by Grettel Loney
There’s something refreshing about a New Year. The chance to start over… make things better by hopefully messing up less and getting more right!
I used to be a runner. I trained for and ran two marathons before my back started going crazy on me. No more running for me. But I do remember what it was like to commit myself to a strict training program and a healthy diet. I remember being in awe of the realization that we can train our bodies to do anything we set our minds to.
When I was ready to start training for my first marathon, I knew just who to talk into running it with me—Stephanie, a good friend from college. Steph and I would talk the whole way on our runs. She’s a positive person, and I love that about her. She’s also a Christian, and we could talk about anything.
I recall one time saying to Steph, “Imagine what would happen if we committed ourselves to training spiritually like we do physically.” Every long run on Saturdays we would say we were going to “the land where dragons lie” meaning a place neither of us had been to. The farthest either of us had run before training for a marathon had been a half, so 13.1 miles. Every Saturday on our long run we were going to a place that was foreign, exciting and yes, at times even a little scary and painful for us!
Maybe your spirit is yearning to go to a place it hasn’t been to before. I know mine is! I’ve picked up some tips over the years and as recently as the past few months that have helped me in my walk with God. I want to share these things in hopes that something might help you along your personal spiritual journey especially as we start off the New Year.
- Have a designated place to read and pray. In my last home, we had a chair and ottoman in our formal living room. That room had no TV, so no one ever seemed to hang out in there. I had a side table with a lamp. Under the table I had a basket. The basket contained my Bible, a journal, a pen, highlighter, and reading glasses. On the table I had a candle. On the chair, a blanket. The point is to make it as inviting as possible and then as easy as possible to get into the Word and in prayer once you get there.
- Prayer Board. I went to see the movie, War Room, a couple of months ago (so good). As I was watching it, I was thinking I don’t have a closet I can just turn into a prayer room. Before I left the movie though, I had an idea for how to have my own portable prayer “room.” A prayer board. I took a simple thin poster board which is great because you can fold it twice and store it anywhere. I keep mine under my bed. On the top left corner, I have specific family member names and friends I pray for. I don’t have anything on the top right, but I’m thinking I will add pictures of people I’m praying for. On the bottom half I have Bible verses that have jumped out at me at some point and continue to speak life and faith and hope into me. I add to the board by writing verses on note cards, or sticky notes, or on a piece of paper and then cutting it out and taping it on. I have dreams of printing out these verses in color, or using some of my creative juices and writing them all out with pretty bright colors. I haven’t made time for that yet, but no matter, it’s been a life-changing tool for me.
- Bible reading app on your smartphone. Another tool that has completely enhanced my spiritual life is the “You version” Bible app. It’s free. It’s user-friendly. It’s incredible. One of the most frustrating things when you want to read the Bible is not having any idea where to start. Once you download this app, go to “Plans” on the bottom menu. Hit “Discover” at the top, and search among Devotional, Partial Bible, Whole Bible, and more reading plans. You will have access to the Bible in 1250 versions in 909 languages! All at the tip of your fingers. There are probably many more Bible apps out there—this is just the one I’ve used and can highly recommend.
- Take purposeful time off social media. Some of you might not think it’s possible to go there, but it is possible to take a break from social media! I’ve done it several times and each time it’s been amazing. Once I read the New Testament during my break. Another time I spent 40 days reading “A Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren (loved it). I’ve missed a few announcements, yes, but I’ve never regretted it. You can start with small goals. Maybe you could fast from social media for 20 minutes at night while you spend time in your reading and prayer spot.
- Bible studies. Bible studies I attended in my late 20s and early 30s kept me sane and grounded when I went through difficult seasons later on. Our church offers Bible studies Thursday mornings, Wednesday nights, and Sunday mornings. Several years ago I attended Bible studies through Community Bible Study—a wonderful non-denominational organization that meets all over the country every Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:30 and they provide childcare. Their website is communitybiblestudy.org—check it out! Another option is Sunday school classes. Our church is loaded with awesome Sunday school classes with very qualified and anointed teachers. Our website is fumctulsa.org. Click on the “Ministries” tab on the top, then “Adults,” then “Sunday community groups.”
- Godly friendships. Iron sharpens iron! You need people in your life whose walk with God inspires you and challenges you. If you don’t have these kinds of friends in your life, ask God for them. He will provide. I’ve been blessed with some incredible godly women in my life, and I’m still meeting women I completely admire and whose walk with God I want to emulate. My newest friends are my two Bible study leaders from this past semester. They are both twenty years my senior. I love these women and cannot imagine not having met them. They aren’t just my teachers; they are my prayer warriors and my friends. I invited them to lunch a few weeks into our Bible study. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone if need be to make new friends!
- Set reasonable goals and do not give up. Lastly, just as you would never train to run a marathon if you’ve never run a single mile, you would never plan to read the entire Bible in 60 days, for example, and pray for an hour a day if you’ve never been consistent in your spiritual walk. Start with SOMETHING, but make it reasonable. Remember the enemy is not going to stand around on the sidelines cheering you on. He will try to distract you, discourage you, and lie to you. You just forge on. Do not give up!
These are crazy times we live in. We’re all going through something, just been through something, or about to go through something. I pray this New Year we will all seek God like never before. I pray the Holy Spirit will lead and anoint us to help others find their way to Christ. And I pray that we will be able to look back in awe and wonder a year from now and thank God for leading us to the land where dragons lie and beyond.
Grettel Loney was born in New York but raised in Costa Rica, Ohio, and Oregon. She moved to Tulsa in 1989 to attend Oral Roberts University. Tulsa has been home ever since. She is married to Clay and has two children: Bryant, a freshman at the University of Tulsa, and Gracie, a seventh grader at Carver Middle School. Grettel enjoys Bible study, playing the guitar, reading, traveling, learning languages, the NBA, NFL, MLB, and college football.