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.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The News from Magruder January 8-14

As the rest of Oregon was blanketed under feet of snow and ice, we watched from a short distance without much worry about driving to the store, just wondering if the supply trucks were able to keep the shelves here stocked. It has been interesting looking at the facebook and instagram feeds of all our Pacific Northwest friends at the mercy of January's winter wonderland. It has still been chilly here by Oregon Coast standards, but we aren't bundling up nearly as much as the people we see in our social media feeds.

Our first weekend retreat group of the year arrived this weekend, which meant we've still been occupying our time with off-season camp work. That doesn't mean we were sitting on the porch, watching the bald eagles fly over, nor were we working on our gaga game for hours on end. We have been doing a lot of prep work, a lot of maintenance, deep cleaning, lots of first of the year reports. We are switching onto new systems in many ways. We have a new online accounting program. Staff members are changing residences, we are planning for a summer staff reunion, some staff is prepping to attend a national camp leaders' gathering. We can see a great many things in our future, and we're trying to get the ducks in a row to be ready for it.

Speaking of ducks, several ducks have been spotting out on Smith Lake, even with most of the lake frozen over. It is an exciting time to enter into seasons where animals return. We will see those ducks swim around day after day, until we begin to see a mother with her line of ducklings following her beside the docks and under the boat house. The eagles are being spotted more frequently as well. We know it won't be too long until Gray Whales make their way past our shores, like old friends returning to visit.

When you work at a camp, you become in tune with seasons. You know the long hours and constant human interaction of the summer, the retreats of the spring and fall, the quiet and preparation of the winter. There are the seasons of animals and plants. The seasons of the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The seasons of long days, the seasons of long nights. The seasons of rain. The seasons of sunshine. Sit with each day, and you will slowly pick up on the gradual changes, the same way you'll notice the ocean tides rising and falling if you spend enough time on the beach. Stay with it long enough, and you will begin to sense it. They will speak to you.

The deadline to sign up for our Summer Reunion passed on Wednesday, and we got to see the roster of people attending from the summer or 2016. It was so exciting to see each name, and go back to memories from the summer that each person occupied. They will take a break from their non-summer occupations. Some will join us from school, some from work, some from both. We'll talk and laugh about memories from last summer, and we'll begin to grow excited about what is in store this summer.

I love to see what camp does to people. I love especially to see what the work does. I've seen people grow up in the course of a year. I've seen people have revelations about who they want to be. I've seen friendships grow. I've seen people find inspiration to do courageous things. I've seen people really begin to be themselves. I've seen God at work in this. We've seen God standing side by side in these camp times. I see these names on this roster and know there are endless possibilities when we bring them together. And, thing of how the possibilities increase in just about 6 months when we had campers to the mix at the end of a warm sunny day, sitting around a campfire after spending several days knowing each other, playing our games, singing our songs, praying our prayers, growing close.

These are the days where we are sensing the seasons changing. It is in the weather, it is in the work. We are building, planning, growing our excitement like a sapling. Sun is returning and rain too. We will see familiar friends soon. We will make new friends as well. We will introduce many new seasons. We are readying ourselves. Readying ourselves for something great and beautiful.

This weekend we were happy to host Seattle Church of Christ's Winter Rally as our first retreat of the year. Here's to many more wonderful experiences at Camp Magruder in 2017.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Magruder's New Program Director

Camp Magruder is excited to announce Hope Montgomery as our full time Program Director. Hope originally hails from Union City, Tennessee. She has served in camp leadership at Lakeshore UM Camp in West Tennessee and the Life Enrichment Center in Center Florida before coming to the Oregon Coast. Hope has been Magruder Summer Program Director the past two summers and served as Interim Program Director before coming on full time.
Hope has a kind, playful spirit and great skills guiding and inspiring
staff and guests. She is a seeker, searching for deeper connections and understandings of our world, our relationships, and God. Hope is a song-writer and guitarist with two studio albums. She loves exploring Oregon and thinks she’s pretty good at gaga, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee. Her laugh is contagious.

Hope has been an instrumental part of Magruder’s focus to help young leaders grow in their faith and develop creative, powerful worship experiences. We are excited for the continued growth we will see in our youth and in the depth and power of our program under her guidance. We feel like we are about to embark on a great journey. If you’d like to share this joy or join Hope and the rest of our staff in this exciting work, you can find her at

Friday, January 6, 2017

The News from Magruder January 1-7

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2017. We have already noticed the days getting longer at Camp Magruder. We are experiencing the cold snap along with the rest of Oregon, with temperatures staying below freezing for good portions of the day. We don't normally feel that kind of cold on the coast for extended periods of time.

Many of our staff returned this week following the holidays. I find an eagerness to get back to camp life after leisure and poor eating choices of Christmas and New Years. I am happy to take the time off, catch up with friends and family, and have the change in speed. That break sends me back rejuvenated and excited to do this work in this beautiful place. So, we have been shaking the dust off, getting projects started for a new year.

For the past several days, despite the cold, we've had incredible sunshine, not a single cloud in the entire sky. The world feels bigger on days like these. The sky has been a deep shade of blue, and the ocean matches that deep blueness. The shades look doctored, like you're standing inside some sort of instagram filter. On days like this, I find myself in love with the world, in love with working at a camp. Walking from building to building, you find yourself more easily noticing the world around you. It seems more alive, more real. All going back to this clearness of the sky.

On a day like this, you can go out to the beach and see clearly all the way to the horizon where the Pacific meets the sky. Twin Rocks is crisp, dark gray. Then off in the distance is the coast range, Neahkhanie Mountain, and the houses of Manzanita perched on the side of the hill like an old hillside village. This is the type of day to take a long walk on the beach with someone. Get into a long conversation that will leave you forgetting about time and distance. You will reach a pause in your dialogue and be surprised by how far you walked. Along the way you'll be interrupted by the urge to point out some interesting way a seagull is standing or the adorable way the sandpipers play chicken with the surf. You'll point out an eagle every now and then, which are so clear on a day like today.

I discovered this morning that Smith Lake has frozen over, the first time I've seen this in my two years. There is a thin sheet covering the entire body of water. You see the watery texture, hardened by the cold as you step to its shore. Walk out onto one of the docks and you'll hear the pinging and cracking as the ice is slightly disturbed. Water will bubble up and run above and then beneath the ice sheet. It is an interesting contrast to compare the starkness and cold of the frozen lake to the openness of the sunny sky above it. We are in a world of contrasts, and it doesn't seem as if 2017 will be too different. Last year brought many unexpected challenges at Magruder, and we expect to see new ones in a new year.

For now, though, there are moments to look at the bright, wide-open world just outside the office door, to listen to the conversation it is seeking with us. A new year has come to us once again, and we are walking out into it. We know the sunshine will not last forever, that rain is just around the corner. But, we know there will be a beauty in that as well.