Inspirational singer-songwriter Gretchen Keskeys' new album, "Words of Truth," may very well be considered her most inspirational to date. Released on November 22nd by Creative Soul Records, Keskeys' third studio album features eleven songs inspired by the healing truth of Jesus Christ and His Word.
Produced by Eric Copeland for Creative Soul Records and mixed by GRAMMY winner Ronnie Brookshire (Michael McDonald, CeCe Winans, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patty), "Words of Truth" is available at all major digital retailers.
For more information, visit the official website at www.gretchenkeskeys.com.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. Your new album certainly is a very important one as it addresses many issues our nation is facing. What were some of the issues you were thinking about when you were making this album?
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss my new album. I think most people are troubled when they clearly see the truth, (through knowledge, through experience, through facts, through faith) and yet that truth seems to be continually twisted and then promoted and spread until everyone is speaking their own truth and the world is in a mass confusion about what the truth is, what is real and what is not. It can be overwhelming and disturbing. Especially when we are raising children in this world or finding our way.
As Christians, we know truth, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the truth. And His words are words of truth. We've seen His truth prevail through history and we live it each day. This album is my heart's desire to share that truth. Which I believe brings hope and power, which then brings healing and mental health and an abundant life. I believe the reason this country is so split right now is there is one side that does not see God as their hope. They see government and the people who run things as their hope and power, the answer to wellness in their lives and in the world. It is up to them to make everything right. Those who trust in God, look to Jesus, want to share the truth in love. Their main hope for this country is that they will continue to have the ability to do that. That drives their passion for who is in office and the policies that are passed (policies that hopefully reflect biblical truths.) It is not a perfect government, but Jesus is a perfect God.
Q: You spelt out the answer throughout the album and most pointedly in the song "Look to Jesus," in what ways is Jesus the answer?
The truth of Jesus Christ, the truth we live as born again Christians is in every way freeing. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36. In Christ we are able to face the truth about our lives. The deep dark painful truths that only you and God know. We are safe to confess those truths (sometimes so complex they feel impossible to explain to anyone else) because in Christ we have a God who knows and sees all with compassionate understanding, love, grace and forgiveness. There is now hope because there is no more shame, there is forgiveness for ourselves and others and we have His new mercies each day as we walk with the Lord. The old is gone and the new is here.
How many people are deep into addiction and sinful behavior because they think that is the best this life has for them? An endless day after day slavery because the sin they've been in has dragged them deeper down each day until they can't bear this life without the numbing of the addiction. They have made so many bad choices, where can they even pick up the pieces and try again without their past haunting them every step of the way? The only place that can be found is in Jesus Christ. He not only forgives us, but also gives us a new sense of worth and value, something I speak to in the song "Don't You Know." "Don't you know who you are child of God, don't you know you are loved and made free? Don't you know of His plans child of God, you are chosen and God's precious masterpiece."
If you talk to an alcoholic who drinks because their childhood was wrecked by molestation, they feel ruined, dirty. No therapist or program can wash us clean. This thought inspired this verse from "Look to Jesus:" "People, programs, trying to change my life. Selling healing, I just want to do what's right. Where is the truth I want to know the place that I can find it tell me now so I can go. If you really want to know the truth, if you really want to live what's real, if you really want to see it clear, look to Jesus..."
Only Jesus Christ can wash us clean and give us a brand new life. In Christ we are given a new set of glasses to see the world in a new way. We see clearly that this world is lost in sin. And everything sin touches it destroys. In this truth we can live our lives hoping to share the gospel and to bring light where this sin prevails. Jesus really is the only hope in this world. One politician accuses another of wrongdoing, but when you hold a bright light to the accuser, that person is full of faults. It's a never-ending blame game. The only way for it to stop is to bring it to the cross, look to Jesus and ask Him to right the wrongs.
Q: How can we help the people know that Jesus is the answer?
One song on the album is called "When You Believe." It is about spiritual blindness. "There is no knowledge that we're blind. That's Satan's sad design. That we won't see the love of Christ, His glory so divine. But, it's only one decision to receive the miracle of sight and you too will believe." This is why it can be so hard to share Jesus. There is a built in blindness in unbelievers. It's as if to them we are speaking a foreign language. It literally is the work of the Holy Spirit to change hearts. But once that happens, and they are now believers, they too see it all so clearly. It is a beautiful and amazing transformation we as believers have been through.
