When a book is close to home.

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A collection of my prayers and reflections during the last year was published recently (God. We Still Need You). I want to tell a little bit of what led to it coming out.

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We were walking from the emergency room to the cath lab waiting area. It was midnight. The young woman next to me was concerned about her husband. Appropriately. An hour before, after much testing, they’d been told that he had pericarditis. In the space between the heart and the lining around the heart, fluid was gathering. Now, a team had gathered to drain the fluid.

It happens often. This team is experienced, the procedure is well-rehearsed.

“They are pointing a needle at his heart,” the young woman said. “I know that it’s safe, but still.”

I nodded. “It’s safe, but as chaplains we always are aware of the 1% or the .1%.”

“I know,” she said. “I edited that chapter.”

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This collection would not exist without that young woman. Hope Swanson Smith is our daughter. She’s the one who did the collecting. She pulled posts from my blogs, made the formatting consistent, did a read-through, offered questions like, “This is what you had. Is this what you meant?”

She also helped me think through the seasonal structure (Advent, Christmastide and Epiphany, Lent, and so on.) Out of those conversations, we arrived at the sectional introductions, written after the year was over, to create the context for the prayers and essays between. She suggested the writer for the Afterword, which was a wise suggestion. She even created the art for the cover.

This wasn’t the hard work, however. The hard work was that she read her year as she read through the book. The pericarditis happened just before the book was published. But during the year before, Hope and Dan watched a whole job process disappear. Like many people, she had her music season cancelled. She and Dan lost a baby, moved a few times, and kept wondering all year long about what was happening next.

“I’m sorry for making you walk through this,” I said at one point as she was editing. But she was committed to working through the process. Reading these prayers were reminders of moments throughout the year. And yet, there was some help in the reading, and a confidence that other people may be helped, too.             

We offer this collection not as a book of answers. Instead, it’s a gathering of moments where we spoke to the one who we knew, though not always felt, was constant.

And it would have been a long time coming if it weren’t for Hope.

Thank you beautiful.

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