Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Neighborhood Beat: Names

Beat, noun
A specific neighborhood with a regular police officer who often becomes well known in the community and is well-positioned to prevent crime and respond quickly. Ideally, neighborhood residents will feel comfortable approaching the beat cop to talk about local issues and concerns. They may also be more inclined to report problems when they feel like they have a personal connection with the department.

What could a neighborhood beat look like to the Christ-follower? Being present and approachable on neighborhood walks, and intentionally playing in the front yard and at our local park makes it easier to get to know neighbors. These posts are a space to prayerfully reflect on neighborhood interactions and relationships. Because I have a lot to learn when it comes to loving my neighbors.

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Prayer walks

Something that is naturally part of my personality is that I like moving a lot. Just probably not running. But walking to the grocery store or library? Yes! Biking to a park? Yup. Paradoxically, kids in tow gives me reason to move, and incentive to slow down. Giving that abundant kid-energy focus works for winding them down later, and giving me focus transforms a mere walk for higher purposes.

Prayer walks are simple. Walk and notice things, notice people. Then, talk to God about it, or listen to him. Right? Go and do it!

But it isn't that simple sometimes... because it's hot outside, or cold outside. Because I'm leaving early or returning late. Because it can be awkward to get into conversations. Because envy, criticism, or assumptions shout out God's whisper in my heart. Because without God's love overflowing in my heart, I'm not inclined to love complete strangers.

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When we encounter people, objects, and places every day, we make great use of labels. Having a framework for what a 'street' is helps us navigate safely whether walking or driving; we don't have to stop and figure out each street we come upon. But using labels can hinder us, especially when it comes to labeling communities or people. It takes so much brain power and physical energy to interact with a person who breaks my conceived stereotypes (see page 12)!

Rather than label with my 'name' for someone, Nick and I are trying to develop the habit of introducing ourselves to a regular walker that we've seen in our neighborhood. Knowing their real name helps me see them as a real person. And it's led to us being recognized 'out of context' in the library. That was great.

How many of your neighbors can you name?

Just try taking a nightly walk as everyone is returning from work this week. Or use fall leaves as an excuse to spend a few more Saturday mornings out in your front yard. This has worked well for me... and my landlord is crediting the yard work for the next two months rent. Win-win, you'll see.

As you know them, God living in your heart will transform your perspective about and love for your neighbors :-)

On our way to the playground

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