Near Stotterheim, Germany, July 2, 1505

Claps of thunder split the clouds, and bolts of lightning burst the skies. A rainstorm brewed above the German landscape. It was a typical afternoon shower, the kind that cools the soil after the sun has baked it. But for young Martin Luther, the experience was explosive and terrifying.

"The storm will kill me!" he screamed, stumbling to the ground. Waves of rain scourged him in the soggy pasture. His life was full of storms, showers of conviction by day and tempests of depression by night. Swirling clouds of guilt and shame hung above his head, and no matter how fast he ran, no matter how far he went, he could never escape the fact that he was a raw and weary sinner, running away from a good and righteous God. Luther questioned everything. Why am I on this earth? What will I do with my life? Is there a plan for me? After receiving a master of arts degree in Erfurt, Germany, he planned to follow his father's wishes and study law. He had the mechanics of a fine lawyer — a sharp mind, an honest heart and a strong command of grammar, rhetoric and Aristotelian logic. Yet Luther's heavenly Father had other plans for him — plans of transformation, education and reformation.

Perhaps God will send the storm away if I swear an oath to him, Luther thought. I would rather be alive and oath-bound than dead and hell-bound! Against the roar of the wind, Luther yelled, "I will become a monk!" It was an oath that would change his life forever.

Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, Germany, 1996

The steps of Luther led us along a windy path. He was a man on the move — running for his life, fleeing affliction, kidnapped by his friends. My father and I followed him from Eisleben where he was born, ...

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