Sunday, April 22, 2007


nuqDaq laH jIH jaH vo' lIj qa'? joq nuqDaq laH jIH Haw' vo' lIj Daq?

Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7

(click for podcast)

Without a transporter, shuttlecraft or starship - any one of us can extend our presence across the solar system right now. Thanks to what is called, telepresence

"...a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location other than their true location."

Today, from my desktop at home, I can tap into a web cam and look out at the view from my work. Or check on Old Faithful. Or, I can take up a position far above Earth and follow storms across the globe. Tapping into NASA and ESA I can get recent images from Mars and beyond.

Technology gives us a variety of ways to extend our presence. Parents use two-way intercom s and video monitors to watch over sleeping infants. Cellphones and instant messaging allow distant loved ones to stay in touch. Someday, perhaps holographic telepresence will allow us to participate in gatherings across the world or even the solar system.

Technologically extended presence - telepresence - has a chilling side as well. Recent news from Great Britain about batteries of cameras - along with a loudspeaker and microphone to inform people of their misbehaviour has alarmed many. Having the police watch, and command from a distance may be "efficient" but it is hardly comforting.

Here in Psalm 139, we are reflecting on God's presence - an inescapable presence that is truly everywhere.

In Klingon I've used a very simple word for presence, Daq. By itself it means "location." As a suffix, it can indicate a place/location for an activity - for example QongDaq (Qong, to sleep, plus Daq) means "bed." On the other hand, the Hebrew word translated "PRESENCE" here is paniym, used nearly 1900 times in the Bible is more complex. It's a plural form "faces" literally, from the verb for "to turn," that is "to face." When we think of being in God's presence - it is a personal thing, it is His FACE, his attention, his concern that we are before.

It's not surprising that just as teleprences can be threat and comfort, Scripture also reflects this regarding another kind of extended presence: God's omnipresence.

As Job said:
No wonder I am so terrified in his presence. When I think of it, terror grips me. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. (Job 23:15,16 NLT)

The good news is that when we have made peace with God, the awareness of his presence can be a joy.

One of my treasured Bible study tools is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible ( I especially enjoy the way it provides a topical cross-reference across the whole Bible for different themes and ideas - in particular it was very useful in considering how God's omnipresence means we can know that his nearness brings a multidimensional comfort to believers in the pilgrimage of life

(Genesis 28:15 WEB) Behold, I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go, and will bring you again into this land. For I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken of to you."
As the Israelites fled Egypt, they were reminded how His presence will keep them going:
(Exodus 33:14 WEB) He said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

So too, they were reminded that God gives courage in Life's battles :

(Deuteronomy 20:1 WEB) When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, and a people more than you, you shall not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Through the prophet Isaiah we hear of comfort in trials:

(Isaiah 43:2 WEB) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle on you.

We also need to remember, as Jesus assures, God's presence is there even in the smallest assembly of believers
(Matthew 18:20 WEB) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."

And best of all - it doesn't have a limit - it will last till the end of time, as we're reminded:

(Matthew 28:20 WEB) Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

nuqDaq laH jIH jaH vo' lIj qa'? joq nuqDaq laH jIH Haw' vo' lIj Daq?

Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7

Baby monitors, web cams, Police CCTV systems, cell phones and more are technological tools that extend our presence. For good or ill, they can be a comfort or threat.

But the presence of God, the presence that we can never escape, is one He wishes not to be a threat, but a real and powerful comfort. A comfort that will give us peace, courage and joy.


Monday, April 16, 2007


vam Sov ghaH beyond jIH. It's lofty. jIH ta'laHbe' attain 'oH.
This knowledge is beyond me. It's lofty. I can't attain it. Psalm 139:6

(click for podcast version)

The writer of Psalm 139 concludes the introduction to his ode to God's complete knowledge of our lives with this verse - one that can be summed up with one word-


Wow.... what is there that makes you say that one-word explosion of wonder and amazement?

After describing how thoroughly God surrounds and knows him, rather than express fear or alarm, this verse exclaims in wonder:

vam Sov ghaH beyond jIH. / This knowledge is beyond me.

using a rare Hebrew word (only twice in the Bible) meaning secret, wonderful. It is actually a repeated Hebrew word: palee-palee, derived from a more common palaw, which means to be separated, removed, apart. This knowledge of God's overwatching care is - as the WEB puts it "beyond me" - we just can't grasp it. It's one of those things that might make us say "wow!"

Again, I'll ask, what makes you say "wow?" Or, however you might express amazement - if you were a Klingon you might say majQa'! A Mandalorian (like Boba Fett) would say kandosii'lar. Whatever word you use - what draws it out of you?

It may be the beauty of nature with stars wheeling overhead, the butterfly's wings, or it could be the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Then again, you might be struck by the marvels of human accomplishment, in works from the great Pyramids to the Space Shuttle.

Certainly all those marvels are "wow"-inspiring. They're a start, at least.

Often, I turn as well to the Scriptures, and delight and exclaim over God's mysteries: His truth as the Bible brings it to us.

What can compare to the detail in God's Word - the incredible coming together of prophecy and the description of creation? See Peter Stoner's classic book, Science Speaks for details of how intricately the Bible witnesses to these things (see Furthermore, modern cosmology as it considers concepts like the anthropic principle, point to our Universe being a place just MADE to be inhabited (see Wow.

vam Sov ghaH beyond jIH. It's lofty. jIH ta'laHbe' attain 'oH.
This knowledge is beyond me. It's lofty. I can't attain it. Psalm 139:6

Of course - it isn't enough to say "wow."

It is a start, of course. It is a way God arrests our attention, that is makes us ATTEND to him - to give heed to his plans, his hopes, his deep and abiding love for us.

Paul says it well in his letter to the Ephesians:

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. (Eph 3:14,15 NLT)

I pray that we all are struck by those "wow" moments - and go beyond them in prayer to the living, loving God who will never cease to amaze us.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Behind and Before

SoH hem jIH Daq behind je qaSpa'. SoH laid lIj ghop Daq jIH.

You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me. Psalm 139:5

(click for podcast)

Perspective is everything.

Imagine walking down an ill-lit corridor on DS9, only to realize that in front of you - AND behind - you are being shadowed by Klingons. At the moment you realize this, out of the gloom, a hand comes down on your shoulder. No doubt this is terrifying - UNLESS you happen to BE a Klingon and this is not a siege, but your comrades, come to your aid.

This psalm continues to confront us with how thoroughly we are surrounded by the Almighty. "Hem"med in the WEB translation says translating a Hebrew word that occurs fewer than 40 times in the Bible - tzur, a primitive root meaning "to cramp," used in a variety of meanings with the notion "to confine," we can once again ponder whether this is good news or not.

It comes down to a matter of relationship. It is terrifying, if you are surrounded by an enemy. BUT - this is wonderful news - if you've made peace with God. This is the reminder, the reassurance that you are not alone, no matter where you are:

SoH hem jIH Daq behind je qaSpa'. SoH laid lIj ghop Daq jIH.

You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me. Psalm 139:5

The support of God's hand is a delightful reminder of his power to act in our lives. The Bible never guarantees we will skate through life without trouble, but in the midst of it, we are reassured to hear His Hand is there, as in the promise given through Isaiah:

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)

Interesting also is the description of how we are surrounded: You hem me in behind and before. The words behind and before are achor and qedem, and besides having the idea of location, they also can express the idea of time, achor meaning hereafter, and qedem the time before. Considered this way, we can see that God's surrounding care doesn't just encompass us at-this-moment but always.

Think about this: there is no time BEFORE God loved you. It is not something you had to earn, there is not something you had to do to deserve it.

AND - there is no time AFTER the time God loved you. He isn't going to stop - through ALL time, he surrounds you with his love, before AND after your life.

Better yet - God is no spectator. He doesn't watch from a distance - he hasn't isolated himself from you, for by faith we can join the psalmist and say You laid your hand on me.

SoH hem jIH Daq behind je qaSpa'. SoH laid lIj ghop Daq jIH.

You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me. Psalm 139:5

Today, you are walking down the path that is your life. The way may seem bright or shrouded - but rejoice you are not facing it alone.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rerun: Life Signs!

(nuqneH juppu'wI' - hello, my friends: This is a very busy time of year, and I don't have time to prepare a new Klingon Word. Please accept this Classic Klingon Word and my best wishes for the Easter season.)

SoH DichDaq cha' jIH the path vo' yIn. Daq lIj Daq ghaH fullness vo' Quch. Daq lIj nIH ghop pa' 'oH pleasures forevermore.

You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

(click for podcast version)

Because most humans don't have starships, we find other ways to explore distant solar systems. Astronomers have come up with many creative ways to study and evaluate impossibly remote locations - we've used their techniques, for example, to discover planets - before we can even see them! And today we use their methods to hunt for what Klingons would call yInroH - life signs. Signs the psalmist sees as well.

David delares that the Lord shows him the path of "yIn" - life. In Hebrew, the word is chayim, a familiar word from the toast "L'Chaiim" and the jewelry that uses the shorter form "chai" made up of the two letters het and yod. This word for "life" occurs over 450 times in the Bible.

The New Bible Dictionary says that, in scripture
"life ... is associated with light, gladness, fullness, order and active being... and contrasted with the darkness, sorrow, emptiness, chaos, and silence which are charecteristic of death..."

Indeed, David, by speaking of a path of life, suggests that there are some other path, perhaps like the book of Proverbs describes: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)

The astronomers who hunt for yInroH, life signs, in the universe talk of something I think of that is like the path of life: "the habitable zone." You see, depending on how powerful a star is, you can easily identify the orbital region that is "just right" for life as we know it. Too close or too far from the sun and life has no chance. If a planet's orbit is like Goldilock's porridge - neither too hot or too cold - then that world is in the "path of life" for that star.

We're not planets. The path we find for ourselves is not an orbit. It's the result of choices made - by us, by family, by friends.

And David tells us - the path we choose can be one that the LORD shows us - a path that leads to life - not just in the here and now, but a path into life, forever.

As it says in Proverbs:

But the path of the righteous is like the dawning light, that shines more and more until the perfect day. (4:18)

Looking for yInroH - signs of life? There's someone ready, right now - to show you where to find it! Ask him today!