Friday, December 19, 2014

best books in 2015

Check out Christianity Today's top picks for 2015. Perhaps this list can help you with some last-minute Christmas shopping!

Studying at Wheaton put me at the heart of the Christian publishing world. CT was right up the road, as were Tyndale Publishers, Crossway, and InterVarsity Press. Grand Rapids, the other big hub, was just a hop over Lake Michigan, with Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan. Wheaton professors actively publish with all of these companies, so I found myself in a web of new connections. I could safely spend the rest of my teaching career requiring my students to read only books written by people I know. How cool is that?!

But on to the book awards. Here are the highlights (i.e. people I know and/or books I've read):

My own doctoral advisor, Daniel Block, received an Award of Merit in Biblical Studies for his latest: For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Baker Academic). I had no part in this one, but I'm so glad to see it making a splash! It also appeared on Janet Mefferd's Top 10 Books of 2014 and an Honorable Mention on Kevin DeYoung's list at The Gospel Coalition.

In the area of Spirituality, an Award of Merit goes to a book I recommended earlier this year: Called to be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity, by Gordon T. Smith (IVP Academic), president of Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta.

For Theology and Ethics, first place was awarded to Kevin Vanhoozer's Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine. I had the honor of studying with Dr. Vanhoozer at Wheaton (he's now at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). You might be interested to know that this book is a more popular version of his weighty Drama of Doctrine, released in 2005.

One of Dr. Vanhoozer's doctoral students, my friend and colleague Jeremy Treat, received the Award of Merit in the same category for a book based on his Wheaton dissertation, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic TheologyCongratulations, Jeremy!

And now for a few more titles that caught my eye and are landing on my wish list:

First place in Spirituality: What's in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

First place in Christian Living: Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith, Jen Pollock Michel (InterVarsity Press)

Award of Merit in Christian Living: Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steven Garber (InterVarsity Press)

Award of Merit in Fiction: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking Adult)

Life is too short to read everything. You might as well start with the best!

Monday, December 15, 2014

a chat with Jesus

I merged into the morning traffic on 205 northbound, headed for the library at Multnomah. Since the car I was driving lacked a stereo, I thought I'd have a chat with Jesus to pass the time. This was one of those rare moments sans kids, sans distraction, where I might have called Oma. But I can't do that anymore. I began to pray, and then a happy thought struck me -- I could call Joanne! In retrospect, it was a chat with Jesus all the same.

Joanne is a treasure. We used to be able to see her home from our back window in Charlotte, and we often ran into her on her daily walks through the neighborhood. We were thrust together, really, since we both worked for the same organization, and lived so close together in the same neighborhood. Ron suffered a stroke not long after we moved in, which meant he could no longer drive. Joanne had spent most of her adult life as a missionary in Africa and had never learned to drive. At almost 80, she felt it was too late to learn the skill, and so they walked or rode with friends. Sometimes we did our grocery shopping together.

A Birthday Party for Jesus with Ron and Joanne (2009)
Easter with Joanne, Ron, Phil, and Julie (2011)
During the 4 1/2 years we lived as neighbors, Joanne exuded joy, no matter her circumstances. Ron's health continued to decline. After a time she could no longer leave him home alone while she took her daily walk through the neighborhood. He came along and they walked to the end of the block and back. As her walks got shorter and her world got smaller, Joanne's faith only grew. Some months ago when I called her, she reported that they were no longer able to go to church. It was just too hard on Ron. This was a huge loss for her, as she readily acknowledged, but responded in faith. "Carmen, you know what? God's grace is sufficient. We've had many happy years in church, and now our world is shrinking. It will be okay."

I often think to call her in the evening, but the time change between us makes that impossible. A morning commute was the perfect time to catch her. She sounded so delighted to hear my voice (I imagine that adult conversation lends a little bit of sanity to an otherwise trying day). I asked about Ron. Joanne is careful to honor her husband, when he's in earshot and when he's not, but reading between the lines . . . I could tell things were getting pretty tough. He's gone way downhill. Confused, I gather. And easily frustrated, perhaps? I ask Joanne if she's able to manage on her own. She pauses, trying to find the right words. When she does, they are life-giving, "Able? I don't suppose that's the best word. No, I'm not able. But I'm 'enabled.' He gives us everything we need, doesn't he?"

Joanne doesn't want to talk about herself, except to say how sweet the Lord is, or to read me a bit of poetry she came across that enlarged her soul, or perhaps to confess the ways that God is convicting her of sin and challenging her to grow. She wants to know how we are. How is Danny's work with Sports Friends? How are the kids? How are my studies? It feels strange to tell her about the opportunities, the open doors, our adventures ranging far and wide. But there is no hint of self-pity on the other end of the line. Only celebration, and the sense that she is somehow living large through me.

In addition to raising kids and keeping a home, Joanne spent her years in Africa teaching Bible while Ron worked for the mission in finance and accounting. This combination of gender/career paths is obviously not the norm, and certainly not for their generation. I'm sure this is a big reason why we bonded the way we did (think about it: wife Bible teacher/husband accountant). We are kindred spirits, 40+ years apart. When I told her the news that I'll be teaching at Multnomah, and that I chose as a textbook the book she was the first to tell me about, Joanne was thrilled (Lynn Cohick is a family friend of hers). Within moments, she had other ideas about books I should find in the library that had been a great help in her own understanding of the gospels.

And so we talked. We sighed. We praised. And we prayed our way up 205 together. And when I hung up the phone, I was utterly convinced that I had just spent the drive in the presence of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anything But Dissertation?

Enough time has elapsed since I've talked about my dissertation that some of you have probably begun to wonder . . . has she quit? or is she stuck in the quicksand that threatens every doctoral student who is "ABD"? 

ABD technically indicates that a student has completed "All But Dissertation." Perhaps "Anything But Dissertation" is more accurate for most of us. It's a strange season in academic life that requires a tremendous amount of self-motivation. Many enter it . . . and far fewer emerge with a degree in hand. It's so easy to let all sorts of other things crowd out productivity in research and writing (um, like this blog post, which is interrupting dissertation work. sigh.).

