September:Friends for life!

FAITH IN THE FAMILY

 Diary of Jonathan, Son of King Saul

 PRIVATE! NOT TO BE READ BY ANY PERSON

 Father in bad mood again today. “Tormented by evil spirit!” Keep out of his way . . .

Still bad. Servants fetch lad from Bethlehem. Brown face. David. Plays the harp to Father. Great! The King feels better! We keep David on! . .

I get chatting to David. He’s about my age. Not shy! Looks after his father’s sheep. Asks me about my success in battle . . .

I talk to David again. Says he’s a warrior, too – he’s killed lions and bears with his hands. Really? But I like him – and so does Father! . .

Crisis! The Philistines threaten our army. Their champion Goliath looking for fight. Nine feet tall . . . INCREDIBLE! DAVID KILLED GOLIATH WITH SLING AND STONE! THE LORD IS WITH OUR YOUNG SHEPHERD!

 

David is here to stay! I love this guy! We make solemn pact – friends for life. Give him my sword, etc, as sign . . .

Yes! Father gives David high rank in army. Deserves it. Popular with the men – and the ladies!! BUT Father uneasy again. Feels God not with him as before. Horrible bursts of anger . . .

Father truly disturbed today. Wants me to kill David! Why? I warn David to keep away. I speak up for him. Remind Father of all D has done for us. Why kill innocent man, etc? Dad promises D is safe. Feel reassured . . .

David leads our army to victory again! Am I jealous? NO – because I know God is with him . . .

Strange – David says King trying to kill him. “What is his crime?” he asks. Know this cannot be true. Father would have told me. David says he’s keeping me in dark because of our friendship. We make a plan. David to hide in archery field while I confront King. If he means D no harm, I’ll go out later and shoot three arrows at target. Then shout to my boy, “Go fetch my arrows. They are on this side of you. Bring them here.” But if father does mean him harm, I’ll shout, “Look, the arrows are beyond you.” That’s D’s sign to flee . . .

I’m trembling. Angry. Spoke to King who flew into rage. Accused me of siding with David, giving him my future throne. “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” I asked. The King hurled his spear at me.

I saw his eyes, full of hate. Now I see, he means to kill David. It’s shameful. Call for my bow . . .

* * *

Feel numb. David is gone. We wept. Thank God he went in peace. We once swore friendship to each other and to each other’s families and we won’t forget that – whatever happens.

Pause for thought: They say that you can never have enough friends. The supposed diary extract above tells the story of the strong relationship between David and Jonathan – an unbroken friendship.

As parents, we want our children to find good friends and also to be a good friend to others. How can we help them to do so? Take time to think back to your own school days. How did great friendships come about and how have you managed to keep them going? Be prepared to pass on these stories.

It’s also great to model being a good friend by communicating our thinking. For example, “I’m meeting Sue for a coffee today – she’s been feeling a bit down recently. Maybe I can cheer her up.” “Ben’s got a job interview tomorrow, so I’m sending him a text to say I’m thinking of him.” We can also model speaking well of our friends, rather than running them down.

It’s interesting that David and Jonathan make a serious promise of friendship before God. It’s a decision they make and stick to, not something that comes and goes according to how they feel – or abandon when the going gets tough.

If children understand the true meaning of friendship, they can better understand the friendship that God offers to us.

 

 David and Jonathan: Read the diary extract above together about the friendship between these two young men. Wonder about it as follows:

  • I wonder why the King wanted to kill David
  • I wonder who was a good friend in this story
  • I wonder what you think makes someone a good friend

Pizza Party: Invite new school friends round to make pizzas together! You could buy some ready-made bases (or make your own dough) and prepare some tomato sauce in advance by heating tinned tomatoes with a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a pinch of oregano or mixed herbs.

