SBC Life Articles

The Doodling Cowboy

To browse the pages of his prayer journal is to peek inside his mind, to see his inspiration take form in blues and greens and reds and all shades in between.

He's the creative type, an artist. But forget the stereotypes of artsy folks in berets sipping espresso in some trendy sidewalk cafe.

Kevin Kilhoffer is an ex-bull rider, so break out the campfire coffee and lose the espresso. He still looks like he could go eight seconds, with his cowboy hat, handlebar mustache and Wranglers, though he traded the rodeo for love twenty-three years ago when he married his wife, Belynda.

His doodling talents have made him a feared man at Enogex, a division of Oklahoma Gas & Electric Energy Corp., where he works as an operations technician. His sketches of funny or embarrassing situations in which co-workers have found themselves — such as a colleague's outdoor barbecue party gone bad — have become legendary around the Enogex office in Elk City.

But it's his prayer journal drawings, not his office sketches, that reveal the truest Kilhoffer.

Last year, Kilhoffer's son, also a talented artist, gave him a small black book with blank pages. Last fall, he began doodling in it during his devotional time, dating each day's sketch and signifying the Scripture he'd read with brief notes to himself. He has scribbled the words "God is Good" on every page, upper right corner.

One entry reads: "Fri., 9-15-00. 'God is Good.' 11:50 a.m. Jr. High Bible Study; Slept under God's sky. Cool front." The verse on this day is Matt. 16:26: "Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" In ominous-looking penmanship written below the verse is advice a former youth director at Kilhoffer's church, Elk City, First, gave to him: "The Sin You Feed The Most Will Become The Beast That Rules You!"

Sketched below these words is an image of a green, ferocious, hairy, man-like beast with razor-sharp hand and toe claws, towering over a miniscule man whose arms and feet are secured by iron cuffs and a thick black chain, and who seems helpless against the colossal beast.

"You don't think of it becoming a monster but it does," Kilhoffer said of sin cultivated.

It was during a youth evangelism event last year in Tennessee with his church that Kilhoffer said he realized his devotional doodling was more than self-amusement.

"It made me realize that when I translated a Scripture verse into a picture, it made people understand what they read," he recalled.

Soon thereafter he prayed Proverbs 16:3: Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established. Since then, his inspiration has been more easily put to paper, and he's been able to use his doodling in ministry more effectively, he said.

Kilhoffer came by his talent naturally; his father was a frequent doodler. He first learned he had a gift in the first grade, he said. A nun at the Catholic school he attended asked him to draw a picture on the chalkboard. Impressed, she purchased some colored chalk and allowed Kilhoffer to draw a picture on the board every Friday for his classmates.

He earned an art scholarship to Southwestern Oklahoma State University, but lost interest after several years at the school. While working a unionized grocery job and bull-riding with his buddies, Kilhoffer found other pursuits more compelling than college.

"That was the 1970s and everything was pop art, surrealism — that just wasn't my bag. I love Western art. If I see it, I have to look at it — that and wildlife scenes."

His prayer journal includes several entries with drawings and personal notes of his fly fishing outings to New Mexico and Colorado.

He grew up a Roman Catholic on the western Oklahoma plains and attended Catholic schools, occasionally raising the ire of nuns for his prodding.

"I used to ask about confessing sins to the priest," he said. "I just never could figure out where that was in the Bible."

His family was devout, attending church regularly. He even taught Sunday School as a young adult. Belynda, though she had a Baptist background, converted to Catholicism after the pair was engaged. (He carved animals for her out of wood chunks during their courtship to show his affection for her.)

But ten years ago, with a twelve-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, and feeling dissatisfied with the spiritual training their children were getting, the Kilhoffers opted to look for a new worship experience.

Kilhoffer often worked Sundays then, so Belynda visited Elk City, First and liked it. Kilhoffer visited soon after.

"It just seemed like every question I had contemplated about my faith" the pastor addressed, he said. "The number one question I had was would I go to Heaven if I died. I went to confession every Saturday night. But it was just a concept I never did feel comfortable with."

Kilhoffer said he believes the Lord was hounding him all of his life. "Sometimes He just has to corral you."

In a matter of weeks, Kilhoffer prayed to receive Christ as Savior and was baptized. For awhile, Kilhoffer admitted, his parents didn't understand the zeal he and his wife had for their newfound faith.

Over time, the Kilhoffers have become an integral part of the Elk City, First body, opening their home last year to teach a Monday night youth Bible study.

"Somehow I would always find an illustration to go along with the Bible study," he said. One of the most memorable sketches for the students, he said, was based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: If anyone belongs to Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!

The drawing shows a wooden plank bridge over a river, with the former side of the bridge aflame. Noted in the smoke clouds above the sketch are these words:

"When you cross over to God, you need to burn some bridges."

"When you become a believer you have to burn some bridges and put them in your past," Kilhoffer said. "Also, if you leave that bridge intact, it not only allows you to look back at that bridge, it also allows you to go back to that past. A lot of the kids keep those drawings to help them remember."

    About the Author

  • Jerry Pierce