I Am In Love With the Impossible Miracle of the Universe

The day that I spent close to eight hours in the airport, I purchased The Year of Living Biblically from the airport bookstore. I’ve been reading it off and on since then, so one day when we were at the beach, I grabbed the book and headed down to the beach to read. My parents had just carried our kayak down, so while they swam the long distance to the buoy and back, I perched on the green hull and read the final fifty pages.

My parents are the two black dots on the left next to the buoy.

And when I finished, I slowly closed the book, dug my feet a little deeper into the sand and stared out across the beach in silence, letting people’s shouting, conversations, and the crashing of the waves becoming a dull buzzing in the background.

I slowed my breathing down and reached out for that periwinkle calm feeling that descends on me whenever I write or pray. I didn’t grab at it with needy fingers the way I am now as I desperately try to write blog posts for the coming days without power or the internet. I merely turned my hands palms up in my lap and waited. And it came with its softness and gentle weight, settling down over my shoulders and in the pit of my stomach.

Pressing my palms and fingers lightly together, I looked straight out over the water, let out a slow breath through my lips, and said, “Hello, God? Are you here, somewhere around me? I want to talk to you.”

I don’t pray very much. It’s more like a three to four times a week kind of thing for me, and it only ever happens when I’m really, really happy, really, really scared, or at church. Normally, I rush it, almost as if He wouldn’t hear it if I took more than a few minutes. But even if I’m trying to jam it all in in the minute of silence during Prayers of the People or in the few minutes following communion, I always ask permission. I know I never need it–God is always there, listening–but if I’m going to do something so terribly important, I want to make sure that we’re both entirely ready.

I waited a moment just feeling the pressure between my two hands and then said, “Hi, God. It’s me, Ella. I know that sounds just like the title of the Judy Blume novel about a girl named Margaret, but it sounds like such a nice opening to begin talking to you.”

And so I prayed, sitting there silently, trying to thank God for all that He has done for me. The clouds drifted slowly across the sky, and I thanked him for my friends, for my family, and I kept going until I was waxing poetic about the grains of sand clinging to my legs.

All of a sudden, the sky seemed to get a little brighter and the sun just a little bit warmer, but it wasn’t in a you-should-put-on-some-more-sunscreen sort of way–it felt like the miracle of the world was embracing me a little more tightly and that God was responding to my thanksgivings.

I don’t know how much I believe in the literal stories of the Bible sometimes, but I do know that some things are sacred, that there is some tremendous force of good and power that has given us the miracle of life, and that we must give thanks.

Out of all the ways that the particles from the Big Bang could have arranged themselves, this is the way they came to be. And from this arrangement, I had been chosen, also by chance, to be born. For a brief moment in time, I will have consciousness and experience this miracle; I will have the opportunity to experience the infinite good of the world. There will be other people from the same origins as me to interact with and there will be other animals with consciousness, and plants, and rocks, and all other sorts of inorganic materials, so much to explore and consider. It doesn’t matter how this was all created–it is a gift, and I will give thanks.

A little while later I stopped my prayers and examined my hands, still lightly held together. I traced the lines of the veins on the back of my hands and noticed for what felt like both the millionth and the first time, how I could watch the thin bones in my hand move as I wiggled my fingers. Beautiful, I thought, What a miracle.

If I were less self-conscious, I would have climbed up on the kayak and yelled, “I am in love with everything, dead and alive and about to be born! I am in love with this impossible miracle! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” But I didn’t, because people would have stared, and I probably would have frightened them. So instead, I did it in my mind. My voice rang out all the way across the ocean, and it was heard by all. And we all gave thanks together, a perfect harmony of thank you in an infinite number of languages to the air around us that would be heard across the universe and into the ears of God, wherever he may be.

Then, I stood up, carrying my book in my right hand and walked across the sand to the landing at the bottom of our street, up the stairs, and past the five houses between us and the sea to the back door, where I carefully brushed the sand off my legs and feet and walked into the house.

Back at the house everyone was moving around with the same speed they were before. Pippa and Jeanne were fixing themselves tall glasses of cold Gatorade, and my mother and my grandmother had started to fix dinner. There was a constant hubbub of noise and everyone seemed to in a hurry. Such a stark difference to what I had just experienced. I stood in the back hall for a moment, embracing my periwinkle feeling of calm before throwing it all off and diving back into reality.

“Did you get the yellow type of Gatorade, Mom?” I asked as I opened the refrigerator door to look for the bottle. “The red one tastes icky.”

