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The Pianist and the Drummer

Exodus 4:14 (NRSV) “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad.”

In August, Chris and I joined my family (mom, sisters, and niece) on a cruise to Alaska. It was all that everyone tells you an Alaskan cruise is: stunning beauty, awesome views, and great stories from the locals.

I want to share a story about one evening on the ship, not about the Grizzly bears or the whales, or panning for gold. Like most cruise ships, our cruise ship had her theater with dancers, singers, and band who performed most evenings. The cruise line also brought in some “one night” entertainers: a comedian, a Whitney Houston tribute singer (who grew up in Aurora, CO), and a classical pianist/composer.

The classical pianist’s concert was phenomenal. I have been driving myself crazy trying to find his name, but I have not been able to. For an hour, he played his own songs and arrangements of several classical pieces. He was fun, entertaining, and incredibly talented. But this story really isn’t about the pianist.

During the concert, my eyes were drawn to the drummer. He and the rest of the band were the “stage band” for the cruise, not the pianist’s backups. I am sure they had practiced for months with the ship entertainers. The night before they played for the Whitney Houston tribute singer, but we all know Whitney’s music, even if we can’t sing her songs. But on this night, he was playing with a classical pianist. The entire hour, it looked like the drummer was holding his breath. He was frantically looking from the pianist to the sheet music. I found myself holding my breath with him.

After the concert, Chris and I returned to our room and decided that we would go up on deck for a walk. On the way up, the elevator stopped, and the ship’s entire band got on. I looked at the drummer and said, “It looked like you earned your money tonight.” His eyes lit up and he proceeded to talk about their evening. He explained that first, he was not a classically trained musician. He grew up playing in a rock band. Second, they did not meet the pianist until three hours before the show. They had two hours to learn the music for an hour-long concert. They had to learn the pianist’s cues, tempo, and expectations. All five members of the band agreed that his show was the hardest show they had done while on the ship. They had about ½ hour break, and then they had to go do the whole thing again for the 9:00 pm show.

I think we all need that adrenaline rush that the drummer and the rest of the band had that evening. We need those moments when we have to hold our breath because God goes “off script.” We need those moments when we are asked to play music with which we are not familiar, and we might even be extremely uncomfortable. We all get into our “popular music comfort zone.” We might be like Aaron, when Moses said to him, “Let’s go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh.” I can hear Aaron saying, “Who me? You are the one who was raised with the dude!” We might be like David, the young man called upon to face a giant that all the trained soldiers were afraid to take on. “Let me go find five smooth stones, and I will be right there.” You never know, like Moses, Aaron, and David, God might give us the victory.

Or we might be like John Mark. I can just imagine how excited he was the day he boarded the ship to go along with Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary Journey. For some unknown reason, John Mark left Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13-14). God was not finished with John Mark and was able to use him again. (Acts 15:37-41) After all history attributes the Gospel of Mark to John Mark. He continued to travel with Barnabas. He worked with Peter along the way.

I am guessing that drummer was glad to get back into his comfort zone the next night playing for the ship’s singers playing music with which he was familiar. For one night, however, he was a classical drummer. He knows he can do it because he did it.

Prayer: God, please take us out of our comfort zone, at least from time to time. Stretch us help us learn how much more you created us to be and to do.

Mike Oldham

Ministry and Mission Coach


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