Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

Earlier this month, an 88-year-old man approached the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, saw he was having difficulty and opened the door for him. The man produced a firearm and shot the guard dead.

James Von Brunn is a white-supremacist and holocaust denier. Stephen Tyrone Johns was an African-American.

We can all hope and pray that fanatics like James Von Brunn are in the miniscule minority. This tragic event reminds us that even one crazed person is too many.

Masons have always stood for tolerance of religion. We prohibit discussion of religion and politics in our lodges. We seek to recall what brings us together, not what may divide us.

It is time for all Masons, throughout this great country and throughout the world, to take an unequivocal stand against bigotry in any form. We cannot tolerate intolerance on the basis of race, creed or religion in our organization. If we do, how can we speak with any authority to those outside the Craft on this important topic.

I call upon all Masons, all Grand Lodges, to immediately remove all restrictions to membership on the basis of race. I call upon all Grand Lodges and all Masons to immediately recognize Prince Hall Masonry as our legitimate partners in Masonic heritage, history and brotherhood.

And I call upon all Masons and all Grand Lodges to bring to bear whatever influence they have on our brothers who have yet to remove restrictions on race to remove those restrictions forthwith and take a stand – the stand required by the oath we all take as Masons – to meet all men who have been raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on the level.

* * * * *
For another perspective on the tragedy at the Holocaust Museum, see SGW Tom Hendrickson’s blog, All Things Masonic.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grand Master Hosta

In 1986, master hosta breeder Paul Aden registered a new cultivar: Hosta Grand Master.

PGM Steve Johnson located one of these hard to find plants and delivered it to me Sunday. I’ll be finding a place of honor at my home to plant it!

I am not able to find any information on the web as to why the plant was named “Grand Master”. If anyone has information on that, please send it along to me!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

York Rite Conference

Patty and I attended the Grand York Rite Awards Banquet Friday at Willmar. The Grand Chapter awarded its Distinguished Service Medal to Dean N. Strand. The Grand Council of Cryptic Masons awarded its Mason of the Year Award to James Milander. SE Area Deputy James McNeely was awarded the Knights Templar Cross of Honor. Congratulations to all these deserving Brothers, and all others who were recognized at the Banquet.

I was presented with an Honorary Life Membership of the Grand Commandry of Knights Templar of Minnesota. What an honor!

More good news: A new Council of Cryptic Rite Masons, Ark No. 3, has been chartered in Owatonna! I look forward to another visit at the 2010 York Rite conference and one or more new charters for the York Rite.

Friday, June 26, 2009

York Rite Conference

I attended the Public Opening and Memorial Service for the York Rite bodies annual communication last evening. In my visits this year, I get the impression that there is a renewal in interest and participation in the York Rite bodies. This bodes well not only for the York Rite, but for Blue Lodge Masonry, too.

Here is an essay submitted for presentation at Grand Lodge on why a Mason should become a York Rite Mason. Thanks to Kris Pich, High Priest , St John’s Lake Harriet Chapter # 9.

Why should I join the York Rite? I have been asked this many times and you may have even asked yourself that question. All blue lodges in Minnesota are York Rite lodges. This means that the first three degrees are York Rite degrees. So you are already a York Rite mason. Why not finish your York Rite education?

In the third degree we lean that the master’s word is lost. The brothers who continue on with their York Rite education know this is not the case. Through the four degrees of the Chapter the blanks in the story of the third degree are filled in. The Chapter degrees cumulate with the beautiful and moving Royal Arch degree where candidates learn the true word!

A Mason must have completed the chapter degrees before being eligible to receive the Cryptic Council degrees. In the two degrees of the Cryptic Council, Cryptic Masons learn of other incidents at the building of the first temple and why the word was lost and how it was preserved. The council degrees will help you better understand the Master Mason degree as well as the Royal arch degree.

A Mason must also have completed the chapter degrees before being eligible to receive the three Knight Templar degrees or orders as they are called in the Knight Templar Commandery. These degrees portray beautiful and impressive lessons and explain the Christian interpretation of freemasonry.

