The Finals Countdown

I apologize for not writing last week. I’ll include a brief synopsis of that as well. Interestingly, I wrote last about finding grace. Well, I found her, and we went out on Tuesday. Also interesting, I went to Salt Lake Saturday the 9th, (more on that later), and who should I meet? Recently returned from her mission, Lynsie. Flashback to freshman year. That was highly unexpected.

So, last Saturday I took the train up to Salt Lake City to go to the Family History Library. Getting there at 10:30, I watched the new 1st vision video in the church history museum, toured the Joseph Smith Building, and then made my way to the Family History Library. I went mainly to see some books on the Schenewark line that are not available online. After a couple hours, I visited the Lion House Pantry for lunch, and then returned, intent on achieving a breakthrough. I was able to eventually find some new ancestors, and continued adding some sources. Unfortunately, the hometown of the Schenewark line continues to elude me. Still lots of work to do. I also had planned my visit to coordinate with a ward temple trip, so at 5:30 I met the group and we went inside the Salt Lake Temple. It was a marvelous experience, and one I shall not forget, as I was able to complete work for some of the recently found family members. Then, as I was leaving, we ran into Lynsie.

After talking for a couple minutes we went our ways. As I debated about the next move, the next day I received a message from her asking to meet up. So we marked it for Friday the 16th.

In the meantime, on Sunday I was sustained to my new calling as ward Sunday School President. I’d be interested to see how Uncle Aaron will shake things up on his side. Our organization has been struggling and we are open to new ideas. Hit me up Funcle A. Our last two teachers both married and thus moved this last week, so we’re starting from nada (which I prefer).

Monday was our ward Christmas Party. We had catered BBQ (YES!) and an innovative white elephant gift exchange. In this version, we all put our presents in the middle, at the marked time, chose one, and returned to our seats, arranged in a circle. Then, as the narrator read a story, each time he said the word left, we would pass our present to the person on the left. With the word right, we passed to the right. And at across, we would exchange presents with someone across the room. At the end of the story, the present we were holding was the one we took home.

Tuesday, as aforementioned, I took Grace to the BYU Wind Symphony. She is from Pittsburgh, and recently returned from a mission in Poland. Majoring in German, her family joined the church when she was 7. Her mother was a pastor, and apparently worked those poor missionaries over, and then decided to join the church herself. We enjoyed the show, although they continue to play Russian composers over Germans with incredible prejudice.

Wednesday saw me finish all my school assignments for the semester, which was a seminal moment. Thursday I had my dance final. This saw me crush the Quickstep, and utterly fail on the waltz. My partner wasn’t there, and I danced with someone totally new. It was funny though as I struggled through the waltz, the teacher filming, repeatedly made comments about my elbow being too low. He apparently focused on that to such an extent that it was not until the very end that he said my footwork looked a little off. Hey, I’ll take it. I received a much higher grade than I thought I would, but no complaints.

I also interviewed to write for the BYU Political Review. Its a monthly journal that surveys the political landscape. I’ll find out Monday or Tuesday whether I made the cut. I joined a new club, called the Fidelio Society. It meets bi-weekly to talk about and debate matters dealing with faith and society as a whole.

Friday was my last day in work. They tried keeping me with an accounting internship, which I politely declined. Then, with plans to open up an office in Boston starting March 1st, I was told that my plans to take this semester off would be respected, but if I wanted, I had a gig there for the summer. Very kind of them.

Leaving the office for the last time. I may or may not have a bag of chicken nuggets behind my back

Friday happened to be our company christmas party with Santa. And Chick-fil-A. I actually had set up a lunch meeting with Russ, an entrepreneur out of Bountiful+Layton, so I went to that instead. But, the amount of leftovers was staggering and so I’ve been eating them all weekend. I’m glad they are finally gone. With Russ, we discussed my latest current venture. I received some good feedback, a couple suggestions, and have plans to move forward with this.

That night, Tanmarie kindly lent me their Chevy Prizm. I went to a BYU hockey game with Lynsie. We enjoyed watching BYU put a beatdown on UVU and basically just talked for two hours. It was a lot of fun. And I’d say it merits another one.

Saturday, I took my first two finals in the morning, both of which went very well, then met Sarah W. up at Cafe Zupas. Having already eaten an insane amount of Chick-fil-A, I opted to just talk and not eat. Its always nice to catch up with her and hear her latest plans.

Today, was a day of genuine rest. I taught Sunday School and then headed off with Tanner to hear Meghan’s farewell. She did a great job, and is ready for Nicaragua. With Tanner’s assistance, I made a Brazilian dish called Galinhada.

Porter, have you eaten this already? It turned out fairly good, and we finished that off with ice cream. To be authentic, I ate my galinhada on a plate, no bowl, used a knife and fork, and did not use pepper, only salt. After, I spent the next couple hours on their coach, wrapped up in a warm blanket, talking, and incandescently happy.

President Hinckley said at a BYU Devotional in 1998

“Tremendous is your opportunity to reach beyond the hoped for goal of wealth and worldly success….”

I’ve pondered that, and would love to hear any opinions. What goals do you have beyond wealth and worldly success? How do you measure success? I’ve thought about various careers and ask myself, would I be happy doing this? Would I feel successful? For now, the jury is still out as to lifelong plans.

And, in a somewhat similar vein, but from a different source, I bring to you a few lines from the book of Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. 

“The man who sees inaction in action

and action in inaction

has understanding among men,

disciplined in all action he performs.”

I like this  as we can see everyday people who act, but to no purpose. They work, and achieve nothing. And, we must realize that perhaps there are times when to succeed, we should not act.

This Thursday, I’ll be driving down to Las Vegas with Tanmarie and Nora, and then its just a short flight before I’m home!

Just one more thought, at the meeting of the Fidelio Society on Thursday night, we discussed the historical aspect of Christmas along with its pagan roots. Don’t worry, in the end we all agreed that Christmas is fantastic regardless of its earlier counterparts. One person shared something that intrigued me. He mentioned how Germans have traditionally place lit candles on their trees. We had talked about many of the symbols of Christmas, (evergreen tree, star, candy canes, etc.) but he said that these christmas trees could be viewed as a burning bush. Knowing the story of Moses, we can think of the Christmas Tree as symbolizing the presence of Christ in our lives. Of course, we should not just place him figuratively in our houses once a year. We should always remember our Savior and His sacrifice, and have the Holy Ghost to be with us.

 

Finding Grace

 

Dates

This Sunday was the highly anticipated 1st Pres. Christmas Devotional. Kind Sarah W. set me up with a mission pal of hers, Ashley, and I hooked my friend Mark up with Rebecca. You could have filmed a movie scene. We drove up to Salt Lake City, the air was frosty, snow flakes were falling. We admired the beautiful Christmas lights, and heard a choir of angels sing. Not to mention we heard heartwarming talks. Our seats were spectacular, it was like you could reach out and shake the hand of someone on stage. Oh, and Mark’s mom sent him with a giant flask of hot chocolate which we all enjoyed afterwords. Everything went perfect.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

No, I did not meet Scott Stirling. I did, however, meet Bruce C. Hafen. The ‘C’ in his name probably stands for Champion, because that’s just who he is. BYU hosted a week long seminar on grace, and he spoke on it Thursday night. I could say much, but I’ll simply leave a paraphrased quote from his talk:

“We cannot say, ‘Lord, give me experience, help me grow, help me become like thee!’ and then not expect to have grief, when that is what shaped Him, and made Him who He is. “

The next night I again went to the last address of the night. This time it was given by Sheri Dew. Again, another marvelous discourse on grace. My understanding of it grew, as well as my desire to understand it still better. She, being single, and obviously struggling with that challenge, shared so sincerely how grace has helped her. Her testimony was powerful. As with Elder Hafen, there was a Q+A after, and when someone asked how we can know if we are receiving grace, I liked how she said,

“Every spiritual privilege we have is a manifestation of His grace.”

 

Hometeaching

This has been a struggle. My companion is still MIA. Its been impossible to connect with three of those I’m visiting. The fourth I connected too well as she asked me out. So, I decided to mark a date, invite everybody over for pie, and see what happens. Remarkably, it was a success. Finally, two of them started responding to my messages, and I was able to meet one of them for the first time. Overall, three out of four showed. We bonded, my roommates extended the hands of friendship as well, and we all left filled. I’ve mentioned Mouli before, but to quickly restate, he is a PhD student in physics from India, having previously studied in Germany. While everyone else was talking, he stayed mostly quiet and very reserved. Towards the end, having shared a message about faith, we started talking about religion, just me and him. He said he was born Hindu, which I had reasoned. I then said, “Wait, I want to show you this book.” I returned carrying a book, and he said, “I knew, the Book of Mormon,” to which I responded, “No, its the Bhagavad Gita!” (which is basically Hindu scripture.) His eyes lit up, he responded to a couple of my questions, and for the first time, we connected. Developments to follow!

Market Analysis

I ended my bitcoin run. In just under a month, I netted $370 which isn’t going to ‘ put my on Forbes’ radar anytime soon, but for a college student, helps significantly. While I still believe in the idea, I would recommend staying away from bitcoin. Starting next week, it will become easy to short bitcoin, and i think this will cause some problems. While it was the trailblazer, I think it will be passed by better, more efficient blockchain using cryptocurrencies. The horse-and-buggy helped people tremendously, but it was the wrong market to invest in at the turn of the 20th century. It is often forgotten that until 1944 the British Pound was the reserve currency of the world, being then replaced by the US dollar. I see something similar happening to bitcoin, and while it will probably continue to rise for some time, I see more value in Monero, and IOTA, and am excited to see what happens in the future.

Better than….

I read recently an article, where the author listed some things that were more important than money. Later, I decided to come up with my own list. I won’t share that today, but I will share something similar. Pres. Faust, 60 some years ago, almost ready to head to his mission in Brasil, received some training from then apostle David O. McKay. Elder McKay walked to the chalkboard and simply wrote, “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.” The notion being, our Heavenly Father will always love us. Our parents will always love us. But can they trust us? We receive their love, but have to earn their trust, and that happens through our daily actions, as well as, I believe, our desire to love them back. And of course, to show our love, and to earn His trust, to become His friends, we must keep His commandments.