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.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The News from Camp Magruder February 19-25

We caught a chill this week at camp, the cold, wet ocean chills that get in your bones and won't get out. The temperatures were probably not lower than plenty of other parts of Oregon, but that wet cold is a different type of cold. These have been days you wanted a warm, hearty soup. These are days you want a hot drink within arm's reach at all times. These are the days you long for a toasty fire in your room.

As we move closer to the arrival of outdoor school, the weekdays are still quiet. We busy ourselves with the preparation, and we are at no loss for tasks, but the camp itself is still resting a bit. Soon we will have middle schoolers gracing our doorstep every week leading right up until the summer. Classrooms will be out of the classroom. Kids, rain or shine, will be out getting their lessons, learning with mind and body. In the mean time, we continue work away, hoping we will be totally prepare to receive them lovingly in a way that might transform them.

Towards the middle of the week, we welcomed our new Camp Chef. We will make an official announcement on the blog soon. The new chef had a chance to touch base with some of our kitchen staff, to look at menus, tour the kitchen. It is another moment of transition for us, another moment of welcoming someone new to the family. We look forward to growing in new ways, in seeing what our camp family looks like in a year or so.

We also said our farewells to Jay, who has been with Camp Magruder for several years now, helping to make our food a part of camp that regularly gets rave reviews. Jay is typically a quiet guy who prefers to stay in the kitchen, preparing the food, the orders, the cooks. Jay has a dry wit, that is hilarious if you pay close attention. In Thursday night, we made a taco bar and sat around the table together, sharing memories and talking about the next big adventures.

We also said goodbye to Anna who, over the past several months had become one of the prominent bakers in the kitchen. We will miss her scones, the snicker-doodle cheesecake, and on and on. But, we'll also miss her warm spirit, her smile and laugh whenever you talk to her out on the serving line. She has done wonderful things for herself and for us in this very short time she's been here.

When you work at a camp, you see so many faces come and go over the years. You see this with the guests you serve, but you also see it with the people you serve next to. Camp is very much about relationship building, and those relationships are full of hellos and goodbyes. We tell our camp friends goodbye at the end of the camp week, through tears and hugs. There are the hellos the next year when get of your car and run to your friends. There are the goodbyes we say to mentors and leaders as we graduate, as we move to new places. There are hellos waiting in the future with some of those people as well. We never know when our paths will cross again, but when they do, we sometimes feel like something was bringing us back towards each other the entire time.

On Friday, the Conference Camping Property Comittee arrived to conduct their bi-annual meeting. They toured our staff housing, talked about emergency preparedness, and discussed designations for CARE Funds that help all our camps with maintenance issues that impact health and safety. It was a pleasure sitting with these professionals who have a place in their heart for camping, who want to use their gifts to keep the property safe and maintained. As I walked them around our camp, I pointed out our buildings and the projects attached to them, but I also was sure we took time to look out over the lake and ocean, to stop on the evacuation hill to see the view on all sides, to name the trees in our woods.

These are things we do in a camp community. Walking together, appreciating the world together. In our daily lives, we often get so burden with our tasks and our personal worries and habits that it is difficult to take time to walk and observe. It takes great intention to sit at the table with loved ones and have a conversation. It is difficult to bake bread, to share it, to thank each other for their part in it.
It takes work to tell people goodbye lovingly and meaningfully. It takes great energy to give someone a warm welcome as if you have been waiting for them for an entire year. But, we love our time here, because something about places like this encourage that kind of energy. And so, something like this encourages that we will receive those gifts.

This weekend we had the pleasure to host our Property Committee, Grace Lutheran Church, and Open Meadow Alternative School's Step Up Program. Keep their good work in your prayers and your gratefulness.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The News from Magruder February 12-18

This week at Magruder has been book-ended by beautiful days with a few blustery, rainy ones in between. The ocean has been at work again, taking a large portion of the driftwood still left on the beach to somewhere else. It's entertaining to imagine where these piles of wood come from. Is there a holding zone someone out in the ocean for giant stumps and planks and trunks? When the ocean takes it back, where does it go? Does it go back out to the ocean's warehouse of waterlogged wood? Does it get dropped off at some other beach wayside for a time like a nomad before moving on to the next stop?

As it took back a stock of its driftwood, the ocean also dug out layers of sand, creating stair steps down to the beach proper from woods behind. In spots, these carvings are indeed regular step size, but if you walk farther, they become 10 foot walls, towering above your head, creating shadows on you from the morning sun. Living near the ocean like this, it is frequently evident that the Earth is always in a state of change. It's not just something that happens over centuries or millennia. It is happening minute by minute, second by second. Go out in the morning and see one thing. Go out in the afternoon and it is transformed.

This week we have been doing lots of interviews at camp. We are preparing to hire several new kitchen staff and we're also looking to name our Summer Program Intern. For the ones doing the hiring, it is both nerve-raking and exciting. We take responsibilities like this very seriously, because we know that the people here have a huge impact on what this camp becomes. There are so many factors to consider when filling these positions: skill, commitment to the mission, maturity, the fit with the current staff, the ability to challenge us and help us grow. There are often many who would do great in so many of these areas. People care about this work. We care about these people.

In thinking about interviews, it has been helpful in many areas to think about how we are shaping this place by who we hire and how we fit people into roles. We are creating a culture, we are building up something that all our guests will see. We hope it teaches them something, inspires them, makes them want something like this for themselves.

Image result for dr frank magruder oregonI think of all the people who have passed through the gates at Magruder. I've gone back and read the stories of Jesse Bunch and Frank Magruder pushing the conference to buy this undeveloped land remotely located on the Oregon Coast. I've heard the stories of people who started the programs still going at our camp. Many have come and gone, come back and gone again.

I think of a story I heard about Dr. Magruder bringing a group of teenagers to the site that would soon bear his name. The professor was an academic and not greatly known for his outdoor skills, but he wanted to take these young people for an outdoor experience. They set up tents on the site, but no one there was an expert. During the weekend, they got a taste of Oregon Coast wind and rain, spending most of the time soaked. Dr. Magruder returned with the recommendation that they build cabins at the camp.

I imagine the place during their first visit. I imagine what it looked like as the first Shorehouse and Carrier lodge went up. I think about how the trees sprang up among the shore grasses. I think about how storms have dropped some of those trees. It is constantly growing, evolving, transforming. In the same way, people are shaping the legacy of the place, creating memories, attaching meaning to the buildings and the natural landmarks. Even that is changing minute by minute. We are continuously blown away by the passion people show in wanting to be here and do the work. I wonder how the outcomes of these interviews will shape the sands of our camp. We take that seriously and prayerfully as we deliberate.

In the middle of the week, the winds got strong and tossed the tops of the shore pines around. You could hear the roar through the night. The next day a few trees were down, but nothing significant. It would be drizzly for the next stretch of time, but on Friday morning a soft marine layer floated in, softening the sun. Everything looked like it had a fade filter on it--the mountains, the tree canopies, the lake and the ocean. A small layer of clouds came in, but sunlight managed to peek through here and there. As we ran errands from cabin to cabin, preparing for Choir Camp, we talked about how beautiful a day it was to be outside. I thought about the spring and summer to come, about the feelings it brings to walk the road from the office to Carrier, seeing people criss-crossing the paths, talking, singing, smelling the spruces overhead. They will come in and go out again. Constant changing, constant growth in ways new and ancient.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The News from Magruder February 5-11

This week much of the camp staff returned from a National Camp Leader Gathering, where we got to meet other camp professionals, attended workshops, and shared a great deal of bonding time.
Returning from an event like this is tiring for sure, but it also gives you a shot of energy for the work you are doing. There is nothing like being with a group of people who know what you know and do what you do. There is nothing like coming together as one body for the same purpose. And so, we came back to our camp with fresh perspectives and reinvigorated passion for our little camp.

When we finally parked the camp Jimmy at about 11:30pm, it was a refreshing feeling to get out and feel the cool sea air. To hear that familiar sound of waves running their course on the beach. The spruces and hemlocks waving with the wind. Our trip was fun and inspirational, but it was good to be home.

Our first day back we hosted AllOne, an ecumenical group of church leaders in the Portland area who get together to support each other and discuss issues within their church. They were on retreat getting rest from their lives of service. They focused specifically this week on self care. It is a pleasure to get to sit around the table and discuss people's lives with them. This is one of the joys of being on a camp staff--an important portion of our work includes these moments hearing each others' stories. There is something about sitting around a table with people, telling stories as you eat. It is akin to a medicine.

It has felt much more like regular Pacific Northwest this week on the coast. Each day has seen some sort of rain. These have been good soup days. Good days for a warm cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon. I love the days at Magruder, sitting in Carrier dining hall, looking at the window at the rain
and wind on Smith lake, warming myself with warm food and drink. There is little motivation to rush outside, so you just talk more to the people at your table. In our busy worlds, we often get anxious to move onto the next task. On days like this it is a little easier to tarry and continue the conversation. Grab that extra mug of tea. Let it warm you up as you talk next to the window.

The wind picked up Wednesday night, and you could hear it through most of the night at Camp Magruder. When we woke the next morning, there were small branches on the road. Newts were out on parade after a lot of rain. As the day went on, we would hear stories of flooding in our nearby cities. At camp, though, the lights were still on, the heat still worked, and we stayed on our work prepping for more guests to come and see the sites we wake up to each day. The water levels would fall by the weekend, and we would be ready to welcome our next round of guests, offering some shelter from the storm.

This weekend we are excited to host the Beaverton High School Choir and Westminster Service Group. Keep their time with us in your prayers.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The News from Magruder January 22-28

It's been another quiet week at Camp Magruder from a hospitality standpoint, but nature has been asserting itself. As we continue to work in the office on catching up with 2016 projects and prepping for Spring, it is difficult to avoid catching yourself looking out the window or listening to the things happening just outside. I think these sorts of distraction are important from time to time. We must be sure we don't get so wrapped up in one part of our life that we forget all the other things happening around us.

We had high surf alerts over the weekend, so high tides rose much higher than normal bringing huge pieces of driftwood along with random trash and scatterings of tiny Styrofoam droplets. Tree trunks you would not be able to wrap your arms around were washed up into the stand of shore pines that outline the beach. Sand was dragged away, lowering the beach about 5 feet, making that stand of trees seem much higher.

Walking the beach after tides like this, I find myself wondering where all of this came from. Where did these trees fall? What type of journey did they take to find themselves washed up on our beach? I imagine a tree falling into a river and traveling down, getting stuck in and eddy for months, then broken loose by the spring rain. I imagine it floating out in the ocean for a time before being thrown back up on the beach. What a strange journey to imagine, then to stand on its trunk for this time it will rest on our shores.

Every beach entrance at Camp Magruder is clogged with these huge pieces of wood. Some are large enough to move by hand, but some will take many people along with chainsaws and axes. The obvious reminder here is how all our efforts are temporary. That trail we hollowed out and wore down to level will not stay that way. This world is moving and it shuffles around everything that comes to rest on it, including us and including our stuff. We can work to keep it in some kind of order, and sometimes will be successful. Sometimes, though, order is too ambitious a goal.

A pair of eagles have returned to camp and have been very active above the grounds. I hear them just about everyday, and if I am outside long enough, I will usually see them too. They squawk in this loud, shrill, high-pitched tone that resounds through the hole camp. They are the king and queen of the trees. Hope says that they get very loud in the evenings when she's retired to her apartment. I think too of what their world must be like, spending so much time in the tip tops of the Sitka Spruces on the big dune. I would love to decipher what they are saying to each other when they go on like this in the tree tops. What are they communicating? What do they notice about us when they fly overhead of us walking to the dining hall?

These days it is interesting how I find parts of our live in dormancy and parts of it very active. We are constantly in this state of flux with our life and the life around us. Some of our work wanes as other parts become pressing. We are compelled by some parts of the world and repelled by others. The eagles are with us, singing in the trees once again after being away for a time. The ocean nudges us
and carves up the land just a bit, and we know it will not be the last time. In the evenings when I go out, I will grow to know a few pieces of driftwood--I will choose a few to sit on to watch the seagulls and the sunset. For a time I will know it's textures and contours. I will have a favorite part of it to sit on. Then one day, I will go out to the beach to find it gone, taken out on some new journey to some other part of the world. For a time though, I will have touched it, I will have seen the God in it. When it has moved on, it will be time to see the God in something new.

We will take a week off from our news posts as the staff takes part in the UM National Camp Leader gathering. We will return next week, though, with more stories to tell. Let's pray for each other.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The News from Magruder January 15-21

Rainy days returned to Camp Magruder this week, but they also brought warmer temperatures. With any sort of change there is a difficult angle and a silver lining if you look hard enough. This can make changes scary and difficult. It could also make them life giving. The weather here on the coast gives us a taste of perpetual changing. The beach looks different every time you visit. One minute the ground is covered in misty rain. The next it is sunny and bring. Then it is raining mixed with hail.

For now, we are still in the quiet days of the year, before retreat groups, schools, and campers are frequenting. We are deep cleaning, getting the accounts in order, sprucing up some buildings. We are doing the work to change the camp. To update it. To polish it. To mend it's sore or broken pieces. This type of work keeps you in your head, but we will soon be welcoming guests, sharing food and conversation at the table, walking the grounds marveling with everyone else at what a beautiful piece of the world this is.

In the middle of the week, the wind picked up and blew very strong. Throughout the day you could hear it howling and whistling through and around the tight spaces of our buildings. The trees danced very spastically. Water was dashed up against the jetty rocks lining the shore, not by water but wind. On days like these we are often reminded how much we are at the whim of powers much greater than us. I realize in these moments what a blessing it is to be alive, to be witness to this awesome power and continue on this journey of life.

The wind blew most of the night, into the morning. The next day we surveyed the camp grounds for damage. The power had gone out early in the morning, so I had my fingers crossed that a tree may have been down. Fortunately, the trees that were down were relatively small and nowhere near any buildings. On days when the wind is really whipping, I'm honestly amazed that most of the trees manage to stay standing. They are built to bend so they don't break. These tall, solid stems of wood, reaching up into the sky. They dance when the wind is most violent, and it often saves them.

On Friday we welcome two groups: McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, a group full of old friends, and our 2016 Volunteer/Summer Staff Reunion. Maddy and Carlee were the first of our former staffers to show up, and it felt like family coming home. As they walked in, I was in a single moment reminded of all we shared: the laughs, the difficult moments, the hard work, the moments on the lake or the beach I'll remember the rest of my life. Here were all these emotions and memories walking back in the door after a long drive.

This weekend, we are excited to welcome back old friends. We're excited to get out around camp a little bit more. We look forward to reliving memories from last year and discussing how much we've all grown. But in that fellowship, talk about the old times is also talk about the time to come. As we look at who were were before, it will inform who we want to be going forward. We will know a little bit more about what we want to do, how we want to carry ourselves, what we hope to be remembering at this time next year. There are many ways to look at a reunion. It is about the past, but it is also about the future.