Please keep in mind you do not have to be a Christian to join or receive any York Rite degrees. Along with finishing your York Rite education, seeing the impressive degrees performed and experiencing more great Masonic brotherhood why wouldn’t you join?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public Relations and Education

This week, I was at the McLeod County Courthouse in Glencoe and found a very nice display provided by Temple Lodge of Hutchinson.

The display was located on the first floor of the courthouse, in a spot where hundreds of people pass by every week.

Thank you, brothers of Temple Lodge, for getting the message of Masonry out to the public!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Visit to Bethel 76

Last evening, I attended my first Job's Daughters meeting at Bethel 76 in White Bear Lake. I was most warmly welcomed by Kellie Jackson, the Honored Queen, and all the girls and adults at the meeting.

Two new members were also attending their first meeting after installation - Hailey and Karen. When asked to comment on the installation, Karen exclaimed, "I got installated!"

I was impressed with the memory work and the fact that each of the girls present gave a report on something. The skills developed in using the memory and public speaking will be most valuable to these young ladies.

Those are skills which all Masonic bodies seek to develop in their members. It is one of the real benefits of belonging to these organizations.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

Peace of Mind Leads to Love

Only when a person has peace of mind can he really feel love for humanity. Lack of peace of mind leads to animosity towards others.

Peace of mind leads to love. Only if a person has peace of mind will he be able to pass the test of dealing properly with other people. He will be able to kindhearted to everyone.

His peace of mind will enable him to tolerate others and be patient with them.

(see Daas Chochmah Umussar, vol.2, p.203; Mussar Hatorah, p.10;Gateway to Happiness, p.73)

Thanks to Grand Lodge Education Officer Ed Halpaus for passing this quote on to me. It reminds us that it is easier to be intolerant with others if we are dissatisfied with our own lives. If we have peace in our souls, and thank the Great Architect for the many blessings we have received, we will naturally be happier and more content.

Tolerance means we must tolerate ourselves first!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day, 2009

My oldest daughter was born on Saturday, June 20. As it is in 2009, the 21st was Father’s Day. Becky was the first of three children who blessed Patty and me.

You don’t get an owner’s manual with the birth of a child. It’s on the job learning. We strive to make our children’s lives as good as it can be, but, we also need to let them learn on their own – even if they make painful mistakes.

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly. What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. (author unknown)

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. If we allowed our children to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple them. They would not be as strong as what they could have been. And they could never fly.

(From Pray Notre Dame.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grand Lodge of South Dakota

Patty and I had the privilege of representing the Grand Lodge of Minnesota at the 135th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota in Sioux Falls this weekend. Also attending from Minnesota were PGM Steve Johnson and DGM John Cook.

It is always interesting to see how other Grand Lodges conduct their communications, and even more fun to see old friends and make new ones. Patty and I want to thank Grand Master Virgil Andersen and his wife Vi for a great weekend and a great friendship. Congratulations on a year well-served!

And we offer our best wishes to incoming Grand Master Jack Welker and his wife, Mary. We look forward to crossing paths with you many times this year!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reflections on a Firepit

I was burning some scrap lumber in our firepit last weekend. There were nails and bolts of various sizes, and I decided it would be easier just to burn the wood and get the metal out of the ashes, which I did. I got out the garden rake and moved the ashes and charcoal around and picked up many nails and bolts. I raked a couple of more times, and picked up some more. After about the tenth time through the ashes, I figured I had them all, but on the twelfth time, I found a couple more.

I then started seeing twigs that looked like nails. I picked them up, and broke them between my fingers to be sure.

After probably a couple dozen or more times through the ashes, and a small pail full of nails and bolts, I gave up.

I thought that sorting through that firepit was a lot like going through our ritual. I’ve often said, as most of us have, that every time we see or perform the ritual, we pick up a new insight. It’s a lot like finding a new nail the 11th time through the ashes. Sometimes we pick up something, roll it around and see that it breaks – it really wasn’t a new lesson. But other times, we find a new nugget – an old lesson that has a new application because of our life situation and a different perspective.

It’s the ritual that differentiates us from the other service organizations. The ritual of our initiation and the ritual of our openings and closings.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fight Fair!

Alan Axelrod has authored a book entitled When the Buck Stops with You: Harry S. Truman on Leadership. In the book, he takes a Truman quote and then writes a few paragraphs on the leadership principle mentioned.

Harry Truman is one of my favorite Presidents, Americans and Masons. He lived the Masonic tenets in his entire life, not just in Lodge.

Mr. Axelrod writes that Margaret Truman, in her book Where the Buck Stops quotes her father: "It is my opinion that if the president isn't in an occasional fight with Congress or the courts, he's not doing a good job."

Mr. Axelrod observes that "in any organization … it is complete harmony that is a sign of ill health. Conflict … is healthy.”

While there is no point to pick a fight, there is no point to run away from conflict, either. Mr. Axelrod ends this discussion by observing “Be willing to fight, and be willing to be fought against. That’s part of a leader’s job – but only a part. Make sure the conflict does not leave people hurt and bruised but, rather, creates fresh perceptions, new ideas and alternate approaches to benefit everyone. Don’t fight to defeat your “enemies”, but to preserve and promote the true health of the organization.”

When conflict arises in your lodge, or in our Grand Lodge, look for an opportunity to advance the Craft. Fight fair. We’re all Brothers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home Away from Home

I have probably sat in lodge in Hope Lodge No. 42, Glencoe, more than any lodge except my home lodge. On Monday, I attended their annual outdoor lodge at the farm of Carl Illif. The rain held off, and there was a nice crowd on hand - about 40 brothers from 14 different lodges.

I was able to present a check from the Ladd Fund to complete Hope Lodge's commitment to install a flag on the Avenue of Flags in Glencoe. In return, I received a certificate designating me an honorary member of Hope Lodge. What a thrill!

After lodge, we adjourned to Carl's garage where brats and all the fixings were served. All agreed it was a wonderful evening.

Thank you, WM Carl Iliff and the brothers of Hope Lodge!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Pledge Allegiance

Section S1.01 of the Standing Resolutions of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota provides

The Grand Lodge hereby adopts the United States Flag as its banner, to be displayed at its communications and carried upon all ceremonial occasions, except funerals; and it recommends the ownership and display of such flag by each Lodge and that the same be carried by it on like ceremonial occasions. (Adopted in 1915).

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that Most Worshipful Brother and President Harry S Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there was a shortage of American flags for sale. This included flag lapel pins, flag decals and the flags that folks were flying from the rear windows of their cars. Congress and state legislatures debated making reciting the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory in schools across the land.

Within a couple of weeks, I realized that there was something I could do that that wouldn’t take an act of Congress or a statute by the legislature. I could start each day of court by inviting everyone in the courtroom to remain standing, and join with me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to our nation’s flag. Every day since, at the start of the Court day (and, sometimes, at the start of the afternoon session as well), we have recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

There is no rule of Court, as there is in a Masonic Lodge, that the Pledge ought to be recited at the beginning of the session. It was just the right thing to do.

* * * * *

To see the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language, see http://www.legion.org/documents/legion/pdf/signingpledge.pdf

To read Brother Red Skelton’s story of his teacher’s interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance, see http://www.usflag.org/skeltonspledge.html

Saturday, June 13, 2009

R & R

The Brothers of Lebanon Lodge No. 346 invited me to join them at a member's cabin at an undisclosed location in North Central Minnesota. Over a dozen brothers had a chance to get together, eat, sleep, golf, talk Masonry and - oh yeah - do a little fishing. The photo shows the only fish caught Saturday morning. Thanks to guide Brother Jim Bergstrom, but no thanks to his son, Steve, who moved the landing net in the boat to an undisclosed location...

Thank you W.B Ted Martz and all the brothers from Lebanon for making me feel welcome and a part of your group. I had a great time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Father's Day Preview

I was invited to the Eastern Star dinner last night at Minnetonka Chapter in Mound, and had a great time. The photo shows the OES members in attendance, including Worthy Matron Dee Schwalbe, Worthy Patron Vern Schwalbe and Worshipful Master Dean Dorholt of Mound Lodge.

The theme for the evening was honoring fathers. It reminded me of a story I heard recently that I wish I had said, as it is exactly how I feel about my children:

A new grandfather was visiting his son and new grandson for the first time. As his son held his grandson, the man asked, "Do you love your son?" The son replied, "I never knew I could love a person, or anything, in the way I love my son."

The grandfather replied, "Always remember, when you think about how much you love your son, that's how much I love you."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Minnesota Masonic Charities

One of the duties of the Grand Master in Minnesota is to serve on the Board of Directors of Minnesota Masonic Charities. In 2004, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota created Minnesota Masonic Charities, a nonprofit umbrella organization that promotes even greater levels of charity through a united focus. The Minnesota Masons contribute to charitable causes of all types; aiding other Masons, their families and all people within society. The size, resources and capabilities rank MMC as one of the largest grant-making organizations in the state.

The Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star is also represented on the Board of Directors. Last evening, the Board of Directors of Charities and the officers of the Grand Chapter enjoyed a dinner to recognize the close association between our organizations and strengthen the bonds between us. The photo shows the members of each body.

The Masonic families of Minnesota contribute $25,000 a day to charitable causes.
From Matching Funds for Lodge and Chapter neighborhood projects, to major grants for hospitals, children’s clinics, senior facilities, cancer research, education and much more, MMC reflects the generosity of Minnesota Masons.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear George Washington

Last night, Winthrop Chapter 119, OES, and Sibley Lodge had their annual summer potluck picnic. The weather was damp and chilly, but the food was great and the fellowship warm.

In attendance were the two winners of the Sibley Lodge scholarships. Shown in the photo are the scholarship winners, Abby Sharp and Kacy Kuscienko, along with PGM Steve Johnson, WM Kevin Pioske and yours truly.

One of the requirements of the application for the scholarship is for the student to write a letter to George Washington. These young ladies were very articulate and excerpts from their letters are in order:

Without the leadership, devotion and willingness you gave to the nation when the bicameral government system was first introduced, the nation would not have the future it’s living today. Thank you George Washington for being the one who initiated a great change in our nation which then became the backbone of the United States’ stability and success. – Kacy Kuscienko

While the ways of communicating have certainly changed and improved, the attributes of being a Mason appear to have changed little and men today still strive to achieve the same qualities you shared with fellow Masons long ago. Masonry teaches the same lessons about love, compassion, hard work, integrity and devotion. Just as back in the 1790’s when your job as our country’s leader was grueling and time consuming without the use of technology or innovative machines, and your fellow Masons were there to support you in the very difficult decisions you made, you should know that today’s Masons still share that same dedication to each other. – Abby Sharp

With young leaders like this, the Country’s future appears in good hands!

Post Script: PGM Johnson informed me that the evening’s chef, Worshipful Master Kevin Pioske, went on line and so he could use the same recipe that George Washington used when he roasted the wieners for the potluck after laying the cornerstone at the U.S. Capitol!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

While visiting the Grand Lodge of Manitoba annual communication last weekend, we heard a short report on the progress of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The Grand Lodge of Manitoba has committed to assist with the project by raising funds, and raising awareness. A brief look at the website for the Museum demonstrates that this project embodies true Masonic values:

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is envisioned to be a centre of learning and history where Canadians and people from other countries can engage in dialogue and commit to taking action to combat the forces of hate and oppression.

This museum is envisioned to be the largest human rights centre in the world, with a special focus on equipping and educating young people to become human rights leaders and advocates.

Here's what some youth, who have participated in The Asper Foundation's Human's Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program, are saying. (For more youth comments, see the web page.)

"Our class has decided to play an active role in the fight against intolerance. We want to help fulfill Izzy Asper's dream of building a museum for human rights. We want to become bricklayers of peace." - Ecole Lacerte, Classroom 6-3, Saint-Boniface

"I knew that there was so much I was going to learn and that after this, I would be different. I know that now, because when I hear somebody being racist, or saying something based on our differences, I can't help but to step in. When the museum opens, I will be the first in line." - Hannah, Winnipeg

Masons should support the vision of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unexpected Beauty

The Washington Post conducted an experiment when they had a world-class violinist perform in a Washington D.C. Metro station at rush hour, and nobody listened. This, just 48 hours after he had sold out a Boston theater at about $100 per ticket. (For a more complete story about this experiment, see Joshua Bell.)

How often do we fail to see the beauty we encounter every day? I recall going to a Scout Camp with my son many years ago. One of the other adult leaders and I went to the swimming beach for an early morning swim. We saw and heard two loons calling across the lake. It was a magical moment and one we commented on to each other, almost gushing.

A young Scout leader was nearby and overheard us. He commented that the loons were there every day, but until he overheard us, he had not really heard them.

It's like that song from The Music Man: There were bells on the hill, but I never heard them ringing till there was you.

Thoughtful men and Masons ought to try to take time to see and appreciate the beaut around them. most often, we will see the Handiwork of the Great Architect of the Universe at work. ...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Honorary Past Grand Masters

MWB Ted Jones, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, presented four Honorary Grand Masters certificates at the annual communication on June 5. Two of these honors went to Minnesotans: Past Grand Master Roger Taylor (second from left) and Past Master Sam Kvasnik, Khurum Sunlight Lodge (far right).

This honor is presented to visiting dignitaries who have demonstrated their friendship and commitment to the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.

Congratulations MWB Roger and WB Sam!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Traveling Friendship Gavel

There are nine brothers representing the Grand Lodge of Minnesota at the 134th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Manitoba.

One of the very nice traditions between our two Grand Lodges is the exchange of the Friendship Gavel. Thirty years ago, the gave was first presented to MWB Don Severson at the March annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. In June that year, MWB Ray Pavola and PGM Severson returned the gavel to Grand Lodge of Manitoba. Since then, the gavel has crossed the U.S. / Canada border twice a year (weather permitting!).

The photos show the Minnesota delegation delivering, and Grand Master Ted Jones and Deputy Grand Master David Love receiving, the Friendship Gavel.

The gavel is made of Canadian maple by an American craftsman, and the box from American oak, crafted by a Canadian artisan. It is a fitting symbol of the long association of brotherly love and affection that has marked our two Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wayzata Lodge Visit

Past Grand Master Neil Neddermeyer told me that last night was the first time anyone in Wayzata Lodge recalled receiving the sitting Grand Master in form. And they did it right! After a wonderful meal, Worshipful Master Dale Lillevold opened lodge to conduct some brief business. After closing, Bethel No. 39, Job's Daughters performed the living cross. Two 50-year pins were awarded, as well as one 60-year pin.

The brothers then surprised me with a wonderful leather jacket, embroidered by W.B. Terry Johnson, Past Area Deputy.

It was a wonderful night, spent at a wonderful lodge with great brothers.

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Patty and I traveled to Evergreen Lodge in Clyde last night for their annual Strawberry Festival. It was a long ride, but well worth it!

The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Worshipful Master Dale Pierce, who along with his son, Adam, are the third and fourth generations to serve as Master of Evergreen Lodge. Wow!

Brothers and guests from Evergreen Lodge, plus many other lodges (including a very nice contingent from Mystic Star Lodge in Rushford) were in attendance to hear a very interesting program about the Honors Flight (taking World War veterans to Washington D.C. to tour the WWII Memorial) from Rochester in May. It is so nice to hear from veterans and "guardians" who made the flight and without exception thought it was a wonderful experience.

Former Senator, World War II Veteran and Brother Bob Dole greeted the flight, and shook every Minnesota veteran's hand as he exited the plane.

Shown in the photo on the right is Brother Norman House, who was made a Mason before I was born! ("I'm 95, going on 96!") I'm told that Brother Norm was a terrific ritualist.

Attending functions like these are what makes the position of Grand Master so very rewarding. Thank you, brothers of Evergreen Lodge, and all Minnesota Masons for your continued warm welcomes!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

As you can imagine, I am spending some significant time behind the wheel of my car, traveling to Masonic events around the state. Last week, I listened to a book on CD - Night, by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

The book chronicles the teenager and his family as they first denied the possibility of transport, then were herded into cattle cars and sent to concentration camps and work camps. Wiesel's father, mother and sister died in the camps.

No person can remain unmoved listening or reading this account. It reemphasizes the critical need for tolerance in our society, so that such atrocities will not happen again. It is said that Freedom is not free, and constant vigilance is its price.

Wiesel has written:

Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Constant vigilance against intolerance is our duty as Masons.