Tara’s Blog

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #2 LiveBlog – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective

Live Blog Peacemaker Conf Plenary #2 – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective


(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #1 LiveBlog – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

Live Blog 2014 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 1 – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

One of the ways you instill hope is that you actually have hope.



Oh! I am a blessed woman. Just listen to some of the reminders I heard today at The Peacemaker Conference advanced training events:

  • “I finished four years of Bible college and three years of seminary and never once had a class on conflict resolution. But most leaders (church) and managers (business) spend one-third or more of their time dealing with conflict, but that’s never on the job description, is it? But this is where we live.”
  • “As peacemakers, we have encounters with God and God’s Truth. I enjoy helping in this way so much because God is always faithful.”
  • “Everything takes on a different flavor and a different intensity in the marital relationship.”
  • “HOPE IS NOT ROOTED IN: good intentions; behavior change alone; the skill of a counselor; guilt over past offenses; acting in the best interest of the children; marriage books or seminars …”
  • “Remind the parties of the progress they have already experienced!” “Do you realize you are not the same person you were when I met you?”
  • “Affirm the parties’ first step in seeking help. People often don’t see that they HAVE taken a first step and they are to be commended.”
  • “We’re going to put all the issues on the table. All of them. We’re not going to be afraid of being ungodly or politically incorrect. We are going there. We are going to address all of the messiest issues because God is big enough and God’s Word is big enough. He gives us the resources we need and we are going there.”
  • (And my favorite one of the day by far …) “One of the ways you instill hope is that you actually have hope.”
  • “Tell them: You are not alone. God has provided people to help you. You are not alone and you will not be alone.”
  • “Grief is a doorway to the healing power of God in a time of loss. Grief actually enhances and honors the magnitude of the loss.”

It’s not too late to join us in Colorado Springs! Or if that just doesn’t work for you timing-wise / geographically-wise, I will also be LiveBlogging the first three keynotes.

Oh! I have to close with just one more:

“We must help the parties to believe God’s Word is true–specifically that God loves His children. Poll any group of committed Christians. Ask them if they really, truly, deeply believe that God loves them. Ask Christians who are in conflict; Christians who are divorcing–do you truly believe that God loves you? When I ask that question, inevitably more than half say NO.

We get to help them silence those voices of shame and believe, truly believe, that God is for them because God loves them. That does not happen when we give them a Bible verse; that happens as we journey with them.

Mmmmmmm. Thank You, Lord, for Peacemaker Ministries.

Just a few of my favorite quotes from the Peacemaker Conference advanced training sessions …

What a joy it is to be here at The Peacemaker Conference Advanced Training Events!

I could fill this screen with pages of notes, but instead I’ll just share a few of my favorite quotes from the day with you:

  • “Peacemaking is an essential ministry of the local church.”
  • “When Christians are in conflict, one of their greatest needs is to remember their identity in Christ—this is who you are! This is who you get to be!”
  • “If you get absolutely nothing else out of this course, adopt this attitude as a Christian conciliator and ask this question: How can I best serve you?”
  • “When I start to read a passage of Scripture to Christians in conflict, most of them know exactly how to finish the passage. Our problem so often is not that we don’t know what the Bible says, our problem is understanding how to obey it and apply it.”
  • “Is peacemaking the responsibility, even the privilege of the Church? Yes!”

Amen & Amen!

And thank You, Lord, for Peacemaker Ministries.

The Most Scared I Have Ever Been in my Entire Life

1970's family

On the drive home from church today, my ten year-old daughter asked me when I was the most scared in my entire life.

I thought for a moment and then I replied that the saddest I had ever been was when our second child died on that fateful Easter afternoon in 2007 and then when my best friend, my mother, passed away in 2012.

But the most scared? Hmmmm. For that I had to dig back to two childhood memories.

The first was when the MCHS (Morris Community High School) principal sent a runner to pull me out of my junior-level physics class because my sister was calling from the University of Chicago, frantic, because my mom had called her and through slurred speech told her that she was committing suicide and she just wanted to say goodbye. My sister and the principal weren’t sure if it was a real threat or just idle words from a mentally-ill addict, so no one was quite sure what to do. I volunteered to drive home (I was sixteen years-old) and see what was going on.

I was shaking with fright as I drove my bright orange Datsun B210 home. My fear increased exponentially when I opened the double glass doors to our apartment complex and I was bowled over by the smell of natural gas. And by the time I turned the key in the door to our actual apartment, and I had to instinctively drop to the ground just to find enough air to breathe, I knew things were B.A.D. (You can hear all of the other details here in the audio recording of my testimony if you are interested.) Yup. Pretty scary.

But not the most scared I have ever been.

When I really thought about it, the strongest memory I have of being the most scared ever had to be when I was just about the same age as my oldest daughter (the one who asked me the question). My parents had finally started official divorce proceedings (after years of separations and trying again and fighting and separations and institutionalizations for my mother and getting back together again only to fight and separate, etc. etc.). Finally, they were done—and before the divorce was even final, my dad was living with another woman. So the one parent I thought loved me (my dad) loved only two people—himself and his live-in girlfriend. I was an inconvenience and a hassle and they just wanted to be alone together—so they kicked me out and made me go and live with my mother who, at the time, was still drinking to excess, not mentally stable, and she really couldn’t stand me at all. My entire childhood, my mother and I had absolutely NO relationship. I do not have one memory of cuddling with her or being held by her as a young child and as I grew older, my memories were of a great deal of rage and rancor from her toward me. So living with her was torture for her, for me, and for my poor sister who was caught in the middle. So it was inevitable that my mom kicked me out  too and there I was, back with my father and his (by then) wife. But just for a few months because then they decided that I REALLY was the worst kid ever and they would have absolutely NOTHING to do with me.

And that brings us up to the absolute most terrified I have ever been in my life. I was just a child. I had no resources. But my father dropped me off at some location I did not know and told me to wait there because my mom was going to pick me up but he didn’t want to have to see her. So there I sat, on a curb, with all of my worldly belongings piled around me in little kid bags and garbage bags, watching my father drive away without even looking back. I knew, in that moment, that I really was completely alone in the world. The one adult I thought cared about me just left me and as far as I could tell, it didn’t bother him at all. He couldn’t wait to be rid of me. And what did the future hold for me? An adult whom I knew did not like, more or less love me, was coming to get me because she was forced to do so.

I remember thinking:

“Oh, man. This is really it. I have no home. There really is no place for me in this world. What am I going to do? How am I going to survive this?”

Sophie asked me how I DID survive that? No resources. No advocate. No safe place. Just a kid. How did I make it through? I told her that I wasn’t really sure—but that I remember I played a lot of piano (God’s grace to me way before I knew him!) and I read a lot of books and wrote a lot of really bad poetry in a lot of lame journals. (This made her laugh.) And also that I tried to do well in school and have a few friends and just survive.

But the truth was, it was a childhood of deprivation—deprivation of love, for sure, but also of just basic life things like personal care items (and instructions on how to take care of personal care issues); clean sheets and clean clothes; underwear, bras, socks, and shoes—any time I expressed a need for even just a basic clothing item that fit appropriately, I was told in no uncertain way that I was a burden and I ought to be ashamed of myself for being such an inconvenience because I cost so much money and no one wanted me.

The day I counted out 500 pennies from a jar in my mother’s apartment so that I could buy a $5 Domino’s pizza because there was absolutely no food in the house and (since I was just a child) I had no way to go anywhere and get any food—yeah. That was the day I realized that something was really messed up in our home. But wow! Was I grateful for that hot food. (Poor, poor pizza delivery guy who had to take 500 pennies from a vagabond kid.)

Both Fred and Sophie were a little extra compassionate to me tonight as they both caught another glimpse at the layers of pain, rejection, shaming, neglect, abuse, and outright hatred that I had to bear up under for a long, long time as a child. Those things don’t explain why I’m still such a messed up person today! Childhood traumas are influential but not causative (!). Still. The influence can be profound at times.

How sweet it is to know that God’s grace is always greater still. And there are no wasted tears. Just like every orphan, every foster kid, every neglected and abused kid in a seemingly intact / healthy / “OK” home, the Triune God sees and knows and cares. He comforts. He restores. He saves his children. He saved me! He gave me Himself and and He gave me a family and a home, an inheritance, kept in Heaven by God that can never perish or fail or spoil or fade. One day I will be made completely whole. In the meantime, throughout this journey of life, I am being made more and more whole / sound / at peace because I am wanted and loved and cherished now by the one Person who matters the most.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

Who has blessed us in the Heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons, in accordance with his pleasure and his will–

to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely gives us in the one he loves!”

Ephesians 1. My theme song. My only hope. My enough.

When I remember these truths, all of my fears flee and I am not afraid.

“What can man do to me?”

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Christ, the Messiah of God.”


God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us …

“Ah! How does the God of peace, by his Spirit and messengers, pursue after peace with poor creatures! God first makes offer of peace to us: ‘Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

God’s grace first kneels to us, and who can turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements—but souls in whom Satan the god of this world reigns? God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us at first: ‘I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.’ It is doubled to show God’s exceeding forwardness to show favor and mercy to them (Isaiah 65:1).

Ah! How does the sweetness, the freeness, and the riches of his grace break forth and shine upon poor souls.”


“Christians, it is not a matter of liberty whether you will or you will not pursue after peace—but it is a matter of duty that lies upon you; you are bound by express precept to follow after peace; and though it may seem to fly from you, yet you must pursue after it: ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.’

The Greek signifies to follow after peace, as the persecutor does him whom he persecutes. Peace and holiness are to be pursued after with the greatest eagerness that can be imagined. So the psalmist: ‘Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14).

The Hebrew word that is here rendered seek, signifies to seek earnestly, vehemently, affectionately, studiously, industriously. ‘And pursue it.’ That Hebrew word signifies earnestly to pursue, being a metaphor taken from the eagerness of wild beasts or ravenous fowls, which will run or fly both fast and far rather than be disappointed of their prey.

So the apostle presses the same duty upon the Romans: ‘Let us follow after the things that make for peace, and the things wherein one may edify another’ (Romans 14:19). Ah! You forward, sour, dogged Christians, can you look upon these commands of God without tears and blushing?”


(Excerpts from Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices)

Robin G. is our Winner!

Robin! You’ve won all of the books! Please contact me so that I can send them to you.

Thanks, friends, for letting people know about the video series and for participating in our little giveaway.

Happy First Day of School! :)

Tara B.

LAST DAY to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Fabulous!) Books


I know a lot of us are trying to figure out our fall and spring women’s studies and I hope it’s not too “self-promotey” to mention my own video series, but honestly? I don’t receive any advertising from the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers or, well, anyone … so I’m hoping to generate a teeny tiny little e-social-media-buzz by asking you if you might pretty please TELL SOMEONE that this video series exists:

The Peacemaking Church Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships

… and please let them know that it is being used widely in both Reformed churches and “broadly evangelical” Christian churches because the creators of the series wisely forced me to not be lazy and use a bunch o’ Reformed lingo, but instead, explain the biblical teachings behind the doctrines of grace.

That means that if your church and women’s ministry likes to self-identify as “Reformed,” I have every hope and confidence that you will approve and enjoy this series! OR … if your church does not like the “Reformed” moniker, but prefers to use words like “biblical” and “doctrines of grace,” I am similarly hopeful and confident that you will like it too!

(That being said … if you’re interested neither in the Word of God nor the glory of God as revealed in Christ, this series is really, really not for you.)

A number of people that we respect and trust have endorsed it, including:

  • Ed Welch: “Here is a one-stop guide for relationships. It is filled with Scripture. It will point you to Jesus at every opportunity. It is very practical … “
  • Elyse Fitzpatrick: “It’s with overwhelming joy that I can highly recommend Living the Gospel in Relationships by Tara Barthel. I am recommending these teaching sessions not only because they beautifully avoid the moralistic strategies so common in our me-centered churches but because she connects our struggle for peace to the only source of peace, the one who is called the Prince of Peace.”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile: “I love women’s material that doesn’t shy away from sound theological categories … I’m thankful for material I can recommend to women, material that does not shy away from good biblical truth.”
  • Colin Smith: “Tara Barthel speaks lovingly and candidly to women about what it means to live out the gospel day by day in their relationships. Looking at Scripture, she points out how many women look to the law without fully grasping what Christ has done for them in the cross, and is doing in them by the Spirit …”

And I regularly hear from women around the world, young and old, married/single/widowed who are grateful for the way the series has helped them to believe the Word of God and live out what they believe, especially in their relationships.

So would you PRETTY PLEASE consider letting someone, ANYONE, know about this series? And then please leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm, September 1, 2014 letting me you know you have told someone (anyone!), and I will totally take you at your word and enter you in our family’s drawing for over $100 in (biblical! Christ-centered!) resources that I truly hope will be of help and encouragement to you, especially as you plan your women’s ministry year:

  1. The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (I reviewed this brand-new resource here and I strongly recommend it!)
  2. Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness & Rejection (Ed Welch)
  3. Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (David Murray)
  4. The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way through the Wilderness to God  (Elisabeth Elliot)
  5. Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future (Tim Elmore)
  6. Joshua: All God’s Good Promises (Kathleen Buswell Nielson—if your church has not yet discovered her studies, you really really should! Get her study way, way before anything I’ve written. Phenomenal!)
  7. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson)
  8. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (Zack Eswine)
  9. Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up (Amy Baker)
  10. Redeeming Church Conflicts (Barthel & Edling—because we never have conflicts in our women’s groups and studies, right? ;) ! )
  11. Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary (Amy Byrd)
  12. Leadership for Women in the Church (this is the only book that is used/a library version—by Susan Hunt and Peggy Hutcheson)
  13. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert)
  14. United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Trillia Newbell)
  15. Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (Trevin Wax)
  16.  Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Hannah Anderson)

Thanks so much for your help! I look forward to hearing about how you mentioned this vidoe series. (Maybe a quick call or text to a church leader? A tweet or Facebook post or blog entry? Or maybe even wrote a quick note to the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers letting them know how the series has blessed your women and how you would love to see them promote it more?)

Please know how much I appreciate your help to get the word out. Oh, how I pray that God will be glorified and His people built up in Christ! And yes, honestly, our family could use the financial help too, especially with some scary big medical bills screaming in my face right now. (I need to get some specific medical things taken care of, but I am postponing it simply because of finances.)

Thanks, all.

Your friend,
Tara B.

**FREE SHIPPING when you order the complete series from our family!**

I am re-posting this one last time because today is the final day to enter to win. Thanks so much for letting people know about the video series. It’s been a great month for sales and, Lord willing, the resources will be a blessing to women, their workplaces, families, churches, and communities. Thanks again! — tkb

If you enter this drawing, please be sure to check by after September 1 to see if you’ve won and if so, please make sure I have your contact information. Once I post the winner, you will have one week to claim the prize or else I will have RandomNumberGenerator select a new winner.

Submission Has a Voice

I have been thinking seriously about why it was so important when my dear, twelve-year-old friend confronted me earlier this summer re: not shutting down my five-year-old daughter when she (honestly) speaks her mind. And I have come to this conclusion:

It is important that I listen to my daughter and honor her contributions (words, feelings, actions) because this is an important part of training children to submit and obey. 

That may seem a little counter-intuitive, so please let me flesh it out a bit …

If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that I am a strong proponent of training children about the blessings and safety that come from obeying authority. (The example of Ma Ingalls telling her girls to “Lie Down!” when their covered wagon lost contact with the bottom of the riverbed for a moment comes readily to mind. If Laura—who clearly was encouraged by her parents to think and value education and dialogue had, instead of obeying, sat up and asked, “Why, Ma? What is your thinking behind that command?”, their entire family could have been lost. But instead, the children immediately obeyed and they were kept safe. Yay!)

That being said, I am also a strong proponent for training children that there are limits on authority. For example, even as I train our children to know the names of our church leaders and to pray for them, I also remind them that:

  • All authority is also under God’s authority.
  • That means that while we are definitely called to honor and obey the appropriate exercise of authority in all four spheres of life that the Bible explains (family, workplace, civil society, and church), we are only called to obey God absolutely.
  • All other authority is derived from God’s authority and thus, it is limited. 

What does that mean? Ask any one of the 4 year-olds or 5 year-olds that I teach each week at my church! They know:

  • If our swim teacher commanded us to sit on the side of the pool during a lesson, that is an appropriate use of authority. We should obey, without delay, without complaint. But if that same swim teacher showed up at Target and commanded us to get into his car and go with him, we must not obey. That is beyond the sphere of his authority.
  • If our pastor commanded us to sin, we must not obey. If our daddy’s or mommy’s boss at work commanded them to lie or cheat or steal, they must not obey. If our Sunday School teacher commanded us to deny Christ, we must not obey.
  • So what would we do in those situations? If we are safe to do so, as we get older, we may speak directly into the situation. People in weaker positions speak truth to authority and make respectful appeals all the time. (Do the children you lead and serve know the components of a respectful appeal?) Submission does not always mean silence or even often mean silence; submission often requires us to have courage and love well and speak.
  • But what if we try our best and the person in authority still requires us to sin or hurts us with his or her sin? Then, we get help. From whom? From people in authority over these authorities—swim teachers are under authority; pastors are under authority; daddies and mommies and their bosses are under authority. Thus, we have places of appeal. Of rescue. Of protection when we are the ones in the weaker position.

I teach these concepts to young children at Christmas parties because I never want my well-meaning efforts to encourage submission and obedience to be warped into creepy, unwise, unbiblical, subservience that facilitates voicelessness and abuse.

(For example, one of my dearest friends in the world was molested for years by her church leaders and her father—all of whom told her to “submit.” Can you imagine! This makes me SO angry. Beyond angry. And also so concerned—concerned that well-intentioned parents and church leaders may be inadvertently encouraging in our children an atmosphere of voicelessness and a warped view of headship and submission. Especially in our girls.)

