It’s not a mystery that Steven Curtis Chapman — one of Christian music’s most loved artists — piques our interest. Almost always jean-clad, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter has won 47 Dove Awards and four GRAMMY Awards, yet he’s unassuming and kind. In fact, if you mention his fame, the Kentucky native will give you his shy smile and one of those “aw, shucks” looks. And while some of his lyrics (listen to “Fingerprints of God”) evoke divine emotions, some are just plain fun, such as the mention of Regis Philbin’s big hit TV show, “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” in the song, “Live Out Loud.”
Another fascinating facet of Chapman’s personality is that he is always changing and growing. He follows God down unexpected roads: adoption and contemplating a new career. In 2001, he lost his singing voice for three months to a vocal chord infection and trusted God to restore his voice or point him in a new career direction. And his daughter Emily’s prayers led his wife and him to adopt a baby girl, Shaohannah, from China in 2000. This year, Chapman returned to China to adopt another girl, Stevey Joy. The experience of adopting children has so affected Chapman that he and his wife have launched Shaohannah’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that assists Christian couples with adoption.
You, our readers, wanted to know how he successfully handles marriage, five children and a flourishing music career. Let’s find out.
1. We don’t know much about your family except that you love them very much. Can you give us more information about your family life such as children, pets and family pastimes? – J. Mark Stinson, Fairborn, Ohio
My wife, Mary Beth, and I have been married 19 years. We have five children: Emily, 17; Caleb, 14; Will Franklin, 12; Shaohannah, 4; and Stevey Joy, 11 months. We have two dogs, Gracen and Clemetine. They are Weimaraners. We have three cats: Thunder, Flannel and Copper. We had two fish, but they went to be with the Lord about a week ago. My boys are really into basketball and we spend a lot of time throughout the year going to their games and cheering them on. We spend a lot of time hanging out by the pool. We love to eat together. That’s one of the times we get around the table and tell the high point of our day and the low point of our day. We spend a lot of time at the lake during the summer. And my boys just started golfing, so I like to golf with them. We love being together.
2. How did you and Mary Beth receive God’s calling to adopt a little girl from China and start an adoption ministry? -Voni Jump, Kalispell, Mont.
As far as us being drawn into adoption, that was totally the prayers and the doing of our then 13-year-old daughter, Emily. She believed that God put on her heart that we were to adopt a little sister for her. And we fought it. Then God really began working on our hearts. That was the beginning of us moving toward adoption. Of course, at that point, we didn’t think about a ministry to help other families. That was birthed when we got home with Shaohannah. Within the first day that we got home with Shoey, people started saying, “We have thought about adoption, but it’s pretty expensive isn’t it?”
Immediately, my wife began to say, “Well, yes, it is. But how much do you need? Maybe we can help.” So we began to help friends and people around us, and it grew to people we didn’t know personally. We started doing it privately and through that, we realized the need is huge. We knew we would get more and more people saying, “We want to adopt, can you help us?” That was the birth of Shaohannah’s Hope.
3. We would like to adopt a child, but we don’t have the large financial resources it takes. Is there still a way this can be accomplished to give a loving home to one of Jesus’ precious ones? – Roger Kaiser, Salina, Kan.
Go to ShaohannahsHope.com. Shaohannah’s Hope (the Chapman’s adoption assistance organization) is there to help.
4. Besides the obvious joy of giving a child a home, what has been the most impacting lesson you have learned from the Lord through the experience of adoption? – Misty Lerch, Amarillo, Texas
I wrote the song “Speechless” before I ever adopted a daughter. I said in “Speechless” this scripture verse: “How great is the Father’s love that is lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God?” I understood that verse like I had been swimming in a pool. I understood that swimming was great and it was fun. Then, all of a sudden, I dove into the ocean where there is no bottom. I couldn’t see land anywhere. That’s the difference. Adoption gave me understanding of God’s love and grace because He adopted me into His family and into His heart. I understood it cerebrally, but it made that long journey from my head to my heart when I held a child we didn’t give birth to. There’s no real natural reason why I should love this child the way I do. I would have never have known this, short of stepping out into the adoption realm.
5. Are there other musicians in your family? – Anthony Cole, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Yes, Caleb is a songwriter and guitar player. I’m working with him, recording with him and encouraging him. Will Franklin is a very good drummer. He doesn’t even really work at it. He has a natural talent. Emily loves musical theater and choral music. She has played in the school production of “Hello, Dolly!” She likes to sing. I don’t know about the two little ones yet, but Shoey likes to sing all of the Disney princess songs. And I grew up in a musical home. My dad, Herb Sr., owns a music store. My dad wasn’t trained, but he has a great musical ear and taught guitar lessons and still does. My brother, Herb Jr., is a very talented musician. In fact, he used to sing backup on my early records. We grew up singing as a family in church — the typical daddy sings bass, momma sings tenor and me and little brother, join right in there. We were a singing family.
6. Can you briefly tell us how you raise your children? Do you have regular Bible study, reading and prayer time? – Dan Smith, Newbern, Tenn.
In the mornings — and this has become a sweet time for us — I will read from a selection of verses called “Daily Light,” by Anne Graham Lotz. I love it because it takes a theme and it’s scripture. I really enjoy doing that with them (the kids). This year, we have a family theme verse: We make it our goal to please God whether we are at home in the body or away from it. We remember that in the mornings. I will read scripture on most days, when we are able to do it. Then I pray with them. I go upstairs to the boys’ bedrooms and upstairs to Emily’s bedroom and pray with them every night that I am home.
7. How do you stay connected with your children when you are away from home so often? – Molly Di Fede, San Diego, Calif.
I have been very blessed in the past few years not having to travel, or having chosen not to travel, as much as I could have. In the early years, I was on the road 200 plus days a year. Then Emily came along. By the time Caleb came along, I was adjusting my schedule to where I did a set number of concerts each year. I will be gone no more than 100 times a year. If I’m out of the country, I might be gone for two weeks at the most. But if I’m at home on tour, I go home every four days. I limit tours to a few months. I stay in touch with my kids. I have done many a proofreading on school papers on the bus at 2 or 3 a.m. My wife will fax the papers to me and say, “Look, I am maxed out. I can’t do this one.” So I will read through it and make notes. I help with school projects from the road. I am thankful for cell phones, faxes and e-mail. It has made what I do that much easier.
8. Aside from salvation, what would you like to instill in your children? – Vincent Guillory, Baton Rouge, La.
You could say this falls under salvation, but I think this is, in many ways, separate. I would like them to make it a daily goal to please God. To live life to please God, not man and not their peers. That’s the goal that I really try to instill in them because if they make that their goal now, it will affect how they play basketball, conduct themselves when they are at a friend’s house, when they go on the Internet and decide what to look at or when they watch a movie. It’s a little bit of the “What Would Jesus Do?” It really is saying, “Let’s lives our lives, speak our words, think our thoughts and choose actions that will be pleasing to God.”
9. Where do you put all those Dove Awards? – Lynette Jalufka, Canyon, Texas
Up until a few years ago, they were scattered about the house. About three or four years ago, my wife finished a room down in our basement. She turned it into a library while I was on tour. That was a gift for my birthday and all my books are in there. And there is just enough room on the top ledge for my awards. They are very inconspicuous, if you’re looking for them.
10. Who or what led you to give your life to God? – Kathryn Burgess, Mapleton, Iowa
It was my parents and my older brother. But the two men who were probably most instrumental in that was the pastor in the church where I grew up, David McMichael, and a dentist named Findley Baird. On Sundays, my mom would drag my brother and me to church because we were in the buckle of the Bible belt, and that’s what you do. My parents had both made professions of faith when they were kids and had just left it at that. Dad slept in Sunday mornings and my mom would take us to church. One week, they announced they were going to have a laymen’s revival. A group of men and women would spend a week at the church telling their testimonies. My mom convinced my dad to let one of those men stay in our home. Findley Baird, the dentist from Louisville, Ky., stayed with us for about three nights. He was one of the most gentle, sweet men that my dad had ever encountered. His faith was so real; his love for Jesus was so evident in his life that it was contagious. Even though my dad was not interested in those kinds of things, by the end of the week, my mom, dad and older brother had made commitments to Christ. I began to see change take place in their lives. By the time I was eight, I had asked a lot of questions and had just watched what had taken place. So, David McMichael, the pastor who walked my mom and dad through all of this, would come by every Sunday morning and knock on the window and tell my dad to get out of bed and come to church when dad was still sleeping in. So, he was one of these really tenacious, Southern Baptist preachers who just wouldn’t leave you alone. He ended up baptizing my brother and me and walking with my mom and dad and mentoring my whole family through this. I committed my life when I was eight.
11. What has it taken to make your marriage the blessing and joy it has been? – Dyann Duncan, Savannah, Mo.
It has taken large doses of prayer, steely determination and commitment. The two big things are prayer and showing up. God says our part is to keep showing up no matter how we feel. We began like so many other young couples. We had so much love; we were so alike. There couldn’t have been two people more in love. We were hit immediately in the face with the realities of life. We were young and we had a baby within 17 months of getting married. Mary Beth was 20 and I was 22. We were just kids and we had a baby. A fire destroyed our apartment five weeks after Emily was born. Life threw everything at us; we were rocked on our heels. And come to find out, Mary Beth is very opinionated and strong-headed and we’re both control freaks. We immediately realized that it was going to be tough. And then my parents divorced after almost 30 years of marriage. That pulled the rug out from under us. So, our marriage has been incredibly more difficult than I ever imagined and so much more wonderful and rewarding than I ever imagined. It has been God’s faithfulness and our strong-headedness and determination not to give up.
12. Have you ever regretted your decision to get involved with Christian music? – Laura Gacea, Pittsburg, Calif.
Never. Obviously there have been moments where it has been tough. There have been times when I thought I might have to give it up, in some sense, to keep my family strong and intact. Even at those times there was no regret. I was just asking, “God, are You changing our direction now?”
13. What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time? – Stephanie Johnson, Tempe, Ariz.
I love to fish. I have a Harley and my wife and I love to ride. We go with Geoff Moore and his wife, Jan. This was before we had babies. We really don’t ride very much anymore. But this is the truth: I would rather do things in my spare time with my family than with anyone. I would like to go golfing or fishing with my boys or we hunt on occasion. I like to spend time with Mary Beth. I really enjoy my family.
14. In the Christian life, God asks us to prioritize: God, spouse, family, work and you at the bottom of the list. With your hectic schedule how do you keep your priorities in order? – Mindy LaCasse, Phoenix, Ariz.
I surround myself with godly people who I believe will speak truth to me and give me godly counsel, and marriage counseling in the seasons we need it. And my wife is an incredible gift from God because if she thinks things are getting out of balance, she can get loud if she needs to get my attention. I know that’s part of God’s great plan for my life: having a wife who won’t settle for the crumbs. She will say, “Wait a minute. You said this was a priority. You said it in front of a lot of people and it doesn’t feel that way to me right now.” Having that accountability is important — ultimately being accountable to God and to His Word.
15. If God told you it was your time to quit singing, would you? Would you be upset with Him? – Ashley Edwards, Hope, Ind.
I thought He did two years ago when I lost my voice completely for about three months. I didn’t lose my speaking voice, which was the weird part. I thought maybe God was saying, “I’m done with you.” This is the prayer of my heart: “God, You put me in this thing and You can take me out.”
16. Can you express your thoughts about trusting God and waiting on Him when you couldn’t sing (when you lost your voice)? – Ryan Wymore, Idaho Falls, Idaho
My family and I would talk often about going to work at an orphanage in China, or maybe doing something else that crazy. At that time, I thought maybe that was what God’s message was, and I prayed long and hard. I had lost my singing voice. I had a paralyzed vocal chord. It was a time of saying, “God this is the surgery of my heart. You’re really cutting away from me.” I have always said my voice, my performance and my songs aren’t my identity. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to have to live the reality of it. I prayed, but until I was there, I didn’t know how I would handle it. It was really sad and heartbreaking and frustrating, but I can honestly say that I was prepared to give it to God and say, “God if this is really time to make a change then to You be the glory. You have used me and allowed me to be a part of it (Christian music) for this long and You obviously have something else.” God is never done with us. He doesn’t sweep us aside. He just moves us on to something else. If it’s His will, there is no other place you would want to be anyway.
17. If you could no longer be a Christian music artist, what would you do and why? – Kathy Erickson, Beatrice, Neb.
I have often thought that if I weren’t performing, writing or singing, I would love to be involved in producing and writing for other people. At this point, if God took me in a different direction where music wasn’t a part of my life at all, I think I would be involved in orphan ministry because of the passion that Mary Beth and I have developed. We would probably turn to missions connected with adoption, connected with orphans, connected with China.
18. What is the greatest revelation that God has shown you? How has it affected your life? – Pam Simmons, Vidalia, Ohio
There is really nothing I can do to make God love me any less, and nothing I can do to make Him love me more. That is really grace: His unconditional love and righteousness through faith, not works. That revelation didn’t come overnight, but through years of understanding the grace of God.
19. How has life after fame affected your relationship with Jesus? – Rebekah Speight, Sioux City, Iowa
Scripture says a man is tested by what he receives. I think that’s from Proverbs. I have experienced the testing of praise by others and of excess in my field. Yet, again, God has revealed so much to me through that. I am not the point and that it is a gift. Every breath that I take is a gift. Why would I think that any song I write or any performance I give or any great idea I come up with creatively is anything but His? He is the Creator. I have just been invited into that. All of the aspects of fame have brought me to a greater realization of that. I have wrestled with fame. People look up to you. You are in a role of leadership. Through that, God has shown me to be very responsible. I think Paul said it best in scripture, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” If I have any fame, then I have to follow Christ more diligently, more passionately. If people are going to follow me or watch what I do, I want them to see Christ through the way I’m living.
20. What is your funniest memory from the performances you have given? – Bethany Wheatcraft, Somerville, Mass.
I was at a concert in Rochester, N.Y. It was eight years ago on the “Heaven In the Real World” tour. I had one of those moments where I would jump off the stage and try to be cool, be a rock star for about 30 seconds. I would always jump off the riser onto the stage at the first level. Because I had to clear about five steps that led up the riser, I had to jump out. That required some time to slow myself down because I had some forward momentum going. That particular night, the stage was smaller and shallower. In mid-air I realized I didn’t have enough steps at the end of the stage to slow me down. It was probably a 6-foot stage. I thought, “This is not going to be pretty. There are people right in the front row.” I had a guitar on and I didn’t want to impale anyone. So, I flipped myself around and landed in the laps of these people. I looked up at them and waved and they looked at me. They have been great fans ever since. Every time I come, they bring targets and sit in the front row, like “land here.” They have a good time with it.
21. What is your favorite sound in the world? – Elizabeth Kirlin, Hampden, Maine
Hearing Shoey say, “I love you daddy.” She’ll say, “Hey dad. Hey dad. Daddy. Dad!” to get my attention. Then she says, “I love you.” She has the sweetest little voice, this little raspy voice like that character in Peanuts. I think it’s Peppermint Patty. She always sounds like she’s a little bit hoarse. She has the cutest little voice when she says it. It melts your heart.
22. What is a typical date night for you and Mary Beth? – Wendy Miller, Bartlett, Tenn.
Usually to call Geoff and Jan Moore and say, “Let’s meet at one of our three favorite Mexican restaurants.” We will sit and chow down on chips and salsa. That’s a great date night because we sit and talk and tell stories. And then, if we’re not too worn out from childrearing we might actually take in a movie or something.
23. At the end of your days on Earth, what would be the best thing anyone could say about you? What is your legacy? – Bria Blessing, Memphis, Tenn.
It really would be to have my children stand and say, “You know, my dad was not perfect, but he loved God passionately, he loved our mom passionately and he loved us. And we knew we were a big deal to him. We knew we were important in his life.” It would also be to have my wife stand and say, “I was pursued by this man, loved by this man. Imperfectly, yes, but I knew that his heart’s desire was to love me as Christ loved the church and to honor me and love our kids because he had a love for God.”
Copyright © 2004 Christian Music Planet
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