Tara’s Blog

PTSD & Anxiety – Annoying, Painful, Distressing, Devouring.

If you ever want to see who your true friends are, struggle through trauma therapy after being assaulted. Man. Real friends can BRING IT. Love. Anger. A text that actually makes you laugh out loud moments after you were just wondering if you’d ever laugh again. Prayer. Presence. Sure, an occasional link to a helpful article or sermon. Cards, books, and one friend in the last two years even sent a meal! (Big T!!)

But really, the mark of love for me has simply been when people felt the awkwardness of what happened to me and then the REALLY awkward reality of my physical and emotional collapse—and they didn’t necessarily know what to say or do, but they NEVER pulled away. They never gave up. They pressed in. Love pressed in. Even my introvert friends (most of my closest friends are introverts) didn’t choose silence and distance for their own comfort. They remembered that I existed. They told me that they remembered that I existed. And just by remembering me, I knew they cared. I knew I was never alone.

Please. If someone you know is suffering and you have no idea what to say, don’t say nothing. Stumble and fumble and even just say, “I don’t know what to say! But I love you. I care. I think about you and I want to put the person who (violated, attacked, abandoned) you IN THE GROUND. I want to gently care for you and sacrificially try to protect you from future pain. I know I can’t completely, but I sure would like to try!”

The fact that you care is what matters. My pain causes you pain? This means I am loved!

Oh. And when it comes to the debilitating, chest-crushing, anxiety related to all of this suffering, I have been most deeply helped by one piece of advice in one article. I encourage you to read this and see if any of it might help you—or someone you love who struggles with debilitating, life-altering anxiety and fear:

Some Things That Have Helped Me in My Struggle with Anxiety

(Stupid limbic system. Yes. Yes. I know. Helpful at times. Necessary for life even. But when it goes haywire from PTSD? Grrrrrr. So. So. SO annoying. And painful. Distressing. Devouring.)

Be helped, I pray! Help someone else! Enjoy.

Your friend,
Tara B.


Hope and Help for Church Conflict

Facebook just reminded me that it was one year ago today that The Gospel Coalition & 9Marks endorsed David Edling’s and my book, “Redeeming Church Conflicts.” What an honor! And even more importantly, what a JOY that so many people facing the misery of church conflict have received biblical hope and practical help.

If you haven’t yet read it, you can order the first edition of “Redeeming Church Conflicts” through my website for only $10 with free shipping (within the USA).

You can read excerpts from the book and Q&A responses on our website hereA number of our endorsements are listed here.

And I’ll close with just a few summary endorsements:

Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor of The Gospel Coalition, as published in the 9Marks Journal – “Barthel and Edling suggest we have much to learn from Luke’s account of the meeting in Jerusalem to redeem the early church’s first major conflict … They are exactly right. Barthel and Edling have done the church a vital service in applying biblical counseling principles to the realm of congregational conflict. Don’t wait until you find yourself in a relational mess to consult this helpful resource; read and benefit now.” 

Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author of the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible Study Series – “This book delivers exactly what is needed in church conflict: a wealth of biblical wisdom and professional expertise as well as an unflinching challenge toward self-examination and away from angry entrenchment and graceless condemnation. But best of all it offers a huge dose of hope that what is so hurtful and seems only destructive will be used by God to conform his church to his image for his glory.”

Robert Kellemen, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, Author of Equipping Counselors for Your Church – “Tara and David’s guiding concept of ‘responding redemptively’ deeply resonates with me. Their understanding that the Bible provides not a formula for redeeming church conflict, but a biblical, relational roadmap, equally resonates. I’m encouraged and equipped, as I believe you will be, by their practical, scriptural wisdom.”

Megan Evans 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 – “Experienced conciliators Tara Barthel and David 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 … whether your church is currently in the midst of strife or proactively seeking to avoid it in future, this book is an excellent guide.”

Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal – “Barthel and Edling tackle a subject most would prefer to ignore yet all have to face … Multiple case studies provide nice balance to the theology and advice. The book is theologically rich, seasoned with wisdom that comes from years in the trenches of church conflict. The hope here is powerful: even our conflicts become opportunities for the gospel’s redemptive work.”

Carolyn McCulley, author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred – “Tara Barthel and David Edling have written a wise and tender reminder that our Lord’s redemptive purposes extend even to today, even to the most fractious church bodies. Whether you are an ordained leader or a new church member, Redeeming Church Conflicts is a must read. It will give you hope that whatever conflicts you are currently in, or will encounter in the future, can be resolved in a holy and purposeful manner, to the praise of God’s glory.”

Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker and founder of Relational Wisdom 360 – “My friends Dave and Tara have served dozens of churches that were teetering on the brink of destruction … having gained a passport into the hearts of individuals and opposing factions, Tara and Dave became channels of God’s reconciling grace. I pray that you will study this book carefully and apply its principles in your church.”

Thanks and blessings!
Tara B.

Gospel Coalition 2017: Tim Keller – Boasting in Nothing but the Cross (Galatians 6)

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017 – Tim Keller on Galatians 6: Boasting in Nothing but the Cross

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Ligon Duncan: The Reformed Tradition Beyond Calvin

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017 – Ligon Duncan: The Reformed Tradition Beyond Calvin

The Gospel Coalition 2017 — D.A. Carson: The Gospel of Grace – How to Read the Bible (Galatians 4)

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017 – D.A. Carson on Galatians 4

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – John Piper: Paul’s Pilgrimage, Paul’s Plea (Galatians 1)

Live Blog Gospel Coalition 2017: John Piper on Galatians 1

The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Kevin DeYoung: On John Calvin

Live Blog The Gospel Coalition 2017 – Kevin DeYoung: On John Calvin

I’ve been coming to these women’s conferences for 56 years. And usually they are SO boring! But …

When I spoke at a recent event, an elderly woman approached me. (I found out later than she was 90 years old!)

