Lamar Odom and Life After Sports

"LamarOdomLakers" by Bridget Samuels from College Park, MD

“LamarOdomLakers” by Bridget Samuels from College Park, MD

I have to admit that this situation with Lamar Odom has affected me in a deep way.  As someone who has never met Lamar and is a fan of the team where Lamar played his worst basketball (Dallas Mavericks), some may not expect me to feel this connection to LO.  I also know all the arguments regarding the fact that Lamar did this to himself by his drug use.  All that said…my heart hurts.

My heart hurts because I see many athletes who lack the support system to find value and fulfillment after their career.  Pro athletes are some of the most gifted, talented and engaging people I have ever met.  For many of them from the time they are young they are told how incredible they are and given lavish amounts of praise for their skills.  They deserve every bit of that praise.  As someone who considers himself athletic, I cannot fathom the level of talent, hard work and giftedness it takes to achieve even making it to the professional level of athletics.  I will never understand what it is like to achieve that success.  It must be hard whether because of age, declining talent, lack of opportunity or injury to see the door of that enormous achievement close.

Years ago God began to stir my heart for making a difference in the lives of pro athletes, specifically helping them navigate this transition out of the game.  As many know I own a business that specializes in setting up autograph signings with former pro athletes called Halkman Sports.  For me my hope is not just to collect autographs for customers but to be a voice of truth and encouragement for guys as they navigate the transition out of sports.  I want to be an encourager, so every time I see a situation like Lamar Odom is facing now I hurt.  I hurt because in Lamar I see a legion of other guys also struggling with a myriad of issues: regret, alcoholism, lack of direction, drugs, joblessness, relationship struggles, identity issues and in some rare cases homelessness.  I hurt because I want to help, I want to be a voice that changes that and I see God opening doors and giving me favor with former athletes but I still struggle to see what difference someone can make who has never been in their shoes.

I guess I write this to share this calling publicly.  I am called to pastor and to walk along side of pro athletes and help them transition out of the game, but what that looks like on a larger scale I have no clue.  Until then, one by one and two by two I will seek to encourage and be a resource to any players God puts in my path.  If I can encourage one guy and give them hope, I want to do that.  I pray that the number of former players taking their own lives and walking paths of destruction will be replaced with stories of the guys who have made the transition well and are making a difference in their community, job places and the game they loved.  There are many guys doing that and those are stories worth telling.  I think of so many ballplayers who have struggled through identity after sports and won.  That is a game far more important than sports.

God, help me to see how I can be an encouragement and difference maker.  To cheer on those who are making the transition well and walk with those who hurt and struggle.  I am willing.

MLB Hall of Fame Snubs

As we approach the induction of the Class of 2015 into the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow, I see four players that without a doubt are worthy of this honor.  Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all received more than the 412 votes needed to enter in the Hall of Fame.  You would be hard pressed to find someone with a valid reason why any of these guys should not have been elected to the Hall.

That being said I cannot enter this ceremonial weekend of baseball without thinking about those who I truly believe should be in the Hall and have not gotten the support of the voters.  Undoubtedly some of these will get in over the next few seasons, but some will never receive this incredible honor.  Removing the controversial names, all of whom I think should make the Hall of Fame (Rose, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Palmiero) below is the list of those who I think were snubbed.  Many of these may not have the stats that many voters require when looking at casting their vote, but if I had a vote it would be focused on those who dominated their era of baseball.  Those who were consistent all-stars or were the faces of baseball for their decade.  I am not a proponent of watering down the great Hall but cannot imagine some of these guys not being in there.

Would love to hear your list and objections on my list as I know there are some on my list who did not even receive 5% of the vote when were on the ballot


1.) Jeff Bagwell

2.) Mike Piazza

3.) Curt Schilling

4.) Jack Morris

5.) Fred McGriff

6.) Tim Raines

7.) Mike Mussina

8.) Gil Hodges

9.) Gary Sheffield

10.) Dwight Evans

11.) David Cone

12.)  Alan Trammell

13.) Larry Walker

14.) Kevin Brown

15.) Dwight Gooden

16.) Darryl Strawberry

17.) Fred Lynn

18.) Lee Smith

19.) Edgar Martinez

20.) Dale Murphy

The Rise of Seth Curry


It has to be a blessing and a curse to be the little brother of Steph Curry.  As someone who struggles with the comparison trap,  it must have been easy for Seth Curry to look at the success his brother was having and wonder when it would be his turn.  Stephen came out of Division 1 Davidson and was a first round draft pick in 2009 but following a stellar senior season at Duke where Seth averaged 17.5 points a game all thirty NBA teams passed on drafting the younger Curry. in 2013.

Shortly after the draft started the three season journey for Seth as one of the premier players in the NBA D League.  In the 2013-14 season with the Santa Cruz Warriors he was named to the First Team All D-League Rookie Team and All NBA-D League Third Team and was named to the 2014 D League All-Star Team.  He repeated his success in the NBA D-League in the 2014-15 season with a new team the Erie Bayhawks.  In his second season he improved his scoring average to 23.8 points a game and again made the NBA D-League All-Star team and was given the honor of All NBA D-League First Team.  In spite of all his D-League success over those two seasons Seth only found his way into four NBA games, never receiving more than a 10 day contract.  Over those four games he scored three points, giving him a lifetime scoring average of .8 points a game in the NBA.

With his brother Steph winning the NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors in the 2014-15 season it seemed that Seth came into the 2015 NBA Summer League with new focus, drive and an improved game.  Where Seth had mostly been a spot jump shooter, he had visibly grown in the areas of scoring, floor leadership, passing and improved his defensive abilities.  Team officials were a buzz over his performance in the Las Vegas summer league as he averaged 24.3 points 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 3.2 steals in 33.2 minutes per game over six games for the New Orleans Pelicans.  His unconscious performance led to multiple teams seeking to sign him to a contract at the conclusion of the Summer league.  The Sacramento Kings were able to ink the scorer to a reported two year and $2 million dollar contract as they stole him out from under the noses of the Pelicans.

By all accounts this is Seth’s year.  This year he will get the chance no one has ever given him to prove he deserves to be in the NBA for the long haul.  All who know Seth feel he deserves this shot.  Something in me pulls for him and wants to see him be the player that in the NBA that he has proved to be in the D-League.  Mark my words, this is the year that Seth Curry leaves his brother’s shadow and creates his own legacy.  Go get them young Curry, show all the teams who passed on you the mistake they made.  We are cheering you on.

Losing Richard Jefferson is a bigger deal than advertised


News has broken that Richard Jefferson has chosen to rethink his decision to reprise his bench role with the Dallas Mavericks and chase a ring in Cleveland as a teammate with Lebron James and the Cavaliers.  It seems the consensus among fans and media alike that this is not that big of deal.  Mark Cuban via Cyberdust said the loss of Jefferson would give more opportunity for 2015 Mavs first round pick Justin Anderson to get on the floor.  Anderson has been a huge bright spot for the Mavs in the midst of a lot of bad press over the last few weeks.  Justin’s 17.5 points on 43.4 percent shooting from the floor over six games in the summer league already has former critics singing his praises.  It seems evident that Anderson could be better than advertised, but even if he is successful is losing Jefferson meaningless?

Local sports personality Richie Whitt believes that this is a yawner and that it will not “change the ultimate direction” of the Mavericks.  While long term Jefferson was not going to be a long term contributor to the Mavericks, I believe his presence will be missed this season.  You can not place a value on a great locker room guy, who brings knowledge, humility to play his role, athleticism and skill off the bench.  Not to mention all those things Jefferson led the Mavericks in three point percentage at 42.6%.  No matter how successful Justin Anderson is, we cannot expect him to shot that kind of percentage in his rookie year while also trying to get used to the speed of the pro game.

I think team chemistry is huge and I worry that losing a guy like Jefferson who is a glue guy, a guy who everyone likes and brings everyone together is a bigger deal than we are making it.  He showed the depth of his character by handling his change of mind in a way that was honoring to Mark Cuban and the Mavericks organization.  I think losing a guy who has superstar talent although maybe diminished a bit by age who is willing to play a bench role of capable of starting a game as he did eighteen times this past season in Dallas is undervalued.  While you may not see the 5.8 points that were lost on the scoreboard each night there are some intangible qualities that left Dallas and just headed to Cleveland.  So I will cheer on Justin Anderson with all my might, but still mourn the loss of a guy who could have taught him so much about the game I love.

Hometown Boy Completes the Playoff Puzzle


The Astros success has surprised even the greatest of baseball minds this season.  Many felt they were two to four years from seriously contending and saw them as a lock to occupy the cellar this season.  Today they took another step to solidify their place as a legit contender to not only make the Major League Baseball playoffs but to make a chase for a World Series ring.

Although most naysayers and users of the phrases “Last-tros” and ” Disastros” have long been silenced, many still believed that the Astros were one pitcher short of being able to truly contend for a title.  Rumors have swirled about possible deals for pitchers such as Tyson Ross, Cole Hamels, and even David Price coming to Houston to fill this need.  Today the Astros, who are currently second in the AL West division solidified their roster by adding left-hand Pitcher Scott Kazmir in a trade with the Oakland A’s.  The A’s gain two minor leaguers from the Astros in the deal in Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham while the Astros gain a proven starter that has great control, has been tough to hit and goes deep into games.  While former Astros like Morgan Ensberg laments the A’s ability to recognize young talent and the loss of two great young man, many in Astros country are ecstatic believing Kazmir is the missing piece to the playoff puzzle.

I love these two guys. I wish the weren’t so good at identifying talent. You got traded for a Big Leaguer!

The three time all-star Kazmir grew up in Houston rooting for the Astros and will join his home team in Kansas City on Friday as they take on the American league leading Royals.  Scott played his high school baseball locally at Houston area Cypress Falls where he was drafted by the New York Mets in 2002.  Kazmir has called it a dream come true to be able to come home and play for his hometown team.

Although it seems adding Kazmir to a premier rotation that already included All-Star lefty Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman and youngster Lance McCullers Jr. has fulfilled the need that GM Jeffrey Luhnow most wanted, he has not closed the door on making further trades.

“We’re going to continue to work hard to look at avenues to improve this team, whether that means bringing in another pitcher or position player,” Luhnow said. “We’re continuing to talk to other clubs, and our interest level remains high to explore anything that can help our club.”

It will be interesting to see what effect Kazmir will have on this season for the Astros and if they chose to re-sign him for the coming seasons. This is a better time than ever for the Astros to make an all-in run at a World Series ring because they have nothing to lose as no one thought they would be here.  Has the puzzle been completed?  Is this the year for the Astros to finally win their first World Series?  I think there is good reason to believe.

Youth Ministry in the Facebook Age



” Ignorance is bliss” was a term first coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but as a veteran church youth worker sometimes I miss the blissful ignorance I was able to experience previous to social media.  I do not say this as a technology hater, but as a person who loves social media and has an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even maintain my Myspace for a rainy day.  I miss the days of ignorantly believing that every one of the students in my ministry was latching on to the things they were being taught and learning to live them out.  I am such an optimist in most cases, I want to believe the best about people and believe that all of them are truly opening their heart to God.  The world of social media sometimes robs me of my optimistic dream world as students so openly and truthful share who they really are on the world wide web.

Maybe this is just me, but my heart hurts sometimes when I read the words of those I shepherd online.  It hurts so much because every part of me knows that the answers and joy that they are seeking in other places is found in allowing their head knowledge about Jesus to become a heart devotion that consumes their life.  It hurts so much because many of them sit week by week and learn more head knowledge about Jesus, but never let him completely lead their lives.  I wonder what it may have been for my youth leaders to have to sit and read the filth, doubts and soul searching I spewed from my mouth as a teenager.

None of these feelings I have come from a spirit of judgement, at least it does not feel like judgement in my heart.  Every student means the world to me, whether they realize it, or I show it poorly.  The passion of my life is helping people truly know Jesus, and I want that for every student that has ever been under my care.  My heart breaks anytime a student walks away from church.  My heart breaks anytime I see a student post things that dishonor Jesus.  My heart breaks when a student can sit through service after service at my church and still miss Jesus.  I used to be able to lie to myself and believe they were all getting it, but social media gives me a taste of reality.  A hard reality.  A reality I do not like to acknowledge.

I definitely see the great things that social media brings to my ministry.  It provides so many great tools for communicating, relationship building, and getting a window into the students world.  Maybe I am ignorant for saying this, but sometimes I wish the window was not so clear.  Satan uses it often to whisper to me of my ineffectiveness.  While many times my methods are ineffective, I know I serve a God who can change any life and that is what keeps me going.  My calling will always be to show people Jesus and hear me clear that is exactly what I want to do.  If you sometimes feel like I do cling to Jesus and your calling even when what is before you may not seem to be bearing fruit; those who you shepherd need you to keep going.


I Remember the days…

As my bald head freezes due to the crazy temperature drop here in Texas today I find myself being a little nostalgic.  I am beginning to wonder if the concept of loyalty exists in today’s culture or if “the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side” principle will now forever be the mantra of our YOLO society.  Whether we verbalize the hip term YOLO, we have embraced a mindset that says I am number one and I will make my life about me.  If I want to take a risk… I will, if I am not comfortable… I will bail, if I can heap more riches upon myself… I will chase it, and if there is something I deem better… I will grab it.  You only live once so do what you want and look out for the only person that matters.  You.  So many institutions of our society are affected by this chasing of comfort, money, adventure, risk, reward and self indulgent newness: Church, Sports, Marriage, and the work place.

Call me an idealist but I remember when people valued loyalty above self indulgence.  If I am transparent I even see this value of comfort over loyalty in myself.  It is so easy when times get tough to run.  It is so easy when more money is extended to take it and run somehow hoping it will give us more joy.  It is easy to look at another person’s situation and wish ourselves into their place thinking that in that we would find more joy.  It is easy to look at life as taking risk after risk because your only purpose is trying to find the high that newness brings.

BUT I remember the days…

* When people dedicated themselves to one company and worked there until they retired.  I know today’s economy does not always allow this, but loyalty chooses to endure even when present seems cloudy.

* When people made the covenant of marriage and truly intended to for better or worse stay loyal to this person they had pledge their life to before God.

* When people would commit themselves to one church (not picking and choosing the best flavors of 2-5 churches) and resolved to walk with that church in times of harvest and despair.  Loyalty says as long as the Gospel is central, my feet are planted here and use my talent’s for the worship and glory of God and the benefit of the local body of Christ.

* When athletes played their whole career with one team and did not choose money over being loyal to the owner who first gave them a chance.  Gone are the days of guys who value team loyalty over free agent gain.  I know this one goes both ways with GM’s choosing to not give players extensions (i.e. Michael Young traded to Philly), but I miss the Cal Ripken, Craig Biggio one team for a career scenarios.

Again, sue me for idealism but we must remember it is in the seasons of discomfort that we grow more than ever.  It is in the seasons of trial that we learn to lean on God.  Loyalty teaches us that problems are not permanent and shows us the blessing of learning to overcome conflict.  Every long term relationship brings with it conflict.  Loyalty stands tall in conflict and seeks resolution for the better of both the institution and the person, but self indulgence runs for greener pastures when times get uncomfortable.  How do I know this?  I am guilty of being a runner and if you are honest maybe you have been too.

Let’s recapture the concept of loyalty.  Loyalty is synonymous with the words allegiance, fidelity, faithfulness and devotion.   What have you been loyal to? Your selfish desires? The chase for greener pastures?  More than any organization I hope you know the biggest loyalty you must possess is a devotion to Jesus.  Dig in, stand up, stay strong, refuse to let your mind wander in what ifs and greener pastures.  Be willing to stay true to what matters and not chase selfish desires.

Pack your bags?

So today we find ourselves on the other side of another election. Not sure if you heard, but Barack Obama has been re-elected for a second term as President of the United States of America. Of course I am being snarky, you cannot sign on Facebook or Twitter without encountering one of two people: The sky is falling conservative or the gloating democrat. I want to speak to my conservative voting friends.

The one thing we must remember in all of this is that our God was not surprised that Obama was re-elected last night. He knew this would happen. The second thing we must remember is that God’s plan is sovereign. His plan will ultimately be carried out no matter who leads us the next four years. In the end, God and his precepts win the battle.

I am reminded of the prophecy God speaks through Isaiah in Isaiah 45. God calls King Cyrus (a man who would not rule until 200 years after this prophecy was recorded) his anointed one. God says that he will use Cyrus to rescue His people, give Him great power and work out his redemption plan through Him. In Daniel 5, we see that King Cyrus does bring freedom to God’s people and orders the rebuilding of the temple. All of this accomplished by a man that Isaiah 45 mentions did not even know the true God. He was not a follower of God, nor did he know that the God of Israel truly existed. God used a pagan, to carry out His sovereign plan and prophesied it 200 years in advance.

Here is the lesson… God can use anyone to carry out His plan. The sky is not falling, unpack your bags and cancel your ticket to Canada. The fact that Obama has been re-elected, no matter of your opinion of the man, does not mean we are doomed. The God who used a pagan king to bring freedom to His people is still on His throne. The God who will cause all knees to bow one day still has his ultimate plan in place. I am not saying that Obama is Cyrus, or will accomplish what Cyrus did, but I am saying that same God has his amazing plan in place that has not been altered by this election.

Pray for Barack Obama, he is our leader and continues in a role full of stresses and expectations. He is our earthly leader, but our Heavenly leader is serving a full eternity term.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”- Romans 13:1 (ESV)

Just need to add this as a P.S. The answer for the ills of our country cannot and will not be solved by a politician but by people humbling themselves, praying and seeking to live within the sovereign plan of God. When we get serious about God, then we can find healing.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Happy Missional Halloween!


(Rylie dressed as Merida holding her invite cards)

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it looks like to be missional in the midst of my everyday life.  Asking myself the question of how I can reach more people for Jesus by investing myself in my community.  In this vain as I considered Halloween and the normal response of the church I wondered if maybe somewhere along the way we had missed the boat.

My daughter Rylie’s children’s choir had been cancelled since Halloween fell on Wednesday and as Minister to Students at my church Southmont Baptist Church ( I was given the choice on whether to meet on Halloween or cancel.  I made the decision to cancel honestly because I did not know how many students would show up to church that night and selfishly I wanted to spend time with Rylie and Macee and take them trick or treating.  A few days after the decision though God began to move in me a deeper reason.  What if Halloween, often the most frowned upon holiday by the Christian faith, was actually the best opportunity to reach our neighbors?

There are few times if any in a year (outside of Halloween) that neighbors invite each other to knock on their door and have conversation.  The typical response has always been as the church to do an alternative, safe activity… mine included.  We had our fall festival on Sunday this year previous to Halloween.  We invite the masses to enter our territory without ever engaging them in their world.

The people who needed to be reached might have come to the trunk or treat or to the fall festival, but the ones God laid on my heart were the ones opening their doors to hand out candy, drinking a beer with a neighbor or seeking to scare a kid into tears.  Real people who may never feel a comfort level to set foot on a church property.

I discussed my heart with my seven year old daughter Rylie and she agreed that we should pass out cards and invite those who gave us candy to join us for church on Sunday.  We both wanted to use this day for more than the accumulation of ammunition for future teeth rotting.  I knew Rylie would be on board because her heart for people and the gospel is extremely soft, but I did not know the level of boldness my daughter would show as she invited family after family to visit our church.  She did not hesitate a second, often waiting as the person read it and even reading it to one family.  She reached out to people with compassion, joy and fearlessness.

Last night on the most missional day of the year my daughter set an example for all believers and most of all for her pastor dad of what it means to make the most of every opportunity and to extend the hand of Jesus to your neighbors. When I told her I was proud and saw in her the heart to be a missionary one day, she corrected me and said,” Daddy, I am a missionary right now.” Another lesson learned from a seven year old.

What if our Christian events and formulating a Christian version of every aspect of our lives has distanced us from our neighbors and led us on a path of missed opportunities?  It is a question worth asking.  All I know is I sit humbled today by a little girl who was more concerned that every card was passed out than if her candy bucket was full.  These cards opened up multiple conversations.  While it is still called today look for your opportunity to love people well.

As I read through the Old Testament with the guys in my accountability small group I have been captured by the numerous times that the writers refer to God’s steadfast love. More than just the term steadfast love, I have been moved by a song or a declaration that has been repeated over and over as I have read through Psalms, Ezra, Jeremiah and Chronicles.

We see this song/saying quoted in 2 Chronicles 5:13, ” For He is good, for His steadfast love endures for ever.” It was sang by the Levitical singers, it was prayed by Solomon and declared by David, other Psalmists, and even the Lord himself in His promise for peace for the house of Judah and Israel to Jeremiah. This is a song that has been the declaration of the church from old testament times to today.

Declare his goodness today! Thank Him for his steadfast love in this very moment! To be steadfast is to be firm, stable and constant. In a world where people fall in and out of love, where love is given and withheld based on performance and hinges on a “what have you done for me lately” mentality; God’s love for you has been unwavering. It is time for us to declare this song. God you are good and your steadfast love endures forever.

Maybe you find yourself in the depths of despair, pain or hurt. Remember the only one whose love for you has remained steadfast. Declare His goodness in the midst of the storm. In 1 Peter 2:9 we see that we belong to God for the purpose proclaiming His excellencies. Our identity is found in the declaring of this great song of the church. Church warm up your vocal chords, it is time to sing the song of the redeemed.

“Our God is good, His steadfast love endures forever.”


* All of these talk about God’s Steadfast Love (This list is a work in progress)

1 Chronicles 16:34,41

2 Chronicles 5:13

2 Chronicles 7:3

2 Chronicles 20:21

Ezra 3:11

Psalm 57:10

Psalm 59

Psalm 61:7

Psalm 62:12

Psalm 63:3

Psalm 66:20- thanks God for not removing His steadfast love from him.

Psalm 69:13, 16

Psalm 100:5

Psalm 106:1

Psalm 107:1

Psalm 118:29

Psalm 136: 1-2

Jeremiah 33:11