Featured

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.

What Did You Say, Lord?

PHOTO CAPTION: Are these two listening? Maybe not, but they sure are cute!

Have you ever felt a nudge from God and wondered if you were really hearing from Him? I know I have. Maybe like me, you have had the urge to pray for someone or call someone and yet you questioned whether God was really speaking to you or not. Instead of questioning those urges, let’s act on them. Most of the time, urges to pray, call or do something nice for someone else is definitely in line with what God wants us to do. Why is it so hard to act on those urges? Is it because we are too busy? Is it because there are so many things to distract us?

I have found that when I’m really busy and my family tries to talk to me, I only catch about half of what they are saying. I’ve had to stop a few times and ask, “Can you please repeat what you just said?” or “What did you say?” I wonder if that’s our response to God. “What did you say, Lord? I wasn’t listening. I was distracted by all the noise around me.”

Noah walked with God everyday. He made walking with God a priority. He listened and obeyed everything that God said. How is that Noah was able to discern God’s voice amidst the other noises of the time in which he lived? I think it is because he did walk with God. To walk with someone, you need to actively pursue going somewhere with them. It means getting away from your other activities and responsibilities to be with the person you are walking with. You can’t walk with someone and also be doing your laundry or writing a report for work or running your child to soccer practice, unless that person is coming with you to soccer practice and you are planning to walk as you watch.

How can we know what God is saying to us? Stop and take time to listen. Listen to what He says in His word, the Bible. Listen in church, listen to others who are walking with God. Ask God to help you listen and know what He is saying. He will show you because He loves you and He wants relationship with you. He wants to walk and talk with you more than you desire to walk and talk with Him. The next time you get a little urge or nudge to pray for someone, invite them to church or encourage a friend; act on it and see if God is speaking to you.

PS The beauty of walking with God is that He is always with you. He’s with you when you are doing laundry, driving to soccer practice, at work and everywhere you go and because He is with you, you can say a little prayer whenever you need wisdom or direction. It only takes a minute. He will speak to you through His Word, through those little nudges and through that inner voice in your heart that leads you to love and care for yourself and others. Oh and by the way, it’s not the inner voice that says, “Eat more chocolate!” That voice is probably just your flesh speaking. LOL!

PARENT PRAYER:
Dear God,
Life is busy and often time gets away from me before I know it. Remind me, Lord, to always make my time with you a priority and if I do get interrupted when I am trying to spend time with you, remind me that you are still with me. I can talk to you as I’m driving, walking, exercising, changing diapers or doing laundry. I can breathe a prayer at work, at the grocery store or wherever I go. Show me how I can walk more aware of your presence and help me act on those nudges that you give me. Remind me of what I have learned in your Word so that I can live and love by your good rules. Thank you that you are always with me. Thank you that you hear my prayers. Oh that I would hide your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. I need your help daily to make good choices and decisions, but I know that as I look to you, you will guide and give me clear directions. I need clear directions as a parent (grandparent) too. I need to know when to show grace to my kids and when to discipline them in love or perhaps to let them feel the weight of the consequences of their own actions. I need to know when to speak up and when to be quiet, especially as they grow up. Teach me Lord, how to be the parent my children need. Thank you for hearing my prayer and for walking with me. Amen

HELPING KIDS LEARN TO LISTEN

  • If you’re a parent, you know that you’re kids don’t always listen. Sometimes they put you on ignore, usually when they are playing or distracted by something else. How can you reduce your frustration and help them develop better listening skills? Here’s a few ideas that worked for me – of course, there were still times when my kids put me on ignore so you may have to experiment a little. It’s a work in progress.
  • Get down on their level and talk to them face to face. It’s much harder to ignore what you are saying if you are talking face to face.
    • Listen when they are talking to you. Whenever you can, give them your undivided attention. If you can’t, then let them know. “Mommie is busy right now, but I want to hear your story, give me a minute and then let’s sit down and talk.”
      • Play listening games. Stop for a minute to see what you can hear. Play a game where you give your child simple, but fun directions such as, “Hop three times.” or “Swing your arms like an elephant swings its’ trunk.” Then swap and let your child give you some fun directions. If your child is doing well with one direction, try two, “Swing your arms like an elephant swings its’ trunk and pick up three toys.” Play a game where you listen and repeat what the other person says such as the ABC game where you start out with, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take an apple.” Then the next person repeats what you said and adds something that starts with B and so on.
      • Read some stories about listening. Here’s a couple to get you started.“Monkey Needs To Listen” by Sue Graves
        “Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns To Listen” by Howard Binkow
        • When you ask your child to do something, ask in a positive way instead of a negative. For example, instead of saying, “Stop running right now!”, try saying, “Let’s practice using our walking feet.”
          • It’s okay to give reasons for what you are asking your child to do such as, “Let’s pick up the toys because Grandma and Grandpa are coming over tonight, then we will go to the store.” or “Please pick up your Legos© so that your baby sister doesn’t put them in her mouth.”
            • Praise your child when he listens well.
              • Last, but not least, remind your children that God wants them to listen and knows what is best for them.

