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A Declaration for the North Highland Community
Declare – to make known formally or officially; to make known as a determination
If you have seen the Columbus news today then you have probably seen what has been happening in the North Highland community. The best word to describe it is, chaos. Death, anger, hysteria, you name it and it has been here on our streets today. As I have watched all of this swirling around me today, my heart has broken. But amidst the heartbreak has come something deeper and stronger, and that is a need to declare. There are times when the Lord reveals things to your heart and those things are meant to be kept in secret, and then there are times where He instructs, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops” (Matthew 10:27). Today is the day for the latter.
Shortly after our family moved into the neighborhood (somewhere around year 2), I was reading through the book of Isaiah. I would very often read Isaiah 61 in order to remind myself of why we lived in the neighborhood and to encourage myself according to God’s word. But this particular night I felt a desire to go back one chapter and start my reading in Isaiah 60. As I was reading, the Word truly became living and active and with each verse the Lord whispered a promise in my spirit about what His plans were for the North Highland community. I wrote them all down that night and called them the “12 Promises for Highland”. At that time in our ministry we were still very unsure of whether or not Highland Community Church would be here one more day or ten more years. So the fact that God was making these very BIG promises that were also very specific was beyond my comprehension. But despite that, I wrote them all down and have held tightly to each promise for the last ten years. Until last year I have never shared any of those promises with another person other than my husband, Rob. Last year I shared one of those promises with the leaders at our church and today I will share, or rather, declare another one.
Before going further l want to be very clear about my intentions. Recently the North Highland neighborhood has had a lot of unrest. Over the last 12 years there have been seasons of calm and seasons of unrest; this is most certainly a season of unrest. But running alongside of all of that the Lord has also been stirring in my Spirit a compelling to start making some public declarations regarding the North Highland community. Within the last year a couple things have become VERY clear to me. The first being that my purpose for living in North Highland has very little to do with community development. I thought it did for the first several years, but overtime it has become abundantly clear that my purpose for living in North Highland is the following:
1) To intercede for this community. To plead God’s mercy and His favor over each person that lives in this community. And that at its foundation, my intercession would flow from a great faith in a great God. Who, as it says in Romans, “Can bring life from the dead and call things into being that which did not previously exist.” The belief in God’s power to fulfill the 12 promises requires that type of faith.
2) To truly learn what it means to wrap flesh and blood around the commandment to love my neighbor as myself. If you grew up in church (or really just in the Bible Belt) than you have probably heard that commandment your whole life. Most of us have heard that statement for so long that is has completely lost all meaning to us. But 12 years of living here in North Highland has forced me to get beyond the familiarity of that statement and try to figure out what in the world that really looks like at its core. I still don’t fully know the answer to that, but I do know this, to love my neighbor as myself is not simple, it’s complicated. To love my neighbor as myself is not clean, it’s very, very messy. But to love my neighbor as myself is also very powerful, because in those moments when I am truly loving my neighbor as myself, I am actually causing the Word to become flesh and bringing the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven here to earth. In order to love my neighbor as myself, I must learn to intercede; and in order to intercede, I must begin loving my neighbor as myself. Without prayer there is no power, and without love for my neighbor there is no Word becoming flesh. Both are mandatory for true gospel living.
As the Lord has been developing these qualities in me, my faith has been strengthened as well. I’ve seen Him take nothing and make something beautiful out of it. I’ve seen him use the weak to shame the strong. I have seen him use the uneducated to shame the wise. I believe every promise he spoke ten years ago and I will live the rest of my life interceding for this neighborhood until each promise is fulfilled.
In closing, I publicly declare Promise #9 over the North Highland community today:
– Violence and destruction will be removed from North Highland and in its place will be salvation and praise.
“Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.” Isaiah 60:18
I, the Lord, will bring it all to pass at the right time.” Isaiah 60:22
On Saturday we held our 6th annual Light up the Night event. This is a day when businesses, churches, and individuals come together to decorate homes on 5th avenue for Christmas. This is my absolute favorite event of the year! When we first moved to North Highland 11 years ago, it was right around Halloween. What I noticed was how excited the neighborhood became during this season. People dressed up (picture the Walking Dead but in real life, now picture me hiding in our house), put decorations around their homes, and trick or treating was a major event. The neighborhood seemed alive. So when Christmas rolled around that year I was anticipating much of the same thing, but maybe even a little more exciting. However, it was just the opposite. Not a single light, not a single decoration, and the neighborhood, as a whole, seemed very solemn. This was when the idea for Light up the Night started rolling around in my head. It was clear that the true meaning and joy of Christmas had not yet been experienced by the North Highland neighborhood and we were determined to change that. Probably one of my most favorite chapters in all of Scripture is John 1. The whole chapter describes Jesus’ coming into the world and over and over throughout this chapter Jesus is described as “the Light”. My favorite verses in that chapter are John 1:4-5, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.” Those verses have been my lifeline since moving into North Highland and they are the very essence behind Light up the Night. Our family, Highland Community Church, and Truth Spring have taken residence in North Highland for one purpose, to testify about the Light. That is why I love Light up the Night. Because for that one day and then throughout the rest of the month of December, each evening when it gets dark outside and a family turns on on their Christmas lights they are sending out a visual proclamation to those living in our neighborhood that no matter how dark or discouraging life might sometimes seem, Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot and will not ever overcome it!
Let me end by sharing a story from this year’s Light up the Night event. This year the youth group from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church decorated the house next door to us. A married couple named Sonny and Theresa live there and Sonny is a Muslim. On occasion Theresa has come to Highland for church but Sonny never comes with her. He refused. When I first told Sonny and Theresa about Light up the Night and asked for permission to decorate their house, they agreed but I don’t think they thought it was actually going to happen. They could not believe that people they did not know were going to come to their house and decorate it for Christmas. They thought it was too good to be true. After the event was over that day, and they did indeed have a beautifully decorated house, they were so excited! They were outside showing it off to everyone who walked by. The next day Sonny and Theresa walked out their front door, walked a short distance and turned and went inside Highland Community Church for the first time, together. That is why we hang Christmas lights on our neighbors homes each year. You see at some point during Light up the Night, as the youth from St. Andrews were decorating their house, the light of Christ began to pierce the darkness and shine in the life of Sonny. Because as John 1 says, the same life that was in Christ is now in me, and in you, and in the St. Andrews youth group and “that life is the light of men”. The book of Isaiah says it this way, “To those living in the land of deep darkness there shone a bright light”. To St. Andrews and all the others who come out to help us this Saturday and in year’s past, thank you for shining a bright light on the North Highland community!
On October 22nd, CSU came to North Highland for their Annual Day of Service. Faculty and students partnered together to work on projects in the neighborhood, including this one pictured above. In the photo, Jeff and Wendy are pictured with their children. They live on 5th ave and their front yard was landscaped as one of the projects for the day of service. They were extremely grateful. Truth Spring is extremely appreciative to CSU and the Servant Leadership Organization for coming out to rebuild the streets of North Highland. We are looking forward to more projects with Servant Leadership, as the upcoming year is right around the corner.
The big day is finally here!!! CSU’s day of service is tomorrow and they will begin working at 9:00. If you have time, please come and participate even if it’s just by giving a word of thanks to the CSU volunteers. Some of the things to get done will be new flooring in the nursery, the resource center, and in the new office area. A fence will be put in along the back of the property as well as a swing set for the children. Clean up around the church property and along the street will also be done, as well as a landscape makeover for one of the houses on 5th avenue! As you can tell, there will be a lot going on tomorrow so please pray that all will be accomplished and that most importantly God’s glory will be manifested in and around our neighborhood.