Today’s Word: ‘Chrysalis’ as in… a great image for understanding the Wilderness stage. The caterpillar turns into a chrysalis before emerging as a butterfly.

This is a good time to ask, “What am I doing?” “Where am I going?” “Why am I doing this?” But we must not rush this. For many, the natural response is to grab hold of something—anything—new, in order to get out of the discomfort. But if sufficient time isn’t allowed for the pieces to fall into place in their own way, unhealthy decisions can easily sabotage the entire process. The purpose of exploring “Wilderness” is to face reality, and creatively explore new ways of doing things. In spite of the instability, the “Wilderness” can be a time of great creativity, innovation, and renewal which requires time, reflection, experimentation—even disagreement. So when we’re in the “Wilderness,” the task at hand is to just be in it.

Here are 10 ways we can make the most of “The Wilderness” and perhaps even shorten it.

1) Shift your attitude by reminding yourself that this is a time of redefinition and not a time of meaningless waiting—even if it doesn’t look like it.

2) Readjust expectations and accept that this will be a less productive time – for now.

3) Limit additional changes; resist the urge to add more to your plate.

4) Expect uncomfortable emotions like fear, confusion, even despair.

5) Get creative. The Wilderness can be a good time to question, experiment, brainstorm.

6) Take time to be alone on a regular basis; seek solitude.

7) Set some short-term, achievable goals to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and forward movement.

8) Track your progress by journaling, going on a retreat, connecting with a friend or a coach regularly, or merely giving yourself time to reflect.

9) Resist the urge to skip this phase pressing prematurely for certainty or closure before you’re really ready.

10) Know that you can survive. It may not feel like it, but you will live through this and come out on the other side.

So hang on… the “Aha!” is coming!





Today’s Word: ‘Riddle’ as in… I have one for you: “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?”

In this classic riddle presented to Oedipus Rex by the Sphinx in Greek Mythology, Oedipus Rex was the first one to solve it—all the others who failed were eaten by the Sphinx—after which she threw herself down a chasm.

Wow. And I thought I had test anxiety!

The solution: Humankind.

As a baby, a human goes about on all fours (“four legs in the morning;” morning = infancy) until the child learns to walk (“two legs at noon;” noon = childhood) well into adulthood (“three legs in the afternoon;” afternoon = adulthood). Such is the picture of transition.

Now from Greek Mythology to the Scriptures: Themes of Change and Transition leading into the Wilderness are found in many biblical stories.

The central human figures in the Genesis poem move from paradise through guilt and shame toward a new point “East of the Garden” the direction of renewal.

Sarai and Abram move from Abram’s home country through the wilderness toward a land that God would show them.

Job moves from “having it all” (large family, huge flocks, strong name), through utter desolation (catastrophe, death, grief, loss) on toward restoration.

Jesus moves from childhood (teaching in the Temple at 12), through adolescence and young adulthood (a carpenter) toward his ministry in adulthood.

But the most significant picture of change and transition, however, is the Exodus. The Israelites move from oppression in Egypt through the unknown Wilderness toward the land of promise. In each case, people have grieved faced their losses, let them go, ready to move into the second phase—wilderness: that confusing in-between place where people are no longer who and where they were, but not yet who and where they’re going to be.

For most people, this wilderness is very uncomfortable. Yet, it’s also known as a place of exploration (adventure?) because it explains the movement that must take place.

Really? How puzzling!



StillnessToday’s Word: ‘Still” as in… only through being still can we experience a renewal that will lead us to, and through, the next part of the journey.

Considering all of those questions I gave you yesterday… even if you took time for a handful, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed.

That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a sign of health to be able to feel anything at that depth.

There are many ways to navigate “The Endings.” The most important first step is this: seek some stillness.

Find some solitude in the midst of your swirling world which seems to be constantly changing, demanding, challenging. People do this in many different ways. Some will set aside time every day to sit quietly and think, and listen. Others will write in a journal, still others will pray and meditate. A few will listen. Many will go for a run or a swim.

Whatever you do, seek some moments for your interior to slow down.

Tomorrow is a sabbath, a day of rest. Let’s do this together tomorrow. The point is that it’s probably a really good idea to resist—if not reject the demand to respond, act, decide what’s next.

Just be still.

Become aware of your drive to “sort if all out.” Trust me, only through this stillness can we experience the renewal that will lead us to, and through, the next part of the journey: The Wilderness.

For now, be still.




QuestionsToday’s Word: ‘Questions’ as in… let me give you some questions to wrestle through:

Go back to your early childhood and recall some experiences involving endings. Some may have been overwhelming, perhaps a death in the family. Others may have been significant to everyone except you—your parent’s departure on a trip, the death of a pet, or a friend moving away.

Now ask yourself: Why is change important? What’s the benefit, what’s the downside? What’s changing in your life right now? What will actually change? What will you lose, what will you gain?

Think of a current change and respond yes or no: Have I defined clearly what is over and what isn’t? Have I let myself grieve and acknowledged the losses even when they seem like overreaction? Have I worked hard to unpack old baggage, heal old wounds, and finish unfinished business? Have I found ways to ‘mark the ending’, not to denigrate the past, to find ways to honor it? Have I said thank you to everyone who has contributed? What pieces of the past will I bring with me into the future? Have I equipped myself with the necessary information and knowledge I need to manage this aspect of the transition?

Now that this change has occurred, what old ways of doing things must I give up? What have I lost? What needs do I have that will no longer be met? How can I meet those needs in other ways?

Because of this change, what parts of myself and the way I see myself are now out of date? How can I grieve these losses? What can I do to symbolically say good-bye?

Acknowledging the losses and creating a way to symbolically or ritually let go of them can help us to end well and move on to the next phase of transition, the Wilderness.

Go ahead and spend some time with these questions. They’re important.

And so is working through them.



DisToday’s Word: ‘Dis—“ as in… ‘Man, did I get ‘dissed’ on that or what?

Let’s take a quick look at the five “disses” of the Ending Stage.

First, dis-engagement means to break with a familiar social pattern. It involves acknowledging that ties between people, structures and present roles are loosening. Disengagement is a frequent theme in ancient and modern stories: Jesus journeys forty-days in the wilderness. Harry Potter leaves home for Hogwarts. It is the part of an ending where we most experience loss.

Second, dis-mantling is the process of taking apart old mind-sets, habits, past behaviors and practices one piece at a time.

Third, we experience dis-identification through the loss of our old understanding of who we are.

Fourth, dis-enchantment involves the growing acceptance that the reality in which we blindly trusted is, in some crucial respect, false. Discovering the truth about Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or when you discover that a leader, a lover, a best friend, a spouse, is not who you thought they were.

Fifth, dis-orientation is the disruption of the status quo when suddenly our orientation is altered. We feel like a vessel bobbing on the water without compass or star sightings. We don’t know where we are and we don’t know if we’re ever going to go somewhere ever again.

I watched all five of these movements happen in my dad’s life when my mom died in 2006. The following twelve months were an example of complete powerlessness. There was depression, denial, anger, listlessness, and confusion. A critical step in his healing process was first accepting the fact that something ended; it was the end of a 62 year-long companionship with the woman he’d known since junior high. He had to acknowledge that before he could begin to accept the new idea.

No easy task at all. This took much time.

If we don’t acknowledge the emotions that we’re going through, we’ll likely encounter resistance throughout the entire change process.

But this is a leap. This is a gigantic leap. This is a leap of faith.

More to come!



EndingsToday’s Word: ‘Endings’ as in… the first stage of transition.

All transitions have three stages: ending of something familiar, wilderness, and new beginning. It’s a time to assess where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. But there’s always one constant: everyone moves at their own pace. Those who are comfortable with a change will likely move through wilderness to new beginnings more quickly; others will linger at stages one or two.

Endings are about leaving, losing, letting go, and every transition begins with an ending. You can’t start something new until you let go of the old. Whenever we experience change, we must acknowledge an ending. We also must deal with the pain and loss that comes with change. Depending on the situation, this can be extremely painful. Our default is to default to the past because it gives us a false sense of comfort and control. However, it is important to identify what is being lost, grieve those losses, and let them go.

Successful transition begins with grieving losses and letting go of the old situation.

So here’s the key point: we have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up with the new thing—not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are.

Over the next couple of days we’ll explore five aspects of the natural ending experience: dis-engagement, dis-mantling, dis-identification, dis-enchantment, and dis-orientation.

These “dis-es” are closely aligned with the five-stage grief sequence Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. One can begin anywhere and move through the rest in any fashion, perhaps even circling back to certain ones several times. But unless one experiences all of them, one doesn’t truly end, and, therefore, can’t truly begin again.

So hang on, my friends!



TransitionToday’s Word: ‘transition’ as in… what we do internally with the external changes in life.

Transition is the emotional, psychological, internal response, the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that we go through in order to incorporate changes into our lives. Without transition, change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. In change we ask, “What just happened?” Transition helps us ask, “What will happen in response to change?”

While transition is a normal, natural and necessary human process, some people deny and avoid it. When we don’t have a safe, productive ways to express and process our feelings, we’ll internalize them. That’s when our emotions re-appear in denial, anger, fear, frustration, cynicism, skepticism. The result is often inward and outward resistance which slows down or stops the needed change in our lives.

So how do we know if we’re at a transition point? There are several hints: what used to be easy is now hard; our performance plateaus, neither getting better or worse; after losing our job we’re forced to rethink who we are and what we have to offer; we’re unhappy in our current life and work situation; we’re tired of doing the same thing over and over; there’s low motivation to create good things; our relationships aren’t working; we’re thrust into a life role for which we feel unprepared; we have a general uncertainty about life and work purpose; we’re angry all the time at the people who put us in this position; we don’t want to talk or think about the future; we just want things to stay the same; we’re afraid of what the future will bring – it can only be bad; we feel completely helpless, like we’ve lost all control over lives.

Whew! Take a couple of big, deep breaths. I’ll wait.

So where are you with all of this today? It probably feels unsettling. That’s okay. I’ll walk you through this. These are necessary moments. You can’t go around this; you’ve got to go through this.

Two things are coming: the Wilderness and then the New Beginning!

Stay tuned for some thriving!