Honestly? Not knowing her, but making an assumption based on most of the other times that elderly women have approached me when I’m speaking at their events, I assumed that either she had a question or prayer need (always an honor to serve in this way), or, she was going to express displeasure at my rate of speech. (I’m trying to say that nicely, but based on what has happened to me at previous events, I was really bracing to be yelled at.)

Sadly, getting yelled at happens a little more often that one would expect at, you know, peacemaking women’s retreats. But it’s easy to take on part of the blame myself because when I talk too quickly, I fail to serve these dear women well. I have definitely improved and slowed down my rate of speech, but it can still be a problem.

ANYWAY … this precious, lovely, pillar-of-the-church woman did not yell at me at all. Instead she said something to the effect of:

“I’ve been coming to these women’s conferences for 56 years. And usually they are SO boring! But today, I can tell that the women are REALLY listening to you. Now, I personally can only understand ONE OUT OF EVERY TEN WORDS YOU SAY.”

(I was SOOOO embarrassed! I tried to jump in to try to apologize.)

“No, no,” she said, “That’s OK, Tara. That’s OK. I’m just so glad that you are holding their attention and even though I can’t understand most of what you are saying I CAN PRAY. And so I do. I pray for you and for the ladies. I’m praying for you, Tara.’

And that was that.

Her love for the Lord and his people was so great that she joyfully bore with even my many weaknesses.
What grace in actions! Grace with skin on.
I want to be like her when I grow up.
I want to be like her today

May God be glorified and may our words be edifying and aptly spoken!

Sending my love and care,
Tara B.

O Mama! O Mama! You Dear Sweet Dear!

(An oldie but a goodie from way back when Sophie was all of six years old and little E was just a tiny babe. I hope you enjoy!)

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and it has taken a toll on our family. We all pray and work hard to serve well … but it can be hard (and lonely) to be apart. But tonight, any tears of sadness became tears of joy when Sophie created an hysterically fun, loving, and and sweet evening for us all. This is what happened …

When I was upstairs nursing Ella, Sophie decided to create and entire CONCERT for our listening pleasure. She found all sorts of tubs and containers (so that her pounding would have different tonalities). She created a sign for the concert hall (“no drenking, no food, no radeyo, make shur your sel fones are off”) and a table of contents for the performance:

Then I got to be the “spotlight girl” (with a flashlight) and we were blessed with a stellar performance that began with this song:

“Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.

Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.

You were not here …
But now you are here.

Oh Mama! Oh Mama!
You dear sweet dear.”

It’s much better with the singing, as I’m sure you might imagine. But oh! What a grace it was to my tempted-to-be-too-hard-on-myself little ol’ Momma heart.

(She then went on to the songs “lolly pop lolly pop oh lolly lolly pop / Lili pup Lili pup oh Lili Lili pup” and “The Little Bear Who Went Into the Woods”, which had a very intense middle section with the cymbals taking the lead “because the hunters were talking intensely about whether they should TAKE the little baby bear or LEAVE the little baby bear”. We had an intermission (listed as a “6 minit brake”) and closed out the concert with the world-famous “little duk in its tuc” and “10 litl monkes on the bed”.)

(The crowd went wild.)

And then, just for fun, we all crowded on our bed for a late-night game of “I Spy.”

Mmmmmmmmmmm … what a great night.

Hope yours was blessed too! And that your weekend is restful and enjoyable—

Tara B.

Just in case your curious, it takes 60 years to grow a tree and less than one afternoon for the city to come and take it completely away. My heart is broken and I miss our beautiful tree already.

We don’t know if we’ll actually GO to our Reformation Party next week because the seasonal flus and H1N1 are ravaging Billings (including our church). But if we do, we’re taking two mermaids with us …

Starting Points and Fundamental Assumptions for Five Types of Theology (and How they Relate to One Another)

I finished my most-recent RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) course last month and celebrated by re-reading some of my notes from my previous classes.

This summary of What is Theology? from one of my first seminary classes was particularly encouraging for me to re-read and I thought that you might enjoy it, too.

Tara B.


 Definitions of Theology

    1. The study of God
    2. The knowledge of God (Kuyper)
    3. The application by persons to all areas of human life (Frame)


  1. Starting Points / General Questions / Fundamental Assumptions for Five Types of Theology
    1. Exegetical Theology: the immediate focus and emphasis of a particular biblical text / What does this teach us about God, the world, ourselves? / The Bible is inspired by God and given by God to teach us.
    2. Biblical Theology: the historical progression of God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan / How did God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan unfold over the course of history? / God has progressively revealed himself and his plans over time.
    3. Systematic Theology: particular subject areas or questions of interest to us / What does the whole Bible teach about this subject? / The Bible is a coherent unity and relevant to all of life.
    4. Historical Theology: the historical development of Christian doctrine / What have Christians believed and taught about this subject? / We can learn from the wisdom and learning of Christians in the past. ** Odd one out because not authoritative per se **
    5. Practical Theology: the needs and activities of church ministry / How should we do church ministry in light of God’s Word? / The Bible is authoritative and sufficient for church ministry.


  1. How are the various types of theology related to one another?
    1. Exegetical must ultimately draw from other passages in its exegesis. Thus it will draw on systematic theology.
    2. It must also draw from where it is in God’s overall progressive story which employs biblical theology.
    3. Systematic must employ exegesis of its passages.
    4. Additionally systematic theology will lead into the doctrine of progressive revelation which is the key point in biblical theology.
    5. Biblical theology employs exegesis of texts and questions of a topical nature as in systematic theology. It has implications that draw from other texts too, which utilizes systematic theology.
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