Gene Ort's Blog

Egypt

Castles, Warriors and The Promised Land

by on Apr.11, 2010, under Egypt

After leaving Petra, we traveled The Kings Highway, our final destination was Amman Jordan. On the way we stopped at Shobak Crusader Castle ( Mons Regalis ) ruins, built in 1112 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road between Egypt and Damascus. The castle fell to Saladin in 1189.

IMG_3870 Shoubak Castle distant

Now this was fun ! I am not what I would call an overly militaristic kinda guy but exploring Crusader Castle ruins… way cool..

These round objects.. yup..  these are chiseled rocks for catapults. Imagine getting smacked with one of these babies.

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The ruins were not in great shape. It seems that locals would come by every now and then and cart off blocks of limestone to build their homes.

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Every window was designed to defend the castle with bow and arrow. The grates on the ground  are covering window holes from rooms below.

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Attacking a castle like this would not have been easy. You have to climb a very steep hill in plain sight.. they would catapult rocks at you, throw burning tar on you and then shoot you with arrows. I am pretty sure I would not have made it up the hill even without the barrage .
IMG_3904 shoubak high walls

Visual images in TV and movies has anesthetized us and distorted our view of violence. In our culture, it is quite normal to gather round the tube or big screen and watch a good blood bath in the name of entertainment. I am not sure how I feel about all that but I am sure in the Kingdom of God.. that wont be so..

Much of the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” was focused on the Crusades and this region, even this very castle.

(Pardon my slight rabbit trail…)  Which brings me to a topic that comes up often.

Matthew 11:12 “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

I am thankful to the courageous men and woman who for the cause of justice and righteousness take up arms against wickedness. I am also thankful for those who push back the spiritual wickedness in this world by taking the Gospel where it has never been before and or for retaking long lost ground where believers forgot they were in a battle. These people are indeed warriors for God.

Modern day versions of the Godly warrior are probably what the bible refers to as Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists. There are two other offices, Shepherd and Teacher. Without all five offices in place, tyranny and arrogance or ignorance and slavery follow.

When working together as a team, wickedness is driven back into it’s slimy little hole, lives are saved, slaves set free, healing and comfort dispensed and ignorance irradiated.

This is the day I am longing for:

Micah 4:3 He will judge between many peoples 
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. 
They will beat their swords into plowshares 
and their spears into pruning hooks. 
Nation will not take up sword against nation, 
nor will they train for war anymore.

Ok… back to the castle… An archer would stand in this position and rain arrows down on the attacking forces.

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Ron would offer helpful historical background commentary along the way.

IMG_3919 Ron V talks..

The road to our next stop, Kerak was marked by stunningly beautiful valley’s

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Kerak Crusader Castle

Dan B. looks dashing here sporting a green polo and Wayfayers. What a man !

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Kerak castle was huge..

IMG_3945 Kerak long corridorFront door..

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“Abandon hope all ye who enter here” .. Dante Alighieri 1306

Ever wonder what it looks like to be carried off to a dungeon ?  This is it..

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Your last view of the outside world.

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Mark pauses and takes a moment to reflect. Thankful he is not living in a dungeon I expect..

IMG_3982 Kerak Mark in dungeun

Kerak was built and replaced Shobak as the center of importance. Kerak fell to Saladin in 1189.

Interesting note, the crusader castles were all built a days travel apart. Every night a fire was lit at each castle to let Jerusalem know all was well.

When Moses and the Israelites passed this way they must have begun to sense that God was taking them someplace wonderful. This is along ways from the wilderness of sin.

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Not far from Kerak, The Dead Sea.. One dip in this and you itch for days…

I have been hearing about the Dead Sea forever.  It’s nearly 34 % salt.. and 100% mysterious. It’s a lake.. with no life.. Somehow that seems odd to me.

The West bank of Israel is directly on the other side.

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The Promised Land!    From the top of Mount Nebo

IMG_4027 The Promised Land

For the Christ follower, “The Promised Land” evokes all kinds of thoughts and emotions.  This exodus trip was something I will never forget. But this moment for me was very powerful. For me the promised land means Heaven and the life with Jesus I have been longing for. I want it all. The no more pain part, the no more tears part, the no more death part and restoration of the living life as we were intended to live part, with God, our Father, walking in the cool of the day. My heart seems to know how wonderful it will be.

It is said that Moses did not enter the promised land, but I believe he did… but not the one on earth. I believe it happened the very moment he died. I think this was all very much on purpose.

This is not “teaching” but Gene.. thinking out loud… If God let Moses enter the “earthly promised land”, it sets up human thinking again to  believe that this world is the goal, the most important destination. The “earthly promised land” the Israelites inherited was and is fraught with war and destruction even to this day !!  By God refusing to allow Moses to enter the “earthly promised land” and taking him to the”real / heavenly promised land” it correctly identifies where our affections should be, to our true destination and reward.

As I stood there and looked across this valley that Moses saw just before he died I had an overwhelming sense of the Father telling me that “my” promised land is waiting for me.

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Petra

by on Apr.08, 2010, under Egypt

Every great adventure should start with the unexpected discovery of a hidden passage on a long forgotten trail. Action music also helps 🙂 ….. clic this and continue.. ( or not )

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Petra is just like that.  Petra was re-discovered by western civilization in 1812… who lost it remains unknown. Indiana Jones is credited with reintroducing Petra again to movie fans in “The Last Crusade”. The Bedouins think this is all rather entertaining, they always knew where it was..:)  The city is estimated to have been established in the 6th century BC by the Nabataeans. The city is notably listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site.

I offer no apology for the length of this post.

Before you enter the city proper, you are teased by this carving. The actual city is still a good walk away.

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Before you can enter the city you must navigate a long narrow canyon called a Siq. It’s entirely fitting, adding drama with every step.

IMG_3573 the Siq

A quote by the BBC referred to Petra as “a city half as old as time”. A few steps into the Siq and you had the sensation of stepping back in time.

IMG_3581 Siq 3The sunlight reflecting through the canyon exposed incredible color, texture and detail.

Psalm 19:1 “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.”

If the Heaven’s declare his handiwork, His valleys, carved by His hands celebrate creation.

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After a mile walk through one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, you catch first sight of the city. Petra: Rock

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Khazneh: The Treasury

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The number one question I have been asked about the treasury: ” is the room inside just like it looks in the last crusade?” The answer…no. We have all been duped by hollywood again.  The room is a large empty space. There are two very impressive carved buildings in Petra. This one and at the other end of town and up the mountain, The High Temple, also called the Monastery.  I don’t think that is by accident. The two main things people worship, God or gods and money. It’s very clear that ornate banks is not a modern idea and as we saw in Germany, ornate churches have been around for a long time. Maybe people feel safer trusting their money to people in fancy buildings. Maybe some people feel closer to God in a fancy building.  Manufactured validation and security. I think both assumptions are very dangerous.

At one time the cash flowed freely in Petra. This is where they kept it. History documents that Petra was an important stop on a vital trade route. The Nabataean’s had harnessed the power  and storage of water and created a monopoly of sorts. Caravans would stop for water, supplies and various and sundry goods and services. In part, a truck stop oasis with a little Las Vegas style entertainment thrown in.

Not unlike the city square in Mainz, Germany, Petra had a town center.

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Complete with a Roman style amphitheater.

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A great earthquake leveled portions of the city in 363 AD damaging the water system and many buildings. Petra’s decline accelerated under Roman rule due in part to increasing sea trade routes.
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Some of the man made structures remain partially standing after the earthquake.

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At the far end of town, the trail leads up the mountain to the high Temple.

At this point I had a decision to make. I could hike up the trail or ride a donkey. My pride clearly said hike it. But the memory of the hike up Sinai was alive and well in my calves. Ron V. ( our faithful guide ) was convinced the donkey would throw me to my death and said so.

As I watched my hiking buddies head up the trail, I got on a donkey. I knew instantly I had made a good decision for me. I was having fun immediately.

Mark Beeson took this picture. This may have the first and only time I was in front ! 🙂

Petra 031210 GENE to Temple Heights 1 sized

The High Temple aka The Monastery ( “Ad-Deir” ).

The building was dedicated in the first century to Obodas I  ( a deified former king ) and is believed to have been used as a symposium. Basically a place to hangout, drink to much and talk philosophy. There are hints that pagan idol worship and all types of perversions were also entertained here. There is not a lot of documentation about the people of Petra. They had no written language.

Around the fourth century, Christianity came to Petra. It had a church and a bishop named Aterius.

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These guys are hiking machines and great traveling companions !

IMG_3805 Highest point

From this vantage point and in this general direction is Mount Hor, the resting place of Moses’s brother Aaron. The Israelites stopped here and mourned Aaron for 30 days. For me, sometimes historical icons like Moses take on a kind of non-humanity. This being Aaron’s burial site stripped away a bit of that for me. Moses was a great man of God, but he was a man, he had a brother a couple wives and a couple kids, Gershom and Eliezer. Aaron was their uncle. To us Moses can become a biblical character, almost like an actor in a movie,  but he was a flawed man just like the rest of us.

One account says he made a serious mistake here at Petra, at least according to Arab tradition. He directly disobeyed God and struck a rock with the rod instead of speaking to the rock as God had instructed him. As a result, neither Moses or Aaron were able to enter the promised land.

Everything has consequences.

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If you go up the mountain, you must go down.

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At the time when the city was in full swing and enjoying their height of prosperity, you can be sure they thought they were building the greatest city in the world. There was evidence everywhere of a sudden stop to the forward momentum. Stairways climbing to nowhere, half done facades.

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The crowds roll in. It was a little easier to imagine what the city would have looked like in it’s “hay day” with thousands of tourists wandering around.

IMG_3847 crowds roll in

It would have been great fun to leave Petra on a spirited horse, like Indy.. or a Camel.  Maybe next time… Now.. back to the future..

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The Road to Petra

by on Apr.02, 2010, under Egypt

Following the path Moses and the Israelites took, after they received the law from God on Mount Sinai, they traveled northeastward and lived nearly 40 years at Kadesh Barnea. This valley is located along the way near Taba, Sinai ( Egypt ). It’s easy to imagine the Israelites camped out in this valley.

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Saladin’s Castle, originally called Pharaoh’s Island 1170 AD in Taba, Sinai ( Egypt )

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Near Taba, we passed through a small coastal portion of modern day Israel ( with tons of security ) and into Aqaba, Jordan. Moses took this path ( per God’s instructions ) to avoid family conflict with the Edomites..  and conflict in general with the Moabites.

Our spirits were high, we had just had a good meal in Aqaba and split up into two vans. No trip across a desert would be complete without a breakdown.. What followed could be described as an international incident on the way to Petra.. One unnamed party ( the one on the left ) struck our driver with a plastic pipe when said driver began driving erratically on high mountain roads. The issue was settled without further escalation.

The strange hand gestures indicate the leadership ranking of the passengers as proclaimed by the van driver. Carefully note that the number one is missing, he is taking the picture. Truthfully, these guys are all leaders.

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Wadi Musa.. The Valley of Moses, Southern Jordan. Extraordinarily beautiful and incredibly rugged.  The journey of the people of God was epic. I began to realize at this point that Moses was not just a Christian hero of faith but is also an icon for these people. I did not get the chance to ask but I am curious about what the local Jordanian’s really think about Moses.

IMG_3540 wadi musa

Trip days can be pretty stressful. Paul and Vic provided a good portion of the trip entertainment.

IMG_3543 Paul & Vic

We are one third of the way to Amman, Jordan … cue music from Indiana Jones..   Next.. The lost City of Petra.

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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.

IMG_3384 6 mile hike

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.

IMG_3387 Nada & Camel

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.

IMG_3419 steps with Flair

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.

IMG_3422 Nada and the packs

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.

IMG_3450_2 group B&W

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 !

Rachel mountaintop

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 🙂

Best of Franfurt - 09

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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