Faith Focus: Burkhardt: WTVC to WWJD

Lisa Burkhardt Worley's sportscasting career from WTVC-TV Channel 9 in Chattanooga to HBO and ESPN was full of thrills, but she's found her biggest thrill in serving Christ.

The San Antonio native is now a motivational speaker, founder of the Pearls of Promise ministry and co-editor of a new women's devotional book, "Pearls of Promise."

"All that time [in sportscasting] I was a Christian," said Worley, then known as Lisa Burkhardt, "but I was not walking that walk. I was a Christian in name only but not in the way I lived."

In the late 1990s, when both HBO and the MSG network failed to renew her contract within days of each other, she was devastated and struck out at God.

"I was shaking my fist," Worley said. "We go do our own thing [away from God], then something happens and we blame God."

In time, after she felt God was telling her he'd given her a platform but she wasn't honoring him with it, she rededicated her life. Before long, she got a freelance job with ESPN and, eventually, a chance to return to her hometown as a sportscaster.

"If I hadn't rededicated my life to Christ," Worley said, "I probably wouldn't have gone back to San Antonio."

That, in turn, led to her need to reach people for Christ, to attend seminary at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas and to start her ministry.

The mission of her ministry and her book, Worley said, is to help women find freedom in Christ.

"Men and women have strongholds that prevent you from living as abundantly in life as Christ wants us to live, as he challenges us to live," she said. "All of us have had these challenges. It's only through Christ's strength we're able to live victoriously."

Worley's testimony, and her segment in the book of 120 devotions from 46 authors across the country, deals with being the child of a father who died before she was born and a mother who never recovered from that death and thereafter suffered from mental illness.

"I had to learn how to overcome, to find freedom from that past," she said. "I had to break free from some things ... like insecurity and [lack of] self-esteem."

The ministry and the book, according to Worley, a wife and mother of two, take their name from actual pearls, which are created through irritation and distress inside an oyster shell.

"That's why we have adversity in our lives," she said. "God has created pearls out of our obstacles. [The devotionals tell] how God worked through them.

"If someone needs something, if they're feeling unloved, they can find a devotional that speaks to them to help them overcome that day."

"Pearls of Promise" will be released by Kudu Publishing Services on March 18 and will be available in stores and from online sources.

In addition to Worley, other authors are "Hugs" book series creator Leann Weiss, Christian fiction writer Lisa Buffaloe and motivational speaker, evangelist and former Zig Ziglar associate Krish Dhanam.

Worley, who worked at WTVC in her first job from 1981 to 1984 and was one of the area's first female sportscasters, said she felt privileged to work with Darrell Patterson, the station's sports anchor.

"He was nicer to me than I ever thought at the time," she said. "He accepted me as a female sportscaster, as a coworker. A lot of men may not have accepted me."

While Worley went on to cover her hometown San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, to "break [the] professional athlete bubble" in getting to know players on HBO's "Inside the NFL" and to cover four Super Bowls, a lesson she learned at WTVC has helped her ever since.

In the locker room following an NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, she wanted to interview Celtics' star Larry Bird but found him standing next to a naked teammate. Feeling awkward, she instead approached Celtics teammate Danny Ainge. While interviewing him, Bird walked out the door.

"I learned a lesson that day," Worley said. "I can't let [things] intimidate me."

While she's switched from sports to faith, she's still all in.

"We have to confront those things [that hold us back]," Worley said. "I really don't think we can do it without Christ."

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