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.