So, here's a slight diversion before I get back into writing about my Lent study. Because of who it is about, it is best read sitting on a deck drinking a glass of wine - you see, this was one of our favorite ways to have a conversation.
One year ago today, my dear friend and spiritual mentor passed away. His name was Bill Traylor and he was a Texas man through and through. He wore boots and western cut blazers, a straw hat in the summer and a felt hat in the winter. More than being a Texan, Bill was a son of God and a follower of Jesus. He's one of those people that I wish every one else I know could have known him.
It's been incredibly busy these past few weeks as the term is coming to an end and I'm pretty tired. Today was one of those days that I wondered if I was too old to be here doing what I'm doing and the heaviness of missing Bill has made me move just than much slower today. I was thinking about how a year ago I was getting ready to get on a plane to go to Bill's funeral and do the eulogy and so I found the text I prepared for it and read it and I could hear Bill telling me to hang in there and not give up. And, I thought it just might bring encouragement to someone else, whether you knew Bill or not, so here it is:
Eulogy for Bill Traylor
March 27, 2010
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, San Antonio
By: Nancy Springer
We’ve all got many, many Bill stories to tell and I’m honored and humbled to be asked to speak of what he means to me and to all of us. As I began to play through my head what I would say today, I thought there would be no way to fit all that was Bill into just a few words. Everyone here has special memories of him and the way he dedicated himself to taking care of all of us:
• He loved unconditionally and had a great capacity for forgiveness.
• He spent his time serving God by helping those he cared about tirelessly.
• He corrected when necessary and scolded with compassion and love.
• He could see the best in everyone and when our worst came out, he was willing to tell us so we could get back to working at being our best.
I first got to know Bill through the St. Thomas world mission group and we went on a mission trip to Bosnia together. Then we were in EFM together and the healing ministry and lay reading and on the vestry. Like all of you, I can’t imagine St. Thomas without him … and besides who’s going to pass out the peppermints? I’d like to share with you, especially, the role Bill has played in my process to get to seminary and I’m pretty certain that in the things he did for me and taught me each of you can relate to your own memories of him.
Bill was one of the first people I began to talk to about God’s call for my life. He was always willing to listen to my fears and my excitement of things to come and he had a way of helping me draw out my deepest thoughts that I struggled to express. Through all of the bumps and road blocks along the way, when I was ready to give up, he would look me square in the eye and say “you can’t give up on what God has called you to do.”
The day before I left for seminary Bill and I were sitting on his deck talking about what were my biggest fears of what lie ahead. I appreciated that he wanted me to prepare for, or at least think about, both the good and the not so good. I shared with him that I was feeling like everything I was going to say about faith and belief was going to be under scrutiny and what if I say the wrong thing simply because I was working something through. He told me that whenever I was uncertain about what I was learning or thinking to call and talk it through with him, knowing that he would place no judgment on what I said. He reassured me that if I was heading down a heretical path, he’d definitely let me know. We agreed that he would be my spiritual “patron”, supporting me in the formation that was and is to come. So, I have to say, I’m a bit mad at him right now, and, you know what, I’m pretty sure he’s okay with that.
It’s hard not to be selfish and say how much I need Bill, how much we all depended on his faithfulness, but that’s not what Bill taught us. We have all been blessed beyond measure by his presence in our lives and we can honor his memory best by living out the things he taught us. For me, that’s pushing forward with seminary, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed and thinking I can’t do it. Although I can’t call him anymore for a “hi, Darlin’” followed by a good old fashioned pep talk, I can still hear his voice in my own head telling me not to give up on what God has called me to do. And I know each one of you has your own voice of Bill that will always be with you.
Bill and I shared a favorite verse, Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I can only hope that I live out that verse as beautifully as Bill did.
Thanks for letting me share it - and if you don't know and want to ask me, I'll explain about the peppermints. ;-)
God's peace, my friends,
Friday, March 18, 2011
Well, I’m still behind on my reading, but I’m making progress and not giving up. I’m praying for endurance and persistence and clarity this weekend and I have two papers to write for school as well as my regular weekly readings, and overdue Ember Day letter to my bishop, and getting on track with my Lent reading. You would think that after two years I’d be in the habit of starting all study with prayer but it is still something that sometimes I have to remind myself of. I truly experience a difference in those times when I approach study prayerfully instead of just jumping in and trying to plow through it. I wonder why sometimes it takes me getting so frustrated I’m ready to throw my books out the window before I stop to pray and allow God into my studying … my mom always said I was stubborn.
But, I am encouraged by my readings in Chittister’s book on The Rule. I’ve been reading the chapter on the qualities of the abbot or prioress. What a radical concept of leadership! A spiritual leader is to lead not drive, to guide, challenge, and enable those in one’s care, to be the center and norm of the group but not above it, “to show in our own lives the beauty that oozes out of those who live the spiritual life to its fullness”. (I give kudos to any author who can work ‘ooze’ into a legitimate sentence!) St. Benedict describes leaders who are committed to the best in the people they lead, who are concerned with the growth and formation of the whole person, not just simply getting things done. He wants as Chisttister describes it “holy listeners who care about the effect of what they do on everybody else. Imagine a world that was run by holy listeners!”
I had a conversation with our Chaplain this week and it’s official, I will be Head Sacristan next year. Basically what that means is I will work under the Chaplain to plan and organize the daily and weekly chapel services. I shared with her that I see so much potential with this position – that it shouldn’t just be about the administrative stuff but also about the spiritual formation of our students. It has to be more if chapel isn’t to be seen as just another task or duty we do each day. Society teaches that spirituality, religion, and church are pieces of our lives and yet somehow in seminary we are to discover that spirituality is about how we live not something we do. I obviously struggle with this and I see others struggle with it, too.
As I was reading this chapter on leadership I could see a link between what I am reading and my position next year and I can already see how this Lenten study and continuing to live with the things I learn after Lent is forming me so that by the guidance and grace of God I can help form others. I pray that I can learn to lead as a holy listener.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Lent, that six week period before Easter during which Christians are to reflect on penitence and discipline, giving up those things which have become a stumbling block to or a distraction from our relationship with God. This year for Lent, instead of giving up something, I’m taking on an intense personal study on the Rule of St. Benedict to learn this ancient yet still relevant way of intentionally and thoughtfully listening for and living out God’s will. I’m not sure I can offer up a well articulated explanation for this, really, except that it’s what I feel led to do. I’m anxious and excited at the same time, knowing it is going to be a time of growth and formation for me.
I guess its part of a process that has been going on for a few months in which I’ve been discovering some behaviors and patterns that keep me from experiencing the fullness of my current relationships. There is much behind this that I’ve chosen not to blog about although I’ve journalled extensively about it privately. I’ve been peeling away at layers and removing what I put up as protective coverings to reveal unhealed wounds underneath. But just as cutting an onion produces tears yet flavors dishes deliciously I know that the end result will be well worth it. I’m working through the layers of all of the notions I have about what others want or think they need me to be and realizing who I am simply as a child of God. And just as sometimes a wound needs to be reopened and treated differently to allow proper healing, I’ve had to reawaken some painful memories to let them heal rightly.
The books I’m reading are:
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
This is an overview of the Rule and a good place to begin discovering what the Rule as a whole teaches: God’s presence is everywhere and seeking Him is not what we do but how we live.
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister
This one is a commentary on the Rule itself. It breaks the Rule down into small chunks with Chittister’s commentary on how it applies to our lives today. It is meant to be read daily so that the entire Rule and commentary is read through completely three times a year. I’ll read the whole of it during Lent and then settle into the daily reading going forward.
To be honest, a week in I’m already behind in my reading. It’s been a week of irregular schedules and interruptions. In this time of taking on a study and formation that I’m excited about and long for, the demands of my time are greater than usual. It’s part of the struggle, right? This is part of the point of why I chose to study St. Benedict, to live the spirituality that it is so easy to segment into a “part” of life rather than letting it be life.
In the Prologue chapter, Joan Chittister says “This [living life well] is an enterprise between two spirits, in other words, God’s and our own. We will fail often, but God will not fail us and we must not stop.” I'm going to keep at it and I'll write about my progress.
I wish you all a blessed Lenten journey.