A Joyous Easter to All
I used the templates for Holy Wednesday through Holy Saturday with words from the Holy Week Lectionary readings Year B.
Holy Wednesday Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 70 Hebrews 12:1-3 John 13:21-32
Holy/Maundy Thursday Exodus 12:1-4 (5-10), 11-14 Psalm 116 1-2, 12-19 1Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13, 1-17, 31b-35
Good Friday Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Psalm 22 Hebrews 10:16-25, or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 John 18:1-19:42
Holy Saturday Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 1Peter 4:1-8 Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42
My Lents are well-planned. I create a calendar template or two, choose a book of devotions or set of scripture readings, and set out on my daily, pious prayer-walk through the forty days of Lent. Lent is under my control, orderly. I am in charge. But NOT this year. About day five into the forty, it all fell apart. We received a call from the storage unit in Memphis where we had stashed almost everything we own after we sold our house at the beginning of 2020. We had planned a yearlong stay in Jerusalem from April 2020-21. COVID-19 changed those plans. And burst ceiling-pipes in the storage unit changed my well-organized Lent into a grueling, salvage mission. Water poured down on our belongings from above and then created a four-inch deep lake on the floor. Soaked boxes on the top caved in and smushed the things below.
We drove to Memphis from Florida, where we have lived for the past year, to survey the damage and do triage. We threw out 500+ books. Books, mind you, are one of the things I hoard. Surrounded by their papery and leathery bindings and bulk, their stories, knowledge, and inspiration make me feel safe and fill my mind with possibility. But 500 of them were soaked and foxy (covered with those rusty orange spots). Into the trash pile, they went. My box of doodles and prayers from about 2003 when I started to pray in color were sitting in four inches of water, colors and shapes floating away and smearing into each other. They joined the books in the trash, along with twenty-five sopping journals. And all of our wool clothing, my husband Andy’s liturgical vestments, and seven wool rugs were completely dripping-drenched. A recovery company took away three duffle bags of garments and the rugs to see what they could do. One-third of our things were damaged or ruined. The cleanup was the pits. Even boxes and bins with no damage had to be thrown out, the items repacked in new boxes and paper to fend off mold. It was a filthy, ten-day job.
Twelve-Step programs talk about the difference between an Incident and a Crisis.* The distinction helps me to correct my reactive thinking when I’m predicting the end of the world or catastrophizing an anthill into a volcano. For me, an incident is something that annoys me or irritates me or interrupts my well-laid plans for a short time. Spending an hour on hold with a utility company, a person giving me the universal anger symbol on the road, even a flat tire are examples of incidents. A crisis involves blood, a 911 call, evacuation of home, or unexpected death. (My granddaughter at age four loved those two sophisticated words. They gave her power of determination in the midst of a tantrum.)
This Memphis storage unit mess felt like more than an incident, but it certainly did not have the magnitude of a crisis. I’m not sure incident and crisis are words at the far ends of a linear continuum. Maybe there is a cluster of words and adjectives in between those two for the unanticipated events in our lives. Disruption keeps popping up to describe the ten days of cleaning, jettisoning, and re-evaluating in the storage unit. For two weeks, our lives were disrupted and dismantled. I grieved the loss of my doodles, books, dolls, clothing, artwork, and memorabilia of a long life. I had to say goodbye to things I expected to have for much longer.
But in the midst of the grief and the grime, there was the surprising Disruption of Grace. Friends and strangers showed up with trucks and hands and kindness. We had a quiet place to retreat to at the end of the long days. Friends housed us, shared meals with us, and let us spread damp photos and journals all over their living room. Other friends came and helped us clean and repack. The experience would have been miserable without their help and company. People called and texted to check up on us, to offer dinner, wine, coffee, and walks. From all around the country, people’s prayers rained down on us. The astonishing love and care of friends and strangers disrupted my self-pity and gloom.
My experience with God is kind of like that. Disruptions everywhere, often. Some are little, others more intense and dirty. I don’t think God causes these disruptions, but God is there to disrupt my narrow way of clinging to them and reflecting on them. I can stay angry and pitiful, hoping for a return to “normal” or I can accept a new way of seeing, a new way to view my life—one that God offers. My life feels freer now without so much stuff. Without this disruption of water, I would not have seen all of those “g” words on the same playground, circling and dancing like they knew and honored each other–grief, grime, gifts, grace, gloom, generosity, gratitude…. After we dealt with the initial, necessary disposal of the one-third of our things, we started our own purge. We gave away another third of the things we owned—dishes, kitchen items, furniture, a TV, a sewing machine…. More freedom.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says that Lent literally means springtime. And during the springtime, during Lent, he says “We sweep and clean the room of our minds and hearts, so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter.” We did “sweep and clean.” After my husband and I came back to Florida and after we had crashed for the next two weeks, I finally noticed my almost empty Lenten calendar. I didn’t pick up with the devotional book I had used at first. I filled the calendar instead, all at once, with words from the time of disruption–what we had lost, the experience of dirty water, the gifts, the generosity of friends. The calendar is messy and crowded, just like the storage unit.
So much grime and so much grace during this Lent. I enter this Holy Week with both gratitude and trepidation.
Here are three sets of templates for Holy Week. They are not intended as just “coloring” pages (unless that’s how you want to use them) but as a format for corralling your thoughts, prayers, and reflections about the days of Holy Week. The first set is individual, circular templates for each of the days from Holy Wednesday to Easter Sunday. The second is a single, circular calendar-page from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. The third is a template is for the Stations of the Cross.
For the Holy Week templates, you can incorporate them with your intercessory prayers or with your current Lenten discipline. Another idea is to place your griefs, sorrows, questions, queries, beliefs, unbeliefs, petitions, wails, wows, gratitudes, grudges, pains, pleasures, satisfactions, sufferings—anything that comes up for you—on the templates. Use words, doodles, strokes of the pen, dots, dashes, color….
I like to read the daily readings for Holy Week and choose a word or phrase to hold onto for the day. My post on lectio divina might be helpful. Click here for a link to the 2021 Holy Week lectionary readings.
Examples of the way I used these large circular templates last year are in a collage below.
The idea for the templates arose from an ancient Christian hymn called All in the Morning. Here is a summary of the lines:
It was on Holy Wednesday and all in the morning that Judas betrayed our dear Heavenly King….
It was on Holy Thursday and all in the morning, they plaited a crown of thorns for our Heavenly King….
It was on Good Friday and all in the morning, they crucified our Savior and our Heavenly King….
There are two options for Thursday and Friday. To download the templates, click on the name below the template. Download first, then print.These templates are also on the Handouts Page.
Good Friday 1.pdf Good Friday 2.pdf
Easter Day Template .pdf Easter Day Template. jpg
The template for Saturday is blank. You can do whatever you want with the circle. For me Holy Saturday feels like the end of the line, so last year I just colored it black and wrote this poem:
The blackest day
The emptiest day
The sorriest day
The silent-as-a-grave day
The hold-your-breath day
The candles-barely-shed-a ray day
The waiting day
The no-word-from-God day
The hope-slides-into-hopeless day
The call-it-quits day
The please, Lord, give-us-a-glimmer-of-light day
When people as early as the 4th century began to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land from Europe and Asia, they wanted to walk the route Jesus took from the place of his death sentence by Pilate to the place of his crucifixion and burial. This walk became known as the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows. At each stop along the way, pilgrims sang hymns, read Scripture, and said prayers.
Stations of the Cross are a way people can experience this journey of tears without traveling to Jerusalem. Many churches have paintings or sculptures of these events or stations on their walls. Over the centuries the number of stations depicting Jesus’s journey to the cross and death has changed.. Fourteen is the common number for many churches now. Each station offers an opportunity to enter into the story, to contemplate, and to pray. Holy Week and especially Good Friday are typical times for praying the Stations of the Cross.
If you are unfamiliar with this practice, you can explore websites with the history of Stations of the Cross. There are hundreds of examples of Stations of the Cross liturgies with prayers and readings. Click here for one example.
Below is a template for you to make your own Stations of the Cross journey with Jesus on paper. Each of the fourteen cloud shapes has a sentence for the station and an empty space with a cross. As you imagine yourself in Jerusalem on this sorrowful walk to the cross, add your own images, doodles, or words. Read. Sing. Think. Pray. Be there.
When my mother died a few decades ago, a friend said to me, “Not only did you lose your mother, but you have lost your mother’s memories and perceptions of you, things that only she knew and experienced.” When my brother Don died in December, I wanted to grab onto my memories and perceptions of him. I’m not talking about the specific things we did or places we went together in childhood or the activities our family of origin and our extended families shared, but my memories of who he was. What was his “Don”ness? When he was alive, his body, his voice, his whole physical presence were living and breathing testimonies of Don. When he died, the visual reminders and prompts of who he was were no longer there.
A couple of days after he died, I sat down with one of the Gratitude Gobbler templates I had made for Thanksgiving. I wrote Don’s name in the center and started to brainstorm words and phrases to describe him. Some were physical descriptions, but most were about his personality and his character—good and bad, silly and serious, nouns and adjectives,…. These were my memories and impressions of him, no one else’s. My mental energy for writing prose about Don was zero, but this brainstorming exercise did not require sentences or correct punctuation. It did not require digging into family history or going through photo albums. I was gathering the little confetti pieces of Don from my heart’s and mind’s memory and flinging them onto the page. I took breathers and aded color to the spaces. It was playful, emotional, tender, and honest. It felt prayerful, loving, and cathartic. I had not planned to do this ahead of time, but I showed this memory meditation to my brother’s family and they loved it.
Putting the words on the page has cleared my mind for other memories to surface. I could probably fill a whole other gobbler. When I reread the words, I think, this was “Don,” not all of him, but some of the fullness I know of him. Creating this mini portrait/doodlelog feels like a tangible way to mourn, give thanks, and celebrate the unique creation of God he was.
In a guest post on April 21, 2020, guest blogger Mary Ann Stafford shared a similar but complementary drawing and exercise. She calls hers a “memory map.”
If you are hurting from the death of a friend or loved one, make your own drawing. You can use any coloring page or one of the ones on the Handouts Page. Or you can start from scratch. During Lent, I’ll post another example with my Mother as the focal point. I will take a step-by-step praying in color approach to show you how to grow a memory meditation without using an already-drawn template.
Using a calendar template is a simple, daily, and playful but serious practice for praying our way through the forty days of Lent.
Each day, choose a word to ponder or a person to pray for. Write the word or name in the allotted space with a pen and draw or doodle around it. Add color with colored pencils or markers. Let the word or name speak to you. If words come to you as you draw, pray them. If not, just continue to draw, stay quiet, and let the word or name burrow into your mind and heart. Returning to the calendar each day establishes a special time to be present to God and to listen.
Think of each mark of the pen or stroke of a colored marker/pencil as a small non-verbal prayer. The goal of the doodling and drawing is not to make a beautiful work of art (though it often does), but to create a visual prayer. Drawing/doodling invites the body into the prayer, gives the eyes and hand something to do, and helps to focus attention on the word or person.
Praying on the calendar is a visual and kinesthetic Lenten discipline. The accumulation of words or peoples’ names on the calendar creates an emerging tapestry of your spiritual journey.
Download the templates below. Choose the one or ones you like and click on the link below the calendars. Download the template first, then Print. Below the templates are some suggested ways to use the calendars. Since the spaces are small you can take the template to a copier and enlarge it (129%-132%) onto an 11″x17″ piece of card stock. Although Lent is officially 40 days, there are 46 spaces on each template to include the weekends. (Sundays are not officially part of Lent, but I don’t like to break the rhythm of my daily practice.)
Feel free to Share this post and the templates with others.
(NOTE: Some schools do not permit the download of materials from outside websites. If you have trouble downloading from a school address, try using your personal email.)
These templates are also available on the Handouts Page of this website.
1) Pray for a person each day of Lent.
2) Use a daily book of Lenten meditations. Read the meditation for the day and select a word that jumps out at you. Write the word in the space. Meditate on it as you draw and color around it. Let it enter your heart and mind. Ask God what you need to hear from the word.
3) Follow a daily lectionary and choose a word from one of the Scripture readings.
4) Use the vocabulary of Lent from Scripture and tradition–ashes, desert, temptation, denial, repentance, Passion, cross, forgiveness, fasting….
4) Read a Psalm each day and choose a word.
5) Describe the nature and character of Jesus in your calendar using nouns and adjectives: Savior, Redeemer, Healer, radical, obedient, forgiving,…
6) Since Lent is a time for reflection and self-examination, scatter your confessions, character defect, and regrets. The past year has been a difficult one for many people, so include your specific worries, fears, and sorrows on the calendar. Your pathway of tears will take you to the cross and give you a visual way to lay your burdens down.”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11 :28 NIV) Ask the Holy Spirit to be present as you reflect on these.This is not meant to be an exercise in self-flagellation or self-pity, but a way to be honest with yourself and draw closer to God and God’s unconditional love. Mix in some dreams, hopes, and thanksgivings.
