Tara’s Blog

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

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #4: Chip Zimmer

Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #3: Kimm Carr

Live Blog 2015 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 3: Kimm Carr

2015 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlog #2: Jim Daly

Live Blog 2015 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 2: Jim Daly

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

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.

How to Love a Mentally Ill Addict (Who Happens to be Your Mother)

museum2First off, let me start out by saying that I really don’t like the title of this post. I’m leaving it as is, however, because I have learned that a provocatively (but still relatively accurate) blog title reaches more people than a merely accurate blog title. (As the stats for my “It’s a Grace to be Fat” article easily attest to.)

Having lived with and loved my mother for over forty-two years before her passing in 2012, I believe a much more accurate title would be something along the lines of: How to Love Your Mother, Who Did the Very Best She Could, but Who, Like You, Has Many Weaknesses in Addition to Her Many Strengths and Who, Like You, Sometimes Turned to Not-the-Healthiest (Physically and Spiritually) Substances and Means to Deal with Her Suffering and Temptations and Fallenness, Including Self-Medicating with Scotch for Many Years and How to Love Your Mother Who Had Exactly the Same Amount of Neediness for the Savior as You, and How to Get Off of Your High Horse and Stop Judging Her and Instead See Yourself as Being More Like Her than Unlike Her So That You Can Enjoy the Best, Most Real, Most Intimate Relationship that Your Sin and Fallenness and Her Sin and Fallenness Will Possibly Allow.

Yes. Sure. That, I think, is a much more accurate title. But what it gains in meticulousness it loses in pith. So let’s just go with “How to Love a Mentally Ill Addict (Who Happens to Be Your Mother)” and see where this leads us …

(As a quick aside, I have been praying and thinking about this post for years but after my Q&A at Kevin DeYoung’s church last weekend—Hi, Katie!!—I decided to just jump in and try to get started on writing something down because this is a question I get asked a LOT, especially after people read my “How to Write a Eulogy for a Bad Mother” post.)

So here are my initial thoughts on how I learned to love my mother who did struggle with undiagnosed mental illness and who did turn to large amounts of alcohol during the formative years of my childhood …

(Whoops! Better do another aside here too: 1) Before her death, my mother repeatedly gave me express permission to share our story publicly because she—like most people in AA—was extremely generous of spirit regarding telling her story with the hope that others might be helped; and 2) If you don’t know my testimony, you can listen to it here for free or see/read give summaries of it in my video series or first book.)

First of all, I have to start out by saying that I did NOT want to love my mother or have anything to do with her once I stopped living with her during my high school years. (During my junior year, I saved her from a suicide attempt and she was institutionalized—again—and that was the last time I lived with her.)

When I was a young adult, all I wanted to do was get as far away as possible from her and establish my new “functional” life with all of the “normal/happy” people I was meeting in my church, high school, and then at college. I was sick of her promising to change—-and then not changing. Locked-down wards in psychiatric hospitals scared me. Detox centers creeped me out. I hated smelling like cigarettes whenever I visited her in her halfway houses or her little, dingy transition apartments. Rather than having mercy on her, praying for her, being charitable towards her and cheering her on as I looked for ways to support and encourage her, my propensity was to judge, disdain, and reject her. At that season of my life, I was particularly fond of comparing her to all of the (clean, beautiful, “together” parents) who (shockingly!) supported, counseled, prayed for, helped, loved, provided for, enjoyed, and celebrated their children.

My mother was not the parent I wanted her to be and so how did I instinctively respond? Just like an unbelieving tax collector and certainly NOT like my Heavenly Father:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

So here was the first step in my learning to love my mother: I had to repent. I had to see that in this situation, I was the problem, not my mother.

From the moment God so graciously saved my soul (when I was a freshman in high school); from the moment I was born again by His Spirit and justified by His grace, all of my most deepest needs were met by the power of the Triune God. I may have wanted parents who were functional, loving adults—but I didn’t need parents who were functional, loving adults because I had a perfect Heavenly Father. I may have preferred my mother to not lie to me, steal from me, and try to get me to do incredibly foolish things like co-sign a car loan for her when I was barely eighteen years old or take out student loans to give her cash to finance her gambling and drinking binges. It would have been nice to have a mother go grocery shopping for me when she visited me at college (did you know that some mothers do that for their children?!); I would have enjoyed it if my parents didn’t drink liquor out of the trunks of their cars in the parking lot of my church at my wedding and then get so drunk that they don’t even remember it. Wow. That all would have been great. But I didn’t need any of those things.

All I needed then and all I need today is Christ:

I have been forgiven a debt I could never pay back (Matthew 18:21-35); granted an inheritance that will never fade, perish, or spoil (1 Peter 1:4); adopted into an eternal family (Ephesians 1:3-10); and saved from darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8).

