Copyright © 1991, 2003 by Robert Alton Haines Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Upon the death of the 17th century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, some friends found papers he had written and subsequently had them published with the title, Pensees, which is translated, “Thoughts”.
Many thoughts have entered my mind over the past years since serving God and Country in the barren desert of Northern Saudi Arabia and camped outside Kuwait City following its liberation. I focus here on some of these thoughts that might be helpful to you as you think in spiritual terms concerning your future.

What is life all about? When one is preparing to go into combat, he or she sometimes think such thoughts as that one. For me, as a chaplain, I cling to an old favorite spiritual I learned as a youngster: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living will not be in vain.” It is not only who we are that counts, but what we do. That was never more true than during my time spent participating in Operation Desert Storm.
The dominant spiritual principle, or lesson, I want to point out is that it is no so much our status in life that is really important, but what we do in our life that has lasting value. I will share that lesson with you last.

First, in order to do something, you must have the time to do it.  To illustrate the fact that we have time to do what we really want to do, here is a prayer by Michel Quoist in his book, Prayers. It is entitled: “LORD I HAVE TIME”.

“There is always time to do what God wants us to do, but we must put ourselves completely into each moment that He offers us.
`Be most careful then how you conduct yourselves: like sensible men, not like simpletons. Use the present opportunity to the full, for these are evil days. So do not be fools, buy try to understand what the will of the Lord is.’
[Ephesians 5:15-17]

I went out Lord.
Men were coming and going,
Walking and running.

Everything was rushing: cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
Men were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time,
To gain time.

Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven’t time.
I’ll come back, I Can’t wait, I haven’t time.
I must end this letter – I haven’t time.
I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time.
I can’t accept, having no time.
I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t time.
I’d like to pray, but I haven’t time.

You understand, Lord, they simply haven’t the time.
The child is playing, he hasn’t time right now…Later on…
The schoolboy has his homework to do, he hasn’t time…Later on…
The student has his courses, and so much work…Later on…
The young man is at his sports, he hasn’t time…Later on…
The young married man has his new house; he has to fix it up. He hasn’t time…later on…
The grandparents have their grandchildren. They haven’t time…Later on…
They are ill, they have their treatments, they haven’t time…Later on…
They are dying, they have no…
Too late!…They have no more time!

And so all men run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running – hurried, jostled, overburdened,
frantic, and they never get there. They haven’t time.
In spite of all their efforts they’re still short of time.

Of a great deal of time.
Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations.
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The hours are too short,
The days are too short,
Our lives are too short.

You who are beyond time, Lord, you smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time
waste time,
kill time,
For time is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that, of their insipid water,
You may make a rich wine such as you made once in Cana
of Galilee.

I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then
that,
But your grace to do conscientiously, in the time that you give
me, what you want me to do.”

Life is short. The Old Testament says that life is like a flower which blossoms but soon withers and dies. It also refers to life as like the morning dew which very soon goes away. Use your time wisely. What will you do with your time left?

On July 15th, 1990, I left my assignment at the Naval Air Facility in Washington D.C. for new assignment in Okinawa, Japan. At that time I had no idea of what my future would hold. (Those who trust God’s leadership rarely know their future outlook. They do, however, know the One that holds their futures). I departed for a 30 day leave of vacation time to spend with my family and getting them situated before I left.

On August 2 of that year, while I was still on vacation, Iraq invaded Kuwait. I still had no idea of my future. I certainly did not believe I would go to Saudi Arabia, since the mission of my new unit was to take care of the Pacific theater, including Korea and the Philippine Islands. Yet, in January of 1991, I was, in fact, called to go. I spent 2 ½ months in the desert, just prior to, during, and after the ground assault of Operation Desert Storm.
I learned – or was reminded of – many lessons. One of those was not to be afraid of the truth and reality that life is, indeed, short and thus, to take a second look at the time I have left and to use the time for God’s glory and others. “If I can help somebody as I move along, then my living shall not be in vain.”

What is reality? DEATH! That is the truth. Someone once said, “One never learns to really live until he faces the fact of his own death.” I don’t mean to sound grotesque or to dampen your joy of life, but I want to encourage you to think about your future in terms of the reality of death.

Within the next 10 years, some of you most likely will die. Shortly after my first tour of duty in the military as an enlisted man, I was in Community College and serving as a youth director in my small hometown church. One of my youth members was a young lady I had known since she was a small child. She was a talented and well-liked senior in high school. Unexpectedly and tragically, she died in an automobile accident shortly before graduation while she was out with friends, possibly celebrating her upcoming graduation. Her dreams of a grand and glorious future ceased that night.
I encourage you to live life in all it’s fullness, each day as if your last. Resolve to use it to its fullest. Make up your mind that you can do anything you set out to do if you use time wisely. You can solve any problem and do anything IF you are willing to take the necessary time.