So far, everything I have said in this post applies equally to both men and women. Men are called to submit just as much as women are called to submit. But I would like to shift gears now and point to something that is deeply concerning that I see on a fairly regular basis as a Christian mediator and also at my women’s retreats and conferences. This is especially true when I have the privilege of serving in a more conservative, complementarian, contexts.

Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—intelligent, Spirit-filled daughters of the covenant, will, in their pain and confusion and suffering, ask me questions that indicate to me that somewhere along the way in their journey to love God and obey His Word, something has gotten really, really messed up in their thinking re: submission:

  • “Tara? I know I need to submit to my husband. So when he spends too much time on the computer all night and all weekend and doesn’t spend time with me and the children, I just need to be quiet and submit. But I think he may be involved in some fairly destructive things. I’m seeing charges on our credit cards that we cannot afford and that seem to be for websites that a Christian man should not be visiting. But I know he is in charge so I just need to submit, right?”
  • “Yeah. My husband has a bad temper. But he doesn’t mean to yell so much. And he has only hit me once. Or maybe twice. A few times. But not many. And he feels terrible afterwards. And I’m probably just ‘provoking’ him, right? If I were a more submissive and obedient wife, then all of the problems in our marriage would disappear. So I’m the problem, right?”

(** Oh, friends. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard similar words to those last ones re: “If only I were a more submissive and obedient wife / I’m the problem …” Especially in marriage mediations. Especially in marriage mediations that are bearing the weight of heretical teachings like Federal Vision and abusive patriarchy. Men warping headship and submission AND women warping headship and submission. It is truly a terrible thing to behold. **)

And so. While I am (hopefully) training my children and the other children I serve to have a beautiful, biblical view of the rightness and goodness of authority and submission, I am also (hopefully) not training them to be foolish. Blind. Naïve re: the truth that when we are in authority, we all can be tempted to wield that authority in unloving and selfish ways AND tempted to abdicate our authority. When we are in submission, we can be tempted to rebel AND sometimes be tempted to be a doormat. Yes, Lord willing most of the time, sometimes people in authority wield their authority with humility, wisdom, and a selfless, servant’s heart. But sometimes, people in authority do wicked things and try to get us to do wicked things. Sometimes, the people who thought we could trust, are actually unfaithful. Unwise. Dangerous. And in those situations, love and wisdom and faith constrain us to stand up and say, “NO!” To remember that the appropriate exercise of submission in that context means not submitting but instead getting help. This may mean getting to safety and then getting help from an authority that is bigger and stronger than the person who is trying to hurt us.

So now we have arrived at the nut of the question:

Do your children know (truly know with confidence!) that you will listen to them and value what they say and believe them—especially if they come to you for help because someone they trusted is trying to hurt them?

Oh, friends. This is so important. We must get this right—especially for those of us who are trying to train children with some semblance of this idea of authority / submission / respectful appeals / etc. Our children need to know that submission is not voicelessness; that what they say matters. Especially when it comes to abuse.

  • Do your children know to whom they should turn for help if you and your spouse ever go off the rails and begin to encourage sin in your home or to abusively hurt them in any way?
  • Do the children you serve and lead know that you will listen to them when they speak?

If not, I urge you to prayerfully consider (and seek counsel from people who know you well) whether you might be unintentionally warping headship and submission / the exercise of and following of authority into foolish, blind, and even sinful tendencies. (Even all the way to misogyny in some cases.) This will help you as you lead and as you follow; and as you help others (especially children!) to do the same.

This is why it was so important when my twelve-year-old friend confronted me this summer about being sure my five-year-old daughter knew she had a voice. I wanted her to know that I was listening to her because I cared about her; she mattered to me; and she was worth listening to. And I wanted to her to understand that submission does not always mean silence; submission has a voice.

Blessings on your Sabbath!

Your friend,
Tara B.

I know that I have taken a strong tone in this post and I want to be sure to mention that I fully recognize that most of us are not facing acute and endangering abuse on a daily basis. It’s terrible, horrific, for those who are and I hope that I am a consistent voice for speaking out against such abuse. But for most of us, on a regular basis, we instead face conflicts over wisdom issues. Discretionary issues. Issues that the people in authority over us should be wanting to seek out our counsel and listen to us on, because we have shown ourselves to be faithful, prayerful, trustworthy, mature, and competent friends to our leaders. Good followers and good friends. I unpack all of these issues much more fully in my teaching “But How Can I Submit When I Know He’s Wrong?!” which you can listen for free to on the free audio downloads page of my website.

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