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What Lies Ahead for America?
What Lies Ahead for America?

Ernie Johnson, Jr.
Q&A: On family, faith, cancer and embracing the unscripted

  Ernie Johnson, Jr. has been in the public eye for sports fans for decades, especially those in Atlanta. Of course, his father, Ernie Johnson, Sr. started as a pitcher for the Braves in Boston and Milwaukee for nine seasons. But he is best known for his work behind the mike. Ernie was a longtime color commentator and play-by-play broadcaster on Braves radio and television, working from 1962 to 1999. He became an icon in Atlanta after the team moved here in 1966, and in the 1980s gained national exposure through his work with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren on "Superstation" TBS.


Ernie Sr. with Skip and Pete

  He was elected to the Braves' Hall of Fame. Ernie Jr., worked with him on SportSouth telecasts from 1993 to 1996. The broadcast booth at Atlanta's Turner Field bears his name.
  Ernie Jr. moved to TNT to cover the NBA in 1990 and has been the voice of their coverage ever since. Johnson has also anchored the TBS coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs since 2007.
  He has a new book, "Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary," that debuted this month on the Christian Bookseller's Top 50 list at #5.
  Here is a portion of an interview that Ernie Johnson, Jr. did with Yahoo Sports...

Obviously family is extremely important to you, but you've also got an incredibly demanding job.
How do you balance the two?

  Ernie: Honestly, in the course of being at Turner for 28 years, I don't know sometimes. A lot of folks out there have that same kind of balancing act to do. We've always known known what the most important part of that is and schedules just kind of work out. Even with Cheryl, working as the founder and CEO of a non-profit that's fighting the child sex-trafficking trade called Street Grace. There were demands on her time, there were demands on my time. But not being on the air every night is a huge plus because then I can do my work from home when I'm not at the studio.

  It all just works. It's truly a team effort. There's no way we would have ever done it without our entire family unit just pulling on the rope. If anybody had their own agenda getting in the way, it just wouldn't work. We are blessed to have this incredible team of just caring kids and we've found a way.

You've talked a little bit about the importance of faith in your life, particularly after the recent presidential election. Is it something you were brought up with or did it come later in life? 

Ernie: It came and it went and it came back. I grew up going to Catholic school and I was altar boy even going back to the days where the altar boys had to learn the Latin clergy for mass. I think that really when I went to college I kind of got away from it. It's one of these things where suddenly Sunday morning was used to kind of stave off the effects of Saturday night.

  As I continued to drift away from the spiritual center of my life, here's my career starting to take shape and here I am getting married to Cheryl and we had these kids. It really got to the point where it was like, "Wow, things are going great and I haven't really given God a second thought, so why change anything?"

  That all changed in 1997. Cheryl and I are sitting around talking, by this point now in 1997 we had Eric and Maggie and Michael and Carmen and we were just having this conversation about, "We should probably be giving the kids a little spiritual foundation." ...
  So we decided to try this church, this non-denominational church near our home and I found within a month of going to this church, I mean, we were doing this for the kids, I found that I was being impacted profoundly by the message from this pastor Kevin Myers who was roughly my age and had a wife and three kids and was just a normal guy who just happened to have a real good handle on the bible and a way of teaching.

  Suddenly, I found myself really drawn to Christianity. I was reading the bible and I'd always considered it an outdated book that has no relevance and suddenly I was devouring it. Everything changed back in 1997. The focus of my life changed from, "Hey this is all about me," to "this is all about living whatever God has planned for me and devoting my life to Jesus Christ."

How has that newfound faith helped you get through some of these trying moments that you've experienced?

  Ernie: I really do think that that time in 1997 prepared me for what was gonna come in my life ahead. It prepared me for having a doctor tell me, "Yeah, you've got cancer." That happened six years later.

  That day in 1997 essentially was a decision to trust God with my life. When I had cancer ... you know you're confused, you're a little angry and I was ready to punch God in the nose in 2003 when I got this word. And, again, it was my pastor Kevin Myers. And we had this great Starbucks conversation where he was writing down notes on a Starbucks napkin and asking me about this trust in God that I had professed, what it looked like now in 2003 with a cancer diagnosis.

The Harbinger captured the attention of more than 1 million people this year with its prophetic warning to America. But the book’s ongoing implications should be the real concern behind this profound revelation.

What happens when a nation ignores God’s warnings and the call to return to Him? What happens to nations that actually return to God?

Regardless of how much the world mocks Christians for believing that God’s Word is absolute truth, there are biblical principles and patterns concerning the judgment or redemption of nations—and this revelation holds profound meaning for America.

I wrote about these principles in The Harbinger, a prophetic wake-up call for America released in January 2012 that has since sold more than 1 million copies. The message has obviously resonated with people from all walks of life (it spent the entire year on the New York Times best-seller list), yet there is far more to this continuing story.

It begins more than 2,700 years ago, when God repeatedly called ancient Israel to return to Him after the people He birthed opted to turn away from their God. The very words of the Torah, spoken through Moses to their ancestors in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, were His first call and His foretelling future calamity if they failed to repent. When the people of Israel’s northern kingdom ignored those words, God sent His prophets to confront them face-to-face with their transgressions.

Even then the people and their leaders refused to listen, hardening their hearts to His message and persecuting the messengers. God finally allowed Israel’s enemies to breach His protective hedge around the nation. Though the subsequent damage was significant, it was limited—proving that even in judgment God was calling the nation to wake up, turn from its self-destructive course and be reconciled to Him.

Israel’s defiant answer to God’s final call is found in Isaiah 9:10: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” Despite being in ruins, Israel vowed to rebuild itself stronger than ever—and without God.

Verse 11 describes the beginning of the tragic consequences of that defiance, the nation’s progression to judgment: “Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and spur his enemies on.”

The answer continues in the verses that follow: “And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. ... The land is burned up. ... What will you do in the day of punishment, and in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?” (Is. 9:12, 19; 10:3).

Thus, Isaiah 9:10 leads to a prophecy of national destruction, fulfilled when the Assyrians returned, laid siege for three years and destroyed the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., and exiled its people.

- See more at: http://www.charismanews.com/culture/38176-what-lies-ahead-for-america#sthash.9IWT8R1M.dpuf

The Harbinger captured the attention of more than 1 million people this year with its prophetic warning to America. But the book’s ongoing implications should be the real concern behind this profound revelation.

What happens when a nation ignores God’s warnings and the call to return to Him? What happens to nations that actually return to God?

Regardless of how much the world mocks Christians for believing that God’s Word is absolute truth, there are biblical principles and patterns concerning the judgment or redemption of nations—and this revelation holds profound meaning for America.

I wrote about these principles in The Harbinger, a prophetic wake-up call for America released in January 2012 that has since sold more than 1 million copies. The message has obviously resonated with people from all walks of life (it spent the entire year on the New York Times best-seller list), yet there is far more to this continuing story.

It begins more than 2,700 years ago, when God repeatedly called ancient Israel to return to Him after the people He birthed opted to turn away from their God. The very words of the Torah, spoken through Moses to their ancestors in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, were His first call and His foretelling future calamity if they failed to repent. When the people of Israel’s northern kingdom ignored those words, God sent His prophets to confront them face-to-face with their transgressions.

Even then the people and their leaders refused to listen, hardening their hearts to His message and persecuting the messengers. God finally allowed Israel’s enemies to breach His protective hedge around the nation. Though the subsequent damage was significant, it was limited—proving that even in judgment God was calling the nation to wake up, turn from its self-destructive course and be reconciled to Him.

Israel’s defiant answer to God’s final call is found in Isaiah 9:10: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” Despite being in ruins, Israel vowed to rebuild itself stronger than ever—and without God.

Verse 11 describes the beginning of the tragic consequences of that defiance, the nation’s progression to judgment: “Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and spur his enemies on.”

The answer continues in the verses that follow: “And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. ... The land is burned up. ... What will you do in the day of punishment, and in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?” (Is. 9:12, 19; 10:3).

Thus, Isaiah 9:10 leads to a prophecy of national destruction, fulfilled when the Assyrians returned, laid siege for three years and destroyed the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., and exiled its people.

- See more at: http://www.charismanews.com/culture/38176-what-lies-ahead-for-america#sthash.9IWT8R1M.dpuf

 
He said, "So, are you going to trust Him if your next test comes back clean? Are you going to trust him with a question mark?" We came to the decision that, I was going to trust God, period. Anytime anybody gets an email from me, that's always the signature at the bottom of my email "Trust God, period."

Faith has been central to how I live life. People always talk about, "Is he a religious guy?" like your life is a pie and its divided into the 50 percent bad slice and here's the 35 percent work slice and here's the Sunday spiritual religious slice and it's sort of like you divide the pie up that way. To me, faith is the crust. It's in every piece of that pie and it's how I process everything that goes on, whether that's things in our lives with (his son) Michael's health or my cancer struggle to anything that we encounter as a family.

When you were diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, you delayed treatment to stay on the air throughout the 2006 NBA season. What was the thought process behind that decision?

  Ernie: When I was first diagnosed in 2003, only a few people knew about it. My family knew about it and a few folks at Turner knew about it. As it turns out, because of the kind of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma I had, there was no need for treatment right away. So I could continue to keep working and doing my thing until it got to the time where my oncologist and I determined it was time for treatment.

 That time didn't really happen until 2006. If you look at me between 2003 and 2006, you'd never think anything was up, but in 2006 my lymph nodes started to swell up. And so, my appearance on the air, you could see something was up. That's when I decided that I would address that on the air one night. That was right after the All-Star game in 2006 and my doctor and I had talked and he said there's no need to start treatment and that I could do chemo during the summer. At that point, I made the decision that I was going to keep working.

  I didn't want people to think that, because I had cancer, that I was going to go into hiding. To be honest, it was difficult...not because I was feeling bad, but I was self-conscious about the way I looked. The choice was between [staying on the air] and having people ask questions or make comments online or starting treatment now.

  I said, "I'm going to stick this out and I'm going to get it all done in the summer." That's what it was. I said, "I have cancer, but I'm not going to go into hiding. I'm going to keep on working and not let it stop me." And that summer, I did my cycles of chemo.

What was the reaction to that decision, particularly by your co-workers at Turner?

  Ernie: One of the toughest conversations I had was talking to Kenny (Smith) and Charles (Barkley) about it. I called them into my office separately and I said, "Here;s what's going on. I have cancer. Here's what you gotta promise me: you can't change the dynamic of the show. I can't be the sympathetic cancer guy. You can't feel like you can't make fun of me because I have cancer. We just gotta have the same vibe. I'll get through this and everything will be great."

  They were tremendous. They did what they always do. They said, "Anything you need, I'm here." That' always been the way Charles and Kenny have been and the way all of us are with each other. These are my brothers. We'd all do anything for each other.

And I'm sure that just seeing you out there on camera helped viewers or other people who may have been struggling with similar situations.

  Ernie: I think that, when you do go through this, and cancer survivors will relate to this, you find that, when you get in that club, that club that nobody wants to be in, you feel an inner-responsibility to help the next person. There's an unspoken language in those infusion centers where you've got 12 people in a room sitting in recliners getting these chemo drips and there's an unspoken wink of the eye or a clenched fist. It's this support group that just kind of forms.

  I can't tell you how many times I get phone calls from folks and they say, "Hey, I've got a buddy of mine and he's about to start cancer treatment." And you just call him up, and you talk to him and you say, "Hey, look, I've been down that road." I always tell them, and this is what I told [Craig Sager], right after he got diagnosed and was in the hospital, I said, "Hey, somebody told me, Craig, when I was going through one of these body scans, 'You may have cancer, but it doesn't have you.'" That was one of the greatest things somebody ever told me and I share that with everybody that I'm in contact with now. It's that message of, "I'm not going to let cancer take away who I am. I'm not going to let it dominate me, I'm gonna fight like mad." I'm telling people that all the time.

   When that happens it goes back to when you were telling your kids and you see the fear and the anxiety and the apprehension and you know that his family is going through the same thing. It's one of these things that happens when you have cancer that suddenly you will support somebody else through it and give them encouragement.

I know that's something that you want people
to take away from the book.

  Ernie: The thing about "Unscripted" is, our families lives have had so many different layers. You could write a book about fighting cancer, you could write a book about adopting, you could write a book about special needs kids or the special nature of a father-son relationship or about the whole question of faith and where you stand on it. That could be five different books and our lives have had all five things of those things wrapped up in them.

  What I think "Unscripted" does is it can speak to people in a number of places where they are right now. I can see somebody saying, "Oh yeah, I've got a buddy going through cancer right now. He should read this," or somebody saying, "We've always thought about adoption."

  That's kind of the reaction I got after the E:60 piece (on ESPN). I heard from all of these different groups. ... That reaction kind of sparked the idea to write the book. The reaction has been staggering. This is not to blow up our family. That's not what this is about. This is about, "Hey people are reading the story and its resonating on so many different levels with them, so now is the time to write the book."
  That would be the hope is that this book would wind up in the hands of somebody who can take some of it and apply it. It can get them through a time. This is not to put this Johnson family on this pedestal that says, "This is how you should live your life." No, this is just how one family navigated some pretty rough waters. It's that kind of a feeling and my prayer is that the book winds up in the hands of somebody who needs it and it might inspire somebody. So, we'll see.

Read the full interview on Yahoo Sports - Click Here

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ERNIE JOHNSON, JR.
"Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary"

Retail Price: $24.99
CBD Price: $16.99
You Save $8.00
(Save 32%)

Ever feel like you're "ad-libbing" your way through life? Based in Atlanta, popular sports broadcaster Johnson has been there---and he's learned that some of life's greatest triumphs come from experiences we never anticipated! In this heartfelt autobiography, he shares insights from his experiences parenting six children (one with special needs); surviving cancer; climbing the career ladder; and more. He is the son of famed Braves broadcaster, Ernie Johnson. 224 pages, hardcover
from Baker.

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