Keith Wheeler-“take up your cross”

It , 2020, was a season of adjustment. There were many distractions in the world, but I refused to be distracted by the politics. My message continued-know Jesus and love people.

“I’m heartsick about the times, when we, as Christians, have not lived according to Jesus’ teachings and created barriers to the faith. But …nameless men and women…humbly and courageously upheld the faith, have served in obscurity, have given their lives to help others”

John D. Woodbridge, PhD, in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

I know one person who humbly upholds his faith, serves in relative obscurity, and has given his life to help others. Keith Wheeler from Tulsa Oklahoma has done so since 1985, travelling the world, meeting people in crowds, sometimes one on one, without introduction, without an entourage, without publicity. He does it because he loves Jesus and wants everyone else to love him.

Others do something like this, but unlike Keith, they don’t do it on foot (after flying into a country by plane, of course.) Nor do they do it carrying a 12 feet tall, 90 pound cross over a shoulder. But Keith Wheeler does.

a man surrounded by children, all carrying a large cross
Keith loves kids.

I introduced you to Keith in two previous posts that I invite you to read. In 1985 he began walking around the world carrying his cross. He started in Tulsa Oklahoma and returned there when he had walked the entire circumference of the earth. Then he continued walking until March 2020 when like the rest of us his usual life routine was interrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. But the pandemic did not stop his ministry, his love for God and people, and his desire for people to know Jesus. He just did it in differently.

Keith, the Cross, and COVID

Like millions of others, Keith was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early 2021. Fortunate, he had a mild case, not requiring hospital admission, and recovered after the recommended isolation time at his home in Tulsa.

He was well enough to pick up the cross and carry it in Florida on perhaps the most appropriate day of the year-Good Friday. A few months later he started travelling again, although at a limited extent due to worldwide travel restrictions.

The Interview, part 2

In November 2021 Keith was home in Tulsa and I caught up with him by video so we could maintain social distancing. I wrote about my interview with him in an earlier post and continue it here. (KW is Keith, I am AO.)

AO: Keith, have you started travelling overseas again?

KO: Some but mostly staying in the states, a lot of travel in Oklahoma and Texas, and to Central America and Paraguay. Travel is more difficult due to fewer direct connections, and the need to get tested for COVID so often. If a country requires a 2 week quarantine upon arrival, that’s not a good use of our resources. And it can be hard to maintain masking outdoors when it’s required by the local regulations.

AO: Keith, you called your COVID timeout a precious time with Jesus.
KW: Yes it was. One of my favorite verses is John 13:23, in the King James Version (KJV) ;it says the disciple whom Jesus loved (believed to be John) was “reclining on Jesus’ bosom”. I like to think that meant the heart of Jesus, and that’s where I want to be.

AO: What was it like in 2020, not being able to travel internationally?
KW: It was a season of adjustment. There were many distractions in the world, but I refused to be distracted by the politics. My message continued-know Jesus and love people.

AO: Keith, I suspect many people quote the scripture about taking up one’s cross. What does that mean to you?
KW: Jesus said to be born again once, but several times he said to “take up your cross.” (Matthew 16:24) To be there are four aspects to taking up the cross.
First, it needs to involve sacrifice, it has to cost something. It has to be chosen willingly. Next it needs to bring redemption to others, that is save them from sin, evil, or error. Finally, it has to bring glory to God.

men carrying a cross up a rugged mountain wall
Keith with his trail guides carrying the cross up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa

AO: Keith, what should we learn from the pandemic, not just medically speaking, but socially and spiritually?
KW: We have missed the presence of Jesus by insisting on our rights. A story in the Old Testament, about Joshua teaches a lesson about this.
(Keith then told me this story)

While Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?”
He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. I’ve just arrived.”
Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, “What orders does my Master have for his servant?”
God’s army commander ordered Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy.”
Joshua did it. Joshua 5:13-15, MSG

KW:Taking off one’s shoes is a sign of humility and submission, the very opposite of insisting on our rights.

Meeting Keith-and the Cross

That thought has stayed with me, long after Keith and I ended our talk so he could make it to another appointment. Since then, I have watched several of his YouTube videos, listened to other interviews, and a few weeks ago my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a local church where Keith spoke.

If you think Keith dresses up in a suit and tie to speak in churches-well, guess again. He looked like he had just walked in from the road, although I’m fairly sure he and his wife Nicole drove there. He brought the cross, which is just as big and impressive as it looks in his photos.

a man holding a large cross
Keith speaking at a local church, photo by Raymond Oglesby

Before he spoke, Keith wasn’t backstage drinking coffee. He was in the auditorium, sitting at the far end of the front row, joining us in the music and worship time, sometimes kneeling as we sang, and occasionally lying prostrate on the floor. (Later over lunch my husband said he noticed Keith had “disappeared” and wondered where he was.) Before he started speaking, he invited all of us in the audience to kneel and pray, and as far as I could tell, we all did.

Keith’s message that morning was about-the Cross. He said almost everywhere in the world he travels people recognize the cross and what it stands for, but a few times he has gone places where people didn’t know.

Once he was in a large crowd in Nairobi Kenya, so crowded he could barely walk through. Suddenly the crowd parted to allow a blind man being led by a friend to approach. When he reached Keith, all he wanted to do was touch the cross. Then he walked away.

Keith says he should all be like the people in the Bible, John 12: 21, who came to the disciples, asking to see Jesus. Instead, we have taken our eyes off Jesus, off the cross, instead worrying abut masks, vaccines, and election fraud, which he calls distractions.

I was honored to meet him after the service, pose for a photo, and most importantly, touch the cross that has been up to Mt. Kilimanjaro. The cross wasn’t smooth and polished; it felt sturdy and rugged, the surface rough, like the one Jesus would have carried. It was a Sunday I will not forget.

Keith Wheeler holding his cross with Dr. Aletha
photo by Raymond Oglesby

You can find Keith at Keith Wheeler Ministries

The Message Bible Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

King James Version -Public Domain

sharing the HEART of faith, hope, and love

Thanks for joining me to meet Keith Wheeler. Soon I will share another post about Keith, with info culled from his website, social media, and videos. Keith has encountered many situations involving conflict, and I’ll tell you about one that happened surprisingly right here in Tulsa Oklahoma.

Doctor Aletha

Keith Wheeler-a Cross and COVID

No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

How to listen so people will talk-a book review

I’m afraid Becky’s plan will not be popular with those who focus on personal rights and free unfiltered speech, without regard for how it affects other people. But for those who want to create a new standard of listening everywhere to understand, affirm, and build relationships, this book will be a valuable resource.

How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections
By Becky Harling

Published in 2017 by Bethany House Publishers

I’m embarrassed to admit when I searched for this book online I typed into my browser, How to Talk so People will Listen. And it turns out, there is a book by that title.

But my faux pa illustrates why this book needed to be written:most of us would rather talk than listen. Or in the case of social media, post instead of read.

Let the wise listen

Proverbs 1:5
Becky Harling-speaker, coach, trainer

Becky Harling is a certified John Maxwell speaker, coach, and trainer; I don’t know what that means, but after reading this book, I am convinced she knows more about communication than most of us. She and her husband Steve pastored churches for many years. Now they travel internationally speaking on spiritual growth, leadership, communication, and world missions.

She quotes Maxwell in the book, along with several people I do recognize-Maya Angelou, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dale Carnegie, and Dee Brestin; the Mayo Clinic and Psychology Today; and Jesus. I appreciate authors who realize they don’t have the definitive word on anything and seek out others’ viewpoints. Literally the first words in the book are from the Bible, Proverbs 1:5

Let the wise listen and add to their learning.

Proverbs 1:5
two males talking, books on a table beside them
Keep your mouth shut.

Becky’s advice can be summarized in four words-keep your mouth shut. Fortunately for readers, she says it in a much nicer way. Most of us listen to others so they will listen to us. She wants us to listen to people say things we may not want to hear or may not like or that makes us feel uncomfortable. She gives some fairly simple suggestions for how to listen effectively-

  • Don’t be a fixer.
  • Ask great questions.(She points out that in the Bible, Jesus was a master at doing this.)
  • Show empathy (which doesn’t mean sharing what happened to you.)
  • Validate feelings.
  • Use body language to show interest.
  • Don’t be distracted.

Sounds easy, right? If you think you’re doing well at listening, test yourself with the exercises she includes at the end of each chapter. First,read one or two suggested scriptures, then ask yourself some pertinent questions, and then do real life practice. She calls these “biblically based, practical listening skills.” I think you will find them not so easy.

“Listening is like a muscle. The more we develop and train, the stronger our skills will become and the more effective we’ll become.”

two women, talking, sitting across a table, with coffee and open Bibles
Listening in conflict

I think the most helpful chapter was the one titled Practical Principles for Listening in Conflict. One tip-listen to agree. She also discusses how to avoid conflict and three rules for dealing with a toxic person. She warns-don’t stay in a physically abusive relationship.

I expected Becky’s book to be “10 quick and easy steps to perfect communication”. It was not. Becky addresses interpersonal communication between family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, since those are the people we have the most difficulty listening to, but most need to listen to.

“We are never able to go back and retrieve lost moments, so be attentive. Eliminate distractions that are robbing your ability to listen. Offer your full presence to those you love. “

Speaking of social media…

Although Becky does not address it, I think for virtual communication-email, text, social media- these principles could change the often impersonal and contentious discourse that has almost become the norm. Especially since these communication methods may lack visual clues, using listening techniques such as questions, validation, and empathy can be transformational.

man looking at a phone screen
Final thoughts

I’m afraid Becky’s plan will not be popular with those who focus on personal rights and free unfiltered speech, without regard for how it affects other people. But for those who want to create a new standard of listening everywhere to understand, affirm, and build relationships, this book will be a valuable resource.

Beckly includes a Notes section at the end which lists references for each chapter, both print and online sources.


The book links are affiliate links , as are the photo links-their use helps fund this blog and sharing the HEART of health around the world.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Find my other NetGalley reviews on the website.


exploring the HEART of listening

Dr. Aletha
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