Unexpected Gifts

Unexpected Gifts

Discovering the Way of Community

Foreword by: Richard Rohr
  • reading group guide
“Ironically, as much as we yearn for deep friendships and meaningful communities, many of us seem to be unable to find our way into them. Even if we know we’re made for community, finding one and staying there seems almost impossible. Though we hate to admit it, if we stay long enough in any relationship or set of friendships, we will experience failure, doubt, burnout, loneliness, transitions, a loss of self, betrayal, frustration, a sense of entitlement, grief, and weariness. Yet it’s these painful community experiences, these tensions we struggle to navigate, that hold surprising gifts.” —FROM THE PREFACE

IN A STRIKINGLY confessional tone and vividly illustrated through story, Unexpected Gifts names eleven inevitable challenges that all friendships, relationships, and communities experience if they stay together long enough. Rather than allowing these challenges to become excuses to leave, Chris Heuertz suggests that things like betrayal, transitions, failure, loss of identity, entitlement, and doubt may actually be invitations to stay. And if we stay, these challenges can become unexpected gifts.

***

Betrayal, failure, loss of identity, doubt. If your relationships have suffered from any of these pitfalls, this book will show you that staying together can create something more—even something beautiful.

IN THIS HEARTFELT and thoughtful book, Christopher Heuertz writes of the dangers of isolation, the challenges we face when we join together, and the struggles and joys that emerge from genuine community bonding.

Whether readers are forming a new community, searching for deeper community, or participating in a longtime community, they will find inspiration, caution, guidance, and encouragement as they discover the beauty of pressing in to the ambiguities of growing relationships in this tender and honest testimony about how we are woven together by grace.
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  • Howard Books | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451654653 | 
  • January 2013
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List Price $10.92
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Video

Unexpected Gifts book trailer by Chris Heuertz

After working with Mother Teresa, Chris determined to serve the world's poor. He now guides the new generation of activist Christians to do the same.

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE

Setting the Table

Community—Why Bother?

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

—African proverb

One of the consistent metaphors for paradise in every major religion is that of a great banquet. When we gather at the sacramental table of community, we are, in essence, practicing eternity now. So let me set the table for our time together in this book.

This is not an easy book—not in terms of content nor in terms of the nature of the realities being shared. It hasn’t been easy to write. It’s confessional, more about making mistakes than... see more
1

Failure

The Patches Make It Beautiful

The spiritual journey is not a career or a success story. It is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound.

—Thomas Keating

Lots of communities talk a good game about grace and acceptance, but when one of their celebrated members messes up, you find out how much they really understand grace. How a community handles failure—the failure of the group or the shortcomings of an individual member—demonstrates more than anything the strength of that community. And nothing can destroy a community faster than a spectacular failure... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Unexpected Gifts includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

From sitcoms to reality TV, the portrayal of our collective longing for connection and community is pervasive. The theme song of Cheers echoes in our ears: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” And yet, if everyone wants community, why is loneliness so common, even (sometimes especially) within communities of faith? In his book, Unexpected Gifts, Chris Heuertz describes the counter-consumerism practices and commitments that are necessary for communities of faith to grow and be sustained.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “community”? After reading this book, would you say you are living in community or are you longing for community? Describe the contrast the author draws in the introduction between “connecting” together at The House of Loom and the necessary commitment of life together as a community.

2. The author describes eleven challenges that often show up in the midst of communit see more

About the Author

Christopher L Heuertz
Photograph by Hope Jewell + Calvin Smothers @AnchorPhotoCo

Christopher L Heuertz

An instigator for good and hustler of hope, Christopher L. Heuertz fights for a renewal of contemplative activism. Chris has spent his life bearing witness to the possibility of hope among a world that has legitimate reasons to question God's goodness. After graduation he moved to India where Mother Teresa mentored him for three years. There he helped launch South Asia's first pediatric AIDS care home. For twenty years Chris has served with Word Made Flesh, working for women and children trafficked into the commercial sex industry.

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