Yosemite Summit is the refreshing break from ministry you’ve been needing for longer than you realize. Ministry has a way of draining the life out of men – we do do do. Getting away from work, responsibilities and all forms of electronic communication has a way of refreshing that is hard to describe.
It’s called the “UNconference” for a reason. There are no workshops, no resources, and barely a schedule. I’ve even had guys struggle with the fact that I can’t answer questions like, “What time will we eat?” or “What time will we get back to the cabin.” The answer is just, “when we find a nice spot to stop” or “when we get there.” Yosemite Summit is an experience in learning to “be” instead of constantly “doing.” It is a time when leaders get to stop leading and just become participants in an event they don’t have to plan or clean up afterward.
I invite you to explore this site, as there is a lot of information here about the Summit. From the annual reports linked at the top, annual highlight videos, as well as many blog posts about the retreat that will tell you alot, many from the perspective of guys who have come.
It may just be the most refreshing thing you do in 2014. Only five guys can come, so don’t hesitate to sign up!
Why do I take a group of men in ministry to Yosemite National Park every year for a week of hiking, relaxing, fellowship and unplugging from the normal busy routine of life? Aren’t there other beautiful places? Sure. But not like Yosemite. And especially off the beaten path.
Off the Beaten Path in McGurk Meadow
We get off the beaten path in two ways. First of all, we get off the beaten path of our normal daily and weekly routines. We don’t even follow much of a schedule on the Summit, which is at times hard for guys to adapt to. We leave when we are ready, eat when we find a spot, and return to the lodge when the hike is done. There is no schedule. It is refreshingly different than the normal path of life. Secondly, while Yosemite National Park is visited by millions of tourists a year, the vast majority of them are what I call “Vally Dwellers,” they never leave the comfort and beauty of the famous Yosemite Valley.
It’s hard to fault them, it is a place that presidents have visited going back to when Abraham Lincoln declared Yosemite a national treasure nearly a decade before Roosevelt established the National Park Act. You could easily spend all your time exploring and enjoying the towering granite cliffs and towering water falls of the valley. However, you would miss the true treasures of Yosemite that are to be found off the beaten path.
Now that my excursions to Yosemite number in the double digits, I’ve learned where these treasures are – and we can spend entire days seeing very few, if any, other tourists or hikers – and feel like we have this entire gorgeous wilderness all to ourselves!
Dave Chilling by Tenaya Lake
Then something happens.
When there is no e-mail, no voice mail, no work related text messages, no Facebook updates or Twitter notifications… when you are suddenly no longer in demand… (and the world goes on just fine without you!) You find that you get a realistic view of yourself, and you come to enjoy just being with God, instead of working for Him. And you also find that’s what He’s been wanting all along. After all, He really doesn’t need your help. He is God after all!
Karl and Patrick at Panorama Point
But even off the beaten path, there are paths off that path to even more amazing beauty to behold! You discover that sometimes the best parts of the journey are the detours off the side trails. Along the famous Panorama Trail there is a short side trail that most hikers miss that leads to a point called Panorama Point.
(Click to view larger in a new window.)
There is a geological marker there from 1905 warning of a $250 fine if you tamper with it. (That’s $6,580 in today’s money!) When you are at the Point you can see hikers walking past the turn off and missing it. It is fun informing other hikers of it the short while you can as you hike away from it.
Chris near the turn off to Panorama Point
Only those who are observant of the trail going off to the side and willing to take it will get to see the breath taking view that is set before your eyes at this incredible Point. Those who miss it are truly missing out – and yet, sadly, never know what they missed.
It begs the question, how many things in LIFE do we miss out on that we are so close to, but we never even know we missed? Not knowing may be a blessing, but how tragic! May we be both observant and willing so that we don’t miss out on the Panorama Points of life!
Tom was back for his fourth Summit.
2013 was the 6th Yosemite Summit, and how many times can I report, “it was my favorite so far?” Again this year I took a smaller group, and I’m enjoying the dynamics of a smaller group, so guys who want to go need to sign up as soon as registration opens, as I only have four spots for next year, and one is already spoken for. We had beautiful weather and God confirmed to me yet again that this is something I need to be doing, not only for my own walk, but making it available for others as well to join me and experience with me the benefits of intentional time away to be with God in the majesty of His Creation.
Final day in front of a giant sequoia. (It’s a lot bigger than it looks here!)
I’m back from my 6th Yosemite Summit – and what a fantastic year it was. We had beautiful weather and did some fantastic hikes in Yosemite National Park.
These guys joined the elite group known as Summiteers! Tom was a four time repeater. Dave, Patrick, and Chris were there for the first time. (No, that is not our cabin; that is an old trading outpost found along the trail to McGurk Meadow.)
I will soon be putting together the annual report and highlight video, but I’m also back into the midst of the busy work schedule I unplugged from, so going though the 2,407 photos, plus editing and creating the video always takes me a few weeks. But I’m also working on a new surprise for this year’s Yosemite Summit Report, so be sure to watch your e-mail for the news when it breaks. (Be sure you are subscribed to the Kidology Newsletter.)
What can I say about this year now?
Well, we did a lot of hiking along with just spending time enjoying the Creator and His creation. This year, I decided to wear a pedometer for fun, starting out with my shopping day:
Friday (the day Dave and I arrived), I walked 4371 steps for 1.63 miles. That was just a little more than an average day for me based on the week before. Saturday saw a lot more action with 10,456 steps for 3.89 miles. There was a lot of prep to do! We left on Sunday, and that included our first short hike and introduction to Yosemite, bumping me up 14,856 steps for 5.64 miles for the day. But then came the real hikes. The day that included the trail to Dewey Point racked up 29,199 steps for 10.98 miles followed on Tuesday with 19,203 for 7.32 miles (Murphy Creek to the Poly Dome Lakes.) Then two of the guys really wanted to hike the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point around the rim and down to the Valley passing Illilouette, Nevada, and Vernal falls – what is typically a Day One hike. The other two opted to have some solitude time in the Valley with less than the 27,267 steps I put down to conquer that 10.09 mile day. (Remember, this is all day, not just the hikes themselves.) On our last day, we went down to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, but I took it easy and only logged 10,095 steps for 3.76 miles. Friday I flew home, so I returned to my average day clocking 4,587 steps or 1.68 miles.
Of course, this may not interest many, but I had fun logging my total of 100,831 steps, or walking 44.99 miles. (Wow!) We don’t typically hike that much, but it was such a beautiful year, and adding on the Panorama Trail was just plain fun.
My feet may have been a bit sore for a day, but my soul was refreshed and renewed! I’m posting from my iPad mini at the airport, so I’ll add more pics later when I am at a computer.
While I am glad to be back, there is a part of me that never leaves Yosemite. But right now, I have some catching up to do!!
This will soon be on my facebook wall. It is time yet again to completely and wholly UNPLUG from the hectic busy pace of ministry life. As always, I’m never ready. But that is the entire point of Yosemite Summit. We are never ‘ready’ for solitude. We are never ‘ready’ for rest. We are never ‘ready’ to spend quality time with our Creator. So I have learned, through some hard lessons in life that it must be scheduled and stuck too – no matter what; fiercely defended, for the very survival of one’s soul.
I was once told by a very wise mentor, “Karl, you need to stop being a human doing, and learn to become a human being.
That is what Yosemite Summit is all about. It is an annual cessation of activity. Too often we confuse busyness with what God is truly seeking from us. Not that we aren’t busy doing good things! But we get so busy doing these good things, that our relationship with God can grow distant, and soon God is wondering, why or who we are truly busy for?
Stopping, completely, once a year is an opportunity to recalibrate. It is a time for reflection and renewal. It is not a time of evaluating ministry goals and seeking a new “ministry vision” from God! It is a time of setting all that down and walking away from it.
Why? God did not save us to gain a worker. He can manage quite fine without us. (Something to consider when you are working so hard – God doesn’t need you!) He saved us that we might enter into a relationship with Him and get to know Him. If we are so busy working that we aren’t getting to know Him – than the working isn’t working. It is actually counter-productive to what God’s true aim is.
We are busy “making Him known,” but we forget the first half – “To know Christ, and to make Him known.” If we forget our relationship in the pursuit of the second half, we are then working to reproduce something that isn’t what God wants. No wonder many non-believers have no interest in becoming a Christian! They see a lot of busy-bodies, instead of disciples of Christ, men and women who walk with God.
So once a year I stop all the activity and simply walk with God for a week doing nothing else but enjoying Him. And I invite a small group to join me. It changes me and helps me continue that walk when I get back to my God-given work.
I invite you to do the same. Yes, you can come on a future Yosemite Summit – but you can also create your own. Several former ‘Summiteers’ now host their own Summits, one was in Yosemite this week. But you need not even travel to a place far away (though it helps greatly!), you can leave your office and go for a walk in a nearby park. You can actually take that day off your church provides, or actually honor the Sabbath as God designed.
Most importantly, schedule some time away – put it on your calendar now. And when the time comes, even if you aren’t ‘ready,’ take it anyway. God will always be ready and waiting for you. And no worries, the work will always be waiting for you when you return. But you will return a healthier and better person for the time you spent away from it.
If this is resonating with you, don’t just hit “like” – take some action as a result of reading this.
There are few places on the earth like Yosemite National Park. And there is no conference like Yosemite Summit… because it is the UN-conference for men in ministry. You’ve been to conferences. You’ve gotten overloaded with ideas when you were overloaded already when you arrived. More ideas was not what you were needing. You need a break. You need to hear from God. You need some fellowship with other men who ‘get’ what you are about.
You need to turn off everything electronic and be inaccessible by e-mail or phone and just enjoy the presence of God in the wonder of His Creation for a few days. You need to UNPLUG and reconnect with the reason you got into ministry in the first place.
You need to make some new friends. You need to breath deeply with no schedule, no appointments and no need to even wear a watch… all day long. All week long for that matter. The sun will be all you need to tell you when to eat. Speaking of food, want to eat great food and enjoy great fellowship. You want to laugh loud, sleep deep, and rest easy knowing that no one needs you to do anything. You want to read the Word of God for yourself, not for lesson preparation. You want to pray only to commune with God and for your wife and kids – and let the ministry go for awhile. (It will be fine without you.) You want to renew, refresh and recharge for whatever is next in life. Or perhaps you need to heal.
You want several days of mountains, granite cliffs and rivers and waterfalls, and wildlife, gentle quietness, and peace and tranquility.
If you are praying about coming to Yosemite Summit, let me share with you some feedback from one of the guys who came last year…
I had never taken a trip like this before, so I was looking forward to getting away from EVERYTHING and hearing from God. I had heard about Yosemite Summit for years and knew it would be an amazing time. I was expecting to see and experience some of the most beautiful sites on earth! Yosemite Summit completely exceeded my expectations! The hikes and sites were breathtaking, the time and structure (lack of!) was a week-long breath of fresh air, and the fellowship with other men was encouraging. God used the Summit to unplug me from everything I had been working in and with and towards for the past five years. I was given the opportunity to refocus my heart and my thoughts back to Him first. God met me and drew me closer to Him. Yosemite Summit was a present that every male children’s pastor deserves to unwrap and enjoy at some point during their ministry tenure.
It’s a week filled with God’s amazing creation, intimacy with Jesus, and brothers who are walking through life in similar shoes. The highlight for me was the heights! The tops of powerful waterfalls, the peaks that gave an amazing view, and plateaus that opened to nothing but sky and the valley below. Yosemite Summit gave me a new starting place for myself and the life God has called me to live. Having seen his beautiful creativity and experienced his peaceful and loving presence, I now walk not only in the memory of getting to attend the Summit, but mostly in the constant reminder of his great love and care for me as a man, his child, a husband, a dad, and as a minister of his Good News.
As I reflect on the upcoming 6th annualYosemite Summit, I am amazed at all that God has done in my life and in the lives of so many men who have traveled with me to this amazing place over the past five years.
Many have asked me, “How long will you keep doing this?” I usually answer, “at least until next year,” because I don’t ever want to assume to plan ahead of the Lord (James 4:13-15).
But I know this – I need this time away, and I have seen the incredible impact it has had on other men.
Let me just share a few of the things the guys last year shared with me:
The greatest impact was hearing God’s voice and calling me to a personal mountain top experience. This experience allowed God to change my life there at that moment. He drew me close to Him, and there He freed me from the bondage that filled my soul. This spiritual impact has allowed me to continue on a journey daily to be in complete oneness with God.
The biggest “take away” is there are 7 guys that love me for who I am. We all came with different things going on in our lives personally and spiritually. God changed us together and because of that has made each of us stronger and what I would call a “band of Christian brothers” forever.
My highlight was the morning at North Olmstead Point when I heard God’s voice calling me to the top of a mountain. It was a place that God brought me as close to Him as possible and broke me. He drew me to this highest point to share His love with me and then freed me from all the bondage that was weighing me down and quenching my Spirit.
I really needed this Summit. I came home with a greater sense of peace and hope than I’d ever had before. I have a greater sense of who I am as a follower of Christ and what my personal mission is. I realize that the “trail” I’m on is one that God has designed for me and I need to continue to learn and enjoy it. (Even the hard stuff) He opened my eyes to some things right before me that I need to focus on in a better way.
To those considering Yosemite Summit, one guy wrote:
You need this time more than you’ll ever know. Taking time to unplug and get away with a group of guys that God brings together is priceless. Experiencing the beauty of God’s creation, spending time in his Word are times that prepare you for eternity. I believe in Yosemite Summit and it’s opportunity to really re-create someone and allow them a fresh start in life and ministry.
Since I started Yosemite Summit in 2008, men who hiked with me have gone on to create their own Summits, inviting other men to join them on similar retreats. Two of them do a similar retreat in Yosemite, in lodges right near “mine” during the same month. This Summit is reproducing itself.
WHY? Because those who come are changed, and they want others to experience it as well.
YosemiteSummit.org is filled with REPORTS linked at the top of the site from 2008 to 2012 with pictures and a highlight video. If you go through the blog, hitting “Previous Posts” at the bottom, you can travel back through time and read stories of guys whose lives have been changed, why they went, and other encouraging posts.
This is a small “band of brothers” – I only take five guys, and one spot is already taken, so that leaves only four spots left.
There are many amazing conferences that fill banquet rooms and auditoriums with hundreds, some thousands, of children’s ministry leaders singing, listening, learning, and enjoying wonderful fellowship – there is a place for that.
But imagine spending a week with just five other guys, hiking, sitting under some of the highest granite cliffs in the world, at the foot of the tallest water falls in the world, seeing the sun rise and a vista appear that literally takes your breath away, live animals – we’ve seen a bear every year! (and let me mention GOOD home cooked food, including NY Strip Steak!) and through it all experiencing God through prayer, some manly hymn singing, and awesome fellowship in a trusting setting like you may have never experienced before.
If you have felt the “tug” over the years to attend Yosemite Summit, perhaps 2013 is the year you will say “yes” and join me. I’ve reduced the number of men who can join me, and opened it any man in ministry (rather than just children’s pastors) so the invitation is extended.
The UNconference for Men in Ministry
No Workshops – Just Worship
No Resources – Just Relationships
No Networking – Just God Working
May 19-23, 2013 Sunday to Thursday (Travel on 18th and 24th)
As you hike around Yosemite, you will often see small piles of rocks, called cairns, stacked by hikers that have passed that way before you.
Their intent is to mark the trail. Yes, at times visitors to Yosemite can get carried away and build too many of them, even on clearly marked trails (and those who prefer a more naturally scenic view will therefore knock them over). However, when used properly, these cairns can be a great help when the trail gets obscure because of some fallen trees, an overflowing stream, or snow that has not yet melted and has covered the trail. Getting lost in a National Park is not something you want to do. Even if large landmarks mean that you can eventually get going in the right direction, being off the trail can lead to dangerous areas or delays that lead to still being out when the sun sets. Cairns can be especially helpful when you accidentally make a wrong turn and end up lost on what you thought was the trail but is in fact an animal path.
Several times, I have come across these small piles of rocks and appreciated the fact that someone has walked this way before me, lost their way, but then was able to find the original trail again. Instead of just moving on, they took a little extra time to stop and create markers to guide others who came after them. They cared enough to create something for others to see in order to mark the way. As you reach one marker, the next comes into view, until you return to the trail.
Every time you see a cairn, it’s like someone left a sign: “See this? It’s going to be OK. I got lost too, but I made my way through. Just follow these stones, one after another, and you’ll find the trail again. Trust me. I’ve been where you are, and you will get through this time. If you are hurt, you will heal. The sun won’t go down on you. I’ve created a path through the uncertainty. I’ve set these stones for you to follow. Just keep going, one at a time. Soon you will be back on your way, like before. Just don’t give up.”
It’s kinda like why I created Yosemite Summit. I too got lost once. I veered off the path. I needed some others to lovingly help me get back on the trail again. I too followed some markers left by others who had gotten off trail ahead of me. Godly, wise men who had hiked a bit ahead of me and left some markers for me to follow and taught me some life lessons about identity, priorities, family, ministry, and the things that truly matter. As a result, I changed from the inside out. So much that I didn’t want to just move on. I couldn’t. Instead, I wanted to take a little time to stop and set up some cairns before I moved on down the trail a new man.
Those cairns are four days spent every May in Yosemite, and I invite a small group of men to join me. Men who may feel lost, off the path, or who at least know they need to get off the path of hectic, busy, fast-paced ministry before it kills their very soul like it did mine not too long ago. I invite you to join me with the Rock of Ages next May at Yosemite Summit. It just may change you, too, before you return to the path.
As you hike around Yosemite, especially in the highly trafficked areas of the Valley, you will often see areas closed off with a sign that says, “AREA CLOSED – Restoration In Progress.”
The caretakers of the park understand the need for rest…even for nature. For things to grow healthily, they need a time of rest. This is why God modeled a 7th day of rest after He created our world, and why He commanded His people to take Sabbath day and keep it holy. Whether or not we are to honor the Sabbath still need not be argued. We are still the same people God created, and the example was set by our Maker, so a Sabbath Principle is still wise to honor.
Even modern science confirms what God established long ago. God’s prized creation, people, function best with regular rest. But physical rest is not all that is needed. Spiritual rest is equally important. Too often we confuse our WORK for God as our RELATIONSHIP with God, and nothing could be further than the truth. While our service may draw us closer to God, and He delights in working with us, it is not our work He desires (or needs, to be quite honest!) It is fellowship with us. As long as our work is drawing us closer to God, it is in its proper place. Usually, early in ministry, this is natural. But once our work (even though we call it ‘ministry’) becomes a hindrance to our walk with God, due to busyness, pride, or any number of stumbling blocks, our work becomes something God is jealous of, for He misses us.
Perhaps it is time you put up a sign on Saturday, or your day off, or your evenings, or mornings (you work out the area with your Creator) and label it: AREA CLOSED – Restoration In Progress. Don’t let anyone or anything into that area, and let your soul be restored, no matter what the cost.