Daily Guide — November 2005


 Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 1 Hope



I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed,
every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low,
the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will
be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and
all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the
South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the
mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling
discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

 — Marin Luther King:  excerpt from “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963

Hope is the energy that accompanies a dream. A dream without hope is hollow and frail — a whisp that at once lives but then quickly dies. The fragrance of a dream is made up of those images brought forth in the mind of a hope made real.

Day 1 Guide

Hope is the fire that brings the dream to life. It fortifies the images in one’s mind and presents a future reality that is not only desirable but also possible.

Dream big, my friend. And be full of hope.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 2 Experience



I think that the greatest experience one can have is to love and be loved.

Listen to the words of the song “Nature Boy” written by Eden Ahbez and sung by Nat King Kole.

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

Eden Ahbez’s experience of life was much different from yours or mine. He and his beloved wife Anna spent most of their nights in sleeping bags under the stars in California. And according to Ahbez himself, the poem/song “Nature Boy” is a self-portrait — a depiction of his life and his philosophy of life.

I enjoy the simplicity and the forceful presence of the song’s soft and beautiful message. Is not love the greatest thing?

Day 2 Guide

Today, love those in your closest circles – your friends and family.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 3 Faith



Sometimes my most deeply held beliefs are easily clouded over — supplanted by transient thoughts and concerns of the day. The general noise of life easily cripples my deeper feelings of love, wonder, and connection, leaving me feeling lost and alone, as if I’m wandering in a desert. In such barren times I look for wormholes of escape – cues and snippets of beauty that arouse my spirit and fill my soul with cool, fresh water.

Last night, I found such beauty in the eyes of my fourteen-year old son. As we were talking, I saw in him a fresh and pure desire to become a man. I saw the sweet energy of youth striving to understand and to fit in. I saw in him the beautiful human longing for connection. Last night, I saw things that brought tears to my eyes and led me out of the desert.

Day 3 Guide

Restoration begins at the core of your being, the nature of your soul that understands the language of love and the need for relationship. Recognizing beauty means that you make yourself vulnerable and available and set aside your mental distractions. Today try to find a bit of peace and quiet, a time to relax and turn your mind towards the higher things.

© 2005, Levi Hill


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Days 4-6 Progress



I guess I was about twelve years old when my father bought me this neat model airplane at a local hobby shop. Unlike the models I’d worked on before, this one was made of balsa wood, not plastic. It looked like it was going to be hard to build. And it was. Really, there is no way that I could’ve put that plane together by myself. But I’m sure my father knew that before he bought it; he knew this was going to be a team project.

Because it was going to take a while to assemble, we decided that the attic would be the best place for us to work. So it was there that we set up a card table and started laying out the pieces.

Seeing everything spread out on the table, I could tell then that it would definitely be my father and not I who would be doing most of the building. But that was okay. I just enjoyed watching the progress and being with my father. For several months, we worked on that plane whenever we had the time. I would help read the instructions and find pieces while he used a razor knife to shave some of the wooden parts before gluing them up.

I remember watching as the plane took shape and thinking of just how smart my father was. The last couple of steps in the construction were to put the “skin” on the plane and then paint it. My father knew exactly what he was doing. He told me that he’d put together balsa wood models when he was a boy and that he was familiar with all of the steps.

After several months of work, the plane was painted and ready for the final delicate step of applying the decals. I remember my father announcing the job complete when he’d carefully put the last U.S. Air Force insignia on the plane’s wing. With the job finished, my father helped me to hang it in my room, and there it remained for the next thirty years. It was a beautiful reminder of a father/son project well done.

Days 4-6 Guide

Most of the time, meaningful progress demands patience. Things just don’t all come at once. The spirit of Joyous Gard is one of enduring patience, and the construction of the place of Joyous Gard is a work in progress.

© 2005, Levi Hill

(My “war-torn” plane after thirty years of hanging in my room)


Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 7 The Sense of Beauty



Who’s leading your life? You are. Right? It could be said that in many ways you are directing your own affairs — that you’re in charge. But wait a minute. Think about the things over which you have absolutely no control. Think about something as common as the rain.

I remember a time this past summer when the rain fell relentlessly for two weeks. The skies would give no hint of sunshine, and I found myself fighting back personal anger over the situation. I thought to myself, “If I were in charge, I’d put a stop to that immediately!”

In some ways, leading in life really seems to be more about giving up on the things over which you have no control, trying instead to attend to the things that you can influence and change. The world presents many personal challenges, often times raining down hard things at the worst times. And I believe that God smiles upon an effort to resist a paralyzing anger and seek beauty instead. The soldier of Joyous Gard lays down his arms and becomes that seeker with a mind towards higher things.

For believers in the Gard, a relentless rain becomes the proving ground for a watchful and wanting spirit. When blue skies veiled by a curtain of darkness no longer inspire and delight, the soldier-turned-seeker becomes more alert, standing guard for the signs of God’s presence. I believe that God uses even our intentions to further His plan, answering our search with delicate precision.

Day 7 Guide

The world has a way of numbing the senses and masking the things that would otherwise help carry your thoughts beyond. Look out into the world today and search for examples of beauty hidden among the shadows. Look at people and events; look at the tracks of your own life.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 8 The Principle of Beauty



An Eye for Detail

If I were to paint a room, my interest would be more in painting the walls than the trim. I feel more comfortable with broad brush stokes than I do with the small, precise strokes needed for trim work. It’s really the way I am about most things, finding it hard to tend to the details of life.

But beauty is often times hidden in the small things – things that are easily overlooked and forgotten. Something as simple as a smile, a phone call, or a note can change a person’s day. A prayer, a wish, or a single ounce of hope can lead a life out of desperation and into the light. A mind for beauty must be made sensitive; it must be available to recognize the fertile beginnings of something really big.

Day 8 Guide

If you’re anything like me, your mind is tuned for the big stuff. You’ve got to change your level of attention to search for the small things that bring unique and beautiful instances of light to your spirit. Today, turn your mind away from the headlines and pay attention instead to the sights and sounds that you would normally block out. Listen to the birds, or count the number of times you hear the sound of laughter in a single day.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 9 Life



Though I wasn’t much of basketball player in middle school, I tried out for the seventh-and-eighth grade team and made it. Mostly, I was just a benchwarmer – one of those players who would sit and nervously await a call from the coach to go in the game. But I would go in only when there was no possible way for the team to win or lose. The game, in other words, would never hinge on my play.

I remember the first time the coach called my name. Our opponents that day were as tall as redwoods, and they were beating us unmercifully. Down thirty points, with a minute left on the clock, our team was headed for a certain loss, and I knew that this was the perfect time to put “Hill” in the game. My stomach was tied in knots when I heard the call.

I ran out on the court to replace one of my tired teammates who had played most of the game. And since I’d not yet played that day, I was in good shape. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling pretty good about being in the game. My nerves settled down, and I even started to feel like time was passing too quickly; I wanted things to slow down a bit so that I’d have a chance to enjoy playing. But that was before I’d handled the ball.

A teammate finally passed me the ball, and I knew it was then up to me to either shoot it or pass it on. But the player guarding me was all in my face, his arms flying in every direction. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was holding on to a “hot potato” with no good option to get rid of it.

The only person I saw in the open was a referee. And that’s when I did the unthinkable. You guessed it: I threw the damned ball to the man in the striped shirt, the referee. And at that point, everything in life seemed to come to a screeching halt. The game seemed to stop, with me there on center stage.

The ball, after hitting the referee’s chest, fell to the floor bouncing. There was no whistle blown since the rules of play didn’t specifically forbid such a pass, and so the ball was still in play. But no one seemed to realize that, and for a moment, the players just stood there waiting for a ruling.

I’m sure that we all had good laugh after the game, but the sting of embarrassment held on for a while. I’m probably the only one among my old teammates who would remember that day. I view it as a “life-event” – just one of those many small experiences that helps to shape perspective and a healthy sense of humor.

