Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving More Than Just A Day

Thanksgiving is a godly time

One of the most profound thinkers and nicest ‘down to earth’ guy I ever met was the Right Revd. Browning Ware (A title he never used. Nothing reverential about Browning.) He had a way of getting to the heart of a matter in a most common sense way. He could make the most noble and lofty ideas come alive for us commoners in the pews. And you knew it came from a heart that understood suffering and knew inner pain, yet without being judgmental.

Browning Ware died almost a decade ago. Former Governor Ann Richards said of Browning, “Texas has lost a tall timber of wit and wisdom with the death of my friend, Browning Ware.”

Darrell Royal, former University of Texas football coach, said, “Browning was a remarkable articulate, dry-humored, an deeply spiritual man. I am grateful our paths crossed in friendship.”

He lived his life as an example to others. He saw every human being as a person of value to him. He often wrote his newspaper columns in an out-of-the-way café or filling station. He began one piece with “Down where I drink coffee there is a man who talks to himself. I have known several people who talk to themselves. But this fellow is different. He seemed to enjoy it.”

After his death his daughter compiled many of his brief commentaries from daily life. She published many of his words in “Diary of a Modern Pilgrim.” The following are Browning’s random thoughts of one Thanksgiving Day.

“Symbols tend to assume greater importance than the realities they represent. The result is the creation of minor idolatries by which we value appearance more than substance. By this willing self-deception, we wrench life from its roots and pull it toward the surface. Our lives become a garden of values in shallow soil. ‘What you see is what you get.’

“Reflections on holiday celebrations provoked this modest philosophical outburst. I am thinking of the contrast between Thanksgiving as a day and as a continuing attitude of life. The day, a symbol, was created as an expression of reality -- a grateful relationship to God and the world. Thanksgiving Day is excellent as a means but inadequate as the end of gratitude.

“Deep gratitude is not the by-product of material comfort and possessions. If this were true, Americans would be the most grateful people in the world and also the happiest. We are neither; certainly, not both. Gratitude has little to do with the presence or absence of things. Rather, it reflects confidence in God and trusts his good intentions toward us. Gratitude serves God happily with full or empty hands.

“So Thanksgiving is a day and more. To be both symbol and substance, it must be a way of life.”

Browning was not always that serious and often drove home vital truths with his dry wit. One would never take him to be the long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Austin, Texas. I understand the “Diary of a Modern Pilgrim, Life Notes From One Man’s Journey” is out of print, but if you ever come across a copy, it is a real treasure, and I recommend it as a most encouraging and fruitful read.

May next Thursday be more than just another holiday. May it be more than traditional football games. May it be a time when the greater human family is remembered and enriched. For those who celebrate the thanksgiving season alone, out of necessity or desire, may it be a time that will enrich what time is left on this good earth that God has so graciously shared with us.


Britt Towery’s columns appear every Friday in the West Texas newspapers: The Brownwood Bulletin and the San Antonio Standard-Times. His e-mail is:

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