Musings With Ken Haynes


When I was in ROTC summer camp (watered-down basic training), I learned something about dread.  Cold mornings at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, found us marching to metal bleachers where the trainers would do their thing.  We had to stand at attention until the instructor finally appeared to command "SEATS."  

Still warm from the road march, we stood in starched fatigues over metal benches covered in dew or last night's rain....and I dreaded sitting down.  It would be cold and wet.  The longer we stood, the more I dwelled on the prospect of sitting down on the cold, wet bench.  Somehow the nerves back there were telling me that I was already wet and miserable.  

Finally, the instructor walked out in front of us, turned to face us and.... my mind raced:  "oh, no!"  And then it happened.  Screwing my courage to the sticking point (someone else's nice words), tensing every muscle I could find, I prepared myself for the ordeal.  

And then it happened:  Someone yelled, "SEATS!"  Together we sat down.  It was true, the cold water soaked through pants and underpants in one agonizing, slow second.

Twenty seconds later it was over. The water had warmed and I was comfortable.  What a sorry waste!  Such a small lesson, but it took.  I started treating dread as a topic, as something with a name.  I discovered when and why I dread, the damage it does, the goodness that it leeches out of me.  Over the years I used the memory of that ridiculous moment to put dread aside.  During that maturation I linked dread to procrastination, to not facing facts, to inaction in times of need, and to needless, devouring fear.

Dread is faith in failure.  It does no good thing.  Dread thrives in our reliance on bad outcomes.  Dread makes us overestimate the probability that bad things will happen.  It feeds the fear that bad things will happen, makes us overestimate just how bad the bad thing will be, and lengthens the time we suffer all those bad feelings.

Faith, our faith, is dread's opposite and dread's end.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,

for the Lord your God goes with you;

he will never leave you nor forsake you. [DT 31:6 (NIV)]

Ken Haynes
April 2024


Giving Thanks Brings Joy

Following God's rules give us much more than a claim to obedience. Those rules express His love for us.  Following His way makes this life happier, and the next life more glorious.  We enrich both of our lives through our obedience.

Christianity teaches us to give thanks to God through Christ our Savior. We do so in our prayers, in our services and in our hymns.   But it is hard to appreciate all we have received without first acknowledging our gifts and their importance.

We live our days going through motions that have long become routine and habitual.  Our greetings are rehearsed and automatic.  "Please" and "thank you" come not from our hearts, but from ingrained repetition.  We accept our friends, families, surroundings and possessions as the natural state of things, yet all of these are blessings.  Even saying grace becomes a series of appropriate words, rather than an upwelling of heartfelt gratitude.

Our Father intends us to live joyfully, but we pass through our moments like blind hood ornaments on cars that drive themselves.  Blessings surround to gladden us, but we walk past them unaware.

How many times have you said "Happy Birthday?"  Once on my birthday, a friend hugged me. He leaned back until he had my eyes, and said, "I'm glad you were born."  Now I always try to say that phrase on birthdays.  It makes me remember all the reasons that someone has enriched my life, and brings me joy.

If we reconsider each gift or favor before we thank, we can experience each blessing again, doubling our joy and strengthening our ability to love.

Ken Haynes
January 2024

Not Forgiving

Anne Lamott tells us that, "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”  I agree.

A young Methodist preacher spoke to us once about Christian forgiveness.  She discussed various possible meanings and examples, and narrowed the field to two kinds of forgiveness we must embrace. 

The first was giving to God the damage or wrong done to us.  We all understand this concept, but often fail in practice. 

The second was getting rid of the feeling that the wrong done to us must be repaid, and that the wrongdoer owes us something.  Even when payback is impossible, we still can feel a debt relationship with a wrongdoer.  In effect, we write it off. 

Both kinds of forgiving would certainly make us happier.  Either way we avoid eating the rat poison while obeying the Lord.  Forgiving frees us.  The subject requires much deeper exploration than these few lines, but on their face I agree that we need both types of forgiveness. 

It interests me that the Lord's Prayer in English covers forgiveness in two distinct versions:  one about trespassers, one about debtors.  Trespassers are wrongdoers whose wrongs we must give to God.  Debtors are those whose acts make them owing to us.  Maybe we should alternate the versions each Sunday, as we continue to learn to forgive.

Ken Haynes
December 2023


Some everyday words and phrases deny, omit or minimize God's role in our lives.  

Words like luck, fate, fortune, providence and doom describe a world of random occurrences and purposeless lives, yet we Christians speak them freely.

I find myself believing two seemingly contradictory things at once.  I believe and accept that God is behind it all.  But I also believe that many things happen randomly or accidentally, and free will determines my response.  How is it that I can believe wholeheartedly in randomness, accident and happenstance, while knowing that the value of my life stems from God's purpose for me?  

The common phrase, "God only knows" really means, "Only God knows."  It's an admission of the vastness of his knowledge and the depth of our ignorance.  When I say, "God only knows why," I really mean, "I don't know why."  What to God is the simplest arithmetic exceeds the greatest human mind.  What looks to us like luck or fate makes perfect sense to God.

I think that our similarity with God ends where His greatness begins.  Only infinite knowledge can see our beginnings and our ends.  We can't.  He can.  Only God knows the system that organizes His universe. 

When I forget this, I recall God's answer to Job in Chapter 38:4-38.

Job 38:4(NIV)  Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . .

Ken Haynes

November 2023


Hunting whitetails in Maine back in 2001, a cow moose suggested I see a cardiologist.  Her intuition was spot on, leading to my quintuple bypass.  I didn’t get to thank her, she having left shortly after she spooked when I made a sudden noise stumbling on the rocks in the stream she occupied a few yards away.

This was in no way bad luck.  The great majority of us have our heart attack before a bypass, meaning our heart is already damaged.  The bypass mitigates but does not eliminate the damage, making life expectancy shorter and outlooks more limited.  With ten of my veins from ten to ninety percent blocked, the open-heart surgery equated to winning the lottery.  My still-healthy heart and open veins have lasted most of this millennium.

But Madam Moose should not have been my advisor, and I had made several mistakes.

About eight of us were hunting whitetails in central Maine.  We had around four square miles to ourselves enclosing a mountain that rose about 1,400 feet from the bordering river.  I had map and compass and always knew approximately where I was, having hunted there a few times before.  That day I had been dropped off at dawn on a logging road, and asked to be picked up on another road at dusk.  To get there I would “still hunt,” hoping that the party’s random movements in the area would send deer to me.

Around 1:00 pm I was crossing a small stream full of melon-sized rocks, my rifle slung.  My foot slipped and I made a loud clatter as I regained my balance.  In the same moment, about twenty feet away there was a huge commotion as the moose spooked, scrambled up the bank and disappeared.  I had never seen a moose so close or moving so fast, nor had I ever heard such thunderous noise in our quiet woods.

The event provoked what I can only call a giant startle that froze me in midstream.  In the next moment I experienced what felt like an adrenalin dump, accompanied by an unusual sucking feeling in my chest, a feeling of “not enough.” It didn’t register as pain, but as a feeling that something was wrong.  I sat down for a while and continued my day.  I was fifty-five years old.

Back home, sensitized to new sensations and realizations, things proceeded from stress test to catheterization to having my chest cracked open.  My wife worked some magic to get me under the hands of Duke University Medical Center's Chief of Thoracic Surgery.

You may have guessed my mistakes.  Although I knew where I was, my friends only knew my approximate location, and would not miss me until dusk, at which time they could only have found me with dogs.  If I had stroked, many of the nonlethal outcomes could have immobilized me.  Exposure would have finished me off.  A nonlethal heart attack would have the same result.  Even a radio or cell phone would have been useless in that timeframe.

A friend could have helped me somewhat, but at two hundred pounds he couldn’t have carried me.  The situation would have degraded to whatever first aid was called for, and the friend either bringing help or spending the cold Maine night to provide a good fire and plenty of cover.

Certainly I should not have been out there alone, but even at fifty-five I “knew” I was indestructible.  So learning point one is that you aren’t indestructible, and point two is that you should have a buddy close by.  Or two buddies.

Third, I did not know I was a heart risk.  So point three is that you need to know what I didn’t.  I was several hundred miles from my home, and at least thirty miles from reasonable emergency health care.  Had I known I was at significant risk, I should not have put myself (and my family) in such danger.

End of story. 

Be in good shape.  Listen to your body.  Own up to your limitations. 

Get the checkup, know your risk factors, re-examine the symptoms, follow the guidelines. 


Ken Haynes -- August 2023