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Category Archives: Character

Pride hinders givers from receiving

It puzzles me why givers have trouble being receivers. It bothers me that servants struggle with letting others serve them. Unfortunately, I am guilty of the same problem. My pride, independence, and self-sufficiency get in the way of me being on the receiving end.

As I contemplated traveling to Russia, I wondered how I would navigate the airports. I had been going to the mall and to the church gymnasium to walk several times a week in order to build up my stamina and endurance. Walking an airport terminal would be a tiring challenge, but I figured I could do it. A friend suggested I request a wheelchair service. I listened and made the arrangements.

After I said goodbye to Carol at Boston Logan Airport, the wheelchair attendant whisked me through security and all the way up and down the terminal to the departure gate. It was the best $5 tip I ever spent. As boarding began, a ticket agent wheeled me to the door of the airplane and I was the first one on board.

When I landed in Amsterdam, there was no one to meet me, so I walked all the way from the arrival gate to the front door. A long, slow, walk. When I approached passport control, an attendant said she didn’t want me standing in a long line, so she took me to the front to the next available agent.

When John, Naomi, and I checked in for the next flight to Moscow, John told the agent I had requested wheelchair service. A chair was produced and John wheeled me through security to the departure lounge and eventually to the departure gate.

When we landed in Moscow, I walked off the plane past a wheelchair sitting in the jet way. I assumed it was someone “who needed it.” Naomi mentioned it was available, and I responded, “I’ll be fine.” John countered, “Pride.” Shortly after his incisive comment, an attendant came up with a wheelchair and said, “Mr. Wheeler? I was waiting for you.” I apologized and allowed him to take me through passport control to baggage claim and then to an airport restaurant where we had dinner.

Accepting help chafed against my independent, self-sufficient nature. My pride would have worn me out physically and robbed others of the joy of serving.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Character, Personal growth, Russia, Travel

 

Deadlines

I don’t understand deadlines, or rather, those who don’t honor deadlines. Maybe it’s my responsibility gene, but I was taught that deadlines are deadlines. Whether it be a school assignment, sales advertisement, job task, performance review, airline flight departure, final exam, doctor’s appointment, or any other time sensitive matter, deadlines are deadlines.

If you miss the deadline, there are consequences. It might cost money. You might miss your flight. There may be a grade or interest penalty. It might affect your credit score. You might lose your place in line. It could cost you a financial bonus or even a promotion in your job. People might question your credibility or dependability if you don’t deliver on time.

I have worked with folks who viewed deadlines as suggestions. They were guidelines for other people, but did not apply to them. I have had students who routinely turned in assignments and exams after the due date and then wondered why they lost points and didn’t get full credit.

I understand the need for exceptions. In the previous school term, I had students who were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Nate. I was gracious and allowed them to turn in their work late without penalty. I try to extend mercy in extenuating circumstances. I just don’t understand why people can’t meet and/or ignore deadlines under normal circumstances.

Ultimately, deadlines are a matter of priorities. You have to value an assignment, task, job, flight, or meeting high enough in order to complete the task, arrive at the appointment, or make the flight on time.

Now that I have that off my chest, I will put my soapbox away until next time.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Character, Personal growth

 

Letting people see behind the curtain

The Great and Powerful Oz always hid behind the curtain. He did not want people to see he was just an ordinary, failed magician from the Midwest.

As leaders and pastors, it is tempting to follow that pattern of letting people only see our powerful, charismatic persona, and hiding our weaknesses behind the curtain. However, we need to allow people behind the curtain to see us as we truly are, a mixed package of strengths, weaknesses, and frailties.

On many occasions, the apostle Paul spoke of the importance of modeling. He provided an example for believers to follow (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Timothy 4:12-16; Titus 2:7-8). But Paul also revealed his struggles when he spoke of his thorn in the flesh and how he begged God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

I have tried to pull back the curtain to let people see how I am responding to a broken leg. I struggle. I vent. I vacillate from hope to discouragement. I waffle from confidence to despair. I am impatient. I trust God’s plan. I’m tired of hurting. I know God is in control. I want to fast forward and skip the next few weeks of rehab. I am resting in God’s timing.

I ride a roller coaster throughout each day. I am confident and encouraged in the mornings. I am diligent to do my exercises and rehab. I am working my way through several books, trying to use my time profitably. But when I get tired, I become discouraged. The days are long and tedious. I feel achy and weary in the evenings. I told Carol last night that I am tired of hurting.

Although I am not preaching from a pulpit these days, I am teaching from my recliner. People are watching to see how I deal with trials and difficulties. Hopefully, it is a good example of how to suffer well. I would like to provide an example like David in Psalm 42 where he cries out to God in despair but then ends in a statement of confident hope and trust.

One thing I appreciate about Scripture is that it paints the individuals with warts and all. We don’t receive an airbrushed portrait of Abraham or David, but we view their strengths, weaknesses, successes, failures, and everything in between. Scripture lets us see behind the curtain. That is my intent in these blog posts.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Repenting about rehab

One definition of repentance is to change one’s mind. That being the case, I have repented about rehab.

I initially viewed rehab as a means to an end. I needed to do the exercises in order to get back to work. However, after two conversations yesterday, I have repented and placed a higher importance on rehab. Rather than viewing it as a means to an end, I now see rehab as my primary task.

Left to my own devices, my sense of drivenness and responsibility would have had me back at work preaching this weekend. And I would have paid for it dearly since I can’t stand for very long and since sitting in any position becomes uncomfortable after a short period of time. Fortunately, our elders saved me from myself by counseling that I wait until January to resume preaching.