We know we have time to do what we want to do. We simply have to take the necessary time. Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his well known book, The Road Less Traveled, (pp 27-28), illustrates this point well. He writes:

“At the age of thirty-seven I learned how to fix things. Prior to that almost all my attempts to make minor plumbing repairs, mend toys or assemble boxed furniture according to the accompanying hieroglyphical instruction sheet ended in confusion, failure and frustration. Despite having managed to make it through medical school and support a family as a more or less successful executive and psychiatrist, I considered myself to be a mechanical idiot. I was convinced I was deficient in some gene, or by curse of nature lacking some mystical quality responsible for mechanical ability. Then one day at the end of my thirty-seventh year, while taking a spring Sunday walk, I happened upon a neighbor in the process of repairing a lawn mower. After greeting him I remarked, `Boy, I sure admire you. I’ve never been able to fix those kind of things or do anything like that.’ My neighbor, without a moment’s hesitation, shot back, `That’s because you don’t take the time.’ I resumed my walk, somehow disquieted by the gurulike simplicity, spontaneity and definitiveness of his response. `You don’t suppose he could be right, do you?’ I asked myself. Somehow it registered, and the next time the opportunity presented itself to make a minor repair I was able to remind myself to take my time. The parking brake was stuck on a patient’s car, and she knew that there was something one could do under the dashboard to release it, but she didn’t know what. I lay down on the floor below the front seat of her car. Then I took the time to make myself comfortable. Once I was comfortable, I then took the time to look at the situation. I looked for several minutes. At first all I saw was a confusing jumble of wires and tubes and rods, whose meaning I did not know. But gradually, in no hurry, I was able to focus my sight on the brake apparatus and trace its course. And then it became clear to me that there was a little latch preventing the brake from being released. I slowly studied this latch until it became clear to me that if I were to push it upward with the tip of my finger it would move easily and would release the brake. And so I did this. One single motion, one ounce of pressure from a fingertip, and the problem was solved. I was a master mechanic!
Actually, I don’t begin to have the knowledge or the time to gain the knowledge to be able to fix most mechanical failures, given the fact that I choose to concentrate time on nonmechanical matters. So I still usually go running to the nearest repairman. But I now know that this is a choice I make, and I am not cursed or genetically defective or otherwise incapacitated or impotent. And I know that I and anyone else who is not mentally defective can solve any problem if we are willing to take the time.
The issue is important, because many people simply do not take the time necessary to solve many of life’s intellectual, social or spiritual problems . . .

The Point is, you and I can do almost anything we want to do, including, serving God & humanity IF we choose to take the time.

Now for the second lesson I alluded to before: It is not my status, social or professional success in life that is really important. The Jesus said that his followers were the “light of the world.” Being light means that it is more important to provide ministry as the light than to be some one based on status or position. Some excerpts from John Claypool’s, The Preaching Event (pp 68ff) says it better than I. He writes:

“I can still recall going to state and national conventions . . . and coming home feeling drained and unclean, because most of the conversation in the hotel rooms and the halls was characterized either by envy of those who were doing well or scarcely concealed delight for those who were doing poorly. For did that not mean that someone was about to fall, and would thus create an opening higher up the ladder?
. . . Do you have any idea how much energy it takes always to have to succeed and come out number one? I was also beginning to sense how lonely and isolated this way of living leaves one. How can you really relate openly and warmly to persons when you realize that at a deeper level you are competing with them and trying to outdo them? . . . There has got to be a better way to live than this. There has got to be a more authentic form of well-being than this relentless need to compete and out-achieve . . .
. . . [a speaker who was the personnel manager of a national firm remarked that]…the first thing he tried to determine about a new employee was whether that individual was intent on `being something’ or on `doing something.’ . . .
. . . I thought of the times I had gone to speak at a…meeting and had sat down after my talk thinking, on one level, `I hope I did what the people who invited me wanted.’ But at a deeper lever I would be asking, `I wonder if they were impressed. Perhaps there is someone here with influence who will remember the name of this young comer, and tonight will be a stepping stone up the ladder of success.’
I remembered the times that I had not really been able to reach out and identify with another’s need because my own need to be approved was so overwhelming…
. . . one morning, with all the courage that I could muster, I did something that I had never done before. I took off my mask . . .
. . . We need to hear the gospel down in our guts. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, `You are the light of the world.’ He does not say, `You have got to be number one in order to get light,’ or `You must out-achieve everybody else in order to earn light.’ He says simply, `You are light.’ . . .
. . . the truth was – I did have worth in me from the beginning. And it was worth that resulted not from what I had to make of myself, but rather from what God had made of me . . .
. . . the secret of life is not getting something outside inside by achieving and competing. It is, rather, getting what is already inside outside by acceptance and self-giving . . .
. . . I experienced transformation at a level of doing . . . that sharing out of the fullness that was already in me by the grace of creation was far more redemptive than needing to get something from people through competition . . . By the grace of God, I am what I am and do what I do! . . . ”
Your status and position in life will not ultimately give you real meaning or value. In God’s eyes, you are not what you are by status and position. You are what you do. It is what you do for others that really counts.

Go out into the world & do two things in the time you have on earth:

(1) Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and soul and mind;

(2) Love your neighbor as yourself. The word, Love is an action verb. How do you love?

I will conclude with the following story: A man, with a bird in his hand said to the wise man, “Is this bird dead or alive?” The wise man knew if he said “dead,” the man could let the bird go proving it to be alive. If he said, “alive,” the man could squeeze the bird to death and thus prove it to be dead. The wise man then said, “the answer is in your hand.” The bird in the story is the symbol of your life and the spirit of humanity. You can kill it or keep it alive. God bless you as your live for Him and for others.


(This message, edited, was delivered as baccalaureate addresses in 1991 at Umatilla High School, Umatilla, Florida and in 1993 at Paxton High School in Jacksonville, Florida)