Escaping the Wasteland

Scripture (Jeremiah 17:5-10)

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.


Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity.

There is very little in our lives that matter.  Take a moment to think about and make a detailed list of your typical daily schedule.  What percentage of your day is spent on tasks that are necessary, practical or routine? Is it fifty percent?  Seventy percent? Perhaps ninety percent?  Are you busy about tasks that are inspiring, purposeful and lasting?  Any person who has attended an in-service or professional training day will recognize the phrase: we want our organization to “move from maintenance to mission.”  This is the challenge that Jeremiah offers us personally.  Is your life focused on maintenance or are you living a mission driven life?  According to Jeremiah there is a stark difference.  Jeremiah says if your life has been focused on what is pleasing to human beings (maintenance) you are a barren bush in a desert, standing in a lava waste of an empty earth.  Sounds like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.  Yet so many of us are living in this barren world, concerned with financial security, popularity on social media, what our houses look like, the car we drive, if our kids are in the right sport, the current celebrity gossip or how others perceive our bodies.  Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity- nothing in this list matters. 

The vote to close Inspirio in November 2016 and the subsequent loss of my job in May 2017 has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life.  When hired it was my belief that I was called to remake and renew the already floundering organization.  Change does not come easy and some long-time friends and supporters of the ministry viewed these changes as a personal affront.  When the organization failed it was devastating.  Although there are multiple reasons for the closing of Inspirio, it is a loss for which I feel personally responsible.  There are some who delighted in our failure because they could say “I told you so.”  It felt like everything was lost because I was afraid to fail.  As time has moved on there has been a realization that this loss has also been freeing.  Having everything stripped became a moment to take stock of what is important and whether my priorities were leading to a lava wasteland or a tree planted near water.  Taking time to be still and listen to my instincts and the voice of God it became obvious that the challenges of Inspirio were stressful and impacted my sense of worth.  It was like living in a wasteland not because the cause or mission was not noble, but because I was afraid to fail.   

Materialism, the fear of failure, the desire for a high-powered job, a toned body or a perfect family are not of God.  They are human pursuits and inevitably will lead to becoming a barren bush in a lava wasteland.  Being stripped away of everything forces one to reevaluate what is lasting, permanent and meaningful.  My mission has become focused on being an authentic child of God, making family a priority and serving those in need.  This is why 12plus1 exists!  The most used command of the bible is:  Do not be afraid.  Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters.”  Today you are invited to take a leap of faith to living a life of meaning and purpose.  Do not be afraid.  Jump from maintenance to mission.


  • Assess how you spend your day.  What tasks are life giving and make an impact?  How much time do you spend on pursuits that do not have a lasting value? 
  • What parts of your life are a lava wasteland?
  • What needs to be stripped away so you can discover your purpose? 
  • Where do you see growth in your life?
The purpose of human life is to serve and show compassion and the will to help others.
— Albert Schweitzer
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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.


FAST from tasks that do not have a lasting value.  Prioritize what needs to be done and what will make a purposeful impact in your life and others.

PRAY to know your mission, purpose or calling from God.

GIVE yourself time and write a personal mission statement



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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991.  Besides 12plus1, he teaches part time for Dominican High School and the Cardinal Stritch University Clare Center for Catholic Life.  He is married to Maribeth.  Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.