Daily Guide — June 2005

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 1 Retrospect

Memories help the spirit to isolate and enjoy the sweetness in life. Even the sharp and cutting experiences of earlier days are usually worn down and made harmless by the hands of time. Memories of both good times and bad serve the further purpose of training the soul and helping to shape perspective.

I tend to replay bad life-experiences in my mind, considering that to be part of a personal healing process. And though it’s often times hard, I want to stare difficulty in the face and remain standing with a positive outlook. I figure that unless I’m able to face the painful thoughts and consider them to be part of my overall training, they will loom in the corners of my mind, waiting to attack any weakness in my spirit.

I consider retrospect to be the intellectual assessment of remembered life experiences. And by thinking back on earlier times, of things such as the magic of youth or even the pain of detachment and the loss of innocence, I’m better able to make sense of life’s twists and turns and thereby come to grips with its course. But the far greater pleasure is in knowing that I’m being led on a course not of my own design. God is there, always leading

Day 1 Guide

Welcome to summer. Take time today to reflect on your summertime memories – maybe your school years when summer meant freedom from studying and homework. What were your favorite things to do in the summer? Riding a bicycle? Swimming? Going to camp? Watching my own children makes it easy for me to still identify with that wonderful pause of summer.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 2 Humor

A man walked into a clothing store to buy a suit. He quickly found his size and began to go through the racks looking at the different fabrics. Just as he picked out what he liked, a salesman lazily walked up and asked, “May I help you, sir?”

“Well, I’m looking for a suit. And I think I just found what I want.”

“Very good,” said the salesman. “Why don’t you try it on and let’s see how it fits.”

With that, the man slipped into the dressing room and put on the suit. Immediately, he knew that alternations would be necessary because both the coat sleeves and the pants legs were too long. The waist was a little snug as well. He walked out of the dressing room to stand in front of the mirror. And there he waited for the sluggish salesman to pin the suit for alteration.

“That suit looks very nice on you, sir,” said the salesman.

“What?” said the man. “The sleeves are entirely too long and so are the pants. And the waist is a little snug.”

“But, sir,” said the salesman. “Certainly you’re not standing like you normally do. You’re far too erect; bend over at the waist and stand just like you were when you walked in the store.”

Following the salesman’s instructions, the man started to lean over, and sure enough, as he did his coat sleeves began to shorten up as did the legs of his pants. He kept leaning over until the sleeves and the pants were just the right length.

“Now, that looks very nice,” said the salesman. “That’s exactly how you were standing when you walked in the store. That suit fits you well, just as long as you maintain your normal posture.”

Not totally sold on the idea that this was his normal posture, the man said, “But the waist is still a little snug.”

“Sir, when you corrected your posture, you also naturally relaxed your waist. And for a man like you who’s in top physical shape that’s not normal. Concentrate on holding your stomach in – just like you were doing when you walked in the store.”

And with that, the man did as the salesman suggested and held in his stomach as best he could.

“Perfect,” said the salesman. “That suit looks like it was made just for you.”

Feeling a bit awkward in his new suit, the man had to reassure himself that what the salesman told him was probably true and that the suit did, in fact, fit him well, needing no alterations after all. As he looked in the mirror, the man convinced himself that the suit was indeed right for him and said, “Yea, yea. I see what you’re saying. I guess my normal posture is less erect as you say. And my waist, well I think that I must just be really tired today. I’m sure that I normally hold it in my stomach as you say.”

And with that, the man bought the suit just as it was, thanked the salesman, and proudly left the store still wearing it as he walked down the sidewalk to his car.

At that point, a boy and his father passed by the newly dressed man as he was coming out of the store. Smiling, the suited man looked at the boy, and said, “Good day.” and continued on his way feeling good about his new clothes.

The boy then turned to his father and sympathetically said, “Dad, did you see that poor crooked man coming out of the store? He was all bent over and he looked like he was in pain, too.”

“Yes, son I saw him. But at least he looked happy. And isn’t it great that he was able to find a tailor who could make him a suit that fit so well?”

Day 2 Guide

Laugh today. Look for things that are a bit out of the ordinary and try to find humor in what you see.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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June 2005 ~ Days 3-12 Visions

Some things in life are almost unbelievable, aren’t they? Amazing is the power of God that gives us the freedom to act and think in a universe that remains ever so completely within His control. How is it that God is able to give us such a gift of freedom while promising also that we will never fall outside His grace and His plan? The vision of a life lived completely within God’s intention is a vision of peace and happiness, a vision of design and ultimate beauty.

The knowledge that we are in the hands of a nurturing and gracious God is the light that will guide the dark and difficult paths. Listen to the words of Mary in Amy Grant’s song “Breath of Heaven:” (www.amygrant.com)

I have traveled many moonless night
Cold and weary, with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father, you have come
And chosen me now
To carry your son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Days 3-12 Guide

This week imagine that your every step is known and governed. Let the thought of God then replace your imagination.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 13 Thought

I wonder what our view of the world would be if we could actually see things like radio waves, cell phone signals and microwaves. Or what if we could see the waves of sound as they traveled through the air? How do you think our world would appear to us? Complicated? Chaotic?

At this very moment, even in these early morning hours, millions upon millions of invisible electromagnetic waves are passing through our bodies and our brains. And it suits me perfectly well to know that they are beyond my senses. I’m satisfied to know that with the right equipment, I’m able to “tune in” some of those signals (radio waves for example) when I want to. I’m comfortable, too, with the fact that there are many other types of waves and physical phenomenon constantly at work in the strange background of life.

Thought itself is a mysterious phenomenon. While we can’t physically see thoughts or ideas, we can at least confirm their existence by our own personal experience. We know, for example, that when a baseball pitcher throws a ball he does so with a plan in mind.

When you think about it, it’s really not much of a stretch to think that a spirit such as God intervenes in this world and in our lives in order to carry out His plan.

Day 13 Guide

Today, think about what’s going in the background of life, and give credit to the forces that are a natural part of the hidden fabric of the universe.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 14 Accessibility

On a recent trip to the Bahamas, my family and I found the locals to be delightful people. At every turn on our trip we were greeted with smiles and hellos. From construction workers and janitors to cab drivers and merchants, they all welcomed us to their home with their friendly island spirit.

Here’s what several Bahamans said when I asked them what kept them smiling:

— “A smile can change someone’s day.”

— “My mother told me, ‘always be content with what you have until you can do better.'”

— “We (Bahamans) are truly free. We don’t have the government breathing down our necks, and we take care of our own poor.”

— “We take care of each other.”

The source of their happiness seems so simple. And I think that very simplicity is the chief ingredient of their spirit. Comparatively speaking, life in the Bahamas is uncomplicated. The islanders don’t have our more common problems that result from big enterprise, big government, and big cities. My thinking is that the Bahaman smile thrives on a more primitive and natural state, that of people helping people – living together and working together, more like a family.

We Americans have everything. But in the midst of it all, many of us live on our own personal islands of isolation, trying hard at times to steer clear of relationships that are awkward and strained. My hope is to enjoy a simpler, more natural way of life and to replace my island of isolation with the spirit of Joyous Gard.

Day 14 Guide

Think today about enjoying the more simple pleasures in life. This week try to simplify your life patterns; take a walk, read a book, and include healthy portions of fruit and vegetable in your menu choices.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 15 Sympathy

My younger daughter enjoys most everything. She swims and dances and takes gymnastics. She loves friends and animals; she even loves school. She enjoys laughing and talking and drawing. She likes to read, and if you can believe it, she even enjoys cleaning up her room. It’s her enjoyment of most every aspect of life that I so love. It’s how I want to be.

Isn’t it neat how children can be an encouragement to us adults? In so many ways my own children encourage me. As I watch and see their beautiful, young spirits come alive, I find that a vital energy in me is restored. I enjoy their excitement and their eagerness. But I also sympathize with their fears and understand their struggles.

And yet even in the midst of such hardship, when as a parent I would gladly take on their pain if only I could, there is a beautiful sense of strength and hope that arises in me as I watch and see a courageous young spirit manifest to take on life’s challenges.

I think we’d all do better if we spent more time listening and talking with our children. We should try to learn from these young minds as they are working to shape the faculties for coping with difficulty. Certainly I don’t think that we should ever forget our primary parental duties to teach, love and nurture these young spirits. But I think that we should stop long enough to listen and to witness their strength and their many beautiful qualities.

Day 15 Guide

Teach your children, but learn from them too.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 16 Science

A recent scientific study conducted by British anthropologists Hill and Barton of the University of Durham’s suggests that wearing the color red might increase the chance of victory in sports.

It was by their analysis of win-loss statistics across several sports that these researchers found teams and individuals who wore the color red in competition won more than they lost. The study stemmed from one researcher’s hunch that red might play a role in human dominance just as it seems to in the animal kingdom.

Zebra finches fitted with red leg bands tend to become dominant, while those given blue bands are more submissive. In humans, anger reddens the face, which may send signals of fierceness.

— New York Times, May 18, 2005 “Research Finds that Red is for Winners”

I’m quite at home with the idea that colors might affect the spiritedness of competing individuals or teams. It could be one of either arming the wearer’s attitude for a fight or of deflating the courage of a would-be competitor. Or it could be both events occurring simultaneously – strengthening one side and weakening the other.

Lately, I’ve thought about how much the input of my senses affects my attitude. During a recent string of rainy days, I found myself to be emotionally down and nervous. I knew, however, that it would take only a break in the clouds or a brief view of the sunshine to quickly elevate my spirit. Thankfully, the weather has turned around, and today there’s not a cloud in the sky. I feel good.

No, I’m not at all surprised with the results of this recent study. Nor, most likely, would top-ranked golfer and US Open favorite Tiger Woods, whose predominate choice of shirt color seems to be… you got it, red.

Day 16 Guide

Today and then tonight, surround yourself with signs, colors and symbols of strength. Fill your senses with things that tend to elevate your spirit.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Days 17-21 Work

There is a certain beauty in striving to meet a goal. Much as in a dance, a story or an opera, work seems to build the familiar tension that is relieved only upon the satisfaction of certain desires.

In my opinion, in order to classify the exertion of labor or thought as work there must be purpose, intention, and desire. And therein, I think, rests the source of work’s beauty – the ultimate fulfillment of one’s desire.

Don’t confuse the work of man with the work of machines. While one might claim some similarity in that they both use energy to meet a known end, machines aren’t “of mind.” They do not thirst or desire or long for anything. Only man has within him, buried deep in the soul, a desire to enjoin the creative momentum of life.

Days 17-21 Guide

For many of us, today is the last workday of the week. This weekend prepare your mind and restore your energy for the work ahead. Think, too, of where you’re going and what you’re doing. Use the downtime to consider more closely the things that may be in the back of your mind – things like a change in direction, a move, or a commitment to a personal plan of improvement.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Days 22-23 Hope


Where are you, Hope?

In the mists of heaven,

Or the morning dew?

Are you there

In the newborn child,

Or the love I knew?

Dear Hope, call me

From the silence

Of this heavy heart,

And fill my soul

With a new day, a new life

And a fresh start.

— Levi Hill

Days 22-23 Guide

Give yourself the benefit of considering every day to be a fresh start. Forget about the baggage of yesterday and focus on the beauty of tomorrow. Hope is the view of things yet to be.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Days 24-26 Experience

I once had the opportunity meet a Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Jack Jacobs, who’d been invited to speak to an audience of local business people. A small and unassuming man, Jacobs, I found, exuded a huge spirit for life. His experience as a soldier left him with the total loss of his senses of taste and smell. I remember being so very surprised to hear him say that his favorite dish was lamb. I wondered how with no sense of taste, he could enjoy any sort of food. What would there be to life if you couldn’t take in all of the wonderful things around you?

If you couldn’t smell the roses, see the mountaintops, or feel the rain, would there be anything left to enjoy? Well, for Jacobs, life meant so much more than what he took in through his senses. Just listen to the intensity of this story from the battlefields of Vietnam:

A mortar round landed just a few feet away and sent shrapnel tearing through the top of Jacobs’s head. Most of the bones in his face were broken, and he could see out of only one eye. He tried calling in air strikes, but the intense enemy ground fire drove off the U.S. fighters. Shortly afterward, the lead company commander was badly wounded, and the South Vietnamese troops began to panic. Jacobs assessed the situation and realized that if someone didn’t act quickly, everyone would be killed. The words of Hillel, the great Jewish philosopher, jumped into his mind: “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

He assumed control of the unit, ordering a withdrawal from the exposed position to a defensive perimeter. He dragged a wounded American sergeant, riddles with chest and stomach wounds, to safety, then returned to the fire-swept battlefield to rescue others.

Medal of Honor, Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty

Badly injured, Jacobs returned to the United States and was assigned the position of commander of an Officer Candidate company at Fort Benning. About a year later, he received an order to report to Washington in October of 1969, and it was there that he was awarded the Medal of Honor from president Richard Nixon.

Jacobs completed graduate school, earning a M.A. in international relations, but then requested a return to Vietnam. The government honored his request on the condition that he would remain out of harm’s way. The words of Hillel must have stuck with this soldier because when he returned, he immediately got himself reassigned to the Vietnamese Airborne Division in the thick of fighting in Quang Tri. There he was once again wounded.

I was privileged to meet Colonel Jacobs the day that he spoke of war. And yes, his experiences were hard, but his sense of life was one of strength and kindness. Never in his voice did I hear bitterness or disappointment. In fact, war seems to have left Jacobs a stronger man, a man more committed to acting on the very words that came to his mind that day he was staring death in the face: If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

Jacobs was kind enough to inscribe a note to my son in the book, Medal of Honor. Listen to his humble words:

Very best wishes from an old soldier. Always follow your dreams and you won’t go wrong.

– Jack Jacobs

Days 24-26 Guide

I love this country — its people, its heroes, its vitality, and its will to soar. Always follow your dreams… says the old, war-torn solider. Yes, follow your dreams – follow them despite the difficulties and the challenges. Seek the deeper beauty in life that would have you answer the question, If I am only for myself, what am I?

© 2005, Levi Hill Click here to read about Jacobs.

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 27 Faith

What then we have to do, if we would follow the pure Gospel, is to lead quiet lives, refresh the spirit of joy within us by feeding our eyes and minds with the beautiful sounds and sights of nature, the birds’ song, the opening faces of flowers, the spring woods, the winter sunset; we must enter simply and freely into the life about us, not seeking to take a lead, to impress our views, to emphasise our own subjects; we must not get absorbed in toil or business, and still less in plans and intrigues; we must not protest against these things, but simply not care for them; we must not be burdensome to others in any way; we must not be shocked or offended or disgusted, but tolerate, forgive, welcome, share. We must treat life in an eager, light-hearted way, not ruefully or drearily or solemnly.

— Benson, Joyous Gard, Faith

Confidence, reliance, and trust – these are the defining ideas of faith. But let me ask you, where do you find such confidence and reliance? In what do you trust?

The newspapers read mostly of broken promises and of trust compromised. I mean if you relied solely on the AP newswire, you would think the world is a totally unreliable and scary place- a chaos where there is no sureness.

I consider faith to be the real cornerstone of happiness. I think that we need a foundation of trust to feel confident about the future. And it is such a spirit of faith that makes happiness possible. But how is it that we who desire happiness learn to be more faithful and trusting? I believe that such an abiding faith is wrought by the habits that Benson speaks of, those of:

…constantly feeding our eyes and minds with the beautiful sounds and sights of nature, the birds’ song, the opening faces of flowers, the spring woods, the winter sunset; we must enter simply and feely into the life about us, not seeking to take the lead, to impress our views, to emphasise our own subject;

It’s easy for me to sometimes confuse faith with certainly. I know, however, that I can never be certain of tomorrow’s events, only the sureness of God’s presence and His leading. Having faith is to trust, and even sense, the existence of His guiding force in the universe.

Day 27 Guide

Today, follow the advice of Benson, and look around. Feed your eyes and minds with the beautiful sounds and sights of nature, and seek not to lead or impress your views.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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June 2005 ~ Day 28 Progress

I like to think that the most natural state for man is to walk in the light of day, easily recognizing beauty in his surroundings and in the people he meets. But because we don’t live in easy times, there is a tendency for us to be held captive by the competing state of mind that I call defensive watchfulness. Navigating today’s currents requires a level of attention that is focused and limited. And quite often we end up closing the wider perspective that invites so many beautiful things into the mind.

I’m not complaining about living in a society that cleaves so strongly to the ideas of progress. It’s staggering the amount of benefits that we reap from the advancements in science and technology. To me, it’s even a miracle that we can fly from coast to coast in a single day!

I say simply this: our natural inclination is to delight in the beauty and the love that surrounds us, and that we should do what we can to draw some of our attention to the greater things.

Day 28 Guide

Today and tonight take time to talk to someone you know and enjoy. Play a game, crank up the music, take a walk. Enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 29 The Sense of Beauty

We ought then to train and practise our sense of beauty, not selfishly and luxuriously, but so that when the dark hour comes it may help us to realise that all is not lost, may alleviate our pain by giving us the knowledge that the darkness is the interruption, but that the joy is permanent and deep and certain.

— Benson, Joyous Gard, The Sense of Beauty

… train and practice our sense of beauty

It is my hope that the cycle of days in the Joyous Gard ProgramTM helps to often restore the power of beauty for the health of your soul. My hope is for you to build and maintain the habit of feeding your soul and enlivening your spirit. And in order to successfully lay down such a habit, I think it helps to be reminded, even swayed, by voices that draw attention to the subtle winds of beauty which are always around.

If again the sense of beauty is so frail a thing that it is at the mercy of all intruding and jarring elements, it is also one of the most patient and persistent of quiet forces. Like the darting fly which we scare from us, it returns again and again to settle on the spot which it has chosen.

The health of your soul and the life of your spirit

These are the things that are so important to your happiness. But they are often threatened by the preponderance of the noise that clouds your view. You must be strong and determined in your effort to recognize the force of beauty. Here’s what Benson says, warning of a frail sense of beauty:

Many people, and those not the least thoughtful and intelligent, find by experience that it is almost the first thing to disappear in moments of stress and pressure. Physical pain, grief, pre-occupation, business, anxiety, all seem to have the power of quenching it instantaneously, until one is apt to feel that it is a thing of infinite delicacy and tenderness, and can only co-exist with a tranquillity which it is hard in life to secure.

Day 29 Guide

Joyous Gard is the space in your being where beauty finds a home, a place where beauty releases its energy for the benefit of your spirit. Think today of training your soul to recognize the presence of beauty. Discipline yourself to search for something beautiful every day.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
June 2005 ~ Day 30 The Principle of Beauty

I remember signing up for a music class when I was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. I thought it’d be an easy spring-quarter “A.” Boy was I wrong! That class turned out to be a lot of work. On each test we had to identify the composers and titles of various classical pieces as the teacher played short segments on the classroom stereo. I likened the challenge to the old game-show “Name that Tune.” Remember that?

I remember my average during the quarter being “C,” but somehow I ended up with the final grade of “B.” Maybe he curved the final grades, but I really believe that this was a gift from the teacher, or his return of thanks for the note I left written on the final exam. It went something like this:

I came into your class thinking I’d pick up an easy “A.” I was wrong. It was a much harder class that I originally thought. But that’s okay because I really appreciate your introduction to this sort of music. Your love for music is clearly visible and that alone impressed me. You opened some important doors of beauty for me, and I thank you for that.

I meant those words. And they still ring true to this day. Beauty is sometimes hidden behind doors locked by ignorance or the attitudes of apathy and cynicism. It’s important, I think, to keep an open mind and make an effort to enjoy things outside of your own comfort zone.

Day 30 Guide

Today, spend time breaking new ground. Try something you’ve never attempted. Look for new experiences. Try also looking for beauty in familiar surroundings since familiarity sometimes leads to blindness.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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