Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This Day

Daq the jaj vetlh jIH ja', SoH jangta' jIH.
In the day that I called, you answered me. Psalm 138:3a

(click for podcast)

Travel to Mars has some advantages. For one, the time to get there (with our current technology it'll take months - over half a year in most cases) means you'll have no jet lag whatsoever. Once you land, it will be no trick to adjust - your "day." will be almost the same as at home (if you're from earth) - it's 25 hours long.

Compare that to Mercury (59 days), Venus at 243 or pluto at 6.4. Our closest destination, the moon gives you a day that is 27.3 days long!

On the other hand, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have days that whiz by at 10, 10, 18 and 18 hours respectively.

Daq the jaj vetlh jIH ja', SoH jangta' jIH.
In the day that I called, you answered me. Psalm 138:3a

Across our solar system - and the galaxies, no doubt - the length of a "day" (yom in Hebrew, and jaj in Klingon) is variable. So too, in the Bible, as I saw looking at the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry on "Day."

It sometimes means the time from daylight till dark. Day also means a period of 24 hours, or the time from sunset to sunset. It can also mean "a specific time" as in Psalm 20 where we read "May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble."

It is used figuratively also in Joh 9:4, when Jesus says "I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day," where "while it is day" means "while I have opportunity to work, as daytime is the time for work."

We must also bear in mind that with God time is not reckoned as with us, as Psalm 90 notes,

For a thousand years in your sight Are but as yesterday when it is past, As a watch in the night. (Ps 90:4)

Daq the jaj vetlh jIH ja', SoH jangta' jIH.
In the day that I called, you answered me. Psalm 138:3a

The sense here is "now" - that is, as the Message translation puts it:

"The moment I called out, you stepped in"

We don't have to wait - God WILL answer, not tomorrow, but DaHjaj - TODAY - when we pray.

As humans follow our robotic emmisaries at Mars, Sattun and heading out to Pluto, we are reminded of a fact of life for space travellers - distance equals time. That is, the farther a spacecraft goes, the longer we have to wait to hear what is happening, the longer we have to wait for it to respond to our calls. Every 18 million kilometers, or 11 million miles equals one more minute of time that it will take a signal to reach a space ship.

When we consider the implications of this verse from psalm 138, we find that David - though he probably knew nothing of space travel - is reminding us that God is NOT far off, that he is very close, for he responds immediately. We DON'T have to wait. Though our answer may not always be our desire, we can be assured God hears - and better, yet he responds. He is not in some light years distant heaven.

And this, of course, is the message of this holiday season - Im Anu El, WITH us is God.

Right now. This Day. He hears - call to him today!

Daq the jaj vetlh jIH ja', SoH jangta' jIH.
In the day that I called, you answered me. Psalm 138:3a

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Klingon Christmas?? (repodcast)

" batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest, Daq tera' roj, QaQ DichDaq toward Hoch."

"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward all." Luke 2:14

click here for podcast

Picture this: Some December, oh, a few years from now, you find yourself wandering down a corridor in the Klingon section of Deep Space 9. Late at night, the lights are low and you hear a noise - a lot of noise! Spilling out into the hall is a crowd of boisterous tlhInganpu'. These Klingons are coming from the Klingon multifaith lalDan pa' (chapel). Of course! They just finished their Christmas Midnight service and they're off to celebrate. AND... they're heading your way.

What do you do? More importantly, what do you say?
  • nuqneh?

  • nuqDaq 'oH puchpa''e'?

  • QISmaS petIv!

  • toDwI'ma' qoS yItiv!

Well, of course the answer depends on many things, for one, whether you celebrate Christmas (many don't - even the early Christians were far more focussed on Easter as their celebration. Historically there have been times that Christians adamantly opposed the festivities). You might just call out the angels's song from Luke's gospel: "batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest" "glory to God in the highest." (though, by the time you're on such a space station, I hope you'll have a more grammatical translation than the Klingon Language Version - but it's a start.)


This is the all purpose Klingon greeting - "what do you want," literally. That's an okay thing to say when meeting Klingons, though not quite in the spirit of the occasion.

nuqDaq 'oH puchpa''e'?

That would be fine - IF you're looking for the bathroom - otherwise, it might not make the best impression. While we're at it, one more "nuq" phrase - even more useful - is "nuqjatlh." It's the Klingon "hunh?" and means "what did you say?"

QISmaS petIv!

This gets more in the spirit of the celebration. The first word QISmaS is an attempt to transliterate "Christmas" into a Klingon spelling. After all, we don't translate "Christmas" into English - it's a word composed of Greek and Latin parts. It seems reasonable for Klingons to adopt this term to denote the celebration. The second word, petIv, is an imperative "all-of-you-enjoy-it!" You may decide to soften this with "botIvjaj" "may-you-enjoy-it" - or if you celebrate Christmas too, you could say QISmaS wItIvjaj "may we enjoy Christmas!"

toDwI'ma' qoS yItIv!

This is a phrase to indicate you, too, celebrate Jesus's birth. Literally "our-saviour's-birthday you-enjoy-it." Note here I said "yItIv," which is the singular "you" command "enjoy". You could also, as I noted earlier, say petIv or botIvjaj.

So - what would you choose to say? It's perhaps a fanciful question - after all I haven't quite built my spaceship to go off to Deep Space Nine. But it isn't hard to find people of many tongues celebrating this holiday. Nor is it hard to find places on the internet that provide Christmas greetings in every language from Afrikaans (een plesierige kerfees) to Yugoslavian (Cestitamo Bozic). As Christmas approaches this Advent - why not take a moment to learn a new way to call out with holiday cheer, so with the angels you too can say:

" batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest, Daq tera' roj, QaQ DichDaq toward Hoch."

"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward all." Luke 2:14

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Name and Word

vaD SoH ghaj exalted lIj pong je lIj mu' Dung Hoch.
For you have exalted your Name and your Word above all. Psalm 138:2c KLV,WEB

When you zero in on narrow fragments of scripture, virtual slivers of text, there is always a chance you'll be looking at a phrase that is so terse, the meaning may be hard to find. That's the case in this enigmatic statement from Psalm 138 - what does it mean, to declare God has exalted his name and word above all?

Breaking it down to the literal Hebrew isn't necessarily a quick solution: ki hagadaloth al kol shemcha omertkah, literally for you-magnified on all-of name-of-you saying-of-you. To get further we need to turn the community of believers.

Community - in the sense of, "how do other translators understand these words?" When we come up against a passage that doesn't seem clear, we do well to remember that we aren't the first to consider these words. For centuries, believers have wrestled with the text and sought to bring out the meaning. Here are some of the efforts in English:

  • KJV: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
  • RSV: for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
  • BBE: for you have made your word greater than all your name
  • DOUAY: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all
  • NASB: For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
  • MESSAGE: Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word.
  • CEV: You were true to your word/ and made yourself more famous/ than ever before.
  • (which adds the note: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.)
  • NIV: for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

These all move towards a meaning that highlights the power of God's name, and how closely it is tied to his word. And there, for HuchwIj (my money), is the meat of this passage - God's word is backed by something - his name. Just like when you sign a contract, or a credit slip - you are putting yourself YOUR NAME behind your promise.

Revelation God speaks - is integral to the Biblical faith. There is joy, challenge, confession and forgiveness, and salvation from sin - the whole message of the Bible - and we know, we understand it because of this word, this comprehensible message that has been communicated to us. It has power in our lives because it is backed by God's name.

The term here "word" is not the more literal term - dabar - most frequently used Hebrew for "word." Rather it is a noun derived from the verb - omer - to say. This is a dynamic expression, not just "word" but sayings (jatlhtaHghachmey in Klingon) Of course, the automated process that generates the KLV just maps all occurences of "word" to the single Klingon word, mu'.

As I reviewed this short passage from Psalm 138, one translation, the NLT, really captured it, for me:

for your promises are backed / by all the honor of your name.

Now Klingons, who are very conscious of names, and honor would be able to understand THAT!

This time of year, one of my favorite devotional practices is to reflect on the prophecies that Christians see fulfilled in the life of Jesus. In the Greek scriptures we find Jesus himself, as well as his apostles, making clear that the whole arc of Jesus's life was promised beforehand in the days of the prophets. When I first caught on, it was breathtaking - "You mean, it was all there, centuries before the first Christmas? Why didn't anyone tell me?"

Then I came across the book "Science Speaks," by Peter Stoner. This book put it in mathematical terms. Examining Messianic prophecies, Stoner layed down odds for each one being fulfilled in one man; multiplied together he demonstrated that the odds that ANYONE could fulfill these promises were incredible; the fact that they WERE fulfilled in Jesus pointed to something about this Man. (Note: Stoner's book is no longer in print. However it IS available online at his grandson's website: http://geocities.com//stonerdon/science_speaks.html. Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" is another excellent source of similar material).

Now that isn't a proof that can *force* anyone to believe: after all, any one day in MY life has a series of random events. Taken together, the sequence of one day in my life can be JUST as mathematically unlikely as Christ's fulfilling the Biblical promises.

But, what it suggests is that "something is up". History, and in particular, the history of Jesus's life and ministry appears, against all odds, to have been written in advance. It does not prove God "did it," but it offers a hint, a suggestion that there is an intelligence behind history, that this story is in fact HIS story. If you're interested in this, you can download a simple Windows program I wrote (http://star.mrklingon.org) to consider, and explore the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus's life.

Believers can see, in the birth and ministry of Jesus, just what it means when God absolutely backs his promises! What would you do, to have a friend like that, whose every word you could trust?

for your promises are backed / by all the honor of your name.

Give thanks! God is letting you know - you've got a friend like that - now.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What is Your Name?

[jIH] nob tlho' Daq lIj pong vaD lIj muSHa'taH pung je vaD lIj vIt

[I] give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth Psalm 138:2b

Should you be fortunate enough to meet a Klingon, one of the first things you may wish to do is do is exchange names. Here's how you'd do that - to ASK for a name, you could say:

nuq 'oH ponglIj'e' - what is your name?

To REPLY, you can say:
Joel 'oH pongwIj'e' (at least, that's what you'd say if your name was Joel.)

The operative word here is the Klingon word pong, name. As in English, it can also be a verb, as in to NAME something. The Hebrew word here for name is "shem."

In our time we take names for granted - though I think moderns are beginning to return to the Biblical idea of the centrality of names. There was a time when the power of a name, as understood by ancients, seemed almost superstitious or magical, as if a name could contain power to conjure.

But in an era where identity theft is all too real a threat, we begin to appreciate the significance of a NAME. It is far more than a label, it is how we operate in the world of cyberspace, as we work and buy and sell around the world. Today there are legions of people in computer security who do little else but fight to preserve the integrity of people's names and the control of their identity. Names matter.

And here we listen as the psalmist direct his gratitude, not "to God" but, "to his name":

nob tlho' Daq lIj pong vaD lIj muSHa'taH pung je vaD lIj vIt

give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth Psalm 138:2b

God's name was treated with tremendous reverence - there is a Jewish practice to NOT pronounce the Hebrew term, but substitute "adonai," Lord, in its place. That's why you see many English translations with LORD in all upper case, to represents the VERY carefully used name, made up of the four Hebrew letters. yod heh vav heh. In addition, applying the Hebrew definite article ha- to shem gives "HASHEM, which means "the name." Traditional Jews use the name "Hashem" instead of "God" to show their respect to God by not taking his name lightly and only using the proper name God in prayers.

This carefully protected name is not a thing to be used lightly - so to say we direct thanks to his NAME is indeed to be sending that thanks to God, in the most intimate way possible.

For what does this passage give thanks? God's loving kindness and truth. This calls to mind the trust of Psalm 117, where we hear the same two attributes (the same Hebrew words, Hesed and Emeth) extolled:

For his loving kindness is great toward us. The LORD's truth endures forever. (Psalm 117:2 WEB) (note: WEB uses "faithfulness" but the word is emeth, truth.)

God's name, his identity is a bedrock - something more reliable and faithful than our closest relative or dearest friend. The reliability of his creation, the truth of his promises are what we depend on - they are in a sense, his identity and name. Of course we ought to give thanks for this - it is with wonder and joy that we can turn to him. Malachi tells us God says:

I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. (Mal 3:6 NLT)

His reliability gives us hope.

It is true that everyone in this world does not prosper, yet though we may have ups and downs in our fortunes - God's world continues. The laws of nature that bring seedtime and harvest, sunshine and stars continue. And when we do prosper it gives us a chance to participate in the blesings God gives, as the Apostle Paul reminds us :

Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don't give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let's do what is good toward all... (Gal 6:9-10 WEB)

Give thanks! God, the name above all names is there, to call on in prayer as we turn to him with our requests, and to thank for all that he has give us. Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

These Little Ones (St. Nicholas Day re-run)

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(click for podcast)

If you're a pastor, and looking for a way to quickly be driven out of your parish - I can't think of a better controversy to raise than.... a discussion about Santa Claus. I fear at times that the deepest beliefs of the Bible could be question without the kind of difficulties a preacher would meet if they weighed in on the reality of Kris Kringle.

Nor am I brave enough to tread on this legend - though I wonder what a Klingon would make of some of the stories? The Klingon dispostion toward things military lend to a tendency to be (shall we say?) paranoid. Imagine how they'd feel about a silent intruder who routinely slips in past all defenses to surprise the inhabitants! Motivated by generosity or not - I expect a Klingon hearing of such stealth would be more alarmed than happy.

But - maybe if they were introduced to the real Santa Claus - St Nicholas:

St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. As priest and bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life and ministry. His concern for children and others in need or danger expressed a love for God which points toward Jesus, the source of true caring and compassion. Embracing St. Nicholas customs can help recover the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus.

Understanding St. Nicholas as the original and true holiday gift-giver also helps shift focus to giving rather than getting, compassion rather than consumption, need rather than greed. This can help restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.

St. Nicholas is beloved throughout the world and continues to be revered in Christian tradition, especially as protector and patron of children in the West and as Wonderworker in the East. The St. Nicholas Center aims to bring Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians together in common purpose—to help people understand and appreciate the original St. Nicholas, the only real Santa Claus.
[http://www.stnicholascenter.orgI encourage you to visit the site to learn more]
As a people - Klingons are depicted as fierce warriors - potent enemies in battle. But anyone who reads at all far in the lore of Star Trek will know how fiercely they honor and guard their family - they know the value of protecting children. They'd likely be impressed by the stories - some quite fantastic - of St. Nick's rescue of children. Or how he protected the honor of dowry-less girls by secretly presenting them with gifts of gold coins.

In the Bible Jesus says these words, used in the readings for the commemoration of St. Nicholas:

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The mach - little - ones matter. Not just to a saint like Nicholas, but to God. In this season we have many opportunities to be generous. What can we do to protect the neediest among us?

Sunday, December 03, 2006


jIH DichDaq bow bIng toward lIj le' lalDan qach
I will bow down toward your holy temple Psalm 138:2

(click for podcast)

Here's a word we don't know yet in Klingon: bow.

Webster notes this verb, in English has a range of meaning from the simple "To bend" to "bend the body in token of respect or civility," all the way to "to depress; to crush; to subdue."

