A Reflection on Our Grand Ol’ Flag – from John McCain

As you prepare for your Fourth of July celebrations, whether it’s a backyard barbecue, fireworks, a concert or a parade, take a moment to reflect on this true story from John McCain, USN Captain (Retired) and U.S. Sector from Arizona.  I wish you a wonderful Fourth – may we all remember the significance of this holiday and be grateful for our freedom.

*******************

As you may know, I spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.  In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.  In 1971, the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men in a room.  This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.

Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama.  He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.  At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy.  He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.  Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country – and our military – provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home.  In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing.  Mike got himself a bamboo needle.  Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it into the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed an important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.  That evening they returned, and for the benefit of us all, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.  Then they opened the door of the cell and threw him in.  We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept.  Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.  After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath one of those dim light bulbs with a piece of red cloth, another shirt, and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian.  He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better.  He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge allegiance to our flag and our country.  

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage of thousands of Americans to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.  You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands – one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain: Darkness Does Not Discriminate

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Kate Spade this week, and now Anthony Bourdain, both having lost their lives to suicide.

Kate Spade’s smart, playfully sophisticated purses with her simple, gold lower-case font logo was a look we girls all admired, as well as her business sense reflected in her wild success in an unlikely market, handbags.

Anthony Bourdain was described by CNN as “the master chef and gifted storyteller who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition.” Along the way, he received practically every award the industry has to offer. John and I watched him regularly and enjoyed his creative narrative of the places and food to which he exposed us.

The message for us? People who have success, fame and fortune are not immune to depression, anxiety or darkness.

I don’t pretend to know what demons may have plagued Kate or Anthony (as I will never fully understand all that led my dad to take his life).   I’m deeply grieved when someone reaches a point of believing that taking his or her own life is the best option.  If you’re struggling and the darkness doesn’t seem to be lifting, tell someone. Confide in a wise friend, physician, counselor or pastor.  Perhaps it’s a chemical imbalance that can be greatly helped with the right medication.   We must also guard our minds with truth and use discipline to keep them focused on that truth.

“But”, you may say, “I can’t help my feelings.”  True, we can’t help our feelings.  But we CAN help what we think about.  And what we choose to think about directly impacts our feelings.  Our feelings directly affect our actions.  Our actions determine, to a large part, our quality of life.  Thoughts, feelings, actions. That’s why it’s critical to run our thoughts through the grid of God’s Word, rather than through the grid of our hunches, temporary feelings and old, untrustworthy ways of thinking.

It’s been rightly said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Dear friend, take care of your mind as much as you do your body.

Sending you love,

Connie

Connie Carey is the author of Falling UP, Lessons Learned on the Way Down“, a helpful resource for those who have lost someone to suicide. Get your copy here.

 

 

 

3 Legs? 3 Hands? How to Leverage an “Oops” for Your Favor: A Secret from Oprah, Reese & Reagan

The internet has been all over the Photoshop debacle with Reese Witherspoon’s “3 legs” and Oprah’s “3 hands” on the cover shot of the 2018 Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue.

Horrors!  Reese Witherspoon appears to have 3 legs.

And Oprah clearly has 3 hands.

And I love it!

Why? Because of the great response of these two ladies. Their response highlights what I teach in my “Laugh More, Live Better” talk….Lesson number 1:  Keeping your sense of humor helps you not take yourself so seriously.  These ladies have demonstrated just that in their tweets following the onslaught of comments about the photo.

Reese: “Well…I guess everybody knows now…I have 3 legs.  I hope you can still accept me for who I am.”

Oprah: “I accept your 3d leg.  As I know you accept my 3d hand.”

Over and over, it’s been shown that one secret to likability is the ability to laugh at oneself.

At the time Ronald Reagan was elected President, one of the greatest concerns was his advanced age.  The press nipped at his heels repeatedly about this subject, raising the question over and over to the public whether he was able to lead because of his age.

It would’ve been natural to lash out.

Or be defensive.

Or angry.

Instead, he had more fun about it than anyone.  Consider the following quotes:

“My press secretary said the other day that preparing me for a press conference was like reinventing the wheel.  It’s not true.  I was around when the wheel was invented…and it was easier.”

“And I also remember something Thomas Jefferson once said.  “He stated: ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his words’…and ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying.”

When Reagan dozed off at a Cabinet meeting, the Press was all over him. Commentators, with brows furrowed, asked the nation, “Is our president fit to do the job?”  Shortly afterward, Reagan led a group through on a special tour of the White House.  Passing the Cabinet Room, he paused and said with great pride, “Someday there will be a sign: ‘REAGAN SLEPT HERE'”.

The whole group laughed and had a great time.  But Reagan guffawed, slapping his legs and having the best time of all.

(One more….I can’t stop myself.)

“I heard one presidential candidate say (Gary Hart in 1984) what this country needed was a president for the nineties. I was set to run again….I thought he said a president IN his nineties.”

When the joke was on Reagan, guess who laughed the loudest?  Reagan.  And people loved him for it. That likeability helped break down walls (literally, just ask Mr. Gorbachev!) so that his message could be heard.

My words today are not about Oprah’s beliefs or Reagan’s policies.  It’s simply an observation that great people have learned the art of laughing at themselves.  You and I would do well to do the same!

Have you goofed lately?  Leverage your “oops” for your favor.  Step back and enjoy the laugh at yourself!  The result? Lowered blood pressure, increased immunity from disease, overall enjoyment in life…and likeability!

Lessons from a Loser: 3 Surprising Encouragements from Handel’s Messiah

Have you ever felt like your best days were behind you? Have you been plagued with financial or health troubles?  How about anxiety and depression?  If so, you’re in great company.  All of these hounded the great composer, George Frederick Handel.

By age 56 Handel was a washed-up “has been”. As a once-great opera composer commissioned by royalty, he enjoyed phenomenal success.  But by 1741 he was bankrupt, facing debtors’ prison, had suffered a stroke and was losing his eyesight and his reputation as a musician.  The London elite had begun calling him a “German nincompoop”.

But that was about to change.

A friend asked him to put to music lyrics about the life of Christ and the work of redemption, with all the text completely from the Bible.  With a new infusion of purpose, Handel took the challenge and secluded himself to meet it.   The meals that were brought to him were mostly untouched due to his laser focus on the task at hand. Finally, one day a servant brought his meal and found tears streaming down Handel’s cheeks.  The servant asked what was wrong and Handel replied,  “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.”  He had just written the Hallelujah Chorus.

The 260 page work (predicted to take a year to write) was completed in only 24 days, a phenomenal feat.  275 years later, Handel’s Messiah is considered one of the most inspired works of music ever written.

At a time when it seemed it was over for Handel, God called, inspired and divinely equipped Handel to write the Messiah.

What does this mean for you and me?

  1. It’s not over until God says it’s over.  If we are breathing, there is work for us to do. The Bible tells us we are His workmanship, created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  Our part is to ask God, “What do You want me to do? Please use me.”  I believe God will answer that prayer. He inspires and equips us for the work to which He calls us.
  2. God is always working for His glory and our good. Even in the seasons of suffering, God is at work.  When Handel was at his lowest, God knew the monumental work and blessing He was preparing for Handel.  The same is true for you and me!  Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He knows what He’s doing in our lives and His plans are good. All. The. Time.
  3. Remember to humble yourself and trust Him in your circumstances.  1 Peter 5:7 reminds us that He will lift us up in due time, because He cares for us. God can turn your story around in a heartbeat if He chooses.  Consider the same royalty that commissioned Handel, then fired him.  During the first performance of the Messiah in London, King George stood for the Hallelujah Chorus.  No one knows why for sure. Maybe he was caught up in the majesty of the moment, maybe he mistook it for the national anthem or maybe he just needed to stretch his legs, but when the king stood, the entire audience rose to their feet!  This didn’t hurt Handel’s reputation one little bit.  In fact, it restored him overnight.  Ever since, it’s been a tradition to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus!  I’ll say it again: God can use people and circumstances to turn your situation around in a heartbeat.

As you soak your mind in these truths, may they bring you “good tidings of great joy” this season.  He shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah!

 

Crazy, Untrue Ad Will Make You Think!

I ran across this ad from the 1950s for Winston cigarettes.

Check out the advice this sage mom-to-be gives other expectant women of her day:

  “People are always telling me that smoking causes low birth weight.  Talk about a win-win-win!  An easy labor, a slim baby and the Full Flavor of Winstons!”

“Winston.  When you’re smoking for two.”

What were they thinking????

But then I got to wondering about my ways of thinking that may be just as dangerous. And it occurs to me that if I struggle with thinking things that aren’t true, maybe you do, too.

Since we know our thoughts lead to our actions, we want to build our thoughts on truth. Not hunches, myths or feelings.  On truth.

Here’s what I mean.

Consider these five depressing, self-defeating lies…and replace them with their corresponding, life-giving, true thoughts instead.

Lie: “I can’t go on.”                                                                                                    Truth: Christ, dwelling in me, can victoriously meet whatever lies ahead and I will give Him praise when He does.  (1 Peter 1: 6-7)

Lie: “This problem is going to destroy me and I may lose my faith.”                  Truth: My faith may seem to be fading out of sight…but not out of God’s sight. My faith is not dependent on my holding onto God, but rather God holding onto me, and He is not about to let go! (John 10:28)

Lie: “I am so alone.”                                                                                                 Truth: Christ dwells in me. I am loved, accepted, a new creation. He will never leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Matthew 28:20)

Lie:  “I’ll never be able to do this.”                                                                          Truth: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Lie: “There is no hope.”                                                                                            Truth: My hope is in Him.  I will allow Him to handle each struggle as only He can. (1 Peter 1: 3,4)

Sometimes people tell me, “Connie, I can’t help my feelings.”  True.  We can’t help our feelings.  But we CAN help what we think about.  And what we choose to think about directly impacts our feelings.

Our feelings directly affect our actions.  And our actions determine, to a large part, our quality of life. That’s why it’s critical to run our thoughts, not through hunches and feelings and old, untrustworthy ways of thinking, but rather through the truth of God’s Word.

Trendy thinking comes and goes.  But God’s truths are timeless.  Remember and use them to keep your mind healthy!

(And if you’re pregnant, you might want to check out some slightly more reliable information on how to have a healthy baby!)

Warmly,

Connie

By the way, check out my Christmas Specials, now through December 19th! Both of my CDs and my book are each on sale for $12.95 each.  Buy any 3…get one of your choice FREE.  Free shipping for purchase of 6 or more items.