It Is Well With My Soul


Just after graduating high school I took a job at a local Christian radio station that only broadcasted teaching and preaching shows. There was no music programmed and what music we did have was only aired if the ministry on air at the time had music as part of their show. Most of the time the shows would run right up to the minute they were scheduled to end, I would then play the station ID and go right into the next show. Sometimes, however, the shows would run short and we would have to play a filler, which was mostly public service announcements (PSA’s) or community news to fill the dead time. Then, one day, it happened, the show that was airing was being played on cassette tape. Twenty minutes into their show and the tape breaks and suddenly there was dead air which is something you do not want to happen. I hurriedly played the few PSA tapes I had at hand while I attempted to repair the tape. I soon realized there was no fixing it and needed to find something to fill for the next 7 or 8 minutes.

We had a few songs nearby on the wall, that up until that day I had never paid attention to them. I grabbed the one marked 6:32, which meant it would play for six minutes and 32 seconds. I loaded it into the machine and hoped it would give me enough time so that it would end it and we could go straight into the next program. When the music began to play, it to turned out I recognized the song as one we had sung in church. The artist told a brief story of the song’s history and it forever changed the way I looked at the song. When I began my doing my research I learned there was so much more to the song that what I thought I knew. The song was called “It Is Well with My Soul.”

The song was written in 1873 by Horatio G. Spafford, a highly respected attorney in the city of Chicago. Mr. Spafford was also an elder in the Presbyterian Church. In 1871 his young son died of pneumonia and then later that same year, the Great Chicago Fire spread across the city taking much of Spafford’s fortune and property. Late in the year of 1873, The Spafford’s along with their 4 daughters planned a retreat to Europe as a vacation of sorts. Prior to their departure, Mr. Spafford was needed to attend to some important business that came up abruptly. He decided to send the family on ahead where he would meet up with them in Europe in a few days. Mrs. Spafford and the 4 daughters, Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta departed on the ship the S. S. Ville de Havre. On November 22, 1817, after being out to sea for four days, their ship was struck by another ship, the Loch Earn, a British steamship. Of the 313 passengers and crew only 61 passengers and 26 crew survived. Mrs., Spafford, was rescued a short time later, alone. She was found clinging to debris in the water. When she arrived in Cardiff, Wales a few days later, she sent a telegram to her husband simply stating, Saved Alone.

Mr. Spafford left Chicago immediately to reunite with his wife. While crossing the ocean is was said that he was called by the captain to the stern of the ship and told that they were approaching the location of the accident. Standing over the waters where his children perished, he began to pen the words to this classic hymn.

What began as a poem aboard the ship was completed a short time later. Mr. Spafford sent his poem to his friend, Philip Bliss, an associate of D.L. Moody, who put the lyrics to music. The original lyrics were written on Brevoot House letterhead, a hotel in Chicago, Ill. The song was first published in 1878 with Bliss and Sankey titled Ville de Havre, after the doomed vessel. Several years later it was renamed, “It Is Well With my Soul.

Finally, the original hymn had a total of 6 verses, the two most commonly left out hymnals are as follows.

(5) For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, o pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

(6) But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

Photos of the Original Text on Brevoot Letterhead. @Library of Congress

Check out the video below from the Gaither Homecoming Collection.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Many times, down through history psalms, poems, and scriptures have been put to music as an expression of worship and praise. I know from my own personal experiences that I have found myself reciting the words to hymns in place of prayers as I could not pray or found that the words would not come.  Great is Thy Faithfulness is a good example of such a prayer.

After walking through a dark season in my life, it seemed no matter how hard I tried to pray I could not find the words. Many times, as I would enter into prayer with the Lord all I could see was the pain and darkness that surrounded me. My heart longed for the good times and the times where the Lord had been faithful as before.  As hard as it may be to believe, I just could not pray.  I could, however, sing and this was my go to song in place of it. It gave me hope, it built my faith and the words gave me strength for the day.   Great is Thy faithfulness. Oh God My Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee.  Thou Changest not thy compassions they fail not, As thou has been thou forever will be.

Those words brought life to my sad heart and gave me a renewed hope because each morning his mercies are new and every time he has provided just what I needed and then some.  Over the course of the day the chorus would be my anthem.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness, Morning by Morning, new mercies I see. All I have need Thy hand has provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. 

As I researched this song, I was amazed to learn about the simple life of the writer, Thomas Chisholm. In my mind, I thought the song would have come about by some tragic event he had experienced.  I envisioned of the writer experiencing something like Job, who went through such sorrow and loss, yet to be restored and fulfilled by God.  As I dug into the history of Mr. Chisholm I saw him as a an ordinary man, one with a simple life but having a strong desire to praise and honor God with his life. Mr. Chisholm used his poems and writings to do just that. Born in Kentucky in 1866,  he lacked any sort of formal education but somehow became a school teacher at age 16. Five years later he became the assistant editor of his hometown newspaper.  Then in 1893 he attended a revival and gave his heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He became an ordained minister and held a pastorate at a church for nearly a year before an illness forced him to step down.

It was during these years that Mr. Chisholm wrote several poems reflecting God’s goodness.  It was only after he had forwarded them to his friend, William Runyan, a musician with the Moody Bible Institute that many would put to music and become hymns.

Towards the end of his life, Mr. Chisholm reflected over the his past and stated that because of the many times he was not able to work and was bedridden, he had found the words to his song to be so true. He stated. “My income had not been large at any time due to my impaired health in the early years which  followed me on until now.  Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.” Mr. Chisholm lived to be 93 years old before passing away in 1960.

I would offer this to be the take away from this story.  So often the worldly stress, cares, and struggles overtake us. Many times, we as Christians, don’t realize the effects of carrying these on our own and find ourselves bogged down from the weight it. So much so that we find we can’t even utter a prayer. I would encourage you that when words and prayers don’t come to find a hymn and sing it.  Sing your way out of that state you are in and into a place of peace, praise and worship.

Psalm 95:1-6 (KJV) 95 O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation .Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.


Welcome to my Blog.

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So what’s Yardley up to now…. Seems I’m always dreaming and going one direction or another. Life has a funny way of bringing you full circle and the hopes and dreams we had years ago somehow find their way hidden away but never really forgotten.
When I was younger I wanted to be a writer. From a very young age I remember putting stories together and dreaming about how my book would be and the photos and pictures I’d have in it. And even though I enjoyed writing, I never considered it as a career. It was simply something I enjoyed as a hobby. The expectation was to go off, make money, raise a family and leave this for the fun stuff.
I worked briefly for the County Chronicle in 1987 and then had a series of Letter to the Editor in the Knoxville News Sentinel through the 80’s and early 90’s. After that I focused on raising a family, building a career and just trying to get through life. But I never lost the passion of writing. I learned after my Dad passed away in 1995 that journaling helped me get through the grieving process. It seemed the thoughts surrounding his passing ran like a tape recorder over and over in my head and the only way to stop it from playing was to get them out and onto paper.
Then in 2016 I wrote an off the cuff story about a Hardee’s employee helping an elderly lady and posted it on the Hardee’s Facebook page, it went viral with over 26 million views. The story gained national attention and touched a lot of people when they learned of the young man’s story. I got 4 hamburgers out of the deal.

So, when I found myself with a lot more time on my hands recently,  after my Mom’s passing, I began to look at what it was I had enjoyed doing years ago and writing came back to me. You see for the last several years my time was filled with taking care of her when I wasn’t working. If I wasn’t working or attending to things around the house I was at the nursing home taking care of her. When all of a sudden that was gone I found myself at a loss. I needed an outlet, something to do with myself; so, I began to write.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing the history of songs and how they came to life. In this process I have had an opportunity open to me that I look forward to sharing with you. But until then just click the subscribe As I add updates you will be notified. Believe me many of you will not believe where my dream of writing has already taken me.

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