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Interview with Steve Chapman about The Husband's Guide to Balancing Hobbies and Marriage and Christian Book Previews' editor, Debra Murphy

CBP: Can you share with us your Christian testimony?

Steve: Yes. I was raised in West Virginia by my folks, a pastor and his wife. I knew all about how to walk and talk like a Christian because I was raised in the atmosphere and the environment, but I didn't really know the man until about 1974. I knew about the man, but I didn't know the man. Until 1974, I finally said yes that I would seriously follow him. I was baptized on my death-aversary, which is what I call it, on March 3, 1974.

CBP: Tell us about your career, because you've done a lot of stuff.

Steve: Yes. Annie and I were counting that the other day, we've got over 24 CDs and almost that many books. What we do is kind of like Mexican food: it's five things fixed fifty ways. We say the same thing whether we're singing or talking or writing. Our theme is family.

CBP: Tell us some of the titles that you have.

Steve: In the book realm, the first book we wrote is Married Lovers, Married Friends. Then Annie and I wrote Gifts Your Kids Can't Break for Parents. Married Friends for Married Couples, that was our early work. When Harvest House came along, they noticed a book called A Look at Life from a Deer Stand that was self-published. We had done all we could with it. I saw that they had a heart for the outdoorsman, because they had a book called Promise on the Waters for fisherman. I thought, I wonder if they would include the hunter on this? And they did! So the outdoorsman, and Annie writes a lot for women. Her latest book is The Mother-in-Law Dance, can two women love the same man and still get along?

CBP: I love that. Tell us about your family.

Steve: This is the fun part! Annie is my wife of almost 31 years. We have two children, Nathan and Heidi, who are married, Nathan to Stephanie. They are in country music. She has Bonnie Raitt's latest single, thank you, may I brag? And Nathan produces country music here in Nashville. Our daughter Heidi, and her husband Emmett, have done something very important: they've given us a grandbaby. We're grandparents for the first time. And Annie is "Granny Annie." Lilly Anne.

CBP: Something that you're very passionate about -- your hobbies.

Steve: Yes. I am an avid, rabid hunter. Actually, fishing, hunting, I even like mowing the yard. I just love being in the outdoors.

CBP: What is it about it?

Steve: Well, as a hunter we go for the harvest of meat. That's why I hunt. I'm not a rack hunter. I don't shoot just because they have big racks. Or harvest them, I should say. We love venison, it's a very good source of meat. But more importantly, it's the harvest of truth that can be found. Romans 1:20, "God's invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, being clearly seen through what has been made." That's one thing I like to do is to be out and learn things about my character, how God can improve me. There's an old adage that says, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll sit in a boat all day and drink beer with his friends." (laughing)

CBP: I have a friend who seems to think it's about the outdoors, but we seem to think it's a little bit about getting out of the honey-do list.

Steve: Oh, well I can help him. My greatest trophy, as a hunter, does not have fur or antlers. My greatest trophy is that my wife does not hate what I like to do.

CBP: What led you to write this book?

Steve: Debra, when I leave the house to go hunting, and I hear my wife say, "Have fun," I know I'm doing it right. I hear that all the time. And I'm doing something right, and I desperately want other men to be able to enjoy their hobby, but do it guilt-free. By learning how to balance the spending between what they like to do and the family funds. Not to overdo it. I don't suggest that men stop doing what they like to do, it's just that they can do it so that it does not lose their wife's favor. They don't have to leave the house guilty. They can hear those words, "Have fun."

CBP: You knew that you were doing it right, and you knew that others were suffering. What do you hear from other husbands and wives?

Steve: What do I hear? Let's take the money issue. Men have a tendency to buy big toys. They think that somehow women don't notice, or they ignore that the women have feelings about whether or not they're fair with money. I have hunter friends whose marriages are in jeopardy because of how much they spend, not only money, but time. The first chapter in the book is called "The Quick Fix." It's not the most important thing to do, to regain and keep his wife's favor, but it will get the quickest result. What I do, I tell him, price tag double. When he sees an item on the shelf that he can't live without, then he knows if he's going to spend $50 on something, that his wife will get $50 in cash. It's equal spending.

I'm at a point now where I don't have to give her cash. I just say, "I got something. It's your turn." I don't recommend this price-tag doubling for things like boats and motorcycles, the bigger things. I'm talking about the small things. The everyday sort of things.

CBP: What stage of marriage do you think this is handy for?

Steve: It's especially applicable to men who are in their midlife time. Because, in the beginning they are consumed, the love-affair is very strong. Then their exploits, their challenges, become outside the home. Where they feed their egos in ways like how big can the deer be, how long is that boat, you know, those kind of things. And when they start to lose focus, that's when they need to be drawn back in to focusing on what's really important.

CBP: What is the whole hobby thing about?

Steve: It's the challenge. Sometimes it's the solitude. Sometimes a man has a job that is so mundane that it's where he pours his passion into it because it confirms him. It's what feeds his ego. I had one friend that took to the bicycle because it became a challenge. He found that he was talented in it. Well, his wife laughed at him. Laughed at the way he looked when he rode. It became such a sad situation, they ended up getting a divorce because he found someone who rode with him. Affirmed him. There's something in a man that wants a challenge.

CBP: What value does your hobby add to your life?

Steve: Kids, for example, they took to my love of the outdoors and they shared. It did two things: it gave me time with them and it gave Annie time alone. A woman needs that. You gotta give your wife a break before she breaks.

CBP: You said that you found more about yourself, too. What recurring theme do you see in your books?

Steve: If you were to ask Annie and me what passage we land on as a married couple, it's Philippians 2. Basically, it's having the mind of Christ, and seeing others' needs more important than your own. The Scripture doesn't imply that our personal needs are not important. That's not what it says at all. It just says to try and see the others' needs as more important. That's the underlying theme of this book--to stop, be reminded that the other person has needs, too. And Philippians 2 is our marriage passage, being of the same mind, and the same spirit, being united in spirit, living that way as a couple. It's not easy to do in the face of all that's available to do.

CBP: What I saw in there is that you guys have a style of communication that you can teach through your storytelling.

Steve: Well, we're storytellers, we know. That's the way Jesus taught, and we like to do that, too.

CBP: How did you develop this understanding of communication?

Steve: A man named T.J. Chapman. My father. He was a man whose primary interest was my mother. He taught me by example. I never heard him raise his voice at my mother. 1 Peter 3:7, "Live with your wives in an understanding way," and it goes on to say, "so that your prayers won't be hindered." The root is the fear of God, Debra. That's what motivates me. I know if I don't treat Annie right, God's going to have my neck. I am commanded to treat her right. And I really want to see him and live with him through eternity, so I want to do something right.

CBP: Tell us about the idea that if guys do it right, their wives will not hate their hobbies.

Steve: One of the motivations for the book was something Annie said, "If a wife does not like what a man likes to do, then he's not doing it right." There are literally ways to do it right. You can win her favor, if you don't have it you can win it and keep it. But it's a deliberate thing. You've got to go with eyes open.

CBP: You definitely have those ways in your book. You said, "Your play becomes her work. Your leisure, her labor."

Steve: Those are two issues that I'm potentially guilty of any time of the year. I have scars to prove that hunting has its dangers. Where I've fallen out of tree stands and gotten beat up in the field. I don't want my gun to be her fear. That's why I carry a cell phone with me. I'm so grateful for that technology. But they ring right when the deer's coming in, that's really bad! When I come in dragging mud in the house--it's a small thing, but when my leisure becomes her labor, that's really dishonoring her. And I have to work at that. I still have to work at it.

CBP: What do you call the "C" word?

Steve: That's communication, of course. One guy said, "Communication is kind of like vomiting. You don't want to do it, but it feels good when you get it over with." That was Chuck Sneider. Men are not great at it, they don't talk a lot. But Annie says, "You get them talking about something they like to talk about, they'll talk." One thing I found, with my love for hunting, is that Annie doesn't want to hear the stories. She'll say, "How was your hunt?" All she really needs to know is that I had a great time, but don't go into the details. Learning to know what not to say as much as what to say. Don't burden her with the details. You've been gone most of the day, she wants you to listen to other stuff. It's a give and take. It's Philippians 2.

CBP: It's amazing. There are 18 holes in golf, and they can tell you when they started the first hole and you know there's 18, that it's going to be long.

Steve: Yours is the voice of experience. We love to tell it. By the way, golfing and hunting are alike. You go into the woods and look for something. (laughing)

CBP: True! So, what are you doing now?

Steve: I'm writing a follow-up to Look at Life from a Deer Stand, which was my entry into Harvest House. We don't know quite what we're going to call it yet, maybe A Second Look or Volume 2 or something. It's another usage of the great outdoors to teach character building. I love to do it. I speak at a lot of wild game dinners and I'm like a pig in mud at these things. The next four things I do in the next six days are wild game dinners. I will be well fed.

CBP: How do you communicate the Christian story at those events?

Steve: Typically, if I'm there the first time I will springboard from the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19, where he got up in a tree to see Jesus. And, a lot of guys I talk to hang out in trees, of course, if you're out West you don't, but in the East here we get up in trees. I say the trophy of trophies has come under your tree tonight and he wants to go home with you. And the reason he went home with Zaccheus is because he knew how much Zaccheus needed him. And I'll say, "Guys, he knows how much you need him and he wants to go home with you. He's not afraid of sinners. He's a friend of sinners and he loves you. And think about what the change in your heart will mean to your wife." That's the approach I take.

CBP: Do you find that most people that you're talking to grew up in homes of faith, and maybe you're revisiting that faith? Using stories as you do is a way of clothing truth in parable?

Steve: Music is that way. You can say some really hard things when you clothe it in a melody. I don't claim God speaks to me audibly, I can count on this hand the number of times I know the Spirit of God has spoken, but last year I had this overwhelming sense of this phrase: Say the hard things softly. I realized that's what music can do. It's the sugar that can make the medicine go down. It's the same thing with a parable. That's one of the beauties of the outdoors is some of these stories that are involved in it.

CBP: Is there anything else you have your hands in? What's your website?

Steve: www.steveandanniechapman.com We gave up concerts, we don't headline because in the era of our work, in this time in our lives, we would rather do marriage seminars, Annie speaks to women and I speak to men. Sometimes we'll do a marriage seminar and split up and come back together. We try to package it in a lot of ways to say the same thing.