Kathie Lee Gifford is an Emmy Award winning host of the Today Show. She is a singer, songwriter and author who brings her vivacious spirit to everything she does. Behind the public personality is a “truth-seeker” who relentlessly pursues the deeper meanings of God’s Word in her spare time. Kathie Lee discusses the passion she has for God’s Word, how she faces life after losing her husband, Frank Gifford, and what gives her joy and purpose every day.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. This week we visit with Emmy Award winning host of the Today Show, Kathie Lee Gifford. Kathie Lee is also a singer, songwriter and author. Kathie Lee discusses the passion she has for her family, including her late husband Frank Gifford, her work, and her desire to share the love of Jesus with others.
Kathie Lee Gifford: Desperately Seeking the Truth – Jesus Calling Podcast #57
Kathie Lee Gifford: I’m Kathie Lee Gifford. I am, I guess I’m an entertainer. I came out of the womb with a pratfall; I’ve been doing it for 50 years now, and the Lord has blessed me extraordinarily beyond my dreams.
I was married for almost 29 years to a beautiful man who gave me two even more beautiful children. My son Cody is 27. My daughter Cass is soon to turn 24. I guess the story of my life so far, and I expect it shall be until the very end, is the story of God’s faithfulness to me.
I’ve come to believe, just like David when he talked about how he was fearfully and wondrously made in his mother’s womb, that everything is determined before we even get here — before the beginning of the world. God says “I saw you. I saw you in that secret place.” He had designs on us and He created us in His image, and God is a Creator. Therefore, we are creators. So, I came out of the womb putting on shows. My sister did too, and I’ve been putting on a show in one way or another, most of my life.
Doing What God Created Us to Do
I believe we are at our happiest in life when we’re doing exactly what God created us to do. When we’re not, is when we fall into the pitfalls, and when we fall into the despair and the discouragement. I’m not saying that’s not going to happen while we are actually on our path because the Lord says it will. In terms of our purpose, I believe He already knows what He has in mind for us, and He wants to get ahold of our hearts and our wills early in our lives, just to give us big kick; a kick start to get it going.
I wrote, produced, directed and starred in my first show when I was just in first grade. I was obnoxious. I was obnoxious then, and I’m obnoxious now; but it brings me great joy to do it.
I take great note of my dreams. The Lord says; “if you seek Me first and My righteousness, everything else will be added unto you.” He says, “you know Me. Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart.” His promises are true. He has given me answered prayer and answered dreams far beyond what I ever thought was humanly possible for a little girl who came from such really humble beginnings. I’ve just been places, done things, met people that I never dreamed I would. In fact, I hope; I teased the other day, I was saying to my kids, “The last book I ever write in my life will be, ‘if you’ve had a weirder life than I have, then I want to meet you before I die.’”
“God is bigger than any mistake you will ever make,” because He is. He forgives, and He doesn’t just forgive, but He forgets.
When I was 17, I went to the very first Jerusalem Conference on Biblical Prophecy that was being held right in Jerusalem. I went with my mom. It was my high school graduation gift. I even missed my high school graduation. That’s how excited I was to go to the Holy Land. I never dreamed that I would ever get to the Holy Land, much less go regularly now, and study with the most incredible Bible teachers in the world, and write books about it; not because of my knowledge, but of what they have shared with me that I think is so life transforming.
My dad used to say to me, “Honey, I love you too much to deny you the privilege of making mistakes. I wrote in a musical I wrote later that went to Broadway, “God is bigger than any mistake you will ever make,” because He is. He forgives, and He doesn’t just forgive, but He forgets. There is no condemnation in Christ, so I live in that space.
Kathie Lee on Her Husband Frank: Somebody to be Strong for Me
I didn’t know that Frank was the man for me at all. I had already had a couple of bad ones. I’d already made a couple of bad decisions. That doesn’t mean necessarily they were bad guys. They were just not the right ones for me. So I wasn’t expecting on one of my first days at Good Morning America, back in 1980 – early 1982 to walk by a dressing room at four o’clock in the morning and look over and see the greatest set of buns I’ve ever seen in my entire life putting in some contact lenses. I had no idea what the buns belonged to. But those buns would get anybody’s attention.
I said to him, whoever was the the owner of those buns, I said “Have I got an operation for you,” because I just had radial keratotomy on both of my eyes, which was the precursor to LASIK. That was done back in the early 80s experimentally with a razor blade on–on the surface of your cornea, with just a few drops of liquid cocaine on your eye. That’s the only cocaine I’ve ever done in my life. But anyway, I said, “I’ve got an operation for you,” and I could hear this voice go, “Yeah, with a fool on either end!” Well, maybe that could be said about our relationship for the next 33 years.
