Raymond L. Wheeler, DMin

Musings about leadership


New Year – What’s Ahead

The New Year is a time I use to reflect and anticipate. This year offers both a familiar and unfamiliar journey for me. As I reflect on the past year, I have deep gratitude for friends with whom I have related, their help in keeping me honest in faith by asking questions and observing behaviors of which I am not conscious, sharpens me. I love the laughter inherent in a good friendship – the good-natured ribbing and unabashed love encourage me. I am thankful for colleagues with whom I serve who have promoted my abilities and offered opportunities for me to further develop my skills as a leader. I am deeply enamored and thankful for Janice who walks with me in my most vulnerable times and helps me gather my angst, fear, and concern to the feet of Jesus. All of this is familiar to me and each year I am amazed at the number of experiences and relationships that have influenced and encouraged me.

The unfamiliar aspect of this year emanates from a sense of uncertainty. The post-COVID world is unfamiliar to me, I am left feeling like the scenery is familiar, but the compass directions have all changed. It is not unlike the feeling I had on my first visit to China when I could not find anyone who spoke English and I had to navigate a plane change in an unfamiliar international airport. Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret capture my sense of disorientation in describing the impact of COVID as a great reset of our economy, social order, geopolitical order, technology, industry, mental health, and view of humanity.

Schwab and Malleret define my sense of disorientation by pointing out that the speed with which things have changed can be baffling to our ability to assess both challenges and opportunities. I have more information and analysis than ever before and less time to decide. As I look toward 2023, I see more opportunities and greater challenges than I can wrap my brain around. At times, I just want to retreat to a cave, with a fire, a cup of coffee, and a good book.

While the new year trudges irrepressibly at me I hear the invitation of Jesus, “follow me.” In past years I mapped out concrete plans and strategies replete with key performance indicators and defined milestones. And, I have some of them for 2023 – I am myself after all. But the invitation Jesus gives comforts me. I don’t know the ultimate direction of the next year, Jesus does. And so, I accept Jesus’ invitation. I am invested in doing the work of God’s kingdom. I am expectant, I am humbled, I am comforted. And I give a similar invitation to those around me, let’s follow Jesus, let’s do the work of the kingdom not just in word but in action. Let’s be the healing, comforting, and delivering presence of God to one another and the world around us. Happy New Year!


On Grief

As I prepare to officiate another family funeral, I am reminded of something I once wrote to my daughter about grief.

It is never enough…I grieve losses too, sometimes even after decades. A passing thought, a memory, a place, a smell, a song. Each of these triggers a surge of sorrow – now perhaps not as convulsive (the intensity has waned but not the depth). Grief I once thought of as a fearful specter to be avoided, now has become an intimate counselor. Grief reminds me to be present, to be engaged, to appreciate the mundane and seemingly uneventful things in life that make up my humanity. Grief is a counselor not a friend; when I see grief approach, I don’t rejoice, I look a full look and sigh a deep sigh, but I don’t run, I sit with grief and listen to its questions, and it’s reminders to live fully – in all my emotions. So, at times I weep, sometimes I sigh, sometimes I say I don’t want to converse. Grief intrudes nonetheless, and I learn. Always though, as grief departs my friend, comfort arrives in a quiet, burden-lifting way. Thank you, comfort, for following up on my sessions with grief. I see more clearly through the tears. I feel more deeply through the sighs. I am here; they are not. I cannot change this, but I am changed by this – still.