Developing virtuous habits |

Developing virtuous habits

The Rev. Karen Gibson, Co-pastor of Friendship United Methodist Church

It was a very cold morning, perhaps around 30 below zero.

I was thankful I could stay in the house until lunchtime.

The night before, even with below zero weather, I was part of a very enlightening Bible study group studying the Book of Psalms.

I thought in this article I would offer you the information we have learned on reading and praying the Psalms.

The author of our study book, "Invitation to the Psalms," is Rev. Michael Jinkins. I intended to share with you the schedule he suggested, and why one would want to practice this form of spiritual discipline.

Jinkins' reasoning for striving to reach this noble goal is to develop a "virtuous habit."

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I was pretty excited to share the ambitious reading/praying schedule with you, but before I had finished writing I received a call from my husband, who is working in another town. I ran my idea by him. He suggested I look up the definition for virtuous.

When I Googled the word, and the related word virtue, I discovered it is a word one might want to use very carefully.

Merriam-Webster defines virtue as "conformity to a standard of right." There were other definitions also, but all the definitions seemed to be focusing on very high standards.

One might ask, what are one's motives for developing the virtuous life, or virtuous habits?

Virtuous and pious both seem to be striving for a higher standard of discipline. Neither those who are pious, nor those who are virtuous may desire recognition, but it is good to be cautious and ask oneself, why am I doing what I do?

John Wesley believed that it is important to balance our works of piety with our works of mercy. Works of piety mean a love of God and practicing spiritual disciplines.

Works of mercy mean performing those activities that show we love our neighbor and caring for those who need our help.

Throughout the Bible, one can find many examples of God's followers who were challenged by their own weaknesses and chose to follow their own desires: Moses who took another man's life; David who took Uriah's wife and had Uriah killed; Paul who persecuted early Christians; and Peter who denied Christ three times.

In each of their lives, they learned to depend on God not because they started out virtuous, but because they experienced God's forgiveness and God's love in their lives.

If one was to read the Psalms, with about three chapters every morning and three chapters every night for 30 days, you will be able to read the whole Book of Psalms in about 30 days.

Practicing consistent spiritual disciplines may result in virtuous habits, but the ultimate goal should be developing a deeper relationship with God and become a practicing Christian.

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