Al & Mia McKay /Wednesday, October 6, 2021


A couple of months ago, I was asked to write a short blog post about gratefulness. I have much to be thankful for, but today I’m grateful for breath.

Breathing is something I do every day usually without thinking. But when I stop to think about it, breath is a gift from God that I don’t want to take for granted. In his book One Drum: Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet, Richard Wagamese writes this:

“Breath is an unconscious action. It happens of its own accord. When we emerge into this reality, breathing is the first act we perform as independent living beings. Our lungs fill with the sacred breath, and we cry for contact. In fact, our entire journey on the planet is marked by two remarkably interconnected things—the will to keep breathing and the yearning for physical and spiritual contact” (in “The First Ceremony: Sacred Breath,” p. 69).

Wagamese is an author I have been reading recently, and I appreciate how he doesn’t try to give a lot of answers but rather tells a lot of stories and share conversations.  Through his poetic and provocative writing, he invites me to wander through my own experiences and find ways to connect with God, the Creator. I am stirred to wonder.  


Very soon, many will be celebrating Thanksgiving. 

This is usually a time to be with extended family and friends.  Some of these people may have been present at your very first breath – and it has been difficult if you have had to practice physical distancing. Many have been longing for such an occasion– it may be the first family reunion or big dinner celebration after too many months of being separated.

There are likely to be feelings over decisions about who to see and touch – to interact with in person. 

  • Is it better to be grateful for grandparents from a distance?
  • Is it okay to play with the children?  
  • Is there risk being around the table together?
  • And is it even about the physical contact?

Emotional and spiritual connections are important for mental health. Anticipating this coming holiday can create a lot of anxiety and concern.


When you’re in the middle of some inner conflict or worry, someone may say to you, “Just breathe.” 

If you’re like me, in the middle of a tense situation, breathing is the last thing I think of doing. But taking time to stop and focus as I breathe intentionally makes a difference. 

I usually plant my feet flat on the floor and take 5 deep breaths, filling up my lungs with air and thinking about how each breath comes from the source of God’s eternal love.  I breathe in this love and when I exhale, I realize that I’m sharing that love with those around me.   

Slow, mindful breathing is also good when we’re excited and happy.

Maybe when you are in the middle of your gathering with one—or many—this Thanksgiving, you might take time to breathe and notice the air that comes from the Spirit of God.

Breathing connects us and reminds us to be forever grateful for the gift of life in relationship with the Creator and with each other.

Any thoughts or comments to share?  Let me know at 

This article was written by Al McKay, a Chaplain, in collaboration with Mia McKay. Al's favourite part of his work is seeing Jesus in unfamiliar places of the Downtown East side in Vancouver. When Al was a kid, he wanted to be a teacher or a famous rock drummer when he grew up. If Al had a free afternoon, you'd find him spending time with his wife. To read more articles from our Al and our Corporate Chaplains, you can visit our Chaplains Blogs



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