craw fish and took her to see Elvis Costello perform with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Something that starts small - devoting a Sunday night to a home-cooked meal, building a record collection together, or discussing an interesting article from the radio -  creates new shared traditions in the larger context of their life. Through their loving sharing Ariel and Paul create the ideal situation for every couple standing before their family and friends on their wedding day.

Ariel and Paul, I always frame my remarks around learning something from every couple. I feel, personally, like this is truer than ever here today. With the story of your relationship, you remind me how deep love for sharing can really be. For that I am profoundly thankful.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Timing was Right

Last night, Sunday 9/22, I officiated Ella and Chris's wedding at the Venetian Terrace in Las Colinas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Chris's description of his first date with Ella is like something out of a movie:
"When she opened the door I saw the most beautiful brown eyes ever. I had the most awesome time, and I knew then she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."

The feeling was mutual. These two were apparently meant for each other, but the timing and the time were not right.

Clearly, though, in the back of their minds something was going on. The smoking embers of love were there. That feeling is best described by Regina Spektor, who like Ella, arrived in the US as a young woman from the Former Soviet Union, in her song, "How":

“How can I forget your love?
How can I never see you again?
There’s a time and place
For one more sweet embrace...
I guess you know by now
That we will meet again somehow...

How can I begin again?
How can I try to love someone new?
Someone who isn’t you...
I guess you know by now
That we will meet again somehow

Time can come and take away the pain
But I just want my memories to remain
To hear your voice
To see your face…”

And, so Ella tells us the rest of the story:
Little did I know, but our paths crossed again three years later in the summer of 2012... As our relationship progressed, we discussed what our future would be like together. Chris's loyalty, dedication, patience, and the desire for family appealed to me. We both agreed it is time to take our relationship to the next level and so here we are!"

Here they are, indeed. The timing is right this time, and your memories, Ella and Chris, have not only remained, but you are and will make many new ones together.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Magical

Last night, Saturday 9/21, Father Don Devine and I co-officiated Giulia and Ross's wedding at the historic First Congregational Church in Detroit, Michigan. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Imagine for a moment showing an iPod to Mozart, a laptop to Maimonides, or a smart phone to Aristotle. They would not only be speechless, but might lack the capacity to frame their wonder in their own minds.

True love is analogous to this. It defies explanation, it so envelops the lovers that words fail them, it so overwhelms the mind, that clear articulation of thought is impeded.

I was reminded of this when I read Giulia's description of her love for Ross. It is almost like she is grasping for words:
"He is the most caring, humble, and selfless, man I have ever met; I was under the impression men like him didn’t exist anymore, then I met Ross and everything just fell into place. He is everything I never thought I would find all wrapped up in one person."

It has been said that technology we do not understand is indistinguishable from magic. Indeed most likely, geniuses like Mozart, Maimonides and Aristotle, who come along only every few hundred years, would likely surrender to the thought that our everyday gadgets are simply magical.

I was reminded of this when I read Ross's description of his love for Giulia. It is almost like he is surrendering to the fact that something magical is afoot:
"I almost feel bad for other people because their relationships can't possibly be as good as ours... I think two observations from others make it obvious how much I love her:
1. My mom noticed that I all of a sudden became more photogenic, at least in pictures I took with Giulia;
2. At my first resident review... there were comments from multiple people that I was smiling more."

Giulia and Ross, what more can I say? Just keep doing what you're doing. Let your love keep defying words, and let your life together continue to be magical.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Got It Made!

Last night, Friday 9/20, I officiated Stacie and Maurice's wedding at the historic Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write a short autobiographical essay. One of the things I ask them to write about is how they met. Maurice's description is, shall we say, different:

"Sitting in the bar, she was staring at me from across the room. Don't believe anything she says about when we met, because it is probably a lie. SHE was definitely staring at ME from across the bar. No, really, she likes to make up stories and pretend like she wasn't; but she was."

Now, laugh if you like, but since I pre-cleared these remarks with both of them, what does that tell you? It tells you that they both have a tremendous sense of humor, and that they don't take themselves too seriously. This is not true with every couple, certainly not to the extent it is true regarding these two lovers.

It is profound what a sense of good fortune and gratitude they feel in their relationship. As Stacie says, "Maurice is a wonderful man who is incredibly good to me and my son and I'm extremely grateful that I found him."

And what a true sense of belonging they have found with each other. As Maurice says, "She is the one person on this planet that I was meant to be with. I just can't imagine being with anyone else."

Stacie and Maurice, hold on to the funny, keep feeling lucky, and revel in your inseparability. If you do that, I think you've got it made.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Partnership That Bears Dividends

Sunday evening (9/1) Father Brooks Keith and I co-officiated Jessica and John's wedding at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Friends of Jessica and John know that the first time they met was when Jessica came to interview for a job at the company John was working for. (She got the job, in case you were wondering. The rest, as the say, is history...) There is something really symbolic about this, because finding and then working a job is similar in many ways to finding your soul mate, and building a relationship.

We dress up really nicely, and we think about and plan what we will say. We try to impress, but not overdo it. We try to sell ourselves, but also see if we want to buy in. We emphasize our similarities.

A few days later we call back or wait for a call back to see if we can move this forward. Hopefully, we get the job, and the real work begins.

We tread lightly at the beginning, and we don't really let our guard down. We don't let our freak fly yet, rather we once again emphasize how well suited and similar we are to others. We are highly interested in making sure we are seen as similar to whatever ideal employee we think the boss is looking for us to be.

Now, unfortunately, in many companies you never really advance beyond that stage. Anyone who studies the sociology of management will quickly see that many companies don't really know how to advance beyond that stage. A Kabuki dance of conformity and similarity, where everyone just plays their part is just so much easier. Usually, this can bring fair to mediocre results, which many managers, being risk averse, are very comfortable with.

Fortunately, there are smarter workplaces out there. They have no use for conformity; they seek difference. They have no time for games; they are serious about getting the unique contributions each person can bring the table. They seek not the bland peace of mediocrity, but the fruitful tension of meeting new challenges and excelling through them.

