What is Holding You? by Paul Blankenship

Good morning, Friends. It’s good to be with you in Zoomland and to be traveling through this unusual, transformative, and deeply unfortunate time with The Beautiful People of the Divine Light.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, helped transform the way we experience our minds. We can thank Freud, or perhaps curse him, for making people so very aware that our innermost and sometimes secret thoughts really matter. Freud helps us see that the thoughts we have make a big difference in our

In a recent book, Buddha’s Brain, the American psychologist Rick Hanson agrees with Freud: the way we think is super important. And he has this really helpful metaphor that makes the point. Hanson says that our minds are [slow] like Velcro to negative experiences and Teflon—or a gloriously slippery, nonstick pan—to positive experiences. What Hanson means is that, unfortunately, our minds have a “negativity bias”: bad thoughts are stickier than positives ones and it takes hard work to marinate in a pan of positive thinking.

The Apostle Paul didn’t need a book or a sermon on the power of positive thinking. He already knew this—about two thousand years ago. In the book of Romans (12.2), Paul wrote the following:

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Let me repeat the first part: let God, the True Light, transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

In Philippians, which some people call the happiest book in the Bible, Paul says this:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice (x2) what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into Her most excellent harmonies.”

Let me make a proposal. We never stop being held. Even after we learn to walk—even after we move away from home—something in the world is always holding us. Here is another proposal. We are held by the images in our minds and, during the challenging time of COVID-19, the friendship we have with ourselves, the world, and God will be greatly impacted by the images that hold us. Our light will flicker, fade, and rage based on the images that hold us.

Veronika waking up early to provide free childcare to medical workers. A gorgeous sunset from the Monroe Street Bridge. My dog’s face. People at Caritas handing out food to the increasing number of people who can’t afford any. Democrats and Republicans working together to care for the vulnerable, the sick, the indebted, and the unemployed. Throwing my TV in the river, never to watch the news again. Everyday people staying home to practice social distancing and compassionate spacing. Lois working tirelessly in the Meeting House to sow a few seeds of Quaker Friendship.

These, Friends, are some of the images holding me. What images are holding you? And how can we practice holding good things together as we’re holed up in our homes?

Forgive me. Let me make one more proposal before we begin Waiting Worship—our virtual quiet in which we seek God’s voice and makes space for others to share how God might be moving them for the edification of the meeting. Good thinking is a spiritual practice that takes real and repeated work. And God actually shows up when we try to think good thoughts. God, actually, I think, is the hidden pull toward good thinking and the warm fire that burns in our hearts when we find ourselves held by The True Light.

This message was given to Spokane Friends by Paul Blankenship on April 5, 2020, as we met for the first time via Zoom, since we cannot meet in our own building due to COVID-19 restrictions.


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