More to this Life
- Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Granted, most of us have introspective moments when we stop and take a look at what we’re doing with our lives. How are we using our gifts? Are we investing in eternal things? Are we acting from the right motivations? Is it time for a change? Has Elvis left the building? That process of re-evaluation is a natural part of maturity, and even more so, of discipleship for believers.
But most of us don’t have a record of, say, nine million albums sold (That’s not a misprint.), 47 Doves and four consecutive GRAMMY Awards won and 41 No. 1 singles notched at radio. Do those statistics really leave any room for doubt? Apparently so.
“Every album, every creative season it gets more intense,” Steven Curtis Chapman says, reflecting on the genesis of his 14th studio project, "All Things New" (Sparrow). “It’s this process of trying to get to a place where I can hear one voice above all the others — that being the voice of God’s Spirit. Three years ago I lost my voice for about three months with paralyzed vocal cords. I didn’t know if I’d ever sing again. That gave me even more of a sense of, ‘God, I don’t ever want to do this just because the calendar says it’s time to do another record and the record company says it’s time to do another record.’
“I’ve always prayed, ‘If this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing anymore, please make that real clear ‘cause I’m a slow learner; and I’ve got a hard head. So every time this cycle comes around, it’s been real important for me to take some time and say, ‘OK, God, first of all I’m assuming this is still what You want me to be doing; but if it’s not, show me that.’”
Chapman’s willingness to repeatedly assess the direction of his life and vocation rather than make the assumption that “material success plus popularity equals God’s approval” has lent a certain gravity to his work over the last several years … which is to say that if he wasn’t convinced God was still giving him a platform and things to say from it, he’d hang it up tomorrow and move on to something else. But, so far, each time he’s considered whether or not to make that next record, he’s found something he still felt compelled to say. And the best way he knows how to say it is still through tightly crafted, three-and-a-half-minute pop gems.
The current project is no exception. While it flips a few things around musically for Chapman (more about that later), lyrically, "All Things New" revolves around the central theme of God’s promise and commitment to renew all creation. Chapman approaches the weighty subject head-on in several tracks. But he also explores the minutia of the way that overarching theme plays out in the context of his own increasingly busy life and family in songs such as “I Believe in You” (written for his daughter Emily’s high school graduation) and “What Now” (a song about encountering Jesus through service to orphans).
“I’ve never been more compelled and never been more inspired,” Steven says. “I’ve never been more sure that God has given me things to say, and I’m not having to guess. I can’t stop wanting to communicate these things. But I’ve also never been more exhausted. I’m 41 years old, I’ve got six kids, and two of them are under the age of 4. Since the last record we’ve adopted two new daughters from China, and then here’s Emily [the Chapman’s oldest daughter] getting ready to head to college. I’m not sure how to live with it yet.”
In addition to the changes in Steven’s own life, a major influence in the writing of "All Things New" was John Piper’s recent book "Don’t Waste Your Life" (Crossway). Steven picked the book up before a flight to Seattle; and, by the time he touched down, he had not only read the book but had eight song ideas inspired by Piper’s teaching. Several of those ideas eventually made it to vinyl, so to speak.
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