What’s my part?

Our road trip today likely mimicked that of many other people who attended Cornerstone 2011. We listened to some new albums, talked about favorite shows and laughed at old jokes. For me, as the sun set and the fireworks came out, I also was personally thankful for all that God has done – to allow us to openly gather in Jesus’ name – and all He’s done in my life through attending Cornerstone.

I hope there was another common thread in road-trip conversations… If you haven’t thought about this, I’d encourage you to do it now: how can you join in what God is doing at Cornerstone and beyond?

I ask because the festival isn’t a place, and it isn’t entirely just an event. It’s really a community.

Sunday, during the Community Gathering, we were given a challenge and an opportunity. I know a lot of people had already hit the road, and others were enjoying shows at other stages — so if you missed it, these were some suggestions given to how we can impact Cornerstone:*

1. Contribute financially, beyond just the cost of a ticket, to Cornerstone/JPUSA. Send a message with this money that communicates how much we value all that Cornerstone is.

2. Pray for the festival and it’s organizers. Pray for God to be glorified and honored. Pray for an unchurched/unbelieving friend that you can bring to Cornerstone 2012.

3. Consider sponsoring the ongoing ministry of Jesus People USA in a regular way. I can’t begin to list the things that they do to serve others in Chicago and beyond.

I hope I’m not the only person seriously considering these suggestions, as well as asking God to show me my part.

How can you join God in what He’s already doing at Cornerstone and beyond?



*Note that these suggestions were given prior to the offering, by one of the volunteers who organizes some of the games/sports at the fest – not directly by the fest staff or JPUSA pastors. Neither that man (who’s name I can’t recall – sorry) nor I or any of the other bloggers would in any way benefit financially if you take these suggestions. I mention them entirely because I think they’re a good starting point for asking God what your part may be.

A dream fulfilled


A dream of mine since 1998 just came true. Thankfully, this wasn’t my biggest dream in life, but it was still awesome… I got on main stage at Cornerstone!

Nope, I’m not in a band. Nope, I’m not the new MC. Nope, I’m not even involved with the quilt raffle. But, I was responsible for a couple of typos and at least one missed cue for the PowerPoint during the Community Gathering! I was a last minute fill-in, allowing the video guys to keep working on awesome coverage which we’ll all enjoy soon. (One hint: epic footage of “Marilyn Monroe.”)

I’m sure it is different during “actual” main stage shows, but I found back stage to be a relaxed, uncrowded, professional, friendly, organized, and dusty place. Here’s a picture from a perspective most of us never see.

Share your #cstonememories

We’re waking up for our last day at Cornerstone 2011. Days like this always make me a little nostalgic, recalling epic shows or loonnnggg conversations with friends around campsites. I don’t think you can have been to Cornerstone more than once and not have tons of memories, unless you were at that Norman Jean show last night and got cracked in the head. haha

Yesterday, Main Stage MC John J. Thompson invited everyone to share some Cornerstone memories on Twitter. Here’s a little of what was shared there:

  • SirRenofKath (Katherine Ottens): Waking up in a toga made of a Strawberry Shortcake sheet all day preparing for Flatfoot 56’s ’08 midnight TOGA PARTY
  • beesax: The first year I went to Cornerstone a racoon ate all of my bread and also my tent got flooded from a thunderstorm
  • joeljupp (Joel Jupp): Five Iron Frenzy… breaking a pinata filled with baked beans… ‘nough said.
  • Slapogopher (Jordan Blackson): Got engaged last year to an amazing woman
  • benjer712 (Daniel Schaaff): Meeting my wife!
  • Dooglar (Doug Van Pelt of HM Magazine): Early Crucified shows at indoor stage at Grayslake. Stagehands dumped giant tubs of h2o on crowd, which turned to steam.
  • Tugfork (Tug Fork River Band): Playing the Encore stage to a bunch of people completely covered in mud

I love hearing about all Cornerstone memories. What are your favorites – of the silly or serious variety? Post here or tweet it at #cstonememories

Dyeing to be different

You’ve got to dye daily….

I’m not afraid of dyeing…

Who knew there were puns about fabric dyeing?

I try to come into each Cornerstone looking for a new experience, not just a list of new bands to see. I never can predict what it will be before I arrive, but it always finds me. This year, I stumbled onto a fabric dyeing workshop as part of Burning Brush. I noticed it in the program and (as a quilter and fabric lover) I decided it would be a good choice. Turns out that it was an even better choice than I expected, since it meant that I weathered Friday’s power outage doing something that definitely didn’t require electricity!

I’m a little ashamed to admit that in all my years here, I’d never before done a single activity with the arts programs, short of walking by the art pilgrimage while on the way somewhere else. I now realize that I’d been missing out. Just like there’s a crowd that favors the Imaginarium, and there’s a crowd that knows all the ins-and-outs of the generator stages, and crowds who love to sip refined coffee and hear refined music at the Gallery, I’m realizing that there’s a crowd who eagerly anticipates the art programs. There are people who mark their fest schedules with not only the workshops they want to attend, but the first moment they can get on the sign-up sheets.

I shared a worktable with a few of these people yesterday, as JPUSA artist Sara van Alkermade showed us the basics of low-water immersion dyeing while another table of eager students learned about needle felting. My fellow students were artists & crafters eager to talk about our hobbies, our hometowns, the bands we’ve seen, swap stories of past festivals, and even talk about our faith a little bit.

Burning Brush 2011 also offered workshops on mosaic, block printing, and spinning – in addition to a guided walk of the art pilgrimage. For just a $5 fee, we all walked away with inspiration, confidence, and little pieces of hand-made joy.

This was a different experience for me, but one that I definitely want to come back to!

Sunscreen, shade, shake-ups

The heat was on Thursday at Cornerstone, and Friday may be even hotter. To help you beat the heat, here are some time-honored suggestions:

  • Drink lots of water, then drink some more. To quote many a youth pastor, “drink enough so you have to pee.” Sounds obvious, but I know people who have missed their favorite bands from not drinking enough water. After satisfying hydration needs with water, a lemon or strawberry shake up is refreshing.
  • Enjoy the shade, but don’t overheat in a tent without a breeze, either. You might even take a cue from some folks often found near The Asylum and pop open an umbrella for portable shade.
  • If it’s your turn to fetch ice for your campsite, believe me that it is remarkably satisfying to carry it on your head.
  • This might also be a good day to offer to make a run into Macomb for extra supplies…
  • Stay positive, laugh about the heat, help a friend or a total stranger, and enjoy another great day at Cornerstone!

The morning came too soon

Perhaps it was inspired by the retro music last night.

Perhaps it was inspired by going to bed sometime after 2am, knowing I had a date with a washer & dryer at 8am.

Perhaps it was inspired by a hot day Thursday, with an even hotter day predicted for Friday.

I’m not sure what, but I went to bed & woke up with these lyrics from 1992 in my head:

Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You’d already done

Some of my fellow bloggers are picking heat-inspired songs to listen to today. I doubt they’ll come up with this old ccm-ish Rich Mullins tune (in fact, I’m surprised *I* thought of it!), but I think it fits perfectly today. The morning has come way too soon, the day will most definitely be too hot, there’s a whole lot left, but there’s so much our God has already done!

Cornerstone-rs (is that what we call ourselves? I’m never sure) have celebrated what God has done a lot already this week.

I’ve heard female-fronted Witness 7 playing the Impact generator stage talking about surviving a suicide attempt. Lead singer for Paper Route, J.T. Daly, told the excited crowd at the Gallery about how this has been an incredibly hard year, but he still sees how God shows up. Some young guys from Joplin who make up Dead American Radio on the Ignite generator stage pointed out that their drum kit (and them!) had survived an EF5 tornado, with the lead singer sharing a remarkable story of surviving being yanked into the rotating cloud. Barry McGuire at the Jesus Rally talked about using way too many drugs, but encountering “Good News for Modern Man” and eventually surrendering to Christ.

It’s not just bands who celebrate… You can see the evidence of God at work as you walk by the Art Pilgrimage, notice people willingly choose to sit in hot tents to pray or listen to seminary-level talks, and catch snippets of conversations of friends gathered around campsites. It even happens for me: I’ve talked with friends, rejoicing that (for the first time in 2 years), I’m able to actually walk around the fest grounds without severe pain. I really & truly thank God for that.

There’s a lot left to do this week… There are more lemon shake-ups to be drunk. There’s a very hot day to be positive about. There’s at least one fried dough product in my future. There are several bands left on my must-not-miss list. There are seminars to attend. There are laughs to be had. The Cornerstone Coverage Team has a lot of videos to make (yes, videos are coming ). There are friends to hug. But, there’s already a lot that God has done!

