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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sudden And Tragic Death Of 5-Year Old Maria Chapman A Reminder Of The Fragility Of Life


Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman with Maria

It's seems like light years ago now, but before my livin' la vida low-carb days I used to be actively involved in the Christian music industry in the 1990's. While I was attending graduate school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA beginning in 1993 at the age of 21, I was privileged to be able to meet and know quite a few of the most famous singers and performers in contemporary Christian music thanks in part to my gig as a radio disc jockey and later as the music buyer for a major Christian retail chain.

Because I absolutely fell in love with Christian music while still attending The University of Tennessee at Martin from 1989-1992, I was thrilled to have the chance to work at a Christian radio station on Virginia Beach Boulevard called WODC 88.5FM The Lighthouse (the station changed the call letters to WJLZ The Current in 2003 when it updated to become a more progressive Christian music station) where I hosted my own weekly countdown show called "The Christian Hits Countdown." Featuring the latest top 20 songs in contemporary Christian music, I became well acquainted with the biggest and the best artists producing the songs that inspired and uplifted people of faith.

Additionally, I started out working part-time at Christmas while still pursuing my Master's degree in the mid-1990's at a pretty major regional Christian bookstore chain in Virginia called Heaven & Earth and eventually worked my way up to my store's music expert then manager and then music buyer and marketing manager for the entire chain of 16 stores. It was a very cool job to have (didn't pay much, but the fringe benefits were VERY nice!).

One of those benefits included meeting the top artists in the world of Christian music. And if you think Christian music is just a bunch of boring hymns and sappy twangy ballads, then you don't know what you've been missing. The rise of contemporary Christian music in the early 1990's brought us some truly amazing artists with a heart for God and reaching the younger generation with music that appeals to them. The biggest names included dc Talk, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, The Newsboys, Jars of Clay, and so many more I could just keep naming. But one man stood above the rest when it came to excellence in creating engaging Christian music--Steven Curtis Chapman.


Here's an old photo of (fat) me and SCC in the late 1990's

What a true godsend this multi-Dove Award (the Christian Grammy award) winning artist has been in my own life encouraging me with such stirring songs as "The Great Adventure," "His Strength Is Perfect," "Dive," "Signs of Life," "Speechless," "Let Us Pray"...the list just goes on and on. Steven is the most highly-decorated and honored Christian music ambassador there is. Every time I have met him over the years, the immediate thing you notice is his humility. He does what he does because he has a Savior who loves him and was willing to die on a cross for his sins. That act of selfless love is what drives Steven Curtis Chapman to share his talents with those who are lost and dying and don't even know it as well as bring believers closer to God.

When the infamous Columbine shootings happened in April 1999, I was in Nashville, Tennessee for Gospel Music Association week where Steven was scheduled to attend to promote his new album entitled Speechless. But as soon as he heard about this tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, Steven canceled his promo tour with the Christian music industry to offer words of comfort and solace for the families of the victims singing a song he was inspired to write for them called "With Hope." That's just the kind of person Steven Curtis Chapman is and he has always been there to offer the peace that passes all understanding for grieving victims of life's circumstances.

That's why it pains me today to report that Steven's 5-year old adopted daughter from China was killed yesterday when her older brother accidentally backed into her with the family SUV. Steven and his wife Mary Beth have three biological children as well as three adopted children from China. They are so committed to providing solid loving homes for orphans in China that they set up an adoption assistance organization called Shaohannah's Hope, named after the Chapman's oldest adopted daughter. The news of Maria's sudden and tragic death is stunning and a reminder of the fragility of life.

You can see how much Steven loved Maria in this YouTube video he posted last month while washing the dishes with his beloved daughter:



Ironically, Steven's latest release to Christian radio is a song called "Cinderella" which he wrote for his two little ones, Maria and Stevey Joy. Here's the music video and story behind the song that will break your heart in light of their great loss this week:



Here are the lyrics to "Cinderella" which somehow take on even more meaning now than Steven probably ever thought they would:

She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you

There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...

She says he's a nice guy and I'd be impressed
She wants to know if I approve of the dress
She says, "Dad, the prom is just one week away
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone

She will be gone

Well, she came home today with a ring on her hand
Just glowing and telling us all they had planned
She says, "Dad, the wedding's still six months away
But I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone



Rest in peace Maria Sue Chapman (2003-2008)

Today, Maria Sue Chapman may be gone, but she's dancing with Jesus in heaven. Remember the Chapman family in your prayers during this very difficult time as they try to make sense of all that has happened. A tribute blog in memory of Maria has been set up to communicate messages of love and support for the Chapman family as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death with one of their children. You can send cards of condolences to Steven Curtis Chapman and his family by writing to P.O. Box 150156 Nashville, TN 37215. They are requesting in lieu of flowers that any gifts be directed to the Shaohannah's Hope web site or by sending in your check directly to Shaohannah's Hope, c/o Maria's Miracle Fund, P.O. Box 647, Franklin TN, 37065.

Steven, hold strong to your faith, trust God's eternal wisdom for what has happened, and continue living your life as the amazing testimony you are for the glory of the God Almighty who gave you the privilege of having Maria in your life. We love you and will remember you in our prayers during this difficult time. God bless The Chapmans!

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7 Comments:

Blogger RightOnPeachtree said...

I was so sad to hear about this. He has always been one of my favorite singers and he seems like a genuinely nice guy.

5/22/2008 9:16 PM  
Blogger swatkins said...

This is one very sad story, our local news teams have been covering the tragedy and telling the story of adoption and how this family came to be, they had so much love to share. It certainly will be a difficult time for them. I know her time with them was short, but she will definitely not be forgotten too quickly. The Chapman family has our prayers and condolences. Shari and Alvin

5/23/2008 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about this, Jimmy. I keep thinking about his family and praying for them. There's another beautiful tribute to Maria here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0upiGvnwSRA

5/24/2008 4:27 AM  
Blogger quotidianlight said...

OMG, That is tragic on so many levels. Not only is it a huge loss but I cannot imagine the hole and guilt the older boy is going to be working through over the next few years. The family seems very strong and loving so I know they will come through this but, it's just heartbreaking.

5/24/2008 5:22 AM  
Blogger David said...

This is such a horrible tragedy...my heart and my prayers go out to the entire Chapman family.

Unfortunately, kids are killed this way on average more than 225 times A YEAR. Safe Kids USA, the kids charity, has lifesaving tips for parents here:

http://www.usa.safekids.org/skbu/cars/spotthetot.html

5/24/2008 1:45 PM  
Blogger Nancy Ellyn said...

I was so sad to hear of this tragedy. I love Steven Curtis Chapman and his music. Prayers and thoughts going up. Thanks for blogging about this.

5/25/2008 5:52 PM  
Blogger Nancy Ellyn said...

I was so sad to hear of this tragedy. I love Steven Curtis Chapman and his music. Prayers and thoughts going up. Thanks for blogging about this.

5/25/2008 5:52 PM  

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