Rev. Randy Harlow of Marsh Memorial UMC found this devotion recently in “The Faith We Sing.” What caught his eye was the author of a famous praise song “Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart” lives in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Then we were both blown away by his story. As you prepare for Thanksgiving, I pray you will strength in the midst of struggle and comfort in the midst of strife from reading the story behind “Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart.”

     Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a special day filled with food, fellowship and the secure knowledge that you are a much-loved child of God.


     As a teenager Henry Smith played in a high school band like many boys in the 1960s. He says, “I was playing things I wouldn’t play or sing now like Jimi Hendrix and all that. I’d rather not go into that.” But while in college, a spiritual revolution in his life brought him to Richmond to attend Union Theological Seminary.

     “God really touched my heart,” he says. “I’d been a Christian since I was a child, but he changed my way of thinking.”

     Then his eyes went bad. In 1978, Henry returned from seminary to his home church as a lay person. He had to take odd jobs to support himself as his career choices were limited by a degenerative eye disease.

     Nevertheless, he remembers “being extremely thankful” during that time in his life. He had discovered that in the darkest winter there was within him an invincible summer.

   One Sunday his pastor quoted 2 Corinthians


   A paraphrase of this would be, “He came to become like us, to enable us to become like Him.”

   Henry decided to write a song about it:

Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One,

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.

And now, let the weak say, “I am strong”. Let the poor say “I am rich”

Because of what the Lord has done for us.


     “Give Thanks” was published in 1986 by Integrity Music and recorded on the album Heal Our Land in 1989. Since then it has been recorded around the world.


    Henry eventually lost his sight, but not his gratitude for God’s unfailing love. He has written over 100 other songs to fit Scripture passages. Today he runs Outback, a recording studio in Mechanicsville, Virginia.

   Give thanks. And when we admit we’re weak, only then will His strength become operative and be made perfect in us.

8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”


Michael · September 6, 2015 at 7:53 pm

OH Lord

Today you have regained my heart

Maria I Manso · September 1, 2016 at 5:42 am

I met Henry and his family in Monjaras,Honduras in 1999 when, even though he was legally blind, they came to help with the recovery efforts after Hurricane Mitch. For them we “Give Thanks” to God

Ray Amrine · November 18, 2016 at 7:19 pm

I am privileged to play this deeply spiritual song as an offertory this week. We have decided to project the lyrics, and my prayer is that others will be blessed as I have been by Christ’s grace and Henry Smith’s devotion! Thanks VERY MUCH to ALL for posting!

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