By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – In a stadium filled with 8,000 evangelical Christian women, one person near the stage stands out.
Sporting short salt-and-peppered hair, broad shoulders and a high-collared shirt, the man sits calmly as ballerinas flutter across the stage, women tell jokes about menopause and the event’s emcee announces that almost all the men’s rooms at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington have been converted to female restrooms for the night, provoking a round of applause.
For Kurt Warner, former quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals and two-time National Football League MVP, this is about as far away from the testosterone-driven world of the gridiron as you can get.
Onstage is the reason Warner’s here: Brenda Warner, her angular face and close-cropped blonde hair radiating in professional lighting, telling the audience about God’s plan for her life.
For years, Brenda was known as Kurt’s uber-supportive wife – a woman whose unflinchingly defense and championing of her superstar husband sometimes made news in it its own right.
Today, two years into Kurt’s retirement, those roles are changing.
My Faith: What people talk about before they die
Brenda has become what some call "Christian famous" - a renowned evangelical speaker who tours the country with the likes of the 2012 Women of Faith tour, which will reach tens of thousands of Christian women with a message of hope and faith. As one of the tour’s headliners, Brenda will travel the country each weekend until November to tell her story – one of heartbreak, love and growth.
Through much of it, Kurt will be there with her, sitting in the audience as his wife does her thing before throngs of adoring fans.
“Brenda Warner is no longer Kurt Warner’s wife,” one awestruck woman says after listening to Brenda’s story at the Verizon Center. “Kurt Warner is now Brenda Warner’s husband.”
‘We need each other, we all have a story’
Brenda Warner’s story is a tear-jerker, whether or not you accept the God part.
When she was 18, she joined the Marine Corps, a job that took her from her hometown of Parkersburg, Iowa, to bases in Japan and in Virginia Beach, Virginia – where she would marry another Marine and give birth to a baby boy.
When Brenda begins to explain her life to the crowd in Washington, women applaud for the lines about joining the Marines and having baby Zachary.
Then the story takes a dark turn.
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While working one day in Virginia Beach, Brenda got a phone call that changed her life. Her husband had dropped Zachary on his head, an accident that would leave their toddler legally blind and developmentally disabled. Speaking in Washington, Brenda recounts the scene at the hospital.
“Zachary had a seizure – they worked around him trying to stop it,” she says. “I did all that I knew to do – I called out, ‘Jesus, Jesus, let this be the last seizure.’”
A hush has fallen over the stadium. Women wipe tears from their cheeks; one has pulled her pink T-shirt over her eyes.
She and her husband struggled to make things work with Zachary, Brenda continues. She got pregnant again, she tells the audience, but when she was a month from her due date her husband told her he had feelings for another woman. “I got out of bed, I called home and said mama come get me,” she says. “He doesn't love me, after all that we have been through.”
Brenda became a registered nurse, largely to learn how to better cope with Zachary’s condition. To make ends meet, she stood in line for food stamps and moved out of her parent’s basement and into low-income housing.
Then, another bombshell.
One night in 1996, Brenda’s sister called to report that their mother and father, who had retired to a cabin in Arkansas, had been killed in a tornado. Their house had been wiped off the map.
“They were always my soft place to fall,” Brenda tells the crowd.
At this point, the woman with her head in her T-shirt is a sobbing headless body. But as quickly as she has just dropped the mood, Brenda builds it up by telling the women that God brought her through it all.
“I married that football player,” she says, gesturing toward Kurt. “He adopted my two and we have five more.” Tears are giving way to applause.
Kurt and Brenda Warner first met when Kurt was playing college football at University of Northern Iowa.
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Near the end of the speech, Brenda brings Zachary out to say hello to the crowd.
“If you have ever felt like life has cheated you, stand up with me,” Brenda says. “If you have ever felt disappointed in life, stand with me. If you have ever received a call that changed your life forever, brought you to your knees and took your breath away, look around, we are all in this together, we need each other, we all have a story.”
Afterward, many women say they saw themselves in Brenda’s story.
“She is just a normal everyday mom raising a family just like everybody,” says Sena Hohman, her two daughters accompanying her to the event. “Hearing these stories, you find out she is just like me, with ups and downs in life, with peaks and valleys.
“To be able to see somebody has overcome” what she has, said Judy Gerlitz from Centerville, Virginia, “shows me that I can do it.”
Super Bowl champion, philanthropist
When she’s offstage, Brenda and Kurt often operate as a team in their faith-based work.
On the recent Friday morning before Brenda addresses the Women of Faith conference, the couple find themselves in a small, bland conference room in downtown Washington.
Kurt takes notes while Brenda’s eyes stay fixed on the architect who’s briefing them. The topic: plans for a multi-apartment home for developmentally disabled young adults that the Warners want to build in their hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.
The project is inspired by Zachary, now a 23-year-old high school graduate.
“Zach has probably impacted more people than all of us combined because there is something unique and special and honest about these individuals that see it like it is and call it like they see it,” Kurt says.
Zachary lives in a group house in St. Louis. The Warners are modeling the group home they’re building in Arizona, called Treasure House, on the St. Louis Life concept for independent living for those with special needs.
At the meeting in Washington, Kurt is very much in control, with the architect and a consultant urge the Warners to use Kurt’s celebrity to help raise funds. “Leverage your history,” the consultant says, looking at Kurt and talking football.
Kurt’s story, like Brenda’s, includes some letdowns. After going unselected in the 1994 NFL draft as a quarterback out of University of Northern Iowa, Kurt became a Hy-Vee grocery store stock clerk to make money. While stocking shelves, he signed with the Iowa Barnstorms, an Arena Football League team in Des Moines, Iowa. With his big arm and accuracy, he became an AFL star.
After a short stint with NFL Europe, Kurt became the third -tring quarterback for the St. Louis Rams for the 1998 season. In 1999, after an injury to the Rams’ starting quarterback, he got his chance. Leading the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory, Kurt won both the league and Super Bowl MVP award that year.
Kurt Warner drops back to pass in Super Bowl XXXIV, a game his St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.
Brenda was there through all of it, from AFL to NFL. She and Kurt met while Kurt was attending college in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at a country bar where she was taking line dancing classes. She worried he wouldn’t be able to handle the fact she was divorced with two kids.
When he showed up the morning after their first date and said he wanted to meet her kids, Brenda says, “I feel in love with him before he fell in love with me.”
When Kurt led the Rams to their 1999 Super Bowl victory, not only was Brenda there - she became part of the story.
Brenda was vocally defensive of her husband when he had a bad game, even calling into radio stations to criticize the Rams coaching staff. That zeal and her on-camera postgame kisses for the star quarterback had some fans calling her the Yoko Ono of football.
Throughout his 12-year NFL career, Kurt was known for both his skill and overt faith. “Well, first things first,” Warner told a reporter after his first Super Bowl victory. “I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”
The interview provided a name for Kurt’s foundation, First Things First, which is “dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values, sharing experiences and providing opportunities.” The group raises money, taking advantage of Kurt’s NFL connections, and organizes events for ill and developmentally disabled children.
Today, Kurt spends much of his time on such work. It’s why he’s talking building schematics instead of defensive schemes.
“My retirement isn’t quite like what people think about with retirement,” Warner says. “I am very busy and have a lot of things that I am active in. It is not a complete 180 from being gone every day to being home every day.”
But talking about civil engineering in a drab hotel conference room is a long way from the National Football League. The common thread: Brenda and their religious faith.
Bonded by faith
Kurt says he had wanted Brenda to pursue her speaking career for years. But while he rose to superstardom, Brenda was a stay-at-home mom.
Now that Kurt is home more, he says, Brenda is free to pursue her dreams.
“What we have realized is there are seasons in all of our lives and dreams take sacrifices but they become family things,” Kurt says. “Dreams are family dreams.”
Brenda and Kurt now work closely together planning the couple's newest philanthropic venture – Treasure House.
Armed with her story and the star power that comes with her last name, Brenda has carved her own path on the Christian speaking circuit. Asked about the Warners at the Verizon Center’s Women of Faith event, only a few of the attendees know about her famous husband.
The tour is marketed to evangelical women to “celebrate what matters,” and also features appearances by female evangelical authors and media personalities. The tour is like a conference, with sessions on different challenges women face.
Kurt and Brenda see their changing professional seasons as part of God’s plan for them. “I don’t think that is the way that I would have written it, but I see that God has worked it out for good,” Brenda says. “I can see how he has been faithful. I can say now I am grateful.”
Telling her story has become second nature for Brenda. She has become expert in pitching God as the cure to heartache.
“He called me by name, he loves me and he won’t leave me,” Brenda repeats in her speech. “God was true to his word that he wouldn’t leave me.”
And neither, it seems, will Kurt.
hindu filthy pig dog bull, hindy filthy Alah sl ut filth, Al-bull-terrier pig dog filth; Sagan tricksters to hind, fool humanity.
No need to be hindu, pagan savior Jesus never existed. to learn more visit http://www.limitisthegirth.com/ and click on word Choice to open exe file, but turn off virus control first.
Hey FREAK. Will you just SHUT UP? You have nothing to say but insane mumbo-jumbo. Go back to your psych ward and tell them that you need more meds, but leave the chat boards. CNN moderators...PLEASE tell this creature to stop posting useless, schizo trash!
Do not rage at our fellow countryman, Mr. American Jared, or NO SLURPEES FOR YOU!
Thats why Christianity will conquer this nation. This nation has turned to the dark side.
Riche, you sound like a terrorist. Should we report you to Homeland security for threatening this nation?
why is this supposed to be big news??? christian famous ???? it just sounds stupid.
"Christian famous" not only sounds stupid it sounds illiterate and asinine, It only goes to show that CNN has nothing else in the world of relgion to put on this "belief blog." CNN is just pandering to the silly people out there.
Jesus said it is harder to get a rich man into heaven than to get a camel through the eye of a needle. He said if you want to want to get to heaven you should sell all your possessions and give your money to the poor. As I recall it there was no mention of 'unless you are a football player' or 'unless you can make a bundle speaking to thousands of people about religion.
People downplay this because they want to be rich and get into heaven. If the bible is true word for word then all these people are hypocrites and will not wind up going where they want to when judgement day comes.
the buy-bull isn't true. The first chapter of that book has too many errors in it. If the first chapter is in error, how "true" can the rest of it be?
If I give all my money to the poor, they won't be poor, but I will be, so they'll have to give it all back to me!? If all the rich give their money to the poor then the now poor (used to be rich) will get into heaven and the now rich (used to be poor) will not ... that's just plain evil. Sounds like a game of Hot Potato!
fladabosco – the Bible is not true word for word.As my brother Rob says, The bible is not an almanac, a calender or a battle plan; it's a book.
With nearly 7 billion people on the planet this one woman (Brenda) thinks that GOD has a plan just for her life. Right. It's fine to think that some god could be omniscient, but isn't that a little silly considering the shape and condition of the world today? Whew...I wouldn't like that god that's allowed this mess...pardon me, PLANNED this mess!
out of the millions of galaxies in the 28 billion light-year across universe, the untold trillions of stars, and the multi'tude of planets, she's the ONE life form on one SMALL rock on the fringes of ONE of those galaxies, but SHE'S "special" because "god" has a plan just for her ... umm.. yeah, ok .
I sure hope all the women who listen to this woman talk recognize that the R&R ticket would have taken the food out of her baby's mouth by denying food stamps and denied them both shelter by eliminating programs like low-income housing.
My thoughts exacty!
Must be getting low on cash funds already, or they want another Ocean view home.........
or the dog needs an air-conditioned doghouse, or his secret teenage mistress's apartment rent is due
Treasure House – The treasure will be in their pockets! We have a right to be skeptical. Theirs is the same story we've seen time and again. Evangelicals lining their pockets.
And yet they thrive. Why is that?
"And yet they thrive. Why is that?"
Because people are stupid
saggyroy, "they" thrive because they know how to dupe people into feeling sorry for them. Didn't the article start off about Brenda telling everyone about poor Brenda? I thought facebook was for that.
The words on the TV should read, "USING FAITH TO RIP OFF WEEK-MINDED PEOPLE".
Hallelujah!!!! to all you evangelicals – you still continually attempt to convert, "save" and destroy anyone who does not believe what you believe, I'm sure you make your make believe God proud.
Wow! Is that the best that you can do after reading their story on faith in a "Real" God? Seems to me that you need to give our God a try; he may decide to open up your mind as well as your heart.
and out of the ten thousand "gods" worshipped throughout human history, which one is YOUR "god"?
Can89 and Mirsal – People have been justifying illegal, immoral, or intrusive practices under the disguise of a religious belief for centuries. Making these practices "Religious Beliefs" and justifying them under "Religious Freedom" does not suddenly make them OK. If you are convinced that your particular religion or belief system is superior to others and people need to be converted to your particular way of thinking, then you are not part of a religion, but are part of a cult.
By definition, ALL religions are cults. The only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of followers. 100 followers is a cult. 100 million is a religion.
Cane89. What god? Have you looked around the world today? If this world is your gods' creation that you can keep him or her ALL to yourself thank you!
Mirosol – By whose definition are ALL religions cults? A religion or belief system that teaches that people need to be kind and understanding to one another, accepts others for who they are, promotes peace and understanding, and does not attempt to convert people to it's teachings and way of thinking, is not a cult. If you belief that the version of "your God" is superior to "other God(s)" that people believe in, and that people need to be "saved" by you or "your God, then guess what? – You are part of a cult – the size of the following is irrelevant.
I am part of no one's "cult", I broke away (escaped if you will) decades ago. Look up the words "cult" and "religion" in a dictionary.
I am part of no one's "cult", I broke away (escaped if you will) decades ago. Go ahead ,look up the words "cult" and "religion" in a dictionary.
Sounds more like a Country music song....
Sure – her adult life had some tragedies... and??? God didn't help her through it – The ability to have an excuse did. As long as we can move the blame sideways – or call it 'God's Plan' – we don't need to ever consider that some things just happen – and some things are our fault....
Of course for such a good 'Christian' soul... I wonder why she was hanging around college Football parties like a junior cougar while her severly injured son was at home.... not that all people shouldn't have a life too.... but college ball players certainly don't hang around wit women they can't nail the first night....
These aren't my standards BTW – but i'm no Christian
Yeah – I got off-topic – just tired of the crazies and everything they say they stand for and yet avoid at every opportunity... (like that love thy neighbor stuff....as long as they beleive like them that is...)
I agree. Religion is a golden ticket for avoiding responsibility, and no one seems to want to challenge that out of "respect".
You didn't get off topic SSampson, you said exactly what any red blooded man reading this article WANTS to say. Thank you.
She looks like more fun than a confessional full of alter boys.
Are so-called evangelicals and those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?
Besides Religion, the Medical Profession, Governments and Political Authorities, Sports and Entertainment are a stronghold of Satan’s divided kingdom and Brenda Warner is a servant thereof (Matthew 10:26-28; 12:26; John 8:34; 2 Cor. 10:4).
Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4).
For a better understanding of the history of religion and Christianity and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to
read the articles ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘False Apostles and False Christs’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
It doesn't matter. With her becoming "christian famous" the price of snake oil is up. Corporate is very happy about the 4th quarter profits.
Revelation?? Everyone knows some dude crashed his camel in a lake of bath salts or worse to write that mess. My goodness.
This poster is a TROLL on this site and is only posting to sell their book and website which is a cult. They are a known liar on this site. Report them to their web hosting site since spamming is against the rules! Click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!
We need more evangelical shysters.
Prayer changes nothing. Proven.
Jesus loves you. Have a nice day.
It's definitely not healthy for altar boys.
Prayer changes things .
Yes. It makes you look silly.
I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
Let's look at the facts (P.S. I don't need to supply any support for these facts, so shush):
1. Science is mainly a fairytale.. I mean come on chemistry is just fancy alchemy. Biology is just an excuse for perverted science teachers to tell children about s-e-x. There's no way any of it could be true! It’s all a system designed to manipulate sheep into becoming mindless followers. “Thank you sir! May I pay you for another Flu shot!”
2. Science is responsible for nothing but evil in the world, e.g. The atom bomb, biological warfare, Carrot Top etc... Ok well, maybe the devil is responsible for the last one..
3. By NOT believing in science you are automatically somehow a better, more ethical and more intelligent person. That's right all you have to do is not believe and POOF! That said, all believers in science are automatically idiots and hicks.. every one of em. I mean after all, they all look alike and I can’t tell a physicist from a molecular biologist in their posh white lab coats and conformist safety goggles! Which is more proof they wish to indoctrinate you.. they all dress alike!
4. Science has done nothing but hold back the progress of belief and spirituality... It's an active agenda people! Sir M.C. Hammer once said we just have to pray to make it today, but now science is trying to make you buy apples everyday or else they will send their doctors after you!! Yeah science, I know where your agenda is based.. In the biggest global corporate economic power in the world.. Apple!
