Valuing Convergence


Lately, I’ve been tethered to the rainforest puzzle that’s covering our kitchen table. For me, there’s a certain thrill in discovering the way the interplay of pattern, shape, and hue reveals how the pieces will fit together, how each connection will contribute to the beauty emerging before my eyes.

Fascination with a different kind of convergence kept both astronomers and novices alike intently peering into the night sky during the month of June, eyes fixed on the rendezvous of Jupiter and Venus as their paths, from an earthly point of view, intersected in deep space. Together they emitted a brilliant light, the kind of light that can capture the attention of the world (and perhaps did so in an earlier celestial event about 2000 years ago).

That’s one thing about convergence. It most definitely draws attention. And for me, it also brightens the eyes of my soul.

At times, it brings me simple delight.

At other times, it speaks meaning to my deep places, calling attention to things of great worth, things my heart needs to hear.

Father Benedict J. Groeshel has written on the topic of how we perceive God and how He beckons us. Some people, he says, are led to the idea of God primarily as Good, while for others it’s God as True that resonates with them.  Some are especially drawn to God as Beautiful. Still others—and I’m definitely one of these folks—have an acute appreciation for God as One, God as the Divine Being who draws everything together in a meaningful way.

Just recently, a dear friend took a trip to Africa, and on that trip all her deepest passions converged. After months of dedicated training, she accomplished the arduous feat of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro—and that not just for the personal thrill but for the cause of raising money for a ministry dear to her heart. She squeezed in a short safari and then spent a few days helping missionary friends in Tanzania to throw a huge wedding celebration for their son.  Ministry, mountains, teamwork, reuniting with old friends while mixing with new ones: she was blessed while she blessed, and she returned exhausted but with a heart full of joy.

Then there’s Shannan Ajluni, a facebook acquaintance who is now having her own experience with convergence in the midst of her fight against breast cancer.  Here’s her description of her interaction with a new breast cancer patient.

“She was very scared, worried, depressed, and was in tears. She needed a hug. So, I gave her one. Turns out, she has breast cancer and was just starting treatment…So, I offered her a hug, and a prayer, and my story… and two other women and the social worker came in and we all offered our stories…Anyhow, she calmed down and thanked me… and then asked if we could talk again tomorrow.”

And thus was born a new breast cancer support group. Shannon is taking one of life’s greatest challenges and letting God use it, redeem it if you will. And in the midst of this, she’s being infused with a tremendous sense of fulfillment as her painful trial and her passion for helping others intersect in an invaluable way.

For most of us, moments of intersection aren’t usually so dramatic, but because convergence touches me so close to the heart, I think God uses it to communicate some important truths to me, sometimes on subjects I may be resisting.

For instance, there’s frequently an overlap between the topics my pastor addresses in his sermons and the topics I encounter in my personal reading of Scripture. Pastor Scott recently spoke on the topic of discipline—as in the idea that God disciplines those He loves. There it was in his sermon on Hebrews 12, and then there it was in my reading of various passages in Proverbs. As usual when this topic is explored, I found myself resistant not so much intellectually as emotionally,

Yet there are occasions when I know that I know that I know that I’ve received a word from God that I need to hear, and this was definitely one such time.

And since this kind of convergence requires my participation, I’m starting to more wholeheartedly embrace a handful of truths and ask a few questions.

Truth: God loves me despite my mistakes. I’m His child and I’m of great worth to Him.

Truth: Sometimes He allows hard things to come into my life for the purpose of making me more like Jesus.

Truth: Seeking Him is of greatest worth.

Questions: In this tough situation, what is it that God wants me to learn?…How can I let Him in and open myself to the work He wants to do in me?…How can I let go of bitterness and anger and instead focus on the multitude of gifts God has showered on my life?

As I ask these questions, I remember that my participation in all this is only possible by His grace.

Grace that gives…equips…sustains…transforms. Grace that transforms even me.

How grateful I am for His divine power that “has given [me] everything I need for a godly life through Him who called [me] by His own glory and goodness.”

How grateful I am that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

How grateful I am that “He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I certainly don’t know all the answers. In some areas, I may not even know what direction God will have me go. But I can hold onto these great and precious promises.

And the fact that these promises, along with a multitude of others, can converge on my life even as it all feels unmanageable, can in fact converge on my life simultaneously with the problems and challenges, this gives me hope.

Worthwhile Recipes: Chocolate Swirl Butterscotch Brownies

Rich and chewy lusciousness
Rich and chewy lusciousness. Definitely worth one’s while (though not, of course, if you’re counting calories….)

These brownies are absolutely scrumptious. That’s reason enough for making them. Beyond that, they take all of ten minutes to whip up from scratch and you can do all the mixing in one saucepan. What more could you ask?

Well, there is one other thing. These brownies somehow seem to warm the soul. Somehow, they seem to communicate a bit of comfort and spread a bit of joy. That’s a lot to be said for a brownie.

Simple. Sweet. Soothing to the soul.

What you need:

1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces

What you do:

First, melt 1/2 cup of butter over low heat. Then turn off the heat and stir in 1 cup of brown sugar–either light, dark, or a combination of the two. (Truth be told, the other night I had to turn my pantry upside down to find enough brown sugar, finally combining the remains of three separate bags to come up with one cup. Yikes.)

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Next, add one egg and stir well.

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Now, throw 3/4 cup of flour, 1 tsp. of baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. of salt together on top of the brown sugar mixture. Mix the dry ingredients together a bit and then stir the entire concoction till everything is nicely blended.

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Add 1 tsp. of vanilla, stir well, and then spread the batter in a greased 9″ x 9″ square pan.  Sprinkle the batter with about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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Bake for five minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Then pull out the rack and run a knife through the batter to create a marbleized effect. (And yes, you can lick the knife afterwards.)

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Continue baking for about 20 minutes more. Then remove the brownies from the oven and allow them to cool (if you have the patience, which I only sometimes do) before cutting them into squares.

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These particular brownies accompanied my son and his friends on a road trip to college orientation this week. And what really brought me joy the other day? Watching my daughter whip up a batch in celebration of her friend’s 16th birthday. These really are the all-occasion treat.

Remember the  three “S’es?”

Simple. Sweet. Soothing.

Make that four, because there’s one more: to be shared.