Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poetry Can Lift a Wedding to Very Desirable Heights!

>A Wedding ceremony should reflect personal desires. I urge couples to participate in an exchange with me individually to arrive at a script which represents their objective of relating their hopes and dreams and other matters of the heart to an audience of friends and family. This short article is offered for two purposes, namely to create a desire to explore poetry in a wedding, and to simply provide a poem which is so fresh and invigorating for listeners.

I understand giving consideration to a request by a family member, but I also urge a couple to remember that it is their wedding, and there must be limits to making promises for the most important ceremony in their lives. I also strongly urge a couple not to share text of what the couple wishes and has approved. The text and the tone and the elements written to reflect passions must remain in the hands of the couple. To share text in advance with anyone else is running the risk of changes which will no longer reflect their feelings.

Most of you already know that I collaborate with the use of individual questionnaires to arrive at a draft. Then for many couples begins the additional inclusions or removal of text and even certain elements suggested. When I speak of "elements" I am addressing parts of the wedding program. Fortunately for many couples, the initial draft, based on openly honest questionnaire responses, allows for producing a product which often stands as written.

Over the years I have initially received excellent leads from couples who remember a ritual, a poem, a reading, personal vows, ring exchanges, family participation, etc. which they would like to incorporate in structuring their special ceremony. Knowing some of these suggestions in the initial exchanges can be so helpful in early writing. Providing the exact text of a poem (or scripture) for the minister is helpful, since many poems or bible verses are shortened or changed over time. Adaptations are fine, as long as they are true for the couple.

Poems and readings in the ceremony can be so meaningful. Actually there were three poems used in Holly and John Cho's wedding on September 17, 2011 at the Khimaira Farm outside Luray, Virginia. The stand-alone poem selected for their wedding was new to me. It offers an example of an opportunity for the lightness which the couple wanted to be introduced into the ceremony, in addition to aspects of the text. The other two poems were carefully integrated into opening remarks by the minister and the promises which the couple openly read to each other, as a part of their standard vows.

Of course every wedding is a serious celebration, but this wedding kept the audience smiling and enjoying. Holly asked her friend Rebecca Banks to put her special skills to the task of making the poem come alive for the audience. Rebecca was what is often referred to as the perfect reader by adding a special brightness to the ceremony.

I generally recommend that no more than two poems, or a poem and a reading, be the limit for most weddings. Poems and readings should not exceed two minutes in length. I always ask for the text in advance. This allows me to know the exact wording of the poem or reading, and thus eliminates what might be repetitious comments in the minister's remarks.

I am offering this poem as an example of bringing something new to a ceremony and to encourage exploration of poems and readings which allow the audience a deeper sense of a couple's personalities. Essentially, I am making a plea for removing the somber in a ceremony.
A wedding is a serious celebration, but do allow it to remain celebratory.

There are so many lovely poems from which to select, and they are tried and true for transition from one element to another. They should be stand-alone, heartfelt, and able to bring an added flavor. With that said, enjoy "Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog," by Poet Taylor Mali.

"First of all, it's a big responsibility,

especially in a city like New York.

So think long and hard before deciding on love.

On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:

when you're walking down the street late at night

and you have a leash on love

ain't no one going to mess with you.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long.

But come home and love is always happy to see you.

It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,

but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time?

No! No! Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.

It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.

It pulls you in several different directions at once,

or winds around and around you

until you're all wound up and can't move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.

People who have nothing in common but love

stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,

again, and again, and again.

But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.

And in return, love loves you and never stops."

Blessings ... Rev. Elisheva

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Romantic Checklist to Cherish

Over the years I have asked and received such insightful personal notes from so many of you who needed to share the "little" things that continue to make your relationship a marvelous journey. Those cumulative little things are such a BIG part of making the journey enjoyable. Sometimes I may take a few of these notes and add some remarks; however, when someone else writes a very good summary for consideration, I will ask to extend its exposure.