Kid’s Section

STORY: Noah Builds An Ark – Genesis 6
This story from our Bible is about a man named Noah. Noah loved and walked with God everyday. (Walk in place and give a thumbs up. “Yeah!”) Noah obeyed God too. He followed God’s rules and did what God wanted him to do even when no one else did. (Thumbs up. “Yeah!”) God was happy with Noah. He knew that Noah loved and obeyed Him with all his heart. (Thumbs up. ”Yeah!“)

But God wasn’t happy with the other people on earth. (Thumbs down.“Boo!”) They were doing very bad things. (Thumbs down. “Boo!”) The other people on earth didn’t love or obey God. (Thumbs down. “Boo!”) They didn’t follow God’s rules. Instead they lived just for themselves and did mean things. (Thumbs down. “Boo!”) Because the people were doing very, very bad things, (Thumbs down. “Boo!”) God decided to send a BIG storm and flood the whole earth, but He wanted Noah to be safe. (Make waves with hands and a circle with hands for whole earth.)

God told Noah, “I’m going to flood the earth. I want you to build a BIG Ark boat to keep you and your family safe.” (Pretend to hammer and saw.) God told Noah exactly how to build the Ark. (Pretend to hammer and saw again.) He told Noah how tall and long to build it. (Reach up high and then reach wide.) He told him what kind of wood to use. He told Noah everything he needed to know. (Touch fingertips to forehead for know.) He also told Noah to take animals with him on the boat so that they would be safe too. He told him to take two of most animals and seven of some kinds of animals. (Hold up fingers for two and count for seven.)

Did Noah do what God asked him to do? Yes, he did! (Thumbs up. “Yeah!”) Noah was brave. He listened and built the Ark exactly like God told him to. It took Noah a long, long time to build the Ark and the other people laughed at him. Did he stop building when people laughed at him? No! He did everything just like God said and he didn’t give up! (Thumbs up. “Yeah!”) He kept right on building until the Ark was done. Noah finished the job God gave him to do and you can do what God wants you to do too. You can be brave, listen, obey and follow God’s directions just like Noah did because God cares for you. (Thumbs up. “Yeah!”)

Noah was brave. He wasn’t afraid of the storm coming. He wasn’t afraid to do what God asked, because He knew that God loved him and would help him with everything. He knew that God gives very good directions.

PRAYER:
Dear God,
Thank you for loving and caring for me. I want to listen and do what you want me to do just like Noah did. I need your help to be a good listener and obey you. Help me to listen and obey mom and dad too and help me be brave and do the right thing even when others don’t. Amen

KNOW: God cared for Noah. God cares for me.
TALK ABOUT: Loving and listening to God. Following directions
ASK: Who loves you? God loves me.

AND DO… Be brave, love and obey God because He cares for you. God’s directions are good.

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
*  Have fun building something with your child using blocks, Legos® or anything you desire.
*  Play a simple game of “Follow the Leader” or give your child simple, fun directions to follow to help build their listening skills.Ask your child, “What are some of God’s directions?”

MEMORIZE: Nahum 1:7 ERV – (Hands like holding a book.)
He (God) – (Point up.)
Cares for – (Rub hand across arm.)
Those who trust -(Hands open, pull into fists.)
In Him – (Point upwards again.)

Obey means to follow God’s directions and do what He wants you to do.