Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Between Heaven & the Real World, by Steven Curtis Chapman, with Ken Abraham

When you admire a songwriter, you get both excited and apprehensive when you see their name on a book cover. You want to hear what they have to say, but can their style successfully make the leap from 3 minutes to 300 pages?

In the hands of a master storyteller like Steven Curtis Chapman, the answer is a resounding "yes!"

I've long been a fan of Steven's writing, and this book was an absolute pleasure to read. I actually read it while we were on our recent East Coast Tour. I devoured pages in hotel rooms, on ferries, and even in the midst of a freak snowstorm on the May 24th long weekend. Reading about Steven's start in the music business and his approach to songwriting seemed all the more powerful in the midst of our own music making.

But I knew the real story was coming.

In 2008, Steven and Mary Beth Chapman faced a parent's worst nightmare when one of their children accidentally caused the death of one of their other children. We were living in Nashville when this happened, and the whole city reeled from the shock of the tragedy. It was like it happened to a family member. Steven's music had blessed so many of us, and in that season, we all mourned for this beautiful family.

I can't imagine the strength it took to put these particular chapters into print, both for Steven and for the whole family. He tells the story with raw emotion and absolute transparency. I wept through these pages, reliving my own experiences with grief, and marvelling at this story of grace and forgiveness.

There are so many who will enjoy and value this book. It's for fans of Steven Curtis Chapman's music. It's for those who love autobiographies, and for those with an interest in songwriting and the music business. It's a story about falling in love, and building that love into a family. But it's also a testimony about facing the unimaginable, wrestling with the pain, and finding God in the midst of it all.

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. Viewpoints are all my own.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Happened After The Crucifixion, and Why Does It Matter?

Yesterday, Gerald and I led the annual St. Catharines Good Friday Walk. Hundreds of people followed a large wooden cross down the street. At each of the six downtown churches, the minister read a piece of the Good Friday story from Luke. I gave a reflection, and we shared a song. 
It was an honour to lead our city in this beautiful event.

Today, I'm posting my final reflection of the walk: 

What happened after the crucifixion, and why does it matter?

The crowd gathers at our final stop on the annual St. Catharines Good Friday Walk...

What a change from just a few days ago, when Jesus entered Jerusalem to praises of "Hosanna." 
In just a few short hours: an arrest. A public trial. Flogging. A crucifixion. 
And now, Jesus is laid in a tomb. 

I often think about that time right after the crucifixion. How his friends and followers must have felt. How they gathered and what they talked about. How much they must have cried and just been shocked. Jesus had spoken about his death, but how much had they really understood, and how did it line up with the horrors they had just experienced? 

I can only imagine the flood of emotions they must have felt - 
grief, anger, fear, shock, disbelief, and maybe even betrayal. 
They had given up everything for this cause. 
They had left their families and their livelihoods. They’d trusted in Jesus. 
How could he bring them to this?

And haven’t we been there? Those moments of shock and despair and grief. Those moments when we turn to God and say, “Where are you? How can you allow this to happen? Why won’t you stop it? I trusted you. Why aren’t you here for me?”

But remember, it's only Friday. Sunday is coming...

God is still at work. On a supernatural level, he is still at work. 

It was true that first Good Friday. And it’s true today.

God is still at work. Fighting battles we cannot see or understand. He knows your pain, and cares about everything you’re going through. He will walk with you through it all. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will be your rock, your salvation, your peace. He never sleeps. He is relentlessly working all things together for the good of those who love him. 

And we can see all of this, at the foot of the cross.

Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Take heart.

Sunday is coming...