Friday, December 30, 2011

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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

lurgh - 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, December 06, 2011

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

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(click for podcast)

If you're a pastor, and looking for a way to quickly be driven out of your parish - I can't think of a better controversy to raise than.... a discussion about Santa Claus. I fear at times that the deepest beliefs of the Bible could be question without the kind of difficulties a preacher would meet if they weighed in on the reality of Kris Kringle.

Nor am I brave enough to tread on this legend - though I wonder what a Klingon would make of some of the stories? The Klingon disposition toward things military lend to a tendency to be (shall we say?) paranoid. Imagine how they'd feel about a silent intruder who routinely slips in past all defenses to surprise the inhabitants! Motivated by generosity or not - I expect a Klingon hearing of such stealth would be more alarmed than happy.

But - maybe if they were introduced to the real Santa Claus - St Nicholas:

St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. As priest and bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life and ministry. His concern for children and others in need or danger expressed a love for God which points toward Jesus, the source of true caring and compassion. Embracing St. Nicholas customs can help recover the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus.

Understanding St. Nicholas as the original and true holiday gift-giver also helps shift focus to giving rather than getting, compassion rather than consumption, need rather than greed. This can help restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.

St. Nicholas is beloved throughout the world and continues to be revered in Christian tradition, especially as protector and patron of children in the West and as Wonderworker in the East. The St. Nicholas Center aims to bring Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians together in common purpose—to help people understand and appreciate the original St. Nicholas, the only real Santa Claus.
[http://www.stnicholascenter.orgI encourage you to visit the site to learn more]
As a people - Klingons are depicted as fierce warriors - potent enemies in battle. But anyone who reads at all far in the lore of Star Trek will know how fiercely they honor and guard their family - they know the value of protecting children. They'd likely be impressed by the stories - some quite fantastic - of St. Nick's rescue of children. Or how he protected the honor of dowry-less girls by secretly presenting them with gifts of gold coins.

In the Bible Jesus says these words, used in the readings for the commemoration of St. Nicholas:

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The mach - little - ones matter. Not just to a saint like Nicholas, but to God. In this season we have many opportunities to be generous. What can we do to protect the neediest among us?

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

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)

Monday, October 10, 2011

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 " 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

Monday, October 03, 2011

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, September 26, 2011

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

Saturday, September 17, 2011

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sleeping Dogs

ghaH chen jIH Qot bIng Daq SuD tI yotlhHe 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 pasturesQot 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)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

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."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

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

Sunday, August 07, 2011

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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

toDta' - delivered

pa'  ghaH  ghobe'  joH  toDpu'  Sum the  qevmey  vo' an army.  A  HoS  loD  ghaH  ghobe'  toDta'  Sum  Dun  HoS.

There is no king saved by the multitude of an army.  A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.   Psalm 33:16

What more proof do you need to see that the Bible is not a Klingon book?

These words from Psalm 33 go a long way toward making itc clear that the Scriptures do not reflect traditional Klingon ideas regarding strength and power.  Add in David’s victory over Goliath - rejecting the King’s armor and sword for his mere slingshot.  Or  the Hebrew’s victory over Jericho with nothing but marching and trumpets.  Or Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” of which he said

vaj jIH tlhap pleasure Daq weaknesses, Daq injuries, Daq necessities, Daq persecutions, Daq distresses, vaD Christ's chIch. vaD ghorgh jIH 'oH weak, vaj 'oH jIH HoS

Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.  2Cor 12:10

Together these underline a basic rather non-Klingon theme:  Our security, our victory can’t be found in a simple application of power, of HoS - we have to trust God.

And this is the proof that the Bible is not a human book either.

For, just as Klingons do, humans try to succeed on their own.  We strive for independance, for security.  But when we feel that in our hearts from the Bible we hear

I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.  2Cor 12:10

Paul has it right.  The Bible has it right.  However gifted we are with strength, however accomplished we are in life - those gifts, those accomplishments are gifts from God.  Not treasured power that comes from us - but gifts that God extends to us, so we can help those in need.

Rejoice, give thanks, and when we are weak remember

pa'  ghaH  ghobe'  joH  toDpu'  Sum the  qevmey  vo' an army.
  A  HoS  loD  ghaH  ghobe'  toDta'  Sum  Dun  HoS.
There is no king saved by the multitude of an army.
  A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.   Psalm 33:16

When we are weak we can remember - when we are weak,  then, he is HoS - he is stronger still - strong enough to bring us through.

Monday, February 28, 2011

tIqDu' - Hearts.

ghaH 'Iv fashions Hoch vo' chaj tIQDu'; je ghaH considers Hoch vo' chaj vum.
He who fashions all of their hearts; And he considers all of their works. Psalms 33:15

(click for podcast)

I build spaceships.  And rockets.  

No, really, it’s true.  That is - I really do build (and fly) rockets.  I’ve been doing it on and off since around 1969.  Model rockets, yes, but rockets all the same.  They’re the reason I first learned how to use a slide rule.  Some of the first computer programs I wrote in BASIC were programs to predict and assess the flight of my rockets.   And in building and flying these model rockets I have learned a lot about the big ones that go into orbit and beyond.

And my spaceships - well, they’re scale models of real spaceships - some of them even fly.  And again, in making them I’ve learned a lot about the real rockets.  I think my favorite is the Mercury Redstone rocket from Delta 7 - you can download that one for free yourself.

The reason these rockets and spaceships are of interest to me is because, in building these models I learn about what it takes to make the real thing, and I learn how they work and what they can do.

ghaH 'Iv fashions Hoch vo' chaj tIQDu'; je ghaH considers Hoch vo' chaj vum.
He who fashions all of their hearts; And he considers all of their works. Psalms 33:15

God made us - he knows what we can do.  He doesn’t need to examine a model, or imagine what might be IN us - he knows inside and out what makes us tick.

When I’ve built a scale model of a spacecraft - I don’t find out what is going to happen on a craft’s mission, on any particular flight.  Holding a model - even inspecting the real craft cannot tell me that.  But I do learn what it can do and how it can be guided on its way.   If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13, you know that the people of NASA were able to help save the crew because they knew what the ship was made of, how it worked, and what it could do to preserve and protect the astronauts.  The astronauts could be confident in the NASA crew’s assistance, because they knew what their ship was made of.

And  God knows what we’re made of - that’s why I find a comfort in this verse.  I especially like the New Living Translation:

He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.

God made our hearts - in Hebrew leb (a word that occurs almost 600 times in the Bible) it is used in Biblical (as well  contemporary) language to refer to the inmost self, the seat of emotions and thought.  Klingons likewise use the word tIQ, the literal heart, to refer to the seat of self.  Though never a really scientific term, it has a clear meaning, the “center, the essence” of one’s self.  AND GOD KNOWS IT - HE MADE IT.

What a gift it is to recognize that God knows us thoroughly, inside and out.  He knows what we’re made of.  He loves us, he understands us better than I can hope to understand a spaceship by building a model - even if I built the real thing, I’d not understand the ship better than God knows us.

He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.

And, in the day of trouble, in the day of sorrow He is the one to whom we can open our tIQ, our heart!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chosen - wIvpu'

ghurtaH ghaH the Hatlh 'Iv joH'a' ghaH joH'a', the ghotpu 'Iv ghaH ghajtaH wIvpu' vaD Daj ghaj inheritance.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.    Psalm 33:12
(Click for podcast)

Do you remember playing a game - say baseball or soccer - and “choosing up sides?”  Waiting for the team leaders to pick the members of their team.  And do you remember what it’s like to be picked, chosen to be on the team you really, REALLY, wanted to be on?  Then you have a window to the impact of this verse from Psalm 33.

The people God chooses - the  “nation” …. “he has chosen for his own....” are HAPPY - ashri, the word usually translated as “blessed” - happy in the way you or I might remember  at being chosen for that team long ago.  Happy because we’ve been chosen to be part of a team, part of something greater than our self.   And this is the kind of happiness, of blessing God’s people know.

The word for chosen here is בָּחַר bachar and it occurs over 150 times in the Bible.  From a root meaning to try, by implication, to select, that is choose, it is translated with terms like: acceptable, appoint, choose (choice), excellent, join, be rather, require.  The word is used for God’s choices as well as human one (and not just good human choices).  

And the Word does present humans as having a choice.  From Moses’ command “choose life, that you may live,” or Joshua calls out “choose you this day whom you will serve,” to the Gospel declaration “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God's children, to those who believe in his name,” Scripture makes clear that our walk through life involves choice - decisions every day on which path we will follow.

How do we balance God’s choice and ours?  Do we need to focus on one and deny the other?

I think the Klingon answer (and my own) would be ghobe’ - no,.  This is the richness of Scripture - that a paradox (God chooses/ Humans choose) is needed to describe how we move in relation to God.  Some of the tension comes from our time-bound nature.  Far better is to start with the principle that God chooses to love, to open his Kingdom to all.

Certainly he acts - to choose - individuals and nations to carry out his will, but he chooses this to extend his love to ALL people.  

vaD joH'a' vaj loved the qo', vetlh ghaH nobta' Daj wa' je neH puqloD, vetlh 'Iv HartaH Daq ghaH should ghobe' chIlqu', 'ach ghaj eternal yIn.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.John 3:16

What a perfect way to balance God’s choice (He chose to love, he  chose to give his Son), and ours, (choosing to accept his love, his grace).  He chose to love - the whole cosmos - and we can be happy, happy to be blessed to be wIvpu’, chosen by him.