Tara’s Blog

LiveBlog of The 2016 Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference – General Session 1: Kathleen Nielson – Born Again to a Living Hope

Live Blog The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference: Kathleen Nielson – Born Again to a Living Hope

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray!” — My Review and Endorsement of Megan Hill’s “Praying Together”

Praying Together

I love beautiful prose and apt illustrations. When I book teaches me a new word (or two or three!), I know I am in for a treat. But my favorite thing of all about excellent Christian writing is when I forget the author and stop even noticing the beauty and wisdom of the words, because my heart is actively being drawn to meditate on the Triune God as revealed in Holy Scripture. And thus it is with Megan Hill’s, “Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches.”

This is an excellent book on prayer that I endorse and recommend without hesitation.

Unlike some of my other favorite books on prayer—some are richly theological, but a little weak in the practical application; others are phenomenal in diagnosing our real-life struggles regarding prayer and offering “solutions,” but present only the pale veneer of a shell of robust practical theology—Megan strikes a beautiful balance of Scriptural exegesis with relevant illustrations and instructions. She is also extremely encouraging!

Megan organizes Praying Together into three parts: 1) The Foundations of Praying Together (Relationship, Duty, Promise); 2) The Fruits of Praying Together (Love, Discipleship, Revival); and 3) The Practice of Praying Together (Praying with the Church, Partners and Groups, Family and Guests).

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Praying Together:

  • Our relationship with the God who is three-in-one assures us that all three will involve themselves in our praying—making the prayers of a Christian part of a grand, heavenly conversation.
  • A company of praying people is a company of people equally dependent on God. But we also come to prayer with equally good help. The most eloquent giant and the most timid new believer can pray boldly together because Jesus prays for them both.
  • In prayer together, we love one another … Our common experiences are an opportunity for mutual love, and hearing the prayers of sympathetic friends gives us comfort. We take this same comfort from Christ as he prays for us.
  • Praying together is a loving act of Christian discipleship.
  • Thanking God together is an effective guard against ingratitude.
  • Whether I feel like it or not, I pray.
  • The Christian never prays alone. And the Christian never leads others in prayer by himself but always has the promised and sufficient help of the three: the listening Father, the meditating and interceding Son, and the helping Spirit. With this confidence, you can take steps (I’ll suggest three) to better lead others in prayer …
  • If it is good for us to pray in all our human relationships, it is especially sweet to pray regularly with our closest friends.
  • Praying together ought to be an element of the hospitality that God repeatedly commands us to offer … our prayers together refresh the hearts of saints and stand as a testimony to the unconverted.
  • Brothers and sisters, let us pray.

Amen and amen! And thank you, Megan, for this gift to the Body.

With much gratitude,
Tara Barthel, Author of Living the Gospel in Relationships and Co-author of Peacemaking Women and Redeeming Church Conflicts

Megan also includes wonderful study questions and a detailed bibliography, so this is a book that could (and should) definitely be used in group settings.

Surrounded by People yet Desperately Alone

surrounded by people yet desperately alone

What a joy it is to be included on the PCA Women’s blog, enCourage!  I hope that you will check out my inaugural post there:

Surrounded by People Yet Desperately Alone

(And all of the other posts by wonderful writers such as Susan Hunt, Karen Hodge, Ellen Dykas, Courtney Doctor, Christina Fox, Melissa Kruger … and more!)

Teach Your Kids from Your Weaknesses! (Romans 12: Duty, Depravity, and Destiny …)

This morning, I told my girls THE Romans 12 story. Some of you have heard it. You know. That time when I was SO MAD that I ripped my Bible — WHILE sitting in my Director’s chair at The Institute for Christian Conciliation / Peacemaker Ministries.

Beloved and brilliant Judy Dabler patiently and lovingly counseled me right into repentance and faith, basically by making me read Romans 12 out loud to her over the telephone. Yup. Not my best moment. But it sure has been LIFE CHANGING for me re: how God’s mercy calls me to respond when people treat me poorly.

(Oh. And my kids LOVED this story. MAN! Do they pay attention when we teach from our failures and weaknesses and point to God’s goodness and strength.)



Help (and Biblical Hope!) for Churches in Conflict

Hope for Redeeming Church Conflicts

Our family is celebrating the release of the second edition of “Redeeming Church Conflicts” by the wonderful Hendrickson Publishers!

My sweet and silly daughters even held a little photo shoot in order to re-pose the picture we took when the first edition was released four years ago:

first edition  second edition reposed pic

Oh, how we pray that you, or someone you know who is facing the heart-breaking pain of church conflict, receives biblical, Christ-centered, imminently practical for real life HELP and HOPE.

Sending my love and greetings from Dave, too!

Your sister in Christ,
Tara B.

My coauthor on this project, David V. Edling, was the primary author of the PCA Book of Church Order Appendix on Biblical Conflict Resolution. So if any of you are PCA, you may want to consider letting your teaching and ruling elders know about this resource.

As our own Book of Church Order states:

“Biblical peacemaking is one of God’s highest priorities (Matt. 5:23-24; Rom. 12:18; Gal.6:1); therefore, it must be one of our highest priorities.”

“Each presbytery should endeavor to have several elders trained in the methods of “Christian conciliation” (including mediation and arbitration), and available to serve as Christian conciliators in cases that could and should be resolved privately before judicial process is initiated.”




Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande’s Endorsement of “Redeeming Church Conflicts”

Dream big. Work hard. Sacrifice. Be excellent. And then give it away! (HT: Joe Adams)

I love everything that I have ever read or seen by Carolyn McCulley and this video is no exception:

If you have ever wondered why you are doing some “small ministry” in your daily life; or why you are working hard in secret; or whether any of it ever really matters, watch this video and be encouraged.

It reminded me so much of a man I respect and value deeply, Joe Adams of Southside Fellowship. He is the only reason why Living the Gospel in Relationships actually exists. Like the hero in this video, he too is a tech geek, he has a passion for serving God’s people, and he is brilliant and excellent at everything he does. Plus, he was willing to work hard–hundreds and hundreds of hours hard–for no pay and no glory, at least not in this life.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the importance of paying people for their labors–I do! A worker is due his or her wages. (And I do dream about the day when I might have the ability to surprise Joe with a giant thank you check!) But I know that’s not what he wants. He’s pleased as punch to have gotten to serve. That’s the kind of man he is (and the kind of woman his wife is, I might add—Hi, Rachelle!). And the truth is, sometimes, in certain situations, we get to pour ourselves out and leave it all on the mat and just serve. Give our very very best and then give it all away. It’s wonderfully exhausting, but also truly blessed, to live this way.

I’m so grateful for Joe. And my dear husband, Fred (who is the only other reason why the video series exists). And also for Carolyn McCulley and Citygate films.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

Easter Makes Me Think of Death—But That’s OK


Our Easter this year will be a very strange one. Rather than church services and corporate hymns (“Christ has Arisen, Alleluia!” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!”), our family will be 50 feet under the ocean enjoying a strangely-timed (but I’m sure enjoyable) SCUBA trip.

Still. It’s Easter Week. And that means I’ve been thinking through our Lord’s final steps on this planet. (Maundy Thursday wasn’t just a packing day to me.) And Easter, as always, will not only turn my heart towards the Triune God with my life-long desire to be with him, Easter will first turn my heart towards death.

My heart grieves on Easter Day because it was an Easter evening in 2007 when the Lord, in his sovereign goodness, chose to take our second child from my womb, straight to Heaven. We miss this baby so much! We wonder if he would have been a calm, type-B, phlegmatic little kid (just like the only other male in our household). We wonder what life would be like with an eight year-old right now. But mostly, we trust God’s frowning providence, even over the horror of what must be the most unnatural thing a woman faces—the slipping away of her child from her womb with her having absolutely no power to stop it. None. 

The memory of that child pouring out of me when I was supposed to be protecting him is one of the most terrible, despairing, dark, glimpse-of-hell-and-sin-because-this-life-is-not-what-it’s-supposed-to-be moments of my entire life. I clung to Christ in that moment and I cling to him now because there is absolutely no other hope for me other than the resurrection of God himself over death itself. Alleluia! Allelu! This is my hope. This is my confidence.

Easter also pushes me to think about death because my mother LOVED Easter. Like her mother before her (my Grandma Pearl), she loved the bonnets and dresses and gloves and eggs and, well, I’m not 100% sure she loved going to church–but Grandma Pearl did and it was the one time of year that my mom actually went to church. So I have always associated Easter with my mom. And since my mother died four years ago, not a day goes by when I don’t miss her. (I’m crying even just typing that sentence.)

Some of you may find that hard to believe because you know the neglect and abuse I faced as a young child. But I encourage you to read through my “Eulogy for a Bad Mother” or “How to Love a Mentally Ill Addict (Who Happens to be Your Mother)” posts and I think you’ll see what a dear friend, my best friend, my mother became as we learned how to confess to, forgive, love, and enjoy one another. (If you’re more of an auditory learner, there is a video here that might be more helpful than reading all of the posts.)


I’m going to re-post a few things that I wrote when my mother was dying back in 2012. Mostly, I am doing this for myself—it’s good to cry. It’s good to grieve. But also, I hope that you find them edifying! Especially if you are grieving today, I pray that you might find them comforting.

I also would like to introduce you to a wonderful book on the psalms of lament by my dear friend, Christina Fox:

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament

It is a beautiful read it points to the true balm for our souls.

Blessed Easter to you!

Much love,
Tara B.

If you facing loss, especially the loss of a child, I heartily recommend all of the resources, teachings, and ministries of Nancy Guthrie: http://www.nancyguthrie.com/

The photo at the top of this page was taken when we found out we were pregnant with the baby we lost. He was also in all of the videos for Living the Gospel in Relationships (and making me QUITE sick in between takes, may I add!) and otherwise in only one other photo:


2016 PCA Women’s Ministry Leadership Training LiveBlog #4: Abby Hutto – Show Me the Savior and Nothing Else

Live Blog 2016 PCA LT #4: Abby Hutto – Show Me the Savior and Nothing Else

2016 PCA Women’s Ministry Leadership Training LiveBlog #3: Susan Shepherd – Show Me the Savior in the Context of Gospel Friendships

Live Blog 2016 PCA LT #3: Susan Shepherd – Show Me the Savior in the Context of Gospel Friendships

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