Thursday, July 28, 2016

The True Strength Of Freemasonry

I've said it many times before.  I was telling somebody the other night that I think one of the great strengths of Freemasonry is that a.) it gives us the opportunity to use skills we wouldn't normally have the opportunity to use, b.) develop skills we wouldn't normally use, and c.) use skills we already possess to greater effect, and d.) have the opportunity to improve ourselves as we work together towards making the world a better place.

I went into Freemasonry with well honed skills in leadership, management and organization which I use in a variety of ways.   From Masonry I've gained skills in writing, researching, speaking, networking, and fundraising--as well as some refinements in how I conduct myself and present myself (got a lot more work to do there).  And I've been given the opportunity to build on a use some of the skills I have in art in music. 

But I never really appreciated the self-improvement aspect of the Fraternity until recently.  I'm aware that I've changed over the years, and gained a lot of wisdom from my mentors and teachers along with a good deal of knowledge from my studies.  I've always worked to pass that along to new members, and I think I've done a pretty good job as a mentor and teacher.  But recently I saw an example that really showed me the potential of what Freemasonry is capable of accomplishing in a man's life when properly applied. 

I've been mentoring a young man for about a year now.  He contacted me through the Midnight Freemasons with some questions about the Fraternity, thought it sounded like something he could benefit from, and he's now a  new Master Mason.  He's very enthusiastic about Freemasonry, and it occurred to me in talking with him why.  This is the first time in his life that he's been able to see what he has to offer, see the potential of what he can become, and see what the contributions of just one person can do to make one thing better in the world--and then compound that by joining forces with a group of like-minded men all with that same desire. 

The Fraternity has opened his eyes, and there's a good chance he'll never be the same again.  His life was off track when he joined--our original conversations were about whether a Lodge would even want him.  Of course they did, and he joined.  Freemasonry helped put him back on the right track.  He's contributing to the work of his Lodge, he's helping out in his community, he's got a new job he loves, replaced a few bad habits with a few good ones, and is in a new relationship that's much better than the one that got him off track.  He's even begun attending church, which he hadn't done since he was a boy.  He's transformed his life, and it's truly been a marvel to see. 

I might get boos for this, but it isn't all about doing Freemasonry--attending events, degrees, meetings, etc.  It's about living Freemasonry, and when given the opportunity teaching Freemasonry.  Those of us who do, who take those ancient teachings and apply them to our life and help others do the same thing find the greatest strength of Freemasonry--the path to a well-balanced, peaceful and happy life.

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Knot Head: The Trinity

The Trinity Knot--
I get comments regularly about my knots.  I actually wrote a whole series on these unique knots back in 2014.  I got bored when we were snowed in a couple years ago and took some time to teach myself a few of them.  Here's the knot I wear more often than not (knot?).  It's called the trinity knot, and it's not too difficult once you've done it a few times.  There are links in the article below that will take you to the whole series . . . the Eldridge Knot, the Van Wijk, and even the classic Full and Half Windsor--with illustrations and instructions on how to tie them.  Enjoy!

This is a very sharp-looking knot. It is actually a lot easier than the Eldredge knot from last week, but for some reason, I had a tough time finally getting it.  But it's worth the effort.  It's a great looking, and very unique knot. It's also a smaller knot, so you may be able to use it with a button down Oxford collar in a more casual work setting. 
Not the best photo, but I got it finally . . .
This knot would probably work best with a solid tie if you really want the knot to be noticed, but I think it looks great with my red tie, which has a small, consistent pattern throughout.  And of course, the example at the top actually used a plaid--I think that looks great, too.  As with any of these, it's really up to personal taste. I even saw a few examples using a striped tie.  They managed to get the stripe in the knot to come together in the center in a pinwheel pattern.  That seems like it would take a lot of trial and error to accomplish, but give it a try if you like.  That might require a little more effort than I'm willing to give.

This is a much easier knot to tie, so if you mastered the Eldredge last week, you should have no trouble with this one.  Likewise, if you crash and burned on the Eldredge, you may have better success here.

This is the second installment of the Knot Head series--you can read them all here.


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014. You can contact Todd E. Creason at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Behind Every Freemason . . .

Todd and Valerie Creason at a Scottish Rite luncheon (2011)
"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."
~Winston Churchill
Studholme Lodge No. 1591, England

In my part of the world, we have a practice when it comes to investigating a petitioner that from what I understand, isn't that widespread.  When our investigating committee calls to arrange a time to meet with a petitioner, if he's a married man--we invite his wife to join us!

It's true.  And there's good reasons for it.  It's a good place to ask questions.  It's a good chance to introduce his wife to who we are, what we do (and don't do), and the things that are important to us.  And of course the most important reason is obvious.  It's unlikely he's going to ever be very involved in Freemasonry if his wife doesn't support his decision to join the Lodge.

Valerie (with helper) managing our trail run
My wife, Valerie, wasn't that thrilled when I brought up the idea of joining the Masonic Lodge.  We'd been down that road before.  I'd briefly been active in another organization some years earlier (I won't say which one).  My friend and I went to the meeting every month for awhile.  The meeting started at 7, the bar opened at 7:30, and I'd wind up walking home at some hour well after midnight.  I was a little younger then, but it caused problems in the marriage to say the least.  I still pay my dues, but it's been a decade since I've attended a meeting.

But it was pretty clear to her that this was different when three Masons arrived at our house and talked to us about Freemasonry.  They had a few questions for me, and we had a lot of questions for them.  When they finally left, Valerie was almost as excited at the prospect of me being involved in the Fraternity as I was. 

I'm gone quite a bit, and when I'm not attending something Freemasonry related, I'm writing something Freemasonry related.  It's a very involving hobby of mine.  Oddly enough, there's never been one argument in my house about me leaving to go to a meeting--in fact, she'll look at me some evenings and say "isn't there a meeting you could go to?"  She told me one time she doesn't mind me going to meetings and events, because she realizes she has benefited from Freemasonry as much as I have--she's wound up with a better product than the one she married.

My story isn't unique.  It would be impossible for our Fraternity to thrive without the support of our wives.  They don't just let us go to the meeting, most of our wives are right there doing a lot of the work. 
Those two have obviously grown pretty comfortable in a lodge room
I've very fortunate in that department.  I sometimes wonder how many hours Valerie and I have sat at the kitchen table folding, stamping and addressing newsletters.  Or writing out invitations and thank you cards.  I wonder how many tables and chairs she's helped set up and take down.  I wonder how many events she's helped me organize and plan.  She's designed posters, printed event tickets, helped me organize two Masonic Charity Trail Runs, and then gotten up the day of the event and manned the registration trailer herself.  And when our Lodge orders polo shirts from the Secretary (me) to wear at our events, and when they arrive and everyone has the right size and color--well, I'm not the genius behind that miracle.  Thank Valerie for sorting out that mess.  On top of that, I wonder how many hours she's spent reading my blog posts, articles, and book chapters long before anyone else sees them.

A rare occasion when I actually remembered to thank my wife . . .
And guess who we always manage to forget to thank at these events?  You guessed it--our spouses.
Always remember that behind any successful Lodge, there's often a collection of very dedicated and hardworking spouses that rarely receive the recognition and thanks they deserve.  So let me just say to all of you right here . . . thank you!  There's no way we could do the things we do without you.

~Todd E. Creason

Saturday, July 9, 2016

John Wayne's Last Great Honor

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara on the set of Big Jake in 1971
"Sure I wave the American flag.  
Do you know a better flag to wave?" 

~John Wayne
Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56, Arizona

I was shopping in a local antique store recently, when I ran across something interesting.  Two large bronze medallions featuring John Wayne framed in two dark wood frames against a dark brown felt backing.  My wife made it pretty clear she thought they were ugly and they certainly wouldn't be gracing the walls of the living room.  I had to get them anyway.  The antique store didn't know what they were, but I sure did.  I had told the story about these "medallions" in my first book Famous American Freemasons.  In fact, the chapter on John Wayne was the first chapter I wrote in that book.  You see, these aren't just "medallions."  Let me tell you the story . . .

In 1976, John Wayne began filming the movie The Shootist.  It is a film about an aging gunfighter, J.B. Books, who learns from the local physician, played by Jimmy Stewart, that he is dying of cancer.  He decides that rather than die in bed, he was going out in a blaze of glory--and he was going to take a few really bad dudes with him.  And what a great cast!  Jimmy Stewart.  Lauren Bacall.  Harry Morgan.  Ronnie Howard.  Richard Boone.  John Carradine. 

The irony of that script was that John Wayne really was dying of cancer.  Although he didn't know it at the time, The Shootist would be the Duke's last movie.  His health was failing when he took the role, and it got worse as they filmed.  It was uncertain he would be able to finish it.  He was gone off the set for long periods of time . . . first one week, and then two.  But finishing that film was important to the Duke and he was determined to do so.  And with the help of the director and the assistance of the cast, he did just that.  Despite terminal stomach cancer, he finished what many believe to be one of his best screen roles.

By 1979, Hollywood knew their favorite leading man was about out of time.  A delegation of some of the best actors in Hollywood, including John Wayne's favorite leading lady, Maureen O'Hara, flew to Washington, D.C. and testified before Congress that they felt John Wayne should be honored for his contributions to America.  Congress agreed and awarded John Wayne the Congressional Gold Medal on his 72nd birthday on May 26, 1979.  The Congressional Gold Medal featured John Wayne on horseback on one side, and his portrait on the other accompanied by the words that Maureen O'Hara suggested before Congress--the United States Mint liked the simplicity of her words and used them.  Her words said everything that needed to be said.  The medal designed for John Wayne states simply "John Wayne - American."

Great story, huh?

They look a little better the way I framed them . . .
I was happy to stumble on a set of these bronze castings of John Wayne's Congressional Gold Medal finally.  They do look dramatically different since I re-framed them than they did when Valerie and I first saw them.  And it doesn't happen very often, but Valerie was wrong--these are hanging on the living room wall.  She hung them there! 

~Todd E. Creason
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