The following article by Dustin M. Wax originally appeared at Stepcase Lifehack, located at I asked Dustin if we could post it again, and he kindly said yes. It's not just a list; it's a concise checklist which all good pilots should read every time he or she senses the need to fly higher. In this case it's that checklist for securing a continuously smooth and vibrant relationship. Enjoy!

10 Keys to a Successful Romantic Relationship

In romantic relationships, as with so much else, it's the little things that count. Just as a mis-spoken word or cold look can throw a couple into a weeks-long feud, small and seemingly insignificant gestures can help keep a relationship on track. A little gift, an off-hand compliment, a moment of physical contact can vastly strengthen a relationship.

According to psychologists Nathaniel Branden and Robert Sternberg, who have both researched and written about the challenges of romantic relationships, these little displays of interest and affection can be more important than all the "active listening" and trust games in the world. Their research has suggested 10 keys to keeping both partners content, satisfied, and happy with each other.

  1. Tell your partner you love them. Although it's true that actions speak louder than words, words often speak more clearly than actions. Take a moment every now and then to verbalize your feelings for your partner. A simple "I love you" or "You mean the world to me" can go a long way towards making your significant other feel wanted, cared for, and secure in your relationship.

  2. Show some affection. Small acts of physical intimacy - the hand on the small of the back as you brush by in the hallway, your arm around their shoulder on the sofa, your hand on their thigh when seated side-by-side, holding hands while walking down the street - give your partner a warm feeling and convey the love and affection you feel for them. The littlest touch can be as important, or even more important, than the longest night of sexual intimacy.

  3. Show appreciation for your partner. Let your partner know on a regular basis what it is that you like most about them - what you admire, what makes you proud, what their strengths are in your eyes. Building a romantic relationship isn't just about the initial bonding - it's about encouraging and supporting each other's growth over the course of your lives. Help your partner achieve his or her potential by constantly building them up.
  4. Share yourself. Don't keep your likes and dislikes, dreams and fears, achievements and mistakes, or anything else to yourself. If it's important to you, share it with your partner. More than that, be sure to share more with your partner than you do with anyone else. While there is certainly a need for some personal space in even the closest relationship, give as much of yourself and your time as you can bear to your partner.

  5. Be there for your partner. Be there for your partner. It's obvious what you need to do when your partner faces a major life challenge like the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. But it's just as important to be supportive when your partner faces life's little challenges, too - an argument at work, a rough commute, a misplaced check. Don't let yourself be a doormat, and definitely don't stand for physical or verbal abuse, but thicken your skin a little and be the voice of calm and reason when chaos strikes. Listen to what's bothering them and offer whatever help - even if it's just sympathy - you can.

  6. Give gifts. Take advantages of opportunities to give material tokens of your love. Just the right book picked up at the bookstore, a special dessert, a piece of jewelry or clothing you noticed at the store - anything small or large that tells them you were thinking of them. Leave a love note for them, or send them an SMS at work to "I love you" - again, the little reminder that they're always on your mind will help your partner feel better about themselves and secure in your relationship.

  7. Respond gracefully to your partner's demands and shortcomings. A big killer of relationships is unreasonable expectations. Unless you married a robot, your partner comes preloaded with a whole range of human failures and foibles. These are features, not bugs! Learn to recognize and appreciate your partner's quirks for what they are: an essential part of who they are as people. Since our weaknesses are often at the core of our deepest insecurities, make sure you don't pick on or otherwise go out of your way to highlight your partner's flaws.

  8. Make "alone time" a priority. No matter how busy both of your lives are, make sure you commit at least an evening every week or two to be alone together. Have new experiences, share your stories, and just generally enjoy each others company.

  9. Take nothing for granted. Cultivate a daily sense of gratitude for your partner and the thousands of little blessings he or she has brought into your life. Remember that, if you're happy in your relationship, your partner is doing a thousand little things for you every day to make your relationship work (as, hopefully you are for them). Never take that for granted - a relationship is work of the highest order, and the second you stop, it starts to slide away.

  10. Strive for equality. Make sure you follow the Golden Rule in your relationship: do unto your partner as you would have done unto you. Strive for a fair division of household duties and other tasks, and don't expect or demand special considerations you'd be unwilling to offer in return.
Blessings .... Reverend Elisheva Clegg

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Thoughts

Sometimes we do hesitate between blog entries, perhaps too long. The last entry of "Stop, Look and Listen" was one of those articles which needs to just linger there and allow for you to read it again, and perhaps again, and gather in the substance. However, it is time to press along with more thoughts.

Many blog entries are meant to answer direct questions from the "soon to be married," or "the just got married," or from "parents wondering what is the best route for planning." Those may or may not interest every recipient, whereas the "Stop, Look, and Listen" entry of February 4, 2011 has merit for everyone. In fact it was written to remind ME to self-reflect, and allow you to share.

So - forgive us if we don't provide a stimulating read each time to interest every one, but over the course of time, we hope our efforts will be considered as personal notes between friends. Perhaps something said will apply as you advise friends, family, children and grandchildren. Remember - this cycle of life is continuous, and the older you get, the more that YOU are the keeper of lessons to be shared. We hope in some small way to offer a few pertinent ideas, while sharing the thoughts of very real people who have graced our lives.

Memorial Weekend ...

It's Saturday afternoon as I write, just prior to driving over to our Community Garden plots in Palmyra along Route 53, which is Jefferson Parkway. It's just a 2-lane highway which is the same road which Mr. Jefferson used to travel from Monticello to Richmond and on to Washington. His travel took days, whereas our frequent trips to Richmond and DC only takes 1-2 hours. I suspect that Mr. Jefferson would have really appreciated a paved road in his days along Route 53.

I've been writing to individual friends about coming to visit, and enticing them with thoughts of cherry-picking, peach donuts, cold apple cider, and picnics out in a local orchard. We will do almost anything to attract friends and OUR children to come and visit. It is especially lovely today with so much growth occurring . So - I enclosed the websites of two lovely locations to instigate that desire to leave home for a day or two and join us in our garden or perhaps more appealing gardens in the Charlottesville area. After all, our own garden requires getting "deeply" involved.

Living on Highway 53 near Monticello already has its appeal, but meeting in locations where you can pick fruit already in season and lay back in the grass ...well ...that is appealing, so we pull out the stops with vivid descriptions.

Open the two websites in this paragraph which Mrs. Chiles sends me every few weeks. You will see why we enjoy sharing our location and opportunities. Check out and Carter Mountain is the highest point and is the nearest to us, and provides marvelous views of our area. A site worth seeing!

Back to my more emotional thoughts for this weekend

All of this sweet growth around me does not deter my sadness regarding the devastating path which nature has dealt in Tuscaloosa, Joplin, and so many smaller places. My days as a child riding my bike through the Forest Lake area of Tuscaloosa keeps flooding back in my fondest memories, for it is one of those areas so destroyed that the landscape is only left to memories.

As I sit in a place of calmness today, the reality is that nature and its whims can bring a stop to life as we know it. It is why I tend to squeeze Elisheva more as life continues, and send out frequent notes to entice family gatherings, even if right there in their own homes.

I also remember those who have served and are serving in military and civilian roles, and those who have died or received terrible injuries. Whether by the winds of war or weather, the losses bring such a sense of finality.

I awoke this morning with my window open and a cool breeze delaying my ability to move. My sleep was shattered by two small birds carrying on so loudly as they spoke to each other about their day. I started laughing as I listened, aroused by the sounds and feel of nature coming into my day... another wonderful opportunity. Initially, I wanted to shout "Shut up!" but instead my only thought was, "Thank you!"

I took several deep breaths and remembered those who were anticipating this same joy I was feeling, but are with us no more. The joy of their being, my appreciation of their being, and my appreciation for my being can be overwhelming at times. I know that you know the feelings of which I speak.

Take a moment to review all that is given, and all that we can give, and move into your day, and those to come, with giving more and sharing more. It will lead to healing of others ... and healing of self.

