Friday, October 30, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 10/25-31

The rain has arrived at Camp Magruder, wetting the ground and the spruce needles just about every day this week. The sun has been hiding behind overcast skies for the most part, and many staff members have talked about the urge to stay indoors with a blanket, a warm fire, and something warm to sip.

The rain has not deterred this week's outdoor school, though. Walking around camp, you see rain jackets, hoods up and pulled tight. This week there are just under 200 campers, and the dining hall is completely full with very little elbow room. Due to the rain and cooler temperatures, we've seen more fires in the Carrier fireplace. There is something about coming into a room with a roaring fire when you've been out in the cold and wet.

There is a wheelbarrow full of galoshes for outdoor students to stretch onto their feet, so they can feel free to tromp around in the mud of the wetlands, to observe the newts, insects, footprints, and other signs of lake life. If you let yourself feel too uncomfortable by the rain and the mud, it will be easy to miss something extraordinary. It is best to be able to plunge into your environment, let it coat your clothes, let some dirt get under the fingernails. There's a lot to get to know, but you must pay attention beyond the rain.

Our last scheduled boating activity for the year happened a few weekends ago, so it came time to remove the fleet of Camp Magruder rowboats from the water. As the rain and wind increases, Lake Smith becomes less and less hospitable to small, wooden vessels. Rik, Tommie, and Mark piloted the boats for one last journey, from the boat dock to the shore in front of the swim area. We flipped them over, emptying a little leftover rain water and carried them on to shore, flipping them over, revealing all the algae that had been growing since Spring.

They are the latest Camp Magruder fixture  put away to rest until next year. In the underside of those boats, in those now empty boat slips, there are a lot of memories resting as well. I'll remember the boat ride I made with a group of Somali students after rescuing them from the edge of the lake on a windy day. I'll remember rowing out with the summer resource staff at the end of the day to share where we had seen God in our day and pray about the joys and concerns in our lives. I'll recall those moments I paused from my rowing because the beauty of the mountains, trees, the blue sky and ocean clouds just struck me, and all I could do was pause and marvel at it all. It is enough to just go sit at the dock or on one of the wooden benches of the boat to have those feelings come back like an old friend visiting.

We are slowly putting things away at Camp Magruder. The yellow school buses pulled out full of middle schoolers, and next week will be the last time a group comes in for outdoor school until next year. We will say goodbye to this group of staff who we've watched the past few months. It seems like just a little while ago they were training, learning lessons. These days, they are the teachers. But, they will soon take their rest from it, with more time to relish the stories from week after week of kids gracing the mud and grass and lakewater with their feet.

Yes, rest is coming. The time to bundle up and let the roof do its job, holding off the rain is just around the corner. Then, we will recharge the battery, smile at the stories, prepare ourselves to be our best when the next group comes to our door. But, for now, there is a little more time to get out and feel the rain on your forehead like a blessing from the sky. Get out there and explore, take it in. Don't worry about soggy feet the wet hair. Build a blazing fire when you get home. But, in this hour, don't squander the chance at just a few more memories.

This weekend we host Nueva Esperanza Church Family Group. We pray their experience will bring growth and peace.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 10/18-24

The air is feeling more and more like Fall at Camp Magruder. Rain is visiting, but not taking permanent residence. Monday was a very rainy day, but even then, the sun managed to peek through. We have lots of dew and fog in the mornings and evenings, so there is more of that familiar Pacific Northwest feeling of waterdrops and squishy trails. The newts make their slow parade across the driveway. They seem to know a lot of things we don't always pay attention to.

The slightly cooler temps and moisture increase have brought mushrooms on in droves. As you pass through the woods at Camp Magruder, it's difficult to avoid stepping on the little fungi that have sprouted up from the ground just in the past few days. The edible mushrooms have surfaced as well, and the mushroom hunters on staff have begun the race to gather the largest score of tasty molds they can get their hands on.

One morning I was out and I ran into Rik, Tommie, and Mark as they were making the rounds, inspecting the camp grounds. An outdoor school staffer asked Rik if he had seen any good mushrooms, and Rik reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out a blobby, white mushroom. "This is a maitake." You never know what Rik will have gathered up and be keeping in his pockets. Each one of us is full of anecdotes--we have so many things we've gathered up over time just waiting to be shared with those who might find interest.

