One of my spiritual heroes is Alice Brown. Alice was talking and living "God's community front porch" before that became a defining aspect of SoHills' vision.
Alice shared a great story with me recently... a story too good to not repeat. For those of you who heard me tell the story at SoHills, read on for something you might have missed in the original telling...
Alice and two of her neighbors had "adopted" a stray cat who would visit their doorsteps from time to time. Adopted in this case meant the three neighbors provided the cat with food... as the stray resisted repeated offers of permanent lodging at the house two doors down from Alice's.
Fast forward to an early morning that found Alice at her breakfast table sipping coffee. Summoned by a knock at her front door, Alice greets her next door neighbor who is in a highly agitated state.
The neighbor, while attempting to calm herself by taking deep drags on a cigarette, motions toward the street and the lifeless body of the stray cat. "We've just got to get that cat out of street before (the third neighbor) sees it!" she panted out between puffs.
"What exactly did you have in mind?" asked Alice.
"Well... we'll just have to give the cat a proper burial. I've got my husband fetching a cardboard box. And as soon as he has the cat in the box, I'll have him dig a hole for the box under the tree in our backyard." (Which also served, she indicated, as the final resting place for a family dog).
Once the deed was done, and the cat was in the ground... the final phase of the next door neighbor's plan involved breaking the news of the cat's demise to the other neighbor, and holding a grave-side service for the stray. As her neighbor expressed it to Alice, "We'll have to say a prayer over the cat."
The plan moved forward without a hitch, and Alice had more than a sneaking suspicion that because she had been brought in as the "designated prayer." (Alice would be far too modest to say so, but her Christ-like example had not gone unnoticed by those who lived near her front porch.) As the three neighbors stood under the tree to pay their last respects to the recently departed cat, Alice clearly caught her next door neighbor giving her a "somebody needs to pray, and that means you" twitch of the head.
So, what does Alice do? Being the dear Christian she is, Alice promptly called on her next door neighbor to offer up a prayer on behalf of the dearly departed cat.
Clearly craving a cigarette, the neighbor said a graveside prayer for the stray. At the "amen," Alice brightly affirmed her neighbor by declaring, "See, you do know how to talk to your Lord!"
Like I said, Alice Brown is one of my spiritual heroes. She's not only teaching me how to grow as a God's community front porch person... Alice is showing me how to grow as a Jesus-follower.