Once again, this is like a mirror image of romantic relationships, and where they can go. What is a date if not a softer version of an interview? Does not the beginning of every romantic relationship involve some serious sales skills, just like a job interview? Do we not seek, at the beginning, to see how similar we are?

Once again, some relationships, like many jobs, never really deepen beyond that stage. However, those that do, watch out! In those that do, we relish in the difference that the other person brings to the relationship. This is why Jessica says, "John makes me think about things in a different way." And we don't just passively wait for such differences to manifest; we seek them out. That is why John says, "I love the way that Jessica challenges me." We realize that true growth comes not from trying to tone this down, rather from relishing it, and harnessing our differences to make our partnership greater and more successful.

Jessica and John, continue to embrace your differences, let your freak fly, and together build a successful romantic partnership that bears dividends for many years to come.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Communal Connection

Saturday evening (8/31) I officiated Sarah and Edmund's wedding at the Windsor at Hebron Park in Carrollton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In the United States we have many different options when it comes to wedding officiants. Therefore, whenever someone contacts me to officiate their wedding, I ask why having a rabbi, specifically, officiate their wedding is important to them.

I get a variety of wonderful and thoughtful answers. I particularly loved the answer I got from Sarah and Edmund. They wanted to get it right from the very start. They wanted Judaism to be a serious and integral part of their shared life and the life of their future children.

Now this might seem like a simple, even simplistic question, but why do people seek to connect with their heritage? Why do WE seek to connect with our Jewish culture?

I believe that the answer lies in the very core of our souls. We all seek meaning in our lives. We can find meaning in ideas and truths we discover. However, the greatest meaning is not found in the I, rather in the thou. The greatest meaning is found through our relationships, through our connecting with others, through our community.

Our cultures give us communal connections both vertical and horizontal, if you will. Through our heritage, passed down to us, we connect with the community of the past. Through passing on our rich civilization to our children, we connect to the community of the future. Through involvement in our culture today, we connect with the community of the present.

Each one of us interprets these connections differently. It is not for naught that we say, "Two Jews, three opinions..."  This is the great beauty of our Jewish culture. It encourages each of us, nay, demands of each of us to do what Sarah and Edmund seek to do in the new home they form today, to form community, to build anew, and to take it and make it our own.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Perfect Words

Last night, Saturday 8/17, I officiated Rebecca and Paul's wedding at the Hotel Intercontinental in Addison, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared:
 
 
Now, I firmly believe no one becomes a rabbi, unless they like the sound of their own voice. I mean, face it, how many professions nowadays are there, where whatever you say, people sit, listen politely, and assume, based on your training, that what you are saying MUST be brilliant, perhaps holy. It's enough to make your head spin!

Seriously, though, I find the words of my couples about their love and why they wish to marry, way more interesting and inspiring, than whatever I might come up with about them. Simply put, the insights I get from couples about the eternal truths of love and marriage are many times pure gold.

Now, I mention this specifically here, because though I always base my remarks on lessons from the couple, I usually elaborate on what they said, and share my own thoughts on what I learned from them. However, when I reviewed what Rebecca and Paul wrote regarding their love for each other and their desire to marry, I decided that I was mainly going to just read what they wrote. I just found their words so perfect.

Rebecca writes:

"I could not dream of a man who could have been any more supportive and loving in tough times. That is what really matters. You want to be with someone who you enjoy having fun with and can get along with, have the same interests and be a “perfect” match, and that’s great. But, to truly know if that is your “perfect” match, you have to... go through... hard times and unhappy events, to see how strong your love really is. The hard times are what test love, and if you can come out of those stronger and more loving and supportive of one another, then you really have found your “perfect match.” That is what Paul is for me. He is my rock, my clown, my friend, my lover, my soul mate."


Paul writes:

"God blessed me when he brought Rebecca into my life, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her.  I want to grow old with her, I want to have a family with her, and at the end of my life I want hers to be the last face I see and the last words I hear."

Now, THAT is brilliant, and as the kids say today, "Nuff said!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gifts of Love and Friendship

Yael and Ed's wedding yesterday (Wednesday 8/14) was really intimate. They moved here just recently from their homeland, France. In my personal remarks I reflected on their lives and their relationship, and how it reflects the gifts their original homeland gave their newly adopted one.

I think that Yael and Ed in their lives and in their love highlight the importance of taking chances, and embracing the freedom of adventure. They have had many different and wonderful experiences together, and through these experiences their love has blossomed and matured.

To me, as an American, this is reminiscent of the love and friendship the French people have shown  us Americans.

Had France not taken a chance on this young country in the 1770s and 1780s, there would be no United States. Had Alexis de Tocqueville not helped us understand ourselves and our identity, arguably our identity would not be fully mature. Had the French people not gifted us the Statue of Liberty, we would not have one of our great symbols of true freedom as a nation, a nation which still holds on to the adventure that is the American dream.

So, Yael and Ed, as you begin your lives as husband and wife in this new promised land, hold on to your sense of adventure, relish in your new possibilities, and may your love continue to blossom and mature with each passing day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

An Ongoing Conversation

Last night, Saturday 8/3, Pastor John Duty and I co-officiated Nicole and Nick's wedding at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Here are the remarks I shared:


I believe that anyone who knows Nicole and Nick will tell you that they "suffer" from the Lake Woebegone affect; they are both quite above average... So, there is a lot we can learn from them.

I believe that one of the areas we can learn from them is the very idea of two people coming together from different faith traditions, with different ideas about the world. You see, the most striking thing about Nicole and Nick is the fact that while they each have very distinct and different ideas about the spiritual world, they do not let that create even the slightest distance between them. Quite the opposite!

Nicole and Nick are deeply in love, so much so that in what is a mutually held description she says, "I didn’t even know that people like Nic existed to dream about." Lest you think, however,  that they are starry eyed, and just ignore and overlook their differences, let me tell you that these two are friends and intellectual soul mates in the deepest sense of those word. Not for nothing does Nick describe their relationship as, "having (a) conversation that hasn't seemed to cease in over three years."

