All posts by Paul Merrill

About Paul Merrill

Observing the shiny bits of life since I can remember.

That log in my eye, again

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own?” -Jesus, in Matthew 7.


I keep fighting a war with myself over being judgmental.

I’ll discover that someone I know does one of those things that drives me crazy, and that helps me to accept others that do that thing.

For a bit.

Understanding someone’s reasons for their actions helps me be accepting.

Or not… I have a wave of compassion that lasts a while and then wears out.


I remembered a few Bible verses that hit me on various levels. And you can look them up to see how they hit you, along the lines of judging others.

One sheerly practical reason for avoiding judgmental attitudes is that they do no good. In fact, my judgmental attitudes can do significant harm:

  1. By having a negative attitude, I drive people away… who wants to be around an acid-tinged person?
  2. My own anxiety and blood pressure can rise to unhealthy levels.
  3. Dwelling on differences between myself and others just doesn’t move me toward love.

I hope this finds you also wanting to move away from being judgmental. Let’s strive together.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.


Time goes quick and…

illustration of time vs. giftsJust over a year ago, I shared a meal with Jon and Nancy in Indiana.

It’s not often that this guy from Colorado makes it over to the heartland, so that meal together was a special gift.

We enjoyed a few short hours together and connected like it had been a few months and not several years since we had seen each other last.

But the striking thing about our time together is that it was a whole year ago. As I thought about our time together earlier this morning, that meal seemed like it was three months ago.

They always say that time goes faster as you get older. That has definitely been my experience.

Which leads to my question – what am I doing with the rest of my days?

I’ve been reading 2 Samuel. In chapter 3, David mourned the death of one of his enemies, Abner. David’s compassion made an impression on the whole nation: “This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them!” (Verse 36)

I want to be known like that. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of the people around me.

Asking hard questions of others is not my gift. (But I am thankful for those who do ask me hard questions.)

Encouraging others is my gift. And it comes out of a compassion for others, maybe a small measure of the kind of compassion David had for Abner.

Think about what your gift is and use it.

I will be trying to use mine – looking for ways to encourage those around me today.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday. Paul created the illustration.

Me in there

I love the book of 1 Samuel.

It’s the story of a nation, their bad choices and their flawed leaders.

I find myself in those pages too.

In chapter 8, the Israelites said they wanted a king, just like the other nations. Samuel, their spiritual leader, told them that this was a stupid choice: “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. … some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops … The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials.”

Did that stop them? No.

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. ‘Even so, we still want a king,’ they said.”

I do my fair share of: “Even so, I want that…”

And yet God continued to guide and bless the Israelites. Though their choice to have a human king was a direct slap in the face of the King they couldn’t see (God), He still blessed them.

He helped choose their king, Saul. And he would let that king save them from their enemies.

And when King Saul’s life started to unravel because of his unwise choices, God chose a better king for them.

I’m thankful that even though I’m flawed, God still blesses me. Even when I make a bad choice, God can make it good, just as He did for Israel.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

The second greatest

Copyright 2017, Paul MerrillIt’s as vital as breathing to be loved. That’s a common line of thinking in popular psychology,* but Jesus also underlined the importance of loving others. It’s the second greatest commandment! Think of that – Jesus totally knew the ten commandments, but He said loving others is more important than not killing someone.

And love happens where we are known. When we can let down our “everything’s alright” facade from work or school and let people in, we share our hurts and fears, then healing can happen. Our vulnerability has to happen in a warm safe place where we know we won’t be attacked for a different way or thinking or for our failures.

Heather and I are starting a small group from people who are part of our church. It’s a new season, just like the start of school, so it’s a natural time to begin something new.

We desire for our group to be a place where we can get to know each other, learn from each other and learn from God together.

One way we want to go deeper in learning is to discuss the sermon from Sunday. It’s great to hear our pastor’s reflections on truths from God’s Word, but we can internalize those truths if we chew more deeply on those ideas among our peers.

Sharing our needs and praying for each other will be a vital part. We’ll do that over a meal, so we all have a chance to feed our bodies at the same time.

How are you finding community? Are you going it alone? Don’t. Find a group to open up with. Be watered and fed.

* Why We All Need to Belong to Someone appeared in Psychology Today. There is some truth there, but I don’t agree with the whole article.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

The still small voice

How can we hear the still small voice of God if we’re not giving Him the space to speak to us?

I’m asking myself – and you.

When I’m driving to work, I listen to books on CD that I check out from a library that’s conveniently along the way. I tend to listen to books that are fiction. My reasoning is that since I’m thinking all day long, so I need a break from analytical thinking by putting my mind in neutral.

But if I’m filling that neutral mind with a story, I don’t have space to listen to God.

finger touching a car stereo's power buttonSo starting now, I’ll be switching off the car stereo for at least one day a week. It’s a start.

And I’ll begin my drive by asking God to speak to me while I drive.

Will you join me in this challenge?

Who knows – we may end up by being nicer drivers too!

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.