Daily Guide — April 2006


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April 2006 ~ Day 1 Emotion


It’s easy to fall down into a hole sometimes, isn’t it? I mean one day things are going just great, and then the next — well it’s just like someone turned the lights out. I envy those who are able to hang on to the light of a favorable attitude for long stretches of time. My friend Rich is a good example.

Rich is one that just makes you feel good whenever you’re near him. According to Rich, “everything is always great.” And while I’m sure that he has his bad days, it’s rarely evident to anyone around him. Even on the few occasions when I’ve known Rich to be ill, he’s managed to keep a smile on his face.

I, on the other hand, am constantly at work trying to avoid the emotional black-hole that captures the light of my spirit. Daily, I’m working to do what I can to steer clear of the abyss, and I find that it helps if I have something to look forward to.

My work on the Joyous Gard Program is but one example of an interest that I count on to help balance my emotions. It helps me to have a project, a mission, or some sort of life-purpose to drive my actions.

Additionally, I find that my emotional temperature is different in the morning that it is at night. For one thing I’m just not nearly as energetic at night as I am in the morning; my thoughts at night tend toward people, relationships and love. On the other hand, my energy typically spikes in the morning hours, and my mind races. It’s usually the best time for me to draw plans, develop ideas and get to work. I love that feeling of being “up” in the morning.

Day 1 Emotion

Don’t worry so much about emotional ups and downs. You’re going to have good days and bad ones. Try to figure out how to balance your emotions. Use projects, plans and goals to drive your actions and lead your motivation.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Days 2-4 Memory


If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing,

It’s the time that I spend alone

Sailing on the cool and bright, clear water.

 

Time for a cool change,

I know that it’s time for a cool change.

And now that my life is so prearranged, I know it’s time for a cool change.

  — Little River Band, Cool Change

I do so love a quiet and settled spirit — one that invites a dance of thought within the spacious halls of memory. Many times I’m surprised to recall certain memories I thought lost in the pit of the forgotten. It’s when I have a mind free of the day’s complexity that I’m most likely to uncover the charms of those earlier times.

I’m fortunate to have many vivid recollections of our family visits to my grandparents’ house. Throughout their house there were old radiators used for heat in the winter. Individual window-units in the den, the kitchen and the bedrooms kept these rooms cool in the summer.

The doors to the air-conditioned rooms were naturally kept closed in the summertime; the foyer and the halls of the sizeable house were usually, therefore, hot and stuffy. I remember well the pleasant shock of cold air when we opened the door to the den on our summer visits.

My sister and I would usually sit on the floor of that room and play games of pick-up-sticks as my mother and father visited with my grandparents. We’d usually drink cold Coca-Colas®, and the adults enjoyed sweet iced tea.

Maybe it’s because Augusta is such a hot place in the summer that cool air is especially refreshing to me. Some of my favorite memories are of things cool and refreshing. It seems that I even transport those feelings to many of the things I see in the world and in nature today. The thoughts of certain places — sometimes even certain people – promote feelings that I’d best characterize as hot or cool.

Some people enjoy summer because they like the heat. I like summer, too. But I think for me it’s more because I enjoy the cool air-conditioned pockets that offer an escape from the heat.

Time for a cool change…

Day 2 Guide

Memory is one of the best and most natural channeling poetry into your life. Think of times past and recall some of your great moments.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 5 Retrospect


Traces of Time

Time is such a funny thing,

She runs but never leaves me,

Beneath my foot and ever now

And yet she doesn’t need me.

To dance along a steady song

Of melodies unbroken,

With traces of her dusty steps

In memories unspoken.

Looking back I see her face

In everything about me,

And now and then she hesitates

To let me glimpse eternity.

© 2006, Levi Hill

Day 5 Guide

Live for the present and enjoy the past.


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March 2006 ~ Day 6 Humor


I recently had the opportunity to visit with my old college roommate, Mark, who surprised me with his phone call and a message saying that he and his family were in town for a couple of days. I hadn’t seen Mark in probably ten or twelve years, and so I was eager to “catch up” with him and meet his family.

Mark and I first met when I arrived at the University of Georgia just a couple of days before classes began our freshman year. Mark was easy to get to know. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that he and I were a lot different. Mark liked hard-rock music. I liked pop and jazz. He was a football player. I was a golfer. He liked snakes, and well, I didn’t.

You see, Mark was studying to be a herpetologist – a reptile expert. So snakes weren’t just a hobby for him, they were his passion. Mark introduced me to those slithering creatures when he brought several of them back from Savannah, GA to live in our dorm room with us. Believe it or not, I got used to living with snakes, just one of the many things that Mark introduced to me.

I remember one night, Mark and I were in our room talking. He was sitting on the edge of the bed polishing the stainless blade of a large Bowie knife that he kept on his shelf. And it was right after someone left our room and closed the door that Mark – for no apparent reason – flung the knife at the large wooden door where it stuck about head-high with ultra precision. I was both startled and amazed. “How’d you do that?” I asked. “How’d you learn to throw a knife like that?”

As it turned out, Mark was also a skilled knife thrower. He tried to teach me, but even after a bit of practice, most of my attempts failed. He, on the other hand, rarely missed and went on to enjoy throwing that knife at the door for the rest of the year.

We gave little thought to that door until the school year ended and the hall inspector dropped by to check out the condition of our room. “Except for the door,” he reported to Mark, “everything looked fine. But the door,” he said, “would have to be replaced.”

I remember when Mark broke that bit of news to me, “Levi, we’re going to have to replace the door. It’s gonna cost us $350.”

          “Cost us?” I complained. “Wait a minute. You were the one throwing the knife.”

          “But you threw it, too,” Mark said.

          “Yea, but how many of those gashes in the wood would you say are mine?” I asked.

Needless to say, Mark paid most of that bill. I think I may have chipped in $20 just to cover the few dents that I made in the wooden door.

Mark and I became great friends that year. And though we would go our separate ways at the end of the year our friendship would live on. I haven’t thrown a knife or slept with snakes since Mark and I first met. I’ll bet that he hasn’t listened to Barry Manilow or played a game of golf since that time either.

Day 6 Guide

Good times, laughter, friendship. Sometimes it seems that life becomes more serious as you grow older. But it’s never too late to forge new friendships and laugh.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Days 7-9 Visions


Senses

I closed my eyes

And what did I see?

But thousands of people

Waiting for me.

I held my breath

And what did I taste?

The honeysuckle’s nectar,

Sweet wind on my face.

I rested my hands

And what did I feel?

But others reaching out,

To embrace what is real.

I closed my eyes

And what did I see?

Your beautiful face,

Watching over me.

© 2006, Levi Hill

Days 7-9 Guide

Close your eyes in the silence and stillness of the night. What is it that you sense, my friend? Try to dismiss the noise of the day and thoughts of tomorrow. Think only of the beauty of the moment.


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April 2006 ~ Day 10 Thought


I feel that I am journeying onwards into what is unknown to me, but into something which is inevitably there, and not to be altered by my own hopes and fancies. It is like taking a voyage, the pleasure of which is that the sights in store are unexpected and novel; for a voyage would be a very poor thing if we knew exactly what lay ahead, and poorer still if we could determine beforehand what we meant to see, and could only behold the pictures of our own imaginations. That is the charm and the use of experience, that it is not at all what we expect or hope. It is in some ways sadder and darker; but it is in most ways far more rich and wonderful and radiant than we had dreamed.

— Benson, Thought, Joyous Gard

When things don’t go as you’d planned, how do you feel? Disappointed, I imagine. But sometimes things actually turn out better than the way you’d planned, don’t they? It’s then that you probably find yourself happy that the world really didn’t respond with the answer of your expectations.

I remember one time when unusual and hard circumstances nearly forced us to cancel a trip that had been planned for many months, a trip that I was eagerly anticipating. As it happened, however, our present difficulties passed and we were able to make the trip after all, only we had to leave town much later than we would have liked. Oddly enough, arriving at our destination then late in the evening helped us to avoid a particularly difficult decision about our accommodations. The grace which seemed to have reopened the opportunity for us to go at all was also sullied with the difficulty that delayed our departure and delivered us to our destination in perfect time.

Day 10 Guide

That is the charm and the use of experience, that it is not at all what we expect or hope. It is in some ways sadder and darker; but it is in most ways far more rich and wonderful and radiant than we had dreamed.

 

The experience of life is to be seen by the light of retrospect. Look back to witness the perfect timing of God’s grace.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 11 Accessibility


There are few things that make one more immediately accessible to others than eye contact and a smile. Without a word spoken, they uncover a soul reaching out to connect.

Some might call such longing for connection a human weakness, that of dependence. We do so cherish our independence, don’t we? We, many of us, remain guarded and hold tightly on to our privacy. Yet we live in neighborhoods and communities. And together, we laugh and cry, we sing and dance. But then we retreat, don’t we? We go back to our own private islands of isolation where all of our needs are met. And it’s there that we pretend our souls need nothing more, nothing more, nothing more….

Islands

Listen to the chants

Of anxious souls,

Walking the shores

Of quiet seas.

And hear the beating

Of lonely hearts

Say nothing more, nothing more,

Nothing more.

© 2006, Levi Hill

Day 11 Guide

Try not to lock yourself away, but rather make yourself available to those who might enjoy your smile. Try this week to look at people, make eye contact and smile. You might be surprised at what you find.


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April 2006 ~ Day 12 Sympathy


Wandering

Caught up

In this hurried world,

I left your side

And wandered.

Far then

From the one I love

Yet close to all

I squandered.

Half-lit thoughts

And empty dreams

Scattered ’bout

The sands

Of time

I wish I’d spent

With you,

Walking hand in hand.

© 2006, Levi Hill

Day 12 Guide

We tend sometimes to think that we can make it without love, without connection. It’s just so easy to get caught up in the business of life and tend little to our most human of needs. Spend today thinking not about things but people — those close to you, those you love.


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April 2006 ~ Day 13 Science


Light of Heaven

The moon, they say, is lifeless,

Suspended in the sky,

Held with no intention,

Without a reason why.

Her light, they say, is stolen,

But moves a tired heart

And lifts my soul from sullen cares

To make me feel a part

Of all that lives beyond the night,

And animates this world,

And honors but a simple quest

With such a treasured pearl.

© 2006, Levi Hill

Day 13 Guide

It’s amazing the things by which God has surrounded us — the sights and sounds, the stillness and peace that might arrest your attention and move you back to the path of Joyous Gard. Look around. Be aware of all that would be your guide in a busy world.


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April 2006 ~ Days 14-16 Work


When I was growing up, my father would occasionally take me fishing. We’d make the thirty-minute drive to a little community called Grovetown located on the outskirts of Augusta where my grandfather owned several hundred acres of property and kept a couple of well-stocked fish ponds.

Unlike my grandfather, however, my father and I didn’t maintain such a serious interest in fishing, and over the years our visits to the ponds declined. When my grandfather died, my father inherited the property and was faced with the decision of undertaking some costly but necessary work on one of the pond’s dams. It was while surveying the property that a friend noticed the damage, while also making an even more startling discovery: that beavers had dammed up a nearby stream and created, in effect, a fifty acre pond (a body of water tens times the size of either of the other two ponds). It was then that I discovered the real meaning of the expression, “busy as a beaver.”

Consider the work of these beavers and how their efforts which were focused solely on building a home resulted also in the creation of a fifty-acre pond. Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if your work could have such a multiplied effect? Well, I think it can. I believe that God can take the work of our hands and multiply it to suit His purpose and His mission. That means that no one’s work, regardless of how tedious, is insignificant.

Day 14 Guide

Don’t ever think of your work as unimportant. Do your best with the tasks that you’ve assumed, and believe that by God’s power the work of your hands will never be lost.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 17 Hope


I think that I was turning nine or ten-years-old when on my birthday I received a toy rifle as a gift. It was exactly what I had wanted, and I remember that feeling of excitement when I first opened my present. Immediately, I ran towards my room, wanting, I think, to just be by myself so that I might gaze at my new prized-possession. And it was on the heels of that great joy that tragedy struck. As I was running through the doorway I broke my new plastic rifle in half. And what had been tears of joy turned quickly to tears of sorrow and utter hopelessness.

