1.17 The word for "from above" is "anothen," which is used in John 3 -- a person must be born "from above//again"
1.18 Translations suffer how to translate a participle here: "boulomai," which means wish, desire, will, plan. Basically, the sentence reads "Under the circumstances of having planed/desired/wished/willed, he gave birth to us through the word." Interesting, the word is used twice more in the book of James; once to refer to the rudder of a ship (3.4) and once to refer to a person wishing to become a friend of the world (4.4). In otherwords, the translation "soverign plan" of the NET or even the NRSV "The fulfillment of his own purposes," are probably fairly strong. The most natural translation might simply be: "Because he wanted to he gave birth to us through the word."
1.18 The word for give birth here is used in 1.15 (not a part of this weeks reading) talking about how sin gives birth to death.
1.19-1.20 The word for anger here is "orgeh," which also means wrath.
1.21 The word for "implant" is "emphytos," is an organic reference here.
1.25 The word here for "stoop down" is "parakyptoo," which is also used in both Luke and John's account of the resurrection when the disciples bend down to look at Jesus. I guess Jesus is the law perfected...
To put a summary on all of this; this verse might be tough for those that hate James' general theology of works-righteousness. However, I find a lot of ideas of grace here and some connections with Paul and John. Gifts, both law and Gospel, come from heaven; God makes us alive again; the word takes soil in us, saving us and working in us to do good works.