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Flagrantly lifted from yankeecandle.com in return for a link-back.

Whenever we go to the mall, or even just to some of them, you can find me in one of two places.  The bookstore or at Yankee Candle.  We love the Housewarmer candles at my place.  Even when Madame Wife and I were just starting our life together and working at fast food joints, we’d wait until there was a sale on votives, and then leave with a tray of them.  I bring this up because I’m starting a thoughtful reading of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s “Transformation in Christ” and his first chapter titled Readiness to Change is deftly illustrated by an image common in my home.

Here’s Dietrich: “Readiness to change, taken in this sense, is the first prerequisite for the transformation in Christ.  But, in addition thereto, more is needed:  a glowing desire to become a new man in Christ; a passionate will to give oneself over to Christ.  And this, again, presupposes a state of fluidity, as it were: that we should be like soft wax, ready to receive the imprint of the features of Christ.”

Wonderful thought.  If you have ever held wax in your hand until it was warm enough to become pliable, then you know what he is saying.  Solid, yet yielding, in that state you can leave the mold of your fingerprint on its surface.

But speaking further, von Hildebrand says, “the more one is transformed in Christ, the deeper and more unlimited his readiness to change beyond the point reached, the more he understands the dimension of depth in which that transformation must extend…”

What will the Beloved require of me?

When the wax is warm and able to hold a fingerprint, it isn’t far from cooling off and becoming hard again, or from being wiped smooth so to receive another imprint.  But what about the candle that has long been at the task of being burned?  When the flame is first set, the wick climbs high until its base comes in contact with the wax, and a small pool forms beneath.  As the flame mixes oxygen with wax, the pool spreads out in width and depth.  Leave it long enough, and you’ll find that all the wax has liquefied and the whole house is filled with the scent with which the wax has been infused.

If you would be a candle, that flame is the Holy Spirit and the wick is your willingness to change; your passion to completely surrender.  It should run straight through the center of you, down to the very depth of who you are.  That tiny tongue of hot light affixed to your constant will, shall dance until you consciously choose to blow it out.

I want to keep the flame burning until the whole jar is nothing but fragrant liquid.

Many times when you hear someone speaking of a person in glowing terms, they call them edgy and irreverent and offbeat.   Like that is a good thing.  What does that even mean, to say that a person is edgy?  When I look at synonyms for edgy it returns words like anxious, high strung, and impatient.  I don’t willfully choose to be around people like that.  And I guess irreverence is now a virtue.  Not.  Profane, insolent, and cocky, is more like it.  Again, not the type of person I seek out.  I can stand a person who is offbeat, unless he or she is a drummer, but I’m listening to less and less popular music these days, so my daily intake of drumming and offbeatness is waning.

I want to be around normal people.  Good people.  People who live their lives with the realization that there is an After, and that After is something for which we must prepare.

So if you’re being introduced, and the emcee says you’re edgy, and irreverent, don’t expect a round of applause from me.  And if you’re offbeat, please for the love of all things reverent, don’t pick up a pair of drumsticks.

Ever since getting back from the Catholic men’s conference in Indy last Saturday, I’ve found myself praying contextually, mostly for people but also for other things, and that isn’t something I’ve ever done before.  Give it a try:

* pray for the people who prepare your lunch when you say Grace.

* if someone comes up to you and asks you a question, say a quick mental prayer for them

* thank God for the sunrise or something beautiful or good you see

You get the idea.  Give it a try.

imageOne is sometimes tempted to rely on Sandburg’s poem “Fog” when posting about…well, fog.

I fought the temptation, instead giving him a hat tip in the headline, which shall suffice.

You see, I swam to work on a sea of fog this morning.  Strange business, this being the beginning of August, when it is supposed to be hot and humid and unbearable.  To air-conditioned wusses, at least.

The simple beauty, however, gave me pause.  Pause enough to stop my car.  On the road.  In the fog.  With the blinkers on, nevertheless, but still…

And I snapped a photo of a cell tower floating in the mist, while the sun to its right peaks over the top of the earthbound cloud, threatening it’s impending obliteration.

I love mornings like this.

After completing the RAIN Ride (Ride Across Indiana) on July 12th, which for me was 163 miles and change, I have to admit that I took a liberal dose of easy days on the bike.  By easy, I mean three or four miles.  It still counts!  Three longer days in there.  A couple of 20 milers and a 50 mile bike commute to work has kept me in good enough shape to apply muscle to chainring when needed.  I smeared some of that on the flat route to Flat Rock and back this evening.  But my quads were really pingy.

I know why.  I got on the treadmill at work yesterday and banged out a 5K during lunch break.

Hadn’t run a step since the color run back in May.  May?  Where did summer go?  The bike workouts have kept me in shape, but running uses different muscles than biking does.  And both share some of that anatomical real estate.  I’ll stop whining now.

Get out there and ride a bike.

History will judge our generation harshly, and rightly so.  All of our blather about choice, as if death’s venue matters.  The snuffing out of an innocent life is wrong whether it takes place in a concentration camp, a movie theater, or a mother’s womb.

Back in 2004, I took my oldest son, Aaron, to a “Phatmass” get together in Dallas, Texas.  Pro life organizations had booths set up and one table in particular had a business card sized hand-out with a picture on one side showing an aborted baby’s severed arm superimposed over the face of a dime.  The back side had a picture of a mass grave at Dachau.  That has stuck with me over the years.

Whenever I hear somebody start talking about a woman’s right to choose the death of the baby growing inside her, I think of the free southern gentleman’s right to own slaves.  I think of a corrupt government’s right to abduct and torture political dissidents.  I don’t think about hearts and flowers.

When I read popular accounts of satisfaction or regret over life decisions, I’ve focused more on the positive side, along the lines of the Facebook status update staple from Steven Covey:

How many on their deathbeds wished they’d spent more time at the office – or watching TV?  The answer is, No one.” ~ Stephen Covey

Well, I found one today.  Some strange bird on HuffPo (yes, I read widely) said this past summer:

 In some cosmic way I feel that I let down a generation of women who made it possible to dream big, even though I know the real goal of the Women’s Movement was to be able to dream anything. ~Lisa Endlich Heffernan

She’s talking about her regret about having decided to be a stay at home mom.  The subtle, underlying assumption, is an economic argument.  Only a career, money, and all the trappings can truly make a person happy.  It is a very one-sided article.  Her basic arguments were:

I let down those who went before me.  Therefore, it follows that so did every other SAHM who refused to jump on the radical feminist bandwagon.  Your misplaced devotion to people you never knew and don’t give a damn about you is stunning.

I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees.  Because stock trading is so much more important than parenting.  Points deducted for focusing on things instead of people.

My kids think I did nothing.  In the spirit of magnanimity, I’ll only say that no, they aren’t as vapid as you make them out to be.  One point of extra credit for at least focusing on people, even if it was in an icky, dysfunctional sort of way.

My world narrowed.  For the sole reason that you weren’t in the traditional workforce?  The world is as broad or as narrow as you make it.  No points deducted.  No extra credit.  Ten percent off coupon for an ADT alarm system to protect you from the suburban SAHMs you just accused of being Stepford Wives.

I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work.  And that put you into contact with tons of all varieties of people, but since you didn’t get paid for it, it didn’t count.  Five point deduction for again focusing on things instead of people.

I worried more.  Focusing on your children at a granular level, I think you said.  When you’re commanding the trading floor for your company, you can afford to pay others to worry about your kids.  Actually, I see this as a positive, because worry can be productive.  We are becoming worse as a society because nobody is worrying about the kids.  At the granular level.  In fact, the more eyes we have on the children, on the street, the safer we all are.  Ten points of extra credit because you cared.

I slipped into a more traditional marriage.  This is the one that floored me.  Traditional marriage here is a bad thing, according to Lisa.  She’d rather come home from work in a “blinding haze of exhaustion” and too tired to pay attention to the kids, than to pick up her husband’s dry cleaning.

I became outdated.  She is angry that she didn’t get to keep up with the latest in cutting edge technology and software.  Taking back the ten points because (sigh) again, you focus on things and not people.  You’re bummed because Lotus Notes clutched its chest and died on somebody else’s watch?

I lowered my sights and lost confidence.  This is Lisa’s biggest regret, and she blames it on being a SAHM.  Confidence in what? Her value as a person.  She is upset because, during the time it took to raise her children, she became obsolete in her former profession.  Out of compassion, and because Lisa’s article was a culturally conditioned response, no points will be deducted, however no extra credit will be assigned.

In certain aspects, I don’t blame her for feeling as she does.  She probably still has a ton of student loan debt and her job training went to waste.  Lets not confuse this debt with having received an education, because they are two vastly different things and it appears she only received job training.  Had she received an education, she would have valued her SAHM status for what it was:  Freedom from the narrowly structured world of work, with all of the glorious possibilities that entails.  The world of work is still structured for men.  It punishes women for being women.  For having children.  For needing to breastfeed at inconvenient times.  And all sorts of other things.  The SAHM world, on the other hand, due much in part to the advancements in technology and all of these labor saving devices we have now, allows mom to explore, to learn, to grow, to home school, to volunteer, to acquire skills that allow for the upgrade from SAHM to WAHM.

Education should be seen as a lifelong endeavor that has value for its own sake.  Job training, and even the idea of a university degree, has some value but this value is limited.  It is becoming more and more limited the more expensive “education” becomes.

But education can be as cheap or as expensive as you let it become.  It can be as cheap as an on-loan library book or a downloaded public domain Google Books Project file on your e-book reader.  It can be as expensive as an Ivy League degree and the years of loan-slavery that ensue or as costly as the misguided notion that the only worthwhile work takes place in the external economy.

I would contend that in many cases today, if you’ve set aside a nice nest egg for your child’s education, you might instead buy them a house with it.  Make it a smaller house that is easy to heat and cool, and you’ll be doing them another favor.  They will be years ahead of the game.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I am anti-education.  I’m two-thirds of a way through a master’s degree.  I’m attaining it with no educational debt, too.  I’m credentialed in my chosen field, and I read broadly and deeply.  Fiction and non-fiction.  Books and journals.  Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you go to a college or university, that you’ll get an education.  What you will most likely get is saddled with massive debt.

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