Lenten Devotional: Who Suffers? by Janet Whitney

Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.

Here is the next submission:


“This will be an eye opener, as most of you have lived comfortably. You will meet people who have been suffering.” Thus spoke an introductory guide at the Presbyterian Disaster Aid Program (Katrina) in New Orleans. I looked around at our diverse group of volunteers and wondered about his assessment of middle class life experience.

The next day we were in a van, 10 of us, headed for a home where we would spend the next 5 days learning to cut and set tile floors. We named ourselves “Charlie’s Angels” after Charlie, a veteran Katrina volunteer/carpenter who knew the ropes.

Spending our days on our knees, face to face, making mistakes, starting over, and dealing with the physical pain (we were all over 50!) set us up. Our floors became a patchwork quilt of life stories told, moments remembered, anxieties shared. We had all known loss, grief, hardship. Joe had the most stress points: a recently deceased wife, empty nest, and a lost job. He needed to be with people. Charlie had just lost a huge amount of his retirement in the stock market, Angie cried out during the night (old wounds), and so it went.

When we finished our “patchwork floors” we sealed our stories with grout and washed the tiles clean, hopefully leaving a legacy of shared grace and compassion for the returning family.

Suffering cuts across the board. Tough times connect us all and awaken our compassionate selves. Sore knees connect people who should know better!

Acts 14: 22 “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.” — from The Message/Remix

–Janet Whitney


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