I've done all sorts of things since moving to Oregon that might be interpreted as an avoidance strategy. I bought a grain mill, studied and experimented with breads and grains, started making my own yogurt and chicken broth, and signed up for a class at the local community college entitled "Backyard Chickens" (really!). I've planted trees and painted trim, hemmed curtains and played with my children. We've camped and hiked and driven to the beach. None of these activities appear on the list of what one must do if one is to succeed in academia. But academics are real people, too (at least some of us try to be!). This has been an important season of slowing down, settling into our new home, and developing healthier eating habits.

Meanwhile, I have continued to work on my dissertation. It started off slowly over the summer, but since the kids started school this fall I've been carefully reading a 300-page German monograph on my topic, diagramming a dozen chapters of Exodus in Hebrew, and reading up on cognitive metaphor theory. I sit at my desk (or at Multnomah's library) working at least 6 hours every day. Since you can't see me sitting here, I thought I'd reassure you ... I haven't quit. It's just a long process. And I trust the end product will be worth the wait (and all the hard work).

Tomorrow I'm heading to San Diego to reconnect with colleagues and meet with my advisers. As usual, the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute of Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature are being held back-to-back in the same city. Thousands of professors and students of the Bible from across the country and around the world meet under one roof every November to reconnect and learn from each other. Academically speaking, these conferences are always the highlight of my year. This conference will be especially significant since I have been working remotely. My days will be packed with one-on-one meetings, attending sessions, networking, and browsing book tables. When I arrive home next week my brain will be so full it hurts. It happens every year. But I can't think of a better way to invigorate my research and writing than to spend 6 days with a community devoted to the study and teaching of God's Word.

When the shelves of my fridge are filled with leftover turkey and stuffing, you'll find me back at my desk cranking away on the biggest project I've ever attempted. With God's help, one day those three letters - ABD - will become PhD.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

and the winners are . . .

After many happy hours perusing possible textbooks for my spring course on the Gospels/Acts at Multnomah, I have selected my favorites.

Because I have had little training in New Testament Greco-Roman backgrounds, I found The New Testament in Antiquity to be especially helpful. A trio of esteemed Wheaton professors - Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick, and Gene Green - pooled their expertise to produce a beautiful volume filled with crisp photographs, clear maps, helpful diagrams, and the latest in New Testament research, written for the non-specialist. Although the other volumes I considered would have worked, this seemed to be a book students could continue to use for years to come as they study the rest of the New Testament. It includes the right amount of information, written at the right level for college students.

It's a special bonus to know each of the authors and to have grown personally from interactions with each of them, but what was even more important to me was the testimony of a recent MA graduate from Wheaton who said this was her favorite book from grad school. The New Testament in Antiquity is the next best thing to taking students on a tour of the holy land. Having just been there myself in May, it was easy to tell that the photos in this book (as compared to others I saw) were the most up-to-date.

One of the strategic priorities of Multnomah's new president, Dr. Craig Williford, is to cultivate a diverse learning community. This not only includes variety in the types of students who populate our classes, but also variety in the authors and perspectives to which students are exposed during their studies. For this reason, I'm delighted to introduce students to Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.

Bailey lived and taught in the middle east for 40 years, and his book helps readers take off their western lenses so they can read the text from a cultural perspective much closer to the ancient New Testament world. More than anything else, Bailey helps us consider new ways of reading and understanding the Bible. His book is endorsed by an impressive cadre of New Testament scholars, including Lynn Cohick and Gary Burge (above), Craig Keener, and Craig Evans.

Finally, students will need a good atlas as they follow Jesus' steps through the Gospels and the travels of the early apostles in the book of Acts. I considered a number of atlases, but in the end my favorite happened to be the most compact and affordable as well (that should make students happy!). It's paperback and slightly smaller than our main textbook. My biggest priorities were crisp photos, pleasing graphics, and maps that would give students a sense of the physical topography of the land of Israel. Now that I've been there, I feel that this aspect is so important. Carl Rasmussen's Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible provides all of these and more.

Here's my personal favorite, shared with permission from Zondervan:
Just a few months ago I sat on the edge of the ridge just south of Nazareth, looking out over the Jezreel Valley at Mt. Tabor and the Hill of Moreh. Now I can see that just over the ridge beyond Mt. Tabor is the Sea of Galilee. That would have been quite a hike!

I'm grateful to Zondervan and IVP for free exam copies of these books and others as well, and to Zondervan for providing free access to digital photos and maps for use in teaching. While I was not required to write a review of these books, I felt compelled to share these great resources with you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Professor Imes

A few days ago I shared the happy news that I have been asked to teach a course on the Gospels and Acts at Multnomah University in the Spring. {insert happy dance} One way to tell that you're doing what you were born to do is that you completely lose track of time while doing it. Last night I stayed up far past my normal bedtime, devouring the stack of books that arrived yesterday from Zondervan. Publishers are eager to share their latest publications with professors, in hopes that they will require students to buy and read their books. (I've already received several emails addressed to "Dear Professor Imes" -- music to my ears!) Here are the latest additions to my library, complements of Zondervan, InterVarsity, and Bible Places:

Since I've focused almost entirely on the Old Testament for the past 3 years at Wheaton, my New Testament library is a bit thin. This will go a long way toward equipping me to equip students with the tools they need to understand the Gospels and Acts.

I can hardly wait to get started teaching. But first I need to craft a syllabus, which entails choosing which books will be most helpful to my students. That means I must spend many happy hours reading. {insert long, satisfied sigh}

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

spiritual disciplines for busy moms

Have you struggled with having consistent time with God? Most people do, and it's especially tricky for parents with kids at home. My dear friend, Heather, is publishing a series of guest posts on her blog about spiritual disciplines for moms. I thought this was a fabulous idea -- we all have so much we can learn from each other! Heather invited me to write the first post for the series. Here's how it begins -
It’s 6:56 a.m.  There’s a scramble as lunch bags are filled, zipped shut, and piled by the front door with coats and backpacks. Chairs slide across the dining room floor and I hear my husband’s footsteps on the stairs. In a moment we are all gathered around the breakfast table, getting settled and filling our plates.
 “May I start the chapter now?” Our 13-year-old checks to see if we’re all ready. We are, so she goes to the computer and clicks the play button. We eat silently, listening as the current chapter of Proverbs is read.

When it’s over, my husband asks, “Did anybody notice anything in particular this morning? Any questions or comments?” For a few minutes we comment on the text we’ve heard. Often the kids ask what a certain word means. Sometimes there’s a prayer request.

Then I announce, “Okay, we’re having five minutes of quiet now. I’ll call you back when it’s over.” This is a family favorite. The kids are free to sit at the table and keep eating or move to an adjoining room to spend five minutes praying, reflecting, journaling, drawing, or reading the Bible. Five minutes isn’t much, but we hope it’s habit-forming. These are precious moments to collect our thoughts, to tune our hearts to His, and to take a deep breath before the day begins. 

To keep reading, visit Unending Mercies. Thanks for reading. And thanks, Heather, for taking the initiative to help us all think through this important issue.

Austin, Heather, and David visited us
in our new home this summer!

Friday, October 17, 2014

full to bursting

Has your heart ever been so full you think it might burst?

I remember the moment as if it was last month. I think it was the fall of 1999. The trees were golden yellow. The air was sharp and crisp. The sun's angle cast a glow on the fluttering leaves, the well-trimmed hedges throwing long shadows. I walked down the campus path, drawing a deep breath of autumn. It was the same path I had walked dozens of times, past aging buildings toward home, but that day everything swelled with rightness. 

I had just finished teaching a "lab" section of Advanced Bible Study Methods to upperclassmen at Multnomah Bible College. My heart swelled with gratitude for the opportunity to guide students on their quest to understand the Scriptures. I was doing what I was born to do. As I walked home under the bright canopy of leaves, with joy welling up inside, a seed of hope was born.

I didn't know how or when. But I knew that I wanted to return someday, not as a lab instructor, but as a professor. I belonged here. Teaching. Multnomah didn't hire women as Bible Professors back then. I had it on good authority that they probably never would. But I didn't let that stop me from dreaming. I watered that seed of hope with hours and days and weeks and years of graduate-level education. Maybe someday . . .

Multnomah has not had an easy road these past few years. President Dan Lockwood died of cancer just one year ago, in the midst of financial challenges and unhappy lay-offs. But then our road has not been easy either. Multnomah may not be not the same place it was that fall day 15 years ago. Neither am I. But God is up to something wonderful.

Dr. G. Craig Williford,
5th President of Multnomah University
Fast forward to this afternoon. Danny and I had the privilege of witnessing the inauguration of Multnomah's 5th president, Dr. Craig Williford. The faculty -- men and women who have profoundly shaped who we have become -- paraded by in full regalia to the sound of bagpipes. Retired Professor David Needham prayed, transporting us directly to the throne room, as he did countless times as we sat under his teaching. Luis Palau spoke. Surrounded by beloved faculty and staff, it was hard not to smile. But I had another reason to celebrate, too, because the man who took office today is not just leading my alma mater. In a few short months he will also be my boss.

Are you sitting down? This Spring you'll find me on campus twice a week teaching a Freshmen class on the Gospels and Acts. I keep pinching myself. I have spent the past 19 years getting ready for this moment. Now it's suddenly here and I'm full to bursting. What a joy to begin this stage of my teaching career at the very place it all began!

(No, I'm not finished with my dissertation yet. Revisions will take the better part of this year, at least. But I have the feeling that this experience will give it wings to fly. It has me!)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

leap of faith

"Leap of Faith" by Jasmine May
This is the third of three watercolors that Jasmine May shared with me — and I'm delighted to have permission to share it with you. It grapples with another dimension of faith. "Falling Into His Hands" portrayed the strong hands of God that are ready to catch us whenever we let go of control. This painting — "Leap of Faith" — depicts the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do what is far beyond our natural abilities. In this phase of Jasmine's walk with Jesus he was asking her not to sit back and watch Him work on her behalf, but to step out and take action on others' behalf with no guarantee of success. Jasmine explains,
"When we sensed God telling us to start an aftercare home for sex-trafficking survivors, it seemed impossible. God was saying, 'Jump off that cliff.' I asked Him, " ... so are You going to catch me?' But He answered, 'No. I gave you everything you need to fly. The wings are the Holy Spirit. The only way to experience how to fly by My Spirit is to jump!'"
The rhythm of our life with God includes both kinds of trust -- both quiet waiting and taking action. Is God prompting you to take a leap of faith? Is there an impossible task that awaits you? If God is asking you to do it, He has already supplied you with everything you need.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

falling into his hands

"Falling into His Hands" by Jasmine May
Today I wanted to share another of Jasmine May's stunning watercolors (with her permission). Describing this scene, Jasmine says, "Many times, in order to trust God, you have to let go of what you are holding onto. Trusting God often feels like falling into chaos and storm and losing solid ground. But only when you let go, do you find God's strong hands."

Take a few moments to think about your own life. Where is God asking you to trust Him? Does it feel like to trust you'll have to let go of everything comfortable and familiar and enter into a season of chaos?

Last fall I let go of the rope. In the chaos that ensued I felt God's strong hands cradling me, protecting me. Had I clung to the rope, trying to maintain control of my situation, I would have missed out on some priceless gifts.

Trust is easy when all is well, but it also isn't very impressive. Life's greatest difficulties are the true test of our faith in God. At the precise moment when life feels most out of control, God is inviting us to fall back into His hands. It would be easy to let go if we already felt the strength of His hands beneath us. But we can't. And that's where trust comes in — believing that He will be there to catch us, even when we can't see or hear him.

As Peter puts it, "Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold— gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away— and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:7 New English Translation)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the BIG story of the Bible in a nutshell

I just heard about a great new resource developed by a college friend, Tim Mackie, and his roommate, Jon Collins. Check out their latest video here. In just a few minutes it weaves the story line of the entire Bible together, centered on the Messiah. They're working on videos introducing the big themes of every book of the Bible as well as a collection of theme-based videos. What I've seen so far is excellent.

If you've seen my favorite children's Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible, then you've had a taste of what drives this video project. They have a lot in common. This will be a great resource for teachers, small group leaders, parents, and anyone who wants to understand the Bible's overall message.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

after the storm

Art speaks powerfully. The artistry of Israel's tabernacle captured a sense of God's majesty with its gold overlays, fine fabrics, rich colors, and sparkling gemstones. Images of cherubim, lush fruits, and verdant trees evoked memories of the Garden. Aaron's fabulous clothes illustrated his role as intercessor for the nation. The design of the tabernacle and its furnishings was important enough to God that he gave Moses detailed plans to follow and set apart two men uniquely gifted in the arts to carry out the work (Exodus 30:1–11).

In a recent web article, Christian leadership guru Michael Hyatt claimed,
"Art has the power to point us to the divine, to the ultimate Artist. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it can shine a light on questions we didn’t even know we had."

My friend, Jasmine May, author of Deep Waters, has graciously agreed to let me share some of her beautiful artwork with you. Like the artistry of the tabernacle, Jasmine's art speaks. While our journeys have been vastly different, we've both experienced pain and brokenness as well as healing.

"After the Storm" by Jasmine May
Her painting so stunningly portrays the state of my soul. The worst of the storm is over and the sun has begun streaming down from the clouds. The tree is surprised to look down and discover that she has not been destroyed. In fact, the power of the storm has stirred up deeper beauty. Her joy unfolds like a flower. Jasmine explains, "As the wind blows the leaves, it carries the seeds of the tree's beauty to the world at large, spreading life."

Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing this gift with the world and lifting our eyes to look to God!

Friday, September 19, 2014

free language resources for spanish, german, french, and aramaic

I've recently been introduced to several free resources for those attempting to learn Aramaic, German, or French (among other languages). For your convenience, I've added links for the Aramaic websites on my Academic Resources page on the right-hand side of the screen.

I studied both French and German for reading several years ago in order to be able to read academic books and essays related to biblical studies. However, since then I've been consistently embarrassed that I can neither speak nor understand either language when it is spoken, because I never learned to pronounce them. I've been tempted to spend big bucks to get Rosetta Stone language-learning software to teach me pronunciation and improve my fluency. But I'm so glad I didn't. This week our family discovered Duolingo, a FREE online language-learning program that may even be more effective than Rosetta Stone (with NO ads!). Duolingo offers practice in reading, listening, speaking (if you have a microphone) and translating to and from your target language. It tracks your progress and offers incentives to keep you learning. In just 3 days my ability to hear, speak, translate, and spell in German has improved significantly!

In case you're not yet convinced, here's another testimonial: Our daughter, Eliana, went through all 5 years of Rosetta Stone Spanish and still felt like she didn't "get" it. After a week of Duolingo Spanish, she's finally understanding how the language works and speaking to me in Spanish. Try it yourself and see!

Monday, September 15, 2014

new author spotlight

Several of our missionary colleagues have recently published their first books. It's my joy to share their work with you here. While I have not yet read all their books, these authors have lived authentically the stories they share here. Each of them have been an inspiration to me, and I'm excited to see their stories published. If you decide to read any of them, I'd be interested in hearing what you think!

Miracle Beans and the Golden Book: From a Snowstorm in Ohio to the Blazing Sun of Africa, One Family's True Stories Following the Call of the Gospel 

We've enjoyed this book as a fun read-aloud with our kids. Each of the short chapters is a snapshot of life in Africa. For us, the best part is knowing the authors and their kids and grandkids (our kids' good buddies from Charlotte), but we think you'll like it, too, if you want to instill in your kids a willingness to follow God's call anywhere. Don and Barb were mentors to us when we began our journey into missions with SIM. All the proceeds from the sale of this book actually go to support the ministry of SIM we joined almost 9 years ago: Sports Friends.

Growing Down: God's Grace in Spite of Myself

Sarah Wetzel and her husband, Jake, served with Sports Friends in Ethiopia at Camp Langano. They brought to Langano decades of experience in camping ministry in Bolivia with SIM, helping to build the infrastructure so that the camp could accommodate dozens of young people and their coaches each week. Sarah is a wonderful writer. Here she shares her own journey of spiritual growth. I think you'll find it encouraging!

God and Elephants: A Worshipper's Guide to Raising Support

Heather Ricks and her husband, Jason, joined our Sports Friends team just a handful of years ago after first serving in Ghana, and before that, planting a church in the U.S. Heather has not only watched God provide for their own financial needs as missionaries, but she has helped to orient others to the support-raising process. She's passionate about writing, about missions, and about seeing God glorified in all things. We've just ordered our copy of her book and we can't wait to see what she has to say!

Deep Waters: a journey of healing from sexual abuse

This book promises to be a fruitful resource for counselors as well as victims of sexual abuse. Our friend, Jasmine, shares openly about her own experiences in hopes that others who have suffered similar horror will find hope in Christ as well as practical help. She says, "This is my story of how God met me in the place of deepest pain and shame." If someone you know could benefit from this book, consider buying them a copy.

While I'm writing, do you know about Amazon Smile? If you begin shopping at, you can select a charity to receive a portion of the proceeds from your purchase. It doesn't cost you anything extra. I picked Compassion International. What will you choose?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

all things now living

It all happened so fast.
A hand on my arm. Mom's soft voice rousing me from my slumber. "It's Oma." She was somber. Whatever I was dreaming vanished in a heartbeat. It was 5:00am. Too early for casual news.
"Is she gone?" I asked haltingly.
"Not yet, but soon."

The morning was calm, but laden with significance. Measured. Decisive. My parents had already been up for hours, checking for flights, speaking with nurses long-distance, and considering options. They caught us up and we helped them with the decisions. How does one pack or plan for a journey of unknown duration? Just in case, should one bring funeral clothes? Dad looked through his files trying to find the instructions for his mother's funeral, just in case. They weren't there.

It was Father's Day, and this was not the plan. We were supposed to have a family breakfast with the whole crew. Then Danny and I and the kids would continue our journey westward to meet our moving truck at our new home in Oregon, leaving my parents, my brother and his family behind. A new plan emerged: we would drive my parents to the airport on our way out of town. They would fly to Bellingham, rent a car, and hope to make it to the hospital in time. Meanwhile we would drive as fast as we could to Oregon, unload our truck, and head north, either to see Oma, or . . ..

We ate breakfast together as planned, and prayed and cried (in that order). It was a precious time. Then we loaded up and left, with our hearts in our throats. I called the hospital on the way and asked the nurse to bring Oma the phone. She struggled to breathe and to talk, but sounded grateful to hear my voice, as I was to hear hers. I tried to calm her agitation by telling her that she could just rest; there was nothing left for her to do. Nothing for either of us to do, really, but rest and receive what was given. It was Wyoming, hours later, when the tears started flowing and wouldn't stop.

My dear Oma. My strong, independent, and witty grandmother. She was one of the bravest people I knew, and yet how I wanted to stand beside her and squeeze her hand and help her be brave one last time.

My parents enter the memorial service for Dad's Mom
It didn't take long. The next morning I awoke in our trailer somewhere in western Wyoming to the sound of my cell phone buzzing. Oma had slipped away in the night. The next days were a whirlwind. We finished our drive "home" in one day. While we waited for our truck to arrive the next morning, I prepared a slide show for Oma's funeral and gathered my thoughts. Dad asked for ideas of hymns Oma liked, because he couldn't find her list of favorites. Neither could I.

Oma's brother, nieces, and nephew sing
 "Great is Thy Faithfulness"
With the help of friends, we unloaded the truck in just a few hours, and in a few more hours I had located all of our funeral clothes. Early the next morning we drove the 6 hours to Bellingham and reconvened with my parents and my brother, who had flown in with his family. A few hours later the service was underway, ready or not. The next morning we loaded all of Oma's things on another moving truck and drove it back to our new home, exhausted. Oma had died late scarcely 3 1/2 days earlier, and now my own home was filled with memories of her.

It was a few days or even weeks later that I opened one of Oma's boxes and found her hymnal. Inside the back cover, as I might have guessed, was a list of hymns she wanted to have sung at her funeral (you think about things like this when you're 93). We looked them up, but none were songs we actually sang at the service. Then came the inspiration -- wouldn't Oma be honored if we taught those hymns to her great-grandchildren? And so we began.

Each evening after dinner we read a Psalm and then sing our hymn together. I don't know how these things work, but if Oma can see us now, I'm sure her heart swells at the sight of Easton (age 6) singing with gusto. These hymns may have been picked out for Oma's funeral, but they were written for the living, not the dead. In this new home, gathered around my grandparents' table, our faith is being formed verse by verse.

Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving 
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
His banners are o'er us; his light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
'Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished 
as forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses,
the sun in its orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, 
the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We still should be voicing our love and rejoicing
with glad adoration our song let us raise
'Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving, 
to God in the Highest, Hosanna and praise!

-by Katherine K. Davis, 1939

Today would have been Oma's 94th birthday, but I would not wish her back. Her creator guided her gently until the end of her days. No shadows darken her path now. As we hold her memory in our hearts, we turn to face life head on, joining the growing chorus of those singing God's praise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

back to school panic

InterVarsity published a short piece I wrote for their blog for Women in the Academy and Professions. It went live this morning. Here's a preview . . .


Photo: C. Imes
It’s that time of year. I can feel it in my bones. In just a handful of days we’ll all be climbing back on the hamster wheel, our arms loaded with books, our schedule packed to the gills. Open days on the calendar are slipping through my fingers; my ambitious summer to-do list barely dented. Panic sets in. I like “back to school” season. But I need more time! What do I have to show for these long summer hours with no classes, no assignments, no grading, no committee meetings?

I meant to be productive. I really did. This was my chance to get ahead. To knock out a chapter, an essay, a conference paper, a book review. This was the ideal time to breeze through all those books on my desk, waiting to be read. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. At least nothing that “counts” on my C.V.


To read the rest of this piece, visit The Well . . .

Friday, August 29, 2014

why go back to school?

Why enroll in school when you've passed the age where someone make you . . . and there's no guarantee (or perhaps even hope) of gainful employment related to the degree you earn? Why go through all the time and expense, not to mention stress?

Maggie looking out into the Galilee from Nimrod's Fortress
on our trip to Israel earlier this year.
My dear friend, Maggie, who recently completed a Masters degree in Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, beautifully explains what drives her. You can read her post here. Oh, by the way, Maggie turned 60 last year. In addition to being a pastor's wife, she already has a great full-time job working for Tyndale Publishing House. Neither the church nor her employer asked her to go back to school.

So why did she do it?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Well . . . sort of. We now have 3 cherished books in our family library written by yours truly (4 if you count my MA thesis). Just last week the most recent volume arrived: a bound, hard-copy version of my blog from 2011 to 2014.

Book 1 (blue) is my first blog:, written mostly in the Philippines, and mostly for me.

Book 2 (pink) is from it's beginning until my graduation from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in 2011.

Book 3 (brown) captures the 3 years we lived in Wheaton. I was shocked to see how thick it was. That's a lot of writing!

Ordering the books was simple at, and -- thanks to a generous gift certificate from my mother-in-law -- it didn't cost much either (a total of $65 for all 3). My intention was to have a paper backup of what I've written, but yesterday I discovered another good reason to print my blog. Emma (age 8) found the blog books on my desk and began reading. She couldn't stop! She made it through books 1 and 2 before bedtime and started on book 3. The afternoon was punctuated with her delighted cry, "Mom, listen to this one! . . . " Then she would read a post recounting some cute thing she or Easton said when they were younger. It was fun to walk down memory lane. I even fooled her with this post (note the date stamp: April 1, 2010), because, like many, she didn't read all the way to the end. :)

Just yesterday my blog reached 50,000 hits. That tells me Emma is not the only one who enjoys it. I'm grateful for all of you who take time to read what I write! Blogging forces me to examine my soul at regular intervals, to make sure that what I'm learning matters, to connect with real people, and to practice communicating without academic jargon. It's been so good for me. I'm thrilled that my kids benefit, too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

one ordinary life

The trail along the Salmon River offered cool shade that August afternoon. Countless trees, some of them wider than I am tall, others just fledglings, flanked both sides of the river. My eyes landed on a massive trunk and I craned my neck to see its towering top. If that one tree wasn't here, how different this stretch of trail would be! You could almost miss it, the expanse of dull brown bark beside the trail. But it's absence would change everything. Beside the path on either side, leafy ferns crowded together in the shade of the tallest tree, safe from the sun's scorching rays.