Yet, he became a mentor to me; became my closest male friend at Good Morning America. He was always trying to help me. Things would go on in his life and he would call me and say, “Can we have lunch?” or “what are you doing tonight?” We just had a four-year friendship before we fell in love.
I’d been dating another bad guy for me. Not a bad guy, but bad for me. For the first two years, every time I was with Frank, we’d talk about it. He goes, “Kathie, he doesn’t love you. He doesn’t love you, or he would not be treating you this way.”
I said, “No,” and I’d make all kinds of excuses, like so many people do, and then finally we broke up after the ninth time. I remember him saying, “You know what? You are just going to hang out with me until you are over this guy.” I said okay, because I needed somebody to be strong for me.
Falling in Love: The Development of Kathie Lee and Frank’s Relationship
We all get in these ruts. Addictions are ruts. Relationships are ruts. Dreams are all kinds of ruts in the road. He just needed to sort of be my plow, I guess. He did, and he started taking me to everything and he’d go off, and you know he had lady friends around the country. I wasn’t dating anybody but I was trying. Then we were invited to this big, big, big party at ABC for a huge investor at ABC, and I said, “Well, are we going to go? Are you going to take me?”
He goes, “Oh, I can’t, I’m going to be out of town,” and I said, “Okay, then I’ll go with somebody tall, dark and handsome–bye.” About 20 minutes later the phone rang again. He says, “All right, I’ll come back and take you.” So that’s when it progressed and he was 23 years older than I was to the day. So I’d never dreamed, I never thought it was even a potential match made in heaven. You know, it just didn’t look right on paper.
Neither of us expected to fall in love the way we did. If it hadn’t been for our mutual faith in the Lord, even though I was much more of a seeker of God’s truth than he was, he thought he was saved, he went forward, he knew Jesus; he didn’t really have much more spiritual curiosity. I’ve had nothing but spiritual curiosity since the day I was born. So we were different that way.
When I discovered that Frank had grown up under very different circumstances; he had grown up in abject poverty during the Depression. His father was an itinerate oil worker. He knew that they’d moved 29 different times while he was growing up, before he was even in high school. They knew that from a Bible I have sitting in the other room–his mother’s Bible. She chronicled, “Dad’s look for work,” and she would say things like “Got to Wink, Texas today, June ’42 and Dad can’t find work, so we’re moving on,” and it’s just heartbreaking, but that was the reality for millions of people then. But the one thing that kept his family together was their faith. They were Pentecostal Christians. They were members of the Assembly of God Church. No matter where they went, all along the South, and into California, and all through there they would look for the local Pentecostal church, and that’s what kept them as a family. I also believe that’s what kept food on their tables and a roof over their heads, as meager as it all was; God was providing for them because he had a praying mother and a praying father.
Spiritual Curiosity and a Journey to The Holy Land
We finally went on one of these what I call “rock and road” trips; the rock being Jesus, of course, the road being the Holy Land.
It was 2002. Frank was 82, and it absolutely changed his life. You know a lot of people go to the Holy Land. They dress in their nice clothes, and they go up to the Mount of Olives and they get their picture taken with “Kojak the Stinky Camel” up there, and then it’s their Christmas card that year: “We went to the Holy Land. It was awesome!” I’m not putting it down, by any means. Any trip to the Holy Land is impactful. But what they’re missing by not going the Rabbinic Way is what my whole life is about.
It changed my husband’s life. Here’s a man, who as I said, did not have any spiritual curiosity. He’d gotten through life pretty darn well—he was in eight halls of fame.
He was 82 years old. He goes and he discovers that he’s had a religion his whole life, not a relationship with the living God. He came back a completely different human being. After that he would say to me, as he was getting older and older, he’d say, “You know what, Kath, I’m not afraid of dying. I’m starting to get really curious. Starting to get really curious.”
I mean, he really wasn’t before, it was settled, he knew he was going, but the curiosity came once he started to really hear the Word.
Crying Tears of Joy Through the Difficult Times
I’m sitting right here in a room, the very room where my husband passed away, and just not two feet from the spot. I found him on a beautiful Sunday morning. It was August 9th. I remember holding him, and my son and I both had tried to revive him, and we’re waiting on the EMTs to come here.
And I saw my husband’s face when I found him, and as God is my witness, I have no reason to say this if it weren’t true. I knew instantly that he saw Jesus and Jesus took his breath away. How could I not rejoice and be happy for him? I was; I was so happy for him. You know, he wouldn’t come back if he could. Nobody would who gets there, because why would we?
It’s perfection. It’s what we were always, always created for in the garden, was perfection, and just community with God. Walking with Him; sharing life and beauty with Him. Well that’s what Frank’s doing. The Bible in 2 Corinthians 5, I think, says: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
He was instantly with Jesus, and face to Face. I can’t wait. Honestly, honestly. I mean, I love my children, I love my home, I love my friends, I love life. But isn’t that the longing in our souls. Even the most blessed among us still know that something’s missing. It’s what we’re prepared for and looking forward to, ultimately. I don’t mean pie in the sky, sitting on a cloud, playing a harp. I mean, just life, in its perfect form.
I know it seems bizarre, but I’m holding my husband on that very day, he hasn’t been in heaven, you know 40 minutes probably, and I’m crying tears of joy. So is my son. When my daughter got home, so was she. We all knew it was a profound answer to prayer.
So I went back to the show, to the Today show, one week later and talked about it. I knew that there would be a lot of eyeballs on the show that day. A lot of people loved Frank, they wanted to know what was going on.
I don’t even know how many it is now; the last time we checked about a month ago, I think it was about 70 million people saw that online. I know God used Frank, even in his death, which is not a death. You know, people say to me, “Oh, you lost your husband.” I say, “oh I didn’t lose him. I know exactly where he is.”
Narration: We’ll be back with more of our interview with Kathie Lee Gifford after this message from Audible.
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Narrator: Kathie Lee’s intense desire to know the deeper truths in God’s Word, led her on more journeys to Israel to study Scripture in its original text. Kathie Lee talks about how this quest for truth has inspired and affected her life, and how she finds every day accessibility to God’s truths through the writings of Sarah Young.
Kathie Lee: Even studying since I was a child the Word of God. I feel like I got such a late start on this Rabbinic way. If I were a younger person I would go to Yeshiva University, and study, you know, in a seminary somewhere.
What does the Word of God really actually say? I want the truth. The truth is what sets us free. That’s the path I want to be on. I don’t want to be spoon-fed faith my whole life. I want the meat of the Bible, because that’s what grows us down to the marrow; to the joint and marrow. Scripture is the Word of God, living and active.
I sat with Sarah Young a couple of weeks back in Nashville, and we had long talks about–about studying the Bible in the original form. The man that we first went with is an incredible Biblical studies teacher–his name is Ray Vanderlan. He has an incredible series of videos called, “That The World May Know.” Anybody can go online right now and start learning from this amazing man.
What does the Word of God really actually say? I want the truth. The truth is what sets us free.
So what he did as a Christian man– he went to Yeshiva University in New York City and became a rabbi. Now that means he got his Orthodox rabbinical degree. They can’t call you a rabbi in the Jewish faith if you’re not Jewish. But he got all the knowledge that the rabbis have. It’s made his teachings so profound, and so powerful, because he knows what the original Hebrew means in the Old Testament and he knows what the original Greek means in the New Testament. It’s interesting, of all the ancient languages, the only ones that have never changed in millennia, are the Greek and the Hebrew. They’re the same. How interesting that the Lord would use those two languages to have His Word written in originally, so that they would remain the same as He does. I think that’s just so fascinating.
The Rock, The Road and the Rabbi
When you go to Israel to do the Rabbinic Way, you never take off your hiking boots until you’re ready to go to bed at night. You never do. You get up in the morning, you do the Shema, the ancient Jewish prayer, then you go up into the mountains, and lunch is like two pieces of pita bread and some hummus, and then you get down off the mountain about six o’clock, and you just go and you study. If anybody had ever told me that the greatest 10 days of my life, initially on these trips, would be a trip like that, I don’t think I would have gone.
It is the most exciting, thrilling–you build what we call an “insula,” with the people that you go with, that lasts for a lifetime—it means “family.”
When you’re in the land studying the word in its original form, I cannot begin to tell people how life transforming that experience is.
I’m supposed to be a light. I’m supposed to be a reflection of Christ to this world. I’m going to blow it at times, and I’m going to make mistakes. But that’s what Jesus calls us to be; a reflection. Paul talks about, “Be perfect as Christ was perfect,” and none of us are. But one day we will be, and we’re training for perfection. I’ve never liked being around phony people. I know how sounds but it’s true. I like being around people who have a beautiful faith in the living God and are authentic themselves.My friend Emily, who sent me first on the rabbinic trip, is also the one who sent me Jesus Calling the first time.
