I’ve been writing songs since I was fairly young. I remember stretching my 14 year old back over the bathtub. Cleaning, scrubbing, singing a little chorus I had thought up, humming, singing it over and over ….
“I was walk’n down life’s road,
trying to push through a crowd.
I was tryin and tryin,
but I couldn’t do it by myself.
And then Christ did it for me,
that’s why He died on Calvary…..”
By Lisa J. Boyl
On and on I’d work the song while I worked the scum off the tub walls. A simple ditty for a 14 year old girl who was trying to push through the croud of life, needing God to do it for me. Other songs I wrote. I had them all sketched onto the Bible I packed around. My odd brown song file, dilapidated covers taped together for preservation, I’d write another, and another. Sometimes scrawling sideways up the margins to make room for one more song. The summer I worked at Camp Berkshire upstate New York, my Bible went it’s way, never to be seen again, and gone were all my songs. Most I can’t recall. Lost, my heart in words and rhyme.
College gave me other opportunities to continue writing songs. The best came to me when I was covered in dirt and sweat. Working grounds, digging holes in packed soil to plant the colorful petunias, lines would come to me, and then the tune. I’d sing it to myself and loud, out there alone on the arid college grounds of the eastern Washington. Alone, most of the time. If I remembered, I’d keep a short pencil and scrap of paper in my shorts pocket for when an inspiration would hit. Sometimes I’d hurry across the lawn to the ladies room, pull down a paper towel, tear off a corner and scribble out the line I’d been singing to myself, hoping to not forget. I have never learned to write a score, and can play piano only in the key of C, so after work, I’d hurry with my after work routine and rush over to a vacant chapel on campus where I’d play out the song, reading the lyrics off the wadded up paper, over and over I’d play it until I found the chords I had heard in my head, and until I had the song down. There were friends who could make sense of the songs I’d written, and would put them to music, able to play them in the key that made the most sense for a singer.
There were week of prayer theme song contests. Both years I decided to participate, they choose my song. That felt great. Hearing my whole college sing my song for a week straight I found rather unnerving and special at the same time. I loved it and also wanted to hide. But I did love the challenge of being given a theme and writing a song that worked with the topic. Both theme songs chosen belonged most of all to the planting of the petunias.
Some might say that being like you is too much to ask….
…You are the power inside me…
That’s the only way to be all I can be.
By Lisa J. Boyl
Another summer of groundworks, and another song.
Is the Jesus that you know
a kindly Man from long ago
A picture in a splintered frame
slanted on the wall
Has the Jesus that you know
been forced into a plastic mold
A God who only loves the good
the children and the old
If you knew the Jesus who turned my life around
And answered questions of my searching soul
You’d throw away the plaster And the statues made of Him
And come to love the Jesus that I know
The Jesus that I know.
By Lisa J. Boyl
One autumn day I met a boy who took to walking around with my heart, leaving me in quite a state. I’d known the pain of love before, and one afternoon alongside a busy college street, waiting for the next bus, saw an old station wagon pull up and wait for the light, and from the interactions in that car I wrote
Wrinkled and baggy, frowning at each other
‘Stickin it out’, but only for the kids
On family occasions they fake some warm affection
And back at home they only show contempt
Does time always mangle a love once true?
Does it twist and tear a promise once forever?
And what about friendship, does that die too, in time?
Can I share this heart of mine?
By Lisa J. Boyl
That was the final song – before love rushed in, and marriage, college, babies, bills, career, house building, cancer. Not enough stillness and digging alone deep into packed hard soil for finding songs. For 30 years. Then one morning, wedged between arm of overstuffed chair and a giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be processed, there I found a bit of unexpected stillness. Reading the book of Acts, overcome with all the goodness of God and what His Spirit manages through us, His voice in heart elbowed me.
“Pick up a pencil”, said the nudge.
“What?”, I snapped.
Not audible but as clear as if the words had been spoken, He said to me.
“Pick up a pencil, I want you to write a song.”
The pencil just picked up shook in my hand. Tears slipped down unto Act 2. Slammed pencil down onto my Bible and tears. Cried a long time. God had taken away my songs. Not once (by the flight of the little brown Bible) but twice (years of no space to sing my songs). I’d not written anything since college, and now almost 50, past the age that anything I’d write could ever be relevant, God asked for a song. Mad and sad, I was, and still I picked up pencil. In five minutes, Holy Wind was etched. Next day, Frozen Worship the same. Both songs on God’s Spirit.
Music can bring out a territorial jealousy and disgust. A kind of fire hydrant/dog ownership of ‘I’m the star, out of my way!’. And so when the music pastor of my church was interested in listening to the songs, and interested in the idea of church members contributing to the music of the church, the tears, they came again. Car full of family heading home from service. Wrong time. No matter. Tears dripping across the songless days that has passed. Dripping off my chin for the nights of being awakened, hungry, no starving for music. Tears for songs long withheld for the harder tasks of life.
Although floundering some, I’m adjusting to writing songs again. A new song rushes at me like a cartwheel. I don’t go to it, it comes to me and flings me round until I’m upright again. A cartwheel arrives with a wide space of green grass. Songs need their space, too. Relevance has been reserved for the young. My songs are relevant to a life that has simple rhyme, hard times and beauty all mixed together. I don’t quite understand God’s timing, but how foolish to push away what I’ve wanted for so long because it’s taken so long to arrive. Song writer. Starting over, like the awkward 14 year old. Heart in rhythm and rhyme has begun to beat again. And I like it.