All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

Can’t hear that voice because I’m going too fast

Jon was talking with another Paul in a recent post: “You think we could come up with some applications? Some simple take-aways?”

That really resonated with me. I thought about how I often I write First Friday posts with the idea of giving you and me some things to do so that we can become better people or live more like Jesus.

With an emphasis on do.

I know you’re heard already about the virtues of being vs. doing.

God wants us to do and be. But sometimes we need to be, first.

God speaks with a gentle whisper.

How can we hear a gentle whisper if we’re frantically running from place to place?

God wants us to be still enough that we can listen to Him.

Sometimes when we slow down, we’ll hear that voice. His voice will often then tell us what to do. Other times we need to wait to hear that voice before we start on the do.

Remember that little 2-year old you know who runs a million miles an hour until they hit a wall and it’s bedtime?

I can definitely relate.


So let’s take a deep breath, rest, chill, sleep, breathe some more – and listen.


Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Moths and rust

I tend to forget a basic truth that Jesus shared in Matthew: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.”

I grab satisfaction out of getting a thing I can hold, something that works well and doesn’t break. That satisfaction lasts a while, and then that thing becomes just another part of my life. It blends into the background, and I forget the initial thrill.

Worse, even though it’s higher quality than many of its lesser brethren, it breaks. Then it’s either impossible to get it fixed or it costs as much to fix as buying a new one that isn’t made quite as well.

Jesus knew that, even back before my thing was invented. The tax collectors he ate dinner with must have had pretty nice couches. They didn’t want the couches that lesser mortals had – they requested the nicer fabric option with stronger wood frames.

We never read about Jesus questioning their couch choices nor the cost of the fine wine they served. Instead he just relaxed with them and enjoyed the fine meal they offered. We don’t know what paths their conversations followed. I’m sure there were several moments when they thought, “Maybe I need to look a little closer into that part of my life.”

When Jesus spoke of treasures, he was talking to a large crowd of people – not just tax collectors. He went on to say where we should store up treasures – in heaven. I think his dinners with tax collectors were one of the treasures that he was storing up. Matthew, the man who wrote down Jesus’ words above, was a tax collector. Those dinners paid off by creating lasting relationships. And lasting words that we learn from today.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Always lead?

always lead on bike shoesMy bike shoes have it all wrong. And the major message we hear today is wrong too: “Being a leader is the only way to succeed.”

Jesus has a different idea. He wants us to follow.

As he was calling people who would spend the most time with him, Jesus didn’t ask what degree they had. He didn’t interview them and ask for their ten-year goals.

He simply said, “Follow me…”

God also has a different idea of who He wants us to be. It was time for Israel to have another king. God chose the family of Jesse, a man who had eight sons. Jesse knew who would be the best candidate – anyone but his youngest, David.

Samuel was the guy God chose to pick the right son. God primed Samuel ahead of time: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Samuel paraded all his sons before Samuel, but none were right. David was out herding sheep – Jesse did not even consider him. Samuel asked Jesse to send for David. “This is the one.”

Later into his time on this planet, Jesus went on to say, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” He did not say, “some of you who want to be my disciple…” or “most of you who want to be my disciple…” but “whoever…”

Then at the end of his time on the earth, as he was about to be killed, Jesus asked Peter, “Follow me…” (Peter was the guy Jesus appointed to head up his followers after he would be gone.)

If we want to learn from Jesus and get closer to him, we must follow.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Grooves

Our minds love to go back to things, over and over. We obsess about what we did wrong, what we should have done, what we want to get or who messed with us.

record player playing a record

The image that came to mind is a record player. The needle traces a groove from the edge of the record to the middle – usually for about 20 minutes. The more a record is played, the more the grooves get worn out – and the deeper the grooves become. The record starts to sound distorted; eventually, the background noise overwhelms the music. If the needle gets pushed in the wrong direction, a new groove can be made, causing the needle to always jump out of the groove it’s supposed to be in.

At the other end of the spectrum are helpful grooves. A carrier pigeon knows where home is, even from thousands of miles away.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul gave us a great way to get our needle from the wrong groove to the right groove: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

If we always dwell on our failures or obsess about what we want and can’t have, we’re filling our minds with the opposite of things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

What If we work together to get onto good grooves. Here are just a couple ways:

Memorize verses from the Bible. If we memorize those good words, they will sometimes come back to remind us of helpful truths at just the right time. Start with Philippians 4:8.

Find a friend to help you get off your bad grooves. Text them when the bad grooves start and ask for prayer.

May we find the right grooves!

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

A good gift

On the first Friday of each month, Paul Merrill writes in this space. As Jon was reading the post for this month, he realized that both Swansons and Merrills are in an interesting place. We write here about following Jesus. And for both families, that following is calling for faith.

You’ve read about Jon’s journey away from pastor into part-time chaplain.

Now read Paul’s story:

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My wife’s contract was not renewed. After five years of working at a dream job with a famous Silicon Valley company, their “no remote workers” clause was no longer avoidable.

Similar to the loss of a loved one, she has already been through some of the stages of grief: shock to sadness to acceptance to a tiny bit of excitement. There are all kinds of possibilities.

So we’re waiting on God for what’s next.

Looking back, we’re very thankful for God’s past provision, over and over. “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

She was planning to take a 6-week sabbatical from the company this summer – but didn’t expect it would come in this particular way.

God has a good plan. We’ll wait to see what’s in store.

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When we write, Paul and Jon, we don’t have any special knowledge of the future. We live lives in real time. Which is why we both are deeply involved in faith development. Which means daily dependence on God.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.