Just Keep Breathing

December 18, 2018
by Michael Turman

In high school, one of my favourite teachers was Mr. Rogers. He taught English literature and creative writing. The tidbit which came up in a lesson that most resonated with me was, "Life's a bitch and then you die." That phrase reflected something that I could feel in my daily experience. It was freeing to acknowledge that. The lesson, though, was that even though Mr. Rogers seemed to acknowledge the futility of life, he himself did not seem overcome by it. He was gentle and humorous and hopeful. Was there more to life than just this bleak, pessimistic outlook?

The book of Ecclesiastes is a beautiful, strange book of wisdom in the Old Testament. It opens up with a look at life similar to mine at that time.

Ecclesiastes 1:2 – Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (NRSV)

Does this seem hopeful? A course I once took had me looking at the Hebrew keyword of this text: havel, meaning breath, the same word as the name Abel. "Breath of breath, all is just a breath." Our lives are but a breath.

Yet Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven, became fully human, born as a baby, and shared in this same breath. After His short life, it became something even greater as He breathed again:

John 20:21-22 – Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (NRSV)

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty and futility of life, or do you feel quite the opposite? Wherever you are, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe. Put your feet flat on the floor, become centred in your being. Sit up straight and comfortably, becoming aware of how you feel as you relax each of your limbs. Feel the air entering your lungs, and rest in that awareness for a while. Whenever you need to, come and rest this way, seeking the presence of the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, who animates all life.

Prayer: Dear God, we breathe in; we breathe out. Thank You for giving us breath. Encourage us with Your Spirit at all times. Amen.

About the author:

Michael Turman <michael.turman@calvinchurch.ca>
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank you, Michael, for sharing this devotional with us. Blessings.


    Thanks for the encouragement, Michael. Have a Merry Christmas.


    Thank you for writing the gentle wisdom that affects every breath we take.


    Michael,
    This reminded me of your devotional today.


    Thanks for the suggestion to keep breathing.
    Blessings.


    How “inspiring”!
    A lovely start to a typical West Coast rainy day.
    Thanks,
    (B C.)


    Hello Michael
    Excellent devotional!!! Thank you so much for sharing this important reminder for us. God bless and have a very Merry Christmas.


    Thank you for sharing your much appreciated devotional with us this morning Michael. There is absolutely nothing as wonderful as the presence and breath of the Holy Spirit.


    Thank you. I needed that … to breathe, to believe and to bounce back … to breathe and keep breathing in the breathe of God.
    Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!
    God Bless.


    Your devotional so on the mark for me today.
    My daughter experiencing heart attack symptoms and now in Hospital.
    So I am taking this to heart.
    The words of Mary’s song come to mind.
    Blessings and thanks.


    Dear Michael – Really helpful devotional especially today, as Christmas closes in and so many things remain undone! It particularly was helped by your instructions for breathing and for noticing God’s breath in my body. Grateful for the inspiration that led you to write this most necessary words.


    Dear Michael,
    I’m glad that your writing brought to my mind the hymn: “Breathe on Me Breath of God.”
    I pray for you the blessings of this season when we especial remember our Savior’s coming amongst us human beings, to save us “from all ills in this world and the next.”


    Thanks for your thoughts, Michael…I don’t know how old you are, or if this would be your musical taste, but there was a great song by the Christian rock group Resurrection Band in the 80s called American Dream which ends with the passage from Ecclesiastes you mentioned, but with the addition of the cross!


    Thanks for your calming and hopeful message.
    (B.C.)


    Hi Michael,
    Read your devotional this morning, I must say that I am not overwhelmed by the problems of life, I will however do as you suggested.
    I wish you and yours a Blessed Christmas.

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