Tara’s Blog

Begging Jesus for Sleep

insomnia

Last week I endured one of my (relatively common) stretches of insomnia. It was, as always, incredibly hard to bear.

If you have never struggled with acute, lasting sleeplessness (the kind that goes for hour after hour, night after night), please know that I am thrilled for you. I rejoice as I leave the room with my sleeping-soundly husband and walk past the room with my sleeping-soundly children, accompanied by my formerly-sleeping-soundly Golden Retriever (who always tries to keep me company during my marathon stretches of being up all night—but even she, ultimately, collapses in sleep at my feet after a certain amount of hours).

One of my dearest friends in the world who has a young child who struggles with sleeplessness and I pray for both of them often. Having spent hour after hour in the lonely dark as a child (as well as a teenager and young adult and now as an old adult), I am particularly sensitive to the suffering that these little girl is experiencing. And I don’t take it lightly.

Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

And that’s why I’m putting up this post today. My hope is that by telling you a little bit about my experience, I might encourage those of you who struggle as I do that you are not alone. (You are definitely not alone!) And also that I might help those of you who (happily!) do not experience sleeplessness on a regular basis to be even just a tiny bit more compassionate and gentle towards your family members and friends who struggle in this way. And also? I hope that you might be moved to pray for us because sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about insomnia that I have often wondered if people who aren’t insomniatic know:

  1. I can usually tell before I try to go to sleep that it is going to be a “bad night.” And thus, during our (usually sweet and relaxed) family cuddle / Bible reading / prayer / singing time, even if I don’t give any clue on the outside, deep inside, a dark, thick, swath of dread begins to grow in my heart when I know that sleeplessness is coming and there is really nothing I can do about it. I know that when my family members happily climb into their beds and roll over and take a few deep breaths and are OUT, I will be lying there. Wide awake. Often with my mind racing and my heart pounding. Alone. Trying to discern what wisdom looks like (just lie there and do relaxation exercises and deep breaths? pray? read a paper book? read on screens? exercise?). Trying to commune with God, even as the exhaustion and temptation to despair grows worse and worse with each hour.
  2. That initial “Oh no! It’s going to be a bad night!” experience often feels like a WAR to me. Rather than our comfortable bed and my happy home and the night in front of me being something I am looking forward to as a rejuvenating, refreshing, safe place—I lie down in my bed and feel like I am girding myself for a battle. A terrible battle in which I am literally begging Jesus for sleep.
  3. It’s not just the psychological struggles (although the constant replaying of certain music or conversations in my mind over and over again is often present), did you know that insomnia often has really uncomfortable physical experiences as well? Heart pounding out of your chest wall. Terrible temperature control (can’t get comfortable). Back and joint pain (because I don’t think we’re usually supposed to be awake when we lie there, unmoving, for eight hours). True physical hunger (because we’re not usually awake for 24, 36, 48 consecutive hours without some sort of hydration and nutrition).
  4. You may already know this, but just in case … Are you aware of just how warped a person’s thinking can become in the wee hours of the late night/early morning, especially on day two or three of a streak of insomnia? Oh man. it is really something else how our minds can play those ol’ tricks on us that seem so real re: theology / life experience / the future / the past. By God’s grace, I have had some growth in grace regarding this specific area of my insomnia so that, usually, I identify the issue and turn away from it relatively quickly. For example, if I start to obsess about some sort of morbid future fear at 4:00AM, I usually “take myself by the hand” (to use D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones phrase) and speak truth to myself: “Tara. You are sleepless. Your thinking gets terrible warped when you are sleepless. This is not real. Don’t dwell here. Let it go and move on.”
  5. When someone is struggling with sleeplessness, the daytime hours can be particularly difficult too, because we can start to shake and feel cold and just find that our thoughts are muddled and we are more prone to drop things and spill things, etc. (When things are really bad, I—of course!—don’t even let myself drive because being exhausted can be as dangerous as being drunk or texting while driving. Terribly dangerous!) So this is another opportunity to be particularly gentle and kind towards a friend or family member who is suffering in this way.

Hmmmmm … I’m tempted to just delete this post because a) it seems a little whiny and I surely don’t want that!; and b) I don’t think I am communicating just how awful insomnia is. But maybe I’m communicating a little bit and so I will let it stand with the hope that it might prove helpful to even just one of you. That is my hope!

Oh. And before you start leaving every comment (or emailing every piece of advice) under the sun re: how to fix my sleep problems though (fill in the blanks) medicine / not medicine / exercise / not exercising close to bed / light /  not light / music / no sound / homeopathic fixes / certain vitamins / memorizing Scripture, etc. etc. Please know that I am grateful for your concern and happy to read your comments or emails. But also that I really can’t imagine there is something “out there” that I haven’t already studied and/or tried. I really have been insomniatic my entire life.

In some ways, I wonder if this is just going to be one of those things in my life that I experience some growth in grace and some relief in, but that true relief will not come into Glory. That very well may be the case. And if so? I am so grateful that even in my dark, long nights, I know that God is with me. Truly. And when a family member or friend is compassionate and doesn’t just legalistically (if well meaning-ly) Psalm 4:8* down my throat? Oh oh oh. I am then comforted, even if I am really really tired.

God bless you and help you if you are sometimes or often sleepless!

God bless you and help you if you love and serve someone who is sometimes or often sleepless!

Your friend,
Tara B.

* Psalm 4:8: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” So pretty! So sweet! But not a guaranteed cure-all for insomnia. Please oh please be careful when considering sharing this with someone who is suffering with sleeplessness. You may be very well meaning, but it may come across as very condemning (i.e., “Why don’t you OBEY this Bible verse and SLEEP?!”). The answer? I really don’t know. Is it physical? Spiritual? A result of conviction of sin? Hormones? A combination? Maybe. But whatever it is, it’s not easy to bear and it’s not easy to fix. Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

“You have to let your daughter say what she really feels, Mrs. Barthel.” — On Being Confronted by a 12 Year-Old

sophie ella swim lessons

Next month, I will have the joy of serving at the 2014 Peacemaker Conference by speaking on the topic of teaching biblical peacemaking to young children. I am so looking forward to the discussions and learning together that the attendees and I will be sharing because I am absolutely committed to this topic. As much as I enjoy teaching adults and teenagers biblical peacemaking, I love teaching and facilitating peacemaking to young (and super young!) children even more. There is just something so sweet and good about helping to lay that foundation early. Maybe it’s because I caused SO many conflicts as a child, teenager, and young adult, and I SO wish I had learned about biblical peacemaking earlier than grad school so that I could have avoided hurting so many people. Maybe it’s just because I really enjoy my young friends—I think they are interesting human beings and I am honored to get to interact with them about important topics.

Whatever the case, I think training in biblical peacemaking should start in-utero because that’s when we begin to develop our own biblical convictions and shared vocabulary so that we are “ready to go”, as it were, when it comes time to train the young people in our lives.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we did not know the alphabet/phonics or even pick a book up and start trying to learn the alphabet/phonics until our children were at a stage of cognitive development such that they were able to process verbally? No singing the ABC’s on the changing table? No adorable—but also developmentally crucial—back and forth “conversations” with a six month-old, babbling baby? Just waiting until they were “old enough” and then beginning their lessons with thick books and long lessons on subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and effective use of punctuation? It would never work!

Children need to be surrounded by—immersed in—a world of sounds, words, language, and meaning so that they can learn and master communication little by little each day. The same is true of peacemaking. 

I love Corlette Sande’s The Young Peacemaker curriculum and I can’t imagine serving youth in my church or parenting without it. But I have spent fifteen years now learning how to adapt its core teachings to young children because, even though I think that its recommended ages of “7 to 8 years old – preteen” are particularly important years for going deeper with the material (doing the wonderful little puzzles and projects in the activity booklets, for example), the truth is, I hope that the lessons by age 7 to 8 will be review lessons for the kiddos because they have already been (for years!):

(Plus, it’s a really helpful thing for the parents of children to learn and apply biblical peacemaking in their own lives because man! There sure can be a lot of conflicts associated with raising young children.)

Let me give you just two examples of the fruit of early, consistent, systematic training in peacemaking for young children that I have experienced in the last few weeks alone. The first had to do with a playdate/sleepover that had, at one point, a full-on, complete, Christian conciliation mediation. Yup. There was a conflict and I paused my peanut-butter-sandwich-making-Momma-role to step in to assist them as a mediator because the children knew enough to “Get Help” when they could not resolve the conflict on their own.

Picture the scene: I quickly organized the children in my living room so that they were seated comfortably, but pretty much facing directly at me (the mediator) because MAN! Were they MAD. I’ve done enough mediations to know that this “Pre-Mediation” phase needed me to take control of the situation and create the best environment for a redemptive conversation and possible reconciliation.

Then we quickly reviewed a few ground rules (the “Greeting and Ground Rules” section of the Peacemaker Ministries’ mediation training program) and then I made sure I had a big-picture overview of what had happened outside on the driveway during the ill-fated colored chalk playtime. (We call that “Opening Statements” in formal mediation cases.) Before you knew it, we were deep into the back-and-forth dialogue of the more detailed “Storytelling” phase because this conflict, just like so many conflicts among adults, had a lot to do with miscommunication and people not hearing each other accurately, presuming uncharitably, and then reacting poorly out of a genuine hurt and offense. As the mediator, it was my privilege to help to even out some power imbalances; restate things so that everyone was hearing everyone else; and then get out of the way.

Oh! I love being a mediator when the parties stop needing me and thankfully, that’s exactly what happened on this playdate. Once these very young children heard each other and understood that their friend was not trying to hurt them, their body language melted into softness and they stopped looking at me (or the floor) and moved right towards one another, eye-to-eye, in that position of rebuilding trust that anyone who has any experience in mediation has (happily, gratefully) seen time after time.

“Problem Identification & Clarification” ensued. Confession and forgiveness flowed. “Exploring Solutions” didn’t take but a minute once communication and relationship was back on track. (“How about I stay on this side of the line with my blue chalk and you can do you rainbow over here? Does that give you enough space to work?” “Yes!” “Yay!” DONE.) And before you knew it, I was back in the kitchen making lunch. I would estimate that this mediation took around seven minutes start to finish. Why so short? Because every single person involved in that situation (age 5 to 44) already had at least a rudimentary understanding of the process so we could jump in, apply it, and (thankfully!) move on.

If I had been serving out-of-state on a formal Christian conciliation case as a professional mediator, I would not have given that mediation case any more of my best efforts and professional services than I gave to those children. That’s peacemaking. To me? I think it’s just normal life as a Christian.

One more example to close out this post …

As some of you may be aware, I love to spend time with pre-teen, teen, and young adult women, especially when we get to discuss theology, logic, biblical womanhood in a 21st century, etc. I have said often on this blog how much I learn from ten year-olds and twenty year-olds and everyone in between and it’s true. My young friends help me as a human being and they help me in my roles as a wife and mother and I am grateful.

This summer, a young girl (age 12) that I have loved in our church for years said one sentence that has already impacted my parenting of my youngest daughter and will undoubtedly impact our relationship for years to come. The exchange went something like this:

My ten year-old asked her younger sister if she had had fun on a playdate at our friend’s home. My five year-old responded, “No!”

I was mortified and said, “Ella! Don’t say that! I’m sure you had fun on the playdate.”

My twelve year-old friend (and I mean that—I consider her a friend) wisely and lovingly said, “You have to let your daughter say what she really feels, Mrs. Barthel. She was asked a question and she responded honestly. She needs to be able to have her own voice.”

I was stopped in my tracks by this brave, young, friend. And she was 100% right.

The truth was, I had responded out of Fear of Man (Proverbs 29:25). I was embarrassed that my daughter had said this—not so much because of a godly motivation to train her heart to love God and neighbor, but simply because, in that moment, I was a proud mother who wanted her child to say the “right” things. (Sure, I also wanted to train my daughter to have a little more tact and diplomacy when it came to responding to these sorts of questions. But mostly? In that moment? I was motivated by pride and that was my problem—not a legitimate/God-honoring parenting motivation.)

So I listened to the (respectful, appropriate, immediate) “Third-G-Gently-Restore-Confrontation” by my my twelve year-old friend and I apologized to my daughter and to my friend. They were quick to forgive me. (Children are usually SO forgiving! We have a lot to learn from them in this regard too.) And we moved right on with our days.

Why? Because the child was ready with this foundational biblical peacemaking skill and was ready as the adult with this foundational biblical peacemaking skill. Right then. In the moment. Not as some sort of “Oh yeah, we did that peacemaking stuff one year at our Christian school / in our Sunday school class / five years ago in family devotions” kind of way; but in the normal give-and-take of real life situations that come up quickly and usually without warning.

How grateful I am! And how much I hope that you will consider layering in the regular training and strengthening of your own heart and the people you serve (family, friends, church family, etc.) re: biblical peacemaking for children. It’s hard stuff! Definitely not for the faint of heart. But oh, oh so worth it.

God bless you as you serve today!

Your sister in Christ,
Tara B.

Adding TWO MORE BOOKS to our giveaway: United – Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Trillia Newbell) & The Gospel at Work (Traeger/Gilbert)

united and gospel at work

Given the important things happening in our country right now, I wanted to be sure you all know about Trillia Newbell’s wonderful book:

United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity

So I thought it would be fun to add a brand-new copy to our family’s current WIN FREE STUFF GIVEAWAY (which ends on September 1).

I’m also adding a copy of The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs. So that puts the count of books for this giveaway at 13 + a gorgeous, cloth-covered edition of the soon-to-be-released ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (which I was so blessed to receive an advanced copy of).

As always, NO RISK OF SPAM! So I hope you will join in the fun:

Click Here to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 13 Other (Great!) Books

Thanks and blessings,
Tara B.

1 in 36 Chance of Winning the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 13 Other (Great!) Books

esv womens devotional bible

Just a little reminder that our family’s current WIN FREE STUFF! giveaway ends in one week and there are currently only 36 entries—so the likelihood of your winning is very high. (I have no idea how high because I’m terrible at math—but I know that 1 in 36 is much better odds than most drawings.)

(As a quick side note—I don’t know idea why all of you (wonderful!) thousands of lurkers don’t enter my drawings. Maybe, like me, you assume all online things are tied to creepy SPAM and creepy non-real-people entities? If so, please know that there is never (ever!) a risk of SPAM withh our giveaways. I’m truly just little ol’ Momma Tara and Fred really is Steady Freddy, the world’s kindest man, and we just like to share biblical, practical resources with women. So you can trust that I will never share your contact information with anyone or add you to some constantly-bothered-by-the-Bartherls mailing list.)

Why not join in the fun?

Click Here to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 13 Other (Great!) Books

Hope you win! The ESV Bible really is excellent. (I reviewed it and endorsed it here if you’d like to read more about it.)

Blessings and g’nite,
Tara B.

What I Tell My Ten Year Old About Porn

Yesterday, I did a quick check in with my ten year-old daughter about how her heart and mind were doing re: inadvertent exposure to sexual or violent images. I use different words, of course. Otherwise, the very act of asking about things could create trouble—and I surely don’t want to do that! But as we were there, nose-to-nose, snuggling and talking about important things, I asked if she had seen anything troubling or tempting on any technology or on a bookshelf at a friend’s home or in a store, etc.

She mentioned how the title “The Lady with the Dragon Tattoo” had created in her a desire for a second glance when she saw it on a bookshelf, but that was pretty much it. She didn’t explore it and she wasn’t having any troubling thoughts about it.

I thanked her for sharing about this important part of her life (as I always do). I reiterated what an honor it was to pray for her about such things, especially as she continues to mature and have more and more opportunities to glance longer and longer and things that might seems so … interesting. Enticing. (As adults, the term “titillating” would be an appropriate descriptor.)

And then I told her a variation of what I tell her pretty much every single time we venture into this area of life. My spiel goes something like this:

“My darling daughter. I hope you know that when daddy and I talk about these things with you, and urge you to be careful, wise, and intentional about avoiding these things, we’re not trying to keep something good from you. We’re not standing here, body-blocking you from something super fun and interesting and beautiful because we just want you to have a drag of a life and we don’t want you to be blessed.

When I ask you about these things; when I pray and beg God for His protection for you; when I counsel you to STAY AWAY FROM THESE IMAGES AND SOUNDSI am doing it because I SO long for you to NEVER have to deal with the ramifications of them being inside of you. Not even for ONE MINUTE.

Like a drop of black ink spreading throughout a clear glass of crystal clean water, these sounds and images get into our brains in a darkening, clouding way.

Of course, God gives us grace. You know my story. You know that by the time I was your age, my mind was bombarded by hundreds, thousands, of images and sounds that I wish I never knew existed. And God was so gracious and is so gracious to help me—to save me and sanctify me and my memories so that, by His grace alone, daddy and I enjoy a happy, sweet, fun, intimate life together.

But. It has still been hard. Very hard. It was hard for me as a child. Harder still as a teenager and young adult. Hard when I met and fell in love with your daddy and we were married and we began the good, pure, God-honoring, strong, cement-together-one-man-and-one-woman-for-LIFE, aspect of our intimate life together. At the worst possible times, specific images would come into my mind from 1974. 1975. Preschool! Kindergarten! Images that my five year-old self didn’t understand; that provoked strong physical and emotional responses in me; things that brought me shame; things that warped my view of women and of men and of sexuality. Forty years later, I remember exactly what I saw and what I felt and how I didn’t understand either. And this, my dear, is what I want to protect you from to the utmost of my ability.

Yes, we live in a hyper-erotic society. Yes, billboards are everywhere. Sounds are everywhere. Even our careful use of Netflix and iTunes with no “real” tv cannot protect you as you continue to grow up and are in increasingly unsupervised situations with increasing amounts of opportunities to look. And look again. And again.

That’s why I ask you direct questions now. I tell you the stories of the GOOD (because this aspect of life IS SO GOOD in its proper context). I try to give age-appropriate warnings and, like so many aspects of life, I pray that you will NOT be like me.

God gives us grace! I am a living testimony to that. But it would be far, far better to just avoid the disastrous poison of sexually explicit and exploitave images and sounds.”

(‘Course, that’s not even going down the whole rabbit trail of why we live the way we do as a family so that every single month we can donate to International Justice Mission so that we can be one tiny part of trying to rescue victims of violence, sexual exploitation, and slavery—a whole ‘nother aspect of this conversation that, it seems to me, we MUST be having with our children.)

Is this a hard topic for you? It is for me too. Maybe you’ll want to read some of my other posts for encouragement and practical helps.

Oh. And Mary? I don’t think I would have shared this story if I hadn’t been encouraged by your blog post that recently showed up in my stats/feed. Thank you, my friend. I love you. And maybe our combined efforts will keep even just one child from the statistically “guaranteed” early childhood inadvertent exposure to porn. I pray that it is so.

Off to church now!

For the glory of the Lord and His Bride—and the protection of the children in our care,
Tara B.

 

Other Christian Books that I (Mentally or Actually) SHARPIE-OUT their Titles and Rename

sharpieI’m a little worried that my previous post might be discouraging to people who title books (is there a term of art for that?) and/or to the incredibly gifted men and women who make graphic designs that I can only DREAM of being able to create in Heaven one day. (I, being the most graphically-challenged human being on the planet.) I especially don’t want to communicate criticism of Crossway (my dream publisher!!), so in the interest of fairness, I thought I’d take a stab at sharpie-ing out the titles of some of my other all-time Christian books (none of which was published by Crossway) and tell you the titles that I use to describe them in my mind and to others:

1. The Peacemaking Pastor. Blergh. What a ridiculous title. Probably the worst one ever for one of the best modern books ever. If anyone would have ever asked ME, I would have called it, “Hey! Every church member and every church leader! So you’re sick of the fights and divisions and gossip in your church too? Me too! You should READ THIS BOOK!”

2. Addictions: A Banquet At The Grave. Oh man. It’s weird to be criticizing the books I love the most in the world, so let’s stop thinking about these little thoughts as criticisms, shall we? And instead, let’s call this, “Tara’s way of hopefully drumming up some sales for these FABULOUS—and possibly ill-named—books.” Here’s what I would’ve called this one: “OK. I know a lot about 12-Step-Disease-Based-Models of addiction (like AA and Celebrate Recovery) and I’m SUPER grateful for God’s common grace through these organizations so I’m SO not interested in any bashing of them … and yet … I’d like to go deeper because sometimes, even though they REALLY REALLY get the DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM right, I think there is something more robustly biblical / Christ-exalting / Spirit-empowered / doctrinally-sound, than their solutions … so … can ya’ help a guy out? You bet! READ THIS BOOK!”

3. When People Are Big and God is Small. Yeah. Let’s just call it: “Why am I still clambering for peoples’ approval like a nervous junior high school kid?!” and we’ll be well on our way to a nicely descriptive title.

4. The Peacemaker. Peacemaking Schmeacemaking. Whatever. I’d just call it, “Every Christian Needs to Read This Book” and be done with it.

(Graphic HT: Novelties & Trinkets.)

Why do so many excellent (biblical, Christ-centered) books have uninteresting titles and graphics?

biblical theology

A few months ago, I mentioned to a friend how wonderfully, biblically, rich, Christ-exalting, and helpful one of my currently-being-read-books was. (I’m one of those people who usually has a PILE O’ BOOKS surrounding me, on every level, all the time.)

I told her that this might actually be one of my favorite books of all time (!!) and I was super excited to describe it to her. But then I told her the name of the book. Uh-oh. She was not impressed:

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry

This dear, amazing woman. A hero of the faith in my book. One of the finest churchmen, bible teachers, evangelists, and peacemakers I have ever known rolled. her. eyes. 