In Which Ella Is T-I-R-E-D

Tonight feels like a good night for finishing “The Year of Living Biblically*” and going to bed before nine. Having so many people at the house kept me incredibly busy, and I am now very, very exhausted. I love my bed.

*In which a mostly secular man, A.J. Jacobs, tries to follow all the rules in the Bible–both the old and new testaments–for one year. It’s funny and a very interesting exploration of the Bible.

Tunes for a Very Special Road Trip

Greetings Blogizens —

It’s Mr. Ella’s Dad, substitute blogging again. Ella is out spending the night with her friends before tomorrow’s very special day. Since I’m bracing for a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the months ahead, I thought I’d pull together a playlist to ease the journey. Enjoy listening to this rapturous collection; feel free to add your own suggestions.

Blondie – Rapture

Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky

REM – It’s the End of the World as We Know It

U2 — Until The End Of The World

Guns ‘n’ Roses -Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

The Pixies — Monkey Gone to Heaven

The Cure – (Feels like) Heaven

Cracker – Can I take my Gun to Heaven?

Mazzy Star – Be My Angel

Sly and the Family Stone – I Want to Take You Higher

Jimi Hendrix – Angel

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Two Thoughts for Monday

One:

Tomorrow, I am skipping school and going into the city with the seniors in the Executive and Judicial branch of our government small learning community. I’m giddy with excitement. So giddy that I’ve already picked out an outfit and packed my bag. It’s going to be great. Just great.

To commemorate this excellent happening, I’ve decided to make a Thoughts From Places video. The Vlogbrothers make these sorts of videos whenever they go traveling, and I just love them. They film bits and pieces of what they see and do and tell a beautiful story about it. Here are two of my favorites.

What ensued after this video is an amazing story that I will share with you another day.

The quote, “what if a child’s pool were enough to imprison you?” fascinates me.

The prospect of this project is terribly exciting.

Two:

At around ten-thirty last night, I got a tweet sent to my phone from Audrey that said that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Naturally, I made a mad dash for my parents’ room that involved missing a step on the stairs and making a tremendous bang as my right foot and knee smashed into the treads. Skidding down the hall and through the door, I announced, rather yelled, the news. They looked at me and blinked as I tossed my phone to my dad and ran to grab my laptop. A minute later, my dad and I were standing in front of the TV as the news anchors confirmed it.

I opened up my Twitter feed and just sat there pressing refresh over and over and over again. It felt impossibly shocking. Then, the White House announced that Obama would be giving a speech soon, and I turned on the New York Times’ live feed as my hands shook.

My dad went back upstairs, and I wrote my blog post, half muddled in disbelief. Obama spoke, and my friends and I rejoiced when he said, “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.”

I turned off all the lights, curled up on my bed, went back to reading Twitter. Karen Kavitt, one of my favorite graphic designers, wrote, “It’s amazing how connected you can feel to the human population through Twitter when news breaks, even if you’re sitting alone in your room.” And it really was true. I wasn’t alone.

I wondered how it must have felt to receive similar news in the time before computers. Would I have called all of my friends to see what they thought, or would everyone just wait to talk until the next day and the arrival of the newspapers? My parents have seen both sides of the spectrum, and sometimes, I wish that I had their perspective. The dichotomy must be spectacular.

The Uncultured Project, one of my favorite charities, tweeted that Bin Laden had been killed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was sort of fitting. But it did feel rather odd that we were commemorating the deaths of thousands with another death. I really do wish that he could have been captured and made to understand the vast amounts of hurt he created. I desperately want him to feel remorse. I don’t want to fight violence with more violence, but I recognize that this was the way that it had to go. He never would have gone peaceably.

When I checked my phone after school, I saw that John Green had tweeted, “Like many people, I feel like celebrating. Remember this feeling. It is human and can help us understand when others express bloodlust.”

And while I do understand the importance of empathy and can validate others’ joy, I still feel caught. It’s horrible to celebrate a death, no matter how awful the person was. However, Bin Laden’s death also can be viewed as retribution for 9/11 and all the other atrosities committed by al Qaeda.

I don’t think that I’ll ever sort out how I should react to this event. And that’s okay. It really is. It would be worse to spring towards either end of the dialectic without acknowledging the truth of the other. Besides, I’m not alone. I know many prople are in the same tangled mess of emotions as me, and there’s never anything wrong with little confusion.

Though on a very practical note, I do hope that this event can help Obama get reelected. I love him so much.

On India and Stressed Out Anger

The sound that my anxiety makes is: Ahhhhhhhhhh!

I have a million things to do in a very short amount of time, and I am so stressed out. So stressed out. Like crying and crying and crying stressed out. And when this happens, I like to watch Frost/Nixon and go through old files on the computer to calm down. So when I was looking through some pictures from my father’s latest trip to India, I found this. It makes me really mad, but not for the reason you’re thinking of.

This is an Indian holy symbol, a symbol that has belonged to them and their culture for hundreds of years. Then, the idiotic Nazis stole it, flipped the little things on the end and used it as a symbol for their fascist government and deplorable acts. And it really, really infuriates me that they can’t use this symbol outside of India for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. Really, really infuriates me.

Gosh, I’m so angry right now.

But I have work to attend to, so off I stomp to the world of papers, prep books, and short answer questions.

A Christian’s Take on Gay Rights

I was supposed to attend a GSA meeting at Audrey’s house today, but I haven’t exactly gotten out of bed. I feel so guilty about this absence because I so very strongly believe that the LGBTQ community deserves equal rights and that as a Christian, it is my duty to campaign for them.

I started thinking about all of this while I was lying in bed feeling awful, so I dragged myself over to my bookshelf and pulled out the Bible. First, I read Psalm 139 because I love it the most. (I stuck it at the bottom of this post because it is so glorious. And to save space on the main page, I made it only visible after you hit the “More” button.) Then, I got down to business. I had been having a discussion with my cousin over Thanksgiving, who is a beautiful person and an Evangelical Christian, in which she was trying to tell me that homosexuality was a sin (and that non-Christians are living a lie and will go to Hell, but that’s a story for another day). Now, I love her dearly, but we don’t always see eye to eye. The conversation had shaken me up a little, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. So I decided that it was time to go to back to the Holy Scripture and look again at what God and Jesus tell me.

As I sat there with the big blue Bible open in my lap, I felt a rush of love and peace flood over me. I knew then that God and Jesus were there with me, more than the way that I feel their presence in daily life. And as I flipped through those pages, I found exactly what I knew to be true over and over and over again: God loves us all, and we all must love Him and one another.

Here are some passages and my thoughts:

It’s always fitting to begin your Spiritual search with John 3:16 (I’ve italicized what I believe to be the most important words):

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He (She) who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” –John 3:16-18

When I was on a pilgrimage to Boston (We were exploring the American roots of the Episcopal Church) right after I was confirmed, I said something that wasn’t very nice. Mother Audrey (not my friend, but the assistant rector of my church) recited the following to me. Now, I’ve known this passage since I was little, but before then, I had thought very little about applying it to my own life; it had just been another Bible passage to memorize and illustrate with crayons on butcher paper. I wish that those who hate members of the LGBTQ community or those who believe that they don’t deserve equal rights will read this passage and come to know that they truly must love them as much as they love themselves. We are all the children of God and must treat one another as such.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” –Matthew 22:37-40

I also found a bunch of passages about how one’s devotion to God is private for that individual and cannot be criticized or judged by anyone else. You CAN be Christian and LGBTQ.

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” —Philippians 2:12

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” —Galatians 2:21

To be perfectly honest, I found most of the passages from memory. It wasn’t like I read the whole Bible this afternoon. But I did find this one all on my own when I opened to a random page and started skimming. I think that it proves that LGBTQs are not hated or judged by God and that others cannot hate or judge them. We are all equal beings before Him.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28

This passage I got from my great uncle, who is an Episcopal priest and a truly good person. It tells us that God made LGBTQ people the same way that he made straight people and that anyone can love Him and should love one another.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father (Heavenly Parent) in my name, God may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” —John 15:16-17

Finally, NOTHING separates us from God’s love. NOTHING. God loves every one of us, LGBTQ or not, and sexuality does not influence the amount of His love at all.

“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 8: 38-39

Whenever someone uses Christianity as a weapon against the Gay Rights movement or the LGBTQ community, all I and anyone else must do is simply point to those passages and ask them that if they truly believe in God and the Bible, then why do they choose to ignore those passages.

I feel a little less guilty for missing my GSA meeting now. I’ve also included my favorite “It Gets Better” video after the “More” break. It’s done by an awesome Australian man from a Christian perspective. Also, here’s a link to an amazing sermon by the Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker.