Part of our shared humanity is the recognition that all of us, “great and small,” are on a search for spiritual truth. Solomon wrote that God has set eternity in our hearts.
If that is true, then people from all walks of life, and from all eras, have much more in common than we might initially realize.
This very thought came to me as I read a terrific new devotional, “Signposts,” by New York publishing veteran Eric Kampmann. I’ve seen a lot of devotionals over the years, and this is one of the very best.
Kampmann is an elegant man, and he’s crafted an elegant book. Yet what separates it from others is the fact that it is meant to be shared with his fellow man, wherever we all come from. “Signposts” speaks to the factory worker, attorney, soccer mom … the list is almost endless. The devotional is the product of a man who came to the end of himself and sought God with all his heart.
It began for Eric Kampmann, this journey, in April 1987. He had risen to a place of stature in the competitive jungle of New York, but one day, amid the specter of business failings, he felt an overwhelming urge to leave his office and go buy a Bible!
I’ve visited with Eric, and while he has the air of a sophisticate, it was his gritty encounter with the living God that really shaped him. He has an astonishing grasp on the various priorities and agendas of the Christian world, ranging from evangelicals to the mainline. But it his grasp of the fact that we are all Everyman when it comes to finding truth that makes him a compelling figure.
“Signposts” is a year-long devotional, and the great thing about it is, one can jump in on any date and just pick right up. For example, if a friend gives it to you as a gift on April 6, you can read right through and savor the meaty flavor up to the next April.
The very first entry, Jan. 1, gives a clue that Kampmann is a gifted writer: “The calendar has turned a page, and we find ourselves confronted by a new year. The revels have ended, and we awake to the prospects of new goals, new challenges, even ‘a new you’! Of course, most of us know that nothing much has changed since yesterday. The past has not been wiped clean; our little foibles are still tapping us on the shoulder; our regrets and sorrows did not vanish when the clock struck twelve.”
These entries reveal a writer possessed of a rare gift: simplicity coupled with that elegance I mentioned. The way the sentences and phrases and thoughts are constructed in “Signposts” makes this particular devotional accessible and meaningful for everyone from Catholics to Pentecostals. It’s impossible to come up with “favorite” entries in the book, but consider a snippet of the March 25 entry, entitled “Barrier Builders”:
“Even though God comes in ‘awesome majesty’ and ‘golden splendor,’ He cares for all of us, and especially the wise in heart,” Kampmann writes. “God seeks us out one by one, but we often respond by putting up our own barriers in order to hide behind them.”
He goes on to say that while we often hear that people long for a relationship with God, in reality, we build walls around ourselves, either through pride, or considering ourselves to be too insignificant for the Creator of the universe to care about our problems.
This kind of insight soaks through on every page of “Signposts.”
Kampmann also peppers the entries with compelling, small stories that illustrate the points that he makes so well. From the experience of an atheist, Howard Storm (who found spiritual transformation in a death experience) to the characters of the Bible, we see a shared humanity.
Kampmann also affirms worldviews held dear by conservatives, such as the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the historicity of events such as the Exodus.
“Signposts” is many things, but in part it is the product of a simple man who observed people and life and came to a moment when his afternoon appointments, troubles and worries met the living Christ.
That April afternoon so many years ago was the key signpost in Eric Kampmann’s life. His new book just might very well be the same for you.