Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

Some Blessings…No Turning Back

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Marriage, Places, Veritas, Young Ones on September 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm

A couple weeks ago, I lamented that I had Some Regrets…No Doubts about our move to Oklahoma. As promised at the end of that entry, it's time to write the follow-up post.

Today marks 100 days on the job as Head of School of Veritas Classical Academy. In making it this far, I've been so grateful for the kindness, care, and friendship shown to my family, and the many prayers and expressions of support for my leadership at Veritas. During the past 100 days, I’ve listened – to parents and students, to faculty and staff, to our Board of Directors and the Lord – to learn what of the past seven years has made the school who we are now, all while planning and positioning us for the next seven (and beyond). It's been incredibly challenging, but as personally fulfilling as anything I've done.

I love getting to see my kids during their school days, but strangely, this has been more awkward for me than for them. During the first week, I felt really embarrassed for them when they saw me and ran up and hugged me during the day. I wonder how long their enthusiasm for Dad will last, but since they don't seem to mind or feel pressure to behave differently, I'm happy to let it continue as long as it will (I just need to get used to it).

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In addition to my own kids, I'm enjoying the other 243 students enrolled at our two campuses. While I'm still learning names and trying desperately to keep up with everything required to run a school, the kids have been kind and open with me, as have many of their parents. One particularly enjoyable bunch of students is my Headmaster's Conclave, a lunch group of juniors and seniors. We meet every other week to talk about their studies, their lives, and their perspectives on how we can improve Veritas. It's been enlightening to hear from them (and they've been more than willing to provide "the new guy" with their honest thoughts).

Craig with VCA Students (72 dpi)

I could go on – about our teaching staff (all of whom I love); about our administrative team (all of whom are so committed to the school); about our board of directors (all of whom I feel safe with); and about classical Christian education (all of which I am learning so much, but still have so much to learn). It's been great – really exhausting, but great.

On the non-school front, I'm encouraged with the relationships we're beginning to cultivate in our neighborhood, which has thankfully turned out to be much more socially and ethnically diverse than I imagined. Over Labor Day weekend, we organized a cul-de-sac party and over 30 people turned out, many of whom had lived here for years and were re-introducing themselves to each other as they had just not kept up over time. The girls have made friends in the neighborhood and the weather has finally cooled off to make being outside an option (though actually being home remains my biggest challenge).

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As you may know, one of the other reasons we moved to OKC was to help my college roommate/co-author, Doug Serven, plant City Presbyterian, the first PCA church in the Oklahoma City limits. Here's a picture from one of our first leadership meetings in June:

Church Plant Couples

And here's a picture from our first "preview" worship service this past Sunday evening:

As you can see, our chairs runneth over. Granted, not all of these people are going to stick around as part of City Pres (several were simply well-wishers from other churches while others were there to see one of the nine baptisms that took place), but it was fun to pull everything together and provide an opportunity for folks to hear the Scriptures proclaimed, to partake in the sacraments of communion and baptism, and to visualize the future of Oklahoma City with a Reformed church in its downtown.

As we don't anticipate formally launching a weekly service until perhaps the spring, we'll be meeting in City Groups (ours meets on Tuesday evenings) and in Sunday night vision rallies until then. However, it was especially fun for me to see Megan enjoy offering of her behind-the-scenes gifts of service and hospitality (not to mention picture-taking), as well as see our girls jump in and help set up, pull off, and pick up after the service. Having been dragged along to so many of the leadership meetings over the summer, they felt real ownership for the service and the church, which was hugely exciting.

In thinking through all of this – school, neighborhood, church, family – I keep coming back to Psalm 16, which has, for the past six years or so, become one of my fortunate favorites:

    Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
    I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
        I have no good apart from you.”
    As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
        in whom is all my delight.
    The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
        their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
        or take their names on my lips.
    The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
        you hold my lot.
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
    I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
        in the night also my heart instructs me.
    I have set the LORD always before me;
        because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
        my flesh also dwells secure.
    For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
        or let your holy one see corruption.
    You make known to me the path of life;
        in your presence there is fullness of joy;
        at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16 ESV)

Some blessings…no turning back. Grateful to God for who he is and all he is doing.

On the 10th Anniversary of September 11th

In Musicians, Places, Thought, TV on September 11, 2011 at 5:16 am


Never mind the fact that it’s my favorite U2 song and the single greatest performance in the history of SuperBowl half-time shows, but I remember how healing and powerful U2’s 9/11 tribute was in February of 2002. Even watching it now, I’m blown away by the visual of bright hope emerging from the dark background of tragedy.

Maybe this (among other reasons) is why, ten years later, my sense of grief is not as personally paralyzing as it seems for others. Some may roll their eyes, but in reflecting back, I think Bono and the boys helped me deal with it then…not completely unaffectedly I’m sure, but in a way that allowed me to move on.

“Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building, then burning down love
Burning down love, and when I go there
I go there with you, it’s all I can do”

For those struggling with today’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings, I hope this can be of some comfort to you. (Thanks to my friend, Al Li, for reminding me of this tribute.)

Some Regrets…No Doubts

In Calling, Family, Friends, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on August 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

On Friday, the girls and I got home from school around 2 p.m., as Veritas is only in session on Fridays until 12:30. My normal "Daddy's home" routine is to greet Megan (usually with a hug), greet the dogs (also usually with a hug), and then head upstairs, change clothes, and collapse on the bed for a period of time in direct proportion to what kind of day/week it's been.

As we just finished our first week – a very good but exhausting one – my time on the bed went a little longer than normal. After 45 minutes of repeatedly falling asleep but then being awakened by one of four daughters, I gave up the idea of a nap and came downstairs. The girls wanted to watch something, but I was not in the mood for Phineas & Ferb; thus, we pulled up Chariots of Fire on Netflix and enjoyed.

There's a scene toward the end of the film in which Erid Liddell can only watch the finals of the race he was favored to win (the 100-yard dash) because his Sabbath conviction stood in the way of participating in the qualifying heats the previous Sunday. As Liddell is sitting in the stands waiting for the race to begin, a friend leans over to him and asks if he has any regrets. Liddell's response: "Some regrets…no doubts."

I resonated with Liddell's sentiment. Moving to Oklahoma has hardly been an awful thing and I have no doubts we are supposed to be here. But I'd be lying if I said there weren't some regrets that I've been processing and feeling this summer.

I suppose the first source of grief is just the loss of time and money that goes with any major transition. In thinking back through all the hours invested praying and wrestling with the pros and cons, asking questions and communicating decisions, selling a house and buying a house, packing, loading, moving, unloading, and unpacking, and paying for it all, I regret the toll our move required and the burden it placed on our family. A look at my minimal reading list or our bank account confirms that it's been a tough seven months.

Second, I regret distancing the relationships we had in St. Louis (as well as the ones previously distanced in Colorado Springs before we moved from there). We've always been fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with good people, but that fact is not always comforting when you have to leave them behind. I miss those I used to work with, went to church with, laughed with, argued with, and just loved being with. These are wounds that I don't anticipate healing completely.

Third, I miss the simplicity of "just being a teacher" and being able to focus exclusively on the science and art of teaching. I first felt this reality in May, when I finished teaching and started my new role as Head of School ten days later (moving in between), but being around kids this past week really made me miss the classroom and the discussions I got to have with students all day long.

Fourth, I miss the Midwest and the common sense spirit of keeping your head down and your nose to the grindstone because, well, that's what people do in the Midwest. Granted, the Southwest is perhaps not that different, but while I never thought I'd miss the weather in St. Louis, after living through the hottest summer on record in Oklahoma, I confess I miss that as well.

Finally, I regret the potential risks I've exposed my family (and others) to in leaving a well-established, well-respected, and well-funded school in an amazing brand new building run by seasoned leaders who know what they're doing in order to be a first-time Head of School in a fledgling education movement that rents limited space every week in two churches just to have a place to meet three days a week. I won't say the pressure's overwhelming yet, but there is pressure, and I feel it on a variety of levels.

Some regrets, yes. Plenty of them. But no doubts. None at all. I'll write about why in my next post.

You Know You’re in Amish Country When…

In Places, Thought on June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Win a Buggy!

Maybe I'm more Amish than I think, as I would so take the buggy over a trip to Disney.

In Apple Creek, Ohio, for our fifth Biblical Imagination conference, this one here:

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Follow me on Twitter for conference quotables from Mike Card over the next day-and-a-half, or visit the site for details as to where and when we're going next.

Biblical Imagination Set

Bass Pro Meets the Rookies

In Nature, Oklahoma City, Places, Young Ones on June 21, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Shotgun Nam

This picture cracks me up. Seeing my girls so intently "shoot" guns at Bass Pro makes me wonder if Oklahoma has already changed us in just ten days (into what, I'm not sure I want to know). More vividly (at least to me), watching them awkwardly aim at targets posted all over the display felt oddly familiar: this is what I've been doing as Head of School as well. The difference? The girls' targets don't move; mine do.

Conquering Campers

A Primer on Conferencing

In Books, Calling, Church, Education, Places, Thought, Veritas on June 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm

  Repairing the Ruins

I'm here in Atlanta with 944 other folks for the 17th annual Association of Classical and Christian Schools conference. It's quite a gathering, with some neat folks from all over the country in attendance, and I'm grateful for the chance to join them.