I suppose that we all have similar stories — those of hopes or dreams that have been dashed by unfortunate events or situations. And it’s at times like these — when things could get no better – that they also seem as though they could be no worse. And the height of joy multiplies the pain of disappointment.

Sometimes the salve of time helps to sooth the wounded spirit. But it also helps to rest more your hopes on things that are certain – things of the spirit and of God.

Day 17 Guide

It’s important, I think, that the idea of Experience follows Hope in the Joyous Gard Cycle of Days. If we allow it, the experience of life is there to teach us patience, endurance, and the things that will give a lasting hope.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 18 Experience


“I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.” Have you ever heard someone say that? You may at times have to endure difficulty or hardship, but personal experience plays an important role in coloring your perspective and sense-of-life. Generally speaking, experience sharpens the soul and helps you to fear less of tomorrow.

Those who grew up during the Great Depression, for example, know what it’s like to have nothing. And while I’m sure that most would not want to return to those days, they know what it’s like to be poor. They wouldn’t choose poverty, but because of their experience they don’t fear it.

I believe that fear is one of the most prominent obstacles blocking the path to personal growth and development. It stops us from earning valuable experience and keeps us sitting on the sidelines of life as mere spectators.

Think of what you’d like to accomplish and the things that you’d like to experience in life. What’s really stopping you? Time? Money? Lack of talent?  Or might it be fear in disguise?

Day 18 Guide

America is a great place where the obstacles of experience are few. Take advantage of the freedom of thought and the power of decision to gain the valuable experiences that fear would otherwise kidnap.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 19 Faith


It’s hard for any of us to factor the thought of death into a formula for living. Generally speaking, our thoughts are on growth and progress and all of the many things that would help us to achieve the various ends we have in mind. Few, if any, of our thoughts anticipate an end to life. We plan for the future. We plan to live. Christ, on the other hand, lived his life in anticipation of death. And that point of view, I think, makes a great difference.

We sometimes live as if we can take it all with us. The Ancient Egyptians believed in such an afterlife. They buried their leaders (pharaohs) with their possessions, thinking that they would need them in the afterlife, just as they needed them here on earth. Maybe sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we really can’t “take it with us” – that each of us will depart from this world just as we entered it, with nothing.

Some will leave a great many possessions behind, and others will leave only a few. And there will be some – possibly you – who will leave the legacy and the gift of love, or habits of the heart that may define a mission long to be forgotten.

Day 19 Guide

Give some thought to what you might leave behind. What could you leave that will continue long past your death?

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 20 Progress


Driving home last night, I noticed that my automobile’s odometer read 111,110. “One more mile,” I thought, “and all the numbers will be 1s.” I waited patiently for that one additional mile to register. And then I saw it: 111111 — that’s just how my odometer appeared when the change occurred. And for the next mile I watched the reading, until a “2” finally replaced the last “1” in the series. At that moment I knew that never again would I see such a series of repeating digits on the display, unless, of course, I hung on to my car until I hit 222,222 miles.

I remember the day I finished my last college exam. In fact, I can almost remember closing the door to my duplex for the last time and thinking, “I’ll never walk this way again. This chapter in my life is closed, I’ll have to forge ahead.” It was sort of a sad thought, but I knew that life would march on and that I should try to keep up with her cadence.

Some people, I believe, are inclined to look forward, while others — like me —  tend to look back. I try not to get lost in the past. I want to move forward and make progress. I just don’t want to forget the roads I’ve taken.

Day 20 Guide

Take some time today to think about the roads you’ve taken. Think about those once-in-a-lifetime events, the chapters that have closed, and the others that have opened. Life marches on but she never forgets.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Days 21-23 The Sense of Beauty


Just before a storm kicks up, there’s a calming presence. You’ve felt it, haven’t you? It’s almost like you’re not really outdoors, like there’s a dome or a ceiling (of dark clouds) that settles the unrest of having too many choices. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think blue skies are wonderful. I love clear days. But along with them I feel a burden – though ever-so-slight — of performance. Clear skies seem to create an environment of no excuses. I sometimes hear a small voice in me that says: “If you can’t make it when skies are clear, then what are you going to do when the rain settles in?”

