Why am I Getting Nervous?


We’re getting ready to visit my daughter’s prospective in-laws for dinner tonight. That’s not the part that’s making me nervous – they sound like very wonderful people, and we’re going to get along just fine!

It’s the fact that they recently move to a town I haven’t been to in 40 years. We lived there from 1973-79. I survived Middle School and 2 years of High School, and being the brunt of teasing because I was the New Kid and the Preacher’s Kid. It was also there that I found out that I have severe scoliosis, which required 4-hour surgery and 3 pints of auto-donor blood, 10 months in a body cast, the end of any more gymnastics classes, or horse-riding, or anything else that could potentially damage my back further. But it’s also the place where I solidified my love for needlework. Life-changing stuff.

I’ve had virtually no contact with anyone there, except one friend who found my brother via facebook, who passed the message on to me because I wasn’t on facebook at the time. None of my teachers will be at the schools, so why bother looking anyone up? I can still remember my neighborhood, and looked it up on Google maps just to make sure I knew where I was going. We’re planning to arrive early so I can take pictures, see how much has changed, how much has stayed the same.

The passage of time, … memories. …  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But I’m still nervous.

The View from my Camp Chair


You can’t tell me people don’t want to hear God’s Word proclaimed! A few weeks ago, as we were approaching our “spot” on 69th St for street evangelism and literature table, we heard someone preaching with an amp, and thought it was one of our guys, but it turned out to be a complete stranger. Mark talked with him briefly, thanked him for sending forth the Word. We went in the Indian takeout shop for a snack and prayer time, 45 minutes later we set up our table (in the wind!) and I got out my mountain dulcimer for a little background music (we weren’t sure if we would have a street preacher that day). After a while Tony showed up and preached for about a half hour, when a guy approached with a question. They talked for a while, when Tony called Mark over to join the conversation. Mark also gave him literature specific to his needs, but the conversation ended abruptly when his girlfriend came to drag him away. Pray for Robert. Shortly thereafter, we started hearing a guitar and someone singing praise songs under the 69th St bridge. And not long after that, a guy gets out a bullhorn and starts singing and preaching outside the Tower Theater, catty-corner from us. What an interesting afternoon! But it’s so exciting to see the Word of God going out boldly, and in such a variety of ways. Even as we were cleaning up the table and putting literature away, a guy came and asked specifically for a Gideon New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs – now how did he know I had one of them in my cart?! God is Good, and always faithful!

This past week we had many people stop by the table to take literature, much of it provided free by the Chapel Library Ministry, and several Bibles or just the New Testament. Many Christians encouraged and prayed with us, for the Word to go forth boldly and bear much fruit. Tony had a heckler who kept insisting that he made his own peace without needing God, but we’re praying for him to know no peace until he surrenders to Christ’s Lordship.

On Saturdays we host a Bible Study at the local Dunkin Donuts. We set up a line of tables and chairs in a corner by the door and treat everyone to breakfast sandwiches, donuts, hash browns, and coffee. Discussion in the book of Ephesians has been lively, and the management has never harassed us. Often, individuals will encourage us as they pass by, and sometimes they even join us!

If you feel led to contribute financially to our ministry expenses, please go to www.refglobal.org/grasso-mark.html and click on “Donate.” Also on the danarionline page, you can also specify the PRAYER Evangelism Fellowship, which sends the funds directly to our church plant.

Thank you for praying for us, sending us, and supporting us. Soli Deo Gloria!

Mark & Karen Grasso

Lot, the Man Who Vexed His Very Own Soul

by William E. Hill, Jr., c. 1968



            A U.P.U.S.A. MINISTER said to me one day just after the ’67 Confession had been adopted, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” Four thousand years ago in Sodom, a good man by the name of Lot also said to himself, “I don’t like what goes on here, but I can live with it.” The Bible tells us that “Lot vexed his righteous soul” over the sins of Sodom. But why would Lot want to live with it when he could just as easily be elsewhere and not have to “vex his righteous soul” with the sins of his neighbors. No doubt, Lot said to himself, “Sodom is a wicked city—Sodom is an unbelieving city—perhaps I can do something to help these people of Sodom. Perhaps I can witness to them! Maybe I can change Sodom.”



            Actually, however, Lot’s real reasons for being in Sodom were different from these which he gave to himself. Lot was in Sodom in order to make a living. He wanted to make a good living and he saw that he could do it in Sodom. That’s the reason he went there and that is the reason he stayed.

Lot’s purpose in being in Sodom, also, was to enjoy the good things of civilization. He didn’t like being separated from them. He had left Ur of the Chaldees with his Uncle Abraham when he was a young man. He missed all of the conveniences and pleasures of civilization. He had seen possibilities in being with his Uncle Abraham and had prospered out in the wide open spaces. But still he craved the pleasures, benefits and social contacts of civilization.

Lot was in Sodom, too, because he wanted not only a living, but wealth. He was in Sodom and he was going to have his part of it. Just making a living wasn’t satisfying to him. He wanted to make a killing. He knew that Sodom was the place to do it.

In the fourth place, Lot went to Sodom because he wanted to rise on the ladder of success, to become prominent, to become well-known, to become a leader. This he could not do out in the wide open spaces. His Uncle Abraham delighted more in communion with God than in attaining success and becoming powerful. Not Lot. It was all right to communicate with God and in wicked Sodom he could do that, he said to himself. Why not enjoy communion with God here since God was anywhere and you could worship as well in the atmosphere of Sodom and out in the wide open spaces. So “Lot chose Sodom.” Though the sins of his neighbors vexed him greatly, he stuck with Sodom. He was the kind of man who said, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” In spite of the wickedness of his neighbors, he went on living with it.



            Now this is something which every missionary has to do, but he is doing it for a different purpose, He is not doing it to make a living. He is not doing it to make a killing. He is not doing it to enjoy the benefits of civilization, nor to rise high on the ladder of success. He is doing it to bring Christ to people who are in darkness, to obey his Lord’s command. So he, too, has to “vex his righteous soul” with the wickedness around him. His main business is, however, to replace that wickedness with righteousness rather than to make money or to make a success out if it for himself.

A true Christian today works out in the world, has to face a degree of the same thing that Lot had to face. Oftentimes his righteous soul is vexed by things that are done on the job and among his neighbors. But if he is a dedicated Christian, he is not there to make a living, not there to make a killing, not there to find success, not there to get the gadgets and comforts of life. A true, witnessing Christian seeks to bring Christ to others wherever he is and to turn wickedness into righteousness wherever he goes. He is there because he feels God has placed him there to do a job. Lot had no such motive, at least judging from all the indications that are given to us in Scripture. While he maintained his integrity, did not join in with the wickedness of his neighbors and was very much upset by what they did, yet his witness to them, if there was any, was not effective because they knew that his main reasons for being in Sodom were the same reasons that they had for being in Sodom. So they were not impressed by his righteousness or his religion.



            There came a time when Lot had to leave Sodom, but he did not leave very willingly, only reluctantly. His wife left more reluctantly. When Lot left Sodom, she would not look toward the Lord. She looked toward Sodom, just as Lot had led her to do in his original decision. And though she got out of Sodom, she perished with Sodom because her heart was there. Lot’s children, also, most of them, perished in Sodom where they had, no doubt, learned the wickedness of the Sodomites and had participated fully in the wicked life of that wicked city. They had no idea of leaving. Even when they had a chance, most of them scoffed at it, with the exception of the two daughters, who, though they left, had become so thoroughly brainwashed in the wickedness of Sodom, that they still acted like Sodomites.

Such is the price that a man pays when he sets his heart on the wrong things, even when he sets his heart on ANYTHING except the righteousness of God.



            When a man finds himself in the midst of a wicked, unbelieving atmosphere, sometimes God comes to him and says, “The time has come for you to leave. This thing has gotten too rotten. You no longer have a mission here.” “But,” a man says, “my investments are here, my home is here, my friends are here.” God says, “Go.” The attachments, however, blind him, and his roots run too deep, so he rationalizes. He still clings to the delusion that he can do some good there. Even though God says, “Go,” he hesitates.

Increasingly, today, Christians and particularly ministers, are faced with such a crisis. The organized church is becoming more and more corrupt. In many of our major denominations much of the leadership is in the hands of unbelievers. Lies of Satan are being propagated from pulpits. They are being taught in the colleges and seminaries. People of God are being brainwashed with the propaganda of Satan. There comes a time when God is saying to a man, “Get out!” Sometimes the man’s hesitancy arises not out of concern for his witness within, but out of minor concerns such as, how can I get along in my old age without my annuity. How will I get along in a strange denomination? Suppose I can’t get a church? All the prestige I have built up in my ministry will be lost. Some of my best friends will turn against me, I’ll be called a fool, a fanatic. Finally, he reasons, maybe after all the situation is not hopeless. Maybe Sodom will change. Maybe things will be better a little later. Is this really the right time to be making a move? So he hesitates. As these things loom a little too largely in his thinking, like Lot, he “lingers!”

It is hard to make a break. It was hard for Abraham to pick up and leave Ur of the Chaldees with all of the comforts and security that he enjoyed there to go out “not knowing where he went.” It was hard for Saul of Tarsus to leave the comforts, prestige and power of his position as a Jewish Rabbi, launch out in a despised sect, to be persecuted form city to city, to suffer all kinds of indignities and slander, to be deserted by his friends. God said, “Go,” and he went.

Perhaps Lot might have even reasoned, I’ll stick here until they kick me out. If they kick me out, then I’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll stay.” So he stayed on and “vexed his righteous soul,” made his own witness ineffective and ruined his family. A man’s family does not come first, but a man ought to consider what happens to his family if he stays where he is. Lot vexed his soul, but he did nothing about it. Many good men will sit by and say, “I don’t like it but I can live with it. It is not for us to judge. At least we can stay.” It just could be, such men will wake up one day to realize the price they have paid, in their own families and the sheep God has given them to tend, to say nothing of the little lambs coming on, is too great.



            When we say, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it,” and we stay in a church that is blaspheming the name of God and continually mouthing the talk of Satan, we may be doing irreparable damage to our own children, our own congregations and to their children. The great danger is that we get increasingly accustomed to unbelief and sin until it no longer stirs our righteous indignation. Something dead smells and the longer it stays, the worse it smells. But if you stay around it long enough, you can get to the place where you don’t smell it at all. We’ll “deplore.” We’ll “regret.” We’ll say we don’t like it, but still we stick with it. This is what Lot did.



            Compare for a moment the situation of Abraham and the situation of Lot. Abraham chose communion with God. Lot chose money, prestige, power, the comforts of civilization and approval. Abraham stayed in fellowship with God. The blessing of God went down from generation to generation to his descendants to bless the whole world. Lot, indeed, “vexed his righteous soul,” but he stayed with Sodom. And in the end, his household was lost in shame and ignominy. Most perished, two girls lived to curse the world with their bastard seed.

Do we not today need to take solemn warning from this tragic example of a good man who lived in the midst of wickedness because it was profitable to him, kidding himself into thinking he was doing some good? He didn’t even change ten souls in Sodom! There is a lot of loose talk about going out into the world and being “one of them.” This needs to be qualified! Lot tried it and lost his family without winning even ten men in Sodom!

