Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heirlooms: A Masonic Tradition

This was a piece I originally published a few years ago--it received a lot of favorable attention, so I thought I'd share it again.  ~TEC

Men come to Freemasonry for many different reasons, but for many, it's a beautiful family tradition--something fathers and sons (and grandfathers) can share in together long after the young man grows up and leaves the nest to strike out into the world on his own.

The first time I'd made particular note of that was shortly after I joined the Scottish Rite.  I was visiting the Valley of Indianapolis during one of their reunions, when somebody asked me if I'd take a picture.  We went outside, and I took the picture on the front steps of the Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral (many would argue, the cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and I would agree).  As it turned out, I was taking a family picture of four-generations of Scottish Rite Masons--that's son (who had become a 32nd Degree Mason that day), father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  All four men grinning proudly in the bright fall sunlight.

I know a lot of Masons, and I can tell you, one of the most priceless possessions some of these guys own is an heirloom--a lapel pin, ring, tie tack, cuff links--that belonged to a member of their family or a close friend who was a Mason.  We're not talking about gold and diamonds here--sometimes it's nothing more than a $3 lacquered pin, or a set of $10 electroplated shirt studs.  But when received, they are treated as priceless artifacts by those beginning their journey in the Craft.

One of our Past Masters was given a Scottish Rite ring by one of his close friends and mentors when he joined the Scottish Rite, a friend of his who has since passed away.  It means a lot to him.  He wears it just about every meeting, and tells the story of where it came from often.

We raised a young man a Master Mason a couple years ago in my lodge.  After his degree, his father made a presentation to him.  He gave the young man his grandfather's Masonic ring.  I have no doubt he knew that ring well--he'd probably seen it on his grandfather's hand, and his father's hand many times.  It had probably never occurred to him before that moment that one day he would wear that ring on his own hand.  I'll never forget the look on his face as he put that ring on.  In that moment, he suddenly realized he hadn't just become a Master Mason, in itself a tremendous accomplishment, but more importantly to him, he'd just become the third generation of Masons in his family, and I'm sure every time he looks at that ring, he thinks of his departed grandfather.

Me and the 60-year-old hat I wore
as Master. My first time, the hat's second.
It had sat the Master's head in 1949.
I think it was happy to be out of the box.
One of the greatest honors a Mason can receive is being elected Master of his lodge.  I won't even get started on gavels--that's a blog post in itself.  Master's have the distinction of wearing a hat.  That hat is something a newly elected Master thinks a lot about, and very often, that hat belongs to a previous Master of the lodge, or perhaps a mentor, or a family member. I wore a special hat that  belonged to a close family friend and Past Master of my lodge--Raymond VanBuskirk.  He was the Master of my lodge in 1949.

He had been like a grandfather to me growing up, and when I decided to petition to become a Mason, he signed it on the top line--after the longest conversation the two of us ever had about why I wanted to join.  It was a conversation that forever changed our relationship--we went from our previous relationship of being almost grandfather to grandson, to Masonic Brothers in 90 minutes.  When I left that meeting, there was no question in my mind how important he saw the journey I was about to take was to him.  And my life has never been the same since. That was before the books, the blog, the website, the articles, and all that has come since. He passed away when I was Master of his lodge--which is how I always saw it.  But I think about him every time I slip his old ring on my right finger when I prepare for a Mason event--that priceless relic that takes me back to my very roots.  And in many ways, I'm more honored by that ring I wear on my right hand, than I am by the one I wear on the left--the one with the "33" on it.  The irony that I had to have Raymond's ring sized down to fit me isn't lost on me--they are big shoes to fill.

Those lucky enough to have been given or have inherited an heirloom cherish those items (even a $3 pin).  They remind us of those that have gone before us.  They remind us of the importance of the work we do in the world.  They give us a sense of tradition that goes far beyond just the noble traditions of the world's oldest fraternity--it makes our journey in Freemasonry much more personal.  It reminds us each time we dress for a  Masonic event, just how large the footprints are that we follow.  It gives us inspiration to make those who gave us those priceless treasures proud of us.  It's not the honors we receive after, it's those that motivated us originally to pursue them that matter.

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


"There are some things in life that only make sense if you believe in the existence of God."

I'd written this down in my journal on Sunday.  Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due.  Don't question how or why, just accept it as a gift.  The closer I've gotten in my relationship with God, the more I see His work in the world.  Take a little time this week to read your Bible.  Put yourself in a frame of mind where you can appreciate God's work in our lives.  

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, July 23, 2015

There's A Critic In Every Crowd

"It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things."

~ Theodore Roosevelt
Matinecock Lodge No. 806,
 Oyster Bay, N.Y.

I used this quote the other day, and it is one of my favorites.  Teddy talked about critics on a number of occasions.  He certainly had a lot of them, and as most doers do, for the most part the only attention he gave them is when he ridiculed them.  And he seemed to enjoy doing that a great deal.  So do I.  I've had my share of harsh critics.

I wish I could say critics don't bother me anymore--that's not entirely true.  I guess I could say critics don't bother me as much as they used to.  What helps me is to remember is that people that elevate themselves by tearing others down are seldom successful.  

I've had my leadership ability questioned hundreds of times over the years, but seldom by anybody with any experience or ability.  And you'll find when I critic is put in charge of something, it seldom goes well--and it's always somebody else's fault.  

I've had my writing ability criticized, but never by anyone with any writing experience.  

I've even had my intelligence questioned--recently!  A couple weeks ago, I foolishly got involved in a Facebook conversation.  It was about current events.  It was about American history.  It was about politics.  Kind of my specialty, right?

Now this guy didn't know who I was, but he was somebody that has a difficult time dealing with facts.  He couldn't challenge my facts, because they were correct, so he called me a few names.  Then he questioned my intelligence.  My education.  My background.  Finally, he asked me where I went to law school.  Apparently, you can't have any knowledge of history or current events without a law degree.  I realized I was probably dealing with a law student, so being a person that doesn't take themselves too seriously I told him I didn't go to law school--I just drive an ice cream truck part-time.  Well, as it turns out, he wasn't an attorney either--but he had a friend that was a judge, and his wife works in a major legal firm.  I guess if your wife works for an attorney and your friend is a judge, you can put that on your resume as experience and knowledge . . . who knew?

It's a good thing to be criticized--it means you're doing something.  Keep doing it.  It doesn't mean you have to listen to it.  The best way to beat a critic is to prove them wrong by being successful.  And always be polite--as my grandmother used to say repeatedly "there's no excuse for bad manners."  And that rule should apply most especially when your dealing with disagreeable people--it builds character.    Like a silver bullet to a werewolf, or a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire, there are four words that will destroy a critic--I told you so!  Be nice when you say them though. 

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Being A Good Mason Is Its Own Reward

"It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them." 

~Mark Twain
Polar Star Lodge No. 79, MO

As with many things, it's one thing to say it, and it's another to do it.  It's easy to say you're a Freemason.  It's easy to look like a Freemason--you put a sticker on your car, and you wear a ring.  But would somebody be able to look at your life, and the way you interact with the world, and be able to tell you're a Freemason?  Are you living up to the standard, or are you going to Lodge to be seen in Lodge?  Are you there to learn and participate, or are you there to collect medals and certificates?

Unfortunately, too many men misunderstand what Freemasonry is about.  They enter into it wanting to accomplish something, however, what they believe is important is covering their walls with awards, and themselves with titles, jewels and ribbons.  That's not the point.  The purpose is to learn something--to improve yourself.  To open your eyes and see yourself as an instrument of purpose, and the world as an opportunity for service. You'll find those medals and acknowledgements often go to those Masons that aren't really looking for that kind of attention--much to the chagrin of those who really desire them.  And I've got a great story to illustrate that point. 

I helped a Mason's daughter a few years ago go through her father's Masonry stuff.   She was a friend of my father's, and she had a trunk full of it, and had no idea what to do with it.  So I went to check it out.  I'd have to admit, I was surprised at what was inside that trunk.  It was filled with a lot of Masonic stuff, but there were a considerable number of Masonic awards, plaques, certificates, ribbons, medals, etc, including his 33rd Degree cap and certificate--still rolled up in the cardboard tube where it had been since he'd received it no doubt.  I was surprised to find that stuff moldering in an old trunk.  Those are the kinds of acknowledgements Masons proudly display.  I asked her how they had wound up there.  Apparently, that was his trunk, and that's where he put them after he received them.  He never hung anything up, never donned the white cap of a 33rd, or wore his medals and jewels--he just filled up a trunk in his garage.

I told her that was a pretty amazing collection of accomplishment to be hidden away like that.  This isn't an exact quote, but she said to the effect, "I remember him receiving some of these awards.  I know Dad was always grateful and surprised when he received these things, but he said it wasn't the reason he became a Mason.  He said being a good Mason was its own reward.  He didn't need anything else." 

His example is something we can all learn from.  If your doing something with the expectation of being rewarded, then you're doing it for the wrong reason.

~Todd E. Creason

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