31 December 2013

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This past year I took a leap of faith. Towards the end of 2011 I had an epiphany. It was one of those “aha-but-the-thought-kinda-scares-me” ideas.

So I lulled the idea into remission for a season. Meanwhile, throughout 2012 I spoke with some trusted advisors, friends and family about the idea just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. And everywhere I turned I encountered confirmation.

Which made me scareder. (In proper English, that would be translated as “more scared.”)

So, I sat on the idea some more. From the time the thought hit me about two years ago until the time I actually started doing something about it, more than a full year had passed.

In March this year I took the plunge, along with some other brave souls. We registered PlayFull as a not-for-profit corporation. Suddenly, we were official.

Since then, I would characterize our progress as slow but steady. Here are some tangibles to celebrate:

1. Our website went live in mid-July. It currently features more than 100 articles—some funny, some serious; some short, some long. There’s poetry, photography, book reviews, and thought-provoking quotes. Topics range from play and architecture to pajama day in the workplace. We’ve written about children’s ministry and team building, death and humility. We’ve cited Harvard professors and comic strip authors.

2. In October, we held our first PlayDate with Step Up to Help based in Denver, Colorado.

3. We honed two stories in our PlayFull Faith series. The first is a retelling of creation and the second is a retelling of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Though there are many more stories to come in this series, we already have requests for copies of the first two.

4. Finally, we rounded out our board of directors and opened a bank account just a few weeks ago.

To be sure, more has been accomplished but these are the highlights.  For a crazy, upstart idea I’d say that’s not bad, though, eh.

In 2014, we will hopefully receive our 501c3 status from the IRS.  When that happens we will be able to more fully live into the vision.

On that note, here’s what I see:

I see groups of people learning and growing by playing together. I see teams equipped to work together in unity. I see leaders thinking creatively about obstacles they face. I see marriages renewed, conflicts resolved, and friendships forged.

I see faith invigorated. I see people discovering a God who dances. I see artistic expression. I see PlayFull’s stories shed new light on age-old traditions. I see people praying, simply, playfully.

In the new year we will write, photograph, facilitate conversation and collaboration. We will work on at least one book and continue to direct others to helpful resources. We will strive to complete our PlayFull Faith series. We will form PlayGroups in multiple locations. We will coach leaders and fuel self-awareness. Bottom line: We will strive to help others "play from the inside-out." Our desire is to provide various playful pathways towards personal, relational and organizational health. So...

Look out 2014. It’s time to play.

Thanks to all of you in advance for joining in. Your participation and your words of encouragement are invaluable.


21 December 2013

"When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego..."

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

by D.H. Lawrence

Play from the inside-out. Like PlayFull on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

20 December 2013

A Childlike Adult

PlayFull board member Doreen Olson shared this quote the other day. I wanted to pass it along. Good stuff!

PlayFull exists to help people play from the inside-out. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading!

18 December 2013

Christmas Funnies

Hump Day is Humor Day at PlayFull. Here are a few seasonal funnies to brighten your week. Enjoy, friends.

PlayFull exists to help people play from the inside-out. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

16 December 2013

20 Shortcuts to Unhappiness

Go ahead. Be miserable. I give you permission.

In fact, let me give you a hand with it, okay? Here’s a list of twenty things you can do. I purposely made the list short so you could keep it in your wallet, pocket or coin purse. Which one of these are you good at? Which one needs more practice? 

20 Shortcuts to Unhappiness

1. Eliminate risk.

2. In everything, compete.

3. Live in the past.

4. Neglect gratitude.

5. Expect disappointment.

6. Insist on conformity.

7. Don’t exercise.

8. Justify yourself. Blame others.

9. Get busy.

10. Argue.

11. Believe virtual reality.

12. Pray less; worry more.

13. Eat on the run.

14. One-up others.

15. Hoard money.

16. Limit mystery.

17. Smirk at strangers.

18. Nurse insults.

19. Exact revenge.

20. Form a clique.


PlayFull is dedicated to helping people play from the inside-out. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.  Thank you for reading. Be happy!  

12 December 2013

How To Discover Calling

PlayFull is dedicated to helping people play from the inside-out. Stay abreast of thought-provoking and inspiring content: like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

11 December 2013

A Funny Cosby Show Christmas Scene

Classic Bill Cosby.  Olivia asks Cliff, "What race is Santa Claus?" A playful question with a playful response. Enjoy, friends.

