28 February 2018

Thank You: Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant

Gratitude: a lost art. Few phrases in this world are more powerful than the simple expression, "Thank You." Let this message and these images from an old song by Natalie Merchant give you a pick-up today. Then, we invite you to respond by thanking someone for whom you are grateful. Live PlayFully, friends...

01 February 2018

12 For 2018:: 1. Offer Hospitality

At the beginning of 2018, PlayFull invited you to consider these twelve practices to have a more PlayFull year.

1. Offer hospitality.
2. Share special celebrations.
3. Express gratitude.
4. Befriend silence.
5. Practice wholly (holy) listening.
6. Take care of your body.
7. Remember to rest; enjoy Sabbath.
8. Give and receive grace.
9. Give generously.
10. Keep learning.
11. Serve.
12. Play.

If you like, you are welcome to download our printable and put it someplace as a reminder of healthy personal and relational habits. To help you, here’s a short thought on hospitality by PlayFull's president, Troy Cady.


by Troy Cady 

In 2010, my family moved to Chicago after having spent 12 years serving in ministry in Europe. As I write this, 2017 has come to a close.

Seven years. It seems to have gone by in a flash. Seven years…and so much has changed. And yet: the work we started so many years ago in Europe has continued without us. To be sure, some of what we did has stopped, but some of it has continued in surprising ways.

This past year, I was in touch with a few friends who are still ministering overseas. Through my contact with them, I am learning what truly endured from our time in Europe. Without exception, these friends who are still going from strength to strength in ministry have told us that the thing that impacted them most was:


That’s humbling. I say that because I am aware I spent so much time and energy on teaching, managing conflict, organizing, setting up programs, devising strategies, and crafting action plans with deadlines. I labored so hard those many years on all those well-meaning approaches, and the one thing that truly stuck was, quite simply, the practice of hospitality.

Wow! That is truly humbling.

My wife teaches me a lot about hospitality. She says that it’s different than “entertaining guests.” Hospitality is about companionship. It’s about helping others feel at home, emotionally safe, accepted and at-ease.

Believe it or not, I think of hospice care in connection with this. We think of “hospice” in our culture as a place where a person can die in as peaceful an environment as possible. My grandmother received in-home hospice care when she was nearing the end of her life. I was at her bedside when she passed and I remember how peaceful her passing was. Yes, it was a sad time—but it also holds many sweet memories for me. I remember singing cherished hymns for her and just being present with her, even when she couldn’t reply. It was enough to just be present.

All genuine hospitality is like that. When genuine hospitality is offered, people are not afraid to hide the many ways they may feel “dead” inside. They can be themselves. Genuine hospitality is not dependent on a physical place. It is an emotional space. It is a space of acceptance: you don’t have to be someone you’re not. It is a space of belief: “I see so many wonderful things in you and I just love visiting with you.” It is a space of shared joys and sorrows.

It is a space where strangers quickly become friends and friends become family. When we have people over to our house, we don’t feel compelled to have everything neat, orderly and planned. We don’t do everything for “guests” because we don’t do everything for friends and family. Instead, we ask them to help: that’s what friends are for and that’s what family is all about. We put folks to work…putting out plates, utensils, glasses, and napkins…cleaning up, sharing food & drink. This kind of hospitality stems from something that’s quite obvious: genuine togetherness can only be created together.

Because of this, hospitality can take place anywhere: in a large home or a small apartment, in a restaurant or bar, at the park or zoo, in your front yard or back-alley garage. It can entail simply playing games, sharing a drink, and having good old fashioned conversation. Invariably, laughter breaks out. Genuine hospitality is spontaneous; it occurs organically. It often involves food but it doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a package of chips (or some vegetable nibbles) and a pitcher of water will suffice. You don’t have to be wealthy to practice hospitality. In fact, I have seen first-hand that the company of the poor makes for the richest company.

The Bernard Street Happy Hour:
every Friday when the weather is nice. :) 
Though 2017 definitely held sorrow for me, I must say the joys outweighed the sorrows—and chief among the joys of 2017 was something my wife started in the late spring called the Bernard Street Happy Hour. Every Friday from 5 p.m. onward we simply set up chairs and tables in our front yard and told our neighbors: “We are going to be here every Friday and would love it if you’d join us.”

That first Friday a good group of neighbors spent all evening just enjoying being together and we carried on until 11 p.m.  From one week to the next, the size of the group varied and the amount of time we spent together varied but with only a couple of exceptions we were out there every Friday. Everyone would bring food and drink to share. Because we were all right next door, we’d run in and out of our homes to get things we needed like cups and plates, chairs and napkins. One neighbor got in the habit of making homemade pizza for everyone and he did this almost every Friday throughout the whole summer.

Young and old gathered and people brought out their pets. At one point it looked like we were holding a dog convention! I read stories to a couple of kids who came and helped another young friend make chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

Everyone was different from everyone else and that is precisely what made our time so rich together. These times together made me realize that it is not often people spend time together just to enjoy each other with no agenda and no task to accomplish. It was refreshingly playful.

Because of that, it was the time of the week I looked forward to the most. It was like a little slice of heaven on earth, in fact. So, we are planning to do it again this year. Practicing hospitality is the art of making space for everyone to bring their gifts to others, whether those gifts are physical or interpersonal.

I wonder: how do you offer hospitality?

Stay tuned for more installments on PlayFull's own "12 for 2018" practices. The easiest way to stay connected is to sign up for PlayFull's monthly e-digest, The PlayFull Life. It contains inspiration and resources to help you live more playfully. Don't worry: if you don't find it helpful you can unsubscribe at any time. But, we're betting you won't want to do that! :) 

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04 January 2018

Love and Joy

“God’s purpose in creating us was just to love us and lavish joy on us. As is the case with any loving relationship, the person on whom we focus our love and joy is not an object to subject to any specific purpose—other than the purpose of just knowing that we love them and are delighted in them. In other words, God created us in love and joy and God continues to woo us in love and joy. That is all we really need to know if we want to live in playful freedom.

“It is this very image of God as loving and joyful, playful and happy that lies at the heart of authentic faith. The trouble is: this is the very image of God we have the most difficulty believing.” (from 200 Ways to Play by Troy Cady)


Friends: PlayFull's desire for you in 2018 is that you would live in God's love and joy. Believe the Good News!

Be on the lookout for PlayFull's new book, 200 Ways to Play. It will be available in Kindle format and paperback soon. It's chock-full of ideas and exercises designed to help you live in love and joy.

03 January 2018

12 PlayFull Practices for a New Year

12 PlayFull Practices for a New Year
by Troy Cady

We hear it frequently every December and January: “Happy New Year!”

This is surely an important time of year. It is a season of renewal. Now that I am older, I am beginning to cherish the celebration of a New Year more and more. Hearing so many people wishing others a Happy New Year gives me hope because it’s really a simple way of blessing others. No matter who I meet, no matter who I see this time of year, I can look them in the eye and say Happy New Year with a full and sincere heart.

This simple three-word wish gives me hope because I see it as a small way in which we can set aside our petty differences to acknowledge the common humanity we share, the sacredness of every soul we meet. It is actually an opportunity to acknowledge that we are all works-in-progress, that we all share hardship and joy, that we all need grace, that everyone desires to have a happy life—and that our own happiness is connected to the happiness of others.

Our declaration of Happy New Year indicates to me that we instinctively know something essential about happiness: namely, it cannot be hoarded. The more it is shared, the stronger it grows in one’s own life. The happiness of my neighbor in no way diminishes my own happiness. On the contrary, as I wish my neighbor true happiness, I experience the happiness that comes with such a wish.

This year I am mindful that the previous year was especially difficult for many people. Many of us are just plain dog-tired because of tragedy, conflict, hatred, chaos and confusion. Many people feel as if they have been put on trial, harassed and helpless. Many feel as though the slightest incorrect utterance will result in societal contempt and relational exile. Many are walking on eggshells, afraid of judgement. Others feel the human footprint on the world has become debased—little more than “rats’ feet over broken glass in our dry cellar.” (T.S. Eliot) 

And yet, we find it in ourselves to persevere. Year after year, we say Happy New Year and with those three little words we declare: “I am not resigned. Let’s hope together. Let’s hope for a better future. Let’s lay aside our cursing and bless each other instead.”

This commitment to renewal is how humanity has survived and flourished for thousands of years. We see ourselves in light of the power and grace of time—and, as the cycle turns, we say: “Let’s keep going. Let’s not give up. Let’s change what needs to be changed and let’s hold on to what truly endures. Let’s forgive what we’ve done wrong and let’s work towards healing and reconciliation.”


The writers of The Anatomy of Peace describe well what it takes to effect change. We nurture healthy change in two basic ways:

1. Helping things go right, and
2. Correcting things that go wrong.

The authors assert that, if we want an environment that is healthy and life-giving, we will spend most of our time and energy on the former—and, therefore, very little time and energy on the latter. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? The more time we spend helping things go right, the less time we have to spend correcting things that go wrong.

But that is easier said than done. If we are to spend most of our time helping things go right, we need to be intentional and deliberate about it. Good habits tend to be cultivated like flowers. Bad habits tend to grow easily like weeds. Being human is hard work sometimes (maybe: most of the time). Despite that, I’m convinced the work of being a healthy human doesn’t have to be burdensome. I’m convinced the kind of work it takes to be healthy is actually delightful, even playful. Those who learn to enjoy their work are as healthy soil: seeds sown in such enriched earth produce a stronger, more abundant crop.

When the disposition of the heart is positively inclined, there is little room for the negative. If we would ever be able to spend all our time practicing what is good, we would have no time to practice what is harmful to us and others. Of course, that is the ideal—but it doesn’t play out in reality. That’s why any attempt to practice what is good needs to include grace—grace for yourself and grace for others.

Grace is life’s great trump card. If you were to pick only one thing to practice to “help things go right” it would be the practice of giving and receiving grace. In my PlayFull ministry, I put it this way: Grace is the soul’s way of playing. Grace is precisely the way we “play from the inside out.”

Grace is important because it reminds me that the way to a better life, the way to work for a better world, is not simply a matter of “mind over matter.” Though I advocate the power of a positive mindset, I do not wish to give you the impression that that is all one needs to have a happy life. After all, I can still hurt someone while thinking positively about myself (I know: because I do it sometimes). Positive thinking only gets me so far. Positive practices get me farther—and grace reminds me I’m still a work in progress (as are others).

But I am getting ahead of myself now: I’ll write more about Grace in the days to come.

As a start, here are the twelve practices I hope to live by this year and I invite you to join me. Because twelve might seem like an awful lot to pursue, feel free to narrow the list or substitute something on the list to suit you. I offer these twelve because they make sense to me but I also figure they might resonate with you, too—because, I’m convinced, these particular practices have a sense of timelessness to them. That is, they will always be valuable practices, no matter what year it is. Here they are:

1. Offer hospitality.
2. Share special celebrations.
3. Express gratitude.
4. Befriend silence.
5. Practice wholly (holy) listening.
6. Take care of your body.
7. Remember to rest; enjoy Sabbath.
8. Give and receive grace.
9. Give generously.
10. Keep learning.
11. Serve.
12. Play.

In the days to come, I will write a little about each practice. I hope you find my observations helpful and I wish all of you the happiest of days in 2018.

May Joy and Peace Flourish,

22 August 2017

200 Ways to Play: Coming in Kindle and Paperback Soon!

What if we lived more playfully? I believe the world would be a much better place. We'd learn more; we'd become more peaceful and joyful; we'd be able to tackle problems and conflicts with grace and confidence.

Children know this first-hand by instinct, but somewhere along the way we grow up and start taking ourselves too seriously.

Be on the lookout for PlayFull's new book entitled 200 Ways to Play. It will be available in Kindle and paperback format soon! If you like, write me and I'll put you on a list that will notify you when it is available.

It's chock-full of practical ideas and timeless principles that can help you cultivate a more playful (joyful!) life.

Wishing you a PlayFull Life,
Troy Cady
President, PlayFull

11 July 2017

Where Are You In The Story?

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a boy in preschool. I told a story that helps children understand the meaning of the church year and, as is my custom, afterwards we wondered about it.

The story helps children understand how many Christians keep track of time. The year starts with getting ready for and celebrating Christ’s birth. It moves through the life and teachings of Jesus and into a season where we get ready for and celebrate his death and resurrection. It moves then into the celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, which propels the church to redemptive presence and action wherever God sends us.

The “getting ready” seasons for Christmas and Easter are Advent and Lent, respectively. They are both represented by the color purple on the "church clock."

After I told the story, we engaged in wondering about it. I began by asking them, “If you were in any part of the story, which part would you be in?”

It seems like a complex question for a preschooler, but I assure you it isn’t.

My young friend pointed at the series of 6 purple blocks known as Lent and said, “I would be here.”

I said, “I wonder why.”

He said, “Because everybody dies and that is when Jesus died. He died and came back to life so when we die we will come back to life, too.”

Wise words!


PlayFull offers training in a method of children’s ministry called Worshipful Play. Email Troy if you’d like to explore how PlayFull can help you adopt a similar approach in the spiritual formation of children. 

26 February 2017

when kids are free and wonder

I had the privilege of serving as a storyteller and wondering leader this morning with a group of children at church.

At our church we practice a method of children’s ministry which we call Worshipful Play; it’s a combination of stories and methods from three approaches to childhood spiritual development[i]. The method is marked by freedom and, after telling a Bible story, we practice a type of conversation called wondering. Each time a new question is posed, we begin with the phrase “I wonder…” The intent of wondering is not so much to get “right” answers from the children as it is to open them up to approach the Bible with curiosity and imagination. When real wondering happens, the child experiences faith as integrative.

At the beginning of a Worshipful Play session, the children enter the room one at a time, after having passed the peace of Christ with one another and after having been asked by a worship leader, “Are you ready?”

The children are accustomed to entering the room and forming a circle on the floor in the storytelling space, which contains all the stories of Scripture in the form of a diverse array of materials that children can work with personally. The materials look like wooden “toys” but we ascribe high value to each piece by how we work with it and handle it with gentleness, slowly savoring the specialness of God’s Word.  

After we form the circle, we have a phase that helps us “get ready” to hear the story. Depending on the week, and depending on the age group, what we do during this phase can vary, but one thing we always welcome is simple conversation, so we have a chance to hear about what is going on in each other’s lives.

As a storyteller and wondering leader, this is invaluable to me because it helps me pay attention to what might be especially meaningful for each child as we proceed, what questions might come forth and what part of the story might be most helpful to feed their faith.

Sometimes this pre-story conversation is short and sometimes it is long. As a worship leader, I try to remain open and sense what’s important for that particular day. Today was interesting because one young boy wanted to mention two significant things right away. The first was that he was happy because “in four to eight weeks” his little sister whom his family had been waiting to adopt for a long, long time, was finally going to be able to join them.

He pointed out that at first he thought his parents said “forty eight” weeks and was disappointed by that, but when he heard it was only “four to eight” he was so glad!

He went on to share about someone he knew who had a heart attack and I asked if he wanted us to pray for their family friend as well as his sister who was soon to arrive. He decided we'd pray for that later during the feast time, but as it was time to start, he volunteered to pray as we continued getting ready for the story time.

As he bowed his head, the children decided they wanted to hold hands, so we all joined hands in a circle and prayed together.

After that, Bek brought the Christ candle to the circle. The Christ candle is a large pillar candle that we light every week. When we do so, I remind the children that Jesus said he is the light of the world, so we light the candle to remember that Jesus is with us, “even if we think we can’t see him.”

Today, we sat and just enjoyed looking at the light. Then, before putting it back on the shelf (where it would be safe) I mentioned that, even when we are in dark places, the light is always there, even if we think we can’t see it. We talked about two other people the children knew who had a heart attack that week and we talked about one man who had died recently, Ben’s great-grandfather.

Then, we told the story which happened to be the account of the transfiguration of Jesus. The story starts by reminding the children that Jesus and the disciples had come from the towns and villages, spreading the good news. Even though Jesus had been saying along the way who he really was, some of the people still did not understand.

So, Jesus asks the disciples: “Who do people say I am?” They shared different thoughts on that and then Jesus asks them, “And who do you say I am?”

Peter replies that he believes Jesus is “the Christ”, the One they have all been waiting for.

Jesus confirms what Peter said and adds that now he was going to go to Jerusalem where he would be killed, but then on the third day he would come back to life—but, Jesus assures them that before all that would happen, some of them would see the kingdom of God come in power, first-hand.

Well, Jesus spends about six more days with the disciples, alone…teaching them. Then, Jesus goes to a mountain and he takes Peter, James and John with him. While praying, the story says that suddenly the place became filled with heaven’s glory, Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became radiant. The disciples were startled, fearful as they saw Jesus with Elijah and Moses. The whole place was enveloped as in a cloud and a Voice said: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”

With that the episode ended, the disciples did not know where Elijah and Moses went and Jesus appeared to them as he always had.

The children had some things they wondered about right away. So, the conversation started in earnest. Some of them wondered why Jesus only took three of the disciples with him. Some of them wondered why it was those three.

Another child said, “Maybe it’s because they were brothers.” So, we talked about that and noted that Peter’s brother was Andrew, but he was not there. “I wonder why.”

One child wondered how the disciples who were not there felt and another child wondered how Peter, James and John felt.

Then, I asked, “I wonder…if you were in this story, who would you be?”

One child said, “Jesus!” I looked at him startled, and then he gave a very good explanation: “God sees special things in me, like he did with Jesus.”

To which another child said, “There are special things in everyone, so we all could be Jesus.”

“Yes, that’s right. Everyone has something special about them. That’s right.”

Then another child picked Peter as the person they would be, and still another child picked James, while another picked John, each giving a reason that was meaningful to them. The child who picked James said she picked him because “that’s the name of my dad’s brother”—and we noted her dad’s name happened to be Jon.

Wow, we said, this story is really a story for today, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Bek stood up a couple of times to say who he would be. When the conversation turned to what he wanted to tell us, he said: “I would be this person”—and he pointed to a large figure of Jesus which we have that is part of another set of materials, for a different story.

I chuckled, thinking he was joking, and said, “That’s funny, Bek, but I wonder what person you would be in this story here.”

But he insisted, “This one.” And, again he held up the figure of the large Jesus from the other story.

He seemed serious about it, so I said, “Okay, let’s bring him here.”

I asked, “I wonder what this Jesus looks like to you?”

He said, “He’s dancing and he never stops. He keeps dancing forever!”

Ben added, “That’s what we say when we tell the story in winter.”

“Yes, at Christmas time we say that. God wants us to dance with him.”

“Yeah!” Ben’s eyes lit up. “We say he’s ‘like a dancer who rests a little while to keep dancing forever.’”

“That’s right. We do say that.”

Then, Esu had something to say: “I think he looks like he’s giving us a hug.”

“He does, doesn’t he?”

Rosie was still enjoying the thought of God dancing with us, so she picked up the figure and started to do a little dance with him.

We all laughed.

“I wonder what else he looks like?”  

One child went over to a shelf where we have figures that tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and took out the figure of Jesus hanging on the cross.

“He looks like that, doesn’t he? This big Jesus is in the shape of a cross.”

The children held the little figure in front of the big figure to show how they were in the same shape.

I said to the children, “I like to think of it this way:”

I held the figure and said, “Jesus died, and that is sad.” Then, I spun the figure around and said, “But on the third day, he came back to life.”

One child asked, “Yes, he came back to life but I wonder why he doesn’t come back to life again?”

After asking the child to explain the question more, we discovered he wanted to know why Jesus couldn’t “come back to life” and be with us again as he was with the disciples.

I said, “I wonder if Jesus is really alive now?”

The children thought about it and said, “Yes, he came back to life.”

I said, “I wonder, if we don’t see him, I wonder how we know if he is really alive?”

Ben stood up and said, “Because he’s with us!”

“Yes, we know Jesus is alive because we see him in us, especially when we are all together.”

We went on wondering:

“I wonder where this Jesus is in the story we told today?”

They made the connection that “this Jesus”, the large one from the other story, was in the story of the transfiguration when Jesus said he was going to die and come back to life.

Then, one child asked, “I wonder why we don’t come back to life when we die?”

And the other children said, “We do!”

“I wonder how that can be possible?”

Well, they noted, in the story the disciples believed in Jesus. They said he was the Christ, the one they had been waiting for. And, they said, when we believe in Jesus even if we die we will live forever.

The children started talking again about Ben’s great-grandfather. How he had died but just before then he said he believed in Jesus. So, we talked about how he wasn’t really dead now; he was with Jesus in heaven, alive.

Ben said, “I can’t wait to die because when I’m in heaven I won’t be allergic to peanuts anymore!” He laughed, but he was serious, too. 

We talked about how in heaven there won’t be any sickness or disease or allergies or anything like that. How wonderful it will be!

We talked about one of the men who had a heart attack, how he thought it was going to be the end, but he was okay with it because he believed in the life Jesus would give him again.

The children wanted to tell Jesus they believed in him, too.

They held hands in the circle and everyone took a turn telling Jesus, “I believe in you.”

Each child had a special reason they believed in him. They weren’t the same.

One child said, “I believe in you because you are so wonderful and you love us.”

Another said, “I believe in you because of all the amazing things you made.”

Another one said, “I believe in you because you made the universe and the multi-verse.” He was serious.

Still another said, “I believe in you and I love you. Thank you that when we die, we won’t really die.”

Now you know why I say it is a joy and a privilege to be with these children. Their faith is genuine. They wonder and give their hearts to each other and to God, without reservation.

This is what happens when children are free and wonder—and it is very beautiful.


To learn more about the Worshipful Play approach to children’s ministry, contact Troy. We offer training!

PlayFull’s mission is to help people and organizations play from the inside-out. We invite you to like us on Facebook or follow us onTwitter. Thank you for reading.

[i] The three approaches are:
1. Godly Play by Jerome Berryman
2. Young Children & Worship by Sonja Stewart & Jerome Berryman; Following Jesus by Sonja Stewart
3. PlayFull Faith by Troy Cady