All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

Remind me again

My son told me about a friend at college whose dad has only told him he loved him a handful of times. That dad assumes his son knows he loves him, since he told him already.

We all need frequent reminders of truths we already know. Hearing them once is not enough.

Some of the truths I need to hear over and over are:

  • God loves me (Zephaniah 3:17).
  • I need to confess the wrong things I’ve done (1 John 1:9).
  • After I confess those things, my load will be much lighter (Psalm 32:2).
  • The wrong things I’ve done can be forgiven (Psalm 103:12).
  • When things look really bad, I may not be seeing the whole picture (Genesis 37, 39-46).
  • It may take a while till I see the light at the end of the tunnel (also from Genesis 37, 39-46).

It’s good to be saturated with truth again and again – you may kill your plant if you water it only once a month.

Do you have more reminders to add to this very short list? Please share them with us in the comments.

Oh – and go tell someone important to you that you love them. Every day.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

How to deal with bad news

Last week, I was hit with some bad news. A major change happened, and I felt like it was a huge setback. As I was lying awake in the middle of the night, thinking about it all, I remembered that God is still in charge. God still knows what’s going on. He didn’t suddenly forget about what was happening.

Cat sitting on top of flower potOne simple reminder came from my cat, Floof. What a totally amazing creature. He has thick luxurious fur that somehow sheds in the summer and thickens in the winter—automatic climate control. He jumps from the ground up to a window ledge that’s about 5 feet above the ground—to remind us to let him inside, so he can enjoy breakfast. He loves being around people and yet makes it seem like he could care less if we existed.

God created Floof. And God knows what’s going on with small things as well as big…

In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

When I get all consumed with life not working out the way I want it to, I am saying to God, “I know more about this than you do. I think you aren’t really in control.” God gently reminds me through my purring cat that He knows how to keep the universe in order. It’s not my responsibility to keep everything running. He will.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

The hard stuff

The Bible has a lot of hard stuff inside – things we may not want to hear or even try to understand. And it’s even harder to think about, since we hear different messages from just about every direction – messages that go against the grain of what God intended for us to live and experience.

It’s easy to blame others for these wrong messages: the industry that produces today’s entertainment, politicians or church leaders.

When Paul was writing to the people of Colossae, he stated that he wanted to proclaim “his [God’s] entire message to you.” Not part, but all.

As I look to the Bible to find truths that will help me follow Jesus, it’s easy to skip over the parts that don’t fit with what I am feeling each day. It’s hard to counsel people I love when I see them wander from truths in the Bible.

Paul also said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” I think that’s what he was talking about when he talked about proclaiming God’s entire message.

I’m still trying to figure out how to help others the way Paul did and to do what is right. And I’m not strong enough to always do what God wants.

Just a few sentences after he writes about proclaiming God’s entire message, Paul shares his source of strength to do what is right: “…depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

If I don’t read the Bible, I won’t understand what’s wrong in my life. Reading the Bible together is better yet. We can better figure out what God wants.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Writing with excellent pens can make a difference in someone’s life.

I love pens. (Jon loves pencils.) We both love writing by hand.

writing with a Schneider penThe very best ballpoint pens I have ever found are made by a German company called Schneider.

What do quality pens have to do with following Jesus? Good question…

Stride is the company that distributes Schneider pens in the USA. Stride employs people with intellectual and physical challenges – allowing these individuals to learn and grow in a working environment that is full of love and acceptance.

You can read the stories of Peter, Victor and Vaden to see what a difference Stride has made in each of their lives.

In Acts 20: 35, Paul said, “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Interestingly, at Stride, those who are in need are working hard!)

Stride distributes pens and doesn’t sell them directly to consumers. But you can buy them at Office Depot or Office Max. Until May 9th, Schneider pens are on sale for 30% off. And here’s where the story gets interesting – Office Depot/Max is having this sale to test the market. If Schneider pens don’t sell well, they will stop selling them after the sale. So if you go out and buy some of these amazing pens, you will help Stride’s team.

If you prefer gel pens or porous-tip pens (what used to be called “felt-tip”), Schneider has those also. And they’re excellent.

Ask the Office Depot/Max sales staff to help you find them – the Schneider pens may be tucked away in a back corner.

And then go back home to write a real letter, by hand, to someone who could use a little extra love and acceptance.

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Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

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And this is Jon, stepping in on Paul’s post with a couple notes.

1. I went out an bought a Schneider pen because Paul said to. He’s right. They are great.

2. If you’ve thought about developing an online course, Online Course Maker is a good program. It was built out by Chris Brogan. I’ve worked through an early version of the course, and it’s much bigger since then. It’s only open until Tuesday, May 5. If you signup through my affiliate link, half of the price you pay will be sent to Nepal earthquake relief through Born2Fly and New Life Nepal.

Why He died

Sometimes when I think about Jesus dying on the cross, I get overwhelmed. What did I do to deserve that great sacrifice? Why could such a horrible thing happen to such a wonderful person?

For the last two years, my family and I have been part of an Anglican church. We remember Jesus’ death on the cross every Sunday by sharing communion, a symbolic meal of bread and wine. Some Sundays I am really moved by remembering Jesus’ sacrifice – even to the point of tears. Other Sundays, I can’t seem to connect. (We all have cycles of distraction and focus.)

The account of Jesus’ death and coming back to life is so important that it’s in four books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each telling highlights some of the ways Jesus suffered: people mocked him, they gave him sour wine when Jesus said he was thirsty, and the soldiers gambled to win his clothes. Also, crucifixion was an extremely brutal way to die. (Today, the states that support capital punishment try to end a criminal’s life in as short a time span as possible. Not then – it took hours.)

One part of Jesus’ death that brings me back to the whole reason for His taking such abuse and torture is what Jesus said while he was hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus lived and died so that I can be forgiven. No matter what I did or will do, Jesus sacrificed so I can be whole, restored and complete. Jesus has the power to cover all the wrongs I do. A criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus appealed to him, and Jesus readily accepted him.

May we ask him too. He wants to hear us.

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Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.