Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Apollo 8



This evening as I was watching the evening news, one of the spots was on the Christmas Eve orbit of Apollo 8 around the moon. This was the first time that a spacecraft from planet Earth had come into lunar orbit. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders closed their broadcast that evening with each of them reading a passage from the book of Genesis. One of those men on that flight was Bro. Frank Borman. What beauty was shown to humanity that evening as we humans here on earth actually saw for the first time the handiwork of God in creating Mother Earth.

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts; Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders did a live television broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and Moon seen from Apollo 8. Lovell said, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth." They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

William Anders:

"For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you".

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."


Jim Lovell:

"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."


Frank Borman:

"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."


Borman then added, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863



The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln


I read this proclamation from President Lincoln and see so so many similarities with our country today as it was 145 years ago. Although we do not have armed conflict within our borders between one another, we have another conflict which may be even more damaging than that which our great Republic endured so many years ago.

We have the conflict among ourselves of one segment of society against another. The past few months have shown the foolishness of our excessive greed and I unfortunately fear that it will get worse before it gets better. Our society has consumed way more than it could produce...we have all tried our best to have it all. Instead, we should have been concentrating on helping one another. That it was one of the real joys of the holiday season to me, is helping those who are less fortunate than myself. If only I can bring a small measure of happiness to a family or a small children, then I have accomplished the true meaning of Christmas.

The Great Architect of the Universe has bestowed upon each of us his bountiful abundance and mercy. Look upon yourself and share that abundance and mercy with your fellow brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bro. Carl Killinger 32 KCCH


Yesterday morning I was reading the paper and happened to see that Bro. Karl Killinger had passed to the Grand Lodge Above. Although I did not know Bro. Karl well, I had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple occassions. What a wonderful friend and brother. He and I had visited at High Twelve luncheons. He was also so friendly and gracious. The thing that I will remember about Karl (besides his wonderful music) was that he always had a smile.

Last year I attended the Iowa Veterans Band concert held the Sunday before Veterans Day at the Civic Center...what a treat. Karl was there in his white dinner jacket so ably conducting. This is an outstanding concert that is held each year. It was probably the best concert that I had ever attended...the music is simply oustanding. Karl Klllinger was the heart and soul of these concerts. I thought it was very appropriate that he had passed the day after the 2008 concert. One more concert by the maestro.

Karl was also a brother of our gentle craft. He was very active in the Consistory band and also in the Shrine Band.

I can also see Bro. Karl when he got to heaven asking where is my baton. The sweet sounds of the heavens now ring with the lovely music of Bro. Karl Killinger. Well done my brother, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Exercise Your Freedoms Tomorrow



Tomorrow is a big day in our country. A day when we as Americans go to the voting booth and exercise our freedom as Americans to elect our next leader. Irregardless rather you a Democrat, Republican, or Independent exercise the freedom which men have died to protect for you throughout the history of our country. This is what blood has been spilled for...the right for each of us as Americans to enjoy the freedoms and rights that we have. It will be a history day for the United States of America. Be a part of it!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Masonic Pins



I read a blog the other day about a special gift that one brother had given to another brother...it was a beautiful display box to display various Masonic pins and jewels. If you are not a Mason you probably do not understand all those various jewels and pins that we brothers seem to collect. My jewelry box seems to be full of various pins and jewels and now I have added another couple boxes on my dresser that seemingly have filled themselves with various Masonic memorabilia.

I get a bad time from my wife about all my "Masonic Junk" as she refers to it, but what does it mean to me. I look through those pins and jewels and I think of stories behind each of them, rather it be from times that I served as a presiding officer (such as my Past Master, Past High Priest, Past Illustrious, Past Commander, and Past Patron jewels) or rather it be various lapel pins representing various potentates and Grand Masters. Each has a story to tell and memories to be thought of.

I think down the road to the day when I am an old man (anyhow hopefully I'll get to that point) and wonder if I'll be able to sit down in my rocking chair and go through those pins and jewels and remember all of the happy times that I had with various brother. Hopefully, yes I will.

So my brothers, keep collecting those pins and jewels. You are building your Masonic memories for your old age!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Masonic Memories



I was looking at the pictures that were posted on Bro. Jay Simser's blog regarding the pumpkin carving contest that Arcadia Lodge #249 in Ames held this past weekend. I must say there are some very talented "pumpkin carvers" in Ames...I noted the pumpkins with the square and compass and the one with the cross and crown...how ingenious.

What I particularly noticed most of all was how it looked like everyone (adults and kids) had a fun afternoon. I'm sure those kids will have lots of happy memories from that afternoon. That is oftentimes what is missing in our Masonic lodges, those fun and happy memories for our families.

I used to work with a guy who still talked about the Christmas parties at the Masonic Temple in Rochester, Minnesota where he grew up. Jim fondly recalled the times that he went to these parties with his grandpa and grandma who were both in the fraternity through the lodge and OES. Jim could still remember these fun times back almost 60 years. In my lodge, I have heard some of the old timers talk about rolling the carpet up in the lodge room and having dances.

This is what Masonry needs to get back to. It used to be the lodge and the church were the two main focus points in people's lives. Maybe we need to do some "refocusing" back to those two institutions of our communities.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gold Cards



Today I mailed the "gold cards" for my lodge. The "gold card" Masonically speaking is not what you might think. In Iowa anyhow, it is a dues receipt that we send annually to our 50 year brothers marked "paid in full". The "gold" comes from the color of the paper the receipt is printed on.

The first time that I ever heard of a "gold card" was about 5 years ago. Bro. Pete Paschal, PGM left a note on my desk at the lodge and inquired about his gold card. Okay I thought I know what a gold card is, but why is Pete wanting a credit card from the Secretary of his Masonic lodge. I also fondly think of that this time of the year when I'm getting ready to send this receipts out. After a little research, I found out that in Iowa, 50 year members get a special dues receipt each year acknowledging that they are a 50 year member.

When I receive these from the Grand Lodge Office and prepare them to be sent out, I always think of the committment that these brothers have made to Masonry by belonging to a Masonic lodge for 50+ years. Some of them have been active in a variety of capacities, including serving as Worshipful Master. Some have probably never spent much time back in the lodge after the night they raised, but nevertheless these brothers apparently still were proud to be Masons as evidenced by paying dues for 50 years. A remarkable committment indeed. Hopefully these brothers who were not active, still remembered their Masonic teachings and practiced them in their daily lives.

A 50 year committment to Freemasonry, something that each of us can learn from and strive to emulate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dewey Readmore Books



Yesterday I purchased a book that has really touched my heart: "Dewey Readmore Books...the Small Town Library Cat That Touched the World." I read about this book in last Sunday's Des Moines Register and it just so happened that my local book store had it in the front window yesterday when I walked by, so I could not resist.

Dewey, a beautiful orange colored cat was the "resident in charge" of the Spencer Community Library. Someone had deposited him in the night drop back on a cold winter night in January of 1988. He was rescued by the library director and for the next 18 years he was the "king" of Spencer's library.

It was a very touching biography of a wonderful animal that touched the hearts of literally thousands of people not only just in Spencer, Iowa but also around the world as he became famous around the globe and his story was told in many lands abroad.

I have to admit that I laughed in some places and cried in others reading this book. I have a real soft spot in my heart when it comes to animals. I know without a doubt that they understand us far more than we understand them. The old saying "mans' best friend" applies to not only just dogs, but also to cats and other animals as well. I lost my dog a couple of years ago and in August I lost my cat. Princess and I definately communicated. She knew she was loved very much.

I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately about getting a new pet. I keep going to the animal rescue league (I want to bring them all home). My wife is not an animal lover and I guess that is what makes the decision harder. I would like to have another dog, but I am gone a lot so maybe that is not fair to a dog. I have always had an animal as part of my life (ever since my first dog at age 10). Even before that I remember going to my grandparent's farm and always playing with the baby farm animals and the kittens. God put those little four legged friends on earth to help ease some of the pains and cares of our daily lives and to bring us joy.

Dewey...you touched another heart today. Your work continues reaching out and bring happines and joy. May you rest in peace, my friend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

David Dryer



Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending the reception of R.E. Sir Knight David M. Dryer, Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Iowa. It was a honor for me to go to Des Moines that evening to honor such a hard working Mason. There are definately a lot of brothers out there who are real "troopers" in the quarries of Freemasonry, but David has to be one of the best. How he keeps everything straight is beyond me. He has revitalized the Des Moines York Rite Bodies into probably the strongest York Rite in Des Moines.

He never seems to get discouraged, but is always "encouraging" others to keep fighting and building. Last evening I was in Marshalltown for the stated meeting of St. Aldemar Commandery #30. We had the pleasure of receiving David. He gave a very good talk at the conclusion of the meeeting. One thing that I admire about David is that he is always promoting all of Freemasonry...the Symbolic Lodge, the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite. In his talk last evening, he mentioned Templar Park which used to be up at Okoboji. Although it is no longer there, David still wants to honor it as a part of his year as Grand Commander. I thought that was a really neat idea.

Here's to a great friend and brother. Have a great year as Grand Commander. You are one of the truly bright spots in Freemasonry in Iowa.

Philadephia Masonic Temple


I was recently in Philadelphia to attend a CPCU meeting and I have the wonderful opportunity of visiting the Philadelphia Masonic Temple...what a gem! It was definately the most beautiful and ornate Masonic building that I had ever been in.

The building was completed in the early 1870s. It has 7 huge lodge rooms in it. Most of these rooms are the size of the main auditorium in the Des Moines Scottish Rite Consistory building. Probably my favorite was the Egyptian room since it was so unusual in character. The Temple also has a wonderful museum in it. I got to see one of George Washington's Masonic aprons and also several items that had belonged to Benjamin Franklin. I will have to say thought that there library definately paled in comparison to the library of the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

The building is going through a renovation (tuck pointing) on the outside so it was covered with scaffolding from top to bottom, so didn't really get much of a view of the outside of the building. I did get to meet the wife of the Grand Master though! She was in the gift shop. Her husband just happened to be somewhere up on the building inspecting some of the tuck pointing she noted. The Grand Master of Pennsylvania serves a two year term and is called "Right Worshipful" instead of "Most Worshipful".

While I was there I had the opportunity to visit Robert Pemberton Lodge #487 for two first degrees. Robert Pemberton was a Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Mayor of Philadelphia and one of the driving forces in building the Philadelphia Masonic Temple. That was very interesting, definately very different than Iowa ritual. I sat next to Bro. John Bratz (a 60 year member and Past Master of #487). He and I had a really nice visit. He was quite a guy. During the degree, I kept hearing him muttering the ritual and everyone once in awhile he would have to give someone a prompt.

The thing that always strikes me when I visit a lodge outside of Iowa is how warmly you are received...that is the true beauty of Freemasonry in my estimatation. Wherever we go in the world, we can find brothers of our great fraternity who enjoy being in one another's company. Pennsylvania was the fifth state (other than Iowa) where I have sat in lodge. It is a neat experience to have when traveling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Honors Banquet

Last evening the Des Moines Valley hosted an Honors Banquet for the members who had attained the KCCH and Inspector General Honorary 33rd. It was a very gracious and special evening. The Knights of St. Andrew (KSA) are to be commended for serving as our hosts. I am so happy and glad to see a KSA group finally getting off the ground in Des Moines. I had wanted to see that happen and to be a part of it and now I can't be a member of it!

The food and fellowship last evening were great. I had great table mates...Bros. Eldon Walton, Greg Anderson, John Clearman, Jr. Sharp, and Charlie Brinkerhoff. By the personalitities present at my table, you can see I had a good time. Bro. Greg Van Vark did an oustanding job as Sovereign Commander of KCCH. I know he was nervous about his recitation, but as usual he did an outstanding job. A great evening indeed. Masonry needs more events like this, especially in our Blue Lodges.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good Bye My Friend

Yesterday the Masons of Iowa came together at the Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple to say good bye to our good friend, Bro. George Carr. Bro. George would have been happy to see so many good friends joined together enjoying one another's company. He would have been mingling throughout the room, greeting the assemblage with his infectious grin. Even though George may not have been physically present with us, his spirit was certainly there with us. It was a good party George, you would have been proud and happy.

George Carr was one of those individuals who certainly earned the title of being a member of the "Greatest Generation". He had served his country, his family, and his fraternity with distinction and untiring devotion. I have been a Scottish Rite Mason for almost ten years. It seemed like almost every event that I went to at the Scottish Rite over these past few years, I saw George. He always made it a point to meet and greet everyone that was there. He made you feel welcome and that you were special and he was glad to see you.

George's work through the Iowa Scottish Rite Foundation helped so many people further their educations and improve their lives. Gary Sissel made the comment yesterday that George was really the man behind the throne. Others may have been officially wearing the mantel of responsibility, but it was George who many often looked to for leadership and guidance.

At yesterdays' ceremony, George's family had to be impressed as the Double Eagle Chorus sang "The Rose", as Bro. Bob Speed played the wonderful organ, as the assemblage of brothers filed past George's picture to deposit the evergreen, and finally as the brethren circled the auditorium and sang "Auld Lang Syne" in George's honor. It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man.

George, we are going to miss you. I will think of you every time I walk through those imposing bronze doors of the Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple. Your spirit will always be with those that knew you. You were an inspiration to all of us who knew you...your spirit will inspire us to work for the beliefs that you so earnestly toiled for.

Farewell my brother. Your work was well and faithfully done. Rest well until we too shall be joined together in the Grand Lodge Above.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Specialis Procer...Our First Degree

Last evening the members of Specialis Procer Lodge U.D. conferred our first degree on Bro. Kevin Hoffman. Generally one would think that the first degree conferred by a new lodge would be the Entered Apprentice, but we Gnemeth Lodge in West Des Moines allowed us to confer the Master Mason degree on Bro. Kevin.

Bro. Kevin is the real life brother of our Senior Warden, Bro. Kurt Hoffman...now these young men are not only real life brothers, but also Masonic brothers. Kurt had the honor of raising his brother to the sublime degree of a Master Mason...that is something that I'm sure is not common. Bro. Randy Simmons conferred the degree and Bro. Tim Bonney portrayed King Solomon in the second section. This was Tim's first time being K.S. and he did a great job. I know he had some jitters...I remember my first time!

Kevin will be moving to Florida today to go to college. I do hope that he seeks out a lodge in Florida to attend.

As I sat in the Senior Warden's chair last night, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. One of the thoughts that I had was how this was another "first" for Specialis Procer. Some day somebody will read the minutes of the lodge and read about the first degree that we conferred and wonder what the evening was like. Another thought that I had was how cool and refreshing the air was that was coming through the open windows (at least for the first part of the evening). How many times do we go to a degree anymore and the windows are open with the breeze drifting through with the sounds of the outer world in the background. I thought about George Carr last evening. George would have been proud to have seen us raising a new brother to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in his beloved Scottish Rite Temple, a place he dearly loved. I also thought of the committment level to FreeMasonry that was exhibited in that room. The brothers that were there last evening live Masonry every single day. I also set there and thought about what Bro. Kurt has contributed in the short time that he has been a member of our gentle craft. This young man has contributed more in the past few months than a lot of our brothers do in their entire lifetime. It is refreshing to see a young man so committed and so understanding of what Freemasonry is really all about.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Masonic Committment

I had a couple things happen to me today that has made me think about Masonic committment...maybe even committment in general. This morning a good friend of mine called me with some frustrations. He was installed as a Grand Chapter officer of the Royal Arch Masons of Iowa on Friday afternoon. He is a past Grand Lodge Officer and this was his first Grand Chapter appointment.

He told me that he was disillusioned with the "whole thing" in Cedar Rapids. The individual who had asked him to be an officer did not even have the courtesy to introduce himself to this junior officer or for that matter have an officers meeting prior to the installation and introduce the officers to each other and to tell them what is expected of them during their upcoming year. This junior officer had to go up and introduce himself to the presiding officer. The junior officer told me he felt he was rudely treated. Is this merely a case of finding someone to fill the chair or are we seriously committed to be a Masonic leader. I also heard at Grand Chapter that we would not have representation from Iowa at the upcoming Triannium in Indianapolis at the end of August. Maybe this is true, maybe not. I do know that one past grand high priest is going, but shouldn't some of our current officers be also attenidng.

Is it merely just getting that jewel hanging around our neck and that title behind our name? No, that should be the least of any Masonic leaders' concerns. Leading the organizing is what should be first and foremost. Where are our leaders? Anywhere??

