The Gaze of God through the Window ~by Danielle Kingstrom

This morning, as I was pulling the dry laundry off my clothing rack in my bay window, I noticed a Blue Jay perched on a deadened sunflower head outside. He was pecking the seeds out of the dried blossom head. Sparrows and finches swooped at the Blue Jay while he dined. He ignored their advancements and continued pecking. He stopped and stared straight ahead and looked at me. He held my gaze. And then he fluttered off. For a moment, I felt as if God was looking into my heart. I know that seems odd, but there is something rather mystical and magical about holding the gaze of a wild animal that gives me tingles inside. I often feel that way when I connect to someone or some creature in nature. I believe that when we connect to anyone or any creature, we are supposed to feel it, not just rationalize it and observe it for the surface feature that it unveils. I didn’t just see a bird, it looked at me. It realized I too, am a living creature foreign to its own kind— peculiar but beautiful in its difference.

It was a moment I lingered in and reflected on until reality crept in. I started to think about who I would share this story with.And, as I went through the possibilities of resharing the story, I couldn’t help but hear the questions that followed: “Did you take a video?” “You should have taken a picture of it.” “Why didn’t you record that for me?” “Did you put it on Instagram? I want to see.”

Which led me to consider how lonely it must be to have a true connection with someone or some creature and feel that it needs to be qualified beyond imagination for another to accept that it happened.

Can’t we have moments that we don’t share? Can’t we engage in something bigger than ourselves for just a short time that doesn’t require someone else to “like it” for us to see that experience as worthy? Are we so caught up in seeking out validation from others that we have forgotten that God has already validated us by our existence? 

Technology has allowed us to connect in wonderous ways, but it has also led to an extreme disconnection from reality. It is indeed amazing that we can send photos and recordings of things taking place presently for others to see. But at the same time, it takes away from the privacy of a moment shared between others—take “revenge porn” or leaked photos as an example, or two. 

Why can’t we be content with sharing an experience with another living being without it being proven to another through videography or photography or a status update? Why can’t we see that the connection we participate in is already qualified and quantified by God, who connects us to all, who is all in all? 

That moment I shared with the bird filled me with abundant gratitude, if only for a moment. Do you know what happens when you feel overwhelmed with abundant gratitude? That energy creates a spotlight that lights up everything we see in the few moments following. It’s as if suddenly someone turned the lights on to show us that things aren’t as dark as we once perceived them to be.

And if we allow that abundance to continue to overwhelm us, if we don’t swish it away by distractions of delusion, we can remain in a euphoric high. Our spotlight will grow larger and all things set before our path will be set ablaze. The spotlight will illuminate all things, and suddenly, all the small things will add up to matter so much more than one big thing here or there that really doesn’t change much about who we are. It’s the little things that we are called to notice. Because small things matter. Small sparks can create such brilliant lights. 

So, essentially, I want to challenge you to pay attention to the things that you don’t normally look at. Watch the tree sway in the wind. Watch the birds flap their wings. What the cows graze the fields and listen to the chickens as they cackle and bock. Stop and gaze out the window, you may end up catching the gaze of God.

yearning-a poem

the earth cries out for peace,
her rocks and grasses,
high mountains and trees,
seek the quelling
of bloodthirsty masses.

our lust for blood resounds
in the deep sorrow
that nigh abounds
from these human hearts
that fear a dark morrow.

inside a fractured cask
lay seedlings of hope
growing to hold fast
as the children
who will with peace elope.

these weeping warriors
whose worldly burden
for land holier
will find their joy
when all see all as kin.

God Doesn’t Need The Credit

I want to tell you a story. A story of ideas, experience, and their intricate dance.

Over the course of my life, one of the things I’ve been passionate about (for better or for worse) is the pursuit of theological knowledge. And that passion has lead me to explore all sorts of theological perspectives. My own varied Christian heritage, one of Mennonite, Pentecostal, and Charismatic flavor certainly added to my love of ideological exploration.

In one period of my life, about 11 years ago, I began to explore Reformed/Calvinist theology. My experience of this theological system was at first exhilarating! Calvinist thought attempts to answer so many questions and mysteries, with the foundation of those answers being that God is in total control of everything. I began to see my life as a painting that God was constantly creating. I looked at every tree and every cloud as if God had perfectly intended for me to see it, because He controlled everything, including me! It truly brought a sense of beauty to my life that I hadn’t experienced before and haven’t lost since. That was the first time I learned to be in the moment, drinking in the goodness of the present.

However, as I began to dig deeper, my heart began to become troubled. Variations of Reformed thought were teaching me that people were in hell because God put them there. That God knowingly created a human to damn them to eternal torment. In versions of Calvinism where that wasn’t the case, I was still troubled by their answers for disease, war, and suffering. The answers always came down to some form of the following thought, “It brings glory to God.” I found this answer to be the underpinning of so many, if not all, Reformed doctrines. It was all about God looking as good as possible, that somehow even extreme suffering and death were really good things, because God had authored them.

I was bothered because this started to make me think that God might have narcissistic tendencies. Those tendencies defined in a psychological setting include selfishness, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration. Whether it was God intending a human for hell (lack of empathy) or everything being about bringing glory to God (need for admiration), I was really having trouble with this system that had at first blessed me immensely.

It would’ve been easy to throw out those thoughts if not for the extreme dependence on the Bible that one sees in Reformed circles. It was actually my interaction with these ideas that gave me my love and respect for the scriptures that I still have today. Reformed thought uses the scriptures incredibly well to defend their ideas; there are countless scriptures that can be used to prooftext even the most troubling doctrines. And if you adhere to the idea of Sola Scriptura, Reformed arguments carry powerful weight. 

I mentioned that I’ve been passionate in my life about pursuing ideas. I’ve also been passionate about pursuing mystical experience with God, longing and yearning to know the God of Jesus deeply and honestly. From a young age, I experienced God’s presence in a multitude of ways. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who taught me to recognize those experiences for what they were. 

I mention this to bring context to the next part of this story. Several months into my exploration of Calvinism, I went to the young adult small group that I regularly attended at the time. Usually we would only have a discussion on whatever scriptural text or book that we were studying at the time. But on this night in particular, someone had brought their guitar and lead us in some songs. Singing to God has always been the easiest way for me to settle down and connect. So I was quite happy to have the time.

While the music was playing that evening, I just stopped to listen and soak in God’s peaceful, quiet presence. The theological things I’d been wrestling came to mind and started to bother me. So I asked God, “Are these things I’m studying really describing You? Are you just a big narcissist, making everything to bring you glory in some way?” In that moment, God responded to me. It wasn’t an audible voice but a question strongly impressed into my heart. I felt God say and ask, 

“Andrew, you know Me. Am I like that?”

Instantly the confusing swirl of questions and concerns about the character of God abated. It was as if a tempest had suddenly lifted, and the sun was shining through disparate remnants of storm clouds. I just KNEW that God wasn’t like that. That God doesn’t do things to make God look good or for selfish ends. It was so simple and so easy how my heart just shifted in that moment. In considering John 17:3, it was like I was tasting eternal life, getting an unfiltered dose of God’s character.

God isn’t interested in praise or admiration the way that we humans can be. Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with replacing intimacy with attention; I promise you that this is a cheap counterfeit. It is a great relief to realize that I had projected my own struggles on to God, attempting to define the Creator by my own wounds. God is not a celebrity, looking for the next PR stunt to stay relevant. God is a lover, a pursuer of true intimacy. I believe this with all of my heart, that God’s priority is quality relationships at every level. God isn’t looking for credit; God is looking for love.