The vibrancy of a culture embracing hope and a bright future
My teen years were shaped in large part by my discovery of and devouring of literature, from English language classics, to works of philosophy, theology, history, psychology and science. My first language was French with a mixture of German. Spending the majority of the first decade of my life in eastern France in Alsace Lorraine, exposed me to both the French and German culture. It was my everyday world.
This region of France which had changed hands multiple times of the centuries of time between France and Germany, had by the 1950’s become a reminder of the importance of building a relationship of peace, understanding and mutual cooperation for the benefit of everyone. This value system permeated the city in which I lived and remember to this day, St. Die, a city that was established by an Irish missionary monk during the Dark Ages, when Celtic Christianity became the vibrant missionary movement that Christianized most of Western Europe. Here was my own missionary family from Belfast, Northern Ireland, had a profound belief in a life mission from God, and that meant doing mission work attempting to plant a Pentecostal congregation in the heart of staunchly Catholic eastern France. I was in the midst of this vibrant cultural life, and I was just a kid, but I felt the vibrancy, and the hope that was going across the vast majority of post-World War Two Europe. My parents believed in a living a life committed to and directed by God, and that was part and parcel of this vibrancy that impacted my pre-teen years.
Arrival in the land of generosity and diversity
My family believed in God and in his plan for their lives, that they were willing to act on that belief and take the family to a whole new other world across the vast Atlantic ocean, and moved our family to Canada in 1967. I was nine years old. I was a stranger in a strange land. Fortunately for me, our first home in Canada, was in North America’s “most European city,” the city of Montreal, Quebec. Montreal was celebrating the Canadian Centennial of Canadian statehood, a hundred years since the founding fathers of the Dominion of Canada had formed this wonderful and beautiful and prosperous, and very generous nation. We arrived in March of that year and landed at Mirabel Airport, one of the last “all white” plane loads of British immigrants to Canada. Multiculturalism would become within the next year the official position of the Canadian government and would invite the people of the world to come and become part of Canada, honoring their ethnic origins, their cultures and languages and all their uniqueness, to contribute to making Canada an even better place and a role model to the world of toleration and acceptance as a culture that embraced diversity of all kinds. This is the Canada that was nascent and just emerging into a new awareness of itself and its contributions to the world. This is the country I came to, that made me feel “normal” as a born Brit (Ulster Scots Irish Protestant) who was raised French in eastern France, whose mother tongue was French. Only Canada could embrace that reality in a way that made me feel more normal than not. And, I am quite thankful for that.
My parent’s belief, coupled with the familiarity of the French language, made it easier to transition to life in Canada. The province of Quebec went through a cultural revolution of its own in the 1960’s and the power of the Roman Catholic Church was dismantled little by little, especially in the areas of social policy, such as health care and education. The impact of the distinctions of French and differences between it and the English culture was significant. Until 1972, any non-Catholic family had to send their kids to Anglophone schools. As a Protestant I was forced to go to an English school, although ALL of my social life, church life, and everyday living was within a Francophone context. I lost that connection to French education and the French sub-culture, which I had known in France. In Quebec I was not considered “French” but rather “English” (even though you don’t say that to an Ulster Scot Irish person). So here I was in Quebec being ostracized at one level because of the Protestant faith of my family, and on the other, not being allowed to fully be engaged in the diversity of the culture by having the French education I wanted. It was the opposite of what I had known in France. My parents fully immersed our family into the culture, so that we would not feel different from other people, and be accepted by the very people my parents felt called to share the Gospel of Jesus with. In my thinking, and living, and every day life, I was really “French.” I did not know anything else. Being born a Brit was simply the accident of geography where my parents were from, and where I was born. In my heart of hearts I was French. In Quebec I still felt French, and my parents faith had nothing to do with it. But according to the law of the land in Quebec, my being from a Protestant family denied my my desire of a French education.
The irony of it all was that my parents had denied my ethnic identity, language and culture. I wasn’t just British. I was Anglo-Irish. I was Northern Irish Protestant as distinct from Irish Catholic and as distinct a cultural identity as Newfoundland is to the rest of English Canada. I became enamored with the history, geography, and culture and music of Northern Ireland. I even learned and adapted an Irish brogue and accent. I wanted to recover what I had been denied by my family. Coming to Canada made that happen for me.
Learning the English language and embracing cultural and ethnic diversity
In this great land of Canada, I was now in a province where English was a minority and where French and French culture dominated the landscape from popular culture, music, film and television, to sports and politics. French and English coexisted, sometimes with an ease and sometimes with tensions waiting to erupt above the surface. In 1970 those subterranean tensions erupted into the FLQ Crisis, where Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of current PM Justin Trudeau) ushered in marshal law and the Canadian Army came out in force to hold the peace in Montreal and south western Quebec. I saw the tensions of that cultural diversity come to the surface, as my being a Protestant meant I went to an English school, and there were fears of attacks from Quebec Nationalists that included potential targets of English schools and other Anglophone civil institutions. We ended up having soldiers on our school buses, escorting us to school and home again. I was in this hotbed for several months of the crisis when our family moved to Ontario, where I have remained ever since. Leaving a Montreal in crisis was a hard thing for me. I so identified with the culture and diversity of Montreal, and it was at a time when I was entering my teens. I was twelve when the October Crisis happened and I was just becoming more aware and cognizant of language, cultural, ethnic, and belief systems differences within the culture. I saw how much belief, how much vision, and how much work was involved with creating a culture of acceptance and tolerance and an embracing of diversity, and an openness to engaging with those who think, look, and speak differently than ourselves.
Leaving Montreal to go to an Anglo-Saxon, Scottish Irish town in Eastern Ontario, was a huge cultural clash for me. To go from bilingualism which was a day to day reality, from French church life and community engagement, to English school, and watching English and French television, and playing and hanging out with French kids on the street and church, was just normal for me. Not having any of that, and having everything Anglo in Ontario was a totally shock to my system. The cultural awareness and diversity that I had grown accustomed to, was now missing.
Bible and Victor Frankl
I grew up being taught a Christian world view. We understood our beliefs to flow out of the teachings of the Christian Bible. My parents would be considered to have embraced a form of literalism, in that the Bible is true in its teachings and what it literally describes it is believed to be literally true, and that is from the account of the creation, to the culmination of the ages. So that was my context in which life was known, understood, and lived out. The Bible, as well as classics from Western Culture were the backbone of a solid “Judeo Christian education” as my father reminded me over and over during my teen years. During these years I gorged out on the mighty tomes of the Christian West. I fell in love with history, philosophy and theology. I became an addict on anything pertaining to human freedom and the idea of men and women being made in the image of God as free moral agents.
Viktor Frankl was a noted neurologist and psychiatrist who underwent a remarkable personal journey of transformation as a persecuted Jew during the Holocaust. He was a Holocaust survivor who not only survived the Nazi death camps, but became a champion of idea of “absolute freedom” that each person ever born, is graced with an ability to choose that can never be taken away from them. This freedom to choose was rooted in a belief that he had the power to choose that would direct impact his life in that moment, and the subsequent moments thereafter. He chose not only to believe but to act on that belief.
For Frankl man’s freedom is rooted in man’s ability to choose how to respond to all and any situation. The fact that you can choose how to respond is the basic element of human freedom. No matter what anyone would ever do to you, you as a human agent, can choose how to respond to that, action. The very fact that you can choose means you are a free moral agent able to walk in freedom, a freedom in self-awareness, a freedom in self-discovery, a freedom to change ourselves when we cannot change our circumstances. In the end the basic element of human freedom is found in our attitude toward the circumstance we find ourselves in. We can believe, and see within ourselves that we will not only respond, but also decide how we will choose to respond. That decision, that belief put into action, is freedom, and choosing it is an act of freedom and an act of the will.
It matters not what the circumstances are, or how evil or diabolical the situation may be. In each and every situation, Frankl believed, that you could find that space where you could find that power within yourself, the freedom to choose and respond, which in the end leads to personal growth and true freedom. I agree with Frankl, that we all have the ability to choose, and when we really believe it, it is a liberating message, a message that resonates with and echoes from the pages of the Christian Bible.
You can choose to do anything, if you believe, and if you make a conscious choice in faith
I believe that every person ever born is created in the image of God, which are the character and attributes of God as a conscious free moral agent, being able to make rational, moral and ethical decisions in life’s journey. The only divine attributes we do not possess as human beings are those that are infinite in power, known as omnipotence, present in all places at all times, also known as omnipresence, and all knowing, commonly referred to as omniscience, eternal as in never ending or dying. These attributes only refer to God as the all-powerful being from whom all creation and all creatures finds their source of life and power.
We practice in life what we truly believe about ourselves and the world in which we live
I believe at the end of the day, each and every one of us practices what we actually believe through our actions in our day to day living. It matters little to nothing what we profess to believe. What we actually believe comes out through our actions in real time, in real life situations. I have had my own journey of self- discovery and awareness, when I have embraced this idea of absolute freedom, which has revealed far too much inconsistent truth in my own life. At one time I had no problem being “pro-life” and “pro death” when it came to the death penalty or serving in the military. Now I realize what I think, and what I believe, I need not only to profess, but act upon it. If I am truly “pro-life” then I need to be as pro-life as possible in the decisions I make and the issues I support and address. I am being ethically and morally inconsistent when I am pro-life in one area and not in another. But human beings constantly struggle with moral and ethical consistency. One does not need to look far for evidence. We find it in our own hearts and lives. In the end we all practice what we truly believe. I am reminded over and over again the importance of consistency when it comes to living out what I ethically believe to be true.
If we practice what we truly believe, what is it that we actually believe about ourselves?
I believe what Jesus taught is true, that the Kingdom of God is deep within us, within our hearts, in our souls, in our human spirit. Jesus said it this way in Luke 17: 21, “The Kingdom of God is within you.
Many Christians have a belief in God which is both personal and intimate, and also at the same time an objective believe in God, a personal and intimate confessed knowledge of God. It isn’t just a belief concerning God, as in a set of objective truths, a statement of faith, an idea of God. Christians believe and have believed from the very beginning in a personal God that became so engaged with humanity, that He took on human form Himself, and God in a sense put on a “skin suit” and became the God man Jesus of Nazareth. Christians have a profound belief not just about Jesus Christ, his life, ministry, death and resurrection, but a profound intimate belief that God lives within. This believe has been coined as “Jesus in your heart” which simply implies that God resides within the soul and spirit of man. When Jesus declares that there is this inner knowing of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of people, he is declaring that God resides in us, and his rule (Kingdom) becomes established in our hearts and gives direction and guidance and provides for us along life’s journey.
This inner knowing of God releases the power of God to work on our behalf
I have lived my entire adult life, from the time of my teens, with an “inner knowing” and have often spoken with people about those moments in your day to day life where there is a cognizance of “I know that I know that I know.” You can’t put it into words, but you just know. Some people call this the inner voice of your soul or your “spirit man” inside you, your “true self.” Some others call it an “intuition” a “inner prompting” that prompts you throughout your day to day living in order to guide and direct you. As a Christian there is a theological framework for all this, and it boils down to the “inner voice of God” speaking to your “inner man” or your “spirit” and giving your guidance and direction. As you mature in your belief and faith, you begin to “discern” as the Bible describes it, which is again, an “inner knowing” or “inner confirmation” of what you need to know at that time in your life when it occurs.
I believe many live at a low level of belief and expectation
I am one of those people who had held to that middle of the road not wanting extremes in my life, and by doing so, I have literally settled for so much less than what God has for me, and what I want for myself. I have seen it in jobs, and positions of advancement. I apply, but I really don’t believe in myself or that I am worthy of that position, and the result has been a self- fulfilling prophecy. I have had this same thing be true when I pray for the things I desire, but it is more like a “faint hope” rather than fervent faith and belief that God will move through my faith and bring about the desires of my heart. I am determined to change and to focus on believing that God has the best for me, and all of heaven is already deposited within me. The Kingdom of God is indeed within each one of us. It remains untapped largely due to our own “unbelief.” So I challenge myself, and I challenge you, to begin believing again, for the things that are deep inside your heart.
Realizing that which we desire does not come from ourselves, but from God
I am in the middle of a second reading of a 1948 classic book on belief. Claude Bristol wrote The Magic of Believing and its precepts and concepts are quite biblical and filled with universal truths and applications. The more I saturate my mind with the audio book (see link below imbedded in this post), the more I find my thinking changing. This is more than the power of positive thinking. It is rather revolutionary, when your grid of understanding is that God has already deposited in every single human being the power to create and the power to succeed. How many times in the past I have heard and quoted even the verse in Exodus in the Old Testament, that God has given us the ability to create and make wealth?
Do you remember the creative power and impact of the power of agreement among people that ended up creating the Tower of Babel? It is that creative power, the thoughts of the mind, where ideas are formed, and were creativity designs machines, apparatus, architecture, explores and discovers scientific cures for diseases and more and better progressive technologies and advancements. Where do you think all that comes from? It comes from human thought that is inquisitive by design and nature, and intellects that desire to not only comprehend and understand, but also harness energy and power and create things that make life better, not only for themselves but for humanity. In this capacity, as a Christian, I believe that this is mankind imitating God, and being co-creative with Him. God releases ideas and aligns Himself with us, and brings about positive results out of our creative thoughts and capacity to improve life as a whole.
I challenge you and I challenge myself
I want to lay out a challenge to you today. I want to challenge you to read this audio book. You can download it and added to your audio media player (your smartphone or tablet or music player). You may want to convert the file. I downloaded it as an MP4 and converted to an MP3. It shrank the size of the file considerably. I challenge you to listen to it several times. The full audio book is six hours in length, but you won’t regret it.
You don’t have to be a person of faith to enjoy it. You can be an ordinary person who had great thoughts of being successful. You can be a person of any faith or no faith. I just would like you to listen to it and reflect on it. I include the download link for the PDF version of the book so that you can read it too, on your smart phone or tablet. I suggest the following:
- Read it, and put into practice the practical exercises that the author wants you to practice.
- Keep at it at least for two weeks.
- Measure how you feel and what you are sensing each day, and increase your expectation and believe good things are happening.
- Let me know how you do.
Peace, and as Spock quotes from the Old Testament, “Live long and Prosper.”
Samuel M. Buick
The Magic of Believing Audio Book (Youtube)