pajama pantsPajama Pants  While aspects of the Lenten season are quite communal in nature, it seems to me that even more characteristics are deeply personal.  Solemnity certainly can occur within a congregation’s gathered worship, but the deep reflection and assessment of one’s spiritual life occurs largely either when actually alone, or perhaps within oneself even when worshiping and praying gathered with the church.  Granted, in time personal growth and development that have blossomed in solitude may be shared with the larger faith community, and indeed the body is built up as individual members grow in their spiritual walk, especially in areas of service and mission.  In the spirit of that understanding I want to share a personal insight gleaned through this year’s personal Lent discipline, and finally to make an application for worship ministry leaders, all of which with a prayer that this serves as more than a kind of slice-of-life saga from Paul Clark, but rather that it might benefit fellow worshipers and especially those who lead worship ministries in their local body of believers.

I have been richly reminded through readings and meditations that Lent is not so much about what is given up, as some would have us focus, but rather it is about embracing what is provided for in its observance.  We pause the noise, and embrace silence, or what can then be heard in the place of noise clutter.  We stop grazing on Snickers or peanuts to instead feed the hunger of our soul.  The giving up part makes room.  This has been my experience personally.  My presumption was that this room made would be for something profoundly holy.  Perhaps ultimately, indeed, it is insofar as all of life is a grace gift, and all things are being made new in Christ Jesus.  This season’s attempt at giving up my personal obsession with checking my smartphone, iPad, or computer incessantly has proven to be a great challenge.  Perhaps most surprising for me has been my awareness that the sensibility the Lord is growing in me is not only time spent in Bible study or meditative reading, but simple moments spent just thinking, or doing something outside my normal fare, although in a very normal (for me) place.  For instance, rather than staring at my iPhone the whole time I was standing in line at Starbucks, I uttered silent prayer for every person I could see in the coffeehouse.  We Baptists have engaged in much prayer-walking, but this was prayer-standing.  Who knows what any one of the people might be facing or needing?  The Holy Spirit knows, that’s Who, and avoiding my phone availed me of the privilege of engaging in prayer ministry for these people.  The purposeful Lent discipline of turning away from that habit, provided the room for me to engage in the other.  I was more sensitized to the opportunity, and to the need.

On an even more personal note, one night after a time of thanksgiving and prayer for continued heightened sensitivity, I reached into my bag for my pajamas.  I pulled out the flimsy blue checkered pajama pants that I have worn over and again.  As I held them in my hand a realization poured over my conscience.  These belonged to my father who passed away several years ago.  I wept as two thoughts overwhelmed me.  The first was remembering that I had actually helped dress my father in these pajama bottoms in his last days when he had to be helped with every part of just doing life.  I remembered the feel of his legs as I lifted them into or out of his bed so he could be moved to his wheelchair.  My weeping grew to an even deeper sadness and shame as I thought about how many times I have put these pants on without giving a thought to where they came from, much less the moments of fading life they represent.  Somehow the pause and pushing aside of the busy-ness that the Lenten season has nurtured has raised awareness toward small things that contain large gifts. In this case the gift was remembrance of my sweet, patient, father, and the gentle grace with which he faced his last days of this life.  Although my younger brother served Dad more frequently than I in the daily needs during those days, it was important for me to review that time in this season of “ashes to ashes” reminder.  At once this was lesson of spiritual blessing to embrace the fullness of each moment.

I am convinced that our over-produced worship as presentation culture begs to be paused.  I recognize the Lord may not give us startling revelation in every service of worship.  I wonder, though, just how sensitive we can be to His still small voice when we have minds cluttered with storyboard images, flow sheets, and in-ear prompts.  If we are about helping people engage with the living God, I wonder just how sensitive we can be to either Spirit or people if we are overly concerned with pulling off a look, a feel, a presentation.  Fellow blogger Stacey Gleddiesmith, who has been leading worship and church planting with her husband for twenty years, is writing a series on “Listening in Two Directions”  which addresses this need for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and to the congregation.  I appreciate her sensitivity in “thinking worship” with theological integrity and artistic sensibilities.

I pray that this Lenten season will provide worship ministry leaders room to pay Spirit-led attention to those things around us.  While such sensitivity may not reveal specifics, it may well at least raise our awareness that needs at all time exist and that in worship we bring before our Lord the needs of the world including those among us who are immediately gathered in His presence.

Explore posts in the same categories: Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship


  1. wayne Says:

    great word, Paul. thank you.

  2. “… awareness toward small things that contain large gifts” – what a beautifully put reminder. Thank you!

  3. Ignatius Says:

    Denise SmithPosted on February 15, 2012 at 6:51 AMHe Bill got your message on my phone I had so many plpeoe calling I did not catch your cell phone number. I thank all of you for your prayers and we hope to see all of you real soon. Steve is out of the hospital and we will be starting chemo this week. He is feeling pretty good and wants to go to the coast this weekend. So we are going to run down there real quick. Hope to see ya next sunday. Denise Smith 843-709-0664

  4. IMHO you’ve got the right answer!

  5. You’re a real deep thinker. Thanks for sharing.

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