Monday, January 1, 2024

2023 in Books

I set a goal to read 40 books in 2023. I only completed 37 (though I started a dozen more . . . some of them abandoned, some still in progress). Here is the breakdown by category of those I finished, with all the details on GoodReads:

  • 9 memoir 
  • 1 poetry
  • 5 fiction
  • 12 Biblical studies
  • 7 practical theology / ministry
  • 2 academic theology
  • 1 self-help

If you decide to order a copy of any of these books, may I recommend my favorite bookstores? Hearts and Minds Books takes orders and ships anywhere in the US. Three Hills Books in Alberta and Regent College Bookstore in B.C. are great sources for books in Canada. I'm not making commission on the sales of any of these books, but I believe in small, well-curated bookstores!

The surprising blessing for me this year was memoir. I loved reading about people's diverse experiences of the world: from the deep South to the South Side of Chicago, and from the rust belt to the White House, and from Down Under to Ethiopia. All ten of these were worthwhile (or I wouldn't have finished them), but two that were especially excellent were Beth Moore's and Esau McCaulley's. 

  • Beth Moore, All My Knotted-Up Life
  • Esau McCaulley, How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South
  • J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  • Michelle Obama, Becoming
  • David Bennett, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus
  • Wendy Widder, Every Road Goes Somewhere: A Memoir about Calling
  • Tripp Johnston, Soul Brothers: Two Men, Two Worlds, One Purpose (an encouraging story about true partnership and friendship in cross-cultural missions)
  • Joan Didion, A Year of Magical Thinking (about grief)
  • Octavio J. Esqueda and Benjamin D. Espinoza, eds., The Hispanic Faculty Experience (about Latino/a faculty experiences in Christian higher ed)

The single book of poetry I read was breathtaking. I highly recommend Amanda Gorman, Call Us What We Carry. Gorman is a wizard with words, wise beyond her years. Highly recommended.

Most of the biblical studies books I read this year related to gender issues because of a paper I was writing. Each one of these was helpful, with a special shout out to Carolyn Custis James' Malestrom, which constructively answers one of today's most pressing questions: What does it look like to embrace manhood without perpetuating the toxic versions that have left so much hurt in their wake? Karen Gonz├ílez's book on immigration was also very accessible and insightful. Every one of these was worth my time:
In the category of practical theology I read books on prayer, discernment, purity culture, and social commentary. My favorite was Dennis Edwards' new book on humility, which offers crisp insights on why the pursuit of humility pairs well with the pursuit of justice. I blogged about it here.
The best academic book I read in theology was without a doubt Christa McKirland's God's Provision, Humanity's Need: The Gift of Our Dependence. In this adaptation of her doctoral dissertation, Christa makes a strong case that to experience flourishing, humans must enter into a relationship with God. That is, we need God. We are dependent on the God who made us. In the Western-European world, which values independence, self-sufficiency, and autonomy, Christa brings us back to the truth about ourselves and the beauty of dependency.

I also released two books myself this year. Being God's Image is a prequel to Bearing God's Name (IVP 2019). They can be read in either order. One highlight this year was recording the audiobook myself! The Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew has been four years in the making and is my first book coauthored with one of my students. 

  • Being God's Image: Why Creation Still Matters (IVP) is a book that explores what it means to be human. In a nutshell, I claim that every human being is the image of God, and that our status as God's image was not lost or diminished at the Fall. Our vocation as stewards of creation opens up a whole host of creative and collaborative possibilities that extend into the new creation. A few highlights in its first 6 months in the world: Being God's Image was a finalist for the IVP Reader's Choice awards. The Englewood Review of Books recognized it as one of the Best Books of 2023. The Holy Post Podcast chose it for their book club, and it made the bestselling new releases list in September for the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association. I blogged about it here.
  • Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew (GlossaHouse) is a co-authored project with R. Mark Reasoner that pairs the entire Hebrew book of Psalms with beautiful illustrations and my own English translation. If you're learning Hebrew and want to incorporate daily language practice in your devotional life, this book is for you. I blogged about it here.
I also wrote a book this year. It will be a while before it hits the shelves, but Oscar Baldelomar and I co-authored the first draft of a book on Scripture and Multicultural Identities. It's aimed at youth pastors, high school teachers, and parents of minority and multicultural families to help adolescents navigate their ethnic identities in light of Scripture. I'm excited about this project!

In the new year, I plan to read more books about Exodus as well as books about the church--especially recent works that explain trends in church attendance and participation. I'll be continuing to work on my commentary on Exodus for Baker Academic as well as a book for IVP on why the church still matters. 

