A Suitable Sunday School Shape-Sorter Sermon

Fits like a glove… if chickens wore gloves…

We have this little, wooden Noah’s Ark shape sorter—a toy set with pairs of animals that match slots in the ark so your little one can put the animals inside. (God’s judgment poured out on the entire earth always seemed like an odd choice for nursery paintings and children toys… but I guess it is a convenient way to teach animal names?)

The other day, our two-year-old (or two-and-a-half, thank you very much) was playing with this wooden ark toy. What transpired was equal parts hilarious and horrifying. A sight to behold; a just can’t look away at the impending disaster moment.

In her infinite creativity and premature cynicism, our cute, precious, little child was grabbing the various animals out of the ark, one by one, and throwing them out into “the ocean” and commanding the wooden figurines to “Swim you animals! Swim giraffe! Swim zebra! Swim lion! Swim!” The only thing missing was a maniacal cackle.

I guess these animals had been found wanting, and now they would feel the full measure of wrath of 26 pounds of pure, unbridled princess rage. The day of reckoning had come.

I’m really not sure what lesson to take from this. Don’t mess with the princess, I guess. You shall rue the day. But everyone already knows that. Also, learn to swim just in case you ever find yourself in an Aqua-Armageddon scenario.

One of the Four Horsemen of the Toddlerpocalypse.

Do you have a terrifying toddler tale? Let me know, and we can commiserate with one another on that true life.

The Miracle of Toast

Okay, my little nugget, time to go into the oven.

Our niece and nephew recently offered some interesting insight into the miracle of childbirth. As a little context, my wife is currently very pregnant—like within two weeks of delivery pregnant!

The conversation centered around the whole “got a bun in the oven” idiom, which they found rather perplexing. The discussion quickly turned to making toast, I suppose because they were more familiar with cooking bread in a toaster rather than an oven.

However, their toaster doesn’t quite work at the optimal level. The toast doesn’t just pop out when it’s ready. You have to manually push the lever in order to retrieve your warm, crispy wheat square. And sometimes, the lever gets stuck and it’s rather difficult to get the toast out.

At this point, my brother-in-law was able to point out to his children the meaning of this timely metaphor: getting toast out of the broken toaster is just like getting a baby out of the mommy… except without a lever, I guess?

So, when my wife is writhing in pain during the delivery, I’ll just need to remind her not to fret and that it’s just like making toast.

Well, now it’s time to grab some seasonal pumpkin butter and enjoy a slice of processed gluten with high fructose corn syrup.

Potty Humor

Coulda sworn I left something in here…

Welcome to another tickling tidbit of Thrilling Tales of Toddlerdom!

The other day I was sitting with our toddler (me on a stool, her on the potty) and waiting for the punctually scheduled morning bowel movement. After one-two-three little grunts and a squinched up face like a dehydrated lemon, I knew we had another successful fiber deposit.

Suddenly, she peeked down into the toilet bowl and exclaimed with astonishment, “Oh! There’s a mommy poop and a daddy poop and a baby poop—the baby poop goes ‘waahhh!’” A terrific example of transfer and application of knowledge. A truly laugh out loud moment.

No convoluted life metaphor this week. I’m not comparing poo portions to some deeper philosophical thought. Just: it’s good to take time to find and enjoy the funny moments in life. At work, over a meal, in bed, or on the potty; allow yourself a chortle or two. Enjoy the odd and comical and absurd, like warm soup for a sick soul.

This has been Thrilling Tales of Toddlerdom!

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thunder Like a Toddler

The storms come. They always do.

On one such day, when our wobbly, bobbly toddler heard the roaring clouds, she exclaimed with fierce certainty, “The thunder is loud…! Just like me!” Oh yes, the thunder is loud just like you. Well, almost. Maybe the thunder isn’t quite that loud.

It reminds me of the often reconceptualized proverb: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the coming storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”

Perhaps you’re in the midst of a cruel storm right now. It’s dark and deafening and there’s no end in sight. But let me tell you a secret: the storm is not greater. The sun rises, not the night. Darkness never covers the light. The smallest flame spreads and illuminates the entire room.

When the thunder yells, you can yell right back: “I know you are, but what am I‽” 😝

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami

Alexa… Alexa… ALEXA!!!

Alexa, why oh why did I cross the road?

Our doting toddler recently mastered the ability to use our Echo Dot which can only mean two things:

  1. Listening to “Baby Shark” a bazillion times.
  2. Never listening to any particular song all the way through again. Ever.

Initially, it’s one of the cutest things to hear that tiny, squeaky voice peep out “Alexa, play Baby Shark please!” But all good things must come to an end. What begins as adorable quickly fades into aberration. Alexa becomes an insanity-inducing device; a form of cruel and unusual punishment like waterboarding, except, it’s song-and-rhyme-boarding.

Seriously, what is it with kids’ songs anyways and all the morbid undertones? A song about a family of bloodthirsty carnivores on the hunt for their next unsuspecting prey with cheerful hand motions to accompany the death and despair?

If I hear that song one more time, I’m gonna go nuts. It’s like someone has cut open my skull, scrubbed my head with bleach and a Brillo pad, and then blended my brain with jalapenos, sandburs, and thumbtacks.

But then I remember: these are precious moments, and they won’t last forever. I must learn to cherish them, all of them. Despite the monotonous, repetitive dribble drabble, there is a contemplative solace to be found in ritual. Life doesn’t have to be “just going through the motions” even when you’re just going through the motions—even when those motions involve toothless sharks. Within the daily routine we might find a divine rite. If we stop to look for it; if we have eyes to see. The simple spaces become sacred places.

Because re-experiencing the familiar time and again allows one to focus in on the deeper, often overlooked realities. As my daughter and I sing and dance to Baby Shark for the tenth time in a row, my heart and mind become free to see my beloved child in fresh new ways. I see the sparkle in her eyes. I hear the giggle in her voice. I feel the delight in her soul. And my heart is overwhelmed.

Although, of course, sometimes Alexa doesn’t “work” because she’s tired and needs to rest (i.e., mommy or daddy unplugged her). That’s ok too. We can live life to the fullest in silence as well.

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

The Pumpkins Are Coming, The Pumpkins Are Coming

Family Portrait (…sometimes, I wonder if I’m adopted…)

Yes, listen indeed, my itty bitty children and you shall hear… As legendarily proclaimed by Paul Revere during his renowned midnight ride to warn citizens of the impending harvest hayrides and incessant fall festivals with their outrageous apple bobbings and gluttonous blue ribbon pie contests. At least, I think that’s how it went.

Steady yourselves and hold fast. Local cafés around the country will display exorbitant lines of leggings-wearing, post-yoga, pre-brunch patrons salivating for that sweet, hot-gourd-infused nectar. Yes, give me some of that black, boiling bean juice stirred with a creamy, chemical-enhanced syrup. What does “other natural flavors” on the ingredients list mean anyways?

Be still my beating heart. Or maybe run away. Pumpkin-colored, pumpkin-flavored everything is near and already here.

Pumpkin spiced lattes/coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin juice, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin bologna, pumpkin soap, pumpkin deodorant, pumpkin toothpaste, pumpkin hats, pumpkin costumes, pumpkin vitamin water, pumpkin ornaments, pumpkin displays, pumpkin yoga pants, pumpkin candles, pumpkin mugs, pumpkin cigars, pumpkin wine, pumpkin spiced pepper spray, and pumpkin buckets for holding all your pumpkin stuff.

For some, today’s reflection will be exhilarating and ingratiating. For others, shear anxiety and terror. Is there a National Pumpkin Day? More like Indulgence Day. A time when we can truly celebrate what America’s all about: consuming copious amounts of calories in celebratory cause.

And if you’re wondering whether pumpkins are a fruit or a vegetable—well then, they’re definitely a pie.

You know the rest. In the books you have read…,


A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!

– excerpt from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longellow

Shirt Tags Are—Just the Worst

Once a week, I sit down at my home desk and contemplate the cosmos. I make odd observations about life, our world, and society. Usually, these musings turn into me just complaining about random nonsense as I shout into the empty, dark void of the Internet. Anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed to my various virtual ventilations has unbeknownst to them become a small part of my self-medicated, self-therapy sessions.

Do you remember how shirts used to have these really annoying and itchy tags in the back of the collar until someone realized that they could just print the same information directly into the fabric? Yeah, those were awful. But do you know what’s worse than having a hideous tag scratching the back of your neck all day? Having an infuriating tag cutting into the side of your abdomen all day.

Seriously, who thinks that these terrible torso tags are any better than the collar tags of lore? At least before, the aggravation was symmetrical. Now my burden to bear is isolated to one side. It makes me think of what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he bemoaned his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Are these thorns in the side some corporate conspiracy to make consumers constantly anxious and agitated so we’ll waste more money on buying their stuff?

Do you have a prickly, tickly life-tag in your side that just won’t go away? Sometimes we can cut them out without doing any harm. Other times, we just have to carry on and let it make us stronger. Either way, my hope is that we can all find contentment in whatever cotton-picking, irritating circumstances we find ourselves in.

But for real, why do we even need the tags sewn into the shirts? Are they really necessary? A shirt tag, regardless of its size, shape, structure, location, affinity, denomination, etc., would still be a horrible shirt tag. Let’s just get rid of those dreadful things.

For the 2020 presidential election, I’ll be running on the sole campaign platform of abolishing shirt tags. Let the people be free. Let the shirts be tagless! See you at the polls: Finanigans 2020.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor E. Frankl

When YouTube Thinks You’re Depressed

Man, I’ve got a headache… must be a caffeine-ache since I haven’t had my third cup of coffee today.