Here is an example of the possible beginnings of a Circle/Cross calendar. I filled in the arms with an assortment of doodles. This could be done at any time during Lent. Color is not a requirement; just using a black pen can also be a meditative practice.
Here are three examples of completed calendars from previous years.
The middle one was completed by Cindy O.
The Feast of the Epiphany was January 6, but the Season of Epiphany continues. The “shining forth” of the Light of Christ deserves more than one day. It is an infinitely expanding event. Right now, I need as much of that Light as I can collect. So I pray, “Let me be a solar panel to absorb Christ’s rays and transform me!”
I love stars as templates for prayers during this season. In the prayer drawing below, I used cookie cutters for several stars and drew a couple freehand. It’s pretty easy to tell which is which. This is a prayer for friends who also need God’s light for healing and comfort. Just in case you are wondering why there are red and blue stars…, there really ARE red and blue stars in the universe. The colors are indicators of their heat. From coolest to hottest: red are the coolest, then yellow, then white, and finally blue are the hottest!
After 18 years, praying in color still helps me to focus in prayer. My body gets to be part of the prayer and is content. My hands have something to do, my eyes have something to see…, so I can settle into a place of inner quiet. Words may come to me and I pray them. Sometimes I incorporate words into the drawing as I did in this one. If no verbal prayers come, I just focus on the name and imagine the person in God’s care and filled with God’s love and light.
Here are some Epiphany/Star prayers from previous years.
Here are my two Advent calendars for 2020. The calendar on the left incorporates the words of #AdventWord–a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary. The one on the right contains my prayers for others. Advent was full of illness and death for friends and family. The daily encounter with the emerging tapestry of words and names on both calendars made me feel part of a widespread community of both hurt and hope.1
It’s the 6th day of Christmas and I want to beg my neighbors not to discard their Christmas trees so quickly. Already, there are naked trees at the ends of driveways. Not yet, please; at least keep the decorations up until January 6. I confess to some hefty rigidity about celebrating Christmas until Epiphany, the day after the twelfth day of Christmas. But this year especially, when there has been so much darkness, I need the lights and the glitz.
My psyche is still in Advent mode. Advent lasted twenty-six days in 2020. I had almost a month to practice being an Advent person, a person who remembers, longs, hopes, waits, despairs, expects…. I need more than one day to practice what it means to be a Christmas person. A Christmas person delights in prophecies and promises fulfilled, celebrates Incarnation–God’s coming into the world in Jesus and our own experience of being flesh and blood, and in spite of so much evidence of Sorrow, recklessly touts the victory of the Joy team…. I guess I need the visual reminders of light and color to regale this time and to keep my spirits from falling back into the dark side of Advent and pandemic despair.
For many people Christmas is just plain over. Christians included. They wait for the next big part of the church year which is Lent and Easter. I want to propose a little “front-porch” theology. This is the stuff I pray about and ponder as I sit on my front porch. I think we miss half of the message of the Salvation story of Jesus if we think of Easter as the most important Christian season. In the Episcopal Church and many other liturgical churches, we have a three-sentence story we proclaim every Sunday as we celebrate the Eucharist or Holy Communion:
Christ has Died.
Christ is Risen.
Christ will Come Again.
These words are called the Mystery of Faith. It is the Lent and Easter story. And I love saying them. They summarize the Death, Resurrection, and Return of Jesus, the Christ, with the emphasis on Jesus’s divinity. But I think there is an equally important three-sentence story about Jesus, the man who was born and experienced three decades of life before the showdown at Lent and Easter. Here is my three-sentence story:
Christ was Longed For.
Christ was Born.
Christ will Spread like Wildfire.
For me, this is the prequel to the Mystery of Faith or the First Mystery of Faith. These sentences celebrate Incarnation—the life and humanity of Jesus. They are a summary of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—the whole Season of the Nativity. My desire to extend the Nativity Season at home is not just my selfish need for light and glitz, but a passionate belief that Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are just as important as Lent and Easter. We are in the Christmas season for another week. Epiphany starts on January 6 and celebrates the spread of Jesus’s influence beyond the boundaries of a small town in a small country. Theologian and preacher Peter Gomes said, “This is the most important season of the church’s year because this is the season in which we come to see who Jesus is, where he is to be found, and where we begin to understand what he is about.”2 Epiphany, the “shining forth,” is the reminder that we are players and makers in the emerging kingdom of God, that we spread the fire of the Gospel.
