For two decades Christopher Parkening has bowed again and again, classical guitar in hand, to acknowledge storms of applause in the world’s most prestigious concert halls.

On the surface, these scenes have changed little. But seen through the eyes of the young guitar virtuoso, nothing has been the same in the 1980s. For Parkening, making fine art is now a matter of faith and thanksgiving.

As the decade began, he was playing brilliantly on his visits to 90 or so cities each year. The reviews were glowing, but his mind and heart were tired and his spirit dull.

Friends and associates had heard Parkening was planning to take a sabbatical. Few knew the truth: the protege of the legendary guitarist Andres Segovia was ready to call it quits.

“I had played enough concerts to make enough money to buy the things I wanted to live ‘the good life,’ ” he says, a few days before three appearances with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. “My dreams had all come true.… But I felt totally empty. The music I was making didn’t mean anything to me.”

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

Parkening and his wife had bought a Montana ranch by a stream in which he could satisfy his love of fly-fishing. Parkening knew he could afford to sit back, perhaps teach a few lessons now and then, and let the years pass.

It wasn’t enough.

Then one day a neighbor leaned over the back fence of the Parkenings’ home in Los Angeles and invited him to visit Grace Community Church in Panorama City. The Reverend John MacArthur’s sermon cut deep. The key questions: Are you a real Christian, or a fake? Is your life yielding fruit for God?

“It’s a cliche, but I saw my life pass before my eyes,” Parkening ...

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