Thursday, March 16, 2017

Jesus plus nothing

I originally wrote this for our church blog back in the Fall but I thought it would be nice to share here as well.

Hands thrown in the air, declaring, “Yes Lord, your will not ours,” we were convinced that God’s desire was for our family to be missionaries overseas. We were ready to abandon life as we knew it, total trust in Jesus, letting go of all our plans. But it turned out that instead of Africa, God was sending us to serve not far from home.  So now here we are, two years later, parenting our three boys (Micah is ten, Skylar is seven, and Madden is four), in the inner city of downtown Phoenix. We didn’t move an ocean away but in some small way it felt like it. We went from raising our young boys in one of the safest cities in the country to living in what once was the most dangerous square mile in the city. Our boys now go to school and live life with homeless friends, people of all races and backgrounds. One thing we’ve been intentional about teaching them is that it doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have, it matters that you go and love people. When we judge people – rich or poor, we can’t love them and reach them. After all that’s what Jesus did. He came down and fully engaged culture by serving and loving the people who least expected to be loved. The Rich and poor. Then before he left in Acts 1:8 he said, “You will be my witnesses.” That’s our mission, that is our hearts for parenting our children. We want to draw nearer to his heart – individually and as a family.

God’s direction for our family today may be different from he wants for us tomorrow. Which is why we have to take it one day at a time and be obedient to what he commands which is to train up our children to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and to go into whatever sphere of influence he’s placed us and preach the gospel. We want them to serve and love others but most importantly we want them to know Him.

I think the best place for parents to start when raising kids with this mission is simply to start reading the word and praying together. When they get older another practical way of teaching them is just by being available and keeping your eyes open for opportunities all around you. One thing that we do regularly is put together care bags and hand them out to the homeless as we see a need.  Or something that God’s been pressing on our hearts as of late is to invite over a family that believes and looks far different from us and just start a friendship with them. People generally aren’t attracted to others because they are impressed by their doctrine or by what they agree or disagree with. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love looks like humility, mercy and consideration of others.

My boys don’t always want to pick weeds for people in the neighborhood and I can’t always change their attitudes and control the chaos.  I’m not a perfect mom and my kids for sure aren’t perfect boys. But my job is to submit to the Lord and obey what he’s telling me to do and I truly believe that as they see us having a heart for others, it will also become a part of who they are. We have to raise them up by living an example of a life honoring to God. If they don’t see Him in us, they won’t want what we’re teaching them. So we model with our lives and we teach them about grace. Because the only thing that can really transform their hearts is the gospel. Our rules won’t do it. My manipulating and threatening them won’t do it. I can’t save them. My husband can’t save them. We can’t do for them what God has already done. The only thing that can make them right before God is faith in Christ. Their salvation is not in my hands. Thank God! Salvation is of the Lord. God is the only perfect parent. His love for them is not dependent on our success as mothers and fathers but on the blood of Jesus. We need to remind ourselves of that and teach our kids to know that too. When things get messy we can go together to our good father who loves us so well.

Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

This life isn’t always comfortable or where we’ve ever dreamed of being. I often struggle with juggling the elements of parenting, being a wife, urban missionary, business owner, etc. and I go through seasons feeling like I have nothing to offer. But this Christian hippie (as our community group likes to call us) deep down knows that God didn’t send his son to die so that my life can remain the same.  I’m not alive to just survive, we’re here to shine! I have to constantly renew my mind, change my perspective and remind myself that nothing has to change in my life and I’m ok. I may not always know what the heck I’m doing, but every single day is an opportunity for God to display Himself to us. I get to encounter him daily when we’re out serving and loving the least of these like He said to. We don’t just learn more about Him from a curriculum but by doing we experience HIM in the process. One of my favorite preachers Dan Mohler always likes to say, “I didn’t wake up to be loved by you, I woke up to love you.”  God comes to us in our mess and sets us free! I don’t need to ask him to please meet my needs, bless my kids. When we seek God for how our families can bless others, meet others’ needs, fulfill His goals, then my kids are blessed and our needs are met because all we really need is Jesus plus nothing.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wear love

“From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” Colossians 3:11-14 Message Bible

Signed, sealed and delivered, I’m free! If you believe heart and soul the truth that God set everything right through Jesus, then you’re free too. There’s no earning, just receiving. And with this new life God beckons us to “put on love.” Because it’s when we show genuine love for others that we show Him. His design all along was to send us, his sons of light and daughters of day, out into a dark world to shine! He uses us to play a key role in his plan of renewing all things and through our lives people get a glimpse of our living God. But we can’t take any credit. God himself is at work in us believers because there is no way that we could carry on by our own efforts. It’s the Holy Spirit in us that accomplishes God’s purpose of glorifying Jesus. He transforms us so we can radiate Christ. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to try harder. We don’t have to perform and impress. Our labor produces nothing no matter how much we strive. All we need to do is fall in love. It’s in the depth of His love that our hearts change.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:6
A way I picture wearing love to look like is going out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air. That may sound laughable when you think about the state of our society and take one scroll through social media. But if you look back in the Bible, there has always been suffering and darkness. This isn’t something new in the history of our world. Believers - that’s why we’re here! Jesus told us to be salt and light in the midst of the dark. He wants us to open up our houses and be generous with others so that they will then turn to God who is even more exceedingly generous. We have to check our hearts and see if we grumble more then we’re grateful. How do we treat others? Do our lives look different? Do we live as though faith expressing itself through love, really is what matters?
There are times of great distresses where it will be hard to display confidence in our walk but I believe that God uses those difficult seasons to teach us and show us fresh experiences of His faithfulness and deliverance. Circumstances are constantly changing and yes life is loud and messy, but we can’t let it get louder than the truth. Because the things we see will change over and over again, but His word is unchanging. The individuals that we’re constantly witnessing to with our lives are eternal.  Wearing love is living with the perspective that we’re in this for His glory and name. Because He’s worthy no matter what I’m feeling and what the cost.  "Love Himself gives of Himself so that we can love." -Ann Voskamp

It can also look like just making the most of every opportunity that you have with the people in your sphere of influence. Where you are right now and the relationships you have at this moment, that is your mission. Keep your eyes open for ways to engage people and make it clear that you are for them, working with them. No projects, just friends.
Also we have to stay alert. Fix your eyes on Jesus and understand that how you run your race matters. God can use us to change cities when we are strengthened by His power and when we get in community and work in humble partnership with others.
On that note, I want to share with you an update about what's been on our family’s hearts. Currently we are still committed to serving the kids and families in our neighborhood with the ministry Crossroads Youth Intervention. What that looks like is this -
·         After school tutoring once a week. Tuesdays at Verde Park 9th st and Van Buren.
·         Home visits to check in with at risk families and see if there are any needs.
·         Raising funds to send kids to camps where they hear about Jesus. More info at
·         Thanksgiving banquet for the homeless coming up November 19th.
·         Christmas in the park where we’ll hand out 2000 gifts to kids in the inner city.
There’s a link to a video of last year's event in the previous blog post.
The toy drive is happening right now!
Christmas event is December 10th.

With Meira House we are continuing to collect items for the homeless all around us and we give them out as we see a need. We will start collecting warm clothing items to hand out at the CRYi Thanksgiving banquet. If you have jackets, socks, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries – we’ll take them!  Also, we’re always collecting prizes and books to give the kids on Tuesdays.
And coming up is Unite PHX launch on October 8th. The purpose of Unite PHX is to provide a hub for churches and individuals to come together to fulfill the needs of the less fortunate in our community. By committing to a few hours a month on a Saturday, the body of Christ from multiple church families can visibly show the community that we stand united to love our city! On the second Saturday of each month the church communities will gather at a central location (to be posted soon) to volunteer their time to organizations that support those in need. Five local non - profits will have the opportunity to briefly share what their organization does for the community and what projects they need help with on that particular day. The volunteers gathering will then have the opportunity to choose the project that they feel they can have the greatest impact. Organizations will be chosen based on need, ability to provide work for a large group of individuals and location. Opportunities for all ages will be available to promote family involvement. With hundreds of individuals looking to serve and share the love of Christ, we truly can reach Phoenix for Christ!
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
If you are interested in getting involved, you can email us at Or follow us on social media for updates.
@MeiraHouse on Instagram and Facebook.
@UnitePHX on Instagram and Facebook.
@CryiPHX on Instagram and Crossroads Youth Intervention on Facebook.
How can you help right now?
·         Toy drive! We need to collect enough toys for 2k+ kids. All extra gifts will go up the Navajo, Hopi and Apache Reservations.
·         Collecting items for the homeless for Thanksgiving event.
·         Come out to Unite PHX on October 8th!
The generosity we’ve seen so far has been tremendous. All people are valuable to Jesus. They are worth his blood and life. So when you serve and give, no matter how big or small it does matter in eternity. Thank you for everything.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


This past month has been a real whirlwind. I haven't done the best job of writing it all down, but I know that when God comes through for us it's important that we recognize Him at work in our lives and rejoice! This month alone he brought us to situations where it was simply impossible for us to accomplish anything without his help. All we could do was trust him and in doing so we found that his provision is good. When He leads, He always provides. "It's not my ability, but my response to God's ability that counts." -Corrie Ten Boom

At the start of the month we met a struggling family with 5 boys and baby on the way. They were living in extremely poor conditions in desperate need of some hope. Immediately I could feel that nudge inside. The one telling me that it's time to act! Change is contingent on us responding. In less than 48 hours friends and strangers came together and provided meals, complete new (bug free) wardrobes, heaters, blankets, toys, money, transportation and a safe place for them to call home. It all fell into place so effortlessly that I knew it was God revealing his love and goodness to this family and to me all over again. Just when I thought I could no longer be surprised, he goes and leaves me speechless once again. This family had absolutely nothing and now they have a fresh start. God's love for us stands when all else has fallen. My friend Kelli wrote this about the day we picked the family up -

"As I walked the streets of the Garfield neighborhood I almost stepped on a used syringe and needle. I kicked it to the side and thought about the addiction, hopelessness and just the roughness of this neighborhood. Then God reminded me that He is at work! Those boys were in clean clothes, fed and had been to church. One of the little boys had his arms around my waist as we walked, and the other one was voluntarily pushing my daughter in her stroller. WE walked those streets in love and hope thru God's faithfulness!" 

A week later was the annual CRYi Christmas in the Park party where over 2000 people came out and received gifts and more importantly heard the gospel. It was so special watching the kid's faces light up with excitement. Families started lining up at 5 am to receive a $5-$10 gift. For many these were the only gifts they would receive during the holiday season. This was our families fourth year being a part of this outreach and it just gets more special each year. What really blessed me most was seeing the number of people that pulled together to make sure we had enough gifts and came out and served all day. Churches, businesses, families, individuals sacrificing to make sure these inner city kids have a special Christmas. (link to video)

Living down here we've encountered some really miraculous things and also some very hard things. In Ephesians it says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." We can attest to this. Just this week a dear friend of ours lost her brother who lived in our neighborhood. His young life was suddenly taken. We grieve with our friend and can't help but feel pain from this loss. Our heart is for this community and every person in it. Sometimes this place God has us looks dangerous and a bit scary. But I know we don't have to be afraid of taking a step into the dark because He always goes before us. Even when the circumstances around us seem so dark we know that in the end love wins. That's why we celebrate Christmas tomorrow. Jesus our savior came and brought hope and never ending peace.

{This is war like you ain't seen.
This winter's long, it's cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.

This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born king;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing.

This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take it's final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans;
The mystery of God as man. }

-Dustin Kensrue

Merry Christmas to all of you friends! Thank you for being a light in this city! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

I am the church

It's not very often that you can run out of a store downtown without someone approaching you for something. Today on my way out I met Larry. He was a little surprised when he asked for a dollar and instead was able to pick out toiletries, a fresh pair of clothes and money for lunch out of my trunk full of all of YOUR donations. His response was, "are you a church?"
I told him no. I said, "I love Jesus and He loves the poor and asks us to care for them." After I left I thought about it and actually I am the church. Because the church isn't one building or organization. God's presence fills the earth through His church. It's all followers of Jesus going into the world and spending their lives caring for and chasing after the people who have captured His heart. When Jesus walked the earth who did we see him hanging out with most - The undesirable. The people that most of us try and avoid. The point of following someone means to imitate what they do. I think those who profess to be followers should imitate what he did, pursue those who he pursued and live out His purposes. In the process of doing that we become like him. We need to focus less on what other "Christians" are doing and more on Christ. 

We've seen some pretty incredible things happen in the past year that we've been serving this community. We've given out hundreds of shoes, blankets, coats, toiletries and more. There is no way that we could have done any of this on our own. We're so incredibly thankful for all of you that have been faithfully praying for us and those of you who are always coming down with loads of new supplies to hand out. The evidence of God actively working in your life shows by your goodness towards people in need. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Matthew 5:7  Thanks for having a role in his plans of bringing hope to this city. Thanks for being the church!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Into the world

Living downtown is hands down the most diverse and colorful place we've ever lived.  In our neighborhood you can find everything from small non profits to an exotic art house. It's common to see a family of 6 squished into a one bedroom shack that's neighboring a gorgeously remodeled historic bungalow. This street is home to people of all races, backgrounds and social groups. If there were any minority at all it would be a white Christian family with small children. Which is why I get asked a lot what made us come to the decision to move our family here.

I think by default people naturally gravitate towards what we know and what we're comfortable with. Most of us tend to surround ourselves with people who believe and think the same way we do. But when I look at Jesus, I see Him going beyond barriers. He knows that to reach people he has to go into their world. He wasn't a commuter. He came down and moved in. He fully engaged the culture by serving and loving the people who least expected to be loved.  I think that's what we're supposed to be doing and that's why we decided to move our family here.

I'm not a great writer or speaker. I get incredibly anxious if I have to speak in front of large groups. I have more examples of woulda coulda shoulda moments than times I actually had the courage to do something. In fact one of the reasons why I wanted to move to the thick of it was because most of the time I felt completely insulated in church, bible study and Christendom. I'd hear about suffering on Sunday but it was easy for me to go home and become distracted and forget. When you're surrounded by it daily there's no forgetting. That may not be your story but it's definitely mine.

I'm far from perfect.  But one reason why I'm so in love with Jesus is that He doesn't look for perfect people. He looks for available people. He doesn't look for famous stars, he uses obedient servants. We just have one job- live life in a way that really demonstrates what you believe. People should know we are His followers because of our love and love looks like service. Every time I sit down and talk to someone on the street I never hear them go on about the breakfast burrito they received or the blanket. I mostly hear them talk about how no one ever really cares to sit, look them in the eye and listen to their story and hug them and love them. I always think about if Jesus was walking the earth right now I believe we'd find Him on the streets because there are plenty of lost and hurting people there and not enough workers.

I'm always so surprised at how many times I'm discouraged from doing homeless ministry even by people who love Jesus. They say they are on drugs or just need to get a job and somehow that makes them less deserving. No matter the circumstance, their soul is just as important as mine.  There's a verse by Beautiful Eulogy that says, "If God wiped out the wicked the whole earth would be vacant." It's so true, we're all deserving of judgment and the amazing thing is not that God saves some and not others, its that He saves any of us!

Stephen and I often look at each other and say, "I can't believe we get to live this life!" Not that its comfortable or where we ever dreamed of being. But because we've never been more full of joy. It's this adventure of not knowing what the heck we're doing but creating opportunities for God to display Himself to us. The everyday fresh experience of His love comes when we're serving and loving the least of these like He said to. We don't just learn more about Him from a curriculum but by doing we experience HIM in the process.

What I've learned so far is this- I don't know what God's doing or why He's doing it. But I know that the gospel was meant to be given away, and that the only way the culture is going to change is if we get involved with their world and live out what we believe.  Matt 5:13-16

[ Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. ] 1 John 4:7-12

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Have you ever been 100% certain that someone was not going to heaven? If you knew without a doubt a loved one or even a stranger was going to spend an eternity without love, hope or grace. How would your heart feel?

The setting is Verde Park, an inner-city park in the heart of Phoenix. It is Tuesday evening and that means an hour of joy loving on the neighborhood kids from Garfield Elementary. Arriving late from work I hurry past two women sitting on a park bench and proceed to the community center where the kids are waiting. Nate, a co-worker and friend of the ministry I work with is waiting in front of the center with a look that I know all to well. He does not need to say anything. I know he noticed the two women on the park bench and God was ready to do something big. We spoke, prayed briefly and then walked over to the picnic table to most certainly interrupt these ladies conversation.

Now normally in these situations I am nervous but quickly reminded of the boldness I have in Him. This boldness often leads to passion and the Spirit of God flowing through my veins. However, this day was different. Nate strikes up a conversation that ultimately leads to one of the women sharing their testimony and him praying over her body and life. It is yet another occurrence of a man of God like Nate carrying out the Great Commission. The issue is, I had zero desire to engage these women. These women had visible marks on their bodies of both physical and drug abuse, had a paper bag with a 40 of beer, and noticeable ticks that would lead me to believe they were on a current high. Normally this is where I feel the most comfortable and frankly excitement to see what God is going to do and... I... feel... nothing. After about 15 minutes sitting with these women and 30 glances at my watch, something happens. A familiar voice. You know, the still, small voice in 1st Kings when God is speaking to Elijah? That voice. "She is going to die before yielding to Me." Immediately, I rise up from the table and walk over to a table 50 yards away. Doing the only thing I know to do in that moment, I pray! You know that passage in John, "My sheep know My voice?" I knew it was Him, I had heard it several times in the past, but it didn't sound like something He would say. My heart literally ached as I again desperately pleaded with God to explain. And then again His voice, "Stephen... you will never fully understand the depths of my love." First of all, the Creator of all Mankind the Lover of my Soul said my name. That was a first. Secondly, He spoke the very thing I pray for on a daily basis. "Lord, that I would understand the depths of your love, that my heart would align with your heart." My prayer. And then The Holy Spirit says, "I have sent her a hundred people before you and I will gladly send a hundred more."

I thank Him, but quickly my heart again sinks at the very thought of knowing this woman I never met(s) fate. I get up, send a goodbye wave back to Nate and quickly leave the park. In the car ride home I replay the event and the words spoken over and over again. A hundred people, before Nate and I, proclaimed Christ to this one woman and God is planning to send a hundred more. Seriously? I think I can count the number of times I have been approached by someone wanting to share Christ with me on a single hand. And this woman, most certainly living on the streets who looks like a woman in a meth advertisement on a freeway billboard, has opportunity after opportunity and still will not choose the only One who can give her freedom. To say I was perplexed was an understatement. A fools errand, that is what Nate and I were on.

Further down the road, I apologize to God. You see, This is me in the raw. This is how I think. One moment I am blown away that I have just heard and felt the Holy Spirit and the next I am questioning a perfectly faithful and loving Father. Ugh!

Over the course of the next several minutes God's love is laid out to me like a magician's book of secrets. I instantly recall the love for His Bride, how Jesus talked about leaving the 99 sheep for the 1 lost sheep, the Prodigal son, fill in the blank with a biblical example of His love for the lost and I most likely thought it. This was not a fool's errand for Jesus. He never gives up! He knows the beginning from the end, those that will give their hearts to Him and those that won't. It doesn't deter His unconditional, relentless love. His eyes are affixed on her and He is in pursuit. He will use bent and crude objects like me daily if need be to tell her that He is in love with her. While she has been swept to the side by the world and most likely used by men drunk with lust, He has taken every opportunity to show her, her true value in His eyes.

My prayer is still that somehow, someway what I heard was wrong. That a seed was planted that day and God would send yet another that would be used by Jesus to bring her to the Father. I can tell you one thing though, the way I look at those living on the street or those that are suffering as she was, will never be the same. Now seven months later, the dirtier the better. So you smell like a garbage can? Give me a big hug. Jesus did that. He took my puffed up, I am better than others heart and transformed it. We are ALL precious in His sight. He didn't just send anyone to save us, He sent His only son. While I feel that I was able to see just a glimpse of His love for us, I know that I truly will never be able to see the depth of His love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meira House

Hi! We are Stephen, Cole, Micah, Skylar and Madden Franke.
Last summer our family of five moved to a struggling neighborhood in the inner city of Phoenix. We see our boys as our first ministry and have decided to live simply and respond to the gospel by serving others together as a mission minded family.

We believe that people who call themselves followers of Jesus are to live like He did and are called to be mission minded. Being missional means to go out and be a servant of His plans in the world. You can serve in the city, in the suburbs, overseas, or right where you are. You can be single or married, have kids or no kids. Jesus just said, "go into all the world and preach the gospel."

We are currently volunteering with CRYI, a non profit that focuses on helping children overcome the challenges of life in the inner city. We came to the city to be a blessing and are the ones being blessed. But once we settled here, God started stirring up a new passion in our hearts. We were completely shocked and broken over the amount of people living on the streets all around us. Right now we are fervently praying about ways that we can help them more. Our hope for this blog is that we'll be able to share the stories of people we meet on the street and shine a light on how Jesus is still saving and changing lives today.

Meira // Hebrew meaning "One who gives light."
House // A resting place. 
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" 1 Cor 3:16

Each one of us who loves Him is becoming the very resting place of God. And when He abides in you, you can't help but shine. "Ministry is not about where you are or where you go, it is about where He is." - Heidi Baker