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 been discipling with Awesome Adventure over the years – you are in for an EYE-POPPING surprise!
You will find the same Bible-Rich Content that covers the same 12 Basic Discipleship Lessons – but communicated in an entirely new exciting way!
I’ve been personally transformed into a cartoon (!) – and entered into the book to take Dee, Cy and Paul (and their trusty dog, Chip) and two other new Christians, Luke and Laura, on a hike in Yosemite National Park to learn all about God and what it means to walk with Him!
Along with way they visit actual historic sites in Yosemite while learning about the Bible, Prayer, Fellowship, Spiritual Gifts, and many other important topics – while discovering the parallels between hiking and walking the Christian life! They learn that discipleship comes with dangers, and decisions and even a run in with a bear!
Your young diciples will learn right along with the kids in the book what it means to live for God along the path of life. There are fun interactive puzzles, codes, mazes, word searches, and colorful illustrations that make the book seem to come alive. I’m especially excited that a lot of my own photography from over ten trips to Yosemite was used, often integrated with the graphical cartoons for an amazingly unique look that you just have to see – its photo-realistic, and yet cartoony, because it is a blend of actual photos and art, for a look that I’ve never seen done before.
But beyond the amazing visual appeal, and engaging elements to attract kids – it is still the strongest tool on the market for discipling kids one on one, which is why my wife and I wrote it years ago, and why DiscipleLand published it and began their entire Adventure Series with this edition.
Sunday School and Kids Church Curriculums do a lot of good in teaching kids the Bible – BUT unless a parent or caring adult takes the time to disciple a child one on one through the basics of the Christian Faith, how do you know they understand and ‘own’ their faith? How can you be sure they understand the basics and can stand firm when they hit their teenage years? How can you help them establish the important habits that will last them a life time?
That is what Awesome Adventure was designed to do! The attractiveness and fun is to engage kids, the solid biblical content is to help make a disciple of Jesus out of them as they dive into the Word of God! Awesome Adventure gets kids into the Bible! There are over 220 scripture references in Awesome Adventure. When kids look these up and highlight them in their Bible over the course of this study, it gives them a powerful overview of Bible and a great sense of confidence in their ability to rightly handle the Word of God.
Awesome Adventure comes in two age levels. It is the same study with the same basic content, but the lower level is simplified for a younger learner:
I am not one to toss around the words “favorite” or “best” lightly or often, so when I say that W. Bruce Cameron’s novel Emory’s Gift is my favorite novel, I mean it quite sincerely.
It is TRULY the best novel I have ever read. Never before have I laughed out loud reading a book, turned away from others lest they see my tears, or just cried boldly on a plane because I no longer cared if anyone saw my tears. I have read lines to strangers who had no idea what I was trying to express because they lacked the context, but I didn’t really care, because I just couldn’t keep that line or paragraph to myself. Cameron’s writing style and insight into the mind of a young boy is truly amazing, insightful, and downright hysterical at times.
Truly, I am Charlie Hall, the main character – a middle schooler, around whom the book revolves. And I miss him now like I lost a childhood friend I’ll never get to see again. So real did the author make him, and so vivid did he paint his memories, his experiences, his deep loves, such as Kate, a teacher he was convinced returned his love. (What boy hasn’t fallen head over heels for a teacher and pretended in his mind that it was mutual, even while he knew he was only kidding himself?) But eventually he found “true love” in Beth, a girl much closer to his age, who both befuddled and enchanted him with her spunk and charm.
Indeed, Cameron has written one of those rare novels where the greatest agony is not that the bear aspect of the story may or not be true, but rather the agony that Charlie Hall isn’t real. In the end, he hints at a conclusion the reader is perhaps to come to without directly telling it to him. It’s genius. I’ve never read a novel twice, but I will put this away only long enough to forget the details so that I can relive it. It might take several years, though, since I remember it as though I lived it. But when the time comes, I will journey with Charlie Hall again down memory lane.
