Sam Harrelson

No One Ever Said It Would Be So Hard

When I was a boy, I was always jealous of my friends who had fathers with a career. Whether it was a tobacco salesman at one of the many warehouses in our small rural town at the time, or whether it was the local attorney or Lance Truck delivery guy… there was something I felt prestigious about having a career with a “real job” attached to your identity. My dad was on track to be an architect before he went to work for himself. I just recently stole a notebook of his drawings from that time before I was born (sorry, Dad). He would mention buildings or features that he designed in his earlier career path as we drove past them on the way to yet another car dealership in the area. We’ve never discussed it, but I always wondered what it would be like to have a dad with a formal career.

Dad has always been the entrepreneurial type and I can’t count the number of other side ventures he’s been involved with to go along with his main profession as a car wholesaler. He’s carried a leather briefcase for most of his life, and I used to sneak extra copies of his evolving business cards to put in my briefcase (which I, unfortunately, didn’t realize was not considered a cool fashion accessory during the first few days of Middle School).

But yet, he created his own job. As did his father. As did my Great Grand Father. Probably further back on down the line if I go check our family history file. There’s something about growing up in a small rural town of just a couple thousand people that makes you create your own path, whether that’s politically or theologically… or career-wise. Our town was full of women and men who were self-starters and “worked for themselves.”

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves could be on the official seal of Mullins, SC.

Perhaps that’s why I coveted a dad with a career in a fancy office building that he’d go off to in a white shirt and tie every morning after we ate corn flakes and he asked me how I liked my teacher and how the homework was going as he read the folded up paper at the breakfast table. Instead, I would see my dad often during the day in his mobile office. That’s what I called his truck. It was always full of papers and industry figures on cars and random tools or car parts. He’d drive up at 11 am or 2 pm or 4 pm while I was outside playing basketball in our yard. We’d exchange quick hello’s then go about our day. He’d drive off again after and I’d see him a few hours later. Dad would also travel to cities with exotic sounding names like Charleston or Savannah or Lumberton or Atlanta. I’d find the cities in our copy of The World Book and try to guess how far they were from Mullins. While he was on these trips, I would often stay up late drawing the logo for the business I was going to create in a big office building in a big town somewhere (hopefully Chicago so that I could go see the Cubs play when things weren’t too busy). I still have a notebook from childhood with a few of those drawings and designs for the invisible company. It was going to be called Harrelson Agency and the logo was a fancy “H” that I lifted from a crystal glass that was in the China cabinet that I wasn’t supposed to ever dare touch (I did).

After I left Mullins for college (where I got to fly on planes and travel overseas) and then graduate school (in another part of the country, even), I moved to Columbia. I had the option to go back home and teach there (in an alternate universe, there’s a very happy and inspired 40 years old AP US History Teacher Sam doing his thing), but we chose Columbia. I ended up in the classroom for a while but was tempted away by what I had always sought… a job in an office.

I stumbled into the marketing agency building here in Columbia on my first day not knowing much of anything about the real profession of marketing. I was good with computers and had a pretty quick wit, so I guess that was good enough to land the job in 2002. I loved the job and the connections I was making with people all around the world even if I was just writing email copy or begging advertisers for money. I bought a home. I had a steady paycheck with a beautiful girlfriend and a dog and I wore a white shirt and tie to work every day. Living the dream, I thought.

Then as the months went by, I started realizing I should be getting more money. I was “Sam Harrelson” after all. I was important to the company. I should get at least a commission on these big deals I was landing, right? I was 25 and knew everything.

I even considered becoming a registered Republican. As those thoughts entered my mind, I quickly realized it was time for my next career step. That’s what a career is, right? It’s a series of vertical movements until you hit a “Chief” position where there’s no one to tell you what to do. So I made vertical moves over the next few years until I realized enough was … well … enough. And I walked away from the office job with the white shirt and tie. I walked away from that career. I ended up back in a classroom.

Teaching wasn’t just a job for me. It was and is my true passion. I don’t know why. Some people love jumping out of airplanes. Some people love selling makeup. I love teaching. I’ll teach anything (just give me an hour to brush up beforehand). My partner has become accustomed to my dinner table mini-lessons on the newest star formation in the Orion constellation or how Egyptian mummification techniques changed rapidly in the late Ptolemaic period, or why 2 Samuel’s depiction of Uriah is so damning today. She handles me with grace.

