Sunday, December 05, 2010

These little ones - Dochvammey mach ones

'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, September 03, 2010

qeS - Counsel

 joH'a' brings the qeS vo' the tuqpu' Daq pagh. ghaH chen the thoughts vo' the ghotpu' Daq taH vo' ghobe' effect.    The qeS vo' joH'a' stands fast reH, the thoughts vo' Daj tIq Daq Hoch DISmey.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing.
 He makes the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect.
 The counsel of the LORD stands fast forever,
 the thoughts of his heart to all generations.   Psalms 33:10-11

(click for podcast version)

Here are some thoughts about what I don't think these verses are  saying, and why I think the Bible - especially the language of the Psalms would connect with Klingons.

First - I don't think this passage is necessarily saying "the nations" have nothing to offer - that their culture, their values, their ideals are simply chaff.  That might be the idea you would get if you read only the first verse, regarding how God brings their thoughts and counsel to nothing.  But only the most ignorant person would not know there IS rich culture and history among the peoples of the world.

And the good things found among the peoples of the world are part of God's blessings to them - they are the gifts that the Almighty bestows on "the rich and poor" alike.

But taken together with the next verse we see that the psalmist is giving us a contrast, making a statement about the relative worth of our cultures against the measure of eternity.

This is an example of something I think would resonate with Klingons - the way the Scriptures in a blunt, earthy way make a point.  It isn't that the Word is presenting a parochial, jingoistic anti-foreigner jibe - we're being reminded that, against eternity, the only thing that lasts will be what is rooted in God.  The White House, Pentagon, Kremlin, Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, Sphinx... whatever monument to humanity you name - they will not last.

In Klingon there is a construction called the law'/puS construction - from the words for "many" and "few" -  they set a framework to say X is law' (many)/Y is puS (puS) - in other words, X is better than Y.  You might put these verses as "God's thoughts law', Human's thoughts puS."

I think it is also worth noting that the first verse speaks of the counsel (qeS in Klingon, which translates the Hebrew `etsah) of NATIONS and thoughts of PEOPLE - using the same Hebrew words, goy and am, which are used in Psalm 117 - the shortest chapter of the Bible, which is a universal call to ALL people to unite in praising God.  Probably a coincidence - but one that to me underlines the point here - not a dismissal or insult to the people of the world, but a but a reminder that we need to anchor our thoughts and plans not to our own selves, but to the Creator who loves us and who offers us a refuge that will NOT fail.

 joH'a' brings the qeS vo' the tuqpu' Daq pagh. ghaH chen the thoughts vo' the ghotpu' Daq taH vo' ghobe' effect.    The qeS vo' joH'a' stands fast reH, the thoughts vo' Daj tIq Daq Hoch DISmey.

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing.
 He makes the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect.
 The counsel of the LORD stands fast forever,
 the thoughts of his heart to all generations.   Psalms 33:10-11

Monday, August 09, 2010

ra'ta' - commanded

vaD ghaH jatlhta', je 'oH ghaHta' ta'pu'.  ghaH ra'ta', je 'oH Qampu' firm
For he spoke and it was done.  He commanded, and it stood firm.   Psalm 33:9

Picture this:
You are a crewmember of a Klingon bird of prey.  Your captain turns to you and...  what do you do?  Well, if you are a wise Klingon, you probably will say:

chay' jura'?   What are your orders?

Klingons take command (and commanders) seriously.  So much so, in fact, that within Klingon military culture, a commander who cannot hold his command is fair game - advancement in rank to commander may happen when a subordinate officer challenges and defeats his or her commander.   A commander perceived as weak will never last.  While this does not appeal to most humans - it's guaranteed to develop a leadership class that gets things done.  Commands are obeyed.  The Klingon commander will be as the psalmist here describes God:   For he spoke and it was done.

The Bible likewise takes command seriously     - God's commands are so sure, they are the foundation of creation - as we read in the very beginning of Genesis:God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Or as this psalm puts it:

vaD ghaH jatlhta', je 'oH ghaHta' ta'pu'.  ghaH ra'ta', je 'oH Qampu' firm
For he spoke and it was done.  He commanded, and it stood firm.   Psalm 33:9

The Klingon word here for "commanded" is ra'ta' - ra', command, plus the suffix ta', done.   This translates the Hebrew "tsvah," command,  a word that is familiar in it's noun form "mitzvah" - commandment, used in the familiar bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah - son or daughter of the commandment.  Perhaps in Klingon we'd say puqbe' ra'ta' or puqloD ra'ta', commanded daughter or son, to carry the same idea - to be a child of the commandments, that is, one who willingly enters into the life commanded for believers.

Here's an interesting difference - for the testimony of Scripture is that creation is God's sure work - the immediate, sure and unfailing result of his commands.  But when it comes to US - obedience to these commands is far less sure or certain, isn't it?  It seems we need to participate, we have to choose to follow and obey.  That's why the attainment of the rite of confirmation, or believer baptism, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah or altar call are so pivotal in the life of the believer - the moment when God's command is obeyed in our lives completes the action:

For he spoke .....................and it was done.

Does this mean God's command IS resistable, that he ISN'T an infallible commander?

I don't think so.  We obey, we follow we say "chay' jura'?"  because HE commands.  We become his children, the children of his commandments BECAUSE he commanded, not because we responded.  We're fooling ourselves if we imagine that our ability to respond is something we conjured up on our own - it is his grace, his gift, again - the power of God's speaking his word into our lives:

vaD ghaH jatlhta', je 'oH ghaHta' ta'pu'.  ghaH ra'ta', je 'oH Qampu' firm
For he spoke and it was done.  He commanded, and it stood firm.   Psalm 33:9

Rejoice - God calls you, commands you!  O Lord, chay' ju'ra'?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Hoch - This Means You!

  chaw' Hoch the tera' taHvIp joH'a'. chaw' Hoch the nganpu' vo' the qo' Qam Daq awe vo' ghaH. 

 Let all the earth fear the LORD.  Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  ps 33:8

How do you imagine that Klingons recruit?

I think, though I don't know, that it would be direct, not some sweet winsome wooing or promise of reward.  I picture it more as

yIqIm!     /  Attention
qaneH  / I need YOU!
DaH!  /   NOW!
SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!

Military recruitment, or proposal of marriage - that's the sort no-nonsense approach I imagine would be the Klingons.  Particularly SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!

  chaw' Hoch the tera' taHvIp joH'a'. chaw' Hoch the nganpu' vo' the qo' Qam Daq awe vo' ghaH. 

 Let all the earth fear the LORD.  Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  ps 33:8

The word here "all" is one of those happy (however rare) cases where the KLV is right on - ALL in this verse, in Hebrew KOL, nicely is translated here as the Klingon Hoch.  The Psalmist here speaks of ALL, that is everyone, everybody - in other words SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!

Consider what Spurgeon observes about this verse:

The psalmist was not a man blinded by national prejudice, he did not desire to restrict the worship of Jehovah to the seed of Abraham. He looks for homage even to far off nations.
We hear this through the Psalms:

joH'a' DichDaq ghurmoH maH. Hoch the ends vo' the tera' DIchDaq taHvIp ghaH. 
God will bless us. All the ends of the earth shall fear him.  Ps 67.7

lalDan toy' joH'a' Daq le' array. Tremble qaSpa' ghaH, Hoch the tera'. 
Worship Yahweh in holy array. Tremble before him, all the earth. Ps 96.9

SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!

There are two dimensions to this:  The scripture reminds us again and again that ALL will be judged and ALL are called:

    vaD maH must Hoch taH 'angta' qaSpa' the yoj seat vo' Christ
     For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; 2Co 5:10
    ( Mt 25:32; Ac 17:31; Ro 2:16; 14:12; 2Co 5:10; Re 20:12)

  SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!  But this  isn't a bad news story - because the same Bible also tells us:

 vaD pa' ghaH ghobe' distinction joj Jew je Greek; vaD the rap joH ghaH joH vo' Hoch, je ghaH rich Daq Hoch 'Iv ja' Daq ghaH.
 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. Ro 10:12

   ( Joh 3:16; 10:16; Ro 10:12; 1Ti 2:4)

 So call on Him today!  SoHvaD Dochvam /   THIS MEANS YOU!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Known or Nobody

Podcast Version

Thanks to Think-a-Tron and Digicomp I, I can happily claim to have worked with computers for something like forty years. From the days of those toy computers to today I've used punch cards, paper tape, magnetic tape and disks, compact disks, and now, small flash-ram "jump drives" to store and retrieve information. We've seen the same progress with our music. From vinyl to eight track and cassette tapes to compact disks and mp3 players, every year seems to bring a new way to record our tunes.

We can't imagine what will be used in the future. Though we can assume the obvious: things will continue to hold more and more data in smaller and smaller devices.

Yet these improvements introduce a problem: as older storage techniques become obsolete, we may lose access to important information. It seems funny to think that we have scientific data from the 1960's that is becoming inaccessible. We still possess the records - but as time goes on we're losing the ability to read them.

vaD joH'a' SovtaH the way vo' the QaQtaHghach
'ach the way vo' the mIgh DIchDaq chIlqu'.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked shall perish. Psalm 1:6

To be known by our God - or perish. This is the contrast presented by the last verse of Psalm 1. It is a difference in outcome that I think we see with computers and music. Not many people are prepared to listen to an 8 track, or read a program off of a paper tape: information kept those ways is perishing.

But the things worth knowing, worth keeping, have been preserved. Copied from tape to disk to chips - and who knows? In the future, maybe kiloquad isolinear storage chips, or whatever the Federation uses. As long as the information is kept in a readable form, it won't perish: it will be known.

This psalm was another case where the KLV lexicon needed help. In particular I lacked a word for "perish." abad the Hebrew word, carries the idea of "to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish." So I used the Klingon word chIl, to be lost, and added the intensive suffix -qu'. mIgh DIchDaq chIlqu' : that is, the wicked shall be utterly lost.

What does this mean? I think the Psalm is reminding us that there are two ways ahead of us. As we look through all of our tomorrows and into eternity, what is ahead? Here we see the way of the righteous - the life of the blessed that this psalm describes, or the way of the wicked, those who scoff and turn their backs on God.

To be known and not be discarded - the promise of such a future is the confidence we can find in Psalm 1. There is security in being known by the Lord. It is like the prophet Nahum reminds us:

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


(note: this was originally podcast in 2005)
podcast version

As I wrote this, space enthusiasts around the world are waiting to hear the fate of Cosmos 1, the first attempt to launch a solar sail powered spacecraft. The prognosis isn't looking too good right now. Almost no communications have been received since launch. Most evidence points to a failed launch - at best a lower orbit than planned. This exciting project used a decommissioned Soviet missile as a launch vehicle and was run by a combination of international teams headed by the Planetary Society. They are pioneering the most efficient technology we know to head out to the planets, and the best to get to the stars!

However, first we have to get the project under way, first we have to - literally - get it off the ground. (Well, okay, off the water - they used a sub to launch the rocket.)

vaj the mIgh DIchDaq ghobe' Qam Daq the yoj
Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment Psalm 1:5

Those words in Psalm 1 speak of "getting off the ground," too. We hear that the wicked shall not Qam or stand (the Hebrew word is quwm which means 'to rise.') In other words, we're talking about rising up, taking one's place: taking a stand. This verse echoes the beginning of the psalm, where we heard that a blessed person won't hang around with the wicked, won't "stand in the way of sinners." Now we hear that - ultimately - the wicked won't stand either. That is, they will not be able to stand alongside the blessed, or be accepted Daq the tay' ghotpu' vo' the QaQtaHghach, "in the congregation of the righteous."

In another psalm we hear the question:

Who may ascend to the LORD’s hill?
Who may stand in his holy place? Psalm 24:3

Who indeed? If we wish to lift off, to rise up before the Lord, and following him to sail beyond merely the planets and the stars, then I think the Psalmist is directing to consider what stand we take in our lives today. We can't do it ourselves. Just as a spacecraft can't get into orbit without a sufficient booster - our ability alone won't lift us up to stand in the judgment.

St. Paul notes this, quoting the Hebrew scriptures, when he wrote to the Ephesians:
That is why the Scriptures say,
'When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.'

Paul goes on to say:

Notice that it says 'he ascended.'

This means that Christ first came down to the lowly world in which we
live. The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than
all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe. Eph 4:8-10 NLT

If you want to rise up, to take your stand with the one whose rule fills the universe - you'll need to follow the advice of Psalm 1: Avoid accepting, and participating with what is wrong. Give your time and attention to the scriptures that tell us what is right.

But your effort isn't enough. We need to accept the gift, the grace of the one who can make us stand, and lift us higher than all the heavens.

Are you ready for liftoff?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blown Away!

The mIgh 'oH ... rur the yub nuq the SuS drives DoH.
The wicked are ... like the chaff which the wind drives away. Psalm 1:4

podcast version

Picture for a moment what you consider to be your enemies. Imagine them before you. Consider those who represent to you, the most formidable villains. This is the wicked, the rishaim in Hebrew, or mIgh in Klingon. These are the adversaries of all that was described in the first three verses of Psalm 1. In this psalm we have read that the blessed person will refuse to join in with the wicked. We've heard that these blessed ones who dwell on God's words will flourish like a well rooted tree. Such a blessed person will endure.

The psalmist now turns back to consider the other side of the coin: the wicked. These are those who rur the yub SuS drives DoH (are like the chaff the wind drives away).

Chaff: Not a familiar term in an increasingly urban world. This verse depends on our knowing that grains like wheat actually have to be processed, crushed so the outer cover of the the grain, this chaff, can be thrown away.

These words assure us that ultimately the threat of the wicked is insubstantial. Their works will not last. Perhaps reflecting on this Psalm, one ancient writer wrote:

"The hope of the wicked is like
thistledown blown by the wind
or like foam blown by a storm.
It is like smoke dissipated by the wind,
It is soon forgotten..." (Wisdom 5:14)
The wicked, however powerful they may seem, will finally be blown away, leaving no trace.

I would say that the duties of believers includes helping one another remember this. We need to support each other in the face of the most crushing defeats of life. Defeats that we cannot always avoid. Remember, the process of separating the wheat from the chaff meant crushing the grain so that the worthless chaff is removed.

The Hebrew word for chaff, mowts, is rendered here with the Klingon word 'yub.' yub refers to something like the rind or shell of a naH, a fruit or nut. It's the part you throw away. And I like to think about how with grain, this "throwing away" is accomplished by simply letting the wind carry it off. It underlines to me how flimsy these enemies, the wicked, ultimately are. Like shutting down a hologram projection, they will be gone completely.

There is more to think about here. The contrast presented, the "wicked" versus the "blessed," represents the choice each of us faces in life. Considering this verse, one writer notes:

"Chaff is very light and is carried away by even the slightest wind, while the good grain falls back to the earth. Chaff is a symbol of a faithless life that drifts along without direction. Good grain is a symbol of a faithful life that can be used by God. Unlike grain, however, we can choose the direction we will take." (Life Application Bible)

yub naH ghap? Chaff or wheat? Which will you, and I, choose to be?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Live Long and Prosper!

'Iv Sornav je ta'taH ghobe' wither. Whatever ghaH ta'taH DIchDaq chep.
whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper Psalm 1:3b

podcast version

Vulcans are not Klingons. The Klingon language's words for hello (nuqneH) and goodbye (Qapla') translate to "what do you want" and "success." Compare that to Vulcans in whose language the peaceful salute is:

tich tor ang tesmur / Live long and prosper
That sentiment, not often expressed in Klingon, is a good summation of Psalm 1, verse 3: The person who is blessed, who relies on God completely, will live long: ('Iv Sornav je ta'taH ghobe' wither: whose leaf also does not wither). Not having a word for "leaf," we use a compound here Sor (tree) nav (paper). The imagery calls to mind a tree, ever growing, yet never shedding its leaves - the Hebrew, lo yibool, says this tree's leaves don't wilt or fall away.

And this blessed one "prospers": whatever ghaH ta'taH DichDaq chep in all they do, they prosper (NLT).

I think this is an interesting shift in the psalm. We've started speaking of a blessed person, then compared him to a tree and now we hear about "in all they do." Trees don't DO much of anything - they grow, and bear fruit. But they have no plans or tasks to carry out - it is clear we are talking about a person, and what it means for the person who seeks to follow God's word every day.

These verses echo the words of the book of Joshua that promised prosperity to the person who kept God's word always in mind and heart: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

Now, we must tread carefully with promises like this. It is easy to measure prosperity by wealth or possessions. This is not intent of Scripture. As Jesus said: "what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?" (Luke 9:25).

And we cannot measure a "long" life by a simple tally of years. Just because I've lived longer than someone doesn't mean my life surpasses theirs. A life can loom large with an impact that far outlasts the days numbered on a calendar. Believers look forward to something more - an existence in eternity, surely the promise that lies behind the psalmist's words.

So, as a Vulcan would say: tich tor ang tesumur - live long and prosper.

This is the path this psalm, indeed all the Bible draws us towards. And, to live long and prosper, we need to seek out the blessed life, a full life that leads to real prosperity: the riches of God's kingdom - forever.

Though a Klingon might not be inclined to say it - if they did read this Psalm, and find these promises here, they might indeed say:

tIqjaj yInlIj 'ej bIchepjaj

Live long and prosper

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life Signs!

ghaH DichDaq taH rur a Sor planted Sum the streams vo' bIQ
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water Psalm 1:3a

podcast version

yInroHmey yIHotlh! Scan for life signs!

Anyone familiar with space exploration - particularly as practiced by the United Federation of Planets - knows that this a primary task when discovering a new world or a derelict ship. Facing the unknown, the quest for yInroH, life signs, is job number one.

Even today we see this. The first landers on Mars included automated chemical labs to detect Martian life. Most think this first attempt failed, though there are some who think life was found back in 1976. And now, the ships orbiting and the robots prowling on the red planet continue looking for life signs, especially in the form of water. Simple H20 that covers three quarters of our planet makes life possible on Earth - and it may well be so elsewhere.

What about you? If you are scanned for "life signs," what will be found? "Barren wilderness," "salty flats where no one lives?" That's how the book of Jeremiah describes people "who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5 NLT).

In the third verse of Psalm 1, the author leaps from his description of a "blessed" person (doesn't hang out with the evil, dwells on God's word) into pure metaphor:

ghaH DichDaq taH rur a Sor planted Sum the streams vo' bIQ
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water Psalm 1:3a

This is a good example of how nimbly the Bible can move from simple text into poetry. This picture of the blessed as a Sor, a tree, planted along the water resonates throughout Scripture. Jeremiah seems to quote or reflect these words when we read:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Jeremiah 17:5-8a NLT

We seek for life signs, for these waters of life in our own existence. Where I live, it is spring at this moment. I'm sitting writing these words outside surrounded by a world that is green and full of life, a reminder of the kind of life everyone wants to experience.

