This week’s spotlight artist is a name that’s been around Christian music for longer than I’ve been a Christian. I had heard his name and probably some of his music before I started listening to Christian music.
With 20 albums under his belt, over 10 million albums sold, five Grammy awards and 58 GMA Dove Awards, seven for “Artist of the Year” and 10 RIAA-certified Gold or Platinum albums, Steven Curtis Chapman is one of the most awarded and prolific Christian artists of our time.
Born in Kentucky, he learned at an early age to play guitar from his Dad who was a guitar teacher. He started college as a pre-med student, but God had other plans for him. He dropped out after a few semesters and went to Nashville to pursue a music career.
In 1987, Chapman released his first album, First Hand. The album included the song Weak Days, which peaked at No. 2 on the Contemporary Christian Music chart.
A year later, he came out with his second album, Real Life Conversations, including the No. 1 song His Eyes. The song, which was co-written by James Isaac Elliott, earned GMA’s Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year award in 1989. He also won a GMA Award for Best Songwriter of the Year.
But the eyes that saw hope in the hopeless,
That saw through the fault to the need,
Are the same eyes that look down from heaven
Into the deepest part of you and me…
Steven is as many Christians, not removed from personal tragedies and trials, and as it often times does, moves artists to a more mature and deeper meaning in their work, and Chapman used his experiences not only in his music, but also his personal life.
Outspoken advocates for adoption awareness, Steven and his wife Mary Beth have been involved in caring for orphans and promoting adoption since the 1990’s and founded the organization Show Hope.
Steven also became involved in youth violence prevention efforts following the 1997 Heath High School shooting at his old school in West Paducah, Kentucky. Chapman dedicated the song, With Hope, from his 1999 album, Speechless, to the families who lost someone in the shooting, and he was asked to sing at the joint funeral held for the three victims. Chapman later gave a memorial concert and joined Chuck Colson (Prison Fellowship Founder) and others in creating a video designed to sensitize teenagers to the signs of serious violence planning among peers and to encourage them to report plans that are told to them.
The couple adopted three of their daughters from China, Shaohannah, Stevie Joy and Maria Sue after going on a mission trip to Haiti with their biological daughter Mary Beth in 1997. Mary Beth suggested the idea, which the Chapman’s denied at first.
Soon Steven and wife Mary Beth Chapman had six children overall, behind siblings Will Franklin, Caleb, Emily, Shaohannah, and Stevey Joy.
I remember hearing Steven’s name mentioned in the news when his daughter Maria Sue Chunxi was accidentally killed as she ran out to greet her older brother Will who had just pulled into the driveway. He didn’t see her and accidentally hit her with the car. She was pronounced dead at the hospital after EMT’s tried to save her on route.
The family demonstrated their faith, hope and love of God and each other during Maria’s memorial service. The Chapman family spoke publicly on numerous media outlets about their loss and the role that faith played in their healing. A year after Maria died, Chapman performed at a special concert at Pastor Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship. Pastor Greg had suffered the loss of his own son, Christopher, just months after Chapman’s loss. Chapman performed several songs from Beauty Will Rise, which was the album Chapman produced in his healing, dealing with Maria’s death and the aftermath.
But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
We have this hope…
God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door So right now...
In 2009, a year after Maria’s death, Show Hope finished building Maria’s Big House of Hope, a medical care center in China that provides holistic care to orphans with special needs. Maria’s Big House of Hope was dedicated in memory of Maria Sue.
The same year, Chapman and his wife received the Children’s Champion Award from the charitable organization Children’s Hunger Fund for their work with Show Hope.
In September 2011, Chapman and his wife were awarded the Congressional Angels in Adoption award by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) in Washington, D.C.
What I appreciate as I learn of Steven’s music is that the lyrics are real and while his style isn’t exactly the modern and more rockin’ type we appreciate a lot of, I do like his story telling folk style of some of his music.
One of my favorite songs I’ve posted here quite a bit is one that definitely gives hope through hurting times which is typical of his lyrics…
Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what i’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold...
Have a blessed Sunday all!