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Grace Before Meat

Reading from The Project Gutenberg ebook The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, Volume 2, I found a passage I have heard before, but never knew the context.  The essay is titled Grace Before Meat.  It begins:

The custom of saying grace at meals had, probably, its origin in the early times of the world, and the hunter-state of man, when dinners were precarious things, and a full meal was something more than a common blessing; when a belly-full was a windfall, and looked like a special providence. In the shouts and triumphal songs with which, after a season of sharp abstinence, a lucky booty of deer’s or goat’s flesh would naturally be ushered home, existed, perhaps, the germ of the modern grace. It is not otherwise easy to be understood, why the blessing of food—the act of eating—should have had a particular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, distinct from that implied and silent gratitude with which we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of the many other various gifts and good things of existence.

Then follows the familiar quote:


I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a form for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none for books, those spiritual repasts—a grace before Milton—a grace before Shakspeare—a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy Queen….[?]

Edgar F. Wheeler Oct. 28, 1920–Sept.17, 2019.

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    Rev. Edgar Francis Wheeler died peacefully September 17, 2019 at home in Mesa, Arizona.  Edgar was born October 28, 1920 in Nortonville, Kansas to Ernest Raymond and Marie Edna Wheeler, the fourth of five children that survived infancy.   There he spent his entire childhood.  Some of his earliest memories were of his wonder at the sights, sounds and smells of the prairie and farm.  His child-like sense of awe inspired by the natural world and Kansas never waned.
    About the time Edgar graduated from high school in 1938, he said he was “brought to faith in Jesus Christ as savior and felt called to become a minister”.  Over the next 9 years he worked and attended several colleges including Wheaton (IL), Milton (WI), Alfred (NY) and Salem (WV), from which he graduated in 1947.  He graduated from New Orleans Baptist Seminary in 1951.  At the time of his death Edgar had been an accredited Seventh Day Baptist (SDB) minister for 65 years.
    While in Salem Edgar met and married Xenia Lee Fitz Randolph with whom he celebrated 71 years of marriage before she died in 2016.
Edgar was the pastor of the SDB churches in  Metairie, LA, DeRuyter, NY (where he was ordained), Paint Rock, AL, Salemville, PA, Ashaway, RI, Denver, CO, and Nortonville, KS.  In his retirement he was interim pastor at Lost Creek, WV and Salemville, PA.
    Edgar was the 1970 Seventh Day Baptist General Conference President and served for 18 years on both the SDB Missionary Society Board and the Council on Ministry.  During 1948-49 Edgar worked setting Linotype for The Sabbath Recorder in Plainfield, NJ ( and later for the Huntsville Times).
   “Pastor” as he was often known, directed many church camps for children, led a boy’s 4-H club, served on PTA boards, drove a school bus, and was a volunteer fireman.  He intentionally found time to contribute to community activities and made himself available to anyone he sensed had a need.
    In retirement Edgar taught Bible studies, both in church settings and privately, taught art to children, painted, gardened, did carpentry, ingeniously repaired things most would discard, and invented various contraptions such as a black walnut cracker and famously, a bicycle powered jig saw.
    Edgar was also predeceased by three infant sisters, his sister Louise Sullivan, brothers Merlin and Charles Wheeler, a son, William Wheeler, and two infant grandsons.  He is survived by one brother, Edward Robert Wheeler of Weiser, ID, 10 children: Annita Parmelee (Asahel) Westerly, RI and Savannah, GA; Robert Wheeler (Dawn), North Platte, NE; Ruth Thorpe (Walter), Westerly, RI; Richard Wheeler (Michele), Pinnacle, NC; Helen Brannon (Kenneth) Mesa, AZ, with whom Edgar lived; Leon Wheeler, Washburn, WI; Noelle Fontaine, Tempe, AZ; Catherine Wheeler, Divide, CO;  Esther Palmer (Tony), Williston, VT; Ernest Wheeler (Cathy), Pinnacle, NC; 30 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and treasured friends.
    The funeral will be 2 pm Saturday, September 28, at the 1st Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church in Ashaway, RI, 8 Church Street, Ashaway, RI.   Friends and family may call there prior to the service at 1:30 pm.  He will be be buried at the Seventh Day Baptist Minister’s monument in the First Hopkinton Cemetery.  The service will be Livestream on the church website.  In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the charity he supported to the end of his life, the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society, 19 Hillside Avenue, Ashaway, RI 02804.

A Sad Gray

It has been almost 20 years since I visited Prague.  While there I met a Czech woman, Elizabeth, who offered to show me the city.  Elizabeth was close to my age and had lived in Prague through WW II, Prague Spring, and the Velvet Revolution.  She loved her city and country, and hated the Russians with at least as much passion.  She made a point of taking me to a part of the city not yet restored to show what it was like living under Russian dominance.  “It is all gray” she said.  And it was.  I remember the streetcar graveyard of now useless vehicles, and the sheer drabness of everything.  It was as if, in the middle of a modern movie the film suddenly became black and white and lost its focus.

Patrick Kurp’s blog today reminded me of that day:

“[I]n the large towns of East Germany, everything, or almost everything, was either grey or brown: not necessarily old, dirty or down-at-heel, but a sad grey or a dull – as it were, dead — brown.”

The author is Michel Pastoureau, the French historian of color, writing in The Colours of Our Memories (trans. Janet Lloyd, Polity, 2012). In a section titled “Greyness,” he describes his first visit behind the Iron Curtain, in 1981, in East Germany. Everything seemed “gloomy, weary and vulgar.” This is not the flashy, aggressive Las Vegas-style vulgarity, which implies a corrupted aesthetic sense. Rather, it suggests the absence of any aesthetic sense among totalitarians – the visual counterpart to socialist realism.

And this:

Pastoureau discovers what he concludes is the defining color of Communism, a shade he had never before seen, present in raincoats, building facades, bicycles and automobiles:

“It is not easy to find words to describe it. It was not, strictly speaking, just a purplish brown, rather a shade somewhere between brown, grey and purple with (and this is perhaps the most remarkable thing about it) a slight tinge of greenish yellow as if, as a finishing touch, there had been an attempt to add a hint of ‘mustard’ to this revolting colour. In the West it would have been hardtop produce such a colour and impossible to sell it.”

One more reason to favor a market-driven economy. Pastoureau continues:

“Disagreeable to the eye and wounding to the soul, it was as ugly as could be and, on top of everything, there was something brutal and uncivilized about it that appeared to stem from the most uncouth codes of social life, a kind of Urfarbe (original colour) inherited from the barbaric times of the first industrial revolution and resistant to all modernity.”

Somewhere I have a photograph.




I just cleaned out my desk and the surrounding collection (mess) of various things I thought perhaps I should enjoy again, file away,  respond to, or toss.  One small bag I found is jammed with maps I have accumulated.

Almost no one I know uses maps anymore,  but I love them.  I like to see where places are in relationship to other places.  When I am traveling I like to frequently stop and look at a map, which not only gives me direction, but an idea of the progress I’ve made.  And looking at maps of places where I have been kindle memories of the experience and place.  So I do have an eclectic collection, even including some of places I would like to see but haven’t yet.

GPS is wonderful when driving, but it is rather like fast food, it does the job but doesn’t inspire or engage the imagination.  It does nothing to add to the experience.  And it is tunnel vision.  Maps, however, frequently make me wonder about surrounding areas, about names of places, about how the geography impacts lives of people there.  I have been known to intentionally wander off my path because of something I’ve seen on a map.

I kept all of them.

This map includes the general area I lived for over ten years.  I have stories related to many of the towns.  Some of those memories go back close to 70 years.  Recently I read something about Friendship, NY (lower third, right) which I remembered hearing the name, but couldn’t quite place.  Currently, I still have close friends down in Russell, Pennsylvania, below Jamestown, NY, and my Aunt Mae doesn’t live far from here.  Other places that I treasure on this map are Gownda, Jamestown, Elicottvile,Little Genesee, and Houghton, NY.



An Evening Prayer


O Lord, our heavenly Father, bless and keep, we pray Thee, our kindred, friends, and benefactors, and graciously watch between them and us, while we are absent one from another, that in due time we may meet again to praise Thee, and hereafter dwell together in heavenly mansions: through Christ our Lord. Amen

The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1906

Waiting for Salvation

“It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:54-56 ESV, italics added).

We either mourn or are mourned. It is how the living and the dead meet and part ways. Jesus’ death took his followers to a different intersection, however. His death took them to Sabbath.

On Sabbath, Israel celebrated God the creator of heaven and earth. On Sabbath, they praised God for saving his people from the bondage of slavery. This Sabbath set in as Jesus breathed his last.

Mourn or Sabbath?

The women took the latter. They rested. More precisely, quieted their souls. Death is silenced at the command of God, and mourning ceases as we rest in his promises.

“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:26ESV).

                           Day 7, Gordon-Conwell 2017 Holy Week Devotional

Some of Harry’s Story


Harry Knutson’s family shared this about Harry’s life:

Harry Knutson, 93, died in his sleep on the evening of February 23rd while residing in his apartment at the Marshes in Savannah, Georgia.  Harry was born in the Bronx, New York and moved to City Island at age 3.  He loved the ocean, swimming, sailing and scuba diving.  He was an outstanding student and was able to enter Brooklyn Polytechnic University at age 16 for a BS in Chemistry.  He joined the Navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific as a radioman.  After being discharged from the Navy in 1946, he returned to City Island.  On a blind date, he met the love of his life, Ruth, and they were married in 1947.  He finished his studies at the university in 1949 and then started work at Allied Chemical and Dye Corp, in Morristown, NJ as a research chemist.  He maintained loyalty to this company for the next 40 years.  While working there he obtained a Masters Degree in Chemistry.  He started in positions of Technical Management and ended his career with Allied in 1988 in Technical Licensing Worldwide.  Late in his career he served a 4 year stent in Japan as vice president of a joint venture between Allied and Mitsui Corporation.  With this venture, he developed a new amorphous metal product called Metglass.  After retirement and having his fill of northern winters, he moved to Savannah to the Landings and finally the Marshes.
Harry and Ruth have 2 sons, Eric and Gary.  They took the family to church regularly and this is a heritage that his sons live out today.  Dad took them on many adventures.  His love of the water was contagious and all learned to swim, snorkel, fish, row and sail.  He was a licensed scuba diver and built his own compressor and fabricated his own wet suit.  Fascinated with geology, the family went on many rock hounding excursions.  We still have boxes of rocks in the basement.  The love of chemistry also never left his blood and the boys had “chemistry sets” that could make anything from nylon to explosions.  His adventurous spirit was not limited to stateside.  He and Ruth visited many foreign countries in Europe and Asia all of which he loved to photograph.
He was a great husband and father.  God greatly blessed our family.
Harry and Ruth in 1947