Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Review | Between Heaven and the Real World

Last July, a post on Instagram caught my attention. Contemporary Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman was announcing a book coming out in March. I actually remember lying in bed when I saw it on my phone and I immediately went to Amazon and preordered it. I'm not big on buying actual books (Hello, library! Or Kindle!) and I certainly don't usually preorder anything. But this was different. No one else's music and ministry has impacted my faith and my life quite like Chapman's. I knew this was going to be a book I'd want to own.

So when this baby arrived in my mailbox on March 8th, I quickly finished the other book I was reading (I have a really hard being in the middle of more than one book at the same time...) so I could Dive in. (Emphasis and pun intended...). ;)

I seriously read this book so fast that I almost want to go read it again right now! But I lent it to my mom, so I guess I'll have to wait. :) I honestly have only amazing things to say about the book and I can't recommend it enough, so instead of walking you through the book and his life (you should really just read it yourself) I'll give a quick glimpse of how I've been impacted by his story.

I really have my mom to thank for the introduction to Chapman's music. His first album, First Hand, came out when I was seven years old and we owned it, as well as his next two, on vinyl. (I'd love to know where those ended up!) When I hear some of that early stuff, I am transported to a childhood in our house in North Minneapolis. (This was an era of a lot of vinyl--Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Twila Paris. I have amazing memories of Christian music in our house!)

My first Steven Curtis Chapman concert (of many) was in 1992 with his Great Adventure tour. My pre-teen self was in her glory! I was officially hooked on this singer-songwriter who could also put on a pretty cool live show. (In fact, he did a Live Adventure recording and video later that year and I remember watching it--on VHS, obvs--many, many times). :)

In 1994, Chapman released Heaven in the Real World. Of course there was an accompanying tour, and of course we went to the concert when it came to Minneapolis. I vividly remember sitting in the balcony of the Northrup Auditorium and bawling my eyes out when Chapman sang "Remember Your Chains." I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ as a young child, but if I had to pinpoint a time when my faith became my own and I really started to understand what Jesus was doing in my life, it was sitting in that dark auditorium wondering why on earth I was crying!

The albums kept coming every year or two, and each one held so much goodness. Through high school and college, although my taste in Christian music had changed over the years and some artists and come and gone, I still made sure to buy the latest Steven Curtis Chapman album when it came out. I remember getting All About Love when Dan and I been married for less than a year and loving all of these songs Chapman had written for his wife Mary Beth.

On May 21, 2008, Chapman's 5-year-old daughter Maria Sue (one of three daughters they had adopted from China) was accidentally hit by her big brother Will Franklin after she ran into the path of his SUV in their driveway. She died later at the hospital. I remember being so heartbroken seeing this on the news that night. The chapters in the book that tell of this event and the weeks and months of grief that followed are so beautiful and powerful. Chapman's next recording, Beauty Will Rise is full of songs that recount the grief, and hope amidst the grief, of losing their precious Maria.

Just a couple years later this album would prove to be extremely poignant and healing as we grieved our own losses. To see that someone could go through that kind of loss and still be able to point to the Lord was huge for me in my pain and grief. I held to the truth in the title song from that album:

Out of these ashes beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning

Just as Beauty Will Rise had spoken so deeply in our grief, Chapman's Glorious Unfolding spoke just as deeply in our healing. Every single song on that album rings so true to what we experienced and felt from God in the years that followed losing Hannah and Charlie. From the title track:

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

So grateful for a God who holds it all--the grief and pain, the healing and joy. And so grateful that He uses others and their stories and gifts to point us to the truth of who He is.

After finishing Chapman's book, I requested his wife Mary Beth's book from the library. It came a few days later and I devoured it in about a day and a half. I loved reading the same story from a mother's point of view. It was beautiful and hard and it brought so much of my grief to the surface again. So I have to give Mary Beth a shout-out for her beautiful book Choosing to See. Again, so much hope in the middle of the pain.

So there you have it. Go order yourself a copy of Between Heaven and the Real World and enjoy!

And stay tuned to the blog this week. Reading this book made me look back at so much of Chapman's old music (thank you, YouTube!) and it was SUCH a fun trip down memory lane. So each day I'm going to go through a few albums at a time, highlighting a song or two from each. It'll be fun. I promise. ;)
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

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