Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." Johann Von Goethe

Happy Thanksgiving! The quote should remind us that thankfulness is an attitude - we can choose to be thankful, or we can choose to be envious of those who have more than we. For a piece that has gone around the net a few times on being thankful for things we often complain about, click on I am Grateful.

Tomorrow, especially, I will choose to be most grateful for the blessings I enjoy. I wish for you a happy day, with loved ones, and an appreciation for the wonderful opportunities we have in this fabulous country.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

The Bill of Rights decoupled religion from the state, in part because so many religions were steeped in an absolutist frame of mind – each convinced that it alone had a monopoly on the truth and therefore eager for the state to impose this truth on others. Often, the leaders and practitioners of absolutist religions were unable to perceive any middle ground or recognize that the truth might draw upon and embrace apparently contradictory doctrines.

The framers of the Bill of Rights had before them the example of England, where the ecclesiastical crime of treason had become nearly indistinguishable [from the crime against the Crown]. Many of the early Colonists had come to America fleeing religious persecution, although some of them were perfectly happy to persecute other people for their beliefs. The Founders of our nation recognized that a close relation between the government and any of the quarrelsome religions would be fatal to freedom – and injurious to religion.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

From Liberty magazine, November/December 2009. See,

Masons should be vigilant to protect our Freedom of Religion and the separation of Church and State. It benefits our religions as much as our country.

Retreat Reflections

My silent retreat started Thursday evening. Before the silence starts, the 71 men had supper. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal with my two brothers, who accompanied me on retreat.

As I was sitting down, a hand rested on my shoulder and a man said, "It's nice to see you here, Grand Master." It was Brother Dave Seitz, who has been making retreats with the Jesuits for many years. You just never know when or where you'll run into a brother!

The silence and rest and reflection were most welcome this year. Now, of course, the trick is to keep that sense of reverence as I go back to my family, work and fraternity.

Thank you to all the Brothers who remembered me and my brothers in prayer over the weekend. I knew you were with me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Be Still and Know That I Am God

I won't be blogging for the rest of the weekend. My two brothers and I (Mark on the left and Mike in the middle) are going on a silent retreat.

I first went on this retreat in 1987, and have missed maybe a handful of years since then. For me, it is a time of reflection, rest and renewal - something I'm especially looking forward to in this busy year.

The blog immediately below this is a story from a retreat in 1997. It is a very personal story for me, and you may not find it meaningful at all. If you do read it, however, I think you'll understand why I posted it and hope you will excuse my digression.

During this weekend, I will have many opportunities to pray for my brothers in the Craft. I certainly would appreciate it if you would remember me in your applications to Deity this weekend, as well.

My Walk with Adam

On July 16, 1997, my first grandson, Adam Charles Kelsey, was born. He died a few hours later. We knew before his birth that he could not survive.

In November, 1997, I made a silent retreat with the Jesuits.

The retreat started after supper on Thursday night and ended with supper Sunday night.

Saturday afternoon. I have had profound moments of sorrow this weekend when I think of Adam and our loss. This morning, I decided not to fight it any more, but to make Adam, his brief life and death, the focus of my retreat. I decided that, this afternoon, I would go for a walk and imagine that Adam was with me. I imagined him about four years old. Whether it was my imagination, or Adam’s spirit, I leave for you to decide. We had a nice walk.

We start up a hill and through the woods. I showed him deer tracks and bird tracks in the snow. Black berries hanging on a bush. Trees now big that were small ten years ago, when I first walked this path on retreat. Adam asked how I met Grandma and where does snow come from. I told him, but I said his Dad could do a better job explaining about the snow.

We walked for over a half hour. I told Adam that his mom might be alone and lonely and maybe he should go visit her. He told me that he could be with his mom in an instant. We should finish our walk and he’d go to her then. That sounded reasonable to me, so on we went.

We came to the wildlife pond and I told Adam how I’d watched a muskrat sit on the ice and eat some years ago. A huge “V” of geese flew overhead, and I told Adam that I’d seen geese swimming in the lake by my room this morning. We walked to the pheasant pens and I showed him ring-necked pheasants and Chinese pheasants and told him how I’d gone pheasant hunting with my dog Sandy when I was a teenager.

It was getting late, and I needed to hurry a bit to make the next session in the chapel. We headed for my room and Adam said, “Let’s go down to the lake and see if the geese are swimming there.” Well, they had just flown over us a few minutes before, so I didn’t think they’d be in the lake, but OK, let’s go. I think that Adam tricked me.

We walked down to the lake and, as I suspected, there were no geese. There was, however, a bald eagle soaring over the trees across the bay. The moment I saw the eagle, Adam was gone from me. He was with the eagle -- he was the eagle -- flying lazy circles over the lake. I watched him for about five minutes. He then flew over my head and disappeared behind the trees.

Later. I’ve thought a lot about my retreat. I have told this story many times. I felt such peace. I believe there are no coincidences. I believe that Adam took a walk with his Grandpa that afternoon. I thank him and God for making it possible.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Minnehaha Lodge Hiram Award - Mark Hailer

I had the pleasure of attending the Hiram Award dinner for W.B. Mark Hailer last night.

Brother Mark has had a long association with Masonry dating back to starting as a DeMolay. His love for the craft, and for youth, led him to work with Minnesota DeMolay, for the benefit of all Masonry in Minnesota.

It is so very nice to be present when a good and humble Mason is recognized for the commitment to his principals.

Thank you, WM Matt Lundgren. You have many excellent brothers in your lodge to choose. Mark Hailer is one of the best.

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - Bullying

Once a year, I join a group of police officers, victims advocates, social workers and school aides to visit the elementary schools in Sibley County to talk about bullying.

The first through fourth graders told me that bullying is more than pushing, hitting, pinching and biting. Bullying is calling names, not letting someone join the game, being mean.

Through skits (the one shown is a bus ride), the students watch a bullying situation and then talk about how it can be different - often if just one student says that the bully is "not nice".

Most of the schools have posters around that say bullying will not be permitted. These posters did not mention the word "tolerance", but they did say a lot about "respect".

When students respect their differences, they practice tolerance, in the true Masonic sense of the word.

We can learn a lot from fourth graders ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Osman Potentate's Gala

Patty and I were able to stop by the Osman Shrine Potentate Gala late last night. The Russ Peterson band was playing great dance music, and we had a chance to take the dance floor for a couple of turns.

We ended up most disappointed to have missed the dinner and entertainment. Potentate Jim Berg held this festive event at Circus Juventas, and the guests were thrilled during the meal by the young acrobats and circus performers who put on a great show.

Thank you, Osman Shriners, for the kind invitation and the great time!

Waldon Scholars Recognition

On Saturday night, Patty and I enjoyed the Zuhrah Legion of Honor Veterans Day Dinner. Metro West Area Deputy Lee Dorholt arranged for an invitation to area Waldon Scholarship winners to attend and be recognized. Three, along with their guests, were able accept the invitation, though one needed to leave early for a previous commitment.

DGM John Cook and I were pleased to greet these brave men, and their ladies who stayed back home, and thank them for their service. They each were most greatful for the $1000 scholarship, which was most helpful in continuing their education.

Thank you, veterans! We truly can never repay the debt we owe you.

Planning for Next Year

This past Friday and Saturday, the progressive line of the Grand Lodge met for the bi-monthly corporate board meeting and, more significantly, the planning session for the upcoming year.

By tradition, the Deputy Grand Master plans and leads this retreat. RWB John Cook covered much ground with this session. Assignments for 2010, the future of the KidsID program and strengthening the committee structure were all on the agenda.

As Grand Master, it was a strange feeling to see next year's board come together - without me! It was strange to leave after the corporate board meeting and not be part of the planning session.

There is one thing I can say for sure: The Grand Lodge of Minnesota will be in good hands when, tradition prevailing, John Cook is elected Grand Master and the rest of the progressive line steps up in the ensuing year!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Corinthian Lodge Featured in Pioneer Press

The St Paul Pioneer Press has featured Corinthian Lodge in Farmington in today's paper. For the online version of the story, click here.

This is a very nice piece on a lodge that is bringing new life to Masonry in the south metro.

Congratulations to Worshipful Master Paul Harte and the brothers of Corinthian Lodge!

Nick Johnson, Sr. Warden of Corinthian and blogger "The Millennial Mason", has a blog about the story today, too. Click here for Nick's blog.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Congratulations, Ill.Bro. Glenn Howard Liljegren!

Through 2008, only four Minnesota Scottish Rite Masons have been honored by the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States Scottish Rite Masonry with the Grand Cross of the Court of Honor: Duluth businessman T.W. Hugo about 100 years ago; Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen; renowned Minnesota Businessman Curtis Carlson; and, most recently, the "Mason for All Seasons", James Burlingame of Minneapolis.

Last night, a truly humble servant of Masonry in Minnesota was the fifth Minnesotan in history to receive this high honor: Ill. Bro. Glenn Howard Liljegren.

It was such a thrill for me to listen as Glenn's brothers, family and the director of the Duluth Rite Care Clinic told stories of Glenn's tireless energy on behalf of Scottish Rite Masonry and the Rite Care Clinic. I was honored to be seated next to Glenn's bride of 55 years, Alice, at dinner.

Glenn's remarks after being invested with this honor by Sovereign Grand Inspector General Jerry Oliver were so heartwarming. He talked about how much others contributed to the Clinic! Typical of Glenn, I'm told.

It wasn't large money contributions or political office that resulted in Glenn's nomination. It was a lifetime of Masonry, of benefiting his craft, his community and his world, that merit this recognition.

Congratulations, Glenn and Alice. Well done, our brother!

Duluth Scottish Rite Dinner

I had another memorable evening last night when I attended the Duluth Valley of Scottish Rite Fall Dinner, Guest Night and Awards Night. Over 170 brothers and guests were piped into the dining hall where we were served a sumptuous meal prepared by Euclid Chapter 56 of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Daughters of the Nile, and served by the brothers of Euclid Lodge No. 198 and the Duluth Chapter of DeMolay. During dinner, we were entertained by Nancy Elaine Anderson at the piano.

I was thrilled to be present when Ill. Bro. Glenn Liljegren was presented with the Grand Cross Court of Honor by Sovereign Grand Inspector General Jerry Oliver. (See related blog today.)

I was just as thrilled to learn that 12 Scottish Rite Masons had brought 17 prospective members to see what Scottish Rite Masonry is all about. (That did not include my guest, "Grand Pilot" Carl Iliff, who will complete his Scottish Rite petition for degrees next week!)

This was my first trip back to Duluth after the memorial service for W.B. Tony Keane. I was so pleased to see that Candace was able to join us for the evening. While I know I cannot miss Tony like his family and his Duluth Brothers, I do miss him a lot.

Congratulations to the Duluth Valley of Scottish Rite for a great evening!

The "Grand Pilot"

The problem: I needed to be at work yesterday, as I had a pretty full court calendar. I also needed to be in Duluth by 6:00 p.m. for the Scottish Rite Guest Night.

Can't be done? That's what I thought until Worshipful Master Carl Iliff, Hope Lodge No. 42 in Glencoe, stepped in and offered to fly me to Duluth. (That sort of sounds like a song title, doesn't it?)

With a strong south wind pushing us along on the way up, and hindering us on the way back, we flew to Duluth, where Roger Johnson and his wife picked us up and safely delivered us to the Scottish Rite Temple for the evening's festivities.

There is no Grand Lodge Officer designation for the Grand Pilot, but I'm thinking there should be! Thanks so much, Brother Carl!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

We pause today to thank the men and women who have served our country.

And we thank the volunteers of the Masonic Service Association, Hospital Visitor Program.

The Hospital Visitor Program is much more than merely "visitations" to the disabled and lonely patients in V.A. Hospitals, State Veterans Homes and Extended Care Facilities. It is the rendering of personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and Non-Masons alike, who now need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant.

Little things mean a lot. A friendly smile, a warm handclasp, an embrace and a kind word can do wonders for those who are lonely and depressed in a hospital or a nursing home.

Volunteers are at their stations every day in the V.A. Hospitals or State Veterans Homes. They man their stations

  • to pay a comforting visit in the name of Freemasonry;
  • to act as a "personal shopper" for bedridden patients;
  • to purchase items for patients recommended by the Hospital staff, but not obtainable through regular hospital facilities.
  • to assist in procuring "vital statistics" documents, such as birth or marriage certificates to provide notary public services, particularly for patients confined to their beds
  • to arrange or furnish emergency transportation to a patient's home
  • to secure clothing for a needy patient, sometimes for his family
  • to counsel with a patient and his family, if it doesn't conflict with hospital procedures
  • to help arrange religious, entertainment and recreational activities for all patents.

We give special thanks to our MSA Representatives: John McBride at the Minneapolis VA Hospital, Kenneth Smith at Silver Bay, Everett Brandenberg at Luverne and Peter Kloskowski in St. Cloud, and all the volunteers that work with them.

The representatives above can ALWAYS use another two or three volunteers. If you have the time and inclination to spend a day or so a month visiting our recovering servicemen and women and veterans, contact the Grand Lodge Office, who will put you in touch with the volunteer program.

Once again, Thank You, Veterans. We literally could not enjoy our Freedom without your service.


Worthy Grand Matron Sue Bay arranged for a dinner last night for officers of Eastern Star, the Grand Lodge, Job's Daughters and DeMolay. We had a lovely meal, and good company.

And, we laid the foundation for even more cooperation within the Masonic family.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents. - Robert F. Kennedy, 1925 - 1968

Think about that ... I can't recall being offended by a person who is promoting his idea, but I can easily recall taking offense by an extreme person who is critical about a tenet that I hold dear.

As Masons, we are taught to "subdue our passions." This, I maintain, does NOT mean that we should be without passion. Most of us are very passionate about the ideals we espouse. It does mean that we should be temperate - and that is in our speech and actions as well as in our appetites.

Thanks to "Quote of the Day" for the Kennedy quote.

Monday, November 9, 2009

DeMolay Legion of Honor

After the Grand Master's Degree on Sunday, Roger Schmid, O. Medford Kelly and I were honored by being inducted into the DeMolay Legion of Honor. There was a most impressive ceremony, presided over by W.B. Jerry B. Oliver, and some of the most well-known names in Minnesota Masonry were present to assist in the conferral of this honor.

I have a real fondness for the members of Minnesota DeMolay. They are young men, ages 12-21, and can cut up as such. But they also can and do get very serious when discussing their ritual and the tenets of DeMolay.

And very many of them will approach the altar of Masonry in due time...

DeMolay Grand Master's Degree

On Sunday, November 8, Minnesota DeMolay conducted its Grand Master's Degree. Patty and I were pleased to be present and see a new brother from Owatonna receive the DeMolay degrees.

The degree reenacts the trial of the namesake of the society, Jacques DeMolay, who was burned at the stake in 1314. It is a moving testament to fidelity and a cautionary tale promoting tolerance. It is a degree I have seen before, and one that still teaches whenever I see it presented.

Congratulations to Minnesota DeMolay and their adult leaders! All Masons should support this terrific organization for young men!

Waldon Scholarship News Story

Television station WDIO in Duluth recently ran a story about Waldon Scholarship winners from the 148th Fighter Wing based in Duluth.

Inteviewed was Danielle Luukonen, one of the 100 Waldon Scholar recipients for 2009.

Over the past three years, 500 returning service men and women have each received a scholarship in honor of General Ed Waldon, former commander of the Viking Divison (now the Red Bulls) of the Minnesota National Guard. General Waldon is also Most Worshipful Brother Waldon, having served as Grand Master of Minnesota Masons in 1992.

Each scholarship was in the amount of $1000. Half of the total of $500,000 over the past three years was contributed from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota through the Colonel Ladd Fund, and the other half from Minnesota Masonic Charities.

To view the story, click on Airmen Receive Scholarships.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Scottish Rite Presentation

The Minneapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite has a tradition of "Red Room" lectures - so called because they are held in a room that is pretty much red, as you can see from the photo. I had the pleasure of addressing the assembled last night.

Among other things, I mentioned lessons that I have learned from Scottish Rite Masonry, including a quote from a line I later spoke during the 26th Degree:

"We have sinned against Thee, O our Father, and have broken Thy commandments. We have forgotten mercy and practiced intolerance. We have judged our brother harshly, and condemned him unheard."

As I rehearse these lines, and when I recite them during the degree, I am reminded that no matter how hard we try, we all fall short of the mark. Masonry teaches that we receive into our ranks good men (not perfect men) and make them better.

My prayer, which frankly I should make more often than I do, is for the humility to realize I have much more to learn, and that I need to rely on the Grand Architect for His direction.

Bloomington Lodge No. 340 Merges with Minnehaha Lodge No. 165

On Tuesday, November 4, I attended the final stated communication of Bloomington Lodge No. 340, held at Minnehaha Lodge. The brothers of Bloomington have voted to merge with Minnehaha, and this was the final meeting, after which the charter was delivered to me for safekeeping at the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

The photograph shows me holding the charter in a container given to Bloomington Lodge when Minnesota Lodge No. 224 merged with them. Bloomington Master Jay Weinblatt is handing the top hat given to Bloomington Lodge by the last Master of Minnesota Lodge to Minnehaha Master Matt Lundgren. Also assisting is District Representative Don Nolley.

It is a melancholy event when we lose a lodge, but the brothers of Bloomington and of Minnehaha have a great opportunity to become a premier lodge in West Metro. Good luck, brothers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Masonic Home Veterans Day Lunch

Sometimes, it's good to be lucky. I am working in Shakopee today, and the morning calendar was done early, so I had the opportunity to sneak across the river to the Masonic Home for their 10th annual Veterans Day Lunch.

One photo shows me with Brothers Larry Bachman Ed Martini and Ann. Another with my table-mates - all WWII veterans and their wives. The final photo shows me with WASP pilot Elizabeth Wall Strohfus, who was the featured speaker this afternoon.

My only regret is that I had to leave this great party before hearing Betty tell her stories of flying aircraft in 1943-44.

Thanks to Bernie White and the staff at Masonic Homes for putting together a very nice event for those folks to whom we owe just about everything.

Nicollet/Sibley Lodge meeting


Last evening, I attended lodge in St. Peter where the brothers of Sibley Lodge also attended, along with the charter (dispensation for moving the charter having previously been obtained). After a great meal, the ladies participated in an interesting program and the brothers adjourned to the lodge room.

Lodge was openend in form, and the other Grand Officers present and I were received. After a brief meeting, we closed in form and had dessert!

Worshipful Master Bob Hamilton was hospitalized in Rochester. Your prayers are solicted for his recovery.

One photo shows the two Masters for the evening, Sibley Lodge's Kevn Pioske and Nicollet's Cliff Isely, plus W.M. Mark Robbins, visiting from Mankato Lodge No. 12.
Acting Master (and District Representative) Cliff Isely added a bit of interesting history to the evening when he told me the top hat he wore was that of St. Peter Mason and Minnesota Governor John Johnson. See the biography at the Minnesota History Center website for this most interesting man and Mason. He was the first native-born Minnesotan to serve as Governor, and the first to die in office!