Dusty Wallace

Central Ohio Media Professional  - Owner/Artist at WallaceCreative.net

What We Think We Know

I am most certainly not an athlete. I appreciate athletes. Being born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, I love watching OSU football. My wife and her family being from Cincinnati have gifted me with a rooting interest in the Bengals and the Reds. I also weirdly love sports radio, especially local sports radio.

Something I hear talked about on sports radio is how each time football players go to the next level (high school to college, college to pro) there is a little bit of re-teaching that has to happen. In other words, the things that worked in the player's previous system doesn't always translate to the next level. That's why you always hear about measurables, raw ability, etc. around draft time. Some skills, tricks, techniques, etc. may have worked at the previous level... but to move on, you have to delete it... replace it with something meant for the next level.

Every time I hear conversations like that, I think about a "truth" I thought I knew as a kid...

Around the time I was in kindergarten and first grade, my mom, 2 of my brothers, and myself lived in an apartment with this "yard" that was shared by all of the other units on our little block... I'm assuming it was less yard and more of a common area??? Why not. Our apartment complex was maybe a 10 minute drive from the Port Columbus airport.

Especially in warmer months, while you were outside, it was extremely common to see and hear airplanes over head. On many, you would see the cloud-like streams of the jet-exhaust.

I remember looking up at the sky, watching these planes while my New Kids On The Block cassette tape played in the background, seeing these clouds of exhaust smoke billow out of their engines. If you watched long enough... you'd see these billows expand as the plane got farther and farther away. 

No joke... Until probably the 4th grade... I thought that's how clouds were made. Don't judge me!

I know it sounds ridiculous... but it's true!

I never really voiced that belief, because I didn't think it was important. I assumed it was common knowledge. And frankly, being misinformed about the water-cycle at the age of 6 really had no bearing on how I carried on with daily life.

So... why mention football draft talk, and an embarrassing misconception I had as a child? Because of this...

We only know what we know, and that's ok. But it's also ok to know new things.

Vague? You betcha'

Fortune cookie-ish? No doubt.

... but it's true.

Resting on pure athleticism as a QB in college is ok in college... but if you never learn to read defensive coverage, you probably won't last in the NFL.

Thinking airplanes make clouds is ok at 6 years old... but at 10 years old, believing that will make the graders of your standardized fall out of their chair laughing.

Apply that same rule to life... to music... to love... to faith... to anything. If you're not learning, you're not growing.

P.S. - I hear Southwest has great non-stop rates on their cloud-makers right now.

The Make Food Not War Playlist for Nazareth Restaurant & Deli - 2/15/16

I had the great pleasure of loaning a PA and a playlist loaded iPad to Nazareth Restaurant & Deli today.

After such tragedy took place in that restaurant, it's so inspiring to see so many gather to support their family, staff, patrons, and victims of the attack.

Check out an Apple Music version of the playlist I made fir the event by CLICKING HERE!

Please continue to pray for Hany, his family, and all of those impacted by the attack at Nazareth,

5 Things Worship Leaders Can Learn From Music Teachers

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono

Music teachers are great. I'm married to one... so I'm a little biased... but I think it's true. There is no way I could do what I do for living if it wasn't for my music teachers growing up. I originally went to school to teach music. I was able to teach music, theater, etc. at a private school for a few years. I take supplemental contracts here-and-there to assist with and direct school athletic bands and so on... so even though teaching music isn't my 9-5, it is still a big part of my life.

This weekend, I was with my wife, Melinda, at the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's been great for a multitude of reasons, but as I go to these sessions, and interact with these educators (and soon to be educators) it solidifies a feeling that I've had for awhile. That feeling is... worship leaders and music teachers share a lot in common. Just like their title would suggest, these music teachers can teach us a thing or two.

1. Communication Is Key

Throughout essentially every session I sat through, each clinician formally or informally bolstered the importance of communication. These teachers are communicating with students, administrators, parents, other teachers... and it's important. Sometimes communicating with parents is easier for some teachers than communicating with administrators, or vice-versa. All needed forms of communication, however, are important.

Of course, just like music teachers, we need to exercise boundaries in communication, but cutting it off all together is not good for anyone.

How are you communicating with your team? Your pastors? Technicians? What do you want to make better about it?

2. Assessing & Developing Skill Is Important

In a sense... you can practice, you can get better, so you can help control YOUR skill level... but you can't control the base skill level of your team. BUT you can help enable your team to grow musically, and in-turn, enhance their skill.

Something my wife specializes in is curriculum and assessment in the music classroom. Assessment in any arts classroom can be tough. In most cases, a student's musical progress isn't easily objectified on a scantron. So, these teachers need to be really intentional about their assessment. They have to groom it for each class. It has to be personal as well as corporate. You may have a choir class full of students that need individual growth and assessment... but they also operate as a whole, as an ensemble. Worship teams are no different.

If you're like most churches, you're not just hiring out all of your worship team musician and technician spots to paid-professionals. We have volunteers of varying skill level, with even more varying backgrounds. In the words of my wife, assessment needs to be "R.E.A.L." --- Reliable, Efficient, Applicable, and Life Long. You can read up on Melinda's REAL model by CLICKING HERE!

Essentially, REAL makes sure your assessment is quality. It makes it so you can trust the data you track so you can communicate it well, use it to plan for the future, and use it to be able to give your student/team member critical feedback and "feed-forward" to help them improve in the future.

For example, in a rehearsal if your bassist is having trouble with a rhythm, you can either get teach them how to play the rhythm in that song specifically OR you can actually teach them the rhythm (and its principles) so they can apply it to any song that uses it.  

3. Advocacy Is Paramount

A pretty regular issue for many music educators is that they are typically supervised, judged by, and overall talked about, by people who aren't necessarily musicians/artists in their own right. Not every student has a musical family. Not every administrator understands the importance of a music program.  

There are people in your church that probably assume you sit in your office all day playing guitar. They may also think that leading worship and playing music on stage is "fun" every single time. It's unrealistic to expect every person to understand the skill, ability, time, etc. it takes to do what you do. So... Taking another page from the Music Teacher handbook, Worship Leaders need to promote healthy advocacy. 

It's easy to complain, it's easy to want people to recognize the amount of work you put in... But you know what else helps (better)? People talking up what the worship team means to them, to others, and so on. Enable your biggest stakeholders to be your advocates. It's hard to squelch all that positive energy.

Imagine if your church was buzzing about how great having a worship team is rather than saying than about how hard the worship leader works. How would that help shape how you do ministry?

4. Find Out How They Learn

For music teachers, they = students.  

For worship leaders, they = team members and your congregation.  

Music teachers always have to take into account the developmental stages of their students. Long form essays on musical form and history are not appropriate for 6 year olds. Sitting on carpet squares singing preschool songs is not appropriate for 17 year olds. 

Of course, how you help develop your musicians and techs varies based on their base skill level and many other factors... But what about our congregations? Remember, worship music and its language doesn't always make sense to the seeker. If someone is new to the faith, singing really intense songs depicting the crucifixion may freak them out. However, for the lifelong believers who mark their calendars for Good Friday worship... Those songs are necessary. Of course, I'm speaking in generalities, but I think you get my point.

The songs you lead help enhance worship... but they can also enhance spiritual, and critical thinking about God at the same time.

5. Not Every Student. Not Everyday.

This is a saying music educators refer to when it comes to assessing their classes. Some bands, choirs, and general music classes are small. Others are 100+ students. How do you hear from all of them? Work individually with all of them? Get feedback from all of them? Well... Some days are better than others. Each teacher finds their own tips and tricks. However, it's about assessing and progressing in increments and over time. This is something we can apply to worship leading.  

You won't be able to have a deep musical, personal, or spiritual conversation with every team member after every rehearsal. You won't be able to catch every new visitor after every service. You have to divide it up. Plan. Pray for discernment in each situation. Offer other lines of communication with your team and church newcomers. Just like in the classroom... some of your team members won't desire or require much "extra" interaction with you. Others may desperately desire it all the time.

Whoever needs you, be as present as possible instead of spreading yourself thin trying to catch every person every time.

But let's be honest... these are only 5 of the million and one things music teachers can teach us!

When Hating Stuff Isn't Cool

"You think it's cool to hate things, and it's not. It's boring. Talk about what you love and keep quiet about what you don't." - Elizabeth Olsen as "Zibby" in Josh Radnor's "Liberal Arts"

There are many reasons I find myself intrigued with Josh Radnor's work. 1) How I Met Your Mother --- Come on! Great show! 2) He's from Ohio (woot woot!). - 3) I appreciate the tone of his work.

In his movie, Liberal Arts, Elizabeth Olsen's character (Zibby) hits Radnor's character (Jesse) with the above quote. The quote is deep. It has many layers... and if applied in different contexts, it can conjure up many different talks and potential praises and/or disagreements.

It's really easy to put something down, to say you hate it. In a world where status is king, Rankism can sneak-in to our everyday conversations. 

In 2010,  Robert W. Fuller Ph.D. penned an article for Psychology Today describing Rankism as...

"Rankism is an assertion of superiority. It typically takes the form of putting others down. It's what "Somebodies" do to "nobodies." Or, more precisely, it is what people who think they're Somebodies do to people they take for nobodies.

It turns out that rankism is the source of most man-made suffering. So, if we could get rid of it, we would be a lot happier..."

You don't have to scroll too far down your newsfeeds to find people bashing other people, media, arts, books, and so on. Sometimes we get so heated about something that we don't like, that we keep on providing them with free publicity by plastering it all over our respective profiles (remember, all publicity is good publicity, right?).

I tend to think, in most situations, that Radnor's advice is helpful. Talk about what you love and keep quiet about what you don't.

Do you want people to turn away from media you disagree with? Tell them about the media you do agree with.

Do you want people to stay away from voting for a particular candidate? Tell them about the candidate you support.

Do you want people to hear your side of social justice issues? Share your side, don't bash others.

Example: Instead of saying, "I hate rainy days." try, "I love sunny days." --- Rainy days playing second fiddle in your mind is implied and your chances of putting-off the person who prefers rainy days has dropped significantly.

If you're sitting here reading, trying to poke holes in this article, for example, let me ask you... why are you trying so hard to do so? Does it make you feel better? Don't let rankism sneak-in on you. It's totally OK if you don't like what I have to say, but some other people might like it.

We live in a world where it is easy to identify people, and groups of people, by things they hate. If you want to change the world, even a little, don't let hate be your first impression. 

A Decade Of Facebook

How long I've been married - 5 years

Longest I've ever owned a car - 5 years

How long I've owned a house - 2.5 years

How long I've had a Facebook account - 10 years

... that's right. At some point in 2016, I will have had a Facebook account for 10 years.

Now, my reason for mentioning this has nothing to do with social commentary on why people should or should not partake in social media. I just think it's interesting.

10 years ago, there were no iPads... no tablets, really. 

10 years ago, Green day won an Grammy for Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

10 years ago, Miley Cyrus was best known as Hannah Montana.

10 years ago, Taylor Hicks won American Idol.

10 years ago, Steve Irwin was killed by a sting ray.

10 years ago, bird flu was a big deal... and speaking of birds... Dick Cheney accidentally shot that guy while hunting for quail.

And 10 years ago, in my dorm room, I signed up for a Facebook account posting status updates that had to begin with the word "is".

Find some more fun pop culture stuff from 2006 by CLICKING HERE!

Now that I got you down memory lane a bit... did you think social media was going to be what is today?

I mean... we had AIM screen-names that became obsolete. Myspace got... well, weird. So why wouldn't we think any other social media (or all of it) would eventually go the way of the dinosaur?

My wife tells a great story that illustrates the social media paradigm shift. It goes a little something like this...

When my wife began working on her undergrad in music education (2006), all of her professors told her to stay off of Myspace, Facebook, blogs... aka... any social media (of that time). They did this under the banner that social media was "unprofessional" and other such things. You don't want your future employers to see your drunken party pictures, do you???? 

Fast forward to 2013, when she began her masters work (also in music education)... and now all of a sudden her professors are saying that she needs be on Twitter. She needs to be on Facebook. She needs to maintain a blog. Why? Because social media is a living resume and a great tool for professional networking.

So why bring this up? Why run-down some random '06 trivia and tell you a story about my wife?

It's about change, really.

For example (staying with the Facebook theme), my Facebook posts in 2006 were more ironic and/or angsty. My Facebook posts in 2016 are mostly pictures of my daughter. In 2006, social media was "bad" for your career. In 2016, social media is a must-have for many careers.

So let this rambling lead me to one closing thought (however rhetorical or vague it may be)...

When something new or different comes along, are you going to be afraid of its potential to do you harm? Are you going to assume it will phase out? OR... when something new comes along, are you going to be a little more optimistic?

Lofty Expectations

I was recently asked over a dinner conversation about my most meaningful worship experience. 

This can be a loaded question depending on who you're talking to. 

Examples of variables here: How does this person define worship? Are they generalizing music and production into the word? Do they mean at church? Do they mean with other people? ... The list most definitely goes on. 

Regardless of those variables, the answer has been the same for me for about 8 years now.  

In 2008, I traveled with some friends to do some extended Katrina relief work in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was my second trip to the city after the hurricane. 

We were traveling with some other folks from our church, lots of college-aged people like myself at the time. We teamed up with a wonderful organization down in NOLA called The Gathering. In so many ways, it was a great trip. Click HERE to learn more about The Gathering!

One of my dearest friends was the lead pastor on the trip. His name is Kevin Heckathorn and he is now the Senior Pastor of Johnstown Presbyterian Church in Johnstown, Oh. Click HERE to find out more about them!

We happened to be on our trip during Holy Week. We hadn't really planned any kind of service, but come Maundy Thursday... Kevin offered up an opportunity for us to worship and hear scripture together.  

We were staying in an (for lack of a better term) abandoned school that was stripped down to the studs and concrete (for the most part), and converted into short-term lodging for groups like ours. The school campus had an old-timey, detached gym that was its own building entirely. The gym had no electricity. The floor (which I'm assuming was once covered in hardwood) was just dirt. It was huge and full of echo. This is where we opted to have our worship gathering.  

It was optional, nobody was forced to come. A few of us with guitars and chord-books (pre iPad days) set up some folding chairs with flashlights to serve as our little bandstand.  

The vast room was lit with a few candles, and a couple stray flashlights.

There was no set list. We just kind of played and sang... We'd point to whatever song seemed right in the book, and kept going with music. There were no bulletins, lyric sheets, projection screens... Frankly, you had to walk to another building to even use a restroom.  

Kevin gave a message. He and others read scripture. We sang. We prayed. There were times that words got so lost in the echo of the room, but you felt their meaning, even if you couldn't pick out every word.   

I don't remember exactly how many people were there... Or how good our made-up-on-the-spot-harmonies were. What I do remember is that time stood still. The nearness of the Spirit was a presence so thick that was mixed in with the muggy NOLA air, the smell of dirt, the sound of praises and passages and prayers. 

I often pray with my worship team that we, and all who are coming to worship with us, would be free of any expectation other than meeting with the true, real, living God. You may come to expect fancy lights, a printed liturgy, HD screens, concert quality audio, the best choir, the most amazing guitar solo, the most charismatic pastor... and it's wonderful that so many churches have the ability to do all of those things... but those things are by no means a necessity for worship. Can they help engage? Sure! But your tastes are not mine, and mine are not yours... our expectations as a church are constantly aligning and contrasting on an elusive venn diagram

I think the reason that "happening" in NOLA impacted me so deeply, was because I didn't have room for any lofty expectations on form... and thus, I was focused on function. 

In my opinion, Darrell Evans is like the godfather of modern contemporary worship. A couple years ago, around the time of his "Awesome God Is He" album release, he was interviewed by Alex from Jesus Freak Hangout about "struggling" to be "in the audience" during worship. He gave an excellent response that fits right in line with my NOLA experience...

Darrell: I used to struggle with sitting in the crowd and thinking about song selection, flow of ministry, and the musicianship. I've gotten over it because Jesus is worthy of my worship regardless of any of that stuff. In the end, I should be able to engage in congregational worship if the worship leader is playing the spoons and singing "Kumbayah." (read the whole article by CLICKING HERE)

Each time we gather to worship... it's an amazing opportunity that we should treasure. Don't let lofty expectations take that away from you.

Warm Christmas

On November 19th, 2015, Eric and I had the pleasure of interviewing author, and Floodgate Productions co-founder, Gary Molander on The Plugged In Church. We covered a lot of topics, but we spent some time talking about media and production for the church during the Christmas/Advent season.

Gary succinctly and beautifully stated something that Eric and I had talked about before, and that 'something' was what people are "looking" for from church at Christmastime. He said...

"When people come to your churches in December, they're looking for two things. They're looking for home, and they're looking for a place that's warm." - Gary Molander
Catch the whole conversation by CLICKING HERE!

I absolutely love that thought for all of us church artists, pastors, and so-on... but I think it rings true for how we conduct ourselves, not just during Christmas, but all the time.

Imagine the work holiday party you don't want to go to. That one side (or part) of the family you would rather not see. Your pet knocking over the tree. Getting short with the store-clerk, not because of something they did, but because you're sweating your gift budget.

What if in all of those situations you asked yourself, "Am I being warm?" --- Are you being loving? Gentle? Kind? 

As believers, we are gifted with the Christmas season in many ways. When it comes to our faith and sharing it, Christmas is a unique gift. This time of year is one that tends to warm hearts to Jesus enough to let them step into a church. How are we doing? Are we taking advantage of this warmth? Are we extending that atmosphere with our words, gestures, body language? 

Be loving. Be engaged. Be expectant. Be warm. 

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Fear & All Its Friends

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”
Excerpt From: C. S. Lewis. “A Grief Observed.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/hFSFv.l

Some time ago, Eric and I were talking on The Plugged In Church Podcast about how to start podcasting. We gave a little behind the scenes chat about how we operate, some other tips, tricks, etc. We also shared some of our own favorite podcasts, what we like listening to, and so on. 

I found my "likes" kind of interesting.

My favorite podcasts are typically personal. Not always in the way of sharing inner-most feelings... but just... personal. It can be humorous, informative, technical... but I'm going to stick with it most if it is personal. If the host is really speaking naturally, diving-in to inside jokes, personal experience, I'm probably digging it.

I like that same style in literature.

That's part of the reason I like C.S. Lewis (I mean... a billion people do). But I never really got into Narnia or anything like that. On-top of the typical love of "Mere Christianity", books like "The Problem of Pain" and "A Grief Observed" serve as reference material in my library. 

These books are personal. These books show personal processing. They put to words feelings that most people will experience at some point.

Recently, I reopened "A Grief Observed" and found myself taken (again) by the first stanza of the first page of the first chapter (the quote you see at the top of this post).

For Lewis, the emotional manifestation of grief was synthesizing how he felt while afraid. I think we all deal with that.

I think we all have emotions and feelings that have blurred boundaries with one another. 

As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety since my youth, blended/blurred emotions are pretty standard hat. Sometimes, I get to the point where I go, "Why do I feel (insert random emotion here)."... Like I'm blindsided by my own feelings. So all of this leads me to one thought... even though it has taken awhile for me to get to it...

We really never know what someone is going through.

... seriously. We don't, really.

We may have insight. We may have similar experience. We may have studied all kinds of psychological cases and memorized the algorithms to every personality test. We may even be able to help someone dealing with strange emotional turmoil... but I don't believe it's possible to really know exactly how someone feels, or what all of their circumstances are. There are far too many variables.

Someone you know may be like Lewis, dealing with grief that's manifesting as fear. Your friend may have anger manifesting as sadness. Your coworker may have anxiety manifesting as fatigue. 

So maybe saying "I know how you feel." shouldn't be our first response to a friend dealing with emotional hardship. Perhaps we should just come alongside them, and prayerfully recover with them in their brokenness.

Reminder To Love

Thanksgiving 2015 was good.

Melinda and I celebrated our daughter Cadence's first Thanksgiving with multiple stops in multiple cities to see friends and family. There was food. There was laughing. There was lack-of-baby-napping... all the things you could hope for. There was, however, a slight hiccup while traveling.

Melinda's family lives a little over 2 hours away from us. On long holiday weekends, we try to visit for a day or so. This Thanksgiving was no exception. We drove the baby to sleep, we listened to music... talked about work, and home, and memories. We had already eaten 2 delicious meals... it was a good day.

About halfway into our trip, on a long stretch of interstate, we drove by a wreck... a big wreck.

There were a bunch of people stopped, helping the victims... Enough so that they were waving all of us rubberneckers on by. We must have just missed the actual accident by mere minutes, as there was no emergency personnel on the scene.

We drove like everyone else, acknowledging the waves from the early-arriving good samaritans to "keep on" and not cause another accident by being distracted. But as we drove past... we saw a man. He was laying on the ground... receiving CPR.

The air was sucked out of our car. Cadence was safely sleeping in her carseat. The radio was on a quiet classical station. All of the Norman Rockwell-ian banter ceased. 

Later on, we saw news postings of what happened. And frankly, I'm sure I could post a link from the news story in this post... but it just feels "not right" to do so. The long and the short of it is, the man did not survive. 

So why do I share this? It's not heart-warming. It's sad. It's scary, even. There's a lot of "moral to the story" type angles I could close with. I could coin anything from driving safe during the holidays to keeping close the precious moments we have. Those things are all true, for sure. But I don't think that's what is resonating with me.

I keep thinking, "I hope that man knew he was loved." 

... knew he was loved by family and friends. And even if he didn't know that love, I hope he knew that the originator of love, God himself loves him very much. 

Only so many people can help when people are in physical harm, malfunction, or illness... but everyone can help with preventative medicine for the soul... the heart... the mind. That medicine is love. Let's administer it freely.