reap what you sow

A rambling post about some of my thoughts from bible study tonight.

I’ve been in the group for a number of months, but I’m still getting used to being a participant in a group after many years of leading one, and a year of not going to one at all.

Tonight we looked at Galatians 6. For the last few months at church the sermons have been on Galatians, and the studies have tried to keep pace, more or less. I had my head down in my Reader’s Greek New Testament for some of the time, trying to keep my knowledge of New Testament Greek alive as much as possible.

Having a Greek bible in a bible study context is a constant tightrope walk for me. I’ve done a bunch of theological study over the years so that I can understand the bible better, but I don’t want to give the impression that (a) I consider myself better than other people just because I’ve had such opportunities or (b) that another person’s opinion of the text is somehow invalid because I’ve studied more. So I’m very hesitant to bring out any specific “in the Greek it says this” kind of talk, as I think it’s just distracting and unhelpful.

This blog is a different story, I guess: please bear with me as I throw some Greek words into this post and try and explain them a little. 

I found verse 1 pretty distracting as I tried to figure out what was going on in the Greek…

 6  Ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν καὶ προλημφθῇ ἄνθρωπος ἔν τινι παραπτώματι, ὑμεῖς οἱ πνευματικοὶ καταρτίζετε τὸν τοιοῦτον ἐν πνεύματι πραΰτητος, σκοπῶν σεαυτὸν μὴ καὶ σὺ πειρασθῇς.

Let me try and translate it for you… I’m pretty rusty at this, and I don’t usually publish my attempts at translation. Sorry for any masculine-centricity in the translation: there’s a tendency in the Greek to use male pronouns (e.g. Ἀδελφοί – brothers as in Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love, ἄνθρωπος – man as in anthropology), but that’s the way the language worked: a reflection of the culture of its day. 

Brothers (or sisters), if [also] a man/person happens to be caught in any sin/transgression, you (plural) the spiritual ones – restore such a person (the this one) with a humble spirit, while watching out yourself also, [that] you are not tempted.

The word that threw me was προλημφθῇ – the fourth one in the verse. It’s a “subjunctive 3rd person passive”, so it’s a conditional kind of verb. It’s made up of the preposition προ – in front of, and the (first week of Greek study vocal word) λαμβάνω – I take hold of. The English version I had in front of me said “caught in any transgression”, but I hadn’t seen that particular word for “grab hold of” before. 

So it’s the kind of sin that you keep coming back to, whether you particularly want to or not. When someone is stuck in a situation like that, the Christians around them are meant to restore them gently, being careful not to be tempted by the same sin.

That whole verse reminds me of many conversations I’ve had with people who have moved on from being involved in a church: when they had some kind of struggle, instead of being restored gently, they felt like they’d been asked to leave, and never darken the door of a church again.

It’s a sad situation, and tough to remedy: once you associate Christianity with self-righteous people who are keen to judge anyone around them, it’s a tough association to break.

Ultimately, it was these few verses that jumped out at me.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9, ESV)

We talked about the good things and the bad things that we’re doing, and how – on a long enough timeframe – these things that we put energy into, good or bad, will become more and more a part of our character.

At some level, this sounded like karma, but at a more personal level. It was a challenge for me to look at how little time I’m spending actually reading the bible (as opposed to reading about it, or about church history), and to push aside some of the playing-iPhone-games-while-listening-to-podcast time to make space for it again.

book: the $100 startup

Book: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

I’ve been reading author Chris Guillebeau’s “art of non-conformity” email newsletter for a couple of years, as he documents his ambition to travel to every country in the world (he’s most of the way through now, so he’s actually achieving this), and so when he wrote about this book any number of times, it made me curious. I had to put in a book depository order for a college book, so I added this one to my reading in-tray, and I managed to read it in just a few days.

It’s a densely packed mix of inspirational stories from people from all walks of life who have set up side businesses that have grown to the point where they’re now making a tidy living doing something they’re passionate about. In between the stories are practical steps that can be taken to set up your own business (once you work out what you want to do). It still won’t get you to the point where you will actually start, but it makes the journey seem that much easier.

A good combination of much of the online information product how-to guides, if you’re thinking about starting an online business (or even an offline business), this is a good place to start, and much cheaper than the “get rich quick on the Internet” courses that you’ll find around the traps.

Life without the Internet

More insights from The Verge’s Paul Miller as his year without the internet continues.

The goal for me, in this year and beyond, is to do things consciously and purposefully — submitting my time to my personal goals and values, instead of the next clickiest link. Someone on Reddit warned me that I’d be bored if I left the internet, and they were right. I get bored all the time. In my internet days, I’d rarely be aware of boredom — I might chalk it up to my favorite websites being “boring,” or just satiate it with the endless spectacle of Tumblr or YouTube, and either way I’d keep clicking.

But now I sit on my couch, and the boredom weighs heavy, and then I decide what to do. In the meatspace, my next activity doesn’t come to me in the form of a push notification. I have to reach for a book, or my bike, or a guitar. I might sound like a college student from 1992, but I don’t mind.

Read the whole thing


book: what makes us tick?

Book: What Makes Us Tick 

This one was a Christmas present: a lecturer at college mentioned it as something worth reading, so I put it into the mix, and I’ve been reading it in small doses this year.

Author Hugh Mackay has been a social commentator in Australia for decades, and so his take on human nature is a well-informed one, backed up with excerpts from interviews with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

It’s an easy read, and – though it mentions the place of religion in the lives of some people – it’s written from an atheistic point-of-view.

In the book, each chapter details a desire that drives people: to be taken seriously, for ‘my place’, for something to believe in, to connect, to be useful, to belong, for more, for control, for something to happen, and for love: if you’re looking for an opportunity to think through the different motivating forces in the life of modern Australians, this is a good place to start.

thyme square, hornsby

thyme square, hornsby

Jack and the Bean coffee. 43a Florence St, Hornsby (near, but outside of, Westfield). A reader recommended if I’m ever on the north side I should check this place out, and so I headed up to Hornsby to have a look. They’ve clearly had some success: a mix of indoor and outdoor seating is on offer, the interior has a real sense of class about it without being pretentious, and there’s some level of rapport between regular customers and staff – always good to see.

outsdoor seating - thyme square, hornsby

A quick walk-through. There are steps to get in, and steps to move inside to the cash register / seating area, and a couple of extra steps down to the bar, where you can find a large bathroom (including nappy change facilities). Patrons are a little crammed in, but they seem to be enjoying the varied menu.

bar area - thyme square, hornsby

Coffee is a pleasant surprise – some of the bean hunter reviews were not kind, but the fresh-ground decaf (after waiting a number of minutes) was pleasant – easily the best coffee I’ve had in Hornsby. Thanks Daniel for the recommendation!

where the magic happens - thyme square, hornsby


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three blue ducks, bronte

three blue ducks, bronte

Single Origin Roasters coffee. 143 Macpherson St, Bronte. One of the top-rated cafes in the new SMH Sydney Cafe Guide, this seemed like a good place to go for breakfast on a weekday off. Arriving for a late breakfast with a couple of small children (even if they’re well trained for cafe behaviour) you never know how well you’ll be received. And the staff here were a mixed bag: some were friendly and helpful, others made me feel like I was keeping them from something more important they had to do – not a great first impression.

eponymous ducks - three blue ducks, bronte

Once we were seated, though, everything was fine. The cafe has been so popular that they have taken over two adjacent shops with an alley of sorts between them – walk down the alley and you’ll see these three blue ducks, and – in the backyard – a vegetable garden and even a chicken run!

chickens - three blue ducks, bronte 

After taking a distracted child for a walk to meet the chickens, it was back to the table where the breakfast had already arrived!

breakfast - three blue ducks, bronte

Fruit toast for the kids, and for the grown-ups: coddled eggs, and the wild rice, quinoa and spelt porridge.

herb shelfs - three blue ducks, bronte

The cafe has a real commitment to growing its own food where it can. There’s a herb garden in the alley to add to the vegetable garden.

where the magic happens - three blue ducks, bronte

Coffee is really good – the single origin on offer (Panama) is well made, with a rich crema, and their decaf is well made and very pleasant. Worth a visit equally for the food or the coffee.

If you’re bringing kids along, keep in mind they don’t have high chairs.

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cornersmith, marrickville

cornersmith, marrickville

Mecca Coffee. 314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville. Another cafe that has risen to infamy in a short space of time. Unassuming from the outside, but the internals have a sense of charm that takes me back to the tiled interior of my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s busy, but not packed, even at the late morning time that I visit. There are a couple of high chairs in the corner, and some families are taking advantage of the hospitality with strollers in tow.

cornersmith, marrickville

There’s an emphasis on locally grown produce here – they close on Mondays for “pickling day” where local produce is put into pickling jars (on sale in the cafe, or – if you grow something in your backyard they’re after, they’ll trade it with you).

cornersmith, marrickville

The food looks delicious coming out of the busy kitchen; people sit on tables or up at the espresso bar.

where the magic happens - cornersmith, marrickville

I wasn’t overwhelmed with their coffee: it’s certainly competently made, and perhaps I just had a rare misfire, but as a space to spend time and take in some sustainable food, it deserves its reputation.


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The Grounds, Alexandria

the grounds, alexandria

The Grounds Roasters coffee. Shop 7A, 2 Huntley Street Alexandria. A lot of buzz about this place, not lest winning the best new cafe in the 2012 Sydney Cafe Guide, this place has been on my to-visit list for a long while. It must be the largest cafe of its kind – 1800 square metres, and mostly outdoor seating. This is no Bunnings, though: each piece has been carefully chosen to work together: there’s also a vegetable garden, herbs growing, a small playground, and a fountain.

the grounds, alexandria

Knowing how crowded this place was likely to be, we call in at 2pm on a weekday for a visit – it’s only a few moments at the “please wait to be seated” sign, and parking is slightly easier to find. This is certainly a place for the well-to-do crowd, or the inner city hipsters. Contrast this news interactive article with the review from the Sydney Morning Herald to get a sense of which crowd finds more of an appeal (hint: it’s the latter). 

the grounds, alexandria

Food is really well put together, though on the expensive side. Here’s the za’atar with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, feta on toast: $14. 

lights - the small details - the grounds, alexandria

It’s the little touches, though, that make you feel better about being separated from your money in this way: this line of light globes is beautiful and functional. 

playground - the grounds, alexandria

The playground has a certain amount of character: here’s the balance-beam lizard. 

the grounds, alexandria

Stay long enough and you’ll be able to see it this empty – you could get a seat straight away at, say, 3pm on a weekday, but they’re definitely winding down by then.


guide to coffee - the grounds, alexandria

Coffee is taken really seriously: sit in the right part of the cafe and you can watch co-owner Jack Hanna roasting the coffee. The decaf reminds me of the first time I had his “Jack and the Bean” coffee in Home Espresso in North Sydney. I enjoyed the decaf more than its caffeinated counterpart, but it’s possible my palette was overwhelmed by the food (the lamb salad was fantastic).


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