We have gone from an emergency of one kind to a crisis of another. My friend and pastor Kim Buttram is in critcal condition and fighting for his life. The brief version of Kim’s story over the last few days is included below, but I just want to say a few other things about Kim –something to give a little flavor to the basic, “Pray for this Stranger” plea. We are in the midst of caring for Kim’s grand kids (who are also our nephews and nieces), so I won’t take a lot of time right now to say how I feel about this man. But here are some random thoughts.
Kim is lovely, a rough-handed man. He works on things and listens carefully to people. No one has ever listened to me so patiently in my life as Kim Buttram –on a number of occasions (some of them dicey). I know this is cliche (which would never bother Kim), but the Dictionary says, “Patience: see Kim Buttram.” He is also mentioned in its entries on grace, love, mercy, and making awesome guitars. Two of his handmade guitars are genuinely the best-sounding instruments I’ve played. Kim has read more books than about anyone I’ve ever known. Most of them are about being close to God in some way. When you meet him, after a few minutes he seems like the kind of guy who has devoted hundreds of thousands of hours to seeking God. Because he has.
He used to drive the bus for my (small) college soccer and basketball teams. One night I think I missed about 10 3-point shots and maybe made 2. When I got on the bus, he said, “Sam, nice job on the threes. I saw you making them.” And he is all about the shots people make and has trouble remembering the ones people missed.
Kim has suffered life-threatening peril repeatedly. He has survived two serious occasions of brain cancer and been a model of how to suffer well. He showed hundreds of college kids (me included) and thousands more how to glorify God in the middle of the worst. I’ve never seen him walk on stormy water to Jesus, but it wouldn’t surprise me. When he has trouble remembering something, or says the wrong thing, he smiles wryly and says, “I’ve had brain surgery.”
He does not take himself very seriously, but does take everyone else very seriously.
When he’s done talking about something, he says, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
He likes dumb jokes. He doesn’t get too visibly excited about anything, but he seems most excited about something whenever someone he loves is excited about it. He loves bluegrass. He plays the banjo and guitar. He sings and his voice breaks. We went to see Alison Kraus and Union Station a few months back and he was thrilled to meet Ron Block. His exuberance was displayed in a sheepish smile.
(L-R: Jessi Smith, her Dad Kim Buttram, Josiah Smith, Ron Block, Sam Smith, Lyric Grubb –sorry it’s dark)
One time we were sitting on a porch swing and were talking about Rick Warren and his impact on the Church, for good and/or ill. I said something negative about The Purpose-Driven Life and the swing broke, sending us sprawling. We laughed like lunatics.
He gets happy-tearful about the good news of Jesus Christ for sinners, his family, and adoption (which has made up two recent additions to his own family). All three go together in his mind.
He loves to pray. If he is aware that thousands are going to God in prayer about him, it will delight him to know that people are praying.
I could fill books about Kim. He’s my pastor. My brother. My friend. I love him. I love his wife, Linda. I love his kids that I’ve spent decades with: Josh, Jodi, Jessi (my brother’s wife), Jack, and the kids which just joined his family recently: Alyssa and Andrea. I love his grand kids, some of whom share my name and are playing around me right now. He is a dear, lovely, beautiful, strong, humble-hearted man of great integrity, kindness, and love.
The Buttrams are some of the most accepting, welcoming, embracing, including, grace-filled people you will ever meet. If possible, they are gracious to a fault. That is to say that when they err (and they do, of course) they err on the side of grace. They are magnificent people.
Kim is my pastor, and though we have another excellent pastor in our church, it hurts that he is not well and around us. Yesterday, I was driving to work, feeling overwhelmed and sad and angry and frustrated. I thought about calling someone who could talk to me kindly and truthfully. I thought, “I’ll call Kim,” and then quickly realized I couldn’t. There are lots of tears. He is deeply loved.
As I try to wrap this up, I keep thinking, “No, the picture of the Buttrams and Kim is incomplete, you need to add this about this…” but, though the Buttrams were missionaries in Russia for a while, this isn’t a Russian novel. I’ll wrap it up.
I don’t feel the need to qualify my praise with anything about his imperfections. Kim Buttram is a great man. He is a good man. He is a righteous man. He would faithfully say that any good in him is all of grace. It is. But it’s also true. Glory to God, I love and admire you, Kim.
God be merciful, please.
Here’s a Facebook Page full of people sharing memories of Kim and praying for him: Pray For Kim Buttram
And here’s a page (below and on the side of the blog) telling what happened to Kim and facilitating people’s desire to help out. Feel no pressure, but if it’s on your heart to give, that’s a good place to do it.
Grace and peace to you all,