When I was in high school, I was highly enamored of talented Christian guitarists like Phil Keaggy and John Michael Talbot. I aspired to their level of technical proficiency (even though at that time my instrument was trombone rather than guitar), and their music was a good break from the more trodding Christian rock derivatives.
Today, I drove up to Eureka Springs (carpooling with the pastor of Peace Lutheran in Rogers) to gather at Little Portion Hermitage with clergy from Northwest Arkansas. Little Portion is the hermitage John Michael Talbot founded. He's a convert (I think) to Roman Catholicism, and his music ministry has transitioned more in that vein over the years.
Little Portion gifted each of us with a tape (!) of his music when we gathered today, so I put it into the tape player of our Jetta. We bought our Jetta in 2002, and I actually have never used the tape player. So the inaugural music coming through that system was monastic guitar music that sounds, surprise, a lot like other New Age music you can buy in stores all over Eureka Springs. I'm sure this music is inspiring to many, but it just ain't for me.
Nevertheless, the hospitality at the hermitage was top notch, simple but warm, and the facilities and surrounding country side are glorious. We spent our morning praying the daily suffrages, discussing what we see God up to in our lives, and I presented my article from the spring issue of Lutheran Forum (per their request) on Gerhard Forde's sermons.
The highlight of the morning, however, was twofold. First, I always love going on a drive with the pastor from Peace. We've carpooled together a few times and we always have much to cover. In fact, on our last trip, we were so engrossed in conversation that we missed an exit and almost drove from Tulsa to Missouri rather than Arkansas.
This drive was also exceptional. About half way up to Eureka, we spotted a very large (about the size of a large backpack) snapping turtle. Pastor Paul had us turn around to protect it, and although by the time we got to it it was already heading into the ditch, he was so thrilled to see it he picked it up by the shell to show me. In the meantime, I'm saying, "Do you really want to pick that thing up?" Thinking to myself, "I really don't know where the closest hospital is..." When he picked it up, that turtle could shoot its head out and over the back of its shell quite a distance, though not far enough to get ahold of Paul's neck!
We did catch and release, got back in the car, and went on our way.
Of interest also is the fact that, in order to assemble a retreat's worth of Lutheran clergy in Northwest Arkansas, you have to go as far as Diamond City, Mountain Home, and add some Episcopalian clergy from Harrison, in addition to folks from Fayetteville, Rogers, and environs. Nice group of folks, with, surprise, lots of Iowa connections!