All posts by lauren n. jennings

About lauren n. jennings

Vagabond. Chronic critic. Reluctant hopeful. Archaeologist of rare book-treasures. Seeker of whimsy. Gatherer of details, quirks, & idiosyncrasies. Amateur lurker. Connoisseur of books, television, cinema, and parmesan cheese. Grad student.

in which U2 celebrates the 25th anniversary of Rattle and Hum

Today is the 25th anniversary of the theatrical release of U2’s rockumentary of their Rattle and Hum tour. I follow Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog of film criticism and observations of truth and life, and he put together his own reflection of his attachment to the rockumentary. He asked for others to contribute their memories, and jumping at the opportunity to say anything about U2, I quickly contributed my own:

When I was in the 10th grade my dad took me to see U2 in concert after How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) was released. I had been an amateur fan of theirs for years (The Joshua Tree, my favorite album of all time, was released the year before I was born), so seeing them live was such a rush. We didn’t have great seats, but because we were so far back and so high up, we were able to sit for most of the concert and just really enjoy the music. This is one of my favorite memories I have of my dad. Growing up he took me on daddy-daughter dates, and this one goes down in the books as one of the greats.

A few years later, during my junior year of college, my dad died. No more daddy-daughter dates. No more sharing memories together. Going through some of his belongings several months later, I came upon the DVD of U2’s Rattle and Hum. So in homage both to my childhood favorite band and to the dad who was no longer there to listen with me, I watched. Certain smells remind me of specific memories, and certain tastes cause instant aversion. So, too, do certain sounds remind me of home. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” accompanied by a Harlem gospel choir, will forever remind of home. It’s just a rockumentary, but it’s so much more: it’s the heritage my father left me.

So here’s to the music that still continues to challenge and elate me, to quiet and enliven me. Happy 25th!


big screen: in which grace will chase you down.


The moral of the story is that grace will chase you down. Sometimes grace will hold you down, restraining you until you’ve come to your senses, and sometimes grace will quietly wait for you to come around on your own. Sometimes grace is gentle and kind and of a quieter reserve of strength. And sometimes grace will surprise you in the dark, holding a baseball bat, ready to do battle for you.

I’ve bookended this past week with two spectacular movies, neither of which having much to do with the other at first glance: Enough Said and Short Term 12. As I’ve reflected on these films and let their truths resonate with me, it has become increasingly clear to me that in a similar vein of a Flannery O’Connor short story, they are about characters that experience the intersection of grace in their otherwise troubled, confusing, overwhelming, underwhelming, excruciating, mundane lives. So I’ve been thinking a lot about grace in the last few days.

I don’t know about you, but I like my grace a little rough around the edges. Oftentimes this seems truer to me than the easily explained, easily swallowed version of grace. I am, after all, a child of this generation, and I don’t tend to like (let alone trust) anything that comes too easily, even if it’s good for me. Yet, sometimes it’s the gentleness of grace that in the final analysis makes me shut up and listen and leaves me beyond myself.

PG grace is the kind that only makes us aware that it’s a “free gift.” Forget PG: that’s the Sunday School answer. And of course the problem with this answer is not in calling it a free gift, because for it to be received as genuine, honest-to-goodness grace, the receiver can’t have anything to offer in return. The problem is that it teaches us to assume that because the gift is free, it must not have cost anything. And frankly, my dear, this just isn’t the case. Because grace always—hear me: ALWAYS—costs something. Now, I’m not saying that grace has to be earned or repaid. But it is a naïve and silly frame of mind to think that for the one extending grace, grace has not required great personal cost, a death of sorts.

Grace is a slaying of the darkness, a naming of the unnamed.

Ultimately grace makes you choose. Timshel. Thou mayest. Will you choose to lean into grace and let it demand of you what it will, or won’t you. Because just as grace costs something of the one extending, it also costs something of the one to whom it is extended.

Whatever else can be said of grace—whether it’s towards kids that no one on the outside quite knows what to with or towards a middle-aged woman that doesn’t quite know what to do with herself—grace doesn’t leave you the same way it finds you.

The choice of grace, then, the cost, is in deciding not to live out of our woundedness, but out of our belovedness.

“There is little or no neutral territory between the land of the blessed and the land of the cursed. You have to choose where it is that you want to live, and that choice is one that you have to keep making from moment to moment.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)

hutchmoot snapshot: constellations, reasonable worship, & ancient truths.

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Just like heat and smoke, the bubbles of a carbonated beverage rise. So, too, have snapshots of my experience at Hutchmoot 2013 risen to the top as I’ve reflected in the days since I returned home. Those snapshots have refused to settle to the bottom and instead have insisted that I pay attention to them. More vivid than any other moment for me at Hutchmoot is the standing ovation we gave Leif Enger after he had spoken to us about reasonable worship and the constellation of gratitude, persistence, and delight, after he read to us from his new, yet-to-be-published book. Other people have mentioned this ovation as one of their favorite moments of the weekend, but I had the unique perspective of sitting in the seat directly behind Leif’s wife Robin. So I got a front seat viewing to this incredibly intimate moment.

“Story, and the process of storytelling, is the only apologetic by which I can even begin to understand the world.”

What I love about Leif’s “Special Guest Speaker” talk is that he prefaced by saying he was going to speak simply on the subject at hand: Story. And then he proceeded to speak beautifully, putting flesh on such ancient truths. Because isn’t that what Story is? An ancient truth that is continually reborn into something new? The bones never change, but we are each commissioned to bear flesh to those bones, lending ourselves in participation with the Great Storyteller. Stories not only form the apologetic by which I comprehend the world (for I, too, ascribe to that school of theology); Story, and my participation in it, is my reasonable, acceptable worship.

In explanation of what he meant by ‘reasonable worship,’ Leif described his 14 year-old dog named Collie, who died last year. Collie’s reasonable worship was to stand sentry over Leif and Robin’s sleeping because this is what she loved to do, and she didn’t want to miss out on anything, should the Master need her.

The sanctuary where Leif spoke was filled with a bunch of people who either create or appreciate great art and great storytelling. I’m sure a great many of us regard our participation with storytelling as a hobby or a guilty pleasure or side project or a distraction from the more important things that need to be done. But reasonable worship? My storytelling and my appreciation for it is the worship that is most acceptable to the Lord? How deliciously liberating.

But never mind my disbelief that something so simple could actually be true. Some things are just too beautiful not to be true.

I think it must have come as a great shock to Leif that we would give him such a robust and sincere ovation, and even more of a shock that we applauded him for so long (I recorded it: our ovation lasted for over a minute and a half). His head was bowed and his shoulders seemed to bend themselves beneath the weight of our admiration and gratitude for his words. He simply did not know what to do with our ovation.

Robin, though, knew exactly what to do. In the hour or so before Leif’s talk, Robin had befriended my comrades and me, and no matter what we were actually talking about, her love and pride and adoration for her husband and her two grown sons resonated from her presence. It was apparent that her warmth resulted from the life she has shared with this man for 30 years. So she knew exactly what to do, how to provide her support to Leif, how to hold his head up and bolster his shoulders to bear the weight of our applause.

Such a sight was overwhelmingly priceless. Truth reverberated in his lack of know-how and in her joyful, steadied embrace. That. That is why stories matter. Why putting flesh on bones is the noblest of tasks. Why our participation in stories is our reasonable worship.

“We and the world, my children, will always be at war.                   Retreat is impossible. Arm yourselves.”                                         Leif Enger, Peace Like a River.