Harry: My faith and my family, those are the most important things to me. If I’m happy in my marriage, if I’m happy in my family life and in my spiritual life, no matter what comes my way, everything sort of falls into place.
Signs & Wonders Are All Around Us: Harry Connick, Jr., Squire Rushnell, & Louise DuArt – Episode #252
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Have you ever asked God to send you a sign? Just a little signal that you’re going in the right direction, or maybe a big red warning sign when you’re not? Whether we see them every day or not, God has a way of showing up and showing His love for us in the simple things—and in the complex things of life. Whether it’s a beautifully composed song that brings tears to your eyes, or the faithful wagging tail of a beloved canine companion, God has a way of delighting us by filling our world with little signs every day of His love and care for us, and if we stay on the lookout for those signs, we’ll begin to see His presence much more clearly.
Harry Connick, Jr. recognizes the power of music, and loves to use his talent for singing, writing, and performing to bring joy to others—and now, through a new collection of gospel songs, he’s sharing the faith that has carried him through the ups and downs of his life.
SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt are the authors of the bestselling books Godwinks—and now a brand new book called Dogwinks that tells the true stories of how God has used our canine companions to show His love for us in simple and profound ways.
Let’s start with Harry’s story.
Harry: When I was a kid, I thought the biggest dream in the world came true when I first got on stage at my dad’s opening of his campaign headquarters when I was five years old. I thought that was it. I thought, If I can play on the back of this flatbed truck and make these people happy playing the national anthem, I’m in good shape.
I had so many influences growing up, starting with my mother and my father. And then when you factor in all of the incredible musicians that I played with in New Orleans, all of the traditional jazz musicians and all of the men and women who were playing down there, it really shaped where I was going. So I feel really lucky to have been from New Orleans and had an opportunity to play growing up down there.
I played music that was tough, and I had teachers and mentors who were really good at it. They were a lot better than I was. So it kept me motivated in addition to my own love of music. I couldn’t really keep away from it. It was just something that I loved doing more than anything else. So I probably should have spent a little bit more time on my schoolwork, but for me, it was music one hundred percent of the time.
A Diverse Entertainment Career
Growing up in New Orleans, I always wanted to have a career in music and in the entertainment business, but I didn’t really know how that was going to happen. So when I started to get into my mid-teens, I decided I wanted to move to New York and sign a record deal with Columbia Records. So I did. I moved to New York from New Orleans when I was eighteen. I signed with Columbia when I was eighteen or nineteen.
I made a couple of albums, and then everything changed when I was offered the opportunity to work on the soundtrack to a film called When Harry Met Sally. When I did that, everything changed. I went from being an artist a few people knew to an artist a lot more people knew. And it really gave me the opportunity to expand my musical dreams. It really expedited the process because I had a lot of opportunity to play in concerts with different types of musicians and in different formats. It really kind of put me on a creative fast track.
Well, as all of that was going on, I had done plays in high school and I knew that acting was something that I wanted to pursue as well. So I did a movie called The Memphis Belle when I was twenty or twenty-one. And I continued to do more film and TV projects as time went on because I really loved it. For me, it was another way to be artistically fulfilled. And then came Broadway in 2001. And since then, I’ve done a number of shows on Broadway and a number of films and television. So it’s been a diverse career, but all things that are thrilling to me and give me a great sense of fulfillment.
I’ve always been someone who really wanted to try as many things as possible. I really love life. I love living life. I love—this sounds a little strange, I guess—but I love the potential to fail. I like taking risks, I like the potential to succeed more, but I don’t mind failing. So I’ve tried everything from sculpting to painting, all kinds of different artistic things. I don’t think we would be having this interview if I were here for my sculpting or my painting because I’m not very good at it. But they’re all things that require me to be artistic, and I like anything like that. So I think even though I didn’t know specifically what I was going to be doing when I got older, I knew that it would be different facets of the entertainment industry.
“I’ve always been someone who really wanted to try as many things as possible. I really love life. I love living life. I love—this sounds a little strange, I guess—but I love the potential to fail, I like taking risks, I like the potential to succeed more, but I don’t mind failing.” – Harry Connick, Jr.
Holding on to Faith Through Success and Tragedy
I’ve had some tough times in my life. The toughest was when my mom died when I was thirteen. That was a real test, knowing that was kind of part of God’s plan. That’s not to say I think that God gives anyone diseases or causes natural disasters. My personal belief is we are human beings, and we are susceptible to disease and tragedy and natural disasters. And I didn’t really understand how that could be a part of my life at that age, and I really had to hold on to my faith and believe that, This is what’s supposed to happen. I’m going to try to accept this as gracefully as I can. Now, those were high ideals. I wasn’t able to do that at thirteen years old.
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer about seven and a half years ago. That was another incredible test of my faith. I feel like my faith has passed that test every time, and when that happens, it deepens just a little bit more. Like I was saying to my dad last night, my dad will be ninety-five this month. It’s something that grows, and although he’s been a man of faith his entire life, I think his faith is even deeper now and I’m seeing how that works.
I’m a work in progress. I’m imperfect. I have a long way to go, so I feel like my purpose is to “try”—quotes around the word try—to be the best person that I can be every day. I don’t always succeed, but if I can continue to try to emulate what I believe to be true, I think that’s my most powerful way of getting the message of my faith across.
“I’m a work in progress. I’m imperfect. I have a long way to go, so I feel like my purpose is to “try”—quotes around the word try—to be the best person that I can be every day. I don’t always succeed, but if I can continue to try to emulate what I believe to be true, I think that’s my most powerful way of getting the message of my faith across.” – Harry Connick, Jr.
Harry’s Long-Awaited Gospel Album
This pandemic forced all of us to live our lives differently than we have before. And I started thinking, What album would I do right now if I could?
A gospel album is an album that I wanted to do for years and years, but I never sat down to do it. I’ve sung gospel songs on stage for years. I grew up playing spirituals, but I never really decided to press the button and officially make a gospel album. So as I’m at home, I’m sitting in my home studio. I have all these instruments. I have all these songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Because He Lives,” “How Great Thou Art.” And I’m like, The only thing I don’t have is a recording engineer. But how hard can that be? I figured out how hard that was.
And then I started recording some of these songs, and I played all of the instruments. I started with piano most of the time. And then I would add bass or drums or trumpet, guitar, percussion, synthesizers, electric keyboards. And the song would slowly start to grow. Well, as I was recording those traditional spirituals, I started thinking about how I was feeling every day. I mean, one day I might have woken up and somebody I knew had died, or I saw a story on the news about the hospital cleaning staff who put themselves at risk every day to make our lives easier, or whatever it was. I started thinking about those things. And because this wasn’t kind of an acute tragedy, it was stretched out over months and months, I really had a chance to kind of think about things in a calm way and do some deep introspection about the spectrum of faith that is part of my experience. So I wrote a song and then I wrote another song, then another song.
The song that I wrote, “Alone with My Faith,” [says]:
Alone with my faith
What I know is true
What gives me assurance
When I don’t know what to do
I don’t have all the answers
But I have always known
I’m eternally faithful
So I am never alone…
I wrote those words because they meant something to me, and they really did help me as I was singing them. My wish is that the people who listen to the record will gain some of the same sense of comfort that I got from singing it.
But I’ve got to tell you, I’m not so sure that this album would exist had it not been for this pandemic. And so in many ways, as much as we’ve all experienced tragedy, I really feel that I’ve been blessed for all of the silver linings that have come my way.
God Is Listening
These are troubling times. No matter what you believe spiritually, politically, you can’t deny that these are turbulent times. I think we can all agree on that. And the lyrics of these songs helped me get through and continue to help me get through these tough times. My faith is what continues to get me through these tough times. But I just thought about how complex it is and how it’s a gift, I think, from God to really compel us to want to communicate with Him.
“My faith is what continues to get me through these tough times. But I just thought about how complex it is and how it’s a gift, I think, from God to really compel us to want to communicate with Him.” – Harry Connick, Jr.
I really believe in the power of prayer. We’ve all experienced loss. We’ve all been frustrated, confused. We’ve all been scared. I’ve prayed a lot. Recording this music was a form of prayer for me where I could close my eyes and really kind of sink into the lyrics that I was singing. And I truly believe that the power of prayer works, that if somebody in my life said, “Don’t say you’re going to pray for me because I don’t like that” and I respect everybody’s opinion, but if somebody says, “Hey, I’ll pray for you,” I take that to heart. And when I tell somebody “I’ll send some prayers your way, I’m going to pray for you,” I really mean that. Prayer is keeping that line open with God for me. I believe He’s listening, and I believe that He’ll answer us in ways that He thinks they should be answered, and they may not be what we expect. Sometimes we may get to know, but I’m okay with it. Prayer is important to me, and I believe in it.
Narrator: You can find Harry’s new gospel album, Alone with My Faith, wherever music is sold.
Stay tuned to SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt’s story after a brief message.
Jesus Calling is back for Season 2 of the TV Show Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith which premieres on May 18th. This season is hosted by Susie McEntire-Eaton and features so many wonderful stories from artists, celebrities, sports figures and more. You won’t want to miss these real-life stories from people like football legend Kurt Warner, country superstar Reba McEntire, worship singer David Crowder, and beloved coach Tony Dungy—and many more. Tune in every Tuesday and then again on Sunday starting May 18th on Circle TV. For more information on how to get the show via cable or on streaming devices, visit Circleallacess.com.
Our next guests are New York Times bestselling authors of the Godwinks series, SQuire Rushnell, and his wife, Louise DuArt. SQuire is the veteran ABC Television Network executive who led Good Morning America to the number-one spot, and Louise is known as one of the world’s greatest comedic impressionists, having starred in several Broadway productions. Together, they’ve coined the term “Godwink,” a seemingly coincidental moment when it’s obvious that God is working in your life. Their newest book, Dogwinks, shares true accounts of astonishing Godwink moments that involve our canine companions, showing that God can work miracles in the lives of even the smallest creatures.
SQuire Rushnell: Hi, I’m SQuire Rushnell, the author of Godwinks, the Godwink guy. And this is my wonderful wife.
Louise DuArt: Louise. So Squire and Louise, known as Squeeze.
SQuire: Oh isn’t that cute.
Louise: Too cute.
Two Different Paths Joined Together
SQuire: When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to be a radio announcer. And from that moment on, I walked around with a broom handle sawed off and talking like David Brinkley. So I was focused. And I do believe that God plants the desires in our heart. And if we just get on the highway heading for where we believe our destiny is, there will be signs from God all along the way, divinely aligned people that He puts us in connection with. And those signs are the things that I call Godwinks.
And of course, long before becoming a Godwink Guy, I became a Schoolhouse Rock guy. I was at ABC for twenty years, and I happened to be in charge of children’s television and we started Schoolhouse Rock. “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”
“I do believe that God plants the desires in our heart. And if we just get on the highway heading for where we believe our destiny is, there will be signs from God all along the way.” – SQuire Rushnell
But anyway, I was in television for about forty years, and then I decided to become an author. And the Godwinks books have now taken on a life of their own.
Louise: So my career actually started in my bedroom because I used to watch The Carol Burnett Show, and I loved it so much. And so when the other little girls were pretending to be princesses, I was pretending to be Carol Burnett, and I was doing sketches with an imaginary Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. I would always say, “Please, God, I just want to meet Carol Burnett and work with Tim and Harvey. Please, God.”
God listens to the prayers of little kids. We may forget our prayer, but God never does.
Years later, I went to Los Angeles. I started working in television through the grace of God. And I was doing a variety show, and I was so thrilled when the script came to me and says, “Louise plays the part of Carol Burnett.” I did this impression and the next day my phone rings, I pick it up and I hear, “Hi, Louise, this is Carol Burnett. Listen, I just saw you do an impression of me, and I thought it was a hoot, and I would love to meet you.” Well, I could not believe it. This prayer was about to come true.
So the next week, I drive to the studio where she was, her office was. I’m saying, “Please, God, don’t let me cry. Please, God, don’t let me cry when I see her.” And when I got to the end of the hallway, I see her and all of a sudden I just, you know, broke down in tears. She started crying. We hugged each other. We spent the day together. It was the greatest day of my life.
“We may forget our prayer, but God never does.” – Louise DuArt
When I was asked to speak at Women of Faith, I went on tour with them for a year. I would literally be sick, like physically ill, before [I went onstage] because I was the last one in the whole weekend. So there were people like Sandi Patty and Nicole C. Mullen and all of these greats, these great speakers. And I was going to be last and they were so incredible and I would be so inspired by them. And then, you know, the reality would hit: You’re going to be up tomorrow, it’s going to be your turn. You’re not going to be able to follow these people. And so SQuire would pray with me.
It was two weeks before I’m supposed to speak. I didn’t have a speech. I said, “God, what do you want me to do?”
And as clear as day, “I want you to talk about when you were in that dark place and how I brought you out of it.”
Well I had gone through a terrible, terrible betrayal. I had a husband of twenty years who left me for another woman and then sued me for alimony. So I said, “Oh God, how to forgive the betrayer?”
So I told my story for the first time. What happened was I saw everyone, like, fifteen thousand women in these auditoriums. Women would say, “You’re telling my story, you’re telling my story. Thank you for sharing that story.” And it was remarkable because I really did forgive this man. And see, the thing is, when I forgave this man, look who God had waiting in the wings, because SQuire gave me my first job in television, my first job. And it was years later that we ended up getting married. So God had a plan and a purpose the whole time.
“God had a plan and a purpose the whole time.” – Louise DuArt
What Are Godwinks?
SQuire: I was always fascinated with coincidence. There was a time when I had studied history books, and I was just hungry for history books, the personalities in history. I was fascinated with the personalities of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and all of these guys. But Adams and Jefferson both died in 1826 on the same day, and the day was the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They died on July 4th.
