Wednesday, April 15, 2015

best books in Christian publishing 2015

Dr. Daniel Block
Dr. Karen Jobes
Dr. Douglas Moo

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has just released their list of finalists for the 2015 Christian Book Award. There's quite a bit of overlap with Christianity Today's top picks of the year. Wouldn't you know . . . my dissertation committee makes up half of the finalists in the Bible Reference category!? I guess that means I'm in very good hands!

Congratulations to Dr. Block (my advisor), Dr. Jobes (my second reader), and Dr. Moo (who will chair my defense) for their excellent publications.

Daniel Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Baker)
Karen Jobes, 1, 2, and 3 John: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the NT
Douglas Moo, Galatians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT

The ECPA will announce the winners in each category as well as the overall winner on May 5th. In the meantime, you can check out the finalists in Non-Fiction, Fiction, Inspiration, Bibles, Bible Reference, Childrens, and New Authors on their website.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

adventures in noticing

Prayer prepares us to see what we would otherwise miss. It conditions our soul for richer relationships. It "tunes my heart to sing thy grace."

It's a phenomenon common to every short-term mission trip. People who are normally rather shy and private about their faith and whose day-to-day experience is not terribly prayerful become bolder, full of faith, and fervent in prayer. The prayerful-ness of missions opens us to see what God is up to. We celebrate it. Seize opportunities to participate. And pray some more.

I remember those prayer-filled moments in Latin America as if they happened last week. I was only 14 at the time, on a short-term mission trip with Teen Mania in Venezuela. If we saw an ambulance go by, we would stop to intercede. When one of us was sick, we prayed. At a new ministry site we would pray, go out to invite people to come see our drama, and then pray them into the kingdom. Every moment was fueled with prayer.

How can we capture that kind of fervor for ordinary days?

During our pastor's sabbatical, he has invited us to read Mark Batterson's, Draw The Circle with him. Forty brief chapters, spread over forty days, invite readers to pray, and in so doing to draw circles around areas of life they want to see transformed by God.

I'm drawing circles around my students, my neighbors, family members, unbelieving friends, my dreams, and yes, my dissertation. It's amazing to watch God answer. Did he change the course of history because of my prayers? Or did my prayers simply wake me up so that I could watch him at work? Or is it some of both?

Batterson says that praying makes us "first-class noticers," people who "see things no one else sees" (67). "Prayer," he says, "is the key to perception" (70).

And so I pray for a student who has been absent from class. That prayer prompts me to write them an email. I continue to pray, and they respond, asking if we can talk. Their struggle fuels more prayer (and along with it the sense that we are in this together). Meanwhile, I begin to pray for another student who appears burdened, drawing a circle around that name and asking God to intervene on their behalf. And then I watch and wait. I don't want to miss God's answer!

Friday, March 13, 2015

a giant has fallen

I first knew him as "The Mad Scanner," but I was sorely mistaken. A fellow Wheaton student told me about a stern man who spent hour after hour scanning documents in the basement of the library. I had seen a man who fit that description scanning on the 2nd floor. We wondered if the mysterious man was digitizing documents illegally to sell them online. After all, who could read all that material? The librarian asked us to let him know if we ever saw the "Mad Scanner" again, since he was clearly abusing library privileges. One day there he was, scanning like mad. I went downstairs to report the suspicious activity. The librarian went straight upstairs to check it out. My heart pounded. I waited. Soon he returned, puzzled. "The only person I saw at the scanner was Harry Hoffner."

My jaw dropped. I felt the blood rush to my face. Harry Hoffner, the renowned Hittitologist? "Are you telling me that man scanning on the second floor is Harry Hoffner?" There I had sat at my desk, scarcely 20 feet from the copy machine where Dr. Hoffner collected sources for his research and writing. Could it be that I had even cited him in my papers without realizing he was standing at his post right around the corner? How embarrassing! This was no Mad Scanner. He was a professor emeritus, a giant among peers.


Fast-forward a few months. Dr. Block asked me to help publicize a lecture on campus. The esteemed Dr. Harry Hoffner would be giving a talk on David's kingship in light of Hittite monarchs. I hung posters, arranged for electronic announcements on TV screens across campus, and showed up early to the lecture to make sure Dr. Hoffner and his wife had everything they needed. That's when I first shook hands with both of them.

Now that I knew what he looked like, I saw him often in the library. I began to say hello. Because of the lecture, he now recognized me, too. Dr. Hoffner was the consummate researcher. Several times a week he combed the shelves for sources to undergird his research. He was, I found out, producing a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel for the Lexham Bible Commentary series online. No wonder he needed so many books. He became a fixture in the Wheaton College library (which was closer to his home than the University of Chicago library).


Dr. Harry Hoffner and Dr. Daniel Block (October 2012),
with Dr. Alan Millard,, my Doktorgro├čvater, to the right
One of my duties as Dr. Block's TA that year was to make sure Dr. Hoffner (a long-time friend) had the books he needed for his research. It was simple. He emailed me, I requested books and put them on hold for him when they arrived. It only took a few minutes, but Dr. Hoffner was very grateful. I discovered that it was a handy thing indeed to have an expert "in the house." Was there a Hittite equivalent to the Hebrew segullah? Can you think of any Hittite treaties where the king promises to protect the oppressed? Do you have a digital copy of such-and-such article you've written, which is not available online?

His knowledge of Hittite language and culture was so encyclopedic that you could catch him in the library stacks and ask him a question and he could quickly scan through everything in his mental "files" and give an accurate answer. He was also kind and conscientious enough to double check his personal library when he arrived home and email the results. He came through for me just last month when I needed an article he wrote for a conference paper I was writing (and quick!). Harry Hoffner to the rescue!

Dr. Block tells me that he once heard Dr. Hoffner give advice to young scholars at a conference, saying, "Be good at what you do, and be good." Dr. Hoffner certainly was both. He was a master in his field as well as a model of virtue.

It wasn't all work. In December I sent Dr. Hoffner a link to this hilarious parody just for fun because it reminded me of him more than anyone else I know (you really must watch it). And he wrote me to see if we were watching the Oregon Ducks play. He told me of his current projects, an article honoring a deceased French Hittitologist, a dissertation examination for a student at Trinity, a paper for a colloquium. He also continued to serve as Senior Editor for the Chicago Hittite Dictionary project — a project he began in the 70's.

Harry A Hoffner
November 27, 1934—March 10, 2015
Photo: Carmen Imes
I don't think he realized it, but Dr. Hoffner's kind words encouraged me through some of the most difficult days of my time at Wheaton. He had hoped to see me graduate, and it would have meant so much to have him there. But alas, it was not to be. His earthly life came to an abrupt end earlier this week, shocking us all. In one of his last emails to me, dated December 30, 2014, Dr. Hoffner said, "I don't think I will ever cease doing research in some way in Hittitology and in the Bible." He was right. He was engaged in several projects right up until the end, not only researching and writing on the Hittites, but teaching an adult Sunday school class for the College Church choir on the book of Acts. Now Dr. Hoffner has joined the "great cloud of witnesses," where he will cheer me on to the finish (Heb 12:1).

Dr. Hoffner, I'll miss you. I'm so glad our journeys intersected in this life. Save me a spot in the heavenly choir!

Monday, March 9, 2015

visit the holy land for free!

I've spent part of the day weeding in my back yard, cooking dinner, and hanging out with my kids. I spent the rest of my day exploring Jerusalem. No kidding.

Photo Copyright: Israel Antiquities Authority and
the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA
Did you know you can walk the streets of Jerusalem and pan around major archaeological sites right from the comfort of your own home?

At SBL in November I attended a session where various professors shared ways they are using technology to help their classrooms come alive. It was a fascinating session—with video games, classroom games, virtual tours, and maps on Google Earth. Today I tried some of the websites to see which ones will work best for my class on the Gospels at Multnomah. Bingo.

Here are a few of my favorites:

A virtual ascent from the pool of Siloam to the Temple in Jesus' day, with music. This is the route priests would have taken during the Feast of Tabernacles, carrying water from the lower pool to pour out upon the altar. See John 7 and 8.

Several short videos highlighting this same route through the City of David (the oldest part of Jerusalem) to the Temple.

Stunning, 360-degree interactive photos of dozens of key biblical sites. The professor who was showing us this resource (his favorite) at SBL was delighted to discover that the creator of this website was in the audience!

Brief 3-D animated videos of many holy sites in and around Jerusalem, high resolution photos, and interactive virtual tours of several of the most important, like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. You can choose narrated or self-guided tours.

If you've been to Israel before, these sites allow you to relive your experiences. If not, you can get a taste of the world of the Bible. It will help the text come alive like never before. Try it and see!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

fractions before breakfast

Easton stood there in my bathroom, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and shivering in the morning cold. "Mom, I had a question for you yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to ask you yet."

"Ok, what is it?" My interest was piqued. This must be important if he was still thinking about it before he was fully awake!

"What's a fraction?"

I couldn't hide my smile. Where does one find a child like this? Christmas morning he bounded down the stairs, workbook in hand, announcing that he was going to do some math before breakfast. In under a minute I explained how to add double-digit numbers with carrying. He had it down cold. This morning it was fractions. I told him that if he got ready for school quickly, we'd have time to get out a fractions game I had tucked away in the closet. He was jazzed and got ready at lightning speed.

Again, it took under a minute to explain what fractions represented and how to read them. He was off like a rocket, categorizing fraction cards and even learning how to reduce fractions.

Last night in bed he was completely absorbed in a career exploration guide from Portland General Electric, discovering which kinds of jobs in the energy sector would be just right for him. Did I mention he's 6?

While it may only take a fraction of a minute to teach him something, he has my WHOLE heart wrapped around his pinky finger. No question about that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

now is the time for no

I'm coming up on the one-year anniversary of some of the hardest news I've ever received: my dissertation was inadequate. After 3 years of pouring my heart and soul into graduate school, giving it everything I had, this was really disappointing. For a year now I've been processing that news and trying to find my footing so that I can attack the project again and win this time. It's hard to do that when you're exhausted. And even harder when the little voice inside says you don't have what it takes.

Add to the mix a two-week trip to Israel, a cross-country move with a family of five, settling in to a new community, and beginning to teach adjunct for the first time . . . and it will make sense why my blog has lain fallow lately. All five of us have had challenges adjusting to life in Oregon (and frankly, recovering from Wheaton). And while the external pressures on our schedule are less than what we faced in Wheaton, we find ourselves more stretched and more exhausted than we've ever been. Day after day the hours erode while the to-do swells and grows more impossible.

That's why I found this post over at The Well so encouraging this morning. Like me, Kindra has discovered that she's not superwoman. She can't do it all. And like me, she's learning to be okay with that. (Ironically, two of my own post at The Well came up as "related articles." I guess that makes sense.)

In this twilight zone where we live -- not yet finished with what we started in Wheaton but trying to put down roots in a new community -- I have spread myself too thin. I have said "yes" to lots of good, small things, things I believe are worth doing, which have crowded my calendar until I have nothing left to give to the one thing I need to do -- finish the dissertation.

My good friend Anna Moseley Gissing is giving up "yes" for Lent. She writes,

"Saying 'no' requires trust. Saying no to more commitments, more responsibilities, and more busyness means trusting that other opportunities will come at other times. There is a time for everything, and now is the time for no. Now is the time to remember that God made me with limits, and these limits remind me that I’m the creature, not the Creator. God knows my desires, my passions, and my anxiety.
Saying no creates space for God here and now. When I clear out some space in my mind and my life, I am more present to God and to those around me. And the commitments I have already made get the better part of me.
For the record, I'm glad I said yes to teaching at Multnomah University this semester. It's taken every ounce of my energy, but I have loved every minute. Still, I don't have what it takes to finish the dissertation when I'm spread this thin. My dissertation needs the better part of me. And that makes this the time for "no."

Friday, January 30, 2015

looking back, taking stock

Plans for my 20th high school class reunion are underway. Gulp. Could it be??

I remember going to my Mom's 20th reunion from Denver Christian High School. I was, um, the age of our oldest daughter now (13 or 14), which I guess makes sense. We met at a park. I was old enough to appreciate the very interesting social dynamics which are peculiar to reunions. Posturing. Bragging. Catching up. The litany of questions -- where did you go to school? how long have you been married? are your kids running around here somewhere? where do you work? Mom says it went better than her 10th. Still, while some of her classmates were genuine and warm, a few seemed stiff, intent on maintaining the boundaries of old cliques. Perhaps it was really shyness. Who knows?

And now it's my turn.
How does one summarize 20 years of life in a few minutes for an old classmate?
Is it possible to cultivate conversations that invite genuine sharing rather than one-upping?
What exactly is gained by reconnecting with dozens of people half a lifetime and half a continent away? -- people whose lives are as busy as mine and who do not have time to "keep in touch!"?

And if that's true, then how can I explain the thrill it gives me just to think about going?!

I understand that some people hate reunions. I get that. There is something inherently weird about them. But I guess I have reunion written in my genes.

Of our graduating class of 63 students, over half of us had been together since preschool, and many of us had the same teachers our parents had had before us. We built memories to last a lifetime. Want me to prove it? Ask my kids what I did in third grade, trying to be funny, that got me sent to the principal's office. Ask them which boy I tackled during recess in 5th grade playing pom-pom polo-way in the snow (I'll make sure he remembers). Ask them about my rocky middle school years, when I scarcely went a day without getting into a fight with my best friend. Ask them what I wore to school the first day of high school that prompted people in the hall to stop and salute me or say the pledge of allegiance (what was I thinking???). Ask them whose ice cream I ate on stage during our high school production of 'The Matchmaker.' Ask them about the time when my friends and I tried to get a detention my senior year for the first time by climbing out a classroom window onto the roof during lunch (it didn't work). Ask them how close I was to being Valedictorian, and who beat me. Ask them about my high school Bible teacher, Mr. N., whose inspiration propelled me into biblical studies. These are the stories that shaped my childhood. They shaped me. 

Is that why Facebook made me cry today? Seeing old friends. Seeing their children. Seeing their faith. Seeing who they've become. Scrolling through years of losses and gains and just plain living, I realized something. I love these people.

I had hoped to have finished my doctorate before the reunion. But why? So that I wouldn't have to say that I'm still in school some 20 years later? Each of us is on a journey. The important thing is not so much what we have achieved, but what kind of people we've become along the way. My earnest prayer is that I am more like Jesus today than I was when I walked across the platform 20 years ago. If that's the case, then it will be a happy reunion, indeed.