Friday, December 28, 2007

Chris Hodapp Needs Our Prayers

Many men talk of change or talk of writing or talk about doing this or that and Brother Chris Hodapp has been a big part of the progressive Masonic landscape. He has worked in building Lodge Vitruvian, traveled and written of his experiences for Masons and for the uninformed providing a nice balanced approach, he does lots of speaking engagements and otherwise motivates members of the Craft.

Now he has found himself in need of our thought and prayers. Brother Chris is hospitalized with his lungs filling with fluid and a growth found behind his thyroid.

Please keep him in your thoughts.

You can likely find updates to his condition at:

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Real Treasure

He was an old man by most standards and few would feel comfortable in a debate of historical fact, as it seemed that he had personally witnessed most that had occurred. He was a presence to say the least. Tall and thin as the years had withered away at the once opposing man, but it was clear he should not be approached with an attitude of arrogance or a lack of respect.

He seemed in a perpetual state of grumpiness. Not because of his demeanor, few actually had the courage to approach the man long enough to get a true read on his demeanor. It was the eternal frown that his weathered face now wore as the wrinkles around his mouth and eyes made his eyes appear half closed and his mouth downturned. It was not his true expression, if one had the courage to peer deep into his eyes there was fire, spirit, and passion—time had little effect on this spirit of the man. If anything, it had grown from what was a spark of soul to a full on explosion of wisdom, thought, understanding, and experience. If Masonry , in deed, had a hidden treasure, this was it. More valuable that any paltry pile of gold and silver. This was the kind of treasure that possessed the value that would be weighed when a man faced Peter at the Gate.

Call it courage, I call it Scotch. Anyway, if one had enough of it to decide that the mystery was too much and struck up conversation with this pillar of the southeast, this man who never missed a meeting, what could he learn? What had this man learned that we could learn from him?
· Life is short, find a job that makes you happy and do it well.
· Spend as much time with your family as you possibly can. They will pass away into that next existence and your memory of them will hardly be sufficient to fill the void that the richness of their personality and loving spirit filled in your life.
· Don’t fear death, fear your own cowardice. You can live a long life if you do what is right regardless of fear, but you will do little if fear guides your intentions.
· Regardless of what you call it, sitting on your arse all day, does make you lazy. The worst thing about laziness it that it effects the mind and most lazy people are ignorant. It is okay to confront ignorant people. Someone needs to.
· Seeing a newborn child that is yours is the closest you get to God.
· Swearing makes you sound like an idiot sometimes, sometimes it is the most effective way to communicate, in a swift manner, your intentions.
· Speak well of those who need a boost, don’t waste your energy speaking ill of those who deserve it. Their actions speak for themselves and allowing them to show their true colors does not reflect poorly upon you like speaking ill frequently does.
· There are paradoxes and it will only give you a headache trying to resolve all of them.
· Make love a lot. You will miss it.

What is the relevance of Masonry? A young man sitting at a local eatery, drink in hand, speaking with a man he would never have met otherwise and being changed by someone who has the ability to change you if you have the courage to listen and remembering, with pride, that this man considers you an equal, a brother, and the cornerstone of the next generation.

---The Relevant Mason……who still has much to learn, experience, and embrace..........

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Father is My Brother

I sat in lodge yesterday for my good friend’s installation as Master of his lodge. I have been to more than one installation, and although I normally enjoy the process for what it is, I had no idea, walking into the lodge room that day, that I would be reminded at a deep and spiritual level of the profundity of Masonry in a man’s life.

The installation had gone well. No hiccups as is the standard it seems. It was following nicely, moving along at a nice clip and I was looking forward to the fellowship at the formal dinner that would follow.

My Brother took the podium in the East and began to speak. His voice quickly choked as he began to tell his story about how he came to Masonry. A little background here will prove necessary for the uninformed. My Brother was adopted at as an infant. He found his biological father in 2003 and this is where his story begins.

He sat across from a man in a small café, far from his home in Colorado, yet he felt altogether at peace and at awe as he stared into familiar eyes. The glow that emits from my friends eyes is unique. It has a glimmer of love, passion, fire, and determination each separately but all at once.

To hear my friend tell it, he will say that the gaze of the man he looked at felt familiar. He could feel a tie that years of separation could not break. As a man who knows them both, I can describe that look and I knew, probably better than my friend what he meant, because I had just seen that same flame flickering behind the eyes of his father when I had just been introduced to him.

The conversation with his already familiar, but newly discovered, father in that little café turned to Masonry of all things.

My friend’s father had missed a lifetime of experiences with his dear son. First words, first steps, first loves were all a distant memories for my friend and they would never be known by this man who was his father. There was of course a desire to express, to share, to understand one another. I believe there was love, a synergistic connection, that was immediately understood and this is why this desire for shared experience was fostered.

So, the father, this man, this person who wanted to impart not just those things that occur genetically, but he wanted to imbibe those values, morals, and truths that he held dear. How should he accomplish these ideas, these principles in such a way as to say, “Long lost son, these are the things I value.” He told his son that he was Freemason and his son, my friend, shortly followed suit.

So there he stood in the East having made two journeys that have changed him forever. One to the rough and rugged lands of Montana to stare back at his own eyes and meet a man that would be his father, the other from darkness to light to arrive as Master of a Lodge.

His voice chocked, his eyes glassed with tears he said, “I want to say thank you.” There upon the steps of his lodge, he beheld his friend, his father, and his Brother and he continued, “..for many things, mostly for Freemasonry.”

It appears that a father and son both understood the message. They had found one another and both had received some light.

Monday, December 3, 2007

No Strings Attached

I drove past a medium sized local church the other day. King Solomon’s Baptist church (no relation for the Brothers who just gave a smile). They have one those standard church signs that have the name of the church on it and the replaceable letters below the name so that they can post kindly messages or church special services times and the like. Nothing extraordinary about it, quite to the contrary, it was quite ordinary. But, because of the King Solomon reference, I found myself reading the inspirational message illuminated upon it at the present time. It read, “True love has no strings attached.”

It seems on its face a reasonable and inspirational enough message and is likely intended to remind us that G-d’s love “has no strings attached” and because of this, you should strive for such a lofty goal.

As I whizzed by in my present mode of transportation, I initially thought that it was nice enough little message. Then, as is normally the case when I get into trouble, I got down to thinking. And I concluded the message is bunk, bologna, hogwash, fallacy, false, etc….

Let’s try, at first, for the sake of argument to define “true love.” This, in and of itself, would allow for much philosophical debate, which is not the intent of this particular espousal and would not be a judicious use of words. For the purposes of this particular address I will use the definition I believe was intended by the drafters of this wonderfully disguised little falsehood.

For the purposes of this discussion the definition of true love is: Loving someone or something the way G-d loves us.

Allow yourself to examine that love. Does it come with “no strings attached” as this message would indicate? No, you bet it doesn’t. There is a major tome called the Bible for the Judaic or Christian faiths teeming with strings. You might say that the strings allow us an avenue to express faith as an action and not sit back on our duffs doing nothing. In short, regardless of your current religious affiliation it is likely you are charged within your holy book or writings with:

String 1—Doing good. Doing unto others as you would like done unto you. This is also taught in the Christian faith in Biblical versus that reference doing things like picking up your cross to follow Jesus and the like. The Christian dogma is a moral dogma and requires allowing the “Christ within” to be the rule of guide of your conduct. This is a major string. [Side note: for those claiming G-d still loves you in spite of these. No, he sends you to hell for not following these and that is not love folks.]

String 2—Having faith in G-d and/or his representatives on earth. [Again a lack of faith equals damnation]

String 3—Valuing the proper things in life and in people. Most holy books speak to the inner part of our being and not the outward appearance being the important part of mankind. [Harder for a rich man to get into heaven…you know the rest]

String 4—More important than faith is not misplacing your faith in things such as worldly goods or riches.

String 5—Following the dictates and precepts of the particular religion, the 10 commandments for instance.

Now, the Evangelicals will be up in arms at this point screaming that it is through grace alone and no such strings our attached. I say your Evangelical actions speak louder than your words. This particular group heaps a few more strings upon its devotees in the form of its orthodoxy which it claims not to have. We will call these E-strings:

E-string 1—You need to believe the Bible is inerrant.

E-string 2—Lots of people go to hell when they don’t believe correctly.

E-string 3—We believe correctly and we are some of the few who do and even other Christian denominations are going straight to the fiery place.

E-string 4—Real Christians come to church, join small groups, and get active.

I guess no strings attached might be true as we have enough here to braid a nice rope.

Now, let’s look at what our own human experiences teach us. Because this is empirical evidence of how we administer love. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not picking on the religions of the world for doing something wrong. I think it is right and proper that love have strings. I am pointing to these contradictions to the original statement as evidence that love does, and maybe should, have strings attached.

Marriage, hopefully unions between to people that have found true love, right? So what do we do to seal the deal when we have found this true love? We bind ourselves under a marriage obligation. We give an oath to be faithful and true to one another. We agree to abstain from sex with others and to be honest with one another. We stand before a judge, priest, pastor, or whatever, and take an oath and attach a bunch of strings.

Love should have its limits. When it does not, a bunch of people believing that questioning love and using reason and logic are bad, take a bunch of grape Kool Aid and never wake up. Heck, if there was just one little string attached, like “I will never ask you to harm yourself for me” the tragedies of Jones Town and Heavens Gate would never have occurred.

Those who have managed to this point without being enraged in religious fervor may well be asking themselves what all this has to do with Masonry. Recognizing the value of an obligation as a vital and critical part of true and brotherly love is what Masonry has to do with this.

The light of Masonry provides, in allegorical format, a vivid picture of the importance of a man’s Word. It is recognizing that a man can keep his word that he is brought into the fold of the Craft and loved like a Brother.

An essential aspect of true love is the obligation. The obligation we make to our G-d in following the precepts of our religion. The obligation we make to our spouse to be good and true to them. The obligation we make to our children in rising to the challenge of raising them and sacrificing for them. The obligation we make to ourselves to do the right thing even when no one is looking because we have learned to love ourselves. The obligation we make to our Brothers at the altar of the Craft.

True love is honorable because you have honored the obligation of it, because it is hard work sometimes, because we rise to the occasion to honor our obligations in it; true love has strings attached.