Tara’s Blog

Sin Scatters Thoughts of Consolation

“Sin takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.” John Owen, The Mortification of Sin


Because you’re better with words, you’re going to win this argument—but that doesn’t make you right.


The teacher wasn’t talking to me or even about me (in this specific situation), but he was so talking about me when he described a recent fight he had with his wife:

“Tempers were raging. She was hurt. I was hurt.

She started to slip down The Slippery Slope to her comfort zone—the Escape responses. I started to SLAM down The Slippery Slope into my area of expertise—Attack. (Not physically of course! Just putting all of those years of law school and seminary to work to attack in the most common way—with my words.)

But then. She was so brave. She was so accurate when she said to me: “Because you are better with words and you think faster than me, you are going to win this argument. But that doesn’t make you right.”

And I thought to myself:

“And it certainly doesn’t make you loving..”

Oh. Oh. Oh. How many times in my life have I won an argument, simply because I think fast and I’m good with words? But I haven’t been right. And I certainly haven’t been loving.

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, she confessed to me this same propensity to sin. (And it is a sin! James 3:8 paints a picture of the negative in stating that the tongue is a “restless evil full of deadly poison. James 1:26 says that the one who fails to keep a tight rein on her tongue has a worthless religion. Strong words! Plus, of course, Ephesians 4:29 states the positive, that all / every word we say ought to be edifying, “ministering God’s grace in its various forms.”)

But this teacher I heard years ago? My friend in our conversation yesterday? So many people—including myself for many, many years? We actually enjoy verbally backing people into corners.. It’s like a sport to us. And in the right place at the right time (debate society / moot court / an actual courtroom)? It is appropriate. Wise. Even loving.

But not usually. Not often in real life.

So—my fast thinking, good-with-words-friends? (And I’m pointing the finger at myself too!) Let’s be careful. Far, far more careful. Let’s stop using our words to back people into verbal corners as we remember:

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness …

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And wa harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:5 & 17-18 ESV

For the glory of the Lamb and the actual loving of our real neighbors—

Your friend,
Tara B.

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.

2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs



In just three weeks, I will have the joy of serving at the 2014 Peacemaker Conference. If there is any possibility you can join us September 25-27 in Colorado Springs (or earlier for some of the pre-conference advanced training events), it truly would be wonderful to spend time with you there.

But if you can’t make it to Colorado, please do plan to pop into the LiveBlogs and say hello.

(If you have no idea what a LiveBlog is, you can learn more about them here.)

Thanks, all! And hope to see you in Colorado or on the LiveBlogs—

Tara B.

Two MORE (Free!) Books to Encourage You as You Minister: Made for More (Hannah Anderson) & Gospel-Centered Teaching (Trevin Wax)

more and gospel

It’s almost September 1 and the biggest WIN FREE STUFF GIVEAWAY of (biblical & practical) resources our family has ever done is coming to a close. THANK YOU for all of the sweet comments and for letting others know about Living the Gospel in Relationships video series. Fred and the girls and I are so grateful.

To round out our gifts of the just-released ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (which I was so blessed to receive an advanced copy of), we are adding two books that I am confident you will truly enjoy:

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson

Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture by Trevin Wax

So that puts the count of books for this giveaway at 15 + a gorgeous, cloth-covered edition of the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible.

As always, NO RISK OF SPAM! So I hope you will join in the fun. And please let a friend know too!

Click Here to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Great!) Books

Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the books!

Tara B.

Begging Jesus for Sleep


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.