Friday, April 21, 2017

The News from Magruder April 16-22

Spring continues to toy with our emotions out at Camp Magruder. On several days this week, we had the types of beautiful days that are legendary on the Oregon Coast. Crisp blue skies that make you feel like you have some sort of special glasses making everything high definition. Whales have been spotted near the jetty the past few days. Life is waking up at camp. Then, there are still days of rain and wind that seem to come out of nowhere, drenching the ground and our socks. Our roof project continues to be postponed, because we can't string together enough dry days to get the roofers out here. 

The week started off on Easter Sunday. Magruder has hosted a sunrise service for the local communities for many years. This year we moved it from Carrier dining hall to Sherlock Lodge. Anytime you make a change with something that is a long-standing tradition there are many potential pitfalls. People may end up at the wrong place, because it's so routine to go to the old place. People may miss the old place because there is a special attachment with it. There are routines built into the old place that may not transfer to the new one. It is a scary thing to try something new. Still, Sherlock made much more sense for us this particular year, and so it was moved. 

While I was traveling between lodges to get supplies before the service, I encountered two ducks who have been spending a lot of time on Smith Lake the past few weeks. They were in the gravel lot near Carrier, and they quacked around until I got too close for their comfort, and they retreated through the air back to safer waters. I thought about how very soon they would have several little balls of fluff following them around over land and water. I thought about how life is returning to this place in nearly all its forms and how that is such a perfect setting to reflect on Easter. 

As the service began, I looked around at this community of people who had woke before dawn to participate in this ritual, how I'm growing to know many of them and share faith with them. I looked over at my wife who also worked early and helped me transport pastries and coffee to Sherlock. I thought about how this feeling could come about anywhere--in Carrier, Sherlock, on the porch outside, on the beach in the rain. The power of that time spent really has more to do with the way we fill the space than the actual space involved. Those spaces that means so much to us, mean that because of how we fill them. 

This week we welcomed St. Pius X Catholic school, and they have the special distinction of being the first group to do boating at Magruder this year. To prep for them, I woke our fleet of row boat from their winter hibernation, flipped over on the side of the swim area. These boats are heavy and sturdy, and it takes the correct lifting techniques to avoid dropping one on an important appendage or finishing out the day with major back pain. I turned #2 and #5 over, scooted them into the lake, and attached the oars. It began to drizzle, then rain harder, but this had an incredible calming affect on the lake water itself. I sat in the center and began the familiar motions rocking forward and backwards, taking the boats over to their slips at the boat dock. This seemed almost like something sacred, something holy. 

Boating didn't happen that day. The moment the rain stopped, wind began to rush in making the water way too choppy for a bunch of middle schoolers with minimal boating experience to navigate the lake. The next day we tried it again, and this time we were successful. It continued to rain, which again had a calming effect on the lake. I was soaked by the end of the morning. My toes and fingers felt icy. But, I had done some true camp work. The work of getting outside and having an adventure, even if the conditions weren't perfect. The work of exposing people to something new, something maybe out of their comfort zone. The work of playing in a way that soothes and heals. Even if the weather was going to continue to toy with us, even if the conditions are not the way we idealize them in our minds when we imagine a boating period, the most important thing was the way we filled the space on that particular day. 

This weekend we welcome Cornerstone Church High School Retreat and First Unitarian Church of Portland Men's Retreat. We pray that they are able to fill the space with something life-changing regardless of what the Spring weather decides to give us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Camp Magruder Welcomes new Executive Chef

Camp Magruder is excited to announce our new Executive Chef, Nick Atkins. His influence will continue Magruder’s proud reputation for serving tasty food made from quality ingredients with special attention to locally sourced. Nick began work with Magruder the beginning of March, and our guests and staff have already enjoyed many wonderful meals prepared under his guidance.

Nick is Oregon born and raised but has traveled all over the world, spending years in Hawaii, New Zealand, British Columbia, Mexico, Greece, and also Paris, France where he studied at the Conrad Hilton. He came to Magruder from Seattle, where we worked in the restaurant industry. Nick began looking for ways to get out of the city and make a bigger difference in the world and it landed him with us. He also loves ocean swimming and diving, sailing and windboarding, and tai chi to start his mornings.

Nick brings a warm spirit and his kind grin to life at camp. We are excited about the ways his presence and work will help us further our mission of providing Christian hospitality to every camper and guest group who visits, not to mention the good it will do for our taste buds and stomachs. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The News from Magruder April 2-7

It has felt quintessentially Spring out at the coast this week. Our unpredictable seasonal visitor has toyed with our emotions all week long. We have stretches of sunshine and warmth, followed by downpours. One part of the day, you stare out your window wishing to go outside, hoping some task will come up to draw you out. The next part of the day, you stare out your window at the miserable conditions, hoping that nothing pulls you outside into it. On Friday, we've had high winds and periods of rain. Both the rain and the trees are being tossed in strange directions by 40 mile per hour winds.

Outdoor school returned from Spring Break this week, and we welcomed a middle school group from a school in Hillsboro. On Monday, I crossed paths with a few Outdoor School staff members prepping for their high school counselors. We walked towards the dining hall together discussing the previous week. One staff member had gone to Crater Lake during her time off. She showed me a picture of herself standing in front of a 20 ft. snow drift. She said they didn't get to do all that much, but they pretty well had the place to themselves.

I enjoy the possibilities that await in a simple stroll from the office to the dining hall. On mornings like this, I make a hot cup of tea and walk around, observing and interacting with camp life. You might have a solitary walk, spent listening to the birds, looking up into the trees. You pay attention to the breeze, to how loud the ocean is on this particular day. You might encounter kids making their way to their next activity, wrapped up in their conversations, their songs, their games, their growing up. You might find another solitary walker and join up, beginning a quick conversation to pass the time from point A to point B. All are potentially a prominent memory from the day. All could wake you up to the huge variety of ways to appreciate working at a camp.

The next step this week in prepping for roof work on the Walworth Building was to move the old bell. The bell has been decommissioned as an emergency bell when Carrier Dining Hall got an alarm on its roof. The pull rope for the bell rotted several years ago, so it wasn't even usable in its current state. The bell was located very close to a power line, so Rik had to call the utility company to shut down the lines and bring it down. This old, heavy cast iron bell slowly came down. It was originally in a bell tower at Camp Magruder, which stood close to the Miller Cottage where there's now parking for the dining hall. The tower housed the camp office for a time. It was later moved to Walworth. Rik and I gave it a good look. Both our minds were turning over the places we might put it next, the new role it might serve when we wake it up to use it once again.

This week the camp directors of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the Methodist Church held their meeting at Camp Magruder. In all, there are 6 camp site with directors, and a gathering like this can be a great uplift for camp staff. There is something about sitting at the table with people who do the same work. There's the common knowledge, knowing someone gets what you're going through. There's the stories that everyone easily relates to, that we can laugh at or feel the weight of. Then, there's that chance to help each other, to share our successes and challenges, to pass along little tricks we've picked up, to collectively work on solutions. And then, there is just the chance to let loose a little and play with the people who share our passions.

Late Tuesday night the directors stayed up in the Edwards Lodge playing board games, swapping stories. There were lots of laughs, lots of friendly teasing and joking. In managerial positions, we often find ourselves stuck in this constant need to be serious, to take things seriously. We should be serious about our work--it's a sign we care about it. But, one of the foundations of any successful camp is fun, and I would imagine most of us fell in love with camp in a time when we were having a whole lot of fun. As I looked across the room and watched this group of people who manage these big budgets and thousands of retreat guests, who are steering these ships that are so important to so many people, it was comforting to know we are still laughing and allowing ourselves to play and engage. It was good to feel that we have not forgotten the grease that keeps these gears turning.

Late Thursday night, the wind began to pick up, and it has continued. The advisory is on until 11pm Friday night. There's also a high surf advisory, and those two forces combined make the Pacific look very formidable to a beach visitor. I'm watching out the window as the trees bob back and forth. The office is making creaking noises as gusts build up. There is motion and power all around us, swirling. Spring is keeping us on our toes. In all the chaos and uncertainty, it is good to get out and walk around, even in the crazy moments. The more I look and listen, the more I find myself connecting with things that give me comfort and ease the anxiety brought on by regular change and uncertainty. So many beautiful things happen on any given day--even just a few tastes of them make for good medicine.

This weekend, we welcome an Adventist Young Adult Retreat and the Cleveland High School Choir. Join us in these feelings of welcome, keep in your prayers that they find joy and rest out here on the coast.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 26 - April 1

It was a Spring Break week on the coast, which may or may not have been on your radar depending on what your line of work is or if you have kids. At Camp Magruder, it meant a break for Outdoor School, who I'm sure enjoyed it after two straight split weeks. Being on the coast, it also meant there were more people in on the weekdays than is normal for this time of the year. When you're out at the grocery or eating dinner at your favorite restaurant and notice it's pretty packed for a Tuesday, you scratch your head for a moment then remember, "Oh, that's right. It's Spring Break."

We opened the week with the honor of hosting a memorial service for Jon Brown, a prominent figure in our community. We had been a regular at Magruder's Easter sunrise services over the years, and his family felt like it would be a fitting place to memorialize him. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Jon before his passing, but it was evident by the numbers who showed up on a Monday afternoon how much his life meant to the Rockaway Beach area. 

The Magruder staff was present to help the family set up and to facilitate parking. I spent most of the time waving vehicles into an organized parking plan. The weather was interesting--one moment it was sunny, the next it drizzled. We rotated through this weather all day, really we rotated through this all week. Once the cars were parked, I snuck into Carrier to see a room packed with a range of ages and backgrounds. People traveled from neighboring states to be here. There were infants and toddlers all the way up to elderly here to pay respects. Jon Brown was a teacher, but it was obvious his influence went well beyond the classroom. The next day, my wife and I were meeting with a local lawyer, and he talked about how he had been at the memorial himself, how next to his parents Jon was one of the biggest influences of his early years. 

I thought about how this place will forever be tied into this story for the people who were touched by Jon Brown's life. How the act of choosing a setting can be sacred and make a place sacred for a huge group of people. Over 300 people joined us on a Monday afternoon in our dining hall that has been on this spot almost as long as it has been called Camp Magruder. I think of how many other stories are tied up in that building, how it has been made sacred over the years for so many people, from young worshipers finding their faith to outdoor school kids discovering a passion for wild things to much more random chance encounters that change someone's life forever. 

Spring Break slowed life down for just a moment at Camp Magruder. Slowing down is crucial to healthy life. We will find ourselves busier and busier as summer approaches and passes. There is much work to be done. We hope that our impact is a lasting one. We hope people are changed a bit when they spend time with us. We hope what they experience furthers the sacredness of this place. It is important to remember, but it is also important to continue to practice to bring a place into something new even as we remember what it has been and what it has done. If that doesn't happen we are doomed to forget it--and we don't want to forget things this holy, this impactful, this important.
Things are becoming new again at Magruder. The flowers are blooming, Green buds are opening up on the bushes. The alders will open their leaves soon and we will be mired in sunshine and greenness. It is Spring Break everyone. We often look at it as a time of rest, of taking a break. But make no mistake there is important work going on even now. the work of appreciating, the work of noticing the beauty surrounding us, the work of remembering those who shaped us, the work of making even ourselves new. The sun is visible more and more each day. Summer is on the way. Let's go out into the open air. Let's hear the ocean. Let's do something wonderful with our moment here. Let's leave this space full of memories that will inspire someone else to call it holy and sacred.

This week, we've had the joy of hosting Brush Prairie Baptist Women's Retreat. They were originally scheduled for the fall weekend when tornadoes hit the coast, so we are happy to finally welcome them back. Keep their time in our prayers. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 19-25

The rain is slowly letting off at Camp Magruder, and we are beginning to have more days where we aren't totally inundated with water. This is not to say that every day is dry and sunny. Even now, most days rain still manages to fall at some point. But, we are seeing glimpses of the blue sky. Our skin has even seen sunshine here and there. It has been a very rainy winter on the coast, and a string of sunny days sounds like almost too much to ask for. We are seeing hints that it may return, though.

This week was a split week for Outdoor School. On these particular weeks, one school group comes in at the beginning of the week, leaves on Wednesday, and another group comes in on its heels to finish out the week. It adds an extra day to ODS's typical weekly schedule, and presents some logistical challenges on that Wednesday where one group is coming in and one is leaving.

Imagine the feat it is for these staffers to finish up with a group and take care of all that you do the last day of camp. Cleaning the cabins, packing, eating the last lunch, wrapping up your sessions, saying goodbye to everyone, putting a ribbon on those meaningful relationships that were established in those three days. Now imagine as you are doing all that, also managing to do all the things you do as you welcome in a new group. Helping them get off the bus and find their way in a new place, giving introductions and introducing the staff, eating the first meal (right after the other group ate their last), teaching them songs, learning their names. Think of the emotional transitions for staff members that has to happen in quick succession. They do this and do it well, but it is an impressive undertaking.

I think about how this is the life of a healthy camp. You welcome the stranger, and the stranger leaves a little bit more a friend. This is powerful and life-changing work on both sides. It has an impact on us. A good retreat experience can stay with us for weeks, months, years. But when you work at a camp, it's important to be able to put feelings and experiences on their proper shelves, so you can go back to them later. It won't be long before you will need to be totally present for the next group. In a world that puts so much value on multi-tasking, camp sometimes requires a good organized shelf where we quickly switch from one item to the other.

Towards the end of the week, we were also joined by a Church of God Men's Retreat. We hosted participants from all over the country, who gathered on the Oregon Coast for a time of fellowship and worship together. This group along with our outdoor school group presented more logistical challenges, mainly in the realm of dining. This is also a big part of camp life. On the surface, what is often seen is the relationships, the care for the buildings and grounds, the way we try to make it nice to the eyes and comfortable for the guest. The underground work is the scheduling, the coordinating among staff people, the meetings just to figure out how to hold people in the same place at once.

This week we hosted meals in the upstairs of Carrier Dining for outdoor school, and the Men's group in downstairs Chappell Hall. That seems straightforward enough, but that means the meal must be split in the kitchen and carried to two different locations. Kitchen staff must haul food, plates, cups, utensils downstairs. We need two KP crews. When the meal downstairs is finished, all the dishes must be brought back upstairs to be washed, then back down for the next meal. We have to coordinate this to try to avoid a traffic jam between the groups at the dishwasher. The kitchen staff must be on the same page. All this must be figured out before the groups get there to eat.

We spent a lot of time over the past few weeks, and even months, planning for these events, knowing that having two large groups like this together could be uncomfortable if we hadn't prepared for it properly. At the end of the week, most of the work done, it was a nice release to stand at the serving line with Big Mike watching our guests enjoy their meal. Our work at this point was just to watch the food and make sure the serving dishes were refilled it needed. The tough stuff was finished. We talked about how smooth things had gone, we talked about some of the characters in this group and what a hoot they were. Every now and then, I'd grab an egg roll or piece of curry pork and snack as we saw the fruits of our labors and just took a moment to enjoy life.

At the end of the day, it is a beautiful thing to see these processes go smoothly. We don't always get them perfect, but it feels like such and accomplishment for multiple groups to get their meals, to talk about how tasty the food was, to have a few moments just to greet people and ask how their day has been. It's also a pleasure to work with people committed to these types of challenges. When you get home at night, you are tired, but it is a good kind of tired, a warm kind of tired. You leave with a good feeling deep down, because you did something that could leave an impact on other people, and it has also left an impact on you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 12-18

We've seen signs this week that Spring is coming soon at Camp Magruder. Coming off the Daylight Savings time change, it has been very enjoyable to have so much daylight left at the end of the work day. There is a crisp feeling of life when you step outside the office door into light, knowing you have a little bit of freedom to go out and enjoy it. We have seen a few beautiful sunny days this week, reminding us of July and August when nearly every day will be sky blue and crisp. Spring likes to mix it up--a few parts Winter, a few parts Summer.

Last week we welcomed NWRESD Outdoor School Staff for their orientation. We saw several familiar faces and several new ones. This crew will become part of the Magruder staff family during their 13 week stay. They will depart just before our Summer Staff comes in. They will teach lessons to middle schoolers for weeks and weeks, right here on the coast.

This week, the first round of students arrived. We saw the big, long yellow buses arrive, a familiar, nostalgic sight to all of us. The staff stood out in the north ball field, cheering ready to welcome the students the moment they got off the bus. This group does a great job in that regard, making they students feel valued and welcomed. It's something that's important to us at Magruder, and it's wonderful to see other groups sharing those values in our space.

The day before students arrived, a group of high school counselors showed up to prep and train for the week. It was a beautiful day, with stretches of sunshine. It was a great day to be outside on the coast. It's days like these you imagine leading a group of kids into the woods to look for plants and animals, to discover all the amazing things just under our nose. You imagine yourself kneeling next to some great discovery with wide-eyed students falling in love with the world.

Of course, by the time the students arrived on Monday, the weather had totally flipped. It was chilly, rainy, and windy. So, those idealized images of lessons in pristine weather were chucked out the window for rain jackets, galoshes, and wet socks. Still the lessons must go on, and honestly there are times when less than perfect weather can make a memory more memorable.

The rain has also slowed progress on some essential maintenance projects that we just need a string of dry days to get going on. Over the next year we hope to replace roofs on three buildings: Walworth, Gatehouse, and Bunch. We're starting with Walworth, and we've even got the supplies delivered and sitting on top of the building. We just need five straight dry days for the roofers to get going. Based on recent history, that seems almost impossible. I have a hard time thinking of two dry days in a row in recent months, much less five. Spring is not a season of consistency.

Spring is a season of beauty, though. We are beginning to see early blooms open up around camp, and we know more are coming. Thursday I took a phone call out on the secret dock near the north ballfield. The sky was blue with cottony white clouds. The sun was warm on my face, I could feel color coming back to it after a long winter. As I continued my phone call, I walked on the dock and watched water come through the spaces between planks as weight shifted from one end to the other. I heard eagles call and looked in the sky to see a pair flying just north of camp, criss-crossing in the air. I thought about all the days I've spent standing on a dock on Smith Lake, blue above and below me. More of this is coming.

Yes, spring is at our doorstep, with it's unpredictable beauty. We can never really be sure what is in store for us. There are days we'll get it right and days we will be sorely wrong. This is also life, though. We can't get too caught up in our idealized versions of how each day should go. We might miss something even greater preparing to present itself.

This weekend Cedar Mill Bible Church is bringing a group of youth to spend a few days with us. Hold them and their time with us in your prayers.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The News from Magruder February 26 - March 4

The Spring is toying with our emotions at Camp Magruder. Though we're still technically in winter, we see days here and there that fool us into thinking we're farther along in the seasonal calendar than
we really are. Early in the week, we had several stretches of beautiful sunshine--the sort of sunshine that dries off all the pavements and glimmers the the spruce needles.

For morning prayers on Tuesday it was just too nice a day to stay inside. Angie, Hope, and I went out to the bridge over Smith Lake on the Wetlands Trail to do our daily prayers. As we shared our joys and concerns for the day, a cool breeze came off the lake as ducks regained their comfort zones after fleeing when we entered. The sky was blue and so was the lake. The wind made the water lap up against the shore and the piers of the bridge. It was a great time to breathe in the scenery and let God speak to us just through being in creation.

On another morning, I went to the beach before going into the office. I was out with my terrier, Digby. Just after emerging onto the beach I saw a bald eagle perched on a large stump just about 100 feet way. I grabbed up the dog, so he didn't become an eagle treat, and then tried to figure out what I should do next. I wanted to pause time and watch this magnificent animal who I had just by some coincidence crossed paths with. This is one of those amazing things about living on the Oregon Coast. If you make time to be outside long enough, and you pay attention while you're out there, you will find yourself having encounters like these regularly. Even so, it feels like a blessing, like fortune has smiled on me. I wonder if Digby felt the same way.

On Ash Wednesday we entered the Lenten season, which for many can seem like a very gloom and doom meditation 40 days long. Many see it as a time where you have to give something up, so it becomes a weight loss or quit smoking plan. It may be a time for people to put change in a jar and give it to a charity. That basically boils it down to a time that we do the things we've been putting off, but really think we should do. I like to think there is more being asked of us during the time than just to prove to ourselves we can go without chocolate, though. I think Lent is a time that asks us to get in touch with the reality of our weakness. To sit down and ponder the idea that we are not perfect and we do not have the control we often tell ourselves we have. Understanding that and grasping that leaves room for love to enter. It is comforting. It is hopeful. In this time, we can become more aware of God's presence and how God works through all the things that surround us and sustain us, even in our weak days.

I feel as if many of us have been dragging ourselves through difficult, weak periods. We've been exhausted by it. Scared by it, Angered by it. Knocked down by it. I think Lent offers us a chance to really ponder it, though. To not power through it or put it off, because there's too much going on. It invites us to sit on the floor and cry and understand it is a part of us. It compels us search for relief, to call out for some sort of hope. As we sit there on the floor in our fear and weakness, there is enough time to listen closely, to hear the whispers that we often rush past unaware. There are many things out there, many blessings there to sooth us in our weakness.

This is the last full week without guests we will see for some time. Outdoor School staff will join us next week and the week after we will begin to see the middle school students. From there we'll go right from Outdoor School to the summer. After the summer we'll welcome Outdoor School again until November. Our work will pick up and there will be less time to ponder, less time to prep. Still it is important for all of us to remind ourselves there is time to be silent. Time to really look at
ourselves, to be real with ourselves. Time to sit with our weakness and through it see how many blessings truly are out there surrounding us.

This weekend we welcome the Aphasia Network and Dancemode Women's Retreat. Join us in prayers that these groups find a multitude of blessings during their time.