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From Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam to Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty, there have been many attempts to portray God in a human context. However, for me, seeing breathtaking displays of nature's power and beauty are the closest humans can come to experiencing the presence of God. It can be a rare, brilliant green flash as the final rays of sun disappear, the view from Mt. Everest, or an untouched field of freshly fallen snow. There are moments in the natural world that are so perfect they feel as if they could have only been created with a divine touch. As I am generally agnostic, I have only had one memorable experience during which I believed that a higher power exists. It was summer, and I had spent the day at the beach. My family was about to leave because the sun was going down, but I went in the water for one last swim. It must have been the combination of the warm water and the relaxation I felt, but that swim in the golden waves with the setting sun was exhilarating. And despite the risk of sounding clichéd, I can only describe the feeling as being "one" with the water and the earth in general. Everything was perfect for those few minutes in the ocean; I believed that the world was an okay place after all.

That experience made me decide that if God involves himself in human affairs, he does it to give people comfort, strength, and faith in humankind. In a world where the news highlights tragedy and scandal, people need to maintain hope and faith, be it faith in the existence of God, faith in the good in people, or simply faith that in the end, everything will be all right. -- Jennie Matusova, La Jolla H.S.

If God were to ever pay me a visit, the meeting would probably take place somewhere safe and silent, where I feel most at peace, like on the shore of a quiet beach or in the midst of a white fog on the top of a mountain around sunrise. I would imagine that God would convey all the qualities of the perfect being: grace, humor, strength, and beauty. Because the most sensational supremacy has chosen me with whom to converse, I would take it upon myself to ask the most frequently asked questions about life: Does everything happen for a reason? Are you disappointed with the human race? Is the end of civilization approaching? What does heaven look like? Will I ever see it?

Although God would probably evoke more of a presence than a face and a holy warmth rather than an embrace, I could still feel Him smiling. He will tell me that everything I will ever want to know in my lifetime will be answered when I perish. But, as for heaven, He would only tell me that it is universally perfect in everyone's eyes. At 16 years old, I would question why He chose to appear to me. Knowing that I try to provoke peace in society every day, God would say that I have to continue to spread the idea of peace and shape it into reality.

Because many of the world's crises concern war (such as the genocide in Sudan, the U.S.-Iraq war, the Kashmir border conflict, and the rise of numerous extremist groups in the Middle East), God needs me to warn the world of the outcome of a worldwide war. Although I would be in a state of shock, God would advise me to approach resolution the way that Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did -- by expressing their beliefs without offense or hatred, but with reverence. -- Nichole Naoum, West Hills H.S.

God is my next-door neighbor. He talks to me over the backyard fence, invites me over for a game of baseball, and sometimes, if I am lucky, He will let me play Hot Wheels with Him. He is about three foot five inches tall and loves to play "airplane." His hair is a brilliant shade of orange, His teeth small and a little bit crooked. When we last talked, He was sucking on a Popsicle much larger than His face, and, quite frankly, was getting more on His chin than in His mouth.

On His shirt was a monster truck named "Lamb Chopper," barely visible underneath the dirt and grass stains that covered the front. The knees of His jeans were green and ripped from hours of playing.

He was as innocent and carefree as ever, just like they say He is, staring up at me with large blue eyes, a mess melting in His hands and down the front of His shirt.

"You look weird," He said.

"Gee, you're observant." I transferred my weight to my right side and put a hand on my hip.

"Is that what happens when you grow up?"

I looked at Him, confused. Then I looked at myself.

Here I was, standing in the grass in trousers and a dress shirt. I assumed this attire looked ridiculous to a child, especially since my shoes were covered in mud from tromping through the grass.

"What do you mean?" I asked, pulling on my shirt collar self-consciously.

"Is that what happens? Do you turn into a Money Lady?" He looked upset. His eyebrows met in the middle of His forehead, making a triangle. "Do you ever get to play baseball?"

I shook my head slowly, sadly.

"No baseball!?" He was astonished. "I never want to grow up!"

"Why not?"

"Old people never have any fun." He thrust His fists down to His sides, spraying melted Popsicle in my direction. The juice landed on my shirt pocket.

"You're right," I said. "Old people never have any fun." I smiled and grabbed His stomach and tickled Him. He let out a scream of laughter as I attempted to prove Him wrong.

"I'll teach you!" I yelled jokingly. I knew very well who was being taught. I guess God doesn't have to be some big man in the sky to teach you a lesson. -- Erin Bradley, Rancho Bernardo H.S.

When it comes to religion, I have an agnostic outlook. How can I believe in a deity that hasn't caused any inexplicable miracles or events? Nature and science can prove just about anything that happens in the world, so where's room for a God? There are a few reasons why I chose not to be religious, yet that doesn't mean I am close-minded to anyone else's religious beliefs. I'm not a critic and won't discriminate against someone because of their religion. In fact, that's one reason why I chose not to believe in a god: religion seems like it should be a peaceful, hope-giving experience, not something that should cause hatred, wars, and death. Why would anyone want to believe in something that tells them to hate or kill?

Also, wouldn't God have prevented certain "unwanted" events that have happened in my life? I know a few people who have had horrible things happen to them that they didn't deserve. Some believed in a god and religion, but still they met an early death or became ill. Things happen for a reason that nobody can control, not even a god. It's just a mystery of life. And I can live with that belief, not try and blame it on some higher being that I can't prove is real.

I'll admit I believe in "aliens"; not the stereotypical green ones with big heads who fly around in spaceships, but a more intelligent race. Humans can't possibly be the only living race in this gigantic universe. For all we know, we could've been an alien's experiments gone wrong or descendants of them. Thinking that a god can control a planet is somewhat believable to me but to think one god controls the entire universe? No way.

But like I always say, I could be wrong. If someone could prove to me that a god is real or some higher being exists, then so be it. -- Chelsea Kennedy, Madison H.S.

After a long day of school, I was ready to go home and take a nap. Unfortunately, calculus homework beckoned and I knew the nap would have to wait as I hurried home."Ouch!" I cried as I slammed into a tall woman with fair skin. "Good God, lady, where did you come from? Oww...that hurt."

"I am sorry, Rachel," she replied.

"How do you know my name?"

She smiled. "I know a lot of things."

"Who are you?"

"I believe you had it correct when you exclaimed, 'Good God, lady.'"

I studied her exquisite angular features for a moment before laughing. "Yeah, right. I mean, we all wish we were gods, but who are you really?"

"I am called many things, but you may call me..." She paused as if thinking about it. "...Jessica. And I created this universe you live in."

My skepticism refused to go away. "Prove your almighty omnipotence, then."

She sighed. "Why does no one believe anymore? Belief is something I miss."

"Fine," I conceded, "no miracles. Just answer one question: What is my favorite number?"

"Seventeen because it's the day you were born on."

I was silent for a moment. "Okay, I believe you...but what are you doing down here? Shouldn't you be up in the sky somewhere, answering people's prayers or something?"

"No. At the moment I'm here to talk to you."

"Oh, well, I'm flattered. What's the issue at hand?"

"I came to offer a bit of advice. I'm sure you've heard it before, but it seems that you've never quite taken it to heart."

"And so you think that if you tell me I'll suddenly listen to the advice?"

"Well," Jessica smiled, "we can all dream, can't we?"

"But I don't even go to church. Why would you do this for me?"

"You don't have to prove yourself to me. I pay attention to all the people and creatures on this earth, regardless. It doesn't matter to me what they say or do because I know the truth. What matters is what we know in our hearts. Don't listen to the bad things others say. Don't second-guess yourself if people don't seem to believe in you. Know that, and things will be fine."

She walked past me then, as if finished.

"Wait! Was that the advice? Aren't you gonna answer any questions?"

"One," she agreed.

"What's the point?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Live." -- Rachel Oliver, Madison H.S.

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