EXERCISE IN PATIENCE
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
By Cheryl Kilgore on January 30, 2019
2018 was a difficult year for our family. It included sickness, surgery, financial difficulties and isolation... none of which we had the ability to fix. We were unable to move in any direction.
We looked forward to 2019. We tentatively said, "it's got to be better... right?"
Well... so far, January has brought the death of our dearly loved, 15 year old dog, continued financial difficulty and the need to find a new place to live in the next 8-12 weeks. Not quite what we were hoping for.
BUT, in the midst of it all, God has continued to walk beside us, and we now understand He has also been in front of us and behind us. When we felt unable to move, we now see that God was setting the pace and keeping us from any wrong decisions.
Our "isolation" has kept us listening to only what God has been teaching.
Our sickness and surgery were temporary problems and we are blessed by His protection and positive outcomes.
Our financial difficulties have shown us that we have some wonderful friends in our lives that want to help as much as they are able. They love us and believe we are serving God to the very best of our ability. Talk about blessed!
Ultimately, we have learned that only God is our Savior, and He is full of grace for His children.
On a recent morning, I prayed, "God... what are we going to do?" A moment later, I opened my devotional and the Scripture passage was Isaiah 41:14.... "I myself will help you declares the Lord."
We don't have answers yet, but we do have His promises. He has always been faithful to us... He won't stop now.
I'll keep you posted... He knows our hearts and our needs!
He knows yours too.
DO YOU FEEL HIS PRESENCE?
By Cheryl Kilgore on November 7, 2018
"I feel closer to God in nature than I do in church." I've heard people say that, but I didn't understand, and I think saw it as an excuse not to be in church on Sunday morning. As a life-long Christian, raised in the church, there were certain things you did, and one of the most important was to be in church every Sunday morning.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying you shouldn't be in church. As I've grown older, though, I see and experience God in a great many other places. Nature plays a big role in my relationship with God. He makes Himself known to me in many aspects of His creation.
Music has always been my "favorite" part of church. It has a transforming power in me, whether singing or listening. Music has the ability to break down barriers and take me right into His presence.
Nature is the same way. The ocean is a special place to me. Its' power is extreme... even when it's still. But the ocean when it's raging... crashing on to the shore, throwing huge boulders around like they're made of cotton... it is fierce! There's no way to think of yourself as significant when you see God's hand in His creation.
My "favorite" part of nature is the wind. Right now I'm looking through the windows above my desk, and the wind is strong. It's blowing the leaves off trees in every direction at once. It's everywhere! I can't see it at all, but it's everywhere around me. Sometimes the air is still... barely moving a blade of grass. Other times, like today, the leaves are swirling around at a rapid pace. But other times, the wind is so powerful you can't even walk against it; it's blowing branches off the trees and, sometimes, overpowers the trees themselves!
I don't know if this discussion still takes place, but I often was drawn into the question of God's fairness. The thought was God shouldn't judge a person when that person has never had a Bible or the ability to be part of a church and its' teachings. I don't wonder about that anymore. You can't miss God's presence. He is everywhere and shares His nature with everyone through His creation.
God is all around us. Nature shows His creativity, His gentleness, His power and His complete control of everything. Be aware of Him. He'll help you get to know Him, and He'll remind you that He loves you.
He loves you enough to have given His Son, Jesus, to provide a way for you to know Him forever.
This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its' waves roar -- the Lord Almighty is His name.
Jeremiah 31:35 (NIV)
The God of Glory Thunders
By Cheryl Kilgore on October 24, 2018
God put on a huge display of His power here last night.
We experienced thunder and lightning so intense that we could only look at each other in amazement. Over and over again, the sky lit up and the thunder shook us to the core!
Our daughter was at a friend's about 20 minutes away, and she texted, "God's power on full display in the sky.... Humbling... and still trying not to freak!"
I think that's a good way to describe having an encounter with God. He is all powerful! He created everything as far as the eye can see and far beyond.
The same God who sent His Son to us in humility and grace is the God who could wipe us off the face of the earth if He so chose. The same God who accepts us as we are and loves us beyond measure hates our sin, and He isn't playing around. He wants His children to follow Him obediently. He is not amused when we get distracted.
We are currently in the midst of a very stressful situation. We are hemmed in on all sides. God has asked us to walk a difficult path, and it doesn't make sense to anyone around us. Much of the time, it doesn't make sense to us, but we are choosing to be obedient. It doesn't mean we don't get anxious, nor does it mean we don't question His will... or His timing. It just means we choose to trust Him.
