Some of the best and most inspiring Spiritual Practices are not rehearsed in advance at all—they are the practices that evolve naturally or come suddenly from the Holy Spirit. On Christmas Day 2015, I received a strange gift in the mail from one of my eccentric aunts. It was an oblong, tall, narrow calendar of Paul Klee artwork with only a single short line of space next to each date. As a busy person with a verbose personality, I puzzled at this attractive and impractical gift. What do you do with a calendar with only one short line next to every date?
On New Year’s Day, I went to my new tall and narrow calendar and took out a pen and wrote one word for the day: Coffee. The next day, I wrote a short phrase, saying, “The fresh smell of Colorado winter.” At that point, I realized I was writing a one word or short phrase gratitude log journal. This isn’t something that I invented, but the brevity and the simplicity made it accessible and doable on a daily basis without seeming like a burden.
Some days, I knew what the one word or phrase of gratitude from that day would be instantaneously. At other times, I would spend time journaling or praying before settling on my word of phrase. It would require as much because of the dearth or abundance of gratitude and blessings on a given day. I learned that gratitude is a changeable Spiritual Practice especially when a word comes to represent a whole day. Sometimes the gratitude is something funny like March 27th when I celebrated (as a minister), “Easter being over for a whole year!” Sometimes, the gratitude is something simple and obvious like July 24th which reads, “Natural Wonders.” Other times, it is deep and profound like October 3rd when I wrote, “Divine Light.” What did I mean by that? What inspired that gratitude on October 3, 2016? It is fun and deep to return to these words of gratitude.
In the years since, I haven’t always felt called to do a gratitude word journal every year. I did it in 2016 and again in 2018. A secret, which ministers rarely share with congregations about Spiritual Practices and their sustainability, is that you don’t have to practice all of them all the time! They can and should come and go as needed so as to never be a bore or burden. It is always something I need to prepare for before January. I need to find the right long, awkward calendar without room for many words like the one my aunt sent me. I need to prepare myself for the daily commitment and promise to start on the very first day of the year. I need to find fun pens.
I have decided that 2021 is a perfect year for another spontaneous, daily word or phrase gratitude log. The vernacular of calling it a “gratitude log” more accurately reflects what it is and what is required than a journal. It is also less frigid than a gratitude inventory. After 2020, it is time to start this practice again, and I invite you to join me.
And so... I go to Breakwater Books in search of the perfectly strange, impractical calendar to fill with random words of gratitude for what will certainly be a year of blessings—both obvious and those in need of deeper discernment.