This afternoon I drove golf carts at the State Fair. I usually try and drive a couple shifts. The proceeds go to the Transportation Fund and to the Shrine Hospitals. Hopefully my efforts this afternoon will have netted at least a $100 for those causes. While I was taking a break one of the fellow drivers and I was talking about those nobles who have not paid their dues (approximately 100) who will be suspended later on this year if they have not paid up. Jerry made the comment that he thought people thought they needed to be "entertained". We do a fairly good job selling and getting them in and then they are dropped for NPD because they have not been "entertained".

I don't know if "entertained" is the right word or not. I think it is simply a lack of committment. When you take those obligations on the Holy Bible in your Blue Lodge, so many people think they are just words. They need to go back and revisit those obligations...they are obligations, not mere words. It is the same in any of the other organizations as well. If you can't make the committment, then do the honorable thing, pay your dues and leave in good standing. At least that way you have left in good terms with the fraternity. People can't even do that. That don't even think of the committment to their fellow brothers.

Lack of committment is not merely just in Masonic bodies. Wherever we look we see it...home, family, job, church, spouse. I read Bro. Jay's blog tonight and he talks about "microwave mentality"...I am begining to think that maybe society as a whole has been in the micrwowave too long. It is zapped. It is time that we get back to honor and integrity...a man's word is his word.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mrs. Huigen

I saw in the Sunday paper where my first grade teacher, Mrs. Huigen passed away last Friday. It brought back a lot of memories of my first year of "all day" school with her clear back in 1967. It is hard to believe that was 41 years ago...am I getting old or what!

Mrs. Huigen was a great human being as well as being a great teacher. She was always so kind and treated all of her students in the same loving and caring manner. She was never strict and stern, but always guided her students with love, patience, and a caring attitude. She was almost like a second mom to her students.

One instance that I really remember from my year in her classroom was one time that she let me pretend that I was Santa Claus and I got to sit in this old captains' chair and hear what the other kids wanted for Christmas. Why this sticks in my mind after 41 years I don't know, but it does.

I last saw Mrs. Huigen a week ago at Park Center here in Newton. She was sitting in the lounge watching TV. I had went to see another friend there and I saw her in the lounge as I came and went. I wished I had stopped for just a few minutes to chat. I did so on occassion. I guess it reinforces that we should always take time for those special people in our lives, irregardless of how busy we might be with our comings and goings. Mrs. Huigen was 102. What a wonderful life she lead. She was a kind and gracious lady. She left her mark in this world. God Bless You Mrs. Huigen.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hope Lodge

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Cornerstone laying ceremony for the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge facility in Iowa City...WOW, What a neat place! I wore my commandery uniform down to the ceremony, so I could walk with the Sir Knights and form the arch of steel for the Grand Master. We had 29 Sir Knights in attendance, so it was a very nice showing. It has been a long time since I saw that many knights at a cornerstone ceremony.

The facility is located directly west of Hawkeye-Carver Arena. It is directly adjacent to a wooded area and is lower than the parking lot of Hawkeye-Carver, so it is somewhat secluded. The building is built to resemble a Frank Lloyd Wright "prairie style" architecture. The exterior is brick, stone, and wood. The builidng is three stories high, one story under grade level and the other two above.

After the ceremony, we were given a tour of the facility. There is going to be 29 suites in the building. No televisions in indivdual rooms, that is to force the patients out into group settings where they can mingle with other patients and their families. I was impressed with the woodwork in the building, it is all walnut. The fireplaces in the lounge areas are all built out of stone. One of the big lounge areas will be dedicated to the Masons of Iowa. It is a very spacious room with a big stone fireplace and a walkout to a deck area that looks into the trees. It is all so peaceful and serene.

The Iowa City facility has hired their first employee, a manager who had been on the job less than a week. They already have a waiting list of patients and are expecting to start receiving patients in late September.

I know Grand Master Mosier took some flack about his resolution for $250,000 to support Hope Lodge. Some in my own lodge were against it. I personally was for it. The Masons of Iowa need to get behind a big project that will help others out. That is part of what being a Mason is all about...helping your fellow human beings. Hope Lodge will be a wonderful facility and it will help many, many people during some difficult times in their lives.

The cornerstone by the front door impressed me. It had the square and compass engraved on it and then directly underneath said "Faith, Hope, and Charity". How neat. Faith by all who had the dream to build it; hope to sustain those will use it; and charity towards those who will use it and their families.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Iowa Shrine Bowl




This evening I attended the 2008 Shrine Bowl at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. I probably would not have gone and I not been asked by my employer to make a check presenation. Grinnell Mutual is one of the corporate sponsors. I actually got to make an on air presenation to Jerry Hoffman, General Manager of the Iowa Shrine Bowl....hope the check wasn't upside down when I presented it to Jerry!

The Shrine Bowl is a really neat experience for the football players, cheerleaders, and the coaches. They always get a trip to the Shrine Hospital in Minneapolis and in my estimation that is probably the neatest part of the whole Iowa Shrine Bowl. Jerry told me tonight that on Wednesday when they went up, the kids that were in the hospital went outdoors with the football players and the boys threw the football around for the kids and run a few plays for the kids to watch. Hopefully that trip to Minneapolis shows those kids how fortunate they are and also shows them the important of giving back to those who are less fortunate than themselves.

Practically all of these boys are seniors so this will be their last game as high school football players. What a memorable experience to end one's prep career. Hopefully all of them will remember it long after their football days are over.

The Shrine Children's Hospitals were founded in 1921 during the Imperial Session which was held in Des Moines. The hospitals are actually run under an Iowa corporation charter. That is something that we Iowa Shriners should be very proud of that such a wonderful organization was founded in our great state. What a wonderful legacy for us as brother Masons and Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Specialis Procer

Tonight I had the privilege of participating in a very unique Masonic ceremony...the birth of a new lodge. Formally it is called an institution ceremony, but essentially it is the creation of a new lodge with brothers working for the advancement of the ideals of Freemasonry.

Credit for this goes to my good friends and brothers: Kurt Hoffman, Tim Bonney, and Jay Cole Simser. This lodge will be a "lodge of restoration". I think of that term as a restoration of our Masonic souls. We will be here to celebrate and practice the philosophies of our gentle craft. We will learn together and from each other. We are not going to be "hung up" on the usual Masonic fare, but instead we will share festive boards together and learn through presentations and papers.

We will practice the ceremony of the chain of union prior to the close of our meetings and our initiates will contemplate in the chamber of reflection before entering upon the solemn and life changing degrees of Freemasonry.

I have had the pleasure of being asked to serve as Senior Deacon of this new lodge and am looking forward to the times that I will share with my brothers of Specialis Procer. We have many great and outstanding members already. Our future is bright and we strive to feed the hearts and souls of our brothers.

Here is to Specialis Procer!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Table Lodge

Last Friday night, Newton Lodge #59 had our first Table Lodge (at least the first that anyone could remember). Our lodge is 153 years old, so I guess it was about time that we got around to it.

We had 23 brothers join together for the evening at the DMACC/Sodexho Conference Center. I asked Bro. John Klaus to serve as our Toastmaster and what an outstanding job that he did (that is why I picked him...because I knew he would do an outstanding job). John explained some of the interesting history behind table lodges and explained the various toasts.

Bro. Jack Butler, Chair of the Committee on Divison & Reference, served as our Orator for the evening. Jack spoke about Masonic heroes and his dad happened to be there and Jack pointed him out as one of his heroes. There were several Masonic heroes there that evening: Bros. Madison Tomfeld, Alvin Rempp, and Francis Needham were certainly three that easily came to mind. Bro. Jay Cole Simser was another.

We toasted on locally produced wines from the Jasper Winery. Our meal was quite delicious.

There were a few snaffus...when I went over to DMACC at 4:00 p.m. (luckily I went over there) the room was set up totally wrong...in rounds instead of in a horseshoe shape and there was no one there to help rearrange the tables, so guess who did some hustling tables around. At 5:00 p.m. our Worshipful Master called and said he was coming as he was ill...okay now what do we do since one of the toasts was going to be to him.

I had wanted to have a table lodge in Newton for quite awhile. I thought it might be something different to appeal to the young guys. I only had two of them there. That was somewhat disappointing to me. I had advertised it in our lodge for the past three months. Do these brothers have hearing loss or have lost their reading abilities. Sometimes folks (including brothers) are a little bit "out there"!

Well, this was something that I had wanted to do. We did it. The next one (whenever that might be, probably after I'm dead) will be up to someone else. I bought my ticket for the one at Arcadia Lodge on July 18th. I'm looking forward to going up and spending a fun evening with the boys from Ames.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Sad Duty to Do




Yesterday my lodge lost one of our Past Masters. Worshipful Bro. Paul Peck was called to the Grand Lodge Above. Bro. Paul served as the Worshipful Master of Newton Lodge #59 in 1968. He was only about 9 months away from receiving hs 50 year certificate.

The Peck family was one of the pioneer families of Newton. Bro. Paul's dad, C.A. Peck served as W.M. back in 1921, Paul followed him 47 years later in that same office. The secretary's desk in our lodge room belonged to Pauls' dad. It is a beautiful handcarved desk. C.A. used it in his office at the Newton Manufacturing Company (where he served as President). When he died in 1968, his family gave it to the lodge.

Paul was quite a guy, always friendly to everyone. Last September, we hosted the football team at our lodge for a breakfast. Paul's grandson Ed is the head coach. Pauls' family brought him up so he could eat with the football teams, he had a great time that morning being with the guys. I took a picture of him, his son-in-law, and grandson. He was also able to come up last fall for our Past Masters' Night. Even though the infirmities of age had caught up with him in the loss of his hearing and sight, he still enjoyed being in lodge.

Yesterday morning I learned that he was in hospice. I went up to see him after lunch, but unfortunately I was too late. I felt bad that he had passed before I was able to see him for the last time, but I know that he is now back in the hands of the Great Architect of the Universe.

Visiting our sick brethren and burying our departed dead are two duties as a Mason that I have come to take very seriously. We don't stress those duties enough to our new brothers. What we do in the lodge room is very akin to what we do when we are in a classroom...we learn the lessons that are being taught to us. Our real classroom is outside the lodge room...what we do there is the application of the lessons.

I will conduct Masonic rites for Bro. Paul on Wednesday evening. Last night I called all of our Past Masters and informed them of Bro. Pauls' passing.

Farewell my friend until we set together in the Grand Lodge Above.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lenexa Lodge #135

I'm in Overland Park, Kansas right now taking an CRM class (for you non insurance folks, CRM stands for "Certified Risk Manager"). I have a test in a couple hours and then I can come home. Looks like it will be in the rain. I'm ready to come home. Sitting in class listening about insurance topics for 20 hours does get to be a bit much after awhile.

Monday evening was a really great night. I visited Lenexa Lodge #135 in Lenexa, KS. It was a short drive over from the hotel. It was a very fun and enjoyable evening and I'm glad I went. I had never set in lodge in Kansas before (I have set in lodge in Hawaii, Missouri, and Florida). Lenexa was having a third degree that night, they raised Bro. Rod Pittman. It was fun to see the floor work and the ritual and make notes in my mind on how it compared to Iowa's.

The one thing that really struck me in the obligation was when they got to that part about not violating the chasisty of a Master Masons wife, mother, sister, or daughter...they don't mess around with niceties in Kansas on that one...it is plainly said "illicit sex"!

They had a series of questions and answers (like we do in the first degree). The brother doing the "catching" was a younger brother...only been a Mason for 9 months. He did a good job. The brother who served as Jr. Steward had a been a Master Mason for less than a month.

The third section lecture was conferred using a video tape. One of the brothers sitting next to me said he really liked seeing it on a video tape...he could hear and understand it and it was well presented. I think that is maybe something that Iowa should consider. We don't see those third sections done very often (which is too bad, because they do a lot of explaining of what the new brother has seen). Maybe we should consider having the video option for those lodges which do not have someone to actually do the ritual.

The thing that most impressed me and has always impressed me when I have visited a lodge out of state is how warmly I'm received. The spirit of Masonry really comes alive during that experience. I told the candidate on Monday evening that he and I would probably never see each other again, but to always remember wherever he goes in life, he will run into brothers who will warmly receive him as a brother. I really truly believe that in my heart.

The W.M. of Lenexa Lodge #135 was W. Bro. Angelo Mino. He was a great guy. He is originally from Ecuador and was raised there. I was escorted to the alter after the degree and Bro. Angelo welcomed me to Lenexa Lodge. They gave me a "forget-me-not" pin and related it's story. I had heard the story before so that part was not new, but I was really glad to receive the pin. I do not have one (despite my jewelry box being full of Masonic pins). I will be something that I will wear proudly and remember my visit to Lenexa Lodge.

One brother that met there was Bro. and Illustrious Sir Jim White 33rd. Bro. Jim served as potenatate of the Shrine down here. He was such a great guy and so friendly. He knew Jerry Sellers from Za-Ga-Zig. We really hit it off.

Lenexa Lodge is a really great lodge. They are very active and are brining in lots of new guys (besides already having them). They had a nice display in their dining room of pictures from their various activities. They had received a proclamation from Gov. Kathleeen Subulius (Kansas Governor) for all of their community activities. I could tell there was a lot of Masonic pride in that lodge. It showed...why can't every lodge have that Masonic pride and be proud of themselves???

Anyhow, it was a great evening...check them out at www.lenexalodge135.org. Wish me luck on my exam in a couple hours. I'll be glad to get in done and on the way home!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lodge Milestones

Yesterday I attended the 150th anniversary celebration of Capitol Lodge #110 in Des Moines. Although I have seen the rededication ceremony many times and have participated in a few, I still always enjoy them. It is really amazing to me that any institution has survived for that number of years.

I think of all of the things that have happened to that individual lodge and all of the events that have occurred in our country's history over that time period. I also think of all of the brothers who have crossed the doorway of the lodge over that time. It is really astoninishing if one only thinks about it. The impact that Freemasonry has made in those lives.

I particularly enjoyed Capitols' celebration. All of the officers were in long tail tuxes. The Past Masters had beautiful gold Past Masters jewels on...it really added so much class to the evening. The Grand Lodge Officers were also in their tuxes and jewels. There has been less formality in our Grand Lodge Officers the past few years (which I guess to a point is okay), but I still like to see them in tuxes on occassion. It is an honor to represent our gentle craft as a Grand Lodge Officer. That pride should show through.

I enjoyed seeing the sterling silver set of working tools that had been donated to Captitol back in 1907. What a treasure. It reminded me our our silver square and compass that we lay on our bible in Newton Lodge #59 each time we open the lodge. It was donated to our lodge in 1887. The history of those items and what they represent, is what Freemasonry is all about. Brotherly love and friendship throughout time immemorial.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What is Masonry Really All About?


Tonight while doing some "surfing" I ran across a very good article on www.freemasoninformation.com. The article was written by Bro. Patrick O'Neill from Greeley, Colorado. The article is titled "Have we got our priorities right"?

In the article, Bro. O'Neil gives this quote from Charles Clyde Hunt:

"Freemasonry is an organized society of men symbolically applying the principles of operative masonry and architecture to the science and art of character building."

I think this is one of the best quotes that I have ever seen as to what Masonry is really all about. We often forget what Masonry is really supposed to be all about...it is to make ourselves better as human beings and how we relate to our brothers and society in general.

We get so busy studying our ritual books, working on good deeds for our communities, and keeping our buildings up that we often forget to practice what Freemasonry is all about. I have tried to be more conscious of this the past few months, reaching out to my fellow brothers and their families in times of need. I feel that is really something that a lot of brothers of this gentle craft don't practice as earnest as we should.

I encourage each of you who read this to go out and read Bro. O'Neill's article. What he says in his article is really what our brothers who are coming into our fraternity are in search of today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Busy Saturday



Yesterday was a busy day. I started it off by going to the York Rite Festival hosted by the Des Moines York Rite Bodies. There were 18 candidates in attendance. I was only able to stay for the Chapter degrees in the morning, but everything well very well.

It is always great to see some of our Past Grand Masters working in the Past Master degree. We enjoy having them and I think they enjoy doing it. At lunch time, I shared the table with Greg Anderson and a brother (Jeremiah) from Bedford. He is a younger Mason and really had some very interesting comments to listen to. He is serving as W.M. of his lodge this year. He was telling about the guys down there playing pool and "foozball" (spelling???) after their meetings. He said a couple ladies that lived close by stopped in one night to see why there were lights on late in the evening and lots of laughter and comaderie...said they hadn't heard that much noise from the Masonic Temple building in Bedford for years! That is great...guys having fun and fellowship with one another.

In the afternoon I came back to Newton and went to the 60th Annivesary celbration for Bro. Paul Myers and his wife Arlene. That is quite an accompishment...60 years together. Just think what all you see in those 60 years together.

Back to Des Moines in the evening for the annual meeting of Iowa Research Lodge #2. At the conlusion of the business meeting, I was "installed" as Worshipful Master (if that is what you call walking from the west to the east). It would be nice to have a real installation and have a full corps of officers, maybe some day.

Our presenter for the evening was Bro. Jack Buta from Phoenix. He gave an interesting presenation on Sir Robert Moray (which I have to admit I really didn't know much about). Moray was the founder of the Royal Society in England in the mid 1600s. Bro. Jack was a real live wire type of guy...fun with lots of energy.

IRL used to be really well respected around the country. At one time there membership was up over 1000. We have some work to do, but hopefully we can have some good programs and give our members some good Masonic education.

This is a busy week upcoming. I have to drive up to Sioux Falls on Tuesday to do an agents school and then on up to Millbank/Watertown for a presenation on Tuesday night. I will come back home on Thursday. I should have some time to stop in Sioux City, will check in with George and Jeff at the Sioux City Consistory.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scottish Rite Leadership Conference



This past weekend I was privileged to attend the Scottish Rite Leadership Conference in Minneapolis. It was a great weekend of idea sharing and fellowship.

I would say the thing that most impressed me was how the Scottish Rite is "remodling" itself to reach out to the brothers of our Rite. Emphasis is being placed on listening to our new brothers, reaching out to our current membership and those who may have left the Rite, and education.

I have come to the conclusion that we Masons have not done a very good job of mentoring, rather it be our new brothers or those who have been members of our fraternity for a period of time. Mentoring is a process not just for the new guys, it is a process for "all the guys"...it never ends. Freemasonry is all about a brotherhood and being there for each other. That is what we are all about, we need to get back to that.

I am really impressed with the Master Craftsman program that the Scottish Rite has come out with. It is an education program that brothers can take to learn more about Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite. There is a course of readings and multiple choice quizes (5 or 6 in total). At the conclusion of the process you will definately be more knowledgeable about the fraternity, plus you get a nice certificate recognizing your efforts. A lot of discussion was held on using this as a part of training for our individual valley leaders.

It was a great weekend. I always come away from these meetings with a lot of enthusisam and ideas. We have to use the ideas that come from meetings such as this to continue to "chip" away at some of the shortcomings and get our fraternity back to what he is all about...brothers caring about brothers!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hectic Life

Well it has been awhile since I have done any blogging. Life has kind of been busy for me the last couple of weeks. The week of March 30th my wife and I were in Orlando Florida. The first couple of days were vacation and the rest of the week I was occupied in meetings with the CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters) Society. I am a national governor and so we had two days of board meetings and also a lot of meetings for our chapters. I spoke at two of the chapter meetings...How to Market Your Chapter Meetings.

It is always fun interacting and meeting folks from your industry around the country. We came home on April 6th, left the hotel at 3:00 a.m. (what an hour to be getting ready to go to the airport to get on an airport). While we were waiting for the ticket agent to come on duty, Danene and I had a nice visit with a lady from Indiana. She was on her way to Haiti to work in a mission. She said it was around her 30th trip.

I also got to meet a brother Mason from Pennsylvania in one of the elevators at the hotel. I noticed his Past Masters' pin and commented on it (their pin is unique from that of the other states). It was nice to visit with him for a few minutes.

On the 11th and 12th we had the second week of the spring Scottish Rite Reunion. I thought it was a really great reunion. We ended up with a class of 17. The ritual work was very well done. On Saturday evening, the banquet honored the new members and M.W. Bro. Harold D. "Pete" Paschal PGM, 33rd. Danene and I sat at the table with Pete's daughters and they shared some good memories about their dad. It was an enjoyable evening as we shared our memories.

Last week I had my first agents school for 2008 down in Riverside at the Casino. Getting the first one started is always the hardest. You never know what "off the wall" questions they are going to ask. This week, I have been in Decorah and Rochester. Next week I have to go back to Minnesota to do a couple industry related speaking engagements. I will have been in Minnesota three times within a week...I'm almost a citizen!

Tonight we have our stated meeting at lodge. Bro. Jeremy Davis (W.M. of Arcadia is going to be our speaker). I am looking forward to it. I think he will have a good message. Hopefully we will have a decent crowd. Tomorrow it is off to Minneapolis to the Scottish Rite Leadership Conference. I am looking forward to that. I'm sure there will be some good presenations. Danene, Andrea, and Ashleigh are going along. Ashleigh is all excited about going to "Dora Land" at the Mega Mall. I'm sure she will have a great time.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska



On Thursday of this past week I had the pleasure of seeing a natural wonder that I had always wanted to see. I drove to Kearney Nebraska to give a presenation to the Mutual Insurance Association of Nebraska (which I gave yesterday). Between Grand Island and Kearney, I was able to witness the migration of the Sandhill Cranes through the Platte River valley.

On each side of the I-80, I was able to see cranes in the fields. I had always wanted to see this annual miracle of spring, but the timing had never been right to drive over to Nebraska to see it.

The cranes starting arriving in the Platte River valley in early March and generally stay for around a month. They are on their way back north. They winter in Texas (generally on the golf side). On their way back north, they fly as far north as Nebraska and then spend a few weeks there resting and replenishing themselves. This has been going on for thousands of years.

The cranes go as far north as Alaska, Siberia and the Artic Cirlce to nest and spend the summer months. I visited the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary (www.rowesanctuary.org) at Gibbon Nebraska. It was a really neat place. While there I visited with one of the rangers, he told me that that the migratory route of the birds from Texas to their summer nesting grounds range from 5000 to 6000 miles. During my visit, they were estimating there were up to 400,000 cranes in the Platte River valley.

Cranes are some of the oldest known birds in existence. Fossils dating back 9 million years have been found in Nebraska, putting them there long before the Platte River was born (a youthful 10,000 years ago).

There are 6 species of Sandhill Cranes (three of which are migratory). The cranes that I saw generally weigh around 5 to 8 lbs. During their stay in Nebraska, they will gain up to addtional 10% of their body weight. They feed on left over corn in the fields, but they also feed on earthworms and other grubs/insects they find in the fields. It has been estimated during the monthly long stay in Nebraska, they consume up to 1600 tons of left over corn in the fields.

During their stay, it is common to see pairs engaging in mating dancnes (which I observed). They will dance around and spread their wings, hopping up and down. Sometimes they will pick up a corn stalk and throw it high in the air. Generally, two eggs will be laid once they get up to their nesting grounds. Generally only one survives to adulthood.

These cranes have been known to live up to 25 years of age. Sexual maturity is generally between 3 to 5 years of age.

The red piece on their heads is not feathers, but is actually bare skin. I suppose since they are always pecking away in the fields, that over time they have simply developed to not have feathers there.

This was a really neat site to see. As I said it was something that I had always wanted to see and finally the timing was right. Go out and look at the website for Rowe Sanctuary. They have a webcam and you can actually see birds out there.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Masonic Impressions




Last Thursday evening we had our March stated meeting in my lodge. One thing that I have been doing this year to stimulate attendance and bring back some of the guys that have not been there for awhile is to send them cards on the anniversary of their raising. I invite them up to the stated meeting in the month when they will be celebrating their Masonic anniversary. I think it has been working. Each month we get two or three to come who have not been there for awhile. I usually also get at least one email or note in the mail to read from a brother who lives away from here.

This month we had a father and son come up who are both observing their Masonic anniversary in March. Dad is 60 years and son 20. The dad is a retired funeral director and son is currently an active funeral director so it has been hard for them to come over the years due to the nature of their jobs.

We had one brother come up who was observing his 3rd anniversary. He is a busy young man, drives over 50 miles to his job each day as a electrician. He has a couple children who are busy with various activities. Jared is a nice young man and I always enjoy seeing him.

My issue was with our Worshipful Master and how he responded to him. I know nothing was meant by his comments, but on two or three occassions I heard him say to this young Mason, "well it's been awhile since you've been here. We weren't sure you were still alive". As I said I know nothing was meant by the comments, but stop and think before you say things! Our young Masons are busy people. Although we wished they would come and be with us more often, sometimes it is just not possible. Welcome them when they do come and make them feel that you are glad that they are here.

This young man did inquire about our street clean up project and when we were going to do it this spring. He remembered helping with this a couple of years ago. Despite his busy schedule, he was showing interest in the lodge and it's projects and was offering to help.

That is what is important, keeping people connected to the lodge. Maybe a brother can only come to one meeting a year or help with only one project a year, but everybody needs to feel a part of the brotherhood and be allowed to participate as their schedule permits.

Stop and think my brothers before you make comments to your brothers. Our best intentions sometimes don't come across to others as we want them to, despite our best intentions.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Observance



This morning I drove up to Marshalltown to attend the Easter Observance of St. Aldemar's Commandery #30 Knights Templar. This was my second year of attending this observance and I must say it is always enjoy. I have dual membership with the Marshalltown York Rite Bodies, so I must say I always feel right at home.

It was so nice to see a full contingent of officers in their uniforms and chapeaus. We had a nice crowd of sideliners, around 30. Sir Knight David Dryer was the Prelate and read a very nice Easter message. Collene Benge was at the organ and played "Onward Christian Soldiers" as we entered the asylum.

After the formal observance in the asylum, we adjourned to the dining room and enjoyed a delicous breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and eggs. All the donations went to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. This was a nice way to start the day and the Easter weekend.

Easter is a beautiful time of the year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and also the return of spring.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pinewood Derby




Newton Lodge #59 hosted a really fun event yesterday! We hosted Cub Scout Pack #354 in our lodge room for their annual Pinewood Derby. There were 28 Cub Scout "racers" and I know we had probably close to 100 adults in attendance.

I was one of the judges, along with John Billingsley and John Pohlman. It was a blast. It brought back a lot of memories for me from my Cub Scout days.

We had the track set up in our lodge room. What a track, lots more sophisticated than those old wood ones. This one was a alumnium and even had a laser at the end of the track to show which car was the winner. The den leader told me the track cost them $1200.

The kids really had a good time. It was organized confusion most of the time, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves. After we finished with the races, we fed them hots dogs, chips, and ice cream in the dining room. We even had Al Jensen up there dipping up the ice cream. We told Al that he couldn't be smokin' and dipping at the same time!

All of the parents were so complimentary and seemed to really appreciate us inviting them up. I think we really did ourselves proud.

The bottom line is this is what Masonic Lodges are meant for...invite the public in and have activities. What better sales tools do we have. The Masons have for too long rode on their reputation...we need to be out in our communities doing things. By our obligations, this is what we should be doing in the first place. Participating in community activities will help us also. Let people find out who the Masons are and what they do.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Legend of the Robin


Last Thursday night, Bro. David Dryer was our speaker at the Friendship Night that was hosted by Newton Lodge #59. He concluded his talk with this little "legend"..the Legend of the Robin. I had never heard it before. I really enjoyed it and it gave me thoughts of spring. I want to share it with you. Hope you will enjoy and think thoughts of spring.


The Legend Of The First Robin

One day, long ago, a little bird in Galilee saw a large crowd gathered around a Man carrying a heavy wooden cross. On the Man's head was a crown made from a thorn branch. The thorns were long and sharp. The little bird saw that the thorns were hurting the Man. It wanted to help Him, so it flew down and took the longest, sharpest thorn in its tiny beak.

The bird tugged and pulled until the thorn snapped from the branch. Then a strange thing happened. A drop of blood fell onto the bird's breast, staining it bright red.

The stain never went away. And so today the robin proudly wears a red breast, because it helped a Man named Jesus.

May God bless you today,
And keep you all year through.
May God give you all the faith it takes,
To make your dreams come true.
May His love and wisdom always help,
To guide you on your way.
May His light shine down upon you now,
To bless your every day.

~ Author Unknown ~

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Freemason


What Freemasonry Means To Me
The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, 33°

I recently received a letter in which the writer asked: "Why are you a Freemason?" The question caused me to think and reaffirm my feelings about Masonry.

At first I thought about my own forebears. My grandfather was a Mason for 50 years, my father for 50 years, and I have been a Mason for 60 years. This means that my tie with Freemasonry extends back to 1869 when my grandfather joined the Masons.

My feelings on my first entrance into a Masonic Lodge are very clear in memory. I was a young man and it was a great thrill to kneel before the altar of the Lodge to become a Freemason. This must have been the same feeling my father and grandfather experienced before me. And it must also have been identical to the one that many great leaders of America and the world felt as they became Masons. Prominent among this select group are George Washington, Harry Truman, and 12 other Presidents as well as countless statesmen and benefactors of humanity.

So I found myself thinking: "What does Freemasonry mean to me?" Of course Masons say that Freemasonry actually begins in each individual Mason's heart. I take this to mean a response to brotherhood and the highest ideals. I recall the story of a man who came to me once and said: "I see that you are a Freemason. So am I." As we talked, he told me of an experience he had years ago. It seems that he joined the Masonic Fraternity shortly after he became 21 years old. When he was stationed in the military, he decided to attend various Lodge meetings. On his first visit to a Lodge in a strange city, he was a bit nervous. One thought was constantly in his mind; could he pass the examination to show that he was a Mason? As the committee was carefully examining his credentials, one of the members looked him squarely in the eye and said: "Obviously you know the Ritual, so you can enter our Lodge as a Brother Mason. But I have one more question. Where were you made a Mason?" With that he told the young visitor to think about it because when he knew the answer the examiner would not have to hear it. He would see it in his eyes. My friend told me that after a couple of minutes a big smile came to his face and he looked at the examiner, who said: "That's right, in your heart."

Shrine Past Masters at Scottish Rite Park



Last Friday night (February 29th) the Shrine Past Masters' degree team had a really special event at the Scottish Rite Park in Des Moines.

After a delicious chili dinner in the dining room, we adjourned to the penthouse to raise Bro. Daryl Dursham to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. Bro. Daryl currently works at Scottish Rite Park and actually works there. He is probably there youngest resident (I would guess in late 20s).

Daryl petitioned Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City and took his first two degrees at the lodge in Polk City. Since he works at Scottish Rite Park, the brethren of the lodge asked for a dispensation to move their charter down to S.R. Park for his third degree. The brothers thought that many of the residents who are Masons would enjoy coming to the degree. I'm sure several of these brothers have not been to lodge in a long time due to age and health reasons. We had one brother who was there who was 101 years young! It was a great turnout. I think we had about 20 Shrine Past Masters members there and overall a crowd of around 70.

M.W. Bro. Donald E. Mosier, Grand Master and R.W. Larry Shears, Jr. Grand Warden came so that made the evening even more special. M.W. Bro. Dean Johson, PGM conferred the first section and Bro. Mike Aves conferred the second section.

The lodge room was set up in the "penthouse". The view of the Des Moines skyline at night time was so beautiful. Actualy our floor in the "lodge" room was the shuffleboard court and someone had brought down a cedar chest to use for our alter.

Operative Lodge has several bagpipers in their lodge and we were even treated with bagpipe music.

The older guys really loved it. They were telling several of us afterwards, that this should be an annual event.

Bro. Mike Aves told me an interesting story last night at Bro. Davis' reception. He said he went down to Scottish Rite Park on Saturday morning to pick up the paraphenalia that he had brought down from Polk City. He was talking to our newly raised brother. Daryl told him that one of the residents (who is a 50 year + Mason) came down early on Saturday morning and gave Daryl a gift, a Masonic ring that this brother had been wearing for many, many years. Brotherly love and friendship in action! It was a great event, I'll remember it for a long time.

Grand Lodge Reception

After I was finished with the Grand Commandery School in Ames, I scurried on down I-35 to Southgate Lodge #657 in Des Moines for the reception honoring R.W. Bro. Craig Davis, Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

I first got acquainted with Bro. Craig when he served as Junior Grand Deacon for M.W. Bro. Alfred L. Jensen back in 2001-2002. Craig is a good guy. He takes a lot of teasing about his "shiny" head, but he always has a come back. He is a good natured person and always has a smile on his face.

Craig's grandfather was M.W. Bro. Carol Cremer. I still think of Bro. Carol when we have Scottish Rite Reunions. He was head of the class marshals. He had a way about him of just making you feel special. He was a great guy and truly exemplified what Masonry is all about. Carol did a lot for not only Masonry but also his community. He was a tireless worker on behalf of the Central Iowa Blood Bank.