There is nothing that can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:38-39). God works together all things for His glory and my good (Romans 8:28-29). God is perfect in His omniscience and omnipotence and sovereignty (Psalm 147:5, Job 42:2, Psalm 115:3). Not a hair falls from my head apart from my good and loving Heavenly Father knowing it (Luke 21:18) so surely He knows any and all suffering I am facing in this life and He has  never been and will never be surprised that I am my mother’s daughter

God chose my mother for me and me for my mother. The overlap of our lives was not a mistake to God. And God is not gratuitously cruel. My suffering was not and is not an accident. And—hear this!—there is NO suffering that I have ever or will ever experience that Jesus does not know and He knows more.

Not only was Jesus abandoned by His loved ones; cold, naked, beaten, mocked, shamed … Jesus was separated from the Father and that is a pain I will never know. So Jesus is not some High Priest “up there” who is unable to sympathize with me (Hebrews 4:15). He is the suffering servant Who laments with compassion for the children of The Living God (Matthew 23:37-39) and Who loves us SO much that He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, lived the life we could never live, died the death that we deserved, and one day, He will return in glory to make all things right.

In the interim, in response to God’s gracious love in our lives, we don’t have to judge and belittle and criticize and hate and take revenge … we can “entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Ahhhh. Now we’re really getting down to brass tacks re: why, even as a teenager, I began to repent of my judgmental, critical, unloving heart towards my mother and began to move towards her with humility, gracious, compassionate, genuine care and love. It was because GOD moved towards me with humility, compassion, genuine care and love. When I was yet his enemy (Romans 5:10), He loved me. And His call on my life—my duty—in response to this glorious truth (the gospel!) was to lay down my life, pick up my cross, endure (and even count it all joy!) to share in whatever temporary suffering this life offered me for the (brief!) 50 or 80 or 100 years I have on this planet (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 5:10, Romans 8:18, Luke 14:27, Philippians 3:10).

For me? Twenty-five years ago when I was an eighteen year-old who really just wanted to get as far away as possible from my mother who was struggling with all sorts of spiritual, physical, emotional, and social suffering? When my life would have been “easier” (but not better!) if I had moved away, changed my phone number, and never had any contact with her again? When the pain of being around her FAR outweighed ANY benefit? That was my suffering. That was my mission field. The Cross God had ordained for me to carry in solidarity with my Savior. Loving my mother was exactly the trial I had the privilege of “counting all joy” (James 1:2-4).

And if I claimed to love God yet hated my mother? I was a liar and my religion was worthless (1 John 4:20, James 1:26). If I wanted to show myself to be a disciple of Jesus? Then I had to learn to love (John 13:35).

So that’s really the only reason why I began to move towards my mother: God made me love her.

He did this though His Word (which is perfectly clear about honoring our parents and loving our enemies and doing good to people who hate/hurt/mistreat us). He did this through the conviction of His Holy Spirit living in my heart. And He did this through His Body—The Church. The men and women who surrounded me and counseled me during those pivotal years (Paul and Donna Livingston, Cindy West, Mike Fiske, Paul and Sharon Jensen, James and Cindy Lambrecht, Pastor Vic and Sherry Varkonyi, George and June Kalemkarian) … they taught me my duty as a Christian; they held me as I wept and grieved; and they helped me in practical, real-life ways to suffer well and love my mother.

In light of all I had received in Christ, it was my reasonable duty. God called me to it and since He is faithful (He never calls us to do something that He does not also give us the grace and strength to obey—Philippians 1:6) … I began my bumbling, stumbling journey towards loving my mother. (I really messed up a LOT, especially in those early years. So one of the BIGGEST reasons my mother and I were able to become such good friends with such a deep, abiding, intimate love is because SHE forgave ME. More on that in another post.)

How grateful I am that God protected me from all of the unbiblical teachings that seem to be so prevalent amongst some Christians: “God wants you to be happy!” / “Do what feels good for YOU!” / “You don’t need to be around that toxic/dysfunctional person!” I would have missed out on so much in my relationship with God and my relationship with my mother if I had eschewed my suffering and lived for this life rather than my real (eternal) life which is in Heaven to come.

Plus, of course, the older I get, the more I see that I am JUST LIKE MY MOTHER in SO many ways. That’ll be the subject of my next post in this series.

If today’s post can be summarized in one word, it is DUTY. The next one will be summarized by the word DEPRAVITY. And then we’ll talk about DESTINY. (Those three words are also how I organized my keynote at this year’s Peacemaker Conference which you can see a video of and read a summary of here if you are interested.)