So, how do they do it? Well, I recently found this beautiful quote from the great Christian theologian of the 20th Century, Reinhold Neibhur:

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, may be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe, as it is from our own standpoint; therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

What is Neibhur telling us here? I believe he is saying that surely our views, our beliefs, our convictions matter. Honestly, why study theology and philosophy, if they don't, right? We must be guided by the paradigms we use to find meaning in the world.

However, when we step back for a second, we realize that we must put our paradigms in context. We really can't and shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. We must understand that the universe is great and time is infinite, while we are small and finite. And so, when all is said and done, we must be saved not by our paradigms of thinking, but by love, and by the final form of love, forgiveness.

This is how Nicole and Nick live their lives. May we all be wise enough to learn from them.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Feeling of Safety and Peace

On Saturday 7/20, I co-officiated Bethany and Justin's wedding with Bethany's close friend, Pastor Crystal Alexander at Ashton Gardens in Corinth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with everyone:

Bethany tells the coolest story about  a pivotal time she saw Justin. I could paraphrase it, but she tells it so well, so here it is in her own words:

"On the day of the police test I can only remember just how terrified I was. This was what I had been working so hard for, and I was about to find out if I would be an officer or not. At that time I looked up to see Justin Todd walking in the door. At that moment I forgot what I had come to test for. All I could see was Justin and his smile."

Wow.

Now one of the reasons I love this is that this couple's story is NOT one of those phony "love at first sight" stories. First, because this was bot their first interaction, and second, because those can only go skin deep, and these cops are way too serious for that.

This was just the beginning. Jason picks up the story with lunch after the exam:

"We discovered we had many of the same interests and ideas, and were looking for the same things in a partner. From that day forward we have been together. Our relationship has grown from a friendship, through dating to now being engaged."

What is their secret though? Bethany shares a sentiment that if you know this couple, you know is mutual:

"No one else on this earth has the power to calm my nerves and to make me feel safe like he does."

What is she telling us here? That like any really solid loving relationship, the common ideas and values are all critical yet the core is the feeling of safety and peace that these two peace officers bring to each other. It is that ineffable emotion that is the real glue that holds us together with our lovers. It is that glue that I am confident will hold you, Bethany and Justin together from this day forward.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Apples and Trees

On Friday 7/12, Pastor Doris Harris and I co-officiated Megan and Cedric's wedding at Noah's in Irving, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them:

I wrote these remarks walking the streets of downtown Chicago. I ask each person I marry to write a short autobiographical essay, and was rereading Megan and Cedric's essays at the foot of the old Sears Tower. I was thinking about how intrigued we are by such mammoth constructions. We are especially intrigued by climbing to the top, and looking down upon the world, gaining a greater perspective of our physical surroundings. If only we had a similar vehicle to gain greater perspective upon our lives, our personalities, our mark on the world.

Oh, wait there is such a vehicle; our children...

One of the things you learn pretty quickly as an educator working with children is that usually the apple does indeed NOT far from the tree. So much so that you can, with few exceptions, predict how your interaction with the tree will go.

That is why I love it when I get to meet couples' children during the process of working on their ceremony. You see, I got to read their essays, and I found, like others who know them, a kind, happy, driven couple, who are full of integrity and mutual love, but those were still just words. In meeting their daughter, talking to her, and interacting with this small family I got the bird's eye view, the true perspective that backed up those words. You could see the true great character of this couple shining through. The apple showed you everything you needed to know.

Megan and Cedric, may you continue to share this same love that shines through your daughter today, and enjoy the fruit of your labors from now and forever more.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Passion for Learning

I hadn't officiated a wedding at the Dallas World Aquarium for about 25 hours, so I returned last night to officiate Jessica and Ramin's wedding. In my personal remarks, I always talk about what I learned from the couple, and that is where I began this time too.

I think it is actually in this very area of the importance of learning in the here and now and from each other, that Jessica and Ramin teach us an important lesson.

Jessica and Ramin come from two of the most ancient cultures in the world. Persian and Jewish history goes so far back that it makes the German town that Jessica's current last name invokes look downright new, being founded in 766.

There is great pride in coming from such ancient cultures. However, there is a hazard there too. It is very tempting for members of such rich cultures to sit back on their laurels, and believe that the past is all that matters, and that new knowledge and learning is not only unnecessary, but to be discouraged.

Jessica and Ramin are fine examples of taking the opposite approach. They have each thought deeply about their respective heritages, embraced what was meaningful to them, and continued to learn. They have each strived and continue to strive to know and discover more about the world and about themselves.

Most importantly, they have not just seen each other as lovers, but as fellow learners too. Perhaps one of the only things they might passionately disagree on in this area is who benefitted more from whom. Jessica will tell you that she learned so much more from Ramin, and Ramin will tell you how much more he learned from Jessica. They each will tell you how much more the other inspires them to better themselves each and every day.

Jessica and Ramin, continue on this path of passion for learning, and continue to inspire each other. Through may you find not just 11 years of happiness you have had do far, but seven fold more years to come.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Communication, Mutual Help and Acceptance

Last night, Friday 7/5, Pastor Frank Lane and I co-officiated Ilisa and Landon's wedding at the Dallas World Aquarium. (Right in front of a big fish tank!) here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In describing the flowering and development of their relationship, Ilisa and Landon touch upon some simple and important attributes that we all know of, but that this couple was astute enough to actually do.

Communication: From John Gray's Mars and Venus through Dave Barry's comedy, we all know the challenges of communication between men and women. You need to be conscious of this, and resolve to overcome these difficulties. And so, Ilisa and Landon told me that, "From the beginning both of us were very straightforward about what our expectations were..."

Helping each other become better: An ideal marriage is one where simple mathematics are defied. We do not just perform a simple operation of 1+1= 2. Rather, we help each other, and ourselves become better, and so 1+1 equals more. As Landon tells us, "I like who I am when I am with her. It’s a much more mature relationship. Who she is builds me up..."

Acceptance: Now one might think if we can communicate well, and we make each other and ourselves better through a mature marriage, well, all problems are solved, and we are all set. If only. We remain human, our marriages are created by humans, even in the best of circumstances take on our fallibilities. As Ilisa and Landon tell us, marriage is not about imagining a perfect partner or perfect marriage. Rather, it is about my partner, but also me, "Accepting all the bad and good things about me..."

Ilisa and Landon, these astute observations are not a given with every couple, as they are with you. Hold on to that, and through communication, mutual help and acceptance, may you find happiness for many years to come.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saved by Love

On Friday 6/28, I officiated Ginny and David's wedding at the White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them:

I love the fact that Ginny and David met at culinary school. Why, you may ask? Well, because what is learned in culinary school vs. how most of us "cook" is a perfect analogy for real love vs. fleeting romance.

You see, most of us do our "cooking" by nuking something for a minute or two in the microwave. In culinary school, the philosophy is that if you can make it in a minute, it is probably not worth eating. Heck, just learning how to prepare a good stock, that will then go into future recipes, is done deliberately and slowly.

In the realm of love, it is much the same. Love at first sight is something that is more the stuff of legend than fact. Real love, like in Ginny and David's love story, starts with a firm foundation of friendship, the stock upon which the dish of love may be prepared, if you will. Then it develops gradually and deliberately into a deepening love story, becoming richer and richer with flavor.

This fact about Ginny and David’s love story reminded me of a fascinating passage written by Reinhold Neibhur, one of the greatest theologians of the previous century. Neibhur taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and is buried right here in Massachusetts. Listen to this; it is like poetry:

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, may be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe, as it is from our own standpoint; therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

Wow. In our instant gratification world, can there be a more important message? So let us resolve today, like Ginny and David did in developing their relationship, to be deliberate, to give things time, and in Neibhur's words, "be saved by love."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Loving You Is Easy



On Saturday 6/15, I co- officiated Marybeth and Brian's wedding with Father Lazar Carasala at the landmark Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay, so I can get to know them a little better. We review these essays in our second meeting. I always suggest that a couple not read each other's essays, before the meeting, as this can not only allow for deeper personal reflection, but frankly spice the meeting up a little...

One of the fascinating things that Marybeth and Brian both mentioned in their essays, is how easy their relationship feels. Marybeth says, "Our personalities just click and being with him is so easy. We have so much fun together and he truly makes me feel so happy.  He is the one person that can always put a smile on my face no matter what." Brian says, "She always puts a smile on my face and is the easiest person to spend time with of anyone that I’ve ever been around. We never run out of things to talk about..."

Wow. How simple yet profound. This reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Sarah McLachlan. She sings, "Loving you is easy. Loving you is wondrous and pure... Caught up in the sparkle in your eyes... You light me up; you take me higher... I found it fresh and new again with you."

Fresh and new indeed! Not to discount the entire self help section of the local bookstore, and though one should never make light of the differences between men and women, isn't the problem many times that we just over complicate things in life?! The lesson that Marybeth and Brian teach us is that it really need not be so. May we all learn from them, and be so lucky to experience love that is easy, wondrous and pure.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Adventure of Serviam

Yesterday, Sunday 6/9, I co- officiated Erika and Gidon's wedding with Father Marty Hunckler at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them:

One of the most fascinating books ever written is Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed. In this book, the great rabbi, physician and philosopher of the 12th Century considers the relationship between Greek Philosophy and Jewish Thought. What better starting point for personal remarks at
the wedding of two practitioners in the world of
medicine, who are also contemplative individuals.

One of the interesting things that Erika and Gidon share is the sense that life is and should be considered an adventure. Now, some people hear that word, and imagine a life of abandon, where one throws caution to the wind, but that is not what adventure is about. Adventure is about understanding what is really important, relishing it, and with that living every moment to its fullest.

A great example of this, is the story of Alexander the Great's encounter with Diogenes. The general, whose childhood tutor was that other famous Macedonian, Aristotle, was so excited to meet another renowned philosopher. As he came upon the minimalistic Diogenes, he saw him lying in his sole possession, a barrel, deep in philosophical thought. He told Diogenes who he was, and said that he would give him anything he asked for. Reportedly, Diogenes said he only had one request. If this man who conquered the whole world would not mind, could he move a little, as he was blocking the sun... Legend has it, that Alexander was far from offended, and exclaimed, "If that I was not Alexander, I would be Diogenes!"

Now, of course, and this is the core of Maimonidean Thought, Diogenes leaves out one important element, one well understood by Erika and Gidon. In one of my discussions with Erika and Gidon, Erika talked about an idea she was taught in Catholic school, that still infuses her daily life, and has guided many of her life choices. It is usually summed up in one Latin word, Serviam, to be of service. Maimonides indeed reminds us that contrary to our friend, Diogenes, to live a good life, one cannot live in a barrel. We are called to help others, to serve.

Interestingly, this is not only at the core of Erika's being. She says, with no irony and with this in mind, that Gidon, 100% a Jew, is one of the best Christians she knows. In this, of course, she does not mean a believer in Christianity, rather she means that he lives his life in a manner consistent with this Judeo-Christian idea, that one cannot live a full life, if one is not of service to others.

Erika and Gidon, what we wish for you is that you carry on this great idea. Continue to live your life as the great adventure it can be, while always being of service to others. In this, may you find great happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

See and Cherish the Miraculous


On Sunday (5/26) I officiated Kailee and Landon's wedding at Arlington Hall at Lee Park in Dallas, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I recently heard the great character actor, Stephen Tobolowsky, vividly describe the meaning of a fascinating passage in the Zohar, a medieval book of Jewish mysticism, and it made me think of Kailee and Landon.

