Refuge by Keith Christopher: the Surprise Song for Mark and Susie

It was a typical lunch with Mark Edwards, and we were doing the things we do best together – enjoying barbeque brisket and discussing church music. It was only at the end of the meal that Mark told me Susie had a medical issue. A couple of weeks went by and with it came the diagnosis and the resulting journey that prompted Notes from Susie, the original Facebook group and culminating book.

Early in walking this path, Mark and Susie were upbeat and optimistic. Yet, the people they encountered soon noticed something more remarkable about their faith and their trust in God. We recognized their way was not a common response to what would prove to be a terminal situation. What was exhibited in Mark, Susie, and their family was a monumental example of hope and peace through God in the midst of a storm. Not only did their unique stance make a difference in how they faced the circumstances, but their steadfast faith and optimism overflowed into the lives of others they touched. 

While I cannot put a date to it, the weight of this journey led me to compose something as an encouragement to the Edwardses. As I sat at the piano, played around with themes, and read scripture, I ran across two familiar passages:

Psalm 46:12  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 

Isaiah 43:2-3  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. 

Instantly, I was unable to recall a musical setting using both of these passages together. The pairing seemed so inherently right together – and to the Edwards’ situation at hand. Although I cannot explain it, within minutes I had an outline of what became the choral piece Refuge. What was intended as a small, surprise piece of comfort for Mark and Susie grew into the choral piece accepted, published, recorded, and in print by Hope Publishing – all without the Edwards' knowledge.

I distinctly remember the day I took published copies and a recording of Refuge to Mark and Susie’s home. We sat in their den, while I told them the story of how the piece came to be. We listened to the recordings, looked at the music, and then listened again. I expressed my wish that this piece be one of hope and healing. They graciously received the work and the sentiment with which it was created. It is a day I will never forget.

As with many times in our lives, God knows the big picture we are yet to see. I had no intention of this being a choral piece for a funeral. It was intended to be a piece of hope and healing. But on the day of Susie’s funeral when it was performed…that was exactly what the piece had become – a piece for hope and healing.

How honored I feel to make this contribution, and how grateful I am for Susie Edwards and her family and the impact they continue to make on my life and ministry.

Keith Christopher, 
Composer, arranger, lyricist, and author


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