Since I enjoyed memoir so much this year, do you have any others to recommend? 

I'd also love to read another book of poetry. Do you have a favorite that's a must read? Let me know in the comments below.

Here's to another great year of reading and writing!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

The December Reckoning

I can't shake the melancholy this December. Life has cast its shadow over all the parties. It's not all somber, of course, but the moments of delight are framed by life as it really is--budget constraints, colleagues losing their jobs, family tension and even estrangement, the stress of year-end deadlines. Underneath it all are layers of memories because December has a way of piling on.

On December 10th, 1999, Daniel and I went to a routine ultrasound, excited to see our baby for the first time. We had told every living soul of our joy that we were expecting. What we weren't expecting was the absence of a heartbeat. The stillness in my womb chilled us that Christmas. The songs seemed hollow, offensive even. We grieved deeply.

Every December I think of that baby, our baby, no longer living.

On December 10th, 2002, Daniel and I arrived with our toddler in the Philippines. We had sold most of our worldly goods and said our goodbyes, intending to settle indefinitely among an ethnic group that needed to hear the good news about Jesus. We experienced Christmas as outsiders that year, observers to traditions and families and friendships not yet our own. It was a bleak month, that stretched us to capacity. Things didn't go as planned. We only stayed 28 months, far short of the decades we expected. We left without accomplishing what we intended to do. God seemed so silent.

Every December I think of the pain of leaving and starting over and leaving again.

On December 10th, 2019, InterVarsity Press released my book. Bearing God's Name is four years old now. It's been a joy to see these ideas catch people's imaginations around the world. My parents met us in Portland to celebrate. We didn't know it then, but it was our last Christmas together. The pandemic that ravaged the world and ruined Christmas in 2020 also managed to ruin Christmas in 2021. By 2022, the damage had been done; my parents were divorced.

And so I sit here this December, trying to embrace the season, but finding it complicated. December will never be what it was. The ornaments on our tree that recall happier seasons are tinged with the color of grief. It's not that I mind the tree or the lights, the concerts and the cookies. I welcome them all with open arms, as long as they don't force me to be glib. Life is far richer and more rewarding than I anticipated, but also far more painful.

December is the month that beckons us to take stock of our year, of our life. It's the reckoning of what we've done and who we've loved. We find out who our friends and family are and what we've lost along the way. Decorations mark time, evoking both nostalgia and change.

I don't know what this month holds for each of you, but I expect it's complicated.

A certain chair may be empty this year.

A certain song will bring you to tears.

A certain smell tugs your heart down memory lane.

This year I'm taking comfort in the gritty realities of Advent. Christ's birth followed a long season of agonized waiting in which life did not go as planned. As we await his return, is it any wonder that we bear both joy and sorrow, delight and pain? The hope that undergirds us is the same hope that carried the Israelites through their years of exile and sustained them under oppressive Roman rule. 

Christmas is not the story of an upwardly mobile businessman who crushed his sales targets and earned the Employee-of-the-Year Award. It's not the story of a rich girl who got everything on her Amazon wish list. It's not even the family in matching outfits with every hair in place for the annual photo.

Christmas is about a poor family on the margins under heavy taxation forced to travel at an inconvenient time. It's about the unlikely visitors who showed up to celebrate their son's birth and about their flight to Egypt in fear of their lives. If my community feels overshadowed or fraught with contradictions, we're well positioned to appreciate Christmas. It's not, and never was, picture perfect. 

December is a season to ponder the surprising work of God through an improbable cast of characters. It's a reckoning of sorts, a taking stock of what's what, a waiting for what comes next, and a gladness that none of it depends on me.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Review of Edwards, Humility Illuminated


Humility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian CharacterHumility Illuminated: The Biblical Path Back to Christian Character by Dennis R. Edwards

I wouldn't trust just anyone to write a book on humility. As a woman, I've heard too many powerful leaders advocate for submission or humility or silence--for others--without embodying those qualities themselves. Dr. Edwards is different. He had already earned my respect as a peaceable and humble leader who lifts up those around him. During his years of experience in both pastoral ministry and academic service he has cultivated hard-earned wisdom.

One of his most unique contributions to this topic is that Dr. Edwards is sensitive to power dynamics that affect women and minorities and he's careful to help us see that humility does not mean passivity in the face of injustice. I'm grateful for his work!

Here are some of my favorite lines in the book:

"Without humility there is no justice" (7).

"Humility fosters collaboration, which can energize us to find solutions to problems" (17).

"Humility does not mean a lack of assertiveness or a rejection of firm truth-telling" (67).

"True humility...does not ignore or accept oppression, but instead seeks human flourishing by eliminating injustice through self-sacrificial love" (156).

"Humble people are justifiably angry toward evil because they are attuned to injustice, and they also understand that dismantling unjust systems does not contradict but is a consequence of humility. Because humility is yielding to God and committing to peacemaking, it cannot equate to passivity. Marginalized people embody humility by focusing on the pain and alienation of others--not just their own -- and joining in solidarity with the disinherited for the purpose of justice" (161).

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 19, 2023

New Book Announcement: Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew

I'm delighted to share my latest publication with you: Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew from GlossaHouse! I began work on this volume in 2019, and the road to completion was long and winding, but I am truly delighted with how it has turned out. One of my students, R. Mark Reasoner Jr, caught a vision for this project and devoted his summer to seeing it across the finish line. His energy and devotion to the project made him an ideal co-author.

We've provided the full Hebrew text of the book of Psalms in large-print format in a way that preserves the genius of Hebrew parallelism along with beautiful images for reflection by Keith Neely, which Mark recombined and adapted for a rich reading experience. At the bottom of each page is my own English translation of that psalm. 

If you've been tracking with me for a while, you know that I produced the Exodus volume for this series back in 2017. That volume is more like a graphic novel, while this one presents each psalm as a whole with companion images.

Who will want to use this volume?

Mark Reasoner and Carmen Imes hold a copy of their new book, Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew
Mark Reasoner and Carmen Imes
with Illustrated Psalms in Hebrew

  • Fluent Hebrew readers who want to meditate on the Psalms
  • Hebrew-speaking families who want to incorporate the Psalms into family devotions
  • Those learning Hebrew who want to practice reading the Psalms
  • Professors who want to incorporate regular reading or chanting of the Psalms in class
We've included the Hebrew accent marks for those who want to chant the Psalms. The collection will be available as a single volume with all 150 Psalms or as a two volume set to make it more affordable for students (Psalm 1-72 and Psalm 73-150). I'll add links when those become available.

If you are heading to the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society or the Society of Biblical Literature, you can purchase a copy at the GlossaHouse booth. But why wait? You can order now and save room in your suitcase for other treasures.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Companion Videos for 'Being God's Image'!

Two weeks from today, my new video course on Being God's Image: Why Creation Still Matters is launching with Seminary Now. We've filmed a video to go with each chapter of the book. Some of the content overlaps with the book, but in each video I extend that content to include new illustrations or applications.

10 chapters -- 10 videos -- about 10 minutes each

Audiobook available here
It's the kind of resource that makes it easy to lead a group through the book. The videos work with or without the book. If you've already read Being God's Image, these videos will reinforce what you've read and offer new things to think about. If you're not a reader, the videos will give you some of the most important content. (But also, you non-readers, did you know that I narrated the audiobook?)

Being God's Image explores what the Bible says about what it means to be human. Laying a foundation from the early chapters of Genesis, I explore implications for a host of topics:

What's wrong with the way many Christians read Genesis 1?

What relevance does Genesis 1-2 have for debates about gender roles?

Can the image of God help us with questions about abortion or assisted suicide? 

Where is hope hiding in Genesis 3? 

What can we learn from Jesus' ministry about being human?

How does pornography inhibit human flourishing?

How is death a blessing? 

Should we be worried about artificial intelligence?

How has the church failed people with disabilities?

What does skateboarding have to do with the church? 

Why does creation still matter? Isn't the whole world gonna burn?

All this and more is included in my course on the image of God.

Watch the trailer for my new course on Being God's Image here.

Seminary Now is a subscription-based platform with streaming content from some of my favorite and most trusted colleagues in the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, Church Ministry, and more. If you sign up, you'll have immediate access to ALL of the courses, including videos by Esau McCaulley, John Walton, Ruth Haley Barton, Sandra Richter, David deSilva, Brenda Salter McNeil, Craig Keener, Richard Middleton, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Derwin Gray, Lynn Cohick, Tish Harrison Warren, Scot McKnight, and MORE! You'll also have access to my course on Bearing God's Name (2020). 

Best of all, if you register at Seminary Now, you can view the first three lessons of my new course FREE!

If you're a Seminary Now subscriber, comment below with your favorite courses. My favorites are Sandra Richter's Stewards of Eden and Ruth Haley Barton's Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Celebrating 25 Years!

Twenty-five years ago today, I was surprised that I didn't float down the aisle. A wedding seemed like it ought to be the dreamiest day, but when the time came, my Dad and I simply put one foot in front of the other as we made our way toward the front of the church, toward the man who would soon become my life partner. Walking felt so ordinary.

