Category Archives: .posts by Kare

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly?

bonhoeffer-xmas

Training Children For Gospel-Centered Reading

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, page 120:

We want our kids to know the one good story so well that when they see Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo, Anne of Green Gables, Ariel, or Sleeping Beauty, they can recognize the strands of truth and deception in them.

Crucified with Christ

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” –Galatians 2:20

Don’t Waste It

From the meditative doodles of my lovely wife this morning…

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, page 37:

God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.

Tony the Blogger Man

tsstonybaby.jpg

Please join us in a hearty sing-a-long to welcome Tony back from faraway ports.

I’m Tony the blogger man,

I’m Tony the blogger man,

I’m strong to the finich

God’s Word is me spinach,

I’m Tony the blogger man.

Welcome back, Tony!

Love, Kare

Books for Your Bride: The Memory Maker

by Karaleetsskare.jpg

Our final category in the Christmas Books for your Bride series is for the “Memory Maker.”

Tell-tale signs that your wife might fit into this category
: At some time during the year, the dining room table resembles a scrapbooking store, with photos and pretty papers decorating every flat surface. She sometimes forgets to pack diapers in the diaper bag, but always remembers the camera. She remembers all the dates and details of your courtship, and knows off the top of her head how many years you’ve been married. Without having to do the math.

tsstraditions.jpgAll joking aside, there is a memory maker in each one of your wives. Whether she records memories in a scrapbook or in her heart, your wife treasures the days and years of your family. As children of God, we realize that our days here on earth are numbered, and the holidays are a meaningful time for God to teach us to “number our days,” that we might consider His work and “glorious power” in our families (Ps 90).

So we have just one book recommendation to close out our series. Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper includes helpful ideas for Christmas traditions, yes. But it also drives the heart of every tradition to the Cross.

I think the foreword, by John Piper, is a beautiful picture of God at work in shaping a family’s traditions:

Treasuring God in our Traditions is exactly the right title for this book. God is the treasure of our lives. We see him in everything. We believe with all our hearts that ‘from him and through him and to him are all things.’ He gets the glory; we get the joy. My job has been to articulate the vision in writing. Noël has shaped a family around it. Now she turns that work into words.”

In God’s abundant grace, He has equipped Dr. Piper to teach and lead his family, and He has encouragedtsstreasuring.jpg Noël to help teach their children how to treasure the truth that their dad was teaching. As she describes in the book,

“Now although we cannot bequeath God to our children, we can help them know him and understand him in ways that prepare them to believe in his name. ‘Everyday’ and ‘especially’ traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world. Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what – Who – is most important to us.”

Noël shows how her family has done this in both the everyday and the holiday. A few ideas for Christmas include:

  • Helpful thoughts and practical ideas on looking forward to Christmas at advent.
  • Teaching the biblical story in a hands-on way with manger scenes, “Jesus Trees,” and other symbols.
  • Giving to others in the name of Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

Because Noël’s book is not new, chances are your wife may already own a copy. But maybe your home is a little like ours, where we have read the book and admired the ideas, but primarily just floated through December without being too purposeful in our family traditions.

So this year, instead of walking into the kitchen announcing his own Christmas gift, Tony delivered a meaningful Christmas gift to me and our children by simply asking the question, “What ways can we teach our children to treasure Christ during this season?” Standing in the kitchen over coffee, we were able to talk through the traditions that we feel would help our children to see God in the midst of wrapping paper and bows. Tony’s leadership in this area was a precious gift to me.

We count it a joy to pray for you, that God will give you wisdom in caring for your wife and leading your family this Christmas. Thank you for joining us for this series, and may God be glorified in your homes all year!

Find the rest of the series here:

Books for Your Bride: The Fiction Fan

by Karaleetsskare.jpg

In the (almost) 10 years Tony and I have been married, we have come to one undeniable conclusion: We have different tastes. He likes milk chocolate; I like dark. He orders a Venti Americano; I drink green tea. He likes meaty works like Owen and Calvin; I prefer easier-to-chew contemporary works. But there is one particularly irreconcilable difference between us, one that between bibliophiles the battle-lines run deep: He prefers non-fiction, and I like fiction.

tssfiction.jpgUntil recently, I would steal my literature moments like a kid sneaking from the cookie jar: a chapter or two at the gym, a few pages between pushing kids on the swings, or lately, reading the classics to our son. I have actually “saved” fiction books to read while in labor for each of our children. (Apparently we need to get a babysitter more often.)

Why all the caution around fiction? Christian fiction today often gets a bad rap, partly because much of fiction today deserves neither the term “Christian” nor “literature.” From pithy tales to outright sin, the world of Christian fiction is not one we can always confidently recommend. But we are thankful for fictional works that have pointed our eyes to the Cross, and we’re happy to recommend these to you.

1. Biblical Fiction

Lynn Austin. When I discuss fiction titles with other believers, Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series is one of the tssaustin.jpgfirst I mention. Beginning with Gods and Kings, Austin masterfully retells the Old Testament accounts of Kings Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manassah in a compelling and entertaining way. I have such a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s work in the nations of Israel and Judah, and that is partly because these books kept driving me back to Scripture. By far, these are my favorite Christian and biblical fiction books.

One more note on this series: When I read through them, I snatched a book from Tony’s bookshelf that was very helpful in comparing this series to the Bible. It was an old harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles which set the corresponding biblical accounts side-by-side. There are two versions available we found: an older one here, and a newer one here.

2. Historical Fiction

Stephanie Grace Whitson. As a brand-new believer, I walked into a church bookstore in Lincoln looking fortsswalks.jpg something to read on the hour trip back to Omaha. I was pleasantly surprised, after being introduced to the historical fiction of Stephanie Grace Whitson, to discover that not only was she a Nebraskan, she attended the very church where Tony and I were saved. Her Prairie Winds series brought me through the delivery of our first child, Jonathan, and since then I have enjoyed her other historical fiction books as well. I appreciate her faithfulness to the Word and faithful communication of the Gospel. I have not read her more recent books, but her first series starts off with Walks the Fire. You might want to have the sequel ready as well, unless you need a sanctifying lesson in patience.

3. Biographies

If bad Christian fiction is spiritual junk food, a good biography is like a whole wheat cookie — the whole grain goodness of spiritual examples mixed with the sugar and salt of real-life drama. (Be sure to wash it down with the pure milk of God’s Word.)

We covered some of our favorite biographies in the History Buffy post, and you can find those here.

tssbios.jpg

Another excellent recommendation does not fit well into these categories so I’ll jot it down here. Recently, Tony pointed me a new book by Dr. Harry Kraus, a missionary surgeon in Africa. Kraus is noted in the literary world for his fictional writing but his newest is non-fictional. Breathing Grace casts his exciting medical experiences as illustrations of our need to be sustained daily by God’s grace. Just as the body lives off oxygen, so too does the soul live off a moment-by-moment supply of grace. Tony wrote a full review earlier this year. It’s not fiction, but Kraus is tuned into the fictional genre and his book will certainly appeal to fans of fiction.

4. Classics

One of the best things about being a parent is getting to read some of the great classic books you missed as a kid. From the Chronicles of Narnia to the Lord of the Rings, Tony and I are enjoying catching up on ourtssrings.jpg grade school education as we read to our son. Other favorite classics (not quite for a 6-year-old boy) include Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. If your wife has already read these volumes, no doubt she loves them. A thoughtful gift might be a hardcover edition and a date-night “chick flick” movie edition of these books.

So that’s a very short list to get your fiction fix started. Now, will all the other TSS fiction fans please stand up? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments. Thank you for sharing!

One more category to come…thanks again for joining us on our early Christmas shopping trip!

Books for Your Bride: The History Buff(y)

tsskare.jpgby Karalee

Since the guys already bought their Christmas presents from Tony’s book recommendations this year, we’re taking time this week to do some early Christmas shopping for the ladies.

First, we looked at a few “one-size-fits-all” gifts, now we’re looking at specific options for different interests.tssreader.jpg

The History Buff (Buffy?)