In addition to my exercise regimen, my physical therapist said that I needed to lie down and elevate my foot above my heart at least twice a day in order to reduce the swelling in my calf and ankle. Giving me the assignment to rest made me realize my thinking was backwards.

Numerous people have given me permission to heal and recover. Several have told me to take my time and get well. However, I realized that I still had not given myself permission to rest and recover.

I now repent of my previous attitude and will head for the couch. If my work is to rest, then I am going to work.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Character, Personal growth

 

Getting back to normal

 

As part of my rehab and recovery from a broken leg/hip, I was told it would take 4-6 months to get back to normal. In one of my more reflective moods, I began to contemplate what that means and whether or not it is possible.

How can you get back to normal when everything will be different? At the end of the recovery period, I will be headed to Russia on my annual ministry trip. With a titanium rod and pins in my right leg, navigating airport security will be completely different. I will need greater patience to constantly explain why my leg is setting off the metal detectors. Traveling will never be normal again.

Preaching will require a new normal. I do not use a pulpit and move constantly while I preach. I hold a Bible in one hand and a remote mouse in my other hand. I use PowerPoint and visuals when I preach. Since I now use a walker to get around, I cannot carry things in my hand. I will need a podium or music stand to set things on. Since I cannot stand for long periods, I will need to sit on a stool. My style of preaching will need to change.

Our church staff has stepped up in my absence to fill the void while I’m on the DL. Jack Gilbert has preached for several weeks. His skills and abilities have grown. When I return, there will be a new and different dynamic. There will be a new normal.

During my recovery, I am sleeping in a recliner since getting in and out of bed is too painful. Since I used to sleep on my right side, and since I broke my right leg, will I need to learn a new way of sleeping? Will my nights ever be normal again?

Is it realistic to think life will ever get back to normal? In one sense, it’s like standing in a river and then stepping onto the riverbank for a period of time. When you step back in, it’s a different river. The water is different. Erosion has occurred and the river bottom has changed slightly. Rocks have shifted their positions. I stepped out of the river of my normal life for several weeks/months. When I step back in, will it ever be normal again?

I am reminded of the words of Frodo Baggins at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep that have taken hold.

Rather than expect everything to remain static and on hold for my return, I need to understand that things have changed. I will need to adapt and adjust and change and develop a new normal. Life will never be the same again. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be even better.

 

 

 

What is God teaching you?

“What is God teaching you?” someone asked me Friday evening. I was reminded of my father’s answer when I asked him that same question when he was dying of cancer in 1983. Dad responded, “I don’t know, but I know he can be trusted.”

Like my father, I know that God can be trusted even if he never reveals why I went through this season of disability.

I am confident that a broken leg/hip and weeks on the DL is part of God’s plan for my life. I am confident that he who began a good work in me will complete it (Philippians 1:6). I am confident that God will cause this event to work together for his good purpose and that he will use it to make me more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). I am confident God will use this season of trial to further shape and hone my character (James 1:2-12). I am confident that God will demonstrate his power in my weakness, and that his grace is sufficient during this season of disability (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I am confident that nothing is wasted in the will of God. This is part of his curriculum to prepare me for an even more determinative ministry.

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

When your strengths hold you back

“Your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness if pushed to an extreme.”

I heard that statement many years ago and have repeated it many times over. I am now dealing with it daily as I recover from my broken hip.

Over the years, I have gained insight from many different personality and strengths assessment tools. I have taken the DISC profile (originally called the Performax Profile), the TJTA, the Meyers-Briggs, the Pearson Golden Personality Profile, the IOS (Individual Operating Style), and the Clifton Strengths Finder. Each one has given me greater insight into who I am and how God wired me.

In the Meyers-Briggs profile, I am an ISTJ, characterized by integrity, practical logic, and tireless dedication to duty. We get things done. In the Pearson Golden Personality Profile (an offshoot of the Meyers-Briggs), I learned I am an Introvert who is Socially Bold. While I am energized by solitude, I am also friendly and outgoing; initiates conversations; comfortable leading; likes public speaking. In terms of my IOS, I am a (1) People-Oriented, Motivating, Communicating, LEADER/Teacher; (2) Committed Long-Term GOAL ACHIEVER; and a (3) Tangible Project Completer/ACCOMPLISHER. In the Clifton Strengths Finder, my top five themes are Learner, Maximizer, Arranger, Responsibility, and Belief.

When you add these different profiles together, you see two common themes. (1) I am a doer who gets things done. I take ownership of my responsibilities and I see them through to completion. (2) I am a communicator, and the way I lead is through teaching and preaching.

While those are tremendous strengths, they are also tremendous weaknesses during this season of my life. I feel responsible for the church. I feel like I have let people down by sitting on the sidelines. I am not leading because I am not preaching and teaching. Because of my sense of responsibility, I want to rush through my rehab and recovery and get back to work. My internal makeup says I am not fulfilling my purpose because I am not doing.

Several people have counselled me not to be in a hurry and rush back. Several have said to take my time and not come back too soon. A few have specifically given me permission to take my time and heal.

My biggest challenge is giving myself permission to heal. As a doer, the hardest part of being on the DL is not doing. I am not accustomed to being idle and sitting on the sidelines. The hardest part of waiting is waiting. I am an impatient patient.

In the midst of all of this, I have to trust that God knows what he is doing. I need to take advantage of my enforced sabbatical to read, rest, and grow spiritually. I need to be diligent in praying for those who have taken up my baton. I must find ways to minister, mentor, and coach from the sidelines. I need to take the opportunity to grow and deepen spiritually while my leg/hip is healing. Rather than chafe against what God is doing, I need to keep my focus on him and let him work in my life.

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 – 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture