Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thanks a LOT!

joH'a' assigned wIj portion je wIj HIvje'. SoH chenmoHta' wIj lot secure.

The LORD assigned my portion and my cup. You made my lot secure. Psalm 16:5

(click for podcast version)

What is your lot in life? Rich or poor is a matter of perspective across the years of one's life as our fortunes rise and fall. And you might consider yourself impoverished - yet to another in different circumstances you'd be wealthy. "LOT" - that's our Klingon word to consider today, though you'll note, it isn't one that is translated into Klingon in our text.

Sometimes you might hear successful people of faith, suggest that earthly success indicates divine approval. At its best this is a recognition of dependance - at its worst it can be a gross misunderstanding of scripture. And it ISN'T what King David is thinking in this verse from Psalm 16.

For our worldly good is not tied to a simple equation. "Comforters" like those who visited Job may know many words about God that they think point to a cause-and-effect system, but fail to bring help or hope to those dealing with disaster.

SoH chenmoHta' wIj lot secure.

You made my lot secure.

Since my Klingon Language Version merely does word-for-word replacements, there's plenty of places where it doesn't provide a translated word - and this is one of those cases.

The first problem is there are vastly different meanings of those three letters - in particular it's the NAME of Abraham's nephew - nearly a third of the occurences in the Bible. Obviously the mechanical process of generating the KLV yields odd "translations" but Lot's *name* is too familiar to translate it into a meaning (especially the wrong meaning).

"LOT" in this verse is the Hebrew word gowral (go-rawl), which means "pebble" and appears over 60 times in the Bible. The corresponding Greek word, kleros (klay'-ros) that appears over 10 times means "a break," a bit of wood, i.e. a die. The literal meaning is some small object used in making a random choice - like we might use dice today, or flipping a coin.

This is not an endorsement of gambling, but is seen across scriptures as one way that believers would use to make decisions - as one writer notes:

The lot was always resorted to by the Hebrews with strictest reference to the interposition of God, and as a method of ascertaining the divine will (Pr 16:33), and in serious cases of doubt (Es 3:7). (Easton's Bible Dictionary)

For a Klingon word - a literal translation of gowral might be naghHom - little rock. That doesn't tell us much. Better might be to come up with a phrase - maybe "SuD naghHom" - the stone gambles? Maybe you see why I opted NOT to translate this word.

joH'a' assigned wIj portion je wIj HIvje'. SoH chenmoHta' wIj lot secure.

The LORD assigned my portion and my cup. You made my lot secure. Psalm 16:5

I bring up the word, and its meaning, because I like noting that when David talks about his portion he uses a word that suggests his fortune, his "lot" has an arbitrary aspect - something outside of his merit, his personal worth. I think David is reminding us of the action in his life of GRACE - God's unmerited favor. One more thing worth noting - the verse begins stating a fact, something impersonal, ABOUT God: The LORD assigned my portion and my cup.

But it ends with words of relationship, addressed to God: You made my lot secure.

I think this is what's missing when we start fooling ourselves into acting as if our LOT - our success or prosperity - is in something we did. For then we've lost the most important thing, the relationship with a God who loves us, who cares for us - not because we somehow proved we were worth it, but because he loves us better than we could ever hope or deserve.

joH'a' assigned wIj portion je wIj HIvje'. SoH chenmoHta' wIj lot secure.

The LORD assigned my portion and my cup. You made my lot secure. Psalm 16:5

What a great God!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ewwww - Blood!

chaj QoSqu'ghachmey DIchDaq taH multiplied 'Iv nob gifts Daq another joH'a'. chaj tlhutlh nobmey vo' 'Iw jIH DichDaq ghobe' nob, ghobe' tlhap chaj pongmey Daq wIj wuSDu'.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts to another god. Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take their names on my lips. Psalm 16:4

(click for podcast)

This passage considers the sort of life David chooses to live, or more importantly: the kind of life he REJECTS. In it we also find an important Klingon word - one that will come naturally to humans, especially if they are squeamish - it's the word for blood - 'Iw.

If you're familiar with Klingon sayings you might recognize it from the toast:

"'IwlIj jachjaj" (May your blood scream)

Or the phrase uttered to a young Klingon going through the Rite of Ascension:
"'Iw bIQtqDaq bIlengjaj" (May you travel the river of blood)

In the KLV 'IW translates the Hebrew word dam (dawm) a word that occurs almost 300 times in the Bible. Does it stand for life, or death? Something like two thirds of the references in the Hebrew scriptures refer to death, though we also find in Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood" (vaD the yIn vo' the ghab ghaH Daq the 'Iw) - indeed the whole sacrificial system connects the blood of a sacrifice with new life and redemption.

And in their toasts, or advice to their young, Klingons make a point of connecting life with blood - some might see the "river of blood" to refer to blood shed in battle, but I think it means to live life fully - particularly as the word RIVER (bIQtIq) is a compound water (bIQ) heart (tIq). I think the thought is the wish that your "river of life" - your blood - will carry you on to honor and glory.

It's clear how David sees blood when he says:

chaj tlhutlh nobmey vo' 'Iw jIH DichDaq ghobe' nob
(Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer)

He may literally be rejecting sacrifices of blood to other gods, but I think the main point is this: HIS life, his BLOOD will not be poured out for mere idols - the false gods of his enemies. I like how this verse is translated by Eugene Peterson in "The Message" translation:

Don't just go shopping for a god.
Gods are not for sale.
I swear I'll never treat god-names
like brand-names.

For the question is this: the only real capital we have to spend is not our money, or our property - it's our blood - our LIFE. You can't buy it, you can't create it - it's the one bank account you can never add to, only spend. We need to listen to David and refuse to waste a drop of our limited days on counterfeit gods - whatever they may be earthly riches, position, fame, or whatever takes God's place in our lives.

Jeremiah cautions: Has a nation changed its gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. (Jeremiah 2:11)

Let us join David, and pour our lives for the God who IS truly God, spending our blood on lives of joy and service that will last not just for our earthly pilgramage - but pay dividends forever.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


As vaD the le' ghotpu' 'Iv 'oH Daq the tera', chaH 'oH the excellent ones
Daq 'Iv ghaH Hoch wIj tIv.

As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the excellent ones in
whom is all my delight. {Psalm 16:3)

(podcast version)

In an episode of the Simpsons, the "Comic Book Guy", who is the
ultimate scifi fan is thrown out of a bar. Lying in the gutter, he
asks sadly:

"Is there a Klingon word for 'loneliness'?"

(pulls out dictionary)

"Ahh... 'G'arr D'aK!"

Now - *if* I were also a scifi geek, I might point out that there's no
real Klingon word for "loneliness." The closest equivalent would be
the phrase "jImobqu'" (pronounced jhi-mobe-koo-uh), which means "I'm
so alone!" Comic Book Guy's attempt of "ghardak" is

[I would also - IF I were such a geek - note that Vulcan does have a
word "sa'awek" for 'alone: being apart from others; solitary; being
without anyone or anything else', as does Romulan (Rihannsu): her'u -

Here in the third verse of Psalm 16, David turns in this verse from
his source of all the good in his life (God) to his companions "Daq
the tera'" / "in the earth," Calling them "saints" - "kadashim" in
Hebrew - they are the "holy" or "set-apart" ones.

The known Klingon dictionary is lacking - we don't have words for
"holy" or "saints." Digging in a bit we see the Hebrew word used
here, qadowsh (kaw-doshe'), appears over 100 times in the Bible and is
based on the word qadash (kaw-dash'), which appears over 150 times.
The idea of holiness is not is someone or something that is 'pure' or
'prim' but to be "special" and "set apart." It follows, I think, that
the Greek word for the assembly of believers is be ekklesia
(ek-klay-see'-ah), the called out ones. They are "set apart" - not by
some special merit, but being called out by God.

To supply Klingon words for the KLV lexicon I've used "le'" (be
special, exceptional) for "holy" and then translated saints as "le'
ghotpu'" - exceptional people.

One writer notes that David "acknowledges the worth and delights in
the faith of the saints ... the people set apart for God's
possession." [New Bible Commentary.]

This time of year, my commute to work consists of a walk of about a
mile (something less than 2 kilometers) to the bus that takes me to my
office. It can be a daunting slog through snowstorms, but most days
it is a pleasant hike - and not necessarily a solitary one. Though I
walk alone, I walk in good company. Thanks to a variety of podcasts,
I trek through the neighborhood accompanied by believers from
California, the Netherlands, Illinois, Florida and.. well, I'm not
even sure where they all come from. But, in my walk, I am able to
enjoy scripture readings, and reflections on the Word and life.

As vaD the le' ghotpu' 'Iv 'oH Daq the tera', chaH 'oH the excellent ones
Daq 'Iv ghaH Hoch wIj tIv.

As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the excellent ones in
whom is all my delight. {Psalm 16:3)

What we need to recognize here is this - whether we have technology
like podcasts or not - as believers WE DON'T WALK ALONE. We are part
of a good company that spreads across the world and the ages. We
sometimes get so focussed on our world of today that we lose sight of
all the faithful, what the letter to the Hebrews calls a "great a
cloud of witnesses" who accompany us in our life of faith. I
especially encourage you to take advantage of resources like the library of "Classic Christian books in electronic format"
(free!) as well as, with its archive the writing of the
church fathers and more.

Whether or not Klingon, English, Vulcan or Romulan *has* a word for
loneliness - it is good to realize that no believer needs to be alone
in his or her daily walk. Our company is one of fellowship in
congregations, and with the historic witness of believers from
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to Polycarp and Augustine, to
C.S. Lewis. It's a grand company! Come along as we trek together!

As vaD the le' ghotpu' 'Iv 'oH Daq the tera', chaH 'oH the excellent ones
Daq 'Iv ghaH Hoch wIj tIv.

As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the excellent ones in
whom is all my delight. {Psalm 16:3)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Things to think about.

(click for podcast)
Apart vo' SoH jIH ghaj ghobe' QaQ Doch.

Apart from you I have no good thing. Psalm 16:2b

"Doch" - is a great Klingon word. As a noun, it is the word for "thing," and joined with the all-purpose question word "nuq" (what?) you can use it to get by among Klingons. Simply point at things and say

"Dochvam nuq"

To find out what they are. It means "thing" (Doch) plus "this-one" (-vam), "what is it?" (nuq). That phrase - Dochvam nuq? - and a winning personality will get you far among Klingons. Oh, and if you don't manage it well, they'll use the word to describe you - as a verb, "Doch" means "be rude".

Apart vo' SoH jIH ghaj ghobe' QaQ Doch.

Apart from you I have no good thing.

It's a great word - but I have to mention.. it isn't exactly in this part of Psalm 16:2. And this is a good time to think about the problem of translating and how fluid language can be. For example, the Hebrew Psalm 23 starts with is a very terse "Adonai ro-ee, lo ecksahr" Only four words, which expand into the familiar nine of the King James version's

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want"

In this passage, the eight words:
Apart vo' SoH jIH ghaj ghobe' QaQ Doch.
"Apart from you I have no good thing."

Come from three Hebrew words: tovthi bel al-eyka. The KJV expands this to 6, perhaps not very clear words:

my goodness extendeth not to thee

We get a better idea of what, uh, things this verse communicates from some moder translations:

  • New Living: All the good things I have are from you.
  • Amplified: I have no good beside {or} beyond You.
  • NASB: I have no good besides You.

The important word - in every translation is the word "good." It translates the common Hebrew word towb, which is seen over 500 times in the Bible. It's the same word in the expression "Mazel tov," and is translated with many different English words: glad, good, graciously, joyful, kindly, kindness, loving, merry, pleasant, precious, prosperity, sweet, wealth, and welfare, to name a few.

Apart vo' SoH jIH ghaj ghobe' QaQ Doch.

Apart from you I have no good thing.

What matters here is really not Dochmey, things, but QaQ - what is GOOD.

And, Jesus points out to us how to find the GOOD things we need:

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, don't be anxious for
your life, what you will eat, nor yet for your body, what you will
wear. ... Life is more than food, and the body is more than
clothing. Don't seek what you will eat or what you will drink;
neither be anxious. For the nations of the world seek after all of
these things, but your Father knows that you need these things. But
seek God's Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. (Luke 12)

Dochmeyvam nuq? What are these things we should seek? God only knows - and when we seek after him... we will too.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Who's the Boss?

(click for podcast)

SoH 'oH wIj joH.
You are my Lord. Psalm 16:2a

Klingon command structure is not what we're used to on Earth. Often a commander is replaced, not through what we would regard as orderly promotion, but through dueling, or outright assassination. The assumption is that a leader unable to defend him or herself ought to be replaced.

This may be reflected in the Klingon theological claim "we killed our gods." How better to "promote" oneself to the God of the universe, but by first eliminating the competition?

SoH 'oH wIj joH.
You are my Lord.

I don't think the Klingons are alone. As far as I know, no humans claim outright to have assassinated the almighty - yet examine our lives and the day-to-day choices we make. Then, ask - is this the life of one who says to the God

SoH 'oH wIj joH.
You are my Lord.

or one who has decided to take God's place?

This verse addressess the almighty with the tetragrammaton, YHVH, translated often as LORD from the Jewish practice of reading the name as "adonai," Lord). The verse declares YHVH is lord (adonai). A number of modern translations (including the WEB) present this name as "Yahweh," though I generally use the older practice of "the LORD." The word "Jehovah" derives from a misreading of the Hebrew - the Jewish scholars inserted the vowels (ah-oh-a) for adonai in the tetragrammaton as a reminder to SAY 'adonai'; some early Christian monk, used those vowels and came up with ye-ho-vah, or Jehovah. The practice in Klingon translations has been to use joH'a' (great Lord) for God or Jehovah (which I think it resembles), though we now know there is a term, qun, for "god." In time this may be the more common term used in Klingon translations.

In the KJV and you can see both kinds of "LORD" in this psalm as it says

my soul , thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord

(this LORD/Lord parallel is also visible in Psalm 8's "O LORD our Lord")

Now, I don't think there is any Klingon or human cultural tendency or inclination to join David as he says.

SoH 'oH wIj joH.
You are my Lord.

We need - Klingon or Human - to learn this just as David did. In his struggle to become (and remain) King he learned there is a limit to his ascendancy, and we need to learn this too. We are NOT God. This is part of the Biblical advice:

The taHvIp vo' joH'a' ghaH the tagh vo' valtaHghach
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 110:10a)

This counsels not terror, but awe: the clear understanding that we must answer to our creator. In short, the question really is "who is the boss?" When we misplace ourselves as the center of the universe, we'll find sooner or later, to our regret, that we are NOT God. We need to humbler ourselves, and with David turn in faith and say

SoH 'oH wIj joH.
You are my Lord.

As this new year begins - lets look for ways to remind ourselves who is the boss.