SAM BUTCHER: PRECIOUS MOMENTS AND HOPE

Even the most talented artists don’t always lead charmed lives. Sometimes the extraordinary beauty of their artwork that blesses us most comes after great suffering.

Sam Butcher is an American artist who has experienced the painful loss of 2 sons by death and has faced struggles that included bi-polar disorder, depression, anger, and excessive alcohol. Yet his artwork carrying the name, “Precious Moments,” brings hope, peace, and beauty to multitudes.

I plan to share more on Sam’s art and legacy in a future blog and will end today’s post with a poetic explanation of how he ultimately faced his struggles. Do you doubt that precious moments and hope can follow profound pain and suffering in one’s life? Read the poem below to understand how Sam Butcher found personal hope and peace he desperately needed.

“The sad loss of a loved one Can be so hard at times; I understand, because I lost Two precious sons of mine. I lost my way and wandered In a valley of despair, Because my heavy burden Was too much for me to bear. But then I heard a still small voice So warm and tender; It was the voice of Him, who said I’m here, just trust in me. Then all at once, I felt a touch. It was the hand of God So gentle, warm, and soothing Like a balm in Gilead. We need not be afraid, my friend, When sorrow comes, because The Lord will bless us and keep us By the power of His love.”

(Samuel J. Butcher)

MEMORABLE SONG: MY ONLY HOPE IS YOU

Via my auditory memories I can hear my children’s voices singing, “My only hope is You….” Almost 30 years ago at summer camp in Kiamichi hills of eastern Oklahoma we learned this song written by Keith Lancaster.

It blessed my heart to hear the truth of the message in the simple lyrics, the sweet tune, and their precious voices singing of our hope… peace… joy.

Past, present, or future all that I need is Jesus, because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

MY ONLY HOPE IS YOU

My only hope is You, Jesus,
My only hope is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
My only hope is You.

My only peace is You, Jesus,
My only peace is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
My only peace is You.

My only joy is You, Jesus,
My only joy is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
My only joy is You.

All that I need is You, Jesus,
All that I need is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
All that I need is You.

My only hope is You, Jesus,
My only hope is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
My only hope is You.
From early in the morning to late at night,
My only hope is You.

(Keith Lancaster)

COLLEGE of OZARKS GRAD: HOPE and a FUTURE

Here’s a true story of hope that begins with a newborn girl found abandoned in a trashcan in China. With this nearly hopeless beginning would she have a future?

The infant was found by a family who provided care for five years until she was passed on to a different family. In their “care” for the next six years she took care of herself mostly on the streets of China. Had she gone from little hope to no hope? Surely there was no future for her!

Then at age 11 she was placed in an orphanage. How much hope could be in this situation now? What about her future?

Just prior to turning 14 she was adopted and brought to America, which seemed like heaven to her. Her life’s vastly different situation brought changes where hope could be found and dreams of a positive future finally could be realized.

Speaking no English and barely literate, she was now homeschooled by her “forever” family who provided not just an education but love and care. She earned an Associate’s degree at a community college, dreamed of a Christian education, and applied for College of the Ozarks, where she was placed on a waiting list.

Although it didn’t appear hopeful that she would be accepted right away, she was. It wasn’t easy, but she faced the struggles, which already had been so much a part of her life.

“While at College of the Ozarks there were a couple of times I felt like giving up, but  I gained a lot of perseverance…. I learned to ask for help even when I didn’t want others to see me struggling,” she expressed and acknowledged the support and prayers of others that helped her succeed.

She studied. She learned. She worked. She became stronger. She experienced growing hope and enjoyed planning for her future.

She graduated from College of the Ozarks with honors in May 2018. It was a worthy accomplishment but even more importantly, she had learned to trust God who spoke these words found in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord… plans to give you hope and a future.”

Congratulations, Katelynn Corkern!

(Did you know that C of O students participate in a Work Education Program to pay for their education and an opportunity to graduate with a 4-year degree without student debt? For more info about College of the Ozarks — called “Hard Work U” by Wall Street Journal — go to www.cofo.edu.)

SAMARITAN’S PURSE: HOPE COMES ON A TRUCK

America’s National Weather Service announced that it “could be the storm of a lifetime,” for the Carolina coast of the United States. Powerful wind, record rains, and life-threatening storm surges sound like good reasons to me for more than a million people to follow mandatory evacuation orders.

Unfortunately the storm that peaked at Category 5, Hurricane Florence, is a natural disaster that doesn’t leave calmly. Even now as a tropical depression, because of major flooding, the storm has “never been more dangerous than it is right now,” Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina Governor, related at a news conference Sunday.

Where’s the hope? It’s arriving by a convoy of 18-wheel trucks loaded with the materials and supplies that are needed and were ready to roll Saturday morning. The name on the trucks reads “Samaritan’s Purse.” What does that mean?  To many in distress and dire need, it means hope comes on trucks.

THE LATEST (Sept. 16, 8:41 pm) samaritanspurse.org:

“Samaritan’s Purse staff, two disaster relief units, and equipment are in eastern North Carolina to serve homeowners in the areas hardest hit by Florence. We have established our first relief base at Port City Community Church in New Bern….. Volunteers officially begin tomorrow, Sept. 17—some already started on Sunday….

Our task is to serve as  hands and feet of Jesus for those in need in the hardest hit areas… Samaritan’s Purse staff will continue to monitor Florence and prepare to respond in additional storm-affected areas, as needed…. Please pray for residents in Florence’s path and for our staff as they serve in Jesus’ Name….”

Hope also comes with teams of volunteers that have  been mobilized by Samaritan’s Purse to help homeowners with cleanup. Billy Graham Rapid Respond Team chaplains have also been called on to serve.

For info regarding their relief work, how to volunteer, or how to send donations, please visit samaritanspurse.org/florence or call 800.567.8121.  And please remember to pray for all affected… residents, victims, workers… from rescuers to rebuilders.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”   Hebrews 6:10

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
Isaiah 58:10

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
2 Corinthians 9:7-9

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Galatians 5:13-14

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”  Titus 3:8

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-11

PATRIOT DAY: BALD EAGLE SYMBOLIZES HOPE

Be sure to read the Associated Press article about the bald eagle that landed on a fire truck, part of a Patriot Day tribute in Minnesota and view the photo on Andover Fire Department’s Facebook page.

I don’t need to remind you that the bald eagle is our national bird and a symbol of Freedom. In the instance of this wild and free eagle, its timing and the particular location of its landing surrounded by American flags could not have been better than if it were scripted as part of the 17th anniversary tribute. If you consider its flight path and landing may have been choreographed by its Creator and not merely coincidence, then you may appreciate the event even more and be filled with hope and awe.

Once more “the Eagle has landed” (Neil Armstrong), and many Americans were reminded that Almighty God is sovereign.  I was also reminded in whom to hope.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

PATRIOT DAY: EXTRAORDINARY HOPE REMEMBERED

Since the birth of our nation countless Americans have suffered personal sorrows and tragedies. Yet perhaps none were so memorable collectively as the acts of terrorism on America on September 11, 2001. Like December 7, 1941, it is “a date which will live in infamy” (President Franklin D. Roosevelt). I believe it is fitting that this anniversary is recognized.

You may wonder why a sad and seemingly hopeless topic is today’s subject in a blog focused on hope. It is chosen, because the horrific and cowardly attacks resulted in great displays of extraordinary hope, heroism, compassion, courage, and unity.

All the books that have been written and documentaries that have been filmed barely scratch the surface of the greatness of the American spirit that was shown that day and days following. I feel inadequate to now add my few sentences, but I can’t let Patriot Day pass without remembering.

My spouse and I visited “ground zero” in New York in 2006. We chaperoned a group of 55 international high school exchange students.

We remember that time with hope for future relationships between nations. We were mindful that those students could become future leaders in their own countries. Any positive experiences with Americans they would have during their American stay could one day play a role in promoting peace on our planet.

Today’s blog is dedicated to those no longer with us physically but who remain in our hearts; those left to grieve whose lives were forever changed; those who bravely sacrificed to rescue survivors; those who shared hope, support, and encouragement to others through it all; our military men and women who honorably met duty’s call to preserve freedom and to protect fellow Americans; those whose deep sense of American patriotism was strengthened or discovered; and those who prayed for our country then and continue to do so now.

Today I remember September 11, 2001, and am thankful for hope! May God bless America, and may America bless God! I will close with some hopeful quotes.

“Time is passing, yet for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.” (former President George W. Bush)

“September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.” (Geraldine Brooks)

“We will win this struggle — not for glory, nor wealth, nor power, but for justice, for freedom, and for peace… so help us God.” (Tom Harkin)

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” (former President Harry S. Truman)

“Americans never quit.” (General Douglas MacArthur)

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

LOU HOLTZ’S LIFE RULES: SOMETHING TO HOPE FOR

Harvey Mackay and I have something in common. We are both Lou Holtz fans and for more reasons than football. We both respect his motivational influences on others.

I benefitted personally from his life lessons about 40 years ago when I listened over and over to one of his talks on an audiocassette in the pre-CD era. I think his lessons are memorable and full of hope today.

Mackay wrote the following in 2012, but I want to share it because of its relevance today.

Lou Holtz’s 3 Rules of Life by Harvey Mckay:

“Everybody needs four things in life: Something to do, someone to love, someone to believe in and something to hope for.”

“I wish I had said that, but it is from my friend Lou Holtz, the author, motivational speaker, sportscaster and retired football coach. I recently invited Lou to speak to a professional group I am mentoring, and he was his usual outstanding self. It’s no wonder that the Washington Speakers Bureau calls Lou one of the best speakers in the world.

I’ve heard him speak 100 times, and he still amazes me with his practical, down-to-earth and simple advice.

…Holtz simplifies things by following three simple rules:

Rule No. 1 — Do right. ‘Just do the right thing,’ Lou says. ‘We’ve all done dumb things and wish we hadn’t done them, but you can’t go through life with an albatross around your neck saying, ‘I made a mistake.’ Say you’re sorry, make amends, and move on.’

He added: ‘I think it’s wrong to be bitter. We all have a reason to be bitter. We’ve all had injustices done to us by society, by a spouse, by a friend, but you can’t go through life being bitter. We’re always blaming someone else. Wherever we are, it’s because of the choices we make.’

Rule No. 2 — Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted. Lou says: ‘Not everybody will be an All-American. Not everybody will be first team. Not everybody will be great. But everybody can do the best they can with the time allotted.’

Rule No. 3 — Show people you care. I have seen this rule in action many times. Lou is constantly asking people, ‘How can I help you? How can I assist you?’ He means it. He has a burning desire to help people.

Lou Holtz says he can get by with only three rules because the people you meet have three basic questions.

The first question: Can I trust you?

‘Without trust, there is no relationship,’ Lou said. ‘Without trust, you don’t have a chance. People have to trust you…. The only way you can ever get trust is if both sides do the right thing.’

The second question: Are you committed to excellence?

Lou explained, ‘…you are committed to certain standards….do everything to the best of your ability.’

The third question: Do you care about me?

Holtz said: ‘…Caring about people is not making their life easy. Caring about people is not being their friend. Caring about people is enabling them to be successful.’

A few years ago I was asked to help raise money for a Lou Holtz statue at the University of Notre Dame. On the pedestal, his players had chosen three words — trust, love, commitment. Those words represent Lou’s core values.

If people follow these three rules, their self-confidence grows. They don’t worry when the phone rings. They have no doubt about what they are doing. They lift everyone up….

  1. Mackay’s Moral: Life is a lot easier if you always play by the rules.”

CHILDREN’S CHOIR: VOICES of HOPE

“Founded in 2015, Voices of Hope Children’s Choir is a non-profit program made up of over 70 talented children, ages 5-17, of all backgrounds and levels of experience. In an effort to make music available to all children despite social or economic barriers, this program is entirely tuition-free. Singing inspirational music, the goal of the choir is to uplift the spirits of all who listen and to learn positive self-esteem and teamwork along the way. We hope to change the world one song at a time.

Our vision is to awaken a love of music in our youngest generations and to share the message of hope with our local, national, and international communities. We seek to educate young people in the art of collaborative singing and performing and to teach them to embrace their unique God-given abilities. We aim to enrich children’s lives through artistic excellence and to develop their personal and spiritual growth, self-confidence, and musical experience in a safe and supportive environment.”

(Source of above info: voicesofhopechildrenschoir.org)

I think this choir’s young voices certainly fulfil their mission statement to share hope as well as beautiful music. I congratulate the choir members and all involved for being recognized as worthy to advance to semi-finals on “America’s Got Talent” in September 2018.

The music of Voices of Hope Children’s Choir leaves me smiling and exclaiming, “Encore!” May they continue to use their God-given talents to brighten our world with their musical message of hope!

YEATS’ POEM: TO HOPE

For as long as men and women have been writing, words have been penned to express one’s self, to influence others, to preserve for posterity something that must be shared. Sometimes the words flow eloquently and wax poetically. Sometimes they are recognized by the world as worthy to be read. They may educate, may amuse, may even inspire with high and lofty ideals, and sometimes, fortunately, they may instill hope.

John Yeats is a well-read and much-loved poet from the past. When he penned the poetry below, he clearly presented hope as important. Calling it “sweet hope,” “bright-eyed hope,” and “great liberty,” he chose it as the topic of this poem and entitled it “To Hope.”

In a literary toast I raise my imaginary glass and join Yeats in tribute to hope… and remember to offer thanks to God for blessing me with His great and glorious gift of hope!

TO HOPE

When by my solitary hearth I sit,

And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;

When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,

And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;

Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  1. Whene’er I wander at the fall of night,

  2. Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,

  3. Should sad Despondency my musings fright,

  4. And frown to drive fair Cheerfulness away,

  5. Peep with the moonbeams through the leafy roof,

  6. And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof!

  7. Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,

  8. Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;

  9. When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,

  10. Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:

  11. Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,

  12. And fright him as the morning frightens night!

  13. Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear

  14. Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,

  15. O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;

  16. Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:

  17. Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,

  18. And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  19. Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,

  20. From cruel parents or relentless fair;

  21. O let me think it is not quite in vain

  22. To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!

  23. Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

  24. And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  25. In the long vista of the years to roll,

  26. Let me not see our country’s honour fade:

  27. O let me see our land retain her soul,

  28. Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.

  29. From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed —

  30. Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

  31. Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,

  32. Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!

  33. With the base purple of a court oppress’d,

  34. Bowing her head, and ready to expire:

  35. But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings

  36. That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

  37. And as in sparkling majesty, a star

  38. Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;

  39. Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:

  40. So when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,

  41. Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,

  42. Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head!

(John Yeats)

In case you’re wondering about pinions requested by the poet, they refer to wings of protection and refuge. The Psalm below offers hope, and at least one version, the Common English Bible (CEB), uses the word, pinions.

 God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield.” (Psalm 91: 4)

ISRAEL: HOPE and BLESSINGS

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” (President Donald Trump, December 6, 2017)

President Trump fulfilled an important promise (and recognized reality) when he announced that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and then officially opened the U.S. Embassy there on May 14, 2018.

Unfortunately for decades our Presidents promised to do this while campaigning, but none kept their promises after gaining office. Seventy years to the day after the State of Israel was declared in 1948… finally a president did what needed to be done in opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel is one of America’s strongest allies, and President Trump is showing that he is supporting them as he promised to do. My regret is that it took so long for a US President to take such a significant stand. The fact that he took this stand gives me hope.

Is Israel important to America? A better question may be whether Israel is important to God. The Bible states plainly God’s views regarding Israel and other nations, “I will bless those who bless you, and the ones who curse you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)

If one does not believe the Bible, then these words have no meaning, but if one believes it, then the meaning is clear. We must support Israel and stand with her. Doing so brings hope and blessings, and failing to do so brings curses.

I want to be on God’s side, and if that means Israel’s side, then that’s where I want to be. If my president stands there also, then that makes me a more hopeful American and citizen of the planet.