Daily Guide — April 2005


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Days 1-3 Progress


In either case our duty and our one hope is clear; that we have got somehow, at all costs and hazards, to find our way into the light of day. It is such as these, the anxious and the fearful on the one hand, the gross and sensual on the other, who need most of all a Joyous Gard of their own. Because we are coming to the light, as Walt Whitman so splendidly says;-“The Lord advances and yet advances . . . always the shadow in front, always the reached hand bringing up the laggards.”

Our business, if we know that we are laggards, if we only dimly suspect it, is not to fear the shadow, but to seize the outstretched hands. We must grasp the smallest clue that leads out of the dark, the resolute fight with some slovenly and ugly habit, the telling of our mean troubles to some one whose energy we admire and whose disapproval we dread; we must try the experiment, make the plunge; all at once we realise that the foundations are laid, that the wall is beginning to rise above the rubbish and the debris; we must build a home for the new-found joy, even if as yet it only sings drowsily and faintly within our hearts, like the awaking bird in the dewy thicket, when the fingers of the dawn begin to raise the curtain of the night.

— Benson, Joyous Gard, Progress

There’s a small green frog – no bigger than a quarter — that occasionally climbs up my office window. Through the glass I see his belly and his feet, and I’m fascinated to think that something so complex can also be so small. But even more amazing is his call. Louder than the sound of most animals even thousands of times his size, this little frog’s “bellow” fills the inside hall and makes a first time hearer turn immediately in the direction of the sound. I remember my response when I first heard him sing: “What in the hell was that?”

Days 1-3 Guide

Today is the last in the series of thoughts I call Higher Things. I’d like to close by emphasizing that each of us must choose to walk in the light of day. And as such, a great part of our course is well within our control. Yes, life will tend toward tedium; some days will get you down, and others may seem lifeless and routine. The progress that Benson speaks of is the improving ability to, once drawn from her light, find your way back to Joyous Gard. There are hundreds of reminders in daily life to help turn your attention to greater things. Pause and listen — listen for the green frogs.

©2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 4 The Sense of Beauty


Last night I found the perfect opportunity to introduce my eight-year old daughter to the universe. Just before bedtime, I told her that I had a surprise for her and that she must close her eyes. At first she was excited, but then mostly curious when I wrapped her in a blanket and opened the door to carry her out in the cool night air. “Where are we going?” she asked. “Just keep your eyes closed and I’ll show you,” I said.

About fifty yards from the front door is the clearing where I would take her. When we arrived I told her to first tilt her head up to the sky and then slowly open her eyes. She did that, and in quiet amazement – there, wrapped in the quiet stillness of the dark clear night — she beheld the spectacular display of stars on the sky’s domed stage.

After a moment she gasped as if it was the first time she’d ever seen the night sky. And together we whispered about what we saw. I pointed out the bright light of the North Star and the groupings of the Little and Big Dippers as well as the Pleiades. We saw the band of light that looks like a cloud in night sky, which is the edge of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

I realized last night that through the eyes of my child I too had seen the universe anew. I thought about just how important it is to add life back to things that we so often take for granted. I’m thankful that the night sky, like most beautiful things, is resolute and continues to show her beauty despite our witness. I am going to remind myself to look up more often with eyes of wonder. And who knows, maybe I’ll see something again for the first time.

Day 4 Guide

With an eye for design, purpose and meaning, look again at some of the more common things in your surroundings and in your immediate experience. Look at the things in nature, your relationships and your memories. Realize just how important it is to often renew the feelings of how “big” life is.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 5 The Principle of Beauty


The end is rather to live fully and ardently, to recognise the indestructibility of the spirit, to strip off from it all that wounds and disables it, not by drearily toiling against haunting faults, but by rising as often as we can into serene ardour and deep hopefulness. That is the principle of beauty, to feel that there is something transforming and ennobling us, which we can lay hold of if we wish, and that every time we see the great spirit at work and clasp it close to our feeble will, we soar a step higher and see all things with a wider and a clearer vision.

   

       — Benson, Joyous Gard, The Principle of Beauty

I took my family snow skiing this past winter; and though I hadn’t skied in twenty years, I wasn’t too worried about getting the hang of it again. Skiing, I thought, was like riding a bicycle: once you learned you never forgot.

I actually did pretty well, especially after a little tuning up with the instructor at a one-day ski school. But then, knowing that I wasn’t in very good shape, I was concerned about my bones, joints and muscles. Thankfully, none of us sustained any injuries — not any real ski injuries, that is.

Prior to our first day on the slopes we were all fitted with skis and boots, and my boots – well, they seemed a bit too tight. But the fitter assured me that they were supposed to be snug, and that my toes, which were touching the end, would be relieved once I started leaning forward in the ski position. As it turned out, I suffered through the first day, realizing only too late that the boots were really too small. And while I was refitted the next day, my toes didn’t let me forget that mistake. I was angry at the girl for misfitting me.

Love Unbroken

All of that reminded me of the time, many years ago, when I broke my mother’s toe. We were on vacation in the mountains, and like a silly youngster with too much energy, I was dancing around in the kitchen. My mother was standing near me when I slipped and landed right on her big toe. I immediately knew that she was hurt, and as I remember, we had to take her to the hospital. Boy, I felt terrible.

Looking back on that day, I think my mother was more worried about me than she was her own injury. While in obvious pain, she didn’t want me to feel bad about what I’d done. “It was an accident,” she said. “Don’t you worry, son.”

I’m afraid that I might not be as forgiving if one of my children broke my toe, but my mother’s example of showing her love at such a time remains clear in my mind. It was a gift that she left: the vision and example of a selfless love, a love that is always reaching beyond in order to help others in distress or in need.

Day 5 Guide

Today, think of the relationships that are so important to you. Think of how you might best nurture those bonds. Think of what you could do today that would leave an example of the beauty of unconditional love.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 6 Life


“….that we are all in the mind of God, and that we cannot wander beyond the reach of His hand or the love of His heart, of this I am more sure than I am of anything else in this world where familiarity and mystery are so strangely entwined.”

 

     — Benson, Joyous Gard, Life

Endless Night

My lonely heart spent waiting for

Your eyes to find my soul,

And rescue from this endless night

The thoughts I can’t control.

Of hollow needs and lifeless things,

Which keep me from my rest,

And hold me captive to the wind

Of sailors in distress.

Bind my spirit one with yours,

Reveal your lovely face.

And let me spend my endless night

Forever in this place.

Day 6 Guide

Cleave daily to the life of Joyous Gard. Today, seek beauty in common things, in love and in mystery. Consider this an awesome day to be in love.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Day 7 Ideas


For thirty-one years Betty has been putting a new face on furniture. Operating out of a small garage in her backyard, Betty upholsters sofas and chairs. And though for months she’s been trying to retire, her customers just won’t seem to let her. She’s simply too good at what she does.

Walking into her workshop I imagined that the remnants of fabric on the floor must somehow tell the story of her life. Various shapes, colors and designs scattered about: I mean that’s exactly how I see my own life and my memories. And though Betty’s life to me seemed simple, I knew that it was certainly not lacking color or dimension.

Remnants of Ideas

Ideas come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. There are thousands of ways to describe even your own experience. What is the meaning of your years thus far? Do you see the purpose or design in your life? What are your interests and desires? What are you seeking?

Today it seems that everything is so terribly competitive. Don’t you ever feel that life is in hyper-drive and that everyone is fighting for the same piece of the pie? It all makes me dizzy and nervous, and I have to fight to return my thoughts to the simple beauty that is infinitely abundant. It calms and satisfies me to meet someone like Betty, who seems at peace with the world and her life.

Day 7 Guide

This is the first day in the Joyous Gard cycle of days. Start by slowing down a bit and trying to reorient your mind to seek the beauty in life. Read first Benson’s chapter on Ideas in order to capture the scope of our discussion.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to drop out of the “game of life” to find the beauty. But you should take the time daily to refresh your mind — to contemplate beauty, purpose and design. Today, look back over your life and try to make sense of the remnants.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Days 8-10 Poetry


… that the thing or thought, whatever it is, should strike the mind as beautiful, and arouse in it that strange and wistful longing which beautiful things arouse. It is hard to define that longing, but it is essentially a desire, a claim to draw near to something desirable, to possess it, to be thrilled by it, to continue in it.

 

    — Benson, Joyous Gard, Poetry

Love and Beauty

Consider the above selection from Benson’s chapter called Poetry and notice how closely his thoughts of beauty align with those commonly attributed to love. I think the two – love and beauty – are in many ways intertwined, instances of love arousing in one the feelings of connectedness to other lives, while those of beauty bringing on the heightened feelings of attraction to nature or design.

Lighting the Fire

So how do you light the fires of love and beauty? Why is it that on some days you are more easily inclined to sense the warmth of those inner flames? I think that daily you must act with intention to reconnect to the world and to other lives. It must be a discipline of sorts to involve yourself with the elements of your surroundings by putting the things in your way that will quicken the mind and bring it to a more integrated state.

Days 8-10 Guide

Use this weekend to identify and collect the things that would naturally seem to inspire you. Spend some time alone (an hour or two) surrounding yourself with those things. Try to identify in writing exactly what it is the lights your fire.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 11 Poetry and Life


Driving on Washington Road here in Augusta yesterday I was listening to a live radio broadcast of the action at The Masters Golf Tournament. For those of you who’ve been to the tournament, you will remember that the Augusta National Golf Club is located on that same road, Washington Rd. In the car I thought of how unlikely it was that located just off of this busy thoroughfare would be the site of America’s golf capital – the place where legends like Jones, Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Player and Nicklaus captured the attention and won the hearts of fans throughout the world.

It was there yesterday, just beyond the trees, that three-time Masters champion Tiger Woods would amazingly win his fourth “green jacket.” “How awesome and yet so common,” I thought, “that something so big could happen just beyond the trees.”

Day 11 Guide

Today, consider that some of the most profound and important events may be unfolding nearby – just beyond the trees. Don’t let your mind be restless; but think today of how to connect with and enjoy the wonderful things happening within your reach.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 12 Art


Growing up I thought my friend’s older brother, Bobby, had the coolest bedroom. I remember that it was always well kept, and in the middle of the floor there was this big, soft, animal skin rug. He had two hamsters in a cage, a “black light” that would make his fluorescent posters glow, a great stereo, a strobe light, and a collection of other gadgets and puzzles on his desk.

Of course, Bobby didn’t like his younger brother (or his friends) trespassing in his room. So we’d sneak in when he wasn’t at home and stay for just a short while, always fearing that we might get caught. I guess the risk of getting caught made going in his room even more intriguing. Never was I in his room long enough to really get used to it or tired of it. There was always some new discovery to arouse my interest.

For a long time I wanted my room to be just like Bobby’s. And for months I tried hard to make it that way. I remember bugging my father so long that he finally bought me a black light; I hung some “glowing” posters and asked for a bear skin rug for my birthday. I even got “leopard skin print” bedspreads. But my room never turned out to feel like Bobby’s. And I never was able to figure out why. Maybe it was because my bear skin rug was fake or that it wasn’t very soft. And my strobe light, well, it worked okay. But it just wasn’t the same as Bobby’s.

I think that maybe part of the mystique of Bobby’s room was more of a fascination with “older boy’s” toys. And Bobby himself had an unusual personality; maybe I was just interested in finding out what made him tick. Whatever the case, he had a neat room, and getting kicked out a time or two with the solid warning never to return, well that just made us want to go back even more.

Day 12 Guide

Think today of your surroundings and of the environment that stimulates and satisfies your mind. Consider your interests, while also looking at how other people live. The key here is to develop the habit of constantly improving the habitat for your mind.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 13 Art amp; Morality 


I love watching people work; I’m totally fascinated by the movements of hands and arms and the flexing of muscles large and small. For me, to watch someone practice any art or technique is to participate in his or her attempts toward perfection.

Workspaces are equally impressive in that they often times show the important trails, or memories, of where the worker (artist) has been. Okay, maybe it’s true that “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” but in my opinion, the trails of effort – work – tell so much more about our humanity. I see the struggle to find beauty and symmetry in a reality that is refractory and unforgiving.

The artist leaves us simple “moments of beauty.” But these glimpses of perfection also have the impressive quality of being wrought from the dust and the grit of hard paths. I think that the “hand crafted” nature of art lingers in our minds and makes us wonder how man himself could have ever seen such beauty.

Day 13 Guide

Today, lift up your work. Be satisfied with your accomplishments, regardless of how small, and be intrigued by your effort. Focus your attention on your own body’s movements and the work of your mind. Realize the complexity of something as common as standing upright or as simple as holding a pencil, and be thankful for the least of your motions aiming towards an end.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 14 Interpretation 


Look around, the world is full of patterns, isn’t it? Most things in nature have repeating features; pine cones, leaves, butterfly wings, even the waves in the ocean or the ripples in a pond. Music is mostly patterned with repeating measures and returns to an original idea (melody). Knots repeat and so do drum beats. Even we are patterned. Our habits and our personalities make us predictable; psychologists often talk of behavior patterns. Generally, we do the same things over and over.

I guess we like patterns. We never seem to tire of them. Just look at the things that we create: buildings and homes, pyramids, brick walls and patios, clothing and fabric, flower gardens and rock gardens. You would think that at some point patterns would begin to bore us. After all, who wants to see the same thing over and over? But there we go again, repeating.

A break in pattern is also interesting, however. And I think that we ought to pay more attention to ways that we might interrupt patterns. Asymmetry is an equally important element in life. It’s what makes some music yet more interesting and some people come alive. If you’re like me, you enjoy being surprised. I think it’s what I like so much about humor – that there’s a break in pattern, a “punch line,” a surprise.

 

Day 14 Guide

Today, try to identify all of the patterns around you. I think that you’ll be surprised at how many you find. Also, try to interrupt your own patterns of behavior, and do something a little different. Surprise someone today.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Days 15-17 Education 


One has only to reflect on the influence of association, to know how children, who grow up in a home atmosphere which is fragrant with beautiful influences, generally carry on those tastes and habits into later life.

— Benson, Joyous Gard, Education

Growing up I used to enjoy occasionally sitting out on our patio in a chair and looking at the moon through my telescope. It’s a wonderful gift for a child, a telescope, in that it helps the young mind to think of things beyond. A telescope helps to open up the universe and confirm the reality of the ever present mysteries — the mysteries of time and space, order and motion. And like many before me, I would sit quietly, gazing at the heavens, pondering the unanswerable questions.

For me much of the beauty in life is beyond the normal scope of formal education. There is awesome beauty in the integration and connection of the various fields of knowledge. The meaning and purpose of the parade of events, of love and relationships: these are all things that also deserve our attention. The habit of training your mind to consider such things is the habit of Joyous Gard.

There is rich beauty around you, and a faint wind — the wind of spirit — is ever blowing gently to remind us all of such great things. You and I must cultivate and nurture the art of gazing into the heavens and seeing beyond.

Days 15-16 Guide

Take some time this weekend to think about the mysteries in life. Read the creation chapters in the book of Genesis; try to see things from a different angle.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 18 Knowledge 


Listening Beyond

The word “inspire” means literally “to breathe upon or into.” This morning I was listening to a CD of a popular vocalist, and for some reason my attention was drawn to a sound typically unattended to by the ear: the sound of the artist taking a breath between the lines of the song. Interestingly enough, I played a few other CDs and discovered that it’s a sound common to most recordings featuring quiet vocals.

The sound is not something that you’d typically listen out for. I mean why would you? But were that breath absent, I think you would miss it. In fact, I think it’s an element of the experience that connects you intimately with the music and the vocalist. The breath  — that moment of inspiration — confirms the personal nature of the music and draws you closer.

Listen to the lyrics of Breathe sung by Faith Hill:

Cause I can feel you breathe
It’s washing over me
Suddenly I’m melting into you
There’s nothing left to prove
Baby all we need is just to be
Caught up in the touch
The slow and steady rush
Baby, isn’t that the way that love’s supposed to be?
I can feel you breathe
Just breathe..

Day 18 Guide

Listen today for the breath, that moment of inspiration.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 19 Growth 


…it is rather by meeting the larger spirit that lies behind life, recognising the impulse which meets us in a thousand forms, which forces us not to be content with narrow and petty things, but emerges as the energy, whatever it is, that pushes through the crust of life, as the flower pushes through the mould. Our dulness, our acquiescence in monotonous ways, arise from our not realising how infinitely important that force is, how much it has done for man, how barren life is without it.

   — Benson, Joyous Gard, Growth

Growth

The force, or energy, that Benson speaks of in his chapter on growth is the life-giving realization that you — and all of life — are in God’s hands, and that even in our awkwardness and indolence we are tending toward a purpose. The question for us is whether we are willing to build the place in our souls where we seek and enjoy the beauty of God’s operating wisdom. Are you willing to be moved? Do you welcome change?

From my vantage point it’s all too common to feel “stuck,” like you can’t move – stuck in a job or a position, stuck in a mindset or a mood, stuck in a routine or a bad habit. The habit of growth, on the other hand, is the practice of constantly moving beyond the more common ways of thinking and living.  It is the habit of escaping the restlessness and angst of a mind bogged down by the business of a day.

Moving On

Growth is the last is a series of thoughts I call The Outer Mind, and tomorrow we begin a series on the more introspective and interpretative habits of mind. While our humanity enables us to  operate in the more technical realms of this world, as engineer, physician, and teacher, our heritage and original nature is that of a deep thinker – a philosopher and storyteller. In my opinion, it is our deepest desire to shape meaning from life’s events and to render it purposeful.

Day 19 Guide

Today, prepare your mind to make a move to the deeper, inner mind. Charge your senses with things of love, beauty and desire. And want of things that please and satisfy a hungry spirit. The native desire is to feel the presence of purpose and the ties of belongingness. Give yourself over to God’s leading, and cherish your relationships.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 20 Emotion 


The talented singer and instrumentalist, Eva Cassidy, left this world at the young age of thirty-three. Her influence, though quiet, was profound, and her voice and musical selections continue to inspire the emotions of love and peace. Joel Siegel said these things about Cassidy:

…Extremely self-conscious, she had little interest in pursuing a professional career in art or music, preferring to surround herself with supportive friends who served as her advocates. She had few possessions and modest goals, sometimes she spoke of wanting to live in a cottage by the ocean, and no sense of money. She didn’t have a checking account until she was 30, and worried that material success would threaten her identity.

 

…Battling the melanoma that took her life at 33, she told her mother “All I want to do when I get well is sing and travel around with my music” She was attracted to songs that express profound themes (love, loss, transcendence, redemption) drawn from a diversity of musical traditions which she transforms into haunting personal statements.

 

…But even more impressive than her musicianship is the sheer, heartfelt emotion she conveys, cutting to the core of feelings all of us experience but can only stumblingly articulate.

Receptivity

This series of the inner mind opens appropriately, I think, with the subject of emotion. On some days do you feel that your mind is rather cold and uncaring, business-like and tending only to things on the surface? Well, scratch the surface. Find that well of emotions to draw you close to all that matters in this world – the beauty, the love, the connections and the relationships. There, just below the cerebral layer of your brain, is the richness of color and the depth of perception – the perspective of spirit.

 

Day 20 Guide

Don’t wait for injury to reveal your inner mind of emotion. But learn to call on your emotions at will in order to recognize life’s more important things — things of beauty and love. Today, listen to great music, paying close attention to lyrics that call on greater things.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 21 Memory 


I don’t know about you, but I often think of earlier times; most of my memories are of sweet times and of things that help me feel better about life today. For me, memories hold important life-energy that upon their recall is released into my day and my attitude.

I’m thankful for the markers along the way that chronicle my past – the music, school, movies, and certain friendships. There are hundreds of songs, for example, that immediately flash me back to specific times in my life – possibly the high school or college years. The recollection of any particular grade or class in my elementary or high school years is also loaded with memorable events and friends.

4th

I remember fourth grade quite well. In fact, my teacher, Mrs. Williams, still lives in Augusta, and I see her quite often. Although she could yell with “the best of ’em,” she was one of my favorite teachers. It’s just that when she wanted you in your seat, she’d let you know it!

I remember one day my buddies and I found a nice rock; I guess it probably weighed a couple of pounds and was about the size of an adult hand. We signed our names to that rock and gave it to Mrs. Williams as a gift, thinking, I guess, that she’d find some good use for it. And boy, did she.

From that point and through all the years extending to her retirement Mrs. Williams used that rock just as a judge might use a gavel to bring “order in the court.” Whenever things got a little out of hand in her classroom, she’d bang that big rock on her desk to let you know that she was serious. “The rock” served her well, and in fact became a trademark for her teaching style. Any student of hers since that fourth grade class of mine would be able to tell you about “the rock.”

Now, whenever I see Mrs. Williams, she lets me know that she still has that old rock and that she plans to one day give it back to me. I think that she may want me to have it as a reminder of those good times in her fourth grade class.

Day 21 Guide

Today, consider memories that are packed with energy. Recall some of those earlier times and light the fire.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Days 22-24 Retrospect 


What is to be gained by looking back over your life? I think it’s true that experience itself is the most important teacher. Yet it’s probably more accurate to say that interpretation of experience is the true guide that will lead you down the roads of life. To think retrospectively is to interpret the meaning of past experiences; in essence, it is to claim a current understanding of past events. Surveying your own life should certainly be more than the attempt to build a compendium of events: ultimately, it should be the search for meaning. And it’s something that you must do for yourself.

People with similar experiences might view life and circumstance differently. Meanings rendered from similar events may come from different philosophical vantage points. While one person senses a beautiful guidance that could only come from God’s hand, another might see life as the fearful unfolding of unpredictable and random events.

The light of Joyous Gard is the witness to and the knowledge of a beautiful perfection that so underlies this fractured shell of life. We live in a world that seems so imperfect, so out of balance. But looking back with the patient eyes of retrospect is the effort to sense greater meaning. What is it that God wants you to know? What is it of His presence that God wants you to sense and understand?

My life has been so blessed by wonderful parents and a grand family of my own — a beautiful wife and three lovely children. And I’m sure that it’s much easier for me to feel the presence of design and the workings of God than it is for someone who’s witnessed much darkness and loss and fear. But I believe that life lived strongly, with hopeful and beautiful intention, is one that, regardless of circumstance, considers its past, laying claim yet to some order and meaning.

My friends, at a time when I can sit atop the mountain and see a beautiful light, let me say that our heritage and our original state was that of ultimate happiness and communion with God, though life as we know it will always be filled with brokenness and travail. Even through these murky waters of disappointment, loss and bitterness, we should search for that original design of perfect symmetry and order, the rock of God’s omniscience and His presence that fulfills a purpose.

I confess my struggle with instances of tragedy, the strike of evil hands, and the presence of lost and lonely souls. That entire populations can be wiped out by disease, starvation or disaster weighs on my spirit. And I believe that he who sees beauty does so only by the grace a God who wants and directs him to ponder these things, finding life in retrospect to be purposeful.

Days 22-24 Guide

The walls of Joyous Gard need further reflection and refinement. And so by the light of day prepare the place that can restore your hopefulness in those arid days.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 25 Humor


Children are funny, aren’t they? At about six-years old they start asking funny questions, a practice they continue for a half-dozen or so years. And as they mature the questions seem to get even funnier. It’s always a nice surprise to see again that wonderful childlike naivety at just the time when you thought it was all but lost.

I remember one summer many years ago when my good friend, Clay, and I used to walk from my house to the drugstore to eat lunch. Like some of the old drugstores, this one had a fountain where you could sit down at a counter and order a sandwich and a soda. I don’t remember exactly how old we were at the time, probably eleven or twelve. I know it must have been at the time when boys are alway hungry; every time Clay and I would eat there, we’d each order two cheeseburgers; Clay liked his with pickles, and I liked mustard.

On one of those summer days as we were walking to that drugstore Clay looked a bit puzzled. He turned to me and said “Levi, let me ask you a question.”

“Sure,” I said. “What is it?”

          “Okay, now Jesus was born on Christmas, right?”

          “Yea.”

          “And then he died on Easter, right?”

          “That’s right,” I said.

Still looking confused, he paused for a few seconds longer and said, “Yea, that’s what I thought…He sure didn’t live long, did he?”

Day 25 Guide

Today, watch and listen for those funny moments in life. Take time to write down the funny things that you run into throughout the day. End the day on a good note by reflecting on the “lighter-side” before you go to sleep.

© 2005, Levi Hill


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April 2005 ~ Day 26 Visions


We must never allow ourselves to make up our minds, and to get our theories comfortably settled, because then experience is at an end for us, and we shall see no more than we expect to see. We ought rather to be amazed and astonished, day by day, at all the wonderful and beautiful things we encounter, the marvellous hints of loveliness which we see in faces, woods, hills, gardens, all showing some tremendous force at work, often thwarted, often spoiled, but still working, with an infinity of tender patience, to make the world exquisite and fine.

   — Benson, Joyous Gard, Visions

I love trees. And thankfully, where I live we have a lot of them. Though I don’t know a great deal about trees, I enjoy all of their various shapes, colors and sizes. I like to look at a leaf close up and see its life-giving veins and its overall design. These veins not only provide nutrients (much like our veins) but they also give the leaf its overall structure and its shape. And if you look at a leaf under a magnifying glass, you’ll see hundreds of smaller veins that make up a complex network of design. Consider this fact: If you were to place the veins in a single elm tree leaf end to end, they would span 700 ft. Pretty awesome, isn’t it?

I’m sure that it’s not a daily practice for you to consider such design in nature. I mean why would you? Like me, you’ve got hundreds of other things to occupy your mind: phone calls, meetings, carpools and grocery lists. Where on earth would you find the time to think about something like tree leaves? The answer: right here, right now.

Daily, you should give your mind over to your own personal Joyous Gard. You should take some time to attend to greater things, things of the inner mind: design, structure and purpose. Your life, just like a leaf, has a design, a structure and a purpose. Let me pose these questions to you:  How would you feel if you discovered that you were an important element in the overall design of the universe? That your life really counted for something? How would you feel if you discovered that each repetition of the same old thing really did count for something? That washing clothes, cleaning up your desk or making that one additional sales call formed a critical juncture in God’s universe? I think you’d feel pretty important and special. Well, I believe this is the case.

I think that God does use your efforts and your thoughts – all of them – in order to fulfill His greater plan. God is 100% efficient; in His universe there is no waste. I believe that even the time you spend complaining about having to do the same old thing is time that God uses somehow to serve His purpose. This means that God is working in laundry rooms and on assembly lines; he’s working in schools, on rooftops, in prisons and on battlefields all according to His greater plan. God is using every action of every man to demonstrate in an absolute sense that nothing escapes Him.

Okay, so what does this mean for you and me? It means that you should consider your actions during the day to be part of the dance of the universe — that just like the small veins in a leaf, you are part of a networked structure that is life giving and meaningful.

Maybe you feel insignificant or forgotten. Maybe you feel that God has left you to clean up after more important forces have performed on the main stage of life. Well, think again. Why would God ever allow you to waste His power? There’s just no way this could happen.

Day 26 Guide

Maybe God has nothing greater planned than for you to continue efforts that, in your mind, are small and of little value. But then, too, maybe you’ve been drawn here today to improve your sense of purpose. My friend, hold your head up and consider yourself to be a part of something big. And if by further thought, trust and belief you have a vision of this grand design, then you will surely find yourself to be an essential part of it.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Day 27 Thought


The philosophers of ancient Greece placed a high value on thinking. To them it was the highest form of human activity and offered the greatest reward, knowledge. Accordingly, the mind that searches to identify and claim the nature of reality is a focused and attentive mind – a mind that is operating on its highest level.

Centuries of philosophical thinking have resulted in systems and bodies of knowledge. And we in the Western world, by out heritage, consider “thought” to be the single most defining characteristic of man. It is thinking that makes us human.

Americans prize the pragmatic and scientific mind. We like definite and clear answers on most all matters of concern. The murky waters of uncertainty are generally unsettling, and if we can’t see it or touch it, our tendency is to move on. Time is limited, we say, and we have so much more to do than ponder the mysteries of life.

But it’s also our heritage to commune with God and nature and other people — for no reason other than to simply enjoy feeling a part of the “big picture.” Sure, knowledge is terribly important, and obtaining a formal education is a great privilege. In fact, in today’s world it’s a must. But for each of us there should be time for “pure thought” – time to recognize and enjoy the seamless unfolding of events that finds you a part of something much greater.

Day 27 Guide

At then end of the day today review your thoughts and your activities. Did you at some time feel the presence of love or any power beyond that of accomplishment? Did you make time to locate at least a fragment of your heritage as a spiritual creature? I believe that such touches the emotion and lights the pathways of understanding in your mind. Those moments when you feel like you really “understand”  — those are great moments, aren’t they? And it’s what we all should be searching for daily within the spaces of Joyous Gard.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Day 28 Accessibility


People are sometimes hard to get to know. I remember this one particular doctor who remained an intimidating figure even though I’d known him for quite a while. He was a big man who always held a big cigar tightly clamped between his lips. And most people, especially young people like me, would travel in a different direction when he was headed their way. He was gruff, and he rarely smiled. But I knew that since he had a daughter close to my age he must have had a soft side. Certainly, he couldn’t be as mean as he looked. I was sure that he loved his daughter and was kind to her. I wanted to find that kindness. So I committed myself to getting to know this man, at least well enough to say “hello” and get a “hello” in return.

I decided that every time I saw him at a distance, I would make my way toward him so as to make sure we’d meet meet up. Passing by, I would look him in the eye, smile and say, “Hi, Doctor. How are you doing? Did you play golf today?”

Now, when I first started this practice, he mumbled an answer. His lips would release that cigar just enough to give a curt response: “Yea, I played.” And without slowing down a bit, he’d walk on by. “Hope you played well,” I’d say after he had already passed me. “Yep,” he’d mumble.

Every time that I saw the Doctor I’d make an effort to issue a short “hello” and maybe one comment or question to follow. After a while, he began to soften. Maybe he realized that I was a nice enough guy and that I wasn’t going to impose on him or frustrate his patterns or ways. I was always careful to make my comments brief, figuring that a man like the Doctor might even have a general mistrust for people who were too nice. I made sure that my questions were never prying or reaching — short comments only.

One day I saw him walking down the hall toward me. And as normal, I planned to say hello and be on my way. Yet before I spoke I saw something in the Doctor that I’d never seen before: a smile appearing on his face as he removed that long cigar from his lips. “Hello, Levi, how are you doing?” he asked. “Wow!” I thought. “I’d finally broken through.” And from that point on, our relationship was very cordial. I liked the Doctor, and I think he liked me, too.

I always made sure, however, to never appear as though I was taking advantage of his openness toward me. I still felt that there must have been something in his personality that he wanted to protect, something private. So as always, I kept my comments short, unless of course, he wanted to talk. And in that case, I was happy to converse with him as long as he wanted. It thought it was neat to find in this intimidating figure a spirit that was much like mine.

Day 28 Guide

Accessibility works both ways. I have to remind myself of that quite often, being careful not to close myself off to the people who might appear to be inaccessible. It’s so easy to remain distant, isn’t it? But I think it’s important to fight that tendency, especially in this cultural time of self-centered independence. I think we sometimes feel like we don’t need each other. And yet in so many ways we are needy people.

Today, smile at those who pass by, and try your best to be friendly and open. You never know who might become your friend.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
April 2005 ~ Days 29 – May 1 Sympathy


I guess you’d say that I’m in the middle years of my life. But I hesitate to claim that I’m middle-aged; what is middle-aged anyway? I don’t think I’m quite there yet. But my spirit – well, thanks to the younger generation, my spirit remains spry and excited. I love to see young people just starting down the roads of life – opening the doors of romance and marriage, song and dance. The smiles and laughter of youth make me feel good; they make me want to live.

The young actress and singer Renee Olstead (www.reneeolstead.com) is a beautiful example of the spirit that welcomes every generation. Her CD, titled simply “Renee Olstead,” contains a collection of musical standards that invites audiences, both young and old, and inspires those wonderful feelings of a lovesick heart. Her music and rich expression make me feel good about life, as though I’m just beginning my journey. The mixing of youth, charm, and beauty with the classic music of yesterday, well it’s a dynamite formula that ties together people of all ages.

Days 29-May 1 Guide

Use this weekend as a time to look and enjoy the young people around you. It’s their energy and excitement about life that will paint the textures of beauty in the years to come.

Try listening to the music of Renee Olstead on her website (www.reneeolstead.com).

© 2005, Levi Hill

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