Tell-tale signs your wife would enjoy this category: Her lucky numbers are 1517, 1492, and 1776. She knows the difference between the two Martin Luthers, the eight King Henrys, and the two Bunyans (an important fact in our family). She wins the “pin the date on the timeline” game at every homeschool party. Blindfolded.

Gift ideas

Luckily, the History Buffy can be an incredibly easy wife to buy gifts for. She loves books, and biographies are always a great choice. Here are some of our favorites, not only for their entertainment value, but also their sanctifying work and encouraging examples.

Idelette by Edna Gerstner – This is one of my favorite biographies. A good friend loaned me a copy several years ago, and I tracked my own copy down to re-read this year.tssidelette.jpg Though I believe this book is (sadly) out of print, you can still find used copies at Amazon or Half.com. Edna Gerstner beautifully crafted this biographical account of Idelette Calvin, the wife of the great Reformer John Calvin. Since Tony was working his way through Calvin’s Institutes on TSS this year, I thought I’d “follow along” from the biographical perspective of Calvin’s own helpmeet. A quick read that brings historical events to life, this is an entertaining account that challenged me to aspire to the love and care Idelette showed for her studious husband.

Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union by Edna Gerstner – Another well-written biographical account by Mrs. Gerstner is the story of Jonathan Edwards and his beloved wife, Sarah. I am greatly encouraged bytssgerstner2.jpg the way the Edwardses lived out Ephesians 5 in their marriage, creating a picture of Christ and the church that even inspired comment in George Whitfield’s biography. (Whitfield’s biography by Arnold Dallimore is #6 on Tony’s Top 20, and his favorite biography set.) Whitfield, who previously had considered a life of singleness, was convinced in his need for marriage due to the Christ-honoring couple he saw when visiting the Edwards family. That example is beautifully described in this book.

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper – Even better than a single biography, Mrs. Piper takes the lives of five seemingly “ordinary” women and highlights God’s abundant grace to strengthen them in extraordinary ways. The chapter titles alone are beautiful picture of faith, such as: “Sarah Edwards, Faithful in the Mundane,” “Gladys Aylward, Faithful in Humility,” and “Esther Ahn Kim, Faithful in Suffering.” This book was so good, I loaned it to a friend, who passed it along to another friend, who passed it along to another friend … maybe I should ask for another one for Christmas! Learning about several of the women in this book encouraged me to dig deeper into a few of their lives. One of my favorites was the story of Esther Ahn Kim (see below).

If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim – Our son must have heard the second chapter of this book a half-dozen times.tsskim.jpg Every time he saw me reading the moving biography of Korean Ahn Ei Sook, he asked me to read (again) the story of her standing tall amidst thousands of bowing worshippers at a pagan Japanese shrine. It is an inspiring account of obedience to Christ that illustrates the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before King Nebuchadnezzar. Miss Ahn boldly prayed on her way to the shrine, “Today on the mountain, before the large crowd…I will proclaim that there is no other God beside You. This is what I will do for Your holy name.” The ensuing account of her hiding, persecution, imprisonment, and torture is an amazing story that will leave you in awe of God’s abundant grace amidst trial.

In Trouble and in Joy by Sharon James – Another inspiring collection of biographies, including the lives oftssjames.jpg Margaret Baxter, Sarah Edwards, Anne Steele, and Frances Ridley Havergal. The Girltalkers did an excellent interview series with Mrs. James earlier this year as a follow-up to their Book Club review of More Love To Thee, the biography of hymn writer Elizabeth Prentiss biography. (More info on that biography in the “Music Mom” post.)

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot – A classic missionary biography that traces the lives of the incredibly faithful, deeply trusting missionary families who brought thetsselliot.jpg Gospel to the jungles of Ecuador in the late 1950s. There is now an audio book available, too. It would be fun to follow this book with a date night movie, End of the Spear, which dramatically recounts the work of God’s grace in the lives of both the missionary families and the Ecuador natives.