The schedule is pretty straightforward: morning plenary, two morning workshops, afternoon plenary, two afternoon workshops. Evenings are free to process or collapse, depending on your temperament. The stage is sparse and the visuals non-existent (two critiques I have of a conference with a workshop titled "The Imperative of Beauty and the Aesthetic Call"), but the facility is terrific, the content is great, and there's always plenty of people to watch and wonder about (like the guy who is the spitting image of Richard Dreyfuss as a young Glenn Holland in the film, Mr. Holland's Opus – weird).

Because I used to periodically attend conferences when I was with The Navigators (not to mention design and run them at Glen Eyrie), I've developed my own set of conference-going habits for taking part in these kinds of gatherings. Granted, this event is more professional than personal, but some guidelines still apply. For instance:

  • With regard to speaker notes, I don't bother filling in blanks or capturing every point speakers make; instead, I listen for quotables that strike me and capture them on paper or online, as those are what I'm more apt to remember and want to revisit (to follow my quotable tweets from this conference, go to Veritas' Twitter page).
  • Because conference-attending is a huge commitment not only of money but of time, I give myself permission to work on other tasks while listening. This doesn't work for everybody, but I'm primarily an auditory learner, so the plenary pedagogy works well enough for me (plus, I get some things done, and there's a lot of those things to do now that I'm one week into the role).
  • I also give myself permission to skip sessions I'm not interested in, switch workshops from ones that aren't well-prepared to others that are, and take needed naps to stay fresh because, let's face it, most conferences are overprogrammed with little time built in to process and play around with ideas otherwise.
  • I always try to identify 3-4 people – presenters, fellow conferees, people who just look interesting, etc. – with whom I can schedule individual meals and breaks before, during, and after sessions. While there are a couple of moderated group lunch discussions I plan to attend with an eye to content, I don't find those nearly as engaging as sitting down with someone eyeball-to-eyeball to ask questions, to listen, and to try to learn something specific.
  • Rarely do I stop and visit the vendor booths unless 1) there's something very, very specific I'm interested in, and 2) the vendors aren't there (this is the best time to pick up free promotional material without having to endure the spiels). Yes, I know this seems both non-curious and cruel, but they're getting their material into my hands…I'm just controlling the delivery system a bit.
  • Finally, I pray for Megan and the girls and keep in touch so they know that just because I'm away doesn't mean they're forgotten. I know from experience how hard it can be on a spouse holding down the fort while the other is traveling, enjoying some schedule autonomy, and experiencing new intellectual stimulation. This is probably why Megan and I talked tonight about her attending the ACCS conference in Dallas with me next June.

I thought about listing the sessions and workshops I'm planning to attend, but it might be more interesting to give you an idea of how weird (but wonderful) a world this whole classical Christian education is by listing a few of the more intriguing workshop titles:

  • Terque Quarterque Beati: Unpacking Virgil's Tripartite Soul
  • Everybody's Reading Boni Libri
  • Bring It (Don't Dumb It) Down: How to Teach a 12-Year-Old a Classic
  • I See Dead Lines: Cultivating Students' Sixth Sense Through Poetry
  • Progymnasmata in the Classroom

To quote presenter Douglas Wilson: "Books are the original distance-learning packets, but the Bible assumes true education within a godly community of others."

It's good to be here talking about Christian ideas from the classic books, and doing so in the context of others. Perhaps the greatest benefit of a classical Christian education can be summed up in this realization: I have much to learn.

And I do.

So This Is Oklahoma?

In Calling, Family, Friends, Oklahoma City, Places, Young Ones on June 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Lake Hefner

Believe it or not, yes, it is. The flying bird/bat things? Parachute surfers on Lake Hefner, which is approximately two miles from our house here in Oklahoma City. Weird, eh? It's like California (minus the light sand and snowballing state government deficit).

Non-surprises: Highway 44 (previously the formerly famous Route 66) is not nearly as romantic when you've been on it for six hours (the trip takes a good eight from St. Louis); we should have rented a semi-truck instead of Budget's 24-footer (thanks to everyone back in the STL who helped Megan load up our second round of stuff on Friday); and, while the house is a wreck, it really is going to be a great place for all of us to call home (especially when we finally get to close on the silly thing on Monday).

We had some good help get us set up last Tuesday. Thanks to Becky, Josh, Brent, and Ruth (among others) for lending a hand.

Craig and Keith

A prayer request: Keith (pictured with me above) is a men's minister with First Stone Ministries. He and his wife, Lisa, are the folks we're buying the house from and they have been nothing but a pleasure to work with through the process. Unfortunately, their attempt to purchase a home in Norman has been far from enjoyable due to a contrary seller. As a result (and because we're here now), they're displaced and hoping not to have to double-move their stuff (they also are trying to find new homes for Boomer and Lloyd – their dog and cat – for whom our own Peaches is currently providing hospitality.) Anyway, if you think of it, pray for their deal to work out and that all would be well for them.

So, we're here and glad to be so. I'll have more pics and posts to come; until then, suffice it to say that after our twelfth move in 14 years of marriage, it's good to be home (again).

The Original Field of Dreams

In Movies, Places, Sports, Young Ones on April 25, 2011 at 9:32 pm

The backstop was three times higher and made from a wooden frame and chicken wire. Shortstop felt a whole lot further away from first base then it looks now. Still, back before there was a movie about plowing under farm acreage for a baseball field and the whole "Is this Heaven?" thing, indeed there was – only in Illinois instead of Iowa.

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Thanks, Dad, for not planting over the baseball diamond. Truly, it's "gone the distance."

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

In Family, Places, Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster, Young Ones on March 31, 2011 at 8:10 am

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It probably has something to do with living in St. Louis, but I always find myself writing a post on the occasion of Major League Baseball's opening day. As usual, humor me.

Whether or not she meant for the opportunity to coincide, Megan scheduled a tour (via Groupon) this past Sunday afternoon of Busch Stadium III. It had just snowed the day before and there were at least a dozen people on the field trying to dry things up; otherwise, we and the 20 other people on the tour pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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As you may know, St. Louis is a great baseball city with the second-most World Series championships to its credit (10; only the New York Yankees have more at 27). Somewhat unrelated (but interesting nevertheless), we've also had a fair number of official logos during this time (Slugger Bird – fourth from the left – was always a favorite of mine).

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The history is rich, and some of it is represented at different locations throughout the stadium: vintage uniforms encased with pennants and other timeless memorabilia; a tribute to former Cardinals radio announcer, Jack Buck; various World Series programs and trophies scattered here and there.

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The Redbirds aren't the only ones who open their season this week; Westminster's baseball season started for us as well. This is my second year coaching the junior varsity/freshmen at WCA and I have an unbelievably talented group of guys who really love the game. It's also a treat to be part of a coaching staff under head coach Rich Van Gilst (now in his 28th season) and with pitching coach Andy Benes, former Cardinals pitcher who spent 14 years in the big leagues.

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ranked WCA's varsity team number one for small schools in St. Louis. My part in that (along with stellar assistant coaches Slade Johnson and Micah Gall, two guys in their twenties who were both solid players in high school and college) is to build guys into varsity-level players during their freshmen and sophomore years. While we're certainly not the only ones investing in their baseball skills (many of our guys play baseball year-round for other coaches), it's fun to see "our boys" do well when they get the chance to play up.

For instance, two days ago, Ben Lovell, my top pitcher from last year as a freshman, started his first varsity game as a sophomore, going six innings and getting the win against one of the big Parkway public schools (check out his post-game interview). Last night, due to some injuries with some of our seniors, Mark McFarland, another sophomore, got "called up" to do some varsity relief pitching and threw two innings and also got the win. Today, a third sophomore, Davis Vanderslice, is making his first varsity start, and I'm confident he'll do well, too.

Sure, I hate to lose the guys from the junior varsity team, but it's fun to both help prepare and celebrate with them before and after their "big break." It's also fun to "call up" a few freshmen to help out on the junior varsity level in replacement (having lost two of my sophomore starters, I'm starting two freshmen pitchers in games later this week). Finally, it's very enjoyable to win games with guys at the junior varsity level (we won our first game 7-0 by playing really good defensive against another of the big Parkway schools).

Tonight, after our JV and Freshman games were canceled due to rain (the joys of playing baseball in March in the Midwest), I came home and played catch with my two youngest, both of whom are learning to love baseball as much as their two older sisters. It's amazing how much they've improved in their catching and throwing since last year, all from simply growing one year older. We laughed, we talked, we threw, we caught. It was fun.

At whatever level – half-pint, freshman, junior varsity, varsity, the Majors – baseball is the same great game that gets the entire city of St. Louis excited when the boys (and girls) of summer show up and start playing in the spring. It's as perfect a game as there is, and I'm glad to relive my love for it as a former pitcher/player and now as a coach.

Play ball! And go Redbirds!

(For more baseball thoughts over the years, click here, here, here, here, and here.)

Five Houses

In Calling, Family, Places on March 25, 2011 at 7:47 am

We've just returned from our house-hunting trip to Oklahoma City. All in all, it was a good adventure, though not without some bumps in the road (scheduled realtor bailing on us the night before because we weren't prepared to make an offer; van brakes and rotors needing replaced the day we were planning to hunt, thus requiring a rental car for the day, etc.). Still, for those who are interested, here's what we found:

THE VICTORIAN

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Aesthetically speaking, this was easily our favorite – we're Victorian kinds of people and suckers for a wrap-around porch. In addition, the white structure in back would make a perfect guest suite/study/studio. Unfortunately, all this would take a lot of work and money as several rooms need renovating just to move in and the guest suite/study/studio is nothing more than a couple of rooms with an uneven floor and rotting walls (there were also rumors of some foundation issues on the main house, which is never a good thing). Nice enough neighborhood, but potentially problematic. Cheap (for all the wrong reasons).

