Fly that flag


There’s a new website that our new government (well, the new leadership of our old government) has created: I admire that fact that our president wants to be accountable to the people.

I know, I know – the bailout plan will be paid for by our kids out of the growing national deficit. But you gotta look at the bright side. At least there are some good things happening.

Back to the flag… if you watched the video on the website, did you notice that President Obama is: 1) wearing read-white-and-blue, 2) wearing a little flag on his lapel, and 3) sitting in front of a flag? How patriotic can you get?!


Interview: Jon Swanson


Jon Swanson is the executive pastor at Grabill Missionary Church in Grabill, Indiana. He is also a frequent blogger at Levite Chronicles and 300 words a day. We have enjoyed each others’ presence on the web for about three years. We met through our friend Chris Brogan. We both “look at normal things in odd ways”. If you start reading Jon’s blog, you’ll get hooked too!

How did you get started in blogging?

I have written short pieces for reflection for a long time. They were used as radio PSAs 20 years ago, as sponsored radio commentaries 15 years ago, as bulletin cover service settings 10 years ago, and probably for other things I can’t remember. About 7 years ago I started writing for my own sake a journal called “the Levite Chronicles”, a collection of poems and short meditations that helped me keep track of becoming a levite, one who served in the temple in support of the priests. (That’s it’s own post). In 2005, for reasons that I can’t remember, I started a blog at with the Levite Chronicles “brand” as a way to move my thinking online. Sometime after that I moved to WordPress.

How do you juggle the real-world of your church job with the virtual world of your on-line ministry?

Which is the real world? There are real people with real pain and real dreams that I first met on-line. Many of these people I have subsequently talked with and then seen face-to-face. Other people I have met face-to-face, in my office, and then have spent significant time with online.

If the question is, how do I juggle time spent with the real people that give money to pay my salary and real people who don’t, that is a different challenge, one that I wrestle with daily. Can I write a post while in my office or only at 11:00 at night? On the other hand, do I answer the email from someone local at 11:00 at night or only in my office?

Because my primary “work” responsibility is spiritual formation, helping people become more like Jesus, I use that as a significant dividing line. If I am writing about productivity, I do that at home. If I am writing about formation, I occasionally do that at my office. If I am answering questions from near or far, I do that either place, because it is about people.

I do find, however, that my time for social media locations such as twitter, varies based on how much interaction I am having with local people.

What’s your favorite post you have created?

The one I am writing next week. And I never get to next week.

What’s the post that caused the most reactions?

I wrote a post called “what I mean when I say pray.” I wrote it sitting in our kitchen, looking at the scene described. It has had a significant value for people who want me to pray for them but can’t quite say that. So they ask for some chocolate milk.

What are some quick tips you would give to a pastor considering adding blogging to his or her mix of ministries?

1. Pick an audience that you want to share your heart with and write. But see them clearly when you write.
2. Make a practice of talking without sounding like church.
3. Give something up. Like TV.
4. Look at it like conversation with people.
5. If you aren’t comfortable being transparent, don’t add blogging. It works best if you are honest.
6. Be careful of “in” jokes. They sound really bad to anyone who isn’t in.
7. Know that people will find you. And they will measure your church based on what they see in what you write.

Are there any in your church that have followed you on-line as a result of your presence on the internet?

There are a couple answers to that question.

1. We changed churches a year ago. People from my old church have kept up with us by following my writing. There are people from our current church that read my blog to find out about me during the interview process and after I was hired. I write knowing that I have a very mixed group of friends.

2. At least a couple people have started writing online because of my writing. I set up a blog for a local pastor friend. My wife is now on facebook.

What encourages you most?

When someone says, “I never thought about God that way.”

What’s the ultimate meal you would share with your lovely wife?

Barbecue brisket from the Coupland Inn in Coupland, Texas. We lived in Austin for three years. Our honeymoon was driving to Austin from Wheaton, Illinois. Barbecue is great there. The Coupland Inn was the best.

Thanks, Jon! It’s great to learn more about you. May God use us for the highest good!


Starbucks instant coffee?!



Yes, it’s called “Via”.

Of course I ordered the free sample, and Starbucks will get some free advertising when I blog about what it tastes like.

I think Starbucks is brave for trying such a thing (making an instant). It’s a bit like Ferrari coming out with an economy car.


Bumble and bumble.


So what is “Bumble and bumble”? It’s a hair salon in Boulder, Colorado. (Boulder is a very cool town, if you have never been there. Or even if you have.)

I didn’t go inside the shop – but I did enjoy their sign. Their designer had fun with the “Bb.”

If I were the sort to frequent hair salons, I might not want a bumbler to do my hair – but the shop is up-scale enough that they must do a good job. A classic example of form winning over substance.


Macbook tip


If you own a Macbook or a Macbook pro, this post is for you.

Whenever you need to remove the magnetic power cord, just tip the end of the little block furthest from the computer up at an angle. That allows it to be removed much easier. It also saves wear and tear on the cord at the vulnerable point where the cord enters the shield.




Hopefully you are one of my readers who came from My Part of Colorado.


I moved here because I sort of outgrew Blogger. I called this site “Paul Merrill” because that’s who I am. I’m still in Colorado but thought people might recognize me if my site was named after me. Just personally, I hesitated to name this site with my name because I’m modest (in some ways), but I guess it just makes sense in terms of staking out my real estate on the old www.

A cool thing is that I can change my site name in a minute (to “World of Shiny Bits”) with my url remaining the same. So maybe I will, at some point.

And to those of you who frequent this blog, you may have noticed that this is about my fourth or fifth theme in about as many days. I like this one (Vigilance), as it has a serif font for the body text! Strangely, few of the themes out there use a serif font for the body. (Developers, take note!!) I do admit that this current theme is a bit boring, visually. We’ll see. Stay tuned for another theme coming soon, probably.


Kicking the old WordPress tires


So yes, I’m trying out this WordPress thing.

I’m still figuring it out, so if everything doesn’t look like it should, you can forgive me.

One thing I don’t like is image placement – the only way for my images to look correct is for me to center them. And that doesn’t look right. (If I put them at the left, where I like them, there is no padding around the image.) But I’ll figure it out soon.

I’m going to Wordcamp Denver. That should help me fix everything.

Google adsense? I might return to that, after the dust settles.


25 random things


I was tagged on Facebook to do this list, but I thought here was a better place.

1. I very much love my wife Heather and find great inspiration (and sparks!) from her.

2. We have been married for 20 years, this August!

3. I love to collect things. Currently I’m fighting that urge through only collecting digital photos and movie footage (ie; that I take). Oh – and international toothpaste.

4. I have been a graphic designer for most of my career. I took a two-year break by doing management from 2005-2007. I’m back to design with social media added to my mix.

5. I am good at drawing but hate to do it. Creating each artwork is like having a baby. Thus, I love digital photography – the rewards come much easier and faster.

6. Jesus is more than my religion. He influences my days, weeks and years. The peace he gives me is hard to explain, if you haven’t experienced it.

7. I love my three kids. They grow me beyond what ever could have happened otherwise. It’s exciting to watch them develop and change.

8. I have climbed the two tallest mountains in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,330) and Mt. Kenya (17,058*). The summit of Mt. Kili was the hardest physical day of my life. *The actual summit of Mt. Kenya is 17,058′, but we only made it to Lenana – 16,355′.

9. I love music. But I’m very picky about what I listen to.

10. I love seeing live music. You guessed it – not just any.

10. I played violin from 4th through 7th grades and one semester in college. I was good, but it was another of those having-a-baby experiences… not enough joy to make the work worth it.

11. I love Mac computers. I would never work & play on a non-Mac, if I had any choice in the matter.

12. I greatly prefer laptops to desktops. If I had two computers, though, my second would be an iMac 24″.

13. I have never died my hair.

14. Chocolate is an important part of life.

15. I like good pizza better than I like steak.

16. I love cars but waited to get my driving license because of my love for bicycling.

17. I am very environmentally aware. I will pick up an aluminum can in a parking lot to recycle it, because I read somewhere that recycling just one can saves the equivalent amount of energy of running a TV for an hour.

18. Colorado is a great place to live, because it has so many sunny days. Oh yeah, and there are those wonderful mountains.

19. I have lived eight years of my life overseas – five in Nairobi, Kenya and three near Oxford, England.

20. I think the only way understand poverty is to live outside of North America. There is poverty here, but it’s nothing like in other parts of the world.

21. If air travel were free, I would go to Belgium three times a year. (My sister and her family live there.)

22. My brother was my best man in my wedding. I’m still glad about that.

23. Spicy foods are right at the top of my food-of-choice list: Ethiopian, Indian, Mexican. Yes to all.

24. I’m not good at sports. When a ball is thrown at me, my body is unable to connect with it.

25. This list seems very narcissistic. I hated saying “I” so much.