~by Donald Hanna
For some time my wife, Brenda, has been less and less enchanted with the calendar in her phone. For months she has been making the occasional comment about how much she hates it. Last month, she finally decided to ditch the phone calendar, and buy a planner. She did a little researching, as she does, and ordered a planner for herself, and one for our teenaged daughter, Lexi, as well. As it happened they showed up at the house on Ash Wednesday.
It has been interesting for me to watch the two of them with their planners. Although they wouldn’t probably call what they are up to a spiritual practice, it really smacks of that to me. Let me explain a bit of their impromptu Lenten discipline that has developed over the past few weeks.
First off, the planners that they bought are full of various inspirational quotes. Things like, “Be present in all things,” “Attract what you expect, reflect what you desire, become what you respect, mirror what you admire,” and “Love the life you live.” I’ll walk into the room and find them saying, “Oh, listen to this one…” and then discussing what it means to them and what the implications of the quote would be if lived out. How would life be different if we weren’t floating through on autopilot, if we really were present to the moments of life?
Shortly after they got their planners, Lexi went out and bought a bunch of stickers. The next day I found her and my wife, bent over the island in the kitchen with their planners, the stickers, and some scissors. They were talking about important dates – birthdays of loved ones, anniversaries, dance performances (Lexi is a dancer), and so on. They were cutting up the stickers and decorating those special days, celebrating the important moments of life. Our anniversary now has the words “Me + You” stuck to the day, with flower stickers and X’s and O’s.
At the beginning of each month in their planners is a page that has a prompt for things that they are grateful for, what is important to them, what their dreams are, as well as what they are reading, listening to, celebrating and on and on. My girls have decided that together they will take Sunday night each week to go through the calendar for the week, to work on some of those questions, and to get organized for the days ahead.
It really has been fun to watch them use the calendar as a catalyst for togetherness, reflection, gratitude, and discernment. As a pastor, I have preached multiple sermons on each of these topics, and the importance of inviting them as disciplines into our lives. And then life kicks in, another week goes by, and I haven’t managed to do much about making them more of an intentional practice myself. Who would have thought that a planner would have been the tool to move these things from abstract theological concepts to praxis.
Maybe next Lent instead of preaching, I should just get everyone in my congregation a planner.