“God is Always There: Psalms for Every Moment,” a new book by Sister Kathleen Atkinson, OSB, pairs the ancient prayers of Old Testament psalmists with stories of struggle and hope in everyday life.
With each psalm and story, Atkinson encourages people to take time for reflection, to allow the message to settle in, followed by a simple prayer and a suggestion for an action to put the prayer into practice in daily life.
Atkinson has often written columns and articles “of a reflective nature,” she said, and was invited to write the book after someone sent one of her articles from “Tidings,” a Benedictine publication, to an acquisitions editor at Liguori Press.
When she was contacted by the editors and asked if she would be willing to write a book, her immediate reaction was, “This sounds like a fun challenge.”
She met with editors to talk about ideas for a book and, from the conversations, settled on a topic — her passion “that God is very accessible and close.”
Life is not divided into good or sad, she said. Any ordinary day for her may include talking with people in pain and crisis, celebrating with her Benedictine sisters in the Annunciation community and taking part in community activities, she said, “but the consistent piece in all that is that God is there. That’s the life experience that the book came out of.”
She began her conversations with her editors last July, working together on creating a table of contents and a sample chapter. The executive board of the publishing company approved the project in September and issued a contract for a book to be completed by December.
“God is Always There: Psalms for Every Moment” divides the biblical psalms into themes appropriate for situations and emotions such as “To Cry for Help,” “To Live Unafraid,” “To Take Heart” and “To Rejoice.”
For Atkinson, being a member of a Benedictine community means “first of all, we pray the Psalms three times a day,” a practice that immerses the community in the words of the Psalms year in and year out: “We are constantly imbued with them,” she said.
“They are the real prayers, they came out of the language of the people of the time,” she said. Some shout in anger, “Where are you, God?” Others ask God to destroy their enemies — “Not the nice stuff,” she said. And in others, the people “are dancing and praising God, so intimate and so close,” she said.
Though many of the reflective stories are written about Atkinson’s own experiences, she chose to write them in the third person.
“I wanted (people) to come away, not with my experience, but with an identification of their own, a springboard to find meaning and God in your life,” she said.
Atkinson will be working on a second book, she said. It will focus on a “radical risk-taker” from each century up to our own.
A book signing with Atkinson has been scheduled at the Rainbow Shop from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 3. The book is available at bookstores, through Amazon, or online at www.liguori.org.
Kari Bitz’s book
Another Bismarck author, Kari Bitz, has published a daily devotional of prayer and encouragement, “People-Centered Prayer” (Tate Publishing and Enterprises).
Bitz said she understands how busy people are with families, jobs and homes and that devoting time to God every day isn’t always the first priority. But in her book, she says she believes prayer is effective and challenges readers to make time for God.
Bitz is the founder of Cord of 3 Ministries, a nonprofit interdenominational organization. She has organized a 40-week focus on prayer and fasting for more than 40 churches.