Be thankful for the simple gifts found in relationships. They show us how to relate to God, ourselves, and others. They are a great gift.

Hello everyone and welcome to episode 79, our Thanksgiving episode.

Imagine for a minute it’s Thanksgiving Day here in the US, and you are sitting around the table with your family eating your Thanksgiving dinner, and you ask everyone around the table what they are thankful for this past year.

I say “imagine” because Dr. Fauci and others have urged us to avoid family get-togethers altogether. Without regard to what you decide to do in this matter, how would you complete the sentence starting with, “In 2020 I am thankful for….”?

What are you thankful for?

I’m not a music guy, but for me, my answer comes from a song of all places. A song I first learned in 7th grade from my music teacher, Miss Luck. It’s a song that could help all of us see Thanksgiving in a new light, in ways that will get us through Black Friday, and carry us on to the rest of the year.

After 7th grade, the next time this same particular song reappeared for me happened in12th grade, during Mr. Dominguez’s music appreciation class when we listened to Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

Copeland captivated me with how he weaved this Shaker folk melody throughout his orchestral suite. I think about this tune every Thanksgiving. It's about being thankful for simple gifts found in relationships.

Simple Gifts

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning we come round right.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

History of the song

“Simple Gifts” is the name of the song and was written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett, a Shaker elder. The Shakers were a religious sect that believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. They got their name from the wild and spirited dances they incorporated into their worship services.

“Simple Gifts” is one of these dance songs. It involved a lot of bowing, bending, and turning. It was quite spirited, and there was a whole lot of shakin’ going on (I wonder if Elvis was a Shaker) as it was sung. I prefer the slower, more reflective version that is usually sung today.

The melody first became popular when it was incorporated into Aaron Copland’s, Appalachian Spring in 1944 that I mentioned before. It later made its way into church hymnals, and into secular culture in 1970 when folk singer Judy Collins popularized it in her nationwide concert tour. The idea of being thankful for simple gifts found in relationships really caught on.

“Simple Gifts” was sung at the inauguration of both Presidents Reagan and Clinton, and also at the funeral of President Richard Nixon.

And most famously, the tune was taught by Miss Luck’s to my 7th-grade music class.

Here's my take on the meaning of the song and what it has to say to us in the 21st century:

‘Tis the gift to be simple
  • Simplicity is a gift. Apple, the iPhone maker, doesn’t necessarily make the best products, but they work very hard to make them the most simple for their customers to use.
  • Steve Jobs quote: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
  • It’s a gift when good communicators make complex ideas simple. Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” JFK’s 1960 inauguration speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you do for your country.” What a gift Kennedy gave America in articulating his vision for America.
  • Jesus was a master at making profound things simple. We see that in Matthew 22: 36-40
    “An expert in religious law, trying to trap Jesus, asked ‘which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?'
    Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'”
  • It’s a gift to communicate simple, uncomplicated truths like this. Simplicity is indeed a gift. It’s something to be valued. Simplicity in our relationships is something to be protected.  We can be thankful for simple gifts found in relationships.
  • It’s a gift to be simple.
'tis the gift to be free
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
  • It’s a gift to be free to live out Romans 12:3 to, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
  • There’s freedom in being who you are, and not something you are not
  • To “come down” is a good thing. It’s an act of willful humility.
  • The implication is there is the right place for us, the right lane, a sweet spot for each of us. To discover and live in that sweet spot is a real gift
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
  • Negative connotations to valleys, (Psalm 23, the “valley of darkness.”)
  • But there’s an upside to valley experiences
  • Mt. Pilatus in the Swiss Alps outside Lucerne, Switzerland. Magnificent view, clouds over the mountain tops in the distance. But you can’t see much down the mountain top or the valley. Clouds block the view
  • Better, more majestic view looking up, rather than looking down
  • There’s protection in the valley, not on the mountain top
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
  • When we are living in true simplicity, we can be humble, we can change our mind, and be flexible. We can admit we’re wrong, and we can elevate others, and celebrate this quality as a virtue, and not look at it as a weakness
  • To defer to others won’t break us, it may bend us a bit, but it won’t break us
  • What great relationship principles found in this catchy little tune. That we can be thankful for simple gifts found in relationships.
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning we come round right.
  • Turning is what repentance is all about. To turn from one direction to go in another
  • When we’re willing to change, and repent, we will be the person God intends for us to be
  • It’s not just a good thing to turn, it’s a delightful thing, it will bring a smile to our souls. And a smile to God’s face.

There you have it, this Shaker tune sums it up for me.

It’s easy to be thankful for the abundance in our lives. That’s not hard at all. What’s more challenging is to be grateful for the gifts found in simplicity, to be grateful in the valley, rather than the mountain top. To appreciate being at the bottom of the pile, rather than the top. To find joy in differing to others, and taking pleasure in being the person God created me to be.

It is so rewarding as we are thankful for simple gifts like these found in our relationships.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.

Be thankful for the gift of relational simplicity. It shows us how to relate to God, ourselves, and others. It’s a true source of love and delight.

What we can all do in response to today’s program?

We can start by asking God to show us things about ourselves we don’t see. To make the invisible to us visible. Ask Jesus to help us see ourselves as he does, and as others do.

Be grateful to God for the simple things in life, ask Him to help us come down to the place we ought to be so we can experience the love and delight He has in mind for us. It’s not our inclination to do this; we need God’s help.

Look for ways we can unashamedly bow and bend to our own desires in our relationships. Look for the simplicity in deferring to others. Ask God to help us find delight in turning from selfish ways of relating to him, to others, and ourselves.

As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to


I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through the simple gifts found in your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Our Relationship Quote of the Week

“I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.”                               ~ Albert Einstein

That’s all for today. It’s been great being with you. And no matter where in the world you are, and no matter if you celebrate the US holiday of Thanksgiving or not, do yourself a favor and be grateful for the simple gifts in your life.

Goodbye for now.

Other resources

To hear more examples of being thankful for simple gifts found in relationships, click on one of more of these prior eposodes:

005: The Gift of Joy – Part 1

006: The Gift of Joy – Part 2

003: A Gift for the Person Who Has Everything

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