My Friend, Kim Buttram

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,


Donate to Pray for Kim Buttram


  1. Thank you for sharing about a the gentle man that I’ve been praying for. I hope to meet him soon.

  2. Tears. That is so beautiful, Sam. It says so much about this man, that it makes me wish I was one of the many who know him personally. It also says so much about you…It makes me thankful to be the friend of a man who admires, respects, and so deeply loves a man like Kim. I’m continuing to pray for him & his family, for your church family, and (as always) for you & Gina. I know that our faithful & loving Lord is pouring out mercy and grace to help in this time of need. God bless you, my friend.

  3. Thank you for painting such a beautiful picture of the man for whom we have been interceding. Many of us went to Dublin with Kevin, Kerry and Kristi(my roommate), and know that just the name “Buttram” brings to mind all of those attributes that make God (and us) smile.

    God has brought Kim through this fire before, and I know that it gave him and the entire family the strength and strong faith that they would need to pass this way once again!

    I know that it is not physically possible for him to express it now, but I am sure that his heart is singing with the knowledge that thousands are praying throughout every day for him and his entire family. His heart and mind can heal knowing that his loved ones are cared for by both his biological family and the “family” of those who care deeply.

    Please give him our love, and hold his beautiful wife and children/grandchildren tightly. We will do all that we can from a “distance”. PRAY!

  4. Sam,

    Thank you for allowing all of us in. I do pray with you. I am moved by your telling of his story; I am moved by your pain. May our Father draw each of you near.

  5. Lord Jesus would you be Merciful to Kim? Father I pray for your perfect and complete will to be done in his life. You are a God of mercies and they are new every morning. Thank you that you care about everything happenig in Kim’s life right now and you are working for his good. May we be patient and trust you to do what is best. We love you Lord and thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. Give wisdom to his doctors and nurses too Lord. thank you Jesus. Amen.

  6. Sam– thank you for this description of my brother. I have read it over so many times since you posted it. This has been a source of comfort. Thank you for all you and your family have done for ours. I see God’s grace in your family too.

  7. I’m Kim’s Dad. There’s another Jack in the Buttram family who is a licensed EMS tech and firefighter in Longview, TX — He and his wife Sarah cut short a Parisian trip to return to the USA and be with KIM.
    Barbara and I are so appreciative of the outpouring of love for Kim and Linda. We’ve been through something like this (cancer,melanoma and radiation about 14 years ago) So turning him over to the grace of God is something we’ve experienced before.
    He’s seriously injured and the previous surgeries etc. are negative concerns when it comes to recovery. The medical outlook on its own is not outstanding — but the breath of God is. And we are content for him to be in the loving care of His (and our) heavenly father. The toll probably falls heaviest on Linda and their two young girls who’ve just beeen in the family a couple of years ago. So please pray for them all — and us. Thank you so much for caring and praying and we really don’t have a full idea of all the sacrifices which have been made on our behalf but thanks anyway.

    IN HIM
    Barbara and Jack Buttram (Kim’s parents.)

  8. Praying for the entire Buttram family at this time. Much love and concern pouring out of us right now.

    In love,

    Tim & Tammy Jacobs

  9. Kim’s Dad was my roommate at BJU when Jack was a freshman. We have had occasional contact over the years and I now see in the caring remarks about Kim, the source of most of those great attributes. Like father, like son.

    Thank you Sam, for putting together a Christ honoring letter about a person that has blessed so many.

    Our prayers are with the family and with so many have ‘circled the wagons’ around the Buttram family to provide comfort and assistance.

  10. I read this again today, Sam, four years on. God is sustaining Kim and Linda and the family thorough a wonderful community of which you all are a part. I thank God that His beautiful continues to leak out out of you all.

    Reading my dad’s remarks above I was struck by ‘chances and changes’ of this life. Each day is a gift and we have much for which to thank the Father of Lights.

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