On 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 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. 

- Jay DePoy


The Story Behind Your Scars

Beneath the surface of this bruise is a vein of backfiring blood running toward a resolution. You see only the external evidence of an internal eruption, but time will prove that bruises fade and scars become the everlasting witness of yesterday's choices.

Behind each scar is a story. Every inch of the journey has been recorded on the canvas of mortal flesh; Skinned knees, amputated appendages, and knuckles bleeding from the incessant knocking on the door of heaven, for mercy.

Hidden in the filter of your photoshopped existence is the Truth of bridges of torched by broken promises. The contract was conceived in distrust, but the covenant remains eternal. The smoke of Sinai still hovers over the commitment; the faithfulness of the I Am, when i am not.

Scars are tattoos with better stories. They are narratives written in blood, and the last chapter is still being written. Your story is unfinished. Do not let regret shame you into silence, because the hour is late and the time is now.

Own your story. It's the one thing they can't take away.

They can suffocate your dreams, revoke your license, and disqualify your ordination. They can pull the plug on your breathing machine, and spin the narrative into clean categories of black and white and us and them and right and wrong and pure and polluted. They lock you up in a prison of toxic shame, and write your epitaph with permanent markers. They can start the prayer chain and gatekeepers can sound the alarm of an enemy wolf among innocent sheep. The revisionists can deconstruct your His/Story and you can choose to allow them, [or]

You can let your scars become the evidence of a scandalous mercy that screams of a Creator who uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Don't hide your scars from your children. Reveal the ashes and reconstruct a better tomorrow. Lean into the dis-ease, and be vulnerable enough
to wake up, rise up, take up your bed and walk.


Hoping to Lose

I recently heard a story about a young philosophy student, and an old monk, Father Makarios.  The conversation went something like this:

Student: "Father Makarios, do you still wrestle with the devil?"

Father Makarios: "No. I used to wrestle with the Devil all the time. But now I have grown old and tired, and the Devil has grown old and tired with me. So now I leave him alone and he leaves me alone."

Student: "Then your life is easy now?"

Father Makarios: "Oh no. Life is much harder now.
For now I wrestle with God."

Student: "You wrestle with God and hope to win!?"

Father Makarios: "No. I wrestle with God and hope to lose."


I used to wake up in the middle of the night, with the sheets soaked with sweat. Every. Night. For whatever reason, my dreams would lead to the feeling of suffocation, and I would wake up in a panic, and feel the blankets soaked with my own fear. I had a common nightmare of being apprehended and assaulted by an invisible violence, and I would wake up more exhausted than when I laid down to rest. I would learn later that my dreams would often lead to me swinging, kicking, and punching the darkness...

For years, I thought it was the cosmic struggle of good verses evil. A spiritual war against the forces of evil; surely Lucifer and his angels were hellbent on my destruction! I would read a chapter out of the bible every night before bed, only to have vivid dreams of sex and violence and shame and preaching and laughter and tears and in the end it was like rearranging chairs on the deck of the titanic, because this ship was sinking. I had been cast into the inevitable collision of an iceberg into a monstrous sea, and the saltwater was filling my lungs and I cannot breathe and I am drowning!

On the other side of the some glad morning, I have begun to realize that perhaps my struggle was not against the Devil. Maybe I had been swinging in the dark toward the embrace of my Heavenly Father, who was pinning me down with the chebod of His love. I see now that the scars inflicted from years of resistance, were self-injurious. There is a story behind each scratch, each bruise, each scar... "and here is where I landed on my knees." Then, pointing out another, "and this one is from the time I tried to outrun my shame." Unwrapping the bandages covering the battle wounds: "...and this scar is when I tried to run to freedom, only to be cut down by friendly fire." 

I am not alone in this struggle. This is a part of the narrative into which I have been cast, beside my brother Jacob. He too struggled with God in the midnight hour, and walked away with a permanent limp. Because the struggle is to learn and grow and be decimated into a blessing; our struggle is to allow ourselves to be pinned down by an avalanche of cosmic love. 

Why am I so resistant to allowing God to love me? Why do I shower others with grace and forgiveness, and yet harbor resentment and rage toward myself? Perhaps my struggle with God is not predicated on the objective to win, rather my victory comes in surrender.  Because when I am weak, I am strong enough to put down my fist and say yes and amen. My Hosanna was born in a furnace of doubt; my glorification comes as a collapse into the arms of the Victor. 

When Jacob had a dream of a ladder, corresponding with God in the middle of the night, the Hebrew Scriptures articulate that "the sun had set" (Gen. 28:11). It was, in the words of St. John of the Cross, "the dark night of the soul." Years later, he would wrestle with God in the same midnight hour, and walk away with a permanent limp. And a few chapters later his story continued, "... and the sun rose" (Gen. 32:31).

And as the sun rose in the morning, he stumbled onward toward the eastern horizon with a new identity... the name given to him by the Victor: "Jacob." Which literally translates from the Hebrew, "he who struggles with God." 


Regret and Gratitude

The other day I was sitting at a table with recovering addicts, listening to the exchange of life stories and mountains climbed. After hearing one man share about all of the bridges he's burned on his way toward sobriety, he stated emphatically, "... and if I could do it all over, I wouldn't have changed a thing! The life lessons have shaped who I am today!" Others around the table nodded, as if to agree.

But I could not.

Because the reality is that I live with an ocean of regret. It is like an albatross chained to my memory, haunting me in my sleep. It's like a reoccurring dream of bridges built and crossed and then burned to ashes by my indifference, neglect, and selfishness. I have sketched the blueprints of a hedonistic empire and chiseled at a foundation of meticulously broken promises.

I carry this weight in my heart, and it slows my pace. My heart beats faster than I can walk, and I'm slowly falling behind and the sun is setting and the hour is late and the course is unfinished and the faith has not been kept.

As I write this, the late winter rains have caused the river behind my house to overflow the banks. The Grand River is expected to continue to rise until water will invade my living room. Yesterday I lifted all of our valuable possessions, including photo albums full of memories. On the kitchen table there are pictures of a cocky teenager who was hellbent on self-destruction. I hate that kid! I want grab him by the throat and get his attention! I wish I could return to Muskegon and tell him to let go of the egocentric aggression, and the narcissistic self-absorption. If I could write an open letter to my younger self, I would emphasize a cautionary dis-trust of choices made with emotion.

There are two dominant streams in my life: Regret and Gratitude.

Regret is the monster hiding beneath the bed of shame. I regret the way I treated my teachers in high school. I regret the way I relentlessly teased Jeremy Leffring. I regret the way I disrespected the different girlfriends of my youth, and the way I pursued attention for vain glory. I regret the way I manipulated conversations to solicit false affirmation, and I regret trusting the promises of a thousand amens. I regret all of the lies that I told, in my efforts to maintain an empire of delusion.

I don't feel like God is angry with me. But I feel like He is disappointed. I don't expect lightning bolts of His wrath, but I have come to expect the icy chill of His silent treatment. The distance is tangible, and the indifference is palpable. I feel reinstated to His Table, but not necessarily to His Triumph.

But on the other side of this ocean of regret, is an oasis of gratitude. We are born with two lungs, and if I inhale from the lung of regret, then I exhale from the lung of gratitude. Because after all of the self-destruction and humiliation, I am still here. It is indeed a miracle!

Several years ago I was involved in a  horrifying car crash that should have ended my life. I was traveling northbound on US 31 near Lake Michigan when I mistakenly took my eyes off the highway. The construction ahead had slowed the traffic to a standstill, and I had no time to stop! I tried to swerve from hitting the last car stopped ahead of me, but clipped the corner of his bumper. My sedan shot fifteen feet into the air, rotating endoverendoverendoverend several times, landing upside down in the opposite direction of travel (across the median)! I was not wearing a safety belt, and my entire vehicle was shattered into a thousand pieces. One witness heard the sound of the crash and saw my vehicle flying through the air, inducing immediate vomit all of the interior of her own vehicle. Such was the disturbance in the atmosphere.

I remember bracing at the time of the collision, curling into the fetal position and waiting for death. I closed my eyes and braced for the darkness. "This is how it ends", I thought. But with each roll and spin and flip, I remained conscious. When I had come to a final stop (upside down), I crawled out of the passenger window and walked away without a scratch. I was barefoot because somehow my shoes went flying with the rest of the car. I just kept shaking my head thinking, "I can't believe I'm alive. I can't. Believe. I'm alive."

I am grateful. I am thankful that despite the crash and burn and fire and smoke and vomit and wonder - there is a Table spread before me in the presence of my enemies. I am grateful. I am thankful that despite my unworthiness, there is the love of a woman, the faith of a mother, and the laughter of three daughters who seal me in this promise of redemption. I am grateful. I am thankful that I have friends like Mitch Schultz, and John Smith, Ken and Bonnie Jane Greene, Dustin Price and Sulkiro Song, AJ Sherrill and Cam Speer, voices of truth in a world of counterfeit. I am grateful. I am thankful for a place to belong, a promise to believe, and a purpose to become. I am grateful. I am thankful for the invitation of the Mercy King to a Table of broken bread and wine in abundance.

Regret < Gratitude


Conversations in the Mirror

Your best days are in the rearview mirror. 

Remember that one time when it was New Year's Eve and you were in the middle of the circle listening to your favorite band with your favorite people and it was snowing and your stomach hurt from laughing so hard at the stolen thunder and you stood with your back against the wall and watched the frozen pipes burst through the ceiling and you said it was a sign from heaven?

Remember when they found her laying in the street - she was talking about the end of the world and the neighbors called the police and now the Social Workers are involved and we want someone to blame because the ultrasound was inconclusive. But I came from Grand Rapids to sit by your hospital bed to hold your hand and tell you that the DePoy's stick together, and everything will be ok and no this is not "God's Plan..." But maybe mental illness runs our bloodline because

I remember the time I stood on the roof of Holland Community Hospital and the voices encouraged me to jump but it was not the voice of my Abba, and I knew that this was a spiritual war, and I had embraced the cold porcelain toilet hurling up the truth about the rest of the story and the unwritten chapters of love lost and found and swinging in the dark at the inevitable resignation of the exodus lovelution.

But what if Brene Brown is right? What if this is all just a narrative that I've created to appear as the victim in a violent crime? What if the other side of the story was much more loving and less complicated and we could make sense of the pipes bursting from the record cold temperatures in the harbor theatre? And what if the doctor was actually good, and not trying to harm you? And what if being bipolar doesn't mean you lose your soul? And what if the story I've been telling myself is fiction?

Because your best days are still ahead of you. And love still wins. And children still laugh. And after New Year's Eve comes a New Beginning, and after the frozen pipes thaw and the demolition removes the ashes, reconstruction comes around Easter and the tomb is empty and Teresa believes in mercy and my value and worth are sealed until the day of redemption.


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