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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Drum Lessons

Mary Kay writes:

I spent a pleasant hour a couple of weeks ago sitting under the nim tree at the Kumasi Cultural Centre with the drum carvers. The head on Chip’s djimbe (one of the African drums) had split, and I had taken it back to the carver Wednesday to have it repaired. Of course, when we returned today before heading back to Accra, it wasn’t quite ready yet, but we were promised the wait would be “small”. Hint: one never knows exactly how long “wait small” means here, but since I wasn’t in a huge hurry, I decided I could wait for about an hour rather than try to figure out how to get it to someone else to bring to me in Accra.

The morning was overcast, so it wasn’t too hot yet. I sat under the shade tree and watched the men work on Chip’s drum, as well as other projects. And an African drumming and dance troupe was practicing in the background. A beautiful day in Ghana.

There were drums in all stages. Some whole logs were still waiting to be rough carved. One apprentice was working on the rough shaping and carving for two large ceremonial drums. The master was carving intricate detail into a beautiful drum, and several drums were awaiting new heads. There were drums of all types: beautifully carved drums that may well end up as decoration in some tourists home in the US or Europe, funeral drums covered in black cloth, ceremonial drums covered in real! ocelot or leopard skin, and much plainer, more functional drums. But all with the same purpose – to add beauty, both decorative and musical – to our lives.

I was especially fascinated by the finishing touches being put on Chip’s drum. The head had already been replaced, and was being tightened. When the apprentice started, the drum had no tone, just a dull thud sound. But he worked his way around the drum pulling on the strings, tightening them as he went. By the third time around, the strings were so taut that he was twisting them around a stick, which he then used as a lever against the drum itself to pull them tighter. It looked like at any moment the strings would break under the tension, and we would have to start over. But then, he was finished, and the drum had the beautiful ringing high pitches, and deep low tones of a Ghanaian djimbe.

As I watched, I thought about my life. Sometimes I feel stretched to the limit. I think, if one more thing goes wrong, I will just break. I can’t handle any more. But the Master Drum Maker continues to stretch me anyway. But it is in the stretching that I am transformed. The stretching strengthens me and transforms me, so that I am better able to worship and glorify God.

How has God stretched you lately?

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