The Final Countdown (Not the song by Europe)

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I was looking for something to watch tonight (July 17, 2018) and saw that one of my guilty pleasure
movies was available on demand. The movie, ‘The Final Countdown’, was released in 1980. Starring Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Charles During, Katharine Ross, James Farentino, and Ron O’Neal, the premise is that while on maneuvers outside of Pearl Harbor, The USS Nimitz, encounters a strange storm. After some investigation, it becomes apparent that the aircraft carrier has been transported through time to December 6, 1941. The crew then must make a decision regarding whether to impact history by destroying the Japanese fleet before it can attack Pearl Harbor, or allow history to take its course. Ultimately, the decision to attack the Japanese Fleet is made, but the strange storm reappears. Unable to outrun the storm before they can destroy the fleet, they return to the present day. Of course, this is an over simplification of the plot, but the movie made me think about something.

Imagine if you will, “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead- your next stop, a lodge meeting in the past.” If you were able to travel back in time, to a lodge meeting say 100 years ago, what do you think you’d encounter? Most of us would probably answer that we’d see a lodge room full of our Brothers engaged in fellowship. The golden age of Freemasonry. But my guess is that after those brothers were done investigating you and probably questioning your manner of dress, that you’d encounter brethren frustrated with the state of Freemasonry.

We tend to have a romantic view of the past. If you want some interesting reading, read through the minutes of your home lodge from 100 years ago. (Or an older lodge if your home lodge was formed after 1918). I am willing to bet that you will see that the attendance was not much better than it is today. Sure, each lodge may have had a greater membership, but I’m willing to bet that you’re going to see attendance pretty much the same. You’re going to read about all of the issues that face us as Masons today, facing them. You’re going to quickly realize that Freemasonry as an institution hasn’t really changed in the past 100 years.

So being 100 years in the past, what advice could you possibly give to your Brothers? What wisdom would you impart? Do you think that you could change something in the past that would radically impact the future? Would you reveal that you were from the future?

We each most likely will have different answers to the above questions. If you’re a regular reader of our blog, then I tend to believe that you probably care about Freemasonry. I’d also be willing to believe that you are an active member of Freemasonry. So if you have answers to the above questions regarding advice, wisdom or change that you could give to our Brothers in the past then guess what? You can impact Masonry now. If the issues of Freemasonry haven’t changed in 100 years, whatever answers you could provide for then would still be relevant now.

I know, I know... Past Masters, bylaws, impediments. It’s not that easy to change the institution. Actually it is. If you aren’t getting out of Masonry what you want to get out of Masonry, then I’m willing to bet there are a good number of Brothers in neighboring lodges that feel the same way. Find them. Seek them out, and tell them there has to be a better way. Apply your answers to the questions above by finding a lodge that is in need of saving (At that point, the remaining Brethren of that lodge are going to be more open to change in order to keep the lodge open), or form a new lodge. You can’t change the past. You have the ability to change the future. You just need to find a corner of the world to create something that you and other like-minded Brethren have a stake in. “It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?”-RATM, Guerilla Radio 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.



Death Creeps

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



"The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life, and launches us into eternity." These words spoken near the end of the Master Mason Emblems lecture catch us of guard. I know the first time I heard them, I almost didn't hear anything else after. As the lecture moves on, we hear the following, "We follow our friends to the brink of the grave, and standing on the shore of a vast ocean, gaze with exquisite anxiety, until the last dreadful struggle is over and see them sink into the fathomless abyss."

I've always thought that that particular bit was a striking visual representation of what it's like to watch people around you die. But the lecture continues still, "We feel our own feet slide from the precarious bank on which we stand, and but a few suns more, my Brother, and we too will be whelmed mid Death's awful waves, there rest in the stilly shade where the worm shall cover us, and naught but silence and darkness reign around our melancholy abode."

Is there a better description of feeling that emotional anxiety that comes with realizing our own mortality? "...Our own feet sliding", reminds me of growing up on the ocean, standing there gazing out at the vastness and as the waves crash and the water creeps up the beach, we think, surely it won't get us. But it's reach is underestimated. We stand there, gazing out, and in a matter of minutes our feet are buried in the sand as each waves pulled us deeper into the ground.

The last two weeks have been trying. This past Sunday, a Fraternity Brother, along with his wife were in a bad car accident. They will recover. That same evening, another Fraternity Brother in my area suffered a traumatic stroke. He's still in the hospital, and has been unresponsive, although he has had some marked improvement. Then we lost Bro. Tech, aka Frank Rook, aka Lance Kates on Thursday. Later that same day, we lost Jim Tresner, a titan in Masonry. And the morning I am writing this, Sunday July 15th, my sister called me to tell me my brother passed. Totally unexpected. He was 46.

We return to the lecture, focussing now on the Hour Glass. Time moves, it passes almost imperceptibly. "Today he [man] puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; the next day comes the frost, which nips the shoot, and when he thinks his greatness is still aspiring, he falls, like autumn leaves to enrich our Mother Earth."

Death is organic. It's biology, it happens everyday. These losses are nothing in comparison to the whole, but in my circles, we received a reminder of the important lesson on Death. A good friend, Bro. Ben Wallace was talking to us one day and he said, "The test always comes before the lesson." Well, we've been tried and tested. Perhaps the lesson is in the retrospection of how we handle these tests.

It's time to keep moving.

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He is also a Past District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

The Pitfalls Of Being Worshipful Master

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I recently ran across some photos of being installed Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge back in 2010.  I recall that day clearly.  I remember going home after being installed, all wound up about all the things I was going to accomplish during my year in the East.  I told my wife, Valerie, that it wasn't necessary for her to call me Worshipful at home--she could just call me MASTER.  

I was only joking, but it made her so angry, I didn't see her for two solid weeks!  Well, actually after a week, I could see her a little bit out of my left eye.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blogYou can contact him with complaints about this piece at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Farewell…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I had my last meeting as Master of St. Joseph #970 on June 7, 2018. I’ve made no secret about my struggles as Master if you’re a regular reader of The Midnight Freemasons. As a Farewell address, I said the following to the Lodge members there. We actually had all of the chairs filled for my last meeting, which was due to having a dinner and ceremony honoring the Veterans and First Responders in the Lodge. The names have been expunged for privacy reasons. I present it below, in edited format:

     "People talk about how the seat in the East is a hot seat, but you really don’t grasp it until you sit here. As a Mason, you have to remember to act in a certain way while in public in order to not give the Fraternity a bad name. As the Master of the Lodge, this is doubly so. You are the public face of the Lodge to the Community. You’re expected at every Grand Lodge school, every local event.

     We’ve had successes this year. We’ve brought in two amazing Brothers. "Brother K" and "Brother C". We raised a lot of items for the food bank with our "trunk or treat". We should look to try to expand that this year. I think it is still a great idea. We are still having an adult pinewood derby and most of that money is going to another worthy cause. The multi lodge chili dinner was a success also. I think tonight is a success. We are blessed to have Bro. S and C. They are amazing cooks. Let’s give them a round of applause to thank them.

     It’s been a rough year for me. I faced a lot of challenges. Stairs, juggling officers, falling attendance at meetings and lodge events. I’ve been super critical of myself as Master this year. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I wanted to. I blame myself for a lot of things that were out of my control, but because they happened on my watch they feels like they are my legacy."

(Note to the reader: We spent over 5k on stair repairs. My Junior Warden had an opportunity to go to school, so he discussed it with me and we both agreed that he couldn’t pass it up. However it put me in a position where I had to elevate my Senior Deacon to Junior Warden for a majority of the meetings.)

     "I don’t think we maintained the level of excellence that we should have. There were a lot of events that we needed numbers for officer wise, and we weren’t able to do it. Now these are just accolades, but I still think that we need to have some standard set. We will become sloppy without instruction. Hopefully we can start having schools of instruction again, even if they are before meetings. I’d also like to see us try to reach out to brothers who haven’t come to lodge to check us out. I know that my hope was that would happen tonight."

(Note to the reader: The Grand Lodge of Illinois awards a Grand Master’s Award of Excellence. Last year we were second in the state for lodges under 80 members. This year we will not receive the award. This is the level of excellence to which I’m referring. My hopefulness regarding getting brothers to lodge was due to having a dinner to recognize members of the lodge that were Veterans or First Responders before my last meeting as Master. My hope was that we’d have a decent turnout of some members of the lodge that hadn’t been to lodge in a while. It seems my optimism was not well founded. However we had every chair filled in the lodge and two of our Fellowcrafts were present, so it was better than the average attendance.)

     "I also think we lack in the area of education. As the District Education Officer, I’d like to see the incoming Master appoint a lodge education officer for me to work with. I’d like to see education be a part of the meetings going forward. I know there are groans and sighs, but if you make it short, it can work. Even if it’s just showing some short YouTube video, something is better than nothing. Education doesn’t need to just be Masonic. There are many folks here that have a wealth of experience in life that you might not know about. Bro. W for example is a WWII vet. And if he’s willing to share some of those stories, that can be your education. Or Bro. Secretary B… B was on Hillary Clinton’s security detail when she came to give the commencement speech at the U of I in 1994. My point is, there are opportunities for education within this room, which can be utilized with little or no effort.

     We need to challenge ourselves to show up for events. If we discuss an event in lodge, and everyone agrees to it, then I see that as a de facto confirmation that you’re going to be able to participate. There is nothing more frustrating as a Master than to try to do things as a lodge, fun things like a movie night, and only have one or two brother’s show up. So if you can’t make it, don’t vote for it. Tell the lodge that you can’t make it. Make sure the Master is aware. Don’t be afraid to communicate, or think that other brothers will think less of you. Honestly I would have thanked you for your honesty and been able to schedule or reschedule based upon the input of the lodge. So I’d encourage the lodge to try get more exposure doing things together. Involve the newer members, get them active. They are the key to our future growth. If we give Bros. K, C, W, and C a good experience in Lodge, then they will get other men like them to join.

     To Bro. F, our incoming Master. Rely on your officers. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Use our secretary B. He’ll move heaven and hell for you. Just make sure you communicate everything with him. The issues I had this year were mainly due to me trying to do a lot of stuff myself, and not using him or communicating with him.

     Good Luck, try not to let the chair get to you. If you need anything from any of the Past Masters, they’ll be willing to give you advice. Good Luck and may the Great Architect bless your endeavors for the coming year.

     And since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m going to be Master at Homer 199. Try to come visit us on the 3rd Monday at 6 for Dinner and the meeting is at 7. We’ve made education our focus there and I think we’ve got a formula that works. I’d like to see more lodges adopt it. So come out and see what all the fuss is about.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and the lodge as Master.

FIN"

And with that, my time in the East at Saint Joseph was done. I had a week’s respite before being installed at as Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge #199. I know that some of what I said fell on deaf ears. I’ve always been a believer in actions speaking louder than words. I hope that the energy I poured into St. Joseph #970 will pay dividends. As for me, I’m solely going to be focused on bringing Brothers to Homer #199 for education and fellowship. We meet the 3rd Monday of each month, with dinner at 6 PM, and the meeting at 7pm. One thing unique that we do at Homer is that we have education first. We also allow any visiting brethren to leave if they don’t want to stay for our business. We realize that you’ve come a ways to visit us. If you’re ever in the East Central Illinois area, you can meet not only myself, but also Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason and Senior Contributor Gregory J. Knott. We’d love to have you.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.