Book Review: Luther and Katharina

When pivotal figures of history are relegated only to the pages of factual school books, pass or fail exams and dusty encyclopedias, often everything but that single hinge—that pivot point—of their lives is lost.

We are left to wonder (or simply don’t): What ordinary days shaped them into that world-changing person?

We mistakenly assume, unconsciously, that their entire life was spent in those years we’ve recorded.

I think we do ourselves (and our subjects of interest) a great disservice if we fail to ponder the little things: What were their relationships like with their parents, spouses, children? Did they struggle with boredom, depression or loneliness? Did they have a chronic illness, a short temper a bad habit? What were their favorite foods, hobbies or interests? Certainly they had many, many more hours than are accounted for in our alphabetized encyclopedic notations.

In elegant response to these proper questions rises the well-researched, historical-fiction novel, and one of the best is Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion, by Jody Hedlund.

As a reformed Christian whose most fundamental tenants of faith are based in the reformation, I am humbled to admit that I knew so little about the man, Martin Luther. In the pages of this well-written, engaging book I have met him, come to know him, loved him and loved with him. I have found who he was, what he might have been, considered his thoughts, his pains, his failures and triumphs. Exquisitely done.

Luther and Katharina actually begins with her. Luther’s teachings were the linchpin that sparked her daring escape from the cloistered life of a nun. The reader follows this fiery lass through her first encounter with Luther and the long, God-ordained process that refined them both and brought them together.

In between the narrative of these remarkable lives, Hedlund weaves the gritty details of history. I had never really considered the thousands of lives lost in the reformation—nor how Luther must have felt as the catalyst to the entire series of events. I had never known about the degree of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church; never really considered the impact of such lies as indulgences and celibacy.

Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion is one book you will not want to put down and you will be better for every minute devoted to reading it. Don’t miss this excellent, heart-warming, heart-rending book.

What Is Compassion?

What Is Compassion?

Compassion is seeing Tanzanian children without a home, clothing, medical care or a safe place to lay their heads at night and hurting with them-enough to do something about it.

Hi folks, I’m Scott Goldbach, founder and ministry project lead for My Daily Armor Ministries and that’s just what happened to me when I visited Tanzania in 2012 to climb Kilimanjaro.

As exciting as summiting the highest peak in Africa was, it paled in comparison to what happened during the trip itself. I had just come off the plane when our expedition driver, Emanuel, overheard me talking to a member of our climbing team about looking for a mission project in Tanzania to support.

– See more at:

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

It’s easy to read the Bible as strictly past tense. After all, it happened thousands of years ago–right? We don’t often think about Abraham’s past, but eternity stretches on either side of Abraham’s personal dot on the timeline of history.

David Ramos’ book, Climbing With Abraham, opens with this unusual observation. Abraham’s future, his influence, is still potent today. And all of history prior to his birth was in some way preparing the earth for his mission–his time and place. Go figure!

… there was a before Abraham and there was an after Abraham, and the same is true for you. Countless stories have taken place to allow you to live at this precise moment in time. Countless more will be written after you are gone …

Your story is part of something much larger. (Day 1, “A Bigger Story,” Climbing With Abraham)

How does that make you feel? Is it a relief to know that nothing you do is actually the “end of the world”? Or, does it bother you to wonder if God simply sees you as a tiny cog in the monstrous “circle of life”?

I just opened David’s book this morning and I’m already cogitating on this little nugget. What does this finite moment of my forever future (praise God who has given eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ–John 3:16) mean for everyone who comes after me? Will it mean anything?

The only way my speck-story on the timeline of history will mean anything at all is if I understand everything that led up to me. In all that God has done to this day, He kept in mind His intention of creating me–Abby Kelly.

To glance briefly at this truth echoed in the life of another Old Testament character, see Esther and the wisdom one of her one predecessors spoke into her life:

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

What will you do with your past?

I Can Do All [Crappy] Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

Manos sujetando una barra.Hombre colgando.

Say it with me now …

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

What does that mean to you?

Do you have it scribbled on a sticky note in your gym bag? Is it on one of your coffee mugs to psych you in the morning, “I CAN wake up!” We’ve all heard it touted from various sports fields and courts.

Yes, it’s true. None of those things would be possible with out Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

But if we take a close look at what Paul was saying, he really didn’t have any intention of implying that God’s crazy, awesome, supernatural, sustaining power was specifically designed to help you finish the marathon. Read the whole passage, starting with verse 10:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (emphasis mine)

The context of Paul’s famous phrase was him telling the Philippians not to worry about him. No matter that he was in jail even as he penned the letter. A quick cross reference with 2 Corinthians 11:25 tells us that Paul was no stranger to physical pain and suffering. And it’s from that place that he tells the Philippians, “I can do anything … ”

Basically, I think, boiled down, Paul was saying, “I can deal with all the crappy stuff through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul wasn’t claiming that he could obtain any promotion, conquer any athletic feat or leap tall buildings in a single bound. No, he was telling them that he could survive anything. Christ’s strength was his anchor, his sustenance, his confidence to endure suffering, pain, loss, defeat and rejection.

If you reframe this famous line in the context of the Apostle Paul’s original words, what is Christ enabling you to do today? What are you confident he will enable you to face tomorrow?

Can I Trust God In the Little Things?

Croce in montagna

Croce in montagnaThe other day, a fried of mine wrote an article honoring the late Elisabeth Elliott. She spoke about living a life of faith, one such as characterized by Elliott. But one quote in particular stuck out at me:

“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things.”

You see, this is the very hardest thing for me. I’ve known that for a long time–my willingness to trust God with eternity, and fearfulness to trust Him with tomorrow.

Take a peek at my thoughts:

“Sure, God. I know you can heal cancer, take me to Heaven, deploy angels, perform miracles, turn water into wine, change hearts, walk on water and even move on my spirit bringing joy, peace and hope. And I thank you for that.

But God, I’m not really sure that you can help me with body image. I don’t know that you’re all that interested in my decision about whether or not to get a dog. I’m probably on my own when it comes to deciding if I should go to that event next weekend and what I should say to my co-worker who really hurt my feelings.”

Can you identify?

So you can see why Elisabeth’s quote hit close to home. But then, God turned it on its head.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).

While I have difficulty trusting God with the little things, He is pleading with me to simply start there. When He finds me faithful to listen to Him concerning these little things, then He can invest me in big things.

The beauty of it is that the beginning is the same. The kernel of my faithlessness is the small things; the starting line of His plans for me is the little things.

God is asking me to dig deep, to plant that mustard seed of faith–tiny as it is–in the littlest situation. Then, if that soil is fertile and I truly believe in the God of the Universe, I will find He cares about the little things. And, when I get my footing in the little things, my faith will begin to grow and God will send me out into greater things for His glory.

What little things do you have trouble trusting God with?

First published at

When Seasons Collide

Dead leaves on bench

Dead leaves on bench

It’s the collision of the seasons.

Here I stand on the precipice of my favorite season–autumn. Summer is merging with colder air, the leaves are giving up their green and their death grip on brittle branches. I’ve already broken out the jeans (still paired with flip flops), and I’m reticent to recall shorts.

All this exquisite splendor is the harbinger of time well spent with loved ones and favorite people in front of the fireplace, with a good book, cuddled on the couch, over a good cup of coffee (or a deliciously dark beer!)

And so, my soul is singing with anticipation, but I’m sad too, my heart is a little wounded and my hopes are fragile. It’s strange for me, this mix of opposing feelings. But I suppose it’s good–that tears are mitigated by laughter and disappointment with excitement. 

I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend with my husband this fall. Yes, last year about this time he was leaving for Africa, so count my blessings (more on that later) he’s safe here in the states. But, we have suddenly launched into a season of such intense training and planning that I scarcely see him for a half hour a day. And waiting in the wings are a few weeks where they will work straight through the weekends–at least 21 days in a row.

And this sadness, I might have shared earlier, but I wasn’t ready–a couple months ago, I miscarried the baby my husband I never thought we could never have.

We never planned or risked the hope of getting pregnant. So when we learned in late July (with utter shock!) that I was expecting, we were floored. Just as surprising was the joy that overtook us! We couldn’t wait to hold our baby! But that wasn’t God’s plan. Somehow, our little one lived a purposeful life, and filled the purpose of his life in just 11 short weeks.

We survived that.

But now, the pain is refreshed each month. We’ve dared to think we can try now. We’ve dared to step into the realm of miracles only God can do–and to hope. And that’s scary.