Somehow, I think Bro. Carol was probably sitting up there last night in the Grand Lodge Above and smiling at his grandson and all of the festitivities at Southgate Lodge #657. It was a great reception. Craig said he was going to have an "old fashioned" reception with all of the trappings and he did. It was nice to see a little formality back in things!

Grand Commandery School of Instruction



Yesterday afternoon I drove up to Ames to participate in the Grand Commandery Knights Templar School of Instruction. Sir Knights Eugene Aldrich PGC; Butch Zummak PGC; and Bryce Hildreth, Grand Captain General and members of the Board of Instruction were our instructors.

We had a good crowd, I believe there were about 20 Sir Knights there. St. Aldemar's Commandery #30 of Marshalltown was the best represented, with 5 in attendance. Gene went through a power point presenation on proper uniform etiquette and attire and also how to hold the sword. It was very informative. When then adjourned to the asylum and practiced the 10 man opening. Luckily I was a "sideliner". It has been awhile since I took the part of the Commander for opening (though I have done it several times)! Gregg Anderson was the Commander for the opening practice.

David Baker and Frederick Killian from Ascension Commandery #69 were great hosts. I'm hearing some good things about the Ames York Rite Bodies. They are showing some revitalization up there. That is great! Kenny Smith (P.I.G.M.) was there. I always enjoy seeing Kenny. Mel and Mildred Sickels were also there. Mel is somebody I really truly admire in Freemasonry. He is one of those guys that is a "Masons' Mason"! I truly respect and admire him. We missed you Companion Jay.

I always enjoy going to these annual schools. I always pick up a couple good points, the trick is remembering them. Thanks Gene, Butch, and Bryce for a great afternoon of Templaary instruction.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Help Maddie



This morning I went to Altoona to Clay Elementary School. The brethren of King David Lodge #407 were having a benefit pancake breakfast to help the family of one of the brothers of their lodge, Bro. Ernie Landwehr.

Ernie and his wife Nancy have adopted a little girl from India, Maddie (age 7). Maddie's story is quite a story. Back in February 2000, Maddie was abandoned at birth in the highlands of Akola, India. She was left by the side of a tree at birth by her mother. Before she was found, some wild dogs attached her, permanently damaging her right hip and leg. When she was rescued, she was taken to a hospital for surgery and treatment. No one thought that she would survive, but she did. One of the caregivers at the hospital, gave her the name "Aaditi", which Mother of Angels. Eventually she was placed in an orphanage in Pune, India. That is where Ernie and Nancy Landwehr come into the picture. They adopted little Maddie and brought her to Iowa.

The Nobles of Za-Ga-Zig Shrine in Altoona saw to it that Maddie was taken to the Shriners Children's Hospital in Minneapolis for treatment of her hip and leg problems. Maddie has had a hip surgery and leg lengthening at the hospital in Minnesota. Little Maddie has now been diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. The donor will probably need to be an individual of Indian decent.

Brother Ernie was so moved by the care that his daughter was receiving at the Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis, that he asked how he could become a Shriner. He joined King David Lodge #407 and then Za-Ga-Zig Shrine.

As mentioned above, this morning I went to a benefit breakfast for Maddie. The brothers of King David were there in the kitchen and dining room. The dining room had several Shrine clowns. I saw and experienced the spirit of Masonry this morning, brothers helping a brother.

I brought this little girls' situation to the attention of my lodge this past week during our stated meeting and I am proud to say the brothers stepped forward with a donation. Our Shrine Club in Jasper County has also stepped up with a donation. I visited with Maddie's Hospital Dad this morning. He told me that five minutes with Maddie and you are "hooked" on this little girl...she is that special. She is truly

This little girl and her family are going to need a lot of financial and moral support to help them with this situation. We need to remember this family in our prayers. Please visit Maddie's website (www.helpmaddie.com) and read about her story. I encourage you to help support this brother and his family during this time of need.

Newton Lodge #59 Trip to Iowa Stars



Last night Newton Lodge #59 sponsored a "Night at the Iowa Stars". We did not have a big group that went, but we all enjoyed each other's company. We had a great dinner at the Latin King restaurant in Des Moines before we went down to the Wells Fargo arena for the game. The Iowa Stars played the Chicago Wolves, unfortunately they did not win. The Wolves beat the Stars 3 to 1. There were a lot of Mardi Gras "partiers" in the bleachers. I told our Worshipful Master that next year, we could have our "boys" dressed up like that. The W.M. thought that might be a "stretch". This was one of those new things that we tried, hopefully next year we will have a bigger crowd. The main thing is that we tried something new and those of us that were there, enjoyed the evening with each other.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Presidents Day



President’s Day dates back to our founding father and first President, George Washington. Washington was born on February 22, 1732. On his birthday in 1796, when Washington was in his last full year as president, the day became the holiday known as Washington’s Birthday. However, Americans didn’t observe this holiday until 1832, 100 years after his birth.

Abraham Lincoln was the next President to gain reverence similar to Washington. Born on February 12, 1809, Lincoln’s birthday was first celebrated in 1865, the year after he was assassinated. Although his birthday was not honored as a federal holiday like Washington’s, many states adopted it as a legal holiday. In 1968, Congress passed legislation placing any federal holiday on a Monday, including Washington’s birthday, to create a three-day weekend.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon combined Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays into President’s Day. It would be celebrated on the third Monday in February, regardless of which day it fell on. President’s Day is now viewed as a holiday that pays tribute to both Washington and Lincoln, as well as all those who have served as president, including Andrew Jackson who served as the 7th U.S. President from 1829-1837.


Interesting Presidential Facts
• Only five presidents have ever worn facial hair when they sought the office. The last was over a century ago, in 1889; Benjamin Harrison.
• Andrew Jackson was the first of three U.S. Presidents from Tennessee. These include James K. Polk (1845-1849) of Columbia and Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) of Greeneville.
• 32nd president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt was related, either by blood or by marriage, to 11 former presidents.
• Only President Andrew Jackson has an entire era in American history named after him, the "Jacksonian Era," which took place from the 1820s-1840s.
• The teddy bear derived from 26th U.S. president Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.
• Often depicted wearing a tall black stovepipe hat, 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.
• 15th U.S. president James Buchanan is the only unmarried man ever to be elected president.
• Herbert Hoover, 31st U.S. president, published more than 16 books, including one called Fishing for Fun-And to Wash Your Soul.
• Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the United States, underwent a secret operation aboard a yacht to remove his cancerous upper jaw in 1893.
Thank you for visiting The Hermitage today!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday John L. Lewis



A famous native son of Iowa celebrates a birthday today. John L. Lewis was born on this date in 1880 in Lucas Iowa. Lewis eventually rose to the presidency of the United Mine Workers. He died on June 11, 1969 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Happy Birthday John L. Lewis

Abraham Lincoln & Freemasonry




Today our country is celebrating the 199th anniversary of the birth of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln who was born on February 12,1809 in Hardin County Kentucky.

What did Abraham Lincoln think of Freemasonry and why did he never become a member of our fraterntiy? In 1860 the Grand Lodge of Illinois recessed their meeting being held durng the presidential campaign to call on Mr. Lincoln. During that meeting Lincoln is reported to have told the calling committee "Gentleman, I have always entertained a profound respect for the Masonic fraternity and have long cherished a desire to become a member."

When a Mason told Lincoln during that campaign that all of the other candidates were Freemasons, especially noting that Stephen A. Douglas was a member of the Masonic lodge in Springfield, Illinois (Lincoln's hometown), Lincoln replied, "I am not a Freemason, Dr. Morris, though I have great respect for the institution."

The primary qualification to become a Mason is the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Lincoln had a fervent belief in God. He was an avid student of the Bible and included many Biblical references in his writings and speeches, the most famous being his second Inaugural address and he regarded the subject of religion as a matter of individual conscience.

One of fundamental tenents of Masonry is that it seeks to make "good men, better men". This belief would have appealed to Abraham Lincoln who desired to see the best in people in people and to see that each individual could advance in life as much as possible. The Masonic support of the ideas of equality and the brotherhood of all people were also fundamental beliefs to Lincoln.

