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.
Every year I say, “This was my favorite Summit to date,” and this year was my favorite again, by far! I made some key changes that I think made it extra special. The most strategic change was taking a much smaller group. This meant the Summit was full in December, so if you have been considering attending the Summit in the future, be sure to sign up right away when registration opens this fall. I anticipate it will fill up quickly again.
Don’t miss the Highlight Video at the end of this post!
It was also a great year for reasons beyond my control: we had incredible weather, areas of the park were open that were never open the previous five years, and Glacier Point Road was open for the first time in three years. Even less tangible, the spirit and attitudes of the guys who came made for a very refreshing and renewing trip for me. I think the small group size played into that aspect of the week. Great friendships and life-long relationships have always been formed for each of the guys, but with a small group, we formed them with everyone, rather than separately. That was an extra blessing. Lastly, and ironically, with the weather being so perfect, the Park seemed nearly empty so we had incredible solitude. We even enjoyed having Glacier Point completely to ourselves, a location that is often crowded with people. Granted, we were there for the sunrise, but even as the sun rose, we enjoyed the complete serenity of having it all to ourselves. It was a gift from our Creator. On our hikes, we rarely, if ever, saw other Park visitors.
(Click on ANY image to view larger)
We began the Summit with the sunrise at Glacier Point. Words can’t even describe how majestic and fantastic and breathtaking this view of God’s Creation is. It is truly beyond description.
All we can really do when we are there and confronted with God’s Amazing Handiwork…is Worship Him.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
After the sun was up, we were ready to begin our first FULL day of hiking: from Glacier Point, along the Panorama Trail, all the way to the top of Nevada Fall, to Vernal Fall, and down into the Valley. It averaged 125,000 steps per guy with an elevation drop of 3200 feet (not counting the ups and downs along the way). Together we hiked over 750,000 (3/4 million!) steps. Whew! No wonder we were sore back at the cabin later.
We stayed at a VERY nice lodge right in the heart of Yosemite National Park. If you are ever planning a trip to Yosemite, I highly recommend Scenic Wonders. It is located in an area called Yosemite West, right near the turn to Glacier Point Road, ten miles from the Valley, and has great access to the southern area of Yosemite as well. The next best areas are two hours outside the Park (or in the Valley, which are either very expensive or very yucky). Tell them Karl Bastian sent you!
We hadn’t done the Panorama Trail since Summit #1, and it is an incredible trail to do. It is long and hard work, but the views and vistas make it well worth it. The sights and sounds and animals we discovered along the way were simply incredible.
Some of the guys found very creative places to stop for a rest!
There were lots of times just to stop and enjoy the Word, reading and journaling too.
The next days took us on other hikes in Yosemite, including the Northern Tioga Pass area. There we hiked to Dog Lake where each of us sloit up for solitude time. Some of the guys even hiked to the point of Lambert Dome. (below)
Obviously, Yosemite is a beautiful place. But it’s not just the beauty. It’s the peacefulness that is there. It’s the getting away from all the noise of regular everyday life to a place where we can listen to God.
In the calmness found there, away from the noise of ministry and daily life, God is reflected in nature. I hear from the guys every year, “I can’t remember the last time I spent hours just alone with God, listening to Him. It’s so refreshing and so renewing. I just needed this.”
Yosemite is amazingly quiet. As we hiked, all we could hear was the wind, birds, distant water falls…and our thoughts. And into that quiet it’s like God can finally be heard.
Our cell phones didn’t ring. There was no e-mail. No meetings to run off to. No deadlines. We hardly stuck to a schedule. We left when we were ready, and we returned to the lodge when we reached the end of the trail. We cast off pressure. We stopped rushing and worrying about times. I didn’t even wear a watch. The sun was our only constraint – we aimed to be done with the trail before sunset.
Into that calm, God could finally speak. And be heard. We stopped stopping Him…bringing Him our plans and agendas and things we needed Him to approve or bless and staff or resources we needed him to provide, and instead we asked, “What’s on Your mind, Abba Father?”
And He Answered…
I coached the guys on how to listen to God in Yosemite, because it is very different every year for each guy. He spoke through His Word, through events, through their bodies, their spirits, through the things that they saw, experienced, and heard and by bringing back memories. I’d love to share stories of the amazing experiences and “ah ha” moments, of the ways God openned eyes and hearts during these Summits.
But unfortunately, what happened in Yosemite (what was said, what was shared) stays in Yosemite, and with each of the guys. We share a bond of trust and brotherhood that will last for a lifetime.
Yosemite reminded us to take the long view of our lives, to see our present struggles and circumstances in view of eternity. It gave us perspective that we could take back with us. Very often guys go home to trials they never knew were coming and I get the call or e-mail, “If I hadn’t been on Yosemite Summit, I never would have survived what was waiting for me when I got home.” God knew. And He sovereignly prepared them by having them come on this Summit so they could address the things we discussed and that He brought up with them in their private times with Him.
We all need “mountain top” experiences. They prepare us the for valleys that are to come. I am already praying for the men who will join me next year. I know some of them are reading this post. Yes, you…you may be joining me next year. Even you…the who is making excuses in your head…God is prompting you, isn’t He?
When I see the difference this Summit makes in the lives of men in ministry, I am amazed that there isn’t a waiting list every year. But the good news is, I’ve never had to turn anyone away. God has always brought together the right group of men – a Fellowship to hike and pray and live together for a short season and allow God to do a needed work in their lives, both separately and together.
Already, I can’t wait for Yosemite Summit 2013. Lord hasten the day!
No worries, this isn’t some final post as I depart to my final destination… just as I head off to Yosemite Summit for a week of 100% complete and total disconnect from work, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and anything that distracts me from my relationship with God.
The 5th Annual Summit is Complete:
Meet: Tom, Travis, Alan, Johnny and Tim. The gang has met up in Sacramento and fellowshiped at the Official California #Kidmin Hangout:
The super observant notice my Panda Express, I already had In-N-Out twice as guys arrived, and the Holy Spirit (or my cardiologist) would not allow me to eat it three meals in a row!
Yosemite Summit is not a conference. It is the UNconference for men in ministry because it is a break from ministry. As it’s description says, there is:
No Workshops – Just Worship
No Resources – Just Relationships
No Networking – Just God Working
My inbox is still full. My voice mail is still full. And I have lots of stuff still unchecked on my to-do lists. But Yosemite Summit is my annual time to just walk away from it all, and simply Walk with God. (literally and figuratively.)
It is when I show Him tangibly that He is more important than all the “stuff” I do for Him and I spend time just being with Him. It is when I show that I mean it when I say He is more important than anything or anyone else. It is how I show that I’d walk away from it all for Him – by doing just that once a year, for an entire week. Just dropping it all… as it is. Undone, uncompleted, unneat and untiddy and just let it lie… as it is. My office is just as thought I got up and walked out, because I did. I just go. I’m never ready for the Summit. It just finally comes, and I just go. Just like that. If I waited until I was ready, it would never happen.
If you e-mail me, you’ll get a polite auto-reply. I will DELETE all e-mail accounts from my iPhone and MacBook Air. They won’t even exist here in CA a few minutes after I post this. I only have my Air for downloading pictures each evening. That’s it.
I’m firing myself from my job. I won’t think about it for an entire week. I’ve had people say that must be hard for me. There was a time when it would have been. It’s actually quite easy for me now. Because my identity is no longer my work. There was a time when it was. But I’ve gotten over that. So I can turn it off and on as needed. And as soon as I hit publish on this post… it’s off.
And I’ll just be Karl: Child of God. Sara’s husband and Luke’s dad. Nothing more.
The rest that I am and do will be back in a week. Until then…
CHECK OUT THE GUYS I’VE SHARED THIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE PAST FOUR YEARS AND CLICK ON THE PICTURE FOR A REPORT, HIGHLIGHT PHOTOS AND VIDEO: (I’ll update this post with the sign pic from this year when I return.)
Tomorrow it will be May…and that means the 5th annual Yosemite Summit will finally be upon me. And while I say it every year, I need it this year more than ever. It’s been an extremely busy year. You can tell partly from the lack of posts to this blog! I’m glad the Summit filled up early, as I’ve not even had to time to promote it. I’ve written many times on this site why I do this Summit, this UNconference, but it bears repeating. I do this Summit because I’m lousy at “slowing down.” I’m kinda like a locomotive: I gradually keep speeding up throughout the year. If I don’t STOP, I get going too fast. Yosemite Summit is my annual “Spiritual Pit Stop.” It’s when I reflect, pray, listen, meditate, and reconnect with God in a way and depth not possible throughout the year. And I invite a small, select group of men to join me. It is healing. It is refreshing. It is renewing. It is rejuvenating. It is refocusing. It is redefining. It is just what I need every year. Without it, I would get very cranky and empty. (If you’ve never read: Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers, you should.)
This year one of my regular Summiteers is leading his own retreat the week before mine, so Yosemite Summit is reproducing itself. Even more men are going to be unplugging from normal busy life and ministry to reconnect with God and realign themselves with the way things ought to be.
I’m really excited that for the first time in three years, Glacier Point Road is already open. This means that for only the second time since starting the Summit, our guys will get to hike the spectacular Panorama Trail! We did this hike on Year One. I skipped it on Year Two for variety sake, opting instead to do some other hikes and planning to do it on Year Three, but Glacier Point was closed. Then last year, Year Four, it was closed again! Of course, there are plenty of amazing hikes in Yosemite, but I’ve been dying to do this hike again, as it covers the entire perimeter of the Valley and ends by descending the Mist Trail (which we still did on those other years hiking up, and then down via the John Muir Trail past Clark’s Point.)
If you are a man in ministry (I no longer limit the Summit to children’s pastors, by the way) and this Summit resonates with you, please prayerfully consider joining me next year. I open registration in September, and it fills up in just a few months. So be watching for the information in August and for registration to open in September. While it is open to any man in ministry, is is especially for those who are worn out, hurting, running on empty,or going through a difficult time in ministry. It was born out of that kind of season in my life. So I’ve been there.
It is a brotherhood of men hiking together and learning together and praying together and growing together.