5. I am somehow claiming to backup all my comments with an implied knowledge of religion and faith, but most likely the last class I took on religion was in high school and even then I was too busy writing the names of bands like Wynger on my Trapper-keeper to have been paying attention. Still it's a cool word to throw around “Religion”!
6. And remember simply NOT believing in science isn’t enough! One must repeatedly insult, mock and belittle the followers of science at every chance given, whilst all the while implying #3 on the list above. Go thee forth to the street or forums of internets and shout: LOOK AT ME!! LISTEN TO MY OPIN.. I MEAN FACTS! SURE I CAN’T DISPROVE THE NULL HYPOTHESIS ON WHICH MY BELIEFS ARE FOUNDED, BUT I AM A BETTER PERSON THAN YOU AND GOSH DARN IT PEOPLE LIKE ME!
It's a tarp! Abort! Reverse thrusters! All power to the main forward shields!
I like the cut of your jib mister!
you rode your little conceit past the last exit and now must wait for the morning train.
If she had walked into the evangelical church I grew up in during the late 60's early 70's dressed like that the elders of the church would have dragged her to the front of the church and tried to cast demons out of her.
Okay I will. I'm actually in medical school so I can actually try do what you ask..But having said that you should try out the challenge as well and see what happens. You got nothing to lose, and everything to again. Hey and who knows maybe you'll be up at 2am tomorrow issuing ridiculous challenges.
Ahhh... I see, you thought it was clever to offer up a prayer challenge and then when it was turned around on you, you get a little defensive. No worries.
I wasn't trying to sound defensive. I really am in Medical School and will try what you ask. I'll be honest I don't know what will happen. I only offered you the challenge cause I don't know i thought you might want to take it. Like I said in my previous comments you had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Most importantly the ability to tell Christians to suck it haha.
Oh sorry now I understand why you thought i was being defensive. When I said "ridiculous" I was referring to my challenge not yours haha
My intention is not to tell believers to suck it. I do not really care what people believe, I can not tell other people what to think. I can, however, argue against what is done with those beliefs. It will be a great day when people own up to the fact that the only thing required for good or evil is a human with intentions.
If you do pray for a limb and none are forthcoming, what is going to be your reasoning behind it?
I dont know what reason I would give or if i would even try to explain it at all. To be honest I'd probably be a little upset and wonder why God didn't do anything. But at the same time I don't think I would be able to convince myself and deny that God exists after I have already seen all the miracles he's done in my life and others. But hey its possible that I might just Ifinally see the light and realize that I'm just praying to the abominable snowman haha. More importantly I'll start being able to sleep in on Sundays haha.
Fenton...You are very sick. I wasn't even talking to you at all. Yes, God does exist. You will find that out one day. It doesn't make any difference to me what you do or don't believe. I am not responsible for your sins. I am so glad that I don't have to be around people like you. Christians don't attack those who don't agree with their views. But you are very vile and intolerant of those who don't share your views. I will take Christians to the likes of you any day. How sad that you are so filled with hate.
janey33, when you base everything on lies, why should I be "loving" of your incipient criminality?
Why should I approve of the evil you do? I am at least using modern, educated, and rational morals to judge you by and not using some old pile of rags filled with fecal matter to "interpret" my life and how I function.
I am more moral than your god. Worship me if you want. I won't send you to any nasty places after you die for not following the rules laid down by some twisted Jewish priest. You are the one with hate built into your very world-view and until you are willing to let other people alone about it, I am free to disparage your disgusting religion on a public board.
I hate bullshlt. You are full of it, but I don't hate you. I just hate your religion and what it does to people.
And who the hell are you to tell me what I can and cannot hate? Just someone on the internet. Woo. Yay.
Christians don't attack those who don't agree with their views? Maybe you should read up on the crusades. Why is it that the most devout of the "flock" have the worst knowledge of history? Read a history book instead of the fairy tale you base your belief system on.
Oh, sad little janey33. The problem is, you have and always have "taken christians over anyone else" all your life. That is why you are so intolerant and uncaring. Read your comment again (unless you have fled like a coward after attacking yet another non-christian) and tell us if you really think you are the shining (perhaps Stephen Kings version...) example of a "good" christian. I'd say you're an example of a typical christian and then I'd point out our congress and the GOP and say that being a christian HAS NOT helped our country in the least.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.