"Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a young woman who longed to see God. Her name was Stella. Stella was a simple girl who prayed and worked very hard, helping others all the time, but she reached the age of sixteen still not satisfied that she had seen God. So one day, she went to visit a wise old man who lived alone out in the prairie. She sat down in front of the wise old man and said, 'For as long as I can remember, I've had a burning desire to see God: not only to see God, but to look right into the pupil of his eye! If I could just do this, I would be so happy. Can you tell me what I need to do so that this can happen?'

"The wise old man looked at Stella intensely. After a long silence, he said: 'I will tell you the secret of seeing God — in fact, of looking right into the pupil of God's eye.'

" 'Oh yes! Please tell me!' the young woman cried. The old man continued: 'You must begin counting the stars at night. You must begin with the middle star in Orion's belt and start counting toward the east. You must take great care not to count any star twice, and you must not fail in your determination. When you have counted the ten thousandth star, you will be looking into the very light of God's eye.'

"And so, Stella went out. That night, there was a new moon and there were very few clouds, so she was able to count the stars easily. They looked to Stella like diamonds embedded in velvet. After several hours, she had counted hundreds of stars. But the next night, when she went out to continue her counting, there were some heavy clouds and the moon was brighter, which made it harder for her to see the stars clearly. Still she continued resolutely, night after night, week after week, month after month, always taking care to keep count and not get distracted. This took tremendous concentration, dedication and effort.

"What Stella didn't realize was that as she counted far into the eastern sky, the stars were revolving and turning through the heavens. And so, twelve months later, as she was approaching the ten thousandth star, she began to get the feeling that the pattern in the sky looked strangely familiar. She counted aloud to herself, 'Nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight. Nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine.' And as she counted the ten thousandth star, she suddenly realized that the ten thousandth star was the middle star of Orion's belt, the very star that she had begun with twelve months before! Her eyes were dazzled with starlight and her mind and heart were filled instantly with the greatest joy and astonishment. Time seemed to stand still as she stood rapt in wonder, gazing at the ten thousandth star, and the star seemed to be gazing back at Stella with equal intensity.

"Hours later, she ran through the night across the prairie to the house of the ancient wise man. She found him awake, praying for her, and when he invited her to come in, they sat facing each other over a low table covered with lighted candles.

" 'Judging from your radiant smile,' said the old man, 'you've counted the ten thousandth star tonight, and you have looked into the very eye of God. Yes?'

" 'Yes! Yes!' cried Stella, scarcely able to contain her happiness. 'But,' she continued,' the strangest thing happened. It turned out that the ten thousandth star was somehow the very same star that I had begun with, the middle star of Orion's belt. What can this mean?'

"The old man smiled with delight. 'It's simple,' he murmured.' You began by looking into the light of God's eyes, desperately desiring to see the light of God's eye. God was there all along. You just didn't realize it. The whole sky had to move through one complete revolution just so you could recognize what was right in front of you to start with! God moved heaven and earth to bring you to this moment. That's how much God loves you! And I'll tell you something else: from now on, whenever children such as you gaze at the night sky with burning desire born of great love and wonder and purity, God will wink at them and they will catch a glimpse of the twinkle in God's eyes.'

"The wise old man fell silent, and Stella looked closely at the lines of his face. As a sense of wonder and love welled up inside her once again, she noticed that even now there was a twinkle in the old man's eyes!

"Many many years later, another wise old man, Meister Eckhardt, would say: 'The eye with which you look at God is the very same eye with which God is looking at you.' Who knows? Perhaps he too had been counting stars."