Moving On

In case you haven’t heard, my blog is moving!

Known & Renowned has been a great platform, but it’s time to move on. Don’t worry– I’ll still be blogging about life, church, culture, and faith. That’s not going to change. This site will stay up for a while and you’ll even be able to find all my old posts in the new site’s archives.

I’d love it if you’d join me over on LauraCoulterwrites.com. I think it looks cool and I hope you think so, too!

If you’re a subscriber, be sure to subscribe to the new site. If you’re not, join the community!

Don’t forget to leave a (thoughtful) comment on the inaugural post– you’ll be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card!

Thanks for reading!

-LC

A New Chapter: Why I’m Moving to Atlanta

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The summer’s over. Another awesome, temporary missions experience is just another smattering of crazy pictures on my Facebook timeline. It’s time to move on, to settle back into life as it was before. Back to job hunting and Arrested Development watching and park jogging and Twitter scrolling.

But that’s not what’s happening. Unlike previous mission trips and summers spent working camp, this one isn’t ending with the summer. It wasn’t a drive-by. It was just the beginning. Because I’m going back.

That’s right. After a few weeks in Kentucky, I’m heading back to Decatur, to the ATL, where the players play. But I won’t just be there for the playground. I get to continue being a part of Blueprint Church– serving as an intern with the communications team, taking classes through Imprint, and staying involved in the process as we work to plant a campus in Decatur. It’s going to be insane, busy, and exhausting, but I’m pretty sure it’s also going to be amazing.

But why am I returning? Granted, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me. I’m from a college town of about 30,000 people. I like driving country roads with the windows down and the music up, sipping an Ale8. I get distracted driving on my own road because the hills on either side are just so dang beautiful. I’m the girl who tears up at the Kentucky Farm Bureau commercial. Plus, I’m an introvert. I like space and privacy. I don’t like to feel trapped or surrounded or rushed.

So why am I returning to the most densely populated county in the Atlanta metro area? Why am I uprooting myself once again from the beautiful Bluegrass? There are a few reasons…

1. Believe it or not, I do like the city. While I love the hills and the trees and the open roads, I also like easy access to grocery stores and entertainment venues. I’ve always enjoyed visiting big cities, and somehow I keep finding myself ending up there. Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Atlanta. I enjoyed the time I spent as a resident of each of these cities. It suits me, at least for now.

Furthermore, all the evidence points to urban areas being the most effective places to live out and share the gospel. This summer I read Center Church by Tim Keller, and it opened my eyes even more to this fact. Keller writes, “Cities, quite literally, have more of the image of God per square inch than any other place on earth. How can we not be drawn to such masses of humanity if we care about the same things that God cares about?”

But, you might ask, why go to a city in the South? Aren’t there churches on every corner? Actually, Atlanta reminded me more of a Midwestern city than a Southern one. There are still barbecue joints and good ol’ boys, but the diversity grows each day. A majority of the people who live in Atlanta today aren’t from Atlanta. Especially in Decatur, the culture is a hodge-podge of different religions, beliefs, and worldviews. Darkness is heavy over the area, with sex trafficking, drugs, violence, and corruption all being very real parts of its cultural DNA. Atlanta needs Christ as much as any other city.

2. I’m restless and I need to be shaken out of complacency. You know those post-grad pains I’m always griping about? They’ve still got a grip on my throat. I long to be out there, doing something with my life. But it’s ridiculous and shameful how little motivation I have to do that when I’m at home, living in my old room from high school, doing the same things day after day. I’m more than ready to jump into something I can really pour my heart into, but I need a jump start to be able to do it.

3. I get to live out a dream. My internship at World Gospel Mission a few years ago solidified my desire to combine my love for writing with my passion for missions and ministry. Now, I get to do that again, for a full year, on a regular basis. I’m pumped.

4. I’ve found love and acceptance. Before the summer started, I figured I’d make some good friends on my Generation Send team. What I didn’t expect was making so many great, solid, Christian friends outside of that team.