Now, that that is an amazing factor in history. And I just thought, Wow, is that a God thing? I mean, you wouldn’t call that a coincidence, would you? And I was always bothered by the fact that coincidence, you look it up in the dictionary, it says “two unusual events which come together without apparent cause.” Well, what eventually became a Godwink, filling that space in the language of the word Godwink. It has a cause, it’s two amazing things happening, but the cause is divine.
And so I didn’t realize it, but when I first used that word, when that word came into my mind and I thought, Wow, that’s kind of a fun word—there’s no word in our language for answered prayer. And so they would have their prayer answered instead of saying the whole sentence, they say “Hey, I just had a Godwink!” And so that’s how the word has now gone into language, into popular use.
Louise: Yeah. You know, it’s so funny. You say “Godwink,” so today my sister-in-law sends me something from Jesus Calling. She had no idea we were going to meet with you. It was all about how God wants to give us joy physically and emotionally and spiritually. And I said, “Oh, you’re not going to believe this, Kath. Here’s a Godwink.” So, I mean, there you go again. Every day there’s something, you just have to open your eyes and see it.
God Shows His Love Through Dogwinks
SQuire: We have a new book called Dogwinks: True Godwinks Stories about Dogs and the Blessings They Bring. A dogwink is a woof of hope.
Louise: Yeah, and you know, God uses everything. And so often with God, we still use flowers, birds or dogs, or someone will be will be thinking about a mother they just lost and just grieving over it, or coming home after a funeral and saying, “You know, my mother always loved roses,” and then it’s in the winter, one red rose is there. It’s like a beautiful message from above saying, “It’s going to be okay, I’m taking care of everything.” And so that’s what a Godwink is. And a dogwink is simply God using that vessel to just love us through them.
“A dogwink is simply God using that vessel to just love us through them.” – Louise DuArt
Louise: And if you think about it, God and dogs, what are the same attributes? Dogs are faithful, God is faithful, and they’re not only faithful, but they’re in the moment. They love you unconditionally. You can be gone for a month, and when you come back, they’re just so happy to see you. They’re not mad at you. They’re just so happy to see you.
You know, I just love how God uses everything in nature. He uses everything. He’s sovereign. So if He’s sovereign, He will use everything, even dogs. And I think people love this book because people have a special place in their heart for a dog that gives us unconditional love.
“I just love how God uses everything in nature. He uses everything. He’s sovereign.” – Louise DuArt
How God Fits Us into the Puzzle of Life
Squire: I love the idea that God picked out this kid in a little hick farm town in northern New York to plant the idea. And I never feel as though any book that I’ve written or we’ve written together—six of which we’ve written together now—I never feel as though we’ve written those books. I just feel as though we’ve written them down.
Louise: Sometimes our lives—and I’ve felt this way—feel like your life is just jumbled like a jigsaw puzzle thrown on the dining room table. And none of the pieces go together, and you say, “God, where is this ever going to fit?” But when you look at the picture on the box of the jigsaw puzzle, it all fits together perfectly. That’s how God sees our life from a different angle. He sees every piece fitting together perfectly—the good, the bad and the ugly—to make this journey that we call life, that He can bless us and teach us and encourage us through good times and bad times, through the storms and through the peaceful times. So I look at everything that’s happened in my life, we look back at it and we say, “Lord, thank you for everything because it drew us closer to You. And we have a clearer understanding of how much You truly love us.”
SQuire: We pray all the time. And that is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us, but what we also did is we started analyzing the answered prayers. They were amazing. Our prayers seemed to be answered more.
It’s very logical that if you have a conversation daily with your own earthly mother or father or children or boss or neighbor, the more conversation that you have on a regular basis, the better your relationship. So it stands to reason that if we have a great conversation, a relationship every day with our Father in heaven, He’s going to be listening to us as much as we’re listening to Him.
“It’s very logical that if you have a conversation daily with your own earthly mother or father or children or boss or neighbor, the more conversation that you have on a regular basis, the better your relationship. So it stands to reason that if we have a great conversation, a relationship every day with our Father in heaven, He’s going to be listening to us as much as we’re listening to Him.” – SQuire Rushnell
Louise: Our prayer is for other people to understand how important it is to come before our Father every day because He so longs to talk with us. And oftentimes we talk to Him, but we don’t listen. We have to talk to Him, but we also have to just be still and listen to that voice inside of us, because that Holy Spirit voice is going to tell us, He’s going to direct our steps all along our path.
Narrator: If you’d like to hear more stories about how God shows His love and care for us, check out our interview with Bradley Walker.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with Dr. Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, who talks about his longtime friendship with Dr. Billy Graham and the lasting impact their Saturday morning visits have had on his life.
Dr. Wilton: To describe the impact of Mr. Graham on my life is almost impossible for me to do. Mr. Graham didn’t just talk to me about how to live. He showed me, up close and personal. He enabled me to see my own life in a fresh way. He challenged me at the deepest level of my soul spirit.