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Saturday, February 12, 2011

When the Pretty Ballerina Walks Away...Left Banke and Love

Walk Away Renee
And when I see the sign that points one way
The lot we used to pass by every day

Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You're not to blame

From deep inside the tears that I'm forced to cry
From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide

Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
Now, as the rain beats down upon my weary eyes
For me, it cries

Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
Now, as the rain beats down upon my weary eyes
For me, it cries

Your name and mine inside a heart upon a wall
Still finds a way to haunt me though they're so small

Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You're not to blame

One site devoted to the Left Banke briefly summarizes the band thusly:

The Left Banke were a late 1960's band from New York with a unique sound. Critics labeled them "baroque-pop" due to the classical influences in their music.

Besides three songs that hit the Billboard charts, "Walk Away Renee," "Pretty Ballerina," and "Desiree," the group left behind a legacy of music that influenced notable musicians ranging from Leonard Bernstein to Alice Cooper.

Understatement.   Actually the Left Banke largely invented Baroque-n-roll and were arguably the best of breed.  Trivia note:  Steven Tyler of Aerosmith got to add vocals to about three of the groups songs along the way.  What is remarkable about the band was that it was an accident.   There was a violinist who ran a studio (his name was Harry Lookofsky) whose teenaged son would work for him in his recording studio.   Even at age 14, Mike Lookofsky, who took the name of Mike Brown for a stage name, was becoming a fine pianist and a talented writer.    Brown did some song writing and playing for a couple of groups that came to use the studio and then eventually some other teenaged musicians joined him in playing around and the story begins...

The words in blue below are from Dawn Eden's article concerning the song, "Walk Away Renee", inspired by a teenaged beauty named Renee Fladen.

Renee Fladen-Kamm

Walk Away Renee by Dawn Eden

The first hint of industry recognition came from Harry Lookofsky himself. "Mike's father used to come in late at night, on and off," says Cameron, "to check up on the boys and see what they were doing." The boys were doing a lot besides playing, I'll tell you that much! Mike went down one night and introduced 'Walk Away Renee' to us. Steve hated the song, of course. Tom and I thought it had possibilities. We played it and had Steve sing lead on it, and it started coming out pretty good. Mike's father heard it and said, 'Let's try to record it.' And bingo.

The song was inspired by Renee Fladen, a platinum blonde vision. Cameron: "Renee was Mike Brown's big love, and Tommy liked her a lot too. Tall, blonde, and quiet. Mike was like a little kid around her. He'd bring her up to the studio to hear his latest songs, and then we'd all come out and sing. She'd just sit there and listen and smile a lot."

Finn: "Most of the kids were half-runaways in those days. A bunch of teenagers got an apartment together- a crash pad- in Tin Pan Alley, around the Broadway area. Renee lived there part- time when she didn't live with her mother."

"I brought her over to the studio. For a kid of 16, or 17, she was free, liberal, open- minded, sexy- everything. She was just very different for that time, so she bowled Mike over."

Brown: "I met her through the newly formed Left Banke. They would run around, so to speak, because they knew a lot of people. I was hanging around with the group, and it was just in one of those chance encounters that I met her."

Discussing Renee, Brown refers to her in free-spirited terms like those used by Finn: "What people forget is that the main thing that was happening with everybody I was hanging around with- was a new era. That didn't last very long. The reich was supposed to go for a thousand years, and this couldn't last 10. But whether you fell in love or anything else, everybody just sort of floated around."

Brown says that he wrote "Walk Away Renee" one month after he met Renee, in the winter of '65. He then wrote what became the Left Banke's second hit, "Pretty Ballerina" and "She May Call You Up Tonight" (on the Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina LP), both about the very same young woman.

Renee never went out with Brown, dated Finn briefly, and later went out with the group's original drummer, Warren David. "After that," says Finn, "using 60's lingo, she 'split the scene' because of all the different guys liking her. She felt very uncomfortable."

Brown describes his unrequited feelings for Renee: "I was just sort of mythologically in love, if you know what I mean," he says, "without having evidence in fact or in deed." As Brown says this he laughs softly. His laugh sounds like that of one who would rather laugh than cry.

"But I was as close as anybody could be to the real thing," he adds. "As a matter of fact, like in the Twilight Zone or something, if you cross over, you lose what you have. It's only because you're away from it that you can appreciate the beauty of it. Once you've become immersed in it, you can't see the sunlight coming through the window, because you're no longer doing that. You're in that light."

