Category Archives: unconditional love

A Spiritual Journey, Conclusion – Reflections on the Last 14 years

This is the final installment of a 5 part series. Part 1 can be found here: https://morgantrotter.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/a-spiritual-journey-1/ .  Parts 2-4 can be found among my recent blog posts.

There’s one thing I haven’t said in these posts that I want to make clear now: I have no complaints about how I was treated by the people in the two churches where I served as a pastor.  Almost without exception everyone was kind, gracious, and patient toward the young, inexperienced pastor I was.  They certainly gave me a lot of grace, and for that I will always be thankful.

I’ve read statistics showing that many former pastors and some currently serving pastors feel poorly treated by the churches they’ve served.  That’s not the case with me.  If anything, the two churches I served treated me better than I deserved.

I just want to make that abundantly clear.  The people in the Presbyterian churches I served, as well as the church I grew up in, were for the most part always kind and loving toward me.  My issue was not with the people, but more with the teachings and practices of the churches and the denomination.  I felt (and still feel) as though the atmosphere in these churches stifles the freedom and expressiveness of the Holy Spirit, and of sound biblical teaching.

I usually don’t tell people I left the ministry.  I believe every Christian is called to ministry in some form or fashion.  Even if someone works a “regular” full-time job, as believers we’re still called to serve as a witness for God in our workplaces, in our families, in our neighborhoods, and to serve those around us.  So instead, I usually say I left “formal ministry” or “paid ministry.”  I think it’s an important distinction.

There were several reasons I stopped being a pastor.  One was because I felt the need to devote more time and energy to my music, which I’ve done since that time.  I’ve served in some capacity as a volunteer worship leader in every church I’ve attended since then.  I’ve even taught guitar lessons at times, though I’m not sure I’m really proficient enough on the guitar to teach anything besides the very beginning basics.  I’ve also recorded some of my original songs (I’ve written or co-written about 80 in all), and have tried to do more to get my songs “out there” for people to hear.  I’m currently playing some of my songs “out” at open mics and songwriter contests in hopes of seeing what I can do with those.  If you’d like to hear some of my original music follow this link to my music page: http://www.reverbnation.com/morgantrotter

Some of the other reasons I left pastoral ministry I’ve already alluded to in previous posts, but one of the chief reasons was something I’ve rarely shared: My motives for becoming a pastor were mixed and complex.  On the one hand I wasn’t interested in any sort of secular work.  I wasn’t the least bit interested in business.  I had considered becoming a counselor but ultimately concluded psychology was such a secular field I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do through it, which was to help people and serve God in my work at the same time.  (That was in the days before Christian psychology became an accepted and popular field.)

By the same token, I wasn’t sure I could cut it in the secular working world.  Almost all the work I’d done up to that point had been church-related.  I’d only worked one secular job before, and that only for a few months.  On top of that I’d been picked on and teased a lot in public school, and had experienced the church as one place in which I felt somewhat more accepted.  I really dreaded experiencing a similar kind of rejection in the secular business world.

So I continued to gravitate towards work in the church. I thought the church would be kinder and more accepting than the business world.  And now having worked a great deal of the last 14 years in the secular marketplace I can say that for the most part I was right.

However, the whole time I was a pastor I was dogged by the awareness I’d avoided secular work out of fear.  So one of several reasons I left formal ministry was because I wanted to finally face that fear.

Still, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  When I made the decision to leave formal ministry, there was no “Plan B.”  My college degree was in Psychology which, along with $1, will buy you a cup of coffee (unless you’re at Starbucks, in which case not even that).  While I do also have a seminary Masters degree, that’s pretty much only valued in the church.  (I’ve since found that a seminary education can actually be a hindrance in getting secular employment, despite the fact that it’s a Masters.)

I won’t bore you with all the details at this point.  After leaving formal ministry, my first couple of jobs were in factories but they each only lasted a couple months because I think it was obvious I was overqualified and not really suited for that type of work.  But I was glad for the experience.

Since that time I’ve mostly worked a series of office jobs, though I did do some warehouse work as well, and one job in construction.  I also taught guitar lessons for a while, too.  The office jobs have been with a phone company, a safety equipment company, and in healthcare.

I have learned a few things along the way.  On the positive side I overcame my fears about working in the secular marketplace.  I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I could do, with no glaring failures.  So I’ve learned I’m capable of a lot more than I ever imagined.

There have been some hard lessons, though, too.  For one thing, I learned it’s harder to change careers than I thought, especially if you don’t have a lot of transferable skills.  The longer you’re in a career the more expertise you have, and I learned there’s really no substitute for that kind of time and experience in a given field.  When you change careers you’re basically starting over again at the entry level, as though you were fresh out of high school or college.  There may be some credit given for life experience, and perhaps that has helped me get the job in a few cases.  But I haven’t seen that life experience matters that much to a lot of employers.  There’s no substitute for longevity in a field.  Ironically, a lot of companies don’t value that kind of longevity anymore, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

One of the most frustrating things has been that since I left formal ministry, I haven’t found my college degree to be of much value.  The sheer fact that I had one might have helped me get a couple of my jobs, but so far I haven’t been able to get a single job that requires a college degree (or pays commensurate with one either).  I’m living proof that a liberal arts degree is of very little value in the business world.

So I wish I could say that the life-changing spiritual experiences I had in the late ’90s solved all my problems, but I really can’t.  I can say this, though: If I hadn’t met Jesus personally in 1998 and been mentored by some Christian men who made a lasting difference in my life, I’m not sure I would be sane or maybe even alive today.  There were some very dark times before my born again experience when I seriously questioned if I was going to lose my sanity.  Getting to know God in a more intimate and personal way through receiving Christ and the Holy Spirit into my heart, and becoming more grounded in the love of God, has made all the difference in my life.

After my born again experience (see Part 1 for more about that; the link for it is at the beginning of this post) I began to be mentored by a non-denominational pastor named David Moore as well as a couple other key men, and this made a huge difference in my life.  David in particular taught me a number of Scripture passages that were largely overlooked in my Presbyterian upbringing and my seminary training.  He encouraged me to steep myself in the books of Ephesians and Colossians, which are all about our identity in Christ, as well as in the gospel of John.

David also called my attention to 2 Peter 1:3-11, really an astounding passage if you consider its true meaning.  Somehow I had never noticed this passage before he pointed it out to me:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

These verses say some amazing things: God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness through knowing Christ, and if we trust in His great and precious promises we will actually participate in the divine nature (!) and be enabled to escape the corruption of the world.  Remarkable!!

A few other key passages David called to my attention: Ephesians  2:6-8 ~

6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:1-3 ~

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God

Heb 12:28-29

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Those verses all talk about our position in Christ.

There are many other verses I could list which David showed me and helped me better understand.  He also pointed me to a lot of great books that helped ground me in Christ and also bring healing to my emotional wounds.  Some authors I came to appreciate based on his recommendation are John Eldredge, Leanne Payne, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and Calvin Miller, not to mention a number of lesser known but equally helpful ones.  More than any of that, though, David also invested his time and friendship in my life, and for those gifts I will always be grateful.

I also ought to say something about my involvement in church ever since I left formal ministry.  In the year 2000, after I left the church I had pastored, I never regularly attended another Presbyterian congregation.  Instead I began to attend Hope church, a small non-denominational church pastored by David Moore whom I mentioned above.  In 2004 I finally decided to give up my ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) so I could officially cut ties with that denomination and join Hope church.  Hope taught a mix of evangelical and charismatic beliefs.  The people of the church are just great, and became very dear to me.

I was actively involved there for about 8 years, after which time for a variety of reasons I sensed God releasing me to leave Hope.  Among other things, there were few unmarried people like me there and I had come to miss the fellowship of other singles.  I had previously been involved in the singles ministry of a large Evangelical Free church in town so I decided to visit there again. I wound up attending that E-V-Free church from 2009 until I moved back to Huntsville in 2011, and made many great and supportive friends there as well.

All those years I felt like I had only been flirting with the charismatic movement.  When I moved back to Huntsville I decided it was time for me to “jump in the river” as they say, so I decided to seek out a charismatic church to attend.  Over time God seemed to lead me to the church I currently attend, a small non-denominational charismatic church I’ve gone to for the last two years.  The people there are wonderful and have welcome this old traditionalist with open arms.

I won’t deny that it’s kind of hard in the church as a single person.  I’ve never married–not for lack of desire, but it’s just never seemed to work out for me to do so.  I’m probably too picky, and also I suspect I’m a bit of an acquired taste (lol).

I also won’t deny that since I left the safety and security of the traditional church I’ve had a hard time finding my niche in the church.  I’m too charismatic for the traditional church, and probably a bit too old-fashioned and traditional for the charismatic church as well.  I also find I’m too charismatic for the evangelicals and a little too evangelical for the charismatics.  Please understand, though–I’m not blaming anyone else–the problem is probably with me rather than anyone else.

I now live back in the city I was raised in, and my dad still goes to the Presbyterian church I grew up in, so sometimes I attend with him, especially on holidays and the like.  They still receive me very warmly, like one of their kids has come back home. They’ve been very supportive and appreciative of my music, and have even invited me a couple times to lead worship for their contemporary service.  I’m grateful to still have those ties and relationships after all these years, and after all the water that’s passed under the bridge.

So–I don’t claim to have all the answers or that the experiences I had 15 years ago solved all my problems.  But I can say with confidence that those experiences were a turning point in my life for the better that took me out of the place of trying to live the Christian life by personal effort (which is impossible) and into the place of beginning to allow Christ himself to be my life.  If there’s anything I learned from my time with David Moore and Hope church (and I learned a lot), it’s that being a Christian is not something I do, it has to be something I allow Christ and the Holy Spirit to do in me.  The only hope we have of living as God would have us live is by allowing Him to live through us.  It’s His effort, not mine. My job is simply to cooperate with Him and obey His leading.  A very different approach from trying to perform in my own strength.

There is much more I could share, but I will end it here.  Thank you for taking the time to read this series.

“You Are My Delight”: A Project to Support Shelters For Battered Women

“You Are My Delight,” an original song co-written and recorded by my friend Bob Mader and myself, is now available for purchase on iTunes.  Bob and I are going to donate 1/2 of everything we make on this song to support two women’s shelters, one here in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, and the other in the town where Bob lives (and where I also used to live), Lenoir City, Tennessee.  More information on these shelters is given below.

The Story Behind the Song

artwork for "You Are My Delight" by Amy Given

artwork for “You Are My Delight” by Amy Given

On a Sunday morning in 2006, some women from Iva’s Place, a shelter for battered women in Lenoir City, Tennessee, came to speak at Bob’s church (Two Rivers Evangelical Free Church).  The church was supporting the shelter, and these ladies had been invited to come and share the stories of what they had been through, as well as how God had worked in their lives.

As Bob listened to their testimonies, he was moved by all they’d experienced and began to ask himself, “What message would God want to give to these women?”  Right there in church, the following words came to Bob:

You are My delight, you are My great joy;
You’re the apple of My eye, the one that I came for;
Extravagantly cherished, made perfect in My sight–
You are My beloved, you are My delight.

“You Are My Delight” (c) copyright 2007 Bob Mader & Morgan Trotter

Bob says that although the chorus came to him immediately that’s all it was. He never could come up with any verses to finish out the song.

Fast-forward a year or so to the summer of 2007.  Bob and I met at a retreat for Christian songwriters held in Townsend, Tennessee.  On the Saturday of the retreat our afternoon assignment was to collaborate with one of the other songwriters and try to create a song.  Since Bob and I were the only two people there from Knoxville (where I lived at the time), we decided to pair up and see what we could come up with.

I grabbed some pages of unfinished songs I’d brought with me to the retreat (we knew ahead of time this would be one of our assignments), and began to look through them.  One stood out to me that I’d entitled “Long Before.”  With this unfinished song, my situation was just the opposite of Bob’s–my song had some verses but no chorus to tie everything together.

I showed this piece of a song to Bob and sang the melody I had come up with for it.  After hearing it, Bob looked through the song fragments he’d brought to the retreat and pulled out his chorus “You Are My Delight” and played it for me.

As he played that chorus, I think we both got the sense that my verses might fit well with his chorus.  When we sang them together it worked, so we honed the verses a bit, turning one of them into a bridge, in order to make the song flow together seamlessly.  After an hour or so’s work, we were done and had a finished song.  Here is the complete lyric we finally wound up with:

Long before you loved Me, I was pursuing you;
Long before you knew Me, I had my eye on you.
Long before you cared whether I was around,
I was planning for the day you’d let yourself be found…

Long before you knew the desires of your heart,
You were lost and afraid, all alone there in the dark;
Till I called your name, and whispered “It’s alright…
I will hold you near all through the night….”

Chorus:
(For) you are My delight, you are My great joy,
The apple of My eye, the one that I came for;
Extravagantly cherished, made perfect in My sight….
You are My beloved, you are My delight.

Bridge:
Long before you heard about My Son,
He was dying so we could be one;
Long before you were born anew,
My Spirit was drawing you…!

Chorus:
(For) you are My delight, you are My great joy,
The apple of My eye, the one that I came for;
Extravagantly cherished, made perfect in My sight….
You are My beloved, you are My delight.

“You Are My Delight
words and music by Bob Mader and Morgan Trotter
© 2007 Bob Mader and Morgan Trotter

“You Are My Delight” is God singing His love and care over the victims of domestic violence. Indeed, it is God singing His love over all of us.  You can hear this song as a word from God to you about His love for you personally as well.

The Long And Winding Road to Today

After the retreat, Bob and I went home and each recorded our own versions of the song.  If you buy the full EP for “You Are My Delight” you can hear both of these early versions, which are just a little different, but which both capture the song’s heart and message.

Over the next several years, Bob and I played the song individually at various places, and always got a good response.  Bob’s recording of it even became a Top 50 song on Soundclick.com, where he posted it.  But playing the song occasionally for friends or churches was about all we did with it.

Then in 2011 a mutual friend of ours learned the story of how the song’s chorus was inspired when Bob heard the ladies from the women’s shelter speak, and suggested Bob and I record the song together and sell it to raise funds for Iva’s Place, donating half of what we make from it to the shelter.  So during the summer of 2011 over several sessions we made a recording of the song which featured both my guitar and Bob’s mandolin, as well as each of us taking turns on lead vocals and singing harmonies.

Meanwhile, our friend Amy Given, a very gifted artist, was kind enough to offer to do the artwork for the song.  Amy created the beautiful artwork you see above.

The release of the song was delayed, though, because my mother was sick and in the fall of 2011 I moved back to Huntsville to help her and my dad.  Mom died in December 2011, and for the next year or so I was preoccupied with that, finding a job, helping my father, etc.

Earlier this year, though, my thoughts began to drift back to our recording of “You Are My Delight” and our plans to release it as a fundraiser for the women’s shelter.  Within just a few days after I had begun thinking about the song again I got an email from Bob saying he felt it was time to move forward with the song as well.  Rather providential timing!!  Since I had moved to Huntsville by that time, we decided to include the women’s shelter here as well so that my North Alabama friends might also feel inclined to participate.

So we got to work on the project again. There have been a lot of delays and some procrastination along the way, but at long last, the Official Release Date of “You Are My Delight” is finally here!!

How You Can Help

Bob and I put together an EP that includes 4 different versions of the song: The Official Version that Bob and I recorded together, Bob’s original demo version, my demo version, and an alternate mix of Bob and me playing the song together.  You can buy one or all of these versions, but 1/2 of what Bob and I make on each purchase will go to the two women’s shelters detailed below.  So the more versions you buy, the more money goes to the shelters.

So here’s how you can help:

1) Purchase one or more versions of “You Are My Delight,” or the entire EP. One half of what we make on each purchase will go to support Iva’s Place in Lenoir City, Tennessee and Hope Place in Huntsville, Alabama, (see below for more info on these shelters).  A preview of the song is located at the bottom of this blog post if you want to hear what it sounds like.

To download “You Are My Delight” on iTunes, click here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/you-are-my-delight/id723004498?i=723004720

To download “You Are My Delight” in mp3 form go to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-My-Delight-EP/dp/B00FQU9E9W/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1381461244&sr=8-6&keywords=bob+mader

NOTE: If you want to donate more money with your purchase, you can download the song through my Reverb Nation store.  On Reverb Nation we are allowed to charge more money per song, so more money goes to the shelters as well.  To download “You Are My Delight” on Reverb Nation follow this link and look for the song under “Singles”: http://www.reverbnation.com/store/store/artist_377501?item_type=music

2) Tell all your friends about “You Are My Delight.”  Here are some possible ways to do that:

a) “Like” our Facebook page and share it with your friends. https://www.facebook.com/YouAreMyDelight2013

b) Share this blog post on your Facebook page, Twitter, or by email

c) Share the info with your church

d) Ask your friends to tell their friends about “You Are My Delight.”

3) Listen to the song and hear its message for you personally. For the message of “You Are My Delight” is not just for victims of domestic violence. It is God singing His love over each of us.

4) Ask God to bless this fundraising effort, and pray for the women in these shelters, and for victims of domestic violence everywhere.

5) Support your local women’s shelter.

About The Women’s Shelters

1/2 of what Bob and I make on every download of “You Are My Delight” will go to support Iva’s Place in Lenoir City, Tennessee, and Hope Place in Huntsville, Alabama.  That means 1/4 of what we make on each download will go to each shelter.  Click on the links below to learn more about these shelters:

Iva’s Place

Hope Place

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below, or on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YouAreMyDelight2013

The White House has declared October 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness month.  We hope that in some small way this project can help bring hope to victims of domestic violence.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Here’s a preview of “You Are My Delight”:

All content on this blog including this post (c) copyright 2006-2013 C. Morgan Trotter except where otherwise noted.

Thoughts on Unconditional Love, and Marriage

There’s a lot of talk these days about “unconditional love,” by which people mean being loved just as they are, with no strings attached, a kind of love that will never leave us no matter what we do or don’t do.  Usually when we talk about unconditional love, we talk about it as something we want to receive.  We all want to be loved unconditionally.

So today I found myself pondering: Can love in marriage ever be truly unconditional?  Are there always conditions on marital love?  When people get married aren’t they really saying to each other, “I will love you as long as you fulfill my expectations.  But if you let me down, especially in a major way, I will not keep loving you.”  At least that seems to be what married people are saying to each other today, since so many marriages end in divorce.

Is that the way it’s supposed to be, according to the Bible?  If marriage really is supposed to be for life, if it’s really “for better or worse, till death do us part,” can love in marriage be conditional?  I don’t have a set answer in mind, I’m just asking the question.

The Bible does seem to give us at least two conditions under which we can cease to love in marriage.  One is in the case of adultery (see Matthew 19:9).  The other is when an unbelieving spouse leaves (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).  Wise Christian leaders I know have also added unrepentant abuse and unrepentant addiction to the list of reasons a marriage can end in light of the Bible’s teaching.  (Abuse and addiction are inferred from Jesus words on adultery, because they are all a breaking of the covenant.)

So what do you think?  Can love in marriage ever be unconditional?

I think one of the things that has been an issue for me throughout my life with regard to marriage is that–especially as a younger man–I hoped to find unconditional love from the women I dated.  That is, I wanted a woman I loved to love and accept me no matter what I did.  I wanted to be able to come into a dating relationship and a marriage without having a woman’s love of me be conditional as to whether I fulfilled her expectations or not.  But of course, this has never happened.  If a man doesn’t fulfill a woman’s expectations in dating, she will leave him.  And in today’s world, if a man fails too significantly in a marriage, a woman will leave him then, too.  (And yes, the reverse is true, also, I’m just speaking about my experience as a man.)

Yeah, as a younger man I tried to get my needs for unconditional love met through dating relationships.  Not likely, eh?  I think this is why I’ve never married, because I want marriage to be a place where I can be loved unconditionally, but it cannot.  And if it can’t, I’m not sure I want it.  (Just being honest.)

So I think, if you go into marriage expecting to be loved unconditionally, you’re going to be disappointed.

What do you think?