Our Wedding at Third Christian Reformed Church
in Denver, Colorado. June 27, 1998

Don't get me wrong -- the dress and the music and the flowers and the dear friends and family who had gathered were nothing but ordinary. It was our wedding! But as I look back, that ordinary walk down the aisle toward a life filled with ordinary moments seems fitting.

In the classic film, Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye and Golde reached this milestone, Tevye's urgent question to his wife of 25 years was "Do you love me?" After all, their marriage was arranged, so the question of affection had been irrelevant on their wedding day. But now he wonders..."Do you love me?"

Golde's answer canvases the ordinary days they have shared, wondering whether the question is even relevant:

For twenty-five years I've washed your clothesCooked your meals, cleaned your houseGiven you children, milked the cowAfter twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

For twenty-five years I've lived with himFought him, starved with himTwenty-five years my bed is hisIf that's not love, what is?

But that's the thing about love. It proves itself in ordinary ways. Golde is right -- cooking and cleaning and childbearing and gathering food -- these are the building blocks of a life together. Love is not just a feeling of affection but a commitment to someone else's flourishing.

Our marriage has not been ordinary in the sense of typical. We have moved fifteen times, lived in three countries, raised three children, and earned a certificate and four degrees between the two of us. Much of the love we've shared has come in the form of packing and unpacking and learning to pay bills in a new city or taxes in a new country. 

Our roles may seem unconventional. At the beginning of our marriage I did the laundry, the cooking, the shopping, and most of the childcare. Now our roles are reversed; I vacuum and help with dinner clean up while Daniel manages almost everything else, including most of the taxi-driving for our teenagers.

But I know this: Our partnership in life and ministry has been such a generous gift from God!

Do I love him? Absolutely! 

Does he love me? When I get home from work, I'm greeted by the smell of love: a healthy dinner cooking.

Dinner may seem ordinary, but it's the stuff of legend and of romance. Every day that I find clean socks in my drawers and milk in the fridge or flowers on the table, I don't even have to ask.

I know.

University of British Colombia

Ordinary faithfulness is what we signed up for. We celebrated 25 years of ordinary moments with an extra-ordinary cruise to Alaska. The stunning scenery and delicious food and quality service could hardly compare to the joy of experiencing it all together. 

Glacier Bay National Park
So now we go from glaciers and bears and mountain goats and sea otters back to ordinary -- doctor's appointments and bills to pay and emails to answer and dishes to wash.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Honey! I'm so glad to be spending my life with you. 

Here's to 25 more years of ordinary days ... together.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

New Book Announcement: Being God's Image: Why Creation Still Matters


Carmen Imes holding copies of both of her books -- Bearing God's Name and Being God's Image.
Being God's Image: Why Creation Still Matters
(IVP) official releases on June 6.
Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters has a prequel! Being God's Image: Why Creation Still Matters is my attempt to demonstrate what the Bible teaches about being human in God's world. 

Like the first book, this one is accessible and easy to read. It's a work of biblical theology that traces a theme through the entire Bible. Like the first book, this one is neatly divided into 10 chapters of roughly equal length making it ideal for a small group study or classroom use. Like the first book, this one includes discussion questions and QR codes that link to relevant videos from the Bible Project for each chapter. 

Unlike the first book, this one is not based on my dissertation research. Instead, I'm introducing you to the work of other brilliant scholars who have taught me so much.

Here are some of the key ideas in Being God's Image:

  • Every human is the image of God.
  • Our identity as God's image cannot be lost or destroyed.
  • The imago Dei is the basis for human dignity.
  • Our status as God's image comes with responsibility to benevolently rule creation.
  • This responsibility is shared by both men and women, who are equally God's image.
  • Our embodiment is the key marker of our human identity.
  • The fact that Christ became an embodied human reaffirms the goodness of creation.
  • Christ's bodily resurrection signals that in the new creation, our bodies will still matter.
  • We await resurrection, too, and eternal life in the new creation.
Throughout the book, I consider the implications of these doctrinal claims for a host of issues: creation care, sexuality, pornography, gender roles, race, ability/disability, work, prayer, suffering, healing, human emotion, the quest for meaning, and more. Because these are controversial issues, readers may find themselves disagreeing with my conclusions now and then. This book is not meant to be the final word on anything, but I hope it furthers the conversation on issues that matter if we're serious about living in alignment with Scripture.

The book will also be available on June 6 in Kindle format, for Logos Bible software, and as an audiobook, read by yours truly!

Until June 5, you can pre-order physical copies directly from InterVarsity Press for 30% off and FREE shipping using the discount code IMES30. The books have already arrived in the warehouse, so you should get yours right away!