Sometimes, God gently reminds us to just keep looking at Him... "don't look down or around". In the Book of Matthew, Peter learned this lesson the hard way. He was literally walking on water toward Jesus, but he lost focus, heard the strong winds and started to sink. Jesus gave His hand and saved Peter, but Peter missed out on the fullness of the experience.
Other times He exhibits with great power just who He is: God. Last night we were reminded this world is completely under His control. Our circumstances are completely under His control. He will guide us, and He will deliver us... when He's ready.
As Christians our job is to abide in Jesus; through Scripture, through prayer, through music- whatever it takes to keep our focus.
Most likely, you are in some form of difficulty, whether it be grief or anxiety; sadness or fear; sickness or pain; He is with you. He is in control of your situation. Remember, He loves you. He will deliver you... in His time. Look up and see the eyes of God.
By Cheryl Kilgore on October 17, 2018
Writing a check for my haircut, the young woman behind the counter told me I would be getting a five dollar discount. "Oh! Why is that?" She pointed to the chalkboard behind her which read: Cancer survivors get five dollars off any treatment or product.
It was a strange feeling, realizing those two words, "cancer survivor", applied to me.
Returning from a doctor's appointment that same week, I told my husband and daughter I had to see the doctor in six months, six months after that, and then annually for five years. In a rather perplexed tone I added, "she's treating me like I had cancer!" Both my husband and daughter looked at me in disbelief before reminding me that I did, indeed, have cancer.
You might have guessed by now, my plans for the summer of 2018 did not go as scheduled. I didn't go on any "girl trips", nor did I get the trim in our home painted; I didn't even get to "play" in my studio, one of my favorite pastimes. Instead, I spent June not feeling my best and by early July I had symptoms Google told me "are never normal... go see your doctor"!
Most anyone who's been sick knows what the next month looked like: See the doctor, go for tests and a procedure or two. Then see a specialist, who looks at your test results and wants to do a procedure of their own. Then wait to learn the outcome. When the doctor called, I knew instantly the news was not good.
Sure enough... Google was right... the news was bad: Cancer. My cancer was endometrial... it was embedded in my uterine wall. Cancer didn't make any sense to me, since none of my family had ever had cancer! But, the tests don't lie. So off we went, albeit at a quicker pace, to see another specialist... who was also a surgeon.
The surgeon knew what I needed, medically speaking. Surgery was scheduled, as were all the appointments that led up to it. I passed my pre-op appointments. I didn't have any other health problems, and I had good health insurance. So... we charged forward, but into what?
I've never really been sick, so I think I was in a bit of shock, but my poor family couldn't even wrap their brain around what was happening. Just before the "big day" of surgery, I did a major grocery shop, cleaned the house and watched Mamma Mia three or four times. "Don't think about it," is a bit of a mantra for me, so that's what I did... or didn't do.
From this point on the ducks were really well lined up, and everything went according to plan. While I won't say it was easy, it was certainly made easier by my family and friends and every single health care professional that was a part of my story.
My surgeon told me the operation went smoothly, and they were able to get it all out successfully. In a week's time I would know whether or not the cancer had spread because they took a biopsy of my lymph nodes.
It had not spread, and we were all so very grateful. Just as wonderful was the news in another six weeks that my cancer had no "genetic markers", so my daughter doesn't have that possibility hanging over her head.
To quote my surgeon, "This is the best possible result!" I am so blessed. I'm still not back to myself yet, but at 61 years old, things take a bit more time.
I don't know why I had cancer. I don't know why my results were better than so many other people. God was with me, as He is with any of His children.
I do know the answer to the question an acquaintance of ours asked, though. She is not a fan of Christians as a group, but she likes my husband and his gentle ways. She asked him if my results were better than those received by her family member because God loved us more? He was able to assure her, of course, that wasn't the case and to tell her that we would be praying for her and her family.
Wouldn't it be just like God to draw this woman to Himself... letting her know how loved she is... as a result of the summer of 2018?
By Cheryl Kilgore on October 5, 2018
JUST LIKE ME!
Education is an important part of life, and it's more than just attending classes, reading textbooks, writing papers or taking tests. Education is learning about other people, other places and other peoples' perspectives on life.
Until I went to college I was educated in large, public schools. I was surrounded by all kinds of people.
In Massachusetts, where I attended school until 9th grade, I was usually the only Protestant in my class. The majority of students were Catholic, and it was so much a part of the culture that they were dismissed to go to the Catholic school down the street to study Catechism. As a kid I often went with my friends to help the nuns at St. Joseph's School, and I even attended a Mass that was completely in Latin.
When it was time for me to enter high school (grades 9-12), we had moved to Miami, Florida. The diversity in my classes was very different from what I had experienced in Massachusetts. There were plenty of Protestants, and I knew many friends from our church. But that's where the similarities ended.
In Miami, there were people from all over the world. Speaking Spanish was as common as speaking English. Students were bussed from all over the city... from all kinds of neighborhoods. My Christian beliefs were often challenged, but it strengthened my faith and helped me to focus on what I truly believed.
It was going to college that sent me into serious culture shock; not because of different languages or different religions or different socioeconomic levels. No, I had just never seen anything like a small town in the Midwest. Bales of hay seemed to be everywhere; there were farmers sitting in the small town square and, as the saying went, we were 30 miles from the nearest known sin!
The town and the Christian college I attended were very safe places for me. At least that's what I thought.
I went to classes where subjects were put into a Christian context. I made lots of friends that came from backgrounds just like mine. We all attended mandatory chapels three times a week, and there were two good local churches we could attend on Sunday. It was a bit like Heaven on earth!
Although the pieces of college life were great, when I put them all together I found myself in a cocoon of Christians. I look back to those years and see the strength of my faith become weakness. It was easy to "live as a Christian" because I was one of so many. I didn't have to think about it or talk about it or pray about it... it just was. It was a tradition of faith, but not a challenge to mine.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed my college years. It was a good school and I had some great professors. I made my lifetime best friend in college. I married one of those good college boys, and I learned that hay bales don't just grow like that!
Over the years and far away from college, I have often been challenged in my faith. While not always enjoyable, the experiences made me stronger and I drew closer to the Savior I love.
Here's a thought though. I'm not sure it's healthy to spend time with only Christians. When you go to a good church, and your children attend Christian schools, or you're employed at Christian organizations and all of your friends are from one of those places, how is your faith growing?
You can pray for the poor, you can pray for the immigrant, you can pray for the addict, you can pray for the LGBTQ community; but if you've never walked alongside one of these people, how do you know what to pray?
I'd like to challenge you to go outside your comfort zone. Be intentional about meeting the people who are so much a part of the conversation in our country right now. Volunteer at a food pantry in a position that allows you to meet the clients. Venture out and find a way to help immigrants and their children.
Open your eyes to the addicted. Addicts come in all shapes and sizes, and it's likely you already know one.
Invest your time getting to know something about someone who is a member of the LGBTQ community. Again, you probably won't have to look far; probably no further than your own local church. They've learned to hide themselves from Christians, but they're there.
Ask God to help you see that these are not issues to be voted on, but people who need to know or be reminded of how much they are loved by the very God we claim to serve.
No judgments here... just give it a try. I know it's scary to step out of your world and into another, but He will be with you and you could be His ambassador.
By Cheryl Kilgore on September 27, 2018
We didn't have a lot of rules in our home as our children were growing up. It wasn't that we didn't have behavioral expectations; nor was it that our kids were always happy with our decisions. From time to time our kids thought we were unfair and/or were angry about something they weren't allowed to say or do.
For us... it always came down to the tone.
We always believed there should be mutual respect in any conversation. That belief was one we stuck to with our kids... and now our adult children. Everyone has thoughts and ideas, feelings and desires; children are no different.
In order to keep an open channel of communication with our kids, we told them they were always allowed to express their opinions, their anger, their ideas, their frustrations... whatever was on their mind... but they were to come to us with the correct "tone", and we would, in turn, discuss things in a respectful manner. Mutual respect was/is one of the central themes in our home.
Were we always successful... no. Were our children always successful... no. But that brought us all to a place where we could learn to apologize. It wasn't always the children who needed to apologize; often it was us. It's a humbling moment to realize you're the problem and need to accept that you're wrong. It's even more humbling to go to your child and apologize; but they have always been gracious recipients.
The train of thought here leads me to see how fortunate we are that God feels the same way about us, His children. With one exception of course; He is always right... while we only think we are.
He does, however, allow us to come to Him with our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. He knows sometime we are angry, sad, frustrated or just plain wrong. He lovingly welcomes us to come to Him as a loving father, and He will walk us through whatever problem is troubling us. Sometimes we do owe Him an apology... which is always received with grace.
One last idea about where these thoughts might be useful. It seems, right now, that very few of us are being respectful. From church goers to church leaders, from citizens to world leaders. Is anyone listening? If you're trying to listen, can you hear above the noise? Right now it seems the only voices being heard are the ones able to scream the loudest.
There is a verse in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:1) that says, "if we aren't speaking with love, all anyone hears is clanging cymbals". The sad part of that truth is those who are weakest aren't able to scream, so they end up having no voice at all.
In our world today, that means no one is hearing the needs of the marginalized.
In our church today, that means that no one is hearing the voice of Jesus. He doesn't yell or scream... He comes with a still, small voice. Are we as Christians being so loud with our opinions that people who need Jesus can't hear above the cymbals?
By Cheryl Kilgore on September 18, 2018
The Choice is Simple
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
A friend sent me an e-mail a few days ago; it included pictures of churches with signs out front that had amusing messages for those passing by. The sign that really caught my eye read...
Just Love Everyone
I'll Sort 'em Out Later
It was a simple sign, but, as I gave it some thought, I realized that the quote was really profound. The Gospel in a nutshell!
When God sent Jesus to die for our sins, it was because He loved the whole world. John 3:16 Who are we to second guess the recipients of His love.
It is not easy to love everyone; some people are just not very lovable. There are people that annoy us, there are people who disagree with us, there are people who are downright hateful! But God's instruction to us is to love them... right down to the nastiest person on our list!
In James 7:1-2, we're told, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
That's a really intimidating verse; I believe that is intentional. God didn't give us His very own Son for us to diminish that gift by judging others; people Jesus died for and loves completely.
I think life would be easier if we lived with that mindset: "Just love everyone". Don't go looking for fights; it's not a good use of your time or energy. Instead of reading articles that just make you angry, spend that time doing something positive instead.
Now let's be realistic. Sometimes it just is not fun when God gives us instruction like... "I want you to love her, him, them". Often my response is, "Do I have to?? Seriously? You know I am not going to be able to pull that off!" And I'm right; without His help I'm not going to pull it off, and I have a really good poker face. So....
Ask God to give you a loving heart toward that person or persons. Don't try it on your own; it probably won't end well. But, if you ask Him, it will definitely happen. I know that from personal experience.
My annoying person? I really care about her now. I no longer have to manufacture a smile; I'm genuinely glad to see her, and that's a direct answer to prayer.
THE BLESSING OF
GROWING UP ALONE
"All things work together for good, for those who love
God and are called according to His purpose."
By Cheryl Kilgore on September 11, 2018
I started a trend over 50 years ago that is still going strong today.
I was one of the original latch-key kids. By the age of 7, starting second grade, I was coming home to an empty house. A single parent, my mother worked two jobs to support us, so I was often alone until 10:00 at night. Back in the day, it wasn't common to be a child of divorce. I remember the times a friend would have me over for dinner, and I really enjoyed the time spent with a family.
But that was not my story.
I never thought about it much, until the age of 28, when I was seeing a counselor for some anxiety I was experiencing. For weeks my assignment had been to write out my life story. I just wasn't feeling it, so week after week I came in empty handed. Finally, the counselor convinced me it was important, so the next week I returned... assignment in hand.
My counselor's main response to my "novella" was to say, "You were always alone. All the stories and events you described had you as the only character." She wasn't judging my mother, but she definitely thought it explained a few things!
When I looked back later--especially after I had my own children, I felt sad for that little girl. I still do sometimes.
However, what I also see is how God cared for me during those years. There was more than one time when He protected me from a potentially dangerous situation. I now see that He put some key adults in my life... ones that made me feel cared about and filled a void in a child's heart.
Most importantly, at a very young age, He brought me to an understanding of His love for me. From that point on, I never doubted that He loved me, and I always knew that He was right there beside me and listening to my every prayer. When I take a spiritual gift survey, it tells me that I was given the gift of faith, but I know that He fulfilled His promise to be a father to the fatherless. God pulled right alongside me and is still there--decades later--assuring me that I'm His favorite... just kidding... He loves you too!
Here's my point: When God tells us that "all things work together for good", we sometimes have trouble believing it; but when you look back, it becomes clear, and that's a good thing
An even better thing is to look for Him in the middle of the trouble. His presence in the midst of life is how we find the peace and joy He promises. I can tell you with certainly that He's right there with you too!