Tara’s Blog

A prayer request for an UPGRADE?! Is there ANY way this is appropriate to ask of you?


Dear friends,

In exactly one week, my twelve year-old daughter and I will be flying on the first flight of our journey to Uganda. If all goes well, our routing will take us from Billings, Montana to Salt Lake City, Detroit, Amsterdam, Rwanda, and into Entebbe.

I am writing today to ask you to PLEASE consider praying for us to be upgraded on just ONE flight. Now. I fully recognize that I may sound like an entitled jerk and a terrible missionary to ask for such a thing. And maybe I am—but please allow me to at least try to convnince you that there is actually a righteous reason for my request …

No. We are not asking for an upgrade for the 11+ hour flight with the fancy lie-flat beds. Or the 8.5 hour flight that comes AFTER we have already been in airports and on airplanes for over 36 hours. Again. Nope. No way.

We are praying for an upgrade on our shortest flight (BIL-SLC, around 1 hr) because if that clears, we get to take an extra 100 lbs of gifts to Uganda!! Peacemaking/Relational Wisdom resources, medical supplies, feminine care products, school supplies, and soccer balls for the 180+ children who are expected to attend the women’s conference (at which Sophie and I are speaking) with their mothers … and more!

The rules for our airline are that each passenger gets two 50-lb checked bags, so Sophie and I are planning to live out of our carryons and use our entire checked luggage allowance for gifts for Uganda. If we clear even ONE upgrade, our checked baggage allowance jumps to THREE. How great would that be?! An extra 100 lbs of gifts!

It’s looking pretty good right now. (I fly so much that I know how to check the status of the upgrade list and there are definitely open seats in First on the flight as of today.) But I know that prayer matters! Therefore, if you are so inclined, would you please join us in praying for this strange prayer request for an upgrade?

Thanks to your astoundingly generous gifts, our dining room overfloweth with goodies that need to be packed in the next few days. It would help us so much to have that extra “wiggle room” and space of 100 lbs and two more boxes/bags. If the Lord wills!

Thank you thank you thank you!

Much, much love—
The Barthels

If you’d like to pray for other things related to our time serving in Uganda, here is a quick overview of our schedule:

  • Monday, Nov 14: Depart at 5:50AM — arriving Entebbe Tuesday evening around 11:00PM + 3 hour drive to village
  • Wed-Thur-Fri: Both Sophie and Tara meet with the women in their homes to visit, read the Bible, and pray together
  • Saturday, Nov 19: Tara meets with the men of the community to discuss biblical peacemaking and other issues related to the women’s conference topics
  • Sunday, Nov 20: Sophie and Tara teach at the women’s conference
  • Monday, Nov 21: Sophie and Tara participate in a dedication service for the new Life and Peace Children’s Hospital
  • Midnight, Monday — depart Entebbe, arriving Billings (Lord willing!) Tuesday evening, November 22

If you have no idea what any of this is talking about, you can read more about our trip on our GoFundMe pages:


… plus Relational Wisdom gifts from Ken and Corlette Sande and lots and lots of biblical peacemaking resources too! 🙂

The starting point of right behavior …


Great wisdom from Cap’n Dave over at RedeemingChurchConflicts.com today:

Q: I don’t understand what one person could possibly do to help in the midst of this terrible church conflict!

A. You can be God’s instrument in redeeming your church’s conflicts by humbly depending on the Holy Spirit and following the biblical principles revealed in Scripture.

Every church conflict can be redeemed because every church conflict can be used for genuine spiritual growth, both individually and corporately within the body of Christ. Christ can use you to redeem your church’s conflict—regardless of how other people respond, even if you are only one lay member out of hundreds or even thousands, even if you are only one leader out of many. You can be God’s instrument in redeeming your church’s conflicts by following the biblical principles revealed in Holy Scripture—in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Church conflict is complex. The various causes of church conflict, the personalities involved, the church’s polity, and the level of spiritual maturity among leaders and members will raise questions that no one book or biblical model could possibly address with specificity. Therefore, be carefuland pray as you seek counsel from church leaders and members about the application of this book and various Scriptural passages to your church’s specific situation. By seeking counsel from wise and spiritually mature Christians, all of us will hopefully avoid using any part of this book as a weapon to hurt others or fulfill any sinful demands we might have. Plenty of biblical peacemaking principles have been taken out of context and forced on others in loveless and selfish ways. We pray that will never be the case with this Acts 15 model. Instead, we pray that our efforts in this book will encourage and guide Christians and their churches in redemptive responses to conflicts—responses that are based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Theologian Dr. Dennis Johnson hits the nail on the head when he writes:

 In Scripture the starting point of instruction on right behavior is not a list of our duties, but a declaration of God’s saving achievement, bringing us into a relationship of favor with him.

(c) Tara Barthel & David Edling, “Redeeming Church Conflicts” (first edition, Baker Books, 2012; second edition, Hendrickson Publishers, 2016) www.RedeemingChurchConflicts.com

Biblical and Practical Hope for Family Conflict, Church Conflict, ALL Group Conflicts!


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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.

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.

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