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We all have questions about suffering. Why does it happen? Why does God let it happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people…

When I first became a father, I grappled with these questions even more. I don’t want my kids to suffer. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them. I understand God has His purposes, but find it hard to relate to my own parenthood fully. One thing I did get though is how good it feels to be the one your child turns to when they are hurting. I told someone I would rather my children never fall, but one redeeming thing is after they fall, they let me hold them. When they are doing fine, they sometimes act like they don’t need me at all!

Today my precious wife started preparing for my upcoming birthday. Our house is starting to fill with little pictures of what she and our girls like about me. Kate was working on one when I had a little accident in the kitchen. I was bending down for something and somehow caught my side on an edge of metal sticking out of the door (which I had not really noticed was there to be honest).

As news of my wounding spread through the house, Kate started a sympathy picture:

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It really touches my heart to see her ideas expressed in her drawings. I’m sad, and she’s sad. I have an awful bloody spot on my side (the proportions might be exaggerated, but it did hurt). She’s thinking about a flower, picking a flower for me, and has a band aid ready in the other hand. And she’s saying “oh no!”.

Until I saw this picture, I was upset about my little incident. I was thinking now I’m going to have this annoying spot back there until it heals, however long that takes. Why wasn’t I paying attention… But after I saw Kate’s art, I was happy. What if I had missed out on her lovely expression of love for me?

Not all pain is so easily redeemed, but I was glad today’s was.

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March is usually the worst month of the year here in Chiang Mai. Smokey dust and dusty smoke from fires set to clear farmland before planting season float into the area and get stuck between the surrounding mountains. A gross haze settles above us. The hills in the distance are thinly veiled at first, then invisible as time goes by. Some days, a drive down the highway seems like a tour through buildings hovering in the clouds.

This year has been better than most. And for that we are very grateful. Not only did we have a cooler than normal and longer than normal winter, we also started March with relatively clean air. One more month, I kept telling myself, one more month. April will bring cleaner air. We’re almost there.

Sometime during the middle of the month though, the grossness began. And then, almost overnight, we were in the thick of the nasty season. Stepping out of the bedroom in the morning brought the smell of a campfire. By nighttime, my eyes were hurting from what I call a “pollution headache”. Every and any occasion moved indoors. By the first day of spring (there’s officially no such thing as spring in Thailand, we are in the hot season and waiting for the beginning of rainy season), the air was as bad as I’ve seen it in the last three years.

The next day I heard a rumor of a forecast of rain. Apparently there was a drizzle (which I missed while in a meeting), enough to see a blue sky the following afternoon. That was followed by a 5 minute violent downpour, together with hail – and probably some toxic dust mixed in while falling to the ground. By Monday we had a beautiful day, rejoicing we could breath freely in late March. What a novel idea! What a beautiful difference a little rain can make. I celebrated by taking my daughters on a neighborhood walk 2 nights in a row.

So tonight I’ll take this moment to be thankful for the breeze I felt and for the blessing of this past winter. I’m thankful that it could be much worse. And I’m asking for the rains to come. In the past week, the haze has slowly crept back into our lives. I had a headache today, and as I was driving I realized it could be from the air getting worse again. We expect April to better. Let it be so. Amen.

Legacy

Today I finally was able to confirm what I thought might have been true. While on a hiatus from facebook, I missed the news of the death of a great man of God I was privileged to know during my ten years in Shillong. Rev. R.J. Skinner, the founder of The Assembly Church of Jesus Christ, died in Shillong in February.

I first attended CoJC a short time after moving to Shillong at the end of 1999. Having attended meetings in many different parts of the city, I continued to be drawn there and ended up attending whenever I wasn’t traveling or speaking somewhere else for the majority of my season there until the end of 2009. It was at that time – a week or two before I left – that Pastor Skinner suffered a debilitating stroke, after which he was never the same. His wife said at that time that he always intended to keep ministering until his death and never retire. The stoke occurred while he was in Assam, where he was speaking at an evangelistic meeting in a largely unreached area.

His legacy is truly great. Tonight as I searched the internet, I saw this article a friend had posted from Charisma News. Beautifully written, it contains a lot of truth I can testify to firsthand. He was highly respected, but carried himself in humility. I was honored to speak at CoJC several times. Sometimes it was to replace him or others as they traveled. Many times he was actually in the audience, nodding approval from the front row. I’m thankful to have met him and to have known him. My respect for him continues to grow, even though he is no longer with us in this world.

It’s bittersweet to read about the 50 Year Jubilee celebrations of CoJC that are happening right now. I’m sure they have mentioned Pastor Skinner often, but I know they miss him a great deal at the same time. We look forward to seeing him again one day, and we recommit ourselves to continuing his legacy, even as we are forging our own.

 

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Pastor Skinner and I after a morning service in 2004

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Pastor Skinner talking with my parents, and I. With Thelma Thomas. Photos by Ike Thomas.

These are the only photos of Pastor Skinner and I that I can find…

We’re back in Thailand after spending around 7 weeks in America. Here are some of the best photos from our time:

 

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The Houser cousins – Jacobi, Kate, and Serah
 
ImageFour Generations of Tylers – Bill and Helen, Pam, Summer, Kate and Serah
 
ImageFamily time in California – Serah is held by Summer’s sister, Kari; then Summer, Pam (her Mom); and Kari’s sons Luke and Noah
 
ImageSerah’s first trip to the Pacific Ocean made her tired
 
ImageKate touching starfish at the aquarium in Monterey, CA
 
ImageSerah eating sweet corn fresh from Grandpa and Grandma’s garden
 
ImageJim and Ruthie (Dave’s parents) with their grandchildren in front of the Atlantic Ocean
 
ImageSummer and the girls with flowers in Lancaster County
 
ImageHousers in Lampeter (l-r): Ginger, Jeff, Jim, Ruthie, Dave, and Barry
 
ImageHanging around on Grandpa’s tractor
 

Eight

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On June 17, 2005, I married Summer Dawn – the beautiful woman with the beautiful name. It fits in so many ways that she be called by the warmest season and the first light of day. It’s appropriate to her personality, as well as a description of how she lives her life – bringing light and truth to new places, a breaking forth, a declaration of what will be.

Life goes by really fast, and our lives continue to change all the time. What we could never have predicted has come true. The woman who loves generosity has since given me the two most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received. We’ve traveled and moved. We’ve had seasons of uncertainty and seasons of feeling settled. We’ve said goodbye to many old friends, and we’ve started over, making new ones. And we’re privileged to have loved ones in every part of the world.

As I was reflecting back today I remembered back to before all of what we have now. When I was single I wondered if and when I would ever get married. Was someone going to love me? Would I be able to be myself around them? One of my favorite reflections about God is that the One who knows me the most loves me the most. It’s affirming to know that among my earthly friends, the same is true. She chose me, and she’s going to stay with me.

Thanks for the last eight years. I look forward to many more.

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One of the highlights for many people at a Call2All conference is praying on a large map of the world. It’s incredible to walk across regions of the world, almost feeling like you are walking through the nations. See if you can find anyone you know…

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