The Other Side of the Fence

In the woods behind my childhood home, a familiar path led through the trees and over the creek. Around the bend and up the hill, to a wooden fence raised over my head;
This boundary created space between the invited and the rejected.

On the other side of the fence was a swimming pool, filled with the inner circle of neighborhood children. Danny and Davey, with their golden hair and perfect tans... my heroes. From the bushes nearest the woods, I crept up slowly to the fence. I could hear, but I could not see. I could smell, but I could not taste. The delicious sound of belonging.

I remember sitting there, crying, for hours. They had promised to invite me to the party, but in the sudden rush to the diving board, and the euphoric crash below - somehow I had been forgotten. But that was Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And the weekend, the same.

I was homeschooled.

So my best friend was a tree fort. And a dog named Binky. And a slingshot that would become the vehicle driving the premeditated murder of a thousand squirrels. And occasionally, the neighbors window - which would become the target of all of my rage. The anger was born from an inexplicable sadness that permeated my adolescence, and has burned through my heart until this day.


"...It's a Cold and Broken, Hallelujah."

The carpet felt more like concrete, as I collapsed beneath the table and erupted into a violent explosion of salty tears and self-hatred. The world I had known was forever changed in the unraveling of my shame, finding a shattered mirror and a fist and a whisper, "wherever you go, there you are."

Find me here, inconsolable and unrecognizable. A blanket of suicidal thoughts and imaginary voices calling me to run run run from the truth, and hide hide hide from the runaway tongues. I called Jennifer, Janelle, and Jonathan to say, "I love you." But this felt like the end of a long journey and
I was coming home.

From the carpet beneath the table, I was physically lifted and carried by an angel with tattoos and blue jeans. He drove me home when I was -less, and became my feet when I could not walk. There were no words, only the sound of choppy breathing and hyperventilating and the crushing weight of anxiety as I began to devise a plan for my escape. It was early in the afternoon, and rain had set in while the mountains of Asheville had begun to shake off the frostbite of late winter.

Cam laid me on the couch in his living room, and I rolled over to continue sobbing. These groans were immodest and explicit, and my hands had begun to tingle from the lack of circulation. It seemed my heart had stopped beating, and I was not getting enough oxygen. I cried bitterly, as the rooster crowed thrice. I trembled violently, as my fists became numb. There were no words spoken, only the sound of uninterpretable tongues toward heaven, have mercy.

I don't know how long I slept there on that couch. It seemed like days, but when I stirred I was confused. Where was I? What happened? My eyes opened slowly and began to adjust to the falling daylight. It must have been dusk, and only the fading natural light remained to illuminate through the windows. I was paralyzed in the aftermath of all things unholy; the ashes no longer provided heat - only the evidence that a fire once burned.

And there, beside the couch, sat my friend. He was unmoved and focused, watching me quietly from his chair beside me. To this day, I don't know how long he had been sitting there praying for me. All I do know is that in his provision of a non-anxious presence, he was delivering a powerful sermon.

[Intercession is the intersection between failing faith and saving grace.]

I remember that moment, being stirred back to reality. The pain was real, and it wasn't just a bad dream. The wounds would leave a visible scar on my reputation, and my children would bear the brunt of explaining that their dad (however flawed) still walked on water. Still, no words spoken. He just looked at me with inexplicable grace. His lips slowly formed to a slight smile, as if to say, "I know. It hurts. I love you. And I 'like' you. I am not going anywhere. Go back to sleep."

We locked eyes for a moment, and I will never forget the blanket of comfort that covered me as I experienced agape love. I felt the love and acceptance of God, embodied in a friend - embracing my cold and broken hallelujah.

- Jay DePoy


[S]easonal [A]ffective [D]isorder

there’s a few things i’ll always remember
like the uncomfortable quiet of november
and the way happy chases the ever after
like a kite without anchor in a natural disaster
all contacts deleted like a chorus repeated
advice gone unheeded, and the champion defeated
there’s a few things i’ll always remember
like the frozen burn of late december
when the leaves have turned from red to white
releasing the clutch, letting go and holding tight
at least the most is a friendship on fire
intimacy born in a furnace of desire
there’s a few things i’ll always remember
like the train tracks leading to always and never
turn your attention from the knife-wielding judas
disguised as cheek-kissing, traveling buddhist
at last the first is a step toward denial
so we crawl toward the altar down a blood-stained isle.


Life and Death

I can still hear the doctor's voice, repeated in my head. "If your biopsy returns with evidence of cancer, you may have anywhere from two to ten years to live."

A few days later, I received a voicemail from the doctor's office requesting me to come in for a consultation. I didn't get the message until the office had closed, and I listened again to the message.

I've had two panic attacks in my life. 

The first time I ever had a panic attack, I was delivered some crushing news by four men whom I had once considered to be my closest friends. I began to hyperventilate, and stumbled outside and fell into a snowbank, unable to breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack, but I realize now that it was just an emotional bomb detonating in my brain.

The second time was in 2014, when I received an email that a "storm was coming..." and that my life was about to change forever, followed by a series of accusations against my character. Some of the grenades were full of smoke, false alarms. Others were time bombs with fire and shrapnel and unconfessed sin. My sin was about to be exposed, and my whole world was about to cave in.

The panic attacks were not false alarms. They were real threats resulting in concrete pain. All of the things I once held dear had become eviscerated in a slow unraveling of my deepest shame. I could blame no-one, and collapsed into a plea of guilt.

It has taken three years to rebuild the foundation of my life. The infrastructure of the first half of my life had been shattered, and like pieces of a puzzle coming together - grace has been recapitulating a story that is still being written.

I'm finding grace in unexpected places. In a vintage typewriter with errors in ink; whiteout. In a criminal record with sins exposed; expunged. In divorce and remarriage with baggage in blood; forgiveness. It's true, grace sneaks up on us from behind, and in the dark.

So when I heard the recent announcement that I might have cancer, I presented an attitude of fearless indifference. But that night I could not sleep. I tossed and turned for hours. Two to ten years? 

"Dear God, "I thought. "I am not even close to being ready to prepare for my death." I began to think about all of the things that I have yet to accomplish. I want to walk my daughters down the aisle. I want to see their children grow strong and proud. I want to give them a last name that they can be proud of, not defined by google or Siri or MLive - but by the saturation of redemption! I ache for the reconciliation of relationships, and the restoration of my spiritual gifts. I miss the local church. I miss the Lakeshore Revolution of Love. I miss the eXodus. I miss singing in a circle with my best friends. I miss studying the Text in community. I miss preaching. I miss dreaming. I miss hope and wonder and resurrection and free hugs and love winning and river baptisms and colored chalk on the sidewalk and homeless hallelujahs.

To be reminded of your mortality is a sobering thing.

In his book, The Holy Longing, Ronald Rohlheiser writes about a restlessness at the epicenter of the human heart, aching for a revolution. This "fundamental dis-ease" strikes us like eternity in our hearts (Ec. 3:11), and our ability to channel this energy into a focused purpose is directly related to the health of our spirituality.

Rohlheiser says there are three phases of our spiritual journeys:

The 1st phase is the struggle to get our lives together.
The 2nd phase is the struggle to give our lives away.
The 3rd phase is the struggle to give our deaths away.

I pray that God will give me the opportunity to collect the pieces of my first phase, and with His grace create a mosaic of art and beauty. I pray that my life will be an offering, and my death will be a sweet-smelling aroma offered to my loved ones.

To those who knew me best, and loved me anyway. 

The results of the biopsy came back negative. But the voltage to my heart has awoken me to a spiritual war that I am willing to engage, again. I am unfinished. The last chapter is still being written. My autopsy will reveal a heart that refused to quit, even after the resignation of my mind and body.



Lost and Found

Several months ago I began meeting with men who are in recovery from addiction(s). At a local city Rescue Mission, we gather in a circle and talk about hope and faith and brokenness. My own experience with rock bottom has given me a greater platform of authority than my degrees. I have been there. I know what it's like to curl up in the backseat of a car and pray for death. I have acquired a taste for self-hatred, and I know the bittersweet warmth of destruction.

But I've also seen the sunrise from an abandoned truck stop in South Carolina. I have watched the tide roll in and out and in again from a thousand beaches and I know that a mild sunburn is good for the soul. I know that gratitude begins where entitlement ends. I have forgiven and sought forgiveness. I am still learning to forgive myself. I am one beggar telling another beggar where I've found bread.

It is in a circle of hope at Guiding Light Mission, where we gather around our stories and reach for resurrection and life. We pray for each other, and laugh and cry and surrender and repeat. Recycling repentance like a squeaky bicycle chain needing the oil of mercy.

I met "Steven" on a cold, Sunday night in February. He was one of three men who openly shared stories of accumulation and loss. He opened up about addiction and recovery and relapse and spiritual bankruptcy. He had a wealth of information from years of experience. Steven was faithful to attend our meetings, and brought his amplified bible with cross references. He showed signs of fruitfulness and hope.

We became good friends. I used to give Steve a ride to work after our meetings. He would be dressed up in his work uniform, carrying a sack lunch for his midnight shift. We exchanged encouraging texts throughout the week, and I found solidarity in his admitted propensity to wander...

Steven shared with me of his dream of opening a non-profit organization that could serve as a safe place for people to overcome their addictions. His own history with drugs had given him a heart for others who were hellbent on self-destruction. I gave him money and time and encouragement. He gave me friendship, and gratitude.

And then, without warning, Steven disappeared.

He stopped coming to meetings and did not return my phone calls. I asked the leaders of the mission if they had seen him, and they were equally concerned. Steven had refused a drug test, and packed his bags... He left the shelter and returned to the streets.

When I heard the news, I stayed awake all night tossing and turning. I prayed aggressively believing that intercession would be the intersection between failing faith and saving grace. The next few days I spent driving up and down Division Street through downtown Grand Rapids. I looked for Steven on every corner - in the eyes of strangers and cops and robbers and shopkeepers. I searched for him on social media, leaving messages for him at every turn.

Why do I care so much about Steven? There are a thousand other distractions that I could exhaust my energy with. Should I just leave the light on and hope he returns like a prodigal to the front porch? Or should I leave the 99 and go hunt down the 1 missing?

Here's why.  Because I've been in Steven's shoes. I have run away to hide in my shame. I have covered my scars with the fig leaves of religion. I have quoted scripture in one sentence and cursed God in the next. I have violently defended the Name of my Savior, and then betrayed that name before the break of dawn.

And I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But I was hunted down by goodness and mercy, followed by the Rescuer. I have known what it is like to be lost, and I have experienced the humbling grace of being found. I love much because I have been forgiven much.

I am still looking for Steven. And when I find him, I am going to give him a hug. And I'm not going to ask any questions, or for an explanation. I am not interested in a religious inquisition. I have no desire to extract from him the details of absence. I just want to find him, and then drag him to the Table, and break off a piece of bread and pass him a cup and ask him to do the same for me.

Post Script: I have always been attracted to the margins. The streets. Those whom have been made to feel unwelcome in the American Church.



a bridge restored

like a garden that was once
beautiful and cared for
my heart has been neglected
thirsty and nostalgic
for the Creator's grace to tend to these weeds that have choked the blossom,
rooted in a tangible blur of concrete confusion 

whatever happened to the bible baptist academy?
[a one-room school house in montague, michigan]

whatever happened to building forts in the woods 
with the neighborhood kids and setting traps for potential enemies?

whatever happened to some glad morning 
and i'll fly away and do lord, remember me?

there used to be a time when i knew no strangers
but now things seem to be playing in reverse
some things, however, remain:

this ever-present loneliness and the ache for another world 
twenty years have now passed since i've last seen you

and memories are secured inside a castle of sand
washed away with the torrential rains 
and grace has covered these blood-stained hands
a bridge restored, true love remains



(Alive) The Other Side

Several years ago I got into a terrible car accident. I had taken my eyes off the road ahead of me, and failed to see that the construction traffic had caused the highway to stand still. My car plowed into the car in front of me, and crashed over the median - end over end over end over end over end, until it landed upside down in the oncoming traffic lane. I remember bracing for the unavoidable impact, closing my eyes and putting my hands over my head in the fetal position, waiting to die. And with every flip, my conscious took note: "I'm still alive." (7 times the car rolled).

 Still alive. Still alive. Still alive. Still alive. Still alive. Still alive. Still alive.

Life on the other side of loss, is a frozen hallelujah. It is after the long, cold winter of sadness - when in the discovery of a heart that somehow keeps beating, you realize that life is unfinished.

And this unfinished journey is exhausting. You've lived through self-destruction, the terror of confession, the experience of rejection, and the hope of new beginnings. You lament the concrete basement, but find new mercies every morning. So you get up, again. And again.

Many of my friends have asked about my whereabouts and my what nows. I have a tendency to resurface at random times to gasp for air, only to sink again into the ocean of grace that has swallowed me whole. I have activated, deactivated and reactivated my social media accounts, depending on the latest flurry of emotion. I have joined the choir from the back room of anonymity, and found my voice singing off key - over a bridgeless chorus, and like a runaway train or a run-on sentence with no period

You can find me these days working full time with a small group of clients with Special Needs. I'm listening to laughter, brushing away tears, and teaching the Least of These how to tie shoes, brush teeth, and sweep the floor. In return, they are teaching me that joy is found in coloring books and animated movies and community breakfasts. We volunteer at local homeless shelters, feeding the hungry, and cleaning the toilets. I drive my disabled friends around in a van, and every day we find a new adventure...

I am learning that the ever-present absence of God is being rediscovered in a burning bush. The sacred in the common; Jesus at the Table of Mercy - eating macaroni and wiping the drool from paralyzed chins. Here, at the bottom of despair, is a victory march.

I have no sermons to preach, nor songs to sing. But sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still see the upside down world outside my shattered windshield, and although I will forever walk with a spiritual limp - I'm still alive.


i miss the old me.

i feel like i've lost my voice
and my pen has lost its fire
and i'm not good at expressing comprehensive thoughts

but i've become an expert at staring at walls
and losing myself in the wonder of
august heat
country roads
and ashlyn's tears

i've been attempting to write about the rhythm of birth and live and death
and rebirth and life and death and rebirth and...

but it all comes out like a schizophrenic flood
of nonsensical psycho-pseudo babble
in fragmented sentences
gerunds and dang
ling participles

i feel like a traveling salesman
distracted by a garage sale
with an armload of seconhands
baffled at their rejection of my personal credit card
spitting on my palms, extending my handshake
pinky swearing that i'm good for the payback

what i'm trying to say is
i miss the old me.


let me be found in You

as a drop of water is lost in the ocean
so is the flight of the alone to the Alone

take from me these november thoughts
of never enough and endless thirst
replace these tears with the solace of Your Presence

if it was all over tomorrow
i've been nothing without You
if these lungs inhaled the sudden conclusion
the rapture from this world to the next is a mystery
resolved in the paradox of justice and mercy

let me be found in You.



The Business of Hope

A few years ago I was sitting inside a coffee shop in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was a cold December, and the year had culminated in a series of inexplicable hardships that can only be remembered with profound sadness. The World Coffee CafĂ© was unusually crowded on this blistery morning, as the costumers lined up to receive their steaming mugs of overpriced caffeine. 

Two men began a conversation as the line shuffled toward the counter. The first man commented to the older gentleman behind him about a book in his hand. He began a preemptive self-endorsement about his expansive collection of books, his recently acquired law degree, and his (apparently) successful career. 

The brief conversation was mostly one-sided, loaded with personal pronouns and vain humility. After a few nods and a kind smile, the older gentleman was finally asked, “And what kind of business are you in?” 

The two men probably didn’t mean to hijack the crowded room, but a diverse audience absorbed the small talk like a sponge. The older gentlemen responded with a quiet confidence, “I’m in the business of giving people hope.”

And everyone leaned in to hear more…


The Healing Work of Anonymity

Find me here, in the last row of a broken circle. This new family, a worshipping community of African-Americans, has adopted me into the fire of hugs as I sway back and forth to the music. Clapping, standing, sitting, bleeding; my Hosanna was born in a furnace of doubt. My hallelujah is cold and broken. 

They do not know me here. Nobody knows my story. They must wonder about the white guy crying in the last row, wiping at tears with bleeding fingers from incessantly picking during sermons that make me nervous and hopeful. I run on like a sentence with a dangling gerund and hanging participle and 

One day I'm going to tell them my story. All of it. About me and you and the space between and the distance between confession and repentance and crucifixion and resurrection. One day I'm going to answer all of your questions. But not today.

Today I'm going to sway with the rhythm of the "ya'll come" choir, and sing about the some glad morning and the unbroken circle and the do lord oh do lord or do remember me... 


This Little Light - Jay DePoy

When my dad was a little boy, he used to wet the bed. One day he came home from school and the bus stopped in front of his house, and all of kids on the bus looked out the window and saw soiled bedsheets hanging from the clothesline, drying in the breeze.

This is my story. Click HERE.


This Little Light

After laboring for two years, the Light has finally come. This is my open heart to the world, a love story about shame and forgiveness and the grace [Karis] that brings us home...

Click HERE to read my novel, "This Little Light" by Jay DePoy


Genesis: An Endless Beginning

The genesis of your life is the revelation that dying to self gives birth to the soul. In the intentional destruction of your temporary satisfaction, a new Kingdom is born within. When you crash from atop the ladder of human achievement, and you set fire to the blueprints of your American Dream, a seed is planted in your heart.

Once this seed takes root, the cultivation of your new life will announce the invasion of another Kingdom – Heaven on earth, from the upside down. When you choose to let go from the end of your rope, you find yourself caught in the all-consuming embrace of mercy.
And once mercy catches you, there is no escape.

It is only in this chosen unraveling, that you are truly whole. Self preservation has come through self destruction. In the glorious unbecoming, the objects in the rearview mirror will grow ‘strangely dim’, and in the eternal light of resurrection Hope, the shadows of death are chased away. The last has become first, and weak is the new strong. The lamb has returned as a Lion. The anguish of hate has been replaced by the deafening roar of Love.

Do you feel as if your life is a puzzle, with a missing peace? Have you ever conducted an inventory of your possessions and found your purpose to be missing? Are you surrounded by acquaintances, yet tormented by a cancerous loneliness? Perhaps you have pledged allegiance to the kingdom of accumulation, yet your heart feels empty.

Imagine standing outside the gate of a new world. The aroma of acceptance transcends the city from the Table of Grace within. The citizens of this new world, are anxious to greet you, and welcome you home. In this new reality, your broken heart will be intricately woven back together by a Great Physician, and your loneliness will dissipate into the oblivion of unconditional love.

-  Jay DePoy


Holding On and Letting Go

At the center of The Story is a paradox that cuts and heals simultaneously. It is the collision of justice and mercy, where pain meets pleasure, and shame becomes glory. Throughout the Scriptures is a tension of a called-out people of faith, who are living with doubt. And a God who is described as both the Holy Terror and the Abba Father. And a Son who is both fully God and fully human. And a Spirit who brings comfort and conviction to my heart that is both screaming and silent.

This God is absent and present. He is hanging on an beautiful execution stake, mocking the mockers, destroying destruction, and killing death.

And it is no wonder that I am learning to rest in the paradox of holding on and letting go. "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." 
I love you. I don't love you. 
I believe you. I doubt you. 
I surrender. I keep fighting.
I'm swimming. I'm sinking. 
I'm living. I'm dying. 
I'm squeezing with my hands open. 

I am burying my mustard seed in the soil of insecurity. I'm singing of the Resurrection and the Life, while wearing sackcloth and ashes and grieving the death of my hope. I am starting a new chapter and it begins with I don't know. 
Always never. 


The Last Word (Grace)

The recapitulation of redemption begins in a garden and comes full circle, to new beginnings. From a bleeding Eden to a tearless eternity, all things will be reconciled. No more crying, no more tears. No shame, and no cancer, No more funerals. No more fractured families, or undressed wounds. Jesus came to kill death, break brokenness, and destroy destruction. And when the legalists have had their day in court... when the pharisees have been laid in a casket... when the stone-throwers have met the Rock of Ages, the last word will still be - Grace. 

Grace. Scandalous grace. Mysterious grace. Amazing grace. Bang my head against the wall grace. Knock me off my feet grace. Incomprehensible grace. Violent grace. Furious grace. Bloody grace. Terrible grace. Awful grace. Inexplicable grace. Stand up and sing grace. Sit down and cry grace. Gospel grace. New World Disorder grace. Upside down grace. Inside out grace. Crucified grace. Resurrected grace. The last chapter is still being written about grace. Redeeming grace. Whore-turned-virgin grace. Body broken, blood poured out grace. Welcome to the Table of grace. Pull up a chair grace. Light a candle grace. Burn down your religious castle grace. Beautiful ashes of grace.


I Believe

I believe that I've lost belief 
in promises and choruses and confessions of faith and doubt
that flannel graph stories of redemption can be recapitulated 
and monday follows a blood red sky and sunday never comes.

I believe in angels in blue jeans.

I believe in Ambria's promises and Ashlyn's nail polish and Mariah's runaway tears. 

I believe in bonfires and purple skies and cartwheels in the front yard
as Bruce Springsteen croons, 'Hey little girl is your daddy home?'
and Ambria answers, "Yes."

I believe doves land on the porch when you least expect it. And that grace sneaks up on you from behind, and in the dark. And regret grows at the speed of a five o'clock shadow. And the suitcase of shame is the One Constant reminder that if people really knew how deep the roots have grown, they will suddenly become too busy to return phone calls. 

I believe in thick, green grass beneath bare feet and the North Carolina mountains will always, never be the same. And home is her, and I am less. 

I believe that I've lost belief
in my own confessions and repentance and that, under a microscope, tears induced by an onion look tragically different than tears induced by a broken heart and the carpet at Grace Life International Counseling feels more like concrete. I believe that truck stops in South Carolina  are a good place to contemplate the apocalypse, (but the Counting Crows are not exactly helpful). I believe in turning off your cell phone to disconnect from the inquiring minds that have called too late. I believe in returning to where it all started, and putting an end to it. 

I believe in irrational, illogical, unscientific, scandalous, [borderline heretical] mercy. 

And that self-preservation feels a lot like self-destruction, but in the end - the world is forfeited in the acquisition of a soul restored. 
I believe I am more loved than I can comprehend, and less deserving than a crucified thief beside an innocent savior. I believe that love does not always win, and that sometimes the scars have the last word. I believe that Spring comes late to the epicenter of regressive culture, and though the waves are seductive, Lake Michigan is still too cold to engage. 

But if I could swim from here to there and back again, I'd take a mulligan to the foul balls and truly be like a tree, planted beside the rivers of water - with leaves that do not wither or fall in the autumn or freeze in the winter but shimmer in the infinite sun. 

If I could swim from here to there and back again, I would have been more content to love you from the shadows of anonymity, and be held together by the unity candle, burning into my conscience like an avalanche of hope. yes, hope. 

