And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. (Luke 4, 1-2 NRSV)
Wilderness comes in many forms. After ten months in Jerusalem and the land of the Holy One in 2021/2022, my idea of wilderness was no longer just dense Maine woods or ancient, old-growth forests. It was desert—the rough and rocky sand-covered hills throughout the country. So for my 2022 Lenten calendar template, I created a highway or pathway through the desert with pops of vegetation, like kernels of hope, growing from nowhere and everywhere. The border on the desert calendar includes words from Isaiah, Psalms, and Mark. This template is still available with the date changed to 2023.
But there are other varieties of wilderness besides desert. I’ve been thinking about the fairy tales I read as a child. The scary wilderness was often a dense forest full of briars, clusters of twisting vines, and thorns. The skin-tearing thorns and tight briars kept heroes and heroines from passing through and sometimes prevented them from rescuing people in distress. The newest template is a winding vine with thorns and briars. Life can sometimes feel like this kind of impassable and hostile wilderness, perhaps a good visual for the solemn and penitential season of Lent,
Another more metaphorical desert for me is a blank piece of paper. Whether I’m supposed to write a letter, blog post, or poem or come up with a new calendar template or doodled birthday card, the blank page can be scary. There are no guidelines. Whether I’m writing or drawing, the first marks are a journey into the unknown with no script or form. My first Advent calendar was a one-day-at a time doodling pilgrimage around a piece of paper with no framework and no directions. If none of the templates below interest you, try a blank piece of paper for your wilderness journey through Lent. Start anywhere with a shape or meandering line and use one of the suggestions in the section below called Ways to Use the Calendars.
Praying on a Calendar 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 pencils or markers. Ask God to be with you in this time. 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. The accumulation of words or peoples’ names on the calendar creates an emerging tapestry of your Lenten spiritual journey.
Since the spaces are small, I like to enlarge the template (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 part of Lent, but I don’t like to break the rhythm of my daily practice.)
Ways to Use the Calendars
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/doodle 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 that gets your attention.
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 Covid years have been difficult for many people, so include your specific worries, fears, and sorrows on the calendar. Your calendar path 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.
7) So many countries and cities in the world are in distress. Choose a city or country to pray for each day. Imagine you are helping to carry these places to healing and redemption at the cross and beyond to Easter.
8) What are the burdens, gifts, and supplies you carry into a wilderness experience? Choose one for each day; ponder and pray.
Below are five calendar templates in pdf format for Lent 2023. Click on the title below the calendars to download them. They are also available on the Lent section of the Resources Page. Feel free to Share this post and the templates with others. You can also browse through past Lenten calendars on the Resources Page for ideas–some of the older calendars are undated except for the year and could easily be reused.
(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.)
Thorny Briars and Vines
Lily Stained Glass
Here is my Desert calendar from last Lent (2022) and three examples of completed calendars from 2021.
Thanks to Val M for the Concentric-Circle/Cross Calendar on the left. Val says of her calendar, “It reflects my thoughts, requests for prayers from others, and what my devotions may have been directing me that day.”
Thanks to Cindy O for the Box Calendar in the middle. Her calendar includes words and meditations related to Lent.
The third calendar is mine. Much of it was added after a flood in a storage unit destroyed about a third of our belongings. I wrote about this in 2021 in a Blog post.
Here is an example of the possible beginnings of a Concentric Circle/Cross calendar. Color is not a requirement; just using a black pen can be a meditative/prayerful practice.
This is wonderful! Thank you. Why do you color the day before Easter black?
I color Holy Saturday black because it feels like a day of hopelessness, of unknowing. WE know that Easter will come, but those who witnessed the crucifixion did not know that. It’s like a day of mourning and grief. That’s just my interpretation. Thanks for asking.