Hump Day is Humor Day at PlayFull. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to keep up with uplifting content multiple times a week. Thank you for stopping by!

10 December 2013

When Meh Strikes

Some days you wake up and when you think of the hours ahead you say to yourself: “Meh.” There’s nothing you’re anxious about in particular but neither is there anything you’re excited about. It’s a “meh” kind of day. Middle of the road.

So, you compose a mental checklist, searching for a way out of the “meh”, something to light your fire. But certain tasks need to get done today—and there are only so many hours in the day—so there will be no time for lighting fires any time soon. In fact, the list will likely spill over to the next day. More “meh” tomorrow, too.

And you know that if you neglect the list, it will catch up with you. Sometimes, mundane things cannot be put off. Better to git ‘er done now, eh. So, you resign yourself to “meh”—but feel a little unhappy about it still.

When this happens, here are some things you could keep in mind:

1. Tell yourself: “There’s nothing wrong with a ‘meh’ day. ‘Meh’ happens. It’s normal.”

2. Meh does not diminish love one speck. Human history is filled with days when those who felt meh were loved beyond measure, though their feelings might have told them otherwise.

3. Don’t wait to feel exuberant to sing. Sing anyway. Whatever comes to mind: from childhood, the radio, a hymnal. Make your own tune to a billboard slogan. Don’t take it too seriously.

4. Or take 15 minutes to just write. You never know where Imagination might take you in that short time. Think of it as planting a flag in the ground of “meh”, decorating the land with a flash of color.  Liken something right in front of you to an idea, feeling or person. That loose thread reminds you of a kind word that you haven’t said yet. That leaf on the ground, humility. The grain of salt, a friend.

5. Have faith that every “meh” day serves a purpose beyond mere “meh.”

6. Take some seconds to just be still, close your eyes, be present to the fact that you are breathing, living.  

7. Tell friends and family you love them. A “meh” day could be someone’s last. Saying “I love you” out of routine is better than not saying it at all. And the saying of it jostles the torpor. It’s a form of recollection: “Oh, yes. This is who I am. I remember now.”

8.  Doodle.

9.  Light a candle. Look at the flame. It is what it is. It does not need to exert effort to shine brightly. It doesn’t add anything to the simple act of burning. Even on a “meh” day, this is you.

I hope you can see that meh days are good days. Thank you for taking the time with me just now so I could share that with you. Be loved.



PlayFull exists to help people and organizations play from the inside-out. Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

05 December 2013

Someone Who Understands Grace

Later today I will fly to Austin, Texas to meet with PlayFull’s new board member, Dave Marmion. You can see from the picture: he's one serious dude. :) 

I met Dave for the first time in Madrid, Spain back in 2003 when he was there with his brother Rob on a brief research trip, of sorts. A friend of theirs named Kelly Wills (now Kelly Jennemann) was planning on moving to Spain to pursue ministry among young people and they wanted to see if there were any churches who’d be keen to be a support to Kelly.

As it turns out, Kelly ended up doing an internship with us for some months. In theory, she was slated to move on after that, but we managed to “suck her into the vortex” (as we’d say jokingly).  So, we had the privilege of working with Kelly—a creative, passionate soul—for some years until she moved back to the States. After I met Dave that summer, however, I had little (if any) contact with him—but he continued to follow our ministry via our mutual friend Kelly.

In 2010, my wife, kids and I moved from Spain to Chicago. And that is when I really started getting to know Dave through some great phone conversations. He is a kindred spirit. And this is why I asked him to serve on the board of PlayFull:

He understands and lives out an ethos of grace, grace, wild grace.

Dave understands that we grow the most in the unknowns of life. He had been planning to step into ministry in Europe for a season but God had different plans. The desire to pursue ministry in Europe was in itself a step into the big unknown. I can personally attest that ministry is just about as messy as anything gets. (That may surprise you, but it’s true).

That said, when God directed Dave in a different path, I was impressed to see how Dave was able to open up his hands and relinquish that dream, even though it hurt to do so. Skeptics may have said, “Don’t give up. Keep pursuing your dreams, no matter what!” They might label such relinquishment “unwise”, “insane” or “depressing.”

I think of it as “trusting.” When one relinquishes something that dear, one does so as a sign of trust. "Opening our hands" is a way of saying, “I trust you, God, that—even though it hurts to give this up—you have my best interest at heart and you will give me something even better than I can imagine right now.” When we open our hands like this, we may need to wait for what is better, but in time it will come. I suppose this is the same kind of trust that infused Abraham with strength when God asked him to be willing to give up his own son. It seems crazy in our eyes, but God knew better and provided a way out of the insanity.

Yes, Dave understands that grace is wild. And he understands that in the messiness of grace there is a life of deep, abundant, unshakable joy to be found.

In short, he understands what PlayFull means when we say we want to help people and groups “play from the inside-out.” He's practiced that himself. 

I could not be more thrilled to work alongside this kindred spirit. Welcome, Dave. I look forward to seeing you later today!  And to your beautiful family…Allyson, Zach and Owen: I look forward to playing with you all, too.  Hopefully, I won’t freak y’all out too much…



PlayFull exists to help people and organizations play from the inside-out. Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to stay abreast of content designed to mess with your mind and heart. :) 

30 November 2013

It Takes Time

In the story, the people of Israel are taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. As they leave the city, they look back and see the smoke rising. The soldiers marched the people of God a long, long way from their home to the place of exile. The journey took a very long time and some of the people died on the way. The exile lasted 70 years, the passing of a full generation.

In the children’s ministry curriculum Godly Play, the telling of the story involves moving the people from "Jerusalem" to "Babylon.” There is a river in the way and the people are led around it. Of course, this adds some extra seconds to the telling of the story.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of telling this story to a group of children in upper elementary school. As the people moved, we tried to practice silence. But, this was hard. A bit of dialogue:

The children: "Can't we just put the people over there?"

Me: "No, we can't."

"But, why?"

"Because they couldn't just go over there like that and their story is our story."

"But, we know that. Let's just put them over there so we can keep telling the story."

"Well, I would like to do that--and that would be nice--but that's not how the story goes. They had to go this way. They couldn't just hop over there in a second. Think about this for a second. Let's wonder a bit."

I gestured to one of the children and asked: "How old are you now?"


"Let's say you were one of the children taken into captivity. How old would you be when you returned to Jerusalem?"

We discussed that for a bit and then noted: "You would have spent your whole life away from home."

After we finished wondering about the story, a couple of the children wanted to work with the story more during a free response time we host every week. When it came to moving the people to Babylon, the waiting was too much so in their telling of the story the children just picked up the people and began moving them to Babylon like Superman.

A helper was on-hand, gently reminding them: "Remember? That's not how the story goes. It took them a long time to go. They couldn't just hop over the river. They went around it."

With that, I was happy to see that the children slowed down a bit and took time to be faithful to the waiting-story.

Our goal in this little exercise was to help the kids feel the "dissonance" of waiting. Waiting is one of those things that cannot be taught by just talking about it. In our day and age we are not accustomed to waiting for anything. We are told that people have a short attention span nowadays so it's our job to make sure they don't get bored. "Keep it moving." But waiting is good for our soul and there is no sound-bite shortcut to this. We can't learn waiting by some clever technique of not-waiting. We can only learn the value of waiting by waiting. It takes time. We don't like it, but that does not change the fact that waiting takes time. Making friends with this kind of waiting is one of the best things we could ever do. May we learn to wait.

Here's to play,


PlayFull creates objects and provides training for the type of storytelling used in the Godly Play method. Our training encourages churches to employ methods that are good for children and adults alike. Email Troy to inquire how PlayFull can be of help to you. 

28 November 2013

Why Giving Thanks Matters

I began PlayFull in part because I discovered in myself a propensity to take life too seriously. Underneath this tarp of seriousness lay piles of shoulds and oughts and musts. My serious responses to certain situations were, in fact, nothing more than cover-ups for entitlement.  Meanwhile, my own sense of rightness and fairness amounted to nothing less than a large pile of…manure is not the first word that comes to mind.

If I felt treated unfairly, I devised clever ways to put things right again. If I felt overlooked, I tried to be more creative so I would get noticed. If I felt misunderstood, I would re-iterate my point until I felt the other heard me—and concurred.

In such situations it didn’t occur to me that perhaps my own sense of fairness was warped. Perhaps it’s good for me to not be the center of attention. Perhaps I should let go of my compulsion to be understood and instead learn to be a learner from others.

I discovered that when I let go of my sense of entitlement the whole relationship changed. So I began PlayFull not because I’ve got this practice down perfectly now but because I’m still learning this way of being and would like companionship in the learning process.  

Once a good friend who happens to be a psychologist said to me, “You’ve got too much of yourself on your hands, Troy.” Ouch. But that’s just what I needed to hear. “Get over yourself, already.”

I’m writing about this on Thanksgiving Day because I have seen that the practice of giving thanks is just the medicine for the disease of self-centeredness. Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement.

“What do you have that you have not received?”  The question is rhetorical, but I forget the answer so often that I need to meditate on it again and again and again, daily. Practicing gratitude is the best way to keep entitlement at bay. Life itself is a gift so anything that comes to me in the course of life is also a gift—if I can learn to receive it in faith and gratitude.

I do not deserve anything—yet notice how quickly I turn and act as if I deserve comfort and ease. My wife and I bought a home a little over a year ago. When we first moved in to our home our hearts were filled with gratitude. We felt lucky, undeserving of such a big blessing. We were grateful to life and the God of life for leading us in such a way that we could have the benefit of owning a home.

But a little while ago I found myself feeling low because of all the repairs I needed to do on our home. I became encumbered with worry and suddenly the gratitude was gone. I felt trapped and burdened. Meanwhile, I failed to realize that the privilege of even having a home is itself a gift. Entitlement was robbing me of joy.

I think of all the physical comforts we enjoy—cars, computers, clothing—and am humbled to admit that with all these blessings it is still hard to practice gratitude. I feel that my car should run perfectly all the time and when a mechanic tells me of a costly repair I notice how quick I am to feel wronged. My computer should run perfectly and when I experience the slightest bit of slowness, I grow frustrated. I feel frustrated that I cannot afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I am tired of the same old clothes and want to dress fashionably. The other day I found myself becoming annoyed at the thought of having to change a light bulb, for Pete’s sake!

“How many ordained ministers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”  Just one—when he gets over himself.

The examples are without limit. But even these are not as serious as other forms of entitlement. I find that when I fail to practice gratitude I grow frustrated about certain intangible aspects of life to which I feel entitled.

Take the notion of “career”, for instance. I have been very blessed to spend the better part of my days in professional ministry. I get to work with people, to pray with them, encourage them, administer the sacraments, worship with them, cry and laugh with them, party and work with them.

I should be grateful for this, full stop. But then I start to compare my ministry to the ministry of others. I look at so-and-so and notice how many books they’ve published. I hear of another’s popularity: “They are the best speaker I’ve ever heard!” And I find myself ungrateful for the ministry I do have.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I don’t know who said this but it’s a quote that sticks in my head just now and whoever said it is a genius. When I compare myself to others I awaken entitlement. This happens because I begin to feel that I should have the kind of life that is more like theirs. I want that life for myself. I grow discontent with the life I have and begin plotting and scheming to make my fairy tale world come true. The exercise is doomed to frustration, of course. I cannot live another’s life. I can only live my own. I cannot be another. I can only be myself.

As a God-believer, I am convinced each one of us is in this world as a gift of God. You are here for a reason and God wants you to be you, not someone else. Our culture’s insistent conformities do violence to the intrinsic dignity God has imbued within each person. When I begin to think that I need to be more like another, it is like spitting on the face of beauty. “I must…I should…I ought to be more like that person over there.” No, you shouldn’t. Even being yourself is not a matter of should or should not. It’s a matter of gift: it is a privilege to be yourself because you yourself are a gift. 

God gives you you. No, that’s not a typo. God gives you you. And the you God made is a gift to the world, truly.

This Thanksgiving Day, I encourage you to remember that all of life is a gift.  And believing that all of life is a gift is the most life-giving thing you can do.

Today, I want to practice giving thanks as if my life depends on it. Because it does.  I invite you to do the same. Give thanks with a grateful heart.



We regularly post uplifting content on playfull.org. If you'd like to keep up with some encouraging stuff, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

27 November 2013

How to Have A Classy Thanksgiving

Americans are classy on Thanksgiving Day, yes indeedy. Some Hump Day humor today in honor of tomorrow's turkey day all across Amuricuh. Enjoy...

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24 November 2013

"If You Hallow This Life..."

As many gather for worship today, here's a good quote from Martin Buber that reminds us not to be too other-worldly.

If you haven't checked it out yet, take some time today to read our PlayBook review of Buber's classic I and Thou.

23 November 2013

PlayBook: I and Thou by Martin Buber

Some ideas are difficult to express with only one word. For example, some clocks merely tick while others tick-tock. Even as you read this, you can hear the different sounds in your head. Take a second:

Tick, tick, tick, tick

(Pause. Clear your head. Ready?)

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock

There’s a difference and I am compelled to make the distinction by using a single word for the first sound while using a hyphenated word for the other. I suppose I could use a string of words to describe the latter idea, but it conveys a denser meaning to use the shorter hyphenated form. I say tick-tock and you instantly know what I mean.

Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher, has written a short but brilliant treatise that asserts the world in which we live is an entirely hyphenated world. Existence is intrinsically relational—whether that relation is with nature, other people or God.

The title of the book is I and Thou but it could have also been titled I-Thou or I-It.

To say the word “I” presupposes an “other” to whom (or which) we relate. We cannot say “I” without having some other thing or person form the context that gives meaning to that “I”.  Here, I’ll try it.

“I ran.”

At first, it seems the sentence is devoid of any referent. Beside the “I” there is no other object or person directly mentioned.

But try to imagine “running” without the ground. Or try to imagine “running” without an origin or destination. We do not run to nowhere. Even nowhere is somewhere. And we cannot run on or in nothing. If you imagine running in the sky, you are still running in something. Even nothing is something. The statement “I ran” begs the question:

“to whom?” Or

“on what?” Or
“in what?”

Even the sentence “I am” is unimaginable without referent. We know no “I” without another thing or person. I can never escape the fact that I am conditioned by other people or things. The world in which we live is a world of relation. It is quite literally defined by relation. Even the concept of non-being can only be construed in juxtaposition to the idea of being. Ironically, nothing needs something.

To express this metaphysic of relation, Martin Buber says we may describe how we live in this world with two “primary words.” As one would expect in a world of relation, the words in question can only be expressed as hyphenated words (like the word tick-tock). Buber says the “primary words” to describe this world of relation are twofold:



Don’t let your eyes deceive you. You are not looking at three separate words here. Buber is not saying the world is composed of…


No, we live according to one of two paradigms: an I-Thou paradigm or an I-It paradigm.

Either way, there is relation signified in each “primary word.” The two primary words are used to express distinctions in the characteristics of each respective relation.

In I-It the relation can be described as a Subject-Object relation. In I-Thou we have two Subjects in relation. Think of Buber’s ideas as “a grammar of existence.”

The word “I-It” denotes a way of living that treats other things or people as Objects. The word “I-Thou” expresses a way of living that regards everything and everyone as holy, mysterious, and uncontrollable. That person in front of me in the checkout line at the supermarket is a person: I can encounter them but I can never fully understand them. They are not an Object to be controlled; they are a Person to be loved. My response to this mystery evokes awe and reverence for the other. I can only describe them as a “Thou” because of this—and their “Thou-ness” makes me keenly aware of my own mystery. This way of relating to others manifests a reality that is hard to describe because of its immense beauty. If we were to describe it with a single word, we’d have to resort to Buber’s “primary word”:  I-Thou.

Here’s how Buber puts it: “All real living is meeting.” (26)

“Individuality makes its appearance by being differentiated from other individualities. A person makes his appearance by entering into relation with other persons.” (67)

From this simple grammar Buber draws profound, far-reaching conclusions. Even our relation to so-called objects (such as a tree, a mountain, the ocean, or a pebble) is affected. If we regard each “object” reverently we can establish an “I-Thou” relation even with a small daffodil. The pursuit of scientific progress is affected by this posture; gaining knowledge in order to control changes an I-Thou posture to an I-It posture.

Our pursuit of profit-making is changed; our relation to money can no longer be colored by greed when we respect both the constructive and destructive potential of amassing wealth.

Buber saw first-hand what happens when political philosophies are colored by an I-It relation: he was one of the German-Jewish academics persecuted by Hitler’s Nazi regime. He personally witnessed an imposition of the rule of law for the sake of controlling others and extinguishing divergent ideas. Whole systems of government flow from either I-It or I-Thou relations. Often, entire nations experience periods when they fluctuate between the two realities. We catch glimpses of I-Thou relations only to have hope diminished when I-It takes over.

These two primary words have implications for interpersonal relationships as well. Parental and spousal relations come to mind immediately. Having been married for 22 years, I’ve seen first-hand that I can never fully understand my wife, nor control her. She is holy and mysterious. I encounter her but I can never master her. When I try to control her, I treat her as an object, a thing, an It. But she is a Thou. She herself is her own I and the only way to revere her “Thou-ness” is to let her be an I.

In this relation, I discover another mystery: When I move from I-Thou to I-It in relating to another person I see that my “I-ness” is also changed. Buber puts it this way: “The I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.” (67)

In the case of the former, the I is expansive, gracious, joyful, free and freeing. In the case of the latter, the I is small, petty, controlling, lustful and untrusting.

The difference is made when we live in grace. Buber again: “Grace concerns us in so far as we go out to it and persist in its presence; but it is not our object.” (78) Even grace cannot be controlled. In fact, when we try to control grace, grace ceases to be grace for us.

We try to control grace, however, because we fear the hurt that may come with living in free grace. When we encounter the other just as they are, we must admit, it will sometimes hurt. Living by the  I-Thou relation always carries two uncontrollable sides to it: “The Thou confronts me. But I step into direct relation with it. Hence the relation means being chosen and choosing, suffering and action in one…” (78)

So, there are implications for the world of people and things. We discover that even “things” are not just “things” when we see them through I-Thou eyes.

This is even true of that Person or Thing which our eyes cannot see. So, Buber speaks of God: “Many men wish to reject the word God as a legitimate usage, because it is so misused. It is indeed the most heavily laden of all the words used by men. For that very reason it is the most imperishable and most indispensable. What does all mistaken talk about God’s being and works…matter in comparison with the one truth that all men who have addressed God had God Himself in mind?” (77)

Even atheists believe in God, Buber states: “But when he, too, who abhors the name, and believes himself to be godless, gives his whole being to addressing the Thou of his life, as a Thou that cannot be limited by another, he addresses God.” (78)

“Believers”, on the other hand, have a different set of misconceptions to overcome in order to embrace the “Thou-ness” of God. On the one hand, believers often seek to divide God from the world (dualism). On the other hand, some believers speak of “seeking God in (or by) the world” (pantheism). Both, in fact, establish an I-It relation with God, Buber says. God (the only I whose I-Thou way of being never fluctuates) is the One who is ever-near but who cannot be caught or controlled.  We encounter God but we can never fully understand God. For this reason, Buber asserts that it is more accurate to say that “the world is in God” than to say that “God is in the world.” This means that wherever we go we encounter God, but God is not someone we can put in a box. Buber describes this phenomenon eloquently:

“He who enters on the absolute relation is concerned with nothing isolated any more, neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven; but everything is gathered up in the relation. For to step into pure relation is not to disregard everything but to see everything in the Thou, not to renounce the world but to establish it on its true basis. To look away from the world, or to stare at it, does not help a man to reach God; but he who sees the world in Him stands in His presence. ‘Here world, there God’ is the language of It; ‘God in the world’ is another language of It;…but to…include the whole world in the Thou…this is full and complete relation….

“Of course God is the ‘wholly Other’; but He is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but He is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.

“If you explore the life of things and of conditioned being you come to the unfathomable, if you deny the life of things and of conditioned being you stand before nothingness, if you hallow this life you meet the living God.” (80-81)

Because of this, Buber describes the practice of the  I-Thou relation as prayer. “Two great servants pace through the ages, prayer and sacrifice. The man who prays pours himself out in unrestrained dependence, and knows that he has—in an incomprehensible way—an effect upon God, even though he obtains nothing from God…” (83)

Notice that the I-Thou relation is distinct from the idea of absorption. There is a sense of Otherness to the giving-and-receiving unity. Buber cites Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John when Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of the Father” while also saying “I am Thou and Thou art I.” “The Father and the Son, like in being…are the indissolubly real pair, the bearers of the primal relation, which from God to man is termed mission and command, from man to God looking and hearing, and between both is termed knowledge and love. In this relation the Son, though the Father dwells and works in him, bows down before the ‘greater’ and prays to him.” (85)

The two are distinct, yet one in relation. The Father and Son form a single word; in Buber’s grammar that word is I-Thou.

It is what we long for: a world in which people and things can be distinct and free but one in love. PlayFull describes this metaphysical aspiration as play. It is why we do what we do, to help people relinquish the desire to make Its of Thous, to play together. It is why our mission states we want to help others “play from the inside-out”—for play is ultimately a process of the heart.


Our PlayBook series features short reviews of books we recommend to help others lead playful lives. Click here for a list of otherPlayBook reviews and thank you for reading.

Quotations above are from:

Buber, Martin. I and Thou (New York, Scribner: 1986) 

21 November 2013

PlayFull Is Catching On All Over

Today, I had the privilege of engaging in three different life-giving conversations with some folks who are located in different cities scattered across the United States.

Thinking of it all just now makes me smile.

I had the chance to dream with future PlayFull board member Dave Marmion who lives in Austin, Texas.  We talked about what a board member does and noted that the PlayFull board will likely be anything but typical. Most boards are driven by financial concerns. The PlayFull board is driven by creativity.  While we don’t want to be na├»ve about money matters, I personally believe that if we can put money in its proper place we’ll discover that PlayFull comes as a breath of fresh air right from its very core.

Later this morning, I spoke with a man in Columbus, Ohio who is in the midst of starting a church in the inner city. We spoke of team dynamics and clarity of vision. We spoke of the challenge of managing transition well and the importance of listening to neighborhood rhythms. We entertained ideas about a PlayDate: an event hosted by PlayFull to enable the leadership team to creatively tackle obstacles they encounter.

Finally, I spoke with a woman living in St. Paul, Minnesota whose sacrificial service has birthed a unique church (with Christian Associates International) that touches the impoverished with the love of Christ.  Here’s a community that’s playful at its heart: they are willing to experiment. Their church does not look like a typical “Sunday morning” church. In fact, 100 percent of the offerings they receive goes to help those that can’t help themselves.

My heart is full because each conversation was marked by freedom and grace. There’s freedom to dream up new ventures. There’s grace to pursue these ventures and grace that removes the fear of failure.

I count it an honor to work alongside people like this and I am more convinced than ever that PlayFull’s mission is spot on. I’m grateful to those reading this for supporting and encouraging this unique work.

Thank you,


PlayFull offers coaching, team building and creative consulting. Write Troy to see how PlayFull can help you.

20 November 2013

Worry Is No Laughing Matter. Not.

Worry officially stinks. Yes, that is the determination of a congressional subcommittee on the financial damage caused by the medical treatment of worry warts.

Of course, it's Hump Day and that means...Humor Day at PlayFull. So, yes, there was no such congressional study. These comics about worry, on the other hand, are very real. Take them to heart and quit worrying, friends! Because "worry officially stinks".

Don't worry; be happy: like PlayFull on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Do it now. You'll have one less thing to worry about later.

18 November 2013

If You Find A Droid

Handmade posters. We see them all over. Someone advertises a service or posts a notice of a lost pet; a teenager tries to drum up some babysitting jobs or a local musician offers piano lessons dirt-cheap. 

Here are some posters you've likely never seen--and they're bound to give you a chuckle.  Out of a larger list of 30 posters I saw earlier today, these are my top 10. 


1.Wanted: Dead and Alive.

2. Lost Wormhole.

3. If You See Klaus...

4. Lost Droids

5. Printer For Sale. Works Real Good.

6. Minions Wanted.

7. Like This Post. Very punny.

8. Missing Unicorn.

9. For Tough Times.

10. My Favorite: Lionel Richie.

PlayFull exists to help people and organizations play from the inside-out. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

14 November 2013

Thursday Thought: William Blake, On Detail

PlayFull exists to help people play from the inside-out. To keep up with thought-provoking content, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

13 November 2013

Truth In Advertising

Seeing these slogans that portray what some products really offer makes one realize just how much truth there actually is in advertising.  At PlayFull, Hump Day is Humor Day. Enjoy!


PlayFull hopes to bring some laughter into your life every Wednesday. Check back here for more humorous content, especially on Hump Day Humor Day. To keep up with all kinds of content that can help you play from the inside-out, like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading and, if you like, spread the word by sharing this post!