Let gratitude illuminate your work.

Start With Gratitude

Let gratitude illuminate your work.

Tuesday – my weekly deadline for posting – approaches. I don’t feel like writing. Can I just skip this week’s post? Will people mind? Life gets in the way sometimes, right?

I know the answers already.

My public commitment to post pushes me to keep the schedule. Integrity is important to me, and I hate breaking my word. I can move past a post that is less than perfect. But a broken streak would haunt me for a long time.

An obligation to fulfill, I start writing. But it’s a struggle. The writing feels incomplete. The paragraphs ramble and the sections don’t fit together. I’m not even sure if the idea worthwhile or not. How am I going to finish this?

Time keeps passing. My deadline draws nearer. Stress builds.

I have to write. I have to complete a post. I have to put up something.


Let not art arise from obligation
Which leads you down paths of frustration
But from thanksgiving drive your creation

But I don’t have to create. I get to. I get to tell stories. I get to work. I get to serve others. All of it is a gift.

It’s a gift that I discovered writing and storytelling in the first place. Until a few years ago, writing was an activity I only did when forced to.

It’s a gift that you read what I have to say. You offer me your time and attention. You give me the opportunity to inspire you.

It’s a gift that I witness so many stories – that so many interesting people pass through my life.

It’s a gift that I am alive.

There are many metrics for worthwhile work, but gratitude is one one I keep coming back to. Am I grateful to be doing what I’m doing? Am I grateful for the gifts I’ve received? Am I creating out of that gratitude?


If every of part your work said thank you
If those simple words wove through all you do
To your heart your creation would be true

Gratitude elevates your creation.

It excites and engages you with what you’re doing. You put in the time. You work hard.

It gives you the courage to push through the difficulty. You see your work is worth doing, and you do it.

It inspires generosity. You strive to give as much as you can. You connect your work to the people you serve – making it useful to them.

It adds humanity to your work. You magnify your values. You speak from who you are.

I can’t think of any successful pieces of writing on the Bright Army that I didn’t write from a mindset of gratitude. When I wrote the story of my grandfather’s legacy, I was thankful for the impact he had on my life. I was thankful for the chance to share his wisdom with you. As I write this post, I’m grateful for the kind words people have said about my writing.

Creation is probably different for you than for me. Maybe you compose a song, make a photograph, or paint a portrait. Perhaps you build a relationship, grow a community, or organize a conference. Or you may set up a spreadsheet, solve an equation, or code a computer program. No matter the type of creation, it’s a chance to be a blessing.


At times it’s rather easy to loose track
When struck by obligation’s strong attack
And focus only on the things you lack

The next time you struggle to create, return to gratitude. Remember you get to do that work.

Here are a few practices I find helpful:

Reflect on the reasons for the work. Why are you doing it? Who are you serving? How? Note: If you struggle to answer those questions, reconsider what you’re doing.

Read through or recall nice things people have said about your work.

Write down, with pen and paper, one thing you’re thankful for.

Tell a friend what you enjoy about your work.

And when you have reestablished your gratitude, return to your creating.


I’m curious. What work do you get to do? How does it make you grateful?


PHOTO: Let gratitude illuminate your work. Lokichoggio, Kenya.

PS: In case you missed it, this month’s mission is about seeing people. I look forward to hearing what you learned.

9 thoughts on “Start With Gratitude”

  1. Helping others makes me grateful and happy. I love being the person behind the scenes, making connections, introducing people who can help them. I have a strong faith in God/Christ and while I am SO much a work in progress and far, far away from being like Christ…I’m working on it. It makes me humble and grateful to see the small changes in my life in that regard. I am grateful for all I’ve been given and all that I’ve been able to give. Life is about loving and caring for one another…easy to say, incredibly hard to do. A homeless man named Kevin hugged me yesterday, several times, with tears in his eyes after we spoke. I said, “I’ve been there. I understand.” I am grateful for those moments when people come into my life and I can do something. Gratitude is its own reward.

  2. With all appreciation, I send gratitude to you for being such a consistent teacher and for unfolding a lot about God’s creation of worth ‘humanity’ of human. It touches the heart of the creator and this is the whole duty of man. Thumb up Josh.

  3. Josephine, I’m grateful for YOU! Teachers rule! To have teachers who care about what they’re doing is a gift to us all. Thank you.

  4. Josephine, Gratitude is a big part of connecting to that humanity. Thanks for your constant encouragement.

    Becky, Yay for having lots to be grateful for. (I’m grateful for Josephine too. She’s one of the most inspiring people I know.)

  5. Josh, I wish you could have been present at our weekly city businessmen’s breakfast this morning. But come to think of it, you were…let me explain.

    I read your blog, ‘start with gratitude.’ The good conversation that it generated among these businessmen was special. They all chimed in about the importance of ‘giving thanks!’ When I asked them the question at the end of your blog, they all agreed that this is a good litmus test for knowing if you are doing what you should be doing. Several of them commented that they could be making lots of money, if that was the main reason they were doing what they are doing. But they said the priority is ‘service’. Serving others with excellence.

    Two of the businessmen would like to get on your list to receive your weekly blog. I’ll send that to you in a separate email.

    I want to close by thanking you for the reminder that it’s not about ‘having’ to do something, but rather, I ‘get’ to do it. I get to be a blessing.

    I join in the choruses of appreciation for you! Thank you!

  6. Joshua, I’m grateful to follow your journey.

    Thank you for continuing to share your wonderful philosophy. This is a great lesson to remember as I transition into my next project. I can come from a place of gratitude and sharing and everyone will benefit even more.

  7. Hey Josh πŸ™‚

    I’m grateful for your time, thoughts & inspiration. Thanks for writing in every week & the courage to press on as well as talk about the difficulties you encounter in the most sincere & thought-provoking ways.

    For what I do that I’m grateful for; there’s my art, that is cooking & exploring great food. It’s not just a career but a joy to share this gift that many may view as a chore.

    Bless you Josh, may the Lord prosper you & keep you grateful πŸ˜‰



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