Maker of sea and sky and all things Carolina: Grateful salutations this day. You know my prayers before I begin to say them, and you know my fervent love for this place and the people who live here.
When I came to Tarboro slightly more than a year ago, it was love at first breath. North Carolina can smell better than anyplace on earth, and however did you create a place outside of Eden where there is always something flowering? It is mesmerizing.
Your people here are just as beautiful, and as diverse, as your geography. But because you are teaching me to love them as you do, I have just a few things on my mind. I know you have this well in hand — I just want to humbly put a few things before you in both praise and petition.
I have never been in a place where family is so universally honored. It is strong and supportive, and it transcends genetic closeness to include connections of neighbors, colleagues, and friends. That is just as it should be, but we need help to make it better.
Day after day, I counsel people who work as hard as they can during the day and take care of their children and their parents at night. There is barely time to breathe, and the most loving of relationships is challenged by the inability to get it all done in 24 hours.
You separated the day from the night, and it is good! But aside from changing when that happens, please help those who govern us, our churches, and all of your people to realize that there is an opportunity to bring work to those who need it, and support to those who cannot afford the extra expense of caring for parents in need.
I do not know how to make this happen, but you do. Help us to open our hearts to your wisdom so that we truly may love one another as you have loved us.
We are learning every day about economy, nutrition, and sustainability. We have chickens in our cities and farming ministries that help disadvantaged youth across the state. We also have new neighbors who come in to help with that work.
Coach us to see each other not as threatening, but as mutually supportive, and to learn to find answers that are fair to all concerned and which will make our state stronger and more viable. Help us to open our hearts to your wisdom so that we truly may love one another as you have loved us.
Medicine is advancing by leaps and bounds, and we thank you that the outstanding medical facilities in this place draw people from across the nation. Cancer is more often something to live with now, rather than a death sentence, and for that we are so grateful. We are living longer and learning to adapt in times of economic hardship; some of us are finding work to do that is sustaining and making it ministry as you have asked, even when it is not what we expected or dreamed it would be. But there are times when discouragement is still so high and people forget that it is ultimately your love that is sustaining and nurturing.
Renew in our hearts the desire to help one another and provide opportunities for those in need to grow spiritually and economically, so that they may rely on your goodness and constancy rather than on the frail support of humankind. Help us to open our hearts to your wisdom so that we truly may love one another as you have loved us.
We are not the same. Diversity is one of your greatest gifts to us — all of your creation is reflected here: Carolina blue above us, sun-dappled mountains beneath our feet, and strands of coastline that weave in a timeless dance with your capricious Atlantic. Strong of spirit, gentle in hospitality, and proud to be here: Your people in this place reflect the variety of your landscape. You also gave us minds with the ability to discern that variety.
Teach us to know the difference between open-hearted discernment and narrow-minded judgment. We have so much more in common than the things that we allow to separate us from You and from each other. Mountains, Piedmont, farmlands, and oceans are all the same to you, O Lord. They are all good. Help us to open our hearts to your wisdom so that we truly may love one another as you have loved us.
We are not yet in Paradise with you, but we are as close as we can be by virtue of our location. May our gratitude for the beauty you have created inspire us always to see that same beauty in one another. Amen.