Maybe I’m a little out of sync with the rest of the world, a contrarian of sorts. But I yearn for the stillness and the peace of times uncomplicated by the excitement of competition. The quiet of mornings and the muted light of dusk provide me with the ideal settings for thought and inspiration.

Day 21 Guide

When? That’s a question that you should sometimes ask yourself. When are you at your peak level of performance? Don’t worry if you don’t conform to convention.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 24 The Principle of Beauty 


“And God saw the light, that it was good.”

          — Genesis 1:4

I was curious the other day to discover exactly what it was that was sparkling on my bedroom floor. My quick assessment was that my daughter or wife must have dropped a small earring. So I leaned over to pick it up. And in the flash of that moment, I realized that the sparkling object wasn’t an earring at all, but merely a droplet of water, bouncing sunlight back to my eyes.

“In the flash of a moment” – that’s how quickly my mind switched gears in order to lay hold of the object. There was no transition, no perplexing or hard effort, just a simple grasp of the matter that my mind seemed to instantly process. I felt satisfied when finally the object of my thought was clear, undeniably so.

I began to wonder whether such an experience (which is common) might somehow offer an understanding of the pattern of God’s creation in the universe. By merely speaking His thought of creation, The Almighty made it so.

Day 24 Guide

Consider the power of your thoughts and your words. Sometimes merely thinking or speaking of beauty can “make it so.”

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 25 Life


I tend towards the quiet side of life. And most people would say that that’s just my choice, right? But I don’t know. Maybe I’m a victim of the law of inertia, you know the one that says “whatever’s at rest tends to stay at rest.” That’s how I feel anyway. I mean, sometimes it’s just so very hard to get up and do anything.

Other people that I know must be captive of the law’s corollary: that “whatever’s in motion tends to stay in motion.” These are the folks who are doing, doing, doing all the time, time, time. I’m just not built that way. And people on that side of the law tend to make me nervous.

I think it’s probably fair to say that the things at rest are sometimes bothered by the things in motion and that the things in motion can easily get frustrated by the things at rest. Seeking the needed balance — between work and rest — is an important life search. I find that I’ve got to push myself when I’m down and then temper myself when I’m flying too high. Neither one is easy, but I believe they’re both important. One can just as easily get lost in the clouds as he can in the pillows.

 

Day 25 Guide

Some of the greatest struggles in life involve balance – both physical and mental. This week, consider the many ways that you might find that needed balance.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Day 26 Ideas


I suppose that if I had to choose my favorite mark of punctuation, it’d be the comma. I love its pause. And the comma is most versatile, too. It opens needed space between ideas to make them more attractive, more significant even. A comma is sympathetic in that it seems to understand the reader’s effort to comprehend. And it’s the comma that enables a writer to speak plainly so that the reader might hear his voice.

Commas aren’t presumptuous or pretentious, but considerate and humble. They don’t force you to stop. They just quietly suggest good resting points along the way. I even love the shape and position of the comma, curved and at the feet of words. The comma appears as though it’s making the subtle gesture of a bow, as if to recognize the reader’s presence and then usher him forward to meet new concepts and further refinement.

Day 26 Guide

The spirit of Joyous Gard recognizes the pervasiveness of beauty and hesitates in order to enjoy its presence. Take some time during the day to pause and sense the comfort of that space. Add some commas to your day.

© 2006, Levi Hill


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April 2006 ~ Days 27-30 Poetry


How might I live poetically? It’s the single thought that inspires my quest. How might I live happily, confidently and lovingly in a world sometimes filled with the twists and turns of hard and narrow roads? It’s easy to simply turn the page and start another day. But isn’t there more? Is there a perspective of life that I might hold which has me doing a work far greater than I might see?

Man is the only creature for whom memory holds the hint of a purpose-driven life. And I think it’s sometimes helpful to look back in order to gain a better insight as to where we might be going. I think that if life has any meaning at all, it must be driven by a powerful and divine purpose.

Days 27-30 Guide

Take some time to think about how you might live life poetically, holding on to the thought that your actions and your decisions are folded within God’s greater plan.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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