Archive for January, 2013

Royal Knew Them By Name

One of the treats of my many walks with Royal in his neighborhood was that he knew almost all of the neighbors by name. That’s an easy task if you live on a cul de sac like I used to. I will spare myself and you the burden of Google-earthing Royal’s suburban blocks. Suffice to say, there are dozens of houses in his vicinity. Need I add that he was privy to the spouse’s name as well.

In his typical humility, Royal shared with me that it wasn’t a big deal because he’d often canvas the neighborhood for donations to the American Cancer Society and other worthy causes.

Yeah, right! Even if I did the same thing for decades, which he did, I wouldn’t get the names straight past the sixth house. He had a scientist’s mind and a heart of gold. He not only knew their name, he knew their pain.

He was patient to listen to anyone’s story and he wasn’t afraid to tell them that he’d pray for them with his prayer-warrior wife, Davey. Later on, after Davey and he completed the long process of writing a testimonial-like autobiography, he’d pass them along with his customary smile.

It brings me a chuckle conjuring up someone actually saying “No” to his fundraising efforts.

Over a quarter of a century of walks, I grew to love his kind wave as we went by some of these lucky neighbors.

As Royal entered his nineties, his memory began to fail and he couldn’t quite bring to mind their names anymore. But an interesting and apropos twist came about; a poetic justice that only God Himself could write. All of the neighbors knew his name.

When Royal Cutler exited this world, he entered a new neighborhood and the most important Guy on the block knew Royal by name.

“He calls his own sheep by name.” John 10:3

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A Royal Hug – Pass It On

There are so many credible ministries to men and women. But there’s nothing like a father’s hug.

Besides his wise words and kind eyes, I will miss his hugs. How can a hug from one individual mean so much?

It’s the man whose arms enfold you.

Royal Cutler was a father-figure to many. If you were joyous, he was joyous with you. If you were concerned about a pressing issue, he’d listen to you and the Holy Spirit at the same time. If you were down, you’d actually seek him out the way electric cars now need a charging station.

I’m Italian and I was born to hug. His embrace was so meaningful, sincere, and often, long. The more you needed affirmation, encouragement or simple love, the longer this father hugged. I always wondered how he’d time such things. But, he seemed to know.

I believe Royal knew our Heavenly Father in a personal way. As His son, Royal was able to pass on what had been deposited into his heart.

I would literally bring men to Royal for a hug. “You must get a hug from Royal,” I’d say. Many of these men didn’t have the perfect father image and accompanying affirmation that all males need. With one hug, they could get that as Royal repeatedly asked God out loud, “Oh, bless ______, Father, bless him, bless him, bless him.” This verbal blessing mixed with the hug was usually just with the doctor ordered.

A friend, Arlene Schafer, knew of the effect of his hug and wrote, “I will especially miss his hugs. No one hugs like he did. I told him so. I told him that I sought him out to get a hug. It was like getting a hug from Jesus himself. He just laughed when I told him and shook his head. He was too humble to believe it!”

While we will all miss those two arms, I would encourage everyone who received that affirmation from Royal to consider passing it on.

Because he knew of his spiritual lineage as a son of the Most High King, we can label our embraces “a royal hug.” 



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The Sweet Tooth

I first learned of Royal’s gravitation toward desserts during one of the many “community meals” at Emmanuel Christian Church where Royal served as the literal elder of elders.

I loved to tease him about what others might reckon a propensity, but judging from his long life, perhaps the scientist knew how to balance his diet and exercise regiment as if to disqualify any detrimental effects of sugar.




He literally could sample just about all of the desserts, and there were many, on one bending paper plate.

I had a running joke with him whenever I observed that his dessert plate was full: “Royal, you missed one.”

His slight smirk and quick retort, “Oh, I’ll have to come back for it,” would always make my day.

I followed him in life as I did in the buffet line because he knew where the sweet parts of life were and he wasn’t shy about partaking in great measure of it.

It wasn’t unusual to hear even strangers describe him as “such a sweet man.” During a birthday breakfast trek to the Home Front Cafe in Altamont, the waitress made the entire luncheonette look at Royal as she bragged about her customer: “Can you believe he’s in his 90’s!” It was like being with a celebrity. And yes, he did devour some pie.Image

Our Waitress literally stared in awe of his winsome countenance. (NOTICE THE EMPTY DESSERT PLATE 🙂

That kindly characteristic was one that the world had such an appetite for because life is filled with some very unsweetened moments, and worse yet, stages. But Royal walked through those sugar-less times, including his final days at St. Peter’s Hospital, with such dignity that it evoked the exact same phrase from the nursing staff: “He’s such a sweet man.” That probably wasn’t something they said about every patient.

I tasted this rich aspect of Royal every time I was with him. I can honestly say that he was even like this lying in his hospice bed. When I couldn’t sleep one night, I decided to go over to the hospital. There was this terrific recliner with wheels. I rolled it parallel to his bed and shifted it to a bed-like position. I relaxed and put my hand in his. To my surprise, he gripped it and held it and I fell fast asleep. When I awoke, his hand still in mine, I could only describe my sleep as “sweet.”

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Standing at his hospice bedside, I realized that he’s teaching me about life through his death in the same way he taught me in life about death. In life, he taught me to “die” to myself and put others first. This was something he practiced, not just preached. I’m still trying to catch up with him on this point, much in the same way I had to push myself to stay in stride on our many walks together. (Upon learning of my foot ailment, the 92 year-old asked this 54 year-old if I’d like it if he’d slowed down!)

Without getting too esoteric, let me give some concrete examples of how Royal learned to die to self.

One of Royal’s favorite stories about this took place on a simple trip to the library. Davey, his wife, wanted to go and Royal emphatically did not. But the Lord was stern with him and said, “I want you not to just go begrudgingly, I want you to enjoy it.”

That’s sort of like going to the supermarket or shopping for women’s shoes.

Royal went and enjoyed it. It had a profound impact on him. Every time he repeated that story to me, I chuckled inside because I knew that he was repeating it to me for reasons more acute than a memory lapse on his part. Due to this fatherly diligence, that anecdote comes vividly to my mind whenever God deems it necessary.

Royal was easily the most tender-blunt man I had ever met. He’d say something that he knew might be hard to hear. But after the words made their way to my ears, I felt like a patient whose doctor had just said, “This won’t hurt a bit,” right before a spinal.” Yet, it was just what my spine needed and it was over before I knew it. Being on the sensitive side, I was given a fatherly-sort who could deliver correction, admonition and even reproof with the “spoonful of sugar that made the medicine go down.”  

The most poignant lesson I learned from him was about the timeless subject of true, versus romantic, love. I cannot quote him verbatim, but I will take a stab at its essence. We had just returned from a walk in his neighborhood and the topic of the day was marital love. I’m sure I must have brought it up in frustration.

He said something to the effect that “love is really about discovering how to treat and love your wife and when you learn how to do that, you’ll discover what love really is.”

The romantic in me was stung. All of my life, I had thought  about the perfect woman or at least various aspects of such. Furthermore, I believed in some 50/50 equation that just didn’t seem to be working out and how unjust love could be. In one fell swoop, the chemist had just set me up for a “solution” of incalculable worth.

He calmly delivered it with a pause in our walk and look over his shoulder that would have sent Rocky Marciano to the canvas.

It changed my life instead of my wife.

When I was in my twenties, I had become jealous of some people in visible ministries whom I thought were having a greater impact on the kingdom of God than myself. Royal’s paternal advice: “You’re a young father and raising a child is the most important ministry in the world.” At the time, it sounded like he was trying to make me feel better about my station in life. But, as the years went on, and I would witness so many parents make the same mistake, I concluded that sacrificing family on the altar of ministry was not what God meant by being the “priest of your family.”

As I observe his approach to the finish line and see the parade of people that Royal has touched coming in and out of the hospice room, I can’t help but think that he also passed on to them so much life through his death-to-self on earth.

And so Royal literally lived the hardest of gospel lessons: “He that finds his life shall lose it; and he that loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:39

Just past that finish line, all of heaven will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were well-named.” 



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A Royal Welcome

It was the worst night’s sleep. I was in pain, but too exhausted to get up. I tossed, I turned. I shifted the pillow. I petted Mercy our cat who was on my chest. I tried holding my wife’s hand. But I found no peace and little rest. All night long, I thought of my adopted dad, Royal Cutler, Jr. He was lying in pain in the Hospice Inn at St. Peter’s in Albany, New York. But somehow, he seemed at peace just a few hours ago.

There was one difference between us. He didn’t seem to complain. I, on the other hand…well, I wasn’t a happy camper. But, it all made me wonder how he could lie there with such amazing calm. Before he went into a coma-like state, his blue eyes were as deep and as beautiful as ever. With a oxygen mask that covered most of his face, he would ask, “How long have you been here?” He would smile when we told him we loved him. In general, he managed to remain in peace.

Out of all of the qualities that I have learned from him over these last thirty years, I would have to list peace-that-comes-from-trust-in-God as one near the top. His composure came from a steadfast faith. As we’d walk and talk or sit side by side, he’d often remind me that, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.”

I wonder how many people have mastered that sense of trust. There’s a near paradox here. Many times, there are situations that we cannot change. Yet, we squirm as if we can. Conversely, God can change them. So, logically, we should be at rest. It all has to do with coming to know God as Father.

He knew his heavenly Dad in a childlike way. For example, there’s a song that goes, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Royal would often sing the melody, but substitute, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha” and so on. It was nearly impossible not to join in and cherish an older man singing like a little kid. Royal’s secret was that he knew his stature before God. He really was a child…of God. As a brilliant chemist, he discovered many things for a company that treated pain through pharmaceuticals. But this surety of being a son of God was his greatest “patent,” one that helped him as he lie in the Hospice Inn.

So, while I tossed and turned and wondered about Royal’s condition, he had already left his earthly tent at 10:15 p.m. and was being given a royal welcome by Heaven’s King – who also happened to be his Dad. Even on his deathbed, Royal was still fathering me. ImageImageAbove: Royal’s holding of my hand was an earthly lesson of a heavenly reality. Below: Dr. Royal Cutler, Jr. looking out at the world through those beautiful blue eyes.

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I went to see a literal “old” friend. He has seen nearly a century of God’s faithfulness. Within hours or days, he will see that same God face to face.

I wonder how the doting staff of the hospital sees this old man with his hospital gown exposing his now bony shoulder. How could they know that they were caring for the most Jesus-in-the-flesh man I have ever known?

It wasn’t until he was in his fifties that he became a son of God, professing Christ as his savior. Although one would think he had lost his first five decades, he surely made up for lost time during the past forty years.

He had a marvelous career in pharmaceutical research, patents and all. Around the time of his retirement, a heart attack prompted his physician to inform him that he had only ten years left if he took care of himself. This is an example of why they say a doctor is NOT God.

For me, the most remarkable thing about his life was that he had a son in his sixties. Although I’m speaking figuratively, it’s still quite a wonderful thing for me to ponder. I am that son. Royal had just retired when I asked him if he would help me understand the Old Testament. Although one would think that grasping the bible through his great scientific mind is what would make him the ideal teacher, it wasn’t just that quality that made me approach him with the request.

Royal was kind, wise and patient. Perhaps I saw some of my own recently-deceased dad in him. They both had strikingly beautiful blue eyes and a gentle nature.

He was everything I needed. It wasn’t a bother to him, even when he finally had to scold me for being a repeat offender in the category of punctuality. I was like a college freshman when it came to making our early morning meetings. It only took one time to get through my thick skull that this was a respect and maturity issue, something that none of my college professors were successful at. It was just this type of thing that molded our meetings into something far greater than an apprenticeship. He was guiding my spirit into the application of scripture in my life. I was in my twenties and would always stumble into his presence with barely enough gas in my soul’s tank. But after one hour with him and the bible, I would settle down like a well-nursed baby.

We had become the quintessential “Tuesdays With Morrie” duo, but much, much more. He began to pry open the very door  of heaven so I could get a glimpse of the Father heart of God.





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A White Wedding

The last few posts had to do with snow and prayer. 

Why not one more stab at it?

I went to attend my niece’s winter wedding in Princeton and there had been some predictions of snow.

On the morning of the wedding, an ever-increasing snowfall promised a “White Christmas”- backdrop for the ceremony. 

It turned out to be just enough to make a wedding even more beautiful than it already is, but safe enough that the limo didn’t get into a fender bender and the bride’s gown wasn’t soaking.


For most of the residents in the Princeton area, it was just a snowy Saturday. But for my niece, it was figuratively theImage “icing on her cake.” 

There’s only one Guest who can give a present like that.


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