knoxville news
knoxville news entertainment rss linkedin twitter facebook contact smoky mountains knoxville legal notices travel knoxville sports business knoxville daily sun lifestyle food knoxville daily sun advertising about knoxville daily sun


Outside These Walls
By Brent McDougal
July 18, 2022

  brent mcdougal
Brent McDougal

One of the things I love about where we now live is that we can see storms come down from the Smoky Mountains. Sheets of rain and peals of thunder that a first seem far off make their gradual march into the foothills, travel across the farm that rests below our property, and eventually water the ground around us.

The first few rains I witnessed were amazingly peaceful. But a few Thursdays back, I developed a new respect for storms.

It started slow, with some light breezes and a gentle drizzle. Then the wind started to whip around us and all of a sudden, it felt like we were in a torrent. I have never seen pounding raindrops and straight-line winds like that before. The deck furniture took flight. Limbs came crashing down. The windows started to buckle and we wondered if we needed to descend to the safety of the garage.

Finally, the storm began to pass. Jen and I went outside to survey the damage. We gave thanks that no trees had fallen. But I thought about the power of that storm and how there are forces stronger and greater than me in the world.

I learned recently that the Smoky Mountains are the oldest mountain range in the world. They were formed around 200-300 million years ago.

That means that for millions of years, the wind and rain have battered that little hilltop where we live, shaping and reshaping it.

I wonder: what has the hilltop heard all these years? How would it describe the howling of the wind?

The Hebrew word for wind is ruach — it means breath, spirit, wind. This is the breath of God that filled the first humans (Genesis 2:7), the same Spirit that drove Jesus into his desert temptation (Mark 1:12), and the very wind that made a great sound on the day of Pentecost but could not be felt (Acts 2:2).

There are times when God speaks in a gentle whisper like a quiet rain. Other times God thunders and the earth moves a bit under our feet. But then there are times that God’s voice comes like a howling tempest. All three have the capacity to reshape and define us, but when the howling comes, all you can do is hold on for dear life and allow yourself to be remade, redefined, and refined.

So much of life feels chaotic right now. You might even say that everything seems to be broken. Our politics aren’t working. Families are splitting. The inflated economy we share puts pressure on everyone, especially the poor. We’re in the howling together.

It’s good to ask: what is God saying to us in the storm?

I believe that the hilltop could teach us something about hearing God’s voice in the howling wind.

First, I believe that the hilltop would say: don’t be afraid. The Word of God who created the mountains and the wind is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrew 13:8).

Second, I believe the hilltop would say: take a knee every day to that which is larger than you. You don’t have to be in charge of everything. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous: let go and let God.

Third, I believe the hilltop would say: there can be joy in the storm. Something new happens when the storm comes. Life gets rearranged in the storm, sometimes in ways that will be better in the end.

I am praying that we will have ears to hear what God is saying in these challenging days.

Brent McDougal,, is pastor of First Baptist Church Knoxville.

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2022 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy