Grace Upon Grace
Story of May Eighteenth
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May the Lord be glorified, my wife be honored and my kids grow in the true grace of God.
As special thank you, to my wonderful wife Trish – Your love, patience and endurance for me is testament to God’s grace.
“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
There is no other date on the calendar that reminds me more of God’s grace, the life of Christ and His propitiation, than May eighteenth. This year marks another milestone twofold. First, the powerful work of God’s grace for the exchange of my sin. Secondly, for the grace given me again one year later, a blessing of blessings upon the earth, a grace given over and over and over again.
Before diving forward, let me set the stage and lay before you the history and context of my life up to eighteenth of May.
You see, I was a simple Midwestern boy from a good family. I lived with my mom, dad and brother. We always had everything we needed; my mom was a nurse, my dad an electrician. I grew up going to church and lived a model, yet modest, America life. I grew up being taught simple prayers and that Jesus Christ was true.
I was a quiet child, very much a loner and a son of a loner. And although a loner, I had several friends in our little neighborhood and a few more at school.
After the summer of 1980, having moved earlier that year, this quiet loner of a boy was surrounded by new people, in a new town, in a larger school, and completely out of his element. I faced all new challenges. All of my previous friends were gone, the comfort and reliability of the environment outside of my home was radically changed, and yet nothing at all uncommon about the story, unless of course you’re a shy loner of a boy.
But something radically changed within me. Within the first few weeks at my new school, fear and depression began to creep into my life. I cannot explain it, for I had not experienced any traumas nor had any gross incidents at school, but nonetheless, darkness gripped me as if a strong-man grasped my neck, thus my very heart and life. I was powerless to understand what was happening to me.
During the first year at my new school, second grade to be exact, I began to cry every morning while sitting quietly at my desk. My teacher would comfort me by day and my mom during the night. For the first three months this repeated daily.
This led to a destructive, dark, hidden life that no one could imagine the depths of; even to this day I will not share some of the thoughts that came into my mind during my years of transitioning from second-grader to 28 year old. The resulting effects sent my sinful heart deep into itself.
As I grew older, my pride was fueled, my anger grew, my many fears repressed, alcohol became my friend, and my treatment of women was horrid. Music became a way of escape. Gangster rap in my early years to heavy metal as I grew older, the false allusions of music and man-centered power, mixed with the toxic doses of adrenaline, was the release I often craved.
Many more stories of my past could be shared – the painful school years, the competitive Ice Dancing, the martial arts, my first of many jobs, hidden wickedness and etc., but I find that for the purposes of this book, these things are best, at least for now, left for personal conversations, many of which ought never to be heard by another’s ears.
A Year Prior to May 18th
Why do I say a year prior to May 18 eighteenth? I mean, had I not lived through 28 other May eighteenths? Yes, but allow me to lay before you the year prior. For it is my desire to demonstrate to you not only the common grace of God, but further yet, His “grace upon grace” that has been bestowed unto me.
In late 1999, having graduated Radiography (X-ray) school earlier that year, I found myself working in Bloomington, IL. In November I met this sparky little girl who caught my attention. She was a traveling X-ray technologist who was working in the Radiology department. At the time I was working fulltime in the Calcium Score Cat Scan Department – real technology at the time. Our meeting was not while working, but on a ‘booze cruise,’ basically meaning, we were on a bus that drove us around from bar to bar while drinking heavy amounts of alcohol for twelve hours.
Now, don’t let this time fool you, my life was anything but stable. I guess obviously stated since a ‘booze cruise’ was a highlight in my life.
I was living in a hellish deep dark depression, one very hidden, and controlling of my life. As a result, this helped to fuel my pride, empower my anger and enslave me in lust. I was a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a drunk, a malicious gossip and a flat out God hater. In my use, or abuse, of women, I was truly a murderer at heart – of course not physically, but spiritually. I used profanity as communication, anger as a lifestyle, all while deceitfully justifying myself. I lived with thoughts so dark and so wicked it was as if hell itself lived inside my mind. Nearly every day suicide swirled about my head. This was my reality.
Come January of 2000, and surprisingly having kept up some sort of a relationship with the girl I had met, I decided I too would hit the road traveling, after all, what did I have to lose, and besides, this girl was cute.
So before long, this Midwestern boy found himself in beautiful Taos, New Mexico. The three months I spent there were great, yet my life inwardly was a train wreck that was still very much hidden to the outside world.
Over the course of that year, that cute little girl I had met in Bloomington, became more of a girlfriend, and we traveled all over the United States. We worked at many hospitals traveling through and/or visiting all the states east of the Mississippi River and seven to the west. It was a busy year of work, but yet we made sure to live as reckless as possible nearly every chance we had. Little did I know at that time just how much she was working things out in her own life and mind as well.
After a year of heavy traveling, we both found ourselves working back in Taos at the Holy Cross Hospital. This stop would be one we would forever remember.
Back in Taos
It had only been one year since I had first discovered Taos. This was a beautiful and artistic, a bit eccentric, mountain town in northern New Mexico.
After only a couple weeks of us being back in Taos, I worked with a man who I had met the year prior. For two weeks we worked the evening shift together. Ironically enough, we had a slow two week period.
During this time I learned more about this guy as well he learned about me. The more we talked the more I realized he had something I had not. And although I was a bit intrigued as to what this might be, I really did not want to talk so deeply regarding spiritual things and things to which I had to give an account.
He shared stories and facts about Taos, and things about Christianity, most of which, I have to confess, I don’t really remember. The few conversations of his I vividly recall, and resisted, was his constant invitations to join his family Sunday morning for worship at their church. This had absolutely no appeal to me at all. I grew up attending a small church back home and was content to never cross those doors again. After two weeks of persistence and patience in inviting us, my girlfriend and I went the next Sunday morning – this of course only so that my co-worker would not ask me anymore.
During that first church service, I quickly realized I had a strange comfort yet disturbing hatred with being there. As the worship music commenced, I noticed that they (the church) did not have a bass player. Considering my obsession with music and playing bass, regardless of the style, I naturally thought to myself, “What an opportunity to show these people my talent.” (I now laugh thinking about this)
Amazingly, we went back three weeks in a row, although I had no idea why. After the third week, I approached the pastor, Larry Seguin, about the idea of me playing bass for him. We talked only for a moment when he asked about my story. I gave him some pathetic lie of how good I was and how I knew all about this Christian church thing. He responded by saying that we must find a time to sit down and talk prior to any of my involvement. Looking back, I can remember him staring at me, with his head slightly tilted and a smile on his face, like I had absolutely no clue of what I was saying.
That third Sunday I also remember, as we were on our way down to Albuquerque, my girlfriend asking me, “What does Larry mean by having a relationship with Jesus? You grew up going to church, what does he mean?”
I replied, “I have no idea, I just skip that part of his teaching.”
And so went my life – a denial of that which I cared nothing about. I continued disguising a false front all while my dark realities ragged in an embittered hellish prison cell deep within.
Then came Friday evening May eighteenth two thousand one.
That early evening I was scheduled to meet with Pastor Larry about my playing bass. I somehow knew that the meeting was pointless. I mean, I certainly would not let someone like me to be in front of some church and play music, so I already knew he was going to tell me no.
Now my plans for the evening were simple: get the meeting over with and go out drinking it up while my girlfriend was at work. I had no intentions of having any kind of serious discussion nor was I seeking some sort of help, in all actuality, I didn’t even really want to be there at all.
Regardless, Pastor Larry and I met. We sat at this little round table inside of the quaint church building. After some small talk, Larry said to me, “I have only three basic rules if you want to join the praise and worship team.”
“Whoa, stop right there,” I said, “I don’t want to join some team; I just want to play bass.”
He patiently and kindly replied, with a smile on his face, “Ok, I only have three rules if you want to ‘play bass.’”
“First,” he said, “no public drinking of any kind.”
This of course perked my attention.
He went on to explain,
“The Bible does not say you cannot have a drink, but it is clear you are not to be a drunkard, or one who drinks until drunk.” He said, “We have many people here who are recovering addicts and one drink for them is death. When they see you ‘up front’ playing bass, you are seen as someone in leadership, approved by the church and a representative of the Bible. If they see you out in public having even a sip, they do not know your situation and they will very easily perceive it as being ok for them to do as well. This is why it is our rule, not to be legalistic, but to be accountable to God.”
I nodded my head in agreement but had no plan of following the notion. What Larry said made sense to me, but at that time, it had no impact upon me.
“Secondly, no pornography of any type – period.”
I responded with a half-truth, “Well, that really is not a problem for me.”
Now, this was partially true, for I was ingesting so much speed I could not sit still long enough to get caught up with pornography as we think about it today. Yet, I was living in the depths of my self-pleasing, self-exalting sin, and had committed all kinds of vile perversions in this area.
By this point, I really wanted to just get up and leave, and yet, I continued to sit there with an uncomfortable pressure upon my chest.
Soon, Larry began to elaborate on his third rule.
“Thirdly,” he said, “to obey all the commandments of the Bible.”
Out from under his mustache he smiled and continued, “Now I know no one can do such a thing, but there is one specific thing I want to talk to you about.”
Strangely I could sense something more serious was about to transpire. And with a new determined and serious change of tone in his voice, he said, while thumbing through his Bible, “Excuse me, I need to find this verse I am looking for.”
I was never more uncomfortable.
Very humbly he said, “I am sorry I do not know my Bible better than I ought.”
He then stood up and walked over to the little corner of books and grabbed a large concordance from the shelves. He wanted to be absolutely sure of what I was to hear next.
I thought to myself, how could this Pastor not know what the Bible says?
After finding the passage of Scripture, he said, “Son, there is this one thing you are doing. You are sleeping with your girlfriend, am I correct?”
He looked at me, as if looking into my soul itself, and waited for my response.
I was not enthused with the question nor was I happy being there at that moment, but I answered him honestly, “Yes.”
He asked, “Do you know what it means when the Bible uses the word fornication?”
“Yes sir,” I mumbled, yet I had no idea what the Bible had to say about it.
He then began to read, opening the Bible before me, first-Corinthians 6:9-10 which reads:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [fornicators], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
I was completely struck, left dumbfounded to myself and in a shock of sorts, but yet free in a way I could not describe. I sat there unable to speak. It was as if a light switch flipped on in my mind. The light of Christ flooded my heart, exposing my sin, and my great need to be rescued was revealed.
And in this moment Larry perceived me correctly for he came down with the final blows to my soul, and yet he did so with compassion, love and utter power.
He said to me, “There is something else you are, that is not on listed above. You are a murderer!”
I sat still. I was completely motionless and in awe.
He continued, “Every time you fornicate with that girlfriend of yours, you keep her further from the truth, further from Christ, further from knowing God. Thus, you are a spiritual murderer.”
And I could not help but agree!
What? How could I be in agreeance? How is it that I recognized that I was almost every single one of those things as described in the Bible passage above?
Simple, the Spirit of God opened my eyes to see the truth, the truth of who I was apart from Christ, the truth of my wretchedness and hopeless depravity, the truth of my absolute need for a savior – grace was coming into my life, deeply, powerfully and in a way I could not describe. And not only grace, but mercy upon mercy – freedom, life, and restoration. It was as if a blind man had just been granted eyesight for the very first time and I was that blind man.
I believe Larry noticed something was happening in me and continued to tell me,
“You need to go to your girlfriend and apologize to her. You can stay at our home until you can work out different living arrangements. Now, what I believe you will do is what I did when I was a young man your age. I had a similar offer, but I turned it down. I went out and immediately got married just so I could continue pleasing myself. We were divorced three months later and I regret it to this day. So, what are you going to do?”
Good question, what was I going to do?
But I knew exactly what I had to do.
He then sent me out the door, no prayer, no false salvation or profession of faith, he simply said to me, “If the Lord is working here we shall see. Now, go do what you need to do and my door is always open to you.”
I stepped out of the doors of that little church building standing for a moment on the steps and looked at the beautiful New Mexico sunset that was hovering just above the mountains to the far west. I threw out all my drugs. I determined, thus by the power of God’s Spirit, that I must apologize to my girlfriend. I called her immediately and said that we must talk when she got home. I then went to our small rustic Spanish casita and replayed the events and words of Larry over and over in my mind. My plans to go drinking were not even a second thought.
Later that night, after my girlfriend got home from work, we talked. I told her about my conversation with Larry, what I was experiencing, what I felt and apologized to her. I shared with her exactly what Larry had told me and the verse from first Corinthians. I told her I could no longer be with her as I had for the last year and that if she thought I was completely crazy I understood. If she wanted to break everything off, I was willing to let her go her own way.
Around two am we finally stopped talking. She went into the bedroom to sleep and I to the couch. We had no idea what was ahead for either one of us. But one thing I knew for sure, that May eighteenth of two thousand and one the grace of God was made manifest to me!
The next morning we sat at the small kitchen table talking of what we were going to do. We were out of sorts; everything we had normally been accustomed to doing was changing. This day was most certainly different for me as I had a freedom I could not explain and I certainly wanted to know more.
It was Sat morning, and not knowing what to do, I called Larry and shared what I had said and where we were at. He invited us to come down to the church building and talk some more.
Once there, we shared our conversation from the night prior and he encouraged us onward. As we talked with him, we started to stack up books they had for free via donation. They had some really good books that were very solid biblically and served to help our newly found faith. We nearly grabbed every book they had and we put all the cash we had into the donation box.
Over the course of the next two weeks, I started to notice a real change in my girlfriend. It was quite amazing to watch. She began making changes in habits and her talk. During this time, she kept searching and reading about this Jesus who saves. I know this, whatever work was being done there was not of me, nor directly of my story, but a working of the Almighty God who was working in and with me. I had been praying that she would experience this new life that had been granted to me. And indeed she did!
Who would have guessed that any of this could have taken place in our lives? And I certainly would never have guessed the Lord could use my testimony of God’s grace to impact anyone, especially my girlfriend. I was without a doubt the most unlikely of witnesses, yet I know that absolutely no credit was mine for the taking.
Over the course of that next year, much had happened. From New Mexico to Arkansas, from Illinois to North Carolina, from Wisconsin to Michigan, the Lord was working in my life and I shared it everywhere I went. The details of that year I believe could fill many more books.
Two very crucial things happened for me over that year.
First, I was introduced to the persecuted Christian church. This had a deep impact upon my personal life and propelled me to continue growing in this new profession of faith. Second, was with regards to my girlfriend.
I ended up taking an assignment nearly a thousand miles away from Taos where she was still working. During this time, we began to learn to communicate about deeper topics. Our main discussion quickly became centered on whether or not we would go our separate ways or move forward towards marriage. It became apparent as we talked that marriage was the path we were going to take.
This seriousness in our relationship, along with the new found life in Christ, caused this cute little girl who I had met in Bloomington, IL, to become more than a girlfriend and traveling coworker. No longer was she a girlfriend, but soon to be a fiancé. She became who she really was, Trish, my future wife and sister in our shared Christian faith. She was becoming my best friend and someone who knew me better than anyone else ever had. It’s not that I did not have many good friends, because I did, but no one knew the deeper realities of my past.
So in late September of two thousand and one, Trish’s assignment in Taos was nearly over. I was working in Arkansas and she was going to come and work there as well.
Before leaving Taos, on one early Sunday Morning, in the crisp cool air, we took a hot air balloon flight over the Rio Grande Gorge. A thousand feet above the white waters, and just a few miles outside of downtown Taos, Trish agreed to become my wife.
Later that morning, we went to our last church service together at that little church building. There we shared the news with everyone, said our goodbyes, and headed out onto a new road with an unknown journey ahead.
Grace Came Again
A year had transpired. We continued traveling the nation, began to cut off ties with our old habits, and continued to grow in grace and the knowledge of our dear Lord and Savior. During this year we decided to settle down, at least for a couple years, in Stillman Valley, IL, my home town.
We naturally thought we should ask the local pastor, to marry us. His name was Pastor Rod, and he knew, at least to some degree, my past life of rebellion and sin. He had been a friend to my family and the pastor of the church I used to periodically attend.
We had yet to share with Rod how God radically changed our lives. After asking him to marry us, hesitant as he was, he agreed to sit down with us in discussion. My plan was that we would tell him at our first meeting.
There we sat, Rod and his wife on one side, Trish and I on the other. I have to admit, there seemed to be an uncomfortable tension in the air. After about 10 minutes of watching Rod squirm in his chair (I believe he was working up the right way to tell us he was not comfortable about our marriage), I told him all about our last year. We told him how the Lord had exposed our sin, gave us His grace, and set our sights on eternity. Both he and his wife were shocked and completely overjoyed! Those times of meeting with them were good and a real help for our future days to come.
A week before the wedding he asked us to pick a few Bible verses that we would like to have read individually. Without telling one another, we picked the exact same verses.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
After being announced husband and wife, and before we kissed, we had decided that communion and dedication to the Lord would be our primary commitment. We had many people there who did not know what had happened to us and why we now were so different. Pastor Rod explained what communion was all about and why we had chosen the act of communion as our first act as husband and wife.
Grace came again to me on May eighteenth two thousand and two. First the grace of God came in form of forgiveness of my past, freedom from my sins and new life in Christ Jesus; and grace came again in the form of my new wife Trish, whom I was now one with, in marriage and a symbol of Christ and the church.
Amazing, simply amazing!
The Christian Life
But don’t let me fool you, the Christian life is not some ‘name it and claim it’, ‘grab it and blab it, prosperous ease while bidding our time here on earth. The fact is that the true Christian life is one of constant commitment. It requires diligence and steadfastness; is full of failures and forgiveness; has victories and tears; and is most certainly active and dynamic. Although, it certainly is not one of perfection and the pleasing of one’s own self – not at all.
The longer I have been a Christian, the more I realize how weak I am. I have days where it is truly a spiritual battle to do the right thing.
You see, although I had not been looking for God, at least not as I would have known, God came to me, taught me His word, gave me His grace, showed me my need, offered His Son and gave me new life. I was utterly helpless to be a ‘savior’ to myself. All the self-help in the world is nothing but powerless humanism. All of my attempts to be a ‘good person’ were miserable failures.
God has given us all a will to use, a will with the ability to seek, a will to make cognitive choices. And let me assure you, we will answer for how we have abused these common graces. For these common graces of God are bestowed upon all of mankind, and are meant to draw us to the powerful saving grace of God. For in His grace reality unto a new life really does exist and hope really does reside. And yet, we need the sovereign God to do the work that only He can do, His powerful work of conversion through the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross; yet His common grace of free will having been bestowed to us still stands, just as His promise is still available to those who will seek Him – this all by faith through grace.
Yet I too must apply this personally in my daily walk with God, I must everyday chose whom I will serve, not that I am saving myself over and over, but that I must chose whom I place as first in my life each and every day, myself or the God of the universe. When I wake up, I know where my help comes from and to Him I must go, but I must activate that which he has already given me. I must choose with my mind from where I will draw my strength and what shall be my eternal purpose.
And you too must use the common grace God has given you. Will you seek God? Will you not? Will you be brutally honest with yourself and with your inability to make yourself right with God? Maybe you have tried all the philosophies and self-helps there is and you know there is yet more to life?
Or maybe you are running down roads similar to my past? Maybe you have never been as ‘bad’ as me and believe yourself to be a good person? But let me assure you, we are all fallen and separated from God.
Regardless, you have to do something with Jesus.
If He is just another wise guy to you, then you have to do something about what He said and what He did – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
If He was a lunatic or a man who simply lived and died, then how could He be so hated, even unto this day, if He was not true? Why the hatred for that which would have had no power, no truth, no lasting effect?
Yet, maybe, He is true and you have been casting Him off as simply some messed up religion or some ‘church’ affiliation? Maybe you have been hurt by people who call themselves some sort of ‘christians’ yet never seem to demonstrate compassion, patience or love?
I do not know your stance, your situation in life, your worldview, or how you have been treated – regardless, you will be held accountable for your actions and disregards of God’s varied grace.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring specifically, I cannot sway the sea of hypnotized people consumed by the narcissism of multimedia, nor can I predict when the economy will fall, but this one thing I do know, this truth I will declare, this transforming power I will defend – the grace of God is true, powerful and life changing.
And the God of this grace will forever be my boast as to the best of my ability. And although I still fall short, I will make the “one true God” my boast forever and ever.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’”
And if you do not think that the true grace of God is powerful and working, alive and transforming, read what the Bible says about the grace of God,
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Although this book is merely a small glimpse into the history of my past, and maybe my experiences have not been yours, please know that there really is hope and more to this life – for “grace upon grace” awaits you. Again though I must ask, my friend, what shall you do with it? Will you throw it to the wayside or receive it freely?
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
“…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
If you would like to know more about the grace of God or the realities of the true Christian life, please take a look at some of my other books. The Foothills of True Grace is a beginning look at God’s “manifold” grace and you can get a free copy of the book, plus others, on my website.
For it is true,
“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
And why do I share this story? Why put myself in a place of vulnerability and apparent weakness? Three-fold.
First, that my God would be glorified.
Second, that you may come to experience the realities, the love, grace, power and mercies, of this one true God.
Third, that my testimony would stand as a memorial for what God has done in my life, always reminding me of His attributes, His incredible salvation, His undeniable love and His redeeming grace.
Indeed, May eighteenth I received “grace upon grace.”
“Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has not let me alone! I have thought, ‘If God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I would have been! I would have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil. Nor would I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me!
“If feel that I would have been a very king of sinners, if God had left me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace.”
~ Charles Spurgeon ~
 Interestingly enough, later in life I found out that my special reading teacher had prayed over me and all the kids in the school. She was a godly woman, very much the grandmotherly type.
 Larry passed away and went to be with his Lord on March 5th, 2014. Visit my website or The Taos News to view my letter to the editor, which the newspaper titled, “My Turn: In Memory of Pastor Larry Seguin.”
 Interestingly, the word, “fornication,” popped into my mind months prior and I thought about looking it up in the Bible, but chose not to do so at that time.
 [fornicators] King James Version (KJV©)
 John chapter one.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
 Ephesians 5:31-32. Also see my book, As Christ: A Man and Marriage.
 Ephesians 6:12; John 1:12
 Matthew 7:7-8
 Ephesians 2:8-9
 Psalm 121:1-2
 Romans 3:22-23
 John 14:6
 1 Corinthians 8:6; plus several other passages
 Jeremiah 9:23-24
 Titus 2:11-14
 John 1:12-13
 John 1:17
 1 Peter 4:10
 I love the story of Joshua 4:1-7