Hallelujah! Dec. 2nd 2018

The Hallelujah chorus was sung at the end of the Christmas Devotional, and was the most majestic ending I could have imagined. Immediately prior, Pres. Nelson had spoken and touched us all with his tale of a young girl struggling with cancer, and needless to say emotions were close to the surface. I brought McKinney, and was joined by Lawson and Kimball together with their dates. Having barely had time beforehand in the rush to get to our seats, upon leaving, we slowly meandered through Temple Square, admiring all the Christmas lights and feeling the spirit of Christmas, and of Christ throughout. Snow was again falling, and we endured a 90 minute ride back from SLC,  in which I am thankful to have arrived without incident, passing many accidents on the way. Even though we shall not be going on another date, I had an incredible time, and will never forget this night, and treasure the experience. This is year three for me, and the Christmas Devo never disappoints.

In other news, what a week! I spent part of my Sabbath morning sitting in the SLC airport. My ride accidentally forgot me, and the reason I mention it is because of that wonderfully comforting scripture, Isaiah 49:15-16:

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

I’ve personally forgotten many things and commitments, but know that the Lord, with his infinite love, and despite his many children and many concerns, will never forget us. He is the Savior of the world.

And needless to say, upon realizing the error, my ride did quickly come pick me up, braving the snow that was heavily descending.

Tuesday I called off of work to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City again. My fh projects are due soon, and work remains to be done. Once more, I was sucked into the lives of my ancestors. I found out one of them, who I mentioned a while back, George A. Kingsbury, served in the Civil War. He enlisted in August 1862, and went by train to New York. After training there for a couple weeks, his regiment shipped down south, going around the eastern seaboard stopping in North Carolina, Key West, and New Orleans briefly before arriving to participate in the Battle of Galveston. From there he served in Louisiana and the record states, “Before he ordered his men to take care of themselves, Sergeant Ballou was severly wounded by a rifle ball in the left arm, near the wrist, and Private Cook reveived his fatal wound. Ballou asked Private George Kingsbury, Company B, to assist him in binding up his arm, and while doing so about twenty Texans made a rush upon them, with a demand for their surrender. A Confederate lieutenant gave orders to shoot them down, because their was a flag of truce displayed while the firing continued. An appeal to Major Hunter was necessary to prevent this barbarity, the sergeant not being aware of any flag of truce having been raised, and informed the major that he did not raise one. This was settled satisfactorily, and the few men left with Ballou were taken prisoners.” After spending some time in prison, and being released on parole, the record continues, “Many convalescent and sick soldiers not able to march, but anxious to reach the federal lines, attempted to do so with their fellow prisoners. They gave out day by day from sickness and fatigue, caused by debility, hot weather, poor drinking water, and insufficient rations, to be left on the line of march all the way from Brashear to new Orleans. Quite a number died. Many were in a condition to give out any moment, but pluckily kept on and reached the lines. From the 42nd detachment Privates Henry Richardson and George Kingsbury, Company, sickened, and had to be left at Thibodeaux.”

For some context they made it 30 of the 80 miles to New Orleans. Eventually George made it back and his regiment was mustered out August 1863. Incredibly, when Pres. Lincoln asked for more volunteers one year later, George again enlisted, serving in Maryland and Virginia.

Could you imagine negotiating with confederates for your lives? Begging not to be shot? While flying back from Arizona, I realized that almost certainly, he never would have flown, having died in 1911. And its something I take for granted – a normal part of life.

Thursday I was invited to a “President’s Dinner” in the Hinckley Center. It was for all the presidents of school clubs, and was a formal, catered event. It didn’t especially appeal to me with a lot going on, (and I’m tired of going to these events SOLO!!!!) but due to the price of lettuce decided to go. A single head of lettuce is up to $2.50 here, and I couldn’t make myself buy one but have been craving salad. So after work I dressed up and went. I was blessed – I ended up sitting at a table with the presidents of the Shakespeare club, golf club, and Amateur Radio Club. None of which I knew existed but all of which I conversed with, and hope to sneak off to some of their events in the future. And the food, including lots of feta salad, was delicious. Entertainment was provided by an a cappella group, and a magician, with more acts coming before I made my exit. Definitely exceeded my expectations.

Friday morning I rode the frontrunner to the airport and departed for Arizona. It was timed perfectly. Without rushing, I left the train, caught my next one, arrived at the airport, went through security, and right to the line for boarding. The flight was easy – only about 75 minutes, and without any problems. A transgender woman was waiting for me, and she drove me to the hotel, the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. I mention that as I couldn’t help but notice that that was what I noticed first, and in my mind was her defining characteristic. I wondered, What is my defining characteristic? We had a nice conversation and she filled me in on some Scottsdale happenings.

I was the first one to arrive, and would be for a few hours. I enjoyed walking around the massive complex, with blue skies, the sun out, 65 degrees, and lots of palm trees and immaculate grass. I cranked out an essay that would be due, and hit up their exercise room before getting ready for the conference to start. This is the Collegiate Network’s (CN) annual Editor’s conference. About 35 schools were represented. Amazingly, the keynote Friday night was Peter Thiel, who I never imagined I’d meet. I was at the table over from him (dang assigned seating!) He gave a great, if somewhat scattered talk, before taking part in a discussion, moderated by Charlie Copeland. One of the good parts of being with a group of political junkies is that they are much less interested in business, so I waltzed over to Peter, and we had a good conversation. He had a couple security men there, ……

Hospitality ensued, and while snacking on popcorn networked a lot with the other students. That concluded the night for me.

Waiting for your seat mate on the airplane is a little like waiting for a new dorm roommate, but obviously lower stakes. Well my comps on both plane rides turned out great, but my luck didn’t hold for my roommate at the conference. Frankie, from the University of Pittsburgh, is a hospitable and amiable chap, but I worry when his first question is if I like to party. He wandered into our room sometime in the early morning hours, apparently drunk, knocked over the ironing board and iron, and when once safe in bed proceeded to scare any monsters from under the bed with his ferocious cannon fire combo of farts and non-stop snoring. I’m glad he didn’t get there earlier because it was tough to sleep after his arrival.

Nevertheless, I awoke with sufficient energy and enjoyed the day’s events. Honestly, I didn’t think that the trainings helped terribly much, which could be youthful egotism, or perhaps a reflection of today’s journalism standards. They didn’t help except for one by Rudy Bush of the Dallas Morning News on investigative journalism. I quite enjoyed that breakout. The main benefit of the conference for me was definitely networking (and the fact that it was like a free vacay). I met lots of nice students from across the nation and numerous professionals in the field.

Not wanting to miss church, I asked for a ticket back in the morning. So my plane left at 6 am. I brought my work computer to the conference, but our new work security system does not allow it to connect to open internet so I could not use it all weekend. Which was wonderful. And the “business center” at the hotel was outdated, now that everyone has internet on their phone and laptop (except me) so I arrived at the airport without a boarding pass. The driver this time used to be an umpire for college and mlb spring-training baseball before recurring bouts of heat exhaustion forced him out. So when I arrived at the airport at 4:45 am, I thought, who might be up? I calmed my grandmother, she answered on the first ring, assured me that she’d been up since 2:30 EASTERN TIME! and proceeded to log onto my email and get me the needed info. The plane ride was fine, and for the first time that I know of, I slept soundly enough to miss the complimentary beverage and snack.

For Sunday’s priesthood discussion, I borrowed Uncle Rich’s idea from his letter a few weeks ago. After talking for awhile about what is going on in our lives, we all wrote down ten things that we are most thankful for, talked about why, then crossed off three that we could without if forced to. The wailing started, as jobs were left, tv’s, etc. When I asked for three more items to be crossed off, we all struggled as this time, parents were pitted against siblings, and friends and health were both given the boot. Finally, I asked for two of the last four to be marked off. The Spirit was strong as we realized what really meant the most to us, and saw how we needed to adjust our lives to make them a priority in time as well. Something that really helped make it a special lesson was at the start, before even forming our lists, I asked for a couple volunteers to share their testimonies on gratitude, and then someone else on priorities and how putting God first in their lives has blessed them. To close, I shared two examples from Pres. Nelson’s life. First, as a young married couple,  his wife and him decided to always follow Matthew 6:33:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.

In addition, as a prominent medical doctor, and father of (i believe at the time) 9 children, he was interviewed by Pres. Kimball to become a Stake President. Pres. Kimball related to him how everyone called in previously had recommended Russell Nelson, saying he was the man, but expressing reservation about his time, knowing that he was extremely busy. Pres. Kimball basically said, you’re the man, but do you have the time to do this calling? To which Pres. Nelson responded, “No, but I have the faith.”

MAY WE ALL HAVE THAT FAITH!

Merry Christmas!!!!!

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