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 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.




How Can I Be Successful? What Every Graduate Needs to Know

Between last year and this, our family has SIX recent/upcoming graduates.  We practically have our own class!  To the Class of 2018: Congratulations on your tremendous achievement!

The experience of skydiving taught me five basic life principles I learned on the way down that every graduate, whether high school or college, needs to know.  (They’re also reminders for all of us, in any stage of life).

  1. Focus on God. My private lesson with my personal instructor began.  “We’ll exit the plane with arms folded across the chest.  When I push you forward, don’t hesitate.  Arch your back and slightly bend your knees.  When I tap your shoulders, spread both arms out for the rest of the way down.  And smile.  It’ll tighten your cheeks so they won’t flap as much.”

I hung on my expert instructor’s every word as I quickly realized that my life was literally in his hands.  But I couldn’t help overhearing other instructors who were explaining different techniques to their students.   I tried to keep my attention on my instructor but kept getting distracted.  “Why aren’t all the instructors giving the same instructions?” I wondered.  As if reading my mind, he got really close to my face and said these words.  “You’ll hear other instructors giving directions to their partners.  I am your partner.  I do things differently than them.  Focus on me only, listen to me only and you’ll be fine.”

I was all ears.

Sometimes life can be like Jump School.  We have a lot of distractions trying to capture our attention.  If you want to be successful in life, keep your focus on the Master Flight Instructor.  Listen to Him above all else. 

  1. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone.  It was all fun and games on the ground, but when the plane door opened at 14,000 feet, reality hit like a freight train.

What the heck was I thinking?  What about this “Kamikaze Moment” did I think would be fun?  CLOSE THAT DOOR! SOMEONE COULD FALL OUT!  Oh, wait.  That’s the whole point. 

We sat in a line on a plank.  Suddenly, the tandem jumpers in front of me slid to the open door and were gone…just like that!  Immediately my instructor – to whom I was tightly hooked – began nudging me forward from behind.

Instinctively, I nudged back. He pushed me forward again, more forcefully.

I wanted to talk about it.  I wanted to review the instructions.  Actually, I wanted to quit!

Nudging became shoving.  I didn’t like being fastened to him anymore.  I didn’t like where he was headed.  Good grief, this was dangerous!


I stood on the ledge of the plane with a death grip on the doorway, feeling the pressure of my instructor behind me.  Over the roar of the engine I shouted to him, “I just wanted to fly…not fall!”  His reply? “NO FREEFALL….NO FLY!”

I gave up and the next moment I was hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph!


I was in freefall…with absolutely no control!

If you want to be successful in life, realize that following God involves being ready to leave your comfort zone.

  1. Obey Without Reservation. My instructor’s explicit directions were that once he tapped my shoulder, my arms were to be extended until he pulled the ripcord. 

“Got it.” I replied.

Until I encountered a problem.  See, due to the excessive force of air as we were falling, my zipper was beating my cheek to death.  I remembered his stern instruction about keeping my arms out.  But this was an exception, I told myself.

With my right hand, I began to work with my zipper, trying to tuck it inside my collar.  Suddenly, we began to spin in circles, round and round.  “What is he trying to do, kill us?”  I wondered.

The spinning became faster and faster as I fussed with my zipper.  Then it hit me.  I was the reason we were spinning!  Bringing one hand in had thrown us into the spin.  I stuck my hand back out into the original position and the spinning immediately stopped.

If you want to be successful in life, obey God without reservation. Even when you think you know best.

  1. The View is Worth the Jump. Just when I thought my cheeks would flap off my face, he pulled the ripcord. The deafening roar of air rushing past my ears vanished, plummeting gave way to floating and I was engulfed in silence, peace and a stunning, panoramic view of serene countryside.  “It’s beautiful!”  The view was worth the jump.  Grumbling gave way to gratitude.  Protesting became praise.  I heard myself sincerely thanking the same person I’d resisted just moments before!

If you want to be successful in life, remember, living for God will be worth any sacrifices you make.

  1. Trust Him for the Future. Regarding landing instructions, I had inquired before take-off.  His response?  “Ah, don’t worry…the ground’ll stop ya.”  


But, you see, when my instructor fastened himself to me, from that point forward, I became his responsibility.  And so it is with God.

By the way, when the parachute opened, my guide said calmly, “Now, let’s talk about landing.  At my cue, straighten your legs, raise your feet and hold that position.”

This made no sense.  I had seen others land (or attempt to land) on their feet and run a little ways. But, as the ground rapidly rose to meet us, he said, “Now”.  I did as told and was seated gently, like a leaf floating to the ground.


During the entire trip, I had worried about landing.

Only at the end did I realize he had told me exactly what I needed to know…exactly when I needed to know it.  So much of life is spent worrying over questions like, “Does God see me?”  “Does God hear me?”

Dear Friend, God is with you in your journey.

To the Class of 2018, you are moments away from graduating.  Moments away from beginning your journey through life. It will not be easy.  But you are the class of 2018!

May you keep your focus on God, be prepared to abandon your comfort zone, obey Him without reservation and remember the view is worth the jump as you trust Him for your future.




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!

Top Blog Post of 2017: Reader’s Choice

Happy New Year!  2017 is now in our rear view mirrors!  And friend, I’ve loved spending this year with you!

Maybe you’ve been joining me here on the blog for a long time, or perhaps we’ve only recently begun spending time together.  Either way, your presence here is a gift and an encouragement to me.  So together, let’s take a moment to look back on the blog post you shared most (hands down) in 2017, which happens to be a B-12 shot for helping us start the year off right.

And if something you read today inspires or encourages you, pass it on to someone else who may need it.  Simply click on the title to read the post.

How to Rock Your Day:  3 Reasons Why Your Attitude Matters

What about you?  What is one thing you learned this past year?  Share it in the comments below.