An ongoing story of God's work on campus: God is real, Jesus saves, and you are loved, always.

Other Thoughts

Cliché City

I really don’t like New Year’s resolutions.  It’s not that I’m against setting goals, or challenging yourself to be better in the coming year; quite to the contrary, I’m all for reevaluating the past and embracing a new start!  The only problem is that most of us find it much too easy to break promises to ourselves.  In fact, I can’t think of anyone I know who has successfully made, and stuck to, a New Year’s resolution.  As such, this year, I’m proposing something slightly different.  I warn you, ahead lie a few clichés, some overly used sentiments, and at least one corny phrase we all learned in elementary school, but if you stick with me, I promise there’s a point.

“Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi

There’s debate over who actually said it, but in this case, it doesn’t really matter; the sentiment still rings true.  There is a lot to be said for boldly declaring your faith to others by speaking truth into the world, and as Christians, we should not back down from opportunities to share the Good News.  Nevertheless, we should also be living out our faith with just as much intentionality.  Whether you’re sitting in your afternoon math class, or walking on Green Street handing out water to your fellow students, we are called to do it all in the name of the Lord.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in such a way that your Christ-like actions – your love and compassion, your forgiveness and understanding – spoke even louder of your dedication to Jesus than your words?  On paper, it sounds daunting, and in real life it’s even more so, but it is possible, and it’s what we should all be striving for.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col. 3:17 NIV)

The word “whatever” is a big deal here.  It doesn’t mean, whenever it’s convenient for you, nor however you want to apply it.  Whatever means everything and anything.  Think about that for just a second – every single thing you do, every time you do it, should be honoring God.  That right there is a huge commitment.  Moreover, we are to praise God through everything, for everything, and because of everything – “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”  Never forget that, as a new creation, He is living in you, and you are living for Him.

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking” – H. Jackson Browne.

When you’ve chosen to surrender your life to Jesus, everything you do reflects back on Him in the eyes of the world.  We all know how broken we are; just because you love Jesus doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly prefect – we’re all sinners, every last one of us.  But the fact of the matter is that when non-Christians see us acting poorly, when they see us at our worst, they sometimes superimpose that imperfection onto Christ.  The good news, though, is that it works both ways – when you are seen to love others, to have compassion, to do good, to bring joy, to work hard, and to forgive faults, the world notices.  They may not always ask you about it, but they notice.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

I hate to break it to you, but as a Christian you should know, the truth is that someone is always watching.  The eyes that see may not always be human, but they are always paying attention, because Jesus is a constant.  Our God never sleeps or rests; He never takes a vacation or a break; He is always there for us.  After all, that’s what omnipresence and omniscience mean, right?  All present and all knowing.  When you give your life to Christ, it doesn’t mean you just give Him the parts that everyone sees or the parts you choose to show the world– you can’t just “act” Christian when you’re around your Christian friends or when you want to impress people.  When you’ve fully submitted and surrendered your entire being to the Lord, He demands everything from you – every word, every act, every thought, every song.  He knows the deepest, darkest secrets of our hearts; He knows of our joy and our pain.  Try as you might, and we all do at times, you can’t hide from God.

This is a good thing!  You never have to question whether or not God loves you for who you really are.  God loves you no matter what.  You are imperfect, and on your own, you are not good enough.  But that’s exactly why Jesus came.  When you know God and accept Jesus, the question, “Would You still love me if You knew that…” doesn’t exist.  He already knows, and He still loves.

“You are not your own.” 1 Corinthians 6:19

Even as I write this and believe it to be true, I know that I too need to be more cognizant of the fact that my life is no longer my own.  Our primary job here on Earth is not to be a daughter/son, or a student, or a friend or a … , but to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world.  And the truth is, we do not have to wait for the “perfect opportunity” to minister to our peers to arise.  The opportunity is now.  Live out your faith, and I promise, people will take notice, not of you, but of Christ in you.

Thus, in this new year, rather than making a resolution to lose weight, bring up your grades, clean your room, or what have you, consider making a commitment to God.  I’m not talking about promising to read your bible for twenty minutes each day, although that’s not a bad idea.  I’m talking about waking up each morning and reminding yourself that Christ is in you.  Maybe that means you write out 1 Corinthians 3:16 or Colossians 3:17 on a sticky note and put it up on your mirror, or maybe it means setting your alarm clock to play your favorite worship song each morning, or maybe it means asking a friend to help keep you accountable for your words and actions.  However it looks, find a way to remind yourself that you are living as a beautiful child of God, and that what you do and what you say matter.

We’ve all heard it, and I’d venture to guess that most of you agree: Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.  Moreover, it’s a life-long commitment to live differently.  It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it is right and it is true, and the payoff is truly incredible.  This year, I pray that you will join me in trying to live as though Jesus Christ is standing right beside us 24/7, because, guess what – He is.

Much Love,

Taylor

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Christmas Tradition Match-athon!

It’s finally Christmas time!  Most of us have just a few days left before we head home for break to spend time with family and friends, and celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ!  I, for one, am crazy excited.

Before we part, I’m challenging you to a Christmas Tradition Match-athon!  Alright, so, here’s the deal: below you’ll find eleven different Favorite Christmas Traditions from eleven different Axiom students.  A little farther down, you’ll see a list – in no particular order – of those eleven students.  Your job is to figure out whose tradition is whose!  When you think you’ve got it, post a comment here with your answers (they should look similar to this: (1-A or 2-Sue, however you’d prefer).  If you don’t have a wordpress account yet, it’s super easy to set up, so you should just do it so you have a shot at the prize… That’s right – I said prize!  The person who gets the most pairs correct will win a special, secret, prize when we get back from break!  Good luck!

Much Love,

Taylor

Favorite Christmas Tradition:

  1. On Christmas day, whatever parent starts the fire in the fireplace forgets to open the flue and the smoke alarms go off; if they don’t forget, Mom burns breakfast, and the smoke alarms go off.
  2. On Christmas Eve morning, my dad drives my family out to the local state park, and makes my siblings and me get out of the car and hike around in the frozen, snowy wilderness.
  3. I used to go see the Nutcracker Ballet with my mom every year (until I came to college and it’s always the weekend before Finals- ugh).
  4. My favorite part of Christmas is going to the Christmas Eve service at my church. Most years, we go to the midnight candlelight service, and it is just so majestic and intimate feeling.
  5. My favorite Christmas tradition is the Christmas Eve service at my home church. At the very end of the program each year we all get a candle and gather in a circle around the sanctuary singing “Silent Night”. I’ll always remember looking to my left and right and seeing the smiling faces of the ones I love. It’s an incredible moment that I really look forward to each year. You can just sense the overwhelming joy for the coming of our King.
  6. Us kids all sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve, and I play competitive Tetris on the play station all break long.
  7. Stamping out messages in the snow.
  8. In my immediate family instead of exchanging gifts, us grown-ups now write a Christmas letter to each other and place it in a stocking with little goodies and treasures. We share memories and thoughts of appreciation and love to one another in thought out meaningful ways. It’s special and unique!
  9. I put a wreath of lit candles (yes, real candles) on my head and sing carols in Swedish.
  10. On Christmas day, my extended family all gathers in my Grandparent’s living room around a huge tree, and opens presents together.  Afterwards, we have a big Christmas dinner and watch movies; last year, my whole family, even the guys, sat around singing along to Mamma Mia!
  11. Opening stockings early on Christmas morning with my brothers while watching the Christmas Story.
  12. My fav tradition is growing a beard of biblical proportions with the men of my family and then shaving them into complete awesomeness also known as a series of mustaches on Christmas day…

Names:

A. Ben Woods

B. Mary Baird

C. Justin Neally

D. Rachel Small

E. Sarah Stef

F. Sarah Dexter

G. Taylor Pinion

H. Lauren Deppe

I. Derek Walsh

J. Kelly Nygren

K. Rebekah Songer

L. Kayla Campbell



My Family and Harry Potter

“What are you thankful for?” – With the frequency and exuberance that this question is asked every fall, I am inclined to believe that the majority of society harbors an unconscious fear that the fourth Thursday of November may never actually get here if you don’t ask, and answer, that question.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times the question is posed to me, it always goes down about the same way:

Friend/Family/Stranger, innocently: So, what are you thankful for this year?

Me, flustered: Uhhh, well…

Me, in my head: There are so many things I’m thankful for, how do I pick just one?  Let’s see, I’m thankful for my family… but, I don’t want to be predictable; everyone says ‘my family.’ What about ‘the promise of classic, corny Christmas movies’?  Now I’ve taken too long to answer… just say something!

Me, still flustered: …My family.

Friend/Family/Stranger, in his/her head: Way to be conventional…

This year, however, I’ve decided to be prepared; I have a few sincere, and hopefully slightly original, answers already figured out.  This year, I am thankful for…

The break part of Thanksgiving Break!

Even though I have more work due the week after break than I’ve had due any week this semester so far, and even though I’m not leaving campus until Sunday afternoon in a vain attempt to finish this work, and even though I’ll have to spend a good portion of my break reading and writing papers instead of watching football and shopping, I’m still excited to go home!  Actually, if I was really intent on finishing all of my homework before the end of break, I should really just stay on campus.  Let’s be honest here, when I get home, my mom’s going to want to go for coffee (and I want to go too, because I miss her), and my brother’s going to want to drive me around town again (he’s only had his license for 7 months, so it’s still a big deal), and I promised to watch Outsourced with my dad before he leaves for India at the end of the week, and there’s at least one other special person I would like to spend a fair amount of time with, oh, and I would really like to sleep a little too… Basically, once I’m home, my academic productivity will inevitably go way down.  So, even though I probably shouldn’t be taking a vacation right now, and my stress level afterwards will be through the roof, I’m still thankful for the prospect of break.

Food!  Specifically, home-cooked meals!

This is my third year on campus; I’ve done the dorm thing, and I’m currently doing the apartment thing, and, really, it’s a lose-lose situation on the food front.  When I was eating dorm food for every meal my freshman year, I nearly became a vegetarian – it’s tough to mess up a salad you assemble yourself.  Now, two years later, I’m all grown up and living in my very first apartment, and while I really enjoy the freedom it offers, my sad, empty fridge and barren cupboards sometimes make me wish I was back in the LAR dining hall.  It’s not that I actually miss the taste of the food, or that lovely cafeteria smell, it’s more the dependability that I remember so fondly – dinner was ready and waiting for me between the hours of 4:30 and 7pm, no forethought or trip to County Market required.  This Thanksgiving, more than ever before, I am looking forward to turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, and homemade baked goods!  Dinners at home are way up there on my list of things to be thankful for.

Sleep.  Also, no alarm.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t wake up to an alarm.  I’m not sure I even remember what it feels like to wake up naturally, fully rested, and ready for the day.  Needless to say, I am not a morning person.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I wake up to – preprogrammed cell phone tones, iPod playlist, the classic “EHRR-EHRR-EHRR-EHRR!” – nine months out of the year, I wake reluctantly, sometimes angrily, and always defiantly (the snooze button and I are best friends).  People keep telling me that, someday, I’ll turn into a morning person out of necessity, like when I have a real job, but I just don’t see it happening… not unless we shift our perception of time and have ‘mornings’ start around 10am.  Either way, I am thrilled at the prospect of falling asleep a few nights next week, knowing full well that no electronic device will wake me come morning.

Harry Potter.

No, I did not go see the midnight premier, but I already know what happens, so you can’t ruin it for me.  I’m seeing the movie on Monday though, and I am really excited!  I grew up with HP; his was one of the first book series that I read all by myself.  When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first released, I was 8 years old and in the third grade!  Every other summer, up until I turned 17, I anxiously awaited the next installment of our whiny hero’s life.  Furthermore, for the brief moment in time when our ages aligned, I felt an even stronger connection to his plight.  Could you imagine learning at age 11 that some wacko’s goal in life is to kill you?  I sure couldn’t.  Harry is quite brave; that’s why the sorting hat let him into Gryffindor… I should probably move on before I embarrass myself…  Thus, this Thanksgiving, just like every alternating Thanksgiving for the last few years, I’m very thankful for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Warner Brothers.  (On a side note, Microsoft Word recognized “Gryffindor” as a word; I was impressed.)

There, now this Thanksgiving I won’t be caught off guard.  Even if I draw a blank when someone asks me, my answers are up online for the entire world to see… The fact that I’m prepared is officially undeniable!  I can see the conversation now… It’s still awkward, but at least it’s something different:

Family/Friend/Stranger, innocently: So, what are you thankful for this year?

Me, confidently: Can I borrow your laptop real quick?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Taylor

P.S. I’m thankful for my family too.


What in the world is an “axiom”?

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 NIV).

The University of Illinois is HUGE.  There are more than 40,000 students here studying hundreds of different majors.  We are a Big Ten university with the largest Greek system in the world.  We boast over 800 registered student organizations (RSOs) and a vast number of intramural sports teams.  In the middle of all the soy bean and corn fields of central Illinois awaits millions of opportunities for students to make the most out of their education and their life.  There are also millions of temptations.  Statistics vary, but it has been said that the majority of students who begin college already knowing Jesus, walk away from their faith within the first year, and there are many, many more who don’t have a faith to walk away from in the first place.

Axiom is just one of the many RSOs on campus, but we have something different to offer than the majority of them, something “of greater worth than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).  We have faith in Jesus Christ, and we want to share that with the world.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll fill you in: Axiom is a Christian ministry located on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.  We have a house on the corner of Lincoln Ave and Oregon St in Urbana where some of the guys in our ministry live, where our staff works, where our students gather and fellowship, and where we hold worship every Thursday night at 7pm – whoa, was that a plug for worship every Thursday night at the house at 7pm?  Weird…  Axiom is a campus ministry that desires to support students as they run towards their passions, and more poignantly, to encourage them to be passionate about Jesus Christ.  We, at Axiom, are constantly looking for new, unique ways to reach out to our campus and to meet the needs of the students who find themselves at U of I, Parkland College, or in the surrounding areas.  In the last few years, God has been moving in some truly incredible ways on campus and within our ministry.  Axiom has been experiencing unprecedented growth; God has really been challenging us to place our trust in Him and dream big dreams.  It’s all we can do to keep up, but we’re loving every minute of it!

We currently have five beautiful, Christ-centered ministers at Axiom: Aaron Bird, Mary Baird, Rebekah Songer, Benjamin Woods, and Gary Umphrey.  I can say with full confidence that each of these five individuals not only has a heart for God and for His work, but more specifically, they each have a heart for God’s work on campus.  We, as students, are incredibly blessed to have such a wide range of life experiences, from an insurance salesman to a rock star, from whom to draw advice, guidance, and support.  In addition to our lovely staff, we also have seventeen students on the Servant Leadership Team (SLT).  As you’ve probably deduced, these guys and gals are student leaders who, along with members of our ministers, are in charge of a variety groups within our ministry, such as the service team, the worship team, Lifegroups, and English Corner (you can find out exactly who’s who at the Axiom website – www.illinoisaxiom.com – under the “Contact” tab).  Each member of our SLT is desperately in love with Jesus, and is looking for ways to pour out His love on campus.

Yikes, we’re already four paragraphs in, and I still haven’t answered the initial question: what in the world is an “axiom”?  An axiom is: an accepted, established, and self-evident truth; Jesus Christ is an axiom.  In fact He is the axiom.  It’s like what Paul said: “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Ro 1:20).  The truth of our Father’s eternal goodness and our Savior’s unending love is undeniable, and as plain to see as the sunrise, as easy to feel as a breeze, and more beautiful than the stars.  Christ is the only reality.  Thus, Axiom, notice the capital “A” here, attempts to be a representation of that truth and that reality.

As humans, it is so easy to get caught up in the world we see all around us; to be sucked in to thinking that we are a big deal.  Distraction is everywhere.  At any given time there are a million different things asking for, and sometimes demanding, on our attention: school, work, friends, family, bills, deadlines, grocery shopping, your sorority/fraternity, your honors society, your volunteer organization, your roommates, TV, video games, the internet, the bars, parties, and, especially when you’re a student, sleep.  Now, I’m not saying that these in and of themselves are negative distractions, but the point is, sometimes it gets a little difficult to remember what it is that we’re doing here.  For me, Axiom is a place where I am reminded of my center, of my true purpose.  It’s a place where I know that I have made friends for life because my friends have become my family.  It’s a place that is teaching me how to lead by being a follower of Christ.  Axiom is where I go to be challenged, encouraged, comforted, poured into, loved on, and cared for.  And, in turn, it’s where I go to be all of those things for my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Axiom reminds me that there is a world out there that’s much bigger than me, and much bigger than U of I, and that world is desperately in need of Christ.  What I’m trying to say, is that for me, and for quite a few others, Axiom is home.

On a typical Thursday night, our annex (where we hold worship) is filled with students who have gathered for one purpose: to worship our Creator and Savior.  It’s one of the few places on campus where you walk in the front door and are greeted with a smile, a handshake, and maybe even a hug, from someone who loves you simply because Christ loves you.  And the best part is that this love – Christ’s love – is the most real thing in the world; the only truth.

In case you were wondering, the point of this blog is to keep all of you up to date on the goings on at Axiom.  And, yes, I am a real student at UIUC.  My name is Taylor Pinion and I’m a junior majoring in History and double minoring in English and International Studies; after graduation, I hope to write, although I’m not sure in what context as of yet.  Most entries here will be written by students about students and their pursuit of Jesus Christ.  We hope that you are as jazzed about what God’s doing on our campus as we are, and that you would pray for our ministry and our students- that God would always be our center, our guide, and our purpose.

Much love,

Taylor