Oh. And I’ll also try to remember to talk about how loving a person struggling with addiction and undiagnosed / untreated mental illness looks very different in various situations. Because, wow! That is surely true. Wisdom and love do not mean that we always accommodate the demands or sins or wickedness of the people in our lives who are struggling in these ways. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to not give them what they want, even if this provokes them to “hate us” and threaten us with all sorts of terrible retaliation (like another suicide attempt with a big ol’ note saying how she killed herself “because her daughter, the so-called CHRISTIAN, is such a terrible person.” Yup. Been there, done that.)

Believe it or not, it really is possible to get to a place where such words neither define nor defeat us. People are going to do what they are going to do. We don’t have to ride the roller coaster of their bipolar/addict swings. We are not responsible for them. But we are responsible for OUR HEARTS. What are our heart motivationsin “setting boundaries” or “not being codependent”? (I actually prefer to use other, more biblical, terms, but those are quick ways to summarize what I’m talking about.) Are we slamming that phone down on the slurred-speech-horribly-mean words? Or are we gently, loving, patiently ending the conversation with our drunk mother who is (again) telling us how much she hates us and how we are unworthy of being loved and how she wasted her life on us?

Scripture is clear. The heart matters. And we are responsible for our hearts. We don’t do the things we do because of the other person. We do the things we do because of what is in our hearts (Luke 6:43-45).

Praise God for new hearts and for growth in grace! Especially in these painful, difficult relationships.

Hope these initial ramblings are edifying to you even in some small way.

With love and prayers,
Tara B.


Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability …

sm boats

I read a lot when I am in a season of insomnia (like right now). I try to pray, too. And sometimes I even exercise! But mostly, I read. Old stuff, new stuff; happy stuff, blue stuff. OK. Not really blue stuff—but exhaustion also makes me punchy, so sometimes the silliness comes out in Seussian rhymes. And gaffes.

(Like last night when I was looking up a friend’s address to send his wife and him a card and I accidentally Facetimed him at 3AM! Poor guy. But also a nice guy—he just laughed it off and told me he prayed for our family as he rolled over and went back to sleep.)

No Facetiming sleeping people halfway around the world tonight! No. Instead, I’ve been entertaining myself by paging through random posts on various family birthdays and Sophie’s sixth birthday gave me this little treat:

Created for Community (by Paul Tripp)

What a great read. I tend to like Dr. Tripp’s earlier writings more than his current stuff, but this article is the exception that helps to prove the rule. It builds well and his conclusions are spot-on, at least from my severely sleep-deprived perspective. Here are just a few of my notes from the article. Don’t they encourage and challenge you too?

True community requires intentionality. There are decisions that you will have to make, there are habits you will have to break, and there are choices you will have to make to live in productive Christian community.

True community requires sacrifice. I will never enjoy the productive community that the body of Christ was designed to be without making specific and concrete sacrifices of time, energy, schedule, leisure, privacy, etc.

True community requires patience. I never get to be in community with perfect people. So community is messy and unpredictable. Yet, God uses this messiness to promote His grace in our lives.

What does all of this mean? It means that community requires Christ. We are people who have been dramatically and graciously loved by God, and so we are committed to loving others as God has loved us …

Rather than being a critiquing presence, we look for every opportunity to be a loving presence … For the love that we give others is not ours; it is His love, living is us and being incarnated for others to see, and that love is the most powerful, transformational force in the universe.”

Yes it is!

And tonight I am praying for each one of us, that even our most broken and seemingly hopeless/dead relationships will be made alive again—strengthened again—by “the most powerful, transformational force in the universe”: the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

I hope you are sleeping right now! And I hope I can sleep again soon, too.

Your grateful friend,
Tara B.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then I know that you are well acquainted with what is probably my all-time favorite CCEF article (“Helping Difficult People in Your Church” by Dr. Tim Lane). But just in case you are new here, or to give us all a super quick reminder of some important things to remember AS we are striving to LOVE, here are a few notes I’ve taken directly from Dr. Tim Lane’s fabulous article. These are the things I try so hard to remember re: Christian love and Christian community, especially community with difficult people (like me!):

  • 1 Peter 4:8 calls us to “love one another deeply” and “keep love constant.” That kind of love is a stretching and extended love, both in depth and endurance. We can only love like this if we are remembering the “width and height and depth” of the love of Christ as described in Ephesians 3.
  • Even the best of relationships take time and effort. But the unpleasant relationships with, say, hypothetically, people who come from abusive childhood origins, struggle with debilitating addictions, who are even themselves surprised and overwhelmed by their own responses to new trauma in their lives? It can be easy for all of us to instinctively try to avoid, back away from, label, overpower/control, or appease such people. Love calls us to fight against these instincts. We may need to modify how we stay in certain relationships and what love looks like. But love does not give up on people when the going gets tough. Love digs in, gets help, and stays.
  • (I’ll close with my favorite Dr. Tim Lane quote of all time …) Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability.” (Preach it, Dr. Lane! Love can, and often should, say, “No.”)
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