Peace, unity, love, hope, and healing are just a few of the comforting lyrical tapestries woven throughout Gretchen Keskeys’ Words of Truth (Creative Soul Records). The celebrated singer/songwriter is no stranger to sharing heartfelt gems of spiritually-centered encouragement throughout her extensive music ministry, but this latest third album may very well be considered her most inspirational to date given the candid observations, unflinching honesty and all-around relatability.
“As this album came together, I really saw ‘truth’ as being the theme of the album, specifically the truth of Jesus Christ and what I wanted to communicate,” she shares. “In that, I started to spend time thinking on and studying what the Bible says about the truth of Jesus and I came upon the phrase: ‘these are words of truth.’ And I thought, ‘that’s it!’ Not because I am saying it, but because it is inspired by what Jesus promises and what I have seen come true in my life because of Him.”
Even before she burst onto the national contemporary Christian music scene in 2016 with the release of the acclaimed Walking in the Spirit, Keskeys has not been shy about sharing her moving testimony. “I never knew I could have the freedom and peace I have in Jesus Christ. He completely transformed my mind. Healed me from paralyzing fear and anxiety which led to years of depression. I love pointing others to that hope. So many I believe are seeking their value, purpose and their well being in this life. Jesus is what this world is looking for.”
In fact, since the release of 2017’s passionate follow-up Pure Hope, she serves as guest worship leader at a number of churches, a performer for Compassion International and is a musical guest and speaker at conferences and events such as the Hoff Foundation, which reaches out to women who are coming out of difficult situations with drug addiction, incarceration and homelessness.
“I also work with Prison Fellowship and am a regular worship leader at Folsom Women’s Facility at Folsom Prison,” adds Keskeys. “I am there one or two times a month and am blessed each time. The women pour out their hearts in worship and are serious in their Bible study. I can relate to them because I know what it’s like to be at a place with no hope and a life that was scarred early on with a trail of bad choices and mistakes. They found what I found in Jesus Christ and I feel very at home in this prison chapel. It’s beautiful to see these transformed lives.”
Continues Keskeys: “I am troubled by our society and culture today. The bitterness, violence and lies. When seeing so much pain, I often think ‘what these people need is the truth of His word. The truth has saved me again and again. I have gotten very honest about my life when I am struggling with something. Instead of just trying to just fix it, I’m being really honest about why I am struggling and then looking to the one source of truth, which is Jesus Christ.”
She puts those very concepts into practice throughout the uplifting “Look To Jesus,” which kicks off with the clever lines: “fake news, reviews, opinions on every side. Pushing, pulling trying to change my mind. Where is the truth? Where did it go? This is what I’m asking what I really want to know. 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…”
As alluded to in that track’s thought-provoking introduction, another area Keskeys explores is the division and divisive plaguing the country right now. It’s a natural observation given her lifelong interest in current events, politics and patriotism, which led to graduating with a journalism degree, interning at a news station and working as an assignment editor, news writer, and associate producer (alongside acting on primetime TV, several soap operas and studying at the Beverly Hills Playhouse with a Screen Actors Guild card to her credit!) Even as she worked on both sides of the opinion spectrum (she was also a talk radio producer for a host who had very different views, but they became lifelong friends.) This truth seeker always maintained her objectivity, and just as importantly, her kindness in interacting with those of dissenting opinions.
“It is in this thought that I wrote the song ‘God Will See Us Through,’” she explains. “It starts with ‘God bless America. Land of the free. Bitterness dividing us. Like we’ve never seen. But we proclaim ‘In God We Trust’ believing He’ll take care of us. So we pray in truth, that God will see us through.’ I truly believe that He is greater than the lies that are dividing this country. We can disagree and still show love. He’s blessed this country and we cannot lose hope. It intertwines two songs I love so much: ‘God Bless America’ and a touch of the ‘National Anthem.’ It is my anthem of love for this country and I hope it uplifts anyone and everyone.”
Given her extensive platforms and increased familiarity with each artistic season, Keskeys’ audience falls both within and outside the church’s walls. Her unshakeable faith is truly contagious for either audience, and even the hardest of hearts can’t deny her sincerity as she strives to share the gospel through her music.
“Satan blinds unbelievers and I think this is what is going on in this country. I don’t think people mean to think so differently about God and people of faith. They just don’t see it. It is completely foreign to them. That’s what inspired me to write the song ‘When You Believe.’ I often see people online refer to Jesus Christ and my faith as a ‘fairy tale’ or a ‘crutch,’ so I start the song ‘some call him a fairy tale, and others say a crutch. So certain no creator lives or watches over us. But I know they are wrong, because I have seen my God. And I believe because I’ve seen, Jesus changing me. And I believe because I’ve seen His mercies all around me. And I believe that you too will see. When you believe…’”
That being said, Keskeys is by no means blind to the steady stream of crisis and tragedy so many face on a daily basis, applying wisdom from first-hand experience whenever she ministers directly to a listener or even just wading her way through the daily media broadcasts of tragedy. Bits of all the above can be found throughout “God Knows,” written out of her heart to come beside hurting people, and point them to the One who truly knows and understands.
“Every day we hear about parents losing children, mass shootings and on and on,” she observes. “I think of these people months or years later and wonder how are they doing. I know from my own losses that the grief doesn’t stop when things quiet down. That is when it can be the most painful. When my sister and then my dad died, there was so much activity: beautiful memorial services, people, flowers, prayers and busyness. It was a blur, a sad blur, but I got through it. But it was months later where it seemed everyone had moved on yet I was still so down. The truth is God doesn’t forget and He doesn’t move on. As the song says: ‘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? Yes, 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.’ There is no greater comfort than Jesus Christ. He never gets tired of our tears. He doesn’t stop seeing us, as a counselor does, when we stop paying. He is patient and kind and strong. He understands…I pray it will bring comfort to those who are living with loss.”
Additional standouts include “The Hope of Heaven,” which Keskeys says is really about the hope of Jesus in our lives. Not focusing on a prosperity gospel, but on knowing Jesus Christ more and more. “That’s where the real treasure is.” Another is “I Can’t Do This on My Own,” written as a prayer of surrender before ministering to a packed church when feeling severely under the weather, and realizing God does the greatest works in our weakness. Along with “Lord Almighty,” which she says was inspired by Psalm 36:5 “His faithfulness touches the skies.” Keskeys adds, “God is big enough for everyone. We don’t need to hold on tightly to this life. He provides.” There’s also “In This Very Room,” a song (the only on the album she didn’t write,) she first heard at her father’s funeral by the church choir. “This song meant so much to me. I was a newer Christian and it brought so much comfort. It was special to record it for this album.” “Don’t You Know,” birthed more than a year ago during preparations for speaking at a women’s conference on the subject of finding identity in Christ. It is full of biblical truths about who we are in Christ.
“So often I see people, often times young people, who live such dark and desperate lives in addiction and despair and I just want them to know how precious they are to God,” Keskeys confirms. “That’s how I came up with ‘don’t you know you are a child of God?’ You are loved. I love sharing this message with the women I minister to in prison. Their identity is not of prisoner, ex-con, a person with a life full or wrong turns. They have a brand new life as a treasured and loved child of God.”
In addition to being some of her favorite songs on Words of Truth, she also credits frequent collaborators/producers Brian Green and Eric Copeland for their instrumental accompaniment that weaves between beautiful, majestic and intentionally understated, while it could easily be considered just as modern as it is timeless.
Indeed, their emotive arrangements throughout all the tunes, plus additional mixing from Ronnie Brookshire, perfectly pair with Keskeys’ soaring vocals, which have earned frequent comparisons to a present day edition of Sandi Patty or Twila Paris crossed with the vertical nature of Hillsong or Darlene Zschech.
It’s likely that compelling combination, along with such life-affirming messages, have kept this artist in high demand since her last album, which included the media rounds at Cornerstone TV’s “Real Life,” CTN, “Atlanta Live,” “Babbie’s House,” Fox News and Simple Grace Magazine to name but a few.
Keskeys’ travels also included a trip to Israel with her husband and their three children (two of whom she homeschools with her husband and one who’s off studying music in college). “It was truly the trip of a lifetime!” she exclaims. I was so inspired that I wrote the song ‘Aliyah.’ We (our group led by Pastor Jonathan Cahn) had spent the day hiking through Jerusalem, and at the end of the day, we made it to the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where Jesus walked many times. We sat for a time of worship and a word from Pastor Cahn. He shared with us the ancient Hebrew word ‘Aliyah.’ It means ‘ascending up,’ and in this talk, which I found so inspiring, he shared that this is true in a journey with Christ. As we choose spirit over flesh, His will unfolds in our lives. This is our destiny. Always looking forward, one step at a time, and not looking back. It does not mean we have to work our way to God. He came down for us. We will find our true destiny, our life in Him. I was also baptized in the Jordan River, which meant so much to me. And to see our kids take in all the history, all the Biblical truths, was just amazing.”
Whether it’s the songs themselves or the seeds that sewed them, truth keeps popping up at every turn throughout this glorious batch of songs. In the end, it’s Keskeys hope they all lead to pleased ears, stirred souls, settled spirits, and ultimately, changed hearts.
“I would love someone who is not a believer to hear this album and have that truth revealed to them, or at least to lead them to open their heart to God,” she sums up. “It is the Holy Spirit that touches hearts. I feel strongly that so many of the problems we are facing in this culture is a denial of the truth that there is a God and He is good. And He has the answers we are all looking for. That when we look to Him, goodness will follow. I would also love to inspire listeners to stand strong in their faith, to stand for the truth, to rejoice in the freedom we have in Christ, to worship Him and glorify His name. To know He loves them, cares for them, is patient, kind and full of grace. And last, I hope it is an enjoyable experience to hear my songs.”
Updated bio written by a writer for a Christian music magazine.