THE BRICK

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Geographically speaking, this one was the hands-down winner – two minutes from downtown across I-235, which is the main thoroughfare I'm going to be traveling for Veritas. The only problem is that the street looks like a meth lab waiting to happen as it's also three minutes from the state capitol, which is not one of the nicer areas in OKC. Still, the house has 5 beds, 3 baths, approximately 2,980 square feet, and also has a possible detached study/studio as part of the garage (though part of the brick wall has collapsed and the room is a landfill). Cheapest (presumably because of the neighborhood).

THE YELLOW

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Maybe it's the yellow paint, but this one just really seemed blah to me – nice enough, I suppose, and the street was okay (though it turns onto a pretty busy route), but this one looked better in pictures than in person. As with the other ones, we didn't get a chance to walk through it, but neither one of us really wanted to, which is never a good sign when you're thinking about living somewhere. Seemed overpriced.

THE BUNGALOW

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We came across this one while trying to find another one and, while it looked serene enough, it actually sits on a very busy avenue. It looks smaller here than it actually is, as this was another house with what looked like a studio apartment of some type above the separate garage in back. The flyer seemed to indicate that the house "needed some work" and could potentially be nice, but what we saw of the miniscule backyard and some cracks in the foundation of the front porch were not quite as encouraging. Still, reasonably priced.

THE BRADY BUNCH

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The only house we actually got to walk through, this one redeemed the whole house-hunting effort for us. Five bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and more closet space than we've ever seen (apparently the initial owners were survivalists who hoarded food in preparation for the end of the world – seriously), this house fulfills just about every ideal we had written down except for the more suburban location (for more on that tension, read Megan's post). The owners (a neat Christian couple who actually owned and had read my book!) were listing the house for the exact price to the dollar that we're hoping to sell ours for in St. Louis. Most expensive, but seemingly the best value all around.

So, there you have it. Cast your vote for where the Dunhams might live in Oklahoma City. Voting ends when we make someone an offer they can't refuse…and they accept.

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’

In Calling, Family, Places, Travel, Young Ones on March 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

Oklahoma We couldn't find any cowboy hats, and our surrey with the fringe on top is actually a Pontiac Montana mini-van, but we're heading down to that ultimate of popular Spring Break destinations: warm and sunny Oklahoma City.

All kidding aside, we're looking forward to the time and the chance to spend a few days in our soon-to-be new hometown. The trip will be equal parts business and pleasure as we'll be house-hunting and I'll also be spending a day at Veritas to meet with the staff.

It will be good to be together; the girls are excited about spending some time with Megan's parents and even Peaches is making the trip to meet her Golden Retriever canine aunt, Ladybelle.

Here's to a safe trip, a good time, and a clearer picture of the next stage of life where the wind comes sweepin' down the plains.

More Than April Showers or May Flowers

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Marriage, Places, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on March 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

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.

Bearded Craig

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.

Veritas_logo 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.

Servens 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):

MARCH

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)

APRIL

8-9: Biblical Imagination Conference (Dallas)
15: Classical Conversations Banquet
22-24: Easter Break

MAY

7: Studio Forte Ballet Recital
12: Last Day (JV Baseball)
14: St. Louis Children's Choirs Spring Concert
23: WCA Graduation
27: WCA Last Day of School

JUNE

6: First Week at Veritas (Oklahoma City)
16-18: Association of Classical & Christian Schools Conference (Atlanta)
24-25: Biblical Imagination Conference (Apple Creek, OH)

For Megan's perspective on the move, click over to Half-Pint House.

Freedom

In Calling, Church, Musicians, Places on February 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

Calvin (cropped)
 
I just finished up the weekend at Bible Fellowship Church in Sebring, Florida, as part of the Biblical Imagination conference with Michael Card. We had 90 folks from all over the state join us for 24 hours of teaching, listening, and learning together from the book of Luke. I'm very tired, but, as my father would say, it's a good kind of tired.

In reflecting this morning at the hotel before we (the Biblical Imagination team of Ron, Holly, Susan, Mike, and me) drove to Tampa to catch flights back home, I wanted to share a little about a man named Calvin whom we met here in Sebring.

Calvin has the build of a small NFL wide-receiver: broad shoulders, wiry but strong (in fact, I grinned when he came to Mike's concert last night in a football jersey as it just seemed to fit). Though he looks young from a distance, when you get face to face, you realize he's older than he first seemed – probably in his fifties – as the lines in his face run deep and there's a depth to his eyes that makes you want to hear his story.

