Jenny Gubbels, Associate Professor of Biology

“Is he safe?”  asked Lucy. 

“Of course he’s not safe,” said Mr. Beaver.  “But he’s good.”

These lines are from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, which I recently re-read with my daughter.  The two characters are discussing Aslan, the lion, who has come to save the forest from eternal winter.  C.S. Lewis wrote this novel as a study on Christianity, and used Aslan as a Jesus figure in the book. 

This line struck me, and especially now.  God is not safe.  God allows bad things to happen.  God allows suffering—look what God did to God’s own Son!  God will not protect you from getting sick, only your actions can do that, and even that is not guaranteed—you can certainly get sick even if you do everything “right”.  God will not prevent you from losing your job, closing your business, or even dying.  Then, what does God do for us? 

God promises to be present, always.  God promises to bring good out of all bad things, if we choose to see it and work to help make it happen.  God takes delight in our joy, is sad in our sorrow, is angry with us at injustices, and never stops trying again and again to use our imperfect humanness to slowly, slowly, make things better.  Overall, when God looks upon us as individuals, God is filled with love and delight—and a smile brightens God’s face when God beholds us.

Let us take this to heart.  Deep within, let’s believe it.  And let’s turn that smile to the ones around us who can’t see it as clearly.  And let’s not expect for God to be safe—but instead, let’s look for the good that God can do, even in the worst of situations, and be an active part in creating the good.

Andrea Miller, Director of Facility Services

I miss you.

To so many depths this simple statement can extend. 

I miss you. To the many students, faculty and staff that have yet to return to this place of learning and inspiration; it creates a moment of potential energy, anticipation and a bit of excitement within me (and my team).  We are considered essential workers and have physically reported in some capacity to this place every day.  We work tirelessly to create spaces inside and out with hope to inspire and care for you when you return.

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

I miss you. To the ‘normal’ we once knew; it creates a bit of trepidation as we maneuver through the creation of the new normal.  We move with the steadfast knowledge that God has already seen what is to come and it is good for those who believe in God.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I miss you. Most importantly to my dear first-born son whom I thankfully will see again; I just do not know when.  Not knowing when we will be together again is by far the hardest part of this pandemic for me. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” Numbers 6:24-26

You are all precious and I look forward to seeing you as soon as we are able.

Madigan Moore, class of 2020

Finding God in the Struggle
Genesis 32: 23-31

23 That night, however, Jacob arose, took his two wives, with the two maidservants and his
eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 24 After he got them and brought them
across the wadi and brought over what belonged to him, 25 Jacob was left there alone. Then a
man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26 When the man saw that he could not prevail
over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that Jacob’s socket was dislocated as he wrestled
with him. 27 The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let
you go until you bless me.” 28 “What is your name?” the man asked. He answered, “Jacob.” 29
Then the man said, “You shall no longer be named Jacob, but Israel, because you have
contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” 30 Jacob then asked him, “Please
tell me your name.” He answered, “Why do you ask for my name?” With that, he blessed him. 31
Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has
been spared.”

My four years at Augustana University have blessed me with some very precious gifts that have altered the course of my life for the better. I deeply cherish the knowledge, the wise guidance of mentors, and the life-long friends that I have gained during my time at Augustana. However, it would be dishonest to say that this is all that I gained. In truth, one word sums up many of my moments at Augustana: struggle. Like many students, I had to adapt to the “learning curve” of college. The late hours spent in the library pouring over lab reports and essays, the nights when I didn’t get enough sleep that bled into the emotional turmoils between friends and family, the days spent trying to remember everything on my to-do list, and the many moments spent wondering if I was good enough, if all my work would be worth it. Was this what life really was like? Was this the plan that God intended for me? I do not say this with negativity, nor with regret. The struggle was one of the greatest gifts college gave me. In the struggle, I cultivated grit. In the struggle, I cultivated a deeper relationship with God.

I had never paid attention to the story of “Jacob’s new name” until I came to Augustana. Here, I connected with Jacob’s story on a personal level. Jacob wrestled with “a man” all through the night; despite exhaustion and a dislocated hip, he persisted on. I thought I had come to Augustana to fulfill my purpose: to one day serve the lives of others as a physician. Yet, half the time I felt like I was drowning beneath equal weights of stress and anxiety. How much longer did I have to “hang in there”? Similarly, as the world suffers through the COVID-19 pandemic, the human race wonders how long do we have to “hang in there”? Jacob’s story shows that God cannot be put in a box. God does not just appear in the beauty of life; God is there with us in the mess, the struggle, the grit. Jacob was given the name Israel, because he wrestled with the Divine, and lived. Just as God shaped Jacob, He shaped me through my own struggles.

As I grew during my four years at Augustana, I came to understand that the struggle was one of my greatest teachers. It is an intrinsic desire of humanity to know God and to seek His heart. If humanity offers struggle up to God, God can use it as a tool to call humanity back to Himself. At times, I did not see God, but only my unconquerable goals. My vision was skewed, as I was not to conquer them alone. I learned that I would have to step out to fight the fear. I had to bravely trust that God would meet me. God honors the fight. Even if all the fight we have left is just to take one step forward, He will meet us with the strength necessary to pull us through to the end and beyond. It is by courageously stepping forward that we are able to grow, and it is in having faith in Him that we may better understand how much we need the love of our Heavenly Father. And He does love us, more than we can ever fathom. His love given to us in Jesus is what allows us to try, to fall, and to try again. Jesus met humanity in the mess, the struggle, and still He seeks us with a heart of absolute mercy and radical love. We are called by this love to seek God, and to know that His Spirit will meet us wherever we are in the mess. Jacob wrestled with the man, and God honored his struggle, his fight. God has met me in my own struggles, and I know that He will continue to do so. When we wrestle with life, we face the unknown. We face the unknown trusting that God is there, and His love will surely carry us through.

Moriah Goddard, class of 2020

Acts 2:1-13 (ESV) When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

It’s a few weeks after Easter – and thankfully I have not forgotten the most important reminder of my life – that Christ’s blood shed for our sins; the perfect atonement. 

On Easter weekend I watched The Passion of the Christ with a couple of friends. This film was created with extreme graphics to give such a real sense of the torture Jesus went through as he was being crucified. Very sobering, but you know what it was missing? 

The real-life happy ending: CHRIST RISING FROM THE DEAD! 

After Jesus’s resurrection and conquering of sin and death, Jesus told his disciples to wait for a power that would help them spread the Gospel. So they waited. Then came the time of Pentecost – an ancient Israelite festival in which thousands of Jewish pilgrims came back to Jerusalem from all of the world. All from different languages and cultures came to Jerusalem. At this time, the disciples were together at a house with about a hundred others, when suddenly fire splintered off into tongues of fire that began hovering over people’s heads. This was God’s glory and spirit which now resided in his people, giving them the ability to preach in tongues and spread the gospel to all nations and languages!

*Our God who is fully capable of spreading the gospel to every nation, language, and tongue by himself, chose to use his people and give us his Holy Spirit to spread his kingdom and glory! How awesome is our God!

Heather Aldridge Bart, Professor of Communication Studies

Psalm 4: 3 (KJV) Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

Luke 2: 13-20 (KJV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Knowing with your head and heart.

For several years, I have been taken with the account of Mary after the events following the birth of Jesus. Luke records that Mary pondered all that had happened in her heart. I have always wondered about how one ponders with their heart. After all, the heart feels and the head thinks, right?

As a culture, we tend to separate reasoning from emotion by preferencing the former over the latter. We know things, and we feel things. For example, I follow the news and was aware of the existence of the virus in China; I knew of the spread and the devastation it was causing as it spread worldwide. All the while, I knew that the developing pandemic was virulent, deadly. However, I didn’t feel it. I am not a sociopath, I felt sorrow, empathy, and concern for those being devastated around the world. But now it is in my community, impacting people I know, and threatening me. Experience affords different sets of information and invites deeper/different contemplation. Now reality comes to beg me to contemplate these things in my heart.

Biblical accounts of Jesus’s life tell us a story of emotion. He is often frustrated with disciples and their questions, weary of their competition for his attention or their superiority over others (suffer the children come), disappointed with their inability to stay awake to pray with him in the garden. Jesus shows his anger in the Temple with the merchants, and he cries at the death of Lazarus. But mostly, he takes pity or compassion and shows love to those he encounters. Yet, he is also clearly capable of reason. He knows of God’s plan and asks to be excused but willingly accepts the punishment that is the price for human redemption.

The dichotomy of knowing and feeling seem to be in my faith life as well. I accept the vital elements of my faith with my head—I believe in one God, the father almighty…I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, born of the father before all ages—the Nicene creed summarizes my faith, but largely in a matter of fact, head sort of way. Current circumstances necessitate distance, isolation, quarantine, and departure from the familiar ways we worship, work and recreate. I find myself pondering these things in my heart. Recently, while watching mass with my family in our home, our priest was discussing lent and told us the one thing we need to know in our hearts is simply that we are loved. Such a basic tenet of Christ’s message to us but this time, I felt it and was moved. We are joined by a common bond of humanity in the love of Christ and we must know as certainly as we live that we are not alone; we are loved. Reach out to those who may be feeling the pain of separation, the loss of connection, and who have a desperate need to know they are loved. This Easter season, may we be Christ’s love to one another.

May you know peace, joy and God’s love with both your heart and head now and always.

Margaret Preston, Professor of History

Corinthians 9: 8-10

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;

His righteousness endures forever.

During this time of great challenge, it may be helpful to know that we have God’s blessings in abundance. It does not say that God will keep us all well or let no one get sick, but it says: we have God’s blessings in abundance.  Each day, I’ve been asking to use these blessings to show me how to be patient with myself and with others as I work through my fears.  To be patient with the fact that neither me nor anyone else in the world is in control right now, and this is deeply challenging. It is frightening.  Personally, I like to be in control.  I’m a planner…the annoying A-type personality that gets things done early.  But I am not in control.  However, there are things I can count on: warmer, sunny day–where I can take a walk, sit on my porch or work in the garden.

As a historian who teaches on the pandemic of 1918, I have been reflecting on the fact that history does not repeat itself…though the echoes can seem very loud.  I have been thinking about what the people of 1918 didn’t have that we do.  First: zoom.  I have seen more faculty via zoom gatherings these last three weeks, than I sometimes see in a month. That has brought great joy. Technology: I didn’t know screencast-o-matic three weeks ago. Now, I’m a decent beginner.  Knowledge: that getting the antibodies from persons who have already had Covid-19 may provide us with medicines that bring benefit.  In 1918, they didn’t even have penicillin.

Everyday, I pray for patience for myself and for you.  We must remember that we have God’s blessings in abundance. 

Clarissa “Claire” Dahm, class of 2020

Hello everybody! I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy during these difficult times. As I reflect on these past few weeks, I recognize how stressful it has been on my friends, family, and myself. Due to the lack of normality and routine, the days feel as if they are filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Our world feels like it has been completely flipped upside down. As I struggle with these negative feelings, I have turned to the word of God, looking for comfort. One verse that caught my attention is: 

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 

It is easy to feel alone right now, however, that is never truly the case. I appreciate this verse because it reiterates that God will never leave us. As he goes before us, he is protecting us. We are never alone, for he is always with us. This verse repeats that truth  and reminds me that even when I feel lost and unsure, God is with me! It reminds me not to be afraid, but to find courage in Him! I hope you all can find strength in God in these coming weeks! 

Have a great day and stay safe everyone!

Beth Boyens, Assistant Professor of English and Journalism

Romans 8:25-26: “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words to express.”

Last night, my phone buzzed to life with a text from my sister: “Whatcom county now at 175 cases. This is so crazy and so sad.” My sister, brother-in-law, and ten-year-old niece live an hour north of Seattle—in Whatcom county. I know one thing to hope for. And I’m not sure I’m feeling too patient about it.

Yet, I don’t know what to say. “Be well.” “Wash your hands.” “Stay home.” These words seem hardly enough to express my concern, my love, my deepest prayer.

“We have nothing but time,” I find myself saying regularly these days. Time does, now, seem endless (Was March 49 days long?) as one day blurs into the next, the events and schedules that used to structure my days now mere smudges on my calendar. New words—Zoom, Google Hangouts, social distancing—have replaced track meets, musical rehearsals, classes, meeting with students, worship, coffee with friends, family gatherings. These words that used to fill my days in their familiar forms . . . all have disappeared. When my mother died four and a half years ago, Dr. Murray Haar described death as a disappearing. Indeed, it is. Indeed, this pandemic, this sheltering-in-place, this physical isolation is a disappearing.

And so we grieve–for what is and for what has disappeared.

And we wait—for what will be and for what we do not yet have.

And we trust—for even when we are too grieved or too afraid to know how to pray, God will speak a word of peace and grace. God is not just waiting on the other side, in the place where what we hope for appears. God is present here and now. God is in the darkness of Good Friday and in the light of Easter’s dawn. God has not disappeared. God is in the depths of our wordlessness and the very sighs of our hearts.

And we wait still—for hope is in the waiting, and hope will come.

And we sigh—for even when the words have disappeared, the prayer remains.

Makayla Kuhn, class of 2020

In Quarantine or On the Road to Emmaus?
Luke 24: 13-32

“He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”

During this time of quarantine, I realized I am still finding a way to busy myself with household
chores and procrastinating homework assignments without any good reason. When I am finally
exhausted, I turn to our Lord in prayer, with a little reluctance because finding the words to pray
during this unique time has been more difficult than I anticipated. I find myself repeating the
same prayers every night, asking for an end to this pandemic and thanking Him for the selfless
people who are keeping our society functioning.

This week I read Luke 24 and really related to Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple
conversing and debating while walking towards Emmaus. I don’t know about you, but there has
been a lot of conversation in my home about the events over the past few weeks. In Luke, the
Lord lovingly comes alongside them in their discussion, unrecognized, and asks not once, but
TWO TIMES, to listen to their perspective on the events in Jerusalem despite the fact that He
already knows what has happened and what is going to happen. Only after they open up their
hearts and begin to share their thoughts, feelings, and desires to the Lord does He reveal
himself to them. Likewise, the Lord is present with us in a similar way during this pandemic.
This Easter season, let us acknowledge our Lord coming alongside us, receive His love, and
respond by sharing our thoughts, feelings, and desires in prayer. It has taken a full three weeks
of running in circles in my home for me to realize there is nothing more fruitful that I can do right now than just remain in His love (John 15:9). May our prayers be an open-hearted response to this immense love which is poured out for us now and always.

Richard Swanson, Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics

Dear Augustana Community,

In the most difficult times, ever since my father introduced my sisters and me to Winston Churchill, I find myself re-reading his short talk at Harrow School, delivered to school boys at the school Churchill himself had attended. You have heard the line:

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

It has never mattered to me that my particular situation was not comparable to that of Churchill and those young boys on that day in 1941. But time after time, I re-read the speech and remember my father’s reaction to it. “Never give in … except to convictions of honour and good sense.” I remember seeing him straighten his back when he recited the speech, which he knew by heart. I remember realizing that, for him, this was a speech about the necessity of resisting, in difficult times, ALL the things that would make us less than what we ought to be.

The season of Lent in a time of COVID-19 seems a good moment to revisit this speech. This is a
moment that will ask much of us, and it is a moment when we will be asked to be less than we ought to be.

“Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days,” says Churchill at the end.
These are indeed sterner days.

Never give in.

You can read Churchill’s speech here:

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