The Today show co-host's latest musical project, a retelling of the story of David and Goliath, came after a life-changing trip to the Holy Land.
- Posted on Dec 14, 2017
The Today show’s Kathie Lee Gifford is hoping to bring the story of David and Goliath to a new generation with her latest musical project, The Little Giant.
The 13-song album tells the story of the shepherd boy who defeated a giant with five stones and a slingshot and became a king. Gifford along with some of her famous friends, including Regis Philbin, voice characters in the musical retelling of the Biblical story. The idea for the record came after Gifford and her husband Frank went on a life-changing trip to the Holy Land back in 2012.
“It was our first rabbinical trip,” Gifford tells Guideposts.org. “I've been to Israel many times before but never studying the rabbinical way, meaning studying the ancient Hebrew text and the ancient Greek.”
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
Gifford and her husband experienced a kind of epiphany by studying the Bible intensely during their trip.
“The Bible has been mistranslated so many times you can't even count them and that's frustrating to me. On this trip, I really began to understand the extent of that and the damage that's been done to really understanding what the Bible is all about.”
The story of David and Goliath and the importance of the imagery of stones in the Bible really left its mark on the Emmy-winning host. She learned that Jesus was actually a stone mason, not solely a carpenter as some translations state, and that explained so many important moments in His story.
“Now you understand [the verse], ‘Upon this rock, I will build my church,’ and then ‘The rock that became the cornerstone was rejected’ and ‘He without sin cast the first stone,’” Gifford says. “All of the imagery that Jesus uses, the Bible just starts to come alive to you when you understand what it actually says.”
It was in the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath, that Gifford began to understand how important each word in the Bible is.
“I think there is always a deeper teaching,” Gifford says. “That's what rabbis teach you, that if it’s five stones that [David] picks up, guess what, there's a reason that it's five. Everything has a meaning and purpose. There are no crumbs on God's table. He uses everything.”
Gifford hoped to shine light on the story of David to help a new generation find their own God-given purpose; it’s why she decided to compose this album that invites kids to hear the tale of the shepherd in a fun, educational way.
“Everybody thinks the miracle of David and Goliath is that a little shepherd boy probably no older than 12 years old was able to kill a giant,” Gifford explains. “But then again, we're not scripturally literate. The Bible tells us he'd already killed lions and bears. He was a skilled shepherd. The true miracle of David and Goliath is that the entire Israelite army under Saul was cowering in fear on that ledge, on that high place, terrified of Goliath. And this little shepherd boy goes down to the brook of Elah, picks up five smooth stones, and stands there and says, ‘I defy you!’”
Gifford based the record's opening and closing track, “What is Your Stone,” on that act of bravery and faith.
“Here's the difference: the army had religion, David had relationship [with God] and that's what I'm trying to teach with this story,” Gifford says. “Teach kids that religion is not what you're going to hold on to, and what you're going to grow from throughout your life. People get mad at me when I say that, but I've never seen religion do that. I have always seen a relationship with a living God do it and David had that, he knew where his strength came from. So, that's what we started with:
What is your stone? Where will you throw it? / What is your gift? How will you know it?
“What is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do but you?”
She hopes the song can help children not only find a relationship with God, but find confidence in themselves.
“I want kids to understand how completely unique they are. How special, how wonderfully and fearfully made they were in their mother's womb because God already had a plan for their lives, even then,” Gifford says.
“It builds tremendous good, godly, self-worth in children to understand, ‘Wow, the God of the universe created me so uniquely and especially for His purposes.’ I want us to stop asking little kids, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And instead start asking them, ‘What has God already created you to be?’ What is the one thing you can do, no one else can do, and what do you love doing because God placed that desire and that joy in you to do it?”
Though the album is aimed towards families and children, Gifford found recording the story of David to be an exercise in healing after the death of her beloved husband Frank who passed away two years ago.
“I catch myself saying that I lost him sometimes,” Gifford says. “I go, ‘No, no, no, he's not lost, I know exactly where he is, and I'll be with him some day.’ [The trip] was profound in my husband's life, because he truly, truly came to understand exactly what David did. He had had religion all his life, but now he wanted a relationship with the living God.”
Gifford says the trip and the teachings from the rabbi stayed with her husband until his death.
“For the next three years, when people came to visit us, they always wanted to see Frank's trophy room because it's like a museum,” Gifford explained. “And he would take them over, and instead of all of his Emmys and trophies and that stuff, he would point to the stones that we brought back from the Valley of Elah.”
For Gifford, who’s spent most of her life in the spotlight, being able to use her platform on the TODAY show to share her faith and hopefully lead others to a relationship with God has been the biggest blessing. The show has given her a friendship in her co-host that she never expected.
“This friendship that God has given me with Hoda [Kotb] is one of the most precious gifts I've ever been given,” Gifford says. “I was going to stay one year at the Today show. This is now 10 years because I fell in love with it, and with an Egyptian sun goddess. She is sunshine in a bottle and I just adore her.”
The show has also opened her eyes to the importance of a strong relationship with God, especially given all of the terrible things we see on the news every day.
“We live in such a celebrity-adoring culture, and that's too bad because we've got everybody on the throne except the rightful One,” Gifford says. “And celebrities are just human beings. Look at what we're seeing happening in the world today. Every time [something] happens I think, ‘What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world, and lose their very souls?’”
She hopes her own journey, her new album, and her continued commitment to bringing a bit of joy and laughter to people through her show can help spur others to discovering their own faith and purpose.
“No matter what is going on in the world, no matter what's in the news, God is still in control of this entire world. He is sovereign. He has not forgotten us; we have forgotten Him. And it's never too late to discover Him. Never.”