November 9, 2021
Bodhi K. Der Parunakian
Clergy. Rutledge Circuit
Mountain View District
Psalm 119, selected verses (NRSV)75 I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right,
and that in faithfulness you have humbled me.
76 Let your steadfast love become my comfort
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
89 The Lord exists forever;
your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand today,
for all things are your servants.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
111 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
DevotionAs I meditated on Psalm 119 in preparation for writing this devotional, I reflected upon the days of being a single mom of four precious children under the age of four years old. God had charged me with taking care of these babies, and many times I felt helpless and afraid. The only promise that I had was that God had gone before me and would guide my steps. Where did I receive this understanding of God’s unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 119:75-77)? From my own Mother, who had faithfully raised her family in the church and clung to the truths in Scriptures which she had learned from childhood (Psalm 119:89-91). Mother knew that whatever happened in life, she relied on God’s precepts, which were a lamp for her feet and light unto her path (Psalm 119:105).
I remember her greatest witness was watching her rise before her family to spend time in prayer and devotions before she started the day. At night after she guided her children in bedtime prayers on our knees and when we were all tucked into bed, Mother would kneel by her own bed, giving her children and her husband to the care of the Lord. Never has there been a greater testimony than to watch this woman desire to follow the precepts of God. When challenges came, she would often quote scripture and rested on those promises. Proverbs 3:5-9 was a favorite: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy was acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Mother was diligent in raising her family in the church. Attending church was so important that the weekend was spent in preparation for Sunday. On Saturday night, Momma made sure that her family’s clothes were pressed and laid out. Daddy helped my brothers polish their shoes. She helped me to polish my patent leather shoes to a sparkling shine. We all had our baths and freshly washed heads. Early Sunday morning, Mother prepared a hearty breakfast, Daddy would help the boys with their neckties, and the family commenced to walk the mile to the Pitman Methodist Church in Pitman, New Jersey. Unless there was a downpour or inclement weather, the family would walk to church together.
Pitman Methodist Church was the heart of the town. Pitman was founded in 1871 when it was chartered for a Methodist summer religious camp and conference campground. The church was named after Rev. Charles Pitman (b1796-d1854), a Methodist pastor who had served the South Jersey area as presiding elder and missionary secretary. The memories of those summer camp meetings that would last late into the heat of the night formed an indelible mark on my faith formation.
At the end of my mother’s life, she was no longer able to hold her Bible she so loved, but she had a small New Testament that she kept by her side. I asked her if I could have her Bible someday. She replied, “Oh dear, I don’t know why you want my Bible. Go ahead and take it with you. I won’t be able to use it again.” But I knew why I wanted her Bible. I took the Bible home and put it on my shelf. Years later, long after she went home to “see her dear Lord and Savior,” I had started my candidacy process with The United Methodist Church. I took her Bible off the shelf, opened the case reverently as if I was entering the holy of holies, and carefully pulled out her well-worn Bible which had been rebound several times. As I pored over those well-worn pages, which were soft and yellowed from the oil of her fingers, I read her notes and those verses she had underlined. There wasn’t a page that wasn’t marked with a note, date, or reference. I came across several pages that were tear stained where she was leaning on the promises of God that her children and husband would love and serve the Lord.
Mother understood her own weakness and shortcomings, as did the author of Psalm 119:175-176, “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” The foundation of Mother’s life is found in Psalm 119:111-112. “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”