While driving to the Creation site in Pennsylvania this year, we reflected on our experience in 2005 where we were visibly moved by the impact the festival has on over 75,000 people and their families every year. From the sea of candles being lit to the baptism's at the Creation pond; we knew God always revealed something to us at Creation Fest. Now it had come time to pull into the dusty Keystone Road again at dusk. This year it felt like there were more fireflies to our delight and they greeted all of us during our 2 hour line up the day before the festival began. Throughout the festival they would light up the trees like Christmas lights, a constant reminder during our time there that God's wonder was displayed for all to see whether in a song, the festivalgoers helping hands and in the beautiful creatures and Pennsylvania countryside.
Wednesday June 27
Today was the hottest day of the festival with temperatures reaching over 90F and a humidex of what felt like a bazillion degrees. Our first interview of the day was Bethany Dillon and man, does God use that young lady for His glory. All the reporters looked like we just crawled out of a steam bath and were frustrated with the heat and in walks Bethany beaming and ready to talk to Soul Shine about a particular experience that she infused into her latest album Waking Up
. She said to us that her experience in India with Gospel for Asia was really poignant to her, and discussed the joy in being uncomfortable. “A year ago I got to go to India for almost 2 weeks…He impressed upon me what it was to have a low heart, like that passage in John 13 where Jesus washed His disciples feet…being without a Starbucks or air conditioning, anything that made me feel like I was spiritual and had it together…I thought, 'You aren't white and you don't think exactly like me' you're the same God that loves those people in India on the other side of the world. I don't think the record would have said half of the things it did if it weren't for that experience.” How humbling in the heat of the day that statement was to hear and what a perfect fit for God to show it to us in our present circumstance.
We also heard from the guys of Switchfoot who talked about Oh! Gravity
and how it was to “play the song the way it felt the best rather than trying for perfection,” said frontman Jon Foreman. Foreman continued to discuss what it was like appealing to several different audiences, stating that relationships were key, otherwise there would be a lot of misunderstanding. They commented that it was more people in Nepal and Sedan that were persecuted for being Christian, but their experience in North America was more about misunderstanding
because of a lack of connectiveness. God taught us in what Jon said that sometimes we misunderstand people in the church and also outside of the church and we need to dialogue or we'll always misunderstand each other and assume too much. “A lot of people misunderstand us, some people say some things that smart a bit, but I've been thankful that relationships have transcended misunderstandings. Events like [Creation] allow us to get our thoughts out on the table. As a band a lot of times you live in a vacuum and I'm sure as reporters you see something on the internet and think it must be true and that becomes truth for your readers as well, as a band it's the same thing. To talk openly is where relationships come in, that's the body of Christ, rather than throwing darts at a wall that you've never met, but to get to know 'the wall' and find out we each have come from our own backgrounds.” Jon also mentioned to us he's got a secret documentary planned to shoot where he's going to “take skaters and surfers to Kenya and a few other places in Africa…hopefully it'll go down before Christmas.”
We watched Skillet's performance on the mainstage, marveling at John Cooper's bleach blond bangs while he sang “Whispers in the Dark”. There was a lot of headbanging from his wife, guitarist Korey Cooper and Lori Peters on drums was reminiscent of Meg White of the White Stripes in her coy but cool bashing of the drums. The audience was then given a huge contrast in genre when Bethany Dillon went on and spoke movingly about her amazing new album Waking Up
. A key memory she brought up that touched me was about her song “The Kingdom”. It was written about her cousins Matt & Marcie after they had just lost 2 babies both at 9 months pregnant. Bethany said she expected Matt & Marcie to be angry and hard towards God, but they were both softer and showed amazing faith. Bethany, who has often amazed me with her strength of faith and humble nature said she
was amazed and asked God how she could have faith like that, which brought about the song “The Kingdom”.
Up next we spoke with Relient K's frontman Matt T. While he commented that he hadn't showered yet that day, we were all about to get the shower of our life near the end of speaking with the band about their latest album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago
with a huge thunderstorm. Relient K announced that evening they would be doing a Fall tour with Switchfoot and mentioned they wanted to work really strongly with Habitat for Humanity. Soul Shine asked Matt T. about the story behind their track “Deathbed”, “I thought it'd be really cool to have a guy on his deathbed go over all the spiritual ups and downs of his life. Originally the song was going to be about myself dying, but I thought that'd be too weird and I'm not going to try and predict my own future. So I made up this third part fictional character. It happened quickly despite the fact that it's an 11 minute song, it was written in 45 minutes on the 4th of July in a rehearsal space I had to get out of quickly, because I had arrived late. It's probably my favourite song I've ever done.”
After the rain cleared Switchfoot and Relient K played phenomenal sets where people were always after an encore. As we walked back to our tent that night, drenched and dusty, we saw the fireworks display light up the night and officially felt “broken in” to the festival.
Thursday June 28
Today we began things with Britt Nicole, who I call the Nelly Furtado of CCM, she's an excellent up and comer for the pop genre. Britt started in music when she was 17 and now at 22 she's scored a record deal and an amazing energy on stage. A poignant story Britt expressed was from the song “When She Cries” off her first widely released album Say It
. Britt's parents had divorced when she was 7 and she also knew a friend who cut herself. She wrote the song through these tragedies as God reminded her He was there not just in the good times, but whenever we felt rejected.
We then headed over to hear from Crouton and Nadaddy of Family Force Five. Crouton stated that our generation often gets lost in taking themselves too seriously sometimes. “Family Force Five is about the joy of Christ and as crazy as our live show is and as we are we hope we're a reflection of the joy of Christ.” Nadaddy continued with what he wanted to say to our generation, “we all came into this world as a reflection of who God is, created in His image, we didn't come into this world as people divided, we came in all as one and when we go and have a big party in heaven it's all going to be us as one. So there's no reason to have division here in the body when we're all going to be one as we were created and as we're going to finish.” They were also asked about why they think many kids choose to involve themselves in several parachurch activities like CCM concerts and festivals more than a home church and Nadaddy said,” There's a reason a lot of kids are doing that. If they're not feeling welcome in being part of corporate worship or being reached in a relevant way in their church they're going to look for it in other ways. For some, parachurch music is how some kids feel like they can worship the best, so they'd use these alternatives to fulfill that need. The way to involve kids in a home church is to be in better communication with them and ask them and to see what it is they listen to, their lifestyle and what they want and how they feel fulfilled in worship and in their discipleship experiences.”
Salvador then hit the stage and while they brought less of a brass section, there was a great energy to their performance. We love that they bring a Latin flavour whenever they play the festivals and to hear Nick Gonzales singing and hear the guitar, trumpet and piano inspired the first half of our evening. Their soulful energy reminded me of the same energy Canada's NewWorldSon delivers.
KJ-52 quoted a great verse from Matthew 12:34 which said, “Out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will speak” when talking about finding spirituality in music. He also mentioned about getting this generation to connect with Jesus for themselves, ”Don't let a preconceived notion of what you think church is, don't let your parents teach you [a certain way]...a personal relationship with Christ lasts way longer than dogmatic rules and regulations or even doctrine of a particular denomination. There's nothing wrong with any of those things, but for me, I didn't grow up in the church and finding out who Jesus was for myself at 15 helped me more than any of the youth group kids I saw who just kind of coasted by. Discover the Jesus of the Bible not the Jesus of American Christianity or whatever we paint Him as - pick up the bible and go talk to God.”
David Crowder also sat down with us press folk and what was mentioned was that he was going to be going out into mainstream clubs come this Fall for promotion of his new album The Remedy
. Crowder spoke to us about how the face of the church is changing, “In the past we had really clearly defined lines of what was considered sacred and secular…and I feel like that line is being erased. Which I think is a good thing, culturally this could be a really monumental thing for the church to understand that God everywhere, that there's no space that isn't a sacred space. For kids who have grown up in church, I still feel though that they feel they can't embrace conversation with the “world” that they've been put a distance from in their past. What we need to do is make church a space to engage conversations that the world is already having, that's what we've seen students respond to in Waco, Texas (at Baylor University). Just wanting to journey through these really difficult questions that have really just been glossed over by their past church experience. To not be so dogmatic, but be more conversational and relational.” When asked how he puts the focus on God and not him on stage Crowder said, “So much of what we do is articulating faith for people so it seems simpler to say 'hey we're attaching you to God not ourselves' than it would be if I were in my dad's shoes [who sells insurance] and somehow allowing someone to see God in that
moment. I admire folks who aren't in my position who are able to show others God in a really meaningful way. The platform is a bizarre place to be, it creates distance between each other. Another way we go about it is accessibility, when you come to our website you can see that we're just folks and that helps alleviate some of the distance that's placed on the platform.” Crowder also commented on being the hands and feet of Christ in the mainstream by saying, “when they experience love, they experience God.” Such a great quote, mainly because you can understand so much in it, that it was what God calls us to do for others, to love them and to see the love God has for us reflected in what He's doing in our lives.
Friday June 29
Today the temperature was nice a cool so there was more things to concentrate on without heading to the Creation store to grab a dozen Freezies like on previous days. Storyside B just mentioned to us all today that they'll be creating a blogsite for people to discuss God. Frontman Lu Robino says, “A way we're trying to connect with people, one of our songs, the second track on our new CD is “Tell Me What You Think Of God” so we just bought the domain name tellmewhatyouthinkofgod.com. It's a blogsite where we're going to post a blog and people can respond to it and people can write in their testimonies or prayer requests just something cool, testimonies are really powerful.”
Casting Crowns frontman Mark Hall also had some poignant things to say about why young people were turned off from regularly attending church. “It's what we're communicating to them. I think what they get from us is what we're against and they don't really know what we're for. I think sometimes on the outside it may look like 'hey come to us and we'll give you a new set of rules you can't follow' instead of the fact that God is not a book, He's a person who loves you and wants to have a friendship with you. You need to come to this church because we need to be together, we want to accept you and love you and find you where you are, I don't think that's getting out there. In our zealousness, we don't understand why everybody just doesn't 'get it' and when they do come to church we're like we want God to change their shirt before He changes their heart. 'We're glad you're here, but we just wish you wouldn't talk like that and dress like that' we seem to want them to change their behavior first when that's just not what happened to us. It might be us that's running them off. You know in commercials where you wonder 'does it work' they're probably asking 'does it work?' in the church too, because they think 'I'm not getting into this if it doesn't work', so it starts with us.”
Superchic[k] guitarist Matt Dally also commented on the music industry, “Being a Christian is if the person says the word Jesus a lot [laughs]. No I'm kidding, being a Christian is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Fortunately I know a lot of people who are in Christian bands who have an amazing relationship with Jesus and unfortunately I also know a lot more people who are in Christian bands who possible we've seen a million times today who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus and don't act like they do. And to think that they are selling music with Jesus in it just to make a buck and be famous in some circle kind of makes me sick. It's got to be in your heart.” Trisha Brock continued by saying, “you could say 'I'm a Christian plummer' but what about your plumming skills are Christian? I think that lyrically there would be something evident or in your life that's showing through, but what's more important is your life and your heart should represent it. While we don't always know people's hearts, we always try to explain to people [being Christian] is more about us
and who we are than trying to classify things as a Christian album or not a Christian album.”
“Our hearts must break before our hands will move” is quoted on Leeland's Myspace, with that and their release Sound of Melodies
it's easy to see how Leeland's lyrics and message is so provoking. Leeland Mooring continued to talk to Soul Shine about spending time with God while on the road, “it's so easy to become a rogue type of ministry that doesn't have any covering from [a home church] so when we're back at our church we just fit right into our roles there and while on the road I think it's a consistent life of prayer and accountability between us that helps us mature in Christ while on the road.”
TobyMac and Casting Crowns put on a great show tonight and the candle lighting that's famous at Creation was again, stunning to see over 75,000 people light up the crowd with their candles under a blanket of stars, almost like the sky was being reflected from below.
Saturday June 30
Phil Wickham's music is breathtaking, from lyrics that touch the very heart of where man and God intersect to the ache of his vocals it's apparent to see why his soon to be released sophmore album Cannons
is so anticipated. He gave us a taste of the new CD today by singing the title track “Cannons”. When he said he was going to play “Divine Romance” thunderous applause occurred leaving him stunned that the track had made such an impact on his fans. Phil told us that the song was from a time when God was speaking to his heart saying “remember” to him, that before we loved God, that God loved us and sang over us as each of us was created by Him in our mother's womb. He said he recorded the back track for “Divine Romance” and later found the tape of that under an old sandwich in his car - amazing how something with such an impact and with such a potent message is sometimes in the most unusual of places.
Justin Lookadoo was a hilarious and amazing speaker who said something I won't soon forget, he took a $100 bill and crumpled it up and spat on it and jumped on it. Then he asked if anyone wanted it. There were a lot of people in the front who reached out their hands and said yes. Then Justin said, the reason we still want it is because it's still worth the same, even when it's messed up. He said that's how God feels about each of us, that we're all priceless to Him beyond measure and no matter how many times we sin or get roughed up by this life and look like that messed up $100 bill, we're still worth the same to Him. I loved that and think Justin is excellent at illustrating points to our generation.
Newsboys rocked out with Peter Furler going nuts on the drums from high above the aisle and Duncan bashing the drums on hydraulics as he was picked up with the drums and spun around - a fun and crazy element that we love in the Newsboys show. Also, Canada's own Starfield had sung their hearts out today with such hits as “My Generation” which got the crowd jumping up and down. Something that got imprinted on my mind from today was when I saw a man in a wheelchair who was paralyzed lifting his finger to God in worship. That image made me think a lot, this whole trip made me think a lot and God met me at Creation with a lot of amazing things He had to say that I wasn't quieting down enough to see before our trip, much of it crystallized itself in that image of a paralyzed man sitting in the crowd worshipping God with all that he had. That it wasn't about the circumstances we were in or our strength or ability, but who we had in our hearts that would break the chains and hold us high and get us through all that we were struggling with in our lives. And also, if that man was willing to worship a God who is capable beyond my understanding, I was too. Even from this I can see, we all affect each other with what we say and do even if we don't meet. I would urge you to attend Creation Fest in the future to experience for yourself the glimpses you can see from God or even just look for them in your own life now, and if you do look, be prepared to have your heart touched and changed by what you'll find there.
For more information please visit www.creationfest.com.