Provide a variety of toppings for your friends to choose from, for example:

Tuna pizza: black olives, capers, tinned tuna fish, sliced onion

Spicy sausage pizza: chopped ham, sliced spicy sausage, sliced pepperoni, grated

     Mozzarella cheese

Courgette pizza: sliced courgette, sliced mushroom, sliced onion, gated cheese

 Lay circles of dough (about 13cm/5 in diameter) on a greased baking tray. Spread the sauce over the bases, leaving a small margin. Add the toppings and bake until bases are golden brown (approx 15-20 mins at 220 C/425 F/ Gas mark 7).

 

Friendship bracelets: You will need rectangles of white paper, about A5 size; pencils; crayons or felt-tipped pens; sticky tape; scissors

(Each piece of paper makes three bracelets)

Fold the rectangle of paper in half, short edges together, and then in half again (in the same direction). With the short end of the folded paper towards you, draw a circle (for a face or head shape) near the top of the paper. Connect each circle to the long edges of the paper with two lines (rather like a narrow watch strap). Repeat in the middle and bottom.

Cut out each bracelet, taking care not to cut along the folds of the ‘straps’. Open them out and decorate them with your friends. You could draw your own face and those of three friends. Or you could decorate them with pictures of David and Jonathan and some items from the story!

Help each other to fasten them around your wrists with tape. You could even make a long chain of everyone in your class or Sunday Club and hang it up on the wall!

 

A good friend . . .

Write this heading on a big piece of paper and leave it pinned or taped where family members can write their ideas. For example:

  • Always wants the best for you
  • Tries to understand you . . .
  • Never . . .

 

‘Friends’ scrapbook: Why not keep a diary, scrapbook or photo album of all the things you do with your friends this year. Write some notes to remind yourself in the future of all the things you are doing together now. Send paper birthday cards and tell your friends how much you appreciate them – or thank them for their support in the past. If you take a good photo of a group of friends, perhaps you could buy a ‘friends’ frame for it and give as a birthday present.

 

Bedtime meditation: Remind children that when God made the world, he wanted to be good friends with us. Chat quietly about all the things he did for us (giving us plenty of food, a beautiful world, trusting us to look after his world, etc). Ask children to close their eyes and use their imaginations as they listen, answering the questions in silence . . .

 

(Speak slowly and quietly) Imagine you’re standing in a beautiful garden with God. He smiles at you and asks you to walk with him through his garden. As you walk, he seems to match his steps with yours, so that he is always by your side. The sun’s just setting. What colour are the clouds? He points out some trees with fruit on them. What kind of fruit hangs on the branches? Now you come down to some water. Is it a lake, or a river? Is the water flowing fast or still? What reflections can you see in the water? A bird flies down to the water’s edge. What’s it like? Now God beckons and a horse comes trotting up to make friends with you.

You walk on together and God asks you about your day. What do you tell him? You chat together happily – what are you chatting about?

Now you are both quiet, but it doesn’t matter at all because you feel quite at ease – with a good friend you can be happy whether you are talking or just being quiet together.

 

Prayer time: Thank God for particular friends or ask him to help us find friends. Ask how we can give them support. Thank God for sending Jesus to be our friend forever.

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAITH IN THE FAMILY FOR JULY/AUGUST

 Let’s get creative!

The Story of Creation (Based on Genesis 1-2:3)

A story poem to read aloud, mime and join in the repetitions!

In the beginning, there was nothing. (Show empty hands) So God made the heavens and the earth. “Let there be light!” said God. And light appeared!

That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the land. But there was nothing growing on it. “Let all kinds of plants grow on the earth!” said God. And they did! There were trees and bushes, fruit and vegetables and colourful flowers. (Mime growing up, spreading branches)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sky. But there was nothing shining in it! “Let there be lights in the sky!” said God. And there were! There were brilliant suns, glowing moons, spinning planets and twinkling stars. (Wiggle fingers like twinkling stars, spin like planets)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sea. But there was nothing swimming in it. “Let the sea be filled with all sorts of sea creatures!” said God. And it was! There were crabs and dolphins, turtles, fish and sea-horses all swimming through the water. (Mime swimming, diving, floating)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the air. But there was nothing flying through it. “Let there be birds!” said God. And there were! The air was filled with birds. There were swallows and parrots, eagles and owls all flying and swooping and hovering (mime flying, swooping, hovering)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the jungle. He made forests, fields and gardens. But there was nothing moving through it. “Let there be animals!” said God. And there were! There were big animals and tiny creatures. There were wild animals and friendly pets. (Mime crawling, galloping, stalking, trotting)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

So God made the world. But there was no-one to look after it. No-one special to share all it’s joys. “Let there be a man and a woman!” said God. And there were! And soon the world was filled with families – Mums and Dads, boys and girls, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles. They sowed seeds, they made music, sang and danced, they made clay pots and carved wood . . . (mime different activities) . . . and God was very pleased – especially when they made time to walk and talk with him!

“That’s WONDERFUL!” said God. “That’s REALLY wonderful!”

And God was so pleased with all that he had made, that he stopped work for a rest and to bless and enjoy it all!

 

Pause for thought: Take time to read the story above and the Creation story in Genesis 1-2:2 on which it is based. The Bible story, written over two thousand years ago, is not meant to tell us how the world was made – scientists do not know for certain today. In fact, the writer probably believed that the earth was a flat disc mounted on pillars, with water beneath and above the great dome of the sky. What interested him was not how this happened but why – and he makes it clear that it was at the will of God and not by accident.

The writer was a devout member of a community which saw the seventh day not only as a day of rest from work, but as one on which to gather for worship, prayer and seeking the will of God – in other words a chance for recreation in a profound way. In his great hymn of Creation, he sees the working week as a reflection of the great creative acts of God who, on the seventh day, rests and refreshes himself, content with a job well done!

The Bible passage sees man in a privileged position, able to run the world but accountable to its Creator. He is made in God’s image and is therefore capable of great things, with the freedom to respond to God.

The summer holidays are a great opportunity for us to delight in the natural world around us and to encourage our children to do the same. We can help them to create memories and family traditions that will give them pleasure in years to come and which they in turn may introduce to their own families!

  

The Creation story: Read the story above out loud while other members of the family do the mimes. Wonder about it together, as follows:

  • I wonder if you could leave out anything that God made and it would make no difference to the world
  • I wonder which part of the story you like the best
  • I wonder how we can look after God’s world
  • I wonder why God rested after all his work

 

Recreation time for Mums and Dads! As a busy parent, it’s easy to feel we are simply “Emma’s Mum” or “Ben’s Dad”! The more relaxed summer months may be a good time to resume an enjoyable interest or therapeutic hobby dropped through lack of time. Arm yourself with the right equipment (water-colours, walking map, maintained bike, yoga mat, etc) and put aside some time to “recreate” your own identity! If personal prayer time has been short, perhaps now is the time to refresh it!

 

Recreation time for kids! During the summer holidays, encourage children to find new hobbies for relaxation both now and for their future benefit. For inspiration, you could:

  • Visit a craft store such as Hobbycraft for ideas and supplies
  • Visit a good bookshop or a library. Search for books that inspire, for example a book on how to draw/make origami animals or a storybook about an animal by Michael Morpurgo
  • Invest in a book of 365 poems for children and start reading one every day
  • Have a look in the supermarket for “creation-themed” sugar cake decorations, such as stars, butterflies or carrots (for carrot cake!)

 

On a car journey: On a long car journey, play the alphabet game, with each person naming something that God has made starting with A,B,C, etc. For example, Alligator, Berries, Corn, Daisy . . . You could do the same thing with names of people and countries, for example, Andrew, Belgium, Christopher, Denmark . . .

 

Put on a good show! Perhaps children could get together with friends to perform the Creation story above. Instead (or as well as) the mimes, they could draw and paint stars, animals, sea-creatures etc as props to be brought out of a box at the appropriate moments in the story. They could have some regular craft and rehearsal sessions.

Why not perform this to family and friends? Everyone could bring some themed refreshments (star biscuits, butterfly cakes, tuna rolls, etc) to serve afterwards. You could ask for donations to a favourite charity or towards the mission of your church!

 

Plants: Give children a small bed or container to dig over or look after during the summer. If you have a flower press, experiment to see which flowers press the best. Alternatively, wrap them in tissue and put between the pages of a heavy book. Once pressed, use them to make greetings cards.

Visit a garden centre to plant up a herb pot or small alpine garden in a container.

 

The National Trust: Look out for some fun family days out at local NT properties. In the south-east, for example, at Emmetts Garden, there’s a family trail from Sat 1 Jul – Sun 3 Sep (10am-4pm) and there’s a performance of Wind in the Willows on Thurs 31 Aug at 4pm. At Chartwell, there’s a “Winston and other animals” family trail over the summer and at Sheffield Park and Garden you can enjoy a night under canvas at a wild camping weekend (Fri 7 and Sat 8 Jul). Cook on the campfire and enjoy a spot of stargazing.

For these and other events, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/southeastevents

 

Fabulous Fruit Lollies! Make some refreshing fruit lollies! Put 50g (2 oz) each of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries into a saucepan together with 1 ½ tablespoons icing sugar (sieved). Cook over a gentle heat for a short while until the fruit is soft. Puree and sieve, then stir in one 150g (5 oz) pot raspberry yoghurt. Pour into 4 ice-lolly moulds and freeze.

 

Prayer: In the story of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. As a way of making Sunday special, have a time of family prayer and thanksgiving for the summer holidays. Talk about the things that each person has enjoyed over the past week before each one says a simple one-line prayer thanking God. Finish by thanking God for our wonderful world and for giving us the gift of time to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL: Faith in the family activities for Easter

Story: The Resilience of Jesus

 God was delighted with his world, but not with the behaviour of his children. They were doing the one thing he’d asked them not to – deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Soon his ‘clever’ children had stopped listening to their heavenly father. Instead they kidded themselves that it was fine to steal, to make war, to ignore the hungry, to pollute the rivers . . . Like straying sheep, they went their own way!

But God still loved his children. So much so, that he planned to send his own son Jesus into the world, a kindly shepherd who would gather his flock into the fold. Jesus would even pay the price for people’s mistakes by dying on a cross. But that would not be the end . . .

From the word go, it was not an easy life for Jesus. God gave him loving parents. But they were far from home when Mary gave birth and Jesus was born in a poor stable. Then they had to flee from cruel Herod. Refugees! But his childhood in Nazareth was peaceful, learning useful building skills from Joseph.

God provided Jesus with an older cousin John who prepared everyone to listen to his message about living God’s way – the way of kindness. But no sooner had he been baptised, than he was tempted by the Devil. Tempted to use his God- given talents for his own power and pleasure. His utter determination to do God’s will enabled him to resist and he voiced this in words of Scripture that he knew by heart.

At least the Devil recognized Jesus as the Son of God! Many people did not – especially those in his own town of Nazareth, where he was rejected. He was often criticized and questioned in a hostile manner but he parried with a question of his own to make others think. His close friends were a support and he taught them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hated them.

Even his best friends did not understand his real mission – especially when he revealed that he would suffer and be killed. But he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, saying, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day . . .”

What a welcome there was for Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! But within a week, the same crowd was demanding his death. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, disowned by Peter and nailed to a cross on Good Friday. He died.

But he was victorious over death and on Easter Day he rose again. He had fulfilled his purpose to heal man’s broken relationship with God.

Pause for thought: There is no getting away from the fact that life is full of ups and downs. We all need a certain amount of resilience or toughness, to be able to survive the bad times and to provide the capacity to bounce back again afterwards.

Throughout his life and particularly at the end of it, Jesus suffered more than most (see the Bible story above). Knowing that he had to face death on the cross, he nevertheless resolutely set out for Jerusalem to do his Father’s will. Along the way, he faced temptation, rejection of his ministry, threats, betrayal, mocking, insults, he was spat upon, flogged and was killed. He survived it all, even conquering death itself for our sakes.

Children today face a particularly insidious problem in the form of online pressures and bullying. This can be constant since iphones go with them everywhere and parents may not be aware of what is happening. In our competitive world, there is also the pressure to succeed in all sorts of subjects and activities set against a background of complicated family set ups.

So how can we help our children to build reservoirs of strength to draw upon? Perhaps we can ensure that they have a positive view of themselves by being generous with praise. At the baptism of Jesus, and at the start of his ministry, Jesus heard God say to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We need to show too that our love is not conditional upon achievement, but that they are loved for themselves.

Jesus surrounded himself with a group of close friends. We can encourage our children to join in with others, perhaps at one of our church groups, and we can welcome their friends into our homes. In such groups they can learn to share problems and support one another.

We know that Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place to pray. Again, we can build quiet times (without phones!) into our hectic lives giving our children the space to think and pray, and allowing them the chance to get things back into perspective.

Psychologists say that resilient people have a sense of purpose, making realistic plans and sticking to them. They are flexible enough to embrace change and are able to maintain a hopeful outlook despite what is going on. Here are a few family activities for Easter that might encourage resilience!

Sweet and sour recipe: Prepare an easy family meal using a ready-made sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket. Put any phones away and read the story above together. As you eat, chat about the sweet and sour aspects of Jesus’ life on earth.

What do family members find easy or difficult in their lives today? Share how you each deal with these things. Do people agree that a problem shared is a problem halved?

Ups and downs: Start playing some easy board games, such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo, with young children to get them used to set-backs. At first, they may be upset at having to move a counter backwards on the board. But persevere and demonstrate a light-hearted attitude yourself at moving your own counter back.

The good news and the bad news: Play this game on a car journey or a long walk. One person starts a story about a character setting out to achieve a goal, but unfortunately . . . they run into a problem. The next person takes over the story, saying fortunately . . . and then provides a solution until unfortunately . . . etc. Keep the mini-story going for several minutes until the character achieves their goal and it is someone else’s turn to start a new story.

No gain without pain: It can be useful to learn to think positively about things we have to do but may not look forward to! For example, on the way to the dentist, chat about:

  • What would happen if we did not have our teeth checked
  • Modern dentistry methods as opposed to earlier ones
  • The short time in the dentist’s chair compared to the year!

Can everyone think up some positive thoughts about a cold, rainy day in the Easter holidays, an exam, a boring chore, etc!

What did we all gain from the pain Jesus suffered on Good Friday?

How do I look? Make a regular habit of complimenting children on their natural good looks, especially when they are least expecting it! “Your hair looks such a beautiful colour in the sunshine,” etc! When teenagers are getting ready for a party, you could say things like, “I know its fun to wear a bit of makeup, but with your beautiful eyes/lips/cheekbones, you really you don’t need it!” Give them confidence as they set off. “Wow! You look like a film star!”

Try to give young children the words they need to deal with run-of-the-mill hurtful comments from others. For instance, “If I were you, I’d tell him/her to go to Specsavers!” “Well, if they are going to say that sort of thing, I should think you ought to say, ‘[name], I’ve had enough of you for the moment’ and walk away.”

A home for bees and bugs: Help the mini-beasts in your garden to be resilient by making them a home. As a family activity, build a stack with various unwanted materials such as wooden pallets (good as a base), bricks (to keep the structure together), old terracotta plant pots, etc. Stuff the layers with bamboo canes, twigs, straw, moss and pinecones. Build in semi-shade and cover with something to keep the rain out, such as roof tiles. Mini-beasts will help keep pests away and also pollinate, helping your garden to be fruitful!