I believe in uncontrollable laughter and sarcastic renditions of the holy ghost shakes. I believe in circling around the table to ask Mariah, Ashlyn, Jamie, Ambria, (then myself) "What made you mad, sad, and glad today?" And the best part of each day is this moment, when the unbroken circle is like a ring with no beginning and no ending, forged in the fire of precious metals, and shining in the light of no other option. 

I believe that my actions have indicated otherwise, but I believe in Jesus. I believe in the blood of the cross that covers my shame, and the implications of the resurrection hold me captive in the back row. I believe in the ineffable Name that freezes my speech and seals my wandering heart to the heavenly courts, and that when all else fails, grace remains. 

I believe that perfect love casts out fear, and that terrifies me. 

I believe in sitting on the porch with your dad, to talk about the time he videotaped a proposal from the bushes and captured a moment of a ring given at the end of a trail of roses. 'But who knows how long this could last, now we've come so far so fast, but somewhere back there in the dust, is that same small town in each of us...'


Spring Walk, Asheville, North Carolina

Who would have believed that this little miracle would recover so beautifully from brain surgery? Her Chiari Malformation has not slowed her down, and every morning is a gift of mercy.


Advice To My Daughters

When I was a little boy we used to have a pet mutt named Binky. She was, without a doubt, the best friend a lonely, home-schooled kid could ever have. Although she was part feline and 1/8th sloth, my love for her was unconditional! She used to snore beneath my bed, as I’d lay awake in our A-framed house on Byron Road.

Something suffocated my palpating heart the afternoon of her premature exodus. An unsuspecting motorist had collided with Binky, and the screeches of halting tires in front of our house had interrupted an otherwise captivating episode of Little House on the Prairie. We all ran outside to scrape her from the pavement…

I watched my dad bury her in the wooded lot behind our house. A concrete brick was left to serve as a headstone, and that was her farewell. Life was assumed to have resumed. I remember retreating to the basement where I was reunited with the Ingalls family via a black & white television. In the privacy of an otherwise empty room, I cried my little eyes out.

Where does this come from? How does a seven year-old boy clutch so fiercely to the solace of security and attachment? And whatever happened to this elemental dis-ease of innocence? There was a time in the life of a young child when statistics had names and faces had stories, news broadcasting injustice was incomprehensible to the cognition of a second grader on the playground! As the mind “matured” through the evolution of experience, it also became desensitized to the Spirit’s conviction against the murder of hope.

As I watch the expression on your faces when the thunder roars and the lightning shatters, I wonder what happened to my heart. Have the wounds received and the lessons learned somehow hijacked my youthful exuberance? Why don’t I tremble at the foot of the storm or blink in the eye of the hurricane? I am envious of your emotional connectedness to the groaning of all creation.

My prayer for you, my daughters, is that you will guard your hearts in such a way that you will never lose sensitivity. I beg of you three resolutions:

May you pledge allegiance to a Hope that springs eternal

This hope is born in a furnace of doubt, and experienced when everything else has been torn asunder. It is the practice of resurrection in the spirit that is depleted. This hope is in a Divine Movement, not a temporary boyfriend. This hope is the fuel that powers the engine of your heart, and keeps you going when you have nothing left to give.

May you establish concrete boundaries around your heart

This fortress is not to prevent you from getting out, but to protect the enemy from invading your castle with his lies and counterfeit promises. In the building and maintaining of a fortress, you will recognize the fleeting kisses of betrayal, the empty choruses of the crowd, and the shallow contracts offered by popular culture. Do not invite this poison in to your life! Do not open the door to the knocking of foreign invaders; they will tear down your gates and plunder your savings.

May you become a flood of blessing to those around you

As your heart remains pure, it erupts as a fountain of water within. It is “the wellspring of life”, and a thirsty world is waiting for a drink of the hope that is within you. May your heart rise like an ocean’s tidewater, bringing refreshing encouragement to those who are within your reach. And as you pour out love, mercy, and forgiveness – may God replenish your reserves in due season.

“…above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

- Proverbs 4:23

the color of the sunset

she asked,”what color is the sunset, daddy?'”
it's a fusion of orange and purple and black and blue.
it's the color of my heart as we speak
the breath hanging in the air
like a question unanswered.

what color is the sunset, daddy?

to be exact, i'm not sure of much of anything these days. but of this, i am confident: this snowbank is our couch. and i'd rather sit here with you. right now. this moment. than to do anything else in the world.

it's the color of tears; salty
down my face an ocean on the carpet where i am fully present fully somewhere else. i am tired of repression. suppression. depression. and the self-hatred.
i am numb to the words of affirmation that used to fuel me like a drug.

it's the color of dry heaving and the ejaculation of hopelessness into porcelain toilets and a locked bathroom door. it's the color of prescription medication. anti-everything. it's the color of trust in circles of tears and prayers and battle cries for deliverance. it's the color of a God who is counting down the hours until my groaning will be no more.

she asked, "what color is the sunset, daddy?"

it's the color of melting snow in a blistered fever. it's the color of doubt and wonder and phone calls avoided and endless pacing around the living room and wilting and starving love sick hope starved sleepless. three days without food or water.

it's the color of whisper and gossip and a blood stained napkin. it's the color of distance and transcendence like a runaway labrador retriever who will not respond to my calling. it's the color of a leaking roof as sibbald points out the inevitable future and i can't help but see my own reflection in the mirror of each splash. it's the color of rocks thrown from unexpected people in unexpected ways. it's the color of the breath that leaves my lungs at the last email received.

It’s the color of tree swings from here to there and back again and underdog pushes as ashlyn rolls around in the leaves and ambria is confused why mariah is erupting in the gravity of this sunset conversation.

It’s the color of love that does not win, and broken promises and purple eye shadows falling on purple scarves falling on compliments falling on deaf ears and eyes turned away. it's the color of blame and manipulation and control and false motives.

what color is the sunset, daddy?

It’s the color of birthday parties and suicidal thoughts and unwritten letters to explain the absence of hope and wonder and it’s the color of the confession that i am a sinner and a liar and a murderer and an adulterer and a thief and i manipulate and control people for my own selfish desires and i do not deserve grace so i plead for mercy and hope for a gospel that is scandalous enough to be true for my own redemption story but in the end, all hope is lost and i am giving up.

what color is the sunset, daddy?

It’s the color of michigan in february, and the ever-present absence of recapitulation. it’s the color of an unbroken circle and repeated patterns of yes and no and never again and yes and no and never again. it’s the color of one day at a time and the recognition that tomorrow never comes.


Downtown Asheville Reflections, by Jay DePoy

A few days ago I took a walk through downtown Asheville. The winter rain left a visible fog, and although the temperature wasn't comforting, my love for this city kept me warm.

I stopped and talked to Happy, who greeted me with his usual hug. He's lost weight, but the cancer can't take away his smile! He seems to know each passerby personally, and they linger to hear about his latest adventure with the police department. We sat together and talked about where we've been and where we're going. He told me stories about running wild as a boy, setting Asheville on fire. And now, in his later years, he's doing the same...

I walked past the red bus, where I first saw the Light.

There was Pritchard Park, where I first saw the Love. I remember our first Friday night, the Drum Circle gathered the freak show, and the pulse of a desperate city vibrated for several blocks. I noticed a gathering of bullhorns and neon signs across the street, spreading the Good News of God's Hate. My three daughters were confused, obviously, because they have always heard about God's Love... So the next week we made some signs of our own, and handed out free water, and free hugs "in Jesus' Name".

I walked past Scully's, a downtown bar where on any given Monday evening you will find an eclectic gathering of atheists, agnostics, pagans, orthodox Christians, and post-labeled  "other". These evenings were filled with passionate dialogue around an Open Table between racial, religious, and political ideologies. And I used to sit and listen to the stories, and share my own... about how God radically rescued me from me, and took me from the basement of the Muskegon County Jail. I shared with them about the shame and hate and grace and forgiveness. To this day, I have retained many friends from this season... And I still get midnight phone calls, asking me to talk them down off the ledge.

And in the distance is the ABCCM Veteran's Quarters, housing over two hundred homeless veterans. I will never forget Bill, who had lost everything. He once had a six-figure salary and a big home in Wilmington. But when he was laid off, he spiraled into a depression that ate him alive, literally. The last time I saw him, we were standing on the sidewalk talking about God and heaven and hell. He asked me about the eternal destiny of those who commit suicide. After some silence, he put his hand into the shape of a gun and said, "Soon." A few days later, he went down to the Swannanoa River with a pistol and never came back.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, where Jamie and I used to linger over mocha and wine, telling jokes with no punch line, and playing footsies under the table. She used to order too much chocolate and then insist that I finish her dessert. And sometimes the live music was too loud for conversation, so we just looked at each other, and knew.

After collecting my thoughts, I sat on a park bench and gave thanks. For all of the ups and downs and lefts and rights and closed doors and opened windows and friends and enemies and concerned brothers and runaway rumors and baptisms and hugs and questions and doubts and the all-consumming hope that buries my heart, here.


Running with Scissors

A close friend of mine took his own life a few months ago.
For some reason, I continue to ache for his family… searching for answers and feeling so helpless. Suicide, after all, makes everyone feel guilty; I wish I would have could have should have…The other day I was talking to his father on the phone, as he described my friend’s final few weeks. Some of the missing pieces of the puzzle began to sink into place, as the mystery of his spiral downward came to light. Through sentence fragments and tears, I listened as his father shared about a certain hopelessness that tormented my friend. As it turned out, he had committed a serious crime and had been living with the guilt and shame of his decision.
In broken chapters, I listened to the tragic descriptions of his final days: he had stopped eating, and had become sickly thin. At night, my friend would walk to a nearby wooded park, and lay under the moonlight. He would lay his head in the cold grass and claw at the cancer of his own self-hatred. My friend would cry rivers of salty tears, begging God for the mercy of divine forgiveness.
And in his final hours, my friend took a pair of scissors and plunged them through his own heart.
What if…
this were the end of my blog entry.
What if…
the credits were rolling
and the tragedy was over
and this was the conclusion
ashes to ashes and dust to dust?
Every night as I drive home, north on highway 26 – there in the distant western horizon is a white cross. It reaches higher than all of the surrounding trees, and stretches to the sky overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tonight as I was driving home, I began to think about the weight of shame. I brushed away tears as I imagined my friend collapsing in despair, and knocking on the doors of heaven for the ever-illusive mercy of spiritual::emotional::mental f r e e d o m from guilt and shame.
I remembered the heavy weight of my own depravity, the secret sins that only God knows. I considered the options of this world and found them to be shallow. I know what it’s like to contemplate what my funeral would be like… or the intoxication of ending it all.
But it’s there that I see a cross. An instrument of death has become a scandal of hope! An execution stake leads to resurrected life. I am graciously reminded of the God who wrapped Himself in flesh, and walked a mile in our shoes. Jesus knew what it was like to sweat drops of blood beneath the moonlight, with His face buried in the grass; He knew the weight of separation, there as His Spirit was being pressed like the olives in Gethsemane.
I love Jesus. The more I learn, the less I understand. The mystery of the cross remains the center of my surrender. Following (even at a guilty distance) is a spiritual journey, not a guilt trip! I love Jesus because He meets us in that moment of despair, with a nail-scarred hand of forgiveness. When we think all is lost, He shows up in the morning and invites us to breakfast. When we have been disqualified, He reinstates, recreates, mediates, and stands as our defense.
I believe that I will see my friend again. And it’s not some cliche happy Christian sub-plot to a Sunday school lesson. I believe that one day we will be reunited in the Kingdom of Freedom, a place that transcends time and space. I believe that we will live in delicate harmony with all of creation’s song: in the presence of all that is, love.


The Inexplicable Itch for Redemption

I have looked into the eyes of evil. A reflection of a broken man, wiping away the tears of self-hatred and my finger is on the trigger of a cosmic cannon. There is an eternal depth to these roots. The juices of forbidden fruit dripping from failed frown, swallowed by shattered teeth hidden by shattered glass; the mirror reminds me of holy ordinance of which I have fallen incalculably short.

I have tasted the hate of apathy, ignored the cries of the innocent, and blurred the lines that separate neighbor from enemy. I have set fire to the Garden of Shalom, and run for the shelter of fig leaves and invisible bushes. I have touched, with blood-stained hands, the Holy Mountain.

This then is my confession: A guilty plea to a Righteous Judge. There is no defense offered, and no retention fee for a Counselor in this heavenly court. I have murdered the innocent, plundered the poor, pillaged the powerless, and built for myself a castle of sand.

How broken is this universe? Even the natural world is imploding with a virus expressed in the whole earth convulsing with shockwaves registering on the richter scale; emanating salty Tsunami tears flushing out toxic chemicals from the inside out. The whole earth is groaning for redemption...

Redemption. This is what every man, woman, and child is thirsting for. Redemption is the inexplicable itch that fuels the human engine toward achievement and success. The unholy Kingdoms of Accumulation have proven unsatisfactory; the itch remains. Success is an uncatchable wind, and our hands are blood-stained. Redemption is the ineffable hope for which there is no vocabulary. Words fail. Language limits. The inexplicable itch is spreading...

Which brings me to the Table. 

I have come here starving for grace. Emaciated in deprivation, wrinkles around eyes swollen with tears. How many times have we been through this, God? Still, Your mercies are new every morning! I am crawling toward the First and the Last Supper, only to collapse at the feet of the One whom I have betrayed. I lay here motionless, save the dry heaving admissions of sincere sorrow. This repentance is borne in a furnace of regret. My tears fall like rain on the dusty feet of the Mercy King.

A tap on my shoulder... a nail-scarred hand is extended. I look up to receive His assistance to be transported to the empty seat [saved] for me, beside Him. He then takes the Bread and breaks it apart... dipping into the Cup of Wine. "Taste and see", He says. "I have loved you with an everlasting love."

Selah. The curse is reversed. The Story is re-written. The Garden is now a City, and leaves once used for hiding have now become the healing of the Nations! The slaughtered Lamb has now become the sanctifying Lion. The image reflected in the mirror is no longer mine, but His own.

I have looked into the eyes of love. A reflection of the Mercy King, who wipes away my tears of self-hatred and absorbs the bullets of my betrayal. There is an infinite width to this embrace. The cup of suffering now spills over with the Living Water.

I have tasted the hope of empathy, implored the octave of the heavenly choir. I sing of the power of life after death; the anthem of the children of the rising up again! I have run to the shelter of an old-rugged cross, and hidden my past in His future!

This then is my admission: I've been set free, released, forgiven, declared righteous by the One True King! My Kinsman Redeemer lives to make intercession for me in the trembling face of the Accuser. Death has lost, and love has won. The mallet of the Righteous Judge slams into the jugular vein of Prosecuting Attorney; and the local media has a new evangelion: "Good News!" The removal of sin has become the restoration of Shalom!

Which bring me back to the Table...

- Jay DePoy


Out of Hiding (Father's Song)

This morning I sat with my girls on the couch while they waited for the elementary school bus to pick them up and take them away down the winding, mountain road. I couldn't help but see each of them through the lens of my own childhood.

Mariah is in 5th grade now. She is my twin spirit, and everything about her reminds me of growing up in that A-frame home, built by the hands of my dad. As she was talking to me, I couldn't help but absorb the animated facial expressions, the enthusiastic story-telling, and the way she wears her emotions on the outside, whatever they may be.

Her propensity to run and hide when she is being confronted, is possibly the greatest evidence of her bloodline to a broken man whom has always struggled to come out from behind the fig leaves.

The other day we found her dresser drawer full of candy bar wrappers, which she insisted had miraculously appeared. She went ballistic in denial, throwing a tantrum that could register on the richter scale. She looked in my face and lied to me. Repeatedly. And the more she lied and scrambled and denied and dressed in leaves of figs, the more I loved her.

Because I know this fear.

I just sat with her, quietly on the floor. Her arms were folded (yes, I know I should prepare myself for many more years of this, times three!) and she refused to look at me. Her punishment would be in place until she was willing to own up to her unbecoming. And I didn't get mad, and I wasn't even hurt by her... I was hurting  f o r  her.

Because I know this fear. 

And once you've invested in a denial... once you've run for the border... once you've lit the match to the bridge, you feel you're trapped. The fear of abandonment and loss and unbalanced punishment and whatwouldtheythink? begins to torment you to the point of researching the nearest mental hospital.

My heart broke for her. I just kept repeating to her, a piece of counsel given to me (when I was once hiding in toxic shame): "You don't have to live like this." 

I love this girl. And at times she can light up a room with charisma and charm. And other times she can burn the castle to the ground in her rage and self-hatred. I love her when she shines, and I love her when she gives me the proverbial finger. I love her when she is on the top of a pyramid full of cheerleaders in front of a huge crowd. And I love her when she locks the door and won't let me in.

I want her to live in freedom. I want her to live free from fear, free from the anxiety that she'll be dismissed. I want her to live in complete confidence that her Father loves her, and he'll always leave the Light on for her. And if she locks me out of her bedroom, I'll stand at the door and knock. And if she chooses to hide under an electric blanket of shame, I'll be wooing her out from her hiding.

"And know, as you're running
that what hindered love
will only become
part of the story..."


Grace Comes To Us With Blistered Feet

I once heard a story about an old missionary. He had been afflicted with such a spiritual dis-ease that keeping the Grace of Christ to himself was no longer an option. He set out on foot to reach the unreached people groups of the desolate African landscapes.

But in each village, his message of grace and forgiveness fell on deaf ears and hard hearts. He met rejection and loneliness at every corner. So he would walk in a circle from village to village to village before succumbing to exhaustion. He collapsed in the desert heat and waited to die.

A few days later he was stirred to awaken, in a bed provided by caretakers. He was nourished back to physical health, and noticed the disposition of the locals: they were receptive, curious, and eager to listen to his message. 

The missionary was curious as to why they had now a change of reception. 

The locals pointed to his blistered feet. "When we found you, we noticed the blisters on your dirty feet. We realized that anyone who would walk this relentlessly must have something to share, worth listening to."

When I think about all of the ways that I have rejected God's love for me, I often wonder why He hasn't given up! All those times I insisted to have my own way, He waited. In my absolute defiance of His Spirit's leading, the grace He has offered me is flushed away in rebellion.

Grace comes to us with blistered feet. 

When we least expect it, like a stray dog - grace shows up again at our front door, barking. Incessantly. Relentlessly. Annoying. 

Grace comes to us with blistered feet.

When we least deserve it, like a Christmas present unopened; postmarked from heaven - traveling through hell, grace knocks exhaustively on the door of our hardened heart. With blood-stained, nail-scarred hands, offering forgiveness and Monday-morning hope.

Grace comes to us with blistered feet.

When we ignore, reject, and dismiss this gift, we find one constant seat available at the Table, body broken, blood poured out. Grace has come, and remains the unfinished story...


These Things I Believe...

I believe in fresh water waves crashing into the Grand Haven Pier at Sunset, overlooking Lake Michigan. I believe in the Indian Summer extensions of another afternoon nap on a cloudy day, and the sound of a lawnmower in the distance.

I believe in the smell of a lawn freshly cut, and the feel of soft grass beneath bare feet. I believe in awkward first kisses and the inevitable voltage of love exploding in the veins. I believe in holding hands while roller skating, and building snow forts and snow men and snow angels and hot cocoa to melt away frostbitten fingers.

I believe in town hall meetings, to discuss differences. I believe in the smell of a cigar burning from a mile away, and the old man fishing in the salty sea, and the waves that brought me nearer for another smell of that aroma. I believe in teaching your daughters how to surf. I believe in sunburns and sandcastles and seashells and the sound of crashing surf into a pounding heart beating for one more frozen moment.

I believe in sleeping outside under the stars, and the snuggle of your children on a cold night. I believe in electric blankets on a cozy couch, with Jamie's homemade pizza and our favorite shows. I believe that after all the laughter and heartbreak and the ups and downs and in-betweens, we are going to be just fine.

I believe that she still captivates me, after all these years. With her brown eyes and unpredictable emotions and her luscious lips... she was nineteen years old, when we first met. And she is still the only one who can launch me into a sea of loneliness just by leaving the room! I believe in fighting to learn, and arguing to understand, and never going to be angry. I believe in standing in the doorway to embrace trembling hugs, and uncontrollable tears. I believe in forgiveness and redemption and beginning again, again. I believe in love, love, love held in the grip of grace, grace, grace. I believe in covenants of separation only by death, and even then a reunion in the everlasting.

I believe in outdated choirs singing ancient hymns of an old, rugged cross. I believe in flannel graph stories of runaway sheep, missing coins, and a prodigal son. I believe in miraculous healing from the inside out and the upside, down. I believe in tearing the roof apart to lower your friends to the Great Physician. I believe in sacred songs of Just As I Am Without One Plea and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing and I believe there is Power, Power, Wonder-Working Power in the Blood!

I believe in betting on the underdog, and that Cinderella was a shepherd boy with a sling shot. I believe that lions can be made submissive and walls can crumble and earthquakes can tear a veil and break open a tomb and roll a stone.

I believe in resurrection hope... the kind of hope that inspires saints to suffer and martyrs to bleed euphoric resistance. I believe a mustard seed can dismantle an empire. I believe the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And in His only Son, Jesus who killed death and broke brokenness. I believe He poured out His Spirit to invade and recapitulate the shattered pieces of my heart.


DePoy Family Lip Sync (2013)

An Excerpt From My Book...

"What is it about tears that serve as an outward expression of an inner pain? Grief looks like an intimate enemy in a world of friends and lovers, terrorists and angels, sinners and saints… we all bleed from a common vein, and if time is a band-aid, then agnosticism is a failing tourniquet. We know the familiar sting of betrayal. We can hear the chorus of a familiar song, and though the lyrics get blurred (subject to interpretation), the anthem of a broken humanity is to cry out to a God who seems to be hiding behind a door, “locked and double shut.”[1]

The unanswered questions inevitably lead toward agnosticism, which is the godfather of hopelessness. Heaven’s silence to our greatest questions leaves an unanchored ship in a tsunami-infested ocean of despair. To what can we anchor our deepest convictions? To whom can we turn to in the wake of the Great Depression?"

[1] Philip Yancey, “Reaching For the Invisible God”. P. ??


writer's block

i feel like i've lost my voice
and my pen has lost its fire
and i'm not good at expressing comprehensive thoughts

but i've become an expert at staring at walls
and losing myself in the wonder of
august heat
country roads
and ashlyn's tears

i've been attempting to write about the rhythm of birth and life and death
and rebirth and life and death and rebirth and...

but it all comes out like a schizophrenic flood
of nonsensical psycho-pseudo babble
in fragmented sentences
gerunds and dang
ling participles

i feel like a traveling salesman
distracted by a garage sale
with an armload of seconhands
baffled at their rejection of my personal credit card
spitting on my palms, extending my handshake
pinky swearing that i'm good for the payback

what i'm trying to say is
i miss the old me.