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Fostering Friendships

I remember as a child being painfully shy. I wanted to make friends, but I wasn’t sure how and I wasn’t sure anyone would like me. I remember my mom, who has always been a friendly person, saying, “Just be friendly. Ask what their name is and tell them your name.” It made sense, yet for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I did take some of her advice though and I did try to join in games or activities that others were doing. Still to talk to someone I didn’t know was very hard, so most of the time I just listened. Now listening isn’t a bad skill, still, just how do those of us on the shyer side learn to make friends? I am happy to say, I’e come a long ways since those shy days. I don’t consider myself shy any more. I am really more outgoing and I’m loving it. How did I get there and how can we help our kids make friends?

I prayed about it. My best friend Jesus heard a small girl’s prayers and little by little, He answered. He nudged me out of my comfort zone to introduce myself to others and to be the first one to say my name. I still mostly listen during conversations, but I find that people love to talk to someone who listens to them and who tries to understand how they feel. I also learned to smile and ask questions. When you give someone a genuine smile, they usually smile back and when you ask about their day or wish them a good day, it lets them know that you care. As I listen, I try to really listen and remember what someone has told me. When we listen only with the intent of thinking of what we are going to say, we often miss what the other person is really talking about, but when we listen to understand and then respond with genuine interest, we’ve gained a friend.

I also learned that most people are not trying to judge you. Yes, I suppose we all make snap judgements at times. I know I’ve met someone and thought, “Oh they must be a teacher.” because of something they said only to find out that they worked in a doctor’s office or I’ve thought that someone was rich because they dressed very nicely and later found out that they weren’t any richer than I was, but they knew how to shop the sales. Still most people aren’t automatically trying to judge you as a person or judge what you say unless you are responding in an unkind manner. Most people are happy to smile back at you and are glad that there are some friendly people in the world.

If you are in a group where you don’t know anyone and feel kind of alone, you can be sure that there is at least one other person feeling the same way. So just introduce yourself. Ask their name and then ask where they are from, where they grew up, what their job is or even about the weather. Just introduce yourself! You might make their day.(Did you know that you can find lists of “getting-to-know-you” questions on line if you need something to get you started?)

Ok, so I’m still not the life of the party and I sometimes wonder if I will ever have a friendship quite like David had with his friend Jonathan, but I’m happy to say, I have friends – lots of friends and I am definitely not shy!!! In fact, I belong to a Toastmaster’s group and I actually enjoy public speaking. I didn’t get there overnight, but little by little, with God’s help, I faced my fears. I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and I realized that there were a lot of other people, just like me who were little apprehensive about introducing themselves. I’m still growing in my quest to be braver and more outgoing. My next goal is to get enough courage to share my ideas in group meetings even if I’m afraid that everyone is smarter and has better ideas than I do, even if I come across as ridiculous. The only ridiculous idea or question is the one not asked or shared.

How can we ever hope to have a friend like David had in Jonathan? Perhaps the best answer is to genuinely love and care about others. When we can get our eyes off of ourselves and our fears, focusing on the other person instead, then we can be a friend. The best way to make friends is to simply be a friend to someone else.

PRAYER: Father God,
Thank you for being my friend and thank you for sending Jesus to the world. He lived among us and experienced what we experience. He knew loneliness, pain, hunger and thirst. He endured ridicule, misunderstanding and rejection. he also experienced love and companionship and through it all, He loved and served. He healed and helped. He lived selflessly and He called us to follow Him. He died so that we might live in relationship with our Father God. Thank you Jesus, for being my friend. Help me, Lord, to let go of my selfish fears and be a friend to others. I know that I can be a friend because you are my friend and you are always with me. Amen

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD?
SHARE A STORY: Good Friends – David & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 20:12-42
David and Jonathan were very good friends. They loved each other. (Give self a hug.) But Jonathan’s dad was the king and he didn’t like David. (Make sad, mean face.) He was jealous and wanted to hurt David. Jonathan promised David that he would find out if his dad really was mad, (Show mad face.) then he would let David know so that he could go away where it was safe.

Jonathan talked to his dad and King Saul was still very angry. He thought people liked David better than him. Jonathan was sad because his dad was mad. (Show sad face.) But He had promised to let David know and good friends keep their promises. Good friends help each other.

Jonathan went out to the field where David was hiding. He shot some arrows to let David know that his dad was still mad and that David needed to get away. Afterwards Jonathan sent the boy who was with him back to town so he could see his friend, David, one last time. David came out from where he was hiding to say good bye to his friend. They cried together, (Say, “Boo hoo!”) and they promised to be friends forever. (Say and clap, “Friends forever.”) They promised to be kind to each other.

David and Jonathan were very good friends.They loved God (Point up.) and they loved each other. (Give self a hug.)You can be a good friend too. Ask God to help you be a good friend and show kindness just like Jonathan did. Do you know who wants to be your good friend? Jesus! He really loves you. You can be a good friend to others because Jesus lis a good, good friend to you.

