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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.

No Matter What

PHOTO CAPTION: Dear God, Give me the strength to be brave no matter what I am facing.

I don’t care how old or how young you are, learning to trust God is something that we all can practice. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is fascinating to me. It’s fascinating not only because God divinely rescued them from the fire, but also because of their complete trust and faith in God. They trusted God enough to make the right choice even before they knew what the outcome would be. They knew God! They knew God was with them and they knew their God could deliver them. There was no question in their mind of God’s ability, yet they also knew that serving God was worth the sacrifice even if the fire consumed them. Wow! That’s faith and trust in action!

I wonder how many of us today would make that same statement when faced with those circumstances. Would I choose to stand for God or would I rationalize my actions and choose to bow down to the idol? I like to think I would stand for God. Still I wonder if I would be able to stand strong or would I question and rationalize the choices before me?

I feel like today there are a lot of issues facing us that are seemingly gray areas. Things that used to seem so plain are not plain any longer. The lines have been blurred, the black and white smudged to become gray and often wrong is portrayed as right. What do we do? How do we continue to love others without compromising our own beliefs? I don’t have answers except I believe above all else that God calls us to love Him and love others. If that means standing up for worshiping Him and standing up for injustice, then let’s do it. Let’s choose to love and trust God no matter what. And when we are faced with a gray area of decision, then let’s ask God for wisdom. I know He will give it to us if we ask because He is with us, just like He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their decision to worship God instead of bowing to the statue was not made on the spur of the moment; rather it was based on years of trusting God. Their God had kept them and led them in the past and they knew that He would do so again.

So what would I do if faced with the same decision as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? I would make the right choice. I would bravely take my stand to worship God and Him alone. How do I know? I know because it’s at the very time we need it most that God gives us the grace to stand. I would stand, not in my own strength, but in God’s. Yes, I can love and serve God no matter what because He is with me and His grace is all that I need for this moment and forever.

PS Did you notice that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t disrespect the king? They were open and up front with the king about their stand. We can be honest and upfront with others when we need to stand strong in such a way that we are not attacking them personally or attacking their viewpoint. We can disagree without being obnoxious or militant and we can continue to love those who think differently, look differently and act differently than we do. Love makes a huge difference in how we approach others and how they respond to what we have to say. So keep loving others and keep worshiping God!

PARENT OR GRANDPARENT PRAYER:
Father God, 
I want to stand strong for you and do what is right and yet the temptations to compromise are always there. Compromises sometimes come disguised as good things that distract me from following you and what you have for me. Help me to know what direction you want me to go when faced with decisions. The big decisions are often easier for me to make than the little ones. I know what your word says about the big things such as being honest; treating others with respect and loving you above all else, but the little things can trip me up. I’m so thankful for your grace because when I do fall down, you are there to help me get back up again and start over. Still God, I do want to stand for you, do the right thing and make good choices. Teach me to come to you and look to you everyday. Thank you for walking with me. Your presence comforts me. I know I can trust in you. Help all my family my kids and grandkids and the kiddos at church to trust fully in you too. May they always look to you as they make choices everyday. I pray that the next generation stands brave and strong because you are with them. May they stand for you no matter what happens. Thank you God, for hearing my prayer. Amen

LEARNING TO STAND STRONG

  • If you want your kids to stand strong and make good choices, start with small choices that you can live with – EX. Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?
  • Teach them how to approach others respectfully. Good manners – saying please, thank you, I’m sorry or please forgive me – can go a long ways towards standing strong and still honoring others.
  • Be honest with what you say and do, even in the little things. A tiny white lie may not seem like much, but your kids pick up on these things and then they think they can do the same.
  • Model trust in God whatever you are going through. When your kids see you trusting and looking to God for help in stressful situations, they too will learn to trust.
  • Pray with your kids when they are facing decisions.
  • Remind your kids everyday that God is with them no matter what. When your kids learn to live with a sense of God’s presence and are encouraged in their relationship with Him, then when the going gets tough, they too will stand strong.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD?

SHARE A STORY: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – Daniel 3
This story is about three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were King Nebuchadnezzar’s helpers. One day King Nebuchadnezzar made a BIG, gold statue. (Make a tower of blocks.) The king said, “When you hear music, you must bow down and pray to this statue. If you don’t, you will be thrown into a very hot fire.”

So when the music played, everyone bowed to the statue just like the king had said. Everyone that is, except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they prayed to God not a silly, gold statue! They knew God was with them and would help them to be brave and do the right thing. They knew they could depend on His mighty power. (Show muscles.)

The king was very mad when he found out that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had not prayed to his statue. (Make a mad face.) He gave the three friends one more chance, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, “Oh King, our God can save us. We will only pray to Him not your statue!”

Then the king was so mad that he made the fire even hotter. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire. Were the three friends hurt in the fire? No, they weren’t hurt because God was with them! When the king looked into the fire, he saw one, two three, four men in the fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were walking around in the fire and another man was walking around too. An angel was in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were just fine because God was with them even in the fire. God took care of them because He is strong and amazing!

The king had the three friends come out of the fire and he praised God, (Say, “Yeah God!”) all because, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to believe, worship and pray to God instead of the king’s statue. God will be with you wherever you go, just like He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He is with you because He loves you. You can talk to Him whenever you are afraid.

PRAYER:
Dear God,
I know that you love me. I will trust you to help me even when I am afraid. Amen

MEMORIZE: Ps. 31:14 ERV – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)
Lord, – (Hold hands outwards)
I trust – (Pull hands inward while making a fist)
In you – (Point upwards.)
You are my God – (Clap hands.)

THE MAIN IDEA
KNOW: God will be with me no matter what happens.
TALK ABOUT: Who helps us when we are afraid?
ASK: Who loves you? God loves me.
AND DO: I can trust and obey.

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK

  • Build a block tower and think of one thing to praise or worship God for every time you add a block to the tower. Here are some examples to get you started: God, you are amazing! Thank you for your love. You are very strong. I know you are with me. I love you. I love you.
  • If you have time this week, cook outside. Better yet, if you have a fire pit, build a fire and enjoy the outdoors. Talk about fire safety with your kids. Encourage your kids to talk to God when afraid.