Column Entry, Leadership Life Stories, “The Breath of Communication,” by Chris Hamstra

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Column Title: Leadership Life Stories: Communicating and Leading through Your Story

Column Entry: “The Breath of Communication”

By Chris Hamstra, PhD, Davenport University

Description: There is a power when people come together to share stories. As people of faith, the practice and process of storytelling helps us understand ourselves, our communities, and our organizations. When combined with leadership, stories provide examples of how to serve authentically. This column brings people around the virtual campfire to explore the concept of leadership life stories and how to learn to engage people in the classroom and boardroom with wit and wisdom.

June – July 2024 |May 2024 |April 2024 | March 2024


“The Breath of Communication”

The average human adult breaths IN and breaths OUT about 12-20 times a minute. At a respiratory rate of 15 times a minute, that equals 21,600 breaths every 24-hours[i]. Breathing is a fundamental human activity that sustains life.

Much like breathing, I was reminded of the fundamental importance of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost this year. Reading Ezekiel 37, the connection between the spiritual and physical became clearer as I focus on the development of leadership life stories.

While we focus on the times that take our breath away, I’m interested by the times the Holy Spirit gives us the breath back. My intent today is to offer these rough ideas, that are new to me, and how they connect to the Holy Spirit in our lives, our communication, and our leadership life stories.

Pentecost as Giving Breath

The breathing in and breathing out of the Holy Spirit is seen throughout scripture. Here are just two examples. In Genesis, right from the beginning of creation, scripture centers communication as God-breathed. “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 1:7 NIV).”

As people of faith, our communication fundamentally flows from the inhale and exhale of the Holy Spirit. During Pentecost the classic passage from the Valley of Dry Bones connected powerfully. I cried reading Ezekiel 37:6 (NIV) when the prophet says: “I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

These passages remind me about the fundamental importance of breathing IN and breathing OUT physically. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, my breath connects me to the Holy Spirit. When used in a leadership life story, every breath points back to the overarching grace of Jesus.

Efharisto – A Greek Link

While this thinking was new to me, I’m reminded that the physical connection to the Holy Spirit has been around since almost the beginning of time. My first day in Athens, Greece in May 2023 I was trying to fit in with my limited knowledge of the Greek language. During breakfast, I came in with the full-on American accent and misplaced confidence of efcharisto after breakfast. My attempt was to give “Thanks” to our host.

I learned from her that efcharisto is an intentional breath in and breath out of gratitude.

The ef- sound that begins the word is the quick inhale. These are the moments that take our breath away. The inhale after learning about a stomach cancer diagnosis from a friend. During online classes this Summer, I had the sharp inhale of breath as a mother of 5 children shared her domestic abuse story during COVID and her steps out of the relationship. These difficult moments can take our breath away.

The -charisto part of the word is the exhale and settling in to the emotion and situation. I groan with John after the cancer diagnosis. On the other side of emotion, I love hearing my wife Dawnette breath out after her first sip of coffee in the morning.

With these thoughts in mind, let me try and draw a rough line to the practice of leadership life stories in the classroom and boardroom from the inhale of -ef and the exhale of -charisto.

Breath as a WHISPER

Some of the most tender moments in my life center around communication as a whisper. All around us are the small sounds of the Lord in our lives. Yesterday we walked a new trail in the woods and I heard the birds chirp and the whisper of the wind through the trees. These gentle nudges remind me that the Holy Spirit is at work in communication and can bring me to a new place.

How are you taking time to engage these gentle moments? Do you have times of solitude to listen? When are your moments to receive from the Holy Spirit in your personal and professional life?


As a natural introvert, the back and forth of conversation can take some energy for me. I gain energy in these conversations when I see and hear the work of the Holy Spirit. Dawnette and I continue to process some really difficult experiences from our earlier marriages as we seek to build our lives together. I’m grateful for the inhale and exhale during these conversations. Just like Ezekiel, the dry bones are coming back to life and we can proclaim the strength of the Lord.

How about you? Think back to your conversations this week. What are two times where you see the Lord working? Are you engaging difficult topics and tough situations so that you grow as a faith-filled communicator?

Breath as a SHOUT

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee and being stuck in the boat as a storm swoops in. Found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus sends the disciples on a journey together to the other side. In the middle of the night a storm roars across the sky. The wind howls through the torn sails and the disciples are scared. I like to think about the wind as a shout to get our attention for an important message. In this story, Jesus walks through the chaos and gets in the boat with the disciples.

How about you? List out two of the times in your life that shouted to get your attention. Even in the chaos, are we faithfully stepping out with our leadership life stories?

Action Step

Leadership life stories are based on the fundamental aspect of verbal communication and breathing IN and breathing OUT. This coming week, let me encourage you to consider your leadership life stories. Take a moment and list out one story that was a whisper of the Holy Spirit providing direction, one story that was a conversation that draws your closer to Christ, and one story that was a shout for your attention.

Remember that each of these moments provide an opportunity to engage the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives with gratitude and obedience to the Lord. I continue to pray for you as the Lord does his work in your life.



[i] Chourpiliadis, Charilaos, and Abhishek Bhardwaj. 2022. “Physiology, Respiratory Rate.” National Library of Medicine. StatPearls Publishing. September 12, 2022.


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