Jesus speaks of this when he said "the water I give... becomes a .. spring within..., giving eternal life." (John 4:14 NLT )

It will be an exciting day when finally a space probe from Earth finds life out there. Maybe it will be on Mars or Titan orbiting Saturn. Perhaps it will be in a pool, or in some deep underground spring - water teaming with life never seen before.

But right now, today, yInroH wIleghlaH, we can see life signs, within ourselves if only we turn to the one who can lead us to the river of life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mumble & Mutter!

Daq Daj chut ghaH ja''eghqa'taH jaj je ram.

On his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2b)

podcast version

Okay, I admit it - I talk to myself! (Of course, with a spouse or some other close observer that is the kind of thing that is hard to keep a secret forever. )

I can explain this "talking to myself": it is a useful strategy for pushing things over from short-term memory to the long-term storage. Anyone on the far side of fifty can appreciate this. And it could be worse. I take comfort in something I was once told: "it's okay to talk to yourself - as long as you don't start answering."

"Talking to yourself" is usually taken to mean either you have no audience, or that you're completely cracked. Maybe then it comes as a surprise that Psalm 1 admires just that action - in fact it seemes to be what the Bible admonishes us to do.

Turn to Psalm 1:2 and you'll learn that the blessed person:

ja''eghqa'taH jaj je ram - meditates day and night on God's law

The Hebrew word used here for meditate is "hagah," to murmur - the sense here 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.

By example, we're told in this psalm that it is vital to "ja''eghqa'" - repeat to oneself - God's word continually.

This is practical advice. Whether a grocery list or God's commandments - repeating the words fixes them in one's mind for easy retrieval. And why would we want to do that? Psalm 119 says it well:

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

This is bedrock: if you want to see the foundations for a life that is ghurtaH Quch 'ej, blessed and happy, you'll find it following this example: continually, recite, repeat, remember - ja''eghqa' God's words, till they become the touchstone by which you can measure and evaluate your life.

In college, I learned about this from a group called the Navigators, who are big proponents of memorizing scripture and meditating on it - they promote ja''eghqa' - though not by that name.

Try it yourself: find a good verse of scripture that speaks to you. Review and review it, till you know it backwards and forwards - I've found you gain more than just knowledge of a few lines of text. Instead you have a resource for your own reflection, ammunition for your own life of prayer. With a vocabulary rooted in the Word, and regular reflection on it, you may experience what is promised in the book of Joshua:

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
Joshua 1:8

Monday, June 14, 2010

Delightful Law.

'ach Daj tIv ghaH Daq joH'a' chut.
but his delight is in Yahweh's law
psalm 1:2a

podcast version

Delight. Think for a moment about what gives you delight. Family? Travel? Sports? Chocolate? From deep to trivial, what delights us is as varied as we individuals are. Now, Psalm 1, when it turns from what the happy, the blessed person DOESN'T do, to what they DO do - maybe it comes as a bit of a surprise, when being blessed is tied to finding DELIGHT in LAW.

Law, to me, probably to most people who aren't lawyers - is NOT a subject that quickens the pulse. Yet, in Psalm 1 when we turn to what the blessed DO, we read:

Daj tIv ghaH Daq joH'a' chut - his delight is in Yahweh's law

Part of me rebels at this: "Law? Happiness is bound up in rules and regulations? No, thanks!"

But, wait - this isn't law in the abstract, or in any city, state or national sense. This is joH'a' chut - God's law. This law is charged with a personal quality, a relationship. The specific Hebrew word used here may be a familiar one: Torah. Occurring over 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures, "torah," is commonly used to refer to the "books of Moses," (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) but carries a much broader idea of God's instruction to his people. The word torah comes from a root, yarah, that means "to throw," the notion being to "throw out one's hand" to point something out, to instruct.

One writer says, "This shows that the end of the Law lay beyond the mere obedience to such and such rules, that end being instruction in the knowledge of God.., and guidance in living as the children of such a God as He revealed Himself to be. " [ISBE]

Part of my problem facing the word "law" here comes from perceiving it as dry words and nothing more. Yes, chut or "torah" encompasses law, as in legal rules, certainly, but also teaching - those things the Lord wants us to be doing. More than rules, this law draws in the whole living testimony of Scripture, set down as a way for us, and, as St. Paul says: " profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," (2Tim 3:16). What is God pointing out NOW? Where is his hand directing me, TODAY?

Think of it this way: Your walk through life is a path with twists and turns. At times a tough uphill journey, sometimes a breakneck run. Without a companion, someone who can help you along the way, you are likely to get lost, or worse. When we see joH'a' chut, God's law, as the hand of one who walks alongside us in our journey through life, then we'll realize that this path can be an adventure, one where we won't take a wrong turn, nor miss any of the delightful things there are to enjoy along the way.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Don't STAND For It!

podcast version

ghurtaH ghaH the loD 'Iv ta'be' ... Qam Daq the way vo' yemwI'pu', ghobe' ba' Daq the seat vo' scoffers;

Blessed is the man who doesn't ...stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; Psalm 1:1b

Ever heard this old joke? "Teacher, should I get in trouble for something I didn't do?" "No, of course not." "Good. I didn't do my homework."

Nice try, but I don't think any real teacher would fall for it. And, it is true - we can get in trouble, not only for what we DO but for what we fail to do.

Psalm 1 shows us what it takes to be a person who is blessed. The author starts by telling us an action to avoid: "following evil advice." But he continues by warning us away from, well something that sounds like "doing nothing." Just being stuck amongst "the wrong crowd." Not DOing anything in particular - just hanging out.

Don't Qam (stand) among sinners, the psalmist says. Why not? Didn't Jesus eat and drink with sinners? The problem isn't meeting or moving among them, the problem is staying put. Yes - Jesus associates with sinners (and don't forget - that means you and me) because, as he says: the puqloD vo' loD ghoSta' Daq nej je Daq toD vetlh nuq ghaHta' lost. ("the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10).

In Psalm 1, the warning is getting used to the scoffer - accepting sin as "just the way things are."

Every language contains puns, wordplay that lets you take similar words, or words with multiple meanings to make a point. Klingon is no exception. We can use that to summarize some of this Psalm's advice.

The word for "to emit odor," He' , and "course or route" He are virtually the same. So you might sum up the warning of Psalm 1:1 with:

mIgh HeDaq bIQamchugh vaj mIgh He' DalIjchu'

that is:

if you stand in the evil road (mIgh He), then you will will surely forget the evil smell (mIgh He')

It is easier than we think to get used to things. Staying put, among things we believe in our hearts are wrong may make us lose the perspective we need. The perspective that will make us act in the way that will make us truly Quch - blessed.

And the Psalms have something to say about that, too. We'll move on to the source of that perspective in the next verse of Psalm 1 - stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Don't Walk!

ghurtaH ghaH the loD 'Iv ta'be' yIt Daq the qeS vo' the mIgh
Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked

podcast version

ghurtaH ghaH the loD/ Blessed is the man

"Bless" is one of those "Bible" words that might seem simple. Bless you! What a blessing! I was blessed. Yet when pressed to define it, it turns out to be a fairly complex bundle rolled up into one simple syllable.

Psalm 1 presents us with a description - maybe a prescription for what it is to be blessed.

There are multiple words in Hebrew, Greek and Latin that are all translated into English as "bless" or "blessed." Now, because the KLV is developed as a relexification (one Klingon term for one English word) of the World English Bible, the text winds up flattening that meaning into a single word: ghurtaH, : on-going increase, that is an increase or benefit to one's material or spiritual riches. In this case, the Hebrew word used in Psalm 1, ashri, means "happy," a translation you will find being used in many modern translations. Eventually that meaning may replace ghurtaH in the KLV, and you'll see the word Quch (happy) used : Quch ghaH the loD.

But what makes a person blessed? ghurtaH or Quch - fortunate or happy - how does one achieve that? This is what Psalm 1 tells us - and it begins by telling us what NOT to do: DON'T WALK.

How obedient are you to those stop lights when they signal walk/don't walk? I was nicknamed "safety frog" by my kids when they were little, since I am such a stickler on safety issues: seat belts, rocket launches and, yes even stop lights. Yet still I get impatient - and sometimes I might dash out and take advantage of a lull in the traffic. But I know those lights have a purpose, and if you blithely ignore them, well, you will be neither ghurtaH or Quch - fortunate or happy.

Iv ta'be' yIt Daq the qeS vo' the mIgh
who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked

This is the first of three negatives the psalmist gives us on the way to explain what makes a person blessed. It makes me think of a verse in Proverbs (actually two verses - it gets repeated):

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12 | 16:25 NLT)

I like that description - "a path ... that seems right" : Sometimes doing what you KNOW is wrong IS very tempting. You might want to dash across against the light - and suffer the consequences "it ends in death."

The Bible is realistic: you can't avoid hearing the "counsel of the wicked," whether a classmate telling you how to cheat on a test, or a politician appealing to our personal greed - you aren't at fault for HEARING them.The problem is when we take that first step - when we no longer listen, but begin to walk in their counsel.

As the saying goes "it's no sin to be tempted," the trick is letting it end there. Psalm 1 has much more to say, both what NOT to do, and what we SHOULD do - we'll see more about this in upcoming podcasts. But this is the start, saying NO to qeS vo mIgh (the advice of the wicked). Being Quch, happy, in our life with the Lord begins here. As James reminds us :

".. resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

So - join the resistance. We've just begin to fight.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

bIQmey - waters

 ghaH gathers the  bIQmey  vo' the  biQ'a'  tay' as a heap. ghaH lays  Dung the deeps  Daq storehouses.

 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap.  He lays up the deeps in storehouses.  Psalm 33:7

The power of scripture, especially in the Psalms, is in its many dimensions of praise.  Here the psalmist describes the incredible power of God in terms of ... waters - bIQmey, in Klingon.

Now water seems a weak thing - humans say "blood is thicker than water" and Klingons agree - blood, 'Iw is power - water is weakness... and yet water strikes us with a tremendous, chaotic power, when we face the storm, when we face the clashing, crashing waves of the sea.  This IS power - it's power that we seek to harness today as we on Earth look at ways to replace limited fossil fuels.  And looking at such power the psalmist declares about the Almighty,

 ghaH gathers the  bIQmey  vo' the  biQ'a'  tay' as a heap. ghaH lays  Dung the deeps  Daq storehouses.

 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap.  He lays up the deeps in storehouses.  Psalm 33:7

It's good for us to reflect on God's power, Hos in Klingon - because it is THAT power that backs his love, it is THAT power that can save us, it is THAT power that backs the tender care that predates the Cosmos, as St. Paul notes: Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us... [Ephesians 1:4 NLT]

Recently I had a request to translate the words of the Rich Mullins' song that goes:

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom  pow'r and love
our God is an awesome God

Words that, to me, echo this Psalm's excitement over God's majestic power - in Klingon I rendered it:

joH Dun ghaH joH'a'ma''e'
chalDaq Dung je che'
valqu', HoSqu', muSHa'qu' je
         joH Dun ghaH joH'a'ma''e'

How do you reflect on God's power? Give thanks that he does indeed reign from Heaven above - valqu', HoSqu', muSHa'qu' je - With wisdom pow'r and love.

Monday, February 15, 2010

chenmoHta' - made

Sum joH'a' mu', the chal were chenmoHta'; Hoch chaj army Sum the breath vo' Daj nujDu'.

By the LORD’s word, the heavens were made; all their army by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6

Dochmey vIchenmoH 'e' vItIv! I enjoy making things - and that makes sense! If we are indeed "made in the image of God" it is no surprise that we find ourselves expressing that image in creative ways. It's what God loves to do, isn't it?

I'm working on a small electronics kit right now. I've made other kits and projects in the past, including a simple robot from odds and ends and, one of my favorites - air rockets from scraps of recycled materials - they're literally veSDujmey - garbage ships. (That's the insult that finally got Scotty to mix it up in a fight with some Klingons - when they called the Enterprise a veSDuj, a garbage scow).

What catches my imagination here is the Psalmist's phrase about how it is by joH'a' mu', the LORD's word, that he accomplishes his creative work. The same is true for us - when I've built my rockets, or constructed the kits - I didn't do that at random. There was a mu', a word that gave me the inspiration (I read about the electronic kits) or even the plans and the instructions (my rockets cost me no more than a couple of dollars of parts, plus recycling pop bottles and other scrap - once I found the word, the plans, on the internet). It was the WORD that made the difference, that made me able to make something special - something new.

The word chenmoHta' here translates the Hebrew word asah, to make. Sometimes distinguished from "bara'" which is considered to be more literally create - as opposed to asah - to form. The difference is moot in Klingon, since the word chenmoH (chen, to form, plus moH - cause to) is used for form, make, create. What matters is that what God uses to create is not power or might, but his Word.

We do this too. The projects I find on the internet, or in magazines, or books... all those come to me - not in force, but in a simple "word" - that conveys to me the possibility, the idea, the chance that I can make something new.

Near my house is a mall with a craft store AND a major bookstore. I love them both, because I always say they "smell like hope." Who knows how many of the sweaters get knit, the paintings painted, or the books read - I don't - but I know that everyone who enters those stores gets a whiff of "hope," for in entering that store, they buy into the chance that they WILL do the project or read that book.

The Word - and now of course I'm talking about God's Word - comes to us with that same power, and a hope that will not disappoint. God can change our lives, just as he brought this marvelous universe into being - simply by his Word.

Sum joH'a' mu', the chal were chenmoHta'; Hoch chaj army Sum the breath vo' Daj nujDu'.

By the LORD’s word, the heavens were made; all their army by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6

What new thing is He waiting to bring into your life today? Open his Word, to you, today.

Monday, February 08, 2010

full - teblu'ta'

ghaH muSHa'taH QaQtaHghach je ruv. The tera' ghaH teblu'ta' vo' the muSHa'taH pung vo' joH'a'.
He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD.

Psalm 33:5
(click for podcast)

If you were to visit my office, that is, once you got to the basement, down the corridor, found your way past the security doors, then down more stairs and finally made your way to our office (which is sort of underground (no really)), when you finally found the space that I call my own.... well, then you'd notice some things.

I hope you'd see my desk, my computers, the bookshelves and all the standard stuff. You'd find the technical manuals, the notebooks and whiteboard and you'd get an idea of the sort of work that goes on here.

But then, I'd guess you might look around and pick up on the personal details, and then might get an idea about what KIND of person worked in this space.

And SPACE would be the operative word - you'd notice pictures tacked up of space vehicles (real and imaginary), not to mention models of robots and spaceships (also real and imagined). You might even notice that one or two of the reference books have to to with rockets, not the computers and networks that I work with. Added together you'd be safe to conclude that the person who works here loves space travel - this cube is full of the love of Outer Space.

The tera' ghaH teblu'ta' vo' the muSHa'taH pung vo' joH'a'.
The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD.

The NLT recasts the psalmists words as "the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth." and you might wonder how anyone can say that is true, but it is. I know, I know - I need nothing more than scanning the headlines online to find a world full of tragedy and loss. Of course we ask, where is this unfailing love? But it is there.

malae is the Hebrew word that I've represented as teblu'ta' in Klingon - pretty basic words, both carrying the idea here of something "filled up" with a substance. The substance here is "Hesed" God's faithful covenant love - often translated as "lovingkindness" in the KJV, hence the Klingon loving (muSHa'taH) plus kindness (pung).

Our eyes can miss the lovingkindness that fills the earth - because we know of what is wrong in it. We need to be reminded that the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

As one writer notes:

The overflowing kindness of God fills the earth. Even the iniquities of men are rarely a bar to his goodness: he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain upon the just and the unjust. Adam Clarke.

Search for the trouble and you'll find it.Like the recent disaster in Haiti - a mountain of despair cast down on a people already broken under poverty and more. But look at the response from believers and non-believers who have flooded that tiny nation with assistance. A web search for news about "people helping Haiti" yields thousands of hits- that is God's lovingkindness bearing fruit amidst all that trouble. And why else would we worry in the face of tragedy if our hearts were not kindled by that love God sheds abroad in the world. Of course we despair - we want to see God's love bearing fruit.

A person who visits my workspace won't find a note "Joel is a space cadet" or "Joel loves rocket ships" - but all the little extras you find scattered about spell it out pretty clearly.

It is the same in this world. The people who build Habitat homes, who help out a Gospel missions, who send money - or themselves - off to rebuild in time of disaster - all those "little clues" point out that God indeed fills this world with his love - and we have the great gift of being able to share it!

ghaH muSHa'taH QaQtaHghach je ruv. The tera' ghaH teblu'ta' vo' the muSHa'taH pung vo' joH'a'.
He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loving kindness of the LORD.

Psalm 33:5

Monday, January 18, 2010

voqtaHghach - faithfulness

vaD the mu' vo' joH'a' ghaH nIH. Hoch Daj vum ghaH ta'pu' Daq voqtaHghach.

For the word of the LORD is right. All his work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4

(click for podcast)

This verse from Psalm 33 underlines how the Biblical witness is of the trustworthiness, the dependability of what God says and what he does. One writer observes:

For the word of the Lord is right - The command; the law; the promise of God. Whatever he "says" is right; or, is true. It is worthy of universal belief; and should, therefore, be a reason for praise. The fact that God says a thing is the highest proof that it is true. (Albert Barnes)

And all his works are done in truth - Or rather, "in faithfulness." That is, All that he does is executed faithfully. He does all that he promises, and all that he does is such as to claim universal confidence. Whatever he does is, from the very fact that He does it, worthy of the confidence of all his creatures.

The Hebrew word here is 'emuwnah and occurs about 50 times in the Bible. From the same root as the universal assent of faith AMEN, it means literally firmness; and figuratively security; morally fidelity. You'll see it in the KJV as faith(-ful, -ly, -ness, ), set office, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily.

How might a Klingon express such a concept? I've used the verb to-trust voq, and changed it into a noun with the -taH and -ghach suffixes, yielding voqtaHghach, meaning (sort-of) on-going-trust-ness.

A key for me is what I refer to as the mnemonic theology of the Bible - how our trust in promise is rooted in memory. We remember through the history of the Bible what God HAS done, and it makes us look forward to (and trust in) what he will do. There is a relationship here - we learn who we can count on by who comes through for us. The message of Scripture, and the witness of saints through the ages is that God can be trusted - he is faithful, he has voqtaHghach.

vaD the mu' vo' joH'a' ghaH nIH. Hoch Daj vum ghaH ta'pu' Daq voqtaHghach.

For the word of the LORD is right. All his work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4

The Life Application Bible sums it up well when it notes:

All God’s words are true and trustworthy. The Bible is reliable because, unlike people, God does not lie, forget, change his words, or leave his promises unfulfilled. We can trust the Bible because it contains the words of a holy, trustworthy, and unchangeable God.

To which I can only add amen!