Thursday, May 26, 2016

I've been insanely busy lately. Please excuse the lack of posts.


Quick update, for those who enjoy reading about my exploits.  I'm currently serving as Junior Warden of Jackson Lodge #42, Excellent High Priest of Monroe Chapter #125, (Something I can't remember) in Triad Council #46, and Junior Warden of Zerubbabel Commandry #69.  I'm also wedged into some other stuff that's equally time-consuming.  Busy busy busy.

On top of that, both my Blue Lodge and York Rite lodges have candidates coming through.  At the same time.  My Blue Lodge hasn't had a candidate since I joined two years ago.  And now there's a guy joining at the same time the York Rite lodge is running a guy through it's nine degrees.  I never expected that to happen.  That's blue-moon levels of rarity around here.  Not that I'm complaining by any stretch, however.

It's a good problem to have though, particularly in this day and age.  Learning all the Senior Deacon parts for Chapter while trying to brush up on Hiram in Council, all while hardly being home of an evening due to Lodge, baseball, and other commitments, is stressful to say the least.  But it's worth it to see new Brothers join and advance in the Craft and it's teaching.  It'd just be nice if it didn't all happen at once.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old Past Master, which would be hard since I'm neither old, nor a Past Master*, I sincerely do hope these new guys learn the work and help out.  It's rough when the same group of six to seven guys has to put on every single degree.

*In the "I used to be WM" sense.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Week of Thanks

(Disclaimer - the following topic was shamelessly stolen from /r/freemasonry.)

I normally eschew public proclamations of thankfulness this time of year.  First, because I've always been a contrarian trend-bucker.  If everyone else is doing it, count me out.  Second because, as my wife says, how ironic it is that we spend eleven months a year complaining about this, that, and the other, and then spend a twelfth talking about how thankful we are for all of it.

But I'm at work, the day is slow, and I'm in the mood to be thankful.  So here we go:

Number 1: My family.  Yes, my oldest is lazy-ish, my middle is a heathen, and my youngest is a rebellious squirt that will likely give me gray hair, but I love them.  Along with their mother, who's pretty awesome too. 

The oldest is a bookworm just like her dad, so I can't complain.  The middle child is just as much of a trouble-maker as I was when I was younger.  And the rebellious young one?  Well, I'm guilty for that one also.  If they continue in the path I followed, it will all work out for the best in the end, and for that I am thankful. 

I'd best not forget their mother.  She'd never let me forget it if I did.  She's like that.  But I'm forgetful at times, so that's a good thing.  Most importantly, she puts up with my crap.  What kind of crap? Well, as stated, I'm the adult version of a rebellious heathen who likes to read and joke around.  Take a guess what kind of sarcastic semi-adult I am.  But she loves me for it, and for that I am exceptionally thankful.

Number 2: My job.  Yes, it's stressful.  Yes, it's annoying at times.  Yes, there are certain aspects that drive me batsh*t crazy.  But I love what I do, I love where I work (five-minute commutes are excellent), and I make enough money to cover most expenses.  What more can a person ask for?  It's a challenge I enjoy that allows me the autonomy to grow and expand my skill sets.

Number 3:  My home.  I would much rather live somewhere else.  Down south for the warmth, or Chicago for the entertainment and history.  But I don't - I still live in the town I grew up in, two houses down from the home my Grandmother used to babysit me in.  As I child I dreamt of how far I'd travel and what foreign nations I'd live in, often while setting on the front porch steps I can see out my living room window.

I did move away for a while, but came back.  It was the hardest decision I'd ever made.  Being gone for a year made me realize all that much more how much I didn't want to live here.  Family ties are strong however.  Both mine and my wife's families live in this town.  It's helpful to have others to help out with the kids.  I'll give it that much.

Back to my home - when I thought of what type of property I'd like to have, yard, style, trees, etc., my thoughts always were based on the large two-story with an acre yard at the end of my grandma's street.  And here I am, twenty-five years later, living in that very house.

So while I didn't travel Europe, spend time in South America, and build a hand-hewn log home in the Alaskan frontier, I do live in a home I've admired since childhood.  It's not perfect, but it's mine.  And I'm thankful for that.

Number 4: My Lodges.  It may be cliché, but I am thankful for the Lodges that have accepted me as a Brother.  No, Freemasonry is not as exclusive as it once was, but I've no doubt that I would have been as welcome in times of restriction as now.  I've experienced immeasurable personal growth, made many new friends, and have been exposed to thousands of pages of wisdom.  I've been given opportunities to lead as well as to follow.  I have been accepted as a member of the world's oldest and most storied fraternity, and for that I am exceptionally grateful.

And finally, Number 5: The 2015 Chicago Cubs.  Hey, it's not all seriousness here.  I have to mention my favorite sports team having its best season in decades.  If you're anything close to familiar with American professional baseball, you'll understand why this is such a big deal.  For my English bretheren, imagine a team with the popularity of Manchester U, the history of Sheffield, and the success of Swindon Town nearly winning the Premier League.  (Disclaimer - my knowledge of English Football history is limited to twenty minutes of study on Wikipedia.)  All this while winning awards for best manager, best... goalie?, and best first-year professional player.  It's kind of a big deal. 

The Cubs haven't won a championship in 108 years.  In that time, they have only 8,403 wins against 8,516 losses - a less-than-impressive .497 winning percentage.  If they were an English football team, they'd probably be in the lowest division possible.  (Again, limited football knowledge garnered from Wikipedia.)  For them to nearly make it to the World Series this year, let alone win it?  Mind-boggling.  I have relatives who lived their entire lives wanting the Cubs to win who have been dead for a decade.  Let that sink in a bit.  Depressing, isn't it?

Yet we still cheer them on, we still watch them play, and we still get a little saddened when the season is over.  One day they'll win it all.  Maybe not in my lifetime, maybe not in the next, but sometime.  And it will be wonderful.  And I suspect a sign of Armageddon.  But hey, it'll be worth it.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

New Elections for the Coming Year

Greetings, Bretheren.  It's been some time since I've posted here.  I see the pageviews keep coming, so thank you dearly for that support.

It's Winter, and with that time of year comes Lodge election season.  I'm honored to have been elected as Junior Warden of Jackson Lodge #42 in Centerville, Iowa.  I will gladly serve my brothers as the office calls for, and then some.  (Hello Lodge pizza party!)

Rumor has it I may be drafted elected to office in my local Royal Arch Chapter as well.  I consider that a tremendous honor, as I've not held office previously in that body, nor have I yet been Exalted for a year.  I am humbled by the mere suggestion that I should hold office, let alone be elected to such.

This Saturday, the 21st of November, is the fall York Rite Festival in Des Moines, Iowa.  I will hopefully be in attendance for much of the day, dependent upon the weather.  Central Iowa is to experience its first winter storm of the year, and of course on a day I've been looking forward to for weeks.  I do hope to make it, as it will be my first chance to observe the Order of the Temple as a Sir Knight.

Plus, as an added bonus, a Brother and I plan on meeting up for a post-festival herf at one of the many cigar lounges Des Moines has to offer.  I don't make it up that way very often, but when I do, I can't help but pick up a Cain Daytona, Oliva G, or Romeo y Julietta, and some nice pipe tobacco.  Something about the antiquity of Freemasonry and a nice pipe or cigar seem to go well together.

On the note of pipes and cigars, I've been floating around the idea of a cigar shop hop.  Essentially, a group of Masons who are also cigar enthusiasts meet at a predetermined location and spend the day visiting cigar shops and lounges.  My wife does something similar with some quilting friends.  It's a great way to get together and share a common hobby.  Plus, if enough of us Brothers sign on, we could possibly arrange for discounts from participating shops.  If you live in Central Iowa and would like to show interest, please let me know in the comments below.

Moving on, work has begun on a project that I've been considering for some time.  I cannot go into much detail at this time, but will say that it looks to be a huge undertaking that will be quite rewarding if done properly.  Perhaps in the coming weeks I will be able to divulge more.  Stay tuned for more information and updates.

I've been reading a number of Masonic books lately, mostly related to Chapter and Council.  The amount of quality works written on Masonic and related esoteric topics continues to astound me.  In today's world, anyone can write a book on anything and instantly publish it.  This wasn't so in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries.  Not only did many Brothers write quality works on The Craft, but they were able to justify the no-doubt considerable cost associated with printing them.  I'm so glad that our past Bretheren had the knowledge and foresight to preserve these books for future generations.

In closing, I'd like to draw your attention to websites I've made for my Blue Lodge and York Rite Bodies.  Please excuse the extreme lag in page loading.  I'm not sure why they take so long, and I've yet to have the free time to call my webhost to troubleshoot the problem.  I welcome your feedback and suggestions for those webpages, should you have any to offer.

Until next time,

Rob Matherly
Junior Warden Elect
Jackson Lodge #42
Centerville, Iowa


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What it means to me to be a Freemason.

Last night I had the pleasure in assisting with the conferral of a third degree.  I have attended several since my own raising last May, but this was the first time I actually played a role in the process.  I have to say, it took on an even greater importance in my eyes.  There we were, a group of fraternal brothers, joining together to help a new Master Mason learn moral lessons that will guide him the rest of his life.

It really struck home when he was allowed to address us after the ceremony.  His son apparently suffers from diabetes.  While in the hospital receiving treatment for his condition, the Shrine housed and fed the child's family.  "I knew I needed to turn my life around and be part of a good group of men like that," he said.

I know that Freemasonry's raison detre isn't charity per se. We aren't like other groups whose sole purpose is to directly better society through charity and public service.  Rather, our focus is to better ourselves and thereby society as a result.  However, what the Shrine did for this man's family speaks volumes for Freemasonry.  I was both proud and humbled to hear him say it.  That is what Freemasonry is to me.

Between helping this man learn how to be a Mason, and learning him say why he chose to do so, I was very moved.  It helped me to remember what Freemasonry really is about.  It's not membership, or fundraisers, or any of the other stuff that comes with running a public organization.  It's about making good men better and giving them the tools to do so.  If we lose sight of that, then we may as well just shut the doors and head on down the road.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Being Installed as Jr Deacon Tonight!

Tonight I will begin my journey through the chairs, starting to the right of the Senior Warden.  I've been practicing since I had a suspicion it would happen.  I'm the new guy and we only average one new member a year, so it stands to reason it would be my turn.  Given the progression pattern in our lodge, that would put me in the East in four years.  Should I start planning now?  Ha.

All kidding aside, I'm looking forward to the role this year.  I've also been asked to serve on the visitation and finance committees.  In a small lodge such as ours, this usually doesn't entail much, but it's an honor to be asked none the less.

I also get the joy of welcoming Grand Lodge next month.  Quite nerve-wracking to be doing so less than a year after being raised.  I'm up for the challenge however!  You can't grow if you don't step up.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On "The Goat, the Devil and the Freemason" by Dr. David West

In a previous post I eluded to a book which turned out to be a very challenging read.  I have since finished the book and will share my thoughts.  It is called "The Goat, the Devil and the Freemason" by Dr. David West.  I received my copy through the Iowa Research Lodge #2 at their semi-annual fall meeting.

First and foremost, this book is very well-written.  The author remains witty and clever throughout, and based on his writing style I am sure any evening of conversation with him would be highly enjoyable and entertaining.  There is an excellent mix of fact, seriousness, and brevity in his writing style that I envy and find myself desirous of.

We begin with the Taxil Hoax - the oft-repeated tale of a man who defrauded the Catholic church and French society then died in infamy, but whose tales of Devil-worship in the Masonic fraternity live on.  Dr. West also touches upon the misunderstanding of Albert Pike's "Lucifer, the Son of the Morning!" quote, explaining why it's wrong to interpret such as admiration for the devil, and how even if it were, it's hardly representative of Freemasonry as a whole.  Dr. West does an excellent job of thoroughly dissecting and dispelling these two root causes of Freemasonry's devil problem.

Moving forward in the book, I began to sense a distinct anti-religious sentiment.  Dr. West lays out his case for how all faiths and religions are essentially founded in ancient volcano/mountain worship and paganism.  He then attempts to use logic and reason to not only state why devil worship is illogical, but how it is impossible by reason of, in his belief, it not even being possible for a devil to exist.  I felt as if I'd been tricked into reading an atheistic work by Christopher Hitchens.

By and large, I did enjoy the work and would recommend it to fellow Masons.  I would be quite hesitant to recommend it to those who believe in the myths regarding Freemasonry.  I, a very accepting person, couldn't help but feel a tad belittled by Dr. West's views on Christianity and it's theistic worldview.  I can only imagine what the typical American fundamentalist would take away from the book.

On "The Goat, the Devil and the Freemason" can be purchased at Amazon.com.  You can also receive a copy by joining the Iowa Research Lodge #2 and requesting it as one of your selections.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Freemasonry and Religion

I'm currently reading a book which is one of the hardest I've had to force myself to read.  Not because I find the work itself challenging, but because there is so much I simply don't agree with.  While I'll reserve my review for when I've finished the book (anything else would be unfair to the author), I will expand on how it is making me think about religion and Freemasonry.

The central tenant of Masonry is this:  Good men believe in God and try to do good as a result.  There is no requirement as to who or what that God is; just that one believe in a higher power.  I happen to be an evangelical Christian.  I believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that one must repent and be born again.... Yadda yadda, you've seen it on a yard sign somewhere, I'm sure.

By sitting in Lodge with those whose faith I don't share, am I viewing their faith as equal to my own?  No - I am simply respecting their right to believe whatever they want.  By working together with a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, I am not saying that I see Mohamed, Vishnu, or Buddha as equal with Christ.  Do do so would be a violation of my faith - just as them seeing Christ as equal with their deity/prophet may be a violation of theirs.

This also does not mean I see all faiths as equally relevant.  The fact that I choose to be a Christan demonstrates that I see Christianity as the faith superior to all others.  If I didn't, why would I continue to worship as such?  If I felt that Islam or Hinduism had something more to offer than Christianity, it would be pointless to remain Christian.

This doesn't mean I don't see positives in other faith traditions and religions.  Any belief system which encourages its adherents to do good in the world has positive aspects.  According to my religion, however, this doesn't grant it the same same salvation and redemption benefits.  In John chapter 14, Christ states that he is the only way to receive salvation:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Quite honestly, I believe if one isn't a Christian (in the sense that they believe Christ is God incarnate and trust him to save them from sin, not in a "well I go to services each week" sense), they aren't going to heaven.  Is that a bigoted opinion?  Perhaps in the eyes of some.  Does that mean I look down on others who don't share my belief?  Not at all.  We all have the free will to choose what to believe.  We all arrive at our opinions and views through our own circumstances. 

If someone is angered by this sentiment, why?  In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."  If someone doesn't believe they're going to hell for not following Christ and I do, what difference does it make to them?  I am not forcing my faith on others, so leave me be and allow me to worship and believe as I choose.  Let's focus on the good which we all have in common and leave the rest to personal opinion.