February 1, 2006 levi

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide                 Archives and Text
February 2006 ~ Day 1 Life

Time of your Life

How do you measure the stream of life? By the days? Hours? Years? What about by the seconds? By my calculations the average span of life amounts to about two billion seconds. But none of us really thinks of life in terms of seconds, do we? We think of life more in terms of years, seasons, or decades. It’s true that the anticipation of a big event – like Christmas or the arrival of a baby – might have us thinking of the passage of days. There are even a few events that I can remember unfolding hour by hour. But normally it is not by the passing of time that we remember life. We think more in terms of events, episodes or times (my college years, for example).

Do you remember falling in love? Such thoughts bring to mind memories of courtship and the feelings of being near someone who captured your heart and satisfied a yearning in your soul. Even today those wonderful thoughts may help to restore the fire of your imagination and awaken your appetite for passion.

Day 1 Guide

On this last day of the Joyous Gard Cycle of Days think of your entire life. Look back and locate the times when you felt most hopeful or when thoughts of beauty were most vivid. Think of times when you felt sympathy towards someone you loved or when you enjoyed the humor of a good friend. Think of the emotional times – of victories and disappointments. Look, too, at your work and your accomplishments. Think of today as the time to integrate the various elements of life in order to reveal the wonderful complexity of its design.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Days 2-5 Ideas

When skies are gray I find myself searching for connections and ideas that might elevate my feeble spirit. It’s an introspective search, the thrust of which is to reaffirm my life-purpose and get my feet back on the ground.

Sometimes it takes a while for my spirit to begin turning, but it’s then that I notice my senses as they become more acute; I find that I begin looking more at people’s faces and thinking of special friends and old times. As I’m rummaging through my mind, I’m making the effort to uncover the important elements in order that I might weave a sense of meaning back into my life.

Does any of that sound familiar? Do you ever have days – or periods of time – when the greatest things in life are hidden behind clouds of apathy or despair? Maybe it’s at times like these that God seems distant and unsympathetic. I believe, however, that it is especially during these times that God is at work to help restore the joy and beauty that will reanimate a hopeful spirit.

Days 2-5 Guide

The mind is less mechanical than it is magical. It takes only one instance of apprehended beauty to completely remove the clouds of despair. Trust that God is with you in your quest to revive the stalled mind. Push yourself to do things that will move the spirit, and surround yourself with the things you love.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 6 Poetry

Pages of a wintry past lie bound within this broken heart

And speak of things I dare reveal to readers of my soul


   — Levi Hill

I’m not very patient when it comes to waiting. But I try to tell myself that God must have something for me to see during those uncomfortable pauses in life. Yesterday was a good example.

Trying to temper my anxious spirit while waiting at a receptionist’s counter, I looked up and saw this beautiful framed print of a white house. Behind picture-glass, hanging on a nearby wall, that print for some reason had a sudden calming effect on me. And I assumed from that that this must be what God wanted me to see. But then, with my eyes and thoughts focused on that white house, I saw something else. In the glass I saw the reflection of a girl standing behind the counter – a reflection that made it appear as though there was a woman standing in front of the house peering in the front window.

I can’t tell you why, but the first thought that popped into my mind was, “angels.” I wondered if angels had the power to peer into my soul. Do they know my inner thoughts? Do they know my sins and my secrets? These simple questions inspired a search, which led me to find the following statement concerning angels written by theologian Charles Hodge:  “…and they [angels] cannot search the heart; for this is, in Scripture, declared to be prerogatives peculiar to God.”

Who is the reader of your soul? Who knows the depth and nature of your heart? Who knows exactly what will satisfy your anxious spirit?

Day 6 Guide

Look within and pray that God would reveal the true needs of your soul.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 7 Poetry and Life and Love

There’s nothing I can do to keep from loving you.


  — from the song “Here We Are” sung by Gloria Estafan


Romantic love – it’s one of the most important channels for releasing those grand feelings that make everything in the world seem okay. My sense is that when love captures the heart and enters the mind all of our ideas – big and small – are colored with the energy that surrounds the thought of another. And truly “there’s nothing you can do….” You fall.