Mythical love?  Infatuation?   Renee Fladen came into teenager Mike Brown's life as a dream and left the same way.    Listen to the words and music of the song written by Brown and played by the band, all of them teenagers...

Amazing that a 16-year-old could compose the music, including the orchestral parts that were played by his father and some friends, as well as play piano and harpsichord and co-produce the record. The infatuation with Renee haunted and inspired and tormented Mike Brown. There is a poignancy to the words and music of there other big hit song done at about the same time, Pretty Ballerina.   The magic of Left Banke was in the songwriting ability of Brown and the voice of Steve Martin Caro, whose innocent earnest unstrained tenor was perfect for the mood of the songs.

Is that what love is? Do you see someone and in one-fifth of a second they suddenly steal your heart?   Well, do you remember being a teenager?   You are just going along and you look into the eyes of a girl and suddenly you are smitten.   Every slight by your peers, every smile from a girl, every flash of anger, all the depths of grief as a teenager is multiplied by the newness of it all, by the raging hormones and changing body and a brain still not settled comfortably in your head.   A new song brings you great joy and you want to hear it eight times in one afternoon.   One kiss from a girl sends your head spinning and you believe you are in love and such a love, a love so grand that the sky can barely contain it.   As Mike Brown wrote (Lyrics Provided By

I had a date with a pretty ballerina
Her hair so brilliant that it hurt my eyes
I asked her for this dance and then she obliged me
Was I surprised? Yeah
Was I surprised? No not at all

I called her yesterday it should have been tomorrow
I could not keep the joy that was inside
I begged for her to tell me if she really loved me
Somewhere a mountain is moving
Afraid it's moving without me

I had a date with a pretty ballerina
Her hair so brilliant that it hurt my eyes
I asked her for this dance and then she obliged me
Was I surprised? Yeah
Was I surprised? No not at all

And when I wake on a dreary Sunday morning
I open up my eyes to find there's rain
And something strange within says
"Go ahead and find her, just close your eyes, yeah
Just close your eyes and she'll be there"

She'll be there, she'll be there

My wife and I were talking about love and infatuation last night.  I asked her if she could remember how many times she'd been infatuated in her lifetime, especially as a kid.   "One hundred times?" I asked.  "Maybe every other week!" She replied and we both laughed.   Sometimes I fell for a girl but sometimes I FELL for a girl and the entire world revolved around whether she ardently loved me every second.   I remember girls in grade school and junior high writing over and over again on lined paper with their first names followed by the last names of their boyfriends of the time.   I would write a girl's name on the inside of a notebook, carry her picture everywhere even if we were in the same classes together.   

The first time I was kissed was in kindergarten and took me by surprise.   I was too young to think much of it at the time.  But the first time I really kissed a girl the earth stood still and the Universe was held within our arms and all the stars were in her tongue sending bright lights bouncing around inside my soul.   I thought I knew the pinnacle of joy and glory...when we broke up I felt like jumping off a cliff.   Yet a week later I was dating another girl. 

After awhile I began to think something was broken in me.   I would fall in love with a girl and she would be the moon and the stars and then maybe three weeks, maybe six weeks later I was trying to figure out how to get rid of her without hurting her feelings.   I felt like maybe there was no hope for me.   I thought I had love and then it would be gone.   Naturally the world of my youth was a time of "free love" and naturally if you were dating a girl sex was almost immediately involved, just like in the movies.   It didn't occur to me that maybe the entire process of what I thought was love was actually designed to fail.

One friend of mine, Steve, we were in the military together and we were at the NCO club in Monterey, California.   A dark haired pretty girl walked in and we had a big table of boisterous people and a couple of us shouted to her and waved her over to come sit with us, if I remember correctly.  The girl looked at Steve and Steve looked at her.   Soon they were sitting together, ignoring everybody else and after the weekend they went to apply for a marriage license.   Maybe they had to go to Las Vegas but something like 7 or 8 days later they were married!!!   A few months later when I left the area they were still married, living in a tiny apartment, absolutely smitten with each other.

Why couldn't that be me?   Even when I finally did meet a girl I cared about for more than six weeks, something stopped me from deciding to convince her to marry me.   I didn't believe in myself and figured I was too irresponsible to be a husband, as I had cheated on her a couple of weekends when she went away.  Like a spoiled brat I slept with two of her friends when she was gone.   Then hated myself for it.   Could I ever love?   Was I just not capable of having a faithful heart?   Had I thrown away the only chance for love I would get?

Like Mike Brown, I wrote many songs and poems, many of them much the songs he wrote for Left Banke.   Anguish and longing drove me to write them.  Great pain squeezed me like an orange and the creative forces poured out.   I even decided to kill myself, which is another story altogether but it didn't happen and in making the attempt I realized that I wanted to live more than I wanted to stop any temporary emotional pain.  With time I found that after awhile the powerful crash of a wave of love was not so big anymore, attraction became just that, and so that is what I began to settle for...I was not ever going to have a great love so I would just settle for attractive girls and my heart would remain in it's place until she got tired of me or I got tired of her.  


Many years later, working at a big factory in the auto industry, I had a friend who was very much like a living breathing Buzz Lightyear.   His mannerisms were so much like Buzz (but this is before the movie was made) and he was a tall, handsome, well built guy with a quirky sense of humor.   But, like the cartoon character, this friend was easily fooled and was short of common sense.   He was usually so serious that people wanted to laugh at him.  But he was neat and frugal and had a nice house and a nice sum of money in the bank.  His posture was perfect, his house looked like it was swept and dusted constantly unlike the typical bachelor pad.  I suppose he was a bit anal?  Enter a young woman I will call Wendy, not her name.

Wendy looked like a swimsuit model or a Penthouse centerfold.   When she talked to you, she gave the impression that you were especially interesting to her.   Sex appeal oozed from every pore of her body and she had a voice that purred.   She worked in a job that didn't require much muscle and was mostly about keeping counts and setting knobs and levers correctly.   Guys would find excuses to walk by and talk to her.  She was a living, breathing siren.

Wendy turned her gaze upon my friend and soon had moved in with him.   My friend was hopelessly in love.   She managed to get her name on his checking and savings accounts.   A few weeks later she quit her job and disappeared along with a few of his things and ALL of his money.  All.   He was never the same.   He even wound up being sent to the infamous "fifth floor" of a local hospital - the psych ward.   One infatuation and one crushing fall put a hole in him that never was completely patched up. He eventually was able to work again and retired as early as possible and as far as I know still lives alone in that same big tri-level home he thought would be their love nest.


These days the movies and sitcoms still push this idea of romantic love.   You "fall in love' and then used to be you got married.   But marriages keep failing now so people are terming each other a "fiance" and just moving in together.   Sometimes if they have a child or two they decide to marry.  But so many couples break up and marriages are so often in tatters by the seventh year if not before.   Now I know that there was no unusual flaw in me and neither is there an unusual flaw in other people.    Infatuation can happen to anyone and it feels good and it seems to be love but it really isn't love at all.   That is the cockeyed idea of modern times that has broken multitudes of hearts and formed uncounted marriages doomed to fail.

C.S. Lewis proclaimed that there are four kinds of love in a popular book of that name.  
Wikipedia summarizes as follows:

The Four Loves is a book by C. S. Lewis which explores the nature of love from a Christian perspective through thought experiments and examples from literature. The content of the examination is prefaced by Lewis' admission that he initially mistook St. John's words "God is Love" for a simple inroad to his topic. By distinguishing need-love (such as the love of a child for its mother) from gift-love (epitomized by God's love for humanity), Lewis happens upon the contemplative that the natures of even these basic categorizations of love are more complicated than they, at first, seem. As a result, he formulates the foundation of his topic ("the highest does not stand without the lowest") by exploring the nature of pleasure, and then divides love into four categories, based in part on the four Greek words for love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. It must be noted, states Lewis, that just as Lucifer—a former archangel—perverted himself by pride and fell into depravity, so too can love—commonly held to be the arch-emotion—become corrupt by presuming itself to be what it is not.



Storge - Affection

Affection (storge, στοργή) is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed "valuable" or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors. Ironically, its strength is also what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being "built-in" or "ready made", says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect, even to demand, its presence—irrespective of their behavior and its natural consequences.

Phileo - Friendship

Friendship is a strong bond existing between people who share common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of friendship is narrower than mere companionship:

Eros - Romance

Eros (ἔρως) is love in the sense of 'being in love'. This is distinct from sexuality, which Lewis calls Venus, although he does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. He identifies eros as indifferent. It is Venus that desires the sexual aspect of a relationship, while Eros longs for the emotional connection with the other person.

