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Monday, July 31, 2017

"Between Heaven and the Real World" (Steven Curtis Chapman)

TITLE: Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story
AUTHOR: Steven Curtis Chapman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017, (448 pages).

He is a musician who had won five grammy awards, 58 Dove awards, and multiple awards in the music industry. Some of them include hits like Cinderella, My Redeemer is Faithful and True, Glorious Unfolding, One True God, For the Sake of the Call, and many more. He writes songs of hope in the midst of pain; comfort in the midst of sorrow; and inspiration in an emotionally deficit world. Married to Mary Beth, author of a very moving testimony of faith in the midst of tragedy, he has experienced like many of us, the highs and lows of life. Like the gripping roller-coaster rides he experienced with his brother at a young age, this soon became a realistic portrayal of his own life.

He has many highlights like how he fell in love with his wife who stole his heart; how he gained success as a musician, having sold many bestselling albums and singles. He gives readers an insight into his own upbringing and spiritual revival when at a young age. His involvement in Church opens up opportunities for him to grow his musical skills and performance talents. Music quickly became his forte even though he did try his hand at baseball. He soon found his voice in songwriting, something that has been affirmed through his awards and accolades. Apart from his family story, a large part of the book is devoted to detailing his musical background and events. This is necessary because all (if not most) of his songs are related to what happens in his life. He seeks to encourage listeners in his first album "First Hand." His second album, "Real Life Conversations" flow out of his spiritual life. His song, "I Will Be Here" about tight-knitted love in marriage was tested quite quickly in his own marriage. Several albums were soon released with each having singles hitting the charts. One of the amusing parts was the time in which he tried to celebrate his anniversary by hiring a limo service. Little did he realize that the cheapest one also happened to be a pornmobile! He talks about his spiritual commitment to preserve his virginity until marriage. Both Mary Beth and Steven were committed to Scriptures and to the biblical faith. The story of five American missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador inspired in part, "For the Sake of the Call" and "My Redeemer is Faithful and True."

His low points contain episodes about his parents' rocky marriage; his taste of discipline from his strict dad; his struggle with marital tensions surrounding his frequent concert tours, and dealing with sky-high expectations from believers about him and Mary Beth being the perfect couple. Then there was the clinical depression episode. One of the most joyous moments was the adoption of three girls, spurred in part by their daughter Emily's desire to have a sister. They adopted Shaohannah, Stevey Joy, and Maria Sue. The song "Cinderella" was inspired during the times in which the girls dress themselves up like Cinderella. It was a celebration of joy and love. The song hit the charts. The family faced tragedy in a fatal accident when one of their boys hit Maria with their family SUV. It must have been a painful experience for him to recall the incident. More of their story about Maria's death can be read from "Choosing to See."

The title of the book is apt because it describes precisely the author's life about the emotional ups and downs happening in the family, just like the roller coaster metaphor. The public usually get to see the successes and the fame of the artist, the songs, and the performer in Chapman. Through this book, we get to see a very private and personal part of him. He makes us identify with him as ordinary persons seeking to present the best witness with our own lives. Readers could detect the swings of highlights and low points. While many listeners love to just enjoy the melody and cherish the words of the music, the songs flow out of the author's own life experiences, that are both joyful and hopeful, but also painful. Like the biblical psalmists who express their appreciation and need for God in psalms, Chapman expresses his life experiences and faith in his songs. This book takes us deeper into the songwriter who had given us hit after hit of beautiful, melodious, and insightful songs about life, about faith, about God, and about the cost of discipleship. Even though it is simply a "story" of his life, I feel that readers through this book will know that success often has a heavy price to pay.

The book is honest and revealing. It shows us about a man who had to fight the tough realities of life and yet remained fully devoted to God. This is a consistent thread throughout the book. Many things could have gone wrong, but in the telling of the story of his life, he is adamantly convinced that God had carried him and his family all along. If you love the songs of Steven Chapman, read this book to understand the contexts of the songs that hit the charts. If you are grappling with personal struggles, this book is a testimony of a man whose faith kept him going. If you do not know Steven Chapman at all, perhaps, this book will be a grand introduction to the Chapman's way of life and power of music. Perhaps, you will be turned into a fan of his music.

Great stuff!

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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