Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A tlhIngan Christmas?

" 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

Monday, November 09, 2009

chu' bom - new song

bom Daq ghaH a chu' bom. Play skillfully tlhej a jach vo' Quch!
Sing to him a new song. Play skillfully with a shout of joy!

psalm 33:3

(click for podcast version)

There's a phrase I love from Ecclesiates 1:9: pa' ghaH ghobe' chu' Doch bIng the pemHov (there is no new thing under the sun.) That might sound odd when you think of the scriptures that promise a new heavens, God making all things new, or this command to sing a new song - but I think it all fits together.

First, the reason I love the Ecclesiastes passage is this: I know it doesn't mean LITERALLY nothing is new. In a world with babies, flowers and sunrises, certainly we have to realize there are NEW things. But Solomon is reminding us, God isn't taken by surprise. When we confront the world armed with the promises of the Word we don't have to worry about God saying "oh - I didn't think of THAT.

Then what IS new? Well the Hebrew word here (and in Ecclesiastes) is chadash, meaning something new or fresh. In Klingon, the word is "chu'" - and it's interesting in the context of this psalm to notice that the same word is also the verb "to engage/activate a device" OR "to play a musical instrument. I like that - for when I respond to God's goodness, when I'm moved to sing and rejoice, I'm ACTIVATED, I come to life with a new song. Yes, perhaps its words or tune are old, written years, maybe centuries before my time - but when we sing it, it becomes fresh - it's NEW.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul notes

2 Corinthians 5:17 vaj chugh anyone ghaH Daq Christ, ghaH ghaH a chu' creation. The qan Dochmey ghaj juSta' DoH. yIlegh, Hoch Dochmey ghaj moj chu'.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old
things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

In Clarke's commentary he says this:

The conversion of a man from idolatry and wickedness was among the Jews denominated a new creation. He who converts a man to the true religion is the same, says Rabbi Eliezer, as if he had created him.

This conversion, this turning to God, is what makes us new, what lets us sing out - turning to God who will indeed give us a new song!

bom Daq ghaH a chu' bom. Play skillfully tlhej a jach vo' Quch!
Sing to him a new song. Play skillfully with a shout of joy!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Supghew - Lyre

nob tlho' Daq joH'a' tlhej the lyre. bom praises Daq ghaH tlhej the harp vo' wa'maH strings.

Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre. Sing praises to him with the harp of ten strings. psalm 33:2

Whatever you might think about Klingons being warlike and brusque - they DO know how to say "Thank you" - it's qatlho'. And sometimes it seems that's more than some humans know.

Matthew Henry notes about this psalm

What a pity it is that this earth, which is so full of the proofs and instances of God's goodness, should be so empty of his praises; and that of the multitudes who live upon his bounty, there are so few who live to his glory!

What's the difference between saying "thank you" and sending a "thank you" card? Don't both communicate gratitude? Both are better than nothing - ask the friend or relation who gave generously and received no response whatsoever. Certainly they would be far happier with SOMETHING, some acknowledgment.

And yet....

As a command, the psalmist is pushing us beyond a simple word telling us that a thank you "note" (or song) is exactly what we should present to the LORD for all his presents to us. Maybe we need to do a bit more - maybe we need some skill.

The word "harp" here, in Hebrew is kinnowr, a word (from a root meaning to twang) that appears dozens of times in the Bible. We don't have a word for that in Klingon, though I might use Supghew a Klingon word for a stringed musical instrument (actually the roots "Sup" to jump, and "ghew," bug, suggest a lively instrument like the Ukelele, whose name means "jumping flea"). The harp (or a ukelele, or a guitar) are instruments that require skill, that require thoughtful instruction and learning before one can even raise a simple song. To be advised to lift up our harp - or Supghew - is to be advised to think, and plan how we will praise and thank our creator for the goodness of creation.

How about you? Do you send a thank you note when you receive a gift? Do you take time to think about how you will acknowledge what you have received. No, I don't expect we'll all take up harps or banjos or zithers - but we should take the time to reflect on what God has done for us, to take time to do more than just mouth a simple "thank you." Are you grateful? Then sing out with praise!

nob tlho' Daq joH'a' tlhej the lyre. bom praises Daq ghaH tlhej the harp vo' wa'maH strings.

Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre. Sing praises to him with the harp of ten strings. psalm 33:2

Monday, October 26, 2009

lugh - upright

yItIv Daq joH'a', SoH QaQtaHghach! naD ghaH fitting vaD the upright.

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous! Praise is fitting for the upright.

What is right? Not the opposite of "left," of course. Not just getting the correct answer. But to be committed to the JUST life, the correct path.

The word here for "upright" is yashar, and occurs over 100 times in the Bible. From a root meaning "straight" it is translated as with words like just, meet, well, or right. You'll note that I didn't have a Klingon word in this verse - I'd suggest for this text that lugh: be right, correct could make a good choice - for the Psalmist is telling us that when we are "right" with the Lord we can, we should rejoice and praise God.

When I stay on that road, the right path, things around me make sense. I cannot count on earthly rewards, but I CAN see the way things are working - the way they work together.

I play trumpet in a few community bands, and the occasional pit orchestra. One of the things you need to do with a brass instrument is make sure it is oiled properly. It doesn't take too many mistakes to learn that when you take your trumpet valves apart to oil them, they only work RIGHT when I put them together correctly - if I don't get them lined up with the tubing I'll never make any music.

To rejoice, to cheer in a meaningful way I need ME put right - and that takes a connection with the one who made me. I'll fit together and then I can SING.

yItIv Daq joH'a', SoH QaQtaHghach! naD ghaH fitting vaD the upright.

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous! Praise is fitting for the upright.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Time to Travel

Hoch the jajmey vo' wIj yIn
all the days of my life

podcast version

News flash! MIT is hosting a Time Travelers get-together May 7th, 2005. Well, maybe this is old news, since by the time you hear this podcast, the event will have happened. Yet, if you are a time traveler, I encourage you to head on over to the the MIT East Campus Courtyard and check it out - I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome.

Time travel can be a pain. Think about the complicated problems you can encounter: DON'T step on a bug - you might wipe out hundreds of species yet to come! Don't prevent your grandparents from meeting or you'll never exist! The list goes on and on - you have to be soooo careful! After all, nobody wants to deal with those agents from the Federation's Department of Temporal Investigations!

Harder still, consider the grammar! How do you explain something you did yesterday - in the future? How do you talk about what you plan to do in the past tomorrow?

Now - we are all time travelers. Not dramatically - not skipping back and forth in a souped up DeLorean, but gradually, daily we sail along into tomorrow:

Hoch the jajmey vo' wIj yIn all the days of my life

so David describes our journey. Dogged by God's grace, by his goodness and loving kindness our travels through time cover this too finite stretch, "the days of our life" - what Psalm 90 estimates to be roughly 70 or 80 years.

And here's the problem with our time travels: The days we're given to live have limit. Even if we see great sites along the way, we know the trip has an end - maybe time doesn't have a limit - but ours DOES.

Yet Psalm 23 points us to a destination, and offers the hope that our short stretch will connect to an unlimited future - David looks forward to
yIn Daq joH'a' tuq reH - live in God's house forever

Maybe you feel like you're going nowhere, moving through each minute, each hour, aimlessly. You travel on through each day, but think there is no destination at the end of your time. Well listen to what Jesus says:

"Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father's house are many homes. If it weren't so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1-2)

originally podcast 5/7/05

Friday, October 02, 2009

Who's Following Who?

QaQ je loving kindness DIchDaq tlha' jIH
goodness and loving kindness shall follow me

podcast version

The great pitcher Satchel Paige often said “Don’t look back—something might
be gaining on you.”

That doesn't sound like Klingon advice to me. Few would disagree that the straightforward Klingon response to pursuit is to stand one's ground and eliminate trouble before it sneaks up on you!

But these words from Psalm 23 involve a different kind of pursuit; and mark a return in this shepherd's psalm to the picture of God's care as shepherding us, his flock.

Among the tools of a shepherd are herd dogs. We see that God's are QaQ (goodness) and loving kindness - a word not translated in the current revision of the KLV. This word, "Hesed" in Hebrew, is rendered in English translations as 'mercy' or 'loving kindness' and means a deep kind of "covenant faithfulness." The Klingon term batlh (honor) comes to mind as a good translation.

We are pursued by God. His dogs nudge us along the good path and direct us to follow the honorable road - and we will, if only we don't turn on these hounds that are just there to lead us along the best way.

What are these dogs? Or ... who?

In my life, I can picture a whole pack - perhaps you can think of a few in yours. I can see them - friends, family and maybe even strangers who only passed briefly through my orbit. Each one stood as an example, or a reminder of how I might more closely follow God.

And that is the real pursuit we need to consider: God's sheep dogs are there to nudge us on a pursuit of own. If you wonder what that might be, well, the last words that Jesus speaks in John's Gospel spell it out clearly - no matter what language you use:

SoH tlha' jIH.
You follow me.
Originally podcast 5/2/2005

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Running Over Where?

wIj HIvje' qettaH Dung
My cup runs over

podcast version

Half full? Half empty? That evaluation of a partially filled glass is the classic way to measure whether a person is an optimist or pessimist.

Which are you? And what happens when somebody fills the glass SO full it overflows?

That's what David considers in Psalm 23 when he writes:

wIj HIvje' qettaH DungMy cup runs over

God can (and will) bless his people beyond their mere needs. He just will NOT stop!

[My guess, by the way is that the pessismist will gripe about the work cleaning up the over flow, while the optimist delights in the surplus - "aren't we LUCKY to have more than we need?"]

The mechanical process of creating the Klingon Language Version of the Bible involves a simple program that replaces English words with Klingon translations, one word at a time. When that works we get Klingon text arranged in English grammatical fashion - a pidgin Klingon that a translator can polish off. "wIj HIvje'," for "my cup" can be made grammatical by attaching the first person possesive suffix (wIj) to HIvje' (glass, or tumbler): Hivje'wIj becomes a good translation for the Hebrew koesee (my cup).

We're not as lucky with "runs over," since the word "qettaH" means "run or jog". "Dung" means overhead, and was used for the KLV purposes to mean something like "over there." 'My cup runs over there,' does not come too close to the Psalm. Keep this odd wordplay in mind - think of it as "my cup of blessing moves out." I'll come back to that in a moment.

A better translation would be buy'qu' (really full) - HIvje'wIj buy'qu', my cup is really full. Even better, there is a colloquial Klingon expression "buy' ngop" which literally means "the plates are full." It is a way to say "Great news!" A grammatical translation of Psalm 23 might well express the great news of God's generosity, "my cup runs over," with "buy' ngop."

Jesus said: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:10b). He wants our lives to be rich and full - not just good enough, but so complete that the bounty spills over! And St. Paul says God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...(Eph. 3:20) God doesn't intend to give us a thimble full of grace.

Everyone does not have a life of overflowing bounty. Every believer does not experience this surplus of blessing. We don't know why - and even beginning to explore the reasons is beyond the scope of this word study.

But those of us who do experience "the cup that overflows" have a different question: what do I do about the spill? Maybe "my cup of blessing moves out" isn't such a bad translation after all.

The faith of the Bible is not a tribal faith. God may have begun with Abraham's family, but God's intention is clear: "All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you."(Genesis 12:3). Jesus made clear that the answer to "who is my neighbor" is EVERYONE. When Jesus gave marching orders he said "You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth."


buy' ngop! GOOD news!

If your plate is full, if your cup really runs over, then gather it up. Take your blessings and share them to "the uttermost parts of the earth..."

Better yet, share them "'u' HeHDaq" to the edge of the Universe.

originally podcast 4/29/05

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Double Take

Daq vo' wIj jaghpu'
in the presence of my enemies

podcast version

Nobody likes to say it out loud, but inviting people to a party means, on some level, you've decided who not to invite. That is why one might look twice at what David says in Psalm 23 -

You prepare a table before me

I like hearing this; God wants me to be his guest.

But then I read

Daq vo' wIj jaghpu'
in the presence of my enemies.

and I ask, what is going ON?! What are my enemies doing at this party?

The Klingon word for enemy, jagh, appears here in the plural form jaghpu'. It is worth noting that Klingon has three forms of plural suffixes: "mey", which is plural for things, for example yIHmey means "tribbles." "Du'" indicates the plural of body parts, as in ghopDu', "hands". In this case we use the third form "pu'" which is plural for things that have speech - usually taken to mean intelligent beings, i.e. people. Using jaghpu' here, instead of jaghmey, indicates that our enemies are not just a figure of speech as in "the weather is my enemy." We're talking about some person who plots against us, who wants to do us harm.

What is going on? Why does the psalmist think God's banquet is in the presence of my enemies? Who invited them?

Now, I've got two ways to look at this: comforting, and challenging.

First look at comforting:

Usually this verse is seen to show how we can be confident that, despite our enemies, God will show his love and care by preparing a table for us - even in the heart of battle. Do not despair - God cannot be prevented from blessing us - even when we are faced by real enemies. We need to hang onto this kind of assurance.

Here's the challenging side:

Who invited these enemies? Maybe I did. OR should.

When I cast about for other verses in the Bible that touch on "enemies" and "meals" I find a terrific passage - actually I find it more than once. It is a passage in Proverbs that St. Paul likes so much, he quotes it in the letter to the Romans:

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 Yahweh will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21 or Romans 12:20 )

Now if I were looking for a particularly Klingon way to tell people to "be nice," this has got to be it. Not hard to picture a Klingon saying "yesss!" to that coals of fire stuff, is it? Think you're a really tough tlhIngan SuvwI', a Klingon warrior? Then prove it: open your heart, your love to everyone - not just to the easy target. Jesus says it this way: "if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matt. 5:46)

We do have enemies. There really are people out there who want to do you and me harm. No, they are not going to be your best friend, or the first choice to put on your guest list. Yet, I know I need to take a stock of my 'hospitality,' my charity and then listen to Jesus's words:

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.'