It isn't surprising to find this lack. There are many nouns and verbs that are yet to be revealed to us. And, after all, can you imagine a Klingon BOWING?

The closest word I find in the lexicon is the word, to kneel: "tor." This doesn't necessarily have positive connotations, either, hearing the Klingon expression:

QamvIS Hegh qaq law' torvIS yIn qaq puS.
Better to die on our feet than live on our knees.
[The Klingon Way p.95]

(torvIS yIn, translated as "live on our knees" is literally "to live while kneeling").

Here's the thing - though we have words in human language for "bow," and a variety of positive cultural associations (respect, honor, reverence), it does not always come easily to us, for to bow, especially as used here in scripture, is to WORSHIP, to humble ouselves before God.

The Hebrew word here is shachar, used over 150 times in the Bible. Translated as "worship" in the KJV of this passage, it literally means to depress, prostrate oneself - especially before a superior. The NLT captures the literal meaning with the intent by translating this phrase "I bow before your holy Temple as I worship."

Worship, means to acknowledge a superior's worth, their worth-ship, above all others. This is vital to our lives as believers, and we humans find it just as difficult as may Klingons. We are not God - and we have to go beyond the intellectual assent [as James writes "Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror!" James 2:19] and humble ourselves before him before we move forward in a fruitful spiritual life.

Why don't Klingons have the word bow?

In linguistics, the Sapir--Whorf (no relation to the Klingon) hypothesis states that there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it.

That is, a society without a word for "snow" doesn't know what it is, and a society without "to bow" in their dictionary may not be able to turn in humble prayer to a Creator. This is an attractive theory, but in this case the lack of this word is probably just our ignorance - the warlike Klingons DO, after all, have the word "peace." We'll have to wait a while to see if the absence is significan.

Rather we do well to consider what our spiritual vocabulary includes, especially to find if we've taken into our hearts the aspect of worship that leads US to bow to the Lord. Are we able to kneel before our Maker and praise him, and appeal to him for his aid? This goes light years beyond physical posture, for there are many acceptable ways to turn to God in prayer. After all prayer in the Bible is portrayed in a variety of physical positions (standing, kneeling, lieing prostrate) and faith communities all have a variety of practices. (http://www.kencollins.com/pray-20.htm) The value is in finding the posture that "reflects the content of the prayer, so that you pray with your body as you pray with your spirit." As Ken Collins writes:

Not only is it impossible for us to separate the spiritual from the physical during our life in the body, it is heretical for us to try. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to us in the flesh, thereby sanctifying the physical matter that He created, redeeming not just our souls, but also our bodies. He promised us a resurrection, not just some ethereal spiritual home. So if we separate the spirit from the body, we are not just making an impractical academic distinction, we are denying the significance of the Incarnation and of the Resurrection on the Last Day.

jIH DichDaq bow bIng toward lIj le' lalDan qach
I will bow down toward your holy temple Psalm 138:2

This psalm gives us an invitation to stop, and turn away from all the immediate fuss and worries that surround us, and turn towards God. When we do that, and bow in worship we'll find we'll find the key to spiritual refreshment - praise God!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

We Are Not Alone!

qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.
Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1b

(click for podcast)

We are not alone. That is the promise of Scripture, as well as the conclusion of at least some of the scientists who conduct the search for life beyond our planet. Granted these conclusions are from vastly different realms, but together they provide a comfort, as well as a challenge to believers.

qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.
Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1b

This psalm protrays us as NOT ALONE, as it considers our praise "qaSpa' the Qunpu'" "before the gods." The word here for gods, is the Hebrew elohim - a plural form that USUALLY is translated as "God" - that is, the almighty. But in some passages (we saw this recently in Psalm 8) context leads it to be translated as "gods". The Life Application Bible notes:

"Before the gods" may mean in the presence of subordinate heavenly beings (angels), or, more likely, it may be a statement ridiculing the kings or gods of the pagan nations. God is supreme in the whole earth.

I should note that The Klingon word used here is Qunpu' - the plural for Qun, the Klingon word for a god or deity. This is not the word we usually use (joH'a') to indicate the one Almighty - that's partly a historical accident, since joH'a' had come into wide usage before there was a known term, Qun, in Klingon for deities. As I've used it, Qun, is a generic, small "g" god - joH'a' is the one supreme god - the great Lord over all.

qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.
Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1b

This means we need to realize that, even we pray and praise God by ourselves - we are NOT alone. Our relationship to God is never a solitary one. As we live out our life of faith we are witnesses before the world, before angels and humans, and perhaps even before extraterrestrials - we are never truly alone.

In addition, we have promises of Divine presence as well, and there, the realization we are not alone can be a comfort. We do well to reflect on God's promises of his abiding presence. From God's words in Genesis to Jacob yIlegh, jIH 'oH tlhej SoH / "Behold, I am with you to Christ's in Revelation yIlegh" jIH Qam Daq the lojmIt je knock / Behold, I stand at the door and knock." This is a great comfort, and such words are good resouces to commit to memory - I've found such words are a powerful reminder, a joy to reflect on in dark moments.

But what OF the scientists who claim 'we are not alone?' There is a wide range of opinion on whether we will find aliens as we explore the heavens. Estimating the probabilities and recognizing the vast distances make it clear that ascertaining whether or where there are aliens is a difficult task.

There is, in fact, a formula, called the Drake Equation, after its author, Frank Drake. Plugging in a number of variables and estimates allows us to calculculate the number of alien civilizations that might exist. It is an interesting way to consider the problem - I've even written a program to run the calculations. So far, most of the input is highly speculative, leading to a wide spectrum of opinion - from NO other races, to a sky riddled with star empires.

This may not be a comfort - some may imagine the notion - if ever proved - would diminish our place in creation. I don't agree - any more than finding one more unknown people group reduces the significance of humanity.

As much as I'd be delighted with our finally exchanging greetings with others in the cosmos - it wouldn't change what we already know - we AREN'T alone. Scripture already makes clear that we stand NOW before God, before angels and all of creation. It is in such company that we are called to worship, to praise, to delight and give thanks for all God has done.

qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.
Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1b

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Whole Hearted!

jIH DichDaq nob SoH tlho' tlhej wIj Hoch tIq. qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.

I will give you thanks with my whole heart. Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1

(click for podcast)

Have you heard of a disorder called "Continuous Partial Attention?" This is a term coined by technologist Linda Stone to describe the way we are SO wired and connected that we wind up with "two people doing six things, devoting only partial attention to each one." It's supposed to be a new problem, and I can see why it seems particularly modern, as I head off to my daily bus commute with an iPod, pager, cell phone and more. But I wonder - I suspect (as is often the case) the gloss of new bells and whistles makes us blind to the fact the it isn't such a new problem.

Two thousand years ago, the apostle James warned believers about this,

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

It should be no surprise (at least if you've read the Bible's words "there is nothing new under the sun") that double-minded-ness is hardly a new problem. It may be assisted by technology, but the root of the problem is a failure to attend to what matters. When we let ourselves drift from one thing to another (and I know this problem from personal experience - I'm preaching to myself perhaps more than anyone here), we are as James says "like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed."

While James addresses this problem from the negative side, the psalmist here gives us a positive example, and directs our attention to something that can unite our hearts: nobtaH tlhob - giving thanks:

jIH DichDaq nob SoH tlho' tlhej wIj Hoch tIq. qaSpa' the Qunpu', jIH DichDaq bom praises Daq SoH.

I will give you thanks with my whole heart. Before the gods, I will sing praises to you. Psalm 138:1

For another name for "double-minded" is to be "half-hearted." The psalm gives us an example of a far more fruitful path, to be WHOLE-hearted, to give our all.. and to what? To thanks!

On the sector of the planet where I live, this is a time for a special holiday - Thanksgiving - which is not tied to any one faith, but united in the simple task of giving thanks. Not limited to only for those who have plenty, but also, we WITH plenty are urged and given opportunities to dig down deep and give to the less fortunate, in order to give them something for which to BE thankful.

David Fagerberg wrote: "The test of all happiness is gratitude," [GK] Chesterton wrote, and many of us have flunked that test. "Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs?" We feel no wonder at ordinary things; it is no wonder that ordinary things disappoint us. (FT March 2000: The Essential Chesterton, http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0003/opinion/fagerberg.html)

Are you as easily distracted as I am? Between books and podcasts and news - my attention is so easily driven to and fro, so that my Hoch tIq - my whole heart - is divided down to dust. I need to find a focus, and complete attention, to give thanks.

Let us all pray we find our hearts united in thanks, thanks to the great God who so freely blesses and shares love with everyone.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Hoch Suy' je cattle, HIja', je the Ha'DIbaH vo' the yotlh, the toQmey vo' the sky, the fish vo' the biQ'a', je whatever passes vegh the Hemey vo' the seas

All sheep and oxen, yes, and the animals of the field, the birds of the sky, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes through the paths of the seas. Psalm 8:7-8

(click for podcast)

Someday, somewhere out in the galaxy, perhaps human explorers will be faced with a whole new zoology - never-seen-before creatures for which they just won't have names. Should there be sentient natives, perhaps they'll need to ask what they're called. Otherwise, like Adam, they'll need to come up with names.

This is a problem here on planet Earth as well. Translating the Bible into English (or Klingon) we need to know the correct word that maps to the animal being described. Here at the end of Psalm 8, David lists a catalog of all the creatures over which humans have dominion - and you'll see my KLV only had terms for a few of the English words. Our knowledge of Klingon is still limited.

But worrying about being sure that tsone' (Hebrew for sheep) was something like a Klingon "Suy'", or the Klingon "toQmey" for birds was the same as Hebrew tsippowr, is missing the point. David is not giving us a precise catalog, anymore than suggesting God has fingers and hands in the earlier verses. Instead he is giving an example of the extent of creation that we are charged with tending.

It was interesting to note in several commentaries that the authors felt the book of James refers obliquely to this list of animals when he says:

vaD Hoch kind vo' animal, toQ, creeping Doch, je Doch Daq the biQ'a', ghaH tamed, je ghajtaH taH tamed Sum mankind.

For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. James 3:7

after which he concludes:

but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 NLT

Nature is vast, and we humans have found ourselves charged with its care. Yet for all the power we exercise over nature - James is right to see that the limit of this power is not on the outside - but within our hearts. We can indeed tame all manner of beasts, and someday we may travel out deep into space, to other stars, but whatever we can do out there, we need to find the help first to command the power of our tongue and words.

James offers advice in that direction, too:

If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don't brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! James 3:13 NLT

Having the words to name all creatures may be good, and it is important that our care and taming of beasts is an important part of our place in God's plan. But true mastery, and truly living out that plan requires we turn to Him for wisdom, and the power to live according to God's word. And don't worry, he wants to give you that power:

'ach chugh vay' vo' SoH lacks valtaHghach, chaw' ghaH tlhob vo' joH'a', 'Iv nob Daq Hoch liberally je Hutlh reproach; je 'oH DichDaq taH nobpu' Daq ghaH.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hands and Feet!

SoH chenmoH ghaH ruler Dung the vum vo' lIj ghopDu'. SoH ghaj lan Hoch Dochmey bIng Daj qamDu'

You make him ruler over the works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet Psalm 8:6

(click for podcast)

I think there's an interesting contrast here in this verse that names two parts of the body. The first is hand - yad, in Hebrew, or ghop in Klingon. The hand is symbolic of much, in this case the creative power of the Almighty, much as the word "finger" was used earlier. It is a reminder that God acts in creation, deliberately, like an artist or craftsman.

The second is the word foot - regel in Hebrew, and qam in Klingon. The foot can refer to much, from the power of movement, to (as it is here) the complete dominion over another, particularly an adversary.

It would be easy to read these words as a transfer of power - a hand-off if you will. The work of God's hands (vum vo' lIj ghopDu') is placed beneath humanity's feet ( Hoch Dochmey bIng Daj qamDu'). That is part of the story - but not the whole.

I think we need to be careful when we consider this - particularly if we're thinking in a militarisitic, overly-Klingon fashion. From ancient times the image of triumph over an enemy included the victor standing with a foot on the neck of the vanguished - a practice we even see mentioned in the book of Joshua.

Better than seeing nature as conquered, I like one writer's [Spurgeon] comment "The proper place for all worldly things, [is] under his feet," that is, we are not tempted to worship nature.

The problem arises if this dominion over creation becomes a justification for carte blanche consumption - as if we are free to use, and misuse the bounties of nature. More than one writer has happily blamed ecological disasters on believers misuse of nature, suggesting "superior, contemptuous" attitudes that make them "willing to use it [the earth] for our slightest whim." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_White)

That's why we need to understand that our relationship to creation should instead be one of stewardship - taking God's gifts and using them well - but not wasting them, as Peter notes in the Bible:

According as each has received a gift, be ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the grace of God in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

It's worth remembering Jesus's words in John 3:16, that begin - "For God so loved the world...." That "world" is the Greek world Kosmos, creation - not just people, but the whole of what God has created. If this is so, and as this Psalm says, it has been given into our care, we should TAKE care to tend it well, not simply use up.

SoH chenmoH ghaH ruler Dung the vum vo' lIj ghopDu'. SoH ghaj lan Hoch Dochmey bIng Daj qamDu'

You make him ruler over the works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet Psalm 8:6

This world before us is rich, and beautiful - and it's been given to us mere humans to manage with care. Let's strive to hear the words "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Saturday, October 28, 2006


vaD SoH ghaj chenmoHta' ghaH a mach lower than joH'a', je crowned ghaH tlhej batlh je quv.

For you have made him a little lower than God, And crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5

(click for podcast)

It will be no surprise to discover that, among the words we know of Klingon vocabulary, "patlh" is one of them. This is the Klingon word for "rank," as in position in the military or government. There are words for every position from lagh (ensign) to 'aj (admiral) - and no doubt Klingons use them very precisely. For in a military society it is important to be able to, as Webster puts it:

... range in a particular class, order, or division; to
class; also, to dispose methodically; to place in suitable
classes or order; to classify.

This word, and these terms have NOT been included in the KLV, simply because I've not found a place where such vocabulary is needed - but that is not to say matters of patlh, rank, don't matter. This is the subject of today's verse.

vaD SoH ghaj chenmoHta' ghaH a mach lower than joH'a

For you have made him a little lower than God

Having considered the marvels of God and his creation, David in the previous verse marvels that God considers mere humans *at* ALL - and now in this verse, he describes our patlh, or rank: A LITTLE LOWER THAN GOD.

It is interesting to me to note that the precision of this ranking is a little fuzzy. If you were to read this in the King James version, you'd find we are "a little lower than the angels." That's not an impossible reading (though almost every other translation disagrees) - the Hebrew word is elohim, a plural form of "El," God. That word is used throughout the Hebrew scriptures, and usually translated as "God," but it could also be the plural 'gods' - as in angelic beings. The epistle to the Hebrews quotes this psalm, and the Greek very clearly says "angels," because the writer was quoting the LXX, which translated the Bible into Greek, and rendered "elohim" as "angelous," angels.

It is good to know this, because I think it is mistake to get caught up in the precision of this ranking - as if there is some hierachy of creation, an "org chart" that we need to memorize. The points that David developed are important:
  • God is great, his creation is awe-inspiring,
  • and YET he does not overlook us -
  • better yet, despite all expectations to the contrary, he has moved us from mere laghpu', to the 'aj, to the admirals of creation!

Reading the news, of war, or human cruelty and disaster, it is not hard to feel humanity has no hope; God should scrap this world and start again.

But he doesn't.

He's made us, he remembers us, and he's given us what seems an utterly undeserved rank. If he considers me so highly - maybe with his help, we can live like this is true.

In the movie "To Sir, with Love," Sidney Poiter plays a teacher who, faced with utterly incorrigible students, begins to make a difference in their lives when he treats them not as children, but adults. And when he raises his expectation of them, they begin to rise up to it, and become adults, just as he has treated them.

God made you. Not as a cog, a thing or just another animal on a backwater planet. He's given you a rank just short of divine. Now's the time to give thanks, and seek his help to live up to it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

nuq 'oH jubbe'wI'pu''e'

nuq ghaH loD, vetlh SoH think vo' ghaH? nuq ghaH the puqloD vo' loD, vetlh SoH care vaD ghaH?

What is man, that you think of him? The son of man, that you care for him? Psalm 8:4

(click for podcast)

Looking deep into the cosmos, David now looks back at himself, his people - to realize just how small and frail we are. Here in Psalm 8, contemplating all of creation makes him realize how insignificant we are - much like The Total Perspective Vortex,

in the fictional world of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected. Located on Frogstar World B, it shows its victim the entire unimaginable infinity of the universe with a very tiny marker that says "You Are Here" which points to a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot. {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Perspective_Vortex)

nuq ghaH loD - What is man

asks David, and it's a good question. But first, we need to untangle some of the language.

The Hebrew here is "ma' enosh" what mortal? - the word enosh isn't "MAN" as in male - it is more properly "a mortal." That is how the New Living Translation renders the phrase: "what are mortals that you should think of us," and that isn't simply an exercise in inclusive language. "Enosh" is derived from the word 'anash: "to be frail, feeble, (figuratively) melancholy."

Our Klingon rendering "nuq ghaH loD" is a simple rendering of the English "what is man?" and while it might be made more correct (albeit clipped) Klingon as "nuq loD" - the word "loD" (man) incorrectly focusses on "man/male" - only correct if the Hebrew word were the literal one for man, ISH - and it isn't. Even the second phrase "son of man" or "ben adam" is not about sons, or men, but offspring, the descendants of humanity. In this vast Cosmos, should we truly meet other races like Klingons, this question should be presented in a more universal way.

nuq 'oH jubbe'wI'pu' 'e' Daqaw' 'ej qatlh ghot puqpu' Daqel?

what are mortals that you should think of us,
mere children that you should care for us? Psalm 8:4

What an incredible God! Look up tonight into the night sky, marvel at how this may make you feel small - yet God has not overlooked you, he remembers and cares for you today. And this IS the message of the Bible - that God DOES think of us, he does remember us and our plight. As little as we may deserve it, God cares for us, provides for us, and watches over us. Hallelujah!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


ghorgh jIH qel lIj chal, the vum vo' lIj nItlhDu', the maS je the Hovmey, nuq SoH ghaj ordained

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, The moon
and the stars, wich you have ordained (Psalm 8:3)

(click for podcast)

Spacecraft from planet Earth have fanned out, to study stars, planets, as well as the land and weather on planet Earth. Among the various targets of these robotic explorers, at least one of them was used to uncover "the fingerprints of God." At least, that is how George Smoot, one of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in physics described the results of the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite that he worked to develop. He and his colleagues used these results to demonstrate how the Big Bang yielded a Universe full of diverse structures. And by calling this "the fingerprints of God" he proved at least, that the Bible is not alone in using poetic language in describing the Universe.

But what's clear here is that the Psalmist declares that the heavens - all we can see is a "work" SOMEbody MADE it - no question.

We can see in the poetry of this verse that we're not given literal blueprints in the Bible - no one would think the Psalm speaks of literal "fingers of God" molding the stars and planets - rather there is the assertion of intention and plan; craftsmanship, if you will.

Some cosmologists will speak of this craftsmanship in scientific terms, referring to the anthropic principle - the fact that this Universe appears to be deliberatly crafted for occupation, as one writer notes

More specifically, the values of the various forces of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life. The world is conditioned principally by the values of the fundamental constants .... When one mentally assigns different values to these constants or forces, one discovers that in fact the number of observable universes, that is to say, universes capable of supporting intelligent life, is very small. Just a slight variation in any one of these values would render life impossible. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/teleo.html

There is a Klingon sort of directness in the Bible: This directness is evident in the fact that the Bible never presents us with "proofs of the existence of God." The ways we moderns analyze such arguments never appears in the text. God simply IS. The scriptures don't present a case, or evidence, as much as they start with the axiom that God IS, and proceed to present us in history, poetry and more, what that means to our lives.

So it is with creation - it is understood from the start that God is the author of our Universe, and the Word moves forward from there to consider what that means. In this third verse of Psalm 8, David begins quite simply

jIH qel lIj chal, the vum vo' lIj nItlhDu'

I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers

The Hebrew word for work here is ma-aseh. It is what's called a mem-formation noun, and it comes from the Hebrew verb asah, with the letter mem prefixed. Asah means to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application. It appears over 2000 times in Scripture, and is seen first in Genesis 1:7 "And God made the firmament."

For "work" I've used the Klingon verb meaning "to work": vum. We don't know whether it CAN be a noun, though some Klingon verbs may be used as their counterpart noun. The alternative would be to construct a noun, as Klingon has something like mem-formation, a -ghach suffix, that marks a verb as a noun. Maybe "vumtaHghach," thing-of-on-going-work could be used here? That's a little awkward, and the dual noun/verb nature of the English word "work" led me to simply make the verb fit the purpose for the KLV's rough process.

In another Psalm we read:

The chal declare the batlh vo' joH'a'. The expanse shows Daj handiwork.

The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows his handiwork Psalm 19:1

Beginning from this premise in no way precludes our investigation into the mechanics of this creation. Rather such study it should become a delight to believers - for we have the opportunity in searching the marvels of the cosmos, to see the vast creative riches God has spread before us. As we'll see in the next verse, this is a source of great awe to David - and gives him pause to consider his place in it all.

No, you're not going to find literal fingerprints in the sky, or deep in you DNA - yet to the heart of faith, we can look on God's handiwork, rejoice and give thanks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh Baby!

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a

(click for podcast)

Klingons, like humans, include in their language onomatopoeia - the process where a figure of speech or word employs a word, or words that sound like the thing they represent. Think of "bang" or "click". And not just in English. In Latin, "tuxtax" was like "bam" or "whack" and meant to imitate the sound of blows landing. Or in Japanese, "doki doki" is used to indicate the (speeding up of the) beating of a heart (and thus excitement).

So it's natural that the word here for "babes" (owlel in Hebrew) comes from the Klingon word "ghu" - baby.

There is nothing particularly STRONG about babies. Klingons, or humans, or anyone hearing David's declaration here in Psalm 8 will doubt the sense of it.

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a

Even given the alternate reading "from the lips of babes.. you have established praise," it sounds unlikely. Babies, infants, may be MANY things, but they are neither strong or intelligible.

Here - as is often true - Scripture makes us stop to consider - WHAT does this mean?

Anyone familiar with Klingon culture would expect this claim - strength from the weak - to fall on deaf ears. It would as well for those of us who are human - who expect power and strength to come from the mighty, not infants.

Yet this is an important theme through the Bible. We may trust in POWER but God uses the weak, the helpless to accomplish his goals.

"My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12.9) God told Paul - and it is well that Paul reminds us. For it isn't by force that God accomplishes his goals. As Paul writes elsewhere:

God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong (1 Cor 1.27)

If we HAVE accomplished much, and have GREAT power or wealth - the Bible should give us pause. God looks instead to the utterly dependant - ghupu', babies, to show his power. And it is true, for in each new life God begins the world again - it is wonderful beyond any power we have.

And those who are WEAK, who feel they don't measure up - take heart! You are truly God's building blocks. What you do, whatever you struggle to do - this is God's victory, and in you he will bring about something worthy of praise - take heart!

Klingons or humans, we all give ourselves far too much credit for our deeds, our power and abilities, when we forget that all we HAVE or ARE is God's gift, as much of a gift as the new life of one infant.

vo' the wuSDu' vo' ghupu' ... SoH ghaj established HoS

From the lips of babes ... you have established strength Psalm 8:2a

Saturday, September 30, 2006


'Iv ghajtaH cher lIj batlh Dung the chal!

who has set your glory above the heavens! Psalm 8:1b

(click for podcast version)

Legend has it that earth's first orbital traveler Yuri Gagarin, toeing to his nation's atheist party line - looked out of his spaceship and announced he didn't "see God" in the heavens. Whether he really said that, any believer ought to reply that if you can't find God's presence on earth, you'll not find Him anywhere else in the cosmos.

David extols the wonders of God and looks up, singing out that the LORD has put his glory above the heavens. In Hebrew the term is "shamayim," from a root meaning to be lofty. The term, when used to indicate the "heavens" shows up over 100 times in the Bible. For the KLV I've used "chal," the Klingon word for "sky."

The heavens, shamayim or chal are what we call the realm that our planet's star travelers - cosmonauts, astronauts or taikonauts - move through. It is an inspiring realm - though not the realm of eternity. But it is a place of beauty that can inspire us to recognize the power of the one who created it all.

Heaven and earth is a phrase that does more than describe a specific location. It is a way of encompassing the whole of creation. Whether we call it shamayim v'eretz in Hebrew or chal tera' je in Klingon - when we think of heaven and earth, we are considering what God has made. When scripture speaks of heaven and earth (over 160 verses have those two words together) we're drected to the totallity of creation. It is a poetic way to say EVERYTHING, starting in the very first verse of Genesis when we read:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Daq the tagh joH'a' created the chal je the tera'.

David directs us in this psalm to see God's name as transcendant on earth and his glory above the heavens. In that way he underlines the fact God is above, beyond, all places we can see or name.

This is surely how Bible speaks of chal, the heaven. God created these things and they are wonderful, but we should not be distracted, to overlook the creator for his creation.

For Psalm 102 reminds us (as do our astronomers) these heavens are not eternal:

Of old, you laid the foundation of the earth. The heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will endure. Yes, all of them will wear out like a garment. You will change them like a cloak, and they will be changed.
But you are the same. Your years will have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)

Our hope, our ultimate destiny is beyond chal, beyond the heavens, with that one who created them, and will endure long after they are gone.

As you travel the heavens - whether in a spacecraft or from this globe we call spaceship Earth - there will be NO one coordinate where you will "find" God.

But don't worry - as he tells us through Isaiah - you can count on him to find YOU!

Don't you be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)

Friday, September 22, 2006


Oh LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,
joH'a', maj joH, chay' majestic ghaH lIj pong Daq Hoch the tera' psalm 8:1

(click for podcast version)

Tera'ngan - earther - is the Klingon summation of the residents of the third rock from the Sun. That is, tera'ngan, those from Terra or Earth. However this is NOT what David is thinking about in Psalm 8 when he says:

Oh LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,
joH'a', maj joH, chay' majestic ghaH lIj pong Daq Hoch the tera'

When a Klingon calls you a tera'ngan, it isn't a compliment - you are merely a Human from a distant corner of the galaxy. Your identity is confined to the borders, the limits of your home planet.

Exactly the opposite of David's use of eretz - earth, in this psalm, what has been rendered with the Klingon word tera'. David declares that God's name - his self, fills the whole world, all of visible creation. God's name - everything one might know or say about the creator, is BOUNDLESS.

I've noted before that space travellers have said "Earth has no lines" - that is, seen from space earth doesn't really divide up the way our maps and politics show it. In the stirring introduction to Psalm 8, David says the same thing - about GOD. We so often divide his presence up in parochial, limiting ways. Our prejudices happily lead us to imagine "no, God isn't in that place, among those people." But that's not true.

Peter learned how false such thinking is, when in a vision God showed him that God truly is completly impartial - would that we would remember Peter's words:

Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I perceive that God doesn't show favoritism;
but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35

The Life Application Bible notes, concerning Peter's confession:

In every nation there are hearts restless for God, ready to receive the Good News—but someone must take it to them. Seeking God is not enough—people must find him. How then shall seekers find God without someone to point the way? Is God asking you to show someone the way to him?

God fills every corner. As we capture David's vision of a God whose name is majestic across every corner of this globe, as we recall Peter's discovery that God is indeed for EVERYONE, let us find ways to share his boundless love!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

juppu' - Friends!

je Abraham ghaHta' ja' the jup vo' joH'a'.
and Abraham was called the friend of God. James 2:23b

(click for podcast)

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent numbers among his friends one unemployed actor with the unlikely name of Ford Prefect. Unbeknownst to Arthur, Ford is NOT a human, but actually hails from the vicinity of Betelgeuse, a star more than 400 light years away.

Such surprising friendships might make one ponder - how many alien friends do you have? I can number one - well, sort of. That is I have a small stone gargoyle figurine my daughter gave me years ago. I dubbed him "jupwI'," Klingon for 'my friend,' and he has sat faithfully by my computer ever since. He sits patiently as I clatter away on the keys and his friendship, while mostly imaginary, is a great reminder of a real friendship I do have - that of my daughter.

jup - friend - is the Klingon word that I've used in the KLV to represent the Hebrew word ahab and the Greek philos. Both words come from roots meaning "to love" - in fact the Greek word used here in James's epistle is familiar from the word philosopher (a lover of wisdom) and the city Philadelphia - the city of brotherly love. And even the root of the English word friend comes from Germanic roots (fre-on) for love.

Now, as casually as we may treat friendships - we do well to remember that a true friendship is far deeper and more powerful than mere acquaintainship.

je Abraham ghaHta' ja' the jup vo' joH'a'.
and Abraham was called the friend of God. James 2:23b

James is quoting the prophet Isaiah here, and he underlines the close relationship God wants to have with all of us. The theologian J.I. Packer notes:

God wants us as friends. ... Abraham and Moses are called friends of God (2 Chron 20:7, Exodus 33:11)... and Jesus tells his disciples: "No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends." (John 15:15).

For some reason, we don't assure one another of this as often as we should.

I recently heard one Bible teacher point out that when Jesus told his followers "No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends," there really was a change, for in NONE of the letters of Paul, Peter, James or John - only in the Gospels and Acts - do we find the word "disciples." The master/student relationship ends - God really yearns for us to become juppu' friends.

Some might note that all over the place in those letters, the apostles do call themselves "doulos," that is, bond-servants or slaves. There IS a difference, I think - for in a deep friendship we DO serve, we do care about our friend and look for ways to serve them - not because of obligation but because of the bond, because of the love we share.

Across this planet and perhaps out to the stars, we find many types of friendship - some close, some casual - yet all of them at their best can echo something of the relationship that God wants to have with us - as it says in Exodus that God "spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. "

In prayer, in worship, in reading scriptures, in fellowship with the company of believers, we have that same opportunity - what keeps us from it? Let us pray to daily seek his face and remember that God truly wants to be our friend.

je Abraham ghaHta' ja' the jup vo' joH'a'.
and Abraham was called the friend of God. James 2:23b

Saturday, September 09, 2006


'ach the joH ghaH voqmoH, 'Iv DichDaq establish SoH, je guard SoH vo' the mIghtaHghach wa'. 1Thes 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you, and guard you from the evil one.

At my darkest moments I need words like these from Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians - the reminder that, whatever else fails, we CAN trust the Lord. Paul reminds us that God is voqmoH - faithful. The Klingon word here is literally "cause to trust." Paul shares his confidence that this Lord who will keep us from evil.

There is no doubt that Klingons understand the virtues of faithfulness and trustworthiness. You can hear some of that regard for trust in the cynical proverbs that use the word voq, to trust:

yIvoq 'ach lojmItmey yISam. Trust, but locate the doors.
yIvoq 'ach yI'ol. Trust, but verify.

On the positive side, you hear the same word in this admonition to self-reliance:

DujlIj yIvoq. Trust your instincts.

Now it's interesting that the word "Duj," instincts, also means "ship" - so rather than merely advising self-reliance, perhaps since this Klingon adage can be read as "trust your ship," that is, depend on others in our company. And Paul is pointing us to the most trustworthy companion of all.

'ach the joH ghaH voqmoH, 'Iv DichDaq establish SoH, je guard SoH vo' the mIghtaHghach wa'. 1Thes 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you, and guard you from the evil one.

The word here for faithful is the Greek word pistis, used over 60 times in the Bible and conveys the idea of something that is objectively trustworthy and is translated in forms of believe, faithful, sure, or true. Pistis comes from the word peitho, to convince.

Paul wants us to be assured, be convinced of God's reliability - one writer says about this:

Though men cannot be trusted, God is faithful to his promises and his purposes. He may always be confided in; and when men are unbelieving, perverse, unkind, and disposed to do us wrong, we may go to him, and we shall always find in him one in whom we may confide. (Barnes)

This is not a simplistic vision of the world. Paul was not saying that the Lord would make life easy, or even safe at all times - but that we will be guarded from evil. Despite the travails Paul endured as he travelled spreading the word of Christ, he could still declare with confidence that God was faithful.

Hundreds of years before Paul's time, following the fall of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah wrote of that devastaion in his book of Lamentations. Yet, in the midst of the despair, he too expressed confidence in God saying:

It is of the LORD's loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn't fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22,23

Every summer we plant morning glories, and by this time of year the lamppost on the street is consumed by them - you can barely see it. Every morning (until the first cold weather takes its toll) those delicate flowers unfurl, reminding me of God's unfailing compassion and I think again, "They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

'ach the joH ghaH voqmoH, 'Iv DichDaq establish SoH, je guard SoH vo' the mIghtaHghach wa'. 1Thes 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you, and guard you from the evil one.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

nov jIH - Alien am I!

'The puH DIchDaq ghobe' taH sold Daq perpetuity, vaD the puH ghaH mine; vaD SoH 'oH novpu' je yIn as foreigners tlhej jIH.

'The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and live as foreigners with me. Lev 25:23

(click for podcast)

In the catalog of useful Klingon expressions, the Conversational Klingon learning tape offers this phrase and advice:

"you might need (help) in an emergency. You may have to be a little persistent to get a Klingon to come to your aid. ...not because they are ignoring you, or savoring your discomfort, it is just that what Terrans consider dangerous and unpleasant a Klingon usually finds exhilarating and enjoyable. So, if no ­one comes to your aid at first, shout out the phrase:

"I am not a Klingon."
{tlhIngan jIHbe'.}

This will make your plight explicit and a Klingon is sure to respond. "

Now, I'd note that another way you might state this idea is to say:

"nov jIH" / I am an alien.

Nov - alien, is our word for today. For here in Leviticus, we are reminded that our attitude is to BE an alien, or a "stranger and sojourner" in this world - in Hebrew the words are "ger," someone who stops as a guest, and "towshab," a temporary resident.

This passage from Leviticus is part of a section that covers legislation involving the year of Jubilee. The rules are ones that we would find challenging - as the Life Application Bible notes:

It included canceling all debts, freeing all slaves, and returning to its original owners all land that had been sold. There is no indication in the Bible that the Year of Jubilee was ever carried out. If Israel had followed this practice faithfully, they would have been a society without permanent poverty.

The point that captures my attention are the words:

vaD SoH 'oH novpu' je yIn as foreigners tlhej jIH.
for you are strangers and live as foreigners with me.

We're being told here that our lives are not to be rooted, pinned down to this world - as Larry Norman said "don't mind me, I'm only visiting this planet." If we can hold fast to that perspective, then we'll keep from getting weighed down and anchored by this world. The apostle Peter said it this way in his first letter:

Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. (1 Peter 2:11 NLT)

To me, one of the joys of imaginative stories of rockets and travel through space is the notion that we are on a journey, that our residence here is not perpetual. And I have to admit, it HAS pleased me that a number of modern translations have used the word "alien" to translate some of the Greek and Hebrew terms for wayfarer, stranger and sojourner.

When we recognize the journey we are on, the eternal home we believers approach through life - we can discover that all our priorities will re-arrange.

Looking for help from our Lord? Perhaps we do need to call out

"nov jIH," I AM an alien!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


(I'm BACK! I spent the last week visiting other worlds, filled with robots, fantastic voyages and more! See?)

vaD SoH, joH'a' mob, chenmoH jIH yIn Daq safety.
For you, O LORD alone, make me live in safety. Psalm 4:8b

(click for podcast)

As I write this, I'm soaking wet - due to having moved a car into the garage for fear of an approaching hailstorm. It gives me a little appreciation for the Klingon slang word for "to be safe" - QaD, literally to be dried out. Anyone caught in a summer thunderstorm can appreciate the link to "keeping dry" as being "safe."

You'll note that my KLV didn't map the word 'safety' - that's due to the relative infrequency of the word safety (19 times) or safe (13) in the WEB translation. As I've noted, my initial creation of this "relexified" (not translated ) text only touched on FREQUENT words, used more than 100 times in the English text. I've relaxed that rule - especially as I've done these studies, but "safe" and "safety" haven't made the cut yet. And, of course, safety is rarely a priority for Klingons.

vaD SoH, joH'a' mob, chenmoH jIH yIn Daq safety.
For you, O LORD alone, make me live in safety. Psalm 4:8b

On planet Earth - well on (or off of) any planet (even Pluto! - I'm not giving up so easily on that one) safety IS a concern. From pre-launch checklists to flood insurance, we think about and seek to attain it in many ways.

But. We know there is no guarantee. At the end of these two psalms, 3 and 4, we've heard David oscillate between his struggles and his confidence in God giving him security. This final verse wraps up with David, at last, saying his safety is founded on God alone.

The word here in Hebrew, betach, means to hie for refuge - that is, it acknowledges there is much in this world from which we need rescue. AND it is only God who offers that rescue. We do not find safety in denying our troubles - saying "everything is fine," when it is not.

Perhaps we need to, as David did, come to the end of our rope to realize how much we need rescue - and that God offers it.

As Peter says:

casting Hoch lIj worries Daq ghaH, because ghaH cares vaD SoH.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Then we'll know the answer to this life's bad news:

ghaH DichDaq ghobe' taH vIp vo' mIghtaHghach news. Daj tIq ghaH steadfast, trusting Daq joH'a'.

He will not be afraid of evil news. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:7)

This life will bring us storms - real and metaphorical - and it is not always possible to be QaD, safe. But there is one to whom we can always turn, for He will always give us that safe port in every storm we need.

vaD SoH, joH'a' mob, chenmoH jIH yIn Daq safety.
For you, O LORD alone, make me live in safety. Psalm 4:8b

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gladness in my Heart!

SoH ghaj lan Quchqu'taHghach Daq wIj tIq, latlh than ghorgh chaj grain je chaj chu' HIq 'oH increased.

You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and their new wine are increased. Psalm 4:7
(click for podcast)
We don't know much about how Klingons face death. Yes, bravely, and yes they have a loud cry to warn those in the afterlife that a great warrior approaches. They also have legends and beliefs that, well, hardly parallel the Biblical message - any more than my Scandinavian ancestors did. And, of course, that's why we - Klingons and Humans - need someone to give us the witness of scripture, because without it we DON'T know that we can face death - and life - with gladness.

I've seen this. I can picture it in funerals I've been at - my mother's and my father's for example - that were great celebrations. Even in the midst of grief, no one could mistake the confidence and gladness that attended the services.

Gladness - that's the word we consider today. Simchah in Hebrew, it occurs more than 80 times in the Bible. From a root, sameach, to be blithe, or gleeful. You may hear that word at celebrations in Israel when people would call out "hag sameach," happy holiday!

This gladness is an adjective we might covet for our lives, but not always find. One tlhIngan Hol word that might do would be "tIv" - to enjoy, but I used - constructed really - a far longer one - Quchqu'taHghach, from Quch, be happy, plus the intensive qu' plus, taH, on-going. All wrapped up with the nominalizer -ghach: Quchqu'taHghach. With the small known Klingon vocabulary, we could connect this to "blessed", at least for ashri, which in Hebrew, meaning "happy" or Quch. It is interesting to note the Hebrew and Greek scriptures include a word for "blessed" that means "happy."

This connection of being happy and blessed, even in the midst of grief is fresh in my mind, as I return from the funeral of a good friend. Again, a remarkable scene of witness to joy, despite grief. A compelling example for believers.

This verse comes at the end of a psalm - really a pair of psalms (3 and 4) that come from a desperate moment in David's life, a time when he was on the run for his life. And STILL he had confidence in God's care. Still he could say:

SoH ghaj lan Quchqu'taHghach Daq wIj tIq, latlh than ghorgh chaj grain je chaj chu' HIq 'oH increased.

You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and their new wine are increased. Psalm 4:7

The Life Application Bible reflects on this kind of gladness, saying:

Two kinds of joy are contrasted here—inward joy that comes from knowing and trusting God and happiness that comes as a result of pleasant circumstances. Inward joy is steady as long as we trust God; happiness is unpredictable. Inward joy defeats discouragement; happiness covers it up. Inward joy is lasting; happiness is temporary.

That's the goal. Not to have happiness that comes from temporary fortune, but rather to achieve inward joy - gladness that lasts, not for the moment, but on into eternity. That's what David found in God's gracious love - and so can we.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

This Book.

vam paq vo' the chut DIchDaq ghobe' mej pa' vo' lIj nujDu'

"don't for a minute let this book of the Revelation be out of mind" Joshua 1:8 Message

(click for podcast)

At this moment I'm getting ready to blast off. I'm heading out into the blue to a conference in Las Vegas. It won't be a long trip, and getting ready to go brought my mind to matters of packing, and unpacking - traveling light. This called this verse to mind from Joshua. At the end of the long journey, the Israelites are ready to unpack - settle in after decades travelling away from slavery in Egypt. They are going to have homes again - they'll no longer need to - as travelers must - carry everything with them.

Except. Joshua is given this command from God, essentially what NOT to unpack:

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate thereon day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.

I was drawn to this verse over 30 years ago when a group called the Navigators introduced me to Bible memorization - the systematic effort to follow these words, to as the Message translation puts it:

"don't for a minute let this book of the Revelation be out of mind"

I like that term "book of the Revelation," because it encompasses the whole of Scripture. "Book of the law" or "paq vo' the chut" implies a narrower focus - as if we are being reminded to know statutes and legislations.

Rather this law, or torah in Hebrew is the TEACHING, including laws, but including the whole direction of Scripture. The root is yarah, a word meaning to throw, or point - give DIRECTION. There is a way that God intends to lead us - his torah is in the whole of scriptures that Paul reminds us

is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16

Good things to hang onto!

Lately I've been learning about the another alien culture. Certainly as fierce an opponent as Klingons (if not more so) they are the Mando'a or the Mandalorians. The most famous of them are Boba Fett and his father Jango. Like the Israelites of Moses's day, they are a nomadic people. While a much more martial people than the Israelites, they too are noted for keeping their words, their stories and traditions alive - keeping them in their mind at all times. You can find links to their language and my rough "translation" of a Mando'a Bible at MNDBible.MrKlingon.org. This translation, like the KLV, is a simple word replacement effort - these words from Joshua come out as:

ibic book be te law shall not ba'slanar out be gar mouth, a' gar shall meditate bat bic tuur bal ca, ibac gar may ja'hailir at narir according at an ibac is written therein: par then gar shall gotal'ur gar way prosperous, bal then gar shall ganar jate success

"don't for a minute let this book of the Revelation be out of mind" Joshua 1:8 Message

What words can't you forget? That you are TRYING to remember -- for some of us there is a struggle to remember the passwords and PIN numbers that modern life requires us to keep, for others it is schoolwork and things we are trying to learn. It always seems like SOMETHING needs to be kept in the memory bank.

But if we draw into our hearts the words of God and make them part of our everyday kit - then we'll be equipped and well armed for the day.

Then, as Paul puts it, we'll be "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Light makes....

joH'a', chaw' the wov vo' lIj qab shine Daq maH.

LORD, let the light of your face shine on us. Psalm 4:6b

(click for podcast version)

When you travel in space, "light" matters. Not merely because of the "blackness of space" but because light, the energy of the stars, can be a vital resource. A source of light, and power - just as it is on Earth. It is common to power spacecraft with solar energy - consider the valiant robots STILL exploring Mars, charging and recharging themselves with... LIGHT. In the future great solar sails will be used to drive ships through the solar system - even to other stars.

AND... in this verse we hear also of light - the light that shines from God.

joH'a', chaw' the wov vo' lIj qab shine Daq maH.

LORD, let the light of your face shine on us. Psalm 4:6b

There is one saying that humans have, which I expect Klingons would have no trouble with: Might makes right. It echoes the Klingon aphorism

reH lugh charghwI'. The victor is always right.

But the verse we're considering suggests a different thought that might be paraphrased "light makes right," for in this final clause of Psalm 4:6 we get the answer to last week's question “Who will show us any good?” We will find good in the LIGHT of God's presence.

Light is "wov" in Klingon. The Hebrew word here is "ore" and shows up over 100 times in the Bible meaning illumination or luminary in every sense, including lightning, happiness, and so on. It is the positive power of light - the way we see things, the way we see what needs to be done.

We enjoy God's light - the real, literal sunshine that gives life and energy to our planet, and the light of God's blessing. The gifts we receive FROM him every day.

joH'a', chaw' the wov vo' lIj qab shine Daq maH.

LORD, let the light of your face shine on us. Psalm 4:6b

This light is not ours to keep. We are not to hoard light for our selves - like the time Mr. Burns tried to keep Springfield in perpetual darkness so he could sell more power. We are, in fact to be light ourselves:

'ach vaj, chaw' lIj wov shine qaSpa' loDpu'; vetlh chaH may legh lIj QaQ vum, je glorify lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal.

Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Mt 5:16

As we travel around the universe, we look to the light of the stars, suns and what is reflected from the planets, and when we do, we experience the gracious gifts of God, the source of all life and light - GIVE THANKS! Reflect that light today - let your light shine!