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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.

Keep Trusting

This is a picture of my great aunt Zola. She is now in heaven. We celebrated her life last summer at 107. She had a deep trust in God and was a woman of prayer.

Faith is built on our confidence or trust in a God who keeps His Word. He never waivers, never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever and He is always with us. When God says something, we know He will do it. Even though we may never see the full results of His promise in our life time, God is faithful and trustworthy. He is always ready to help us whatever the need is. Faith is also based on relationship. When we take that first step of faith and enter into relationship with God daring to believe that He is who He says He is and that Jesus is His Son, God doesn’t take that lightly. He is more than willing to meet us and help us along the way. As we experience God’s goodness in our lives and learn to depend on and lean into Him, our faith grows and the more we exercise our faith, the stronger it grows. Faith sometimes takes us into unknown waters or uncharted places, but we know that we do no go alone, God is with us, He goes before us and He is also bringing up the rear protecting and helping us.

This month the stories have been about kings and a queen. Queen Esther trusted and prayed standing for right though she knew it could cost her life. That’s faith! David trusted and loved God even when he found himself running from King Saul. It was years before God fulfilled the kingly anointing on David’s life, yet David trusted and continued to go to God with his feelings and despair. Through it all, David continued to praise and worship God. King Josiah found and relied on God’s Word and King Hezekiah trusted God when threatened by a very real enemy. Do any of these situations resonate with you? Can we trust God through everything? Through pain, lack, disaster, loss? Can we trust God with our families, our jobs and our dreams? Yes! No matter what, God is good. Hang onto that and keep trusting, even when the answers are long in coming.

I don’t know about you, but I hope that my trust and faith is contagious. My great-grandmother had a contagious faith and her daughter, pictured above also had a contagious, persevering faith. She prayed faithfully for her family by name everyday. She prayed for those who had not yet acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Savior and she believed God for their salvation. Some of those prayers were not answered until well after her death, still she kept praying and trusting. She didn’t give up! She left a legacy of faith that will continue through many generations. Out of her legacy, today there are grandchildren and great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren who are pastors and missionaries and volunteers in their communities and at their churches. There are good citizens, wonderful fathers and mothers, hard workers, neighbors and friends spreading the good news everywhere they go. Her influence in living a life of commitment and trust in God, is reaching around the world! You see, she shared her simple love for Jesus with her family and those around her. She persevered. She kept trusting! She trusted because she knew that God loved her and she embraced that love.

One thing I like to do when my confidence and trust are a little on the low side is to recount what God has done for me in the past. As I reflect on God’s past goodness to me, it renews my hope and faith. My confidence soars because I’m reminded once again of the amazing God who loves and cares for me.

PS Kids learn trust when they are lovingly cared for and their needs are met.

PARENT OR GRANDPARENT PRAYER:
Father God, I want to trust you fully. The road seems so long and circumstances can seem so hard. Life’s struggles can be long, but I know you are trustworthy. Help me to remember that whatever I am facing is only temporary. Problems come to pass not last. No matter how hard it may seem at the moment and no matter what happens in the future, you are with me. You will walk with me through everything, regardless of what I may encounter. I come to you for strength to stand, strength to persevere and strength to trust no matter what. Thank you for your presence and your amazing love. Teach me to look to you everyday. I ask that my kids understand that you can and will help them too. You can help them when they don’t know what to do or when they have hard decisions to make. May they always be ready to look to you no matter what they are facing. Amen

SAFETY, SECURITY & TRUST IN THE CLASSROOM
Safety and security make for a trustworthy classroom.

  • Have a well-planned check-in and out system for the kids and make sure your policies are well-communicated.
  • Check-in and check-out should include:
    * Identification of parent and child. Children should only be released to the people who are authorized to pick-up. A matching number system works well.

    * Know who is authorized to pick-up each child.

    * A back-up plan for emergencies if someone loses their tag or your computer system goes down.
  • Background checks should be done on all teachers and volunteers.
  • Walk into your facility or classroom as though you were a guest parent. What do you notice? Is there anything on the floor that shouldn’t be? Any objects lying around that could be potentially dangerous to a toddler? Is your classroom clean, orderly and kid friendly? Do you allow your teachers to bring hot drinks into the room? Are shoes worn in the infant room or is it a no shoes zone since babies are crawling on the floor?
  • What are your restroom or diaper changing procedures? Never take a child to the restroom alone. Take a group.
  • Other items to think about, allergies, sickness policy, keeping things clean and disinfected. Who is allowed in the hallways? Fire or earthquake safety. All of these things go into providing an environment that the parents and kids feel good about entering. Are you rooms inviting and does it look like you care? These are the things that build trust between you and your families.

Things You Can Do With Your Child At Home

SHARE A STORY: King Hezekiah Trusts – 2 Kings 18
Hezekiah was 25 when he became king. Like Esther, he did the right thing. He did the things God wanted him to do. He loved and trusted God with all his heart. (Place hands on heart.) There was no other king like Hezekiah because God was with him.

King Sennacherib’s BIG (Show BIG with hands.) army came to fight King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib’s commander asked the people in Jerusalem, “What are you trusting into help you?“ He told the people not to listen to King Hezekiah. He said, “Why do you think the Lord can save Jerusalem?“

When King Hezekiah heard what the army commander was saying, he was upset. He sent for prophet/pastor Isaiah. Isaiah told the king, “God said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’”

Still King Sennacherib and his army said bad things about about God. King Sennacherib wrote bad letters to Hezekiah. So King Hezekiah went into the temple church with the letters and laid them out before God. He prayed (Show praying hands.) and asked the people to pray too. Hezekiah was afraid, but he trusted God. He knew God was way bigger that King Sennacherib.

Then Isaiah came to King Hezekiah to tell him what God said again. God said, “Don’t be afraid. (Show afraid face.) I have heard your prayers. I will make King Sennacherib return to his own country. I will protect this city and save it.”

King Hezekiah trusted God and King Sennacherib did return to his own country just like God said. God helped Hezekiah because Hezekiah loved (Put hands on heart.) and trusted Him. You can love (Put hands on heart again.) and trust God when you are afraid (Show afraid face.) too and you can pray. God is always with you; He is strong and He will help you because God can do anything.

Who loves you? God loves me.
What can you do? I can trust God because I know God loves and cares for me.

MEMORIZE: Proverbs 3:5 NIRV – (Open hands like holding a book.)
Trust – (Hold hands open, then pull back into fists.)
In the Lord – (Make and L with fingers, touch shoulder then hip.)
With all – (Hands out wide to sides.)
Your heart – (Place hands on heart.)

PRAYER:
Dear God,
Thank you for loving me. Help me to love and trust you like King Hezekiah did. I know you are with me all the time. I know that you take good care of me and I know that you will help me. Amen

KNOW: King Hezekiah prayed and trusted God, I can pray and trust God to help me.
TALK ABOUT: What is trust and faith?
Trust and faith can be BIG words for little ones. A simple definition for preschoolers is that Trust is knowing that God is good and believing that He does what He says He will do.
Faith then acts on that trust. Faith is continuing to trust and believing God enough to keep loving Him and going His way even when things look scary or bad. It’s knowing that Jesus is God’s Son, that He loves and forgives us and wants to be our forever friend.

ASK: Who loves you? God loves me!
AND DO: I can trust God because I know He loves me.

FUN IDEA FOR THIS WEEK

  • Pray about a problem with your child. Any time throughout the day, you can pray – when your child falls and scrapes a knee or elbow, when another child hurts their feelings. God wants to know what we are feeling, what we are afraid of, anything that concerns us.