Gene Ort's Blog

Archive for March, 2010

Holy Week Exodus Interruption

by on Mar.30, 2010, under Spiritual

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Exodus trek for this important message.

A close friend sent me this video yesterday.  It stopped me in my tracks. We are a handful of days away from recognizing the most important event in human history. God, in the form of man, allowing sinful man to murder him without cause and without resistance. There can only be one reason. Our God loves us beyond what we can comprehend.

Luke 9:43 Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Treasure and ponder each of these next words: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands.”

Luke 9:48 “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”

Dean Pickering is a musician and composer. He supplies my little company with his wonderful music, featured in this video. He is also a video producer, he produced this video. He is a staff video editor at Willow Creek Community Church. He is also a Man of God and a father. His heart comes through in his art. He is a Child of God.

Dean is right now in an intense battle with cancer. He knows who his Saviour is and where his healing comes from. He is a Man of Faith.

Please join me in prayer for my friend, Dean.

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Saint Catherine’s and Mount Sinai

by on Mar.26, 2010, under Egypt

There is a benefit to getting up early in the morning. You get to see this… all by yourself.

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Night people think I am insane. But this is worth it to me. I watched the sun come up on a hillside facing Saint Catherine’s at the base of Mount Sinai.

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I am pretty sure I am within shouting distance of where Moses must have sat in the early hours of the morning as he did exactly what I was doing, seeking God.  To be near to God is to be changed. I am not sure who said it first, but I have read it quoted in several books. It is true. Hebrews declares: God rewards those who diligently seek him. He is the reward. A moment with God changes everything. Like a sliver light in a dark room.. it lets you know you are not blind. Mornings alone in pursuit of God are a treasure to me. I need solitude. It’s the way God made me. On this morning I was anxious to have a bit of time to myself on the hillside with God.

This is a view and a place I may never see again. It was here that God spoke to Moses the first time and told him to remove his sandals, for he was standing on Holy ground. The believed remnant of the burning bush is just inside these monastery walls and God called Moses to lead his people out of bondage here.  I confess, I was hopeful that I too would hear from God while I was here. There was much talk of Pilgrimage.

Saint Catherine’s monastery looks a lot like a castle for a reason.

IMG_3347 castle wallsThere where many attacks waged against this Holy place. The walls were erected to keep out many and diverse sources of evil, not to shield the good from God fearing believers. I think the church, when it’s at it’s best is still doing that today. Providing a refuge and a safe place to learn to know God.

The 6 mile trail to the top of Mount Sinai begins. I was surprised at just how difficult it was.

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We hired Nada.. a young Bedouin man and a Camel for our back packs and camera gear. It was a very wise choice. He was a very interesting young man. He was very willing to share his thoughts on several topics.

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Two thirds of the way up the mountain, the camel path was done and the steps began. By this time my legs felt like rubber. Nada started carrying three of our packs on his back ! This was also his second trip of the day ! I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be able to make it to the top.

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Here is Nada with three back packs draped over his body. We are nearing the top now and he is patiently waiting for us.

This was easily a view Moses would have had to have seen on his way to the top. Incredibly rugged and beautiful at the same time. Jesus was often in the habit of climbing mountains to spend time alone with God. I don’t think that was just crowd avoidance, but it works. If you chose to journey up God’s mountain, there will be many who stay at the bottom and wave you on your way. I think God wants us to know the rough climb to be with Him is more than worth it.  My feet were on fire, my calves were cramping, my arms were sun burnt, I could not drink enough water, my lips were chapped and I was sucking air. It was a little hard to take in the full depth of the location due to the multilevel discomfort.

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We made it to the top ! The bible says this where God gave Moses the ten commandments.

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This group shot of all thirteen of us at the top of Mount Sinai will be a treasure of mine for as long as I live.

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This might be a better way of looking at the group.. Every now and then I look through old black and white photos that have been pasted down to me.

Many images are just like this one, a moment captured in time. If you aren’t one of the people in the picture, chances are you won’t linger there for long. But if you were, you will smell the smells, breath the dust and feel the blisters and glory again in the moment you made it to the top of God’s mountain with a few close friends.

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I had one special thing that I needed to do on top of God’s mountain.

On my desk in my office and blown up on our living room wall is picture of my youngest daughter Rachel who was killed in a car accident December 24th, 2008. In the picture she is standing atop Mount Richard’s in Colorado. We took this picture on a family vacation years ago. You never know when a moment will become a treasure. Rachel speaks to me from this picture in a couple ways. One way, she says to me.. hey… I’m right over here..I am just fine… and in another way she says to me… “I made it” Dad.. I made it !  I am saving a place for you !

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Maybe every now and then God lets his kids in heaven see some stuff going on back on earth.. I hope He lets Rachel see this.. I want to tell her… I am ok..I have a bit more to do, but  I will see her soon..

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Getting back down the mountain was a lot easier. When I rounded the corner and Saint Catherine’s came into view.. it looked like the garden of Eden to me.  Not a day I will soon forget.

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Arrival at Mount Sinai

by on Mar.24, 2010, under Egypt

IMG_3279The Valley at the base of Mount Sinai

Not far from this spot was the traditional location of the “golden calf”. What struck me about this area was the expansive valley in the distance that would easily hold the estimated 1.5 to 2 million Israelites. I could “feel” the massive crowd of dirty, hungry and tired people camped out in this valley. It was a bit surreal. I was dirty, hungry and tired and I road in an air conditioned van and stopped for two meals on the way.

I was still reeling from the visual realities of what the travel must have been like. The road to freedom was difficult.

Every now and then I come in contact with the idea that once a person accepts Christ, their life is going to be smooth sailing. Get the basics down and God has to protect you from the “big one”.  For a while I thought (sub conscientiously) I had some kind of divine protection on my life that would insure no real tragedy could touch me. That was not true. Testing sure, but not real harm. Character building, OK but not the loss of a child. I am pretty sure the Israelites were under a similar illusion. They were now free of Pharaoh and slavery but not yet out of Egypt. I am pretty sure at first, seeing the great miracles God performed gave them great confidence that the party was about to begin. A short walk and everything would be great! A few months in the wilderness of sin was more than enough to convince them that the party had not started. Mount Sinai is still in Egypt ! They were still captives to a slavery mentality. They had brought the gods of Egypt ( and 400 years of indoctrination ) along for the ride in the wilderness. How true that is of many Christ followers today. Many of us accept Christ and add him like an attachment to our lives not realizing that what he requires from us is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This is total surrender.  Abandoning our past ( Egypt and all other worldliness ) and trusting Him completely for our salvation and to be the master architect of our lives. This departure from sin called sanctification or path to holiness is not something we do for ourselves, the Holy Spirit does it in us but we have to submit to it. We often go into this reality kicking and screaming.. We and the Israelites have this in common.

The Israelites as slaves for 400 years had not known anything but the wealth and fertility of the Nile delta. Slavery yes, but never a missed meal. This is a very common anesthetic still in use today.  How many people turn away from God’s promised paradise for the equivalent of a meal, comfort or a moment of pleasure. How many of us choose to live life in the shallow waters of partial commitment instead of diving into the the depths of God?

Moses knew God. He had experienced him as a loving, Holy, patient, wonderful saviour who had it in his heart to rescue him and the Israelites. This is evident in the documented conversations Moses had with God, many of which happened in the very place I was standing. At one point I took off my shoes and let my feet feel the dirt, remembering… “you are standing on holy ground”.

The Israelites had found themselves in a strange place and we, as followers of Christ are no less strangers in a foreign land.

The accommodations at Saint Catherine’s were simple and basic. I was glad for that. Lots of stone.. plastic chairs but very comfortable. There was a small courtyard where we could sit together and discuss the trip. Many hours of discussion followed.

I am quite sure our accommodations were significantly better than that of our Israelite brothers and sisters.

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IMG_3294The rooms..

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Tomorrow we would climb Mount Sinai. 6 miles of trails to get 4,000 feet up in the air.

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The Road to Marah, Rephidim and The Wilderness of Sin

by on Mar.22, 2010, under Egypt

Quiz: What chaps your lips, makes your sinuses bleed and makes you squint?  Blowing sand and 0% humidity at 90 + degrees!

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Not to far outside Cairo, the green is gone.. this is the view.  Imagine nearly 2 million people with a bunch of animals and  thousands of tons of stuff wandering to who knows where in this. And this is the easy part.

You can hear  “are we there yet ” ?  The wind picked up.. and before long, we were in a full fledged sand storm.

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We arrived at Marah, the place where Moses stopped for water.

Exodus 15:23  And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

The Bedouin people had little “shops” near the wells.  They sold jewelry and scarves.

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One of the wells that Moses dug is visible in the center of the picture. The red sea is barely visible in the distance.

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The sand storm died down and this was the view for hours. It’s amazing to think of the living conditions the Israelites endured. This is truly a brutal wilderness.

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Next stop, Rephidim.

Exodus 17: 8   “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. ”

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.
9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Men, even the most powerful leaders need help. No one can truly succeed alone. God gave Moses a graphic lesson on this right here at Rephidim. God could have given Moses super human strength to hold up the staff all day by himself but He didn’t. Instead Moses had to call on Aaron and Hur for help. Aaron was his brother. Family. Hur was no doubt a trusted servant. Joshua was down in the trenches doing battle and completely dependent on Moses holding up his arms. Everybody in this scenario was dependent on God. Every step of the way, God was teaching all of them, all the time just as He is teaching us today if we are willing to listen.

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An extraordinary man.  Dan Blacketor. Everywhere Dan goes, the children are soon to follow. The Bedouin children are no different. Dan has a heart for children. He knows it, the children know it. It’s his love for God and children that drives his ministry. Dan is the director of  The Rhema Project, a ministry that is working toward the goal of stopping female infanticide in India. He is their champion!

Like Moses, Dan knows he needs good men and women around him to help him succeed in the calling God has put on his life.

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With the victory of Rephidim behind, you would think the road to the promised land would have gotten easier. Not a chance, there was plenty of the wilderness of sin still ahead. The road to Mount Sinai, God’s mountain was some of the most difficult terrain I have ever seen. Following God is not always, if ever easy.

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Egypt through the eyes of a 12 year old boy.

by on Mar.21, 2010, under Egypt

When I think about Egypt, two perspectives come to mind. The first one is from the vantage point of a 12 year boy. It’s all raiders of the lost ark and mummies. Golden people dancing around with crookedy arms. Lots of sand, strange clothes, curved swords and whiny music. When I was doing some online research before this trip, it was pretty much the same “hollywood” viewpoint.  “Land of mystery”.

Then there is the Egypt of the bible.  The bible stories I have heard since I was a kid include a lot of detail about Egypt. Mostly it was a bad place ruled by bad people who enslaved the people of God. But in the end, God uses a man, Moses and his faithful men to lead God’s people to freedom and a promised land.

This first picture for me was the gateway to a collision of my 12 year old mind and my Sunday school life.

Saqqarra. Not far from Cairo, was the first of the ancient places we visited. Talk about stepping into the past! It was like a time tunnel ( 12 year old ).

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Inside the columns was a large courtyard complete with  Joseph’s pyramid, some of his underground grain storage locations and several other ancient buildings. Many believe that the Egyptians called Joseph, Imhotep.  The descriptions of who he was, what he did and when he did it match up. It was at this moment that many of the bible personalities I have been reading about most of my life grew skin. Imhotep is credited to be the architectural genius behind much of Egypt’s fame.

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Ihmotep’s Pyramid

That just makes sense concidering the way God promoted him from a slave boy to commander and then saviour of Egypt. God gifted Joseph. The right gift at the right time and everyone noticed it. History still marvels at the story.  The back story is the one that most people think about. His brothers sell him to traveling slave traders… he gets thrown in prison… unjustly… etc.  On the surface, not exactly the description of a life blest by God. I don’t know anyone who wants to sign up to trade places with him. He was completely familiar with suffering. We, having the benefit of historical writings know that everything turned out pretty good for him and his family. A picture that God wants firmly planted in our hearts and minds. In our own lives, we are born into slavery, sold at birth to sin and imprisonment. To us, a choice is presented.. an opportunity to accept a promised pardon. Some of us choose the pardon that comes with it’s own hardships but a clear promise of paradise in the end. The happy ending. But many choose to stay in prison. It’s what they know. It’s where they have become comfortable. It’s well documented that many convicts will choose to commit a crime after they have been released from prison to return to the known structure of confinement. Egypt is the metaphor of comfort in slavery and sin for the people of God.

Best of Egypt - 13The Pyramids at Giza, complete with Camel.

One thing I did not realize until I saw it was just how close these pyramids were to the city of Cairo.  You can literally stand facing the the pyramids and there is nothing but desert for as far as you can see and turn 180 degrees and you see nothing but city.

Best of Egypt - 15Cairo at dusk and Cairo by night from the Nile river.

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A view of the Nile river valley from the van near the pyramids.

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Mark Beeson near the entrance of Saqqarra.  Can anyone say.. “Indiana Mark ” ?

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While we were in Cairo, we had all the expected comforts and safety that cities offer. But it was crowded, very crowded. The third most congested city in the world. On one trip alone, our van was hit twice by other cars. We all learned the Egyptian equivalent of “the finger”. The air was polluted with exhaust and dust carried in on the winds of the desert.

On our way out of Egypt, this scene was repeated over and over again. An endless stream of incomplete housing complexes.

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As we began our Exodus from Cairo, it did not take long before the lush greenery of the Nile valley would be gone and replaced by dirt, rocks, sand and desert winds of “The Wilderness of Sin”  on the way to Marah.

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Egypt… it begins in Germany ?

by on Mar.20, 2010, under Egypt, Gene

I have been back home from Egypt and Jordan for nearly a week now and as you might guess it has never completely left my thoughts. I have for the most part gotten caught up on things at my work but much of my gear is still strewn about my basement. I have been touching the pictures and video everyday. Organizing the images in preparation for how they might be used in the future.

On the way over, we had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. It happens, I used to live there.  To weird. My adopted father, Louis Ort was a soldier stationed there in 1955 when I was born. A little known fact, my birth certificate read Eugene Michael Williams prior to my adoption. At one year of age my mother and I moved to Frankfurt to live with Louis. In 1959 we all moved back to US soil. New Jersey, then Chicago and finally back home to Niles in 1961. History lesson over.

In Frankfurt we all jumped on a train and headed to Mainz where the Guttenburg press is located. Huge historical significance for it was there that the first movable type printed bible was printed. Alas, we could not get in… but it was a grand adventure anyway. Fresh coffee and baked goods every block or so. We were freezing. But enthusiasm was high.

As I rode the train through the countryside.. I was pondering two things.. one was a curiosity about what I might had seen there previously as a small child in the 50’s. The other, the war or should I say wars that this area of the world has endured.

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Some of my guys in the group are walking up ahead mixed in with other people who are on there way to work or church. It was early Sunday morning. In the 1940’s we would have been shot on site. We and several other Nations would have been dropping bombs on this very city.  We ducked into a huge church, in part to get warm along the way.

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Part of this structure had to be rebuilt due to the bombings.

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Guys getting warm..  Tucked in the back corner of the church, was this statue.

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Jesus, on the cross.

It occurs to me that some people in Germany then, in the 40’s were crying out to God for deliverance from the bombs dropping out of the sky as simultaneously people were crying out to God in the US in the 40’s for their son’s and daughter’s deliverance, not to forget all the countless millions of people living in terror of their own demise. The only real time images I have for this kind of terror was on 9/11.  That day in NYC 2,300 plus people were lost. In Europe, it was countless millions in the first half century. To me, the perfect description of insanity.

The grief is beyond description. The hope that Jesus brings to this broken world is priceless. No matter where you live or when you lived.

I Timothy 1:1 ” Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope.”

Best of Franfurt - 02It was a beautiful building. Very old. They were holding an early morning service at the time. A few faithful were there. I would have enjoyed seeing the place full of worshippers later that morning. The light poured in through these high windows. The guys found a grate where the heat was rushing upwards toward the incredibly high ceilings. We huddled there together. I wished I would have gotten the picture.

Outside the church was this wonderful open town square. It did not take much imagination to see it full of people in an open air market buying and selling goods.. kids running around.. and of course the smells of good German food and beer.  I would have liked that very much 🙂

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It would not have been the same without Ron Vandergriend.

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I am making up a word:  Theoguidehistoraleadateachamastastorytella.

Ron is not only an incredible man of God, he is a walking, living fountain of knowledge. What a pure honor it was to live for a few days in his world. All of the guys would flock to where ever he was to here him explain in detail exactly what had taken place there and it’s significance to our world.  He is also a hoot. He made the trip a fun adventure. He lead effortlessly. There were 13 men on this trip and most of them are pretty type A driver types, excepting me of course. It looked like herding cats. Leader types sometimes don’t make great followers, but not these guys. Ron kept things moving along nicely and with very few glitches. It was a privilege to be in his company.

Germany behind… Egypt ahead…. Freezing to Frying…

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GCC March 2010 India Team Trip Commissioning

by on Mar.02, 2010, under INDIA

What an awesome send off !

A few hundred people got together to commission a group who are heading off to India on Friday.

There will be teams doing conversational English, Construction, Health and Hygiene, Micro Finance and for the first time, a GCC worship team will be going along.

The worship band played a few of the songs they are going to be performing in four separate concerts in the city of Kalavai. They even sang two of them using the southern Indian naive tongue, Tamil.

The teams will be delivering shoes.. a lot of them, over 700 pairs. Also new back backs for the students going to the school near the Irula colony in Kalavai. They will also be delivering cloths that were donated and collected at GCC.

This was a great night to remember the why and the who behind “the do”!

Jack Magruder and Jason Miller reminded us that with Jesus in us, we are the light of the world. And that is what we are going to proclaim.

You can follow the details closer and get more information on the team blog.. oh yea.. every team trip has there own blog that Jack will faithfully update as long as there is internet..  🙂

The blog address is:  http://gccindiamarch2010.blogspot.com/


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