Day 9 Guide

It’s good to find humor in your life. Look back with a lighthearted spirit and disrobe embarrassment with a good laugh.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 10 Ideas



When I was growing up, our family would sometimes travel to Terra Verde, Florida for summer vacation. As I remember, the town was full of flashy attractions that would capture the interest of any child.

We played miniature golf and went to a place called Tiki Gardens, which was full of all sorts of birds, tropical plants, and burning torches. But the place that I remember most distinctly was The London House of Wax — a great wax museum that housed the most realistic wax figures you’ve ever seen. We visited that place dozens of times, never growing tired of looking at the figure of Abraham Lincoln on his deathbed or the villains of history like Black Beard and Genghis Kahn.

Sometimes, the museum would change its displays by adding new figures or simply moving things around. On occasion, they would even place a live person somewhere in a display area, challenging, in effect, the guests to find him among the wax figures. The key to locating the hidden man was to look for slight movements or differences in skin tone and texture.

And then there was this other section in the museum called the Chamber of Horrors, where weird looking figures like Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein were displayed. I dared not enter that area alone, for fear that the live person may be hidden within.

Day 10 Guide

The mind is full of all sorts of ideas – ideas of things, of life, of people. Ideas of beauty flood the spirit with energy and feed the desire to move forward. Look out on the world with an eye for beauty and search for the things that bring you life.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Days 11-13 Poetry



Falling

Falling from this broken heart,

I caught the moon beneath my soul

And rode upon the stranger’s back

To find the one who loved me.

Searching ’round those starlit nights,

And calling worlds beyond my reach,

I found my heaven back at home

Had truly never left me.

Days 11-13 Guide

Much of the time, life’s most precious things are easily within your grasp. Spend little time searching about, but look close to home instead.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 14 Poetry and Life



 “Get yourself organized, Levi.” That’s what a successful South Georgia businessman told me some twenty years ago when I asked for his advice. “Organized?” I thought. “What’d he mean by that?” Oddly enough, that statement has remained with me all these years, but I no longer question his meaning. Instead, I try to do just what he said: “get organized.”

Now, I’m sure that I haven’t followed his prescription exactly; In fact, I may have even hijacked the original meaning and applied it more to my thinking than my daily activities. I mean, just one look at my office and you’d probably wonder if I’d ever heard of the word organization. But I spend a lot of time in the field of thought, looking out on life and trying to put things in order. For me, the term organization means making sense out of life.

I see the big picture of the human design as one of learning, loving, and doing — a life that demonstrates growth and maturity but then declines and ends eventually in death. The big picture represents what you might call a “biographical account” of life.

The small picture, on the other hand, has more to do with the daily cycles of restoration, replenishment, and organization. It’s about the struggles of trying to get better every day, about doing those things that revitalize and energize the mind and the body. It’s about seeking beauty and bringing to mind the things that delight and motivate. The small picture of design has to do with emotional control and desire.

Beauty and love, I believe, are the key switches in bringing the mental “lights back up.” Those connections that tie us to others and then to the world must be confirmed and restored daily. The spirit of Joyous Gard is one that often visits the gilded halls and returns to the world alert and renewed.

Day 14 Guide

Days don’t often begin beautifully. You must make them so.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 15 Art



Daniel

In the blink of an eye,

A whispered breath

Passed this world

To still the noise.

By the weight of a thought

He moved my soul,

And gave my hope

A certain poise.

With hands of a boy

He lifted me high,

Gathered my doubts

And cast them aside.

With the slightest of smiles

He drew me near,

And left this song

Upon my ear:

“That he who fears

Shall never live,

And he that lives

Shall never die.”

