This week’s story will be a different one from my usual childhood recollections. This week, I feel compelled to share with you some of what being mountain folk means. We often lament how different things are now than they were 10 or 20 or 50 years ago, but when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, mountain people are still mountaineers, still tough, still strong.
Last week, our whole country and a good part of our whole world watched in horror as fire engulfed parts of Gatlinburg and threatened Pigeon Forge. 14,000 residents and visitors fled, some driving through the fire storm that licked the roads they had to navigate. Unspeakably horrific, 14 precious lives are no more. Approximately, 1,700 structures were damaged or destroyed as more than 17,000 acres burned wildly.
But just as the phoenix rises from the fiery ashes that destroyed it, so, too, will these people, these truly resilient people of this Smoky Mountain haven, rise above the devastation of a fire unlike anything seen in these mountains. These people are mountaineers. They’re tough…they’re MOUNTAIN STRONG!
A FaceBook post from Kathy Crabb Hannah puts this into words better than I ever could She writes in part:
I am told that Gatlinburg will re-open on Monday, the downtown strip is intact, the aquarium is fine, Ober Gatlinburg is ready to re-open, the arts and crafts community is just fine, Cade’s Cove is unharmed, and historic cabins are untouched.
The loss of life is beyond words, and truly it’s so difficult to understand unless you were there.
I was there.
It was the perfect storm: A totally unpredictable series of events…..with the high winds (that were 85 MPH) being a major contributor. I’ve cried all day….off and on. The loss of life is beyond my grasp.
It’s over. I pray it’s over at least.
We mourn the losses, we thank God for protection, we search our own hearts and try and re-evaluate “things that matter, things that don’t” as best we all can……in our current human conditions.
My takeaway from this week of “inferno” hell?
1) People are innately good. The night that all 40 plus fires popped up, the night we fled on a dark two lane back road with nothing but the clothes on our backs…..and sat in traffic for 40 minutes with fire on the mountains that surrounded us…..that night:
When we got to Knoxville and sat down to breathe, grab food, and reign in our racing minds that had just been challenged to remain calm and sane….which seemed like an impossible task………..after that tearful drive we wilted into an Applebee’s booth.
I erupted in tears. Steve called our insurance agent….and we were planning for the worst case scenario. Of course. Oh yea of little faith.
As we left the restaurant…an unlikely, tattooed, long haired, face pierced, twenty-something fellow, a modern version of a hippie I suppose, anyway, he handed Steve a bill….I figured it was a 20.
Steve refused. The young man insisted. Truth? He looked like he possibly needed us to give him money. He looked like he could have lived in his car, or maybe on a friend’s sofa. Steve didn’t want to take his money.
I looked at him dead in the eye and said, “Do you feel like you’re suppose to bless us?”
He said, “YES.”
His generosity touched us. His voice was nearly quivering as he told us how sorry he was. He had been listening to us talk.
I made Steve take the 50 dollar bill. I knew what kind of return that little guy will get for his fifty bucks. I know how God works.
I walked to Steve’s green Ford pickup with salty tears running off the tip of my nose…..as I prayed loudly, “Jesus, bless that kid. Save him if you haven’t, deal with him, he’s a good boy. Answer his granny’s prayer. Bring him in!”
Now, I’m not judging him. He may be the most saved boy in Knoxville. But his beverage was strong and his language matched. But here’s my point.
When humanity watches it’s own suffer….something happens inside. This was that.
The inner good was stirred in this little hippie boy. He handed over that money and was wiping a tear.
During times of devastation…..most people are moved and will do anything to help their fellow man.
There’s so much of that going on. Good for us. I’m proud to be a Tennessean. Dolly is the leader in generosity…..and watch how she will be blessed, just watch….
2) There’s a spiritual warfare going on. I won’t elaborate a lot….too intense for FB. But it’s out there. We’re seeing a land full of struggle, division, and yes iniquity……but grace does much more abound.
Out of the struggle comes soul searching, out of the soul searching comes hunger for answers, as we look for answers…..all roads lead to Him.
Revival is coming, no it’s here. Revival is springing up like those fires were.
I’m a bit sad today….post sadness from the horror of the week, but I know what I know.
People are turning toward Him.
3) I think we’re in the last days. Period. I think we need to be wrapping up our to do list. Drop that stinking pride and ask your kids if they’re prepared.
I’m amazed…we have no shyness about asking if someone is insured, but quiet as a mouse to ask them if “they’re” insured.
Are you ready? Look at the sky. That could be the cloud.
4) Until He comes….we will be who we are. Roaming grannies will trek toward the mountains…..in search of a moment to feel His touch, a moment to rest, a moment to eat a pancake.
We will enjoy more than ever….”that” view that reminds me all the way to my soul…..how big He is.
The area will be fine.
Those mountains aren’t going away. And…..as long as they are there?
We will journey to drink in their afternoon shadows…..and their morning glisten.
We will watch the clouds hover like they were placed there for our personal visual enjoyment…..we will watch squirrels run and an occasional bear as it feasts.
We will love the mountains with more passion than before.
Sometimes it takes a mountain….to put God into perspective.
Being in the middle of those fiery mountains put everything into perspective for this woman who thought she had seen it all.
I’m actually more excited than ever to be going back there for our retreat. God knows.
And in the meantime?? Support that area. Smoke is gone, food is good, and they need us. Spend your money and let’s show these people our love.
Pigeon Forge looks amazingly normal. Go visit Dollywood and eat a pancake.