About a year-and-a-half ago, I had the idea that it might be a good idea to mark turning 40 (which happened last month) with a 40-day fast from food and media. My goal (as detailed here) was "to spend my extra time reading the Bible, praying, and writing about what God may have should he grant me another 40 years."
The media fast was easy: I didn't touch Facebook, Twitter, or the blog and I didn't miss it. The food fast was much harder, as I attempted a water-only fast (I did have a couple of cups of tea after Day 4 just to taste something other than my mouth). Things were going well enough until my doctor pulled the plug on the fast at the end of Day 10 because I had too many ketones in my blood and could have developed serious kidney problems. While disappointed, I was glad it was her decision to end the fast rather than mine (though she never wrote me that prescription for Five Guys Burger & Fries like I asked).
I lost twenty pounds in those ten days and learned how much food can be an idol for me. I also had a great time reading the Old Testament prophets, listening to God convey his love for his people even in the midst of their sin and rebellion and writing out prayers of confession for myself and supplication for others. Finally, I thanked God for the gift of life and asked him for his favor on another 40 years if he would be so gracious. I had no agenda for this time other than to seek God and to read, listen, and write. In the spirit of the prophets, I even grew a beard that didn't look half bad.
On day 39 of this 40-day period, I received an email out of the blue from Julie Serven, wife of Doug (of three-year Mizzou roommate/TwentySomeone co-author fame). After wishing me an early birthday, she wrote:
"I wanted to ask if you would have any interest in pursuing a new career direction? Our Head of School has recently taken a position with a school in Alabama. He has done a great job the last couple of years and has helped in taking the school to a more developed level.
We need someone who is both visionary but also very administratively gifted. Someone with teaching experience, preferably in high school, and experience with managing and working with people. Someone who appreciates the value of a home component in education and is willing to encourage and partner with parents interested in doing so. Someone who could help train the teachers, pastor the parents, and love the kids. Sound like anyone you know? It does to me."
Somewhat dumbfounded by Julie's email and the opportunity she was asking me to consider, I finished my 40 days asking God if this would be something he would have me pursue. While I have absolutely loved teaching these past five years (four at Westminster Christian Academy, one at Heritage Classical School), I had wondered more than once whether I was using my administrative and leadership gifts to the fullest extent that I could. This question was not one of ambition but of stewardship: Was there more God was calling me to do for the Kingdom in the realm of Christian education? Was this role with Veritas an opportunity I was to trust him for in doing so?
After talking with Megan and seeking counsel from several here and elsewhere who know and love us, we decided it was worth pursuing. I composed a letter and resume, notified references, and sent along my testimony and philosophy of education. A week later, the Veritas board flew Megan and me to Oklahoma City for an exhaustingly thorough weekend-long interview; ten days later (after doing due diligence of considering other applicants), they sent us a very gracious official offer; last weekend, I made one more trip to meet with the board to discern face-to-face if indeed this was God's will for all involved. By the end of the meeting, it seemed good to all of us; thus, I accepted the role.
The school, Veritas Classical Academy, now has 260 students Pre-K through 11th (they are adding 12th grade next year) and currently meets at a church in south OKC. Because of interest in the Edmond/North OKC area, they will be starting a north grammar campus (Pre-K to 5th) with 50 students this coming fall. Plans are to open a south grammar campus in Norman the year after that (starting with 50 students), and then move to purchase land/building for a central upper school campus the year or two after that, the idea being that there would be several feeder grammar schools and one central upper school (6th to 12th, 7th to 12th, or 9th to 12th). They follow a blended (university) model (half in-class instruction and half home instruction), seek to be reasonably (as opposed to maniacally) classical, and are trans-denominational as a school (though the board seeks to be winsomely Reformed in setting and implementing policies).
My role as Head of School will focus primarily on areas of creating and modeling the school's climate and values, recruiting, hiring, and training faculty, leading and counseling staff and parents as they educate their students, resolving conflict and handling disciplinary matters, and working with the board on strategic planning. Secondarily, I will also be responsible (with the help of others) for the alignment and development of curriculum, public relations, fundraising, finance, and other matters of policy and administration pertaining to the school. Oh, and I'll still get to teach a class or two each semester. It's a big job, but one I believe my education and experience (not to mention the wealth of mentoring relationships and supportive friendships I've benefitted from over the years) have prepared me for.
One other pleasant convergence: Doug and Julie have been asked to plant a new PCA church – City Presbyterian – in downtown OKC, starting with an initial gathering of core group members this summer. As if building and leading not just a school but an eventual school system weren't enough, helping to plant an urban church with dear friends we've known for 20 years (Doug and Julie were Megan's NavStaff at Oklahoma State after the three of us graduated from Mizzou together) just seems to be icing on the cake. Who knows? Doug and I might even get ThirtySomewhere finished now that we'll be in the same town.
Spring has brought more than April showers or May flowers for the Dunham family, and we're grateful to God for his leading. While we're looking down the barrel of what promises to be a very intense 3-4 months, we are trusting God to provide above and beyond what we need emotionally, physically, and spiritually as he continues to guide us in this new step of faith. Here's a look at what's ahead (thanks in advance for any prayers on our behalf):
10-11: Westminster Christian Academy Parent/Teacher Conferences
11-12: Crossroads Presbyterian Fellowship Women's Retreat
19-24: Spring Break (house-hunting in Oklahoma City)
28: Opening Day (JV Baseball)
6: First Week at Veritas (Oklahoma City)
16-18: Association of Classical & Christian Schools Conference (Atlanta)
24-25: Biblical Imagination Conference (Apple Creek, OH)