REVIEW Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack, by Alia Joy

This page is a compilation of the following futuristguy blog posts:

*Glorious Weakness* #1 – Journeying with Alia Joy

*Glorious Weakness* #2 – Poverty, Need, and Aching with Emptiness

*Glorious Weakness* #3 – A Book Every Individual Can Benefit from Reading

*Glorious Weakness* #4 – A Book Every Leader, Influencer, and Organizer Can Benefit from Heeding

Book Review: *Glorious Weakness* by Alia Joy

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*Glorious Weakness* #1

Journeying with Alia Joy

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack is a forthcoming book from Alia Joy. I am part of a team dedicated to letting people know about this book and her other writings, so I’ll be posting periodically about this, including eventually a review of her book. But I wanted to do more, give you all the opportunity to join me along the way as I seek to absorb some of the many treasures from her writings.

As those connected with me on social media may know, I’ve been immersed the last 10+ years, writing my own mega-project Field Guide series. The goal of completing it has required some heavy-duty stewardship of time and energy; I’ve taken extended breaks only a few times in that decade to review friends’ books. But, when the opportunity came up to apply to be part of Alia Joy’s launch team, I knew immediately I should and would do so.

I’ve been following her on Twitter for long enough to have lost track of when I started. But I found Alia Joy words captivating from the start. Rarely have I encountered someone who can express in such poignant language the vivid points of both our frailty and yet our magnificence as humans marked with the very image of God our Creator. From her posts about everyday difficulties — physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually — I know she understands and embodies this daily paradox of glorious/weakness.

And I read her words because they infuse me with hope for my own battles of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. As a Christian futurist, hope is much of what drives me: The knowledge that Christward transformation changes our horizons, both personally and in community. Hope is not pie-in-the-sky mist that burns off in the heat of suffering. It is both mystery and practicality for navigating in and through suffering.

As Alia has intriguingly said, “As Christians, our native language is hope.” To me, as a linguist, that is rich with meaning. What does it perhaps mean to you?

Anyone who has struggled with feeling inadequate, disillusioned, or just too broken will find hope in Alia Joy-Writer’s #GloriousWeakness.

Please enter on Goodreads for a chance to win a copy!

You can follow her on Facebook at Alia Joy- Writer and on Twitter at Alia Joy.

And check out her most recent blog post, The Syllables Are Love, in which Alia shares about her book and the launch team. See if you are as captivated by her vulnerability of heart and loveliness of language as I have been …

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*Glorious Weakness* #2

Poverty, Need, and Aching with Emptiness

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3, NIV

We live in a society that despises lack. We don’t value poverty, that’s for sure. So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? How could that possibly be what God desires for us? How is it a blessing to need?

[…] When I first wrote the words ‘bipolar disorder’ on my blog, I was terrified. What would people think? But I knew I had family support and generous readers, and so I began writing about faith and mental illness. About sitting with God in the dark. And the emails started coming in.

I discovered that the lights have gone out for many of us. You know how, when you close your eyes, for a moment you can still see the outline of what you were looking at as faint orbs? That’s how it felt when the light went out for me: I knew the light had mass and form and it was still there, but I couldn’t make out anything. It’s the smallest hope of light. And it’s that hope of light that I want to share. When the whole world goes dark, even the tiniest glimmer shines.

~ @aliajoyH in #GloriousWeakness

From the first two pages in her Introduction, Alia Joy had me thinking about #GloriousWeakness themes on the paradoxes of “need.” Words that came to mind about being “poor in spirit” mostly surrounded the concept of lack — need, neediness, holes, darkness, what’s missing instead of what’s there, unstable, chaotic. Then, a cosmic simile about darkness and light struck me.

Having “toxic neediness” is like becoming a black hole. We absorb all else from everyone else whom we dragged in while driven by our scramble to find stability. We seek to fill up what is missing, perhaps even try to fill the void ourselves. Ironically, feeding that very sense of instability itself generates constant chaos.

But having “true need” is like becoming a nova. In a flash of light, we reveal what is there, who we truly are. We may give off a deep if uncertain hint and hope that order will eventually rule over the temporary chaos caused by lack. And – wonders of wonders – the emission of light invites people in.

I’m sure I’ve oversimplified the astronomical aspects of black holes and novas, and perhaps overdone the metaphorical elements. But, it seems to me those are outweighed by the value in the contrasts between the projection of darkness and light, and their parallel connections to neediness and need.

Personally, I find that to ignore or fill up my neediness makes me cranky, but to recognize my need sparks my creativity to find ways to navigate what seem to be unavoidable barriers, or skunkwork ways to cross over a gap. I’ve had to do that a lot, because I’ve dealt with multiple chronic illness conditions my entire adult life. Constant dealings with lack — of energy, of stamina, of health — has marked my life daily with shrouds of darkness.

There’s a paradox, though. Sitting in the dark, we invite in the light that, ultimately, God Himself brings: Jesus, the light of the world.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ” (John 8:12; ESV).

The beatitude chapter of Matthew 5 brings us full circle from the chaos of nova-need—“blessed are the poor in spirit” in verse 2—to the creative witness of becoming a light to the world that shows forth the Father.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthrew 5:14-16, NIV via Biblegateway)

In the darkness of our need, God gives us a Sun who brings warmth and light that makes us into His redemptive metaphor: “Blessed are the poor in spirit …”

Selah.

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I find Alia Joy tremendously insightful; hopefully you’ve been intrigued enough to want to see more. If you’d like to read a sample of Alia Joy’s Glorious Weakness book, there is a link near the bottom of this page on her website to a downloadable sample. The PDF includes the Foreword (by Seth Haines), and her Introduction, and Chapter 1: The Nakedness of Need: The Glorious Weakness of Poverty.

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Anyone who has struggled with feeling inadequate, disillusioned, or just too broken will find hope in Alia Joy-Writer’s #GloriousWeakness (Facebook) or #GloriousWeakness (Twitter).

Please enter on Goodreads for a chance to win a copy!

You can follow her on Facebook at Alia Joy- Writer and on Twitter at Alia Joy.

And check out her most recent blog post, The Syllables Are Love, in which Alia shares about her book and the launch team. See if you are as captivated by her vulnerability of heart and loveliness of language as I have been ..

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*Glorious Weakness* #3

A Book Every Individual Can Benefit from Reading

“Blessed are the tenacious, for they will eventually reach the summit,

and be able to turn and see the valleys from whence God has brought them.”

[My personal Beatitude, written in the months our church dove deep into Matthew 5.]

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I’ve long since concluded that Glorious Weakness is a book that (1) all individuals can benefit from reading, and (2) all ministry leaders can benefit from heeding.

I continue to work on writing my review where I will expand on these two notions … but I’m also having to face my own set of weaknesses in the midst of that process. One of which is occasional insomnia, which has plagued me recently.

So, last night, instead of endless cycles of tossing and turning, I got up at 1 a.m. and wrote the first draft of the mountain of material from which I’ll mine my eventual review. (The way my mind works, I write to the big picture first and then gradually sift that mass down to the essentials that will work best for the purpose at hand.) This post shares a first draft of my thoughts on why I believe everyone needs to read Alia Joy’s book.

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There are multiple reasons why everyone needs to READ Glorious Weakness, and all will benefit from it.

First of all, it’s because Alia Joy knows the wonder of words, how they draw us in. And she’s able to make the words she writes match who she sounds like live. There’s a reality and a rhythm to what she says/writes that can make us gasp as we intuitively grasp onto them as wise and wondrous. Her voice is powerful, on the page and in person.

But I think it’s Alia Joy’s “who” underneath the “what” of her words that really draws us in. And she is “a Namer”–that’s her superpower, and it’s what empowers us as readers. Namers are magnetic. Listen to how many readers say, in essence, “You put into words what I was thinking/feeling/wondering, but didn’t know what to call it.”

Ever wonder how exactly that connection happens? The way I see it, Namers earn trustworthiness because they show us they’re in touch with both the bright spaces and darker corners of who they are. They share both constructive and destructive thoughts, and cognitive dissonance options they are driven to decide between. They share the highs and lows of their feelings, along with the clashing-emo of ambivalence and the no-more-mojo of apathy. They share from their imagination the paradox of self-doubts versus high hopes, and how those seeming antagonisms result in tenacity in moving forward, even if in baby-steps of perseverance.

But they don’t just state these things, as if they’re sterile abstractions. No, Namers concretely embody all those ebbs and flows of being human in the vulnerable form of personal experience. So, whether we come to them for the concepts or the stories, we’re there, we’re listening, we’re gaining insights into our own soul and spirit, heart and will, by tracking how Namers externalize what they process.

Ultimately we’re empathizing with parallels between our lives and theirs, wherein we realize we’re not so very different after all. It’s that ah-ha moment captured in that amazing line scripted by William Nicholson for the movie Shadowlands, where one of C.S. Lewis’ students says, “We read to know we’re not alone.”

Have you endured the weakness of living in poverty?

Are you even now living in the stress of stretching from paycheck-to-paycheck?

Have you experienced discrimination due to race or gender, or some other demographic?

Do problems of physical or mental health drag you down?

Are ongoing trauma and triggering from sexual abuse or other violence in the past plaguing you in the present?

Alia Joy lets you know you’re not alone.

Maybe you relate with none of these concerns—maybe with all of them. If you are a survivor of any, then you’ve found a Namer who can validate and amplify what’s long been in your heart. If you are a survivor of none, then Glorious Weakness gives you a uniquely valuable gift of being able to listen from the theatre seats while she vulnerably shares from the stage. Either way, your world will be rocked by the depth of empathy you discover therein.

Selah.

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To pre-order Glorious Weakness, or to download a sample of the book, you’ll find links on Alia Joy’s webpage.

Meanwhile, check out Alia joy’s most recent blog post, “Weakness At Its Most Wondrous: Strength,” and feel how spring is peeking through.

Follow Alia Joy- Writer and #GloriousWeakness on Facebook, or Alia Joy and #GloriousWeakness on Twitter.

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*Glorious Weakness* #4

A Book Every Leader, Influencer,

and Organizer Can Benefit from Heeding

 

Are you enduring the weakness of living in poverty? The stress of stretching from paycheck-to-paycheck? Discrimination due to race, gender, or other demographic? Suffer from physical or mental health problems? Trauma and triggers from abuse/violence plague you?

I have had and still have most of those concerns, and so does Alia Joy. She gets it about me, about us. I don’t know of any other spiritual memoir than Glorious Weakness where an author currently lives in the overlap zone of all these situations. As I described in an earlier post, she eloquently describes the conditions and the true weight of their personal-familial-social impact, and yet shows how God’s grace both sustains and brings hope. I felt heard by her, as I believe others of us who face any of these factors will. That’s why I recommend it as a book every individual can benefit from reading.

But, there are also multiple reasons why leaders, influencers, and organizers need to HEED Glorious Weakness, so we can all, together, benefit more.

Glorious Weakness

This book does far more than let us know we’re not alone. Glorious Weakness can also shift our focus from the personal to the social side of things. Many of us deal with conditions of weakness daily, but we often get “invisibled” by society. About Americans:

1 in 8 live below the poverty line.

3 in 4 live from paycheck-to-paycheck.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime.

1 in 8 endure a physical disability.

1 in 5 adults live with some kind of mental illness and, for about 1 in 20 adults, that is a serious mental illness.

Most of these statistics are from 2017, the most recent year available, given the lag-time required to collect and analyze such data. I did a bit of reading on the global data, and the levels are at least that grim and often worse.

Such statistics represent real people in our community–ourselves, family members and friends, neighbors, co-workers. And yet, when it comes to the Church, these may be some of the least developed areas of ministry in our congregations. Why is that?

Do we not have empathy for those who suffer?

Does Jesus?

We may be sincere, but how can we serve those living in lack if we don’t understand their needs from the inside out?

Alia Joy gets it about all of this, too, and how to see people holistically. Her poetic prose offers us a firsthand MRI into weaknesses–how the lack of something needed (as with poverty) or the presence of something depleting (as with mental illness) affects the whole person: mental, emotional, physical, social, spiritual. They also affect the imaginational–either heightening or lowering our horizons of hope. Thus it can make more sense how devastating the composite of these distinctives and their dynamics are to someone who is suffering.

Yet, as she notes, “Jesus was always elevating the poor and the weak.” Those of us with lacks are made in God’s image too, and Christ in us amplifies that dignity. And as our communities are learning in the wake of #MeToo and other movements, many who’ve suffered weakness on such crucial issues often develop strengths through being a survivor. These are actually the ones who can share real-life insider perspective on the problems; expertise on how to (and how not to) recover and develop resilience; and informed vision for how to deal with damaged systems so as to prevent this from happening so much in the future.

When leaders, influencers, and organizers fall short in understanding both the difficulties and dignities of these individuals, their lack of empathy will likely cause “ministry” programs to fail, if there are even any. But, the deeper our trauma-informed compassion, the stronger our presence and the more precise our service can become. Are those all things we desire, in our pursuit of doing better at loving our neighbors as ourselves?

I’ve worked with non-profits, churches, and social entrepreneur projects that seek to make a difference for people who face afflictions and weakness. I know from observation and experience that it’s all too easy to jump right into leader-dictated activities based on relatively shallow demographics and plug-and-play programatics. Instead, we need to stop, listen and learn about the deeper dynamics from firsthand sources, and then think about developing collaborative, recipient-centered ministries.

What could happen if we did this? Maybe a way to consider such a transition is to use the Glorious Weakness Devotional App/Reading Plan, even promote an all-church reading. (The Devotional App is already available, and a study guide is tentatively due for release in the autumn of 2019.)

I hope you’ll get Alia Joy’s captivating Glorious Weakness, whether to read for yourself, to know you aren’t alone; or to gain understanding and empathy, to engage in ministry that is more relevant and realistic. I have every confidence that you’ll find her voice worth your hearing.

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Glorious Weakness releases Tuesday, April 2nd. Those who pre-order thru April 1st can register for a bonus audiobook version, read by Alia Joy herself. Having heard her on podcasts and video clips, I can assure you, she is engaging and there will be heightened humor not just intensive insight.

Alia Joy’s webpage gives links to sample chapters, and to some favorite places to pre-order/purchase Glorious Weakness. You can also register there for the bonus audiobook if you pre-order the book before April 2nd. She also provides a link to the Devotional App: Glorious Weakness Free 7-Day Devotional YouVersion Reading Plan.

You can also pre-order or purchase Glorious Weakness from Indie Bound–A Community of Independent Local Bookstores.

Amena Brown interviewed Alia Joy on Episode 26 of her podcast, posted on March 27, 2019.

You can follow Alia at Alia Joy- Writer and #GloriousWeakness on Facebook, or Alia Joy and #GloriousWeakness on Twitter.

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Book Review:

*Glorious Weakness* by Alia Joy

After one chapter in on Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy, I already knew that I would inevitably be rereading this book. Her master storyteller’s use of poetic prose creates vivid, vulnerable pictures of life difficulties and the impacts of suffering. Alia gave me a portal directly into what she was seeing, thinking, and feeling; and made me feel at home in the midst of uncomfortable topics.

Many such scenes involved real-world issues I personally relate with: lack of something needed (as with poverty) or the presence of something depleting (as with chronic illness). Alia welcomes us and shows how weaknesses affect the whole person–mental, emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and imaginational—and how we can heighten or lower our horizons of hope.

This is what makes the book relevant and relatable to every reader. Hurting and hoping are warp and woof in the human condition. Who among us hasn’t experienced some kind of lack in our own life, or come alongside a family member, neighbor, co-worker, or friend in their affliction? Glorious Weakness inspires and equips us because it is far more than stories of facing difficulties; it’s about a core perspective of finding God in the midst of them.

I don’t know of any other memoir where an author lives in the overlap zone of all these issues, and yet shows how God’s grace both sustains and brings hope. Alia’s story inspired me to gather statistics about the kinds of ongoing difficulties she faces. I found that Americans in 2017 (the most recent year a full set of statistics is available):

1 in 8 live below the poverty line.

3 in 4 live from paycheck-to-paycheck.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime.

1 in 8 endure a physical disability.

1 in 5 adults live with some kind of mental illness and, for about 1 in 20 adults, that is a serious mental illness.

For those not familiar with these specific issues, this book offers an opportunity for developing empathy. Lack of empathy is a crucial concern I have for those who lead and serve in our communities and congregations. Since the 1970s, I’ve worked with non-profits, churches, and social entrepreneur projects that seek to make a difference. It’s all too easy to assume we understand issues, bypass the very people we think we’ll serve, and zoom right into leader-dictated activities with plug-and-play programmatics. Instead, we need to hear deeper dynamics from insider sources, and then consider collaborative, recipient-centered ministries. Glorious Weakness is the best “textbook” I’ve found to show us the who-to and why-for, when our tendency is to jump right into how-to’s that ultimately get it wrong.I heartily recommend Glorious Weakness, whether to read for yourself, to know in your soul that you are not alone; or to gain understanding and empathy, for partnering in ministry that is more pertinent to people living with lack. Whatever your situation, I have every confidence you’ll find Alia Joy’s captivating voice well worth your hearing!

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Glorious Weakness releases Tuesday, April 2nd. Those who pre-order thru April 1st can register on Alia Joy’s website for a bonus audiobook version. It is read by Alia Joy herself.Having heard her on podcasts and video clips, I can assure you, she is engaging and there will be heightened humor not just intensive insight.

Alia Joy’s webpage gives links to sample chapters, and to some favorite places to pre-order/purchase Glorious Weakness. You can also register there for the bonus audiobook if you pre-order the book before April 2nd. She also provides a link to the Devotional App: Glorious Weakness Free 7-Day Devotional YouVersion Reading Plan.

You can also pre-order or purchase Glorious Weakness from Indie Bound–A Community of Independent Local Bookstores.

Amena Brown interviewed Alia Joy on Episode 26 of her podcast, posted on March 27, 2019.

You can follow Alia at Alia Joy- Writer and #GloriousWeakness on Facebook, or Alia Joy and #GloriousWeakness on Twitter.

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