There are so many excellent biographies out there, and even though this list is getting long I have to make room for just two more that are on my current reading stack:

Anne Bradstreet by Heidi Nichols – “Why read Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet?” asks author Heidi Nichols (and wife of Stephen J. Nichols, who has written several excellent books.) Mrs. Nichols answers the question beautifully, “In contrast to the common delusion that we control our lives in today’s society, we can gain intssbradstreet.jpg Bradstreet the perspective of one who recognized God’s sovereign hand in every aspect of her life, in times of exuberance and in times of pain.” I am halfway through this book and thoroughly enjoying it. (And for those of you who played the “Who is She?” game … Now you know the rest of the story.)

Lady Jane Grey: The Nine Day Queen of England by Faith CookI don’t have this book yet, but have read others on the life of Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Day Queen of England” and have been inspired by her faith in the midst of persecution. Recently, this account by Faith Cook has been recommended by both Sharon James and Tim Challies. Looks interesting and is even recommended for younger daughters. I think it would be a lovely idea to give to your wife and daughters as part of a “Mother-daughters” date package. Include a Starbucks or shopping center gift card and a copy of Girl Talk and pray for God’s grace to deepen the love and friendship between the women He has given you to lead.

Ultimately, the best gift you can give your wife is not one that can be wrapped in shiny red paper and tied with a bow. Centering your home around the Gospel, loving her as Christ loved the Church, and faithfully serving her in humility and grace is a gift that will prepare her heart not only for the year ahead, but for a lifetime with her Savior. Most importantly, the price tag of the gift doesn’t matter, because the ultimate price for our sin has already been paid by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Loving her with this glorious Gospel is a priceless gift.

May God be glorified in your homes this Christmas!

Stay tuned this week as we serve up gift-giving ideas for:

tssbios.jpg

Books for Your Bride: The Trainer

tsskare.jpgby Karalee

Tony’s gone this week, so we’re sporting new colors at TSS and serving up Christmas gift ideas for the ladies. (Since many of our husbands already bought their Christmas presents from Tony’s book recommendations this year.)

First, we looked at a few “one-size-fits-all” gifts, now we’re looking at specific options for different interests.

“The Trainer”

Tell-tale signs your wife would enjoy this category: She owns 10 pairs of running shoes, and no high heels. There are more bike and stroller wheels in your garage than car and minivan tires. She does tsstrainer.jpgspelling drills with the kids in “three sets of ten, with 20 seconds rest in between.”

Bless this wife-on-the-run with resources that will not only exercise her heart, but also stretch her soul.

Gift ideas

Music: An iPod or other mp3 player can be an incredibly sanctifying gift – turning the daily run into an opportunity for meditation on God’s Word. (More on audio in the “one-size-fits-all” post here.)tssasleep.jpg

If she already has a music player, consider a new CD or workout mix that will lift her heartbeat to the Cross. Kick the pace up a bit with the remixed worship favorites in Asleep in a Storm from Sovereign Grace Music. Sermon Jams are another upbeat choice for the workout set. And just for fun, here is a TSS iMix from some of Tony’s favorite Jazzercise music.tssimix.jpg

Books: The Gospel Primer for Christians, which we reviewed in part one, is perfect for the treadmill. An interesting biography is Pure Gold about Eric Liddell: Scottish runner, Olympic gold medal winner, and missionary to China. (Find a positive review here at Tim Challies’ Discerning Reader.)

“Christmas Date” ideas: Start a “Christmas date night” tradition. (As Tony and I will be doing this year, thanks to the idea from our good friends Matthew and Hannah.) Because the holidays are tssliddell.jpgfull of busy celebrations with the kids and in-laws, a “Christmas date” is an opportunity to celebrate with just your bride. Whether you can schedule your date before Christmas or after, taking the time to spend with her will bless your friendship and your marriage. For the sporty wife, a brisk walk or ice skating would be a fun start to the evening. Then you can finish with hot cocoa and a date night movie, Chariots of Fire (based upon the life of Eric Liddell). You cantssliddellmovie.jpg follow-up with a family night movie another time and watch the new Torchlighters movie, also about Eric Liddell.

