Daily Guide — March 2005

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide
March 2005 ~ Day 1 Ideas

I remember the first time I witnessed a solar eclipse. I stood in the parking lot of my elementary school along with my class, waiting for the strange darkness. Some classmates had homemade devices that allowed them to see the eclipse without harming their eyes. And though I don’t recall actually seeing the eclipse myself, the excitement of the event and the eerie midday darkness made it a memorable day.


This first day of March coincidentally marks also the first day in a new rotation of the Joyous Gard cycle. For those of you new to Joyous Gard, that’s a rare occurrence, and so in a special sort of way, this a festival day in the life of The Joyous Gard Program. I’m always excited to begin another cycle. And for me it’s a pleasure to define once again the scope and mission of the program.

Beauty is easily overlooked as a vital element in planning. It is more common to look at the mechanical aspects of living – a task orientation – without regard to one’s sense of life. But I believe that beauty itself is the cornerstone of living well. And in my opinion, living well means living beautifully. Life should be a dance.

Life is best thought of as an active state of mind, integrated by thoughts of both yesterday and tomorrow. And I believe that in order to live well you must often remember and think about your relationships and your connections with other people, with nature, and with God; to live well is to see your life as a tapestry being actively woven and producing the beautiful signature of your unique experience.

Physical life is quickly escaping us, much like exhaling. But mentally, we inhale and store our experience along with the reasons for our laughter and our joy. Sorrow and pain are but threads of experience that produce strength in the tapestry’s weave; they are inescapable and necessarily human. And together, we mourn the loss of innocence. Our own mortality is yet another bittersweet reminder to live well and live beautifully.

Day 1 Guide

Joyous Gard is the weaving room in your mind and spirit where beautiful designs come together to form your life’s tapestry. Today, begin, or renew, the habit of taking some time during the day to reflect on your life and the beauty of its design.

The Castle of Joyous Gard then, which each of us can use, if we desire it, is the fortress of beauty and joy. We cannot walk into it by right, but must win it; and in a world like this, where there is much that is anxious and troublesome, we ought, if we can, to gain such a place, and provide it with all that we need, where we may have our seasons of rest and refreshment.

Prelude, Joyous Gard, A.C. Benson

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 2 Poetry


Through the window

I watch as things go by


Looking ahead,

Things move too fast. And my mind,


But I see a figure in the distant field

Moving slowly,


And below me the rails keep time

To the frames of lives,


The image closes into view:

Is it you in the field,


Is the song in your step

To keep me


Come closer —

But no, the distance holds you, so


And dance for me

To a heart left yearning,


— Levi Hill

Day 2 Guide

Poetry is more of a perspective on life than it is written verse. To think poetically is to capture the essence and meaning of life’s frames. Today, write of something personal and meaningful, and try to capture its sweetness.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 3 Poetry and Life

You’ve seen it before, I’m sure: in comedy or magic, on television or in stories – the endless opening of a box only to reveal another box, or the opening of a door to reveal yet another door. A modern day high-tech example of such a principle of endless discovery and renewal is the computerized fractal, which by definition is “a mathematically conceived curve such that any small part of it, enlarged, has the same statistical character as the original” (Oxford English Dictionary.) Applying the mathematical principles of the fractal and graphically demonstrating its meaning on a computer reveals an endlessly enticing and infinitely renewable world of beauty.

But also, there are thousands of examples of fractals in nature. A tree, for example, has limbs, which have branches, which have other branches. Or consider the beauty of an onion, with its layer upon layer upon layer. Even the biological reproduction of life itself demonstrates the beautiful qualities of endlessness. Just imagine the graphic representation of the seeming endless unfolding of God’s eternal plan. Conceiving of such beauty seems hardly possible. Additionally, it seems that human creativity is fractal-like, having no end to its refreshing newness.

Though I’m sure that now he would gladly rescind the statement, the then Commissioner of the US Patent Office, Charles H. Duell, said this in 1899 about innovation: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” I guess that in his opinion creativity was dead. How terribly hopeless he must have felt to think that new problems could no longer be solved by the creative power of man.


As I grow older it’s made ever clearer in my mind that each one of us is on the road to a physical death. And though most of our bodies’ cells are constantly being renewed, the overall aging process is slowing down until regeneration finally ends. On the other hand, I believe that both mentally and spiritually we are eternally regenerative and that our souls have lives apart from our bodies.

For centuries philosophers have debated the relationship between mind, spirit and body. Simply put, you either believe that life of some sort transcends the body, or it doesn’t. In my opinion, life clearly demonstrates that both mentally and spiritually we are storing, learning, and in a sense perfecting, our own particular nature. Let me further explain.

I’ve heard it said before: “as you get older you get more like yourself.” With age, the angles and lines of one’s personality become sharper and more pronounced. And it is in this strict sense that I say human progression tends to be a type of perfecting. Certainly, I’m not talking about moral or intellectual perfection, but rather a further confirmation of one’s personality and overall sense of life.

Now, I do believe that change is certainly possible – even a radical transformation. But generally, the common threads of personality and natural inclination become more acute over time. Just as the graphic representation of a fractal begins as a smooth curve and progresses toward an intricate design, so does the smooth and rounded newborn baby mature into beautiful and complex adult.

