Darrel and Gail Voth

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

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The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby

My Christmas present was dinner and a show with my wife tonight. following is my review of the show and my musing on what I heard in this re-imagined telling of such a familiar story. We’re so used to a sanitized and gentrified Christmas story, but this was human and real, where even a life of faith gets messy and confusing.



We began our evening with the always-delicious food at Thai Kitchen, followed by a smooth and tasty latte from Junction Coffee because we got to the Civic Center early, and finally the reason we were out at all tonight after such a busy day: to experience the musical, “The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby.”

River & Rail Theatre Company out of Knoxville brought this little gem of a show to the quaint Freede Little Theatre in OKC. The creative director, Joshua Peterson, who introduced the show, and the writers, Don Chaffer of Waterdeep and Chris Cragin-Day are all Oklahoma Baptist University alumni.

The cast of four (Drew Drake as Joseph, Ellen Nikbakht as Mary, Hannah Jones as Elizabeth/ensemble and Brady Moldrup as Benjamin/ensemble) and the five accompanying musicians (Rachel Parton, music director and player of more instruments than I can name or recognize; Wade Jenkins, percussion; Cameron Mizell, guitar; Travetta Johnson, keys; Xzavian Wrushen, bass) did a remarkable job performing the entire show on stage, no curtains, all just right out there in the open.

Drake and Nikbakht worked wonderfully together, Jones was fantastic in the supporting roles she played and Moldrup was brilliantly comedic. The set was simple and flexible, no extras, just the story. And what a story!

The characters of Mary and Joseph had actual personality. You know, like quirks and flaws and such—things we almost never allow them. There were actually several elements you wouldn’t expect at a Christmas show: silliness, some light cursing, a marriage relationship in the holy family that includes sexuality and strife, and a God who’s there, but somehow doesn’t quite seem like he is. But all the unexpectedness didn’t derail the show’s purpose, it kept it right on track, making the incarnation more accessible, more…incarnational.

The relationship between Joseph and Mary was very relatable: their power struggle; their faith and failures; their learning how to work together while listening to God and trying to figure out how to respond; how they would repeatedly get up on their pedestal, only to be humbled again and thus enabled to take their next steps together.

The other element of this show that really grabbed me was the reality of paradox in living a life of faith:

  • God’s messages are so clear; so why can’t we agree on our response?
  • Even after God shows up, we’re left asking, “What are we supposed to do now?”
  • Our great deliverance won’t be coming through great power—not power as we’ve ever understood it before.
  • God seems so distant—even when he’s right there with us.

But in all the paradox, we’re not left in confusion. we’re left with the clear message, “Fear not!”

There was so much of this telling of the Christmas story that was imagined, yet so much truth.

Tickets (Nov. 30–Dec. 3)


From identity, to freedom, to humility


Because Jesus knew who he was, where he was from and where he was going, he was able to humble himself and serve his friends. Jn13:3–4

FUMC of Edmond - Good Shepherd Transfiguration

This stained glass art of Jesus as The Good Shepherd is inside the First United Methodist Church of Edmond. As I was there for a friend’s wedding rehearsal, it really captured my attention and I couldn’t shake it from my mind. As religious art is supposed to do, it invited me into contemplation. If you look more closely, you’ll see Moses and Elijah on either side, meaning this is actually a depiction of the transfiguration. The artist has hit some deep meaning here… while the transfiguration revealed the glory of Jesus’ deity, the incarnation revealed the character of his deity.

Because Jesus was secure in his identity, he had complete freedom not to overwhelm us with his power but to humble himself and show us pure, selfless love.

As Jesus’ disciples and apostles, our transformation into his likeness will always result in greater humility of self and deeper love for other.

May it be so.

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But the greatest of these…

The U.S. presidential election has caused quite a stir in the American community and in the global community even. It seems that the world is undergoing some significant growing pains. I maintain the optimism that the political and social unrest we have been experiencing is a sign of growth and a push for justice.

It’s clear though that we have differing views on not only what the problem is, but what justice even is.

Many look around and see their discomfort and try to find who or what to blame. The solution is to figure out who’s who, who stands for what, punish the wrongdoers, separate into our respective camps and protect our way of life.

Many others look around and see the injustice in the world and seek to discover how this came to be—what systems are in place which tear at the fabric of humanity? The solution is to band together, regardless of who or where you are and to work together to right the wrongs, forgiving as we go, listening to each other’s pains and perspectives, learning from each other and growing together, growing into a unified, diverse community.

Both sides tend to back up their views with their respective religious beliefs (or non-religious beliefs), even those professing to know and follow the same God, the same Scriptures. Faith becomes another dividing point, another battle line.


I’m convinced love is our only hope. The only Source of true healing. The only transcendent Truth. God is Love. God is Jesus. Let us love as Jesus did.

Love in your family.

Love on your social media.

Love in your community.

Love your enemy.

Love the Creator who gave himself to humanity.


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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.