Blessings ... Rev. T. Wade Clegg III

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stop ... Look ... & Listen

"A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day."

- Emily Dickinson, "Life"

Now - stop! Read that again, as I did, right there as you look at those words on the computer screen. Read it again. But this time, read it with the pause at the comma, and stop at the period. Give it voice! It was meant to be heard...these meaningful words. You see, it even makes one begin to express themselves poetically.

I've read this poem before, as you may have. However, most recently it was discovered as the opening to a chapter in a book I keep handy for self-reminders, entitled The Power of Two, by Susan Heitler. Dr. Heitler's book speaks to the secrets of a strong and loving marriage. It is a book dedicated to detailed explanations and strategies. If there was ever a moment in your relationship when anger surfaced, Dr. Heitler's depth of scenarios will touch into the landscape for a possible route for bringing the conflict to resolution.

The chapter which uses the Dickinson poem as a lead-in is entitled The Costs of Acting in Anger. What a high price to pay when a partner allows an irritation to spill over into anger, and cause your spouse to suffer emotionally. I remember such times, and they truly frightened me. Perhaps that is why it became so critical to be ever watchful of words which start as slightly cynical, then carelessly leak into a feel of toxicity.

You may assume that I am in pursuit of passages for origination of a wedding script when I mention such a book. You would only be partially correct. Most of the time I am simply activating the monitor in myself, seeking someone else's professional perspective in my quest to ever being the right partner to Elisheva. That link to being mindful and alert to your partner, when irritation is at play, must always quickly activate. Master the techniques which allow for maintenance of the love you know exists. Words projected by a brief surge of anger can have a long-lasting impact on your partner's feelings toward you. Curtail the risks proactively. One can build into the learning pattern one of the most important actions in route to a number of strategies, and that action is called ...STOP!

Stop when you feel angry. Stop interacting. Look, as your anger cools. Try to address the problem again. Look to expand your understanding of the situation, and leave your world of tunnel vision. Listen to your spouse's concerns. Expressing your anger constructively will be easier if your spouse also can listen constructively.

If you need to deal with the problem immediately rather than first cooling down, as you begin to feel angry, the approach may suggest a longer pause to think ahead. Remind yourself of the steps you will be taking, such as naming the feeling, conveying your concerns, asking to find out the other half of the story, then looking for solutions.

No one is saying that these steps are not subject to detours, but if your desire is truly to evaluate and prevent, start with the simple advice generally known to every driver on the road: Stop, look and listen!

The reasons which brought about the anger can be numerous. Just remember that you are almost guaranteeing that your marriage will suffer if you become angry. Heitler indicates in her book that:
"research studies now have shown that married couples who fight are at significantly higher risk for divorce. The test of a marriage's worth may be its positive times, but the best predictor of whether it will endure is the frequency of its bad moments."
Heitler also offers this:
"The costs of dealing with problem situations from a position of anger are high indeed. The power of two in anger is the power to cause harm - to yourself, your partner, your children, your marriage. The good news, however, is that you can create positive solutions to even your most longstanding disagreements. Switching from anger to mutually respectful, problem-solving dialogue can give you new levels of respect and affection for each other, not to mention better personal physical health, emotional well-being, self-esteem, and the ability to live life joyfully together."
There is a promise which we often use in our weddings. Perhaps it is one of the most prominent, although it always seems to make an audience smile, or release a self-conscious laugh. It is the promise to NEVER GO TO BED ANGRY. It falls into this discussion as a constant reminder to bring conflict to resolution quickly and soundly. It may indeed need more than a night for a very sensitive issue, but whichever strategy is needed to return to the loving mode, DO IT NOW.

Incidentally, the stanza from the poem, entitled Art of Marriage, reads,
"It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry."
NOTICE, this is from the "Art" of marriage. The desire for creating that art, that more perfect union, requires in depth investigation.

I return to the final line in the Art of Marriage:

"It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner."

Blessings ... Rev. T. Wade Clegg III