One of Lincolns' closest friends was Bowling Green a Freemason, Master of his local Masonic lodge, and a member of the original Grand Lodge of Illinois. When Green died in February of 1842, Springfield Lodge No. 4 invited Lincoln to give remarks during the Masonic services for Bro. Green.

Lincolns' idol in politics was Senator Henry Clay from Kentucky. Clay served as Grand Master of Kentucky. During the height of the Anti-Masonic party in the United States (the early 1830s) and during the time that Clay was running for President of the United States, Clay refused to denouce the Masonic fraternity, even though it would have helped him politically.

Why did Lincoln never become a Freemason? Lincoln told the Grand Lodge committee taht visited him during the 1860 campaign: "I have never petitioned because I have felt my own unworthiness to do so. I might be overcoming my hesitance and be petitioning at the present time but I am a candidate for political office and by some such action might be misconstrued. For this reason, I must for the present time refrain."

After his death, a friend of his who was a promient Mason said Lincoln once told him "I (Lincoln) feared I was too lazy to do all my duty as I should wish to were I a member, and I have kept postponing my application".

In May of 1837 Lincoln took on one of his first legal cases, representing the widow and son of Joseph Anderson in their effort to take possession of 10 acres of land presumed to have been owned by Jospeh Anderson at the time of his death. However, James Adams, Anderson's former attorney and an officer of the Springfield Masonic Lodge was found to be in possession of the land basing his claim on a deed executed by Joseph Anderson. Lincoln felt the conveyance of the land was spurious. Lincoln and Adams had a bitter and public feud. Adams charged that Lincoln was a deist. Lincoln probably did not want to join a lodge where Adams was a member and quite possibly would not have attained the necessary unamious support of the voting brethren.

A few years later Lincoln had trouble with another Mason, James Shields who was an Irish immigrant. Shields was a Democrat and became state auditor in 1841. Lincoln and the Whig party protested his policies and there were letters published in the newspapers questioning Shields honesty. Shields acused Lincoln of writing these letters and challenged Lincoln to a duel. On September 22, 1842 Lincoln, Shields, and their respective parties crossed the Mississippi River to Missouri for the duel (at that time dueling was still legal in Missouri). Fortunately friends intervened and got Shields to accept Lincoln's explanation and the duel was called off.

The list of promient people connected to the Civil War that were Freemasons is very long, including Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, Lewis Cass, David Farragut, Sam Houston, Andrew Johnson, Edwin M. Stanton, Gideon Welles, P.G.T. Beauregard, Albert Pick. It is possible that Lincoln saw some of the spririt of brotherly friendship among these Masons and their practice of Masonic ideals had some affect on him.

Lincoln was never a Mason, but it is likely that Masonry had some influence on him him and he on Freemasonry. His political philosphy was affected by Masonic ideals that were expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. His spririt of charity during the Civil War was probably affected to some extent by hearing how Masons in the war helped each other while maintaining their ideals. Lincoln was helped in his life by Freemasons from his days at New Salem through his days in the White House.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

(The information for this blog entry was derived from an article by Bro. Paul M. Bessel that was presented to the A. Douglas Smith Jr. Lodge of Research #1949 on 7/29/95).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grand Lodge Reception



Yesterday afternoon Bro. Jay Cole Simser and I traveled to Iowa City Lodge #4 in Iowa City to honor Wor. Bro. Jason Wolcott, the Grand Marshal of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and Wor. Bro. Michael Langford, the Grand Musician. Despite being a cold and blustery winter day, there was a nice crowd and lots of good fellowship.

It is a treat to go to a Grand Lodge reception in Iowa City because there is always a theme to their receptions. This year we were treated to "Mardi Gras" with lots of festive decorations and some Zydeco music (which by the way I feel in love with during my visit to New Orleans a few years back).

Our dinner was definately not the usual fare that you get out on the "rubber chicken" circuit: Jambalya, honey glazed carrots, and a delicious pineapple dessert (that recipe should be in Carol Mosier's cookbook)!

Jay and I shared a table with Kenny & Brenda Anderson, Charlie Brinkerhoff, and Denny & Janet Zahrt. With that group the conversation is always fun and entertaining!

One special attendee was M.W. Bro. Woody Morris, PGM. Bro. Woody served the Grand Lodge as Grand Master back in 1971. He is our Sr. PGM. It was great to see him again.

Our Grand Lodge receptions have definately been different the last couple of years. I have very mixed feelings about this change. Bro. Charlie B. and I have visited about this and Charlie made the observation that the receptions are part of the "glue" that holds the "Grand Lodge Family" together. I have come to agree with him on that. It is good to go and honor the honored brother and his lodge. I often think the craft really don't realize that it is an honor to serve as a Grand Lodge Officer and it is an honor to that brother's lodge. I think sometimes the craft have the feeling that it is a bunch of "mucky muck" folks hobnobbing together. We probably need to do a better job making everyone feel included in these functions. Sometimes I think we go to these events and we are happy to see our Grand Lodge friends that maybe we don't do the best job visiting with the brothers from the local lodges. Those of us who attend these events do need to make a conscious decision to visit with all of the brothers that are there.

After all the Grand Lodge of Iowa is not just the guys who wear the gold collars (or who have worn them), it is the craft of Iowa who work in the quaries of Freemasonry everyday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Masonic Obligations



One of the obligations that we take in the Master Mason degree is to help, aid, and assist all poor distressed Master Masons, their widows, and orphans. Within the past few days, I have learned of three brother Masons who are experiencing times of distress in their lives currently.

The wife of a Prince Hall brother in Des Moines is battling cancer and is currently hospitalized in a Des Moines hospital; a brother who I work with has been diagnosed with leukemia this past week; and the daughter of a brother in Altoona is battling a rare disease and is need of a bone marrow transplant.

I would like to expand a little on the brother from Altoona and his situation. He and his wife adopted a little girl from India. The little girl had been literally abandoned in the streets in India. Dogs had gotten ahold of her and mauled a part of one of her legs before she was rescued.

Bro. Ernie Landwehr and his wife adopted this little girl from India and brought her to Iowa. The little girls' name is Maddie. Unfortunately this little girl has now developed a condition that requires her to have a bone marrow transplant. The brothers of King David Lodge #407 in Altoona and various groups in Altoona are trying to raise funds to assist this family with the incredible expenses they are facing. You may have read the story about this family in last Sunday's Des Moines Register by reporter John Carlson. I encourage you to visit the website that has been established to help this family (www.helpmaddie.com). Keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.

I believe that this obligation that we take as Master Masons is often overlooked by us brothers. Do we do it intentionally or are we simply "blinded" by our busy lives? I have heard the story of a now deceased brother from Des Moines who helped two widow ladies in his lodge for many years by taking them to the grocery store and on errands. When asked why he did that for so many years, he replied because that was the obligation that I took as Master Mason. Are we the brothers of today, living up to that obligation?

Our fraternity does some wonderful things to help, aid, and assist people: The Shriners' Children's Hospitals; the Knights Templar Eye Foundation; the Scottish Rite Language Clinics, scholarship programs and on and on. But what do we do for those in our own neighborhoods or even in our own lodges who may need a little help from time to time. When I mention the word "help", I am not necessarily meaning financial help. Maybe just a phone call or a visit to a shut in brother or the widow of a brother or maybe a prayer said to the Great Architect of the Universe. We often confuse the word "relief" with a financial donation, relief can take many other forms other than being financial in nature.

Our fraternity is based on friendship and brotherly love. We say we make "good men, better men". Are we instilling in our Masons of today the attitude of helping those in their own midst who may need a friend when they are in need? I believe each of us needs to examine our own hearts and ask ourselves the question, are we really living up to our obligation?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Two Great Guys!




Friday night I attended the Consistro Bistro dinner at the Des Moines Scottish Rite. I took some pictures and wanted to share one of my "better" ones with you. The picture I have posted is of Bros. John Clearman 33 and Greg Anderson 33. Both of these guys are great guys. John is Past Grand Master of the Grand Council Royal & Select Masters of Iowa and Greg is Past Grand High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons of Iowa. Both brothers are in the line at the Des Moines Scottish Rite...John in the Council of Kadosh and Greg in the Chapter of Rose Croix. Greg is one of the busiest Masons that I know of...he is everywhere!

Greg and I have a running joke between us...we are always kidding each. I'm telling him that the White Shrine girls are going to be after him and he is telling me the Eastern Star girls are coming for me! We have a lot of fun kidding each other.