The Distraction of the Dash #devotion

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.
Psalm 25:4,5

How did you start this new year? Did you take time to reflect on the past 12 months? Did you rejoice in your accomplishments or analyze the mistakes of the previous year? Did you enter this New Year with a sense of anxiety or hope? Did you set new and different goals and celebrate the opportunities of the clean slate ahead? Each year is composed of the months; January – December and every new year opens the door of opportunity for those 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 spoke about the dash on our gravestone; birth – death.

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…

… 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?

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 our legacy. It is the choices we make, how we reach out to others, how we seek to serve others, serve God, and grow spiritually, emotionally and interpersonally.

Yet when we set goals for the new year, how many of us tend to focus on the goals that are centered on improving our physical being? Getting healthy, losing weight, exercising more, and 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 celebrate the person’s influences, beliefs, gifts, services and passions. A rich legacy is one of loving relationships and accomplishments that impact the world around us for the greater good.

As you set goals for a new year, have you ever considered how they are building your legacy? How do you want people to remember the details of your dash? Focusing on faith can center us on the true priorities in our life. “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.” Psalm 119: 34-36

The goals I set for myself this year were focused on becoming a healthier me. However, the Lord is revealing, 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 build a legacy that inspires others to put their hope in God and love others.

I am ending today’s devotion with an original prayer given by my father Rev Donald H Merrill 1920-2013 and used in his memorial service November 2013.

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


  1. arollickingride on January 18, 2018 at 3:27 am

    I love this poem, Peg. I heard it years ago, but appreciate the meaningful reminder.

  2. Kim McGlaughlin on January 18, 2018 at 4:06 am

    Good stuff Peg!

    Sent from my iPad


    • pegarnold on January 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you Kim! It’s all God, not me!

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