Friday, January 27, 2012

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

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.

Friday, January 13, 2012

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

Friday, January 06, 2012

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.