Day 3 Guide

What a great day! Today I want you to think about your physical, intellectual and spiritual maturity. Consider the things that you should be doing to further perfect yourself.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Days 4-6 Art

I think that I’m probably right in saying that most young boys aren’t interested in keeping their rooms straight. Well, my son is no exception. Typically, in his room we’ll find towels and clothes on the floor, an unmade bed, or candy and food wrappers hidden somewhere. And because we haven’t quite figured out how to be those “perfect parents” who seem to make their children responsive to chores, it is usually only under a threat of suspended privileges that my wife and I are able to get him to clean up at all.

But there is that rare occasion, usually when he has something new to put in his room, that he will make the effort to straighten things up on his own. You see my son is a “stuff guy.” Like me, he enjoys his stuff — his stereo, his DVDs, his games, his drums, and his paintball gun.

It’s fun to catch him in the act of cleaning up on his own because it’s really the only time that he’s happy about making things look nice. I like to think about what must be going on in his head as he’s getting things in order. It’s during these rare times that he seems excited about integrating something new into his life. He must feel like he’s getting a “fresh start.”

We all like new things, don’t we? I just love picking up a new CD or a new book. The principle, I think, is that we enjoy finding something to refreshen or awaken our spirits. It’s just so easy to get caught up in that stale, day-to-day task orientation, and sometimes we need a blast of fresh air. But where do we go to find it?

I believe that it is the work of imagination that transports us to another frame of mind. A new song on the radio, a beautiful sunset, or a great new book – these help to guide us out of the rut and into the light of a new day. But it’s actually the work of imagination that makes the change possible at all. To witness beauty — to even see something as beautiful — requires the power of imagination.

Care must be taken to keep your imagination soft and receptive. And that means first maintaining the capacity to feel a sense of self-significance. Just as it’d be hard to climb a mountain carrying a hundred pound backpack, so is it hard to feel good about life when you have no confidence in your ability to live it well.

Days 4-6 Guide

This weekend concentrate on feeding your self-confidence and bringing your imagination to the fore. Get yourself organized, dress up, put on some nice cologne or perfume, start a new book, listen to some great music or begin planning for next week. The key here is to do things that you can do, to demonstrate your ability to succeed by practicing the habit of getting yourself out of the same old routine. If “changing your mind” means taking a drive in the country, then crank up the car.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 7 Art and Morality

Simply Difficult

The simplest things are always the most difficult – it’s a principle that seems to reaffirm itself just about every time I undertake a project.

For the longest while our little dog, Puddles, had been confined to the backyard by one of those invisible fences, which consists of both a wire that runs around the perimeter of an area, and a receiver secured on the dog’s collar. When the dog gets too close to the wire, a signal is picked up by the receiver, and the dog feels a small electric shock. So far, it has worked to keep Puddles out of the street. But she’s a pretty smart little dog, and she knows when the system isn’t working. During the last six months the system has been out, and Puddles, well, she’s been enjoying the neighborhood.

Having heard a few recent concerns from the neighbors about her being in the street, it seemed important this weekend that I get the system back up and running. But it’s not an easy project to run that wire around the yard. I had to force myself to begin.

First, I had to go shopping: I went to a couple of places to buy some additional wire. And as a precaution I also bought some batteries for the receiver, which I already owned. None of this stuff is cheap. But I had to have it.

I installed the wire, which was a bit more difficult than I imagined. But it was done, and that was the hard part. I was ready to test the receiver. But for some reason I couldn’t figure out how to replace the batteries. So I called the factory, which by a miracle was open on Saturday at 4:50PM. Customer service told me I had purchased the wrong batteries for that receiver. Great.

Okay, I took a deep breath and figured this is where my Simply Difficult principle was going to apply. The batteries were a bit special, and I couldn’t just buy them at Eckerds. I could only find them at Radio Shack or Home Depot. And since I couldn’t make it to either one of those stores on Saturday, I had to wait until Sunday. Still no big problem: “just take the old batteries back on Sunday,” I said to myself, “and get right ones.” So that’s what I did.

When I got out of my car at Home Depot on Sunday, I couldn’t find the bag of batteries that I knew I had put in my car. Frustrated, I figured that I must have left the bag at home. So I bought the new batteries anyway and went back home to look for the bag. I couldn’t find the thing, and I looked everywhere.

It would’ve been okay if that bag had not also held the $60 receiver that I already owned. But it was so typical of my experience: being sure to keep everything together, I had put the receiver in the bag, along with the batteries, and now, I’d lost everything. I began to dig in. I was emotionally committed, and now nothing was going to stop me from getting this damned system working.

Feeling sure that I must have left that bag on the roof of my car and that it fell off on the way to Home Depot, I made the return trip, only hoping that along the way I might see my bag in the street. No such luck.

My heels now dug deeply in, I went to Home Depot – again — bought another receiver, and made the trip back home. Along the way I asked God these questions: “What is it that you want me to learn from this experience? Is there someone or something I’m supposed to meet or see? Surely, there was some meaning to all of this. Where was the beauty in all of this tangled mess?”

Well, I did my best to make light of a bad situation. It was dusk, and I turned on the radio, hoping for a song that might turn my spirit. And actually, for most of the trip home I felt fairly satisfied. The end-of-day light was beautiful, and I found some peace. I felt sure that this time I was finally going to get the system working.

