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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.

Keeping Christ In Christmas

Making cookies is always a fun Christmas activity and a good way to make memories.

This time of year can be busy between decorating, shopping for that last minute gift and keeping your kids occupied while you are working, not to mention parties, school and church activities and countless opportunities to volunteer or help others. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in doing Christmas that before you know it, the holiday is wrapped up for another year and we’ve missed the whole point of the celebration. We’ve missed Jesus!

How can we get back to what Christmas is all about? How can we keep Christ in Christmas? I think keeping Christ in Christmas requires being intentional, taking time to inviteHis presence into our lives. Let’s ask God to help us love like He loves. Jesus came to this world because that was God’s plan from the very beginning. Man sinned and in so doing separated himself from God, but God loved us. He loves people and yes that includes you. He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus to earth to live with us and ultimately to die for us so that we might have forgiveness and so much more. Jesus willingly came to earth and willingly went to the cross for us. That, my friends is love! Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stay dead. Because He is God, He has ultimate power over everything including death. He rose again in victory so that we might also have life forever. Then He sent His Spirit to guide us, be with us and empower us to live for Him. If I am empowered by the Holy Spirit then Christ is with me during the Christmas season. How can I keep my focus on Him during Christmas? How can I love like He loves during this very busy season?

  • Be intentional instead of distracted. Start or end your day with God. I like to start my day with God, but if it works better for you to take some time to spend with God in the afternoon while your baby is napping, then go for it. Put aside that huge “To Do List” and spend even five minutes with God. Soak in His love for you. Breathe in His presence because He is with you. Then when you get back to your “To Do List” remember, His presence is with you even when you are changing diapers or doing laundry.
    • Walk slowly, focus first on Jesus and then on the people around you. God sent Jesus to earth because He loves us. Ask God to order your day and show you how to slow down and value people, especially the ones you do life with everyday. Walking slowly also involves being there for friends or people in your community. No, you can’t do everything, but you can do something whether that is taking soup to someone, watching another mom’s kids because she is sick or just needs a break or buying an extra grocery item for your local food bank. God sent Jesus to earth because He loved us, let’s also make time to love others.
      • I love “To Do Lists”. There is nothing wrong with having one. It keeps me on task and helps me to be productive, but make sure to do the most important things first and remember you don’t have to do everything. Homemade cookies for your child’s school party might be fun, but you can always buy cookies at the bakery too. Again, ask God to order your lists and your day. He wants to be with you in every aspect of life.
        • Feeling overwhelmed? Partner with others. God never meant for us to do life alone. There is so much more we can accomplish when we partner with others. We can partner in our giving and helping. We can partner with our family in preparing. You can partner with that other mom whose kids you watched and swap babysitting so that you too can have a little time off.
          • Be aware – God is with us. Jesus is in Christmas. Let the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas, remind you of that day long ago when Jesus was born. Remember, He is the light of the world, God in flesh, the one who walks with us through every single moment of the day.

            PARENT PRAYER:
            God,
            Thank you for sending Jesus to earth to walk among us, to give his life for us. You truly loved us. You loved enough to give your very best. I want to give my best. Help me to focus on those things which are most important. Help me to love you and to love people above all else. I love decorating and shopping for that perfect gift. I love the Christmas recitals, concerts and parties, but amidst all of these things, refocus my mind to dwell on you Jesus; to remember why you came to earth and to kneel at the manger and at the cross to worship you. Help me to be an example to my family of the reason we celebrate. Amongst the busyness that comes this season, let me not forget that the greatest gift I can give my family is the gift of presence. You came and dwelt among us. You are God with us. You were present and you still are present with us. I want to be with you and with my family this Christmas. I want to give them my undivided attention when I am with them. Thank you, God, for teaching us to love. Amen
    • KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS FOR YOUR CHILD
    • Let your kids hear you talk to God throughout the day. Include your kids in the conversation by saying one-sentence prayers together. EX: “Thank you God, for Jesus.” “I love you Jesus. Thank you for loving me.” “Wow! God, the sunset is beautiful tonight.” “Help me at school today, God.” “God, I scraped my knee. Will you help it get well quickly, please?”
    • Set out a non-breakable Nativity set for your child to play with.
    • Attend church together.
  • Ask questions that would get your child thinking about God such as, “Why did God send Jesus to earth?”
  • KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS FOR YOURSELF
  • Let the sights and sounds of Christmas remind you of what Christmas is all about.
  • Lights – Remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.
    • Candy Canes – Remind us of the shepherds.
      • Bells – Remind us of the good news that God sent His Son to be with us and forgive us.
        • Cookies – Remind us that God gives us good, sweet gifts. His best gift is Jesus.
          Do something to spread Christmas cheer and show love to others.
    • Pick a country or a person from another country to pray for with your child. How about a missionary from your church? Talk about how God loves people around the world.
  • RECAP:
  1. Walk slowly and spend time with Jesus.
    1. Focus on people, not stuff.
      1. Do the most important things first.
        1. Keep it simple.
          1. Ask God for help and partner with others.
            1. Be aware, God IS here.

Kid Section

STORY: God Loved The World  – John 3:16
A favorite book to share with your child – “For God So Loved The World” by Dandi Daley Mackall.
Jesus said, “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son.” – (Give yourself a hug.) Who is God’s Son? Yes, God’s Son is Jesus. God loves you and me so much that He sent Jesus to earth as a baby. – (Pretend to rock a baby.)

This month is a special month. Do you know what we are celebrating this month? We are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.
Even though you’re little, you can love God and thank Him for sending Jesus.

God loved the world so much that He gave us Jesus. – (Hands out as though giving a gift.) God loves you and me and He loves boys and girls all around the world. Let’s think of some ways we can help others. We can ask God to help us show love to others this week as we get ready for Christmas.

PRAYER:
Dear God,
Thank you for loving me and sending Jesus to earth as a baby. I love you. Help me to love others. Jesus, I want you to be my friend forever. Amen

MEMORIZE: John 3:16 NIrV – (Hold hands like holding a book.)
God so loved – (Reach up and then fold arms and place hands on heart.)
The world – (Make w’s with fingers and roll hands around each other.)That He gave – (Extend outwards as though giving a gift.)
His one – (Hold up one finger.)
Only Son – (Pretend to hold a baby.)

KNOW: God loved the world. God loves me.
TALK ABOUT: Why did God send Jesus?
ASK: Who loves you? God loves me.
AND DO… I can thank God for sending Jesus and I can love others.

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK

  • Make and frost cupcakes and thank God for who He is Thank Him for all He created. Thank Him that He made you, you belong to Him and He cares for you. Thank Him for sending Jesus.
    • Tell a friend, “God made you. God loves you and you are
important to Him.”