Daily Guide — December 2005

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 1 Humor 

I have a friend, Paul, who loves a good joke. Whenever I see Paul, he usually has one for me, and, of course, I have one for him. We laugh and laugh – sometimes so hard, in fact, that it carries over into the next time we meet, where we find ourselves snickering again at just the thought of our last laugh.

It’s great to have friends with such a beautiful sense of humor. To find life funny is, I believe, one of the “symptoms of sanity.” I notice that those who have a hard time laughing usually also have a hard time enjoying most anything. Laughter is a portal for relief, a way to exhaust the burden of worry and return the mind to a healthy state of equilibrium. There’s nothing worse that feeling the constant weight of the world on your shoulders. “Lighten up!” says the old adage.


Day 1 Guide

Look around; watch the world “at play” and see if you can spot incongruities or things that don’t seem to make sense. Try laughing at your own mistakes and being around others who love to laugh.

I’m reminded of a great bumper sticker: Life is too short to own a bad dog. Yep, there’s a lot of truth in that.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Days 2-4 Visions 

Life – if you let it — is all about new starts and new directions, changes that begin with imagination. Imagine yourself charting new courses with a renewed sense of mission. Can you do that? Maybe you’re frightened or think that having such a vision is immature and mostly inconsequential. But vision is essential to living a rich and meaningful life.

I think that each of us is capable of employing the imagination to envision new courses. But for many, the burden of life seems more real, a view that overshadows and essentially discredits the power of vision. You’ll hear it in the language of anxious spirits, which are most often critical of dreams and possibilities, claiming them to be mere apparitions or fancies of a childish mind.

There’s nothing silly about dreams and ideas and other products of imagination, my friend. But dreams are fragile structures that must not be given over immediately to the public for evaluation. Treasure your inner thoughts and protect your vision.

Days 2-4 Guide

Dream, my friend, and consider the course of your life in terms of new possibilities. Share your vision with someone you can trust and who understands the nature of dreams.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Send me an email; I’d enjoy hearing from you. levi@thinkinginink.com

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 5 Thought

We must not drowse and brood in our own sombre corner, when life is flowing free and full outside, as in some flashing river. However little chance we may seem to have of doing anything, we can at least determine to be something; not to let our life be filled, like some base vessel, with the offscourings and rinsings of other spirits, but to remember that the water of life is given freely to all who come.

— Thought, Joyous Gard

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? I remember the sudden change of context and the feeling of everything in life suddenly being called into question. I remember how simple things at once became complex; I remember the fear of dangerous vulnerability.

Things were forever changed on the morning of September 11th. For many, the fulcrum of thought moved: some were made stronger by a renewed sense of life, love and hope, but others were left paralyzed with a protracted fear.

That day, the mask of safety was ripped away from all of life to reveal its tender meanings. Looking back, I find a shift in my own perspective and the desire burgeoning within to find life beautiful. I wanted to more fully enjoy the bonds of love and friendship, which seems to be a perfect illustration of how God does sometimes work in our lives: taking human difficulty — even tragedy — and folding it back unto Himself to leave us with a renewed hope and a stronger faith.

Day 5 Guide

Think about that September morning in 2001. How did the events of that day change your thinking?

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Day 6 Accessibility

It sometimes takes years to cultivate a close, personal friendship. But to have such a relationship is worth the investment in time. Friendships can also quickly grow and mature so that even from your earliest meeting it’s as if you’ve known each other forever. And then there’s the unusual bond between old friends that somehow is triggered and rapidly changes to grow much stronger — friends for years thus transformed into “the best of friends” and close confidants.

I have tasted the beauty of close relationships, but I’ve also known the feeling of a soul reaching out. I’ve known the feeling of holding on to private thoughts, and I’ve known closeness to be illusive and distant.

It seems that we tend to live on our own private islands of isolation, keeping to ourselves and not really talking much about the things that would galvanize closer connections. But the world, I think, is teeming with people who want to enjoy closer relationships. And most, I believe, would love to have a best friend.

Day 6 Guide

Consider how you might improve your friendships. Look for times and ways to talk about things that really matter. Pick up the phone and call someone you’ve been thinking about.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Day 7 Sympathy 

There were times growing up when I felt like no one really understood me. But then again, maybe it was I who really didn’t understand other people. I wanted to be around those who liked to “laugh and sing.”

I wanted friends who could help lift me from the bog of anxiety — people who would speak simple words of encouragement like, “Don’t worry. Things are gonna work out.” Even today, I love to hear those words.

Those who take life too seriously make me nervous. These are the people who are always “on the ball” — those who seem to have all the answers and are always one step ahead. When I think of their world, images of straight lines and sharp angles come to mind.

I prefer the quieter, dirt roads of life. The hustle and bustle of Main Street USA, while interesting and provocative, is just too fast for me. My mind doesn’t work at that speed; I need time and space to think.

I love music and beautiful things. I love the movements of dance and wonderful curves. I like back roads, the change of seasons and good books. I enjoy people who are honest and aren’t afraid of what others think of them.

Day 7 Guide

Look around at your friends and associates. Try to spend more time cultivating relationships with those whose personalities complement your way of life. The world needs all kinds of people: surgeons, poets, fighter-jet pilots, and musicians.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Day 8 Science


I enjoy the morning hours. But then again, I love evening, too, especially dusk. I have often thought about what it is that makes these times so attractive. And while both have distinctive qualities that set them apart, they both also have features that make them similar.

For me, mornings provide the perfect space and time for thinking. Evenings, on the other hand, are wonderfully painted for laugher and dancing. Both are quiet and soft, with the beautifully muted light of sunrise in the morning and the colorful sunset in the evening.

Morning and evening are both transitional times. The morning is a time of waking, going from rest-to-work, while the evening transition is one of work-to-rest. Mealtimes in both the morning and evening are important: the morning meal to energize the mind (breakfast: proteins) and the evening meal to calm the mind and prepare it for sleep (dinner: carbohydrates).

The science of beauty attempts to explain and understand the nature of her effect on the human spirit. And while the channels of beauty may differ from person to person, the qualities of her enjoyment are the same for us all.

Day 8 Guide

Think about your daily cycle of waking, working and sleeping. When during of the course of the day are your senses of beauty most acutely aware? Are you a morning person or an evening person? Maybe you most enjoy the middle of the day. Or if you’re like me, you enjoy both morning and evening — the “bookends of the day.”

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Days 9-11 Work

I enjoy watching things get old and worn. It makes me feel like we’re really living when we wear down the things in our house like the floors, the paint and the upholstery. I like to wear out a pair of shoes, too. I want to feel like I got my money’s worth. I have over 100,000 miles on my car. Together, that Toyota and I have a lot of road wear.

My father is about seventy-eight years old. He’s got a lot of miles on him as well. But he still comes to work every day. We eat lunch together a lot. I love him. We’re best friends. His stories get better with time, and somehow they even seem to become more important. I hope I’ll always be able to remember his stories.

This old laptop that I use has seen its better day. The case is cracked in several places, and it needs a new battery; I’ve dropped it several times, but I just can’t seem to get myself to buy a new one. I guess that I’m just used to this old thing. Plus, I’ve got a lot of files on it that I’d have to transfer, and that’s a lot of trouble. There’s no telling how many sentences I’ve typed on this keyboard.

Look at the things around you, friend. How many loads of clothes have you washed in your old washing machine? And how man pounds of grass have you cut with that old lawn mower. How many hamburgers have you cooked on that old grill? And how many golf shots have you sliced with those clubs of yours?

Days 9-11 Guide

You’re on earth for only a short while; we’re all going to wear out so be sure to take advantage of your time here. Wear a few things out. Mow that lawn, wash those clothes, and drive that car. But most importantly, love your friends and family. People worn with love age better.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Day 12 Hope 

Sometimes a statement of hope might speak of doubt or concern: “I hope I don’t have car trouble on my trip.” But the real strength of hope is in the expectation of things desired, not in doubt. To be hopeful is to be alive with anticipation – positive about the future.

Christian hope is particularly beautiful in that it is free of even a tinge of doubt. The spirit of God is moving and working in our lives to meet a certain end. That’s right, a certain end. Never is there a question of God’s efficacy, His intentions having been made manifest by the birth, death and resurrection of His son, Jesus.

That night, some two thousand years ago, a hope was born to extinguish the doubt and put away the darkness of night. And so now, in the midst of this season we celebrate renewal and birth and a hope being thus transformed and made certain.

Day 12 Guide

Are you hopeful, my friend? Is your hope tainted with doubt? This Christmas, restore your faith in the certainty of divine goodness. Be patient in your work, with your friends, and trust the knowledge that God paints your every move with his purpose.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 13 Experience

Where were you when the news broke that Elvis died? Are you old enough to remember the day that President Kennedy was shot? And how well do you remember your first date? The birth of each of your children? Your wedding?

Experience changes us. And while you might hear about the experiences of others, there’s nothing like being there. Experiences are “whole body” events, and their corresponding memories include all of the sensual and peripheral elements that so enhance a personal engagement.

The electricity in the arena’s air just prior to “The Rolling Stones” rock band appearing on the concert stage is palpable to those who’ve had that experience. It is a feeling hard to describe. Similarly, photographs do little to convey the experience of being wrapped in Scotland’s heavenly gloam (the extended light of dusk) as one walks down the 18th fairway of the Old Course at St. Andrews.


Day 13 Guide

Enjoy the magic of this month. Experience for yourself the sounds, the sights and the smells of the season. Let the Christmas spirit be your personal experience this year.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 14 Faith

When I’m not feeling well, the magic in life quickly dries up. I’m not excited about anything, and I’m generally unmotivated. To even continue walking in the same direction of my earlier feelings requires intellectual discipline. I have to remind myself that the beauty will return and that in my despair, I am wearing a mask of deception that hides the true reality of boundless beauty and ultimate mystery.

And so it’s odd to me that some would say faith is antithetical to reason. My contention is, in fact, just the opposite: I believe that faith requires an intellectual discipline to carry one beyond the waxing and waning of feelings. The world sometimes feels hard and pointless. And without faith in things beyond my senses, I’m not sure how I would ever find the road to recovery.

Day 14 Guide

Don’t let despair or a seeming change of emotion rob you of your faith. Hold on to the things that you believe in. Consider them your bedrock and your anchor point for recovery.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 15 Progress 

Growing up I was happy-go-lucky. I enjoyed the normal “boy things” like riding bicycles, climbing trees, running and jumping. I liked television and popcorn and movies. Mostly I remember just enjoying living. It’s hard to say when I first became serious about life or when the thought of progress entered my mind. Maybe it was when I became committed to the game of golf.

I was a pretty fair junior golfer; I wanted to continue improving and win some tournaments. I practiced a great deal, and I remember even having aspirations of a golfing career. I read books on the subject and thought a lot about the game. I suppose this was the first time I really had serious thoughts about anything.

My father would say that my lofty goals for championship golf were quickly washed away when I turned sixteen and got my drivers license. And maybe he’s right. I’m sure my priorities changed right along with my hormones.

In my adolescent years I thought a lot about independence. I wanted to have my own stuff and make my own decisions. I’m sure I felt that getting my license was one of the first real steps to becoming an adult.

For me, personal growth seems to come in waves, waves that carry with them ideas of progress and how tomorrow will be somehow different — better. Yes, my interests have changed over the years. But my desire to improve has remained constant.

Day 15 Guide

The engine of progress keeps the mind constantly striving for improvement. Work coupled with no thought of progress is only labor. The spirit of Joyous Gard does not labor, but rather finds life in the work of moving ahead. In the New Year establish targets that give meaning to your work, and enjoy your progress.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Days 16-18 The Sense of Beauty 

My grandfather, Gibbs, liked to tinker. He enjoyed fixing old, broken things. And he was good at it, too. The basement of his small North Georgia home was his workshop, and I remember sometimes going down there when we visited. He had these glass baby-food jars that he used to collect nails and screws and springs or anything that he might use for general repair. They were all lined up on the wooden tool bench that he, I’m sure, had built.

Gibbs was a member of a local civic club and held the distinction of having perfect attendance for forty years. Can you believe that? He didn’t miss a weekly meeting for forty years. How often today do you hear of that level of commitment?

Gibbs liked cars, too. But I don’t think he would like modern-day automobiles; they’re too hard to work on — too many computers. He liked mechanical things, especially things like clocks with gears and springs. He was also fascinated with televisions and telephones.

The years that I knew “Granddaddy Gibbs” he wore a hearing aid. I don’t think he really minded being hard of hearing; sometimes he would even turn down the volume on his earpiece in order to enjoy a little peace and quiet. Haven’t you ever wanted to turn down the volume a bit?

Gibbs wasn’t much of a talker, and yet his habits and mannerisms made a life-long impression on me. He had a nice smile; he was well-respected and honest. He wasn’t out to impress anyone or to get rich. He enjoyed the simple things, and that, I’ve discovered, is what I most appreciated about him – the simple things.

Days 16-18 Guide

Sometimes it seems that complexity rules. But beauty is so often hidden in the plain, nondescript corners of life. Think about simplifying your life and opening your eyes to the things that don’t normally command your attention.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 19 The Principle of Beauty

The world is quite a busy place. Everywhere you look there seems to be some sort of movement – movement of people, animals and natural phenomena like rain and snow. But some things remain relatively still, like boulders and trees, for example — things that have no means of locomotion. Moving them requires an outside force like a bulldozer, a flood, or a heavy wind.

Music of the Spheres

As passengers aboard Spaceship Earth we are in constant motion. Cycling every 24 hours on its imaginary axis, our Spaceship is also orbiting around the sun every 365 days. The ancient thinker Pythagoras considered the movement of planets to be in accordance with mathematical principles, a theory he also correctly ascribed to music. The movement of these heavenly orbs was a musical dance that followed a beautiful pattern of numbers — the original principle and cause of the universe. Beauty for Pythagoras was attributable to patterns and the order of things.

We live within the structure and limits of repeating events that form the very fabric of beauty. The shortest cycle we encounter is the cycle of a day, the lunar month follows, and then the change of seasons, which represents the cycle of a year.

Day 19 Guide

Be sensitive, my friend, to change, and enjoy this season of magic. Pay close attention to the beautiful light of day and how it touches your spirit.

The morning shadows softly sleeping,

Stretched out on a frosted light,

And touched a soul of seasoned weeping,

To raise her from despair.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Day 20 Life 

But in all this, and indeed beyond all this, we must not dare to forget one thing; that it is life with which we are confronted, and that our business is to live it, and to live it in our own way;


— Life, Joyous Gard

Life — it’s what you face every day. Look out on the world, friend; what do we see? Do you see hope and possibility? Or is such a view only fiction? Some consider life to be the chain of bondage or a chain of misfortune. They consider themselves to be prisoners of time.

But time is our ally; we need time to prepare for eternity, time to recognize and sense the beauty that will forever be ours when we leave this world. “Life,” as Joyous Gard says, “is to be lived.” We should love, we should laugh, and we should learn.

God became man not only to die but also to teach us how to live. He left us with words of hope and encouragement — words that we might hold on to and trust. This Christmas season trust that God entered the world not in vain, but as the Almighty savior, who taught us how to live and how to die.

Day 20 Guide

It’s a good time of year to unpack the suitcase of your mind and remove the things you don’t need for the trip. Keep only the things that will help you in your travels. Remove the chains of cynicism and doubt, and in their place carry the roadmaps of hope and love.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 21 Ideas 

One of the season’s hottest Christmas gifts will again be the Apple iPod (www.apple.com). I’m sure you’ve seen the television commercial of an iPod music listener casually walking down a city street as his shadow reveals something different – the “dancing spirit” within. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like you’re holding on to this huge wellspring of emotional energy that wants desperately to reveal itself?

Expression is an important part of any artist’s life. It is the means by which the fountainhead of emotion emanates power. Expression is also the heartbeat of beauty, and we, the seekers of beauty, are its beneficiaries. The artist’s creation invites us to join his thought and to then find pleasure in related ideas.

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

— Excerpt from the poem “House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss

This poem brings to mind thoughts of friendship and community. It further awakens in me images of the small middle-Georgia town that my Grandmother called home. The poem offers four different pictures of man in order to develop the contrast that’s so important to the main idea and the personality called the “friend to man.”  Reading this poem, I think, “Yea, I know this person; he or she is the type who is gentle and kind, honest and humble.

Beauty rarely calls attention to herself, but rather waits patiently, sometimes even hiding in the shadows and corners of life. I love to recognize things of beauty that I believe are unusual and important – things that don’t stand in the light of day or call out to be seen. I further believe that each of us has the capacity to draw from beauty a certain energy that awakens the feelings of assurance and understanding.

Day 22 Guide

This Christmas pay close attention to the subtle wonders of love and friendship. Think of a touch, a smile, or a hug.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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December 2005 ~ Days 22-26 Poetry

We were on vacation in the mountains years ago when my father took me and his friend, Guy, fishing on a small pond. Guy had earlier reported that this particular pond was full of trout. Well, I was ready to catch something.

My father and I had all the right equipment, though we never seemed to have much success fishing. I was beginning to think that maybe we just weren’t very good fishermen. I was hoping this would be the day that proved me wrong.

We packed our rods and reels. We filled the tackle box with lures, spinners, and hooks, and we headed out to pick up Guy. Pulling in his driveway, Guy emerged from the house carrying just two things: a single cane fishing pole with a line tied to its end and what looked like a can of vegetables. I didn’t understand. Could he simply not afford nicer equipment? Or was he a beginner fisherman who didn’t know much about the sport?

Guy opened the car door, greeted us, and handed me his cane pole to store in the back of the station wagon.

“Good morning, boys,” Guy said. “Great day for fishing, ain’t it?”

          “Yes sir,” I replied. “What have you got in the can?”

          “Oh, I brought some niblet corn,” said Guy with no further elaboration.

“Corn?” I thought. “Why would he bring corn?”

Well, after we arrived at the pond, it didn’t take long to figure out that Guy would be the best fisherman that day. He knew exactly what he was doing. The corn was the perfect bait for mountain trout, and his old cane pole served him well all day. Just about every time old Guy dropped his line in the water, he pulled out a nice trout.

My father and I were busy casting our lines and changing lures trying to improve our chances of catching something. Guy, on the other hand, sat quietly beside us loading his hook with single niblets of corn and dropping his line in the water just a short distance from the dock.

I learned a valuable lesson that day — that although it might be nice to have all the fancy equipment, the fish don’t care. They’re looking for one thing: the most appealing bait.

I still think about old Guy. I think about that day in the mountains. And I think of how the simplest things are often times the most attractive. Sometimes I have to stop and question myself: What is my mission? What am I trying to accomplish? Am I losing sight of the most important things?

Days 22-26 Guide

Have a Merry Christmas, my friend. Be sure that you’ve got your sights on the most important things.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 27 Poetry and Life 

There are times when I feel connected and in-sync with the world around me. I feel useful and needed; it’s easy to enjoy life. My relationships are strong and active, and my mind feels tuned in and alive.

But then there are times when I feel lost and distant from anything that matters. I’m burdened, disconnected and awkward. Nothing feels right, and I can’t seem to find enjoyment or purpose in much of anything. The things that mattered are lost to the wind.

Now, you’d think that such a change in psychology would take some time – that it would require a series of subtle moves, a “bending” of sorts. But it can happen overnight. Just as the clouds can so quickly mask the sunlight, so can a shift in psychology close down the mental channels that are necessary for the apprehension of beauty and purpose. For me, a change in rhythm can trigger the shift.

I love the Christmas season, and I enjoy the holidays. But the shift in patterns sometimes frustrates my psychology and makes it a challenge for me to hold on to an elevated sense of life. I find that I must be careful to protect the routines that keep my mind on the right course. It’s not always easy, though. It’s like taking care not to miss a dance step when there’s a skip in the record.

Day 27 Guide

Do you ever miss a step? Think about the routines that help anchor your mind and your purpose. Think of the things that help you feel normal and alive. Sure, it’s good to take a break, but if you’re like me, it’s also good to keep the pilot light burning. Keep your mind active during the holidays; don’t wait for the New Year.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
December 2005 ~ Day 28 Art 

My little girl loves to write. She enjoys writing short stories, making up characters and writing about her own experiences. Not long ago she told me that she wanted to one day become an author; she even asked Santa for a word processor this year. My wife and I were pleased with her request but a bit surprised. “A word processor?” we thought. “She’s only eight-years-old.”

We kept asking her, wanting to make sure that she’d rather not have something else. But every time the answer came back the same: a word processor. Well, Santa managed to deliver on her request, and she’s been faithful about writing a little something every day.

It’s thrilling to see a child recognize and enjoy instances of beauty. As parents and teachers we should do our best to promote the further development of that “sense of beauty.”

Looking out in the world, I see so many children under the pressure to achieve and succeed, most trying all too hard to “win the race.” Don’t you think we ought to spend more time pointing out and enjoying the beautiful things?  Shouldn’t we talk more about the quiet streams, the moonlit nights, and the sycamore trees?

In my opinion, the gift of the artist is his urging us to enjoy the fruits of life. But then we shouldn’t rely on the artist alone to satisfy the human need for beauty. Locked within the common moments of every day are poems, stories, and paintings. Make it your daily effort to find something to stir your sleeping spirit.

Day 28 Guide

In the New Year resolve to spend more time seeking beauty. Arrest your elevated thoughts and commit them to a journal.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
Dec/Jan 2005-2006 ~ Days 29-2 Art and Morality

Do you ever feel like you’re losing control? That’s me — so often caught up in the whirlwind of activity that’s taking me who knows where.  In my world, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And I think if I allowed it, my life would pretty much turn into an endless stream of putting out fires. Maybe you feel the same way. Or maybe you’d like to have more things to do. For you a fire or a squeaky wheel might just be what the doctor ordered.

I yearn for balance. Sure, I want to work and be productive. But I also want desperately to enjoy the beauty in life.  I need time to rest and reconnect with the things I love. I’m on a constant search to find that balance.

The artist leaves portals of escape from the thicket of a hectic world. Images that speak of courage, love, sorrow, and desire, or those that demonstrate the beautiful patterns and design of the universe, they give me pause and needed rest. They reset my priorities and tell me once again what’s really important.


At the end of a busy day yesterday, a friend showed me the photographs taken on his recent relief trip to the battered Gulf Coast region. Amidst the images of homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina were also those of school children from the local area. One child, a girl about 8 years-old, had a beautiful smile. She wore brand new mittens, a hat and a scarf, things she’d obviously received for Christmas. Hers was the picture of life, and the instant I saw it, I thought, “Now that is the spirit that will rebuild the region.”

“What a beautiful little girl,” I remarked.

“Truly so.” said my friend, “Though sadly, it was recently discovered that she has a brain tumor.”

The image that had so arrested my spirit called yet deeper into my soul:  “Yes. Yes, indeed,” I thought. “Hers will be the spirit that rebuilds not only a region but an entire nation.”

Days 29-2 Guide

Does the day-to-day stuff tend to obstruct your view of the more important things? Pay close attention to the images that will give you that needed balance. Don’t let the news of the day bog down your vision of tomorrow.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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