Over the course of 8 years as a professional teacher, I taught 11th grade American literature, 8th-grade science, 8th-grade robotics, 8th-grade algebra, 7th-grade pre-algebra, 7th-grade science, 7th grade US History, 7th grade English, and 6th-grade Design Tech along with many summer camp courses. I worked with students to launch a balloon into space (well, upper atmosphere… close enough) and we made the TV news and front page of the local paper. The students had a copy framed for me, and it still hangs on my “office” wall (more on that in a second). I just knew I was going to be a teacher forever.

Then as the years went by, I started realizing that I should be getting more money. I was “Sam Harrelson” after all (Well, “Mr. H”). I was important to the school. I should be getting at least a moderate pay bump for all the exposure and social media likes and parent involvement I was generating, right? I was 32 and knew everything.

So I walked away from the classroom with the coffee mugs and bow ties. I walked away from that career. I ended up back in my bedroom.

For the last 8 years, I’ve been carving this Harrelson Agency thing out of marble. Michelangelo might have seen the David in a block of marble that had laid neglected for 26 years in the yard of a Cathedral, but I certainly didn’t have the same privilege with the 26-year-old career block that has been sitting in the corner of my mind. Sculpting this company and this life from that block of hard stone has caused me much psychological and physical and emotional and relationship strife. It’s only now, 8 years after I started chipping, that I realize what I’ve done to myself and what Harrelson Agency has done to me. You could call it the male impetus for chasing “The Great White Whale” or the Concord Fallacy, but I’m not giving it up just yet even though it remains a difficult beast to direct and has fits of starts and stops and continuous bucking. We’re conjoined now. I’ve engendered it with life and meaning and kicking it out of the Garden is not a practical resolution to this creation.

I realize, as a Pirate Looks at 40, that I have become very much like my dad. I don’t have a typical office. My truck is my mobile office. I carry a leather briefcase. I’m consistently changing my business card designs. I’m at home during random times of the day, and I get to spend a good deal of time with my children and partner. It’s a good job if you can get it.

Yet, I’ll still put on a white shirt and pair of slacks just to go work at the dining room table or my makeshift office here in our bedroom, which makes no sense. I’m always pulled back to that childhood fear of being a man without a career and when I look at my 10-year-old daughter I wonder now if she has the same thoughts I do. “My mom is a doctor, but what in the hell do I tell people my dad does? Play on the internet all day?” I hope I’m not causing her that anxiety as I work on this marble block. My tools have gotten better, and I have a better sense of how to chip and strike and know when to walk away and leave the block for a day to give us both rest as I work on it and it works on me. I hope she understands that I’m doing this intentionally for her and her sister and her brother and our family.

There’s a Coldplay song (I’m not a Coldplay fan if you’re wondering) titled “The Scientist” that has always pulled my heartstrings. Willie Nelson did an excellent cover of it a few years back and I prefer his version but that’s irrelevant. Having gone through a divorce and having lost people close to me in death, the song of loss and hurt resonates deeply. One of the lines that will pop up in the ever playing jukebox that is my head is:

No one said it was easy. No one said it would be so hard.

It was a constant partner to me during the divorce and during hard times with Harrelson Agency. I wish my dad would have warned me. Maybe he did, and I’m just now hearing him.

Harrelson Agency has grown every year in client base and income. Now it’s growing in offerings and direction (more on that in a second). Despite that, I’ve tried to walk away from this career a few times. I’ve flirted with a big job in an office high rise downtown with a parking garage and a hierarchical ladder for climbing. I’ve flirted with going back into the classroom. None of those dalliances amounted to me leaving this block behind though. I realize now that what I’ve always been looking for has been right there in the notebook that I created while wondering what my dad was doing. Living in Columbia now and having many friends and acquaintances in the “professional class” here has only ratcheted up that anxiety of not “having a career.” I get asked “So what do you do?” weekly as I’m introduced to parents at our son’s school or meetups or church. “Oh, Communications and PR. Who are you with?” To which I answer “Myself.” I need to start answering “Harrelson Agency… up and coming PR agency here in town. Heard of them?” Imposter syndrome is real, y’all.

What I’ve realized is that Harrelson Agency continues to shift from being a pure “marketing agency” into more of a public relations and communications firm. Marketing is a part of that to be sure, but most of our newer clients don’t need a website or a social media plan and are looking for real strategy and real communications help. We all thought Public Relations as a “career” (more on that in a second) was dead as a doornail in 2005 as the social web was just beginning to flourish and everyone could be their own PR rep.

What we realized is that effective communication, especially online, is a job and a career in and of itself no matter the medium. In our current age, we’re able to use artificial intelligence to create audio and video of anyone saying anything we’d like. Our human brains are still tied to our pre-Paleolithic environment and we’re just now beginning to understand how the brain “sees” and “hears” scientifically. But good luck explaining that to an angry Facebook user who saw the video of you saying something you didn’t say, or the angry Twitter person calling you out for a snippet of audio in your voice but not from your mouth. We’re entering dangerous, but exciting, times. I want to be more a part of that conversation as it relates to what I love doing with nonprofits and religious organizations marketing-wise, but also in the political realm. Not a full-on change, but a slight pivot to keep up with the times and my passion and the tools I have on hand to work on this block.

What I’ve realized is that my dad has had a great career that he sculpted himself. I’m proud of him. He is, for all intent and purposes, my role model. I’m still working on this damned marble block, but I’m not letting the cherubim and seraphim have at it just yet with their flaming swords. I’m not condemning it to a life of thistles and thorns. We’re going to make this work, Harrelson Agency, and we’re going to continue to build this career as we hammer it out in the sunshine and in the rain of that cathedral yard.

Running in circles, chasing our tails Coming back as we are




Apple Watch and My Health

I’ve owned a couple of Apple Watches in the past and always appreciated the design and constant alerts. But after a while, I would look at the Watch on my bedside charger in the morning and think “Do I need to wear you today? Nah.”

So, I’ve been skeptical about the Apple Watch and thought of it as little more than a constant buzzer to keep you tuned in to the latest Trump tweets or emails from Staples. But all that changed recently.

I’m turning 40 this year, and I realize it’s cliche and pretentious to write such things on the internet being a privileged white male who has a relatively comfortable life… but, I wanted to hit 40 in stride and in good shape rather than having a George W. Bush hangover-inspired epiphany after an all-nighter. As a result, I’ve dabbled in diets and moderate exercise and even keeping of track of my steps with Fitbits and an Aria Wifi scale and using MyFitnessPal on my phone(s) over the last year or so. None of those stuck. I’m fickle and it takes a lot for anyone or anything to make their way into my life as a steady constant.

I picked up an Apple Watch Series 3 back in March on a whim (don’t @ me… I acknowledge my privilege as I’ve said and these things are tools I use in my career) not thinking much would come of it. However, Merianna had been saying good things about hers and I was intrigued by the cellular communication since it meant I could take calls, listen to music (with AirPods), and have a number of functionalities without having to carry my phone everywhere. Little did I know it would be those damned rings, not the cell connection, that would win me over.

About a month ago, I really started taking Apple’s Activity app on the Watch and iPhone seriously. I looked at the calendar and realized I only had a few months left to go in my 30’s and I needed to make the most of them. It started innocently enough with occasional jogs around the living room at night to close the Exercise Ring or parking at the far end of the lot on yet another trip to the grocery store or hardware store to get more action on my Move Ring. Then I realized the Stand Ring was actually helping me be more productive as I tend to go down deep rabbit holes with a client site or marketing strategy and I can completely overspend my time budget without noticing it. The Stand Ring has become a sort of egg-timer of “getting things done” as silly as that may sound. Little by little, the rings have crept into the Congress of voices that fill my head and speak very loudly and authoritatively throughout the day and drown out the “but I don’t wanna go for a jog or do another P90x workout!” detractors.

It’s really been something of a revolution in my head.

I’ve always been a sporadic eater and frequently skip breakfast. Merianna has been an amazing partner with her choice of meals and prep work to keep me honest with my food and drink as well as putting up with my late night exercise sessions (potty training a 2.5-year-old and running your own company will severely limit your time to work out during the day, I’ve found but I’m working on that as well). My next goal is to turn those late night sessions into early morning ones.

I would go into a deep dive of which apps I use, but I’ve included a screenshot here at the top of the article and Frederico Viticci has done a much better job outlining his similar experience than I ever could. You should go read this in all of its entirety:

I suppose it’s only natural that a renewed commitment to getting back in shape eventually led me to completely reevaluate the role of the Apple Watch in my life. After just a few months of daily commitment, I’m now at the point where I get irritated if I don’t dedicate at least 30 minutes of my morning to working out. I’m constantly keeping an eye on my rings to make sure I hit all three goals every day, and I’m always thinking of new ways to push for harder workouts and mix them up with different exercises.

Source: Second Life: Rethinking Myself Through Exercise, Mindfulness, and Gratitude – MacStories

I’ll report back in a few months to see how things have progressed. I’m down 10 lbs within a month already just by a few lifestyle changes. I know that pace won’t continue, but my body is giving me positive feedback already with my endurance and mind/body relationship.




39

white_light_corona

I wrote this back in 2008 as I was turning 30:

However, turning 30 still scares the hell out of me because I don’t want to loose my idealism which is tied so close to my own identity.

via 29 – Sam Harrelson

Today I turn 39. I feel like I’ve changed so much in the last 9 years. I feel like the world itself has changed so much in the last 9 years. But, I look back on my writings and notebooks from this period and realize that the core of me is still there. It’s developing but it feels and seems familiar.

Our conceptions of time and age and landmarks in our own personal histories remind me of the signposts of life that Merianna frequently talks and preaches about. We all like to erect little monuments of memory so that whenever we pass by the same spot, we’ll recollect either the joy or pain or astonishment or fear that marked that particular point in our journey.

We mark years by orbits of our planets around our solar system’s star. Yesterday, I was able to experience the totality of a solar eclipse in the backyard with my wife, our young son and two daughters. I couldn’t have predicted that in 2008. The 30’s have been a mix of the greatest of pains and the greatest of joys. Birth, death, divorce, marriage, moves, career change(s), personal realizations… all those experiences are signposts that I often revisit through reflections as in a mirror, dimly.

Whatever happens in the next 10 years before I turn 50 will also come as a surprise to me when I look back on the paths that were trodden and those not trodden. But future Sam who is reading this in 2027 and turning 49 with eyes that vainly crave the light, of the empty and useless years of the rest with me intertwined in the new signposts that I currently can’t see just yet, keep the question and the Answer close by. Let’s contribute a verse.

Out of the blackstar comes new creativity and new expressions of light and new ways of looking at the world. A perfect black to put distance between ourselves and our assumptions and then a perfect white to answer the question of whether we still belong in a previous existence.




When your daughters destroy your Spotify algorithms

There are downsides to having a family Amazon Echo hooked up to your personal Spotify account…




Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter (or Love Letters to My Kids)

“The map above shows the locations of the 8 Wizarding schools that have been revealed so far, that exist in the Harry Potter universe.”

Source: Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter – Brilliant Maps

I’ve always loved maps and map-making. As a kid, I filled notebooks with imaginary island countries or continents (and their cities) on alien planets. My favorite cartoon was Tailspin because of that fantastic rock formation that ringed their island. Many of the framed pictures in my office (and our home) are maps or geography related now.

My favorite class in high school was my 9th Grade Geography class. I rocked that class and I’d quit my job today and go get a degree in Geography or Cartography if I had any real guts (follow your passions, kids). Maps are time machines. They take accumulated knowledge and transport ideas into the future. They are magical and products of our best hopes (or deepest sins).

Brilliant Maps is one of my favorite sites on the web, and I highly recommend / warn you view it (serious rat hole timesuck if you’re being “productive”).

I try hard to let my daughters and my son develop their own interests and not over-influence their choices in life (well, besides Star Wars but that’s a given). I see my 8 year old constantly observing me and picking up my copies of X-Men trade paperbacks that I “casually” leave on our coffee table after reading, and my 5 year old asking what show I want to watch on Netflix. I see my newborn son tracking me with his eyes and watching my hands fly across my clickety clackety keyboard (as MH calls it) while he fights a nap as he lays on his playmat and I sneak in some work at my desk. It’s inevitable we heavily influence our kids’ choices, of course. I just don’t want to ever be that parent reliving my glory days on the baseball or golf team through them. I want them to discover agency and identity in a positive way that feels so hard to create in our over-protective-surveillance-bubble-wrapped-life that we’ve created with our mobile phones and low attention spans. Don’t get me started on GPS devices.

One of the things I secretly hope all three of them really come to discover, value, and have a life-long obsession over are maps and geography.

So, if you’re reading this MH, LC or Jr in some future time (I wonder what device my kids could possibly be reading this text on in, say, 50 years… I bet it’s some sort of a neural network link where you can dip into the stream of history and experience any recent time / place / event virtually as if you were there… possibly even talk to a person who is “dead” but very much alive in the digital universe… weird… and yes, I have a “digital death plan” in place to have this site and many other things I manage keep going in the unfortunate (?) event I kick the bucket unexpectedly) after I’ve recycled my atoms back to the universe, I hope you like maps as much as I do. You’ll find some of my favorite books on the “maps” shelf on one of our bookcases and there are some hidden surprises in there for y’all.

Otherwise, if you read this and I’m still a breathing entity…stay away from my books and go get your own from the library.




To Post or Not to Post About Your Kid’s Success?

Helicopter-Parenting

On the topic of whether parents should post about their kids’ college acceptance on Facebook, but a good reminder for all of us parents who grew up in a time before social media and are still figuring out its long term impacts on ourselves and our children:

“This isn’t your moment, as much as it may feel that way. Let your kids bask in their own glory. By letting your children tell people about an exciting achievement on their own, you let them practice humility. They can take time to be empathetic and consider what their peers are going through. You’re teaching them to value accomplishment for its own sake, and not for the attention it brings. You’re raising an adult who can connect to other people and make lifelong friends. A wise parent once said, “My main job is to make sure my kid doesn’t become a douche.” We can’t always succeed, but letting them spread the news selectively is a great start.”

Source: To Post or Not to Post? – Free-Times.com




Happy Anniversary, Merianna!

12

What an adventure it’s already been, Merianna! Looking forward to many more with you.




Funky Little Emmanuel

Will Emmanuel ever be a megachurch? No. It’s not a splashy place that is known for its rock band or stage settings or theatrical services. There’s no “Shine Jesus Shine” here. It’s not “easy” and it gets into your soul in ways that you don’t understand at first. Going to Emmanuel on just Christmas morning and Easter is impossible.

Instead, Emmanuel is a strange and wonderful little church. I use that term deliberately.  It’s a group of dedicated people from across socio-economic status, genders, colors, sexual orientations, political perspectives, religious theologies etc and it’s a place that changes who you are and how you think about God (whether you believe in a god or not).

Most of all, it’s a place where people pull up their socks, roll up their sleeves, and get to work doing what needs to be done.

The Apostle Paul would have been proud. I know I am. Now back to work.

“And that’s when Merianna Harrelson’s phone started blowing up. “I had church members calling to say ‘what are we going to do to help?’” said Harrelson, pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, S.C. “There was one woman who was taking on water at her home, and she was asking how she could help.”’

Source: S.C. churches stepping up to help flood victims | Baptist News Global




MH and the White House

image

After (over) 10 miles of walking around D.C. during one of my tour guide specials, the girls were still excited to see “where President Obama lives and works.”

We’ve got amazing kids.




Our Week in Washington D.C.; Or How do I explain to my daughters how important this all is?

“The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States Friday in a closely divided ruling that will stand as a milestone in its 226-year history.

The justices ruled 5-4 that states cannot deny gay men and lesbians the same marriage rights enjoyed for thousands of years by opposite-sex couples. Within days if not hours, the decision is expected to trigger same-sex marriages in states that still ban the practice.

“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his 28-page ruling. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

Source: Supreme Court strikes down bans on same-sex marriage

Saving this for posterity because I’ve been in Washington D.C. this week with my wife, our soon-to-be-born baby boy, and my young daughters (age 7 and 5). While we’ve been doing the touristy stuff, we’ve also been in the midst of two major Supreme Court decisions on “Obamacare” and marriage equality.

My girls have gotten to walk past the Supreme Court and stand with us while we took the chants and the applause in after these rulings. I didn’t hide my tears.

What a week. As the Confederate flags come down across Southern states and my own beloved South Carolina after the terrible massacre of innocents in Charleston, we see the rise of something different in our country.