Day 15 Guide

Look about and consider life to be a work of art, painted by the presence of spirit on the canvas of time and space.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 16 Art and Morality



Manly loved to make wooden bowls; he always kept his eyes open for an unusual piece of wood — like hickory or walnut — that was knotted or slightly flawed. Chucking the wood piece into his woodturning lathe, Manly would begin to shave and shape the wood into the final product. And though he would always begin with a rough idea for the bowl’s shape, that itself was subject to change depending on what he discovered in the underlying integrity of the wood. Working around knots and burls presented the challenge that Manly seemed to like. He knew that the defects would make the project interesting and the bowl beautiful.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed that it was the nature of man to be a maker of things – an artist of sorts. I believe that creativity is the basic human capacity to demonstrate one’s deeply felt sense of life.

Manly viewed life just as he did making bowls. He looked out in the world and saw beauty in its defects. He saw that with a bit of work he could create something better and beautiful – something pleasing to the eye.

Day 16 Guide

Look out in the world. What do you see? Look for opportunities to turn the defects into meaningful events or creations. Think like an artist and delight in finding things that are out of kilter or asymmetrical.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Days 17-20 Interpretation



Magic

There’s magic in looking out on the world and finding beauty. Awareness and familiarity evoke memories of other times, people, and places, all hidden within the recesses of the mind. And such memories transform one’s psychology and offer transport to the world of imagination.

The spirit of Joyous Gard is intent on drawing clues from the world around in order to create frames of beauty. Those of the Gard know beauty as a “created pleasure.” While people travel similar paths, they generate different experiences. The appeal of a winter sunset, for example, isn’t automatic but rather created in the mind of the spectator.

Days 17-20 Guide

It’s important to develop multiple channels of finding beauty in the world. The practice of creating the pleasure of beauty is one that demands the use of your imagination.

Seek, my friend, the strings of connectivity in the world. Be alert and watch for elements that arouse meaningful thoughts and images.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 21 Education



Young souls need direction. They need teachers, who by their posture and perspective on life, indirectly pass along something that cannot be directly taught. Young people are looking for the “real thing,” aren’t they? They want to find out what is at the heart of a person, what makes him tick. But youth is also shortsighted and many times holds on to the wrong idea of the way things work. Children sometimes have silly ideas of what’s important in life. They’re just kids; what should we expect?

One strain of teaching that I think is important, especially for youth, is that which leads to the search for beauty. It’s important for these young people to see us “older folks” still searching for something that gives us that youthful desire and excitement. They should know that growing up doesn’t mean “giving up,” and that there is in life this eternal glow of loveliness that we continue to seek as long as we live.

The general business and strains of life may sometimes mask this search, and even we, who don’t intend it, end up teaching the wrong lessons. “They need to know what it’s like in the real world,” we say. Well, what is the real world? In my opinion, it is actually the life beyond what we find on the surface. The “real world” is the world of love and relationship; it’s the world of purpose and divine direction. It is the world of beauty.

Day 21 Guide

Speak more often about the greater things in life, allowing the general business of the world to simply pass on by, like water in a stream. Think of the eternal; we should teach our children about the principles of love and beauty and how they, not the general affairs of the world, support and govern the most important leanings in life.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 22 Knowledge



Seekers of the Gard treasure a special knowledge: the knowledge of familiar landscapes and of things that were, the knowledge of relationships beautifully bound by love and friendship, the knowledge of who we are and what we are to learn.

It is by such that the pathways of beauty are forged in the mind — where suspended therein are images of times and places waiting to release a freshness and vitality that makes the future bright and hopeful.

Day 22 Guide

Think of the things that move you to action. Consider the memories of times and places in life that move your spirit, and develop the mental habit of often traveling down these paths.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Days 23-27 Growth



The dull ache of worry or anxiety closes the door of the spirit, and the thoughts that once led you into the light of day seem old and worn down; the newness is gone and all of your efforts go simply into keeping your head above water.

In times such as these you need a recovery plan to restore your sense of beauty and make things come alive again. And while you may not feel up to it, you must take action to sweeten the sound of your music and heighten your sense of pleasure.

I find that my mind is sometimes able to quickly recover from what seems to be such a burdensome mess. And on the days when little seems to go right, I trust that knowledge and do my best to search for an escape route. I pay careful attention to the subtle elements in my environment – the sounds and sights, the air and the light. I look for cues that might bring to mind warm memories and thoughts of hopeful tomorrows. I look for something to anticipate.

Days 23-27 Guide

Trust your mind’s ability to rebound from the burden of hopeless feelings. Use this holiday season as an opportunity to energize your mind and renew your spirit.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 28 Emotion



Emotion or intellect

Look within and consider how you view life. Do you sense a healthy balance in your perspective? Or are you captive to your emotions? Maybe you’re generally indifferent and view your days and activities just as you would general business affairs– with little regard to the emotions.

Is there a way to face life with both emotional and intellectual discernment? I think so. The mind On Gard is a mind alert to beauty and the many connections that call to be answered. The intellect directs attention and seeks the pathways of pleasure, and the emotions in turn respond with the fruit of energy and happiness.

It’s quiet and dark when I wake up in the morning — a peaceful and perfect time to think and develop ideas and plans. But it’s not until I arouse my emotions that I have the energy or even the mind for planning. Ideas begin to flow as my imagination carries me to places far away. I find that music is an ideal platform from which to launch my efforts. Writing may also begin the process – writing in a journal or writing to engage a particular thought, much as I’m doing right now.

Day 28 Guide

Use your emotions to provide the energy for thought. Consider the many ways that you might light the fire of emotion to stir the sleeping mind.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Day 29 Memory



Film

According to a recent television show concerning film preservation, most of the old, original celluloid films are at risk. Even if they have been stored and cleaned properly over the years, the old film will eventually lose its integrity and essentially decay or crumble in the can.

The film itself has two components: one containing the images, or frames, of the film and the other, the sound or “the voice.” Both are at risk, but the voice, I believe, is usually the first to degrade.

Thankfully, film preservationists have recognized the time-sensitive nature of film and are hard at work to digitally record and re-master many of these old films. But despite their efforts, many films will unfortunately be lost in the winds of time.

Memory

Memories, like film, sometimes fade or decay over time, as do the emotions that follow along with the images or thoughts of earlier days. It’s important, I believe, to preserve – as best you can – your memories; writing is an ideal way to capture the frames of the past.

“I remember when…”

That’s how most memories are replayed, isn’t it? We remember life in terms of stories or events — scenes. And to remember those scenes is also to recall the associated emotions. The memory, therefore, stirs not only images but also feelings. And while the images may be of past experiences, the emotions elicited are real and present. They affect us today.

Day 28 Guide

Begin the habit of preserving your memories by writing about your experiences and your life’s stories. You’ll find writing to be a wonderful way to engage your mind and stir the wonderful feelings associated with old times.

© 2005, Levi Hill



Joyous Gard: Daily Guide               
November 2005 ~ Days 30 Retropsect



Looking back, I’ve always been a terrible finisher. I’ll do what many would say is the hard part — getting started. But then I’ll fizzle out and lose interest. I remember my parents always being supportive in my efforts. But I also recall them quietly waiting for me to quit whatever I started.

I took guitar lessons for a while. I actually enjoyed the guitar and was making good progress. But I quit for the summer and never went back. I joined Boy Scouts at age fourteen. My parents bought me all the gear — backpacks, uniforms, a compass, a mess kit and a sleeping bag. One rainy camping trip was all it took for me to decide that Scouting just wasn’t for me. I promptly quit. I took piano lessons as an adult for about seven years. I was enjoying my progress. But I got busy with children and my business, and then, well, I just quit. It’s a common trail I’ve left: to quit early.

What holds me back? Why do I have such a hard time finishing what I start? Surprisingly, these questions of my own personality are stirring me even today to meet the challenge of “staying the course” and proving to myself that I am able to finish. My weakness, I hope, will somehow prove to be the goad that spurs me on and motivates me to hang in there for the long haul.

Day 30 Guide

Look back over your life and identify the weaknesses that have been common threads in your personality. Are there things that you’d like to conquer or overcome? What are they? Think of how you might turn your weaknesses into the very wings that help you fly.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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