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, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.
(Matt. 5:43-45a)

Who's on your guest list?

originally podcast 4/22/05

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Table Service

SoH ghuH a SopDaq
You prepare a table

podcast version

Mealtime is more than a way to refuel the body: it is sacred. We see this in the very beginning of the Bible, in the garden of Eden where God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food(Genesis 2:9) or when the promise of an heir and descendants to Abraham came after the patriarch had hosted his mysterious visitors to a great feast. (Genesis 18) And we see this at the very end of the Scriptures, in the last book of the New Testament, when the blessed "are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."(Revelation 19:9). The Bible uses "meals" as a way to portray how God's love reaches us.

Meals can be a place where we have some of our most treasured moments. I know that, in my life, those are the times that stand out: graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries. There are few important times in our lives when we do NOT gather to break bread together.

And meals are central in our religious lives. Look at the Passover Seder, or Holy Communion, the celebration of the Eucharist and you can see how believers continue to find ways to use a meal to reenact the saving acts of God.

Here in Psalm 23:5 we now move away from the simple image of the sheep and shepherd to the picture of God as our gracious host inviting us to be his dinner guest.

SoH ghuH a SopDaq You prepare a table

SopDaq, the word used here for "table" was coined when we didn't now the exact Klingon word for the piece of furniture we call a "table" (we now know it is "raS"). SopDaq, literally "eating-place" is a word formed from the verb "to eat" (Sop) with the nominal suffix indicating location. It parallels the known word for bed, QongDaq, i.e. "sleeping-place." Think of SopDaq as an irregular word for the banquet table, or a buffet spread out for the guest, as opposed other sorts of tables, say a work bench or in a library.

As much fun as we might have at those more utilitarian tables, it is at the dinner table where we gather to celebrate and give thanks (and we should remember that thanksgiving is literally the meaning of the word "Eucharist", the greatest Christian meal.) More than nutrition, we find God inviting us to a table were we can rejoice and enjoy fellowship with him, to be like Abraham, a "friend of God." (James 2:23) I think of Jesus' promise, that if a person answers his call "then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20).

Now that is a dinner invitation no one should refuse!
(originally podcast 4/14/05)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Worst Case Scenario

QIb vo' Hegh
Shadow of death

podcast version

Murphy's law spells out the pessimist's creed: if something can go wrong, it will. Some find an odd comfort in this "expect the worst" philosophy. With it, you'll never be disappointed - the worst that can happen is that you will be happily surprised if things turn out okay.

But I think merely expecting the worst isn't going far enough. Better is doing what David works through in Psalm 23 - the worst case scenario and how to be ready for it.

David looks to the good Shepherd, not merely to solve temporal problems like food and drink, guidance and safety. Whatever good the Lord provides for this life, David does not expect it to forestall the absolute worst:

The QIb vo' Hegh, the shadow of death

The Klingon words QIb (shadow) and Hegh (death) are used here for the Hebrew term tsalmaveth, traditionally rendered "the shadow of death," a phrase that captures just how this dark cloud hangs over all of us. The Bible says it simply "...it is appointed for men to die..." (Hebrews 9:27) Yet the response here in Psalm 23 is not despair, but confidence that this final passage is not to be feared, if we are accompanied by this shepherd who truly walks alongside us.

Notice that in this verse something important changes. The previous verses speak about the shepherd - he does this, he does that. But in this verse David speaks directly to him:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Death's QIb, its shadow, looms over all of us - no exceptions. In reviewing our options, our plans, this is what we must all be prepared for. Medicine, wealth, or position will not keep us from it. There is no castle or protection that will ultimately keep it away.

But we do not have to enter that last frontier alone. If we go with the one who has gone through it himself, we need fear no evil. For with the one who has conquered death by our side, that path through the shadows can, and will, be the path to victory.

originally podcast 4/7/05

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On Board!

vaD Daj pong chIch
for his name's sake

podcast version

Thanks to NASA, last year I went to Mars! Not just me - I took the whole family, even my dog Kokomo! We also went along on a mission to bring back samples from a comet, and at this moment, we're en route to blast a piece off of another comet in July.

Now, full disclosure requires I tell you that in fact, we didn't pack bags and climb on board these ships. Our travels were in name only, that is each of these spacecraft carried our names, not our selves, into the heavens. Why did NASA collect our names (and the names of thousands of other space enthusiasts) for these voyages? Because, when our names were added to these ships, in some small way, we became a part of the mission, and our interest in it increased tremendously.

David tells us that God "leads us in paths of righteousness," vaD Daj pong chIch / for his name's sake. The Klingon word for name, pong is as simple a word as you can find, just as it is in the Hebrew word (shem). Name, pong, or shem it means simply - the title by which any person or thing is known or designated.

What does it mean to say that God leads us, for his name's sake? I think about the interest that I have, when my name is riding off to Mars, and I get a glimmer of what this means: my attention, my concentration is directed to what is happening out there. I'm rooting for that craft, cheering it on. I may have no power to assist it, but I care about what happens to it.

Can you imagine that God, having put his name on you would care any less? Nor is he powerless to come alongside and help you, watch over you, as you navigate your own voyage through life.

Feeling like a nobody? Feeling like you aren't good enough to be noticed? Think again. He's put his name on you - and he's going to see you through. Look at the promises of Psalm 23, the promises of the Bible, and you can see he's on your side - he's on board, so to speak, and he'll do much more than just cheer you on.

Originally podcast 4/1/2005

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mid-Course Correction!

ghaH Dev jIH Daq the Hemey vo' QaQtaHghach
He guides me in the paths of righteousness

podcast version

"Mid-course correction." Anyone interested in space exploration has heard those words. Routine events, mid-course corrections are necessary because the slightest error of trajectory can result at journey's end in missing the destination completely.

In Psalm 23 we find God provides just this kind of direction for life. Hemey vo' QaQtaHghach, paths of righteousness, are just where we will be guided, if we follow the good Shepherd. He doesn't simply watch over us in some lovely pasture for all time. We need to get on the move, and if we do, he'll keep us on course.

Hemey (kay-may), the word used here for paths, comes from He (kay) the Klingon word for what we call in English a "course," The compass direction in which a ship or an aircraft moves. This fits in with the original Hebrew word, ma`gal, which means 'track'. Picture paths cut along a mountainside. Not every one is the correct one to take. At each turn you need to check that you're taking the right one, or risk getting lost, or worse, falling headlong off a cliff.

Mid course corrections - they're needed, but only if you're on the move, if you're travelling. Staying put, you don't need directions - but you won't get anywhere.

The people asked prophet Jeremiah to have "God ... show the way in which we should walk, the thing we should do." (Jer. 42:3)

It's what we need to ask each day - which way should we go, what do we need to do to stay on course. If we do, we'll find he will lead us in Hemey vo' QaQtaHghach, paths of righteousness and, as Isaiah wrote:

...he will teach us of his ways,
And we will walk in his paths. (2:3)

originally podcast March 30, 2005

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rebuilt - Like New!

ghaH chenqa' wIj qa'

He restores my soul

podcast version

Let's meditate on the mortality of cars. Expensive things - necessities for many of us - which, once purchased, immediately depreciate. As soon as you own them and use them, they are worth less and less. Each day reduces the resale value. It is a fact of life that things like these can almost never be sold at anything like their original price.

However, there are exceptions. Near my home is a fairgrounds which, every spring, is filled with proud collectors, men and women, who have taken beat up old jalopies and poured money, love and no small amount of work to transform these junkers into masterpieces - the most fabulous classic cars you could hope to see.

ghaH chenqa' wIj qa' / He restores my soul

The Klingon word used here in Psalm 23 for "restore," chenqa' (chehn-khah-uh) means "build again," that is RE-build. This is what God wants to do with us. Classic car enthusiasts are not the only ones who love to restore things - it's the work that the Lord wants to do with you and me. As St. Paul wrote "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Feeling like a wreck? Think there's no hope that you could be worth more than your "scrap value?" Think again - God's ready to chenqa' lIj qa' - restore your soul and make you like new today!

Originally podcast March 23rd, 2005

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still Here?

ghaH Dev jIH retlh vIHHa' bIQmey

He leads me beside still waters.


podcast version

                                                 (originally podcast 3/20/2005)
Food and drink.

Those three words are a very brief abbreviation of Psalm 23:2. When we know God our shepherd leads us to good pasture (food) and alongside still waters (drink), we know he intends to care for us completely.

This illustrates a common Biblical device, parallelism. Two or more clauses that repeat or reinforce one idea - sort of like rhyming ideas. It is a kind of poetry that can survive translation into any language, even perhaps non-human ones.

There is a problem here - there isn't a Klingon word for "still." But the language is rich enough that we can take the word vIH (vick), "to move," and add the suffix "-Ha'" to reverse the meaning, giving us "vIHHa'" [vick-Kha-uh]. I like this because it isn't just "not moving" (that would be vIHbe' [vick-beh-uh],) but un-moving (if there were such a word). It suggests to me something that has the power to move but holds it in. This is something that hasn't just stopped, it stands firm.

vIHHa' bIQmey, still waters, present an appealing image. Whether a placid stream, an ocean vista, or lakeside retreat, we're drawn to these restful scenes. Just as this verse's promise of lying "down in green pasture" was a promise of rest, these words about waters that offer to quench our thirst do so with a vision of stillness, of rest.

Life-giving water is what we're looking for, and is just what God wants us to have. "Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters," [Isaiah 55:1] the Lord says in Isaiah. Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman promising something better than ordinary H2O: "Everyone who drinks of this [well's] water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." [John 4:13,14]

Sound like what you're looking for? Then turn to that one, that good shepherd, who will lead you retlh vIHHa' bIQmey, beside the still waters.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sleeping dogs

ghaH chen jIH Qot bIng Daq SuD tI yotlh

He makes me lie down in green pastures

podcast version

The words "sleeping dogs" immediately call to mind the expression "let sleeping dogs lie." No doubt Klingons know the wisdom expressed in this proverb: don't stir up trouble when you don't have to.