Let us beware that in this day when Sodom is all about us, when Sodom is infiltrating the church, when Sodom is even being brought into the church by church leaders, when Sodom has the control of many church leaders, when Sodom has the control of many church organizations and even whole denominations, we dare not make Lot’s mistake of saying, “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” Let every minister, every dedicated Christian face in his or her own heart the question, “Why am I where I am? Am I bearing effective witness for Jesus Christ or am I here for some other reason or purpose? Is my Christian witness being muted by my compromise in being where I am?”

When Peace, Like a River…

Jerry & Luke

Luke is pictured here with Jerry Schneider, both promoted to glory before we would like, but all in God’s good timing.

This article is actually from April 9, 2016. I forgot to post it back then.

So this is how memories work:

When I checked the weather report for Saturday and found out that it’s going to snow all day, it reminded me that it snowed in April in 1996. This was a big deal to my children at 3.5 years and 23 months, and yet it wasn’t enough to make snowmen outside. So we made pictures that day with cotton balls. I found Luke’s picture in his memory box, and I checked the back of the page – April 9, 1996 – exactly 20 years ago. Luke died 5 days later. That’s how memories work.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When an 86-year-old gentleman died later that same year, a 5-year-old boy said, “I can just imagine little Luke showing Mr Armstrong around heaven, introducing him to Peter, Paul, and Abraham, since he got there first!” (something like that)

I was going through the box of “Luke Memories” in order to find that snowman picture last week. But then I couldn’t get the box to close again, because I had saved all the envelopes ‘way back then, and somehow now they didn’t fit. So I decided to cut off all the return addresses and save just them. I came across a lot of names I didn’t recognize, but some were possibly my parents’ coworkers as well as people in our supporting churches, or just lack of memory after 20 years. Many have died over the years, many have changed addresses multiple times. It was interesting to note that several people sent multiple cards over several months. The next project will be to try and match the addresses to the cards, and read them all while I’m at it!

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Mostly I go through life without dwelling on it, like my husband does (you know, opposites attract and all that). But since this year is the 20th Anniversary, it has popped its little head up more than usual. Plus, I never used to be on facebook…

“Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations,
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;…”

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, …


It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.   Psalm 119:71


I was looking over some notes from last year, when this church break-up was much fresher. What I have found to be a great revelation is how very different our lives are now that we are not tugged on all sides, responsible for multiple ministries, reports, delegations, projects, recruitments, etc. At first it felt like someone had cruelly yanked the plug and left us gasping on the operating floor. Then we began to breathe on our own. And then we realized we didn’t actually need all those tubes & wires to keep us alive. What we really needed was to be plugged directly into the Bible. Drink deeply and often. And pour out all the poison to Jesus. He can handle it.

The busy-ness is a fraud. It deludes you and others into believing that this is how you prove your worth before men. It is much too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of “serving,” while forgetting Whom you are to be serving. It’s way too man-centered, this idol of Pharisee-ism. “I seriously doubt her Christian walk. After all, she didn’t come to the women’s picnic, the covered-dish supper, the Saturday outing, or the benefit concert.”

I think I would literally fall on the floor if someone called me up and asked me, “How are you doing spiritually these days? What are you struggling with? What have you learned from the Bible that impacts you the most? Are you repenting? How can I pray for and with you? Can we be honest with each other?”

So what have I learned in the past 18 months?

“3 Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish.

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.” Psalm 146:3-7


Because we are not called, justified, adopted, and sanctified for the approval of man. If you are a chosen child of the King, He doesn’t need you to prove your worth to Him. He doesn’t reward or punish you based on your performance. He has declared you righteous in His sight solely based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, freely bestowed on you based on His choice, for His own glory. Simply hold up your arms to Him like a child and say, “Abba, Father.”

Do I Have A “Mary Heart”?


“Perhaps you have felt the same way. You’ve known the Lord your whole life, and yet you haven’t found the peace and fulfillment you’ve always longed for. So you’ve stepped up the pace, hoping that in offering more service, somehow you will merit more love. You volunteer for everything: you sing in the choir, you teach Sunday school, you host backyard Bible Club, you visit the nursing home weekly. And yet you find yourself staring into the night and wondering if this is all there is.

“Or perhaps you’ve withdrawn from service. You’ve gone the route I’ve described above and, frankly, you’ve had it. You’ve stopped volunteering, stopped saying yes. No one calls anymore. No one asks anymore. You’re out of the loop and glad for it. And yet the peace and quiet holds no peace and quiet. The stillness hasn’t led to the closer walk with God you’d hoped for, just a sense of resentment. . . .

“. . . The message is this: salvation isn’t about what I do; it’s about what Jesus did. . . . ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.’ . . . The ‘one thing’ is not found in doing more. It’s found by sitting at His feet.”

“Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World,” by Joanna Weaver

There is a joy in the journey…

Christmas Comfort

christmas-wreathGrief With Hope

A Ministry to and with the Grieving

by James Alexander, December 1998


The angels broke through from the realms of heaven’s glory and proclaimed a message that would bring salvation to many. That message announced to the world that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would through His life, death, and resurrection become the Savior of God’s people. There is no Christmas message other than this message that the love of God has been demonstrated in the gift of His Son for men. The joy, the comfort, and hope of Christmas flow from this One who was born of the virgin Mary.

Yet for many, Christmas does not bring joy. Perhaps, darkness even now surrounds you as you think of the coming Christmas season. The bright lights, the jubilant excitement, the bustling activities, and the energetic songs of the season seem to deepen and thicken the dark blanket of sadness that seeks to smother you. Your beloved one has been taken; the season of family and friends now brings only loneliness and painful memories that refuse to leave you. What comfort and hope can you find during this season?


Remember that this baby called Jesus is the only hope for eternal life. In a world of cruelty, heartache, and suffering, there is one who guarantees that these griefs will one day cease and that all the present evils will end. You do not need a Christmas tree or a Santa Claus. What they offer is only temporary. What Christ brings is eternal and lasting.

Remember that Christmas has little to do with the pressured movements of people trying to create joy and excitement through superficial and often sinful means. During this season remember God’s compassion upon a suffering dying humanity. The overflowing love of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. This compassion is not an impersonal act, but God has out of his mercy offered to you His Son that in Him you might know joy and happiness. Let your grief and sadness open the door to eternal joy and comfort in Christ.

Remember that you still have some family and friends to love during this season. God has not taken everyone out of this world. Resist the temptation to ignore those still with you. The one loved may be gone, but let the grief remind you that these others who are yet in this world are gifts from God. Show to them your love. Even go shopping to buy them a gift to say how much you delight in them.

Remember the people of God. Here are your eternal brothers and sisters. They will love you, and you can love them. In fact, many of your brothers and sisters are suffering today. There is much you can give to relieve their misery. Do not let your grief turn you into a selfish, bitter person. Make a cake or write a letter to one who suffers. Do not waste all your misery on yourself, but instead use it to empower you to reach out to those in misery.

Remember those who have suffered grief during the past year. You know what their pain is. You know first-hand the intensity and agony that death brings. Have mercy on the grieving. Go to them. Pray with them. Read the Bible to them. Talk with them about their loved one. That will help them get through this season that is so painful for the grieving.

Remember to worship God. Worship brings us into the very presence of God. In God’s presence there is no suffering and sadness. All is joyful in His presence. Join the heavenly angels as they praise God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Scripture for Meditation: Isaiah 9:6, 7

Being Dead They Still Speak

“The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of Death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached, and now he fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart, and a single tongue, seem altogether inadequate to my wants. I want a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion.

– Life of Payson

“Death is only a grim porter to let us into a stately palace.”

– Richard Sibbes


– In memory of Matthew James Alexander by his father, James Julian Alexander

Grief with Hope is a ministry established by James Alexander in memory of his son Matthew James Alexander, who died in the crash of TWA Flight #800, July 1996. Grief with Hope ministers to and with the grieving through the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship.