I started writing songs in 1995, when I was twenty years-old. I truly had no idea what I was doing, of course. I knew I liked the challenge of creating something new, but lacked any real knowledge of poetry and/or music theory. In those days, I would simply write the best song I could and move on. Looking back, I probably didn’t spend enough time in the editing process. I’m sure many other songwriters would say the same, though. It was around that time that I wrote one of a handful of love songs inspired by a particular crush. While I can’t remember the name of that song or any of the lyrics, I do remember the reaction of a good friend (not the crush) when I played it for her. She liked what I had written, but thought it sounded a little melodramatic. I was crushed. She was supposed to like it. I liked it. I worked hard on it. I was SURE it was a good song. Now, what was I supposed to do? I was devastated, so I did the only thing that seemed reasonable to me at the time. I hid the song away and never played it for anyone ever again. Well, the lyrics that is. I never sang those lyrics ever again.
For some reason, though, I couldn’t let go of that melody. As I worked on other songs over the next few years, I would return to that melody, trying out new lyrics each time, but nothing seemed to fit. Finally, nine years after writing the original, I set that tune to a new set of lyrics. The song was entitled, “Break My Will”. No longer a love song, this new composition instead focused on my daily struggle to live a good Christian life. I felt really good about this “new” work, but it, too, never really saw the light of day.
Fast forward six years. Orin and I are in his basement looking to write a song to use regularly during the upcoming Lenten season. After tossing around a few ideas, he asked about “Break My Will”. He told me that he had always liked the melody, but thought the lyrics needed a bit of work. So, for the next few hours, we tore up those lyrics and wrote something new, something Lenten, something congregational, something we were both excited about. After that, this new song (now entitled “Fill Us, O God”) seemed to exist the way a lot of our songs do: posted on our website, used for liturgy, submitted (unsuccessfully) to Catholic publishers, and placed on one of our albums, 2015’s “Mercy at Work. “Fill Us, O God” existed as something good and significant within the world of Oddwalk, but didn’t really make any noise anywhere else.
Fast forward again to just this past week when Orin and I received word that World Library Publications had decided to accept “Fill Us, O God” for publication. What great news! Somehow, this little song that could was finding its way into the prayer of the Church.
As I look back now, I can see that, through this song’s journey, Jesus called me to become less self-absorbed and more focused on Him. Through this song’s journey, Jesus reminded me to be patient and have trust in Him. Through this song’s journey, Jesus drew me closer to himself. Mostly, though, through this song’s journey, Jesus called me to truly focus my songwriting on Him. And, while I don’t always get it right, I want to. As I put one foot in front of the other, I try to always be mindful of these words I once saw inscribed on a church lectern, where only the lector can see them.