Salmon River, Oregon. Photo: C Imes
I climbed down the bank and walked on the stones, worn smooth by centuries of melting snow. Glancing across the water, I noticed a fallen tree. The steep bank where it once stood proudly had been washed downstream, lacking roots to trap topsoil. I stood there, pondering. You could certainly take a tree like that for granted, one of many, until it is gone. The refreshment of a hike through the woods depends on a great number of ordinary trees, growing up side by side, steadily reaching heavenward and shading the earth with their spreading limbs. (Just outside the national forest, on the drive home, lay evidence of mass destruction, several acres hacked to the ground all at once, with their bloody stumps baking in the summer sun.)

Who are the shade-givers in my life -- the ordinary people whose faithfulness makes this world a place worth living? Good neighbors blend in with their surroundings, seeming ordinary enough. But if we pause to imagine life without their stability -- their day-in-and-day-out caring for their corner of the world -- we discover what a difference they make. Subtract one tree and you have a hole in the sky, fewer branches for nesting, the topsoil washes downstream. A bleak landscape gradually replaces the forest. The exposed branches of neighboring trees grow dry and brittle...

My mind drifts back to Hudson Street, the place I called home for the first 9 years of my life. I can still smell it -- the wholesome aroma of Suzie's bread wafting across the street. It's been almost 30 years, but I can still taste the soft buttered slice, fresh from her oven on baking day. Suzie's hands and face and apron smudged with white flour as she answered the door bell. Warm lumps rising in the oven. Then punching and pulling and rolling the dough until it was just right for braiding.

I can still hear her voice, strong and warm, with its European lilt. Swiss neighbors, like swiss chocolate and swiss bread, are hard to forget.

Is that why I've always felt a part of me come alive at the smell of fresh bread baking? It takes me back to those innocent days -- sandboxes and swings, gardens and neighbors who cared. There were others who didn't -- who were more likely to be drunk and yelling than pulling out their knee-high weeds, but Suzie and Marion made up for the whole lot. They were the stately oaks across my Hudson who kept the rich topsoil from washing away. It was their shade under which I flourished and grew. I know Suzie prayed for us then and still does.

I braided my first loaf the other day and thought of Suzie. Her steady demeanor, her no nonsense, no drama way of life. Her long, black (now white) tresses that I only rarely saw loose, when she brushed them. Every day she braided and twisted them into a bun on the back of her head. Suzie and Marion were nosy in the kindest way. "Mare" used to let himself into our backyard each day to check our thermometer and our vegetable garden, as if he didn't have enough of his own garden, bursting with produce. My brother, John, used to stand with his toes right up to the tippy edge of the sidewalk and call for him, "Mare! Mare!"

I'm guessing Suzie canned lots of things and cooked up a storm. But all I remember is her braided bread, for me one of the most delicious smells of childhood. (I wonder -- is her kitchen valance still hanging? -- the one stuck to the wall with the chewing gum I chewed just for her?)

A cherished visit with Suzie and Marion in 2005
I realize now that some of the houses I've imagined while reading books are really Suzie's house, with its galley kitchen looking out over the back yard, its family-sized table off the living room where her children ate their meals growing up, and where John and I sat after they were grown and gone, to fill our mouths with bread still hot from the oven. The piano with a hymnal close at hand. The living room with its inviting circle of couch and chairs. The box of children's books waiting to be read.

My world was a better place because of Suzie. She may be ordinary, but without her my life would have had an empty place. Suzie sheltered us on Hudson Street, providing a safe haven in a broken world. Her bread nourished the body and her company nourished the soul.

Never underestimate the power of an ordinary life well-lived.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

culinary adventures: grinding our own wheat

By far the biggest culinary adventure at our house was buying our own grain mill. We first heard about home-ground wheat from our friends Dan and Corrie 4 years ago. "Grinding your own wheat" sounds so . . . extreme . . . but I can assure you that Dan and Corrie and their 4 boys are totally fun and relational and, well, normal. They integrated home milling into their busy routine on a missionary budget. We were sold on the idea when we discovered the additional health benefits of home-ground flour, but we didn't have the time or kitchen space in Wheaton to take the plunge, so we waited until now.

The initial investment is substantial, including a mill, 25-lb. sacks of grain and food-grade buckets to store it in.* But the dividends are already rolling in! We can totally taste the difference between homemade bread using store-bought flour and home-ground flour. Our bread is just bursting with flavor, not to mention nutrients that are lost or compromised in store-bought flour. It only takes an extra minute to throw the grain in the mill before starting the breadmaker, bringing our total time for breadmaking up to about 15 minutes a week.

After tasting such delicious bread (and watching Bread Beckers' 'Getting Started' video), we were inspired to try all sorts of other baked goods. Here's a list of what we've made in just two weeks:

whole wheat bread
braided whole wheat bread
whole wheat / rye bread
whole wheat / kamut bread
hamburger buns
fry bread
pie crust
pizza pockets
sausage-filled roll
cheese sauce
whole wheat brownies
black bean / brown rice brownies
banana bread
cinnamon rolls

Check out all the grains we can mill right at home in our NutriMill:

The best thing I learned from Bread Beckers is that you only need a handful of basic recipes that you can adapt for different needs: basic bread dough, basic muffin batter, basic biscuits, basic pancakes and basic tortillas. For example, the basic bread dough recipe can make various breads, cinnamon rolls, rolls, buns, and more. We're getting lots of practice this summer so that when school starts we have the kinks worked out. Here's to healthy eating!

