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The Dash

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

The inspiration for today's message comes from “The Dash”, a poem by Linda Ellis.

By Dr. Bascom Ratliff

Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches

I recently learned that my good friend Jake had died. His death came as a shock to me because I thought he was in good health. To my regret, I had lost touch with him over the years and usually talked with him only at Christmas and on his birthday. When I learned about Jake’s passing and called his son to offer condolences, I learned that he had been ill for quite some time. He had chosen to keep his health issues private and did not share these problems with me when I had talked with him.

When I read his obituary, I was reminded of the poem, "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. Her poem emphasizes that what matters most in our life is how we live and love during our journey from birth to death. She concludes her poem by asking the question, “would we be proud of the things they say about us when our eulogy is read?"

As I read Jake's obituary, I was flooded with memories of his life and our friendship. I openly wept and grieved over the loss of my friend. I thought about how a life well lived had been reduced to a few lines of history.

The obituary was a brief, emotionless history about where Jake went to school, attended college, and served in the Army. It noted his marriage and listed his children and grandchildren. A brief mention of his work history, church membership, and hobbies rounded out the commentary of his past life.

Unfortunately, the obituary did not say how my friend had lived his life. Nor was there any mention of his abandoning his wife and family for another relationship. There was no mention of his bitter divorce and the anger and hurt experienced by his ex-wife and children. There was no mention of his church forcing him to leave because of his divorce. And, there was no mention of his eventual return to Christ and his journey to forgiveness.

As I read his obituary a second time, I thought of the poem, The Dash", and wondered if Jake had made peace with those he had hurt and had reconnected with God. I later learned that he had gotten remarried and joined a different church. He had tried to reconnect with his children, but was only partially successful. His son simply said the hurt was too great and he and his sister could not bring themselves to “forgive and forget” that their father had left them.

Jake’s “other story” was more positive. During his second marriage he remained faithful and committed to his wife. He became active in his church outreach. Although I was unable to talk with him during the last several months of his life, I learned from his son that he had found forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.

As I write this, I find that I still experience some grief and regret. I would have enjoyed visiting with Jake and talking with him about his mad dash through life. It would have been great to talk about his connection to a loving God and his re-commitment to Christ, to his church, and to his family. As we dash through life I believe these are the things that are durable, meaningful, and lasting.

The point of this message is that how we live our life matters. Life is not a straightforward mad dash from birth to death. Life is difficult. It is a series of joys and concerns. A series of defeats and triumphs. A series of rejections and acceptance. We learn to love others and treat others with respect and kindness. We do not know how long we will be on this earth, so it is important that we remember to live and love as God commands.

What we do for God and for our Christian faith matters. In closing, my prayer is simply this: that when our mad dash ends, our life is filled with God’s love and peace. And our eulogy is filled with the joy of family and friends and a life well lived.


If you want to hear more about God’s wonderful promise of unfailing love and enjoy a great morning of music and worship, please come and worship with us.

We will worship at the Beagle United Methodist Church during May 2023.

We will worship at the Fontana UMC during June 2023.

We will worship at the Parker UMC during July 2023.

All services are at 10 a.m.

We serve communion on the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome.

Dr. Bascom Ratliff (913-710-5748)

Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches

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