The tides are always in flux on the ocean, and recently we've seen that the high tides are coming in a little closer to our tree line. Something in these changes has brought in piles of seaweed or kelp to the shore and deposited them in varying ranges up and down the beach. These little stacks of ocean grass will be with us for a while. Some will be blown off to other places, others will be swallowed back up by the sea. The ocean is full of surprises, and it's hard to say what it will bring next, what will leave, what will return.

As I walked to the dining hall on Wednesday, I heard beyond the trees a new group of outdoor school campers practicing for the first time the outdoor school "announcements" song. It's basically a song the whole group will sing at announcements time that draws the attention to the speaker. It unifies them on one thing, immediately breaks up all the little conversations going on, and gives the kids a routine. They know right after the song its time to listen, so no one has to try to tell them to. It can become this fun, silly song they song. One of those things we try to do well at camp--trick the kids into thinking they are just doing something fun, when you actually also want them to be quiet.

The song begins with claps and the word "announcements" broken into three parts and chanted: "A-NOUNCE-MENTS," twice. Then they begins singing, "..and I say hey, yeah, yeah, eh-uh. Hey yeah, yeah. I said HEY. What's going on." If you are a child of the 90s like me, you probably recognize it from the one hit wonder song "What's up," by Four Non-Blondes. I was in high school when this song was big, and it was one of my favorites at the time. I remember when I'd hear it feeling like it was saying something "deep." It was connecting to me in such a powerful way with this disaffected sort of angst that so many teenagers carry with them. I couldn't even now really explain what this song is getting at, and I'm not sure 4 Non-Blondes could tell you either. But, it was like the music was getting at something I couldn't explain.

How many songs do we go back to like this? If this song came out new today, I would laugh it off and turn the channel. But, it didn't come out in 2015, it came out when I was at a very different place in a different time, so it reminds me a little bit of who I was back then, feelings I had back then that are different, some that are similar. Some feelings I miss, some I'm glad I've moved on from. I wonder how it will be different for these kids if they hear this song on the 90s rewind on the radio and realize that it's the  outdoor school announcements song. What memories will it bring up for them? How will the song mean something different to them than it does to people my age? How will we feel something that is very much the same?

We walk through this life gathering up things, even when we don't realize what we are gathering. We decide over time what will hold onto and what we leave behind on the sand to blow away. What we hold onto says something about who we are, what is important to us, what we think we need to survive. On these beautiful fall days, where the sun has warmed away the fog and morning drizzle, I try to take the longer route to my destination, listen and feel a little bit more, hoping there will be something in that time I want to take from the day. I hope as we, the ones blessed to travel to the spot on the ocean will find messages tucked away from the divine, and that we will scoop them up and put them in our pocket to share with anyone who's interested.

This weekend, we host the Hillsboro High School Choir and the Oregon Mycological Society. Help us pray that their stays are filled with joy and peace.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 10/11-17

We saw more cloudy days on the coast this week, as we move through October. The mornings have been crisp and cool, warming up a touch as the day goes on, then cooling back off as night comes on. We are still waiting for the rain, but the clouds are a big change from the sunny days we've been treated to so regularly. Out walking today, I looked to the tops of the mountains to our east and saw where the clouds drifted over the tops of the highest trees. Somewhere behind them there was a blue sky, veiled for the time being.

We had a split week at Outdoor school, which means that the crew hosted two separate groups--one the first half of the week and the other the second half. They have to squeeze in shorter time the lessons they typically do with one group during a week. They start a day earlier, and it's obviously more tiring than their normal weeks. They say goodbye to one group, and pretty quickly, the bus for the next group pulls in.

I generally hope for groups to spend as much time as they can at camp, and not just because it ensures my paycheck. If you take one day to camp, you change your perspective, jump into a new place, shake up the rhythm. If you spend two days, you start to feel your clock shift, you get out of your normal routines. If you stay three days or more, you find yourself in a new rhythm, a new community. This length of time encourages reflections, examinations of who you are, it's ripe for life changing revelations. On a two day retreat, about the time I get settled into something new, it's time to go. Think about the days you went to camp for a whole week. When you left, it felt different. You had time warped to something different.

Of course, I think anytime spent out of the normal routine is good for us. It's one of the big reasons we should take Sabbath. We need some time to wander around in something different, to see life differently. It challenges us, helps us grow, makes us realize there is something important outside of our day to day agendas. So, one day is better than none. One hour is better than none. But, as we step deeper into that time warp, the more chances we will come out changed. I wonder how these students have been changed by the week. I hear so many people from teenagers to senior citizens tell me the fond memories they have from outdoor school. How they remember their time at Camp Magruder and relish the chance to return.

The students spend time playing games, hiking, sitting around camp fires, eating together, drawing samples from the water. What all are they discovering? In finding newts in the lake, is someone getting over nervousness about woodland critters? Are kids learning about cleaning, sweeping, and washing dishes for the first time? Are they going home thinking about the trash they create about the trees they walk under? Did someone find a crush for the first time on a fellow student sitting around the camp fire, seeing them in a completely new way? What will they take with them as they work back into the regular school rhythms? Will it be any different when they return to home room and sit down in the seats Monday morning? It may take years to know all these answers.

Thursday evening, I was driving with my wife back from Tillamook. It was near sunset and still pretty bright. As we neared Garibaldi and the Tillamook Bay, we both noticed a pretty thick marine layer, blanketing the bay and the surrounding mountains. As we entered, the scenery changed completely. It seemed like we had jumped ahead several hours, because it was almost completely dark. The car lights came on. We had entered into a different dimension. We could only see what was right in front of us. We knew there should be water nearby, we near there were trees and mountains, but we did not see them. We had to just trust that they were still there. We found camp in this thick foggy air. Just hours later the sky was clearer and you could see the stars.

Friday afternoon, I spent a few hours taking the needed projectors, extension cords, and tables to the lodges. During these quiet moments of preparations at a place, it's a great time for memories to return. The camp moments you recall as a kid, the people you met, the things you realized about yourself standing out in the open under the sky. I wonder what will come this weekend, what beautiful things might happen in front of us. I wonder how our time here will change us. The clouds spent the whole day here, and they look to be here for the weekend. We are often staring into a fog.
Even our best predictions of what's ahead are guesses. But, maybe we will learn more. We'll walk into the fog of another week, on our best days full of faith, hope, and love.

This weekend we welcome Tigard UMC, Brush Prairie Baptist Women's Retreat, UMCOR Kit Camp, and Aloha High School Choir. Pray with us that their stay with us brings something new and special.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 10/4-10

It's looking more and more like Fall each day at Camp Magruder. The trees here are mostly evergreen, but the few deciduous trees on property are turning yellow. We're seeing more and more cloudy skies, but sunshine is still managing to peek through at some point nearly every day. Our switch to Fall has been a gradual one this year. In the way the sun sets just a little earlier each evening, we drift just a little closer to cooler, cloudier, rainier days each week.

This week, the office staff has spent a lot of time thinking about groups to come. Steve has found much of his day occupied by groups calling to make reservations between now and this time in 2016. Most of my work has been preparing for the Summer of 2016. This means adjusting application forms, thinking about next year's staff positions, firming up next summer's dates, and contacting the people who will lead our summer camps next year.

I think about the role of Camp Dean, and what I've known it to be over the years. The way we currently do camp, it is a very important piece of what's going on. There are certainly other models, but they would cost our staff much more in either time or money. The Camp Dean is not the only factor in a good camp week--if the Dean is inexperienced, having a bad week, or just not engaged the right way the camp can recover. Camp can make some amazing things happen regardless of bumps in the road under the right conditions. Still, a good Camp Dean can send a camp over the top.

I first started to imagine myself working at camp when I sat in my camp theme times, watching different leaders. Some did not have a knack for keeping our teenage attention spans (and this was in the 90s). On the other hand, some blew me away. I learned things and grew while having fun, while making connections with the people around me. It was a revelation to me that there were so many more ways to teach something than to listen to an "expert," talk about it. I began to imagine the ways that I would do it if I was in charge. Soon enough, I was one of the people in front of a group trying to help a group discover something deeper about their faith.

As I call around, asking leaders if they would like to help again, or introducing myself to someone new, asking if they might lead a camp for the first time, I imagine possibilities. I wonder if they are imagining these things too. I remember a worship we did where we had the campers walk around the worship space and exchange the phrase, "you are loved," to each other. After the worship concluded, they went out to the other camps that were there and started telling strangers, "you are loved." They did this for the rest of the week, and in their letters to me after camp, closed with this phrase. I had no idea they might carry it this far. It was such a blessing to see this idea catch fire and get bigger than I imagined it.

I wonder what leaders think when they are asked to do something like this. I know when I am asked, I generally first think about all the other things I have to do. I think about how busy I am and how much time and energy it takes to do something like that. The memories of seeing lives transform, seeing kids grow up and realize something new comes later. The joy of laughing about something that began at camp in a way we know no one else will fully get--that is farther down the road. It takes me longer to remember returning to the camp where I grew up and worked for years to volunteer for a week, and how it was a highlight of my year. We have more pragmatic things to consider first, and, of course, we need to consider those things. Still though, we spend a good bit of our time longing for something meaningful, something life changing. I try to remind myself to make time for something I'm longing for.

The wind has picked up as the weekend comes on. The spruces and pines and dancing outside the window, and sprinkles of rain ebb and flow. Earlier in the week, we had a steady rain. I jokingly asked what was this strange wet stuff falling from the sky. Steve said, "it's the new normal." The wind brings in new things periodically. We hope it will bring the type of precipitation that will refill the lakes, cure the drought, manage the wildfires. We hope for nourishment in this time of harvest. I hope that in these months to come, when we ask for help, a group of brave souls will extend their hands. I hope this not just because of what it will do for the camp, but what it will do to those who volunteer that time. I know from experience. I know how it can change a person.

This weekend we are happy to host an American Field Studies Youth Orientation. Please keep them in your weekend prayers.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The News from Camp Magruder 9/27-10/3

The sun has been playing peek-a-boo with us all week on the Oregon Coast. Nearly every day has been highlighted by stretches of cloud cover and stretches of sunlight. It makes for revolving background changes, each of them beautiful in their own right. You never know what type of air will float in over Smith Lake, sandwiched between the mountains and the ocean. We walk next to it each day hoping we can welcome any type of air that comes our way.

Our Needlework Camp spent most of the week with us, after a weekend start last Friday. It was a small group of all women, here to work on projects that ranged from cross-stitch to knitting to quilting to mixed media art. Whenever I would go to the Kimberly Center meeting space, I'd find them with scraps of fabric spread out, working and chatting. Many of these women have known each other for decades. Some are new members to this little family. We talked about how a retreat like this can be so refreshing--to leave the normal world behind to pour care and focus on one task. To have the freedom to walk outdoors anytime, to chat and put the task on the back burner.

Early in the week, the Needlework Camp and camp staff went to the beach to see the Super Blood Moon. I got to the beach just before the sunset and caught a beautiful display of color and light as the sky changed from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue. As the night came on, I changed positions and faced East where the moon would soon rise over the mountains, just as the eclipse was reaching its peak. It was windy and chilly, but it was completely clear, so we knew we'd see this astronomical event very well.

I stretched my eyes scanning the mountain, wondering exactly what point the moon would rise over. How red would it be? Kara, Steve's daughter, said she kept being fooled by the red tower lights behind Rockaway, thinking momentarily it was the moon. Then the dull red ball peeked up above the mountain. I heard the Needlework camp cheer and laugh like middle schoolers. We marveled at this familiar site colored in such an unfamiliar way. It's interesting how much joy we can find in simply seeing something we know, differently than we're used to.

On Thursday afternoon, I first started seeing reports of the shooting at Umpqua Community College. I scanned my brain, wondering if I knew anyone, and though I couldn't think of anyone, I'm sure there are plenty of people I know who were touched by it. I think we've all felt the familiar feelings that we are becoming more used to from these incidents. This one was much closer to our back yards, though, so I think we've imagined it more from a personal perspective or someone we love. There are all the common feelings of sadness and anger. There are all the arguments over solutions. There are the urges to act, the urges to mourn, the urges to reflect and do the right thing.

Our Needlework group left Wednesday morning after their final worship. I saw how far they had come on their projects, the slow building of something that will adorn a wall or warm someone on a cold night. Our second week of outdoor school campers left this afternoon, just after lunch. They will make their way back home and return to their school buildings next week. For a short time, silence fell over the camp, before our weekend groups made their trek out to the coast. We will carry on with our plans. These thoughts will stay with us, though. I'll remember the joy of the rising moon. I'll be confused by the killing of innocents, and not know how to hold them in the same room. I'll hope that in our prayers we ask for guidance. I hope we will find ways to pray with our hands, our feet, our mouths, our ears.

This weekend we welcome Christ UMC, Salem UMC, Trinity UMC, a Fall Photography Retreat, and Reed College Leadership. Hold them in your prayers this week along with the many others.