1 Walter Brueggemann, Advent/Christmas Proclamation 3
2 Peter J. Gomes,Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living(New York: William Morrow and Company, 1998), 30-31.
My brother died a week ago. Don was my big brother by six years. His death was a surprise but not a shock. He had escaped death on multiple occasions with heart issues. Every time a family member’s name showed up on my phone, I held my breath. And then a sigh of relief followed when the conversation was about other things. But this time the phone call brought the unwanted news. Don was in a wheelchair at the hospital waiting to be picked up to go home after a one-day stay. The nurses found him unresponsive. The next couple of hours held little chance of recovery. The gift of those hours was the gathering of eight family members in the hospital room and a relative who was a priest. It is rare that families get to assemble in the hospital during CoVid, but they did. With prayers and anointing, they released Don into God’s hands and comforted each other. With a phone placed next to my mouth and Don’s ear, I spoke love and goodbyes to him. I am both sorrowful and grateful. We were siblings but we also had a hard-won, easy friendship. We have no unfinished business.
Two friends and I started writing daily haiku a few weeks ago. Haiku are the tiny, 17-syllable poems, like the one at the top of the blog. They are a wonderful way to corral thoughts, memories, and emotions and to investigate the world. I have written six or seven about my brother—some serious, some silly. Haiku-writing, daily reading of Advent meditations, and the Advent calendar drawing keep me grounded in the paradoxes of the season. Grief and hope really do dance arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand. Scripture readings about sorrow, longing, and despair are juxtaposed with ones about hope, expectation, and promise. Psalm 30: 10-11 (NIV) is just one example: 10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help. 11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
I have two Advent calendars this year, one with the names of people, the other with words from #AdventWord. When I enter my calendar worlds, I burrow into prayer and stillness. The people-calendar reminds me of my place in a large and loving, if scattered, community. I am one of many pieces in this colorful patchwork of friends, family, and even strangers. The words on the #AdventWord calendar remind me of who I want to be and the vision I have of a God-infused world. I love the ebb and flow between words and silence I experience when I doodle/pray on the calendars.
The time between the first phone call and the call confirming Don’s death is vivid in my mind. I walked outside and sat on the hood of the car in our jungle-y property. It was winter-dark and quiet. I wanted to walk, so I edged through the vines and ferns to the road. The neighborhood has no street lights. As I turned the dark corner not more than fifty feet from where I had been sitting, I was met with an exaltation of light and color. Almost every house on the street had Christmas lights—two blocks of them. I tend to be pretty cranky about Christmas lights before December 20, but not that night. The shimmer and glitz and glare were like a proclamation, an announcement—“Glory to God in the highest and Peace to God’s people on earth.” I was not alone on the flip-flop journey of gratitude and grief. Millions of other people were on it, too. This was unexpected, this gift of light on the night I became the last person alive in my family-of-origin. I was alone, but not alone, and smiling.
Here are five turkey templates (some old, one new) for a pre- or post-dinner Thanksgiving activity for adults and kids. In the center of the turkey write your name for God: “Gracious God, Creator, Beloved One, or….” In the spaces within the turkey, in the shapes on the side, or anywhere on the page, write or draw your “gratitude list.” Add color and more lines, dots, or squiggles. The list does not have to include large, sweeping things like “family, country, home, teachers, planet, Jesus…”–though it can. Don’t just write the things others want you to say or those things you think you should be grateful for. Go for the little, ordinary things, the ones that give you delight, ease, or a moment of curiosity–“gravy, mac and cheese, a tiny acorn on the ground, colored pencils, a Zoom meeting with friends, a lizard, the rain.…” Part of the purpose of a gratitude list is to learn to “think in gratitude” in the same way we learn to “think in French or Spanish” when we study a foreign language. Noticing simple, specific things helps me to cultivate chronic thankfulness rather than just gratitude for the general or the extraordinary. I want to learn to be “abounding in thanksgiving” or “overflowing with thankfulness” as the writer of Colossians 2:7 proclaims.
Choose the turkey you want to use. Click on the link below the drawing. Download it first. Then print. Feel free to make multiple copies.
Another option for a Gobbler template is to trace around your hand. Draw lines or arcs to delineate spaces for words.
Below are examples of completed turkeys from previous years. A Blessed Thanksgiving to all.