Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

What an incredibly amazing story!

Sometimes, grace gets messy.   Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents, marched in gay pride parades as a youngster, and experienced firsthand the hatred and bitterness of some Christians toward his family.   But then Caleb surprised everyone, including himself, by becoming a Christian…and a pastor.   Very few issues in Christianity are as divisive as the acceptance of the LGBT community in the church. As a pastor and as a person with beloved family members living a gay lifestyle, Caleb had to face this issue with courage and grace.   Messy Grace shows us that Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t have an exception clause for a gay “neighbor”—or for that matter, any other “neighbor” we might find it hard to relate to. Jesus was able to love these people and yet still hold on to his beliefs. So can you. Even when it’s messy.

Caleb Kaltenbach begins his story by writing about the morning he wished he could go to the church down the street – and not preach the sermon he had prepared – but he’s the pastor of his church! I found he was very candid about his life, his difficulties and his story. He also sheds great light to the trials those living in the LGBT community have – but he does not back down on his convictions and instead challenges Christians to be truly loving and not Pharisees.

The chapter on the messy church really challenged me as he asks questions for the reader and their church to think about. Questions such as “Would you allow a same-sex couple to attend your church? What would the reaction be if two men were holding hands in the lobby? Could a lesbian couple who attend your church also attend a parenting class that you’re putting on (because their child is in your children’s ministry)? And more! These questions really made me think!

Each chapter in this book had Caleb telling different parts of his story and stories of those he has met. All challenge the Christian on how they react to LGBT people. It also can be read by LGBT individuals who wonder how God sees them. At the end of each chapter the book has reflection and discussion questions.

This book is written in a very easy way to read – it’s the challenges and thoughts it provokes that make it difficult. I highly recommend it! I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

CALEB KALTENBACH is lead pastor at Discovery Church, Simi Valley, CA. He speaks widely on faith, reconciliation, and sexual diversity to people on all sides of the LGBT issue. Caleb attended Talbot School of Theology (Biola University) and is currently finishing his DMin at Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Amy, have two young children. – See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/author-spotlight.php?authorid=225337#sthash.q8knj6QM.dpuf

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Luther and Katharina

Luther and Katharina grabbed my attention from the start with Katharina’s escape from the convent and kept me reading as I desired to learn more about the customs of the day and her love for Luther. (One custom of the day I found intriguing was that of the betrothal night!).  I did not want this book to end!

“She was a nun of noble birth. He, a heretic, a reformer…an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire.”

In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love.

Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.

I had read of how Martin Luther, a monk, had married a nun – but I had never read their story. I was delighted to not only read their love story but also to get some real historical perspective of the great and grave difficulties they faced! The author skillfully wove true quotes from Luther as she brought to life the spiritual and physical battles the reformers fought. What we take for granted came at great cost! We have Bibles we can read in our language, we don’t spend much of our hard earned money on indulgences so we can make it to heaven, we don’t sacrifice our children at young ages to be sent to the monastery or convent (Katharina was 5) and we have no class system that we must marry within! All of these and more are woven into Ms. Hedlund’s amazing novel.

However, as I read this book I wondered how much of the story was true and I was glad to read the author’s note:

“After reading a book like this, you may be wondering how much of the story is true to history and how much I added for interest. In any work of historical fiction, a writer must start with the framework of facts then add many more details to bring about an enjoyable, entertaining story. So what really happened? Most of it!”

She goes on to tell which parts and characters are known and which are not. Her desire is to have Katharina’s story “encourage and inspire you to treasure those God has given you” as you read a book with suspense, intrigue, villains, and romance!

I found this book fascinating and I highly recommend it – I even recommended it to my husband, which I don’t do very often! One thing that did puzzle me as I read was what Obstwasser was since Martin Luther liked it and drank it often in this novel. Google to the rescue! It is a fruit schnapps – now you know as you read! Luther and Katharina comes out on October 6, 2015. Click here to find out more  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.