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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.

Loving the Bible, Loving God and Loving People

It isn’t hard to love these people!

Loving the Bible, loving God and loving people seems like they should go together, but I wonder do they really go together? Is it possible to become so totally engrossed in one of these aspects that we forget the other. For example, in my pursuit of loving people, do I become so busy that I forget to read God’s Word, my Bible? Maybe I’m a Bible reader and I know God’s Word well, but do I let it change the way I live? Do I really love people? Have I forgotten what it truly means to love God? What does it really mean to love the Bible, God and people? 

If you find these questions a little offensive, believe me, I do too! I developed a habit of spending time reading my Bible in my early teen years and I love spending time in God’s Word. I find it strengthens my relationship with God, yet sometimes I spend so much time reading that I forget to worship and I forget to pray. When I miss worship and prayer, I can start feeling a little bogged down, a little less joyful and while connected with God’s Word, I find myself feeling a little less connected to God’s love. I need worship, prayer and reading to grow in my relationship with God.

That brings me to my next question, how can I really love God and love people? It sounds so easy in theory, however in practice, it can be quite a different story. In fact loving people can be a gentle dance. I have to be careful when loving others that they are ready to receive what I might think is loving. Recently someone in my online neighborhood community shared a Bible quote in what she thought was a loving manner. I didn’t find it offensive. I thought she was trying to be encouraging. Yet, many of the neighborhood people did take offense to it. They felt she was being unkind to share it in the way that she did. I know that a large part of this was their perception. However, I think we do need to be careful to share the Bible in a way that is not beating people over the head with it. In our quest to share our own love for the Bible, we can be offensive at times. Part of the dance though, is realizing that we can’t please everyone and we do need to be bold in sharing the gospel. Which was it? Was her comment, her sharing offensive or just wrongly perceived? I’m not sure. I think it was a little bit of both. My prayer simply is, “Lord, help me speak with clarity, love grace and yet with boldness. Speak through me the words you want to say.”

Loving God to me means that I have trusted Jesus as my Savior and embraced Him as my friend. It means that I’m pursuing a relationship with Him by spending time reading my Bible and talking to God everyday and even throughout the day. It means that I’m trying to live for Him and that I’m grateful for all that He’s done for me. It means that I love Him because He loves me. Oh how I need His love!

And that brings me back to loving people. I can love people because God loves people. I can extend forgiveness and grace more often than judgment because God extends forgiveness and grace to me. With God’s help, I can think about others instead of only myself. I try to treat others the way I want to be treated and I try to respond to people with kindness even when that kindness is not reciprocated.

Sounds good right? But what does it really mean in the day to day?  What about when I’m busy and someone interrupts me or says something that hurts my feelings? Do I stop long enough to think about how I should respond? Do I extend love and forgiveness or do I, in the frustration of the moment, say something that I will regret later?

What about those times when I have deadlines to meet and yet a neighbor or friend needs me? Do I respond to that friend graciously or do I brush them off because after all, I am busy! Sometimes I’m even busy doing “God’s work” or so I think. I’m blogging (like now), teaching kids on Sundays, volunteering for VBC or VBS in the summer, always doing, always productive and yet not always loving. Do I take the time to connect with people, to listen, to share life with them? More often than not, I do a quickie prayer for them, let them know that I’m thinking about them in their crisis and let it go at that.

Jesus was never in a hurry. He stopped to minister to people and more often than not, He reached out and touched them. Perhaps today, we all have become too busy. I’m challenging myself to slow the pace a little, to stop long enough to reach out and touch someone.  This is a tall order, yet day by day as I walk with God, He helps me. I have a long ways to go still, but I know God is guiding me on this journey. Care to join me?

PRAYER
Dear God,
May I fall more in love with you this year than ever before and help me to love others as you love them, extending grace, forgiveness and care to them. Let me make the time to reach out and touch them.  Show me what it truly means to love you and love others.  God, I want my kids to learn to show love and grace too. May we learn to show love and grace together, as we look to you. Amen

LOVING THE BIBLE – Ideas that have helped me in my pursuit of more Bible

* I love the Bible Ap on my phone. It makes it so easy to take a quick look at God’s Word when I have a minute to spare. I can also compare versions and do a study with friends.

* Another favorite ap is the Bible Ap For Kids – also as a download on my phone. It’s great for kids and so fun!

LOVING PEOPLE
* There are so many ways of loving people – too many to cover here, but listen, really listen. One of the greatest needs we have today is for someone to see us and simply listen to our story. So many people feel unheard and unloved.

* Genuinely notice them – be happy to see your friends. Simply smile!

LOVING GOD

* Taking a quiet moment to remember what He has done for you is a great place to start on your journey to loving God more.

* Be grateful for what He has done for you.

* Worship – for me worship, singing, listening to praise songs lifts me and brings me to that place of falling in love with God all over again. It touches my soul in places that nothing else does.

* Prayer combined with worship or as worship also touches my soul.

* Journaling helps me to hear from God and allows me to be real and honest before Him. I like to pray as I journal and then I ask, “God what are you saying to me?” It is a very intimate experience.

Kid’s Section

KNOW: The Bible tells me about God.
TALK ABOUT: Learning from Jesus.
ASK: Who wants to be your friend? Jesus wants to be my friend.
AND DO: Love God and love people.

SHARE A STORY – Jesus Is A Good Teacher – Matt.5:1, 14-16, 43-45, 6:26-33 One time a large crowd of people came to see Jesus. Jesus wanted to teach the people. He wanted them to know that God loved them. (Give yourself a hug)
He wanted them to know how to live for God. So He climbed (Pretend to climb) up the side of the mountain and sat (Sit down) down to teach the people.

Can you guess what Jesus told the people that day? He said that we should love everyone. (Give yourself a hug) and that we should pray (Fold hands) for people, even when someone hurts us. It’s not easy to pray for someone who takes a toy away from you or calls you a name, but Jesus can help you. Jesus said that God loves everyone (Give yourself a hug) and gives sunshine (Make a big round sun with your arms) to everyone.

Jesus said, “Do not worry because God will take care of you just like He takes care of the birds” (Make a bird with your hands and wave hands to make it flutter)“and the flowers.” (Pretend to smell a flower) “ God knows what you need and He will take care of you.”

Jesus is a good friend and a good teacher. He wants to be your friend forever and help you learn about God. He wants you to learn to love God with all your heart and love people too. We can learn what Jesus said and more about the way that God wants us to live from God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible tells us that God loves us and that we can love God and love others. Let’s grow and become wise by listening to Jesus’ teaching in the Bible.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I want you to be my forever friend. Help me to listen and learn from what you say in God’s Word, the Bible. I want to learn to love God and love others. Help me to love others even when someone isn’t nice to me. Thank you for loving and taking care of me. Amen

MEMORIZE: Luke 2:52 CEV – (Hold hands open like holding a book.)
“Jesus” – (Touch fingers of hand to palm of other hand, repeat.)
“Became wise and” – (Point to forehead.)
“He grew.” – (Squat down and then slowly stand up.)
“Strong” – (Show muscles.)
“God was pleased with Him.” – (Point up and then clap hands.)

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
*  Try something new with your child. Talk about learning new things. How can we learn about God?

* Ask your child what he/she thinks Jesus says in the Bible or what Jesus would do in various situations? EX: Would Jesus share the crayons at preschool? Would He always be the first in line?