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Here is an overview of the guys God has brought together for this once-in-a-lifetime event. If you know any of us personally, we would appreciate your prayers for this event:

  • That God would foster quick and deep fellowships
  • That we would discover unity despite different backgrounds
  • That we would be safe on this event
    • (that our lives wouldn’t worry about us too much)
  •  That God would speak in new and fresh ways
  • That we would experience God like never before
  • That we would hear what God has for each of us
  • That the only agenda would be God’s in our spirit
  • That life long friendships will be formed

We appreciate your prayer.

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A No becomes a Wait and then a YES!

lenny-corliss.jpgIt’s hard to believe, but two months from today I’ll be waking up in Yosemite with eight other guys who are seeking a refreshing time with the Lord. Our last “Summiteer” to join us is Lenny Corliss, a veteran children’s pastor from Scottsdale Worship Center in Phoenix, Arizonia. I met Lenny at iFest last summer when Yosemite Summit was still in the dreaming stages. While we had crossed paths a few times in the past at children’s ministry events, I had never been moving slow enough to meet Lenny. But the newer chilled out me who is much more relaxed and relational than in my hyperactive days, met Lenny at iFest and we ended up talking for several hours about my journey in life and ministry, and he shared a very moving story with me that is part of the First Things First Kidology Online Training Leadership Lab video. As I shared my dream and purpose for Yosemite Summit he encouraged me to go for it and hoped he could come. As you know, I did! However, it ended up that he couldn’t come this year due to some scheduling issues, but his encouragement continued. Eventually Yosemite Summit was full, and I was bummed that Lenny wasn’t able to join us, but was hoping perhaps next year it might work out better for him.

Well, as it turns out, one of our hikers needed to back out (ouch) and will be joining us in 2009 instead. I posted the opening for a few weeks with no serious interest expressed, but knew God would bring just the right guy. Well, last Saturday on a drive back from an Easter event I did, I was calling a bunch of my friends to use my long drive time to connect, and called Lenny. He asked how the Summit planning was going and I told him about the opening. Turns out, he had some schedule changes and now could come! In Lenny’s words:

I believe that by a divine appointment our paths crossed last July of 2007 and from the moment I heard of the event I felt I would like to participate but thought it wouldn’t be possible because of conflicting schedules. Thanks to a change in schedule and a phone call at just the right time I will be joining you. Thank God!

Lenny will bring with him much wisdom and maturity that we will all benefit from, but he is teachable too. He’s one of those guys you quickly learn to trust and open up to. He’s been a good mentor to me this past year. As Lenny said to me:

I believe that the men present at this event will be specifically there to bless and help each other. I expect to be both on the receiving and giving end of that process.

When asked why he wants to come to Yosemite Summit, Lenny nailed the purpose and the cry of my own heart:

I have found that I too easily integrate my ministry responsibilities and my personal relationship with God. I would like to spend some time listening to the Lord with my heart without an agenda. It is helpful for me to get out of the normal routine and take a fresh view of things with an open heart for the Lord to direct me.

I am so happy that Lenny will be joining us! Thank you God for again filling up this event. Please say a prayer for Chip and his healing. He is still going to join us for the first evening (he lives locally) and then be a part of the 2009 Summit.

I think it is great that while Lenny first hoped to come, had to say no and wait on God’s timing, but now it is a Yes for him. God works all things together for good for those who trust Him.

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The Power of Getting AWAY


Time and nature, as experienced alone in the wilderness, are like huge hands massaging the soul and the mind, altering perception like a good massage therepist alters the condition of muscles.” – Burke Miller

The father of a friend of mine in my men’s group at church had a book published in 2005 titled, “Exploring the Power of Solo, Silence, and Solitude.”(Clifford E. Knapp, Editor, Thomas E. Smith, Editor) I have been borrowing it this week, and it is both fascinating, and a little sad. Fascinating because all these author see the value of getting alone to shake off the busyness and activity of life that robs us of the ability to truly LIVE. Sad because they don’t know how to connect with the Creator of all the nature and beauty they find so refreshing and rejouvenating.

Let me share some more awesome quotes from the book:

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” Pablo Picasso

Our work for Christ is of the UTMOST “seriousness” – do we take the time to get alone with God and seek His direction?

“Why do I do this? … I do this for some reason that remains half-hidden from me, that keeps surprising me. I do it to burn up the dross that collects in my soul. I do it to burn up my forgetfulness and sloppy ways of living. I do it to remember simple gratitude.” – Amidon

When we do not take time alone, we do not take time to reflect. When we fail to reflect, we will fail to change. When we fail to change, we will fail to grow. When we fail to grow, we stop truly living. It is critical to our soul to get alone and allow God to speak to us! But most of us (and me for too many years) are too busy to hear God over the noise of our activity.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the world, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Emerson

To be ‘in the world but not of it’ requires that we step out of it long enough to allow God to shape us in His image. Then, and only then, are we able to step back into the world and shape IT, rather than be shaped BY it.

“I only went for a walk and finally concluded to stay out, til sundown for going out, I found, was really going in.” – Muir

When was the last time you were truly ALONE. I’ve often made the joke, “Do you realize, no one has ever been with you when you were alone?” But the truth is, Someone was! It has often been said, ‘God is a gentleman.’ He does not interrupt you, He does not stand in your path and demand attention. He simply waits. Perhaps that is why Psalmist suggested:

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

I’m looking forward to being in Yosemite in less than a month now. We will have some great times of fellowship, but there will be some times of intentional solitude as well.

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Peter Means Rock!


Amazing What Google Images Can Dig Up!*

“Voila! I’m in.”

So said Peter when he became the 7th guy to join Yosemite Summit. And what better place for a guy to go whose name means “Rock!” And that means there is ONLY ONE MORE SPOT available for this unique Unconference retreat for children’s pastors!

Peter is leaving the flat lands of Indiana for the peaks of Yosemite so that in his own words:

“I need to rest, reflect, and re-vision, and re-tool for the next chapter of my life and ministry.”

Well, it seems I have begun a trend of posting the newest guys on top of a famous Yosemite rock, so here is Peter on top of Yosemite Falls:


All that remains now is to see who will fill the LAST SPOT on this excursion!

*No, that’s not really our Peter, it’s what google images gave me after a search for “Peter Rock.”

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Hard to believe, but Yosemite Summit has finally arrived! I am currently sitting on the floor at O’Hare International Airport awaiting to board my flight to Sacramento, California! I’m heading out a day early to shop for all the food, my wife was nice enough to plan the extensive shopping list and meal plans… Wow! That’s a lot of food!

As mentioned on my blog, I’ll be completely OFFLINE from Sunday through Friday, so there won’t be any updates here until after the UNconference is over. But check back for complete details, summaries, pictures, highlight video and more!



I can’t wait to report on what God does this week in each of our lives and to SHOW YOU just how magnificent this place is!

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Stayin' Alive

For all the wives out there who are hesitant to send their husbands to Yosemite Summit because you fear for the safety of your husband if he is alone with a bunch of other guys in the wilderness – I have some good news for you! I just picked up the following book:

Granted, I haven’t read it, and probably won’t have time to – but I plan to bring it along and keep it in my backpack “just in case” So now worries!

Seriously, however, I do get some e-mails from guys whe mention their wives hesitancy with this retret due to the high cliffs and drop offs at Yosemite. My wife had the same concern when I first suggested doing this retreat alone. Going with a group of guys was her requirement, and as I prayed about it, Yosemite Summit was born! But let me assure you Yosemite is a very safe place. We stick to the trails and they are very clear and safe.

There are deaths at Yosemite, but in each case they involve people doing foolish things and often drinking was involved.

Millions of visitors visit Yosemite every year and have a fun and safe time by applying common sense and following the rules.

My wife asked me to encourage the guys to make sure I didn’t do anything crazy for a picture, and soon they were heard saying, “WWSS?” (What Would Sara Say?) We all came home safely without even a remotely close call. (We took the picture above as a joke for her… don’t worry, it was perfectly safe!)

I can’t even begin to describe what the hiking in Yosemite is like. You will pass through warm areas on bald rock and then through wooded areas where the snow is 2-3 feet thick and the towering trees make it almost like you are walking through a tunnel. You will hear water falls in the distance and other times be walking through the mist listening to the deafening thunder of tons of water falling hundreds of feet and crashing on rocks. You’ll see view after view after view that rivals the one just before it.

If you are even remotely considering coming to Yosemite Summit – don’t miss out on what could be a once in a life time experience! It is such an amazing place, and we promise to be safe wives!

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Packin' My Bags!

It’s hard to believe, but I am packin’ by bags for Yosemite Summit!

It’s quite a puzzle, trying to balance “trim down and take the minimum” with “be sure you don’t forget!” The front room looks like Base Camp for a trek up Mt. Everest! (I’m sad to leave so much climbing equipment behind, but we really won’t need it all, maybe in a future year we will include rock climbing!)

As much as I am looking forward to getting away into the awesome outdoors (nowhere more awesome than Yosemite!) to enjoy some photography and videography, I am also really looking forward to connecting with the eight men that God has sovereignly brought together for this excursion. I have to tell you, when I stepped out in obedience to plan this trip last summer and put down a rather large deposit on the lodge, there was some fear! While I certainly would have enjoyed Yosemite alone or with a few guys, I could have taken a bath financially. I designed this as a break-even event so the cost could be as low as possible for the guys coming. Even one or two guys short, and it would have been a challenge. In fact, when the van rental ended up being hundreds more than budgeted, God took care of it. One of the last guys to sign up missed the closing and asked if there was any way we could add one more – I knew the lodge was very strict on occupancy, but I called to ask, and it “just turns out” that they lodge I had picked legally can hold one more guy! The cost went up slightly, but the extra registration took care of that and the extra van cost exactly. Go figure. (pun intended!) Then when one guy had to drop out due to an injury, God brought a replacement in a unique way, again meeting our need. And, just to show His grace, our injured brother will still be joining us the opening evening and the final day since he was transportation for one of the other guys. (And he is the only person allowed to be already registered for Yosemite Summit 2009!)

I have seen God’s Hand on this event in many other ways I won’t bore you with – but all to say, this trip is a God Thing, and I know He is going to do mighty things on this trip in the hearts and minds of the men coming.

If God is challenging you to step out in faith and DO something crazy – TRUST HIM – and step out and (to rob from Nike) Just Do It!

Yosemite Summit was designed to be a “stepping away from ministry” to focus only on God and my walk with Him for several days in a row. I know had it not been for the advance planning of this Adventure, this would have been just another “normal” month of life and ministry. It takes proactive advance planning to be able to step away – and boy do I need it! I thank God for speaking to me two years ago in a message on Recreation (pronouced RE-creation) and then pushing my spirit last summer to transform that initial prompting into reality by stepping into the unknown.

And THANKS GUYS for stepping out with me! And THANKS to anyone who will pray for us during this Adventure next week!

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Yosemite Summit 2009 Registration IS NOW OPEN!

Yes! The time has come! Registration for Yosemite Summit is NOW OPEN! For details on the event check out the site, and when you are ready to apply, simply visit the registration page.

Dear God,

Please once again bring just the right eight guys to this event. You know who they are who need this retreat to spend some concentrated time with You. Give those considering this summit the faith to trust you for the resources, the peace that You are calling them, and the joy of knowing that you have some specific things You’d like to do in their life during this event. I can’t wait to see again how you bring together a band of brothers who love you, love kids, and care more about the state of their soul than anything they are accomplishing for you. I trust you again to meet all our needs in miraculous ways just as you did last year.

In the Redeemers Name,


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A Wise Rookie


Our newest hiker, John, has only been a children’s pastor for two years. So, in his words, “renewal is not high on the list” but after experiencing a major children’s ministry conference and being overwhelmed by all the pressure to “do this” and “do that” and copy other ministries, John decided he first wanted to learn how to better breakthrough to God’s love and will to get clear direction from what God wants for his ministry. When he stumbled upon this site he writes,

“This is it, I said, the unConference! I can hang out with Karl and some other crazy kidz pastors for a few days in a place of unsurpassed beauty and just talk with God. I’m in.”

I resisted the urge to take John’s suggestion to make a picture of a “John on the top of El Capitan” for the site. I’ve outgrown potty humor, but we’ll all appreciate having a John nearby at all times. But whatever you do, Don’t click this link, I’m not responsible for what you will see.

NOTE: Some awesome Yosemite pics can be found here including the one displayed above.

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Yosemite Summit 2008 Report

  • Don’t miss the video at the end, and click any picture for a larger view.


It’s hard to believe the Yosemite Summit 2008 is over. It’s been several weeks, but it still feels like a part of me is still there in the Sierra Nevada. It’s been fun sorting through the 5000+ pictures we took and reliving the fun memories. Not only the incredible PLACE we were, but the awesome friendships that were formed and will continue to grow in the years ahead.



It was an amazing time together and God did some incredible work in our lives. For me, my soul comes alive in this place and I finally feel truly free. We started our first day watching the sun rise at Glacier Point. The views are simply spectacular!



It was a time to leave the busyness and noise of normal life behind and just listen to God. There were times we could just sit and soak our souls in the presence of God as well as walking with Him on the incredible hikes.



There is just something powerful about reading God’s Word and praying when you are in a place where His handiwork is so much on display. The rocks indeed did cry out – God is real, and God is here.



The hikes themselves were indescribable. The first day we did a solitude hike (each separated by about five minutes so we could hike alone with God) and then on the second day we did the Panoama Trail which took us on an incredible hike around the rim of the valley, through many types of landscape and ended with the Mist Trail which goes to the top and then down the side of two thundering waterfalls. In the picture below we are near the starting point and in the background you can see the waterfall we would be at some seven hours later!



By the third day we did some easier hikes that had incredible views of the valley, some with a few straight down of seveal thousand feet! Below is one of the few railings due to the incredible drop straight down over 3500 feet!



The hikes were challenging – but the views breathtaking and like nowhere else on this continent. Not only can you not believe what you are seeing is real, but when you are hiking, you can’t believe “I’ll be there in a few hours” or “I was there yesterday?” We hiked through areas that at times looked like Narnia in winter – under the shadow of huge trees walking on several feet of snow while at other times we were out on barren rock checking out lizards. The scenery and climate changed constantly. We’d be hot and enjoying cold water to cool off, and later getting drenched from the mist of a raging waterfall. Like I often say, “This is the place God just showed off.”



I have been to MANY National Parks and NONE have the views and variety and splendor of Yosemite. I’ve often said the Grand Canyon is a yawner if you’ve been to Yosemite. We ran into some guys who were at the Grand Canyon just two days before (doing a cross country hiking trip) and they said Yosemite outdid anything they had seen at the Grand Canyon. They were in awe and said Yosemite far exceeded even their high expectations!



Yosemite is a photographers heaven. My wife was a little worried that I’d fall off a cliff in pursuit of a great picture and end up in real heaven. So I told her any time I saw an awesome, but dangerous, photo opportunity, my motto would be WWSS. (What Would Sara Say?) That motto cost me many potentially incredible shots… but also brought me home alive.



I have been dreaming of doing some of the serious hikes at Yosemite since I was a boy. Coming on this trip, and bringing a group of fellow children’s pastors with me was a dream come true. At one point I asked Yosemite had lived up to my grand descriptions of Yosemite before we arrived – and they all said no. One guy said, “You didn’t do Yosemite justice. You can’t begin to describe this place.”



There were people there from all over the world. (I was surprised there weren’t more Americans – or are we too used to having entertainment pumped into our homes?) I don’t know how anyone comes to this place and doesn’t leave with an awed sense of having been in the presence of the Creator. Everything here points to one thing: GOD.



It was truly a time of experiencing God in a place where his creative power is on full display and where his Voice is more easily heard. Men, as you watch this video, whisper a quiet prayer asking God if He is calling you to join us next year for Yosemite Summit 2009.

2008 Highlight Video:

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