Lenten Calendar Templates 2016

Using a calendar template is one of my favorite ways to keep a daily discipline during Lent. It doesn’t involve making false promises to myself about sitting down for thirty minutes a day and praying/studying/meditating and then feeling guilty when I fail. On the calendar template I choose a word or name for each day, write the word in a space, and draw or doodle around it. As I draw I let the name or word fill my heart and mind. If words come to me I pray them. If not, I am quiet. I think of each mark or stroke of color as a wordless prayer. This process can take three minutes or thirty. Each day is different. I love the accumulation of words or peoples’ names in a visual tapestry.

Below are four templates to choose from in jpg or pdf form. There are 46 spaces which include the weekends. Some calendars are dated; others allow you to choose your own placement. Since the spaces are small I take the template to a copier and enlarge it (129%-132%) to an 11″x17″ piece of card stock.

Here are some ways to use the calendar:
1) Use a daily book of Lenten meditations. Read the mediation for the day and select a word that jumps out at you.
2) Follow a daily lectionary and choose a word from one of the Scripture readings.
3) Pray for a person each day.
4) Use nouns or adjectives that describe the nature and character of Jesus: savior, redeemer, healer, radical, obedient, forgiving,….
5) Read the same Psalm each day and choose a daily word. Psalm 51 is a penitential Psalm with lots of juicy (sometimes depressing) words in it.
6) Use the Confession from the liturgy and choose a word from it. Here is the Confession from The Book of Common Prayer:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
7) Just draw. If words come to you in your silence, write them in the space.

Click on .jpg or.pdf below the template you want.* Download the template first, then print. (If you print without downloading, you will get a version with the website info written on the top and bottom of the page.)

Lenten Templates Collage 1 Resized

.jpg    or    .pdf                                                                         .jpg      or     .pdf

Lenten Calendar Templates2 Resized

.jpg     or      .pdf                                                                          .jpg    or     .pdf

*Thanks to Cindy O. (Mostly Markers) for her box calendar template and to Hilary Ann Golden for the spiral template.

Here are some examples of last year’s completed templates:

Lent 2015 Collage Resized

Thanks to Gwyn Varozza, Linda S. and J., Martin Boardman, and Linda S. and J. for sharing their 2015 calendars.

First-Week-of-Advent Calendars

As a strong P (Perceiver) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I have trouble making decisions, especially when there are so many options to choose from. Perceivers never have enough data. Some new piece of information confuses them and keeps them from making decisions. Someone once told me it was a good thing I said a young, impulsive “Yes” to marriage; if I had waited I never would have been able to make a decision.

When it comes to Advent, there are so many ways to practice or celebrate it. “Which Advent calendar to use?” “Which book of meditations to read?” “Purple or blue candles?” “Which books of Scripture to read?” “Which organizations, charities, and causes to send our annual gifts to?” All these questions and choices befuddle me. I realize these are First World privileges and not of major importance in the scheme of things. But these practices do provide a framework for my prayer/spiritual life. Much to my delight, I made a few choices before the third week of Advent. I chose purple candles, two Advent calendars, and one book of meditations.

The calendars below show the first eight days of Advent. On the calendar with the round stickers I wrote a line from God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The book has reflections by Bonhoeffer on Advent, a “bonus” piece of writing by him or another theologian, and a relevant Scripture passage. It is short and manageable. Much of the writing is from Bonhoeffer’s time in prison before his execution. Bonhoeffer wrote to a friend, “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, does this or that, or the other—things that are of really no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.” (p.X, Editor’s Preface) I like to look back at the thoughts accumulating each day. It feels like a spiritual This is the House That Jack Built—the Mother Goose rhyme where something new is added with each repetition of the rhyme.

Advent 1 2015 Circles

The second calendar is for intercessions—prayers of concern and gratitude for people in my life. This visual prayer list keeps the names within eyeshot of me and reminds me to pray for them–with or without words.

Advent 1 2015 Trees

Using Advent Calendars–Insights and Learnings

It’s not too late to count up to Christmas with an Advent calendar. Templates are available here

My friend Cindy O gave me permission to doodle about 30 years ago. She encouraged me to enjoy the process of moving pen and colored markers on paper and to forget about the end result. I have been a doodler ever since. Cindy has joined me in praying Advent calendars since 2008. Here is her 2008 calendar followed by a list of things she learned about the process. Do not be intimidated by her drawing ability! My calendars never look this good.

Cindy Advent 2008 export 800 max

At first I was apprehensive with all those little boxes on the blank calendar. How would I fill them all up? Would I run out of things to draw? Would I ruin it halfway through week 3? But something emerged every day. And I didn’t ruin it.
• The boxes seemed very small (1 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches), but they were very spacious. My note cards (4 x 6-ish) now seem enormous.
• The words and the drawings illuminated each other – Not “illustrating a word” or “labeling a picture,” as I would have predicted. The spaces have become icon-like for me, windows into someplace else. “We are leaving ordinary time” became true of the calendar.
• I loved seeing the themes and color patterns emerge. Candles for Sundays, blue and beige/yellow for Saturdays, large words to decorate, purple/red/pink, purple and blue, red and green, and brown making a comeback in week 3. The pictures are all very different from each other, but they go together somehow.
• Some days the words came first, and other days the drawing came first. Either way, choosing the words took me deeper into the Advent messages. I spent as much time there as on the drawings, reflecting on the words and the hymns, prayers, or scriptures they came from. Music is embedded too, because of the words.
• The drawing was right-brain, and the word choices were left-brain. Now they are fused together.
• I tried a lot of different techniques, some of them new, like the lace for the 3rd Sunday. The small size encouraged me to try it in a finished picture, even if I might not want it for a larger scale.
• They are all my favorites, and there’s not a single one that I want to do over. This probably ties back to the icon aspect of it. I didn’t expect that. I assumed some would turn out ugly. At the very least, I expected some would be nicer than others.
• I drew things I never thought I could draw – the pressed glass candlestick for the 2nd Sunday, the Nativity scene. And other things I never would have consciously decided to draw – “the Lord is near” with neon glow in week 4, the landscape in week 2, the “way” in week 1.
• Without the Copic markers, I wouldn’t have kept it going. I needed the reinforcement of how beautiful it looked. In the same way, I seem to need the beauty of words, music, liturgy, and space in worship. From my upbringing, I feel I shouldn’t need that so much, but I do.
• I did a lot of pencil layouts and sketching. But the drawings still look free. That makes me happy.
• I loved being able to scan & share with Sybil weekly as I went along. Never thought the scanner on the printer would get so much use.
• It was very soul-satisfying. Just the right pace. I am so glad I tried it.
• When I finished the Nativity drawing, I could feel the weight of 25 days of advent hopes and longings, all resting in that one scene. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Thanks to Cindy for her insights about the calendars. Her website is Mostly Markers. You can follow her growing Advent calendar for this year on the site.

Happy Thanksgiving and Gratitude Gobbler

“For the Beauty of the Earth, Sing, Oh Sing Today
Of the Skies and of our birth, Sing, Oh Sing, always.
Nature, Human and Divine, all around us lies,
Lord of All to Thee we raise grateful hymns of praise.”

These simple and beautiful words are from the “Canticle of Brother Sun” from the Missa Gaia by Jim Scott and Paul Winter (Litchfield, CT, Living Music Records, 1982). This is one of my favorite thanksgiving songs.

This year’s turkey is a gratitude journal of all of the things I am grateful for from this unique year in Colorado. As I wrote, drew, and prayed, more and more things kept coming to me. It was as if gratitude was an exponential function. First I was grateful for one thing, then two more, then four more, then eight more, then sixteen more, then thirty-two more…. Lest you think I am a pious pollyanna who reeks of gratitude, be not deceived. I am a grateful person, but I am equally an ungrateful, cranky, and cynical person. Maybe I should do this visual gratitude list more often. I could think of so few things for which I was ungrateful. But I notice how much space and energy those few things can take up in my mind and life.

If you want to try your hand at filling in the blank Gratitude Gobbler, here are the two versions: .jpg  OR  .pdf.  Just remember to download first, then print.

Happy Thanksgiving and God’s Peace.

Gratitude Gobbler 2015

Gratitude Gobbler Template

“Let us come before God with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2 NIV)

Here is a template to use for a Thanksgiving prayer. In the spaces within the turkey and on the sides of the page, write your “gratitude list.” (Or if you are feeling grumpy, throw in your grievances as well)  In the center of the turkey I usually write my name for God: “Loving God, Gracious God, Holy One….” Sing or hum or recite the above Psalm as you write and color.

If this gratitude gobbler is a little too goofy for you, trace around your hand to make your own template. If I could have drawn a beautiful cornucopia of autumn vegetables as a template I would have. (not in my skill set)  A Blessed Thanksgiving to all.

Download first choosing the .pdf or.jpg version below the template. Then print. Feel free to make copies.

Turkey Template

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Below are two examples of gratitude turkeys from previous years.

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Despair Prayers–France and All of Us

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken us? Why are you so far from saving us, so far from the words of our groaning?* These are some of the few words I can find right now. I know that the terrorism in France is not about God forsaking us. But like the Psalmist did, throwing those words at God keeps the pathways open. God can handle it.

My prayer below is a release of feelings. The words are mostly about my fear and powerlessness with a smattering of love and hope thrown in. As someone who lives in her head, it’s important for me to pay attention to my heart and gut and quit the constant analysis. I think it was Richard Rohr who said, “What gets buried gets buried alive.”

*Variation on Psalm 22:1 NIV

France Prayer resized


Leafy Prayer Template

Many of my friends and family members have been moaning and groaning about the disappearance of the warmth and beauty of summer and the emergence of the colder, darker days of autumn and winter. I confess; I am a winter person. Maybe it’s because I romanticize the cold and the dark. Sitting by the fire, eating by candlelight, and snuggling under a heavy quilt are alluring scenarios. I forget about the nuisance and difficulty of shoveling the driveway, sliding around in the car on icy streets, shivering through layers of heavy clothing, and stuffing screaming toddlers into snowsuits and boots. But in spite of these inconveniences and the bone-chilling temperatures, I remember Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany–my favorite seasons of the year–and I become even more of a fan of autumn and winter. Paradox is what I really love about this time of the year: comfort in the cold, hope in the despair, light in the dark….

So here is a template/coloring page of leaves. You can do whatever you want with it, but I used it to offer up to God both my gratitudes and my gripes about autumn and winter. Some of the things written in the leaves have the infamous status of fitting into both categories.

Leaf 2 Resized

Leaf 1 resized

Click for the .jpg OR .pdf of the template. Download the template first, then print.

Ugly Little Prayers

In a recent Facebook discussion someone said, “There is too much emphasis on making pretty prayers.” I agree. Now that I have doodled for a few decades, my prayer drawings sometimes look decent, maybe even pretty. It’s easy for their appearance to become a priority, to feel like my prayers should be an art project and always look good. But that misses the point. For me the point of praying in color is to create a prayer time and a visual prayer list. If a prayer is ugly, maybe that will implant the prayer in my mind even better than a nicely executed, appealing one.

Maybe it is important to draw sloppy visual prayers in the same way that it is important to pray sloppy, inarticulate verbal prayers. The point is to pray–beautiful or ugly, articulate or blathering wherever and whenever. I believe God receives all of our prayers, without judgment, without giving us a grade.

If you’re tempted to only keep your pretty prayers, commit to praying a few ugly ones. Choose colors that clash or ones you do not like. Use an uncomfortable name for God. Draw on a paper napkin, a paper towel, or the back of an old envelope.

Now I have showed you some of my ugly little prayers, please show me yours.

Ugly Prayers (1)

Prayers and Notes from the Road (or Air)

On Friday I left Colorado for the first day of a marathon road/air trip: seven cities in twenty-six days. The trip includes a retreat, several workshops, and multiple visits with friends and family. Though some of it is work, I hope all of it will be pleasure.

When I travel I carry markers, pens, a clipboard, paper, and a 6-inch x 6-inch hardback sketchbook. The square sketchbook is perfect for airport and airplane prayers. Here is a prayer I drew on the plane from Denver to San Antonio.. Because it is in tangible form on real paper, it becomes a visual prayer list and a reminder for me to keep praying for the people in the drawing.

Airplane Prayer

In contrast to the smallness of the sketchpad prayer, the large easel pads I use during workshops provide a space of 30 inches x 27 inches. So much space can be intimidating except for the way I often use it. In the prayer below (with the same people as the small prayer above), I use only two shapes and use two colors. This gets me out of the “too-many choices” and “art-project” mode and lets me focus on the people I’m praying for. After I drew the initial shape for God and the arms extending outward, I drew only lines and arcs. As a non-artist, limiting my stroke choices was liberating and not constricting.

Easel Prayer (1)

Workshop: Christ Church in Greenwich, CT will host two Praying in Color Workshops® on October 24th and 25th. For more information click here. Please Share this with people in the CT and NY areas who might be interested. Thanks.


Coloring Books to “Bless and De-Stress”

Paraclete Press, the publisher of all of my books (except for the famous Algebra 1 Printed Test Bank and Instructor’s Resource Guide I wrote in 2005 for Addison-Wesley ), has just released three coloring books. They were created in-house by artists at Paraclete.  I was lucky enough to see them before they went to press and to write an introduction and blurb for each.

Here is what I wrote for the introductory page of each:

“Sometimes coloring is just coloring. To put crayons to paper and create a rainbow of marks and swaths is relaxing, playful, and maybe even artistically satisfying. But sometimes coloring is more. To put colored crayons, markers, or pencils to paper is to create a pathway to the numinous. Coloring invites the body and the senses into an experience of inner stillness. While the hand moves, the mind and the body slow down. The heart and the ears open carving a space for a time of rich silence and an opportunity for God to speak.”

I have mistakenly assumed that everyone can or likes to doodle. “If my ‘C-minus-in-Art’ self can doodle, then anyone can,” I thought. This might be true, but not everyone wants to doodle. Coloring books allow people to express themselves visually and colorfully without dealing with the “I can’t draw” or even “I can’t doodle” voice.

The three new coloring books are a special addition to the coloring book market. I like the size (7″x8.5″), the format, the simple but beautiful designs, the spiritual content and the layout. There is space for my notes or thoughts. I can even add some of my own doodles if I want.

Coloring Books--Paraclete Resized

Here are some sample pages from Words of Faith and Celtic Blessings.

Coloring Book Collage 2 ResizedParaclete did not ask me to write this blog. I just like these coloring books. And I know that the designers and production staff prayed and loved them into existence. You can purchase these books from all of the usual booksellers and the publisher.