Monday, August 30, 2010

War - what is it good for.

A short thought-gem before a road trip today:
War is a dreadful thing; but it does prove two points sharply and
unanswerably -- numbers and an unnatural valour. One does discover the two
urgent matters; how many rebels there are alive, and how many are ready to be
-GK Chesterton 'What's Wrong with the World'

Time magazine once asked prominent authors, and thinkers the question "What's wrong with the world?" To which GKC replied:

Dear Sirs,
I am.

Sincerely, -GK Chesterton

He then proceeded to write a book with things wrong with the world, but I feel his first answer is best. Humanity is wrong. Me. We are all fallen. A fallen world means that "any man can fall, miserably, at any moment at any situation. Including this man, from this time, at this place." Plus the wit and brevity of GKC pours through.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


My little girl turns 2 today. Happy B-day!

She's a special, magical child. She can charm you with smallest smile, head tilt or cutest little sound that is slightly past gibberish on its way to a real word. She transform into the most capable little person able to sit and eat and drink from big cup without spilling a drop. She casts a spell and leaves you mesmerized at this person flying through the room to scold the dog (or feed it). Your magically drawn into picking her up and hugging her. I do it without thinking, I'm under her spell.

She's also a ninja to a level past the teaching of her older siblings. My eldest (girl) had some ability to sneak around doing things but generally didn't try too much. If she was in her room doing un-approved crafting (scissors, etc) she'd often have completed a few pictures and one is for you; and it manages to melt your heart. My boy is an exceptional climber bordering on being a spider monkey. (Probably too good because he's fearless about it - at 2 he chipped a tooth jumping off of a bunk bed.) Arms grab & hold in ways not normal for a 5 y/o.

Side story of proof:
Last night there was a legitimate extensive wrestling match over a new toy dino. Allie had the new toy in the house and was going to bed in 20 minutes. Cabu was unhappy with his toy in the possession of someone else despite him watching Jackie Chan (Spy Next Door - not so good) and not playing. He took the toy. We said to give it back for a little bit and were met with firm defiance. The Jackie Chan battle scenes started as fun to get it and became real. He was switching hands, grabbing, kicking, and deflecting me like the clumsy giant I was. This quickly turned into a hard fought battle that I could not lose. And I did not - but I'm "ascared" for the future battles. So back to ninj-allie.

Allie has learned from and surpassed her teachers. She will sneakily be on chairs & tables playing with off-limit toys or pouring salt on the table to draw pictures and lick up. She had quickly learned how to dive off the couch arms onto the couch. If she's out of sight she's probably using her ninja skills. I'm thinking she daily protects our house from the evils of yard gnomes, other toddler ninjas, and neighborhood cats.

A number of times I've been struck speechless by my kids. Probably a muting spell or something. But I'm speechless staring at my kids in awe and fear at the same time. I see the things being done, thought about, said and tried. These kids are incredible. Who am I that this intelligent, wonderful creature is in my care? That all of that innocence and potential in the future should be under my clumsy hands to form? My wife and I are the primary people for molding these miracles into miracle makers? These kids are incredible.

How long until they realize we're making this up as we go and they form a coup and overthrow us. They'll be kind & keep us around just so we can drive them places. But y'know that will only last until they are about 12 & can reach the pedals on their own. Then we'll be locked in the attic, but we'll be together so that's okay. Plus I hid some crayons and a coloring book up there so we don't get bored.

So for today I will enjoy my spellcasting toddler ninja's birthday. There's only a few more of them I will be able to enjoy freely; soon the gifts will turn to tributes. The cake will be a food offering to our rulers. But that's okay too; because I think she will still protect us from yard gnomes, and ninja-ing is hard work and you need some good food to keep going.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

-On the Eve of the Vote

"Women have been set free to be Bucchantes. They have been set tree to be virgin martyrs; they have been set free to be witches. Do not ask them now to sink so low as the higher culture." -All Things Considered

"When society is in rather a futile fuss about the subjection of women, will no one say how much every man owes to the tyranny and privilege of women, to the fact that they alone rule education until education becomes futile? For a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women. Every man is womanized, merely by being born. They talk of the masculine woman; but every man is a feminized man. And if ever man walk to Westminster to protest against this female privilege, I shall not join their procession."

I've been listening to GK Chesterton stuff for about 2 years. While he is often quotable for snippets or some great and wise word play he is tremendously sound in building upto it. That is one of the most striking things about his work. The quick quotes are capstones upon a well built wall. Rationale defined and assembled brick by brick, and tough to tear down.

After a getting through a few works with "huh, I never thought of that" or "that's a neat point" one concept caught my interest, he was generally opposed to the suffrage movement. He did not like the women's vote or much of the movement.
"Women shouldn't vote."

This seemed a VERY antiquated view. It's hard to believe anybody ever thought like that. Nobody thinks like that anymore.

I find Chesterton to actually be a liberal thinker bounded by the confines of logic and a general following of common sense. I at first tried to solve the maze of how he got to this without seeing the twisted path he took to such an odd conclusion. Odd by todays standards. He was many things but a good critic is one, if he didn't like an idea or culture; there was a reason. It was not from a disregard of women that he opposed the movement.

Chesterton starts by breaking down the role of the vote. Voting is to put a voice to the mob.
Mobs are generally 20 people deciding the guilty person needs punishment. Mobs are beneath women, and so is voting. It wasn't that women were incapable of pulling a lever or filling out a form. Or that that were not smart enough to make a good choice. He'd argue they'd make a better choice. But women hold such an esteemed role and position in society it should not be sullied with voting. Mobs are dirty work, voting is dirty work.

Not that women couldn't think or talk as political leaders either. Women in politics were putting themselves in the only stance where men were not afraid of them; a fighting stance.

Chesterton held women as a beautiful creation of the creator that was worthy of a high seat. Of a throne in society.

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area - deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area - providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle with a certain area - teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene: I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it." -What's Wrong with the World

It wasn't a matter of making women beneath men, it was a matter of still holding them above men.

Yup. Nobody thinks like that anymore.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Note to self: write notes

On my wall here at work sits a lovely little note my 6 y/o wrote to me:

Our church hands out children's bulletins with little word games, mazes, coloring, or differential equations for the really big kid who is bored. I received this note following a puzzle where all the words were separated by the letter "k". I was assisting Beth on figuring this out and she was sure the word was "a bout" not "about". I had to assist my son to the bathroom and came back to the pew and was handed this note by a cute girl with brows knit in frustration at me. Explaining that it would be "akbout" only produced more brow knitting. This happened about 2 months ago and is still funny today.

Yesterday, we had another episode of father-daughter frustration. The morning started well but turned suddenly upon some life important matter for a 6 y/o of who got to brush their teeth first, or the color of the sky, or who gets which seat in the car. Whatever it was the frustration and attitude was firing on all cylinders. I wish this was unusual for Sunday mornings, but it isn't. There's almost always some member of the squad who is mad that the van has 4 wheels instead of 6. Sometimes me because having 6 wheels would make for a serious swag-wagon. But, that's how I roll.

The 6 y/o's attitude wasn't fixed with the car ride to church. As church started I was getting grunts & growls instead of actual word responses to questions. Some kid's bulletins were being worked on when I was handed this note:

In case you can't decipher - I am not gonna talk to you for a year. To Dad, From Beth.
This vow of silence lasted about 2 minutes, and then there was a much happier child sitting beside me.
When we got home and after the allotted time out for earlier misbehavior I had a nice chat with my daughter.

You were mad and frustrated and grumpy this morning. And you need a good way to let those feelings out. You know hitting would only hurt your hand, hurt someone else or get you in trouble, or both. In church you wrote a note. Did you feel better after writing a note?
Well anytime you're mad, or angry, or happy also. You can write a note. You can write a note for any feeling you want and give it to mom & dad. We will gladly read your notes. We will not be angry, you will not get in trouble as long as it is not about killing people.
I think I'll read some Psalms tonight.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Teachable Moments

Last night before bedtime I was approached by my son, Cabu. With energy he asked. "Are we going to the museum tomorrow?"

My kids have a steel trap memory for fun things that are in the future. If you say something "might happen sometime soon" (which is a very reasonable non-committal brush off from a parent), you'll be reminded of such event certainly happening from sun up to sun down. You will be pestered with the "when", "is it time yet" and "how soon" until your will breaks upon the rocks of the kids dreams.

My response "Not soon. We aren't. Why are you asking?"

I was sure that at this point neither of us slipped with an offer of the museum in the future. Becky & I are getting very good at not discussing anything fun in front of the kids. Beyond fun, we won't discuss anything that might cause an exciting thought until we are certain it will happen (a movie tonight); then we get to leverage it as a possibility and build the anticipation so that they think the simplest things (watching "Wipeout") are events worthy of keeping a clean room for a week.

