03 September 2009

New blog posts at JoshuaGraves.com

If you have not already, please update your RSS feeds and bookmarks to JoshuaGraves.com

27 August 2009

The Feast

The Feast is now available on Family Christian Bookstore's website. Click here to order. If you are an Amazon/Barnes and Noble loyalist, I'll update when it's up there. If you are not interested in the book, please forgive my passion..this has been a work in progress for two years.

26 August 2009


In a few days, this site will become part of a new website (www.joshuagraves.com). When that happens, please change your rss feeds and bookmarks. I'm late to the game but I will also begin living in Twitter land (http://twitter.com/joshgraves) on a somewhat regular basis-- if you are interested. 

The Feast is scheduled to be available next week through Family Christian Bookstores (in store purchases are highly appreciated). LifeWay, Books-A-Million and some other regional stores will carry the book along with traditional avenues (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). These other carriers will have the book at some point during the next few months. I'll update the new site as that information is available.

25 August 2009


Sunday night, friends and family came together to "send the Graves family off Nashville style." For Michigan folks, it was pretty convincing. It was quite a scene. I told Kara, on the way to the gathering, that "there's little chance I'll cry tonight." When I walked into the room to see everyone who'd shown for the event, I made myself a liar almost instantly.

The room consisted of cowboy hats, boots, sweet tea, great country music from Mitch Washer and Paul Bobo . . . Ashley Harrison, childhood friend, brought out tears with his remarks and slideshow/video at the end . . . but the Barton family stole the show.

Not known for their musical abilities, the Barton Family caught us off guard.They took classic Motown music (Seger, Motown, Madonna) and turned them into country songs about Josh and Kara. The highlight for me was John Barton's remake of a well-known Marvin Gaye song. The lyrics will give that song away.

When Josh gets to preaching, we get spiritual healing . . .
Makes us feel so right . . . eous
Helps us walk in the light
Spiritual healing in the body (that's Christ's Body),
it's something that's good for us
Get up . . . Get up . . . lets all go to church
Wake up . . . wake up . . . cause Josh's preaching works.

A close second was Barton's re-do of a Madonna song called, "Like a Theologian" . . . here's an excerpt:

Like a theologian (oooohh), preaching for a really long time
Like a theologian, quoting Brueggemann and N.T. Wright,
quoting Henri Nouwen, Barbara Brown Taylor,
Did I mention Brueggemann?

We're heading down the road in a few days for a new journey. We're taking the friendships and memories from Rochester Church with us to cherish every day. Ministry is a job almost impossible to explain. Because, in most ways, it's not a job, it's your life. It's people. Stories. Difficulty. Joy. Celebration. Disaster. And in the midst of all if it you forget that as you've been giving yourself away week after week after week, others have been doing the same for you and your family.

21 August 2009

Mysterious Ways

When I catch myself staring at Lucas (which happens a lot), I can't help, at times, but feel a deep sadness come over me. Don't get me wrong, I love every moment of fatherhood. Especially the ones where I'm exhausted, he's crying and then, all of a sudden, he stops, pauses, and smiles at me. Yes, he's now old enough that I can say, with full biological confidence, he's smiling (it's not just 'gas' anymore).

The sadness comes from knowing how temporary (frail, the poet Shelley would write) life is. Lucas will be 18 before I can say "Gerber baby food." I'm going to wake up one morning and realize I am not nearly as young as I perceive myself to be.


Some day, maybe later than sooner, Lucas is going to ask me about the mystery of the Spirit. I'm going to do three things. At least, today this is what I'd say.

First, I'd talk about Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus in John's gospel. What an interesting conversation. Of course, I'll save him all the academic interesting tidbits like the difference between Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (I'm guessing he won't be interested in that in a long time). I also won't bring up the literary point about when Jesus stops talking and John (the writer) picks up. After all, John's Gospel is a series of conversations. Here's what I'll say: Lucas, do the trees move the wind or does the wind move the trees ("The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, buy you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going")?

If that doesn't satisfy, I'll talk to him about U2's song "Mysterious Ways." If you are not familiar with this song, which I'll assume most of you are, you can click here to read the fascinating lyrics. There are three ways this song is interpreted by U2 experts like my friend Greg. 1) This is a song about a boy falling in love with a girl (and the mystery that lies within this roller coaster ride) 2) An explicit ballad written to describe the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus follower OR 3) A midrashic commentary on the life and death of John the Baptist. Which one is right? The answer is probably "yes."

If Lucas is still awake at this point, I'll tell him what I should have told him all along.

When your mother and I were newly married, your mother had a dream. She dreamed that she was in a huge building. While walking near the top of this large sky-scraper, an enormous wall of water came crashing over the top of the building. Immediately your mom awoke and told me, in an urgent voice, of the dream.

The next morning I woke up to the news on CNN that a large tsunami had devastated parts of Asia, leaving thousands of people dead, many more without food, water or shelter. One of the worst tragedies of my lifetime. I'm guessing hundreds of people had similar dreams that night.

When you were just a baby, your mom had a dream that she was pregnant with a girl (which was not true). The nurse in this little dream was Kara's friend Sara Whitten. Random. Totally random. She does not work in the medical profession.

The day following the dream, Kara learned that Sara Whitten had herself just learned of her unexpected pregnancy (in real life).

There are other stories. Stories for other days.

The wind moves the trees.
Talk about the things you can't explain.
You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it's going.

17 August 2009


I read Gareth Higgins's book How Movies Helped Save My Soul over the weekend. Fantastic work. If this interests you, I also suggest Reel Spirituality and Eyes Wide Open.

While reading How Movies Helped Save My Soul, I made a list (without too much analyzing on my part) of movies that have deeply impacted me over the last several years. In no particular order, here's my list:

Glory, Places in the Heart, O Brother, Ray, Losing Isaiah, Shawshank Redemption, Bella, Slumdog Millionaire, Field of Dreams, Cold Mountain, Freedom Writers, Malcolm X, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Apostle, Chocolat, Life is Beautiful, Seven Pounds.

NOTE: I am hoping to teach a class at Otter Creek in January on the relationship of film and scripture. It should be fun!

13 August 2009

Flags for Jeremy

I am constantly wondering how our churches can minister to military soldiers (both foreign and domestic). Mostly because both of my brothers-in-law have served in the U.S. military. My friend Andy recently shared something that happened in his neighborhood. I can't shake this story. I think you'll like it.

Jeremy has been in the military for a few years . He's newly married (I performed the wedding incidentally) to a wonderful young woman. Military life's been hard on him. Without going into unnecessary detail, his stint serving Uncle Sam has challenged his core identity, outlook on life, and close relationships.

Andy wanted to do something life-giving (first century Christians might call this "gospel") for Jeremy. In the midst of this burden a brilliant idea was born.

Fresh off of a military tour in Afghanistan, Jeremy returned home to Midvale street in Rochester Hills--the house he grew up in, the same street where Andy lives. Andy got word of what was about to go down. So he got his three kids together and hatched a plan: They would hunt local dollar stores in hopes to find as many tiny American flags as they could get their hands on.

They ended up with hundreds of flags.

The next day, Andy and his family walked up and down the street telling neighbors about Jeremy's return from war. Every single neighbor agreed to honor him (I'm guessing . . . even some of those who oppose both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan) by placing flags in their yard.

I walk in the tension of nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is blind loyalty to the country one lives in over and above all other value claims (like Christianity). This breaks my heart for I am convinced some Christians are more influenced by Rush Limbaugh than Jesus's own teachings in The Sermon on the Mount.

Patriotism is not nationalism. Patriotism is different. Patriotism honors what is good and just about a particular country (e.g. The Allied Forces liberating Jews from Hitler's concentration camps) without handing over one's identity to said country.

I am not a nationalist because I've given my life over to the life and teachings of a rabbi, God-ordained prophet from Israel. I am a patriot however. There are so many beautiful things to love about this country. Equally, there are so many skeletons yet to have been fully brought out of the closet. Patriots talk about the good and the bad . . . the blessings and the curses.

Back to the flags for Jeremy.

When he returned home for this brief visit, he pulled onto the street he knew best: Midvale. As he drove slowly he noticed hundreds of flags lined up and down the entire street on both sides. He realized, in that moment, the flags were for him. I have not talked to Jeremy but I'm willing to bet that it was the first time in a long time he felt as if his life mattered. People noticed. He was a human after all, not a mere killing machine. Jeremy knocked on Andy's door and said, in genuine gratitude, "Thanks."

The flags for Jeremy are one way to make someone feel whole, complete. Whether you are for the current wars or against them, never let your passion for your side supersede your conviction that soldiers are often the pawns of a much larger war.

The church stands poised to expose this truth. One flag at a time.

If this subject interests you, this is a thread that runs throughout my book, The Feast (coming September 1).