Tara’s Blog

Megan Hill’s Endorsement of “Redeeming Church Conflicts”

Our family has been profoundly blessed by Megan Hill’s book on prayer:

Praying Together – The Priority and Privilege of Prayer

So I was profoundly blessed by her recent endorsement of Redeeming Church Conflicts (copied below).

Thanks so very much, Megan!

For the glory of the Lamb,
Tara B.

*************
“To someone in the middle of a church conflict, the complex knot of spiritual and material issues, contributing factors, and personalities can appear impossible to understand, let alone untangle. As emotions rise and hope sinks, everyone in the church experiences distress, and, amid the confusion and hurt, a positive path forward often seems unclear.

In Redeeming Church Conflicts, experienced conciliators Tara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling offer a warm, biblical, and careful roadmap for navigating church crises. Through exposition and application, they bring the truth of God’s Word to direct suffering churches toward healing. Through practical case studies, they illuminate the way with specific examples. Perhaps surprisingly for a book about sin and its fruits, these pages are also filled with hope. Through the words of Barthel and Edling, church members and leaders will begin to see their conflicts as opportunities for growth, grace, and the glory of God. And whether your church is currently in the midst of strife or proactively seeking to avoid it in future, this book is an excellent guide.”
-Megan Hill, pastor’s wife, pastor’s daughter, writer, speaker, author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches (Crossway, 2016)

Trauma, Anxiety, and Hope

If we don’t interact in real life or on Facebook, you may be slightly concerned about me, since I am currently not blogging on a regular basis.

Please don’t worry about me! 🙂

I am doing very well, but just busy writing for publication, preparing for my busy fall speaking season, and living real life.

If you are in search of a few things to read, I highly recommend these two articles. The first one has stuck a particularly strong note with my Facebook followers—and, yes, with me. (As always, I am only recommending things that helped me. A lot.)

Blessings and joy,
Tara B.

PS
I also have a personal post over at the PCA Women’s Blog, enCourage:

Loving Sincerely Because We Have Been Sincerely Loved

 

The Last Words My Mother Ever Said to Me (This is a Sad/Disturbing Post That You May Want to Skip)

museum2A few days before the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing, I wrote this post. I still miss her every day.

***

In a few days, it will be one year since my mother passed away. In general, I’m in a very happy and relaxed state this Advent and it is a sweet Christmas season for our young family. (Ella is the only person I have ever met who genuinely lights up with deep joy at Christmas decorations in the MALL because she just loves the red and green and sparkles and FUN so much. Her enthusiasm is definitely infectious and we’re all pretty jolly around here. In general.)

But every once in awhile, especially in the early morning (like now) when I used to talk with my mom pretty much every day, I cry and cry and can’t stop (like now). Warm tears against cold cheeks. The ache of missing my dear friend. The strange, exposed loneliness of being “the grownup” because now, somehow, I’m supposed to be the mother even though I still feel like a child in so many ways.

Not all the time, but sometimes, I think about the last few weeks and days and hours of her life. I am grateful for the thousands of dollars my sister and her Fred spent flying me back and forth to Michigan so that I could be there, helping, grieving, just being present. Were it not for their generosity, our family could have swung ONE trip back for me to say goodbye, but that would have been it. Instead? I was there for the major doctor discussions as we shockingly learned of her rapid heart failure—25% functioning, 8% functioning … not enough oxygen going to her brain. This is the end.

That’s what happened, I am sure, to precipitate her call to me in early December of last year—the last time I heard her voice; the last words she ever spoke to me. Her brain was undoubtedly oxygen-deprived. She was “not herself” as it were.

But I didn’t know that in the first few minutes of our call. I didn’t know that when my cell phone rang in Albertson’s and I (happily!) saw the “Mom Cell” i.d. pop up and I (even more happily!) heard her cheerful, NORMAL, wonderful ol’ lifetime of smoking crackly, gravely voice say:

“Hey, daughter!”

It had been so long since I had heard our normal greeting. What a gift God gave me to hear it one more time! What a sweet grace. But then. Sadly. Everything got understandably bad. She began to talk in that warped, distant voice that I’m sure many of you know because you, too, have loved a dying person and/or a mentally ill person and you know when they are not in their right mind.

It’s scary—like a waking dream; terrifying when you are a child and it’s an adult, a parent, who is standing in front of you saying words, but their eyes are off and the tone is off and what they are saying doesn’t make any sense. It’s disorienting—like the worst parts of life in a fallen world, truly, not the way it’s supposed to be. Frightening. Dark. Disturbing.

It’s also incredibly, incredibly sad:

“Can you call your dad and have him come here to take me home?” My mother asked. “Please call dad.”

“Mom? Dad is dead. Are you talking about Charlie?” I asked. Not knowing, yet, that she really wasn’t there.

“Yes. Charlie. Of course. Charlie. Please call Charlie so that he can take me home,” Mom pleaded. “I just can’t remember my address,” she continued in her confusion, “If you just tell me my address, I can go home.”

“Mom? You are home. This is your home now. You have to be in the hospital because you are very sick. I know it’s hard. I love you so much. But this is your home.” I choked out the words. I started crying in the mineral water section of Albertsons.

“OK. Goodbye.” And she hung up.

Those were the last words my mother ever said to me.

I immediately called her best friend, who was also the nurse manager in charge of my mother’s hospital wing and room (what a grace!) and she told me that she had JUST been in her room and she was not agitated at all. But that of course she would go immediately and check on her and try to calm her down/help her.

And that was that. That was all I could do. I was thousands of miles away. I had already said my goodbyes to her the previous month when she was still present mentally. I had already told her hundreds of times over decades of life how much I appreciated her and enjoyed her and admired her; how grateful I was for her forgiveness and friendship and care. I didn’t have to rush to cram in token words before she passed. I was not overwhelmed by regret for harboring bitterness or (even worse!) blatant apathy rather than moving towards her in mercy because God had moved toward me in mercy.

No. Hearing her voice for what I guessed in that moment might be the last time (and it ended up being the last time), I was rightfully sad. It was worthy of grief and I grieved. I grieved the loss of my mother and my friend. I grieved for my sister and my stepfather and my mother’s best friends. I grieved that Ella would never really know my mother and that my mother would never really know Ella because Ella would have cracked her up. 

I grieved and cried and I longed for redemption. I longed for Heaven. Just like my mother, I longed for Home.

Thankfully, I have every hope and assurance that one day I will get to go home and then, there will be no more tears. Will my mother be there? I don’t know. I think maybe, yes, she will be there. There were surely not a lot of what some Christians would call “evidences of regeneration” — my mother never became a church-goer — but having had hours and hours of conversations with her over the years, I know that she was a genuine seeker and that she could articulate the Christian gospel (the true Christian gospel of God saving his children by grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone, not some sort of sham religiosity of rule-following that some people claim is Christianity). I know this for sure because that was the SECOND-to-last conversation I ever had with my mother. The day (in November of 2012) that I held her in my arms for the last time and played my last game of Scrabble with her, I also asked her:

“Mom? If you will indulge me, I’d like to talk with you one more time about Jesus. Would that be OK?”

“Yes. Absolutely. Of course you would want to, Tara,” my mother graciously replied.

“I know we’ve talked about this a lot over the years and I appreciate you understanding that I only want to talk about it again because I want to be sure that I’ve done everything I can to clearly articulate the claims of Christ with you with the hope that you might put all of your faith in him and be saved.”

“I know. And I’m happy to say that Christianity says I am a sinner and God is perfect and the only way for me to be right with God is through Jesus—God bridges the gap to me through the perfection of Jesus and his dying on the cross for my sins,” mom continued, “So if I believe in Jesus, that’s how I am made right with God.”

