Darrel and Gail Voth

Directors of Mobilization, Beautiful Feet Missionary Training and Sending, Choctaw, Oklahoma

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Why this election year fills me with hope.

Before we get started, try to put specific candidates and party politics aside and just read this for the broad perspective. I’m not endorsing a party or candidate here—that is not my purpose. However, I do feel that this election year is an indicator that positive change is not only possible, but that it will actually happen. With that said, I’ll continue…

I am hope-filled because our nation’s first black president is likely to be followed by our first woman president. I’m not specifically excited about Hillary Clinton, but I am excited that our racial and gender biases are being worked on in the public arena. Yes, we clearly have a long way to go, but we are progressing and we will get to a place where our default position moves away from an “us and them” paradigm and towards embracing the image of The Divine in all of us.

Another thing which gives me hope is that I feel Bernie Sanders was a voice from beyond the status quo who garnered a lot of support and fostered much productive conversation. I don’t think we can truly progress by choosing whatever we feel the “winning side” will be or should be. We must find an inclusive way to universal Good. I’m not saying Sanders was specifically that, but that he was evidence of that hope in our culture.

Even Donald Trump gives me hope. Again, not because of what he says or what he stands for, but because it seems he is a symptom of a broad shift happening in culture. It seems to me that with every lurch ahead, the last bastion of the status quo will rear up in a vain (but huge) attempt to solidify itself not only claiming “that’s just the way it is” but that it is “the only way it can be.” This lie is being exposed. We know that things can be better. No, we know that things must be better and if they must, they will, and if they will, it will be because we have embraced a new reality not yet fully grasped.

Ah… and there it is: a new reality not yet fully grasped. That’s what is so difficult. The world isn’t how it should be—we all feel it! And yet it never will be until we start living right now as we should. And that, my friends, is not a safe way to live while the status quo still reigns. But it’s the only way to bring about this new reality. It’s been happening slowly for centuries. Me, I’m tired of waiting—I want to be part of not just change, but of the acceleration of change!


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Living in the tension of the “Now-but-not-yet”

We’re all waiting, wondering, daring to hope that eventually things will someday be made right in this crazy world. No more need for fear, everything out in the open without shame or judgment. That’s the Vision, right? The Hope? All is as it should be? As we’re waiting, we can catch glimpses of this future if we pay attention. But, it feels diminutive, fragile, tenuous…

Though the current power system seems unavoidable, it’s also clearly unsustainable. Self-preservation cannot save us. Defensiveness will not protect us. Punishment does not redeem us.

If we combat wrong violence with corrective violence, does justice grow? Does healing come? Is relationship fostered?

Love alone leads us to Life. Love for ourselves? Yes! Forgiveness for the guilty? Blessing those who violate our rights? Mercy for the ruthless? Friendship for enemies? Welcoming the stranger? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

There’s no time time to waste! Start now. Change today… and every day which follows. Is it safe? No. Not yet. But one day…

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The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

N.T. Wright on the Kingdom of God
In the video at the link above (an hour-and-a-half long), N.T. Wright refers to the Enlightenment, the Kingdom, and Post-Modernism, and I got his message that neither Enlightenment thinking nor Post-Modern thinking could adequately contain Kingdom theology. And this was the springboard for the following thoughts…

The idea that postmodernism is wholly incompatible with Christianity has been a major part of what I was taught from high school through pretty much every church and Christian setting that I’ve found myself. (The exception being the radical thinkers I met here at Beautiful Feet.) The blind spot in this teaching seemed to be that it was always taught from a decidedly modern (i.e. post-Enlightenment) framework. Surely the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be fully understood through any human perspective. But surely this is equally true: that God desires to be known! Surely God is big enough that he may be known from inside Post-Modernism, while not being contained by it.

For us [cross-cultural workers], who enter into cultures not our own, we will be confronted by systems of thinking and ways of understanding the world that are not only unfamiliar and confusing to us, but which will in some (perhaps many) ways seem just plain wrong. Let us always strive to not judge but to understand. Instead of searching for ways to correct, let’s search for ways to connect. Jesus is there with the people. He created them and he is revealing himself to them. It is our job as image-bearers to live out the light, life and love of God toward the people as we live in their midst, identifying ourselves with their lives as much as we are able, and embodying Jesus to our highest capacity.

This necessitates a great deal of deeply personal inner work as we live an open, community-oriented lifestyle. This is only the work of the Holy Spirit. We must consent to this work, avail ourselves of it not only because we cannot do it ourselves but also because the Spirit desires our cooperation, submission and a mutually honoring and intimate love relationship.

I believe that cultivating a contemplative spiritual practice can play a major role in this inner transformation which must constantly take place in order for its fruit to bear out in our lives. One of Rev. Wright’s final statements was this:

“Morning and evening prayer actually contain a huge amount of scripture which flows through one’s consciousness like a stream flowing down a mountain and shaping the rocks along the way.”

Implicit in this analogy is that it’s going to take a lot of time and patience. Be persistent and patient with yourselves—and each other.

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Hearts at half mast

As I drove by the many car dealerships lining the interstate the day after the Dallas shooting, I saw all their giant American flags at half mast and I was really bothered by it.

Now let’s stop for a moment. What happened in Dallas was horrific and our flags were rightly lowered. Just to be clear.
What bothered my conscience was the question of how we come to decide when our flags are lowered. What’s the threshold of tragic and unjust death that must precipitate the decision to lower our flags? I understand that the president calls for it when something has happened on a national level… but still… my morality and ethic of life was pricked with a collective twang of guilt at having to decide that now is the time for national mourning and other times… not.
My idealist self is in mourning for the guilt on humanity’s conscience, the bigotry of ethnicity, gender, orientation, religion, etc., ad nauseam… Perhaps our flag should remain at half mast.
BUT! When we come to that day… when no person is murdered on our streets, in our women’s clinics, on our death row injection beds, or on foreign shores, that’s the day I want to see our flag flown high. That would be our first independence day. Our long-awaited freedom from the tyranny of violence and power. 
Oh great day, come. Until then, we must continue to wage a war of love, justice and peace within ourselves, across communities and around the world.