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 ( 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 ( 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.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Chapter Ritual School

This morning I had the pleasure of attending Corinthian Chapter #14 Royal Arch Masons ritualistic school in Des Moines. This was the second year for this event. Today we had approximately 30 companions in attendance and it was slightly warmer than it was last year. I remember we had a very cold day last year for the school.

Sir Knight and Companion David M. Dryer lead the school and did an outstanding job. David puts so much enthusiasm into his ritualistic work (no matter if it is Blue Lodge, York Rite, Scottish Rite or what)! He is just an outstanding ritualist.

I have enjoyed this school very much both years that I have attended and have learned a lot. I particularly enjoy seeing the Chapter degrees, because it explains so much about the work that you experience in the Symbolic Lodge and answers so many questions. It used to be in this country that you really had not completed your Masonic journey until you had received the Royal Arch degree. So many towns had a Chapter right along with their Blue Lodge. Today it is my understanding that we are down to only slightly over 40 chapters in Iowa.

We had the pleasure of having four Past Grand High Priests in attendance with us: Jay Cole Simser, Clint Smith, B.O. Bryngelson, and Gregg Anderson. We also had our current Grand High Priest (Rick Butler) with us.

It was a great morning and I definately came away "pumped up".