Chuck Bino: Encouragement from a Lenten practice

Feb. 17, 2013 @ 02:19 AM

In a column I wrote on Dec. 23, one’s preparation for life’s important events, called “advents,” was the major theme.  Keeping with that same intention to remain more positive, allow me to offer some similar observations and suggestions.  These are inspired by a few words spoken to me individually and to numerous others at an Ash Wednesday service last week. It marks the beginning of another liturgical season for Christians called Lent, which in effect, is another advent or preparation.
Most of us are more familiar with the day before, which is less known as Shrove (or fat) Tuesday, more affectionately as Mardi Gras and Carnival.  Some forms of it appeared throughout history as celebrations of Spring and fertility rites.  Watching the media on the Carnival in Brazil, the costumes and dances are clearly in favor of the fertility part.  The Catholic Church, which doesn’t encourage pagan festival participation, celebrates Easter about the same time as Spring festivals. Lent is the 40-day period of prayer and abstinence immediately before Easter beginning with Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is like a “last chance party” to be excessive.
Kids are taught to “give something up” at this time, while adults are required to abstain and be less self-indulgent for the same reason.  Some “action” was necessary to “change” oneself.  Self discipline was the outcome, if you were successful.  My father, in his advanced years, would claim that he gave up sex and carousing with loose women, entirely missing the point, as biology already did the job.  Introspection, prayer, and some humility are required to pull off any real change in behavior.
At the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 6, we saw and heard many interesting words.
President Obama said: “These moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us.” After leaving a meeting with Billy Graham, he says that “it humbled me to my core.”  Well, that’s three out of four precursors to self-control and behavioral change.
Many of us have seen much more of his prideful side since the re-election. Were these just some words he thought we needed to hear? I have hope that he will have more than fleeting moments of humility, and that those whom he considers the opposition to his policies in Congress will have even more.
The president, again: “John tells us that, ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’ ”  We understand that words mean things, especially if all hold to the same definitions of terms.  Some don’t understand how his previous lack of truthfulness and that of his colleagues in election promises, “fast and furious,” Benghazi, and Affordable Health Care, is to be ignored or cancelled out by a recent speech.
On the other aspect of using John’s words, the president and his colleagues must “really love” his brothers in need. But all that love in the form of benefits, bailouts, abortion funding, silly investments, mortgages, perpetual unemployment benefits are “actions” with little thought of the consequences. It is like giving a panhandler money on Eastchester, only to find him begging elsewhere the next day, and for days following.  How is he helped in the long-term?
I offer these words spoken to me on Ash Wednesday by the Rev. Vince Smith at IHM Church to our leadership for their self discipline:
“Will you take action to change your life?” (And our nation’s course, I add.)

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.