One of my former teens died this year. His name was Jordan Hacker. He was a good looking kid who was usually getting into some sort of trouble from the moment I met him. The mysterious thing about him was that he was so reserved and respectful around adults... at least at church. He had a humble approach to adults that made you want to help him. Sure, I had to "sush" him every once in a while, but I blame that more of Coree Tennant, who was inevitably sitting beside him and was his best friend until the day he died. Coree is the one that called me to tell me and ask me if I would officiate the funeral. I couldn't. I was flying out of town and couldn't even attend, let alone be present for Jordan's family. The full story of his death is too sad to share, and almost too sad for me to even think about again.

This is the third former teen of mine who has died... that I know of. I officiated the funerals of the other two (Zach Eisel and Crystal Grenier). I have also officiated some weddings of former teens. I prefer those. In fact, I welcome those. I am probably honored to be asked to do either one, but I definitely prefer weddings. Most of us probably do. I do have one friend who prefers officiating funerals.

"We sit around at funerals, feeling sorry for the unfortunate person whom death happened to. We say nice things about the person; we dig a hole and put the body in the hole and cover the casket with all our questions."
- Donald Miller "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years"
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The Adoption Is Real!

Our dossier (the document that make us officially ok to adopt from the US) was mailed to Ethiopia today from our adoption agency AMERICA WORLD!!!!! 3-6 months until our actual referral...most likely! This is real people!!!!!!

You may wonder why I don't write about the adoption more, or at all, on here. Kelly and I have decided that her blog was the most natural place to consistently update people about the adoption. We also have a Facebook Fan Page called James and Kelly Smith Adoption Page (very creative we are) that we keep regularly updated. To follow our journey please check in with one of those two places.

I am sure I will begin to share my thoughts, excitement, fears, plans, dreams for the adoption and our son on here eventually, but those have primarily been share verbally with friends and family so far.

All I know is that I am excited and I can't wait to bring that boy home!!!
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Marriage Enrichment: "Garth & Kat" Sing... AND So Do James & Kelly

Kelly was getting ready for bed tonight and I was telling her that my parents and I watched the Garth and Kat portion of SNL this weekend when I was at their house. At that point I started to recreate a portion of it and Kelly chimed in. In these sketches Garth starts singing and Kat tries to sing with him. It took me two songs to figure out what was going on and who was leading, but it is pretty funny to watch.

In typical Kelly/James fashion we then sat around in our living room and tried to do this. First I led and Kelly followed and she was amazing! We laughed so hard that tears were definitely welling up and Kelly's neck hurt afterward from the strain. It was probably the hardest we have laughed together in months. We couldn't stop. Kelly is actually really good at following my lead, but I have a difficult time keeping it PG when I am on the fly like that... usually some innocent animal ends up getting killed or maimed in our renditions.

If you and your significant other haven't had a good laugh in a while, watch this, pick a topic and give it a whirl. It feels so good to laugh together... and "make music".

I love Kelly!!!

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New Hope Community OR "I was changed"

Since the last week of December I have been preaching on Sundays (and a couple Saturdays) at New Hope Community in Boardman/Youngstown. Their pastor left in November and Dr. Downs asked me to help bridge the gap and preach for at least month. At first I said no, feeling a little overwhelmed with the other demands in life lately. After Kelly and I spoke about it a little more and committed some prayer to it we decided to call back and say yes.

It has been a blessing.

I love this community of "everyday life missionaries" living out their faith in Northeast Ohio. My second week preaching there they voted on a new pastoral family and confirmed their call to Adam and Jackie Stevens. When I said yes I knew that they were considering Adam and Jackie and this made it ever more appealing to me. I learned so much about preparing the way for a new pastor through this experience. Every week I felt like God opened my eyes to the next thing to share.

I started by preaching on Christian Community (go figure), specifically about how God CALLS US into Christian community. Throughout Scripture this is the case. It is at the initiation of God and the response of us. Paul Hanson speaks about this a lot in his book "The People Called".

I also touched on how it is a GIFT from God, and not something that is guaranteed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke about this a lot in Life Together, as he reflected on his experiences in Christian Community after it was stripped away as he was isolated in prison.

The next few weeks we journeyed through Ephesians 4:1-16 and unpacked what it takes to live in Christian Community. We really focused on Ephesians 4:2, which the Lord has been bringing to my mind every time I am about to go off on someone lately... it's been very helpful. "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love." Those words seem so simple and trite, but when you really dwell on them and apply them to the way we treat one another it is easy to see how the practice of that verse can lead to very healthy Christian Community. This verse has changed me and I hope it continues to.

I continued on through that passage over the next couple of weeks and discussed our need to celebrate what we have in common and to fulfill the functions/roles we are gifted and called to do within the body of believers. The last message from that passage discussed the results of the first 11 verses and what a united, fully functioning, celebratory community of believer would look like to those around them.

Two weeks about I went back and spoke about practical ways to develop Christian Community (like my favorite of eating with one another) and loving one another. Finally, this week I preached about loving our neighbors in the way of the Good Samaritan.

For some reason I can't really summarize how amazing this experience was for me personally and for that church body and I together. I'm not satisfied with this attempt to describe it's impact on myself or them. This is a good summary of what I was led to share, but hopefully I can express the impact of this time more adequately in another post.

Instead I will summarize my feelings about this experience with some simple words of Jayber Crow, "I was changed".
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