Sharing Our Stories

I have struggled for years to know that God IS with me. I have known his presence and I have felt him carry me through the most challenging parts of my life, but there was still something missing.

There has been a pulling at my heart as I have had community after community tell me that I am not perfect or that I am not whole because of who I love or who I am. Most times, if you are told this repeatedly, these words can be enough to make you feel that God does not love you or somehow made you by mistake. If God does not make mistakes, how could this be true? I continued and continued to struggle to let God be a beacon of light in my life because of these words. Most days I felt God at a distance as if I was looking through a frosted window with a storm raging outside. What is the point of opening the window to let God in when I could risk my comfort and distance from the things and people that I felt caused pain in my life? Foothills changed this for me.

The Foothills disciple community continues to be a shining well of hope in my life and I know so strongly that Foothills can do this for so many others that struggle to feel that God is with them. I know my faith community walks beside me, I know my pastor walks beside me and I know that God walks beside me every day without question. Walking hand in hand with the person I love into God’s house is seen as a gift and I am forever seen as God’s perfect child. Foothills is a community that will pray for me and not for the things I have done. I can make mistakes and know that I have a haven and a community that supports me as a child of God.

It has almost been 2 years since I walked through the doors of Foothills Christian Church. I feel like a flower that has planted their roots and that Foothills wells of hope continues to help me water and grow my faith.

My favorite bible verse is Joshua 1:9 because of my struggle to know and understand God’s presence in my life. This verse reads “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The love and acceptance I experience at Foothills helps me truly believe this is true. Foothills has been a well of hope and has helped me heal in ways that I did not know I needed to heal. Foothills has been a beacon of hope and provided a community that has helped me understand that the words spoken in the book of Joshua are true and will forever be true.

My wife and I have been married for 15 years, and dated for 6 years before getting married. We have been "together" for well over half of our lives. During the course of our relationship, we have attended numerous churches, always looking for a place that we could worship, learn, and lead together.

You see, while we are both Christians, we come from very different faith backgrounds. Alison grew up an evangelical Quaker, with a focus of a very personal relationship with Jesus and void of outward expressions of that faith, to include baptism and confirmation. She also loves a rocking worship song. I grew up in the Catholic Church, with infant baptism and confession, and not a guitar or drum to be heard.

Along our journey to find a church home, we have both grown and evolved in our beliefs about the rites and rituals of being a Christian. We have also experienced church hurt because of our backgrounds and beliefs. At one point, we had a small group we were leading taken from us due to my infant baptism and resistance to being baptized again as an adult. We have been constantly searching for a place that we could worship together, as well as have our faith backgrounds respected and honored.

Foothills Christian Church has provided our family with such a home. We have felt welcomed from the moment we found this community. Of course, due to the pandemic, we have not been able to meet and get to know people as much as we would like. However, we constantly hear the welcoming message of this community, allowing us to feel at peace in worshiping Jesus, regardless of our past church experiences or hurt. Foothills has served as a community well, quenching the thirst that my family has felt to worship God, not only in spite of our differing faith backgrounds, but honoring them.

As North Phoenix continues to grow, I ask each of you to join me in praying for our neighbors. Lent and the Easter season bring with it a thirst for many for a church home. Please pray that our neighbors who have been hurt or cast aside by the

church find a community well that welcomes them and shows them that Jesus loves them fully and completely. For our immediate neighbors, pray for your fellow Foothills members and attenders that we are able to welcome all who are thirsty. As is stated in the book of Matthew, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to.” – Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (Ender’s Saga #2)

The first community to define me is my family. I am a first generation American raised by Eastern European and Central American immigrants. My grandmother and father were refugees twice in their lives, first fleeing Soviet Ukraine then escaping Nazi occupied Austria. Extended family on my mother’s side experienced the chaos of a bloody civil war in El Salvador and many immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. Growing up around people who fled countries devastated by war adjusted my thoughts and convictions. I became aware and sensitive to inequalities and injustices.

Therefore, it was only natural for a kid like me to be captivated by cartoons and comics with heroes fighting for justice. Luckily, I am a ‘80s baby and grew up during the golden age of Saturday morning and weekday afternoon cartoons. There were no shortage of heroes to look up to, but there was one that was most impactful to me. Captain Planet was a different kind of superhero cartoon. It instilled a message to engaged kids like me that, The Power Is Yours. It would be quite a few years and several meandering paths before I returned to this notion. Ultimately, I have dedicated my career to the empowering message from Captain Planet and now work in a scientific and regulatory community passionate about their mission to protect human health and the environment.

There are other various communities I could list that define me, but there is only one other community at the core of who I am and that is my Christian community. It has taken a lengthy journey of personal growth to accept my Christian faith. For the longest time I denied my faith and buried this thirst in other passions, many of them just causes, but no matter how noble the undertaking it never fully defined me. I have finally found a church community that truly embodies my understanding of faith – love, fellowship, engagement, and stewardship. Therefore, I am grateful for Foothills and am honored to have this community define me.

As you go about your day or week think about all the communities that define you. Do these communities exemplify your faith? Are there any communities that are incompatible with your faith? If so, how can your affiliation serve to bring about positive change?

When I think about our Lenten theme “Dig Deep” and our service project of building a well on the Navajo Nation, I naturally think of the book of John and the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. At that well, Jesus saw an outcast. A woman from a different background, living with a man she wasn't married to, and who had been married five times prior. He didn't give her condemnation or judgment. Instead, he gave her love, compassion, and redemption. He gave her the gift of the living water.

It makes me reflect on my own personal journey with faith and feeling like an outcast. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I've felt that pain of judgment from society, friends, and family. I've felt that pain of isolation like I'm alone at a well, unwanted. At the same time, I've also felt the same love from Christ. I, too, have been offered the gift of the living water. No matter my place in society, I have an eternal place at His side.

Our theme also demonstrates why I continue to be a proud member of Foothills Christian Church. Whether it is building a literal, physical well for a family on the Navajo Nation, or providing a spiritual well for others to meet Christ, Foothills serves all God's children. I am proud to serve a church that offers an open communion table, where all are welcome, where the heart for Social Justice and helping others beats strong. I am proud to tell others I serve a church that encourages me to “Dig Deep” and makes me want to be a better, more loving, more compassionate, human every day.

I remember the first run I ever went on: it was a hot, humid morning in Jacksonville, Florida, just a couple of weeks before the first day of my freshman year of high school. I had never been on a run before, but the four-mile loop that my cross country team ran that morning was transforming! The route looped around the St. John’s River boardwalk with a beautiful view of the Jacksonville skyline. We ran through the city and through parks in old town San Marco. Seagulls soared above and Spanish moss trees were fully bloomed around us. I remember breathing in the morning air, feeling the bounce of brand new Nikes beneath my feet and fueling off the energy of the girls in my running group. After that run, I was instantly hooked to the sport. Fast-forward a few years, and I was one of the fastest runners in the state of Florida. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had running dialed in. My runs were no longer about feeling good and enjoying the scenery—each run was purposeful and goal-oriented. I had specific paces to hit and heart rate zones to achieve. And when it came to racing, I found that the good races were separated from the bad in one simple way. Two-thirds into any race, you will find yourself facing a decision to make: do I remain in my comfort zone? Or do I dig deep, find that next gear and break barriers?

I often times examine my faith in the same way I examine a race. It’s easy to get stuck in the comfort of our routine—to remain “surface-level” in our relationship with Jesus. We pray or read our devotional just to check off boxes in our day. But are we really seeking God in everything that we do? Don’t we want that “next-level” devotion and passion for Christ? Don’t we want to experience God in every aspect of our lives so that he can transform our way of living? When I race, I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to run the race of my life. And when I spend time with Jesus, I want him to light up everything I do. I want others to see him in my words and my actions. And this takes deep conversations with Him, frequent reflection of my life, as well as involvement in a faith community such as Foothills Christian. This happens when we dig deep.

Read: Luke 6:46-49

What does it mean to “dig deep” in your relationship with God?

Where in your life have you seen God try to dig deep with you?

Where in your life do you feel you can dig deeper? What would that look like?