PRAYER:
Dear God,
Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend and be kind to others.
Help me remember to share. Thank you God for being my friend too. I love you! Amen

MEMORIZE: Proverbs 17:17 – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)
A friend – (Hook pointer fingers together.)
Loves – (Give self a hug.)
At all – (Throw hands out to sides.)
Times – (Point to clock.)

VERSE SONG: (To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
A friend loves at all times,
All times, all times.
A friend loves at all times,
And Jesus is a friend of mine.
(2nd time through replace last line with Proverbs 17:17)

FOSTERING OUR KID’S FRIENDSHIPS (Parents)
With young children, getting together with other families with young children is a good start. Young children begin to understand friendship as they simply play alongside one another. Playing with your child as he/she plays alongside others helps too – as well as having toys that can be shared – 2 trucks, 2 dolls, blocks, etc.

  • Teach your preschooler what to say when meeting someone new. “Hi! My name is …. What’s your name?”
  • Invite someone over to play one on one. with your child. It’s a little less intimidating one on one than in a whole group..

    FRIENDSHIP IN CLASS (Teachers)
  • Introduce kids to each other. Have some of the friendlier, less shy kids be greeters to welcome other kids. Assign someone to be a new child’s special buddy the first day in class.
  • Play a name game in circle time by clapping different names or singing the names around the circle.
  • Include activities where more than one child is included – art activities done as a group or building together, doing a puzzle together, etc.
  • Model and role play how to introduce yourself and some get-to-know you types of questions.
  • With older kids, encourage friendships amongst kids who have like interests, but also amongst kids who are different.
  • Celebrate each child’s uniqueness.

Sharing Good News

Birthdays are good news!

Like most people, I enjoy sharing good news and usually when I have good news I share it. When I get an unexpected refund deposited into my bank account, someone gives me flowers or I win a contest, I’m quick to share it with those around me. And of course those exciting family moments such as when one of my grandkids gets an award or I find that another grand baby is on the way, I’m quick to share those moments too, but this last year, there were a lot of not so good moments. There were deaths in our family, trips cancelled, some unexpected costs that arose and of course, the seemingly endless news about Covid, the elections and racial injustice. While I’m not denying that we need to stay abreast of these and other issues, after awhile, I didn’t even want to watch the news. I was just tired, bone-weary tired of all the bad news! I’m happy to say that this year, at least for my family, is looking up a bit and I am thankful! I wonder though, how many people are still struggling? How many people could use some good news and really don’t know where to find it?

Many people are still out of work and wondering how they can possibly continue to care for their families without enough income. Some people are struggling with addictions, the loss of a child or spouse, marital problems or perhaps they have been victims of injustice. Where can they find hope to make sense of the world in which they are living?

I believe God gives us good news to share – the best news of all. That news is that Jesus is alive and does want to live in relationship with us. Why is that good news? Besides the obvious answers of how Jesus forgives us and gives us eternal life in heaven which is very good news; its’s good news because He is with us. He is with us on those days when we hear bad news. He is with us when it seems the months drag by and we still haven’t found work. He is with us when we are at the hospital with our child who is sick. He is with us when life just doesn’t make sense. He’s with us in the good times and the bad times and He gives us His Spirit to walk with us and live us wherever we go. I guess you say, Jesus is in it with us for the long haul and that gives us hope. Hope that there is a tomorrow even if we can barely see beyond today. Hope that in the darkest of moments, we are not alone. Hope that He can still those storms. He can provide. He can give us new dreams, new ambitions and new life.

All of this may sound like some pat answer. You might be thinking, that’s easy for you to say, you don’t know what I’m going through. You’re right, I don’t, but God does and I do know what God has done for me when I am going through tough times. You see, this last year during the hard times, He’s was faithful; all my life He has been faithful. I’ve experienced miraculous answers to prayer and I’ve also had to walk through the dark, step by step, reaching out to find God’s hand, not even knowing where that next step would take me only trusting that He would give me the strength to continue. I can’t explain it, but I know He’s been there in the dark times too and that too is very good news.

I don’t know about  you, but I’m ready for some good news and I do want to share it with you. I can’t give you your own good news, but I can share with you what I have and that’s my friend, Jesus. He is able to do above and beyond anything I could ever do anyway. What other good news can I offer? I will pray for you. I do pray for my readers now – all of you whether I have met you or not. If you have something specific, you would like prayer for and you message me, I would be happy to pray for you.

What about you? Do you have good news you can share with others? Share it! Good news is worth sharing. Don’t stop though with simply sharing good news, let Jesus live through you and be the good news by sharing His love. Walk with someone through their hard time or their bad news so that they too can see that Jesus truly does love and care for them. How? Just by being a friend. Offer to pray or cry with them and then share the good news! It’s time we look up. It’s time we walk together and it’s time we learn to hope again. Share the good news!

Parent Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
Like Peter, I do want to share good news. I want to share your love and your hope with others. I want to share your love and hope with my family too. I can’t do this in my own strength. What I say and do seems so minuscule in the light of all the problems in our world and yet, I know that you are able to do above and beyond all that I ask or think or even imagine. I’ve see you work in amazing ways and I know that it was you that brought the healing and I’ve seen you work in the day by day, little by little as I have walked with you. I need your help again, Lord. I need your help and your power, your miracle working, life-giving power flowing through me and helping me to share you with others, because that is what our world so desperately needs – to hope again and love again as you give us the strength to do so. Amen

JUST SHARING GOOD NEWS
* My nephew who had a very serious operation for a cyst he has had in his nose since birth is home from the hospital and doing well.

* I had an interesting, serious conversation with a friend who is struggling with some issues of injustice. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but I am thankful that she shared her thoughts with me. I’m trusting God to help me be compassionate towards her and others who are struggling with these kinds of things.

* Jesus loves me this I know – Oh how I love the joy of knowing this simple fact.

DO YOU HAVE GOOD NEWS?
I would love to hear your good news – about yourself and about your friendship with God.

* More good news – I’m working on a children’s book that I hope to have published this year – I’m not giving up!

* Nothing is impossible with God.

* A good way to share good news is over coffee or by doing life together with others. Serving others is another way of sharing good news – How else can we share good news? I would love to hear your ideas.

* Ask God to give you opportunities and the strength to share and then just watch to see what happens. Perhaps you’ll meet a new neighbor or reconnect with an old friend who needs help. I did this week.Just be open to spread some joy with whoever comes your way this week.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD THIS WEEK?

SHARE A STORY: Peter Shares Good News – Acts 2
When Jesus returned to heaven in the clouds, (Raise arms up as high as you can.) He told His disciples that He would send His Spirit, the Holy Spirit to be with us and help us. Jesus told His friends to wait in Jerusalem for His Spirit. On the day when the Spirit came, there was a mighty rushing wind that filled the house where Jesus’ friends were waiting and then what looked like fire came and sat on top of the friend’s heads. The people were able to speak in the languages of the people around them in Jerusalem that day. That was how the Holy Spirit came that Jesus had promised.

There was a whole crowd of people in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came. When Peter saw the crowd of people, he told them about Jesus.“Jesus is alive and He loves you. He wants to be your friend.” Peter told the crowd, “Jesus died on a cross, but He’s alive again. He will always be us and He will forgive our sins when we ask Him to.” Peter told the crowd about his friend, Jesus.

Peter was happy (Show happy face.) to tell about Jesus. He was happy (Show happy face.) Jesus was his friend.  He was happy (Show happy face.) Jesus sent His Spirit to be with him all the time and help him share the good news. Many people heard Peter that day and believed in Jesus. They wanted Jesus to be their friend forever. Jesus loves you and wants to be your friend forever too. Because He’s alive, He can hears you when you pray and He will help you tell others the good news just like He helped Peter.

Can you think of some good news to share about your friend Jesus? (Jesus is a good friend to have. He will always be with you.He loves you! He’s alive! You can talk to Him. He will help you.) Now let’s practice telling a friend. Look at someone and say, ‘Jesus wants to be your friend.’  I’m so glad that Jesus loves us and that we can tell others the good news just like Peter did.”

MEMORIZE: Matt. 28:6 ERV (Hold hands open like holding a book.)
Jesus – (Touch fingers of one hand to palm of the other and vice versa.)
Is not here –  (Make fists and put together like a tomb.)
He has risen from death. – (Wiggling fingers, raise hands upward.)
Just as He said He would – (Put hands by mouth as you say this part.)

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus,
I’m glad that you are alive and that you want to be my friend. I want to share you with my friends. I want to tell others that you are alive and want to be their friend too. I know that you will help me share the good news about you with my friends. Amen

KNOW: Peter tells a crowd about Jesus. I can tell about Jesus.
TALK ABOUT: Who can I tell about Jesus?
ASK: Who loves you? Jesus loves me.
AND DO: I can tell others about my friend, Jesus.

FUN IDEAS TO DO WITH YOUT CHILD:
* Talk about what Jesus has done for you and then remember to say, “Thank you!” to God and share your story with someone else.

* Keep a running list of things that you can thank God for this week. See how long it is by the end of the week. Let your preschooler add pictures to the list.

* Don’t forget to share your good news. Call Grandma or a friend and tell her
the good news too – it’s fun to share pictures too. Share the award your child got at school, pictures from your child’s birthday party, the pet that you finally got that your child has been praying for, a picture of the garden your child helped you plant – whatever it is, share the good news.