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The Sermon on the Plain

The Sermon on the Plain - Essay by D. L. Mayfield

The girl is wearing a tie-dyed shirt, comfortable jeans, her curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Perched on a stool next to the calf in his pen, she is telling us how to get a cow to give birth at the Minnesota State Fair. It takes careful planning, especially if you plan to do it year after year. Here, in this barn, this girl is a star. Here, in this barn, we are witnesses... Read More

North and South


We say we cultivate the land. Perhaps it’s truer to say the land cultivates us. The land—her contours, curved or flat; her foliage, lush or sparse; her soil, flinty or rich; the air she walks in, warm like wool or crisp like clean cotton—shapes us. It forms our customs and food, our bodies and voices, our beliefs and postures. Our ways emerge from the ways of the land. The... Read More

Holden Village Journal


Sunday We are on the boat, our family, barreling north into a sea of granite peaks. Before us spreads the gleaming surface of Lake Chelan, a fifty-one-mile gash cutting deep into the Cascade Mountains. To our right, the eastern foothills flow by, sun-browned in the August heat. They lie hulking like knuckles on a fist. In my lap a sudden movement. Samuel, my son of two months, raises... Read More

Reclaiming Christian Marriage: What the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Needs to Learn from the Southern Baptists


On June 19, 2014, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow their pastors to perform “same-gender marriages in civil jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.”[1] As expected, this has caused no small hubbub among American Christians. While gay rights advocates and Christians on the left have lauded this progressive decision and praised the denomination for changing... Read More

No Sea in Heaven


I grew up in a mile-square beachfront town sixty miles south of New York City. From the time I was six years old, when my family left its North Jersey urban roots, every summer day was spent on the beach. When my sister and I were old enough, we peddled there on our bikes to meet our friends, then slathered ourselves with Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil and baked, posed, and floated... Read More

Wanderlust: A Personal History


Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about? Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out? —Dixie Chicks   I am sixteen, sitting in Bible class at my small private high school. The teacher thinks—at least, I hope she thinks—that I’m following along in the book. In reality, I’m a rebel. I’ve nestled a paperback behind the cover of our text. While she lectures,... Read More

Los Angeles

Catalina Island, La Romana, Dominican Republic. A cruise liner i

My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call. —Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides   There is a spot on the downslope of Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, in southern California, where, if conditions conspire for clear air—which they rarely do—you can see the sharp, low-slung outline of Catalina Island, twenty-two miles out to sea. There are other places where... Read More

This Cursed Womb


The hour comes at darkness. Long before the sun rises beneath the horizon’s black curtain, the first pain strikes in my abdomen. It squeezes my insides, wrapping my organs tighter and tighter. The pain pulls me in for a minute or two, then releases. This is the warning shot. Soon, that pit below my stomach will be flipping, twisting, tying, pulling. A song is brewing within me... Read More

Material Faith: An Interview with Barbara Brown Taylor

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A best-selling author and internationally recognized preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor is known for her memorable way of extracting profound spiritual insights from the grit (and grits!) of ordinary human experience. In addition to her roles as writer, speaker, professor, and ordained Episcopal priest, Taylor and her husband stay grounded to earth corralling chickens on their working... Read More

Reenchanting the Body


I was fourteen or fifteen. She was about the same age, a friend from a local Christian youth organization. After long and oblique flirtation, I finally got up the gumption to confess my attraction to her, in the form of a rhyming Valentine’s Day poem. Not a week later, I attended a youth group meeting at a rural nondenom church. There I heard a message from the text of 1 Timothy... Read More