So, as you can see, my emotions (fragile as they are), are swirling like the autumn leaves shimmying to the ground. And it’s tempting to complain to God–a lot. It’s easy right now, to form all “prayer requests” around the little phrase, “God please!!”

God, please give us a baby. God please give us more time together. God please give my husband a day off. God please help me to be kind and compassionate and understanding …

You know, I think all that is okay. Today I was scrounging for peace–the peace that God promises in Philippians when we present our requests to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

And suddenly, it dawned on me. There were prerequisites for that peace. I’ve met one prerequisite by simply praying, the second one is harder–with thanksgiving. 

I can’t have this unbelievable peace as long as my prayers sound like whiny pleas. Of course, I still believe God will answer those prayers, but I’m sabotaging my own peace if I insist on whimpering and repelling His peace with self-imposed anxiety, even as I pray. My attitude, even my emotions, is my responsibility.

So, I changed my prayer:

God, thank you for your marvelous plan of blessing and deepening our marriage in this season. Thank you for balancing the sorrow of this season with nature’s beauty. Thank you for giving us a baby, for making us parents. Thank you for teaching me your own faithfulness through pain. Thank you. Yes, thank you.

Submission: How to Want To Do It


Has your husband ever done something that just dropped you to your knees? You know, that submissive position–but in a good way?


We often bristle at the word “submission.” It makes us feel beneath someone else, second rate and spineless. But I wonder if God’s command for submission should have a whole different feeling, flavor, context and evoke a different physical reaction …

So I ask again: Has your husband, or anyone, ever done something that just dropped you to your knees?

Maybe he knocked 15 things off the “please, honey do list,” or you came home from a long day and he’d vacuumed the house and done laundry. Maybe, on the way home from work he picked up your favorite coffee. Maybe, he dumped the cat litter pan even though that’s “your” job. Maybe he did something 1000 times better, but often, for me, it’s something relatively small but shows that he knows me, my desires, my heart and my needs.

When Patrick turns off the alarm on a Saturday morning, rolls over and pulls me into him, I’m suddenly awash with a gooey feeling like, “I’ll do anything you want–ever!” Or, if he pours me a beer and suggests we sit on the back porch in the evening and listen to a thunder storm, I’m struck with an almost primal-deep desire to do something for him in return, something he loves and longs for. Suddenly, I want to make his favorite dinner, or offer to not give him grief if he wants to play a video game for five hours.

His kindness toward me evokes a response of submissive love, gratitude and a desire to serve him. For a moment, I’m not huffy at all about doing what he wants, about seeking out his desires or preferring him to myself (Philippians 2)–about submitting to him. 

And, I wonder if that’s really how we are supposed to submit to God?

I was reading Psalm 45 this morning. It’s a riveting love song. Truthfully, it can be applied to Christ and the church, to the relationship between Jesus and me. Listen to verses 10-11:

“Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”

I heard the Father say to me: Imagine one day being loved like you’ve always wanted. Imagine that everything you’ve ever hoped your husband would do for you, every word you longed for him to say or expression of affection is granted–liberally. That’s what it will be like when you walk with me face-to-face. Indeed, I love you that much now, but your human eyes and heart don’t have the capacity to experience it. Just wait … 

Imagine indeed. What kind of response would that kind of love evoke in me?

And there I think is the key to submission to the Heavenly Father, trusting His goodness and His (often difficult) will, embracing His purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves. Did you catch it?

The key to embracing God’s purpose for our lives and serving Him at cost to ourselves is understanding what He has actually done for us … for you … for me. 

Unfortunately, that’s where we fall short. That’s another hurdle that our human minds can barely, if at all, clear: what Christ has done for us. The essence of the Gospel. Admittedly, on a daily basis, I glimpse only shadows of the very truth I have staked all my eternity on–the selfless act of Jesus Christ on the cross and three days later, the powerful act of Almighty God erupting from a tomb.

I don’t know the secret of keeping the Gospel always before my face, but I do know it’s the key to igniting that irrational love response that says, “God, I’ll do anything you want!”

What do you do to keep the truth of the Gospel always before your eyes?

On another note, a wonderful novel based on this passage of Scripture was written by a friend of mine and edited by yours truly! Check it out: