PEACEMAKING THROUGH CONFLICT

There’s enough strife and tension in our world today. My prayer is that I be a peacemaker. I don’t desire to be known for my political stand, but my identity as a follower of Jesus and my stand for His Kingdom! Keith Wheeler

a pond in a park with skyscrapers in the distance

On February 10, 2020 Keith Wheeler left Tulsa Oklahoma for Tuvalu, a nation of Pacific islands just south of the equator. Lying halfway between Hawaii and Australia it is one of the most remote and least visited places on earth. But that is exactly the kind of place Keith likes to visit.

Keith on the airport runway in Tuvalu

For 37 years he has walked more than 26,000 miles, visited every continent and over 200 countries for one reason- to love people and share God’s love, carrying a 90 pound cross over his shoulder. Keith uses the cross to get people’s attention and show how much God loves them.

But when Keith returned to the US in March 2020, the world had changed. On March 12, the director of the World Health Organization declared the new COVID-19 infection a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national emergency for theUnited States. Travel, especially international travel, was curtailed drastically.

Keith would not leave the country again for almost a year, but he did not waste the time resting. He just changed the way he reached people. He continued walking in Oklahoma and nearby states and shared videos on his social media, writing

“Maybe some of those stories and the perspective gained can be an encouragement. I love the fact that even in these times of isolation we can stay connected through all our technology.”

In three previous posts I told you about my interview with Keith December of 2021 and a sermon he preached in Tulsa in February 2022. In this post I’m drawing from Keith’s social media posts and an interview with BURN podcaster Reese Black.

(I have edited some of Keith’s statements for clarity and conciseness. I have added scripture references when he did not.)

Back home in Tulsa, on March 28, 2020 Keith wrote,

“In the midst of all the fear, disruption, uncertainty, and confusion that’s going on in our world, we can be sure that our Father goes before us and walks together with us into the unknown.

Easter Sunday, April 10, 2020 churches were closed due to COVID. Keith was on the street to carry the cross- in his own home city Tulsa Oklahoma.

Keith carries the cross on Lewis Avenue, walking by the Praying Hands statue at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma
On that day he wrote on Facebook,

May the God of Hope deliver the gift of hope;

May the Prince of Peace guard hearts and minds with His perfect peace that passes all understanding;

May the Spirit of Comfort comfort & encourage hearts and

May the Savior of the World rescue and redeem lost and broken lives!

May 25, 2020

And then our country erupted into chaos, confusion, and confrontation.

Tulsa is a diverse city, with vibrant ethnic communities-Blacks, Latinos, Vietnamese, Burmese, Muslims, Jewish, and many others. Our Native American community provides a link to its origin as a Creek settlement in Indian Territory.

Thehistoric oak tree at Creek Nation Council Oak Park
The historic “council oak” at the site of the original Creek settlement that became Tulsa

Tulsa is often referred to as the” buckle of the Bible belt”, due to Oral Roberts University and many evangelical churches. Oklahoma as a whole is very “red”, and conservative- the governor, both senators, and all five representatives are Republican. It’s usually a quiet, peaceful, almost boring place; but not in the spring of 2020.

I’m sure by now you have seen the video, shot by an onlooker- a Black man lay on the ground, handcuffed, a police officer kneeling on his neck. Despite pleas to let him up from people who witnessed it, he did not let go. That man, George Floyd, died that day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death at the hands of police set off protests all across the country, including here in Tulsa .

On Saturday, May 30, hundreds of people protested peacefully on a march through midtown Tulsa. One protester was hit by a vehicle when the protest moved onto Interstate 44, briefly shutting it down. Protests continued on May 31, when thousands gathered in the Greenwood District to demand police accountability and reform. In the evening, police officers blocked protesters from walking down Peoria Avenue and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Reports of vandalism were made as rocks were thrown at cars and shop windows were broken.

downtown Tulsa, looking toward the Arkansas River in the background; the BOK CENTER is the Round silver structure on the far right

On May 31, a BLM (Black Lives Matter) rally was held in the Greenwood district, near Tulsa’s historic Black Wall Street. They were protesting because the Trump campaign had scheduled its first rally at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa on June 19, known as Juneteenth, the day Black Americans celebrate Emancipation. (The campaign organizers subsequently changed the Trump rally to June 20 .)

another view of downtown Tulsa; the tallest tower, the BOK Tower, was designed by the architect who did the Twin Towers

As Keith told it in the BURN interview, downtown Tulsa was like the “state fair on steroids.” He said there was a throng of people, some with bullhorns, protesting racism, masks, politics, pandemic restrictions. He noticed one man in particular, who he called a “troublemaker, stirring things up” by waving a Confederate flag. He said this “knucklehead” was “poking the bear, burning bridges.”

This is exactly the kind of place Keith likes to be, because “in a noisy world, Jesus is there.” As a peacemaker, Keith knew that’s where Jesus needed him.

downtown Tulsa Oklahoma featuring iconic churches
another view of downtown featuring historic churches, L to R, Holy Family, 1st Christian, 1st Church of Christ, Scientist, 1st United Methodist, 1st Presbyterian, 1st Baptist

July 4, 2020, Independence Day , he posted to Facebook

Jesus came to give us liberty; not “rights”. When we choose to follow Jesus we choose to lay down our rights. In exchange, He gives us true freedom!

‘Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 NASB

On July 22, 2020 Keith received a graphic reminder of the unrest of the spring-an unexpected but pleasant surprise
What happened to Keith in downtown Tulsa during the protests

Keith’s thoughts on October 8, 2020 came from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

In today’s world, it seems popular for those of us who claim to follow Jesus, to say “I believe the Bible…every word of it!” But do we really?! We’ve been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jesus said,

“love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”

Instead, it seems that we have become proficient at accusing, blaming, criticizing, condemning, finger-pointing and mud-slinging our enemies. But BLESS them?! DO GOOD to them? PRAY for them?! LOVE them?!!!

Politics, race, masks, COVID-19, etc.?!. Let’s be salt! Let’s let our light shine! Let’s turn the other cheek! Let’s go the extra mile. (Matthew chapters 5-7)

May the Bible not just be a book that we say we agree with in our words, but may “the Word became flesh…” in our lives! (John 1:14)

At all times and in every way, may our words; may our actions; may our thoughts be a reflection of Jesus!

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” –

Jesus (John 13:35)

November 2, 2020 found Keith pondering the upcoming presidential election between incumbent Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden, one of the most contentious and controversial in history. Keith had some thoughts about that too.

People often ask me as I travel around the world where I’m from…I tell them my passport says USA; the dust on my feet says the world; but my heart says the Kingdom of Heaven! I say this to let you know that I write this with as pure and humble heart that I can.

As we near the finish line in this historic race I have waited because far too many of us are already so divided. There’s enough strife and tension in our world today. My prayer is that I be a peacemaker. I don’t desire to be known for my political stand, but my identity as a follower of Jesus and my stand for His Kingdom!

It seems that everywhere I’ve been, anyone I’ve spoken with, on any form of media I hear fear, uncertainty, anxiety and concern about tomorrow’s elections. I understand. It’s easy to feel this way when we look at our choices. It’s easy to feel out of control!

But maybe we’re not supposed to be in control?! Truly, all we can do is pray and vote!

It’s so easy to be fearful, angry, critical, and judgmental. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, not just peace-lovers! Jesus calls us to love our enemies! We are not to point out their flaws, or inconsistencies. Love covers a multitude of sins. Let’s lift up what is right; not point out what is wrong.

The Bible encourages us to meditate and focus on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, with virtue and anything that is praiseworthy.

Does this absolve us of our responsibility? Does that mean we don’t get involved in the process? Absolutely not!! We all need to vote.

We have done much more complaining and finger pointing than praying and loving! We’re called to love, pray for and bless those who accuse us, who revile us and who “disagree” with us! (Matthew 5:11)

No matter the outcome of our elections, when we wake Wednesday morning, the one thing we know for sure is that God is not worried or fearful about who’s going to be our next president. Psalm 2 tells us that the LORD actually laughs at the schemes and plots of kings, rulers and nations. He reminds us in Psalm 118 that, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.”

So if you’re feeling anxious about what’s happening, or what’s going to happen, may we all lift up our eyes. May we fix our eyes on King Jesus!

“Of the increase of HIS government and peace there will be no end…”

Isaiah 9:7

And the aftermath of the election proved just as chaotic as the campaign itself. Keith weighed in on that November 5, 2020.

Please STOP!!!!

I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I say that with kindness in my heart. But my friends…we don’t have to live according to the latest lead story, social media post, or television headline! Our emotions don’t have to stay on this rollercoaster ride, constantly rising and falling, twisting and turning with the “latest report.”

(Then Keith told a Bible story; or more specifically THE BIBLE story. As my husband says, Keith is a storyteller.I’ll summarize his thoughts here. )

In this Story, we read about a Kingdom that has no end. He tells us that this Kingdom is made up of righteousness, peace and joy! It’s a Kingdom of glorious beauty. It’s a Kingdom where our King is the King of all Kings and He rules and reigns forever. It’s a kingdom where He sits on His throne forever and ever! This Book tells us that if we’ll stop looking at what seems real, we can see this Kingdom…it’s among us. And yet, it’s coming!!!

My friends, PLEASE! Let’s stop looking at and listening to things that bring worry, fear, doubt, division and the worst in each of us. If we take as much time speaking with this King and reading His Book as we do with the lead stories, social media posts & TV headlines, we would be filled with a love that’s unconditional, even for our enemies. We would experience peace that goes far beyond our circumstances and understanding. And we would have a joy that we can’t even express because it’s “unspeakable and full of glory.”

“Our Father…may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”

Matthew 6:10

November 7, 2020-“My side won!”

As we’ve awaited the outcome of the elections, I pray that you’ve been at peace. I don’t know if your side won or lost in the final outcome. I’m here to say that my side won! In fact, my side has never lost…it ALWAYS wins! But not because my ballot was counted for the candidate I voted for, or not… but because Jesus ALWAYS wins!

May we know that here is hope for this country…not because one candidate won and the other lost! There is hope because the Bible reminds us that, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.” In the past, God has used good kings and bad kings! He is ALWAYS going to accomplish His purposes!

Our world doesn’t need our gloating and celebrating, nor do they need our grumbling, accusations and finger pointing. May we walk as peacemakers…as sons and daughters of our King. May our identity be our humility, gentleness, brokenness and surrender as lovers and followers of Jesus! May we be people known by our love & compassion – for forgiveness, grace and understanding.

making allowance for each other’s faults because of our love; do not let unwholesome or worthless words to ever come out of our mouths, but only such speech that is good for building up others, according to the need of the moment and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing and give grace to those who hear.”

Paul, the Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament

A changed nation doesn’t begin in the Senate, on Capitol Hill or in the White House. It starts with humility, repentance, prayer, and seeking after God’s heart in God’s House!

“Will you allow me to dream for just a moment?”,Keith wrote on November 16, 2020

Can you imagine what our nation, what our world would look like…if only we would think, read, and meditate upon, advertise, proclaim and lift up Jesus with the same passion, intensity, fervor and dedication we have with our political ideas, opinions and resolutions about the elections?!!

Can you imagine what our world would look like if we walked in humility and gentleness with servant hearts?! Can you imagine if we loved, looked out for and preferred others above ourselves?!

What a world it would be if we would be “patient and kind”; “not envious or boastful”; not arrogant or rude”; not insisting on our own way”; and “not irritable or resentful”?!! (1 Corinthians 13)

How about simply starting with a smile and looking people in the eyes?! Dreams can come true!!! 😊

a man surrounded by children, all carrying a large cross
there is something about a child…purity, love, innocence, trust, humility, simplicity and joy. Oh, that we might become as children!

After the events of January 6, 2021, the day Congress certified the election results, Keith wrote,
“Isn’t Jesus amazing?! ” Jan 7, 2021

Among His twelve disciples he had one (Matthew the tax collector) who worked FOR the Roman government and one (Simon the Zealot) who worked for the overthrow of the Roman government! Can you imagine the conversations around the campfire?! The only thing that brought these two radically different people together was Jesus! Hmmm?! Maybe there’s a message here? 🙂‼️

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God”

Matthew 4:9

Jan 17, 2021

Concerning the last days (weeks) and the days to come, many have asked me what I feel or sense. My life is in the hands of Jesus. I trust in His Word. I did, however, come across this verse as I read this morning. I think it’s pretty applicable….

“Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be a sanctuary….” Isaiah 8:12-14

Isaiah 8:12-14

In a time when there seems to be much uncertainty and fear, may we remember that the Lord of Hosts is truly our sanctuary!

I’ve told you in a previous post that Keith survived a bout of COVID in March of 2021, but just a few months later he was traveling-and walking- overseas again. Toward the end of the year he celebrated his 60th birthday; here’s how he feels about that.

Sept 6, 2021- Keith Wheeler’s birthday

Today, by the amazing grace of God, I turn 60! WOW! Who would have ever thought I would still be around?

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future…” I don’t know who to give credit to for this quote, but I love it and it’s so appropriate for this next decade…🤠

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Philippians 1:21-23

Today, I get to celebrate God’s gift of life to me, by walking with Jesus. It’s been a beautiful weekend of being celebrated by my fairytale princess (his name for his wife Nicole) and family. Today I have the privilege and honor of walking & celebrating together with Jesus!

“May I never take one moment for granted. Each step, each second, each breath, each heartbeat… May it be all for You, Jesus! You are the worthy One!”

exploring the HEART of faith, hope, and love

Has Keith’s perspective given you new insights about events of the past two years? I encourage you to follow him on social media where you can regularly read his posts about his travels and his thoughtful commentary about scripture, world events, life, and faith. Start at his website, Keith Wheeler Ministries.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

may you feel these three……. Dr Aletha

This post was shared here.

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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