If Only . . .

Scripture (Isaiah 65:17-21)

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.


One advent at Inspirio we decide to offer a day of reflection.  I suggested to the staff that the theme should be joy.  There were a few odd looks that day because joy is not always my mode of being.  Too often, while acknowledging there are many good things in my life, I can be a person who hears the phrase (at least internally) If only . . . If only I was thinner… If only we had more money . . . If only I was more articulate . . . If only I could ‘play the game’ better. . . If only my writing was more inspirational . . .

if only….


Then I would be good enough, happy, and fulfilled.  Sometimes I wish I played football and at least once, scored a touchdown!  I would do the dance and know, if only for a moment, I had reached the goal.  Paraphrasing the Dalai Lama: humans sacrifice health in order to make money . . . use money to recuperate health. And then being anxious about the future . . . do not enjoy the present; the result being that we live in the present or the future; living as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

The world of if only . . . is living in a world that seeks validation, acceptance and affirmation.  It is a world that clings to guilt and shame for past offenses, sets conditions on our value, and has anxiety about the future.  It is world that uses order, control and perfection as validation. Unfortunately, order, control and perfection are the enemies of grace and forgiveness.  God tells Isaiah, “I am creating a new heaven and a new earth.”  Our past will not matter.  The future is secure, and the present is full of joy.  It is not necessary to be thin or to have money or to be more articulate to be loved.  We have been made new and forgiven by God’s grace- not by our meager efforts at control and perfection.  While we are punishing ourselves in trying to be something we are not, God delights in our very existence as we are.  Isaiah tells us:

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.


You are Jerusalem!  (substitute your name in the passage above for the word Jerusalem.) Allow God’s grace in to permeate your being.  Then the phrase

If only . . .

would be eliminated from our vocabulary and the present would be full of joy. 

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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.



  • When do you live in the world of “if only?”
  • What will help you to let go of the past, work through anxiety and worry about the future and live in the present with joy as a new creation of God?
  • When are you aware that God delights in and exults you?
Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
— Fr. Henri Nouwen


FAST:  from living in the past or future.  Be in the moment of the day.

PRAY: God of all new things.  Make me a new creation.  Help me to live in the moment with joy and gratitude.  Amen.

GIVE compassion



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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991.  He is the founder and director of 12plus1.  12plus1 is designed to make a positive impact in the world through service, community and faith.  He and his wife Maribeth, have been married for almost six years.  Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle.