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.

…………………….

Hospitality
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:

Hospitality.

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)

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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,
Troy