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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.

Friendships

PHOTO CAPTION: “Some bunny loves me. Yes! It’s my friend, Jesus.”

I was thinking recently how my life is made richer because of friendships. I’m so thankful for the friends I have, friends that I work with, friends that I go to coffee with, friends from church or various places – all enrich my life in some way. They challenge me to learn and grow and they also help me maintain balance in life. We pray together, laugh together and help each other with whatever needs to be done.  I’m also thankful for my work out buddies who challenge me to eat healthy and not give up when I’m discouraged with my workout goals. Right now I could use a new workout buddy as my one faithful buddy has moved on to other places. I love getting together with my ‘Take Five’ ladies on Thursdays and my hairdresser is a good friend too. Friends come from many walks of life and many places, but I appreciate and enjoy sharing life with each one.

Friends are important in life, but no matter how close my friends are, they simply can’t be there with me every moment of every day. There have been times when I have found myself alone facing something scary and overwhelming, wondering, “What do I do now?” Have you ever been there? Perhaps you haven’t even been able to reach a family member during one of life’s unexpected, “curve ball” moments. Let me tell you, there is a friends who IS always there; my best friend, Jesus. He never leaves us and He wants to help us. He wants to be our friend forever. He wants to spend time with us.

Can you imagine Jesus’ disciples after His death? For three days, they were hiding out, grief-stricken and without hope. This Jesus, their teacher, friend, miracle worker and so much more was gone. They weren’t even sure where to go from there. How could they continue on with life? How could they go back to life as they had known it? Then the women came and told them this incredible story that Jesus was alive! It seemed completely crazy and unreal. How could that be? Then Jesus, Himself, came and stood among them. He said, “Look it really is me! Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see. It really is me!” Jesus was very much alive. He wanted them to know that He was alive and would always be with them. Jesus is still with us today – every single moment of everyday. No, we can’t see Him in the flesh right now, but He is still very much alive and He wants to be our friend. Even when other friends can’t be there, He can be and He is.

It’s easy to allow work, family responsibilities and just plain life to crowd out time spent with friends. It’s also easy to let the craziness of life, crowd out time spent with Jesus. Thankfully, He’s never too busy for me. I don’t even have to stop what I’m doing to talk with Him. (Although, I will admit, it does sometimes help to stop and take  a breather.) As for those scary, overwhelming times; those “curve ball”moments, He’s there then too. Not only is He there for those moments, He is just waiting for me to call out to Him. You see, He is the God of the impossible; the God that not even death could conquer. Think about it for a moment, He has made His resurrection power available to us, His friends. Now that is amazing!

My prayer is that we would all renew our commitment to spend time with friends, family and especially our best friend, Jesus.

PARENT PRAYER:
Dear Jesus,
I know you are there with me and for me every single day, even when no one else can be. Help me walk through each day with a new awareness of your presence. Sometimes I allow life circumstances to derail and discourage me, yet you are the God of the impossible, the giver of life, the One who breathes life into me and gives me what I need moment by moment. I know that Jesus, and yet at times I’ve wondered, “Will you do it for me?” Yes! I know you will. Even when the answer is different from what I expected or hoped for, I know it will be good. I know you can and will do amazing, even impossible things as I look to you. Thank you for being my friend always and forever. Amen
PS Lord, help me as I parent my kids too. You know I want to be there for them, but sometimes I can’t be. I’m so glad that you are there even when I can’t be. Show me how to give them the love and care that they need and yet develop their own autonomy. I want them to learn to be independent and yet to know that they don’t have to do life alone. I want them to know that they can call on me when needed or other family members or friends. Most of all, I want them to know that they are never alone because you are walking with them. Amen

MAKING THE MOST OF FRIENDSHIP

* Be there in the moment.  Whether you are talking to God, your child or another friend. Whenever you at all can, focus your attention on the one you are talking with. Our relationships are far more important than any task we need to complete.

* Role play with your child ways to make new friends by introducing themselves or simply greeting another child and asking him/her to play.

* Be thankful for your friends and let them know.

* Encourage your child’s friendships by making a play date with another mom and child. It will be good for both of you.

GROWING YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS
* God gave you today, give it back to Him. It only takes a few minutes to breathe a prayer as you’re waking up, eating your breakfast or even driving to work. If interrupted by your little ones while praying, include them in your prayer.

* Think of some trigger points during your day that will remind you to talk to God – lunchtime, bedtime, at a stoplight, nap time.  When you have little ones, you may not have the luxury of a whole block of time to spend reading your Bible and praying, but you can find moments throughout the day – three 10 minute intervals when added together adds up to a spiritual work out or try six 5 minute spiritual workouts. On those really hectic days, take a moment in the middle of the chaos to simply breathe the name of Jesus inviting Him into that moment with you.

ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR CHILD THROUGHOUT THE WEEK

SHARE A BIBLE STORY: Jesus Friends See That He Is Alive – John 20:19-28, 21:1-14 Luke 24:36-43 
I would like you to help me tell a Bible story today. When I say, “sad” or “afraid” show your sad face. When I say, “happy” show your happy face.

Jesus’ friends were very sad. (Show sad face.) Jesus was not with them. He had died. They were so sad. (Show sad face.) They were hiding (Put hands in front of eyes.) in a house together. They didn’t know what to do because their friend Jesus was not with them any more.

But Jesus was alive! He had come back to life and He wanted His friends to know that He was alive. So Jesus came to the house they were at and came right in where they could see Him. His friends were surprised and happy. (Show happy face.) They were very, very happy! (Show happy face.) Jesus really was alive! (Say, “Yeah!” and clap.)

Jesus is still alive today! (Say, “Yeah!” and clap) Even though we can’t see Him, He is alive and wants to be our forever friend. I’m very happy that Jesus is alive. (Show happy face.) He is a good, good  friend. He is with us when we are happy, (Show happy face.) or sad. (Show sad face.) He is with us all the time.

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 are with me. I can talk to you everyday. I want you to be my friend forever. I love you. Amen

KNOW: Jesus loves me and is my friend.
TALK ABOUT: Jesus is alive and always with me.
ASK: Who wants to be your forever friend? Jesus wants to be my forever friend.
AND DO: I can talk to Jesus any time and any place.

FUN IDEAS TO DO TOGETHER 
* Encourage your child to pray at mealtime, when you tuck him/her into bed at night – any time.

* Throughout the week, stop and remember that Jesus is with you. Remind your child that Jesus is with him/her too. EX: At breakfast – “Hi Jesus, I’m glad you are with me today. This cereal is yummy. Outside – “Jesus, watch me slide down the slide. Are you having fun watching me play?” At bedtime – “Good night Jesus, thank you for being with me today. Thank you for your love. Amen”