Ultimately, the best gift you can give your wife is not one that can be wrapped in shiny red paper and tied with a bow. Centering your home around the Gospel, loving her as Christ loved the Church, and faithfully serving her in humility and grace is a gift that will prepare her heart not only for the year ahead, but for a lifetime with her Savior. Most importantly, the price tag of the gift doesn’t matter, because the ultimate price for our sin has already been paid by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Loving her with this glorious Gospel is a priceless gift.

May God be glorified in your homes this Christmas!

Stay tuned this week as we serve up gift-giving ideas for:

Books for Your Bride: The Music Mom

tsskare.jpg by Karalee

Tony’s gone this week, so we’re sporting new colors at TSS and serving up Christmas gift ideas for the ladies. (Since many of our husbands already bought their Christmas presents from Tony’s book recommendations this year.)

First, we looked at a few “one-size-fits-all” gifts, now we’re looking at specific options for different interests.

The Music Mom

Tell-tale signs your wife would enjoy this category: She sings in the shower, and it actually sounds good. She also sings in the car, when washing dishes, and when reading to the kids. She teaches the alphabet starting at Middle C.

Personal note: This particular category does not describe me. When I sing my baby to sleep, he falls asleep fast – just so I’ll stop singing, I presume. So I’m borrowing a few books tssmusicmom.jpgon this list from Sovereign Grace worship leader Bob Kauflin. (Who has an excellent reading list posted here on his blog.)

Bless this music-loving wife with a CDs and books that will not only create sound waves, but also send shock waves of grace to her soul.

Gift ideas

Music: For some of the best Gospel-saturated and theologically-sound music in one place, visit the Sovereign Grace store. You can buy entire albums or a single song at a time from the Songbox. Two of our favorite albums are Songs for the Cross-Centered Life and the Valley of Vision. The Christmas CD, Savior, is one we listen to all year long.

Another set of CDs we have listened to over and over again is the Hide the Word series from Mark and Stephen Altrogge. Their Scripture memory songs are very well done, and have helped us (and our son) to memorize many beautiful Scripture passages. One thing we appreciate in particular about the verses the Altrogges set to music is that they are noticeably Cross-centered.

Books: Biographies are one of my favorite literary genres, as they blend the meatiness of nonfiction with the9781581348484.jpg tssprentiss.jpgnosiness of peeking into someone else’s life. For a music fan, we recommend the biographies of two hymn writers, Elizabeth Prentiss and John Newton. You can find an excellent review series on the Prentiss biography at GirlTalk, and a glimpse into the Newton biography here at TSS.

A few worship and music related resources from the “highly recommended” list on Bob Kauflin’s blog include: Engaging with God (David Peterson), When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (John Piper), and Living the Cross-Centered Life (C.J. Mahaney), He also recommends the Valley of Vision, and we recommend (again) the Sovereign Grace CD based upon those prayers. (More info on the VoV in the “one size fits all” post here.)

Gift-giving ideas: The holidays are full of opportunities for local concerts, providing excellent ideas for a “Christmas date night.” Because the holidays are full of busy celebrations with the kids and in-laws, a Christmas date night is an opportunity to celebrate with just your bride. Whether you can schedule your date before Christmas or after, taking the time to spend with her alone will bless your friendship and your marriage. For the music-loving wife, a local concert or musical would be an excellent place to start. Or go out for coffee and read the first chapter of one of the recommended books together.

Ultimately, the best gift you can give your wife is not one that can be wrapped in shiny red paper and tied with a bow. Centering your home around the Gospel, loving her as Christ loved the Church, and faithfully serving her in humility and grace is a gift that will prepare her heart not only for the year ahead, but for a lifetime with her Savior. Most importantly, the price tag of the gift doesn’t matter, because the ultimate price for our sin has already been paid by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Loving her with this glorious Gospel is a priceless gift.

May God be glorified in your homes this Christmas!

Stay tuned this week as we serve up gift-giving ideas for:

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