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In my mid twenties I worked at a quaint cafe. Eventually I became the owner. This cafe is where I learned so many of the important life lessons.

Like maple syrup is really hard to clean off of linoleum. Brown rice tastes better when someone else cooks it. Cinnamon and cayenne pepper can and will be mistaken for each other, and someone will put the spicy stuff in an apple pie, and you will get mad even though the person who made the mistake is your sweet mother. Iced mocha’s are really good when you sneak a scoop of gelato in your cup. Clam chowder will spoil if you don’t let it cool properly before putting it in the fridge. You will meet wonderful people and even though you know you will never see them again they were some of the most important people in your life.

Meet Don.

Don was in his late 40’s when I first met him. He was a waiter at the cafe and was wearing a purple T-Shirt, khaki pants with the hems turned up, and black lace up vans. I don’t think I ever saw him wear anything but this, except in the winter when he added a grey pullover sweatshirt. I soon realized this was his ‘uniform’.

Don was into macrobiotics and brought his lunch with him everyday. He taught me the art of cooking brown rice until it was tender and sweet. He walked everywhere he went, unless he was going out-of-town. And it was him who explained the difference between love and lust.

Don lived in an old apartment next door to the cafe which was heated by electricity. His stove was also electric. We got to talking about why he cooked on a Coleman camp stove when he had a perfectly good stove in his kitchen. He said the energy from the gas was gentler than the electricity the stove put out.

He took my hand and began rubbing the top of it in slow small circles. This is gas, he explained. Then he began patting my hand and said this is electricity. With gas there is a slow progression and things can cool off and heat back up, because the pilot light is always lit to keep things at the ready. With electricity there is an on and off switch. Can you feel the difference? Yeah, I could see and feel what he was telling me. When he was rubbing in circles there was constant contact {ready}, and when he patted the connection was broken {on/off}. He then went on the explain how lust is like electricity and love is like gas.

{When I re-read this it sounds a little creepy. Just me? Well, it wasn’t, not even a teensy tiny bit.}

It made perfect sense to me at the time and still does. Lust is usually quick to start and is hot for a bit, then fizzles out and grows cold. It’s there one day and gone the next. On and off like a switch. Love on the other hand tends to be a slow progression  and the flame is always there, burning gently under the surface.

There is a series by Rob Bell where he explains parts of the bible through short videos. I found Flame on Youtube, it has Spanish subtitles and looks bootlegged, but the message is there, and it is beautiful and encouraging. Rob talks about love as a flame not exactly as Don described it. The following is my summary of the film.

The word love is really the combination of three words in the Hebrew language. They are Raya or friendship love, Ahava a deep passion where your souls are bound together;commitment, and Dod which is the physical attraction {or erotic} aspect of love. When one flame burns by itself it will never be as bright or hot as when all three are together. Rob explains in the event of an affair there is only Dod, and the two people are trying to use the heat from this one flame to get all three flames burning together. He goes on to say when you separate the flames you can never really be satisfied. Love is two people coming together and giving all of themselves to each other forever. The three flames are meant to be together. He also talks about how you have to nurture the three flames so they continue to burn together.

I really get this because I’ve seen it first hand. When Scott and I first met, he was on vacation and when he left to go back home we decided to try out dating long distance. We really didn’t have it all mapped out, but we knew we wanted to keep what we had. We talked on the phone, texted, and/or emailed everyday. Continued to get to know each other. I knew we were friends {Raya}. I knew we were attracted to each other {Dod}. I worried about how things were going to be when I spent so much time away from him. Would I still feel the same? Would he still feel the same? Would I still get excited when I saw him? Would he still make my knees go weak? Would that spark still be there…

I stopped questioning this after we had been together for a few months. We had had a few ‘dates’ {more like long weekends where one or the other flew 2,000 miles} and I knew we had a strong commitment {almost Ahava}. I knew the flame we had was strong and looked forward to when we really shared all three flames. Then we got married. And bam, {queue bonfire and fireworks} HUGE FLAME! Just like the gas flame from Don’s Coleman camp stove, our love keeps getting stronger, and brighter each day because we have all three.

Scott has been working out-of-town for the past few weeks. Far enough away so he doesn’t come home every night. Luckily I am able to see him on the weekends and I get to talk to him everyday. I keep thinking about the people who have spouses who are in the military and are separated for long stretches of time. And as hard as it is for me to be away from Scott for a week, the people who have to be away from their spouses for much longer is heart breaking. That flame is what keeps the home fires burning as they say. And what makes them run into each others arms and cry tears of joy. It is the flame of love.

Three flames making up one big flame.

The big flame.

Something that strong never goes out.

I hope you find your big flame.

What do you think about what Don and Rob Bell have to say? Can you tell the difference between love and lust?