Category Archives: pmerrill

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.

Waiting again

Heather and I are at a place of waiting again. We are trusting God for what’s next in several areas of our lives.

It’s not easy, nor is there lots of fun in that aspect of our journey.

I’m reminded of family car journeys, when the kids ask, “Are we there yet?”

The kids are wanting the destination to be here and now, but the parents know it’s physically impossible to get to the Pennsylvania border any faster than traveling at the speed limit will allow.

So the parents try to distract the kids in every way they can think of. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

When all else fails, they stop for ice cream.

This analogy breaks down in places. God doesn’t distract us from thinking about how we want to get to our destination now. And we don’t know which border our car is heading toward.

But ice cream fits. God has given us some tasty moments to savor along our way. We’ve been able to enjoy many beautiful sights.

And our car is working fine.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

Because we don’t know what’s next, that’s our opportunity to depend on God. We would appreciate your prayers as we wait to get to the border.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Burning hearts

(First published March 6, 2015.)

It was just three days after Jesus had been killed. Two of his followers went for a walk to be with other followers. They were passionately discussing all the earth-shaking events surrounding the loss of their friend and leader. (This story is in Luke 24.)

Suddenly, a guy started walking along with them. He didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about. And they didn’t recognize him, so they explained the events surrounding Jesus’ death.

They talked together for a long time. It’s comforting to me that though they didn’t know the Scriptures about what was going to happen to Jesus, He was patient enough to explain it to them. He talked in a way they understood. Yet he did not use soft words to ease them into the truth – as usual, he talked without any candy coating: “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.”

I love that. They had a hard time believing the Scriptures! I don’t always believe. I need Jesus to explain things to me.

I’m not sure why God kept Jesus’ identity from them for a while. Maybe it’s a picture of how God sometimes reveals Himself to us slowly. We want to see all of God now, but God knows that’s not what we need.

I love how they finally recognized who Jesus is when He broke bread. Eating together was such an important part of their relationship that they knew how He broke bread. That’s a good reminder to me that I need to spend a lot more time with friends breaking bread together. And talking.

“Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” I love that burn.


Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.