The Book of Ezekiel gives a fairly mundane description of an instance where the prophet, "Saw what he saw, and said what he said." The Zohar says that this seemingly mundane sentence actually describes our lives. You see, that is all we ever do. We impose limits upon ourselves that hamper our sight. We erect filters that prevent us from seeing what is right in front of us. These limits and filters mean that we only see what we choose to see. And so, though we are surrounded by miracles, we just can't see them. The challenge therefore is to remove those filters and dismantle those limits, so we can see life for what it truly is.

Here is where Kailee and Landon's relationship is instructive. In their love story, from its beginning, they have seemed capable to truly see without limits and filters. This is how Kailee is able to say that from a very early point in their lives together, "Marriage has never been a question of why but rather when." This is how Landon is able to say, and this is not the kind of verbiage you hear from the typical guy, "There have been moments in which I have seen glimpses of what Kailee can be as a wife and even as a mother." This is how they are together eight years and counting.

Kailee and Landon, do not let the filters of the ordinary cloud your vision. Nurture your ability to see without limits. And in your lives together always choose to see and cherish the miraculous.
 

 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Greatest Work of Art


Yesterday, Saturday 5/25, I officiated Maggie and Spencer's wedding at the beautiful Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I don’t know about you, but stand I in awe of people like Maggie and Spencer, who are so deeply into art. I have officiated almost 190 weddings in the last six years, but never have I encountered a couple that designed and made their beautiful Ketubah together. How lucky these two, Maggie and Spencer, are to have this additional aspect to their relationship, one that so few people get to experience, the ability to create art together.

Why do I say that these two are so lucky? Well, I remember an experience I had in a different art museum here in town, the Biblical Art Museum. My friend, the Co-Curator, Scott Peck, was giving me a guided tour during my first visit, and we came upon a few small pieces of art created by the famous Israeli artist, Ya’akov Agam. I noticed immediately that with Agam’s pieces, and I am sure there is a much more learned way of saying this, every piece looks totally different, depending on where you stood.

So, when I sat down to write the remarks for Maggie and Spencer’s wedding, it hit me. Agam’s method is really emblematic of the greatness of art, in general. It is art that enables us to see things from multiple different perspectives. Now, being able, on your own, to see things from multiple perspectives is highly valuable. Being able to see things, as a couple, from multiple perspectives, is not just valuable; it is critical. It is this ability that allows two different people from two different families to come together as one, and form a new family together. As one half of this new entity, you must be able to view things not just from your perspective, but from your partner’s perspective too. That is why Maggie and Spencer, with their refined ability as artists, particularly artists who have created art together, are so lucky.

Maggie and Spencer, hold on to this great gift you have. Remember that love is more art than science, and together, may you continue to mold the greatest work of art any of us can create with a partner, a happy and beautiful marriage.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

True and Meaningful Purpose


Yesterday, Saturday 5/11, I officiated Erin and Dan's wedding at the Rookery in Chicago, Illinois. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Erin and Dan are a fascinating couple. They relish in infusing their life with meaning, and purpose. They seek to do this not just the in the grand, but in the minute too. They do this as individuals, but more importantly as a couple, deeply in love. In the latter they realize that sometimes there is no hidden purpose or meaning beyond the greatness of the moment, the wonder of the here and now, in their loving togetherness.

Dan describes the moments Erin and he enjoy the most, together and with friends and family. (Guys, listen up; this may be worth imitating with our significant others.)

"I’m sure I make her happy by whipping up a meal effortlessly for her, but it is in the growth with our friends and family where we believe cooking and hosting can give pleasure to our lives. I get to work with my hands and I’ll cook for hours on end while just a few feet away Erin opens bottles of wine and chats with our guests. The purpose of life can’t be any more complicated than that."

Erin and Dan, I think you have stumbled upon one of the great secrets to a happy and joyous marriage. As humans there are evolutionary reasons we search for meaning and purpose. All too often, however, we seek these in the grand, and we neglect the minute and delicate. Marriage, however, is usually more about the minute and delicate, the here and now. You remind us that in creating a joyous here and now, in not allowing the grand to block out the minute, and in relishing in the small pleasures we experience as couples, we can find and create true and meaningful purpose, in love together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More Than Just a Romantic Connection

Yesterday, Sunday 5/5, I officiated Nicole and Ronnie's wedding at Ronnie's parents' home in Lubbock, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I was thinking about the deep love Nicole and Ronnie have, and I could not help but think of the very first love story at the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The ancient authors of the Bible were as fascinated, as many of us still are, with the idea of love and marriage. How can two people, each distinct, each different, come together as one in a lasting union?

They embedded an explanation in the often misunderstood second creation story. You may have heard how God put Adam (the man) to sleep, and took his... rib, right? Then he built it up to be the woman. There is only one problem. That is not what it says. Not at all.

The text actually says that God created them, and called THEM Adam. The ancient rabbis explain that this was an androgynous being with two sides. Then he put this being to sleep, and took one side off, essentially separating the two sides, one being man and one being woman.

What are the rabbis and in turn the biblical authors saying here? What they are telling us is that in true love with a marital partner, we are not forming an artificial construct, bringing two separate beings together. It is as if we are returning to our original primordial state. We feel so at one with the person we love, that is as if we are reuniting with someone that was always part of us. Does that not sound like Nicole and Ronnie?

The beauty of Nicole and Ronnie's relationship is that it clarifies that finding that other half is not about looking for someone with the same superficial characteristics and background. Not at all. It is about finding the person who is your other half in terms of their values, their character, and their personal qualities. It is about finding the person, who in Nicole's words, is "more than just a romantic connection or a comfortable companion," the person who makes her feel "supported, encouraged, celebrated and loved." It is about finding the person who is in Ronnie's words, "the kindest and most supportive person (he) know(s)."

Nicole and Ronnie, may you continue to enjoy such a deep friendship, abiding love, and true partnership for many many years to come.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Following Your Dreams



Yesterday, Sunday 4/21, Kahu (Hawaiian for Reverend) Curt Kekuna and I co-officiated Rebekah and Carlos' wedding ceremony in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the things we take for granted in developed societies is the idea of following your dreams. Our ancestors for 99% of the existence of our species may have had dreams; we cannot interview them to find out. However, we may legitimately doubt that on the African Savannah, as they hunted and gathered every day, they could even think of following dreams like the ones we have today. Occasions like this one, of two individuals, deeply in love, consummating their dreams together remind us how blessed we are indeed, compared to our distant forebears.

Now, there is a downside to following your dreams. Some see the dream as a fixed destination that they need to reach within an allotted time. Kierkegaard said of this approach that wrong expectations are the key to unhappiness. Rebekah and Carlos in their stories as individuals and as a couple show us a different way.

Following your dreams means being willing to tune and reconfigure them regularly. Following your dreams means seeing them as a journey, not a destination. Following your dreams means seeing them as living and breathing, growing and changing. In essence, what Rebekah and Carlos are telling us is that following your dreams really means seeing them as an unfinished and ongoing love story.

It is a story that you don't fully understand till you reach the end of the story. And, as anyone who knows Rebekah and Carlos can tell you that is what makes their story visibly exciting, exhilarating and wonderful. So now, without further ado, let us help them begin the next chapter in their ongoing story.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Profound Oneness



Yesterday, Sunday 4/14, I officiated Shannon and Cory's wedding ceremony at the Barr Mansion in Austin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Describing, quantifying, defining love is so difficult. Shannon and Cory can help us with this, though. The way they describe their love is at the same time simple and profound. Listen to this; this is gold.

Cory says, "I have never been in love until I met Shannon. I thought I was, but now I know what true love is." Shannon echoes this, when she says, "I’ve never connected with anyone like I have with Cory. It’s hard to explain; you just know. I guess that’s what they call love."

Wow.

Reading their descriptions reminded me of one of the most beautiful things I have ever read - Sonnet XVII from Cien Sonetos de Amor by Pablo Neruda. I think this is what Shannon and Cory are trying to tell us about love:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

What Shannon and Cory are telling us, what Pablo Neruda is telling us, is that true love of a mate is so intense that it is as if you become one living and breathing entity. This is such a unique experience, that words fall short of describing it.

Shannon and Cory, what is it we wish for you? That you may continue to enjoy such a deep connection, such an abiding love, such a profound oneness, that it virtually defies description.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A River, a Pot Or a Bird



Yesterday (4/13) Deacon Jim McKenzie and I co-officiated Katie and Charles' wedding ceremony at the Benton Chapel of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When I sat down to write the remarks for this wedding I came across a passage in the Talmud, that I had last studied about 20 years ago. The Talmud is a fascinating book, which records the discussions of the great rabbis from about 200-800 C.E. Though its main thrust is to serve as the legal foundation for Jewish Law, it contains fascinating stories and ancient lore too.

In the ancient world people saw dreams as potential signs and messages from the divine. The ancient rabbis were no exception. In the first tractate of the Talmud on folio 56b the rabbis say that if one sees a river, a pot or a bird in a dream, these are all good signs of peaceful relations in one's life.

Hundreds of years later, Rabbi Elijah of Vilnius wrote a fascinating interpretation of this passage. He said that really these three items represent three different levels of relationships. The river, to this day used to transport commercial items, represents a loose impersonal relationship, that commercial partners might have with each other. The pot, which allows the fire beneath it and the water within it to coexist and work together, symbolizes a closer personal relationship based on mutual complementary interests. Finally, the bird, in which folded into the one creature are the ability to travel by land and the ability to fly, symbolizes two people coming together in the closest of relationships, and becoming one inseparable entity.

Doesn't that final symbolism sound exactly like the relationship Katie and Charles have? During the last five years they have had some, let's just say this diplomatically, "unique" experiences. These experiences have created a bond between them that typically one does not expect to see amongst couples of their age. In fact their relationship reminded me of a story that really exemplifies what the Talmud talks about, and what Katie and Charles have. It is said of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, that he once took his wife to the doctor. When the doctor asked what the problem was, the saintly rabbi said, "We feel pain in my wife's leg." You see, Rabbi Aryeh and his wife were so in love, their relationship was so close, that when her leg was hurting, THEY, not SHE felt pain.

What we wish for you, Katie and Charles, is that you continue to experience deep mutual love and empathy, and have such a close relationship. And together, may you experience only joy, pleasure and happiness from this day forward.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fulfill Your Potential

Last night, Saturday 3/23, I co-officiated Alicia and Adam's wedding with the bride's uncle, Dr. Paul Silvestri, at the Petroleum Club in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:



When I sat down to write these remarks, and thought of Alicia and Adam, I remembered a story I once heard about a great rabbi, who lived in the 18th century. The rabbi's name was Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli. Rabbi Zusha was speaking to his students, and he said that when he came before God, he knew God would probably ask him some questions. He said that if God said to him, "Zusha, why weren't you Moses?" (In other words, why did you not live up to the potential of Moses), he could easily say, "God, you didn't make me with Moses' potential." "However," Rabbi Zusha said, "If God says to me, 'Zusha, why weren't you Zusha (In other words, why did you not live up to your OWN potential)?' now that will be a worthy question..."

Now, why did thinking about Alicia and Adam remind me of this story? Well, because though they are relatively young, one of the things that struck me about them is how answering this question, in the here and now, has been implicitly important to them. These two as individuals and as a couple have lived lives, where they constantly strive to better themselves and truly live up to their potential. From excelling at sports, to scholastic achievement to professional prowess, these two have never settled. They have truly tried to fulfill their potential.

Now there is a question that Rabbi Zusha does not explicitly address, and that is, how do you know what your potential is, and where it lies? I think that if you analyze the way that Alicia and Adam have lived there lives, once again, they provide a cogent answer. You need to be unafraid to try new things, you need to think outside the box, you even need to make some mistakes. Like Alicia and Adam, you have to be self aware, live an introspective life, and strive to become a better person in the process.

