Question of the Week: Kenna Turner West
For this week’s question of the week, I caught up with songwriter Kenna Turner West, co-author of Lauren Talley’s new radio single “The Extra Mile.” I did a feature interview with her here, but wanted to catch up about the new song. (You can play the song in the sidebar on Lauren’s site; more about Saturday’s event, named after the song, is here.)
Question: What inspired the song, The Extra Mile?
Answer: I remember the day that song was written. I was in a co-write with Barry Weeks and Tony Wood one afternoon, and Barry was noodling at the piano while we were getting ready to throw out songs ideas. What he was simply playing off the cuff felt to me like a perfect fit for an idea I had called “The Extra Mile.”
The hook was centered around Matthew 5:41 where Jesus addresses a law of the day that said a Roman soldier could force a person in subjugation to carry his armor or materials for one mile. And since Israel was under Roman rule, it was a common practice for the people to which Jesus was speaking. But He encouraged them, saying basically, “We are required to go one mile…but go two.” That kind of selflessness would create opportunities to demonstrate the Love of God that resided within them.
It’s the same with us today. For example, as Believers, we read in scripture that the tithe belongs to the Lord, and as cheerful givers, we bring it to the storehouse each Sunday. But we can choose to be “second milers” in our giving and also bring an offering. Not only that, we can BE an offering. It doesn’t have to be something epic. Instead of just holding the door at the store for an elderly person, we can do the inconvenient thing and carry their groceries to their car. That is the second mile—the extra mile. It’s going above and beyond what the moment requires for the opportunity to look like the One who resides within us and to bear fruit.
Tony and Barry liked the idea, and we decided to write several stories of people going the extra mile to help others. It wasn’t hard for me to come up with a suggestion for verse one. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans—when most of us were sending money, food and water, and teams from our churches to help rebuild communities—family members of mine near Jackson, Mississippi, went the second mile and opened up their home to a family that had lost everything in the storm. That measure of inconvenient Love had a tremendous impact on me, and Blaine and Janie’s inspirational “extra mile” became our first verse.
The rest of the writing session is a blur. If I remember correctly, while Barry and I worked on the melody of the chorus, Tony wrote most of verse two. And at the end of the day, it felt like we had written something quite special. When Lauren Talley heard the song, its message resonated in her heart. She told me at NQC a few months ago that what cinched it for her was the line about Love reaching to the “broken ones.” As an artist, she heard that lyric as the perfect follow up to their hit song, “The Broken Ones,” which was amazing to me because none of the songwriters made that connection.
I love the song, and Tony, Barry, and I are honored that Lauren would record it.
* * *
The Extra Mile
Kenna Turner West, Tony Wood, Barry Weeks
1. Two hundred miles away
A storm had just blown through
Before the sun came up the next day
The church was on the move
With so many hurting
Left with nothing of their own
That’s when people of the Lord
Opened up their homes
Love goes the extra mile
And gives itself away
It reaches to the broken ones
To help restore their faith
Till the lost are redeemed
Till every heart is reconciled
Love goes the extra mile
2. At a Wednesday night church meeting
A prayer request was made
For a husband and a wife whose vows
Were just about to break
And when they said amen that evening
The Spirit stirred some friends
To drive across that little town
And go to pray with them
It never plays it safe
It goes on unafraid
(Reprinted by permission)