While I didn't get all the details, the gist is that Calvin (who has St. Louis roots) spent 22 years incarcerated before he came to Christ in the last six years of that time. He got out of prison and is now being helped through a ministry here in Sebring called Little Lambs led by John and Eileen Sala, who were also at the conference (John, a native of Brooklyn, had once been in prison as well).

All through the conference, Calvin sat with the Salas and soaked up everything Mike and I taught about Luke, biblical imagination, and responding to Jesus. Warm, kind, and with a great smile, he asked questions, interacted, and even contributed a few observations that blessed all in the room. In response to our last "assignment" at the end of the conference, he shared a parable of his life that brought tears to the eyes of many as he described growing up as a boy who never really knew love.

After almost every song that Mike played at the concert last night, Calvin had some kind of one-word verbal response – "Yes" or "Amen" or "Thank you" – that he felt free to share because of the acceptance of God and those in the room. Toward the end of the concert, as Mike was introducing "Freedom" (my favorite song from his new "A World Turned Upside Down" album), he commented that of all the people in the room, this one might mean the most to Calvin, who beamed. The lyrics are as follows:

I am lost and I am bound
and I am captive to the shame that keeps on holding me down
And all I need to be found is freedom

I am tired and I am dying
and I am trapped inside a cage I've made of hopelessly trying
But the door would open and I'd be flying if I could find freedom

Freedom, freedom
All the burdens we have borne, all the losses that we mourn
Cry out for freedom, freedom

Prison walls and bolted doors
Something keeps on telling me that I was made for more
That there is Someone Who can restore my freedom

A gentle voice I can't evade
speaks in the darkness of the heart and whispers "Do not be afraid"
You can be free, the price was paid for your freedom

Freedom, freedom
From the darkness of the night, from desolation to delight
Freedom, freedom
The chains are broken, the door is open – He is your freedom

It was a beautiful, beautiful picture of the gospel – certainly in Calvin's life because of his story of imprisonment, but also for the rest of us whom Christ has freed from our own "cages of hopelessly trying." I was too tired to cry, but I wanted to – thanking God for what he has done in Calvin's life, in the lives of those there, and in my own as well. The weekend let me speechless as – in the words of Luke – I am both "amazed and astonished" at God's love for me, a sinner.

Coming to St. Louis in 2011

In Calling, Church, Education, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians on November 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

Mike Teaching (with logo)

In case you missed it, the website I've been working on for musician/author Michael Card's Biblical Imagination Series just went live this weekend. I used Clover Sites to create it and am impressed (still) with how easy and well-thought-out their content management system is (I've worked with plenty of lousy ones in the past and this was a dream).

For those in St. Louis, we're bringing the conference to Chesterfield Presbyterian Church all day on Saturday, January 15th, with Mike doing a concert on Sunday the 16th. The cost is only $58 for the conference AND concert ($78 if you want Mike's new book and album coming out next year as well – see site for details), and I can personally vouch for the quality of the experience (though the emcee/education guy's a little suspect).

Whether you've read the Bible for years or are just starting out in the Scriptures, this one-day conference would be well worth your investment in cultivating greater biblical literacy and love for God and His Word. Hope to see you there (and please help spread the word about the new Biblical Imagination website and Facebook community – thanks).

We Interrupt Our Normally Non-Scheduled Weekend…

In Arts, Books, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Musicians, Nature, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, Young Ones on September 17, 2010 at 12:13 am

Here are some groovy events – several of which I'd love to see a familiar face at if you're in the area – that I'll be part of in the next six weeks. (If you or anyone you know has questions about the conferences, click the links or let me know and I'll fill in details.)

SEPTEMBER


Applefestival 17-18: Griggsville Apple Festival (Uptown Square, Griggsville, IL)
I've written about this cultural tour de force before, but words and pictures just cannot do justice to my hometown's annual fall celebration; you just have to be there. That said, I'm once again looking forward to more time on the farm (now in harvest mode) since our Labor Day visit two weekends ago, as well as to seeing some former high school classmates from back in the day (when you graduated in a class of 30, it doesn't take much to have a yearly class reunion each September).

Camping 24-26: Annual Fall Family Camping Trip (Babler State Park, Wildwood, MO)
We always schedule this trip the weekend following Parent/Teacher conferences (after talking with parents for six hours straight and the struggles many of them are having in connecting with their students, I'm usually newly motivated to spend time with my own kids). New activity this year: the family bike ride, as all six of us are bike-mobile (now we just have to figure out how to get all six bikes there).

OCTOBER

Tour2010logo 1-2: Tour de Cape (Downtown Pavilion, Cape Girardeau, MO)
Speaking of bikes, I've been pseudo-training (about 30 miles/week) to take my first "century ride" this weekend with a couple of co-workers (both of whom are much better bikers than I am). I've never before ridden 100 miles in a day, so we'll see how much Advil it takes to do it when it's all said and done.

Biblical Imagination 8-10: Biblical Imagination Conference with Michael Card (Fredericksburg, VA)
I wrote about this not too long ago, and it seems a little strange that we're less than a month out already. I'm pretty stoked to hang out on the east coast with Mike and company. This is the first conference of what I hope are many to come, so if you're too far from D.C. this time around, hang in there: odds are we'll be coming to you soon.

TwentySomeone 15-17: TwentySomeone/ThirtySomewhere Conference (Memphis, TN)
My good buddy, Mitchell Moore, is a pastor at Second Presbyterian in Memphis, and he's asked me to come down to speak at a retreat for peeps in their 20s and 30s. Revisiting the material (as well as working on some new for the next book) has been really fun, and I'm still "smokin' what I'm sellin'" (figuratively speaking, of course) in terms of making the most of these decades. Megan and the girls are coming with me, and we'll sight-see around Memphis on Saturday afternoon.

Relevant 22-24: Megan at The Relevant Conference (Harrisburg, PA)
The good news: I'll be home (and probably won't leave the house if I can help it); the other news: Megan won't be. As she did in Colorado in July, my wife will be taking in another blogging conference – this one of a more devotional than technical nature – in Pennsylvania. I'm interested to see what comes out of her time there, as well as to what degree the two conferences overlap and supplement each other.

That's all for now. We now return you to our normally non-scheduled weekend…

Children of the Corn (No, Not THOSE Kids)

In Family, Movies, Nature, Places, Young Ones on September 11, 2010 at 9:23 am

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We were on the farm for Labor Day weekend and enjoyed some of the most perfect weather ever for camping out, playing baseball, fishing, swimming, roasting hot dogs, and star gazing from the back of a straw-filled wagon at night. We also had a great time with Mom and Dad hosting friends of theirs from Chicago (of course, Peaches was a huge hit).

As nature's beauty tends to inspire, our 11-year-old ended up writing the first draft of her descriptive paragraphs project about the weekend. Folks, we may have another writer on our hands (though out of curiosity, I went to I Write Like and plugged in the paragraphs below for fun; the analysis came back as "Stephen King," which was a little disturbing, I suppose, but nevertheless a nice title tie-in to the picture above). Enjoy.

"I felt the sharp rocks sting my bare feet as I walked across the gravel driveway that led to the door of my grandparents' house. The feel of the wind made me calm, as the glowing sun shone upon me. My lungs were filled with fresh country air. I could smell the pine trees. I admired the lovely patterns on each and every flower. The smooth blades of grass soothed my aching feet as I skipped across the homemade baseball field that my cousins and I loved.

I heard the birds singing their sweet songs, and the rustle of the breeze as it played between the tall stalks of corn. When I camped outside that night, the cicadas chirped, as the woodpeckers plowed into a tree. It was all a natural lullaby. My aunt and I took a stroll down to the pond where the trees were formed into the most perfect shade. We watched the pond as the ripples of water floated across the surface to the other side. I picked soybeans and snacked all the way home. As I jumped in my van, I stared out the window as the corn waved goodbye."

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

In Family, Places, Young Ones on August 20, 2010 at 6:41 am

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I've been up to my eyeballs with school starting this week and haven't had much time or energy to write. I did have a deadline this week for my monthly post over at ModSquad, though, so head over there for some new material. The post is called "What I Learned on Summer Vacation."

Hell on The Hill

In Places, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture on July 31, 2010 at 9:38 am

A month or so ago, Megan and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant on The Hill. We parked in front of this large corner lot full of beautiful green grass with a sign in its center across the street. Maybe I grew up loving one too many of Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons, but surely this is what Hell is and will be like (among other awful and unspeakable things).

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Summer Seminar Washington: A Summary

In Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 26, 2010 at 7:51 am

As you know if you've been following along, I just recently returned from my third Summer Seminar, this time to the Pacific Northwest. One of the students' assignments was to journal their thoughts regarding the intricacies in nature that we saw on the trip. Not wanting to miss the opportunity myself, I pulled out my own journal and wrote a bit. Here (with a few pictures the students took) is what I wrote:

Summer Seminar is blowing me away right now as we process the intricacy of all that we're seeing. I confess I'm at a point where, as I consider our experience at the Hoh Rain Forest with what we saw earlier today at Ruby Beach's low tidal pools, I'm struggling a bit with my faith that God really created it all, is sovereign over it all, is aware and at work in it all. The complexity of the way the different systems complement and interact with each other is just so mind-boggling; likewise, the beauty is amazing as there is form and function, aesthetic and efficiency, and I marvel at the creation – process and product – wondering how God can be the Lord of it all?

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Strangely, the experience causes one of two responses in me: the first is the realization that, once again, I have made God too small and in my own image; the second is the recognition that I can become numb to creation and wonder if, maybe, it really is the rarest function of random chance and evolution, for it all seems so big (too big) for anyone (even God) to have created and set in motion and rule over. This is just the Pacific Northwest! What about the rest of the U.S.? The world? The universe?

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The Christian worldview, both theologically as well as ecologically, does not work with a small, ethnocentric god created in my own image. I forget (again) how much work it is to keep from limiting my understanding of the person of God, but am reminded (again) by His creation of plenty of reasons that help me doubt my doubts.

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I do not believe the world's existence to be luck or chance. God has taken credit for His work of creation, and I am wrong to limit His person in the face of the reality of the intricacies I see in the world. My limited understanding of all He has made does not negate the truth that these ecosystems and their connections (which are difficult to fully comprehend) were and are under God's sovereign reign.

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My mind, as well as my heart, can only grasp so much. The main question
I've been asking myself on the trip is what does it all mean?
What do I and these kids (as well as the world and its inhabitants)
take away from all of this creation that might change and bring
contribution to God's world? How do we translate our awe at God's
intricacies into actions on behalf of them?

Re-reading my entry and seeing the pics brings to mind the beginning of Psalm 14:

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Lord, forgive me for my doubts…and keep me from being so foolish before You.

Twilight It Isn’t

In Books, Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 9, 2010 at 5:36 am

Twilight-eclipse-2

I'm flying to Portland today in preparation for Westminster's Summer Seminar in Washington, which starts tomorrow and runs for the next ten days. We've got 22 soon-to-be-seniors and 7 staff (none of whom are pictured above) going on the trip. Here's a tentative (read: weather-permitting) itinerary:

July 10, Saturday
Rendezvous with students/staff in Portland, OR
Lunch
Transport to Forks, WA (yes, I know this is where the Twilight "saga" is set, but no, that's not why we're going there)

July 11 or 12, Sunday or Monday
Forks logging and mill tours
Hoh Rain Forest hike
or
Hurricane Ridge
and Crescent Lake

July 13, Tuesday
Tidal pool study at Ruby Beach
Transport to Mossyrock

July 14 and 15, Wednesday and Thursday
Mt. Rainier
or
Mt. St. Helens

Transport to Deschutes River state park

July 16, Friday
Hike Mt. Hood (Copper spur: 7.8 miles)

July 17 and 18, Saturday and Sunday
Raft Deschutes River

July 19, Monday
Holiday Inn Express, Portland, OR

July 20, Tuesday
Depart

Core classes include:

  • Is This the Way It’s Supposed to Be?
    This core will introduce the tension of needing a vital raw material, yet wrestling with the consequences of acquiring that resource.
  • The Biology of the Old Growth vs. the Modern Lumber Industry
    This core will explore the idea of an old growth forest juxtaposed with a replanted forest: Can we simply replant and expect to sustain the old growth ecosystem?
  • The Way It Should Be: Systems That Function
    This core will explore ecosystems functioning as they were intended to and seek to understand that species work towards the benefits of the entire system due to a “biological Invisible Hand”.
  • The Cedar as Central: The “Buffalo” of the Pacific Northwest
    This core will explore the Native American view of the old growth cedar as central to their survival and how the same cedars are central to the survival of Forks, WA. Students will understand the centrality of the cedar to an old growth ecosystem and its species. A comparison will be drawn to the buffalo on the Great Plains. What are the differences between the White and Native American views of these natural resources?
  • Sustainability
    This core will explore author Lynn White’s claim that a Christian worldview with its notion of dominion is ultimately responsible for the ecological crisis. Students will also interact with Francis Schaeffer’s "Pollution and the Death of Man" as a counterpoint to White’s ideas and will seek to explore a proper Christian view of dominion with an emphasis on sustainability.
  • Mt. St. Helens: A Theological View of Restoration
    This core will explore the gradual, natural restoration of Mt. St. Helens and the parallel idea of God’s restoration of Creation from a Reformed eschatological position.
  • The Economics and Politics of Logging: What Will It Cost You?
    This core will explore the costs of proper dominion. Considering that the whole Old Growth debate is driven by the economics and politics of rationing a scarce resource, students will be introduced to the notion that proper dominion will be costly to their generation.

Students are to have read The Final Forest: The Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest by William Dietrich and written an introductory three-page response essay before the trip. They'll then submit five revised journal entries, culminating in a five-page essay due at the end of the month. I'm responsible for the reflecting/writing/grading aspect of the trip, as well as for publishing a book compilation of the students' best writing and pictures.

All in all, it should be fun. If I see Edward or Bella, I'll say hello for you…