Cabu's very astute response, "I want to show them my collection of feathers and teeth so they can see that they are from dinosaurs, and keep them in the museum."

Somehow our house has become a storage house of collectibles. Not for the parents stuff. Oh-no. The kids have various stuffed animals, oddball toys, stickers and each has a box of small stuff. Not just general stuff but special stuff. Odd rocks, feathers, strings, etc. Each item is of immense value; it just hasn't been discovered or understood yet. Cabu has some "dino" feathers and a rock or two that he thinks are dinosaur teeth. While I love the ambition, I'm sure the odd shaped nugget from the driveway is just a broken rock and not related to a t-rex in any way.

Knowing how fragile situation this is, I picked up Cabu & set him on my lap. I needed someway to diffuse this. We aren't running all this down to any museum. I don't want to squash his energy, but we need someway to stop the chatter about going to the museum. Not just delay but something to let him know the museum isn't going to look at your feathers & teeth.

"Cabu, have you ever lost something you thought you really needed. Like, you lose your favorite car somewhere. And play time just isn't as fun without the red car to lead the others. So you look, and look, and look. Eventually you find what you have been looking for stuck behind the dresser. And you push and pull and try hard so that nothing stops you from getting that car. You fight to get it and once you have it you won't lose it again."

"Well this feather here looks pretty important. It looks like a flight feather that leads all the other feathers. And for a feather this large it must have been a large dinosaur. Huge."

"These teeth are probably the small grinder teeth in back but the dinosaur has fangs. Pointy fangs the size of your arm. While I'm sure a museum would like to have them; it'd be dangerous to take them outside where a dinosaur flying high above would see them and swoop down and take them. 'Cause you know that dinosaur is looking. Looking for his teeth and feathers and I don't think he'll stop. So keep these in your room, and have a good night. Sleep tight my boy."

Cabu cried. He cried a bunch actually; and didn't seem to want to go to bed after that. He seemed upset about not going to the museum, but I can't be sure. I think he learned a lot from this lesson though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grandmaster G-Mac - Write back atcha

This is my review of George MacDonald's "A Letter to American Boys" written in 1878.

I've tried a few times to prod some folks into a discussion of George MacDonald's "A Letter to American Boys". I haven't run across anyone who has read the letter yet. G-Mac is a master story teller and wrote MANY stories so it's no surprise. He also wrote in the late 1800's and a small snippet isn't as likely to survive as his other tales. He was especially skilled in the fairy tale and fantasy genre. I do have to toss in that I was especially moved by Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood although it was fiction not fantasy. "Letter.." is fairly short and includes a parable pushing it into more of the fantasy genre. Parables are great word riddles for illustrating a point. It's easy to cheat and read the answer on the parables of Jesus before truly wondering about the meaning; probably too easy. No such luck with G-Mac. My wife may soon call me out on this by providing insight of her own. So here's my thoughts before they get shaped by the views of others. Of course there may be some interpretation that screams of being true and I may have missed it. I'd be happy to read it. That's the point of discussion.

WARNING: my review is full of spoilers - you've had you're whole life to read it (assuming you're less than 132 years old). So read it now before scrolling too far (6-ish pages or 15 minutes).

Letter to American Boys - text

Or the audio: (about 1/2 down the list)
Letter to American Boys - audio

Here's my interpretation(s).
Wizard - saves the boy and cares for him for a brief time
Prisoner - character in the boy's dream. imprisoned by his own built chains

The boy is America. Young in age relative to every other character. America is a relatively young country. It's a letter to American boys and the boy is the primary character. No big leap here.

The Wizard is a God or guiding character. I don't think it is any specific country. He's described as being able to impart dreams and visions to people who would listen. Probably more of a trait: freedom, bigger though; a divine freedom.

The tricky part of the letter is that the boy has a dream and now as the reader you're interpreting a dream within a parable. Or is the dream the entire point of the parable?

Mom = England
The ending with the child rebellious to his mother & then reconciliation could point to this view. The boy visits with freedom for a while and then returns home. The weather is stormy and he becomes rebellious towards the mother - "I only want to be left alone". The boy is in misery and the mother returns after she is visited from the wizard. He cleans his room, they reconcile and move forward - "we will go out together." The storm has passed, it is sunny and pleasant. This seems rational with Mother England and the relationship that did develop after the revolution.

What then of the prisoner? It may be a vision of example of oppression or corruption. A prisoner of freedom, he forged his own chains and put them on himself. In being free he can also make poor choices and limit himself. The chains slowly come off as he cleans the area around him and resists being a jailer of smaller animals although in prison himself. A nation shackled with corruption (dirt) and oppression (spider). Set free as it cleans and respects life (bird).

Prisoner = England
Mother = freedom, or lady liberty-ish
The boy in a short time away from home gets a vision of a recognizable person stuck in a self made prison. The prisoner is crying out for it's mother, but the only remaining caretaker is the wizard.
This would serve more as an example parable. The boy should be careful not to lose its relationship with mother (freedom). Learn from the mistakes of the prisoner. Also learn from the success of the prisoner.

I can convince myself of either interpretation - kind of like forcing a checkerboard to be red on black OR black on red (a Chesterton analogy). Whatever the interpretation (and I hope some folks have other ideas) there are excellent pictures painted. MacDonald shows through as a true story teller and weaver of tales.

He also knows how to close a letter:
The Father of all the boys on earth and in heaven be with the boys of America!
and when they grow up, may they and the men of England understand, and love, and help each other! Amen!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hutchmoot in the 2nd chair

Saturday of HM-MX was many things. It's hard to find the right words to describe it. I started with awesome. Nice, but not quite the right word. I then moved to providential. Upon further thinking that is more fitting for the entire weekend and not just Saturday. I've since settled on transformational. This is all of Saturday, not just Hutchmoot.

Saturday had the option for two of three discussion sessions. I settled into "Perfected in Weakness" and "The Immersed Imagination". "Perfected" had some thinkers, lovers and writers of stories layout the power of a story with the anti-hero. Much of the discussion was about the "common guy" and the flawed characters in the story.
I doubt the speakers realized it, but there was a passing comment (paraphrased):
Once the character is established it has to remain true to itself or the story doesn't hold. In life people tend to avoid conflict, but life is scary. Conflict happens and can be good.

My gut stirred, it might have been indigestion but it ended up something more.

The next session was "Immersed Imagination". This focused more on the works of CS Lewis & George MacDonald who went far with creative stories. I think I've settled on analogy of painting by number; definitions make the lines, but stories give the color. These two authors were masters at telling the Truth with story. And telling the Story with truth. So my pickup line from this (again paraphrased & mentally processed):
The Jesus in the story is transformational. A story can move you from A to B, but to be transformational, it takes the incarnation of Christ. Him entering into you and changing you.

Yup, not indigestion.

Without getting into nitty-gritty details, I was not living this way at my core. I had a narrow range of how much conflict I would allow and beyond that I would emotionally shut down to limit the damage. Whether the damage was simply to my pride, my emotions or my image; I shut down. I squirmed out of big conflicts. This is not a good way to live. It's especially tough on a marriage. The person I should be the most open with was the one I was limiting the most. In shutting down to avoid the bad I also shut down the other end. There was no joy (and growth) from resolved conflict.

After getting to my room at my gracious hosts' home there was about a 2hr phone conversation to layout how screwed up I've been by trying to avoid conflict; & I was done lying to myself and people around me. Small white lies but they build strong walls. I will only relate how screwed up I've been. Transformation for me, Becky, and our marriage. Not just moving from A to B, but changing from old to new.

What that looks like? I don't know, but I like it so far, and like figuring it out.

Becky & I have had more and deeper conversations in the subsequent week than in the previous 15+ years of marriage and dating. The world seems sunnier but really it's just truer to its natural colors.

The word "providential" keeps coming to my mind to describe the entire weekend. There were MANY mis-steps and truth nuggets that wove together to take each of us to an entirely new place. And some blessings overflowed into other lives too.

mmm...Providence. I'm still chewing on the meat and staying full.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Raising the Bar

I recently was explaining my job as a mechanical engineer. MechE is pretty general so I was focusing on the details of the core strength of my company - bar turners.

Red-hot steel bars come out of the furnace and get squeezed through rolling round dies or get hammered by a forge as the bar is rotated. This works for a general usable shape but the bar is ugly; a rough shape with scale and lumps and is grey or black.

I design & build machines that spin a cutterhead with tools. The bar is held tight and shoved through the spinning cutterhead to become a round, precise and well finished barstock for use in shafts, hydraulic cylinders, etc.