Pretty good summary of the Christian gospel for a non-church-goer, eh? I think so. And I continued to pray, until her last breath, that even if it were a thief-on-the-cross-experience, my mother would transfer the weight of all of her hope onto Christ and be saved. Maybe she was! I hope dearly she was. And then? Those words I typed above will not be the last words my mother ever said to me. No way! They will only be the last words in this life. Ah! I do pray that is the case.

Either way, I know that God is good and His ways are best. And here is all my hope:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3, ESV)

Amen and amen!

And much grace to those of you who are likewise grieving on this beautiful December day.

Your friend,
Tara B.

LiveBlog of The 2016 Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference – General Session 7: John Piper – A Shepherd and A Lion

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LiveBlog of The 2016 Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference – General Session 2: Jen Wilkin – Living A Resurrection Life

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“Brothers and sisters, let us pray!” — My Review and Endorsement of Megan Hill’s “Praying Together”

Praying Together

I love beautiful prose and apt illustrations. When I book teaches me a new word (or two or three!), I know I am in for a treat. But my favorite thing of all about excellent Christian writing is when I forget the author and stop even noticing the beauty and wisdom of the words, because my heart is actively being drawn to meditate on the Triune God as revealed in Holy Scripture. And thus it is with Megan Hill’s, “Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches.”

This is an excellent book on prayer that I endorse and recommend without hesitation.

Unlike some of my other favorite books on prayer—some are richly theological, but a little weak in the practical application; others are phenomenal in diagnosing our real-life struggles regarding prayer and offering “solutions,” but present only the pale veneer of a shell of robust practical theology—Megan strikes a beautiful balance of Scriptural exegesis with relevant illustrations and instructions. She is also extremely encouraging!

Megan organizes Praying Together into three parts: 1) The Foundations of Praying Together (Relationship, Duty, Promise); 2) The Fruits of Praying Together (Love, Discipleship, Revival); and 3) The Practice of Praying Together (Praying with the Church, Partners and Groups, Family and Guests).

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Praying Together:

  • Our relationship with the God who is three-in-one assures us that all three will involve themselves in our praying—making the prayers of a Christian part of a grand, heavenly conversation.
  • A company of praying people is a company of people equally dependent on God. But we also come to prayer with equally good help. The most eloquent giant and the most timid new believer can pray boldly together because Jesus prays for them both.
  • In prayer together, we love one another … Our common experiences are an opportunity for mutual love, and hearing the prayers of sympathetic friends gives us comfort. We take this same comfort from Christ as he prays for us.
  • Praying together is a loving act of Christian discipleship.
  • Thanking God together is an effective guard against ingratitude.
  • Whether I feel like it or not, I pray.
  • The Christian never prays alone. And the Christian never leads others in prayer by himself but always has the promised and sufficient help of the three: the listening Father, the meditating and interceding Son, and the helping Spirit. With this confidence, you can take steps (I’ll suggest three) to better lead others in prayer …
  • If it is good for us to pray in all our human relationships, it is especially sweet to pray regularly with our closest friends.
  • Praying together ought to be an element of the hospitality that God repeatedly commands us to offer … our prayers together refresh the hearts of saints and stand as a testimony to the unconverted.
  • Brothers and sisters, let us pray.

Amen and amen! And thank you, Megan, for this gift to the Body.

With much gratitude,
Tara Barthel, Author of Living the Gospel in Relationships and Co-author of Peacemaking Women and Redeeming Church Conflicts

PS
Megan also includes wonderful study questions and a detailed bibliography, so this is a book that could (and should) definitely be used in group settings.

Surrounded by People yet Desperately Alone

surrounded by people yet desperately alone

What a joy it is to be included on the PCA Women’s blog, enCourage!  I hope that you will check out my inaugural post there:

Surrounded by People Yet Desperately Alone

(And all of the other posts by wonderful writers such as Susan Hunt, Karen Hodge, Ellen Dykas, Courtney Doctor, Christina Fox, Melissa Kruger … and more!)

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