Arriving at home once again, I quickly got out my screwdriver and some scissors and started the job of getting this receiver/collar ready. And then finally, $100 later, a miracle: the thing worked!

Satisfied but totally exhausted, I planned on at least returning the newly purchased batteries, which, as it turns out, didn’t even work in this new receiver. So I put them in another bag and took special care not to lose them like I had done once before. For extra safekeeping, I decided to put them in the console of my car.

As I got into my car and reached for the console’s latch, a strange feeling came over me – sort of a déjà vu. And sure enough, when I opened the console, there, right on top, was the bag containing the old receiver and batteries. They hadn’t fallen off the roof after all. I guess I had just put them in there for safekeeping as well. All I could do was laugh. And that, I figured, was the thing I was to rediscover: my laugh.

Day 7 Guide:

Today, look for beauty in the tight knots of life. I realize that problems sometimes seem huge and insurmountable. But trust in the God whose beauty is bound even in life’s greatest difficulties.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 8 Interpretation

If you’ve ever had the chance to visit Market Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, then you will probably remember the sweetgrass basket weavers. Usually sitting in a small group near the end of the outdoor market, these African-American women are busy weaving various types of decorative baskets, bowls and trays that are made of strong palmetto leaves and marsh grasses that grow in the low country region.

Having been handed down through the generations, the weaving of grasses is an African art that draws popular appeal for both its product and the process. Some baskets are small and simple, while others are much larger and more complex. And though the weaving itself looks rather easy, creating the various shapes is an art indeed.

Usually sitting in a group of three to five, these women steadily weave and talk as they sell their wares. I’m always fascinated to watch them practice their craft, seeing as their hands create such beautiful shapes from the grass.

It’s what I want of my life – a beautiful weaving from ordinary circumstances. I pray that God would allow me to take the simple things in life and draw from them meaningful inspiration and understanding and that He would enable me to teach my children how to create beautiful experiences from the simple and plain corners of life.

Day 8 Guide

Today, think of simple things — a kiss, a handshake, a smile or a routine conversation. Think of how to draw meaning from ordinary elements in life.

Visit Mae Hall’s Basket Stand — Click Here

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 9 Education

They didn’t teach that in school.

By the end of the day yesterday I was tired. I’d been to a meeting in Atlanta and was ready to get home – out of the traffic. Finally back in Augusta, I picked up my son from an appointment and together we went to the grocery store to get a few needed things. I was glad to have a little time just to be with him.

With our items in hand, we headed to the checkout line where I noticed that the cashier wore several pins on her uniform. They were of angels, and I inquired: “Would you tell us about your pins?” I asked.

“Oh, those are my angels,” she reported. “I love angels.”

I asked if she’d ever seen an angel. “Oh, yes,” she replied. And she told us her story:

“When I was in the operating room awaiting surgery I remember being very worried – primarily about my weak heart. But standing beside me was this wonderful nurse in a white uniform, who held my hand and assured me that my heart was fine. She told me everything was going to be okay.

Thankfully, things did go well in surgery, and when I awoke from the anesthesia, I asked about that nice nurse in the operating room. Perplexed, the doctor told me that there had been no nurse in the room wearing a white uniform. ‘But the one who held my hand,’ I further responded. And again, he affirmed that there was no nurse in there.

As I thought about it, I also began to wonder myself: how would that nurse have known about my weak heart? The surgery was for something other than my heart, and the concern about its weakness was only mine. It really wasn’t even something the doctors were worried about. But I was scared. And it was then that I realized this uniformed nurse was actually an angel sent to comfort me.”

What a great story. Rarely, I thought, would school ever arouse in my son the amazement and curiosity that I saw in him after he heard that girl’s story. Life’s best teacher is really life itself, and to hear of other people’s experiences — well, that’s an invaluable element in obtaining a great education.

Last night, I sensed that he was still reflecting on the event. And all I could think of was the beautiful way in which the idea of angels had entered his mind. It’s one thing to read of the angels who appear in stories of the Bible, but to hear the account of one who would actually visit the humility of this world and this time – to think that maybe there are really angels here among us doing God’s work, well, that’s something they just don’t teach in school.

Day 9 Guide

Today, consider the lives of others. Think of the stories that are locked up in the experiences of people like you and me. Choose someone you’d like to get to know better and start asking questions.

© 2005, Levi Hill

I’d love to hear your story. Send me an email.

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March 2005 ~ Day 10 Knowledge

One of my friends in college had what I call a near-photographic memory. For him, studying meant listening real well in class and reading the text once or twice. That was it. No hard laboring over pages of notes, no repeated attempts to remember lists of things – just reading and listening.

I, on the other hand, am quite the stubborn learner; my mind is easily distracted, and I don’t have the span of attention that enables me to keep my mind on the material for a great length of time. For me, learning means taking a lot of breaks, walking around, and tapping my feet. I guess I’m what you’d call a nervous learner. It seems like I have to get it the hard way. But that’s okay.

There are a few advantages for us nervous learners. For us, learning is more kinesthetic: we tend to dance with the material, mess around with it, wear it. We struggle to get the material in our heads, but once there it takes on a colorful existence and becomes part of our being. I think that we nervous learners have a great deal of pride in the knowledge we’ve acquired; it’s just such a damn struggle to get it that we tend to celebrate when we finally do capture an idea or a principle. For us, knowledge is terribly meaningful, and we have the battle scars to prove it.

In college a lot of students went to the library to study. Not me. I couldn’t stand the place. It was too quiet and still, and to me it was depressing. My study choice was to stay at home and read on the sofa – ever ready turn on the television or light up a cigarette and take that needed break.

Day 10 Guide

What sort of learner are you? Does knowledge acquisition come easily, or is it a painful struggle? Whatever the case, be satisfied with your natural learning style and work within that. For many of us, struggling is a natural part of learning. Consider it a dance and remember that once you get it, you’ll wear it like a fine robe.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Days 11-13 Growth

My grandmother, Maffa, was pretty cool. Standing about 4′ 11″, she drove a great big green Fleetwood Cadillac, and if you happened to get behind her in traffic, all you could see of her was the top of her head just barely above the driver’s seat.

She liked to stay up at night and watch the late show. She enjoyed hard candy, and she loved her little dog(s). I remember the mean chiwawa named “Little Bit,” then the toy poodle, “Gigi,” and finally the shi tzu, “Tina” (which was short for “Tina-Ling Wong.”)

After my grandfather died, Maffa lived in the big old house by herself. I asked her one time if she was ever scared being there by herself; she told me that every night she would ask the Lord to put angels around her bed to protect her while she slept. And I believe the Lord must have honored those prayers. I remember walking in the house several times and finding her on her knees with her Bible open, praying just before she retired for the night. She was very confident in her beliefs.

And she was certainly opinionated; she liked to keep up with the news and would often complain about things going on in the world that just weren’t “right.” She laughed and smiled and was always glad to see you. She wasn’t overbearing, she was a good conversationalist, and she was very proud of her son (my father). She thought that he “hung the moon” – that was one of her favorite sayings.

For two years after I graduated from college I lived in a little cottage in her backyard. When I ran out of clean clothes, I’d walk up to her house and use the washing machine; she was always glad to see me and always smiling. And even now, if I close my eyes, I can still see her smile and hear her laugh.

She spent the last three years of her life confined to a bed, managing somehow to hang on to a strong sense of life. And thankfully, before she died, she was able to know and love her great-grandchildren.

Yea, I’d say that Maffa was a pretty cool lady. And even though she didn’t like a lot of what she saw going on in the world, she never tried to hide from it. She was always listening, watching and arguing for what she thought was right.

Days 11-13 Guide

The world is changing, isn’t it? Even the language is changing. And by yesterday’s standards, some things today may even seem crude. Don’t run from it. Wrestle with it, bend an ear, and look for the beauty. Go and live.

Thousands of young people today want to know how to live. Many are under extreme pressure, feeling anxious and alone. Demonstrate how to live, how to grow, how to change and be a part of the world. Be a strong voice for the spirit, and speak often of Joyous Gard.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 14 Emotion

Emotions tend to travel in days, don’t they? I mean if you’re worried in the beginning of the day, then chances are you’re going to be worried throughout the entire day. Feeling good in the morning generally means feeling good in the afternoon. But then, there are “the interrupters,” the things that can immediately turn your emotional state of mind.

Some “interrupters” destroy and others restore the preferred emotional balance. The sun breaking through on a cloudy day, for example, is a restorative interrupter that makes me immediately feel better about things. Generally, I’m more hopeful and eager when the sun is shining. But to hear of troubling news, well that’s a “destroyer” that can easily make me cower and grow fearful of the world – even doubtful of my own next steps. Holding a sense of anticipation about a fun upcoming event excites and energizes me. But the dread of other events can easily pull me down emotionally. If you let it, life can take you on an emotional roller coaster.

But we need balance. Even more than that I think we need the constant import and strength from those emotions that make us feel so good about life and the future. We need to be “heavy” on the good emotions, and “lighter” on the bad.


Thankfully, our general human tendency is to look toward the life-giving things; we want to be hopeful about the future and put difficulty behind us. And generally speaking, our minds are very sensitive toward the things that would make us feel better about life. Just hearing an old song on the radio, for example, might remind you of those “care-free” days in high school. Why can’t you feel that way more often?

Now, I agree that life does get more complicated as you enter adulthood. Just look at the list of responsibilities: raising children, work, running a household, and paying bills. These things can impede the light of those strong and good emotions. You might even say that it’s just hard sometimes to find the time to feel good (or even bad) about things. Maybe you sometimes feel sort of emotionless, like a machine — just “going through the motions.” How do you begin to feel again? How do you invite those strong emotions into your mind and spirit and hold on to them?

I believe that feeling good is a practice and a habit. You must create your own unique pathways to release those rich feelings and then daily travel those paths. For some of you that pathway maybe be prayer or reading the Psalms of the Bible. Others enjoy music, poetry, or solitude. These, and many others, are the elements that gild the passages of Joyous Gard. They are the “things” that restore and rejuvenate the sleeping mind.

I tend to like new things — new ideas, thoughts, music, personalities. I try to surround myself with the things that make me come alive. Remember the single-album rock star Peter Frampton? His best selling live-recorded concert was called “Frampton Comes Alive.” Yea, that’s what I think about: I want to find out what makes “Levi Come Alive.”

Day 14 Guide

Today, consider the things that make you feel good. Think of things that arouse your emotions from every sensory angle – taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing. Choose something that makes you feel good and then deliberately put it in your way. It’s Monday, time to “Come Alive.”

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 15 Memory

I remember the day in second grade when it started to snow pretty hard. My classmates and I were all on the playground that morning when the class bully, Hunter Leadbetter, pushed me to the ground, ripping my pants. The entire leg was torn, and I was terribly embarrassed. The lady in the office tried to fix it temporarily with safety pins, but I was still upset and didn’t want to return to my classroom.

Because the driving conditions were getting bad outside, all of the parents were picking up their children early from school, so I just waited in the office. I remember how happy I was to see my father coming to get me.

For me that was an unsettling experience. Yet today there is not even a trace of distress left on my memory. And though I remember the incident quite well, I no longer feel that sting of embarrassment. What I do remember, however, is that it turned out to be one of those great and rare snowy days here in Augusta. And if anything, I’m left with a fondness of that memory. The thought of Hunter Leadbetter no longer bullies me; he’s just the figure in my mind that marks the memory of one of those beautiful snowy days here in the South.

Day 15 Guide

Let your bullies go. Allow the work of memory to smooth out the rough edges, and see the images of painful times as mere markers for learning or important change. Most every painful event that I can remember has some comfort associated with it as well. Think today of that responding comfort.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 16 Retrospect

One feature that makes us humans so complex is our sense of memory or retrospect. Looking back, we ascribe meaning to life’s former times and then shuttle that meaning back to the present. Our view of the past becomes, in effect, one of the leading determinants of our interpretation of the present and the future.

It’s easy for me to close my eyes and remember. And I’m constantly doing that -trying hard to develop a sense of patience about life and her deliberate unfolding of events. One thing is clear to me: life does not want to be pushed; life wants you to embrace its presence, to work with it and within it.

Certainly I think it is important to maintain a sense of control over tomorrow’s events – to feel comfortable that your efforts aren’t in vain and that your actions do affect your future. But life also presents itself anew — every day, every moment – with her own unique events and surprises. And while in no obvious rush to satisfy your desire, she does enjoy and embrace your response.

Have you ever had an idea and said to yourself: “why didn’t I think of that before?” Well, it wasn’t time for you to think of it. You simply cannot rush the natural life-processes of maturity and growth. You can shake it, scream at it, and throw it on the ground. But one thing remains: you will never change the nature of life itself. Like a flower she blooms in her own time. Now, this is not to say that life doesn’t respond to the inquiring and thoughtful mind. Quite the contrary: she does — and in a grand way. I think that life really loves the thinker.


What about the hard spots in life? Tragedy? Poor decisions? Obvious mistakes? Are they the children of destiny? Can’t we prevent them?

Totally? I think not. In every time of known history, evil and tragedy have been a part. Even minds that are seemingly fully committed to good must deal with such. But certainly we should continue our reach and our search for the meaning that will help us live today. And that search is in essence the search for the hand of God.

Looking back to earlier times and knowing the sense of peace at having “made it through” – well, this is the realization that somehow the God of life has carried you. I, for one, wouldn’t want to live my life again. Too many things that I treasure now are the result of what I’d consider happenstance or seemingly unimportant and trivial decisions. But isn’t it wonderful how God uses the smallest of things to generate some of the most incredible events?

Day 16 Guide:

Today, look for the meaning in ordinary events. That’s life!

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 17 Humor

Many years ago I was traveling back home from a trip to the beach. I was by myself on the interstate singing along with the radio when I happened to pass a station wagon full of children. When they saw me singing they started to make fun of me, mimicking my lip movements and laughing — having a great little time at my expense. But I actually thought it was funny, too. I laughed and kept on singing, then passed their car.

Minutes later I saw that same station wagon speeding up to pass me on the left. I thought that was sort of strange. Yet there we were again, side by side, those same children still laughing. But this time they weren’t just laughing at me. One or two of the children were wearing those “Groucho Marx” eyeglasses, the kind you’d buy in a novelty store, those with the big nose and the moustache attached. They were having a good little time, laughing, staring at me, and making funny faces behind those big-nosed glasses. “Just like a bunch of silly little kids,” I thought.

Finally, the station wagon that I had passed only moments ago sped up and made its way down the road. And then I saw the perfect opportunity to trump. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I too had a pair of those same goofy Groucho Marx glasses in my car. In fact they were sitting right beside me in the front seat. I figured this moment was meant to be – that I was to get the last laugh. It was my move, so I put those glasses on and began to accelerate.

When I got close to their car, I could see that the children had all calmed down. I didn’t see them jumping around like they had been before, and I assumed they were no longer harassing passersby. As I got close enough to see their faces, I noticed that none of them were even looking up. They’d not seen me yet. “Perfect,” I thought, and began to edge up a bit closer behind them.

I switched to the left lane and slowly gained speed on the wagon, and still, the children had not yet noticed me. I accelerated just enough to get beside their car and stayed there long enough for them to sense my presence. And then it happened.

All at once those children looked up to find me there, once again by their side. But this time it was I who was sporting the big nose, the glasses and a moustache – the same kind they’d been wearing. I kept my eyes dead solid ahead on the road and stayed there just long enough for them to get an eyeful and fall out laughing. And then came time for me to enjoy the moment.

I went ahead and passed the car to get one last look at those great little children in my rearview mirror. They were all over that car, hands in the air, pointing at me, laughing harder than ever. What a great moment!

Day 17 Guide

Isn’t it wonderful to watch children laugh? It’s the way we all should laugh. Do you remember how it felt – just laughing at something silly? Try to relive a bit of that today. Turn your tickle box upside down.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Days 18-20 Humor (Revisited)

I forgot to tell you my St. Patrick’s Day story yesterday. So in honor of old St. Patrick himself, I thought I’d revisit “Humor” and tell you this short little story:

I went to the University of Georgia without any idea of who my freshman-year roommate would be. Thankfully, I was paired with a nice fellow from Savannah named Mark. We became close friends, though we could not have been more different. He liked the hard rock music of AC/DC, and I liked Frank Sinatra. He liked football, and I liked golf. He didn’t mind a good fight; I avoided confrontation. About the only thing we really had in common was our enjoyment of a good party.

I remember the day when Mark came into the dorm room with this panicked looked on his face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“You’re not going to believe it, Levi. You’re just not going to believe it?
“Believe what? Tell me,” I said.

“My biology teacher scheduled the midterm exam on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“So what?” I asked

“So… What do you mean ‘So what?’ It’s St. Patrick’s Day, man. Don’t you get it?”

“Get what?” I asked.

“I have never missed St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. And that “fool teacher” – well, he said if I don’t show up for the exam, he’d give me a zero.”

“Yea. I guess that is kinda bad,” I said. “So, this will be the first St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah you’ve ever missed?”

“Are you crazy, man? I ain’t gonna miss St. Patrick’s Day. I’m just worried about what that zero is going to do to my average.”

Isn’t it wonderful that we’re all so different? I guess that’s why Mark and I got along so well. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mark ever came to enjoy Frank Sinatra, nor did I really ever start listening to AC/DC. But somehow we managed to laugh and have a good time together. That first year, Mark walked on the football team, and I joined a fraternity. I’m not sure where he is right now, but I’ll bet you $100 I can tell you where he was yesterday.

Days 18-20 Guide

Have a great weekend. Spend some time laughing.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 21 Visions

Imagine a mind that knows everything that’s going on all at once in the universe. Such is the mind of God. Think about it: somewhere in the world right now there are mothers and fathers loving their newborns, sunbathers on beaches, people traveling in the air, on land and at sea. Somewhere there are lovers kissing, children playing, husbands and wives gardening, and friends talking on the phone. Somewhere in the world there are those grieving over the loss of parent, a spouse, a sibling or a child. And somewhere in the world there is loneliness and despair, hunger and coldness.

In this world there are minds that are thinking and learning, experiencing, waking and sleeping. Some are happy, energetic and alive. Others are sad, despondent, and wanting.

Somewhere in the universe there is a star dying but then one coming to life to take its place. There are planets in motion, awesome galactic storms, sunrises and sunsets. All at once this beautiful cosmos is taking in energy only to give it back.

Yes, the mind that at once knows of all the simultaneous events occurring in the universe must also be the mind that choreographs their amazing dance and the ceaseless pumping of energy in and out.

Day 21 Guide

Today, look beyond your own life and consider the mind that knows all things at once. Sometimes, we see ourselves in a mess here on this planet, don’t we? By our nature though we are short sighted, tending toward a narrow perspective. Today, work towards making a time of peace and solitude during the day to contemplate the greater things.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 22 Thought

The movie “The Ten Commandments” was on television the other night. Like “The Wizard of Oz” it seems to be a TV classic that hits the airwaves once or twice a year. Having seen that movie a half-dozen times, I’m convinced that Charlton Heston is Moses. Whenever I think of Moses I can’t help but to have these images appear in my mind of Heston parting the Red Sea or coming down from Mt. Sinai with the stone tablets.

Moses obviously knew and witnessed a lot more about life that any of us will ever experience. And it’s good, I think, to look at his and other lives for inspiration to help lead us through our own “Red Seas.”

Sometimes things in life seem insurmountable, don’t they? Maybe in your case a relationship has become too confining. Or maybe you feel that you’re in a dead end job. Maybe you’re just bored, tired of the same old routine and not knowing which way to turn in order to change things. Well, the truth is: life is big, really big.

There are thousands of people who would enjoy knowing you and hundreds of alternatives for opening new vistas in your professional life. But in order to change, you must think, trust in life, and eliminate fear from your mind.

Think about where you are, who you are, and how you could help other people. Believe in yourself and your ability to produce results. Fear no more of taking the wrong course. Realize that action preceded by thought will always take you forward, despite the seeming tendency to tread water or circle back.

In order to escape the trappings of cynicism, look up and outward; look to the big things in life. Consider, for example, the colossal stone building campaigns of Ramses the Great – the huge statues and the pyramids; alternatively, consider the spirit of that simple but well-known cartoonist, Charles Shultz, who gave us the beautiful personalities of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in his “Peanuts” strip. Daily, Shultz helped many feel better about their own lives and situations. (Click here to go to Snoopy’s Home).

The works of both Ramses and Shultz speak of their own unique philosophies of life. While both left indelible marks on the world, one spoke of a life as god and the other of the life of an average man coming to grips with the important blend of different people and personalities.

Day 22 Guide

Today, look about you. Take note of your surroundings, specifically the people within your circle. Try to think like Charles Shultz and consider the humor of your own unique situation.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 23 Accessibility

Though I’ve never been much of a card player, I think if I ever did take the time, I’d choose bridge as the game to learn. My neighbor is working on her “Life Master” designation – the highest ranking in competitive bridge. She loves the game and travels about, playing in tournaments and earning points towards her goal.

Bridge – it’s even a good name for a game that brings people together from every walk of life, every profession, and of every age. Of the well-known figures that were, or are, avid bridge players the list includes: Clint Eastwood, Malcolm Forbes, Charles Shultz, and Wilt Chamberlain.

But probably the most famous bridge team in the world today is that of investor Warren Buffet and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates – the two richest men in the world with a combined wealth exceeding $100 billion. Both, I’ve read, love the game and enjoy any opportunity to play. Well, it happens that not long ago a friend of my father found himself at a bridge table playing against this formidable twosome. Pretty awesome, isn’t it? How would you feel about that?

Maybe like me, you’d be intimidated, possibly searching for words and hoping not to make any obviously stupid bridge plays. But I think the game itself tends to govern the relationships at the table so that when playing bridge, every person is simply that: a bridge-player. And in the case of bridge, even Bill Gates can be beat.

Building Bridges

Generally speaking, we are fearful creatures. Power amazes and fascinates us. But we’re also searching for its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Why? I think we’re searching for our connection to that power, a bridge of sorts. Aspiring to greatness and witnessing awesome power- these are truly wonderful things. But we also want to be assured that we can taste its fruit, or that we can even reach it.

Jesus was an awesome power. But he also spoke freely of weakness, vulnerability and matters of the spirit. Though great his power, people felt comfortable around him, even the most humble of men.

Day 23 Guide

” One of the best ways in which we can keep the spirit of poetry – by which I mean the higher, sweeter, purer influences of thought – alive in one’s heart, is by accessibility – by determining to speak freely of what one admires and loves, what moves and touches one, what keeps one’s mind upon the inner and finer life.”

Joyous Gard, Ch. Accessibility

The most expansive bridge is that which connects awesome power to those low in spirit. Today, build a bridge with someone who might need to taste the fruit of life.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 24 Sympathy

Some people are funny about food. I have a friend who’ll eat absolutely no vegetables. In fact, he won’t eat anything on his plate that even comes in contact with vegetables. If, for example, lettuce and tomato come as side-garnishments for his hamburger, he’ll first make sure they’ve not touched the bun. And if they have, he’ll send back the entire plate. I have another friend who likes things plain- no sauce or salt on anything, just plain. For ice cream, only vanilla will do: never any chocolate sauce, just plain vanilla. “Moose Tracks” or “Rocky Road” – you won’t find those in his freezer.

My youngest daughter is much the same about food. That seems fairly common in children these days. Her menu choices are terribly limited: chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches, or steak – sometimes a hot dog. Generally speaking, she doesn’t like any sort of casserole or dishes that have multiple ingredients mixed together. And she too is sensitive about the “food-touching-food” thing.

Some people are funny about other people. I think we all know people who are highly critical of those who have different opinions about things. In fact, it’s easy to be that way yourself and not even know it. Just think of conservative Republicans and the liberal Democrats. Old Rush Limbaugh has made a good living out of the mutual lack of sympathy between these two groups.

I know it’s hard to sympathize with the opinions of people whose ideas are so far from your own. But it’s certainly worth the effort to try and understand someone else’s point of view – to at least, for a moment, suspend judgment and step into the other person’s shoes.

Sometimes it seems that children may even be better about such sympathy than the adults. Maybe that’s because they have not yet developed opinions that are so hard and fast. They seem more innocent and accepting.

People today seem to enjoy arguing. It seems like some take positions that they themselves don’t really even understand. I find it refreshing when someone today is willing to say, “I don’t know.” Isn’t that great? Simply: “I don’t know.” Wow! That statement doesn’t stir any debate. And it’s the perfect lead in to a follow up statement like, “I’ll have to think about that.”

We seem to be a society of spirited debaters, who are often times unwilling to have serious, meaningful discussion. It even seems “fashionable” to take a stand or choose a side. To sit on the sidelines claiming uncertainty – well, that just paints you as dumb and unthinking. But I think it’s just the opposite. I think that the person who is willing to consider other opinions and ask questions is the one who experiences the richer and more interesting life.

Day 24 Guide

Today, drop your weapons. Try to loosen your ideas well enough to ask questions of the other side. It might do you some good to discover again (or maybe for the first time) the nature and the basis of yours and other people’s beliefs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even run into some other beautiful ideas along the way.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Days 25-27 Science

I do still believe that there is a spirit that mingles with our hopes and dreams, something personal, beautiful, fatherly, pure, something which is unwillingly tied to earth and would be free if it could. The sense that we are ourselves wholly separate and distinct, with experience behind us and experience before us, seems to me a fact beside which all other facts pale into insignificance. And next in strength to that seems the fact that we can recognise, and draw near to, and be amazingly desirous of, as well as no less strangely hostile to, other similar selves; that our thought can mingle with theirs, pass into theirs, as theirs into ours, forging a bond which no accident of matter can dissolve.

— Joyous Gard, Science

In my opinion we’re in need of a body of knowledge — a science of sorts — of the spirit. Belief in God fills the place in our being that calls for understanding and a sense of purpose. Yet the spirit, which animates our days, colors our attitudes, and satisfies our creative desires, must be cultivated and nurtured. It must be worked! Just what is it that fills you with the enthusiasm to live? And how do you heighten that desire?

Days 25-27 Guide

This Easter weekend witness and enjoy the newness of life. Look around to find instances of renewal in nature. Consider a change in your habits and seek new interests.

Happy Easter.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 28 Work

I’m a people watcher. In fact, I sometimes see myself as more of a spectator in life than a participant. I enjoy watching, asking myself questions and trying to figure out the meaning of it all. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love to live. But I so enjoy watching people move and seeing intentions come alive.

Watching as the many various activities take place in one theatre of activity, like a restaurant, is terribly interesting to me. From the art of gracefully and politely hosting or waiting on tables to the talent of preparing a well-cooked meal or tending bar – a restaurant is the perfect place to watch people work.

Now, as much as people complain about work, many must also enjoy it. And that’s what I’m looking for: people who enjoy their work. It’s contagious and makes me feel good about everything.

Just this past Friday night I had such an experience. The young girl who waited on our table in a local restaurant was a great example of that enthusiastic and energetic worker. Her movements and her comments clearly demonstrated that she was having a good time along with us. As we were laughing and talking, she was busy insuring that we were totally satisfied, smiling all the while. She was very good at her job, and I watched her closely. Never once did I see a hint of frustration or anxiety. In fact, to me she looked like she was just plain happy about life – happy to be alive and working. I couldn’t help but give her a hug as we left the restaurant.

Day 28 Guide

Are you happy in your job? Are you good at it? Think today about the importance of what you do and realize that your efforts don’t go unnoticed. Like me there are others who thirst for examples of routine living driven by purpose and intention. It’s Monday, let’s go to work. And by the way, have fun.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 29 Hope

Winters are usually mild here in Georgia, but the summers – well, they can be very hot. The high humidity here in the South amplifies things a bit, making the winters feel colder and the summers, hotter. But I do enjoy feeling that definite change in seasons. Change, I think, is even an important therapeutic agent for the spirit.

Here in Augusta, during this time of year, the azaleas begin to bloom around the city, celebrating, with vivid pinks and lavenders, the entry of spring, my favorite season. From my window this morning, I see that it’s going to be a clear day; the thought of a warming sun makes me feel good about things, hopeful.

Music gives me that same sense of hope. And if you’re like me, a good song can completely change your day. I’ll easily listen to a great song over and over – possibly a dozen times – in order to help my mind rebuild a tired and anxious spirit. And like a change of seasons, music opens up my mind to possibilities and helps to infuse my body and my spirit with energy.

Think about your own experiences with personal energy. Consider first the things that create energy for you, and then those that exhaust it. Think back on a time or an instance in your life when you may have been terribly excited and unable to sleep. Have you ever had a thought or an idea that kept you up at night? What about love or an important relationship? Has the thought of someone ever made you abound with energy? Does a relationship, or even a good conservation, make you feel renewed and alive? Such, I believe, is the nature of the mind and energy, that feeling energetic is much more a product of thinking than it is of the body itself.

Day 29 Guide

Spring is upon us. It’s a great season to make positive changes in your life. To feel energized, listen to some great music, go to a movie, or talk to someone you enjoy.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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March 2005 ~ Day 30 Experience

Unlike most other plants, trees collect their experiences year by year to create rings, each marking a single year of its maturity and growth. Count a tree’s rings and you’ve essentially determined her age.

The ring pattern also says a good bit about the historical weather patterns of its home: wide rings generally indicate a summer with plenty of sun and rain, whereas narrow rings tell of a short growing season or one plagued with little rainfall. By comparing the rings of a sample of trees within a particular geography, scientists essentially infer what the area has historically experienced in terms of weather.

I love trees. And I guess partly so because they stay with us for such a long time. It distresses me to see an old tree cut down. So many we’re familiar with have lived well over a century, pleasing even some of our own ancestors.

The live oak is such an example of a long-lived tree. The landscapes of South Carolina’s low country as well as Georgia’s coastal towns, like Savannah or Brunswick, are replete with these specimens. And many of those left standing actually pre-date the Revolutionary War. The live oak is Georgia’s state tree, symbolic of the “old south’s” agricultural heritage. The white oak and the sycamore are two more of my favorites – the white oak for its stateliness and interesting lobed leaves, and the sycamore for its massive size and huge leaves.

Day 30 Guide

Today, think about the importance of your experiences and your natural tendency to acquire and hold on to things that help you understand life. In my opinion, the most interesting people are those who bear the battle scars of life. Let this knowledge help you make it through hard times. Today, live.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
March 2005 ~ Day 31 Faith

Imagine a life spent thinking that nothing could be awesome, that the first steps of a baby or of a man on the moon are steps just like any other. Or imagine a life spent never loving, never feeling the presence of a special relationship to warm the heart and sometimes even leaving it wanting.

Imagine a life spent never caring, a life that would consider this to be a world void of opportunity and goodness — where only the sands of time are lost, and the days lead to nothing. Or imagine a life spent never believing that there is anything beyond this world and that life — here and now — is all there is.

Such is the life that lacks faith in the mysteries that animate and satisfy a hungry spirit. Such is the life that lacks breath, and such is the life to pity.

Day 31 Guide

Friends, be not afraid. But today, live with good intention.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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