Wright Words: Heaven and Earth collide at Atlanta airport

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Aerial view of Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

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ATLANTA — Last week I traveled to Columbus, Ga., for seven events over two days. I was set to speak to Mormons, Methodists, college students and to a crowd of struggling teen girls at a Christian-based residential treatment center. My last stop would be a speech at the Junior League of Columbus.

It was a variety bag of delicious opportunities to share my messages and meet some truly inspirational people.

The trip had been in the works for many months and a tremendous amount of organizational labor was spent by the good folks who sponsored it. Tickets were bought. Reservations were made.

I woke up Thursday morning and walked out the door with everything I needed and one thing I didn't. A nasty cold had arrived — unscheduled, overnight.

Because we'd seen some winter weather in northern Virginia that day, the drive to Reagan National Airport took much longer than usual. Over the 2½-hour drive I counted all the reasons I dreaded getting on a plane with my head wanting to explode.

I lamented how incredibly unlucky I was that after not having been sick for many months, I was now being hit with a bug as I embarked on an important trip. I also wondered why my guardian angels hadn't been more aware of my schedule.

Aren't they on my email list?

By the time I settled into my seat on the tarmac in Washington, I would have preferred being anyplace else but on an airplane. As business travel warriors know, the road is not a place to heal.

Before powering off my iPhone for the flight, I posted on Facebook that I was headed to Georgia for events. Moments later a good friend of mine, Todd Cole of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., texted me and asked what time I was passing through Atlanta. He, too, was en route to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Two hours later I fired the phone back on and discovered that Todd and a colleague were closing in on the airport in a rental car after two days of business in the area.

They were returning a car to Hertz.

I would be renting a car from Hertz.

My next text to Todd just might have passed through a satellite in heaven.

"Could you give me a blessing?"

Todd is a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood. As we believe, this gives worthy men the authority to act in God's name on Earth by performing a sort of prayer we call a blessing.

The answer, of course, was, "Yes."

Soon, Todd and his colleague pulled up to the arrivals curb in their rental car. It was surreal to see someone so out of context. Here was a good friend from home showing up at the Atlanta airport in a rental car to pick me up.

In the world's terms, the odds of that personal collision would be astronomical. But by heaven's math, it all made perfect sense.

We drove back to the car rental garage to return their vehicle. Then we stepped into the Hertz lounge to rent mine.

Just a few more minutes passed before we were walking toward my car in the garage, loading their bags and climbing in.

Once inside, Todd took the opportunity to explain to his colleague what a blessing by the laying on of hands is all about. The friend, a good Catholic man, was completely comfortable with the explanation and the blessing itself.

Following the example laid out in the Old Testament, Todd put his hands upon my head and blessed me that I would be able to fulfill my obligations in Georgia and to share my messages with those who were coming to listen.

It was a kind, personal blessing that invited the spirit into the car and into our hearts.

I was grateful that Todd was worthy and ready to exercise his priesthood, and noted more than once the miracle of our intersection at one of the world's busiest airports.

I dropped Todd and his colleague back at the departure curb and wished them safe travels. As they left Georgia, I drove south to Columbus knowing all would be well.

As promised, I found just enough strength to speak at each and every event, shake each and every hand, and recharge my battery on both nights with long, restful sleep.

That's not to suggest I felt perfect every second of the day, but I was perfectly capable of doing what I'd come to do.

On Saturday afternoon — after the completion of my final engagement — I loaded into my rental car and began the 100-mile journey back to Atlanta.

As I drove along, I felt my symptoms return. It was as if heaven had hit the pause button on my illness for two days, and then pressed play to let it run its course. Perhaps it was a lesson not to forget that the ability to meet every obligation had been a blessing, not a coincidence.

I was blessed by the power of the priesthood. Todd was blessed for being worthy to exercise it. His friend was blessed by being able to witness this and learn a little bit more about a faith he does not know a lot about.

When I needed God to remember me most, was it sheer coincidence that our paths collided? When I needed God to remember me most, was it really just a random meeting of two friends?

It was neither.

When I needed God to remember me most, I witnessed a collision of heaven and Earth.

It turns out that heaven is keenly aware of our schedules after all.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at jwright@deseretnews.com or jasonfwright.com.

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