But again, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. We have no power to save people ourselves, but we can in love share the gospel, we can live Christ-like lives, and definitely pray. Prayer is so important. When we share the gospel, seeds are planted. And when people come to the end of themselves, see their lives are not working, that seed is there and can become a new life in Christ. I had a scripture verse read to me at just the exact time I needed to hear it and it changed my life. It was Matthew 11:28-29 "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in spirit and you will find rest for your souls."
I was at a point that I felt I couldn't go on with the mental distress I had been in. I was searching and this spoke exactly to me. As if Jesus said it just for me. I felt He understood me, and I truly found the rest He was talking about. From that point on, I wanted to know Jesus. I don't believe a heavy hand will ever turn people to Jesus. But the truth in love will. People need to know they're accepted before they will listen.
Q: Since many of these issues are current and so close to our hearts, was it a challenge writing these songs? What was the most challenging song to write on this record?
Once I have the initial idea, (which most always comes through time with the Lord, which can happen throughout the day, maybe even while driving or doing housework,) the excitement is there and the words flow pretty easy for me. When our goal is to glorify God, I believe the Holy Spirit is right there helping. Also, I once worked as a news writer. I literally had to write stories in minutes especially during breaking news. So I can write quick. But, I definitely love going back and doing many rewrites, finding better words to use to express exactly what I want to get across. I also will check the bible to see if what I am writing is scripturally accurate. That is very important to me.
Also, during the writing process, I try not to listen to other artist's music. It is very important to me for it to feel organic. That is when my creativity flows. I think it goes back to my days of studying acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. If I was told to do a scene from an old film for instance, I would never watch the film because I wanted to create my own character. If I felt I was copying someone, it wouldn't work for me. It's the same way with my music.
I would say the most difficult song to write was "God Knows." Only because I wanted it to have the exact right words to express the sometimes devastating topic of grief and loss. I wanted to be sensitive to the listener who was experiencing what this song is about as this one verse explains: "There is no clock on a heart that's been shattered. Saying it's time to be put back together. And when the days make the loss grow deeper and you wonder, do others remember? God knows that your heart still breaks. And He knows of your secret pain. When whispers say it's time to move on His understanding has just begun."
Q: I really like "God Will See Us Through" which you intertwined with "God Bless America" and a touch of the National Anthem. How did this song come about?
And why did you interweave the song with these two patriotic numbers? - Oh thanks! I was on the piano one day thinking about this country and thinking back to the time right after 9/11 when Congress was on the steps of the Capitol singing "God Bless America" together. It was quite moving. Oh how things have sadly changed. I just started writing my feelings starting off with "God bless America, land of the free, bitterness dividing us like we've never seen. Still we proclaim In God We Trust, believing He'll take care of us. So we'll pray in truth that God will see us through."
Looking back through the history of this country, we can see where God has truly "shed His grace on us." He has gotten us through some very difficult times and helped us to heal with His forgiveness. This country right now is in what seems to be a cultural or spiritual war where many are hostile to God. It is troubling to me because I believe Jesus Christ is the one true hope for this country. I remember on 9/11 falling to my knees and begging for God's help and mercy. Where do those hostile to God go when true calamity comes? We need the hand of God. We need His guidance and grace and forgiveness. As Christians, we need to stand strong for the truth (the truth in love, but stand.)
Musically, I needed a bridge and producer Eric Copeland thought it would be great to add a verse from "God Bless America," an idea I loved and then I chose to end it with "the land of the free" from the National Anthem. I love "The Star Spangled Banner." I love singing it. I love hearing it. It is special to me to have those two great American anthems be a part of this song. I truly do believe that (as this part of the chorus says,)"God will see us through. When we look to Him He will lead us in His wisdom and His truth. Yes God will see us through." I hope this song lifts hearts during this difficult time in our country's history.
Q: One song that needs a little explanation is the very unusual "Aliyah." Tell us more about the song and how it came about?
The truth is I first questioned if "Aliyah" belonged on this album. It is a little different. The producer really loved the music and I have to say I did too, I thought it added some nice variety to the album. And I do believe it has a wonderful Christian message about God's will and destiny for our lives.The inspiration of this song in some ways is when the engines really started up to write this album. I had been a bit dry and hadn't had much desire to write after my last album, "Pure Hope." I had had some amazing experiences from that album and then life got busy with the family.
But in May 2018 we took a trip to Israel guided by Pastor Jonathan Cahn. I didn't know much about him (my husband planned the trip,) and I thought he might be a "star pastor," kind of distant, coming out to speak for an hour after dinner. It was nothing like that. He was right with us from preaching in a lightning storm atop Mt. Carmel, to sleeping in the desert with camels. Pastor Cahn was real, humble, so full of biblical knowledge and Jewish tradition (he was raised Jewish,) and with a deep love and passion for Jesus. We had spent the day hiking around Jerusalem. We ended the day at the Eastern Gate (where it is said Jesus will return,) singing "The Days of Elijah." Wow, what an experience! Pastor Cahn also plays guitar and leads worship which was a blessing.
Before we made it to the Eastern Gate, we stopped at the "Southern Steps" where Jesus is said to have walked many times. We sat for a time of worship and a message. The message was on Aliyah. He explained what this ancient Hebrew word meant: "ascending to Jerusalem." To go to Jerusalem, you have to literally go up. The bible speaks of Jesus going up to Jerusalem. So whoever went to Jerusalem was ascending or Aliyah. The term is still used for Jews coming back to Israel. As a Christian, he put it in terms of our Christian walk. God's will for us is that we are ascending closer to God. When we choose spirit over flesh, we are ascending to a higher ground. When we are looking forward, not looking back, we are ascending. It is a day to day decision. Not that we are working our way to God. No. He came down for us. It is important that that is clear.
But, I found the talk so inspiring because I have seen that in my life. My spiritual life has grown so much richer as I have walked less in this world and more with my eyes on Jesus. The more I make choices in the spirit and not the flesh, the more I see His will in my life. I really wrote this song in many ways to memorialize my trip to Israel, which meant so much to me. I was baptized in the Jordan River. We were with our teenage kids who seemed to really love it all and take it all in (I actually had gone as a teenager with my parents and I wanted our kids to have the same experience, but I wasn't a born again Christian then, so this trip meant so much more to me.)
We had communion at the Garden of Gethsemane. And one awesome memory of that night was singing "Here I am To Worship" in the Garden and as we were worshipping, the Muslim call to prayer started blasting over us. And I don't think I have ever sang with so much passion, and so strong as in that moment. I wanted to shout the name of Jesus in praise. That He is the one true God. He is the Messiah. I love worshipping Jesus. The whole trip inspired me so, the words of praise for Jesus just started flowing and before you know it, I had several songs written and then the idea for a new album came.
Q: Many of these songs need to be sung across our churches, homes and public places. Some of your songs (such as "Lord Almighty" and "Your Perfect love") can even work as worship songs. I was wondering if you will be making the music lead sheets and chord charts of your songs available anytime soon?
One of the most meaningful things to me is to hear others sing my songs. I have had many requests over time for songs of mine such as "Then I Met Jesus" to sing at memorial services and in church. When requested, I have sent out the lead sheets, chord charts and music tracks. But, yes, I would love for those to be available for the public to purchase. Thank you for bringing this up and I will see if I can make those available. If anyone was interested in the meantime, I can be reached at [email protected] or Gretchen Keskeys Music on Facebook.
Q: How can this album help us make a difference in this society that is so hostile towards the Gospel?
The truth is we can present the gospel, write it in beautiful music, share Christ's love, give help, and explain every reason why Jesus is the way and people will still reject Him. As a young teen, I was one of those people. I didn't even like the name Jesus. I thought Christians all thought they were better than everyone. I was lost. This world is lost.
The one thing we don't want to do is change the gospel. Change the truth. That is a huge mistake. The truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest love we can share. One of the greatest gifts given to me when I was seeking but still firmly planted in the world was a "New Believers Bible" a loving Christian neighbor gave me. It explained so much and it really helped me to know who Jesus is. Not just from what people or the world says, but what His Word says. "He is the Word." John 1:1. That makes all the difference in the world. We need to know Jesus is a God of love and that He is holy. That we can't continue in our sin and think "Jesus loves me, so it's ok." We will never live in true freedom that way. We need the full truth to be healed and to walk in freedom. His grace makes that possible. We are told to love God and love others. And that includes imperfect people.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks, I believe, for Christians and unbelievers is to equate Christians (especially in the church) with Jesus. They are not. Don't put them on a pedestal. Scripture tells us that. Get to know Jesus through His Word. The greater we know His Word the greater power we have to make it in this world. To love others without letting unkind people ruin us. To rise above and love and serve others in victory, not in victimhood. "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37. "You dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 I pray my album "Words of Truth" will speak personally to those who are weary of this world. The first song on the album, "The Hope of Heaven," truly is my heart right now: "The only blessing I am praying for, is to know you Jesus more and more." That is where the real treasure is. I pray "Words of Truth" will focus this world on Jesus, His saving love and grace.