We can change the world for the kingdom of God. Just like our dear friend Sarah has, by following her Shepherd.
I really hoped one day to be able to sit with Emily and then Sarah, so that Emily can meet her because Emily, I’m sure, bought at least 5000 Jesus Calling and sent them. She is one of those people that every time you come to her house, she’s got 10 books for you. I, in turn, have to have bought at least 200. You know, Jesus Calling, but it’s not just Jesus Calling, it’s Jesus Lives, Jesus Always, Jesus Today. Oh gosh, there’s five. There’s five I do every single morning. All five of hers.
I just pray that she lives a long, long time and keeps getting these beautiful words from God, and–and keeps sharing them– because she makes faith so accessible for people. It’s not that she takes the mystery out of it for people, I think she takes the fear of it out, and she makes it so natural.
“Well, of course Jesus would talk to me this way. Well, of course my Heavenly Father would say this to me,” and she does it in such a profoundly Scriptural way. I’ve never read one thing she has ever written that wasn’t totally based in Scripture, so I know she agonizes over that—that she would never say something adding to the Word of God, or taking away from it; but just seeking a Word from the Lord based in Scripture, that she can then be a vessel to pass on to thirsty, hungry people.
Changing the World for the Kingdom of God
No matter who I give this to–and it’s been atheists, it’s been Sikh’s, it’s been Scientologists, it’s been broken-hearted Catholics, it’s been confused Baptists, it’s been every part of humanity that I give this out to, and every single one of them are reading it, and they say to me, “Oh my gosh, it’s what I read today, it was like exactly what I needed—I knew God was talking straight to me.” That’s the incredible gift that she has: To write it in a way that speaks to everybody, no matter where we’re coming from, no matter where we have been from, and no matter where we’re going. She is gifted of God for such a time as this–she really is.
We can change the world for the kingdom of God. Just like our dear friend Sarah has, by following her Shepherd. I want to share with people what others have shared with me, so it can change their lives like it changed mine. You know, when you really understand who Jesus was, and what He believed in, and how He treated people–which is what changed the world, totally changed the world. He loved the world so much, He gave His life for it.
You know, it’s just when you come face to face with love like that, how can you not be moved?
Narrator: To find out more about Kathie Lee please visit kathieleegifford.com.
Narrator: Join us next week on the Jesus Calling podcast when we speak with John Cooper, the lead singer and bassist from the Christian rock band Skillet, and enjoy a rebroadcast of an episode featuring Tammy Arnold, a graduate from the Next Door, a faith-based rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tennessee. Here’s an excerpt of our interview with John Cooper.
John Cooper: Sometimes, as Christians, we are a bit afraid to be that open with God. There was a sense in my church life at the time, that I couldn’t tell somebody how bad it was going, because then it made it seem like I wasn’t being a good Christian, or I had no faith, and there was a little bit of a, “Hey, just smile, God loves you” kind of thing. So I write a lot of songs, and I tell a lot of people that it’s OK to feel like that, and it’s OK to tell God that. He already knows you feel that way; it’s not like you’re keeping a secret from Him. He actually already knows how you feel.
Narrator: If you love Jesus Calling and would like an easy way to receive inspiration from the works of Sarah Young during your busy day, be sure to sign up for the Jesus Calling Daily email. Start each day with the Peace found in His Presence through select excerpts from Jesus Calling® and other titles from Sarah Young. Visit the Jesus Calling website at Jesus Calling.com/daily-email to sign up and subscribe to get your free Jesus Calling daily email.
Narrator: Our featured passage from today’s episode comes from the January 20th excerpt of the Jesus Always audiobook.
Remember that the fruit of the Spirit includes Joy. Even in the midst of severe suffering, My Spirit can give you this wondrous gift. Feel free to ask Him to fill you with Joy—as often as you need. He resides in the deepest depths of your being, so His work within you is very effective. You cooperate with Him by saturating your mind with Scripture and asking Him to illuminate it to you.
One way the Holy Spirit increases your Joy is to help you think My thoughts. The more you see things from My perspective, the more accurately you view your life. You need not only to know biblical truth but to tell yourself the truth over and over each day.
The world continually assaults your mind with lies and deceptions, so you must be diligent to recognize falsehood, dispel it, and replace it with biblical teaching. The most glorious, life-changing truth is the gospel: I have died (to save all who believe in Me). I have risen. I will come again. Rejoice in Me always!
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.