Saturday, June 25, 2005

Known or Nobody

Podcast Version

Thanks to Think-a-Tron and Digicomp I, I can happily claim to have worked with computers for something like forty years. From the days of those toy computers to today I've used punch cards, paper tape, magnetic tape and disks, compact disks, and now, small flash-ram "jump drives" to store and retrieve information. We've seen the same progress with our music. From vinyl to eight track and cassette tapes to compact disks and mp3 players, every year seems to bring a new way to record our tunes.

We can't imagine what will be used in the future. Though we can assume the obvious: things will continue to hold more and more data in smaller and smaller devices.

Yet these improvements introduce a problem: as older storage techniques become obsolete, we may lose access to important information. It seems funny to think that we have scientific data from the 1960's that is becoming inaccessible. We still possess the records - but as time goes on we're losing the ability to read them.

vaD joH'a' SovtaH the way vo' the QaQtaHghach
'ach the way vo' the mIgh DIchDaq chIlqu'.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked shall perish. Psalm 1:6

To be known by our God - or perish. This is the contrast presented by the last verse of Psalm 1. It is a difference in outcome that I think we see with computers and music. Not many people are prepared to listen to an 8 track, or read a program off of a paper tape: information kept those ways is perishing.

But the things worth knowing, worth keeping, have been preserved. Copied from tape to disk to chips - and who knows? In the future, maybe kiloquad isolinear storage chips, or whatever the Federation uses. As long as the information is kept in a readable form, it won't perish: it will be known.

This psalm was another case where the KLV lexicon needed help. In particular I lacked a word for "perish." abad the Hebrew word, carries the idea of "to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish." So I used the Klingon word chIl, to be lost, and added the intensive suffix -qu'. mIgh DIchDaq chIlqu' : that is, the wicked shall be utterly lost.

What does this mean? I think the Psalm is reminding us that there are two ways ahead of us. As we look through all of our tomorrows and into eternity, what is ahead? Here we see the way of the righteous - the life of the blessed that this psalm describes, or the way of the wicked, those who scoff and turn their backs on God.

To be known and not be discarded - the promise of such a future is the confidence we can find in Psalm 1. There is security in being known by the Lord. It is like the prophet Nahum reminds us:

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


podcast version

As I write this, space enthusiasts around the world are waiting to hear the fate of Cosmos 1, the first attempt to launch a solar sail powered spacecraft. The prognosis isn't looking too good right now. Almost no communications have been received since launch. Most evidence points to a failed launch - at best a lower orbit than planned. This exciting project used a decommissioned Soviet missile as a launch vehicle and was run by a combination of international teams headed by the Planetary Society. They are pioneering the most efficient technology we know to head out to the planets, and the best to get to the stars!

However, first we have to get the project under way, first we have to - literally - get it off the ground. (Well, okay, off the water - they used a sub to launch the rocket.)

vaj the mIgh DIchDaq ghobe' Qam Daq the yoj
Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment Psalm 1:5

Those words in Psalm 1 speak of "getting off the ground," too. We hear that the wicked shall not Qam or stand (the Hebrew word is quwm which means 'to rise.') In other words, we're talking about rising up, taking one's place: taking a stand. This verse echoes the beginning of the psalm, where we heard that a blessed person won't hang around with the wicked, won't "stand in the way of sinners." Now we hear that - ultimately - the wicked won't stand either. That is, they will not be able to stand alongside the blessed, or be accepted Daq the tay' ghotpu' vo' the QaQtaHghach, "in the congregation of the righteous."

In another psalm we hear the question:

Who may ascend to the LORD’s hill?
Who may stand in his holy place? Psalm 24:3

Who indeed? If we wish to lift off, to rise up before the Lord, and following him to sail beyond merely the planets and the stars, then I think the Psalmist is directing to consider what stand we take in our lives today. We can't do it ourselves. Just as a spacecraft can't get into orbit without a sufficient booster - our ability alone won't lift us up to stand in the judgment.

St. Paul notes this, quoting the Hebrew scriptures, when he wrote to the Ephesians:
That is why the Scriptures say,
'When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.'

Paul goes on to say:

Notice that it says 'he ascended.'

This means that Christ first came down to the lowly world in which we
live. The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than
all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe. Eph 4:8-10 NLT

If you want to rise up, to take your stand with the one whose rule fills the universe - you'll need to follow the advice of Psalm 1: Avoid accepting, and participating with what is wrong. Give your time and attention to the scriptures that tell us what is right.

But your effort isn't enough. We need to accept the gift, the grace of the one who can make us stand, and lift us higher than all the heavens.

Are you ready for liftoff?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Blown Away!

The mIgh 'oH ... rur the yub nuq the SuS drives DoH.
The wicked are ... like the chaff which the wind drives away. Psalm 1:4

podcast version

Picture for a moment what you consider to be your enemies. Imagine them before you. Consider those who represent to you, the most formidable villains. This is the wicked, the rishaim in Hebrew, or mIgh in Klingon. These are the adversaries of all that was described in the first three verses of Psalm 1. In this psalm we have read that the blessed person will refuse to join in with the wicked. We've heard that these blessed ones who dwell on God's words will flourish like a well rooted tree. Such a blessed person will endure.

The psalmist now turns back to consider the other side of the coin: the wicked. These are those who rur the yub SuS drives DoH (are like the chaff the wind drives away).

Chaff: Not a familiar term in an increasingly urban world. This verse depends on our knowing that grains like wheat actually have to be processed, crushed so the outer cover of the the grain, this chaff, can be thrown away.

These words assure us that ultimately the threat of the wicked is insubstantial. Their works will not last. Perhaps reflecting on this Psalm, one ancient writer wrote:

"The hope of the wicked is like
thistledown blown by the wind
or like foam blown by a storm.
It is like smoke dissipated by the wind,
It is soon forgotten..." (Wisdom 5:14)
The wicked, however powerful they may seem, will finally be blown away, leaving no trace.

I would say that the duties of believers includes helping one another remember this. We need to support each other in the face of the most crushing defeats of life. Defeats that we cannot always avoid. Remember, the process of separating the wheat from the chaff meant crushing the grain so that the worthless chaff is removed.

The Hebrew word for chaff, mowts, is rendered here with the Klingon word 'yub.' yub refers to something like the rind or shell of a naH, a fruit or nut. It's the part you throw away. And I like to think about how with grain, this "throwing away" is accomplished by simply letting the wind carry it off. It underlines to me how flimsy these enemies, the wicked, ultimately are. Like shutting down a hologram projection, they will be gone completely.

There is more to think about here. The contrast presented, the "wicked" versus the "blessed," represents the choice each of us faces in life. Considering this verse, one writer notes:

"Chaff is very light and is carried away by even the slightest wind, while the good grain falls back to the earth. Chaff is a symbol of a faithless life that drifts along without direction. Good grain is a symbol of a faithful life that can be used by God. Unlike grain, however, we can choose the direction we will take." (Life Application Bible)

yub naH ghap? Chaff or wheat? Which will you, and I, choose to be?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Live Long and Prosper!

'Iv Sornav je ta'taH ghobe' wither. Whatever ghaH ta'taH DIchDaq chep.
whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper Psalm 1:3b

podcast version

Vulcans are not Klingons. The Klingon language's words for hello (nuqneH) and goodbye (Qapla') translate to "what do you want" and "success." Compare that to Vulcans in whose language the peaceful salute is:

tich tor ang tesmur / Live long and prosper

That sentiment, not often expressed in Klingon, is a good summation of Psalm 1, verse 3: The person who is blessed, who relies on God completely, will live long: ('Iv Sornav je ta'taH ghobe' wither: whose leaf also does not wither). Not having a word for "leaf," we use a compound here Sor (tree) nav (paper). The imagery calls to mind a tree, ever growing, yet never shedding its leaves - the Hebrew, lo yibool, says this tree's leaves don't wilt or fall away.

And this blessed one "prospers": whatever ghaH ta'taH DichDaq chep in all they do, they prosper (NLT).

I think this is an interesting shift in the psalm. We've started speaking of a blessed person, then compared him to a tree and now we hear about "in all they do." Trees don't DO much of anything - they grow, and bear fruit. But they have no plans or tasks to carry out - it is clear we are talking about a person, and what it means for the person who seeks to follow God's word every day.

These verses echo the words of the book of Joshua that promised prosperity to the person who kept God's word always in mind and heart: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

Now, we must tread carefully with promises like this. It is easy to measure prosperity by wealth or possessions. This is not intent of Scripture. As Jesus said: "what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?" (Luke 9:25).

And we cannot measure a "long" life by a simple tally of years. Just because I've lived longer than someone doesn't mean my life surpasses theirs. A life can loom large with an impact that far outlasts the days numbered on a calendar. Believers look forward to something more - an existence in eternity, surely the promise that lies behind the psalmist's words.

So, as a Vulcan would say: tich tor ang tesumur - live long and prosper.

This is the path this psalm, indeed all the Bible draws us towards. And, to live long and prosper, we need to seek out the blessed life, a full life that leads to real prosperity: the riches of God's kingdom - forever.

Though a Klingon might not be inclined to say it - if they did read this Psalm, and find these promises here, they might indeed say:

tIqjaj yInlIj 'ej bIchepjaj

Live long and prosper

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Life Signs!

ghaH DichDaq taH rur a Sor planted Sum the streams vo' bIQ
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water Psalm 1:3a

podcast version

yInroHmey yIHotlh! Scan for life signs!

Anyone familiar with space exploration - particularly as practiced by the United Federation of Planets - knows that this a primary task when discovering a new world or a derelict ship. Facing the unknown, the quest for yInroH, life signs, is job number one.

Even today we see this. The first landers on Mars included automated chemical labs to detect Martian life. Most think this first attempt failed, though there are some who think life was found back in 1976. And now, the ships orbiting and the robots prowling on the red planet continue looking for life signs, especially in the form of water. Simple H20 that covers three quarters of our planet makes life possible on Earth - and it may well be so elsewhere.

What about you? If you are scanned for "life signs," what will be found? "Barren wilderness," "salty flats where no one lives?" That's how the book of Jeremiah describes people "who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5 NLT).

In the third verse of Psalm 1, the author leaps from his description of a "blessed" person (doesn't hang out with the evil, dwells on God's word) into pure metaphor:

ghaH DichDaq taH rur a Sor planted Sum the streams vo' bIQ
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water Psalm 1:3a

This is a good example of how nimbly the Bible can move from simple text into poetry. This picture of the blessed as a Sor, a tree, planted along the water resonates throughout Scripture. Jeremiah seems to quote or reflect these words when we read:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Jeremiah 17:5-8a NLT

We seek for life signs, for these waters of life in our own existence. Where I live, it is spring at this moment. I'm sitting writing these words outside surrounded by a world that is green and full of life, a reminder of the kind of life everyone wants to experience.

Jesus speaks of this when he said "the water I give... becomes a .. spring within..., giving eternal life." (John 4:14 NLT )

It will be an exciting day when finally a space probe from Earth finds life out there. Maybe it will be on Mars or Titan orbiting Saturn. Perhaps it will be in a pool, or in some deep underground spring - water teaming with life never seen before.

But right now, today, yInroH wIleghlaH, we can see life signs, within ourselves if only we turn to the one who can lead us to the river of life.