Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Recommendation:

Grace Like a River
Christopher Parkening, with Kathy Tyers

Over the years I have read many biographies of famous folks. Never have I read the biography of a famous person who sits across the aisle from me at church. Christopher Parkening is unarguably one of the greatest classical guitar players in the world today, but more importantly, he is a lover of Christ and a committed Christian.

Christopher's autobiography, Grace Like a River, tells his story as a young man who rose to fame at an early age. His key goal he set for his career was to be a retired millionaire by the age of thirty, and so he devoted his life to becoming a world class guitarist. He eventually had the privilege of sitting under the tutelage of classical guitar legend, Andres Segovia. Christopher writes about his experience touring the U.S. in concert, and then Europe, and then becoming one of the youngest classical recording artists for Capital Records.

Yet, even with all of that success, he was not satisfied with his accomplishments. Yes, he retired at age 30, moved to Montana to live on a ranch and trout fish the rest of his life, but there was still something missing. In God's gracious timing, He revealed to Christopher that all the success in the world is nothing compared to the riches of Christ. Through a series of providential encounters, God brought Christopher to Grace Community Church where he heard John MacArthur teach the Word of God. For the first time in Chris's life, the Bible came alive, and the Lord was pleased to save him.

By this time, Christopher had laid aside playing classical guitar with any amount of seriousness, but his salvation gave him a renewed inspiration to not just play for the sake of playing, but to play to the glory of God, which is what he has been doing ever since.

One of the blessing I have had over the years of attending Grace Church is hearing Christopher play occasionally during the worship service. I have also been blessed to listen to him play in a small gathering, where his talent is more alive and intimate. Before I came to California, I had never been exposed to classical guitar, but seeing and hearing Christopher play has giving me a major appreciation for the instrument. It is probably, along with classical piano, my favorite music I enjoy.

A second, little known fact about Christopher brought out in the book is that he is a world class fly-fisherman. Most folks would not imagine a person being a world class guitar player and world class fly-fisherman AT THE SAME TIME. It is almost like learning that D. Martin Lloyd-Jones holds the world record for bow hunting wild pig. Yet, Christopher won the International Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament, the Wimbledon of fly-fishing and he tells the shocking true story of how he did it. In fact, that is one of the extra things I like about the book. Woven in between his retelling of his rise to becoming a classical guitar concert star, he tells his amazing fishing tales, building to the last one where in retells the Tarpon tournament story.

Grace like a River is a quick, but exhortive read about a contemporary Christian with an amazingly blessed talent. Not only will the Christian readers be encouraged as they read about Christopher's struggles, but I believe if they have not been exposed to classical guitar, especially the talent of Segovia, after reading this book you all will want to go purchase some CDs for your collection.

One personally anecdote about Christopher. I have small talked with him every now and then when he would come out to Grace to You during board meetings. I even ate with him during a staff lunch. Nothing really big, just chit-chat and me mainly listening to him recount events in his life in conversation around the table with other folks.

When his book was released last summer, there was also a companion CD collection of Christopher's "greatest hits" released in conjunction under the same title, Grace Like a River. The evening Christopher was to sign his book for the Church members, he played the first piece off the new CD, Domeniconi's Moderato and Presto. I was enthralled by his playing and wanted to get a copy of the CD just for that one piece of music. At the time, however, I could just get the book.

A few weeks later on a Sunday morning, as my family and I were going into church, we happened to walk by Christopher getting out of his car with his family. My wife and I stopped and told him how much we enjoyed the book, and I told him how much I really loved the Domeniconi piece he had played and how I wanted to pick up a copy of the CD just for that one piece. He says, "Oh, well I have a copy of it here in the car, I'll just give it to you."

I became all sheepish and humble, and said thanks, but he didn't have to do that. He replied, "Hey, its not a problem, I have a bunch of these things laying around to hand out to people." He starts digging through his car, looking in glove compartments, under seats, and in the trunk. Finally he says, "Hon, where's that CD I had in the car?" She replies, "Oh, I gave it to so-and-so, I'm sorry."

I smiled, and told him thanks anyway. I could tell he was a tad disheartened to have let me down. As we walked onto church, Chris says something like, "I'll see if I can get you one," and I thanked him again and left. Honestly, I just casually know the guy, I never see him except at church on Sundays and even then, at a distance. I know he sincerely meant it, but I figured it would more than likely never happen.

The next day at work, one of my co-workers who is a musician for the church comes bopping through my room and he says, "Hey Fred, Christopher wanted me to give this to you."

It was a copy of the CD.



Blogger Kim said...

Darlene was telling me about this guy when we were visiting.

My son plays the guitar, and I would love to have him hear this guy.

7:01 AM, April 12, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

If your son is into really playing the guitar, not that rock stuff, he will enjoy listening to Parkening. There are several of his recordings, including a 2 disk collection, mostly classical stuff like Vivaldi and Bach. (Vivaldi and Bach really rock!)

Also, if you can get a hold of Segovia's stuff, get it to. Same music, but obviously with a different style. Much of Segovia's recordings are being remastered and re-released on CD.

Does Amazon go up that far into Canada?


10:22 AM, April 12, 2007  
Blogger Kim said...


We have an Amazon.ca which is pretty good, but I find that the US Amazon is better stocked than the one in Canada.

4:38 AM, April 13, 2007  
Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

Thanks for the review, I'll have to get this. Parkening is by far my favorite musician.

12:31 PM, April 14, 2007  

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