America's TWILA PARIS talks us through the tracks on her new album
"Love's Been Following You"
I had a visual image in my mind when I wrote this song, from a sermon my dad preached on Psalm 23. I remember it vividly, even though I was just a kid. The sermon was based on the verse that said, "Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." My dad designated personalities to "goodness" and "mercy" as if they were these two little guys that followed you around through your whole life. They were always helping you, getting you out of trouble and ministering to you when you were hurting. At the end of your life, when you finally walked into Heaven, there would be these two grimy, tattered, beat-up guys who'd been following you around all your life. He gave this image of them walking into Heaven and wiping their brows and saying, "Whew, that was a tough one, but we got him here!" That was such a great illustration. So many things my dad taught me keep popping up in my songs.
This is another song about endurance and also a song about encouragement. I was thinking about the fact that we human beings are so security-oriented. Whether it is conscious or not, we all need and want security in our lives. From the time we are born we are clinging to something. And like the song says, we will cling to anything. It's almost a desperate need. The point is, that's okay, we're supposed to do that. But we've got to be clinging to the right thing, which is the Lord and our relationship with him. We are so tenacious, we will literally hold on to a thread at the end of a rope. But when we are holding on to Jesus, that's when we are holding on to real hope. This song has become an anthem of hope in my own life.
"Band Of Survivors"
My dad is our pastor and the director for YWAM here in Arkansas. One night, he was speaking on 2 Kings 19:30-31, "Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." Challenging all of us to be a part of a "band of survivors", to endure and not to run away from the battle when the going gets tough. I think this is a temptation for all of us, in whatever we have been called to do. All of us go through difficult times. The easiest thing to do is turn and run away from whatever is causing the difficulty -whether it's our calling, a relationship, or a place -whatever it is; we think our life would be easier if we can just get out of it. In many cases, this place in our lives is not only what God has called us to: it's something he is using to develop character in our lives. Out of that will come the victory if we stay and fight, in the spiritual sense, as opposed to running away. One of the major themes on this album is the concept of endurance.
The lyrics to "Faithful Friend" were co-written with Steven Curtis Chapman. As we wrote it, what evolved is a statement about Christian fellowship in general. But on another level, it is a statement about how the audience might best think of and relate to Christian artists. The line about not putting someone on a pedestal encourages the listener to understand that we are human and it is important to pray for us. At the same time it's a statement from Steven and myself to one another, "I'll be a faithful friend," and also to the audience, "We'll be faithful friends to you." And though they shouldn't put us on a pedestal, they have a right to expect integrity and faithfulness and accountability from us. And we commit that to them. Originally, I wrote my part and played it for Steven and let him know he inspired the verse. I asked him if he would like to participate on writing and singing the song. I think his wife, Mary Beth, really lobbied behind the scenes to get him to do it. She kept saying, "Now, you have to remember to call Twila, you really need to do this."
"I Can See Jesus In You"
At YWAM we have a group called King's Kids, a group of kids between five and 18 who minister through music, drama, creative dance and sharing their testimony. A few months ago the King's Kids of YWAM Arkansas did a programme in our Sunday evening service. I was so moved by the look in their eyes, their passion for God and what he has called them to do. It took me back to a time when I was that age and getting my very first taste of ministry. It seems to me that there is a special energy and passion that young people have, something that us older ones have to remind ourselves of and get back to. As we get older we fight cynicism because we have been let down by people, even in Christian circles. This song is written for everyone, but especially for young people, encouraging them to be open to the Lord. Don't think, "I'm too young, God couldn't use me," because God does really powerful things and mighty things through the innocence and faith of young people.
"Honor And Praise"
I sometimes write songs in odd places, like when I'm in the shower. I guess that's because it's a private place where nothing else can intrude. The only problem is you end up taking these really long showers and people are saying, "Hey, what are you doing in there? You're using up all the hot water!" So it's not the most cost effective way to write songs, but this song I actually wrote in the shower when I was in a Nashville hotel. It's just a simple little song, as most praise songs are. But I'm really excited to see if people are able to take it and make it their own. I hope they can use it in private worship and maybe even corporately.
"I Am Not Afraid Anymore"
Without realising it consciously, we all have this little off-limits area in our lives. We say, "God, I'll do anything for you but that," or "Please don't allow this to happen because I couldn't be tested to that depth." Well, if God calls you to do something, or allows you to walk through something, he gives you the grace to get through it. How many times have I said that to other people? But deep down inside, I've done the same thing: "Please God, anything but that!" But perfect love does cast out fear. I have this picture in my mind of a place that is locked away. It's dusty and there are sheets covering the furniture and no one's been in there for a long time. Then God comes in and shines a light and cleans everything out and clears everything away. It's then that you realise that the very fact of being locked away like that is what causes the fear. The walls you hid behind had become your prison. When God shines his light on it you're not afraid anymore.
"What Did He Die For"
I was at a photo shoot in Toronto and we were shooting in a chapel at a Christian college. On the chapel wall they had engraved the names of the young men from their college who had died in World War I and World War II. It was so emotional for me that they were probably about 18 or 19 years old when they died for their country. They never lived out the rest of their lives. Later, while I was watching the footage of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, I was very moved by the fact that so many young men gave their lives for their country; and on some very real level, they gave their lives for me. They never knew me. They never knew I was going to be born. But all that would have happened in their lives never happened, so that I could live my life in freedom. As a Christian the thing your mind goes to immediately is that Jesus gave his life, died a horrible death, literally came to earth for that purpose. Just like some of those guys that went over there to Normandy, knowing they would never come back. What do I do that makes it worth those men having done that? What is it about my life that makes Christ's death worthwhile? We can't deserve it, but we must live our lives in appreciation of the great sacrifice that was made for us.
"House Of Cards"
This song is about directing our priorities. We are so busy and it's easy to get caught up with the day-to-day stuff. This song is a little reminder to step back and analyse, what am I actually building? I always think of the scripture, "Unless the Lord builds a house, they labour in vain who build it." so, what house am I actually building? Is it some sort of physical, temporal structure? Or am I really building something that is going to last for all eternity? Because of travelling so much, I've had times when I've been tempted to make my home, my literal house, too much of a priority. I still need to be reminded of those things.
"I Never Get Used To What You Do"
This song was inspired by a friend who made a dramatic turnaround in their relationship with the Lord. It hit me on a very emotional level. I thought, "Wow, it's so incredible what God does in people's lives!" I see it over and over and it blows me away every time. This is a song of gratitude to the Lord, and the bridge brings it home for me: "Every time I see your hand reach down/Another lonely child has just been found/Every day your mercy is brand new/And we would all be lost if not for you." Even though I was never out there living in blatant sin, I still would be lost without the Lord. Whether our sin is something everyone would say, "Oh, that's big-time sin," or simply pride and self-righteousness because of growing up as a preacher's kid, he's done a dramatic work in all our hearts and continues to do that daily. I never want to take it for granted.
"I Will Listen"
My husband and I were talking several years ago about the fact that dreams rarely come true in the form that you dream them. We tend to think of that as a bad thing. But as we get a little older we realise what is important is allowing God to guide our dreams in the right direction. Part of growing up as a Christian is allowing his dreams to be our dreams; his heart to be our heart. We have to learn how to go through these times, times that seem to be heart breaking, and release our dreams and desires to him in total trust. I think the important line in this song for me is, "This is where I stand until he moves me on." I'm not going to crash in and say, "Okay God, you had your chance, now I'm going to fix this." Instead, I'll patiently wait, no matter how long it takes, for him to reveal his plan, even in this difficult time. The title of the album comes from this song, as well as from "Love's Been Following You". I chose that title because it reflects endurance, faithfulness and making a choice to stand. It's also about what we stand on: grace and faith and the principles and foundations that Jesus Christ has given us. And it's about being open, regarding our frailties and vulnerabilities as a human on this planet, trying to follow the Lord.