“From Tragedy to Pearl”
My father, a Jewish doctor, died two months before I was born from a massive heart attack while playing polo. He was only 39 years old. My mother, who watched his shocking death at the polo match, never recovered from his passing, spending the rest of her life numbing her pain with alcohol and prescription drugs. She was later diagnosed with mental illness and was unable to live a “normal” life.
Meanwhile, because of my mother’s emotional troubles, four years of my childhood were spent living with my grandmother who cared for us during one of my mother’s roughest stretches. I am thankful for my grandmother’s involvement in my life and miss her very much.
When a friend of mine shared Christ with me in my high school Freshman English class, I was starved for a different life, so I prayed the sinner’s prayer, asking Jesus into my life. My friend and her family did not stop at the prayer. They proceeded to take me to their Southern Baptist church every Sunday and I attended services in the morning with them, choir practice, training union, then church at night. For the first time in my life, I was immersed in things of the Lord; and in between church activities, I had an opportunity to observe a very devout, godly family.
However, I call the seventeen years after high school “the lost years.” My new-found Christianity took a backseat to my pursuit of popularity in college. I was involved in many extracurricular activities, including sports, playing college basketball. For the first two years of college, I also spent a lot of nights partying with my friends, and was at times, promiscuous with boys as I searched for love “in all the wrong places.” I regret that part of my life, but because of it, I understand God’s grace.
After graduating from a liberal arts college, Texas Lutheran, I attended graduate school at the University of North Texas to focus on getting a job as a sportscaster. I was blessed in that pursuit, interning and reporting at a Dallas television station (WFAA) while I was in school, then landing a job at the ABC affiliate in Chattanooga, TN after graduate school. I spent three years in Chattanooga before being offered a job at the CBS affiliate in San Antonio, KENS-TV. During that stretch, I met my husband, and a few years later, our first son, Kyle, was born.
After my first stint with KENS-TV in San Antonio, I spent three and a half years in New York City on national and regional television at HBO sports (Inside the NFL), the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG Sportsdesk) and ESPN.
It was in between HBO, MSG and ESPN that the bottom dropped out of my life though, and forever changed my path. In one week, I was not renewed on either my MSG or my HBO contract. HBO was the most disheartening. I received a phone call from the HBO Sports Executive Producer to let me know they were making a change. He assured me I’d done a good job and said they weren’t looking to replace me but _____________, (a bigger name than me) wanted to do the job. It was a humbling way to lose a job.
I plummeted from the mountaintop to the valley overnight. Six figures to zero. I was in shock! So, our family had to make some drastic changes. We moved out of our more expensive digs in New Rochelle, New York and relocated to Connecticut where we could live a more frugal life further out from New York City.
In the meantime, I questioned God about this. I asked him, “Why would you take my livelihood away?” “Why did you allow this to happen?” I hadn’t been connected to him since college, but he was the first to receive the blame. He didn’t answer me initially. We also decided to attend a church up in Connecticut. It was there that I signed up for a Bible study and for the first time in my life, I studied God’s word.
It was during this stretch, God finally answered my question, “Why did you allow this to happen?” He said clearly, “Because I gave you a national platform to speak about me and you did not use it. I had to take your career away to get your attention.”
At that moment, I repented and told God that if he allowed me to have a sportscasting career again, I would not only dedicate my career to him, I would surrender my life to him.
No coincidence, the next week, ESPN called and wanted to know if I would be available for free-lance reporting. I had six ESPN reports under my belt when I received a call from my old station in San Antonio, wondering if I would consider returning back to work there.
I had a taste of ESPN, and realized traveling as a reporter was not conducive to family life, so when I spoke to the President of ESPN, I told him about my offer and explained that I would stay if they would offer me a Sportscenter anchoring job (He had met with me a year before and discussed a five-year contract to anchor Sportscenter). He could only promise a full-time reporting job, so after praying about the decision, I turned ESPN down, and went home.
I believed I could do more for the Lord as a bigger fish in a smaller pond than a small fish in a bigger pond anyway. It was also an opportunity to honor my mother, whom I had been somewhat estranged from since high school. She had gotten much worse and was now living in a group home. Other family members cared for her, and it was my turn to take on this responsibility. That meant visiting her regularly, taking care of her material needs and giving her unconditional love.
I reconnected with my mom for two years when I received a phone call from her that she needed a new pair of shoes. I felt an urgency to buy her the shoes and immediately went out to get them. Unfortunately, my mother suffered a massive heart attack before I could deliver the shoes to her. She spent the last week of her life in a coma but I remained by her bedside, telling her I loved her, forgetting the troubled past. When she died, I could hear Jesus telling me, “Now you understand what my unconditional love is all about.”
I came back to San Antonio as a rededicated Christian and had returned from the desert to an oasis full of God’s promises. I continued with Bible study and grew in the Lord. I began giving back by teaching Sunday school for ten years, then took on additional responsibilities at the church. I also worked with a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry that reached the marketplace for Christ.
My mother never met our second son, Bret, born in 1996. Meanwhile, I left television in 1999 to work as the spokeswoman for the airport in San Antonio, during the events of 9-11. As I look back, I realize my day-shift at the airport freed me up to do more ministry. During those five years, God also called me to seminary. Our family eventually moved to the North Texas area where I graduated from Perkins School of Theology in 2008 with a Masters of Theological Studies Degree. I think I was the only one at Perkins called to a Christian inspirational speaking and writing career!
Moving was difficult for me as I didn’t realize how much of my identity was tied up in my public persona until I no longer had it. When I reflect on this, I realized that God had to remove me from that life in order to rebuild me into what he desired me to be. I used to be the sportscaster who did ministry but he transformed me into the minister who used to be a sportscaster.
Also after the move, the Lord gave me a heart for women and inspired me to oversee women’s ministry at our church and to speak to the women at our church through a ministry called, Thirsty Thursday and First Friday Feast.
In the summer of 2012, I believe God told me that the ministry I began in 2009, Pearls of Promise, needed to go outside the church walls. I believe that just as to takes years of irritation in an oyster shell to form a beautiful pearl, God can take the years of trials and hardships in our lives and make something beautiful out of them as well. Other women were also called and joined our Pearls of Promise team. Our first project, The Pearls of Promise Devotional, was published in March, 2013. The devotional includes work from 46 different authors.
The second project is a book I co-authored a book with Catherine Weiskopf, If I Only Had…Wrapping Yourself in God’s Truth During Storms of Insecurity, written to help women overcome life’s obstacles that steal our security. If I Only Had…that was released in June 2014 and to date, has won four international, national and regional writing awards.
Since 2014, I’ve released two children’s books based on the theme The Most Powerful P and was co-editor and contributor for two books of testimonies called Stories of Roaring Faith.
My latest book, The Root that Never Died: A Christian Woman’s Journey Back to Her Hebraic Roots is a book that not only documents my call back to my Hebraic heritage as a Messianic Jew, but is designed to make a case for Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah. The Only Father I Ever Knew: How a Fatherless Child Finally Found True Love, was released in the fall of 2018. A sequel to the book and Bible study that God called me to write, Knowing the Father, was released May, 2019.
In 2019, The LORD brought me back to television to produce and co-host a show called POP Talk. He also led me to produce documentaries to fight antisemitism and help the Jewish people.
As I look back over my life, I can relate to the Apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 3:8: What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
It was an incredible nineteen years in television but I would give it all up if it meant not knowing Christ. He is all I need. He is why I live, and my mission now is to help other women come to that realization as well. Lisa Burkhardt Worley
Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you don’t, and desire for your life to be transformed as mine was, do not hesitate to pray now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and eternity is too long to be wrong! Simply pray this prayer:
Lord Jesus, I do believe you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I invite you to come into my life, forgive my sin, and make me a part of the family of God. I also surrender control of my life to you. Thank you for the free gift of salvation and for your Holy Spirit, who has now come to live in me and guide each day. I ask this in Jesus Name. AMEN.
If you prayed this prayer, congratulations, you are now a Christian! I challenge you to begin reading the Bible for further revelation, and to join a Bible study in your area. I hope you will also follow the Pearls of Promise blog. Your journey is just beginning.