Thursday, January 24, 2019

This Year Is Going To Be Different . . .

It's hard to believe that Christmas was just one month ago.  Seems like much longer ago than that to me.  I think I have successfully slowed time down again to a more reasonable pace.

Over the holidays I gave a lot of thought about how I spend my time.  I'm burned out.  I spent the last three years as Master of one of my Lodges--then a month after I got out of that chair I was right back in it again as Excellent High Priest of my Royal Arch Chapter.  I did a term as Sovereign Master of my Allied Masonic Degree Council during that same time period, Scottish Rite, Midnight Freemasons (over a hundred pieces between the two blogs during that same period of time).  Secretary of my second Lodge.  I'm a School Board Member.  The responsibility of being the Eastern Area Education Officer for my Grand Lodge turned out to be a much larger job that I had anticipated.  And I've had a growing interest in being involved with a church again--I've found one I like a lot that I intend to join in the next couple months (in fact I'm back into the role of "church pianist" this Sunday morning for the first time in about 25 years).

But do you know what I don't have much time for?  The most important thing I have--my family.

I'm always telling people they have to get involved if they want to make the world a better place.  But one person can't do it all by himself.  We have to focus on getting more hands on deck.  Too many Masons get into this boat I'm in, and they flame out.  They vanish.  They get to that point when they get tired of pushing, and don't feel they're making any progress.  That's because they're applying all of their focus on a hundred different things, and that's just not enough to move the needle on any of those areas.  But if that same Mason applied all of his energy just on two or three things--he'd get a different result.  He could make a difference.  Too many of us scatter our time and energy around like a shotgun blast, instead of focusing all of our time and energy on a specific target--like you would with a rifle.

My bullet journal couldn't have made this any clearer to me since I started it back in August.  In order to be completely prepared for everything I've had on my calendar over the last six months I'd have to work three or four hours every evening on top of a full day at my real job.  It's no wonder I've been overwhelmed and teetering on the edge of just quitting everything.

The way you fix that is you look at what you're doing--what's working and what's not working.  And then determine where you get the most bang for your buck.  In other words, figuring out what you enjoy doing the most, where do you see you can make the biggest difference, and then let the rest of those obligations go.

My calendar was pretty easy to figure out after I spent some time looking at it.  The last time I was really enjoying what I was doing and feeling as if I was accomplishing something was back when I was focusing my time on my local lodges, and writing in the evenings.  So that's what it's going to be this year.  Just my local lodges, and writing in the evenings--and in the past my contribution to many of these groups has been researching and writing pieces for their publications.  I don't know how I drifted away from doing that, but that's what I need to get back to doing.  These changes should give me time for the family, for my responsibilities on the school board, and time to become involved in the church again.

The great thing about a new year is it's a clean slate--a time to start over again.  But change doesn't have to happen as the result of a resolution at the end of one year and the beginning of another.  Every new day is a clean slate.  Every day is the opportunity to learn from the mistakes we made yesterday and move forward wiser and better prepared.  Every sunrise is another chance to begin again--and only God knows how many of those sunrises we have left.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Points Of Light

I remember many years ago taking a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta—it was a six or seven hour flight in the middle of the night. It was the first time I’d flown at night, and I slept through most of the flight. Every once in awhile, I’d wake up and look out the window. I thought it was odd that every time I woke up and looked out the window we were flying over a large city. The city lights were beautiful across the landscape below. The last time I woke up, I glanced out the window and saw that once again we were flying over a large city. I suddenly realized that wasn’t a city beneath me! We were flying over vast rural areas, and those lights below were barnyard lights from all the small farms spaced out over the miles below. We were flying so far up, those small lights looked very close together, but in reality could have been a mile or more apart from each other.

I was thinking about this again recently, when President George H. W. Bush passed away. He made a remark in his nomination speech in 1988 about a thousand points of light that baffled many people. Nobody seemed to really get what he was talking about. He repeated that concept of a thousand points of light at his inaugural address in 1989. What’s been forgotten is that he was talking about community organizations like ours. Small points of light in a sea of darkness doing our good works—building men, building stronger communities, serving as pillars of the community, helping those who are less fortunate. I knew what the President was talking about, because I remembered that flight and how all those small lights below looked from far above.

It’s very easy for us to become discouraged at times as Freemasons. We aspire to live by a very different set of rules than other men do, and that can make us feel very much alone at times. We can feel as if we’re living our life by standards that seem outdated to many people in our modern society. We look at the problems of the modern world, and we wonder if all our efforts to improve ourselves, and to make this world a better place aren’t a giant waste of time.

I’ve felt that way from time to time, and when I start thinking like that, I just look at my map. I have a map on my wall at home of the Eastern Masonic Area of Illinois. I have all one hundred Lodges in that area marked on my map with a pin—from above my map looks a lot like that view out of the airplane window so many years ago—that map is covered in pins. And if I were to mark the homes of all the Masons that belonged to all those Lodges? I wonder if I’d even be able to see the map for all the pins!

We are not alone in this effort of making the world a better place—each of us carries a light, and our Lodges focus that light. We’re scattered out all over the state of Illinois, the country, and the world. And even a small light has a tremendous advantage in the darkness—it can be seen from many, many miles away. President George H. W. Bush made another comment in his 1989 inaugural speech that I think applies to Freemasons in particular. He said, “The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless . . .”

Originally published in the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) Valley Echos Newsletter

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mark Twain Wisdom: Just Eat The Frog!

"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to 
do it first thing in the morning."

~Mark Twain
Polar Star Lodge No. 79
St. Louis, MO

My daughter looked over my shoulder the other night and asked me why I'd drawn so many pictures of little green frogs in my bullet journal over the last few days.  I gave her this Mark Twain quote.  I ran across it earlier in the week, and I'd forgotten the wisdom of it.  She looked at me very puzzled after I recited it to her.

"You know how I've asked you three times this week to clean up your room," I said to her.

"Yeah," she said.

"And you still haven't done it.  You've been putting it off."


"That task is your frog," I told her.  "You work harder and spend more time avoiding it, than it would take you to actually do it.  It's not going to go away, so why not get it out of the way first thing in the morning and be free of it.  It's always best to start your day by doing first what you want to do least."

And she got it.  She cleaned her room.  We now refer to things we don't want to do as frogs, but we do them.   

My bullet journal over the last several months has helped me get organized, get caught up, but I still had a list of four or five things that I just didn't want to do.  I think I could put them off forever.  This week, I brought that list forward and drew a little green frog next to each one.  I've knocked one off every day this week.  I have one remaining which I'll suffer through tomorrow. Then I'm frog free--well, at least until the next one comes along. 

Mark Twain, for all his folksy humor and charm was a very practical and very intelligent man.  There's another part of this quote I left off.  The second line is, "And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it is best to eat the biggest one first."

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Exegesis Vs. Eisegesis

I used a term a few months ago, and suddenly realized nobody in the room knew what I was talking about.  The term was exegesis.  It's an interesting word.  I thought I'd write a little about it.  It may prove of interest to you, especially those of you that are interested in the study of history or theology.

When you're studying theology in particular, there's a term used to describe a particular discipline in interpreting Biblical texts.  Exegesis.  Exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning of a particular text by putting it into proper context--keeping in mind the time period in which it was written, understanding the meanings of different words and the culture during the time period in which the text is believed to be written.  It's a discipline of strictly factual based interpretation.

And then there's the opposite--eisegesis.  Eisegesis is when a reader imposes their own ideas, emotions, or beliefs onto a text when they interpret it.  You'll see this often when Biblical text is taken out of context and used as "evidence" to support facts that the text quoted doesn't actually support.

I saw a discussion recently on social media that was talking about the Biblical commandment, " thou shalt not kill."  One comment said that the text was self-explanatory.  It's kind of hard to misinterpret that text.  That would be the exegesis interpretation "it is what it is."  Another participant in the discussion went on a long rant saying that the text was written so that men were allowed to beat their wives to the point of death.  As long as they didn't kill their wife, it wasn't a sin.  This is an eisegesis interpretation--there's nothing at all there to support that interpretation (or anywhere else in the Bible that I know of for that matter).

By far the more superior method of interpretation is exegesis--a strict interpretation based on all related facts.  But we seem to use eisegesis in just about everything today.  If you look at the media in particular.  The meaning of facts don't matter so long as they support our feelings about things and our belief structure.  It's why when one President does something, it's fine with us, but when another President does exactly the same thing it is not.   One President we like, and the other we do not.  The fact that they both did exactly the same thing does not matter to us.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to recognize the difference between the strict interpretation of facts, and facts that are tainted by our own beliefs or biases.  Until we learn as individuals to begin applying that telling lens of exegesis to the "facts" we're consuming, I'm afraid we may never get to the real truth of anything.

~Todd E. Creason  

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