Klingons do, after all, know about pets (the Klingon word for pet is Saj), though their 'dog' is the targh, a fairly fearsome creature; definitely not something to rile unnecessarily.

Let's consider "sleeping dogs" (the undisturbed kind) as an illustration of today's Klingon word: Qot, 'to lie.'

David in Psalm 23 considers God's care for him saying that God:

makes me
lie down in green pastures

Qot bIng Daq SuD tI yotlh


The English word 'lie' occurs over 100 times in the World English Bible translation of the Hebrew scriptures, mostly referring to an action like or involving reclining (as opposed to telling a falsehood). The Hebrew text of this psalm uses a specific verb, rabats, that is only used around 30 times. The notion in this word is that of a recumbent animal. This image would be familiar to a shepherd like David. Hovever, I'm not a shepherd, so I find the image of a recumbent animal that comes to my mind is that of a sleeping dog.

The utter peace of my own dog is something I find delightful. Once comfortable, he relaxes so completely that it compels me to settle down beside him as well. That is the sort of peace, of rest, that David is telling us he finds because he knows that the Good Shepherd is leading him.

And it's a peace offered to us as well. Just as God promised the Hebrews in the book of Exodus:

God said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
(Exodus 33:14)

Are you looking to Qot Bing Daq roj, to lie down in peace? Then listen to the Good Shepherd:

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened,
and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:30)
(repodcast - original date 3/18/05)

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Do You Want?

jIH DIchDaq Hutlh pagh

I shall lack nothing

podcast version

If you have any exposure to tlhIngan Hol (the Klingon language) you've probably heard the one all purpose greeting, "nuqneH" (nook-neck). If you're well informed, you'll know it's a compound word nuq (what?) plus neH (to-want). In other words the standard Klingon way to say 'hello' means "What do you want?"

To humans this may sound blunt, even rude, but it demonstrates the very practical nature of Klingon culture. And today's Klingon word provides an answer to that question:

pagh (pahgr) - nothing

In Psalm 23 King David presents us with the assertion that his shepherd, his leader is God. As soon as he tells us this, he spells out in the next clause what this means: I will lack nothing.

This is forthright confidence. David doesn't say he possesses all wealth and riches, but trusts that all his needs will be met. It certainly isn't the kind of reliance that many of us have. Despite being comfortable in my day to day existence, there's always one more thing I just "can't do without."

And those who are in real poverty may see the claim "I will lack nothing" as the smug complacence of the wealthy, or a condition they will never reach.

I like to think that David is giving us a challenge. To those who have, to maybe do with less, trusting that we will lack nothing. By sharing what we have, recognizing that, if we trust our Leader we will have what we need. And we'd only be following the best example of giving there is:

He who didn't spare his own Son,
but delivered him up for us all,
how would he not also with him
freely give us all things?
Romans 8:32

Follow an example like that, and maybe, just maybe, when someone asks "nuqneH," we'll honestly answer, "pagh."

(repodcast - original date 3/15/05)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Who are you calling a "Sheep?"

joH'a' ghaH wIj DevwI'

Yahweh is my shepherd

Podcast Version

David's words in the 23rd Psalm made the "God as our shepherd" metaphor a familiar and comforting image. Despite our world becoming increasingly urban and industrial, people with little or no connection to anything rural are moved to hear Jesus assure them "I am the good shepherd."

The Hebrew word used in Psalm 23 for shepherd (my-shepherd really) is roi (roe-ee), coming from a term meaning "to tend a flock."

In English we have a compound word combining "sheep" and the verb "herd," as in, to care for sheep IN a herd. This word occurs in some form almost 100 times in the World English Bible. How best could it be translated into Klingon?

It doesn't seem likely that Klingons would appreciate this figure of speech. It is hard to imagine anyone in this warlike culture appreciating being called a sheep. So, for the Klingon Language Version, I considered what might be a more culturally acceptable term and took the verb "Dev," to lead, and used "DevwI'," one who leads.

The notion for "the good leader," whether of troops or livestock, still embodies the idea that God does indeed watch over, provide for and support those who look to Him.

For who we follow matters. The wrong choice can be a disaster. No matter how confident the leader is, if he or she is going the wrong way - that's where you'll end up going.

So choose wisely. And, with David, if you do choose the "QaQ DevwI'," the good shepherd, you can be confident he will guide you

Daq the Hemey vo' QaQtaHghach

in the paths of righteousness

(repodcast - original date 3/12/05)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's in a name? God's name, that is.

joH'a' ghaH wIj DevwI': jIH DIchDaq Hutlh pagh.

Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.

podcast version

Everyone knows his or her own name, but who knows the name of God? Well, the Hebrew Scriptures present the proper, personal name of God, revealed to Moses, as the four letters YHVH (yod he vav he). Referred to as "the tetragrammaton," this is a name, used over 5000 times in the Bible, which means the self-existent, or eternal one. Pronounced "Yahweh," it was so revered that the Jewish practice was never to say it aloud, but substitute "Adonai," (Hebrew for 'Lord') instead. This practice was carried into English with many translations that use LORD (all caps) to indicate the use of God's name.

When it came time to translate the Bible into Klingon, the question was, how do we present this name? Early in the study of Klingon there was no known word for deities or gods at all (we now know it is Qun). The term most Klingonists decided to use was "joH'a'" (joe-a-ka), from "joH," the Klingon word for "Lord" or "Lady." Adding the 'a' suffix is a way of indicating this is a bigger or greater kind of Lord.

Does this remind you of "Jehovah," another pronunciation used for the name YHVH? Maybe you're more comfortable with saying "Lord," or Father. Certainly He knows our heart, and will be near to all who call on him. However you call out His name, remember,

'Iv DichDaq ja' Daq the pong vo' joH'a' DIchDaq taH toDpu'

whoever will call on the name of Yahweh shall be saved

(repodcast - original date 3/12/05)

ja''eghqa'ghach - Meditation

chaw' the mu'mey vo' wIj nuj je the ja''eghqa'ghach vo' wIj tIq taH acceptable Daq lIj leghpu', joH'a', wIj nagh, je wIj redeemer.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Inside and OUT. That's the focus of this verse, the final verse of Psalm 19. It is a good one to commit to memory, and, I think, makes a good start to a day - this devotion to ensuring that what we say, and what we say within our hearts meets with God's approval.

The Klingon word I use here for meditate is one I've mentioned before, in Psalm 1: ja''eghqa'ghach. The Hebrew is, higgayown a murmuring sound, and appears fewer than half a dozen times in the Bible; it's a form of the somewhat more common word used in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1, "hagah," to murmur - the sense there is to review, rehearse, recite, and remember God's words by saying them over and over to oneself.

Originally 'meditate', not being a common word in the World English Bible (hardly more than a dozen times) was not included in the Klingon Language Version. Since working on these studies, I've added it, using the word "ja''eghqa'" to carry the meaning. "ja'," to report, "'egh," -to-oneself, and "-qa'," again: ja''eghqa': report-again-to-oneself, meditate.

Now I've spoken before - and probably will again - how I've found Bible Memory, memorizing verses of scripture, a powerful spirtual resource. As I write this, we're in the season of Lent and for my devotions this year I've been using the Gospel of Mark, picking one verse out of each chapter to commit to memory. One nice thing about that is that it's giving me a framework to remember the whole Gospel, but the other thing is that this series of verses give me a "meditation" that I can focus on, to review, rehearse, recite, and remember God's words. What better way to strive that "the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable....?" I'd never claim it's the perfect way to do that - but it IS a start.

The Psalmist here recognizes our life is not just a matter of the outside - our thought life, our cares, our dreams - the things we dwell on, the things we may mutter about - those matter to God as well. As Spurgeon notes:

Words of the mouth are mockery if the heart does not meditate; the shell is nothing without the kernel; but both together are useless unless accepted; and even if accepted by man, it is all vanity if not acceptable in the sight of God.

I need to remember this, that my INNER life, just like my life in the world, is carried out before His gaze - and recognizing that, how can I help but turn in prayer to ask:

chaw' the mu'mey vo' wIj nuj je the ja''eghqa'ghach vo' wIj tIq taH acceptable Daq lIj leghpu', joH'a', wIj nagh, je wIj redeemer.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Sunday, February 22, 2009

'IV laH / Who can?

'Iv laH discern Daj errors? Forgive jIH vo' hidden errors. pol DoH lIj toy'wI' je vo' presumptuous yemmey. chaw' chaH ghobe' ghaj dominion Dung jIH. vaj jIH DIchDaq taH upright. jIH DIchDaq taH blameless je innocent vo' Dun transgression.

Who can discern his errors? Forgive me from hidden errors. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me. Then I will be upright, I will be blameless and innocent of great transgression. Psalms 19:12-13

(click for podcast version)

tlhIngan maH! We are Klingons! That proud declaration among Klingons is a declaration of pride in Klingon identity. I'd like to turn it around, and say that it's also a declaration for Humanpu', humans, when we realize not how DIFFERENT we are, but how SIMILAR we are to the brave weakness-denying Klingons.

Among Klingons there are number of expressions that declare their invulnerablity, their strength. Not necessarily because they ARE always strong, but because they need to present a bold face. For example
QongDaqDaq Qotbe' tlhInganpu'. Klingons do not lie in bed.

vulchoHbe' tlhInganpu'. Klingons do not faint.

ropchoHbe' tlhInganpu'. Klingons do not get sick.

tlhIngan maH! We are Klingons! That is, if that's what Klingons are like... well, so are we humans. Such bravado, such denial of personal weakness is not an alien trait to humans. And in the face of that problem - of denying our failings - we read these words from Psalm 19 - words that make us face the fact that we are NOT perfect:

'Iv laH discern Daj errors? Forgive jIH vo' hidden errors.
Who can discern his errors? Forgive me from hidden errors.

Klingon or Human, we need to set aside our (false) bravado that claims to be better than we are. Spurgeon comments:

Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractations; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them.

As I write these words, on the planet Earth, we are approaching the season of Lent - a time when Christians reflect on their sins, and the need for God's mercy. As the Life Application Bible refelects on this psalm, we're reminded of how powerfully God reaches out to restore us, to forgive us:

Many Christians are plagued by guilt. They worry that they may have committed a sin unknowingly, done something good with selfish intentions, failed to put their whole heart into a task, or neglected what they should have done. Guilt can play an important role in bringing us to Christ and in keeping us behaving properly, but it should not cripple us or make us fearful. God fully and completely forgives us—even for those sins we do unknowingly.

"even for those sins we do unknowingly" - Scripture recognizes that God's forgiveness covers our whole life, even those things we struggle to acknowledge, even those things we cannot see.

The synonym for sin used here, "error," is unusual. This form of it - haygv shegiy'ah - only appears in the Bible here in this Psalm, and comes from a root meaning "to stray." Even in English translations - err, error, errors only appear a couple dozen times - it's why it hasn't yet been translated in the KLV. When I do, I'll use the corresponding Klingon word: Qagh, to err. (There is a specific Klingon word for "sin" - yem).

But, whatever word we use for our sins, God IS aware of them, as Psalm 90 notes:

You spread out our sins before you—
our secret sins—and you see them all.
Ps 90.8 NLT

Again, the Life Application Bible comments on those words

God knows all our sins as if they were spread out before him, even the secret ones. We don’t need to cover up our sins before him because we can talk openly and honestly with him. But while he knows all that terrible information about us, God still loves us and wants to forgive us. This should encourage us to come to him rather than frighten us into covering up our sin.

Maybe it isn't surprising that we want to hide, or ignore, or block out our failings. But God doesn't want us - Human, Klingon or whatever - to shrink from his presence. He longs for us to come to him, for forgiveness, for healing, to be set right and made clean. As he tells us through Isaiah the prophet:

“Come now, let us argue this out,” says the LORD. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18 NLT

Sunday, February 01, 2009

ghuHmoHta' - Warning!

Moreover Sum chaH ghaH lIj toy'wI' ghuHmoHta'. Daq keeping chaH pa' ghaH Dun pop. 

Moreover by them is your servant warned. In keeping them there is great reward.     Psalm 19:11

nuqneH?  That all purpose Klingon greeting is a good place to start as we enter the Bible - nuqneH, literally, "what do you want?" IS a fine place to begin, for our expectations CAN direct us as we read God's word.

This verse from Psalm 19 gives us a good answer, showing us two dimensions: 

   1) to be warned, and
   2) to find great reward.

Now, no Klingon would refuse "ghuHmoHta'" - warning.  The Klingon word used here is derived from the word ghuH, prepare for, be alerted to.  That's exactly what a good warning makes us do - PREPARE.  This is indeed the value of being well versed in God's words - for we will be ready for the challenge of life as we absorb the warnings that direct us toward living a righteous life, the life God intends.

Psalms 34:14  Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it.

Proverbs 4:27  Don't turn to the right hand nor to the left. Remove your foot from evil.

Zechariah 7:10  Don't oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the foreigner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.'

But the Lord wants more for us than simply being warned; his promise is for "great reward".  For this, the Klingon word is "pop" - reward.  The Hebrew word used here is interesting - `eqeb,  a heel, i.e. (figuratively) the last of anything.  In other words our reward, the gift that God intends - is what comes to us AT THE END.  We follow his word, not to experience the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but to receive, in the end to hear, as Jesus puts in a parable:

Matthew 25:23  "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

"nuqneH?  What DO you want?"  is self-serving if it is our ONLY approach to the Bible.  We need to know that the Bible is not just a tool kit, or a warehouse that we come to for meeting our needs.  The words that we need to zero in on are "your servant", `ebed in Hebrew.  this is the same root for servant in the prophet Obadiah's name - God's servant. 

Our participation in the warnings and rewards of scripture begin as we enter as SERVANTS of God, not customers demanding service.  I pray that I remember that each day as I open the word.

Moreover Sum chaH ghaH lIj toy'wI' ghuHmoHta'. Daq keeping chaH pa' ghaH Dun pop. 

Moreover by them is your servant warned. In keeping them there is great reward.     Psalm 19:11