November 2021
Joy and Gratitude

The Joy and Gratitude Within

Storyteller Kathy Culmer begins her reflection on joy and gratitude by telling us this story.

Sometimes I think we don’t recognize joy because we're expecting it to look and feel like laughter, when joy may be more about what prompts the laughter or lingers after or what sustains us when we can't find the laughter. Joy is there even when the laughter isn’t, because the Source of our gladness resides within us and we know is working all things together for our good. The joy of the Lord, when fully real-eyesd (aka, realized) gives us strength.

Like joy, I wonder if gratitude, too, can’t be misunderstood when we think that it exists on the condition of our getting something, especially something pleasant or desired or hoped for. Gratitude goes deeper than simply finding the right words to respond to what we get, though words are perhaps the most convenient way we have to express it. But it, too, must come from a deeper place. It, too, must reside within us; otherwise, it becomes mere lip service.

Both joy and gratitude are a way of seeing and of being. They do not come and go. They are not conditional, but fully express themselves in the way we see and live our lives. That is why the man of faith in the story was able to see the goodness of God in every unfortunate occurrence. If joy is the lens that lets us see the blessing in our blessings, then it is gratitude that frames our response.

Gratitude gives us reason for celebrating all we have been given, whether because of, or in spite of, what it might be. And joy keeps us celebrating, even when given no reason. This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad … be grateful … come what may, just because I got to be in it.

Kathy Culmer is an author, storyteller, speaker, teacher and retreat leader. A graduate of Spelman College, the University of South Florida, and United Theological Seminary with a D.Min. in Biblical Storytelling, she has taught on the secondary and college levels in a variety of subject areas that include English, Speech Communications, Broadcast Journalism and Religious Education. Kathy was the Mission Funding Coordinator for the Diocese of Texas from 2007 to 2013 and currently serves as Director of Religious Education for St. James Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. She is author of the story series: “Moving Forward in Faith: The African American Experience in the Diocese of Texas.”


This article is part of the November 2021 Vestry Papers issue on Joy and Gratitude