Excerpt: Faith Runs Deep

In this week's post on the Notes From Susie blog, Mark Edwards features an excerpt from the book followed by a new postscript reflection on the passage. 

Someone characterized people's Christian faith as either simple or complex. Honey was the former, and I say the lucky one. I'm the latter and have to think through it all, try to modify it, massage it, and work at it. Not Honey. She was a "what He says we will do and where He sends we will go, never fear, only trust and obey" person. She didn't consider herself a good Christian witness, mostly due to a narrow view of "witness" pretty much limited to buttonholing nonbelievers and converting them. Honey wasn't going to buttonhole anyone for any reason, but she certainly was an effective witness.

Honey was a pray-er although she didn't like to pray aloud, much less in public. She used the time writing notes to people as an opportunity to pray for them. I often saw prayer lists around the house tucked away in safe places. I know she prayed for me, our kids, grandkids, and a host of others all the time. It was private but very personal and regular.

Her faith ran deep, borne out of her spirit of profound gratitude that produced joy. She always remembered provisions made for her -- a birth mother who chose life over death, a family who adopted her, Jesus who died for her, a husband who loved her, good job, friends, family, our house and home, and the list goes on. Getting sick was a downer for her, but it provided whole new group of friends and professionals. And the interesting thing was that she didn't have to work at interacting with people or being grateful, that's just they way she was.

The last two years of her life when I would put her to bed, she would always say, "Thank you for everything you did for me today," and she meant it. Often she would continue, "We are so blessed," then rattle off a list of things that came to mind. All our married life, she would adapt to whatever the circumstance and be okay about it. She could honestly sing with the hymn writer, "Whatever my lot, Thous hast taught me to say, 'It is well with my soul." It really was in life and it certainly is now.  

Beginning to develop the Notes From Susie book, I wrote that piece only a few weeks after Honey died. Two years and one week later, I see the truth of it even more clearly. The first part of this week, I tended the Celebrating Grace booth at a union meeting -- actually a church music conference -- during which several people made it a point to speak to me reporting how much they were blessed having read the book (and even following this blog.) All of it only confirms the point I was trying to make in the first paragraph -- Honey was, indeed, a powerful witness to her Christian faith that ran deeply even though it spoke quietly. It also reminds me of one definition of a saint -- “someone who never stops doing good.”

This old hymn certainly carries the freight of Honey’s quiet witness to her deep faith. 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
     what a glory He sheds on our way!
Let us do His good will; He abides with us still,
     and with all who will trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
     but our toil He does richly repay;
     not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
     but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
     until all on the altar we lay;
     for the favor He shows and the joys He bestows
     are for those who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet
     or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
     what He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
     never fear, only trust and obey.

[All together now…]

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
     to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Words – John H. Sammis, 1887

Thanks, Honey, for witnessing to us all.

- Mark


Recently in this spot we talked a little about one’s outlook on life. Yesterday, I met Exhibit A of the “glass half-full” sort.

Only a few days into my two-month-old morning mall walk routine, Diane, who seems to know all the walkers by name and history, introduced me to Betty, an older woman strolling along at a slower pace pushing a basket cart. That day Diane stopped to visit with Betty and I barely broke stride not wanting to impose on their lady-talk. Since that day I’ve seen Betty off and on, waved and greeted across the other side, and moved on.

Last Monday midway around the “block’ I pulled up beside her and her cart –

“Good morning, Betty. I have a burning question I’ve wanted to ask.”

“Really?” she said looking a little startled and puzzled, but with a smile.

“Are you pushing that thing or is it pulling you?”

Her face relaxed and she snickered, “Probably a little of both.”

“How long have you been walking this mall?”

“I moved here about fifteen years ago and been walking it since.”

“Where did move from?”


“Did you see Atlanta lose the Super Bowl the other night?”

“Yes I did. That was awful, wasn’t it!”

We walked on carrying on a conversation about this and that.  It turns out that Betty’s niece was a member of FBC, Nashville, some fifty years ago and married Robert Denny who, at one time, was General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. I knew Dr. Denny only by reputation. Small world.

Betty and I have both lost our spouses. Her husband ended his long battle with depression twenty-nine years ago by taking his own life. 

“Depression is tough battle and losing him was hard for me. I did all I could trying to help him for a lot of years, but there’s only so much you can do.”

Nearing the mall south entrance, she grabbed her coat in the bottom of the basket.

“Are you done?” I asked.

“Yeah, one lap is enough for a person my age.” 

“Oh, you’re not old.”

“Yes I am and I’m not as healthy as I used to be.”

“Aw, how old are you?”


“You’re not 95!”

“Oh yes I am, every day of it.”

“You are remarkable at 95! You have a bright spirit, you’re friendly, you’re out here staying in shape and visiting with people. Good for you!”

“I’m doing what I can and I enjoy it.”

I helped her finish putting on her coat and resumed my walk as she and her trusted cart headed out the door toward the parking lot. My last lap was consumed thinking about this dear soul with enough zest for life even at age 95 to get up before the break of every morning, drive to the mall to get in a healthy walk. I don’t know if she is a person of faith although her countenance makes me think she is; I’ll find out in a few mornings and let you know.

We probably all hope to have a zest for life as long as we live. If the recent NPR life-outlook guest/guru was correct and the scientific research she referenced is accurate, a glass half-full outlook is something we must practice along the way, ahead of the fourth quarter. For some it will come easier than for others.

People like Betty are an inspiration to me. Perseverance is a word that comes to mind; grit is another. With all she’s been through for as long as she’s lived, I can’t help admire her and marvel at the sparkle still in her eyes. 

Here’s an old hymn in the Perseverance section of the Celebrating Grace Hymnal.

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
     leaning on the everlasting arms;
     what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
     leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
     leaning on the everlasting arms;
     oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
     leaning on the everlasting arms;

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
     leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peach with my Lord so near,
     leaning on the everlasting arms;

[Ok, sing the refrain with me…with parts and echoes]

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
    leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

            Words – Elisha Hoffman, 1887

Sunday, the Brentwood United Methodists sang a bit of that hymn like a bunch of rowdy Baptists. Gregg, their Baptist-trained organist turned that instrument inside out sounding like a single-stanza revival meetin’. It was great! Upon completion and en route to the kneeling rails for the morning prayer, the Liturgist (also former Baptist) remarked “something tells me that’s not the first time y’all have sung that hymn!” He was right and we all laughed in assent.

It appears Betty is sweetly walking in this pilgrim way; observing her encourages me to do the same. 95? Holy smoke!

- Mark