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 We can feel as if we’re living our life by standards that seem outdated to many people in our modern society.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."

"Yes."  

"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  


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Taking The Meeting To The Man

Carl D. Lewis (seated) with Masonic Brothers (left to right) Carl W. Lewis (son), WM Darin Lahners, Stephen Hooper, James Peplow, Dale Katterhenry, Greg Knott, and George Mason.  Photo by Todd E. Creason
For 70 years, World War II Veteran Carl D. Lewis (age 93) has been a Master Mason.  He's a member of both Ogden Lodge No. 754 and Homer Lodge No. 199 (the two small town Lodges are about five miles apart and most of the members are the same).  His son is Past Master, and so is his grandson.  And Carl rarely misses a meeting.  He has served both Lodges as the Tyler for as long as anyone can remember.  He also, more often than not, cooked meals at the Lodge meetings--he has saved many a Junior Warden the task of preparing meals.  When I was Junior Warden and it was my job to prepare meals, I think I cooked 2 out of the 12 meals I was responsible for.  And ran and shine, year after year, he put out the American flag in front of Ogden Lodge every morning, and took it in again each evening. Most of us think of him as we would our grandfather.

A few months ago, time began to take a toll on Carl.  After a fall, it was necessary for him to take up residence in a local nursing home.  It was with great sadness to both of his Lodges that Carl probably wouldn't be able to attend very many of our meetings and events anymore due to his health.  And our meetings just aren't the same without him.

So in October, Homer's Worshipful Master Darin Lahners proposed we to do something about it.  If Carl couldn't come to our meeting, we'd take our meeting to him.  And that's just what we did.  The Grand Master of Illinois granted Homer Lodge dispensation to hold their meeting at the nursing home.

Carl didn't know we were coming until a few minutes before his son wheeled him into the nursing home conference room where we were all assembled.  The look on his face when he saw his lodge Brothers made all the effort to move our meeting worth it.
There's never anybody around to take a picture when you need one.
I couldn't begin to guess how many times I've been to a funeral home to participate in Masonic Funeral Rites since I've been a Mason.  However, I could count the number of times I've been to a nursing home on one hand.  We should all work harder to serve the living with the same attention we pay to our departed.  I can tell you from first hand experience after our last meeting, that is far more rewarding to let our members know we haven't forgotten them while they're still living, than to show we'll miss them after they're gone. 

~Todd E. Creason, 33°
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