The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places
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The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places

InterVarsity Press / 2016 / Paperback

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Product Description

Using extraordinary stories from his own life and the lives of others, Mark Yaconelli offers a narrative journey through ways in which disappointments have turned into gifts. In these pages are a wealth of spiritual practices that will carry us deeper into the grace we find in unexpected places.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 176
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830846085
ISBN-13: 9780830846085

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Publisher's Description

In many ways society teaches us to try to have everything under our control. If we are honest, we tend to think that this can be true even of our spiritual lives. But Mark Yaconelli eloquently expresses the reality of our situation: "We are small, sensitive creatures with short lifespans, in a world that is often chaotic, capricious, mysterious, terrible and wonderful all at the same time. Failure, disappointment, loss and other difficult experiences call us to accept our humanity, feel grateful for what has been given, receive the care of others and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit." Using extraordinary stories from his own life and the lives of others, Yaconelli offers a narrative journey through ways in which disappointments have turned into gifts. In these pages are a wealth of spiritual practices that will carry us deeper into the grace we find in unexpected places.

Author Bio

Mark Yaconelli is a writer, speaker, spiritual director, retreat leader, community activist and storyteller. He is the founder and executive director of The Hearth Community, a registered nonprofit that assists cities and charitable agencies in producing personal storytelling projects. Mark has developed, facilitated and produced community storytelling events for multiple groups within the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom including The Ford Family Foundation, The Church of Wales, The Boys and Girls Club, The Geos Institute, Asante Hospital Hospice, The Oregon Department of Human Services and many others. Prior to his work with The Hearth, Mark spent five years as the co-founder and program director at The Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont Lincoln University where he helped to develop a compassion formation program. Mark is the author of numerous books including , , and . Profiles of Mark and his work have appeared in the , , , , CBS Radio and . Mark lives in Southern Oregon with his wife Jill and their three children.

Editorial Reviews

"To my thinking, Mark Yaconelli is one of this country's most important and articulate spiritual teachers. Anyone seeking knowledge and union with God will be informed, edified, nourished and utterly charmed by The Gift of Hard Things. I savored every story and was nurtured by the expression and depth. It is a book absolutely after my own heart."
"There are many books on God's grace being made available in suffering. This is a good one, and would make a nice gift for just about anyone whose life has been short of idyllic."
"This slim volume lives up to it subtitle, 'Finding Grace in Unexpected Places.' Reading it while preparing for another school year reminded me that my own conversion should be my focus, not theirs. Teaching high school sophomores how to live is teaching them how to be in touch with their own journey of conversion."
"Yaconelli shares how God uses chaotic life moments to reveal His grave and offers gifts to hope who seek to find a holy perspective while in His 'holding space.' The author chooses excellent personal stories and experiences to relate both common, God-stealing stumbling blocks and the creative, unexpected, and glorious response from God. . . . Yaconelli is a well-known author and speaker, and this book is an excellent read for group discussion and study."
"One thing is for sure: there are no cheap and easy answers to why our experiences can be maddeningly painful and deeply disappointing and feel like we are wrestling with darkness. However, Mark Yaconelli's book will help you to feel safe to ask why. Through a powerful use of stories he helps us to see beyond comfortable answers to find that Jesus is on the same road as us, and so we too, like him, can move forward."
"Mark knows how to tell stories and share ideas that pull at the soul. He writes about faith in a way that makes perfect, comforting sense while taking us to often uncomfortable new places. This constantly surprising, intricately constructed book is a gift to anyone who has ever sat and wondered at the profoundly, heartbreakingly, tragically beautiful nature of life and asked: How on earth do I make sense of it all? Mark might not have all the answers, but he makes a fine traveling companion as we wrestle with the biggest questions of all."
"Mark Yaconelli gently and persistently refutes the all-too-common Western myth that comfort and affluence are synonymous with God's blessing. He also dispels the corrupt religious teaching that seeking out suffering makes us more faithful or that 'everything happens for a reason.' Rather, he invites us compassionately but persistently to step into struggle as it comes, open to the beautiful possibility that God will meet us even there. The Gift of Hard Things is an important guide into the valley of shadow, where we can trust that we are not alone and that there is beauty even in the times when we struggle most to realize it."
"I am undone. Maybe it's because Mark Yaconelli is the best storyteller of his generation, or because these pages are so achingly honest, or because somehow this guy just has my number—but whatever the reason, this book made me 'softer, more open, more human.' The Gift of Hard Things is a book of dazzling grace, a slice of holy ground, as life-giving as water in the desert. Take your shoes off and drink up."
"Mark Yaconelli is a masterful storyteller and soul companion who invites us to meet the sacred in the ordinary with laughter and tears. The Gift of Hard Things is a book full of pathos, vulnerability and silence that broke me open, named my longings and called me into tender embrace. It is exactly the kind of earthy, unpretentious and practical spiritual guidance we need."

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  1. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Ten Thousand Truths
    October 18, 2016
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    In my gratitude journal, you will not find the words back pain or dead air conditioner in the mini-van. And even though I have read (and re-read) the Beatitudes, I am in a season of mourning deeply over the advancing dementia of a dear friend and Im not feeling the least bit blessed by it.

    Clearly, my perspective needs adjusting, and, according to author Mark Yaconelli, I am not alone. As a society, we are intolerant of anything that reminds us that we are not in control, and, instead of viewing failure, disappointment, loss, or frustration as gifts which open our hearts to the caring ministry of others and the heightened spiritual insights that come from a closer following, we become disoriented, cynical, shame-filled, or resentful toward our difficulties.

    Even so, The Gift of Hard Things with its gritty and delightful truth-telling makes no claim to spiritual alchemy there are no magical words that will convert suffering into joy. Even so, Yaconellis stories offer a thin place where the gap between my desire to avoid suffering at all cost and Gods desire to use it to deepen my capacity for love and generosity stops feeling so wildly uncrossable.

    I was captivated by Marks prayer service disaster story: his careful preparation, his thoughtful attention to every detail, and his thorough marketing of the new campus ministry. How could it be that not one college student not one! ever attended that service? The disappointment of a ministry-crash-and-burn flies in the face of all my pat answers about God. Marks too:

    Deep down, we believe if we pray, follow the Ten Commandments, and work hard, God will grant us a successful life.

    He admits,My life has never matched my expectations, and even though the prayer service continues three years later (sans college students), the experience was primarily a lesson in spiritual poverty and an invitation to examine his expectations for their source: culture? family? personal need? It is only through a long re-learning that we may begin to sit in gratitude for what has been given, but it is the path away from disappointment and resentment.

    Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century social reformer, wrote:

    God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.

    Without a doubt, a goodly portion of Gods ten thousand truths come in the form of suffering. I miss the point of the song He is trying to sing into my life when I concentrate on simply getting through the trial without looking for the lyrics of healing that are carried on the melody of affliction. The aim of The Gift of Hard Things is for readers to find in the gift of difficult people, in the blessing of disappointment, or in the bracing realization of our own brokenness the reality of being met in the midst of that frailty with a strength that is not our own. It is only in this strength that I am able to rejoice in the truth that God is fluent in the language of lament. His psalm-singers have given us the lyrics, and the human condition provides the material. By faith, we add our stories to the narrative flow, and by grace we are used of God to reveal that the very things that catch us off guard have actually been placed in our path with a purpose.

    In choosing to believe the truth of this, my story is altered, because even when my circumstances careen out of control, I still get to choose whether [my] helplessness draws [me] toward or away from prayer. Mark goes on to say that we get to choose whether our grief deepens our empathy or sours us into resentment. We get to choose whether to allow the difficulties we have suffered to break or expand us. With this wisdom, I am encouraged to point my divining rod toward Hope, and to hang on for the journey of discovering grace where I least expect it.

    //

    This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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