UPDATE - 5/8/18
The year of 2017 brought a lot of things we never expected.
We’ve seen lots of joy and growth, but we’ve also experienced grief in some surprising new ways. We’ve faced multiple miscarriages and scary ER trips with our children. You don't really plan to fall on the kitchen floor weeping over a miscarriage. You don't plan to go to the ER with your toddler's gaping wound to the forehead. Grief seems to strike in unexpected moments. And then concentric waves of grief strike again and again, and you have to reckon with God and feeling hopeless and disappointed and the fact that the world keeps spinning even if you're losing it.
In the past few months, we’ve felt a growing sense of burden & calling to write a collection of songs specifically for people who are experiencing grief, loss, doubt, or “valley” times. Our personal tragedy has forced us to learn how to grieve and worship at the same time. We are learning how to lean into Jesus harder even when our prayers aren’t being answered in the way we’d hoped. We’re learning how to hold onto hope that He is making all things new, even in the middle of feeling very helpless.
We want to share some of that hope with others, and so we’ve been writing songs like crazy. We heard the Lord saying that it’s time for us to take a “detour.” So far Mountaintops has strategically released one single at a time, which has worked well for our budget and schedules. But as we began writing songs from our place of grief & worship, we realized this wouldn’t just be a song or two. What started as a few songs and an idea for an EP has grown into a dozen or so songs with more coming every week. Our home all the sudden became filled with worship, prayer, creativity, and lots of co-writing with old and new friends. We heard a clear call from God, we’re trying to be faithful, and He is blessing us with so many new songs it’s getting hard to keep track! The album is tentatively titled “All Things Right,” and we’re currently working on inviting loads of friends to help make this record.
We wanted to update you on what’s happening with Mountaintops, and invite you into the journey in a few ways:
Lend us your thoughts. You've likely experienced grief or suffering somehow - your story is unique and important. In the moments when you were in pain or doubt, what kind of songs helped you, or would have helped you? We want to write more songs like that, and we think that community-conversation is the best way for that to happen. Send us your thoughts & ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pray for us. Pray for humility and creativity. Pray for new songs for God’s people to sing. Pray for emotional and spiritual healing to be released through this music! Pray for an increase in the church’s response to grief and suffering. Pray for an explosion of joy and hope in Jesus amidst a culture that's often hopeless and anxiety-ridden. Maybe more importantly, tell us how we can pray for you.
Support financially. If you aren’t already, consider becoming a patron of Mountaintops through our Patreon campaign. Our patrons help keep the ministry of Mountaintops running! Whether it’s through a one-time donation or a smaller monthly pledge, all the funds we raise go straight to making more music for the church. We’ve been learning how to record better, more efficiently, and inexpensively. But recording something well still costs money. This time around we’re hoping to keep costs low by investing in recording gear, recording the album ourselves (with the help of a talented cast of friends!), and have it professionally mixed and mastered.
We look forward to sharing these songs and worshiping together with you soon.
Grace, peace, and comfort from the One who makes all things right.
-Nick & Melissa Morrow
A couple of months ago I was invited to attend a songwriting retreat with the Bethel Music team in Redding, CA. This was a huge honor and confirmation, and I worked harder than ever on songwriting in the months leading up to the retreat. To say that spending time with the Bethel Music crew and 50 brilliant songwriters was "amazing" is an understatement. The trip completely blew my mind, changed my paradigm, and marked my life in ways that are so deep it’s tough to explain.
Upon returning from the retreat, I half-jokingly referred to Bethel as “Jesus Disneyland.” I felt like I was drinking from a firehose for three days straight, encountering God and receiving a renewed calling as a songwriter. I got to share part of the story with my church the Sunday I got back. Here’s a clip from that sermon:
That’s part of the story. But here’s the rest of the story I didn’t share in church that day.
Over the past year, as I’ve prayed and asked God for direction, I’ve wondered "what would it look like to write some worship songs that helped people worship from a place of grief, doubt, anxiety, etc?" So much modern worship music is written from a place of redemption and flourishing, a place of spiritual “high-points.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, but what about the spiritual valleys? Sometimes we have moments in life where just to lift our voice to God is a massive achievement, where we have to give Him a “sacrifice of praise” in a very real way. In those moments, our worship costs us something. As Graham Cooke once said, “lamentation is the highest form of praise that exists.”
At the campfire worship time that day, I got a deep sense that I was meant to write some worship songs like that. Songs for people who were hurting like me. The morning of the bonfire, as I reasoned and prayed and could barely open my mouth to sing the worship songs, the Lord said to me: "You're disappointed in the entire last year." Vivid memories of miscarriages and panicked trips to the ER flashed in my mind. Then in my mind's eye, I saw a picture of a mountain. A year prior, Melissa and I felt like we were heading up a mountain together: Mountaintops was taking off quicker than we'd expected, our marriage and family was great, and we had nothing but hope and optimism toward the future. We couldn't wait for what was next. But then Melissa had the first miscarriage, and it felt like our whole world fell apart. All the favor and blessing that had seemed to follow us disappeared, and left in it's place was a massive dark cloud of dread.
I saw that picture of a mountain and heard the Lord say, "We're going to take a detour, son."
I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but I was pretty sure it was related to processing the pain Melissa and I had experienced. So I asked several people to pray over me that morning, wept like a baby in public, and asked the Lord for confirmation for what I was supposed to do with all this.
I was surprised when it came just a couple hours later:
My conviction was mounting that maybe God had a specific songwriting assignment for me. Maybe my experiences of pain and grief wouldn’t go unredeemed, and they could be turned into something useful for other people?
A few hours later, I was shocked again when one of the Bethel writers named Kristene began to share a story about a song she’d written. Many people had been comforted by the song, and through prayer and worship had seen God move in miraculous ways. The song was eventually named after a stillborn baby "Lily." A story about the death of a baby and the worship music it inspired to release healing? It felt as if the Lord was giving me the most blatant, direct assignment of my life.
The punch line to her story was, “Never underestimate the power of the comfort of the Holy Spirit in a song.”
On breaks during the retreat that day, I spent time on the phone with Melissa. “Babe, I think maybe we’re supposed to go a really different direction with Mountaintops for awhile…” I shared about the vision of the mountain and the word from Eric Allen and the story of Kristene DeMarco. Melissa was very sweet, and listened as I shared. This idea was a huge departure from the first few singles Mountaintops released, which were big, loud anthemic sort of worship songs. But we sensed the Lord was taking us on a significant detour.
On the final day of the retreat, Jonathan David Helser shared some beautiful thoughts about walking with Jesus, songwriting, and the lifelong struggle behind his song “No Longer Slaves.” At one point he shared the story of David and Goliath, and how David used the enemy’s own sword to cut his head off.
“I want to write songs that make the Enemy regret the day he ever aimed his sword at me,” he said. Beautiful.
So on my plane trip home, I spent some time reflecting and praying. One of the questions I asked God was, “Lord, what’s my sword?” I was shocked by the answer.
“Actually, it’s Melissa’s sword.”
As soon as I got off the plane I texted Melissa what I’d sensed I heard. She texted back that she’d had a similar conviction the night before, and had begun to write lyrics in her journal that morning. We decided that try and step out in faith and write together every day. Although we’ve written music together before, we’ve never written consistently or with a tag-team sense of calling until now.
In the past three months Melissa and I, along with friends, have written so many new songs we're losing track. We’ve been processing our year of grief through worship and finding that God is much better than we even thought He was. We're finding that He's weaving our lives and the songs we write together in strange and beautiful ways. We're following the Lord into the detour, and we're traveling back down the mountain. We hope to find some people who are grieving in the valley so we can grieve with them, help write their/our soundtrack, and attempt to lift our heads enough to give the Lord the praise which is truly the greatest sacrifice.
We continue to walk the confusing road of family planning, miscarriage, and asking the Spirit for direction, and throughout all the questions we’ve been writing songs that help us worship in the midst of the confusion. We can’t wait to share these songs with people, and to worship and pray with as many people as we can, believing that our great imaginative God will one day make all things right.