Friday, December 21, 2007

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DIS - Year

SoH crown the DIS tlhej lIj bounty.

You crown the year with your bounty. Psalm 65:11a

(click for podcast)

How do you regard your birthday, you qoSlIj? Many, as they grow older agonize over them, anticipating each with a wary caution that considers each additional birthday candle some point scored against them.

I had the good fortune to 1) be born late in the year and 2) be the youngest in my family for the first decade of my life. Those two factors meant I always felt I was the youngest in my family or class - it meant, and still means, that I always look forward to getting another year added to my age.

SoH crown the DIS tlhej lIj bounty.

You crown the year with your bounty. Psalm 65:11a

Time is part of God's creation, a creation that the Bible reminds us "was good." So time itself is not evil, is not our enemy.

In our survey of the Klingon alphabet, D is the second letter we consider. Always a capital "D", it is pretty much pronounced as our 'd.' The word we consider her is DIS, year. Here, in Psalm 65, this word translates shaneh - a word that appears over 600 times in the Bible.

DIS is one of a number of time words we know in the Klingon language. DIS, year. jaj, day. jar, month. for example. Now, while we don't know how precisely these correspond to the human terms, we do know from this that Klingons experience time much as we do. That would suggest that, they too understand time as a march forward (never a retreat), an advance into an unknown country, a country we fear holds terror and loss.

But there's another way to look at this. Time is a gift - God gives it and uses it to draw us out to maturity - to become, to grow into, the person he wants us to become. Reflecting on this verse, Spurgeon says:

The harvest is the plainest display of the divine bounty, and the crown of the year. The Lord himself conducts the coronation, and sets the golden coronal upon the brow of the year. Or we may understand the expression to mean that God's love encircles the year as with a crown; each month has its gems, each day its pearl. Unceasing kindness girdles all time with a belt of love. The providence of God in its visitations makes a complete circuit, and surrounds the year. (Spurgeon)
Each day, each month, each year - our lives are SURROUNDED, encircled by God's love. Next time a birthday looms, or you spot a wrinkle or grey hair - look past that to realize how you don't move forward through the years alone - but that with God, each year will be crowned with his bounty and love.

Monday, December 03, 2007

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

'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 disposition 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?

Friday, November 23, 2007

'IH - Beautiful!

'IH - Beautiful!

'IH Daq elevation, the Quch vo' the Hoch tera'
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth Ps 48.2
(click for podcast)

What does it mean, to be "beautiful?" Webster tells us it means "Elegant in form, fair,having the form that pleases the eye. It expresses more than handsome." "Beauty" is how we describe something that is deeply attractive.

Here in Psalm 48, the Psalmist rejoices in God's presence among his people - looking at Mt. Zion, and particularly the city Jerusalem, as beautiful with the almighty's presence. This can sound nationalistic and parochial if we think of it as simply a geographic location or national capital - but this is far more than just that. This recalls the term for Scriptural meaning that looks forward to God's triumph that I mentioned recently, "anagogical." As one commentary notes, this Psalm "sees the city AS IT WILL BE when 'all the nations flow to it' (Is. 2:2:ff) - for it is certainly not yet the joy of all the earth." (Kidner)

Such joy is indeed God's aim and intention for all people, and when that happens, it will indeed be beautiful.

Today we're looking at our first letter of the tlhIngan Hol alphabet, the letter that looks like an apostrophe, and our word is 'IH (spelled ' I H) - beautiful.

This letter is pronounced as a glottal stop - a brief catch. You'll see that in Klingon there are NO words that begin with a vowel - this letter is always placed in front of the vowel, as well as in other places within a word. All tlhIngan Hol words that begin with this letter are always followed by a vowel

'IH can mean "appropriate" or "good" as well as attractive - for example:
Du'IHchoHmoH mIvvam
This helmet suits you.

Literally You-it-be-beautiful-change-causes helmet-this-one, that is, this helmet causes you to change to be beautiful/handsome.

In Hebrew, the word here is yapheh, from a word meaning "to be bright" - think perhaps "to catch the eye" as things that are beautiful can.

We need to attend to beauty, in nature and in art - for God truly does use beauty to catch our attention - to draw us to himself.

No less an authority that Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes reminds us of this:

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

We have much to hope from the flowers, from beauty as we discover it, because it points us beyond the day to day, merely practical world. Beauty is this pure benefit, this joy that God sets before us to capture our attention, to draw us to him. In fact some speak of this as one of the proofs of the existence of God, reasoning from the existence and perception of beauty in the universe (what is called, the aesthetical argument).

'IH Daq elevation, the Quch vo' the Hoch tera'
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth Ps 48.2
(click for podcast)

As I write this people in my nation have just celebrated "thanksgiving" - a day that we pause to reflect on the blessings (whether we call them that) that we enjoy. Of all those blessing I think our experience of beauty is among the most precious. And this grace of God is extended to all, as Jesus says

For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (MT 5:45)

Rejoice! 'IH - beauty is one of the most vital signposts in this universe - a reminder of how deeply God loves us!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

mu' - Word

jIH ghaj hidden lIj mu' Daq wIj tIq, vetlh jIH might ghobe' yem Daq SoH.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

(click for podcast version)

How can a word be more than just a collections of letters? How does that word, hidden in a heart (tIq) protect against sin (yem)?

Well, of course,it isn't just *any* word.

The believer, reading these words from Psalm 119 knows it's the Bible: a book of many books - made up of thousands of words, yet one we call simply "THE" Word.

In Klingon - or tlhIngan Hol, the word FOR word is "mu'" - it shows up almost 900 times in the Klingon Language Version. In the King James "word" represents 15 different Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words - the most common being dabar in Hebrew (over 400 times) and logos in Greek (almost 200 times). It can refer to something like a single dictionary word, speech, or a complete message. And as we use it here, it can encompass all of God's message to humanity.

One of the terms I've used in Klingon for this is mu''a' - (great word). That's why this podcast "A Klingon Word, from the Word" is called in tlhIngan Hol "mu''a'vo mu'" - from-the-big-word a-word.

In the next podcasts, I want to alter my course. Over the last years I've worked my way through individual psalms, and now, I'd like to shift to emphasize the KLINGON WORD part of this podcast, and work my way through the Klingon Alphabet with a Klingon word for each letter. For each word, I'll choose a verse or verses from the KLV Psalms and we'll look at that verse and word in the greater context of the Scriptures.

The Klingon alphabet, pIqaD ( ), has 26 letters, just like the Roman alphabet we use for English - but they aren't the same 26 letters, as we'll see, even if you often see the English alphabet used to represent the Klingon. One difference - none of the letters are capitalized as we do in English, as in proper nouns and the beginning of sentences - though some (D,I, H, and S) are always capitalized. Q and q are two different letters. Also, several letters are represented with multiple letters (tlh, ch, and gh). And one letter is represented by the apostrophe - we'll see that one often, because a rule of tlhIngan Hol is that you never start with a vowel - so for the vowels we'll actually see a word that starts apostrophe + a vowel.

The mechanics of the alphabet are not what matter - what matters is the meaning OF the word depicted. That meaning has power - it's why the psalmist holds fast to the word and words of scripture to purify his life:

jIH ghaj hidden lIj mu' Daq wIj tIq, vetlh jIH might ghobe' yem Daq SoH.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

We need to read, listen to, and hold fast to the Word. It is not hard to find passage after passage in the Bible that drive us to consider the Word as God's means of bringing light and power to the believer:

  • 2 Samuel 22:31 As for God, his way is perfect: The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.
  • Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD are flawless words, As silver refined in a clay furnace, purified seven times.
  • Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light for my path.
  • Mark 12:24 Jesus answered them, "Isn't this because you are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God?
  • Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken word of God;

This shield, these precious words enlighten, empower and can pierce us through with the truth of God's love, and the salvation he offers each of us! Hang on to this!

The language we speak use, English, Spanish, French, German - any of the human tongues - or even tlhIngan Hol, Klingon, are not what matter. As we study the words of the Bible, my hope and prayer is that we'll move past the accident of the language we use to really read, really consider and as it says here in Psalm 119, take into our heart what God has given us in his most precious word. It will change your life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

roj vo' Jerusalem

tlhob vaD the roj vo' Jerusalem. chaH 'Iv muSHa' SoH DichDaq chep.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Those who love you will prosper. Psalms 122:6

From our point of view - thousands of years distant from the author of Psalm 122 - we can well imagine the reaction of a Klingon light years away from Jerusalem - "the peace of Jerusalem? nuq jatlh? What are you talking about, and why should I care?"

Well, we care because Jerusalem, that place, that ancient city on the planet Earth is considered sacred to believers. Three different faiths consider it holy - and few would challenge its need for peace. The Bible commands us to "pray without ceasing" - how can we neglect to pray for peace coming to Jerusalem?

But there's more, of course. Over centuries the faithful have adopted Jerusalem as their spiritual home; not just the city itself - as the author of Hebrews proclaims:

But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:16)

And it's in that sense I think that believers look not only to the earthly Jerusalem, but to that "heavenly home town" when they call out:

tlhob vaD the roj vo' Jerusalem. chaH 'Iv muSHa' SoH DichDaq chep.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Those who love you will prosper. Psalms 122:6

It's interesting to note that the words here Jerusalem, Peace, and prosper - while they don't sound too similar in English (or Klingon: Jerusalm, roj, chep), in Hebrew are Yerusalem, Shalom, and Shalah. Jerusalem - "City (or Vision) of Peace" is the place for which we pray for Peace (shalom), and those who do so are promised prosperity, shalah. Be clear about this - Shalom is far more than absence of hostility - rather it comes from root meaning to be safe, and carries the idea of completion and fulfillment. And that sounds close to the promised prosperity. Not a simple abundance of material goods, rather the Hebrew Shalah means to be tranquil, i.e. secure or successful:--be happy, prosper, be in safety.

Spurgeon notes: perhaps we may read it as a prayer, "May they have peace that love thee." (Treasury of David)

Such peace, and such prosperity, is the fruit of prayer for all believers. And I don't think it is confined to the geographic boundary of Jerusalem. Absolutely, this prayer - for the peace of the city Jerusalem ought to be on our lips and in our hearts. But it must extend to all who have their roots of - their home town as it were - in that city.

Paul wrote to believers to be "eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph 4:3) and in closing a letter prayed Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

And remember his advice to the Philippians:

6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6,7 WEB)

Again, as Spurgeon notes:

God has connected giving and receiving, scattering and increasing, sowing and reaping, praying and prospering. What we must do if we would prosper -- "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Comprehensively: "Peace" -- spiritual, social, ecclesiastical, national. Supremely: "Prefer Jerusalem above," etc. Practically [this means, in the Scriptures words]: "Let peace rule in your hearts." "Seek peace and pursue it." (Treasury of David)

tlhob vaD the roj vo' Jerusalem. chaH 'Iv muSHa' SoH DichDaq chep.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Those who love you will prosper. Psalms 122:6

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jerusalem juHwIj Quch

maj qamDu' 'oH standing within lIj lojmItmey, Jerusalem; Jerusalem, vetlh ghaH chenta' as a veng vetlh ghaH compact tay'; nuqDaq the tuqpu' jaH Dung, 'ach Yah's tuqpu', according Daq an ordinance vaD Israel, Daq nob tlho' Daq the pong vo' joH'a'. vaD pa' 'oH cher thrones vaD yoj, the thrones vo' David's tuq.
Our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem; Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; Where the tribes go up, even Yah's tribes, According to an ordinance for Israel, To give thanks to the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones for judgment, The thrones of David's house. Psalms 122:2-5

(click for podcast)

Here's a word that comes to mind as I considered these verses: anagogical. No, that's not Klingon - it's a very old school term for one dimension of Biblical interpretation. It's one of the "senses" of Scripture put forward centuries ago by Biblical scholars who saw the Biblical text as having four dimensions - literal, allegorical, moral and ... anagogical.

A mystical interpretation of a word, passage, or text, especially scriptural exegesis that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife.

According to the FreeDictionary, it comes from late Latin anagg, from Late Greek, spiritual uplift, from anagein, to lift up. mu' pepwI' (a word which raises up ) might be a way to say that in Klingon.

I'd be remiss if I didn't note that those fourfold "meanings" were loudly rejected by many of the Reformers - and not without reason. For many interpreters had spun complicated and farfetched interpretation - stretching the scriptures out of all recognition - there was definitely a need to draw believers back to an anchorage in the literal, historical meaning of the texts.

Yet, how are believers to hear this call to Jerusalem?

First, we can regard the literal, historical meaning - Jerusalem as a place on Earth that stands in latitude 31 degrees 46' 35" north and longitude 35 degrees 18' 30" east of Greenwich. The Psalmist really looked to, and loved the city of Jerusalem. Home of the temple, it was a destination that devout believers longed to reach. Even today, many travel to see Jerusalem to experience the land of the Bible and see first hand the sites important to their faith.

But over time (even within the Bible) believers looked beyond the earthly Jerusalem, and saw it with an anagogical eye - as the writer of Hebrews looked forward to a "heavenly Jerusalem," and in Revelation we hear of a "new" (or renewed) Jerusalem. In this way (whether or not we can afford the plane fare to the earthly Jerusalem) we can sing out with the joy of the Psalmist as we look forward to be able to say, in that future day maj qamDu' 'oH standing within lIj lojmItmey, Jerusalem - Our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem.

The Klingon who was caught up in this hope might speak of Jerusalem juHwIj Quch - Jerusalem, my happy home, and indeed that is the name of an ancient Christian hymn:
        Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me,
When shall my labors have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?

For the believer - it's not unusual to feel out of place. That is, our Biblical faith has to acknowledge that this world is not all it should be - it isn't all the Almighty intended. We can find ourselves feeling nostalgic, homesick as we move through life - as it is said of Abraham, "he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God." (Hebrews 11:10 NLT)

This is our hope too - and trusting in God's help, we move forward, to the day when at last we'll joyfully cry out:

maj qamDu' 'oH standing within lIj lojmItmey, Jerusalem - Our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


jIH ghaHta' Quchqu' ghorgh chaH ja'ta' Daq jIH, “Let's jaH Daq joH'a' tuq!”

I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go to the LORD's house!” Psalm 122:6

(click for podcast)

I'm fond of changing the desktop image on my computer - I love to pick an image that opens for me a window to another place. That has included family pictures, paintings, or scenes from vacations. Recently I featured a great view from the top of the Ferris Wheel at our State Fair. Last week that image gave way to a terrific shot of the Delta rocket launch that began NASA's "Dawn" mission to the asteroids. It's a stunning picture of that rocket launching over the sea, against a clear blue sky.

As I consider it, I realize that rocket launches are a frequent choice in these backdrops, and it isn't surprising - whether launching my own rockets, or looking at the launches of interplanetary spacecraft, there is something about watching a craft sail into the sky that gives me a lift.

That "lift" is just the feeling I hear in these words from the Psalmist - this excitement to be in that place, that very special place - the LORD's House - where we can stand on the threshold of all God's promises.

jIH ghaHta' Quchqu' ghorgh chaH ja'ta' Daq jIH, “Let's jaH Daq joH'a' tuq!”

I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go to the LORD's house!” Psalm 122:6

When was the last time you said that, as you got ready to go to worship? How often do we find that excitement, that uplift at the thought of going to a service? Isn't it far more a stereotype that heading in is a chore, a blot on one's free time? Why is that?

The Psalmist uses the word "samach" for "glad". It's a word that appears almost 150 times in the Bible. A primitive root meaning "to brighten up" - carrying the idea of to "cheer up", be glad, joyful, merry - to rejoice. I used a form of the word "be happy" (Quch) for the Klingon, Quch plus the intensifier -qu' for "Quchqu'."

What keeps us from experiencing this? The Life Application Bible notes,

Going to God’s house can be a chore or a delight. For the psalmist, it was a delight. As a pilgrim attending one of the three great religious festivals, he rejoiced to worship with God’s people in God’s house. We may find worship a chore if we have unconfessed sin or if our love for God has cooled. But if we are close to God and enjoy his presence, we will be eager to worship and praise him. Our attitude toward God will determine our view of worship.

One thing I've noticed - participation can make a difference. Just as making (and launching) rockets increases my understanding and appreciation what is happening in a NASA launch, so too, I've found that being involved in the life of my congregation - singing in the choir, or reading lessons in a service - gives me a different attitude toward "the LORD's house." Sure, this means work - and it isn't always fun... but over time, the involvement means I'm far more interested and involved and excited about going to "the LORD's house."

I encourage you, next time you're in your house of worship - if your're finding this psalm's words hard to make your own - look around. If there's a place where you can help (and try to tell me there is a congregation that DOESN'T need volunteers), then pitch in - you'll be glad to find what a difference it can make!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Under One Protection

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

(click for podcast)

Visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and you'll see some historic air and space craft. From Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis to Apollo 11, that carried the first men to walk on the moon.

At the entrance to the museum it struck me - as you gaze on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules from the US space program, if you look up, you can even see SpaceShip One - the first private spacecraft. As big as (or bigger than) the earlier capsules, it occured to me that that vehicle which won the X prize - besides having wings - had one important difference with those pioneers. And that difference meant those earlier ships could go further - they had shields.

Now that was no accident. The X Prize went to the first privately made ship that could go into space (100 kilometers above earth, about 62 miles) and back twice, and be able to carry three people. Since it wouldn't go into orbit, the speeds involved would not generate the tremendous heat of re-entry. That meant that the extra mass of a heat shield was not necessary - and less mass means better performance - going into space you never carry more than you need.

Now SpaceShip One COULD go farther. With more power nothing would stop it from going into orbit or beyond - but no passenger would survive the re-entry. To go into orbit and beyond - you have to have a spaceship that can protect you. You need a shield.

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

This verse, this whole psalm, Psalm 121, is about being a traveller WITH A shield, for as we read it, again and again we hear of the shielding care of the Lord:

  • He who keeps you
  • he who keeps Israel
  • The LORD is your keeper
  • The LORD will keep you from all evil
  • He will keep your soul.
  • The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

In all those places the Hebrew word is the same - rendered simply (and not entirely accurately) with the Klingon verb pol (keep). But it comes from the Hebrew word (used more than 400 times in the Bible) shamar, with the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. A better word would be the Klingon verb "to shield" (yoD).

Psalm 121 is considered a traveller's psalm - perhaps a theme song for a pilgrim travelling through the hills to reach Jerusalem. Such a traveller would certainly need a shield or some kind of protection, to travel alone, perhaps encountering thieves or wild animals. And just as such a pilgrim needs protection, or as a spaceship requires a shield to traveller far beyond our planet, we too, need protection as we make our way through life.

About this verse, the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon said:

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. When we go out in the morning to labour, and come home at eventide to rest, Jehovah shall keep us. When we go out in youth to begin life, and come in at the end to die, we shall experience the same keeping. Our exits and our entrances are under one protection.

How far do you want to go? Make no mistake, Spaceship One is a tremendous engineering accomplishment - and opens up new prospects for space travel. BUT - it is limited. It can go so far, and no further. Without a shield - without a caring Lord we too are dreadfully limited. But when we entrust ourselves to his care, to his keeping, to being our guide and our shield - there's no boundary. With him the sky ISN'T the limit!

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

Monday, September 17, 2007

(oops - these notes weren't meant to be published - they're for an upcoming podcast; d'oh!)

Preserve is rendered pol (keep) and comes from the Hebrew word (used more than 400 times) shamar, with the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. You might also use the Klingon word "shield" (yoD) or "forcefield" (botjan).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

From All Evil

joH'a' DichDaq pol SoH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach. ghaH DichDaq pol lIj qa'.

The LORD will keep you from all evil. He will keep your soul. Psalms 121:7

(click for podcast version)

During one incident in the exploits of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock with the Enterprise they encountered "the Excalibans." The Excalbians were interested in learning about the difference between Good and Evil when they pitted Kirk, Spock, Surak and Abraham Lincoln against a number of historical villains - including Genghis Khan from Earth, and the Klingon Kahless.

Now - to a Klingon, it's not flattering that Kahless, one of the heroes of the Klingon race, was cast as a champion of "evil" - though in time it became apparent that it was more of a projection - as one of the Federation's enemies he was regarded as an embodiment of evil; the Excalibans constructed their representation of Kahless from Kirk's impression of him, not the real person. But that's fiction - I'm sure we'd never make that mistake in real life - or would we?

How we define evil - what it is, who is affected by it, or who commits it, is a tangled question. No wonder how in time of war or interpersonal disputes we can misdirect or misunderstand the our enemy in a conflict as evil. But this verse cuts through all the dimensions of "evil" but getting to the most important point:

joH'a' DichDaq pol SoH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach / The LORD will keep you from all evil.

This verse is one of those worth commiting to our quiver of "promises" - it encourages us to move forward with confidence with the knowledge that evil cannot be the final victor.

The Hebrew word for evil here is "ra'" - the same word we find in Psalm 23's "I will fear no evil" (lo eira ra). Translated here as mIghtaHghach - ongoing-evil, it is a frequent word appearing over 600 times in the Bible and comes from a root meaning "to spoil." The KJV renders it many ways, including adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, distress, evil, grief and harm, to name a few.

I like that root of "to spoil," for believers understand that represents something gone wrong in creation - and it's something that God has pledged to make right.

Of course the challenge we find in such promises is - well, the fact that we KNOW "bad things happen to good people." Despite promises like this - and many others - it sometimes seems as if evil DOES have the upper hand. But, as one writer notes:

In the light of other scriptures, to be kept "from all evil" does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. .... Psalm 23:4, which expects the dark valley but can face it. The two halves of verse 7 can be compared with Luke 21:18f, where God's minutest care ('not a hair of your head will perish') and His servants' deepest fulfilment ('you will win true life', NEB) are promised in the same breath as the prospect of hounding and martyrdom(Lk. 21:16f.). [Psalms 73-150, Derik Kidner]

Now - that is a direction that a Klingon can embrace: not ... a cushioned life, but a well-armed one.

This directs us to take the whole of scripture in mind when we consider the problem of facing evil. It draws us to realize we move toward God's ultimate victory.
When we reflect on that we will rejoice with St. Paul proclaiming:

je the joH DichDaq toD jIH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach vum, je DichDaq pol jIH vaD Daj heavenly Kingdom; Daq 'Iv taH the batlh reH je ever. Amen.

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me for his heavenly Kingdom; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Night and Day

The pemHov DichDaq ghobe' harm SoH Sum jaj, ghobe' the maS Sum ram. The sun will not harm you by day, Nor the moon by night. Psalms 121:6

(click for podcast)

Space travelers may look across the cosmos and consider that dangers lurk everywhere - but in most cases I doubt they would look at the celestial bodies themselves as preparing to strike out.

This verse may strike us with its poetic promise of protection FROM the Sun and Moon as an odd turn of phrase - what kind of protection do we need from the sun AND the moon? Certainly the sun has power - from sunstrokes to cancer, we have no trouble thinking of what we need to be protected from there. But the moon?

Considering this verse, a number of commentators point out that there are long held beliefs tieing the moon (luna) to madness - to luna-cy. In fact the Greek word, used in Matthew for epileptic is seleniazomai means MOON-struck.

Another points out that - considering ancient (and modern) followers of astrology, this may refer to insulation from the supposed influences of the heavenly bodies. And certainly, these ideas may be part of the meaning.

But I'd rather point to the first time we encounter the moon and the sun in the Scriptures. We read
For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth. The greater one, the sun, presides during the day; the lesser one, the moon, presides through the night. (Gen 1:16NLT)
The Klingon words here are pemHov and maS - "daytime star" and moon - and here on earth, those two, well, from the beginning of time, are at the heart of our clocks and calendars - all the measures of time.

In this life, we find our lives ruled by time. We sleep, we go to school or work, we come home, we eat, we play - all in time. And OVER time our powers, our moods - everything that makes up our SELF - all those things ebb and flow through TIME. As we age, time sees us grow stronger, and weaker.

By these two we mark the days, mark the seasons, and we live through the pilgrimage of life - but the believer can have confidence that - despite the outer toll time takes

The pemHov DichDaq ghobe' harm SoH Sum jaj, ghobe' the maS Sum ram. The sun will not harm you by day, Nor the moon by night. Psalms 121:6

There's a love song that says "night and day, you are the one." With those words, Cole Porter say "ALWAYS." Here in this Psalm, in this verse we get the same message. All day, all night - through all time - God extends his protective care over us.

I know that isn't always an easy promise to grasp. The believer may not always feel that protection is present. Through trials and struggles, we may wonder - how can we claim this protection?

For me the key is this - we're not destined to remain IN time forever. The reason the moon, and the sun - those greater rulers of time - cannot in the long run touch us, is WE DON'T BELONG TO THEIR REALMS. As St. Paul writes

being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1.6)

Our confidence, our hope is that despite the setbacks we might experience today or tomorrow - GOD ISN'T FINISHED. Our goal, our delight will be seen when we finally step outside of time and he completes in us, the good work he has begun. Till then take hope,

The pemHov DichDaq ghobe' harm SoH Sum jaj, ghobe' the maS Sum ram. The sun will not harm you by day, Nor the moon by night. Psalms 121:6

Sunday, August 19, 2007

wa'DIch jIbej - I'll Take the First Watch

yIlegh, ghaH 'Iv poltaH Israel DichDaq ghobe' slumber ghobe' Qong.

Behold, he who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalms 121:4
(click for podcast)

Picture this: a group of travelers are making their way through a challenging landscape. Their ship has crashed on this planet, and together they are working their way to a destination that has their only hope of rescue. The heroes set up camp - tents are pitched, meals are sorted out and together they face a long night by a campfire. One of them, a Klingon, eventually speaks up, saying, wa'DIch jIbej - "I'll take the first watch!"

How would you respond? Are you sure this frightening watchman is someone you WANT to stand guard? He's no doubt up to the task - but is he trustworthy? Or would you agree, but secretly keep one eye open, watching him as he stands guard?

It's a familiar scene in adventure stories - for centuries writers have given us this scenario again and again. And often the story has a certain tension over whether the watcher is truly trustworthy or up to the task. Any Klingon can tell you, this is an important point - who will take the watch while the others sleep. Your life hangs on finding someone who really is dependable - who will neither betray you, or fail you by falling asleep.

yIlegh, ghaH 'Iv poltaH Israel DichDaq ghobe' slumber ghobe' Qong.

Behold, he who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.

This psalm tells us good news - we've got someone on watch who doesn't need to be relieved, and who is ultimately the most dependable guard we could hope for; believers can count on this promise, that "he who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep."

"Keeps" here in Klingon is rendered "poltaH" to-keep (pol) with the continuous suffix (-taH). This translates the Hebrew word shamar which I've noted before is used more than 400 times in the Bible, and conveys the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. We need to realize this does not make us invulnerable - we will be kept safe, but it doesn't mean we will have a completely placid existence. I love the example in Hebrews 11 - a chapter that recounts great heroes of the faith:

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death ...

This sounds like what we want to hear - God, our keeper, protects us like a forcefield! But the chapter continues:

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. 36Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. 37Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. 38They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (NLT)

yIlegh, ghaH 'Iv poltaH Israel DichDaq ghobe' slumber ghobe' Qong.

Behold, he who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.

We will be kept, we will be preserved, by God as we work our way through this life. But, to be kept means to be preserved to an end - not just frozen in place. Think back to our original scenario - the travelers making their way through a hostile environment. If they were simply KEPT, stored away and safe, they'd never reach their destination. They need to continue on the move - even if it involves danger.

Do you live as if this were true? Do you go to sleep easily, trusting the one who has promised to "take the watch?" This Psalm brings good news IF you trust the watchman and not everyone does. As we grow into this trust, we not only learn to rely on God - we help others see that, indeed, he who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep!

Friday, August 10, 2007


ghaH DichDaq ghobe' allow lIj qam Daq taH vIHta'. He will not allow your foot to be moved. Psalms 121:3a

(click for podcast version)

What does it mean to be "unmoved?" I ask because, over and over, the book of Psalms present an interesting phrase along these terms - something that seems to promise immobility to the "saints," to believers:

  • Psalms 15:5 He who doesn't lend out his money for usury, Nor take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be shaken.
  • Psalms 16:8 I have set Yahweh always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
  • Psalms 21:7 For the king trusts in Yahweh. Through the loving kindness of the Most High, he shall not be moved.
  • Psalms 46:5 God is in her midst. She shall not be moved. God will help her at dawn.
  • Psalms 125:1 Those who trust in Yahweh are as Mount Zion, Which can't be moved, but remains forever.
  • Psalms 66:9 Who preserves our life among the living, And doesn't allow our feet to be moved.
  • Psalms 112:6 For he will never be shaken. The righteous will be remembered forever.
  • Psalms 121:3 He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber.
  • Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on Yahweh, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be moved.

The Hebrew word here, in all these is mowt - a primitive root meaning to waver, and translated in the KJV as terms like fallmoved, shake, slide, and slip among others - it's a word we've run into in other Psalms, and here again I've used the Klingon work vIH, move, to be in motion.

Now any space traveler - Klingon, Vulcan, Ferengi or Human - anyone who knows the smallest thing about space travel would know "remaining unmoved" is an impossibility. The biggest boulder on Earth, rooted in the ground MOVES. Aside from the movement of the solar system and our whole galaxy, this whole planet itself moves in orbit around the sun 30 kilometers (or 18.5 miles) EVERY second!

The problem is that the English word "move," and the Klingon "vIH" are too general. The heart of the Hebrew word is not just motion; MOWT has the idea of slip, or waver - it isn't really that believers will be frozen in place, but that their course in life will be steady. Their path, their destination is sure.

This last week I got to help out some neighbors running a kids summer science club. My special guest appearance was to show off (and fly) rockets with the kids - it was terrific fun for me - the kids seemed to enjoy it too, especially when I let them launch the air rockets ( OF the three air rockets, I found I'd made one with badly attached fins - and it was clear in flight after flight that, while the other two flew straight and true, the third (with the bad fins) had a weird corkscrew path every time. Each time that one flew it slipped, and wavered in a sloppy trajectory - but the ones with the good fins were anchored in a course that was like a ruler.

Those fins could keep the rocket on (or off course). They gave them their direction - and God can do that in the believer's life. The English preacher Spurgeon says this about this verse:
in the slippery ways of a tried and afflicted life, the boon of upholding is of priceless value, for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger. To stand erect and pursue the even tenor of our way is a blessing which only God can give, which is worthy of the divine hand, and worthy also of perennial gratitude. Our feet shall move in progress, but they shall not be moved to their overthrow

How do you set your course? If you wish to remain vIHHa', unmoved - just ask, and He'll be happy to set you on the right course!

ghaH DichDaq ghobe' allow lIj qam Daq taH vIHta'. He will not allow your foot to be moved. Psalms 121:3a

Sunday, August 05, 2007

'Iv nuq ghap

'Iv nuq ghap
(click for podcast version)
jIH DichDaq lift Dung wIj mInDu' Daq the hills.
nuqDaq ta'taH wIj QaH ghoS vo'?
wIj QaH choltaH vo' joH'a',

'Iv chenmoHta' chal je tera'.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

Psalms 121:1-2
How do you answer the question of this psalm,

nuqDaq ta'taH wIj QaH ghoS vo'? Where does my help come from?

HELP! One short word - it can be a noun, a verb, and - in times of desparate need, it can be a plea. Webster describes it this way:

To aid; to assist; to lend strength or means towards effecting a purpose; as, to help a man in his work; to help another in raising a building; to help one to pay his debts; to help the memory or the understanding.
To assist; to succor; to lend means of deliverance; as, to help one in distress; to help one out of prison.
The Klingon word (both as a verb and a noun) for "help" is "QaH," as in "nom QaH yIqem," "get help quickly."

Here in Psalm 121 the Hebrew word, 'azar is what I've translated by the Klingon word, QaH. A form of that Hebrew word is known to many in the proper name "Ebenezer," EBEN - EZER 'stone of help', the name given to the memorial stone set up by Samuel to commemorate the divine assistance to Israel in their great battle against the Philistines.

As it is posed here, I think the question comes down to "'Iv nuq ghap?" "WHO or WHAT?" That is, what is our source of help: someTHING or someONE? Does my help come "from the hills" - from nature, from things... or does it some from someone greater than things. Someone who, with care and attention, is there to support me in my time of need.

This last week I returned from a business trip, and as my plane landed I saw some odd questions pop up on my cell phone - "are you alright?" I was puzzled - why wouldn't I be? - until, I called home and learned that a short time ago, just as my flight began, a major bridge in my community has completly collapsed into the Mississippi River. It was a startling tragedy that immediately mobilized many near and far ... to help.

In fact, in story after story, the focus has been on people - especially how they were galvanized to give assistance to the survivors. The story isn't about the things that helped, the ambulances or the rescue boats. The story is on WHO helped.

And that's the story here in Psalm 121. Whatever good we find in creation - and there IS wonderful bounty to be found - we don't look to nature, to mountains or rivers to help us, rather we turn to the one greater than all the cosmos - the one who made it, who put it into motion:

wIj QaH choltaH vo' joH'a',
'Iv chenmoHta' chal je tera'.

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Across the Sea of Stars (rebroadcast)

(I'm travelling for work - so here's a repodcast from 2006)

vaj wIj tIq ghaH Quchqu', je wIj jat rejoices. wIj porgh DIchDaq je
yIn Daq safety.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall
also dwell in safety. Psalm 16:9

(click for podcast)

Here's news of interest, especially if you've been working on building a starship. In recent weeks, at the American Association for the Advancement of science, researchers published a short list of ten "habstars," stars "where intelligent civilizations might lurk or they can try to actually spot planets like our own in habitable zones..."

The stars - as close as 4.5 light years away are targets for scientists who are developing ways to study extrasolar planets - it's an exciting prospect and an incredible challenge.

Now when we consider what it might mean to communicate with people around such stars - or travel to them - the challenge may seem impossible. That's because there's no known way to travel at the speed of light - let alone faster. So messages or vessels would take decades - probably centuries to travel back and forth. How could we hope to have a meaningful relationship with such worlds?

How? I've got a Klingon word to answer that: qay'be'! No problem! We've been doing it.. well, for centuries.

One of the delights of Bible study - besides the core delight, of enjoying the Word of God - is the way such study brings us into communication with people centuries apart from our time. And even though the communication might seem one way, we still enter into a conversation with believers more than a thousand years ago.

In this verse from Psalm 16 we find these words:

vaj wIj tIq ghaH Quchqu', je wIj jat rejoices. wIj porgh DIchDaq je
yIn Daq safety.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. My body shall
also dwell in safety. Psalm 16:9

Now - if you check the King James, or the Jewish Publication translation, you'll see that for "my tongue rejoices" they have "my glory rejoiceth." That isn't surprising - the Hebrew word chabod, glory, is what we find in the Hebrew, not "loshen," tongue. However.... here's where we start having a conversation with believers across the ages.

How was this understood - how does "glory" rejoice? It's an odd sounding idea, and when we look back we discover that in the ancient Greek translation, the Septuagint DIDN'T say glory - it said "tongue." Not only that, in the book of Acts, the apostle Peter, quotes this Psalm and he said, probably quoting from the Septuagint, "my tongue was glad." The Vulgate, the Latin translation, follows this as well.

So when we consider this verse, we have an opportunity to "discuss" across the sea of time - just as we might across the sea of stars with our interstellar neighbors. We can't engage in an immediate conversation, but we can listen to them and weigh their understanding of the passage as we translate it, not only into words, but into our lives.

Modern translations like the New International Version, the New Living Translation and the World English Bible have followed the Septuagint and others in using the word "tongue," some noting the difference in notes.

The progression: "my heart is glad/ my tongue rejoices" echoes for me, the words of Psalm 107 "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so" - that is, when we experience God's saving love - don't keep it secret! TELL someone - much like the Sunday School Song "If you're happy and you know it/ then your face will really show it!" Perhaps this is where the "glory" or "tongue" become synonyms - whether in speech or the joy we express, we rejoice in what God has done!

The Bible is an ancient book - written across centuries. and by people long gone. Yet as we read these words, and enter into a dialog across the ages, God gives us insight, gives us promise and gives us hope.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eye Sees

The lamp vo' the porgh ghaH the mIn. chugh vaj lIj mIn ghaH wab, lIj Hoch porgh DichDaq taH teblu'ta' vo' wov.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)

(click for podcast)

The word here for eye is the Greek word "opthalmos" - a root word that ought to be familiar from eye-related medical words like ophthalmology or ophthalmologist. The Klingon word is the simple "mIn," But of course there is more here in Jesus words than the literal eye, I like the way the Message translation recasts this verse from Matthew's gospel:

Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.

These words from Jesus give me pause, and make me ask what is it that opens my eyes in wonder? What is it that fills me with delight? Well, there are many things.

If you're like me, you perhaps collect pictures - you'd see that the walls of my workspace are littered with family photos and pictures from vacations - it is always great to see reminders of those I love, and good times.

Recently I've let my gaze turn further out, as I've been drinking in the sights across the solar system thanks to a program called WorldWind from NASA. It's a great program that collects the vast quantities of images from interplanetary explorations and lets you wander across Venus, Mars, Mercury, the Moon - even the Earth. Your computer becomes a virtual spaceship. And, since WorldWind actually taps into NASA databases online, it has a wealth of imagery. Short of a personal spacecraft, it is one of the best ways to play space traveling tourist.

More than just pretty pictures, this exploration fills me with awe and joy as I marvel at the rich creation God has spread out before us. This enjoyment is a wonderful gift, something that can and ought to make us cry out in thanks to our creator. In the same way the pictures of my loved ones, and treasured memories, reminds me of the ways God has blessed me.

For, we have a decision to make in how we respond to the world - if we are open to the joy God offers, we can be filled with light, and take hold of the inheritance he offers to all his children. Jesus continues though:

If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (Matt. 6:23 MSG).

What sort of life do you want? Filled with light, or a dank, dark cellar? We live in a world that presents us with a continuous barrage of bad news. This is, of course, no surprise - the Bible is clear that in a fallen world, there is much that needs to be set right - that is the message of Scriptures. Not just the bad news, but the power God has exerted to restore his creation.

The lamp vo' the porgh ghaH the mIn. chugh vaj lIj mIn ghaH wab, lIj Hoch porgh DichDaq taH teblu'ta' vo' wov.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)

Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


legh chugh pa' ghaH vay' mIgh way Daq jIH,
je Dev jIH Daq the everlasting way.
See if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.Psalms 139:24

Do Klingons ask for directions? We know they have words that would help. For example lugh, Quv, 'ev, tIng and chan.

  • lurgh the word for direction (spatial)
  • Quv coordinates
  • 'ev northwestward, area to the northwest (320 degrees on terran 360 degree compass counted clockwise with 0 at north)
  • tIng southwestward, area toward the southwest (approx 220 degrees on terran 360 degree compass counting clockwise with 0 at north)
  • chan eastward, area toward the east (90 degrees on Terran 360 degree compass with north as 0 and degrees counted clockwise)

You'll notice that, instead of four directions, north, south, east and west, they have three. This isn't surprising if you picture the three pointed star associated with Klingons. It probably follows from the fact that their ancient mathematical systems are based on the number three. I've written programs to explore that kind of math, even constructed a primitive Klingon computer to work with such numbers - it's a fascinating subject if you have an interest in different number systems.

No matter - having the vocabulary for geography and directions isn't enough. After all, in English, we have quite a few words for directions - yet everyone knows someone who is resolute in refusing to "stop and ask for directions," even when hopelessly lost - why would Klingons be any different?

legh chugh pa' ghaH vay' mIgh way Daq jIH,
je Dev jIH Daq the everlasting way.
See if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.Psalms 139:24

We need to ask for directions.

Scripture is woven through with this message - we need to find our way.

As the Apostle John notes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

The good news is that God wants to set us upon the right path! John makes that clear when he says,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

At the end of Psalm 139 we find the psalmist knows this too, as he says:

See if there is any wicked way in me (Psalms 139:24a)

We NEED directions. We need God to search out the migh, the evil that has stained our lives.

The Good news is that the story continues from there. We CAN be set on the right path, as this verse calls on God:

And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalms 139:24b)

nachah, the Hebrew word for "lead" here in the KLV is translated by "Dev," to lead, the same root I've used for shepherd or leader, DevwI'. This same Hebrew word is found in the familiar Twenty-third Psalm:
"he leadeth <nachah> me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Righteousness - the RIGHT way - is what God desires we follow. And it's this path for which we NEED to ask directions.

What a joy it is to realize that God is there to lead us, to guide us in that way. Don't be afraid to ask!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

jIH muS chaH

joH'a', yImev jIH muS chaH 'Iv muS SoH? 'oH jIH ghobe' grieved tlhej chaH 'Iv Hu' Dung Daq SoH?
LORD, don’t I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? Psalm 139:21

(click for podcast)

Here we we come to an example of Psalms that make humans squirm - the imprecatory psalms. Imprecatory psalms are those which invoke curses upon enemies. ( ) There are passages which may strike us, as CS Lewis said, as devilish, since they seem to revel in the great and horrible judgements they call down on their enemies.

On the other hand - these are words that certainly would catch the attention of a Klingon - after all, as far as we know, they DON'T have a word for to love, but they most certainly DO have a word, muS, for "to hate." (in fact that word has been pressed into services by Klingonists to make muSHa', to love. muS, to hate. plus the "undo" suffix, -Ha', gives muSHa'. so "I love you" becomes "qamuSHa'", literally I don't hate you.)

The Hebrew here is a very basic root, sawnay, and it appears over 130 times in the Bible, from Genesis to Malachai. And it's clear as you look at examples of it in use, that the Hebrew authors are expressing deep feelings, their hate, hate, HATE about the enemies of God:

  • Psalms 97:10 You who love the LORD, hate evil. He preserves the souls of his saints. He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.
  • Psalms 101:3 I will set no vile thing before my eyes. I hate the deeds of faithless men. They will not cling to me.
  • Psalms 119:104 Through your precepts, I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
  • Psalms 139:21-22 O LORD, don't I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred. They have become my enemies.

Those are the tame ones - the Psalms don't skip over wishing great and detailed violence on those who oppose God.

There's a tension here - because those aren't the ONLY thing the Bible has to say about enemies, ours and God's.

  • Exodus 23:4 "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.
  • Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink: For you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you.
  • Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,

How do we reconcile these? One good piece of advice comes in the old adage, "hate the sin, love the sinner." That is, the Bible's message of redemption calls us to to always seek the redemption of the enemy, to trust the power God used to redeem US to be just as effective on those we count as enemies.

We're also reminded that seeking revenge is NOT our privilege or duty: Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19

But one thing is clear through the Bible - whether calling curses or love down on our enemies - there is an agreement in one fact: there ARE enemies in this world. For all the "Good News" the Bible brings (and make no mistake, it brings GREAT Good News!), we err if we forget there is also BAD News. Something is wrong in the cosmos. We live in a sin shrouded world, a wonderful and good creation of God where something HAS gone wrong. That means there ARE enemies. There are things that need to be set right.

When we reflect on that, we may come closer to understanding these psalms - and understand the spirit that recognizes that we have to take sides - not to wreak God's wrath on evildoers, but to share the good news that He can and will set things right. If that's so, doesn't it make sense to be on His side?

joH'a', yImev jIH muS chaH 'Iv muS SoH? 'oH jIH ghobe' grieved tlhej chaH 'Iv Hu' Dung Daq SoH?
LORD, don’t I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? Psalm 139:21

Thursday, June 21, 2007


chay' precious Daq jIH 'oH lIj thoughts, joH'a'! chay' vast ghaH the sum vo' chaH!

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalms 139:17

(click for podcast)

There is a challenge - and a delight to believers to realize that God does not hide.

That is, in his creation, and in his word, he has freely shared himself and his thoughts with us. That is why the study of Scripture can be so rewarding - and that is why the adventure of science can be so rich. I like the example of the early scientist, Johannes Kepler, who gave humans the foundation of the astrodynamics used today to chart the motion of the heavens, and plot the course of spacecraft. As noted in Christian History magazine:
Kepler believed that there was an art and orderliness in God's creation and that the more Christians recognized the greatness of creation, the deeper their worship would be. Didn't God himself encourage the heathen to look carefully at creation so that they might come to know God? God created man in His image, and He wants us to recognize and know His design for the universe: The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics. In his astronomical research, Kepler only wanted to, as he put it, "think God's thoughts after Him."

chay' precious Daq jIH 'oH lIj thoughts, joH'a'! chay' vast ghaH the sum vo' chaH!

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalms 139:17

God doesn't hide. Whether we know or understand creation with mathematical rigor - we have the Scriptures, and in them we have the opportunity to learn of God's thoughts - his care for us, and the path he challenges believers to follow. Psalm 40 notes,

Many, LORD, my God, are the wonderful works which you have done, And your thoughts which are toward us. They can't be set in order to you; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Psalms 40:5

This is one of the reasons I've found scripture memory to be so rewarding - I have often found that tracing the course of a treasured verse serves as a way to "think God's thoughts after him," to remind myself and refresh my spirit. So too, has been reading of the lives of the saints, believers in ages past who have provided an example, a model for me of the direction God wishes me to follow.

In the next week, I'd encourage you to seek out a single verse - one that has reassured you - or given you comfort - and commit it to memory. It might as well be a word of reproof - a verse that calls you to account. I don't know which verse you'll find - but memorize it as best you can. Read it in context. Find reference books (you'll be amazed at how many are online) and find some of the background of that one verse. Then, spend the next week rehearsing that - maybe writing it down to test yourself. With that start you'll have a connected yourself to God's word - you'll carry that thought wherever you go.

And then.... do it again! It's tremendously rewarding! Don't worry about whether you are word perfect (though it's a great goal) - the effort of the study and the memory will help you soak this deep into your heart. And you'll have taken another step in the journey of following God's thoughts.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, June 14, 2007


wIj qa' SovtaH vetlh very QaQ.
My soul knows that very well.
(click for podcast version)

What do you KNOW? Some might start with simple unencumbered facts -arithmetic, geometry and the like. Others might recite details of their personal narrative - the history they know first hand.

In law there is a measure "beyond a reasonable doubt," that ascribes reliability to conclusions. It is the kind of certainty we want when matters of life and death are under consideration. It is that SOLID assurance that this psalm brings us here. But about WHAT is the author so certain?

Here in the middle of Psalm 139 the psalmist brings us the miracle of life - the power of God's creativity at work.

For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to you, For I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well. My frame wasn't hidden from you, When I was made in secret, Woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my body. In your book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Psalms 139:13-17 WEB

In this description the author catches his breath to say My soul knows that very well. / wIj qa' SovtaH vetlh very QaQ.

My SOUL, or nephesh in Hebrew is rendered with qa', the Klingon word for "spirit." For a Klingon this spirit is that which battle nourishes (the saying is : qa' wIje'meH maSuv. - We fight to enrich the spirit.). The Biblical language is a bit different - in Hebrew the soul - life - is "that which breathes," since obviously when we cease to breath, we cease to live.

As we think about the relam of knowledge, we see that today science seems to tread on God's creative prerogative. From lifelike robots, to artificial life - it might seem that God's majesty is less significant - "we can do THAT ourselves."

Yet, to the person of faith it is quite the opposite. The more details we know of genetics or cosmology - the more we marvel at what God HAS DONE. In creation, in our lives he IS AT WORK - even when we don't see it.

What do you KNOW - REALLY know?

We know the details of our lives. We may master our jobs, the tasks that we do every day.

But what makes us say

wIj qa' SovtaH vetlh very QaQ.
My soul knows that very well?

As I reflect on my life and God's word, it's my prayer that what I really know is not some collection of facts, but that I know God.

As the prophet Jeremiah tells us:

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:23,24 NLT

Thursday, June 07, 2007


'ach the HurghtaHghach ta'be' So' vo' SoH, 'ach the ram shines as the jaj. The HurghtaHghach ghaH rur wov Daq SoH.

Even the darkness doesn't hide from you, But the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you. Psalms 139:12

(click for podcast)

We can't see most of the Universe.

That is, as best we understand it today, the part of the cosmos we see - the people, planets, pulsars and stars - is only a fraction of all creation. The rest is referred to as "dark matter," as Wikipedia notes:

In astrophysics and cosmology, dark matter refers to hypothetical matter of unknown composition that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be observed directly, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.

It's a perplexing idea - that what we see and understand is only a bare fraction of all that is around us. But to a believer this mystery can be exciting - for with confident faith in the Creator, we can trust that this mystery is part of the beautiful complexity of his handiwork.

The words of the psalmist are worth reflecting on as we think about the pursuit of astronomy. That science is a study devoted to the observation of the light of the blazing stars in the heavens, but a study which takes part in darkness, often in remote places (even in space!) to avoid the light that can obscure our view of the sky. For the astronomer - as for God - the ram shines as the jaj / the night shines as the day.

I've constructed the Klingon word HurghtaHghach for "darkness." It's the word Hurgh (be dark), plus the suffix -taH (ongoing) with the nominalizer ghach: HurghtaHghach. Here it translates the Hebrew word choshek - first heard in Genesis 1:2, "darkness was upon the face of the deep."

What darkness confronts you? It is not surprising that we may face the darkness of the unknown with concern. It might be worries about ourselves and our loved ones. It could be fears for the future, or regrets over some past wrong. But Scripture reminds us that what is murky to our sight is clear and sunny to God:

'ach the HurghtaHghach ta'be' So' vo' SoH, 'ach the ram shines as the jaj. The HurghtaHghach ghaH rur wov Daq SoH.

Even the darkness doesn't hide from you, But the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you. Psalms 139:12

Remember the astronomers? In their study - often in the darkest of night - they have cataloged countless stars. With new technologies they are adding to a growing list of known planets throughout the Universe. And, as they chart the formation and influence of "dark matter," darkness is like light to them.

As we trust in a loving God who made it this universe - with its dark and light - we too, can be confident as we face the "darkness." For God promises to be with us.

For, behold, he who forms the mountains, And creates the wind, And declares to man what is his thought; Who makes the morning darkness, And treads on the high places of the Earth: the LORD, the God of Armies, is his name." (Amos 4:13)