Agape - Unconditional Love

Charity (agapē, ἀγάπη) is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves to the love of God, who is full of charitable love.


Why does love fail so often?   Can it be that popular songs and books and movies and television shows have perverted our understanding of love?   If we knew love for what it is, perhaps then we could have it and keep it?

Can it be that the fatal flaw of modern marriages is a lack of understanding of love and marriage?

In "A Reconsideration of Romantic Love" by Rob Whitley, the author describes the three common types of marriages found in human history.   You may know that the most common marriage in the history of mankind is between cousins?  (This tidbit was not in the article but go ahead, look it up!)  Whitley gives us three categories:



Some social historians, studying the span of human history, have posited three phases in the development of the institution of marriage.2 These three phases (or forms) are (1) arranged marriage; (2) companionship marriage; and (3) romantic marriage. It is a matter of intellectual debate whether these are technically phases, representing discrete historical time-periods, or whether they are simply forms that have coexisted within most human societies past and present. It is not the purpose of the article to get bogged down in such tangential theoretical discussion. My position is that these forms of marriage coexist in present-day America, and probably have co-existed in most human societies. I would contend, however, that proportions of people falling into the three categories have changed significantly over time, and we are now in an era where an idealized form of romantic love/marriage predominates. I argue later that this is to the detriment of individuals involved and society as a whole.

The first phase, or form, of marriage to discuss is arranged marriage. This is often considered to be the predominant form of marriage in premodern and feudal times in Europe. In present-day America it is often associated with immigrant families from the Indian Sub-Continent.3 In this form of marriage, choice of marriage partner does not lie solely with the two individuals concerned and is not motivated by existing romance or sexual attraction. It is instead heavily influenced by tradition, parental preferences, religious considerations, economic interests, and social relations. Romance and love is considered to be mainly a consequence of marriage rather than a cause. The binding function of this form of marriage refers not only to the two individuals concerned; it refers to wider connections of land, blood, family, religion, and deity. In feudal Europe, royalty and the ruling classes would often engage in arranged marriages. This was motivated by the cementing of alliances, the preservation of bloodlines, and maintaining land and property in “desirable” hands. Despite resulting in many happy marriages, arranged marriages began to be ridiculed by eighteenth-century writers and artists. William Hogarth’s comical caricatures illustrate the mutual dislike shared by some individuals unwillingly condemned to these marriages. Authors such as Henry Fielding and Jane Austen mercilessly satirize the marital aspirations of the emerging middle classes to marry their daughters to dim-witted but land-owning aristocracy.4

Though Western Christians might consider arranged marriages to be an affront to highly prized values of choice and free will, it should be noted that arranged marriages are often seen in Scripture—Genesis 24 describes the “arranged” marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Even Adam and Eve could be described as an arranged marriage. In these cases, God and social exigency shape circumstances so that individuals are drawn together in order to conduct the Lord’s work as a unit. But the groom does not have agency over the selection of his bride. External forces are more powerful determinants. It should also be noted that arranged marriages in present-day society have a lower divorce rate than other forms of marriage. Driven less by intense dyadic emotion and more by external dynamics, arranged marriages should not be dismissed out-of-hand as unwholesome by Christians.

Arranged marriage generally passed out of fashion in the Victorian era, where choice became valorized over tradition and duty. Arranged marriage was superseded by what is known as companionship marriage, an idea finding much favor among the middle-class of the day, and still a common form of marriage in the present. Companionship marriage was based less on external criteria, such as land and kinship unions, and more on a quiet friendship founded on shared temperament, common values, and mutual interests.

Like arranged marriage, companionship marriage is found in Scripture. Elkanah and Hannah were in a companionship marriage that led to the birth of the prophet Samuel and their shared concern that his life be devoted to the Lord (see 1 Sam. 1–2). Ruth and Boaz may be another example of such a marriage (Ruth 4). A prototype of companionship marriage is found in many of Charles Dickens’s novels, where characters, such as David Copperfield, find companionship with women of similar values, interests, and temperaments. In his classic book The Four Loves, Christian writer C. S. Lewis constructed a convincing argument that Christians should implicitly base their marital decisions on models of companionship love. Lewis argued that affection (storge) and friendship (philia) were more important foundations for Christian marriage than erotic (or romantic) love. Companionship marriage remains popular among Christians, and may be highly prevalent among the older generations.

Modern-day secular society (and many Christians), however, has enthusiastically embraced what in times past was considered a distinctly minority form of love/marriage: romantic love.5 This is a supposedly intense and passionate union of two individuals with no external anchors; a union that is hypothesized to “complete” the other—a meeting of minds, providing emotional safety, spiritual security, sexual satisfaction, and social support in the face of the blooming and buzzing confusion of everyday life.6 This form of love, what C. S. Lewis would label as eros, is represented in popular thought by Romeo and Juliet. In this model, the intense and passionate experience of romance is considered to be the only desirable route to marriage. Tradition, family ties, religious considerations, and parental preferences are considered irrelevant inertial drag for those engaging in romantic love and wanting to consummate their intense experience as a romantic marriage. Romantic love is mainly a secular concept, though it is also expressed in Scripture. The Song of Solomon could be considered an extended poem on the topic of romantic love and an example of romantic marriage from the Old Testament could be that of Jacob and Rachel (Gen. 29).

All three forms of marriage outlined in this article exist in contemporary secular society. Romantic love (leading to romantic marriage) has become the most coveted and alluring, especially among young people. Romantic love is consistently portrayed in popular culture as a singleton’s route to individual salvation—the most desirable and enviable state in which a young person can dwell. Companionship love (and marriage) is often considered a poor relation of romantic love among the young: a second-best option reserved for those who cannot obtain romantic love. Arranged marriage is often considered by young secular Anglo-Americans as positively retrograde and reserved for those from “primitive” or “backward” non-Western cultures..."

A point to note about all of this.  So often arranged marriages between families meant to consolidate power and form stronger alliances were in name only.   That no divorce was forthcoming did not mean the marriage was successful and many times the couples didn't live together and took other partners after the official "marriage" had been decreed.  Even the supposedly storybook marriage of Charles and Diana a few decades back turned out to be a sham, to the surprise of the female counterpart.  It was a short trip to worldwide coverage of a fairy-tale couple riding in an open horse-drawn carriage into a marriage meant to provide scions to follow in Charle's footsteps whilst he dallied with the lady friend he never intended to give up in the first place.   It is likely many such "arranged" marriages occurred and were entirely a facade.  

If your marriage is under attack, you and your spouse are both under attack.  If you are attacking each other then you can be sure you aren't doing things God's way.  If you commit to doing things God's way and work at restoring your marriage it can be salvaged.   If you can just find a way to repair friendship then romance will follow, especially if you get God involved.   If you neglected God or friendship or romance it is now time to repent and fix it!

My wife and I met on the Christian Cafe, a website supposedly devoted to Christians only for Christians to be able to safely meet and to communicate via emails first and then decide upon phone calls and perhaps in person if all went well.  I was a divorced Mr. Mom with custody of my kids and a good job but I did not feel complete alone.   My kids were of course wonderful and my house was the house their friends came to, so that often there were more kids that belonged to other families hanging around than there were my own, and some of them became so close to me I call them Godkids and they are like family.   So I was not lonely per se, but I believed that I understood that God was faithful and if I wanted a good wife and searched for her, I would find her.  I didn't believe in divorce, didn't want divorce, had no choice but to do it for the sake of my children but I still was willing to seek a life's partner.  "It is not good for man to be alone" resonated within me.

I had women send me pictures that were of someone else other than themselves.  I had "Christian" women seek to lure me with sex.  It surprised me at the attitude of some, in that they had been married before whether widowed or divorced, and so therefore sex before marriage was somehow therefore okay.  Of course sex can be freaking awesome but I had become a Christian and had "re-virgined" myself and was determined not to have intercourse again until I had a wife.  Old fashioned?  Maybe not.   Anytime there was an actual first date I would bring up finances, who runs the home, who pays the bills, what did she think about sex and working outside the home, how into the Bible was she, what were her politics...I shocked a couple of them with my attitude and maybe bluntness, but I didn't want to waste any time.  If she wasn't going to be wife material there was no point dating.  Some things (like if she had a career and wanted to keep working after marriage) were not deal-breakers, but unbiblical attitudes about the authority in the home and adherence to biblical morality and things like that were key.  I was not going to be married to someone who didn't put the Bible above opinion or preference!

One discovery was that anyone ten years or more younger than me just didn't share enough of the same cultural experiences and attitudes for me to feel at home with her.   Most women were looking for a handsome man with a good income (whether I am handsome or not is debatable and my income is moderate rather than large) and some were concerned with the after effects of the spinal cord injury I'd had that had threatened the loss of at least one leg, although I had clearly overcome that and could walk and run if need be.  All of them were looking for a "spark" of romance above all else.  One woman was sparked enough to send ME roses to my office, making all the women in the company buzz and come by to see and causing the guys to grill me about her.  Yes, I had a picture of her on my desk, blonde, beautiful, a singer.   Yes, I felt the spark as well.  We had chemistry.  But we didn't have much else.  I soon realized it was all attraction and that much of what she believed in bothered me, and vice-versa.

Some would have given up after a year or two of oddities (one woman became something of a stalker, another stood me up after walking up to our meeting place (a coffee shop in a bookstore) and peering in the window - she turned around and walked back to her car and drove off!  One told me she was attracted to me and liked me but thought I was too fat.  One was ready to buy a house with me before we were even married but she had children and was not willing to let me be the authority over them.  On and on.  

Debbie and I have a fun story but I will shorten it here.  I read her post on the Cafe and liked her answers.  She was newly widowed and she had kids, too.  I emailed her and she read my post and liked my answers.  Soon we had exchanged phone numbers and were calling each other every day.  We were talking in July, met in August and married before the end of December! 

 We marry
Was it love at first sight?  No.  We liked each other A LOT from conversations and we did like the pictures we sent each other.   I figured she would be attractive to me but I wouldn't know until I actually met her.  Neither one of us fell over in a swoon when we finally met but I guess we both knew when we did that there was attraction.  On our first date she reached over with her fork and "sharked" a bite of my food.  I cannot explain why but that was a moment that promised intimacy and trust.  After dinner, in the parking lot of the restaurant, I leaned over and kissed her and she was happy to be kissed.  We sort of knew that if no red flags came up we would be a couple. But we both knew each other pretty well before we had even met.  It works!

We began with companionship and gladly added attraction and behold, we also have agape love in our relationship!   I discovered something wonderful, that feeling of wonder and love and longing fulfilled.  When I look into my sweetheart's eyes I see my dream girl made real, my love and my friend!   Nothing but death could part us and that would only be for a time.   I don't understand heaven too well, as the husband and wife roles disappear there, but I know Debbie and I will be forever companions this life and the next.  I'm not broken, I just needed God to enter into my heart and teach me real love and then I needed to find my female counterpart and God kindly gave me my best ever gift, Debbie!

As an aside, our kids have all glommed together into a family unit.  They are now our kids when once they were my kids and her kids.  A family that has trust and love and faith and communion?  Priceless! 

 The other kids and grandkids at the spring wedding

Marriage should be like an equilateral triangle As couples who are Christians grow closer to God, they therefore grow closer to each other and when they move closer to each other they become closer to God.  We pray out loud together 99 nights out of 100 and we read the Bible together now usually three times a week and discuss the chapter we read and the implications thereof.  We are open with each other and share our feelings and experiences so that our relationship is transparent.   It does mean it is kind of hard for us to surprise each other because we know each other well.   But I am a writer and Debbie is an artist and we are both creative, so it still happens and it is almost always a happy surprise.  

Sadly, many Christian couples have a triangle but with unequal sides.  One is close to God, one is far away and that usually means trouble all around.  Some decide to toss God aside altogether and live for each other, but that inward focus generally leads to control and codependency.  There is something toxic in a love that is possessive and at the same time based on external attributes.   She might be beautiful now but in 30 years she'll have wrinkles and you won't hardly see them if you truly love her and if you love her appearance that is all you will see.

Love that is turned in towards each other exclusively will fade or become toxic, for any outward focus threatens that "love" and control and jealousy patiently wait for the trouble to start.  Couples confident in a mature love towards each other then point outwards in an effort to share good things with others.  Debbie and I teach teenagers, helping us to remember what being a teenager is like.   When we remember, we can get in where they live and help them face challenges with the help of the love of God.  