Jesus Music – looking back & looking ahead

When you’re camping, I think you’re more likely to be thankful for things we usually take for granted. You might not know who all invented indoor plumbing, but you’re happy for those smart people. As you struggle to get enough wireless signal to check Facebook, you wonder what you would have done without a smart phone.

This year, Cornerstone is collectively thinking about the roots of something we all enjoy and often take for granted: music, specifically rock music from a Christian perspective.* By hosting a “Jesus Rally” on main stage Thursday night, we’ll be looking back at the Jesus Movement. This revival movement largely started on the west coast of the US in the late 1960s, then extended even into small towns throughout the Midwest during the 1970s. It was a time when the peace-love-and-rock&roll of the ’60s, changes in youth culture, and attitudes in the church combined to revolutionize how young Americans encountered their faith. Music was a huge part of the revival. Electric guitars and drums found their way into faith-based music, instead of just pipe organs. As people (mostly young people – but not all) encountered not just religion, but the real person of Jesus, they wrote songs about their faith. These songs became the first “Christian” rock.

The revolution these “Jesus Freaks” pioneered impacts each of us today. If your church sings more modern worship tunes or choruses than reformation-era hymns, if your hispter-ish church has ecumenical aspects, if you think that faith and social justice at least belong in the same building, if you think evangelism is about speaking the language of those around you more than delivering a rehearsed speech… you have likely been impacted by the Jesus Movement. If you like that you can listen to music about your faith in a style you actually like, then you, too, are the offspring of the original Jesus People.

I think most Americans know about Woodstock – but did we know that there were huge concerts with some of the early pioneers in Christian music, too? One of the largest, Explo ’72, was held in Dallas. They needed a space big enough for 80,000-100,000 people to see the show, so they actually used a huge piece of land that is now a highway. You don’t see that everyday. This sort of “Jesus Rally,” which in many cases is the precursor for Cornerstone, happened frequently in those days, with headliners such as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and Phil Keaggy.

After tonight, I will be able to say I’ve seen all 3 of those legendary rockers at Cornerstone.**

Of course, it’s not just about looking back – but looking ahead. Pioneers like these three, REZ, E Band, Petra & Daniel Amos led the way for the second wave (including such Cornerstone favorites as Steve Taylor, The Choir, etc.), many of whom inspired the bands of my era (like Five Iron Frenzy, Switchfoot, Anberlin, etc.)… and future acts (perhaps including some of those we’re seeing on the New Band Showcase or picking up slots at Generators) will carry it on in new & innovative ways. Cornerstone has a place for all of these.

I thank God for for indoor plumbing, easily accessed wireless internet… and yes, also for these “Jesus Music” founders.

*I’m not going to get into the whole “Christian music” as a term debate. 🙂

**I saw a press conference with Larry Norman at my very first Cornerstone. Sadly, he passed away not long ago. I think he’d be glad to know, years later, than the Devil does not have all the good music.




Free. Feast. Friends.

Free hugs? That’s, like, so 2007.

I’ll still happily take a free hug,  but free ramen is where it’s at these days.

Wander through a few competing hardcore bands, then head behind the Gallery stage and you’ll see an unexpected red and white tent that is not on any map. Get up the courage to go in, and you’ll see friendly people sharing what they have: camp stoves, boxes of ramen noodles, and the remnants of pbj. Signs ask you to not only clean up after yourself (your mom is not here, after all), but also to cook your own food. Considering that it is all free, that’s not such a bad trade.

I talked to the tent’s founder, now in her third or fourth year hosting this simple feast. I wanted to know what inspired her. Was she wanting her favorite band to stop by? Was  she wanting to teach others about loving your neighbor? I asked why she went to this much work, feeding hundreds of her fellow fest-goers. She responded in true Cornerstone fashion, authentically, down to earth, and rooted far more in real faith than plastic religion. She started giving away ramen as a way for a shy person to meet people and help them out, since everybody needs to eat. Judging from the crowd happily cooking, hanging out (and, yes, I think a few were cleaning up), I think she had met her goal.

Free ramen plus authenticity apparently equals community.

I can get behind that.

The dots are converging on Bushnell

If you could track it by GPS, you’d see it. From north, south, east, east overseas, just around the corner, and all points in between, people are making their way to one of my favorite places on earth: a farm outside of Bushnell, Ill. For the next week, this small “City of Industry” becomes the “City outside Cornerstone.”

Me, I’m waking up in a hotel somewhere near Dallas, unlikely to actually set foot on the grounds for any of the opening bands at the fest later today. Instead, my day will be filled road trip fun: laughing at the same old jokes, stopping at the same favorite spots, and hoping to not have a single Clark Griswold moment.

Enjoy your drive, everyone. And, as much as I want to support the local economy, let’s not do it via speeding tickets!

Watching us grow up

As I blogged about earlier, coming home from Cornerstone is always hard for me. There’s something wonderful about that little piece of farmland that makes it feel like a little glimpse of heaven. Now that I’m home, if I had to pick a theme to summarize this year at Cornerstone, it would be watching the festival continue to grow up.

Bands growing up

Seabird's Aaron Morgan, and his daughter. Photo by Steve White for www.cornerstonefestival.com

This was my fourth year to see Seabird play Cornerstone, and their sound has matured each year. These guys have been coming to Cornerstone for years, even before they became a band. Seeing lead singer Aaron Morgan bring up his adorable little girl, “to see Daddy make music” was a beautiful moment for this band that I hope to see in an evening show at the festival every year from here on out (and which I will be seeing in my home town of Austin, TX tonight!).

Another growing-up moment was found in Don’t Wake Aislin, a band that’s also been around Cornerstone for several years. This year, in addition to the well-executed generator stage shows, they put on a fun show at the Label Showcase. These guys & one girl seem to know a thing or two about how to get people into their music, with creative ideas like using fortune cookies to promote their shows and being friendly with fans on twitter and other social media.

Eisley, a band that returned after an 8-year hiatus, also ranks in my list of growing-up moments. I sincerely hope their label & CD release issues get worked out soon, since I’d love to see more new material from this very talented family! I think this show marks a good growing-up moment, not just for the band to return, but for the Millennial generation (the generation after X) to be more represented in major evening slots at the festival.

The festival itself

Two weeks ago, I would have predicted that the Main Stage move would be the talk of the fest, but it really wasn’t. Everybody ran with the changes, which I think demonstrate how Cornerstone is growing up again, in ways that will help keep the fest viable for the long-haul.

I see the festival growing to accommodate the democratization of music. So many bands aren’t label-dependent anymore (and may hardly associate with the “Christian Music Industry” whatever that is these days). And, they’re not all just coming to Cornerstone as one stop on the festival circuit. So, I see Cornerstone growing to have places for these bands to play (with all the improvements to the generator stage area, changes to encore tents, etc.)

I also see the festival growing to accommodate how we, as listeners, enjoy music. The first major map change since the festival moved to the Cornerstone Farm reflects how I see most people enjoying the fest these days. Attendees aren’t just plopping down at one tent and staying there all day; we’re wandering from show to show, catching moments of one band and moments of another. The revised map makes that a whole lot easier. It also greatly helped sound-bleed issues, so soft sweet music (like at the Chelsea Cafe) wasn’t overrun by equally-passionate musicians singing hardcore.

The festival is continuing to grow to be a place for the American church of tomorrow. The Youth Leader Oasis and seminar & Imaginarium topics are excellent ways to swap stories and encounter the big ideas about what’s next in the American church. I’m excited to see how the fest will continue to tackle those big ideas.

And… the personal side

Cornerstone 20ten was another year filled with amazing friendships. I drive to Cornerstone with just my husband (who I actually met at the festival in 1998 – here’s a photo of us from this year’s coverage) and we spend the week with friends from all over. It’s always good to see each other face-to-face (normally we only interact online) and see what has changed. I sit by my sister-in-law at most evening shows and get to know her better. I talk to my friend Heather who works with JPUSA’s shelter and get inspired for community & causes (and quilting!). I laugh with friends and re-remember that I’m not alone. Cornerstone is a moment to mark how thankful I am that God put all of us in a place to grow as individuals and grow together through Cornerstone.

I love how Cornerstone is becoming this kind of community for even more people – it’s not just us internet geeks who find lasting friends there: it seems to be happening for the next generations, too.

I’m happy to have been part of Cornerstone 20ten and look forward to seeing all of us continue to grow up next year.