Alicia and Adam, as you enter into married life, what we wish for you is simple. Continue to live your lives in just this fashion, and fulfill your potential.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Can’t Remember Life before Her Being This Good



Last night, Friday 3/22, I co-officiated Lauren and Aaron's wedding with Pastor Leighton Ogg at Agave Road in Katy, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lauren and Aaron, one of the greatest challenges we have in life, each and everyone of us, is transitioning from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. The ticking of the clock may cause us to age, but maturing demands conscious effort. And, as we live in times rocked by economic upheaval, the latter has become more, not less challenging.

Now, one thing I am sure that your friends and family can agree on, is that you as individuals, can serve as an example for others in your age cohort in this regard. You have overcome this challenge, in a most excellent way, to the point where I imagine other parents with children your age might even be envious.

Now, though life is never a zero sum game, successfully traversing the divide between childhood and adolescence on the one hand, and adulthood on the other hand hides a challenge in it too. You see, the wonderful thing about children and adolescents is that they are much more able to live in the present, to enjoy the moment, to revel in the here and now. Adulthood, invariably and thankfully leaves some of that behind. Still, life can and will become dull and mundane, if we cannot hold on to some of that youthful spirit of enjoying the moment.

Here is where you are further instructive in your relationship and in your life together. Aaron, when asked why he wants to marry Lauren now simply focuses on the present, and says, "I can’t remember life before her being this good." And Lauren when asked why the present is the right time for this celebration quotes that immortal cinematic line, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Even Though I Lost the Bet, I Won the Love of My Life



Yesterday, Sunday 3/17, Father Court Moore and I co-officiated Shannon and David's wedding at their favorite bar, Hat Tricks in Lewisville, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I love hearing couples' life stories, especially stories about how they met. There are often lessons to be learned, when reflecting on those foundational moments of a relationship, particularly in how couples describe these moments. Since this very venue plays a part in Shannon and David's story, it seems especially opportune to focus on this.

Here is David's description:
"I was again at Hattricks and saw Shannon there. I made it a point to strike up some sort of conversation with her, and after a short time we figured out that we went to rival schools (Sam Houston for me and Stephen F. Austin for her). The big rival game was a couple of weeks away from our first meeting, and we made a bet on who would win. The loser of the bet had to treat the other to dinner. I ended up “losing” the bet and treated Shannon to a home cooked meal, I make a mean chicken, rice and broccoli dinner. Even though I lost the bet, I won the love of my life."

Think about that last sentence, "Even though I lost the bet, I won the love of my life." Wow. I think that is really deep. You see, we live in a society, that sees itself as a market economy. One might say that the greatness of our country, and the power of our nation is due to the fact that we have embraced capitalism, where there are inevitably winners and losers.

However, what we sometimes forget is that though there is nothing wrong with our economy being market based, our lives, our relationships, and our values should not be. What Shannon and David remind us is that in our lives we cannot have a winner takes all approach. What Shannon and David remind us is that in our relationships, we should remember that there is no room for zero sum games. What Shannon and David remind us is that when it comes to our values, we should always strive not for a win, but for a win-win. That is because especially in our married lives, if we both don't win, we both lose.

Now, one thing that Shannon and David share is that they tremendously value the example their parents gave them in this area. They say that they learned how to how to live as partners, where everyone wins, from their parents.

So, Shannon and David, what we wish for you is that you continue to live your lives in this fashion, and provide the same type of wonderful example for your offspring after you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Self Awareness - the Path to Tikkun Olam



Yesterday (Saturday 3/9) I officiated Stephanie and Rueben's wedding at the Ashton Depot in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In one of my meetings with Stephanie and Rueben, I made the observation that they both had a greater capacity for self awareness than other people. Regarding their own emotional and spiritual development, Stephanie and Rueben are very aware of who they are, what they want, and where they are headed, as individuals and as a couple.

Now, being self aware is more challenging than you might think. There is a reason your average airport bookstore has such a large collection of self-help books, from the academically serious titles to the unintentionally comedic titles, like - this is an actual example - How to Change Your Life in 7 Days. Right...

The problem is, as a recent essay in New York Magazine pointed out, most of this ubiquitous book store offering talks a lot about the "help" part, and not so much about the "self" part. So, when I come across a title from that bookstore section that actually addresses the latter, I take note.

Here is what David Kirchhoff, a techie turned CEO, who has a bit of a Buddhist bent, says in his book. (When I read this, I immediately thought of Stephanie and Rueben, and knew I would talk about it here.) "There is no firmly defined 'me.' I am a collection of choices that I make each day, and I am constantly evolving, growing, and changing. I am not bound by who I was... 10, 15 or 20 years ago... Our future can be defined by the choices we make going forward."

Now, you could say that this is true of all of us. Sure, but it is the awareness of this that sets some, like Stephanie and Rueben, apart. It is the awareness of this that allows one to make better choices, it is the awareness of this that allows us to seize some measure of control over our destinies.

Ironically, it is this understanding of self, that helps us discover that a truly meaningful life lies not in the over-indulgence of this self, but outside ourselves. So, we should not be surprised that in their personal and professional lives Stephanie and Rueben focus not on themselves, but on helping others.

Stephanie and Rueben, may you be blessed to continue to possess this deep sense of self, and through this understanding may you continue to practice Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place, each and every day.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

There Would Still Be You and Me

Efi and Mike are a special couple. They have been legally married for six years, and decided to go down to Costa Rica with a few friends and family to have the religious celebration they did not have six years ago. Here are the remarks I shared with them:

So, at a wedding in Costa Rica, with a bride and groom from Canada, family here from Israel and a rabbi from Texas, why not read a song from an English rock band, right? Seriously, though, here is something deep from Led Zeppelin:

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you
When mountains crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me

Kind woman, I give you my all, kind woman, nothing more
Little drops of rain whisper of the pain, tears of loves lost in the days gone by
Our love is strong, with you there is no wrong, together we shall go until we die.
Inspiration's what you are to me, inspiration, look... see.
And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.
Happiness, no more be sad, happiness... I'm glad.

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. If the mountains should crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.

What does that mean in this context, of celebrating your love, Efi and Mike? Unlike the average couple I officiate for, you have been already on a six year long marital journey together. It is easy to see that you have a strong bond of marital love. You have been living a life of telling each other implicitly every day for a long time now, “For you to me are the only one.” As your loved ones here can attest to, your connection, your bond, your marriage is as fresh as it was six years ago, and it grows sturdier every day. In your life you indeed proved that a chance encounter in the Promised Land can lead to a marital life full of promise. And so today, you proclaim to the world, “Our love is strong.”

So, as you place a ring now on Efi’s finger, Mike, and recite the ancient formula in Hebrew, say to her in essence, once more ,“Kind woman, I give you my all, kind woman, nothing more,” and you, Efi, in accepting it, say to Mike, in essence, once more, “Today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles.” And say to each other from now and forever, “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. If the mountains should crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Truly Come Alive

This last weekend my good friend, Father Milt Raybould, and I officiated Erika and Roman’s wedding at Chateau Cocomar in Houston, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

It's interesting; some couples can't remember when or how they met, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there are couples, whose first meeting proves, that while love at first sight might be more Hollywood than reality, love at first meeting can be very real. Erika and Roman are one of those special couples.

It seems like Erika had a premonition that that night was to be pivotal in her life. "I was nervous. I was excited," she says, "I was stepping outside my standard expectations and just allowing myself to be, well, myself."

There was definitely magic in the air. Roman writes, "She was beautiful, smart, inspiring, fun, open, (OK, we know that already, but listen to the rest...) and we seemed to share topic after topic and interest after interest in an experience I never imagined possible before that fateful evening. Our conversations wandered from life, to travel, to photography, to history, to music and all around. It was the most comfortable, simple, honest and fulfilling conversation I ever experienced."

But how do you really know that that love at first meeting is true love? Is that not the question that countless people have asked? Is this not the question pondered by poets, and pored upon by authors of prose? It is difficult to answer, and some might say that you just know it when you see it, but I think that Erika and Roman do offer us an answer. You might have picked up on it in what I read of their words already, but allow me to clarify.

You see, in almost all areas in life, if we realize it or not, we have to put up some type of facade. This is natural, normal, and allows us to function in and as a society. True love means, however, that with that person, we can take down those facades, and truly, deeply be ourselves. This is what Erika and Roman have.

As Roman says, "With her, I feel and appreciate life in a different way. After years of growing accustomed to never being able to truly be myself with anyone, never being able to truly be understood, never being able to truly be as silly as I would like to be sometimes – I can do it all with Erika."

Letting down these facades, allowing oneself to not only love, but also be loved is so vital. In a sense when we have that in our lives, we can truly come alive with that person. This is what an ideal marriage is really all about. As Erika says, "To me, marriage is a covenant, a bond that protects and nurtures two people, who love one another... willing to lay down their guards, to show their scars and to uplift each other in times of weakness and in times of joy."

Erika and Roman, we all pray that you continue to enjoy such a wonderful love, one that enables you to be your true selves, and fully come alive. Through this, may you experience nothing but true mutual, unmitigated and boundless happiness.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Adventure in the Here and Now



Yesterday evening Deacon Sam Dell'Olio and I officiated the wedding of Stephanie and Dan at Agave Road in Katy, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with these two rocket scientists (seriously!) and their guests.

So, when a couple first calls me to ask if I might be able to officiate their wedding, I always ask them to first tell me about themselves. Stephanie's initial answer was short and to the point, "I run the International Space Station, and Dan trains astronauts to go up to it." Wow. Many more of us today than in the past, are lucky to work in jobs we enjoy and find fulfillment in, but this sounded above and beyond.

Now, beyond the fact that these two are scary smart rocket scientists, how did they pull this off? How did they get to where they are in life? Well, I detect in Stephanie and Dan something that all of us should cultivate: an uncompromising passion to follow their dreams, and a belief that those dreams could come true.

Stephanie and Dan separately each had the drive to pursue a vocation that few of us could imagine. They each resolved to follow that dream, and follow it they did.

Now, this dream come true led to them meeting. And when they barely started going out, a friend remarked to Stephanie that she, Stephanie, would marry Dan one day. Stephanie said, "You never know..." Smash cut to today, Stephanie and Dan are together fulfilling another dream.

I think that many of us have the potential to fulfill our dreams in our professional and personal lives. All too often we put them off for a later time. At that undefined amorphous time, we will go on great adventures, and our dreams will come true.

The valuable lesson that Stephanie and Dan teach us is that it need not be that way. THIS can be IT. The adventure can be the here and now, if we just allow ourselves to follow our dreams.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What is True Love



Yesterday I officiated Sivan and Sam's wedding at the beautiful Cala Luna Hotel, in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Here are my personal remarks:

Many great thinkers have long entertained a seemingly simple question, what is true love? When do I know that what I feel for another person is true love? Now, I say this is only a seemingly simple question because, though the question sounds simple, the answer might not be. In fact, depending on who you ask you will probably get different answers.

One of the best answers I have heard is that true love means caring about the other person's welfare and happiness, as much or more than you care about your own. Anyone who knows Sivan and Sam, knows that this is certainly true regarding their partnership, their relationship, their love.

However, I believe that they take it to another level. Sivan says that Sam has more faith in her, than she has in herself. I sense that this feeling is definitely mutual. They not only care deeply about each other; they profoundly believe in each other.

I further sense that it is this faith, this profound belief in each other that brings about another aspect of the depth of their relationship.

Sam says, "My life is infinitely better with her in it... I feel we are capable of far more together than apart." What is Sam saying here? He is expressing, once again what I believe is a mutually held feeling, that together, as a team, their partnership is greater than the mere sum of its parts. How does one achieve such a unique and special partnership? Again, only by deeply loving one another, and profoundly believing in each other.

So, Sivan and Sam, what we wish for you is simple, that you continue to deeply love and profoundly believe in each other. Through that your bond will be absolutely unbreakable.