Check the Shelf Book Review: Messy Grace

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

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Publisher/Year: WaterBrook Press | November 6, 2015

Pages: 211

Series: Stand-Alone

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

Format: paperback

Source: Publisher through Blogging for Books (thanks!)

Amazon | Goodreads

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  That did not sway my opinion in the least.

Goodreads Summary

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.

First Off…

With how prevalent this topic is, I couldn’t wait to read this book from the view point of someone who grew up in the middle of the LGBT community.

Thoughts as a Reader:


I think this is a great book for almost everyone.  Whether you know what you think, think you know, or have no idea what to think, it gives a better understanding of the intersection we’ve come to in our modern society.  The title really says it all, Messy Grace.  Because the fact is as long as we’re on this side of eternity and living in a sinful world, it’s going to be uber messy.  This book tries to give some guidance to the process of navigating through the grey parts of life with truth and grace.  It’s hard, and a lot of it’s easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere.  And since none of us have the ability to see to the heart of someone, this book is a great starting point.

The book weaves back and forth between the story of Kaltenbach growing up and looking at “messy” moments of the bible.  He writes in an engaging way that helps you connect to all the stories.  I love that you can see his heart and the care he took to be real, even through a difficult storytelling process.  I think what I appreciate most about this is his desire for hate to be taken off the table.  There has been so much animosity between both sides that his call for care, love, and relationship with this community is a good reminder.    I appreciated him pointing out the similarities between the Christian and LGBT community.  Similarities are where all relationships start.

I wanted to put some time between finishing this book and writing the review.  Partly to fully process everything, and partly to make sure I spoke well.  I’ve recommended this book to so many people because it’s such a good conversation starter and thought provoker about where you stand and why.  And it’s from someone who’s lived and loved in the middle of it all.  I truly appreciate Caleb writing this book and giving an authentic and heartfelt look at what life and relationship has been like on the inside of the LBGT community.  I hope I can balance grace and truth in my own life.

Thoughts as a Writer:

This book is part memoir part educational.  Kaltenbach does a great job of weaving story with reflection.  Tying in research and persona; understanding to keep the reader moving forward.  If your looking at doing a topical memoir, especially christian, this would be a good book to look at structure and how to keep the reader engaged through the reading.

In the End

In the end I think this is such a good book for any Christian.  As Christians we love a multitude of people that are living lives we don’t agree with, and yet this seems to be one line we don’t/won’t cross.  This is a great book for you to question if/how you’re living in the Grace and Truth that Jesus set before us.

10 Second Summary:

  1. Authentic: Which is exactly what you want in a book like this.
  2. Unique: There are a lot of books out there that approach this subject, but Kaltenbach has the unique life situation of living it, which makes it even more engaging.
  3. Food for thought: Kaltenback doesn’t give you a checklist for how to live, rather he gives you his life experience, what the bible says and question for you to wrestle with it and come to you own convictions. 

Check the Shelf Review

Hardback. This is a book I’ll keep close and reread.  There are a lot of good points and questions that I’ll be working through and many that I don’t know if I’ll ever have answers for, but I’m glad to have a place to start.


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