Charlie is a boy who lost his mother to cancer and lives in a home with a nearly silent father who, while not a bad father, is withdrawn and dealing with his own grief while leaving Charlie to cope in his own way. An encounter with a wild grizzly bear in the woods that ends up becoming his best friend becomes central to the story – especially when the bear turns out to be perhaps more than just any bear. But I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll leave the mystery of “Emory’s Gift” to those who are lucky enough to pick up a copy of the book.
Part of my connection to the book is that, like Charlie, I also lost my mother to cancer in 1996. It was also slow and painful. While I was a young adult at the time, my much younger brother was Charlie’s age, and he was still at home with an agonizing father. I saw a lot of my dad and brother in this story and in their journey toward moving on without the most loving mother this world has ever known. I am giving a copy of the book to my brother, an MLB reporter and writer who I think will greatly appreciate Cameron’s gift for storytelling. I believe it might bring some healing to his heart regarding the loss of his mom at that tender age and perhaps help him understand his dad a little better, who is now remarried and happy again. This book helped me heal some too.
I may have read somewhere that this is a book for children; however, I certainly would not recommend it for kids.* I do recommend it for the child in each of us, especially for grown men who remember the struggles of transitioning from childhood to manhood and the awkward inner (and literal!) battles they caused. Charlie’s former best friend Dan becomes a bit of an ‘enemy,’ even culminating in a classic school fight that is described both with heart and humor. It is certain to bring back many memories for men who faced the same coming of age battles in their younger years.
But it was the story of the bear that drew me to the book initially, for I encountered a bear at the age of ten, as well.
My First Yosemite Black Bear as an Adult, 2008
I was camping in Yosemite National Park at the time. I love to sleep outside, and since my nylon sleeping bag kept slipping off the plastic folding cot in the night and I’d awake in the dirt, one night my dad devised a plan to bungee cord my sleeping bag to the cot. I awoke in the middle of the night to gentle nudging in my side. Thinking someone was trying to awaken me, I peeked and discovered a large black bear sniffing me! Terrified, I only stared at my “Emory,” wondering if I was a midnight snack. Unable to speak or move, I just froze and watched (and felt) as he continued to sniff me, gently nudging into me. I remembered Forest Ranger Nina (my Kate of the week) telling us that bears never attacked campers, but that they had mauled people just trying to get food. With that thought came the realization that I had some jolly ranchers in my pocket.
The bear’s nose went under my cot, and as its massive head vanished, so did my hope of survival. I figured my final memory would be the shadow of its body without the head, when suddenly the bear lurched up, flipping my cot. At that point I figured it was “flip and slash” so I broke my silence and screamed like a girl. No offense to girls, I mean it actually as a compliment! (Did I mention I was bungee corded to the cot?) As I landed face down in the dirt, the cot on my back, my dad came out of the Winnebago Camper to save some screaming girl and saw the bear lumbering back into the woods, jolly-rancher-less, and discovered the screaming girl was actually his ten-year-old son.
Like a grown Charlie Hall, I have become a bear hunter in Yosemite ever since. You can read of my first bear discovery here: A Prayer BEARly Answered (Bear pictured above.)
The Black Bear I spotted last year, 2011
There are only 400 bears in Yosemite and over 5 million visitors annually, and every year God has blessed me with a bear sighting and the opportunity to photograph them. I have a series of photos now. I wonder, like grown Charlie Hall, if one of them is “my bear.” Of course, thirty years later, they can’t be…but its fun to wonder.
The Black Bear I spotted in 2010
So you can imagine the special connection I had to Charlie Hall reading Cameron’s novel.
Yosemite Black Bear from 2009
I hope Emory’s Gift causes many to pause and consider ‘mystery’ (for the book allows for mystery) and that the message that the book delivers (that I’m keeping from you to not spoil it) will open hearts to God. For parents, I hope that it will help them to connect better with their kids in difficult times, and for others, that it will encourage them to seize life and not allow hurt and pain to hold them back from enjoying what is next in life, to not let their Beth get away, because there may not be a second chance for everyone. (slight spoiler, but it ends well!)
WANT A FREE COPY?
The author mailed me a stack of hard cover copies to sponsor my podcast where I talk about the book, and I’ll be giving several copies away there, but I’ll give away a THREE FREE COPIES here on my blog as well! All you have to do is COMMENT ON THIS REVIEW and tell me a story about YOU and an ANIMAL. I will choose three people at random and contact you for your address!
It doesn’t have to be as dangerous or exciting as mine – you fed your cat this morning is fine! Just tell me a true animal story and you will be entered to win!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pick up a copy of Emory’s Gift as a gift for someone you love, especially men, for birthdays, Christmas and this upcoming Father’s Day! They will thoroughly enjoy it!
*Why don’t I recommend the book for children? While I found nothing offensive in the book at all, as an adult, it is a book that reflects on life as a young boy becoming a man. Therefore, there are a few references to girls and women in that context from the perspective of a grown man reflecting back on his discovery of girls, their development, the beauty of women, and relating to both. There is one mild reference to sex that while a child might miss it, is there nonetheless. It is a reference to his dad having sex with a woman that he didn’t figure out until ‘years later’ but the reader puts it together because the reader is assumed to also now be older than Charlie and also reflecting on the situation. (The whispering and giggling in the other room when the women spends the night. They eventually marry.) I’m curious how a child reading a few of these passages would process them, being in the middle of those life changes and discoveries. It was delightful and fun, never really offensive, but read like a book for adults reminiscing over those difficult years of discovery.
Mommy is off on a women’s retreat, so daddy and boy can either stay home and watch TV and eat whatever food we can find, or…. head out on an ADVENTURE.
We chose the latter, and headed out to Castlewood Canyon State Park!
We had a great time, and without mommy, of course, we were free to roam “off the trail” a little more than usual. (hehe)
And boy oh boy does this boy love to climb! Of course, I have a knack for taking pictures that look a lot higher than they really are!
Both of these above, Luke is about five feet off the ground. (LOL)
I would never let Luke climb up anywhere high!
I get such a kick out of him stopping every now, turning around and saying, “Take my picture daddy!” I can’t imagine where he got that!
At one point, Luke decided to show me how strong he was! I was pretty impressed! He was going to roll it all the way the down the hill, but I made him put the rock back where he found it.
But what is a hike without bringing some cars to play with? Hiking with Luke is unique, it involves stopping every so often to play with cars, especially if a great spot is discovered…
For example, this was a cool “car cave” we found!
This was my favorite picture of the day – if you click it to enlarge it, you’ll see he is splashing water. (It’s my Macbook Air wallpaper now!) We found this mini pool on the top of a ridge overlooking a beautiful vista and spend quite a while there just hanging out, playing cars and relaxing.
Since we didn’t have mommy, we missed out on her usual great picture taking, so there are no pics of daddy, so I had to get creative – and settle for one of my shadow pictures!
It was a great day! Next was ice cream and then off to pick out a pumpkin and carve it, but that’s tomorrow’s blog post!
Friday, I ditched work (something that’s a little easier to do when yer da boss!) and headed out to the mountains for a day hike with a friend to check out a hike to three lakes up in the mountains east of Idaho Springs. And it turned out to be a beautiful way to spend the day. Dinner on Friday was the beginning of our church’s “Men’s Advance” (real men don’t ‘retreat’) in Fraser, CO, so I decided to spend the day hiking to get into the right frame of mind to the men’s retreat… ooops, advance.
It was a beautiful day and the aspens were in full yellow changing!
The first lake, Chinns, had an old cabin on it that we had lunch in it. It was pretty awesome wondering the history of this settlement.
The next lake, Sherman, was less exciting, but it did have a cool tree out in it that we posed for some pictures out on.
Another view of Chinns Lake from up above on our way to Slater Lake.
Here is Craig Wilson checking out Slater Lake, and as you can see, there was snow still on the hillside belong the lake… where we would soon be heading…
Can you find Craig up on the hill? (on the snow?)
The view back down to Slater Lake from the top of the snow pack! See all the mountains in the distance? They were as far as the eye could see! (And we never saw another hiker the entire time we were there.)
I “skied” down the snow on my rear end! (and pretty fast too!) Until I hit the rocks! Craig caught a pic when I hit the rocks at the bottom: