Monday, September 26, 2005

Driving Instructions

ghojmoH jIH lIj way, joH'a'. Dev jIH Daq a straight path, because vo' wIj jaghpu'.
Teach me your way, LORD. Lead me in a straight path, because of my enemies.


At some point in their career, every starship pilot, every driver, every bicycle rider needs the same thing: driving instructions. At some point you have to learn how to do it. How to steer, how to set your course, and how to correct for errors when you make a mistake.

And David knows he needs the same thing in life - driving instructions:

ghojmoH jIH lIj way, joH'a' / Teach me your way, LORD

What kind of a way or path is David looking for? In Hebrew the word is miyshowr , and means "straight" or "plain" - it's used to mean a flat place, (the King James uses this meaning, saying a"plain path") - but the meaning encompasess more. It can stand for concord; also straightness, i.e. (figuratively) justice. Modern translations take the meaning to be "straight." The Douay following the Latin version picks up the idea of the "direct," the best, or RIGHT way: guide me in the right path.

Now, David has a reason for looking for this kind of path. It has nothing to do with saving time, or avoiding fuel bills. It is because

vo' wIj jaghpu'
of my enemies.

Avoiding your enemies may imply being subtle, or roundabout. With an enemy laying down fire, I picture the hero dodging back and forth in a serpentine pattern. But David doesn't say "show me how to hide" - he asks for the right path, the direct route. Because of his enemies, he wants to take the direct route.

What path do we choose to take.? I know that at times it feels far easier to turn away from confronting troubles, from being direct with enemies or trials. But I think David knows that only postpones the problem - it doesn't solve it. A popular book by David Allen is called "Getting Things Done." I've got it (because I need it) and it reminds me of what I think David the psalmist is asking God to help him accomplish: to be direct, go straight to the next task.

Maybe you're looking for driving instructions - maybe you want to find that right path. I think David would happily point us to these words from Proverbs:

Daq Hoch lIj Hemey acknowledge ghaH, je ghaH DichDaq chenmoH lIj Hemey straight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Asking for Directions

ghorgh wIj vav je wIj SoS lon jIH, vaj joH'a' DichDaq tlhap jIH Dung.
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Psalm 27.10


What's up? Usually a question into "the general state of things," however when we read God will tlhap jIH Dung, take me up - we can well ask, what does "up" mean?

The Klingon word used, "Dung," really is a noun for "the area above" or "area overhead." I use it in the KLV to stand in for a number of words: above, over and up.

But the words here really represent the Hebrew word 'acaph - used over 150 times in the Bible. It means "to gather" - as simple as bringing things together. It may be as simple "gathering" food. Or it can mean death, as in describing the passing of Aaron, saying he "shall be gathered unto his people." Used here more tenderly, it suggests "hug" or "embrace." But rather than directions, the verse is about something else: abandonement.

The "worthy orphan" in literature ranges from Oliver Twist or Anne Shirley, to Harry Potter, and is a familiar figure. A popular subject in fiction is the child bereft of any family who manages by luck and effort to thrive and succeed. The Bible concerns itself with the orphan also - not to spin a story, but to direct our attention in TWO directions - up, and out.

The book of James says:

Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (1.27)

The believer who cannot direct his or her attention out to the needs of others must measure their faith against that rule. Can we be faithful toward God if our attention is more directed to protecting our own interests? We have to move out and defend those who have the least, as the Bible puts it: The widows and the orphans.

And... we need to look up.

ghorgh wIj vav je wIj SoS lon jIH.
When my father and my mother forsake me

this psalm reads. Not saying parents WILL all forsake their children, but reminding us that even the best parent is mortal, will not be able to do everything.

When those we depend on - parents, friends, and family fail, then David reminds us here

joH'a' DichDaq tlhap Dung
God will take me up.

What a comfort!

Forsaken? Friendless? There is still one who you can turn to - ready to lift you up, and help you, when you turn to Him.

Monday, September 19, 2005

God's Commandments

yImev So' lIj qab vo' jIH. yImev lan lIj toy'wI' DoH Daq QeH. SoH ghaj taH wIj QaH. yImev abandon jIH, ghobe' lon jIH, joH'a' vo' wIj toDtaHghach.

Don't hide your face from me. Don't put your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Don't abandon me, neither forsake me, God of my salvation. Psalm 27:9

Podcast Version

Commandments and religion seem to be natural partners. Virtually every faith expresses, in some way, commands that followers are expected to keep. Usually these commands flow from the divine to the human.

Yet this verse reverses that direction. calling out to God in words that echo the "thou shalt not"s of the ten commandments. These commands however, are directed to God:

  • Don't hide from me
  • Don't put your servant away
  • Don't abandon me.

Does this make sense? Who tells God what to do?

Now Klingons, who supposedly "killed" their Gods, might be thought of as being happy to tell God where to get off - though I think that claim was bravado, not fact. Wanting God to "leave us alone" is natural - usually because in our pride we think we don't need him. Or because we'd rather he didn't get in our way when we want to do something particularly shabby.

But look at these "commands" from David, and you see a different story. Scripture shows humans call out commands - not to dispense with God, but because they know how desperately they need him!.

Just doing the most cursory of searches in Psalms, I found nine passages saying to God

Don't hide, Don't put your Servant away, Don't forsake,
Don't be far, Don't delay, Don't let those who wait be shamed, Don't remain silent.
[For readers, here are those examples:
  • 27.9 Don't hide your face from me. Don't put your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Don't abandon me, neither forsake me, God of my salvation.
  • 38.21 Don't forsake me, Yahweh. My God, don't be far from me.
  • 40.17 But I am poor and needy. May the Lord think about me. You are my help and my deliverer. Don't delay, my God.
  • 55.1 Listen to my prayer, God. Don't hide yourself from my supplication.
  • 69.6 Don't let those who wait for you be shamed through me, Lord Yahweh of Armies. Don't let those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, God of Israel.
  • 70.5 But I am poor and needy. Come to me quickly, God. You are my help and my deliverer. Yahweh, don't delay.
  • 71.12 God, don't be far from me. My God, hurry to help me.
  • 102.18 Yes, even when I am old and gray-haired, God, don't forsake me, until I have declared your strength to the next generation, your might to everyone who is to come.
  • 109.1 God of my praise, don't remain silent,

And this is right, this is what we'd expect of people in a living relationship with the Almighty. Just as in a family or a friendship, there is give and take - a bond that tells EACH member they can call out when they are in need. Certainly it can sound like commands - for all that, we may indeed feel we ARE commanding God when we call out to him. But why not? After all, this is what scripture tells us to do. As Paul wrote to the Philippians:

In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7

Monday, September 12, 2005

Liberal Klingons?!?

The liberal qa' DIchDaq taH chenmoHta' ror. ghaH 'Iv bIQmey DIchDaq taH watered je himself.

The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself.
Proverbs 11:25

podcast version

There's no Klingon word for liberal. That's okay, and you shouldn't draw any political conclusions - there's no word for conservative either. And it isn't that surprising - the limited vocabulary we have for thlIngan Hol often necessitates that we translate around the limited dictionary, coming up with extended phrases or constructions to represent a concept in English.

I'm taking this diversion from Psalm 27 because this weekend, while listening to a podcast (yes I LISTEN to them, too) I heard an interesting comment: "all floods are liberal," meaning that disasters like Katrina remind people of the liberal ideal of providing aid and support to those who are in desperate need.

"What does the Bible say about that?" I asked (I'm told I often talk to myself, but I was mowing the lawn at the time, so I figured I could get away with it).

Well, I found that in the World English Bible the word "liberal" only appears once (four times in the KJV; "conservative" appears in neither translation). So it's natural that the KLV doesn't include the word - my translation tables originally only included words that appeared more than 100 times. As time has gone on, I've gone beyond that - but there aren't many (if any) "only-occurs-once" words.

The Hebrew word used here is brakah, meaning benediction; by implication prosperity. In other contexts (it appears over 60 times) it is often translated blessing - the idea is one of receiving the grace, the blessing of another's (usually God's) generosity. In the context of this verse a Klingon word might be nobtaHqu' - "on-going giving in the extreme."

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, reflected on this verse, saying:

We are here taught the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; and that in order to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered. How? Our efforts to be useful, _bring out our powers for usefulness_. We have latent talents and dormant faculties, which are brought to light by exercise. Our strength for labour is hidden even from ourselves, until we venture forth to fight the Lord's battles, or to climb the mountains of difficulty. We do not know what tender sympathies we possess until we try to dry the widow's tears, and soothe the orphan's grief. ...

Our own _comfort is also increased_ by our working for others. We endeavour to cheer them, and the consolation gladdens our own heart. ...

Here's the point: current disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, give us an opportunity to experience this. We have a chance to give - our prayers, our time, our material gifts - and give liberally. I need to remind myself this every day, and I need to hear scripture remind me that the cost will be repaid in tremendous spiritual riches.

Having a word in your dictionary isn't the same thing as having it in your heart. I don't know if Klingons need the word liberal. But I do know, when it comes to how I give to others - I need it.

nob, je 'oH DichDaq taH nobpu' Daq SoH QaQ juv, pressed bIng, shaken tay', je running Dung

Give then, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and running over. Luke 6:38

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Snipe Hunt!

ghorgh SoH ja'ta', " nej wIj qab," wIj tIq ja'ta' Daq SoH, " jIH DichDaq nej lIj qab, joH'a'."