The youngest daughter and new son-in-law last spring

Our daughter who was married this spring was attracted to a guy who was attracted to her, so first there was spark.  But he was not a Christian and she would not date him, instead opting to be his friend.   They hung out often and as they are both artists and each would eventually graduate art college, they did work on projects together.   Her love of God and her acceptance of his friendship drew him to explore the Jesus that lived within her and he did eventually become a born-again believer.  He didn't tell us right away because he was afraid we would expect him to change overnight.  Ha!  But once he did tell her and us, how joyous she was for she told us that "now he can be my boyfriend!"   Did he want that?  Oh, yes, and he went from being annoyed at her standards about living together to agreement that waiting was best.  What a glorious wedding and what a handsome couple they made!   Spark can come first, as long as friendship happens also.  Friendship can come first, as long as romance then joins up.  Both ways are good ways.

My readers, I know some of you are not from Western culture and you may even be facing an arranged marriage.  If that happens, build your friendship strong with your partner and I suspect that the attraction and romance will follow.  If you see no chance of that, do try to dissuade your families from forcing you to marry.  I hope none of you are forced to marry someone you just cannot like.  That would be hard to fix.

But my Western readers, please pay attention to me.   I know what I am talking about concerning love.  If romance and friendship are both there, intimacy will follow.  If you have God in the middle, there will be great joy that will live with you every hour of every day.  Attraction is not enough.   Couples are capable of going months basically just playing, having fun, and making out and probably having sex.   Romance built on attraction minus friendship will crash and burn.  Look at all the beautiful people in Hollywood and pro sports and etc.  They may have money and be incredibly attractive but the divorce rate in these celebrity circles and the constant changing of partners means that something is wrong.

Life isn't like a trip to the moon.   Some think it is.  They carefully plot their lives to make sure they get exactly where they want to go and then they get there what?   How many have sold out for fame or fortune and, having attained it, discovered that it isn't enough?  Once you get to the moon,  there is only one way to go and that way is down.   Every Astronaut who went up had to come back down.  So will you.  So many celebrities make it to "the moon" in terms of achieving fame and yet so many of them then resort to drugs and drinking and promiscuity.   They get to the moon and then they realize that it isn't enough.

Hawaii is a beautiful island paradise. Imagine going there on a sailing ship.   You just keep adjusting the rigging and continually check your bearings and correcting your course,  facing storms and calm seas, seeing great beauty and facing grave perils.   You are never sure when a big wave might come and capsize your ship and threaten your life.  You never know when a school of dolphins will join you and jump and jump out of the water to see you for themselves.  If you are a good, smart sailor you will go on the journey when the weather is favorable and you will get there successfully.   The islands are absolutely gorgeous!  But then again, after you have been on Oahu for a few months you will have pretty much seen everything there to see.  Some people are comfortable in a pocket-sized paradise but some find that being confined to an island becomes something of a prison.  The self-satisfied person who finds a safe niche and hides within it?  Sounds kind of boring. 

I think life is a walk down one-way roads, sometimes through forest, sometimes city, sometimes through meadows, with no chance of turning around and going back.   We face dangers and meet friends and enemies and often wind up walking or running together in groups.  It rains and snows and storms and there are bright sunny days.  Many times along the way we will come to a fork in the road and one way will be labeled, "God."  For many years I always took the other path and eschewed the God way.   I didn't want to acknowledge the idea of someone having authority over me and me being responsible to that someone.  I didn't want to give myself away and be transformed into some kind of automaton mumbling "Jesus saves, Jesus saves" carrying a big black Bible and be led around by the nose like an animal.  

Now I know that life is the journey and that there is no destination until you come to the end of life.  You cannot go back.  You can stop.  You can keep going.  That is all there is to it.  By finally taking a "God" fork in the road my path has been different and challenging but above all it has been interesting.   When you understand the meaning of life and you understand why you are walking down that road and Who you are walking towards, then the journey itself has meaning.  What am I doing every step of the way?   Happiness depends on what happens.  Joy is a result of what and who you are and with whom you are walking.

Christian, if you are on a God road you can expect to run into detours and roadblocks and lots of enemies trying to slow you down or stop you cold.   Nothing worth doing is done easily, it would seem, but whatever you seek to do, do it well.  Do it in the name of God.  Opposition is like a free weight.  You build muscles by lifting and the weight "opposes" your muscle tissue and even causes small tears in the muscle as you lift consistently.  Those muscles become stronger and bigger because of the opposition of the weights.  In your life, the people who try to stop you are the very ones who God will use to strengthen you.  If no one is pushing back against what you are doing, you probably aren't doing it for God!

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