*You don't have to buy grains in bulk,
but it's cheaper in the long run, with the added
convenience of not running out of grain so quickly.
Bonus: look for a bread maker at Goodwill.
We've found them for only $8, like new!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

culinary adventures

Easton helping with homemade cinnamon rolls. Yum!
If it's true that "you are what you eat," then our family has been getting a total makeover this summer! We've been trying to eat healthy for a long time now, but our move to Oregon has given us the time and space to take things to the next level. Perhaps all the upheaval of moving (again!) is balanced out by measurable changes in our diet. I've discovered a couple of phenomenal blogs that have given me the courage to embark on culinary adventures. So, if you're wondering where I am these days ... think KITCHEN and Farmer's Market. Yes, it's absorbed a lot of my time, but we're busy learning new skills and developing new habits that will get easier with practice. The kids have been totally intrigued with the process and totally on board with trying new foods (well, mostly :)).

Here's a list of 10 changes we've made. The first 5 have been part of our routine for a couple years or more. You may remember my blog posts from Wheaton about brain food - here and here - and about once-a-month baking. The next 5 changes are new for us this summer, prompted by close proximity to Bob's Red Mill and a great Farmer's Market and a "chance" encounter with a couple of great blogs: and Before I say more, a quick word about why I bother blogging about this when I'm not a nutrition expert and this is not a food blog. I'm convinced that we are called to honor God with our whole selves, mind and body. What we eat affects our worship and our testimony. It's also a matter of stewardship -- of our time, money, our body, and this planet's resources. This post is designed to inspire you to take the next step toward healthy eating, whatever that means for you. Eating real food is possible, even on a budget or a tight schedule. Where there's a will, there's a way, one step at a time.

 1. Avoiding artificial colors, flavors, hydrogenated oils, and sweeteners
 2. Limiting sugar (we're now switching to natural cane sugar, honey, and pure maple syrup)
 3. Eating whole grains whenever possible
 4. Baking our own bread
 5. Making our own baked goods

 6. Grinding our own grain
 7. Buying fresh and local produce
 8. Switching to olive and coconut oil
 9. Experimenting with green smoothies
10. "Stock"ing up on the basics

I have many other aspirations - making our own yogurt, cutting out chemically-laden cleaning supplies, growing a garden, and maybe even canning - but these things take time. We can only do so much in a day (usually less), so we'll just try to keep moving in healthier directions. So far it's been a fun and delicious adventure!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

thrust into the spotlight

10 days ago, most people in the world had never heard of SIM, even though our organization has been working around the globe for more than 120 years. The Ebola virus changed all that.

Now Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta, President Obama, Donald Trump, the CDC, the WHO, and just about every other person with access to news in the developing world has heard of it.

Danny and I have been members of SIM for 12 years now, but as we settle into a new community, we're finding that lots of people we meet don't know what it is. Today's press release explains:
SIM is an international Christian mission with a staff of nearly 3,000 workers serving in more than 65 countries. In addition to medicine, SIM serves on every continent in areas of education, community development, public health and Christian witness. While SIM stood for Sudan Interior Mission when it was founded 120 years ago, it is now a global mission known as SIM. Two of SIM’s three founders died of disease within the first year of the organization’s founding. Yet SIM continued on to become one of the largest Christian medical missions in the world.
A few hours ago I watched a live press conference in Atlanta with our director, Bruce Johnson. No doubt his voice was heard on nearly every news network this evening. In the midst of a medical crisis, our SIM leaders and coworkers around the world have an unprecedented opportunity to "give an answer to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope we have" (1 Peter 3:15) in the face of suffering. Bruce did an outstanding job on this occasion, and he'll have many others in days to come. The disease threatening thousands of lives in West Africa may never have caught the attention of the West aside from this direct threat to American missionaries. Kent and Nancy are now known around the world as heroes who put themselves at risk for the sake of others in need.

I, for one, am grateful to belong to a band of people such as these. People who deliberately go where it's not safe. Who serve tirelessly where the need is greatest. Who have been doing so for ages without media attention. And who stand ready to give an answer for their hope in death's valley. Kent and Nancy (and the countless others like them who you will not see on the 10 o'clock news) remind me very much of Someone Else who gave up everything for the sake of the dying and lost His life in the process. May their tribe increase!

UPDATE 8/27/14: Last week Kent and Nancy were both released from Emory Hospital in Atlanta, virus-free! We're rejoicing in this answered prayer. Sadly, the virus continues to spread in West Africa. Pray that effective treatment will be developed and the spread will be stopped.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

this ordinary adventure

I'm not the only one who has struggled with feeling ordinary. I suspect it's a common ailment of those of us in our late 20's and 30's who set out to change the world -- full of ideas and loaded with energy -- and woke up one morning 2 or 3 children later only to discover that we had, somewhere along the line, slipped into the very lifestyle we were determined to avoid -- an ordinary one.

I've been encouraged by fellow blogger and friend-of-a-friend Chrissy Jeske, who often reflects on this very phenomenon. In fact, she and her husband have written a whole book about it. After an action-packed decade post-college living in rural Nicaragua, China, and South Africa (chronicled in their first book), they did the unthinkable. They bought a house on 2 1/2 acres in Southern Wisconsin, put both of their kids in public school, and started in on the inevitable homeowners' to-do list. Meanwhile Chrissy began a PhD in cultural anthropology and her husband, Adam, got a desk job. Since their timing coincided nicely with ours, I enjoy reading Chrissy's blog posts. She and I often wrestle with similar questions, and she has managed to find adventure in ordinary life.

