Author:  Karen Hoover


I’ve been thinking about breath a lot recently. It obviously began with the COVID-19 pandemic when breathing and talking through masks became a necessity to protect ourselves and others. And then, more recently, my thoughts centered on George Floyd as he cried out for breath, with his very last breath, as he was murdered by a police officer. This was not the first time we’ve heard the cry “I can’t breathe” nor seen the videos, or read the searing words on t-shirts and protest signs. Now the whole world is gasping for breath and animating it into action.


In the first days after Mr. Floyd’s brutal death, with my anger rising, my thoughts kept turning to one of my favorite hymns, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” When I turned to my hymnal to refresh my memory on the words, I was struck by their relevance to my contemporary need.


Breathe on me, Breath of God,

                       Fill me with life anew

                       That I may love the way you love,

                       And do what you would do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

                        Until my heart is pure,

                        Until with you I will one will,

                        To do and to endure.


We read in Genesis that it is God who formed humankind “and breathed into nostrils the breath of life” to create “a living being.” But it was Jesus who taught us how to be fully human:  to love one another, to do unto others as we would have done to us, to turn the other cheek, to cross the road to help, give up our cloak, go the extra mile, and care for the widow, to require justice, abandon fear, and to step out on faith.


Now, dear friends, is the time for us to breathe in God’s love and to breathe out Jesus’s justice.  From our comfortable vantage point, we recognize the existence of systemic racism and abhor racist acts. But the time is NOW to actively work as allies with our black and brown brothers and sisters to overturn the laws and practices that maintain these structures, especially with regard to policing, to defeat office-holders who uphold them, and to call-out racist behaviors. Only then can we together build the “beloved community” of peace and justice.


I recently read that we take 25,000 breaths per day! IF we’re able to sleep 8 hours, that still leaves over 16,000 breaths to put love to work creating justice. Without justice there can be no peace. We can’t give up. We cannot abandon our work and responsibility. In the words of the hymn, “to do and to endure.”


For this devotional I tried to think of a calming picture I could share that might represent breath. I settled on one of aspen leaves, beloved in our Rocky Mountain region. These leaves dance on the slightest breath of breeze and delight our eye. May they be living reminders that we have been animated by the Breath of God to be justice-makers. And may our movement be pleasing to God.

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