Distraction of the Dash

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Psalm 25:4,5
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

How do you start a new year? Do you take time to reflect on your past year? Do you set goals for the new year? Do you analyze the mistakes of the previous year? Do you celebrate the opportunities of the new year? Do you rejoice in the accomplishments of the past year? Do you enter the new year with a sense of anxiety or hope? Each year is composed of January – December; twelve new months. What will you accomplish? Where will you go? How will you serve? How do you want to remember the new year when you look back on it?

In 1996 Linda Ellis wrote a poem about living our dash. In this poem she is talking about the dash on our gravestone; birth – death. But I want to challenge us to look at the short dash that greets us every year; the January-December dash. It is in how we live the short intervals of life that composes the legacy of our life time. It is the choices we make, how we reach out to others, how we seek to serve others, seek to serve God, seek to grow in our spiritual, emotional and relational lives.

Yet when we set goals for the new year, how many of us tend to focus on improving our physical being? Getting healthy, losing weight, exercising more, drinking more water tend to be on the top of the list for many. I have to admit they are on my list. I know that achieving these goals can increase the length of my dash, but I don’t believe I have ever been to a memorial service that celebrated the weight loss or the fitness level of the person. Most memorial services celebrate the person’s influences, beliefs, gifts, services and passions. A rich legacy is one of loving relationships and accomplishments that impact others for the greater good.

As you set goals for a new year, have you ever considered how your goals are building your legacy? How do you want people to remember the details of your dash? Focusing on our faith can center us on the true priorities in our life. Psalm 119: 34-36 “Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”

The goals I set for myself this year were focused on becoming a healthier me. However, the Lord is revealing to me, the limitations of those goals. I need to look at the broader impact of my life and the areas God is calling me to nurture and grow. Some of those areas are in my faith, my focus, my family, my friends and my service. Only God can help me prioritize these. So I am looking to Him to show me His ways and teach me His paths so that I am building a legacy that inspires others to put their hope in God and demonstrate love.

I would like to end today’s devotion with an original prayer given by my father, Rev Donald H Merrill 1920-2013 and used in his memorial service this past November.

Help us oh God, in this year to catch a vision of the importance of each one of our lives. That we not be tempted by the lesser things of life. That we live for the greater good not only because of the obligation we have to those who have gone before us, the obligation to those who come after, but the obligation we have to the Spirit of God in which we have been made. May we be true to that Spirit for we ask it in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen


The Dash
by Linda Ellis copyright 1996

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

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  1. ray merrill on January 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Peg, I liked this devotion. I used Dad’s prayer at the end of my message on the Sunday after Christmas.

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