Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TODD's Book Review: Ahiman

When Greg Knott and I were in Washington D.C. back in February for Masonic Week, we ran into Shawn Eyer.  I got a book from him--he even signed mine "To the Midnight Freemason."  I just got to it last week and had a tough time putting it down.  I don't write many book reviews, but this one was fantastic and I really wanted to share it with my readers.

Ahiman: A review of Masonic Culture & Tradition is a new Masonic journal, and it's a great collection of Masonic papers, old and new, on a variety of topics: ritual, symbolism, philosophy, art, and research.  The thing I enjoyed about it in particular, was that Shawn put together a collection that is extremely readable--addictively so.  And the topics are selected so that any Mason, from the newest Master Mason to the Mason who has toiled some years in the quarry, will gain something from it.  Extremely well balanced in its approach, I'm looking forward to future volumes.

I don't do a lot of recreational reading anymore.  I read constantly, but I'm usually reading something for research purposes because I'm writing something or because I want to broaden my understanding of a particular topic.  That kind of reading isn't often that pleasurable--academic works, particularly those on Freemasonry, can tend to be a little dry.  But this book went from being in my "research" category to becoming recreational reading very quickly.

So check it out.  It is available on Amazon.  Well worth the price of admission.  

~Todd E. Creason

Friday, June 9, 2017

Robert Johnson: Why I'm A Freemason

I ran across this the other night and thought I'd share it.  It's a short video produced by the Midnight Freemasons Managing Editor Robert Johnson.  I enjoyed it, and I thought you might.

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Advice For New Secretaries From An Outgoing Secretary

My Lodge is holding their public installation of officers ceremony on Sunday, and this year, for the first time in seven years, I'm not being installed as Secretary.  I'll be officially an ex-Secretary!  I enjoyed the job, but it was time to let somebody else take a turn at that very important role in the Lodge.  I wrote this piece as I began my 3rd year as Secretary, and I thought I'd share it again--for all you new guys who are stepping up to serve your Lodges.  It's still very good advice!

As originally posted on The Midnight Freemasons in October 2013:

I'm beginning my third year as Secretary of my lodge, and I'd have to admit, I'm just getting the hang of it. I've been a manager for nearly twenty-five years in my professional life, but believe me, the learning curve of a Lodge Secretary is pretty steep. It's not an easy job, but it's a very important job. Before you accept it, you better think about. Unlike any other chair in the lodge, a Lodge Secretary often sits behind that desk year after year after year. Masters serve limited terms, and part of the role of the Secretary is to maintain consistency in the lodge as the Masters come and go.

There's a lot of work involved, and a lot of rules to learn. Don't expect much credit, in fact, you'll need thick skin to survive behind that desk. I wrote a little job description for the Lodge Secretary recently which I shared with our current Master--he likes to repeat it often. It goes like this:

"Everything that goes right in the Lodge is to the credit of the Master. Everything that goes wrong in the Lodge is the fault of the Secretary."

It's only funny because it's true. So I thought I'd put together a short list of tips for new Secretaries made by one that has made most of these mistakes already.

1.) The best thing you could begin doing from day one is to start reading and understanding the Constitution and By-laws of your Grand Lodge. It falls on you to know them. Your Master is going to be relying on you to make sure the lodge is doing things the right way. And at times, it will make you unpopular, because the Master or the Brethren are going to want to do something, and it will be you telling them it's either against the rules, or there is a process involved that is going to require more effort than they expected. My Grand Lodge's Constitution and By-laws is published in a 200-page book, and 174 pages are the Constitution and By-laws. I can't claim to know them all at this point, but I certainly know a lot more than I did two years ago, and I certainly know where to look when a question of procedure or policy comes up.

2.) Attend your Grand Lodge Meeting every year. It's your job to keep up with what's going on at the Grand Lodge, and to know when by-laws change, and when new programs are offered. And read all the information you receive from your Grand Secretary carefully, and be sure you pass on information that the Brethren need to know.

3.) Make the job your own. I was fortunate to follow one of the best Secretaries in my district. He'd been in that job about fifteen years, and helped me out a lot in the beginning--but we had very different styles of management and organization. I struggled in the beginning, and it wasn't until I made it my job, organized it my own way, and did the job my own way that I began to be comfortable in the role. And as the Brethren in my lodge will tell you, I'm a very different kind of Secretary than my predecessor was.

4.) Take care of the Master. Help him in the beginning to understand the more technical side of his new position. Let him know what you need for him to do, like sign the meeting minutes each month for instance, and find out what he expects of you (and that's going to change with every Master, so you better be flexible). And help him run his meeting without overstepping your role. Over time, too many Secretaries begin to think they run the lodge--you don't. Don't confuse experience with leadership. The Master runs his Lodge--and you need to view your role as his assistant, and his most trusted advisor.

5.) Don't guess. If you're not sure of something, pick up the phone and call your Grand Secretary's Office and find out for sure. You'll save yourself a lot of time, effort and frustration if you do that. My Grand Secretary's Office has been a huge resource for me. They have all kinds of materials and information that have helped me understand many of the aspects of my job, and they've been very patient in helpful in getting me to the point where I know what I'm doing finally. So when you get behind that desk, think of your Grand Secretary's Office as a resource.

It's not an easy job, but it can be very gratifying when you do it well. And you'll know you're doing well when the members start relying on you because they know you're organized, and good at what you do (although few will actually understand what it is you do). You'll know you're doing well when your Master feels comfortable asking you for guidance. You'll know you're doing well when a committee chair comes up to you and asks you for advice on how to organize a project they are working on. Those are the moments Secretaries live for.

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ten Things I've Learned In The First 50 Years

Friday is my birthday.  I've been on this earth for fifty years now!  Fifty wonderful years.  In fact, if there's one thing I can profess to be an expert about, it's about being happy.  Through good times and bad, through gain and loss, and sickness and health, and all that other nonsense life never stops throwing our way--I've always been happy.

So here's my birthday present to you.  I'm going to share ten of my secrets to a happy, laughter-filled life!

#1  Live with an attitude of gratitude.  Every single day you're alive on this earth is a gift, and no gift should be squandered.  Appreciate the time you have.  Appreciate the things you have.  The people in your life.  Say thank you.  Tell people what they mean to you.  Show your appreciation of the gifts you have by being generous to others.  Share the things you've learned.  Be grateful for what you have, because no matter how little you find yourself with, there's always somebody with less who prays for the day they have even as much as you have.

#2  Find a place to belong.  Find people who share your morals and your values, and surround yourself with them.  Find a good church, or a Masonic Lodge, or a women's group, or a book club.  Make friends.  Share your life.  Don't be afraid to share yourself with others.  Sometimes you'll get hurt, but the alternative is going through life alone.

#3  Bury hatchets rather than sharpen axes.  Life is too short to carry grudges, and usually the only person that is hurt is yourself.  Live a clean life.  When somebody wrongs you--forgive them.  When somebody feels wronged by you, whether rightly or wrongly, just apologize and move on.  Carrying old hurts and anger around with you everywhere will suck all the joy out of life, and if you carry it long enough, it will poison you.  You'll become bitter, and you'll never be able to see the good in people because you carry all those old scars around with you from all those conflicts nobody remembers anymore . . . except you.

#4  Don't take yourself too seriously.  People are so easily offended these days.  All you have to do is disagree with some people, and they become furious.  Laugh a little.  Joke a little.  Learn to see your own faults and be able to poke fun at yourself.  Life is about accumulating experience, and some of the best experience we gain is learning from other people, and seeing the world through their eyes and experience.  So suffer yourself to remain a student rather than seeing yourself as the professor all the time.  Students keep learning, and professors very often just keep teaching the same material year after year.

#5  You get what you expect.  It's all about your attitude towards things.  If you decide you're not going to like a new restaurant, you won't.  If you think you can't do a thing, you're right.  If you decide you're probably not going to like your new boss, you won't.  Learn to eliminate your own bias, and you'll learn to live in the moment, and walk into every new situation with a clean slate and open to just live the experience.

#6  Be generous.  With your treasure.  With your knowledge.  With your experience.  With your time.  With your love.  With your respect.  With your laughter.   Most things become even more valuable when they are shared.

#7  Say yes!  Life is an adventure, and you don't go on grand adventures by playing it safe.  You have to take risks.  You can't do that unless you look for opportunities in life to try new things, and then say yes when the opportunities present themselves. 

#8  Do things that scare you.  Fear paralyzes people.  Fear of failure.  Fear of looking like an idiot.  Fear of falling.  Fear of water.  Fear of heights.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  My biggest fear was, and still is, being up in front of people.  Especially speaking in front of a group.  I'd be so afraid before I'd have to do something in front of people, I'd often throw up beforehand.  Ask my wife.  I did that before our wedding.  Even back when I was a musician, I'd have a few drinks before I'd play even for a couple dozen people.  Being front and center still scares me, but I do it all the time now.  I've gotten very good at hiding that fear.  In fact, last weekend I was up on a stage handing out diplomas to high school grads in front of a whole gymnasium full of onlookers. Every time I do it, I get a little better at it, and a little less afraid of doing it.  I look at all the things I've been able to do since I began working on that fear a dozen years ago that I wouldn't have been able to had I let fear stop me.  I've been the master of two Masonic Lodges.  I'm a Masonic speaker on a regular basis  I give presentations and sit on panels.  I've officiated weddings.  If you don't deal with fear, you wind up spending your life avoiding any situation that might involve that one thing you're hung up on.  The best way to overcome fear is to face it.

#9  Choose your friends wisely.  Some people have many friends.  People like me have a very few carefully chosen intimates.  Whatever your model is, introvert or extrovert, choose your friends wisely.  Pick friends that build you up instead of tear you down.  Pick friends that you know you can depend on, rather than friends that always disappoint you.  Pick friends that will pull you off to the side and give you wise counsel when you need it.  Pick friends you can trust.  There is nothing more important to a happy life than the people you choose to surround yourself with.  So exercise good judgement in those you select to be in your inner circle.

#10  The last is actually the first--find God and let him in your life.  Always start there.  I have always maintained that all people are born with a God-shaped hole in themselves.  If you don't fill it with God, you walk around with an empty space inside you.  As Ben Franklin once said, a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.  When you let God into your life, your life takes on a more important meaning.  It's no longer just about you, but you begin thinking about how you can live a life that would please God.  God designed us, and knows how we should live.  The answer to every single problem you may ever encounter in your life is written in the Holy Bible, if you'll only look.  When you live life the way God designed you to live it, you'll find strength, and happiness, and abundance, and love.  But when you go your own way, you'll find your path is a lot more difficult, and happiness is much harder to find.  If you want your car to last a long time, you operating and maintain it according to the owners manual.  You should view the Bible the same way--our operations manual written by our manufacturer.

So I hope you'll try and few of these out.  I think you'll find they have tremendous value.  But I'd start with the last one . . . find God first.  The other nine all come right out of the teachings of the Holy Bible.  Like I said, you'll find the answers to every question life will throw at you in there.


~Todd E. Creason
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