Tara’s Blog

If you do not live a life marked by love toward others …

life marked by love mark dever quote

You Can Be Lovable

sophie ella summer 2014

During my undergraduate years, I was blessed to study under Dr. Paul T. Jensen. He taught not only my Presidential Scholar Philosophy of Theology classes (at school), he also taught the adult Sunday School class in our little Presbyterian church.

Dr. Jensen was the first person to introduce me to Calvin and Luther; to send me to Jonathan Edwards; and to make me my first ever xeroxes of scholar-level journal articles on issues of faith and logic. He was and is a thinker and a humble man–two of my favorite characteristics in a person.

So I always chuckle just a little bit when I remember that, in addition to introducing me to great books, Dr. Jensen also recommended that I read a simple little tome entitled, The Friendship Factor (by Alan Loy McGinnis).

Is this a great book? No.
Is it filled with Christ-exalting, biblical theology? Not really. Nope. I can’t say that it is.

But is it worth the read? Yes, I think so–particularly for those of us who (thankfully!) are in biblically-faithful, gospel-preaching churches (so we’re regularly hearing the full counsel of Scripture) and yet we still struggle in our relationships. If you can just take this little book for what it’s worth, I honestly believe that it might prove helpful to you. It was helpful to me way back in 1988 when I first read it, and I always pick up something new to think on whenever I re-read it.

Like this current re-reading. The chapter titles alone were a blessing to me:

– How to Communicate Warmth
– When Kindliness Becomes a Habit
– Be Careful with Criticism
– A Surefire Way to Draw People Close
– Are You the Manipulating Type?
– You Can be Lovable
– Neglect This and Watch Your Friends Flee

(Doesn’t that last one make you want to at least skim the book? :) ! )

For me, this issue of relationships continues to be a challenge more often than not. I try and try, and sometimes people enjoy me and bear with me and we build a true friendship, an honest relationship, and that is so good. I am beyond-words grateful for the friends, real friends, who show me grace and mercy in my time of need. (And I prayerfully strive to do the same for them.)

But sometimes, things don’t work so well relationally. There may be full-blown conflicts. But more often than not, there is just a lack of interest, care, or love—even when people are in close proximity to each other. The author of “The Friendship Factor” taught me a new word about this:

“Talking is hard. We must schedule time for conversation because loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity* with someone who has ceased to communicate.”

(*I had to look up the word, “Propinquity.” It means the state of being close to someone or something; proximity; close kinship. Don’t you love getting to learn new words?! Yay!)

But back to the reason for this post … the title that I took from one of the chapters:

You can be lovable.

It’s true! And more! Not only can you be lovable, if you are in Christ a new creation? Then you are lovable and you are loved. Loved with an everlasting love. Every moment. Every day. God’s love for you is based on the righteousness of Another and his love for you never wavers.

Grace grace grace. Love love love. Even when life in this fallen world feels so much so the polar opposite. Thank God!

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:9-12 ESV)

Tara B.

For more rigorously biblical helps on these topics, I encourage you to really dig deeply into the CCEF books, CS Lewis’s writings, Ajith Fernando’s, Reclaiming Friendship, and William P. Smith’s, Loving Well Even if You Haven’t Been

Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs


In just a few hours, I will be leaving to serve at The 2015 Peacemaker Conference: The Rhythm of Peace.

In addition to teaching, I also have the joy of liveblogging the plenary sessions.

If you have no idea what liveblogging is, you are in good company! I just heard the term for the first time a few years ago. Basically, LiveBlogs provide continuous “live” coverage of events through text, photos, and links, so it’s like you get to be there, even if the event is halfway around the world. Plus, you get to participate in the LiveBlog too (if you want to)! You can interact with the speakers if they are holding a Q&A, you can ask me questions (“Hey, Tara, would you please put up a photo of the Gettys (at a Gospel Coalition Conference)?”), and even interact with other LiveBlog attendees. (My LiveBlog friends start to get to know one another after “attending” conferences “together” over the years.)

It’s very fun! And very easy. All you have to do is join in the LiveBlog when it is active (“live”). You can just read along and never even make yourself known. Or you can join in the conversation or drop me a private “hello” that no one else can see—whatever is comfortable to you.

Once the event closes, you can read the LiveBlogs in “replay” mode. (I have them listed below under “Archived LiveBlogs.”) This can be particularly helpful because I type almost at the rate of speech—so you can relax during an event and not worry about taking lots of notes because you will have my notes to read and study at your convenience after the event is over.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to serve you.

I’m icing my wrists and getting ready now—


Hope to see you on the LiveBlog!

Your sister in Christ,
Tara Barthel

(These links will be “live” when the LiveBlogs are “on air” during their scheduled times.)

   Thursday, September 24

7:00PM (Mountain) General Session 1 – Wess Stafford

   Friday, September 25

8:00AM General Session 2 – Jim Daly

   Saturday, September 26

8:00AM General Session 3 – Kimm Carr

(To access the LiveBlog Replays from the 2014 Peacemaker Conference, click here. And for the 2013 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog Replaysclick here.)

2015 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #1: Wess Stafford

Live Blog 2015 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 1: Wess Stafford

2015 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #2: Jim Daly

Live Blog 2015 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 2: Jim Daly

Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #3: Kimm Carr

Live Blog 2015 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 3: Kimm Carr

Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #4: Chip Zimmer – “Embracing the Future, Remembering the Past”

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #4: Chip Zimmer

How Fred Responded When I Asked Him Last Week if I Had Ruined His Life

2013 Fred and Tara Barthel

Last week was a particularly hard week for Fred and me.

At one point, seeing the marks of searing pain on Fred’s face (again), I was overcome by the sense that all of his worst suffering in life was because of me.

(Maybe not entirely because of me, since, sure, I know my theology and I know we have three real enemies: Satan, the world, our flesh. I know we live in a fallen world that truly is not the way it’s supposed to be. I can pass the Sunday School test. But in that horrible moment of overwhelmingly self-critical thinking, I forget what I “know” [gnosis] because I don’t really “know” [epignosis] it.)

So there I sat, feeling powerless to stop the waves of shame-based thoughts that kept crashing into me:

  • I have ruined this beautiful man’s life.
  • Fred never should have married me; his life would have been so much better without me.
  • All of Fred’s suffering in life is because of me.

On that last point? I kinda had a little bit of ground to stand on because, in our 20+ year marriage, if we were to write down all of our worst relational conflicts with other people; our most desperate situations involving organizations or workplaces, family members or friends; I really have been (objectively) more obviously tied to the “presenting issue” far more often than (dear, kind, doesn’t-ruffle-feathers) Fred.

Let me use the famous iceberg photo illustration to explain what I mean …

If Fred and I were to list all of the hardest situations in our family’s life and only look at the water-surface-level of the circumstances, I am more obviously the sticking-out / seems-to-cause-the-ship-to-crash part of the iceberg:


In the world of professional ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), we call that the “presenting issue”—the obvious, easily observable “problem.”

But of course, as in all situations, there is much more to the stories of these situations in our lives than just my (obvious) contributions. Other people are involved and they have their own internal struggles with sin, unbelief, selfishness, and a lack of love. Plus, for all of us, not everything is caused by sin. Some things are the fruit of fallenness—we are tired. Sick. Wounded.

Those additional complexities are the “bottom of the iceberg”—and combined with my contributions, they all work together to “sink the ship” as it were.

I know all of that intellectually, but MAN! Is it hard to remember in the heat of the hard conversation, when the tears are flowing and it can all feel so dark and hopeless. My instinct (like most people) is to blame myself; to be far more harsh with myself than I would ever be to someone I loved.

So I asked the question:

“Have I ruined your life, Fred? Do you blame me for all of the suffering in your life?”

To which Fred responded something like this:

“Tara? We are one flesh (Mark 10:8). Our lives are completely united. I can’t even think in such a way as to answer that question because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

The suffering in our life comes into our life. God is sovereign and good over it all (Romans 8:28-29) and he helps us and gives us everything we need (2 Peter 1:3) as we face together whatever comes next.

What a balm for my soul. Such faithful friendship, never-rejecting love, and rock-solid theology, truly help me to quiet down (and one day, Lord willing, SILENCE) the voices of shame that still occasionally try to scream out from my heart.

Oh, that we would all go throughout our day today believing God’s Word (Truth!) more than any shame-based feelings!

(And if you are really hurting today, I pray that you will have even just one friend who comforts you, carries you, and strengthens you when you are too weak to keep going forward on your own.)

Sending my love to you all—

Your friend,
Tara B.

If you ever struggle with overly self-critical thoughts and feelings of not-being-good-enough, I highly recommend Ed Welch’s book, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. Or for a shorter read, we do have a chapter on Shame in Peacemaking Women too.



Tackling Two (Irrational) Fears

I’m continuing to prep for my women’s retreat this weekend (“Fear Not”) and sometimes I’m just laid out on my face before the Lord over the profound, applicable truths that God is graciously helping me to unearth and begin to understand. But in addition to the “deep stuff,” I’m also chuckling over and truly enjoying some of the fears that God is not only helping me to see in my own life, but also to overcome. Today, I’d like to tell you about two of them …

First of all, it was only a few years ago (I’m 45) that I made mashed potatoes all by myself. Without any help or coaching. I didn’t even look at a recipe!

Now, I know that to some of you that will sound ridiculously stupid. “Who can’t make mashed potatoes? They’re SO easy! You just put the potatoes in a pot and mix ’em up with milk and butter. Done!” To that response, and with my chest just a little tighter (adrenaline/anxiety reaction!) even just THINKING about making mashed potatoes, I gently say back ….

“Uh-huh. And I’ve heard that there are some people in the world who aren’t really comfortable speaking in front of people. Yeah. Isn’t it weird? You just pray, prep, grab your Bible, switch on your lapel mic, and GO! It’s SO EASY. (And yet 95% of people fear public speaking and most them fear it more than DEATH. Weird, eh?)”

Listen, we all have our weirdness and our peculiarities and our fears. We all make some mole hills into mental and emotional mountains. Some of us don’t sing in public. Ever. Some of us HAVE TO be the driver of the car or else we go CRAZY feeling so out of control (especially with certain drivers!). I know big, strong men who squeal like little girls when they see a teeny-tiny spider. Some of you marvel that we love to SCUBA dive (“But the sharks!” “I’d feel claustrophobic under all of that water!” … And yet Fred and I LOVE seeing sharks and we revel in the freedom of weightless and the joy of FLYING under all that water); but then you rugged folk love to hike in bear country and don’t even BLINK (“Oh, there was a sweet brown bear on the path in front of me just stripping huckleberries with his paws; I gave him a little swat on the behind with my hat and he just moseyed out of the way.” (!!!!!!!) HUH?! Are you KIDDING me?!). Some of you feel afraid in a big city; some of us love a good Hilton and an excellent concierge.

We all have our “thing.” And tackling mashed potatoes was, for me, a great accomplishment. (Not that I’ve done it since, mind you. But I DID do it once!)

And here is my SECOND “thing” that God has helped me to happily tackle … (drum roll please!) ….

I made SOUP. Yup. Me. Tara. MADE SOUP. And no, I didn’t just pour soup from a can into a pot. I’ve been doing that my entire life and it DOESN’T COUNT.

This time (it was part of Sophie’s “plan, shop, prep, serve one meal a week” school task, I actually cut up FRESH ingredients (or helped my seven year old to do so), added them to a pot, brought it all to a boil, and then ATE IT:

Again. Please know that I am fully aware that to most of you this has just about as much “WOW!” factor as putting on your socks in the morning. But please … try to put MY struggle/weaknesses in the context of YOUR struggle/weakness and then join me in saying, “Hooray! And Yay, God! Thank You, Lord, for helping Tara!” Because I have to tell you—YOU WERE ALL RIGHT. 100% correct. It’s really not that big of a deal. I think I can actually make soup! And I’m really excited about this because a) it’s so healthy; b) it’s good stewardship; c) I love seeing all of the fresh ingredients go in; d) it’s super EASY; and e) it’s SO PRETTY. :)

So here’s my official request for your tasty soup recipes! I’m particularly interested in the ones that cook slowly all day long in a crock pot and mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! make your house feel all homey and domestic. I had one once at a restaurant that had a red meat in it and some sort of red wine base that was OUT OF THIS WORLD. I tried to find it on the internet, but there are too many options. My (still tempted to get a little scared) brain just sort of fritzed out at all of the choices. But if you have any that you love, please email me or leave me a comment or FaceBook note. I’d LOVE to have homemade soup become a part of our family’s meal repertoire.

OK. Must scoot now. Apparently walking pneumonia no longer wins the sickest family member award around here now … Fred, Sophie and Ella are all really (really) sick too. So I need to tend to them.

Before I go, I do want to point you in the direction of a much more serious topic re: fears … ANXIETY ATTACKS (or sometimes called PANIC ATTACKS). You may have already experienced this personally and not known what it was OR you may have been around someone experiencing this and not known what to do … or maybe it’s something you’ll face in the future. I want you to be ready! Because when a person is having a panic attack, she thinks she’s going crazy and often thinks she is going to die. It’s often a call 9-1-1 situation, but it doesn’t have to be. Please listen to this series from David Powlison and you’ll learn about this important topic:

Panic Attacks: A Counseling Case Study

Thanks, friends. Happy Tuesday to you all!

Tara B.

A GREAT book on the topics of fear and anxiety is Ed Welch’s, Running Scared. I highly recommend it!

Paige Benton Brown: In the Temple – The Glorious and Forgiving God (The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference LiveBlog)

(I’m already beginning to pray for friends who are serving at next year’s The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference: Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering. I hope that you can be at the conference June 16-18, 2016 in Indianapolis! I am so excited to hear from some of the finest teachers on these important topics—Kathleen Nielson, Rosaria Butterfield, Don Carson, Nancy Guthrie, Tim Keller, Carolyn McCulley, Ellen Dykas, Melissa Kruger … and more!)

To whet your appetite for the next TGCW conference, why not enjoy a quick review of the inimitable Paige Benton Brown from her 2012 TGCW plenary? Just click “Replay” below:


The actual LiveBlog replay above has over 11,600 words in it, so I won’t even attempt to restate the entirety of this teaching. However, here are just a few points that will hopefully whet your appetite and encourage you to read the entire entry.

Paige Benton Brown: In The Temple
  • God says, “I will be Your God, you will be my people.” But we want to know … how “in” is He? …
  • 1 Kings 8 … The temple is not an aspect of God’s omnipresence. This is his personal presence manifest …
  • All of this godly extravagance points to God’s glory but the actual glory is even more awesome; even then, God is holding back. The cloud reveals and conceals …
  • The cloud is about the covenant; the uniqueness. The glory of Israel is that relationship. In the midst of God’s omniscience, God says, “I know everything, but only you have I known” …
  • But they cannot keep the commandments. So how can we meet God? Those tablets are covered with the mercy seat. We cannot meet God at the ark; we must meet him at the altar. God provides a mercy seat, a covering, for the ark …
  • Do you steal and do abominations and then stand in God’s house and say, “We are delivered”? …
  • Jesus is very closely associated with this temple; presented at 40 days; age 12 reasoning; paying temple tax … always acknowledging it is his father’s house. But also: He was its superior. Tear this temple down and I will rebuild it in three days. Not one stone will be left upon another …
  • What do you do with the people who will come to the temple but will not run to the outstretched arms of God? …
  • God does not forgive sin. He can’t. He forgives sinners—but it has to be paid for. This is what our sins cost.
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