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Where is the Pathway?

Do you ever feel like you're wandering in your life with God? Maybe you know you "should" be praying or reading the Bible or having some kind of time that you're setting aside for God, but you get to that time and you feel lost. What do I do? What do I read? How do I pray? Is God even listening?

I just returned from a backpacking trip with my good friend, Jana. We always go to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but we've never had two trips that were the same. Each year, we never know what we'll find and so we always begin with curiosity.

But one thing is predictable. We know how we'll stay on trail. We'll look for the blue blazes.

Sometimes, there are metal squares sticking out of the trees, other times, it's just paint on the trunk. And sometimes, the paint on the trunk is covered by hanging limbs or has faded throughout the summer.

The blue blazes are not always entirely obvious. But if we keep looking, we know we'll find them. One year, we were hiking in the dark while snow fell steadily and covered the well-worn paths and even the recently fallen leaves. Using our headlamps, it was hard to pick out the blue blazes in the snow and the dark, but eventually, we found our way to Lost Lake.

This year, there was one particular junction on the trail that really emphasized just how important these blue blazes are to any hiker. On the left side, you'll see a very obvious 2 track fire road. If we weren't paying attention, we would continue merrily along the wide track. But if you look carefully on the right side of the photo, you'll see some blue blazes marking a much less obvious path.

These blue blazes are a great metaphor for the relief of having companions on the spiritual journey. When we find ourselves wandering around in the dark, looking for Lost Lake, or standing confused at a crossroads, it's quite a joy to stumble upon a blue blaze that tells us, "This is the way others have walked. It will get you somewhere worth going."

We can find these companions by following the paths laid out by spiritual guides from the past and by finding patient and attentive friends in the present. I have personally benefited so much from long-ago guides like Ignatius of Loyola, Julian of Norwich, Theresa of Avila as well as from more contemporary folks like Jan Johnson, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, and David Benner.

But there's nothing quite like walking with a human companion along the way. Even with blue blazes, the journey through the woods would only be half as good without Jana's conversation and companionship along the way. Likewise, I am grateful to have had a few fabulous spiritual directors who have walked with me along the path. People with big hearts and patient souls who have pointed out blue blazes and said, "Try this path. It's a good one" and then have listened well as I processed my experiences along the way.

Do you need someone to walk with you? To point out some blue blazes? I highly recommend finding a spiritual director or spiritual coach. And if you want to talk to me more about either, I'd love to help you find a first step forward.

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