Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Tari Stage-Harvey)

Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Tari Stage-Harvey)

Living and Growing: Mixtape for the nation

The world would be a little more beautiful if we still shared mixtapes. If you don’t know what a mixtape is, then you weren’t paying attention in the ‘80s and ‘90s (or you weren’t alive yet).

A mixtape was a recording of songs for someone you cared about.

The mixtape filled many roles:

1. A vulnerable offering of what you love for someone you adored.

2. An indication to the other that you thought about them when you heard these songs.

3. A reflection of who you thought this person was and what they would enjoy.

I knew George wasn’t the one for me when he gave me a mixtape filled with Rush songs. I hate Rush with a burning hate. If their songs were half as long and not as annoying, then I would merely despise them. That mixtape was never played all the way through.

My hubby (boyfriend in the ‘90s) gave me a mixtape of tender music, which isn’t normally my cup of tea. But I was living alone in a trailer in the wilderness of Haines, so comforting music was calming in the cacophony of mouse parties at night. It also made me realize what a sweetheart he was.

Over the years Shepherd of the Valley has served as a polling place. We recently moved our driveway so we are unable to continue, but each election made me fall in love with our nation. I got to watch people come and go all day to vote. And it was beautiful. There was a wonderful mix of people, they seemed happy to see each other, polite to the poll workers, and carried lots of different opinions about how the nation should function. It stirred in my heart the same flutter I get when I watch the jury selection video. Seriously, I am close to tears when I watch how our nation models seeking justice.

I know our institutions have serious flaws, anxiety and anger are high as we approach another election, but this country is still beautiful to me and I thought about what songs I would include in her mixtape.

“American Pie,” “Country Roads” and “The Gambler” seem like givens. I know all the words and they bring a mix of nostalgia, love for land, and warning against arrogance.

I’d probably also include “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash, and “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. I would want to soothe her with Lyle Lovett’s rendition of Guy Clark’s “Step Inside This House” so she would be comforted knowing it’s OK to treasure things others dismiss. They are good songs to introduce her to some of my favorite singers.

This isn’t probably a popular sentiment, but I like “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land” more than “God Bless America.” I don’t think our country is better than others or that God loves us more, but this land is what I love and it is where I get to live out my calling.

Because I’m grounded in love, then I’m freed to share difficult observations and critiques without meanness or self-righteousness. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a statement to guide our faithful participation in national life. I appreciate these words, “The witness of this church in society flows from its identity as a community that lives from and for the Gospel. Faith is active in love; love calls for justice in the relationships and structures of society. It is in grateful response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ that this church carries out its responsibility for the well-being of society and the environment.”

In other words, begin with the mixtape. What do you want to say and share with this nation? What songs would you include? Figure out where the love is, celebrate together the dreams of this nation, and then have the hard and faithful conversations about how we can live with more “justice in the relationships and structures of society.”

• Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living and Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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