My three-week vacation was nearly over when it began to nag at me. The vacation had been great: a three-mile run along California’s Highway 395 in a thunderstorm, with my wife who laughed and photographed me from the car; the man in the campground who gave us twenty already cleaned trout; the discovery of a secret hot spring at the edge of a lake; the lava flows in Bend, Oregon; the camping trip with dear friends when we sang “Praise to the Lord the Almighty”; our laughter, love, and well-spread table.

Yessir, at the end of the week I’d be bringing home to southern California a veritable smorgasbord of great experiences, warm memories, and super stories (several of which were of sermon illustration caliber). But was I spiritually ready to resume my ministry? More than that, was I ready to get on a plane, return to Catalina Island, and spend a week speaking and living the Gospel among ninety high school kids at synod camp? The answer to both questions—no, not even close to ready.

Then on impulse I decided to follow through with an idea I had toyed with since reading Mark 1:35. Jesus prepared for ministry with a forty-day “solo” in the wilderness. Maybe a less ambitious trip would help prepare me, I thought. I pulled out a topographical map of the Cascade range and picked a tiny lake several hours in from the trailhead. I packed my backpack, and included a lantern and a Bible. I was on my way.

I had no one to complain to about the steep treacherous trail leading to Melakwa Lake, so I prayed all the way up over several hours. During that time I was both inside and outside of myself. One minute I would ask for God’s help and the next I’d praise him for the fresh blackberries along the trail and the waterfall and the clean air. ...

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