"How am I to define what faith is to a child when the only explanation lies within?/How am I to tell them if they never follow Christ that heaven doesn't hold a place for them?/Tell me how when I'm no better than them?"
— from "Tell Me How"

There's a lot of sweetness permeating Rosie Thomas's personality and music. She regularly incorporates family and faith into her words. She also has a silly sense of humor, partly expressed in the title of her new release, as well as through her comedic alter ego "Sheila," a pizza delivery woman with Coke–bottle glasses, an arm sling and a neck brace—reminiscent of Gilda Radner and Andy Kaufman. In concert, you're bound to see both sides of Thomas.

She also has a sweet naïveté about the Christian music industry (though she did briefly sing with Christian alternative pop band Velour 100) and perhaps that's been for the best. Focusing on the music business at large has afforded Thomas some incredible opportunities and much acclaim from media and audiences alike. Her 2002 debut, When We Were Small, earned strong endorsements from Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, and NPR to name a few.

So it's time for Christians to become acquainted with this talented and devout songwriter. Raised by a musical family in Detroit, Thomas learned piano and guitar early, performing with her parents and siblings at social functions. Though raised in a Christian home, her faith didn't catch fire till she was 20, when she attended California's Calvary Chapel Bible College for a year.

That was five years ago. Since then, Thomas has regularly sought God's will. She went on to Cornish College, a performance arts school in Seattle, where she developed her loves for music, theater, and comedy. She never finished, however, since her music career took off and she signed with Sub–Pop to release her first album.

The new album title not only reflects Thomas' outlook, but as a lyric from the Joni Mitchell song "Roses Blue," it reveals her chief musical influence. One could also compare her to Sarah McLachlan, Sara Groves, and Ani DiFranco because of her beautifully angelic folk voice. Her delicate folk–pop is also rich in vocal harmonies, sometimes relying on multi–tracking her own voice, and in other cases employing the talents of her family. Her mother sings along on the reverberation–drenched opener, "Let Myself Fall," recorded in Detroit's oldest church.

Most of the songs center around themes of life's uncertainties and growing older, alluding to the importance of love and family. In "You and Me," she credits her mother for helping her understand God's love, and does the same for her boyfriend in "All My Life." With "One More Day," Thomas offers hope to a hurting friend. Her whole family contributes to "I Play Music," recorded at her father's house, which chronicles her journey into adulthood: "When I was young, I did it my way/I did it my way and I still do/Held my head up high/Asking God for answers and begging him to tell me what to do." The song also points to God's impact on her life: "Never thought that I would ever find you/Or that you'd be looking for me too."

But perhaps the album's most challenging track is the Joni Mitchell–styled "Tell Me How" (excerpted above). Some might think Thomas is questioning her faith, when she's really just asking the hard questions, expressing unworthiness and uncertainty about being a light unto the world. But there's no doubting Thomas's beliefs. In a recent interview, she told us that when she writes songs, "The most important thing to me is to write what God puts on my heart and to leave hope in it. I try to make [my songs] like conversation pieces, going through the sorrow to find the bright side, to encourage people to run the race and that everything will turn out all right. It's really all about hope through faith, the foundation of what I do."

Unless specified clearly, we are not implying whether this artist is or is not a Christian. The views expressed are simply the author's. For a more complete description of our Glimpses of God articles, click here.