The Blueprint Church family is amazing. From the moment we stepped out of the airport, there were people showing us love by giving us rides, having us over for meals and get-togethers, finding us extra furniture and kitchen appliances, and offering us their friendship with no reservations. Just as much as they hone in on solid worship and study of the Word, as a body they live out this faith, bold and honest and uncompartmentalized. It’s refreshing and energizing, but it also encourages feeling accepted into the family quickly. Just like any church, they have their problems and weaknesses, but man, do they love Jesus. And, man, does their love for Jesus make me feel like they love me.

(I certainly feel loved and accepted in my home church, too. But this was an amazing discovery and something so crucial to me in moving to a new place.)

5. I’m being stretched. It hurts, but I’m learning to be more flexible, more patient, and more able to see multiple perspectives. God is doing some major chiseling, shifting, and shaping of who I am right now, and a lot of that began this summer. I know he’s got more work to do, and that much of it is going to take place in Atlanta.

I’m also excited about all the ways I’ll be able to serve, give, and learn! But it would take 1,000 more words to be able to talk about my hopes for those in detail. Hopefully I’ll be able to share what’s happening in those regards as time goes on.

6. This is the path God’s laid in front of me. It’s not exactly where I thought I’d be five years ago. Or two. Or four months ago. But whenever God’s the one making the plans instead of me, life tends to end up having a lot more… OOMPH.

-LC

To read about my summer experience with Generation Send, check out these posts.

What a Missionary Looks Like: GenSend ATL Recap #4

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“You don’t look like missionaries.”

That’s what a guy our age said to us one of the first weeks we were in Decatur. He was standing outside the downtown MARTA station, soliciting Red Cross donations. He wore a red vest to prove it.

But we weren’t wearing red vests or matching T-shirts or long skirts. After talking with a few of us for a while, the Red Cross guy had asked us what we did. We told him, and his response was the surprised, “You don’t look like missionaries.” We glanced at one another amidst awkward laughter. We didn’t know what exactly what missionaries were supposed to look like.

A short while later, Taylor walked up.

“Sup,” said our bearded friend, wearing a hiking backpack that was buckled at the top.

“Now he looks like a missionary!” said the Red Cross guy.

It’s funny. Jesus didn’t say the world would know we were his disciples by the crosses around our necks or the Ichthus decals on our cars or our matching T-shirts displaying a Christian parody of a candy bar logo.

I took the fact that we didn’t look like missionaries as a compliment. That was why we were there: to blend in, become part of the community, to invest in organic relationships. And as we did that and those relationships grew, we would show the people of Decatur the light of Christ.

But Jesus also didn’t say that his followers would be incognito. He said everyone would know we were his disciples. How?

Loving one another.

This is how we show the world who we are. Not by loving the people in the world– though that’s extremely important. Jesus said, in John 13:35, ” By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

That’s a tall order. Sometimes we’re lovable. Other times– not so much. That’s why it stands out in the world. Because this love we have for each other isn’t something people can manage on their own. It’s supernatural. It’s different. It’s noticeable.

In his fantastic little book on this subject, The Mark of the Christian, famed apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote,

“It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these real are Christians and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father.”

bday-131Observable love. When I think back on this summer and the ultimate turn our missions approach took, it comes down to that phrase and John 13:35.

If you still think loving one another is all puppies and rainbows, you’re sorely mistaken. Just within our team, we worked hard to understand, communicate with, and do life with one another in a way that was saturated with the love of Christ. We told our stories, let one another analyze them and ask questions and figure out what made us tick. We aired out our failures and asked forgiveness and held each other accountable. We learned to take notice of and look out for one another’s feelings and preferences. We kicked holes in the walls of individualism that prevented genuine community. It was painful sometimes. It was laborious much of the time. But it was worth it.

It was worth it for the growth it brought in our own lives. But it was also worth it for the testament it became to the people around us. A testament to a bond deeper than age, shared interests, race, sports teams, location, or blood. A testament to the mutual Spirit that dwelt in each of us individually and in all of us collectively– the Spirit that drove us to struggle for Christ-centered community and empowered us to achieve it.

Being community-driven among ourselves also fit perfectly with the overall culture of Decatur. It’s a city that prides itself on community. It has festivals and book sharing bins and farmers’ markets and government-paid street musicians and shops around a central square. People are proud of Decatur and they share that bond.

While the people of Decatur love Decatur, we didn’t see much evidence that they cared too deeply about one another outside of their own cliques and classes. As often happens in our society, people coexist without communing. It’s interesting when people who place such a high value on community have only a shallow taste of what it could be.

But when a Christ-centered community forms, it causes people to wonder. Who are these kids who travel in a pack? Why do they seem to enjoy each other so much? How do they handle disagreements in such positive ways? Why do they all care about the community? Why are they so friendly to their neighbors?

When people met us, especially when we were all together, I could see the wheels turning as they asked questions similar to these. We may not have looked like missionaries, but when they saw us together, they knew something was different. This difference often paved the road for us to have extended conversations with people in a way that both showed the love of Christ being worked out in a tangible way and confronted people with the truth of Christ without making them feel alienated.

I often worried during the summer that the overwhelming intentionality of our community might be hindering the natural growth of our relationships. It took me a while to realize that the Spirit had organically driven us to reach out for that intentional community in the first place. It was not something we were assigned to do. While perhaps some of us sought it out more than others, we all embraced it quickly. Our love for one another was not contrived; it was a gift. Really, it’s a gift that exists between all believers through the reconciliatory sacrifice of him who first loved us. All we have to do is unwrap it. And when the world sees that gift on display in our lives, that’s when they’ll recognize the Giver.

-LC

COMMENT: When has God used a community you’ve been a part of in an unexpected way?

Read all my Generation Send posts here

Timeline: GenSend ATL Recap #3

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Timing is everything. Scoff all you want at the concept that there is a reason for everything, but I’ve seen it. God is not only sovereign over the revolutions and revivals and miracles; he’s sovereign over the minute details of our everyday lives as well. He’s not a brutal puppet master or an anxious chess player, but he is God. He is outside of time, but he works in the lives of those– us– glued to the timeline. And man, does he work wonders.

God’s timing is running into the same homeless woman on multiple occasions and getting to talk to her and treat her to a meal again.

God’s timing is being in the dairy section of Kroger at the same moment as a weeping woman on a motorized cart who happened to have your name and just needed to buy cereal and diapers for the kids at home, but because of a series of events couldn’t pay for it.

God’s timing is arriving late to an open mic night at a local coffee shop and singing a worship song that happens to bring up painful memories for a young man sitting near the stage, a young who is willing to talk about his life because of that connection.

Each of these experiences have happened to our team this summer, and I’ve realized that God’s timing is finding yourself with someone else who needs to be found at that moment. What you do with that moment can spark or simmer something deeply needed, eternally powerful, and inexplicably beautiful.

Sometimes I react well to these providential encounters, going as far in obedience to God’s call to love my neighbor as I can. Sometimes it takes all the courage I have just to make a second-rate effort. And sometimes I can hesitate long enough to just ignore the opportunity altogether. It’s that sneaky old paradox of God’s providence and human responsibility playing out moment by moment in my own life. He provides the opportunity, his Spirit prods mine, and I can either follow or go my own way.

It’s how life is. And it’s really how life has been this summer– I guess because I’m so in the mindset of being on mission everywhere I go, in everything I do. I’ve encountered some amazing believers here who really live this way. For them, it’s not just a summer internship mindset; it’s a way of life. And I so desperately want that to be true for me.

Half the battle is being flexible; being available and willing to drop what you’re doing and go hard after an opportunity to share Christ’s love. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, multiple times.

But spontaneity isn’t the only way God can show his awesomeness in the timing of our lives. There is also great power in consistency. Though we’ve struggled some with this in Atlanta because of our schedule and the nature of where we are, who we are working with, and what we’re doing, another Generation Send intern in the New York crew shared a cool story with me about how God worked in his consistency. Scott told me:

“In the first week of my time in New York I had decided to search for a coffee shop to spend my mornings. After a few attempts, I settled on this small, quaint café called the Tin Cup. I would spend a least an hour a day there. I would drink coffee, chat with the baristas, work on my computer, and do my devotions. My goal was to be a presence in this small community.

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen the great things that can come out of consistency in my own life. One day I was making small talk with the owner and he asked me,

‘Are you a Bible scholar?’

‘I aspire to be,’ I replied. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘I’ve seen you read the Scriptures in the morning.’

This sparked a forty-five minute spiritual conversation about what I believe and what he believed. Even though he didn’t break down and accept Jesus into his heart right then and there, he recognized that I was someone he could talk to about spiritual things. Cool stuff happened that day.”

It’s amazing. God isn’t stingy with our schedules or even our lack of them. Now matter how our time is directed, he finds ways to interject his purposes. Our job is to keep our eyes open, our hearts willing, and our hands ready.

COMMENT: How has God surprised you either in your spontaneity or consistency?

Follow all my Generation Send posts here.

Clarkston Crucible: GenSend ATL Recap #2

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Deep in the heart of the South, arguably the most “‘Merica!” part of the country, pulses a melting pot community called Clarkston– latched onto the much broader (and still diverse) area of Decatur, just one of many communities that ripple out from downtown in the ever-expanding metropolis of Atlanta.

My first experience with Clarkston was visiting and praying with a believer named Daniel (mentioned in a previous post), then eating lunch at a Somalian restaurant, where our group contained the only Caucasians in the building… and the only women. Our friend Claude told us about the community– how it is a government-selected city for refugee relocation. We realized we literally have the nations of the world living right down the road from us.

A few weeks later (this week), Claude and some other friends took some of us to an expansive Clarkston apartment complex. Basically, they transported us into a new world.

Run-down apartments lined streets with more puddles and potholes than pavement. Some doors were flung wide open, others boarded shut. Clothes were laid on bushes to dry. Adults milled in and out of their homes. Cars drove through, honking at children to get out of the street.

And they had to, because the children were everywhere on the streets. Somalian, Ethiopian, Thai, Burmese, and African American kids raced up and down or sat talking and drawing on each other’s arms. At least three separate soccer games were taking place simultaneously. Some Thai children played high rope (jumping over… you guessed it… a high rope). Young boys engaged in mud wars in the sludge that substituted for yards between the apartments.

We found the playground, and as the stench sidled up to my nose, I realized it was no wonder there were scores of kids in the streets and none on the mildly dilapidated playground equipment– it was right next to the extremely ripe dumpster. Not to mention the random mattresses chilling on the slide and bridge.

Some Burmese girls really warmed up to us. In fact, I still have their blue ink pen flower tatoos on my hands and arms. We talked and played Simon Says and made jokes. And I knew I would have to come back to this place.

One of my teammates was able to engage several of the older teenagers in the area in some deep discussion of the gospel, and they were eager to learn more! A definite prayer request is that we will be able to encounter these people again and that God will use us to teach them about his truth and love.

I’ve been reading in one of our assigned books for the internship, Center Church by Tim Keller, and in one section he writes about contextualization. This trip to Clarkston was probably the most illuminating experiences that I’ve had about the need for contextualization when it comes to living out my faith.

What does biblical contextualization mean? It means adapting how you minister and share the gospel in a way that stays true to the content of the gospel, yet explains and expresses it in ways that best fit that culture.

In Clarkston, we scrape street asphalt under our shoes as we play with kids, instead of crunching the grass or mulch of a playground. We chat with people outside their homes, not in a coffee shop or Chick-fil-A. We play high rope and a hand-clap version of Rock Paper Scissors and soccer instead of Halo and Angry Birds and American football. We let the residents share their culture and we don’t try to force ours on them. We think tactfully, observe thoughtfully, and act carefully. And we let the Holy Spirit drive.

Which, if we’re honest, is what we should be doing in every cultural context.

I see so much need in Clarkston– physical, emotional, spiritual. But I also see much opportunity. More openness than I would imagine. More beautiful diversity in the ethnic tapestry than I’d ever attribute to good-ol’-boy Georgia. So, as little girls drew flowers on my arms, my soul drew a heart around Clarkston.

-LC

COMMENT: When have you contextualized your ministry to an individual or community? Where have you seen a need for contextualization?

Follow all my Generation Send posts here.

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