I couldn’t believe it. Really. I didn’t know how to respond. What is an appropriate transition from “THIS MIGHT BE ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME!!” to an eye roll from one of your bestest (most godly) friends in the whole world? I mean! This book resonates with so much I know about her: she loves the Word! Prayer! God! People! She is constantly lifting high Jesus, living for eternity, while studying, memorizing, and applying biblical truth to her own life and helping others to do the same. She lays down her life to fight injustice and wickedness and unbelief. Plus, she puts up with me as a friend! This is clearly a saint.

But the name of this book alone TURNED HER OFF. So  it got me thinking about its packaging. It did. Because the CONTENT was PHENOMENAL and NEEDED. And the publisher is my DREAM DREAM PUBLISHER (Oh, Crossway, Crossway! One day, one day, Sophia is praying that I might have the privilege of publishing with you—and I have to warn you, she is quite a faithful little eleven year-old prayer-er.)

So what’s mucking up the communication flow? Sure. The title is, shall we say, a little dry. But I personally like dry! Give me a paragraph-long-dusty-ol’-Puritan-Title that actually communicates what it’s about and I LIKE IT. But clearly others do not. So what do you do with that? I have NO IDEA. (So now I’m praying for your graphic design team too because the cheesy robot-eyed-chick-in-the-kerchief-and-apron-holding-out-plates-o’-cookies-graphic in SOME women’s materials—-EVEN WHEN SURROUNDED BY ROCK-SOLID, SPOT-ON CONTENT AND THEOLOGY that goes SO far beyond aprons and cookies (!!)—makes me actually, physically sick.)

But back to the theology book at hand …

I don’t know for sure who made the final decisions, but my guess would be that somewhere, a group of people decided that this book is FOR THE GUYSI say that because it’s cover has an oil-stained mechanic’s rag and nuts and bolts and whatever tools attach nuts and bolts (wrenches?? do-hickeys??) as its primary/sole graphic.

Seriously?

Just like Judy Dabler and I never understood why Baker plopped a vase of flowers on the cover of our “Peacemaking Women” book (since I seriously doubt Judy has ever arranged a vase of flowers and I know I haven’t. Plus, in a conflict among Christian women you are FAR more likely to see a vase of flowers being FLUNG AT SOMEONE ACROSS A ROOM rather than looking oh-so-lovely-in-a-happy-sunbeam, as the cover of our book, chosen by Baker, has placed it.)

Who decided that an AUTO MECHANICS graphic would be the best way to communicate that the following (life-giving!) content:

  • Exegetical Tools: Grammatical-Historical Method
  • Biblical Tools: Covenants, Epochs, Canon; Prophecy, Typology, Continuity
  • Systematical Theology Tools: How and Why to Think Theologically

I mean. C’mon! We are talking about the propositional nature of God’s Word here. The sufficiency of Scripture. The powerful and effectual work of God’s Word because it is “carried along by God’s Spirit” (p.17).

Don’t we want every single Christian (man, woman, child, handy-with-power-tools/handy-with-word-processors-and-thick-books) to understand THIS:

“Biblical theology: a theology that not only tried to systematically understand what the Bible teaches, but to do so in the context of the Bible’s own progressively revealed and progressively developing story line …

Scriptures are not an eclectic, chaotic, seemingly contradictory collection of religious writings, but rather a single story, a unified narrative that conveys a coherent and consistent message.

“Biblical theology assumes and depends upon a number of things demonstrated by systematic theology: things like infallibility, inerrancy of revelation as it comes to us in Scripture, the objectivity of the knowledge of God through revelation, and the trustworthiness of inspiration.”

Now I love getting to be the girl and I REALLY am SO happy that I will never be the boy (i.e., I will never hold ordained office and preach God’s Word in a church service to the gathered ekklesia.) But I need every single biblical theology point that I just typed above every single day of my homemaking, church-serving, community-serving, Christian-conciliation-serving life.

These are not gender-specific or formal profession-specific skills. These are Christian life skills. We all need to grow in the them and then we, who are influencing our children (both familial and spiritual familial) need to be not only equipped but actually IN THE BATTLE in helping them to grow too. 

That means you and I. Right now. Busy in our professions or formal education or just-pay-the-bills-jobs. Busy in new marriage or child-rearing or empty-nesting on mountains with bird-watching/flower-watching cameras galore. We are blowing it if our relationships with young people fail to go beyond, “I hope you can avoid porn and sex and somehow you make it though your education and skill development to earn enough money to function as adults one day and, hopefully, attend a church and “be a good Christian,” blah, blah, blah “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

No. No. No.

What we need is LIFE! (Jesus says HE is the Way and the Truth and the Life!) Purpose. A clear sense of (and an ability to articulate) our entire worldview:

  1. Origin: from where did we come?
  2. Purpose: why are we here?
  3. Morality: how are we to live?
  4. Destiny: where will we end up?

I talk about this with my five year-old. And I REALLY talk about this with my eleven year-old. And the pre-teens, teens, and twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings who so graciously, generously, honestly give me the gift of getting to be their friends and process this together.

How do we do it? Of course! We need the ordinary means of grace!

  • “Do not neglect meeting together!” (Hebrews 10) — We go to church.
  • We listen to the preaching of the Word by our ordained leaders.
  • We are fed by the Lord’s Supper.
  • We pray corporately and privately.

And yes. We learn things like hermeneutics (theories of interpretation) and we purposefully stand against the “modern approach” and its insidious little sister “postmodernism” and together we say (with joy! humility! gratitude!):

“In fact, there is such a thing as a correct meaning of a text, precisely because God, who created the world, our brains, and thus our ability to use language, is himself a speaking God.”

“It was God who created rationality and language so that language could accurately convey meaning from one mind to another mind … We see this again and again in the pages of Scriptures. God speaks and explains what he’s about to do and why.”

“Words, when placed in sentences and paragraphs convey meaning.”

And THAT, my friends, leads us to EXEGESIS. Are you jumping up and down with me by now? Because I surely am! Exegesis!

“Exegesis is the disciplined attempt to lead out of a text the author’s original intent, rather than my own preference or experience or opinion … “

And THAT means we need to at least understand what “The Grammatical-Historical” Method of exegesis is …

Which leads us into “the exploration and study of grammar, syntax, and literary and historical context of the words we are reading”

And before you know it! We better be on the watch against “intentional fallacy” (the fallacy of presuming intentions) …

So “CONTEXT IS KEY.” And we’d better have at least a rudimentary understanding of the text. The whole text. A basic grammatical and structural analysis of the text (units, arguments, diagram of sentences and how they relate) + the larger context (the book, the historical context, the cultural context, the issues of geography/peolitics/history that inform the meaning) + other biblical references (rest of entire book is on that) …

AND we need to know the literary forms/genres/types. The rules or patterns for communicating in these forms differ and they matter: narrative, parable, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, epistles apocalyptic …

So that all of these exegetical tools and biblical theology and systematic theology will help us to read the Bible to help us to KNOW GOD. Which is our whole  goal all along, right? To know God and make Him known!

Okey-dokey, so let’s talk covenants, epochs, and canon because:

 “The three horizons of Scripture are the textual horizon, the epochal horizon, and the canonical horizon.”

‘Recognizing where the passage you’re studying fits in that development is crucial to its interpretation.”

“We need to understand each passage in its epochal context.”

We do? We do!

Do you? Do our children? The women we teach in our women’s studies?

I know I’m really feeling the lack as I’m gearing up for my Theology/Worldview/Logic course this year. But I’m feeling the lack just in my life (the internal sermons I tell myself every single day) and in how I parent too.

All of these ideas, verses, catechism questions. This whole Christian way of living. The routines. The lingo. The patterns.

“True theology, worthy of the name, can never be mere abstract, academic, theoretical language.”

“Our knowledge of God through his normative Word confronts us with knowledge of ourselves as simultaneously noble image-bearers and ignoble rebels of the Most High.”

Truer words have never been said.

Thank you, Crossway, and Michael Lawrence, for this wonderful, wonderful book. I want to understand, memorize, and internalize it so that I can help others to Sharpie out the title if they don’t like it and glue on a better graphic if that motivates them to get past the cover and DIVE IN.

This is a great book, ladies. a GREAT book. I pray you will joyfully embrace its life-giving, Christ-exalting, desperately needed, truths.

A grateful sister in Christ,
Tara Barthel

Win TWO MORE Free Books: In addition to the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible and eleven others, I’m adding TWO MORE BOOKS: “Housewife Theologian” by Amy Byrd and “Leadership for Women in the Church” by Susan Hunt and Peggy Hutcheson

three books

I’m SO enjoying all of your entries and comments on our family’s current WIN FREE (BIBLICAL! PRACTICAL!) BOOKS giveaway. Thanks so much! And I can’t wait to see who wins all FOURTEEN BOOKS on September 1!

I’ve added TWO MORE BOOKS today, so here are the current books you could win:

  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 (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)

It’s not to late to join in the fun! The odds are still very much in your favor that RandomNumberGenerator.org will pick YOU!

**Click Here (for the details on how to) Enter to Win!**

I love a good giveaway. Especially with **NO RISK OF SPAM**. Ever.

Please pray for Fred and me if you are reading this on Tuesday night, August 19, around 5:00PM (Mountain). I’m about to head into what could be the HARDEST discipline issue we have ever faced. I am cringing and trying to have HOPE …

Thanks, friends.

Big hugs,
Tara B.

PS
I hope it’s not a disappointment to you, but just one of the books is a used library version—the Susan Hunt Leadership book. I picked up the used copy at our church library giveaway with the hope of giving it away to you one of these days and when I cleaned my office this weekend and unearthed it, I thought I’d add it into the list o’ fun. All of the rest are brand new of course!

PPS
“Housewife Theologian” sure has some fabulous recommendations!

“This is a fine book, written with gusto and infectious enthusiasm by a lady who glories in the counter cultural role of being a housewife and yet moves beyond that to delight in the character of God himself, the salvation he has wrought, and the lives he calls his people to live. Frankly, if I had a feminine side, I suspect this book would have put me in touch with it. Thankfully, I don’t—but the Housewife Theologian almost makes me wish I did.”
—Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Pa.

“Aimee Byrd has created a resource that will benefit women tremendously. This book is the result of Aimee’s passion to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Dive into this theology primer for housewives in the context of community. The intentional journaling questions at the end of each chapter will certainly facilitate some fantastic discussions in your small groups.”
—Gloria Furman, Author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home

“When we think of a ‘housewife’ words like doormat, archaic, and cleaning may come to mind; but what about theologian? In Housewife Theologian, Aimee Byrd turns the word on its head, bringing it back to life and reminding us of the unique opportunity to leverage learning as we serve our families. She makes being a housewife beautiful, and it is. She covers a broad range of topics such as submission, beauty, and sex using God’s word as the foundation for each subject. Housewife Theologian is theological yet relatable as we get to know her better through her personal stories. Aimee’s words make me eager to open my Bible and learn more about God, who is in the mundane of my everyday as a housewife theologian!”
—Trillia Newbell, Author; Writer; and Editor of Karis, the Women s Channel at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

“With wisdom, warmth, and wit Aimee challenges women to think biblically about all of life. She connects sound doctrine to daily life in a way that inspires us to intentionally live out the gospel.”
—Susan Hunt, Author and Women’s Ministry Consultant, Christian Education and Publications, Presbyterian Church in America

 

Satan, the world, and ME

sophie ella summer 2014She was no Chesterton, but she reflected the truths of her catechism training well when, at all of just-five-years-old, my second born wisely responded to Fred’s question last night:

What tempts us to all of this sin? What is wrong with us?!

By saying, literally:

“Satan. The world. AND ME!”

And then. This morning? My ten year-old stopped my propensity to panic (as I looked around the growing piles of chaos in my life and started to head down those well-worn-August-paths-of-motherhood-FREAK OUT-ville) by saying something alone the lines of:

“Mom? Maybe we aren’t doing enough educationally and maybe we’re doing too much. Maybe we don’t have enough playtime in our lives and maybe we don’t work hard enough. OK. Sure. Maybe I need to listen to more audiobooks or maybe I need to have more quiet.

But given how you’re feeling right now. Today. I don’t think it’s the best time to try to figure all of that out. 

Plus. I know these things feel really stressful to you right now, but remember all of those Christian moms whose husbands are at war or who are praying for enough money for clean water or food for the day or that their children will not be killed today.

Our problems can feel really big, but they are really rich people’s easy problems. So let’s pray. And do the next thing.”

From the mouths of babes …

(And thinking of an extended Elisabeth Elliot quote that my dear friend was also thinking about this week too …)

Your friend,
Tara B.

Enter to Win a FREE Copy of the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + Over $100 in Biblical Resources — Just by Mentioning My Reformed Video Series for Women

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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)

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.

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

PPS
Statistically, you will PROBABLY WIN if you enter this drawing because I historically have an extremely low number of entries for my giveaways. For example, of the thousands of hits I will get to this post, I will probably have less than 50 entries—with NO RISK OF SPAM … why not join in the fun?! Thanks again! — tkb

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