The cutting process is not simple. Power is required to spin the cutterhead, and more power to force the bar through. It doesn't want to go. Cutting fluid washes over the whole process to cut metal off without burning up the tools or bar. There tends to be a loud noise resembling screaming and a smoke cloud emanates from the protective covers. Steadily a bar moves out the exit end and looks nothing like the bar that entered the cutting area.

I've recently come to see this as a good metaphor for the concept of the new man (Eph 4:22-24). The old self getting removed (not an easy step, not a painless step) and carried away. Washed. And a clean, usable, new self ready for use on the other side. A transformation.

This results in a stark contrast of the raw bars on the entry table with the exit table full of mirror finish processed bars. The transformation is painful; but the life is most abundant after the process, bar none.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Counting Stars - Hutchmoot concert

Friday night of HM-MMX (Hutchmoot 2010) was centered around the Andrew Peterson release concert of Counting Stars. Mooters had reserved seating and there wasn't much room beyond the mooters, so I was thankful for it.

AP started with some of his classics & filled requests. The onstage cohorts were Captains Courageous teammates Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn. It was well played and the passion carries on AP's voice and penetrates.

Up next was the Counting Stars portion. I watched the live on-line show which was the Captains. For this Counting Stars portion he was joined on stage by a full band which included many standout musicians (as if the Cap'ns weren't). I'm not a music insider and I still picked up many of the names. Sit & count the stars if you are able to.

It had been a few years since seeing a live show, and MANY years since I've been up close at a live show. As a stage hand for the Christian shows rolling through Lancaster (WJTL does well) I was up close very often (and my hearing is paying the price). I had forgotten how much drums can make you feel the music. They stepped thru every song of the album. AP's voice was passionate and his delivery makes you feel like you're the only one he's singing to.

For me the drums drove every song home. I had listened to the album 20x and knew the full sound beyond just the Cap'ns that was done online. At least, I thought I knew. The songs thundered and roared. The Reckoning in particular boomed out and truly made you wonder "how long, until the reckoning?" It was a superb show. AP standing before a crowd lives the songs. Online he still performed well, but onstage with an audience he lives the song for you. It pours out from his heart to yours.

While I'm still mentally unpacking from the weekend (and believe me all of HM-MMX pales in comparison to the other life happenings, it got paler today still) it occurs to me this was a great show and a fitting opening to a PACKED weekend.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Taste & see that the Lord is good. (Hutchmoot - an appetizer)

I've had slow weekends, and I've had busy weekends. This past weekend was unlike any other I've had before.

It was Hutchmoot weekend. What is Hutchmoot? Andrew Peterson led the way in forming an online community of folks who love story, song and art. Hutchmoot was the first stab at making the online cross over into the real world.

It crossed over with food, a concert, planned discussion topic groups, panel discussions, a keynote speech from Walt Wangerin Jr, and a wrapup concert in the round of like minded musicians. I'd say it was successful.

I've been an AP fan (some might say stalker) for 11ish years now. Becky & I saw him and Bebo Norman open up for Caedmon's Call at Grove City. Oddly about 8 addresses later we now live in Grove City. There is something authentic about his music that rings true within me.

I had set the bar high for this weekend. I tend to be an optimist and dreamer which can lead to disappointment sometimes, but I can't stop doing it. I can't stop doing it because things like this weekend happen. I was hoping big & great, and it was greater still.

This weekend felt 4 days long. So much happened it is overwhelming. My clothes will be unpacked long before my head ever will.

The best part is for how great Hutchmoot was; it wasn't the best part. A great event like Hutchmoot took second seat to something much better; sorry Hutchmoot you ended up with the 2nd place ribbon. Better luck next year. It was a catalyst to some major retooling in my marriage. We needed, I needed it. That's all the more details you'll get tho'.

So I'll rant a few times about the awesome time Hutchmoot was.
It all seems to fall under the statement from one of the panels:
"There is only one great story (I'll add "and one supreme author"), we just get to retell the story."

First off - The food.
Evie Coates headed up the food prep and presentation. It was supremely done and would be easy to overlook. Something comfortable and soothing about it. The keynote speaker, Walt Wangerin Jr., commented about community around the table with good food and there was a harmonious agreeing grunt that bellowed out automatically from everyone. Loud; as in vikings loud. With our mouths silent from hanging on every word our very guts cried out.

I should pretend to get back to work now. Moving spreadsheets and mechanical assemblies on the screen is hard to focus on today; and I generally enjoy it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Make 'em Laugh

"Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke. For solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity." - GKC, Orthodoxy

I sometimes get accused of being too serious. It's true, it happens. Generally it happens when I'm not partaking in crude jokes. That's fine by me. Most who know me know I am far from serious, and least serious about myself.

I like to laugh. I laugh at life and the simple things. I laugh at my kids developing a sense of humor. I laugh at the "People of Walmart". I laugh at jokes; and fun shows. I like Psych.

Another of my favorite shows (and possibly favorite of my viewing career) is Phineas & Ferb. 2 genius kids build outrageous things on there summer vacation. The sister relentlessly tries to bust them and it somehow disappears before the mom shows up. Throw in a secret agent platypus, evil scientist and wacky music numbers. While a "kid's show", it's a show where kids will not get 1/2 the jokes.

Swiss Family Phineas

It's the brainchild of 2 of the writers from "The Family Guy" which was a very funny show but generally lewd. Beyond generally, nearly always lewd & crude.

They kept the funny and lost the vulgar-ness.

There is something special about laughter. Special in that it's unique to humanity. You don't see animals playing jokes on each other. Gorillas aren't pretending to talk on the banana phone despite ample opportunities for the gag. There is play amongst learning & growing animals but these are generally sharpening skills.

Laughter is also special in that it breaks free. While your laughing, for a moment the anchors of the world let go. For an instant the curtain is lifted.

Laughter is a sharp tool. It can cut you free from the gravity of the world. It can also cut people and send them crashing down. I want to laugh with people, and slightly at them if they are laughing too. I try hard to not ridicule. I try hard not to cause or contribute to people being ridiculed. The cost is too high and their is no proper payback or making up for it. It sacrifices honor, trust and respect for pride, power and popularity. I'm not always successful but this is my aim.

I guess I am serious about trying to treat people right. I'm also serious about my identity as a child of God, which lets me laugh at myself. If you can laugh at yourself you're always on the inside of the joke.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Balancing act of Life Abundant

This past sunday we had a special worship service at our church. In the summer we have an outdoor service 1x per month. That was this past week with the added bonus of Jay Michael singing & sharing.

Jay is a newly wed (2 months) and shared a scattering of info but one tidbit that stuck well was the math of 1 + 1 = 1. one groom plus one wife equals one new life together. "The two shall become one". It immediately blew air onto the embers of the life paradox.

I've grown into a paradoxical understanding of the gospel. I'm not the 1st to think of it but I don't hear it laid out well. I've heard that many sermons can be summarized as "you suck, try harder".
Read your bible more, pray more, be a better father/husband/son, sin less, give more, buy less, pollute less, don't cheat, don't steal, tell the truth, save more, plant a tree, hug a tree, hug your family, dress nicely, brush your teeth, etc.

Even cloaked under the grace side of the balance it becomes a measure of efforts. I've probably discussed the basic paradox often (and will more) but I had been pondering the attempt of balance more.

The gospel (good news) is essentially "you are more sinful than you can bear to know and more loved than you'll ever know".

You fail, you aren't perfect; no amount of effort, trying or buying is going to satisfy. There might be temporary plateaus but they leave fall short.

judgement & mercy
law & grace

It's natural to try the balance act. 1/2 of this + 1/2 of that will keep me at one. The beauty of marriage is when both are "all-in". Both are committed 100% to the marriage and their partner. It's awesome when this is working. If you're only 1/2 in & thinking it's his/her turn to do the dishes, vacuum, feed the dog, cook, pay the bills, etc. If you got married thinking it's 1/2 the work you missed the point. It's just as much (actually more) "work". Now it's about something bigger than either spouse.

Being church-y this cooks down to "there are these rules I can follow and some are too old to apply anymore; and then there's the cleansing blood for the ones I can't quite get". NO. All of the law is beneficial for what it tells us about God and how he wants us to live. And you don't need 1/2 the grace, you need all of it. All in.

Here's the secret:
Being guilty and justified at the same time frees you to do everything for God. Free to serve.
I'm set free from making my efforts measure up. I can serve knowing it's all for God. I don't have to worry about how much I measure up - I've made the final goal. I don't worry about falling short in the past, or lacking the future. There's no pride or guilt to be had over past accomplishments.

You can bring nothing to the table that God needs. All you can do and all you need to do is let go of your baggage ("I do item xxxx well for God therefore he will bless me") and be of use to God.

Trying to add to God's work is like a tree moving leaves to add to the wind. You move because of God's work and blessings and not the other way around.

Hold that in your heart & you are free to go serve.