Here’s to new beginnings based on love, reconciliation, and the bridging of divides that those in power have used to try to keep us apart.

Here’s to the future United States and a country that is better for my daughters and son than the one I grew up with.

Amen.

 




Beautiful Bride at Four Months 

She’s finally showing 🙂

Your Pregnancy | 16 Weeks: “Get ready for a growth spurt. In the next few weeks, your baby will double his weight and add inches to his length. Right now, he’s about the size of an avocado: 4 1/2 inches long (head to rump) and 3 1/2 ounces. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than it has been, and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. His ears are close to their final position, too. The patterning of his scalp has begun, though his locks aren’t recognizable yet. He’s even started growing toenails. And there’s a lot happening inside as well. For example, his heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood each day, and this amount will continue to increase as your baby continues to develop.”

Exciting!




Economic Virtue

Wendell Berry

We’ve been taught to think that the only economic virtue is competitiveness. This is a faith: I’ll get into it for all I’m worth, seeking the maximum advantage for myself.

via The “Mad” Farmer » American Scientist.




Do Vegetarians Eat Eggs?

A few days ago, Merianna asked me if I was still eating eggs. It’s a good question, after all. Part of my 2015 package of resolutions (trying to make it sound congressional) was to not eat meat or animals unless I killed them (which is unlikely, but had to make that allowance).

When I moved to Connecticut for graduate school, I became vegetarian for a while. It didn’t hurt that there was an abundance of vegetarian shops around me, as well as a falafel stand right outside of the house where I had an apartment. I even dabbled with being a vegan for a short time but couldn’t stomach that much tofu cheese.

As a matter of theology, I decided 2015 would be the year I’d stop eating meat altogether. So Merianna’s question this week was a valid one.

I said “no” to eggs (again, out of a theological choice based on how eggs arrive in our grocery stores). If we had chickens or got the eggs from my parents’ collection of chickens, I’d have no problem eating them.

On her podcast with Elisabeth this week, Merianna starts with her take on the discussion. It’s a fun listen.

Are Eggs Vegetarian?

via Are Eggs Vegetarian? Can I Eat Eggs If I'm Vegetarian?.




Shortest Day of the Year

Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship Christmas Service

The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December Solstice.

The December Solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun.

via TimeAndDate.com

At 6:03 PM EST last night, our geographic location was the furthermost position away from the sun that it will be until next December. I was lucky enough to be singing Christmas carols with my wife, our girls, and members of our faith community at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.

Solstice has long been a sacred day for those of us in the northern hemisphere and marks the “extreme of winter” or Donghzi in Chinese. It happens to coincide with major times of festivals in modern and ancient religions on purpose, as we continue to come to grips with our humanity while wrestling with concepts of existence, death, and faith in times of darkness.

Here’s to the lengthening of days and the spreading of candelight to remind us of the angels of our better natures as our mother planet makes yet another orbit around her own parental star. We are a young and curious species, indeed.




“What Should I Be When I Grow Up?”

practiceresurrection

Dear Mary Hudson and Laura Cooper,

You’ll inevitably ask “what should I be when I grow up?” when you’re in high school if not before. You might not say it out loud to me, but you’ll whisper it to yourself. I already see it in both of your eyes when I tell you about my clients or you see Merianna preach or you visit Mommy at the hospital. You’ll have plentiful options.

So, here’s my advice (my mom gave me this gift, so I’m passing it on to you)…

Merianna and I were having a long conversation about education and learning on the way back home from a trip to Asheville last weekend when the topic of high school came up. I hadn’t thought much about high school lately, mostly out of embarrassment. My dad always thanks Wofford College for turning me into a young man. It took some time, but I think I realize what he meant in that I was just not a sentient being in high school. I remember glimpses and events, but I was a different person in high school in terms of personality and countenance.

All that to say, I do remember enjoying my classes in high school. As I related to Merianna, I don’t remember doing much homework but I was always interested in what I was learning to the point of taking classes my senior year rather than taking half the day off (yes, I was a dork).

It was during that senior year that I had a teacher I always respected tell me it was time to focus and start figuring out my specialty. Despite going through most of school in a fog, I remember this conversation clearly as it continues to impact me today. He was well meaning, but his advice caught me off guard as I loved the idea of studying physics, world history, art history, computer science, and philosophy all at once.

His advice was sound. I had a great opportunity to go to a prestigious college despite my circumstances. My family made many sacrifices for me to have that possibility and I had seemingly worked hard for the chance. It was time for me to figure out if I was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, perhaps a scientist or businessman.

When I got to college, I started down the path of a chemistry and computer science double major. That seemed logical and allowed me a couple of options in terms of career and life. All of that changed during a class on the Old Testament with Prof Bullard. At Wofford, a college with a strong identity of liberal arts learning for all students, there was a requirement for a number of history, literature, and religion classes. I was enjoying college so much after my freshman year that I decided to stay and take summer classes for those requirements (to get them out of the way, and all) rather than head home.

The first day of Old Testament class, I realized I had made a mistake. I was not going to be a computer science / chemistry major. I wasn’t going to earn a B.S. degree and move to California and start my own “internet cyber-economy company” (hey, it was 1996…we talked like that). Instead, I was going to be a religion major.

I walked to the registrar after the first day of OT class and changed my major. My family was supportive but didn’t seemed thrilled. Even I was confused. However, I knew it was the right path for me. I didn’t want to specialize.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman

Along with my religion classes, I had the chance to take whatever fancied my liking from Shakespeare to more computer science classes to sociology explorations of MLK to ancient art history. I was not following my high school teacher’s advice. I was embracing all that liberal arts had to throw at me, and I loved it.

However, what was I going to do after graduation? Well, graduate school of course!

I had an amazing opportunity to go to Yale and spend two years learning about religion, art, archaeology, and life outside of South Carolina. When I finished my studies there, I moved back to South Carolina and decided to teach (10th Grade English). That led to a series of teaching jobs in middle school (mostly 8th grade Physical Science, American History, Algebra, and English). In the midst of that I worked for a few marketing agencies, started my own, and went to seminary (and taught adjunct Old Testament for grumpy freshpeople at 7am).

I didn’t specialize. I didn’t whittle down my career choices or my specialties. It hasn’t been easy, but I love that my bedside table has books on a number of different subjects.

What prompted this reflection was a comment last week from a follower of mine on Twitter asking if they should follow me if they were only interested in hearing about a given subject. “Nope,” I responded. Life isn’t a content consumption project, and the content I produce ranges from tech to marketing to religion to history to NASCAR to whatever else I like to enjoy and learn about. That’s not some form of ADD or having a “scattered brain.” It’s curiosity. And I embrace it (and encourage you to as well).

Don’t settle, don’t feel like you need to ever narrow yourself down to a certain subject to gain more listeners or followers. Be yourself and embrace knowledge and curiosity.

Or as Wendell Berry put it rightly, practice resurrection:

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

It won’t be easy. You’ll have to make your own “job” but you’ll eventually enjoy it. Our economy in 2014 is already pointing towards a future where your generation will be tasked with doing just that as we transition from industrial to internet revolutions. But you’ll be fine. Study, read, and keep imagining. Look for ways to take what you’ve learned and improve the lives of others. You’ll create your job and live happily.

Love you,
Sam




Pride of a Husband

As someone who has spent considerable time inside of seminary walls, I know personally how challenging and gut-wrenching the process of discernment to ordination can be for anyone.

I can’t express how proud I am of Merianna in all that she’s accomplished in her time at seminary and in her time as a pastor.

If you need any proof of why “I’m amazed” (to paraphrase McCartney), go listen to her Easter Sermon from today at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.

It’s been an amazing experience to be able to share part of those experiences with her and I look forward to where her ministry takes her and our family in the coming years.

People like Merianna and the current crop of strong yet humble leaders coming up in the ranks of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship make me excited about our future as a group and the impacts that will be made on our communities as God’s Dream continues to be made real.




Making Easter dinner with dad on the new cooker…

image




image

Making steak and vegetables for Merianna and I…the biscuit can pop still scares me every time.




image

Miss this goofy guy and I wonder how he’d deal with Willie and Waylon.




SC Earthquake!

Merianna and I were watching House of Cards Season 2 and I happened to be sitting on the floor playing with the pups when I remarked “was that an earthquake??”

Turns out… yep.