Be Still, My Soul

One of my very favorite songs is Be Still, My Soul set to the tune of Finlandia. The words to Be Still, My Soul were written by Katharina von Schlegel in 1752.

Not a lot is known about Katharina. She was born October 22, 1697. She was a Lutheran woman living in Germany a century after Martin Luther began the Reformation there. But movements begun with great passion often wane over time and this was true of the Lutheran church in Germany.

It is believed that Katharina was a “Stiftfräulein” in the Evangelical Lutheran Stift (similar to a convent) at Cöthen, but this cannot be confirmed.

While she wrote a number of hymns, Be Still, My Soul is the only one which has passed into English. She was inspired by God’s promise found in Psalm 46:10, first part, 11, “Be still, and know that I am God; The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

This hymn survived only because of the work of a British woman, Jane Borthwick, who translated Katharina’s words into English a century after it was written. Eventually, the words were paired with the tune The Finlandia Hymn by composer Jean Sibelius, which he composed from 1899-1900. Finlandia was written in protest of Russian oppression and to celebrate Finnish history. The piece is rousing and tempestuous until the final movement, where it calms and becomes The Finlandia Hymn.

During times of great suffering and distress, people look up to see the face of God. This remains true today just as it was in the 18th century.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to your God to order and provide;

In ev’ry change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; your best, your heav’nly friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake

To guide the future as He has the past;

Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He lived below.


Be still, my soul; when dearest friends depart

And all is darkened in the vale of tears,

Then you will better know His love, His heart,

Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.

Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay

From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hast’ning on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Sources:; Kathrina von Schlegel |


Joy to the World

A few years ago, a friend emailed me a story told about a mother who encouraged her young son to practice playing the piano, and specifically, to practice his scales. She told him to practice them not only forward, from middle C up the scale to C an octave higher, but to also practice them starting at the octave C and going back down to middle C. I’m not sure that I have everything exactly right about this story, but this part I know is right, she told him, as he played the descending scale, to put pauses at certain points in the scale. When the son did so, he recognized, not just a scale of notes, but the carol Joy to the World. As of right now, I’ve been playing the piano just shy of 60 years, and that was news to me. But let’s look at the real story behind this beautiful song.

The lyrics were written by Isaac Watts in 1719, though not with the intention of becoming a Christmas carol. It was written as a response to or reinterpretation of Psalm 98 and has more to do with Jesus’ second coming than His first.

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

“The Lord has made known His salvation, His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.

“Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.” Psalm 98

An accomplished and well-known composer and arranger, Lowell Mason arranged the tune used today in 1848. This tune is somewhat reminiscent of a couple of musical phrases found in Handel’s Messiah; although Handel scholars dismiss as mere coincidence the idea that Mason might have “borrowed” these phrases for his arrangement of Joy to the World.


A joyful and glorious hymn of praise to God for sending His Son, and a looking forward to His soon return, Joy to the World is a wonderful song to sing all throughout the year.

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come;

Let Earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.”

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Fanny Crosby was born on March 24, 1820, in Putnam County, New York. She became permanently blind at the age of six weeks after being prescribed the wrong treatment for her inflamed eyes. Always positive, Fanny turned her handicap into an asset; even commenting that her blindness was actually a blessing for it removed the many distractions around her. When she was eight years old, with the same feeling as Paul when writing in Philippians 4:11–13, she wrote:

Oh, what a happy child I am,

Although I cannot see!

I am resolved that in this world

Contented I will be.

At the age of 15 she attended the New York Institution for the Blind, and in 1847 became a teacher there until 1858. She taught English grammar, rhetoric, and American history. But Fanny’s true love was poetry.

Her poems have been used the world over, set to the music of the popular tunes of her day as well as tunes especially written for them, both secular and sacred. She could compose at any time. Always in possession of a book of paper just for that purpose; and her spur-of-the-moment poems often became her best hymns.

Her hymns have been the favorites of composers and evangelists like W. H. Doane, who composed the music for many of her most well-known hymns, and Ira D. Sankey, a gospel singer and composer long associated with Dwight L. Moody.

We are familiar with many of these songs: Tell Me the Story of Jesus; I am Thine, O Lord; Sweet By and By; To God be the Glory; Take the World, but Give Me Jesus; All the Way My Saviour Leads Me; Praise Him, Praise Him; Blessed Assurance; Redeemed; Near the Cross; Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour, and over four thousand more. Fanny’s personal favorite was Safe in the Arms of Jesus.

“Contented I will be” remained the governing principle throughout Fanny’s life. She loved her work and was happy doing it. She often reflected that had it not been for her blindness, she might not have obtained such a good education or had so great an influence. It also strengthened her memory. She committed to memory large portions of the Bible, including the first four books of the Old Testament and all four of the Gospels before she was ten years old.

 Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe on His gentle breast,

There by His love o’ershaded,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Hark! ‘tis the voice of angels,

Borne in a song to me,

Over the fields of glory,

Over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe from corroding care,

Safe from the world’s temptations,

Sin cannot harm me there.

Free from the blight of sorrow,

Free from my doubts and fears;

Only a few more trials,

Only a few more tears.

Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge,

Jesus has died for me;

Firm on the Rock of Ages,

Ever my trust shall be.

Here let me wait with patience,

Wait till the night is o’er;

Wait till I see the morning

Break on the golden shore.

Safe in the arms of Jesus

Safe on His gentle breast,

There by His love o’ershaded,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Songs we Love – Great is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born July 29, 1866, in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. With only an elementary education, he became a schoolteacher at the age of 16 in the same country schoolhouse he had attended.

At the age of 27, he found Christ during revival meetings held by evangelist Henry Clay Morrison and began writing sacred poems, many of which became popular hymns still sung today.

Thomas’ health was unstable and he lived his life in bouts of illness.

He worked five years as the editor of the local paper in Franklin, as the business manager and office editor of the Pentecostal Herald in Louisville, Kentucky, and as a life insurance agent in Winona Lake and later in Vineland, New Jersey.

Thomas was ordained as a Methodist minister, and in 1903, entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but a year later was forced to resign due to poor health.

Through all the ups and downs of his life, he discovered that God was faithful, with new blessings every morning. Lamentations 3:22, 23 became very precious to him:

“His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

There is no dramatic story behind the writing of this beautiful hymn, just a recognition of God’s faithfulness to man when we put our trust and our lives wholly in Him.

While serving the Lord in Vineland, New Jersey, Thomas sent several poems to his friend, musician William Runyan. William was so moved by this one poem that he prayed that the Lord would give him special guidance in the composition of the music. The hymn was published in 1923.

Thomas Chisholm wrote 1,200 sacred poems in all. He retired in 1953 and spent his remaining years at the Methodist Home for the Aged in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, where he died on February 29, 1960, at the age of 94.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

 Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

 Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Sources:; Wikipedia

It is Well With My Soul

Imagine that everything in your life is just perfect. You’ve met and married your soulmate and have beautiful children and a thriving career. Life is grand and it would seem to be pretty easy to say to God, “It is well with my soul.”

But now imagine that peace and joy is taken away and all that remains is you and your spouse, grief-stricken and hearts broken. Would you then find it as easy to say those same words?

The words of this beautiful and moving hymn were written by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. A devout Presbyterian church elder, Horatio placed his trust in God, much like Job, during times of prosperity as well as calamity. He immersed himself in the Scriptures and lived a joyous life for many years. He was a successful attorney who owned several real estate properties throughout the city of Chicago. He and his beloved wife Anna had four beautiful daughters.

But faith, no matter how strong, does not spare us from adversity.

Just as Horatio was at the pinnacle of his professional and financial success, things began to change. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed nearly every real estate investment Horatio owned.

In 1873, to benefit Anna’s health, Horatio sent her and their daughters, Annie (12), Maggie (7), Bessie (4), and Tanetta (18 months), to Paris aboard the S.S. Ville du Havre, intending to join them after wrapping up some last-minute business in Chicago. But on November 21, the ocean liner on which Anna and their daughters were traveling was struck by the Lochearn, a British iron sailing ship, and sank in twelve minutes. Anna was saved by the crew of the Lochearn, but all four of their daughters were lost. The Trimountain arrived and transported the survivors to Cardiff, Wales, where Anna was able to send to Horatio the heart-wrenching telegram, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

Immediately Horatio left Chicago to bring Anna home. During the crossing, the captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin to tell him that they were passing over the spot where the Ville du Havre had gone down, taking with it his daughters. It was here that he put his pen to paper and this timeless hymn was born.

After the tragic loss of their daughters, they were blessed with two more daughters, Bertha and Grace, and two sons, Horatio and Jacob. However, Horatio died at the age of four in 1880.

The original manuscript of It Is Well With My Soul had only four verses, but a fifth verse was later added and the last line of the original song was modified. The tune was composed in 1876 by Philip Bliss, an American composer and well-known hymn writer. He titled the tune after the ship on which the Spafford daughters died, Ville du Havre.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

 Though Satan should buffet, though’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought;
My sin not in part but in whole,
Is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul.

 For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou will whisper Thy peace to my soul.

 And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so” it is well with my soul.


It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Taken from The Library of Congress/The American Colony in Jerusalem: Family Tragedy; Wikipedia