When you said, "Seek my face," my heart said to you, "I will seek your face, O LORD."
Psalms 27:8

Have you ever been on a snipe hunt? Or... sent someone on one? Usually they are a futile quest; the snipe hunt is used to haze newcomers - sending the victim off to "find" a nonexistent goal. Boy Scouts might tell inexperienced campers about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a (usually ridiculous) method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. Since the supposed snipe doesn't exist, the hunt never succeeds, no matter how foolishly the newcomer acts.

Hard to imagine a Klingon accepting such humor gracefully. At least it seems likely that the joker would face... less than amusing consequences for their jest.

This verse of Psalm 27 is all about hunting for something. The Klingon word here is "nej," to seek. It translates the Hebrew word baqash, to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer); by implication, to strive after. It is used over 200 times in the Bible. We hear it in these words in Psalm 27 - God saying:

" nej wIj qab," "Seek my face,"

This command is NOT a snipe hunt. Seeking God's face - his presence - is the most vital quest in a believer's life.

We read in the Hebrew scriptures:

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call you on him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6)

and Jesus himself says nej, je SoH DichDaq tu' (Seek, and you will find. Mt 7:7 )

Now, two things are required in such a quest.

wa'Dich (first): you MUST begin. It may seem obvious, but any search - for God or for a lost set of keys - cannot succeed IF IT NEVER BEGINS. Certainly any endeavor may be difficult, and hard to accomplish; Some things ARE hard to find. I'm still looking for a set of car keys missing from more around five years ago - though it won't do me much good when I find them, since I no longer own the car.

But, the cha'DIch (second) requirement is even more important: DON'T GIVE UP. My lost set of keys is probably lost still because I didn't persist (though I put a lot of effort into the hunt).

Part of the search for God is a matter of perspective - the two nearly identical declarations "God is NOW Here" and "God is Nowhere" differ only in the one "space" that changes "nowhere" into "now here." But what can make the difference in a person's life? They need to know - this is a quest that can really succeed. How does the seeker enter into the search for God with the confidence that He can be found?

I don't know. But - I think there is something, call it the opposite of a snipe hunt - that can make a difference. For those who have followed this Psalm's call and delight in God's presence, saying:

" jIH DichDaq nej lIj qab, joH'a'." "I will seek your face, O LORD."

Those people can do everything to encourage and support the seekers who might doubt. The book of Hebrews reminds us not to forsake "our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another," That is, to encourage and help believers, those who need help to find the space in their lives where they can see - God IS indeed now here.

The prophet Jeremiah reports God's promise, words to carry us forward as we seek His face:

You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

PLEASE consider a donation in relief for Hurricane Katrina. Support to organizations like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army will assist them not only in this current emergency, but it will help them prepare for the next one as well! batlh yInob! Give with honor!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

DaH HIjol!

Podcast version

Here is a useful piece of Klingon:

DaH HIjol!

Should you ever be in trouble, whip out your communicator and hail a nearby Klingon ship (if there should happen to be one) and shout "DaH HIjol!" "Beam me up NOW"

This is not unlike the sentiment expressed in today's verse:

Qoy, joH'a', ghorgh jIH SaQ tlhej wIj ghogh.
ghaj pung je Daq jIH, je jang jIH.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice.
Have mercy also on me, and answer me. Psalm 27:7

Calling out to the LORD for assistance is a persistent theme; Psalms, indeed all of scripture is filled with prayers and pleas to God for help in times of trouble. This psalm gives us the spectrum of faith in life: declaration of faith in God, expression of loyalty to Him, along with catologing of troubles that must be faced along with the confidence that God can meet them.

The text of this psalm gives a good model to a believer on how to depend on God for all things.

This verse marks a change in psalm 27. God is no longer a "subject" to be discussed but the person to whom the psalmist calls out. Again, a good model for us - as interesting as discussions about God are - they are no substitute for a relationship with him. It's the difference between the recipe and the cake.

David knows the value of this and doesn't just speak of God - he speaks to him because he knows God LISTENS.

"Hear, O Israel" begins the shema, the primal Hebrew declaration of faith in God - "shema yisroel" in the original language, and the text of this verse echoes it with the cry "shema Adonai," "Hear, O LORD." The two-way relationship of the believer with God means not only are we to listen - God does too!

DaH HIjol - Beam me up, is a simple solution, and a tempting one. But the Bible doesn't promise that we can evacuate so simply - rather we can turn to God to find help to get through our troubles, not out of them.

In our deepest sorrow - as we face life's gravest problems we'll do all we can - and we WILL call out to God to help us through. Saint Peter sums it up when he tells us:

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 NLT