Adam writes, "When I despair at the long, slow ordinary adventure, I stop and remember . . . God has graciously built into us habits of noticing small amazing things every day, responding wholeheartedly and taking small steps for long-term effect, and that makes a difference." (This Ordinary Adventure, 192, emphasis mine) 
"Today, I can notice the little amazing things around me and I can respond. I can take steps and make plans that will grow almost imperceptibly. I can make some small decisions that will have big effects, like sticking tiny acorns in the earth. When I'm gray and wrinkly, if God grants me that grace, I'll enjoy watching the sun rise behind oaks rather than across an open field. I'll look back on my life and see how small decisions and tiny steps began some very big adventures. I hope to see the results of a life well-lived: my gray, wrinkly and smiling bride; two kids living well in the world; a church filled with people I've known for decades and people who've just come in; projects and ministries that we supported with our money and time; and friends who I got to see start on this ordinary adventure with Jesus. It's doubtful I'll see all of these slow-growing fruits from seeds planted now, but surely I'll see some of them.
"This is a terribly big deal, and it makes me tremble again. Am I really willing to consider everything -- my dreams, my plans, my education, my job, my free time, my money, my friendships, my marriage, my parenting, my house -- in light of God's amazing calling on my life that should still be affecting the world ten, twenty-five, even a hundred years from now? Will I do what is necessary to prepare the ground for a field of oaks that will drop their own acorns, seeding and reseeding in generations of resurrections? Do I have the foresight and the patience -- the faith -- to find the best acorns and stick them in the dirt?" (This Ordinary Adventure, 191-192, emphasis mine)

Planting acorns is neither glamorous nor exotic. It's terribly ordinary. But it's the first and most important step in a process that ensures the world is a different place 50 years from now. In our new house I've been harvesting cups of blueberries every day for weeks, thanks to the foresight of the previous owner, who was not here long enough to enjoy the fruit of her labor. I'd like to think that writing a dissertation (or parenting small children, or serving faithfully at church) is a lot like planting an acorn. Patient study is not a quick fix for the world's problems, but it cultivates long-term growth that will offer tangible benefits for future generations.

What are you planting today that your grandchildren can enjoy? Godly parents? Stronger churches? Shady forests? Great literature? It may feel ordinary, but your wise choices day after day can eventually change some small corner of the world.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

embracing the ordinary

In the two months that have passed since my most recent post, a lot of life has happened:

  • 2 weeks in Israel on a study tour with my Dad, my doktorvater, and my pastor
  • 10 days to pack for a cross-country move and say our goodbyes
  • a garage sale in Wheaton
  • a drive across 7 states to our new home with a 3-day stop in Colorado to be with family
  • Easton's 6th birthday
  • the death of my grandmother, age 93, in Washington state and her memorial service the day after we arrived in Oregon
  • getting settled in our new home and integrating all of my grandma's things into it
  • reconnecting with friends and family
  • a garage sale in Oregon
  • finding a new church in our neighborhood
  • figuring out grocery stores, libraries, parks, museums, etc.
  • a 5-day camping trip with Danny's mom and all of his brothers and their families
  • helping with a week of Vacation Bible School at our home church in Oregon
  • getting the kids registered for school
  • organizing and re-organizing the garage to make room for Danny's office
  • buying a washer and dryer
  • beginning dissertation research again after a 4-month hiatus
With the exception of my trip to Israel, this list is not glamorous. It represents a lot of sweat and a lot of stress, and even a good deal of fun, but it does not appear to be a recipe for changing the world (or making a splash in academia, for that matter). This was brought home to me when I encountered a (very blunt) young adult from our home church this week who has watched the adventure of our life unfold over the past dozen years. He remembers when we set out for the Philippines in 2002, ready to reach the lost for Christ. Our early letters, he says, were exciting and inspiring. But then life got ordinary. We moved to North Carolina to work at headquarters, and our "biggest" news then was playing soccer [sic: kickball] with the neighbor kids. He didn't need to even mention our next move -- a journey into academic obscurity in Wheaton -- for me to get his point: we've become rather ordinary, nothing to write home about.

Fair enough, I told him, and moved on with the task of eating my dinner and getting ready to be mobbed by more than a dozen precious kids, well over half of them hispanic, for a loud and crazy night of VBS. All through the crafts, games, snacks, and Bible stories, I pondered our brief conversation. Was he right?

In my younger years, when we started our adventure in missions, I would have agreed with him. Life was too short to waste it on ordinary suburban life -- a house with a cute front yard, a minivan, 2.5 kids, plenty of time with family, and occasional trips to Disneyland. I still agree that if that's all there is to it, something is amiss. But a dozen years in ministry has taught me that the recipe for a transformed life calls for large quantities of patient, ordinary, faithful investment and only an occasional headline-making event. Going to Israel was great, for example, but the true fruit will come from years of Bible teaching injected with personal passion and on-the-ground experience. 

View of Ancient Shechem from Mt. Gerazim - Photo C. Imes
A Samaritan Village on Mt. Gerazim - Photo C. Imes
 On Tuesday night of VBS, we heard the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, which I've blogged about before. I was excited for two reasons. First, the story was being told in first-person by my teenage daughter, who did a fabulous job!  But I was also excited because I have been there. While we couldn't get to the well itself because we lacked a bullet-proof bus, we drove to the top of Mt. Gerazim and looked down into the valley where the ancient city of Shechem (and Jacob's well) has now been swallowed up by modern-day Nablus. 

We drove right through a Samaritan village and climbed off the bus at the site of their annual sacrifice (commemorating the sacrifice of Isaac on -- they say -- Mt. Gerazim). We saw their distinctive dress and saw first-hand how the 600 Samaritans alive today maintain a distinct identity from their Jewish neighbors. 
A Samaritan Priest - photo C. Imes

It was my first opportunity to spice up a Bible lesson with a story from our trip, and I hope there are many more opportunities in the days ahead. Our lives may look ordinary on the outside, but it's never been about us anyway. We carry inside this ordinary vessel the extraordinary power of the gospel:

"For what we preach is not ourselves [good thing!], but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay [that is, ordinary jars for everyday use] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:5-7, 18
We have new neighbors who need to meet Jesus, and we'll be far more likely to earn an opportunity to share Christ if we take the time to play kickball with them than if we decide that the effort is not worth our time. So here's hoping for lots of ordinary days . . .

Sunday, May 18, 2014

journey to the holy land

As you read this I am boarding a plane bound for Tel Aviv, Israel. Along with 40 others, I have the privilege of assisting Daniel and Ellen Block on a 2-week Israel study tour. This is my first trip to the holy land. My main objective is to come home loaded with photos and stories to liven up my classes for decades to come.

My dear Dad, who deserves a better shirt 
Our "dream team" includes not only my doctoral mentor, but my Dad and my pastor and his wife. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to experience the land of the Bible with people I love. I probably won't blog until I return, but you are welcome to check my friend Maggie's blog for updates along the way!