Day 7 Guide

Like no other human emotion, romantic love leaves an impression on the soul. This month stand close by the point of your fall and enjoy the view.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 8 Art

When asked about the significance of art, some people would say that they can “take it or leave it.” For them, art just doesn’t figure into their lives as being terribly important. And it’s true. Some spend their days having little regard for music, poetry or fine art. But what about the more simple art-forms like story-telling?

Most of us love great stories. And I think that great story-tellers are artists as well. The radio personality Garrison Keeler, for example, has made a living out of telling stories about characters from his fictitious Lake Woebegone.

But stories don’t even have to be fictitious to be considered art. I think it’s the very telling of the stories – be they fact or fiction – that establishes the art form. The story itself sleeps until someone gives it life by way of the written or spoken word.

My father is a great story-teller. When he hears something funny about someone or something, he’ll often times tell the story to me, even if I’ve already heard it. I think he does that in order to practice his telling of the story. He’s listening for balance and structure, working to encapsulate the essence of the events he wants to deliver.

Day 8 Guide

Yes, you could say that life is a series of events – events that if relayed as a mere chronology would have little real meaning. Think more of your life as the development of a great story. God has given purpose to your life by making you a vital part of His own story.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 9 Art and Morality

By themselves, the random letters E, L, V, and O mean very little. But held together in a tight, orderly sequence they are transformed into a concept – LOVE – that elevates the mind and arouses a myriad of thoughts. Sometimes, days will drift by leaving behind only the trails of what seem to be random happenings. It is only by an intellectual assessment that any meaning might be discovered.

On Day 1 of this month, I spoke of life unfolding as a series of moments and events. It is more accurate to say, however, that it is the apprehension of meaning – beauty – that unfolds in our minds. Time offers only the flow of happenings. Meaning requires the intellect.

Day 9 Guide

The artist is a gatherer and a collector. He gathers the most important elements of a thought and orders them in a way that arouses the onlooker. This week, pay close attention to what the artist has gathered. What is it that he sees? What is it that you feel?

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Days 10-12 Interpretation

Disappointment – it falls on the heels of anticipation that is unanswered. Having your hopes set on things that do not come to pass leaves a cloud of sorrow that hinders the view to any further happiness. It is easy, unfortunately, to find yourself in the grips of such a blinding force. The power isn’t obvious, but subtle, confirmed only by your own choice not to capture life poetically.

As much as you might want to see the pattern of resounding waves born of a stone tossed in the water, a mind held hostage thinks only of its sudden disappearance beneath the murky surface. “Gone,” you think.

Life — if it is to have any of the richness of meaning — must be viewed poetically. You must find a way to peer into its corners  and in the cracks surrounding disappointment so that you may pull something great out of the smallness discarded by average opinion.

Days 10-12 Guide

Still your mind, and prepare to search for the greatness in small things.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 13 Education

Children sometimes want the strangest things. I remember wanting an hourglass when I was a young boy. I’m not sure where I got that idea; the only thing I can think of is from a scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where the Wicked Witch turns over a huge hourglass to mark the impending doom of the kidnapped Dorothy.

Well, after bugging my mother for days about wanting an hourglass, she finally broke down and bought me one. It was just a small one; the sand would fall for only about three minutes – not an hour — before having to turn it over. And yet three minutes was plenty of time for me to realize that just watching time pass was no fun at all. Those few minutes felt like an hour. It reminded me of how I used to feel at school – tick, tick, tick.

Restless minds, confined to a classroom, hooked to a constant “drip” of textbooks and lectures. For many, sitting at a desk waiting for the bell to ring is like waiting for sand to empty out of an hourglass — boring.

In my opinion, great teachers are those who’re able to somehow break through to the minds of children, especially those who have hard time learning. Great teachers are those who stand as examples of the beauty of knowledge — those who by means of their intellectual power and sense of life are able to demonstrate the value of knowing.

Day 13 Guide

Think of how motivated you would be to make it through the dull parts of learning if only you could sense the beauty that awaits you. Think too of how you might stand as an example of that beauty. Be a guiding light for others.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 14 Knowledge

We live, most of us, on a freedom that flies with the Stars and Stripes. Our form of government and reverence for law protect our civil liberties and give us degrees of freedom that we call American. Knowledge is the only protector and hope for those seeds of self-rule so planted by our forefathers. They are seeds that could be lost by any generation that chooses to abandon her past.

Day 14 Guide

It is a unique privilege to stand as caretakers of America’s ideas, an honor quietly given over to every subsequent generation. Think today of the responsibility that is yours to teach and pass along the seeds of America the ideal.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 15 Growth

Personal experience plays an important part in getting better, in growing. At its most basic level, experience simply indicates success or failure — whether your actions produce the desired or expected results. Experience also uncovers important life-principles that help you to make better, more informed decisions. In a sense, you could say that experience is the base-price of all wisdom.

Each of us has probably told enough lies to see that lying is not only wrong but also very impractical. Lying never brings good, long-term results. And sometimes it even spells disaster. It is by our own personal experience that we are able to grasp the principle that “honesty is the best policy.”

But there’s another kind of experience that I find important for personal growth, that is the experience of others — the experience of others as seen through our eyes. There is a lot to be learned by seeing how other people handle difficulty or hardship; it’s also inspiring to know how others have fought to achieve their goals. Witness the power and magic of the athletes’ stories as told during these 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. I love watching them as their many hours of work and practice are transformed into something beautiful and worthy of honor.

Day 15 Guide

The images and interpretations that we have of ourselves and of others make up many of the important experiences that lead to life change. Pay close attention to the light in which you see yourself and others.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Days 16-19 Emotion

For Christmas I bought my son a carving knife and some wood blocks.  I thought that he might like to try his hand at this interesting form of art. He’s always been a good little sketch artist, but he’s never really taken art very seriously. I just thought that carving might be the thing to spark his interest and his talent.

Artistic creation demands a great deal of patience and practice. And it’s in the quiet of patience that one also enjoys many of the other unheralded things in life: a spring rain, for example — the full moon, or a great story. I think, in fact, that the human demands of any artistic endeavor will naturally lead to the further enjoyment of life.

Unfortunately, in today’s television culture people’s senses have been numbed; it threatens to rob us of an appreciation for the fine and simple things. Guided by only the harsh light of TV, many people, I fear, are limiting themselves to the aggressive emotions of anger, arousal, and shock.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not an opponent of television. In fact, I consider myself to be very much the product of the television age. But today’s programming is out of control. And much of what is aired intends only to shock or amaze the viewer.

Where are the old television comedians like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnette, or Flip Wilson? Are they just footnotes in the annals of television history?

Viewers today are bombarded with reality television that shows the “unreality” of life. To me it seems like a world turned upside down — a world that makes us less, not more, aware of the good life.

It’s unfortunate really, that the simple art of carving a wood block pales in comparison to the flash an glitter of today’s High Definition TV culture. But it’s worth the effort to resist the trend and try to point young minds towards the things that build refinement and patience.

Days 16-19 Guide

Turn off the television for a week or two.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 20 Memory

An old friend came by to visit my father (Levi) the other day. He followed his visit with a short note that began like this:

Levi, it was a real treat for me to get to see you and talk about old times. You haven’t changed a bit. Still the friendly man you’ve always been.

My father, 78, and his friend, Mr. Mason, 84, talked for about an hour. They laughed and told old stories. Both men have great smiles and both are good old fashioned gentlemen, who for years have operated businesses that demand high levels of customer service. They are fair and honest men who believe in hard work, and both continue to go to work every day. They could teach us a thing or two, couldn’t they? And in fact they do, just by being there.

Mr. Mason continues:

I was so glad you continue to come down to the business. You would be surprised what your being there does for your business.

Being There

Have you ever thought about the power of your presence? Without as much as a single word, a trusted presence can change the entire setting, securing a sense of peace. The presence of a father or mother provides security for the child. A sympathizing friend standing by during a time of grief is a comfort. The blanket of old times that warms a friendship is quilted with the memories of being there.

Just think of how the very presence of Jesus changed the world some two-thousand years ago. For Christians the world over a belief in His continued spiritual presence energizes and animates their lives. To know Christ as a living, active, spiritual force in the world is, in fact, the very cornerstone of the Christian religion.

Day 20 Guide

Think of your being there as the mortar for building and maintaining lasting relationships.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 21 Retrospect

In a lifetime there will certainly be some things that you regret. From time to time, you may hear yourself say, “In retrospect, I should have…” But be careful not to confuse retrospect with regret. Retrospect, in my opinion, is the view to a meaningful life. It is the intellectual assessment and synthesis of events that act to solidify your faith in being part of a greater plan. Retrospect helps to unravel answers to the question, “Where is God?”

On the surface, life seems to be made up of a collection of mostly unrelated events. But it is transformed into a beautiful dance when seen in the light of retrospect. Looking back, you’ll probably find that some of the choices you’ve made by a simple flip-of-the-coin turn out to have been critical junctures in your life and conversely, that some of the seemingly important decisions turn out to have had little real meaning. I think that apart from retrospect, it is impossible to gauge the direction and the meaning of your life.

Remember the movie “Forest Gump?” It was a retrospective view of one man’s life showing just how some of the most important things are often the result of otherwise trivial decisions or happenstance. The film begins with the image of a feather drifting in the sky, caught in a wind that keeps it afloat and moves it unpredictably in space until finally, it falls at the foot of the main character, Forest Gump. The feather, of course, represents the life of Gump, played by actor Tom Hanks, who tells his life story to a series of strangers that sit beside him on a bench. In his lap, Gump holds a box of candy — the cue to his reciting one of the many aphorisms he learned in life:

 “Life is like a box of chocolates,” he says, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Day 21 Guide

Contrary to how it may seem, life is not lived independent of a greater plan. Look back to see the trodden path.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 22 Humor

Talking Elephants

“What did the elephant say when he stepped on a tack?” That was the riddle asked by one of my friends to our classmates one day in the third grade. Earlier that day, the teacher announced that if they wanted, the students could offer their favorite jokes to the class. Well, the “elephant joke” was the first one.

The teacher repeated the joke, saying, “Okay, class, does anyone know what the elephant said when he stepped on a tack?” There was a bit of silence. And just before the teacher let the joke-teller himself deliver the punch-line, a boy named Randy raised his hand.

Reluctant, I think, to call on Randy for fear that he might have a smart aleck response and ruin the joke, the teacher tried to overlook him. But Randy was persistent and wanted to venture a guess. So, the teacher did finally call on him.

“Okay, Randy,” said the teacher with hesitation, “what did the elephant say when he stepped on a tack?”

“Damn, that hurt,” said Randy with a loud guffaw.

Well, the classroom just died laughing-teacher included. Randy’s answer was totally unexpected. It wasn’t the right answer, of course. In fact, I don’t think the joke-teller even had the opportunity to deliver the real punch line.

Ordinarily, Randy – or anyone else – would have gotten in trouble for using a cuss word like that in class. In this case, however, laughter neutralized the situation, and the teacher was just too amused to inflict any punishment.

I remember that day just like it was yesterday. The surprise of Randy’s answer still makes me laugh. It makes me think about the very logic of humor — of how there is a bit of truth in most everything funny. Randy’s answer was actually funny because it was true. Think about it: if an elephant could talk, don’t you think he would’ve probably said something like, “Damn, that hurt?”

Humor Logic

It’s silly, first of all, to think that an elephant could talk. But the listener understands that it’s just a joke, and so he’s willing to go along with the assumption that this must be a special elephant. The opening of the joke has the listener expecting a silly answer to match the silly first assumption. Randy’s answer brought in the surprise of truth, making it even funnier, I’m sure, than the scripted punch-line.

Here’s another common example of this same logic in humor:

Riddle: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Answer: To get to the other side.

The listener, you see, is expecting a silly answer – something probably to do with chickens. But he gets blindsided – surprised — by the truth, and the relief of laughter quietly confesses: “but of course, ‘to get to the other side.’ I should’ve known that.” Now, think back to Randy’s answer and how it surprised the listeners, making them laugh. Again the laugher confesses: “but of course, what else would the elephant say other than, ‘damn, that hurt.'”

Day 22 Guide

You needn’t go far to find humor. Just look for the unexpected. I believe that humor is a healthy connection of events, making life more like story than merely a collection of happenings.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Days 23-26 Visions

About four years ago, I was playing golf on a nice mild day when a cold wind swept through and immediately lowered the ambient temperature by some twenty degrees. None of the golfers I saw had sweaters or jackets, and most headed back to the clubhouse because they were just too cold to continue playing.

We trust that things will remain fairly constant and predictable, don’t we? We don’t typically plan for something like a twenty degree drop in temperature, unless, of course, such a pattern is common for a particular area, like the desert.

Just think of what goes on behind the scenes to protect the balance that we so count on. Think of the things that are constantly at work inside your body to fight off life-threatening diseases and infection. Think of the delicate micro-processes of the brain that must occur in order to keep a highway driver safely traveling at seventy-five miles per hour. How many hundreds of thousands of things do you think must happen in order for one simple flower to bloom? Seemingly, there is an infinite array of things that are in constant motion to maintain some level of predictability in the world.

It is the visionary who might, on occasion, sense an uncommon connection with those forces that so guide the world. It is the visionary who at times has such a keen sense that he or she can “see” or “feel” life patterns. Insight and vision, I believe, depend much less on skill than they do a sense of beauty.

It is an uncommon connection with the human emotions of love, desire, and fear that gives the visionary a feeling for the direction of mankind and civilization. Just as the animals did strangely take to the high ground prior to the recent tsunami that devastated parts of Asia, so the visionary senses patterns and responds with messages of understanding and hope but also with warnings of danger ahead.

Days 23-26 Guide

Listen to the voices that speak beneath the noise: the words of the songwriter or the poet. Listen to the thoughts of children.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 27 Thought

Some people just seem to naturally have a keen sense of direction. Not me. I still sometimes get lost in my own hometown. It’s rather embarrassing really — and a bit unnerving — to find myself asking passengers in the car the best way to get across town. Okay, maybe I’m not really that bad. But I do have a hard time envisioning routes when they’re not terribly familiar.

I remember driving home from a local restaurant one night when I took a wrong turn. Unfamiliar with many of the roads on that side of town, I saw no immediate landmarks that would allow me to secure my bearing. But I wasn’t too worried. I knew that I would surely be able to redirect myself when I found just one familiar intersection. But I never saw anything familiar. You see, that wrong turn led me into this rather expansive neighborhood with a labyrinth of twisting roads that did nothing more than to absolutely secure my condition as lost.


Thinking sometimes takes your mind down unfamiliar roads, doesn’t it? Most of the time to be lost in thought is an “okay thing.” It’s not nearly as scary as getting turned around in a big city. And it’s always easy to find your way home when you’re lost in thought. A snap of your fingers easily gets you back to home-base.

Really, I think it’s more then just an “okay thing” to be lost in thought. It’s a good and normal thing, especially for the creative spirit. Winding through the labyrinth of unfamiliar cognitive territory, you will many times find new and important intersections of ideas and beliefs. I think that to lose yourself in thought is to prepare yourself for an epiphany.

Day 27 Guide

Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in thought. Try, in fact, to find quiet times to be by yourself. Get away from the current noise of a busy world. Take a long walk, or get up early in the morning. Intentionally push yourself to get out of sync with the rest of life. Get lost.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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February 2006 ~ Day 28 Accessibility

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a performance of jazz singer Michael Buble (www.michaelbuble.com), one of the hottest new voices on the music scene. The thirty-one year old Canadian sings a familiar brand of standards made famous by some of the great artists of yesterday like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ray Charles.

Buble’s brand of music and his presence on stage charged the room with a positive energy leaving the audience feeling good about life. His popularity among the females was evident, and at one point he even walked down into the audience, shook hands and allowed time for a handful of fans to get personal photographs with him.

By taking the time to come off the stage and be out among his fans, Buble immediately became accessible to everyone in the theatre. In essence, he became one of us, limiting the distance between fame and familiarity.

That night made me think about my relationships within my circle of friends and acquaintances. How often, I asked, do I come out of my isolation to be among the people I enjoy? How often do I try to break through the barriers that limit friendship? I believe that loneliness is quite often a self-inflicted sorrow growing at first out of our tone around others. The easiest path to follow is the one that leaves us in our isolation – alone on the stage of life.

Day 28 Guide

Think about what it might take for you to come down off of your “stage” and move out into the audience. How might you become more accessible to those around you? Spend time considering how to reach others who are in need of your smile or your encouragement. It requires so little to give so much.

© 2006, Levi Hill

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All around nice guy.

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