All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

Babylon – and babies

Holding your own child for the first time is one of the greatest joys ever.

Seeing your grown child make a desperately bad choice is one of the most gut wrenching experiences on this planet. We can’t know what lies ahead. So depending on previous experiences – or our level of optimism – we can cling to hope or be driven to despair.

God made us and held us when we were born. He watches us make really bad choices. A huge difference between our parenting and God’s parenting is that He knows the end of our choices. So the depth of pain – or joy – He must feel has to be incredibly greater than what we feel. And he feels that millions of times over.

A super popular verse these days is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God spoke that to his servant Jeremiah when the Israelites were in exile – living in the land of people who defeated them in battle. They were not having a good time. They were definitely missing their favorite BBQ. And Babylonian guitars just didn’t sound quite right.

But God somehow knew that it was best for them to be in that foreign place. He didn’t send a FedEx overnight delivery with a plane ticket out of there. They had to wait for the right time to be restored to their home.

We don’t know when our pain will be done. Or how long our joy will last. God does. And we can rest in knowing He has a purpose for allowing what we’re going through.

Meanwhile, let’s learn to appreciate the sound of those Babylonian guitars.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Facing three mountains

I’ve been trying hard to figure out what to write about three mountains in front of me.

During the last week, three separate friends have asked me to pray for their challenging situations. Each faces a similar huge trial. I don’t want to describe the situations out of respect for their privacy. But suffice it to say that they are facing something where they feel out of their depth to even know where to start. Solving the problem is far from simple. The path to understanding is murky at best.

And I’m also totally out of my depth in trying to solve their problem. (One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that giving advice on something I’m ignorant about is like entering a dangerous field of land mines. If I were a lawyer, I’d start to think about liability issues if a friend took my advice and it blew up in their face.)

So it’s off to the prayer rug. I’ve been praying for God’s mercy and wisdom for my friends. For peace in the midst of waiting till things change – or understanding to know what to do if things don’t change.

Two of my favorite verses of all time are Philippians 4:6-7. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I’m praying for God’s peace to guard their hearts and their minds. And for that peace to be amazing as it settles in.

I rest in this: Matthew 19:26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Be still.

Life is hard. Life is busy. Life gets noisy.

When I get wrapped up in the routine, I often miss the good things God has for me.

That rainbow He created may just last a few minutes.

The co-worker who is hurting might find another job next month.

My youngest kid just started high school. When I drive past her elementary school, it just seems like yesterday that I went to her track day.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

How can I be still when I am running so fast all I can hear is my own hard breathing? (I’m not saying anything bad about Jon’s running – I’m talking about my pace of life.)

When I’m still, I can really see the look in someone’s eyes. I can hear the raindrops fall. When I pause, I can hear God’s still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Maybe this weekend is a good time to practice being still.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

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.