So, I think the Internet thinks I’m depressed. Or at least YouTube/Google thinks I’m depressed. Lately, I’ve been getting these advertisements on a daily basis telling me that maybe I need to speak with my doctor about an antidepressant. Here are my thoughts about that:

  1. Get out of here! Algorithms need to stop trying to sell me stuff. Ya think you know me with all your profiling and predicting software, but you don’t know me! Just because I searched for videos of funny, fat baby animals doesn’t mean that I subconsciously desire to regress back to an infantile stage of development so that I can nurse and reclaim the soft, succulent baby pudge fat that I so desperately yearn for.
  2. Why does Google think I’m depressed? Recommendations are based on my search activity, but I honestly can’t think of anything that would trigger these ads. Perhaps it’s because I’m a millennial(ish), and we’re all supposedly depressed. Or maybe it’s because I consume copious amounts of caffeine, and anyone who needs that many stimulants must be depressed.
  3. Speaking of caffeine, this particular ad features a guy at a coffee cart, and all I can think about is “That looks delicious! I’d like some coffee please. How can I be depressed when I’m so stoked for some more of that sweet, sweet nectar of heaven, that roasted, brewed black elixir of my transcendent dreams?”

In all seriousness though, depression is nothing to take lightly. If you’re struggling, then please know that it’s ok, and please, please reach out to someone and get help. There are 24/7 hotlines that you can call, and you can even schedule counseling sessions with a professional online. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and everyone needs a little help sometimes. We were never meant to do this life alone. My opinion: we all need counseling. Everyone can benefit from speaking with a counselor at least once in their life. Or you could be an overachiever like me and live fulltime with/marry a counselor.

Also, does anyone know how to unsubscribe from the GoogleTube?

Let not the world’s deceitful cares the rising plant destroy,
But let it yield a hundredfold the fruits of peace and joy. – John Cawood

Row-Row-Row Your Boat (as retold by Dr. Fin)

Yo, look at me Jack! I’m on top of the world y’all!

Once upon a time…

Some pushy, bossy coxswain ordered me to “Row, row, row your boat! Row it now, but gently down this stream!”

And I was like, “I don’t even have a boat… How am I supposed to row gently and joyfully and peacefully, when you’re barking out orders like I’m training for Brown University’s rowing team? And what stream, you bald mongoose posing as a ship captain?”

I was so confused on so many levels.

And then, merrily,-merrily-merrily, I realized it was all just a dream.

If today you feel life is too demanding—like some inescapably irritating middle-schooler taunting and droning like a broken record-player, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you. I know you are but what am I?”—then simply say, “Row your own dirty boat!” When life gives you lemons… take those lemons and squirt that acidic juice right into life’s corneas, and say “Get out of here! No one asked for these disgusting, sour citrus balls! What’s with this sassy, lost child?

Know your limits. Learn to say no. It’s ok, you don’t have to do everything. Not even Superman can prevent tax season. You can’t throw a life preserver out to someone in the ocean if you’re also out in the water drowning. [Insert other pithy axioms here.]

Also, why would someone row anyways? We’ve got speed boats with engines. Better yet, I’ll just drive across the bridge. No need to risk getting wet. I feel much better now. Sometimes you just need to vent a little bit. What a therapeutic exercise this was!

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life. – Brian Andreas

For Whom the Belt Tolls

I hate belts. If you know me, if you really know me, then you know this about me. I only wear belts if it’s absolutely necessary. Why do we do this to ourselves? In the name of fashion? It’s a noose for your hips; a tourniquet on your waist restricting the blood flow to the lower extremities. When I’m forced to wear a belt, I feel like my body has been sentenced to death by prolonged hanging and strangulation.

On that note, I hate buttons and fasteners and zippers too—anything that makes my pants a fixed, stagnant size. I am, after all, still a growing boy. I may be done growing vertically, but I’m certainly still growing horizontally, especially in parenthood, and so, I need some extra growing room. In fact, there are many days when a pair of pants may fit me in the morning but become too small after the spontaneous buffet luncheon. To my wife’s chagrin, I am often secretly not even wearing my trousers buttoned. I just allow the organic tension and traction of my gut to secure the pants to my bum. And when we’re at home… forget about it, all bets are off—belts are off.

This is why I was so excited when elastic waistbands came back into fashion. Elastic hasn’t been in style since I was about five-years-old. But they’re so much better, literally. The only thing that could be better than elastic waistbands is no waistbands. Bring back long tunics and casual cassocks for the common people. Way more practical and efficient.

Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. The force of gravity is constantly trying to pull your pants down, and what do we do? We try to unnaturally fabricate a futile denim infrastructure to rebel against the laws of physics. Let’s just design better clothes. If it were socially acceptable, I would simply cut out a head hole in the middle of my bedsheet and wear that as a kind of minimalist poncho. It’s super economical. Plus, I’d be ready to take a nap anywhere. It’s like a Snuggie, but better.

So, I say, if life’s got you in a stranglehold, if you feel like the breath is being choked out of you by seemingly random and arbitrary circumstances and social norms, then I say, release those bonds! Let every chain be broken. Cast off all that hinders, entangles, and ensnares. Like a Greek athlete of antiquity who competed completely butt-naked, lay aside every weight and encumbrance, and run with endurance the race set before you (Hebrew 12:1)!

Well… Maybe keep some clothes on. I’m not a nudist, just prejudice against the pant patriarchy.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friends’ were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne