The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

KYCH – A Huge Honor

kychI had the honor to be initiated into the Knights of York Cross of Honor (KYCH) this weekend. The KYCH is an honorary invitational body whose requirements include having served as the presiding officer of all four York Rite bodies. If you ever see the long-time Masons in your lodge with a four-colored cord with a crown suspended on it, that is the same group.

The strange thing about Virginia, where I am a  lodge member, is that we do not have a Cryptic Council. Neither does West Virginia. Back in the early part of the 19th century, the Grand Cryptic Council of Virginia closed up shop and merged with the Grand Royal Arch Chapter. As such, we confer the Council degrees in the Chapter in our two states. So technically, as the high priest of my chapter, I also served as the illustrious master of a council.

All the same, if you read my bio, you will see that I am in line at a Cryptic Council, so although I have already received the distinction of this order, I do mean to earn the final part of this.

Ritual is not a Competition

I am in a tough spot. As the district instructor of work, I am supposed to teach the ritual, help lodges become self-sufficient, encourage brothers to learn the catechisms and the regular work, and more. I like doing all this. It gives me a sense of generativity, that I am passing something on to others who perhaps would not have had it otherwise, and hopefully making a positive difference in the fraternity.

The downside to all this is the ritual schools I have to attend, which I do not particularly enjoy. Continue reading

Back in the East; Learning to say, “No”

People congratulated me last night after I was installed as worshipful master at Columbia Lodge No. 285. As much as I look forward to a great year and as honored as I feel about this, I have to wonder if I really simply do not learn well. I was at the Grand Encampment leadership development meeting a few months ago and our speaker/instructor said that the true lost word of a Master Mason was, “No.”

I think he was right. Many of us have a hard time saying no to things we believe in, whether a particular lodge or a charity, or helping a neighbor. As important as it is to say so sometimes, I also think it is important to say yes. By giving of ourselves, we reap great rewards, even if it does not always feel like it at the time. This is my third go-around as master of a lodge and I look forward to the challenge, but I also can see the road ahead and the end of commitments I have already made for various leadership positions. It is a great situation to be in.

Annual Dues Bill for Life Membership

It may seem strange to send an annual bill to someone who is a life member, but I get one each year from the Scottish Rite. Note the blank spots for me to add my own donation to a few funds they have. That is the value of sending seemingly redundant dues notices.

Will I make a contribution? Perhaps. Maybe not. But I am a whole lot more likely to than if I got nothing but a new dues card each fall. I wonder how many opportunities my local lodge is missing by not doing this.

The Wages of a Master Mason

Rib night! - Masonic wagesWe had ribs the other night at Columbia Lodge and I got a nice take-home container. Thank goodness for overly enthusiastic stewards! This is a nice benefit to being a Mason – leftovers for life, since I am a life member. But what are the real wages of a Master Mason? We discussed this in lodge on rib night and I heard some interesting aspects that I had not heard before.

I spoke about the many friendships I have found over the years as a Mason. I have gotten to meet and get to know people from all walks of life, including generals and admirals all the way down to plumbers and even fellow writers, who are really just social pariahs and benefit greatly from the generous bonds this institution offers. Others spoke about the philosophical aspects and opportunities for continuing study and education as an adult, outside of the classroom.

One thing that especially struck me was a comment that Masonry is probably the only organization that teaches men to have relationships. I had never thought about that. I do not want to get into the differences between how men and women think because, frankly, I do not know how women think. I have proven that time and again through my relationships with them. However, many men’s organizations have an emphasis on doing rather than being. In the lodge, we sit and talk, or hear a presentation. We discuss ideas and have a great focus on building and sustaining harmony. We learn to get on well with each other, despite differences that might otherwise keep us at perpetual odds. I had never really thought of this in terms of learning to have relationships though. Definitely an interesting perspective and one I have valued as well, despite not thinking of it in those terms.

What do you think? What wages do you draw from your labors?

A good year as DDGM


I had a great honor bestowed upon me last year, from November 2013 through November 2014. I got to serve as the District Deputy Grand Master, which means that I was the intermediary between the subordinate lodges and the grand lodge. I am proud to report that none of my lodges shut their doors and that we had no Masonic trials during my tenure. I guess that constitutes success on some level.

We had great programs and good visitation between lodges. What’s more, this past year’s activities built on to what had been done before in the district and I expect that this coming year’s activities will continue to build on them.

People asked all year long how my year was going. It was busy but good. It was not always fun and not always interesting but it was a huge honor. As honored as I feel, though, I was not at all sad to pass the jewel on to someone else. I don’t need a second year of honor – that’s for darned sure!

Masonic Rings

Masonic Ring IMGP0003_1Many brothers are curious, especially when new, what kind of ring they should get, how fancy it should be, how much to spend, and more. First, I understand that many new brothers are full of fervency and zeal when it comes to being part of the fraternity and outwardly showing membership. However, before rushing off and buying a ring, think about the style you might like to have and whether you really want one at all. Some professions lend themselves to not wearing something like this. Mechanics, for example, could be at a disadvantage if they wear rings at work, and some lines of work prohibit the wearing of jewelry other than a wedding ring or simple necklace.
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Math Lesson – Right Triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem

wpid-IMAG0703.jpgI teach SAT preparation courses and as part of the instruction teach basic math and geometric concepts. Not too long ago I had a student who was not grasping the Pythagorean Theorem, so I made a drawing for him to explain it and prove that it worked. I chose the 3-4-5 right triangle for my example and went about making my useful, yet ugly artwork. The kids always like hearing me berate my own artistic skills. I just never had a hand for it and pointing this out always adds a bit of levity to the lesson. The drawing shows what a mathematical square is and why the theorem works.

a2 + b2 = c2, where a and b are the legs and c is the hypotenuse
32 + 42 = 52
9 + 16 = 25
Sure enough, the hypotenuse side has 25 squares. Eureka!

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True Friendship is Old Crow and Chocolate Cake

wpid-IMAG0719.jpgI went to visit my friend and mentor Bruce a few weeks ago for his birthday. He was turning 90 and does not get out anymore, so I figured I would come by and bring him his two favorite things – Old Crow bourbon and chocolate cake. Maybe they are not quite his favorites, but they are certainly things he enjoys, so I know he had a good birthday.

Bruce is one of the greats in our area and is known widely throughout the state as a master ritualist, as well as being someone who is good and kind, if sometimes firm with his direction. It was with great humility on my part that I agreed to take over for him when he stepped down last year as our district ritual instructor, and I am sure it took a great amount of trust on his part to turn it over to someone so young among the Craft. I feel honored to have this role and take it seriously, even if I do not have the chance to attend every event or visit all the lodge schools.
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