Peacocks in the Ashes
by Debra L. McKeen Sparks
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I wasn't in a hurry and so when I saw the little lane that angled off from the main road....I turned. Slowly I drove over the threshold and onto the winding dirt lane -- ugliness rose up all around me -- I mean the kind of ugliness that makes you wince -- not that the enormous winter-barren cottonwoods were ugly -- they weren't. They were, in fact, lovely, even in this season. I thought, "they surely must leaf out in the spring in an abudance of splendor and in fall, their colors against the azure blue of the high desert sky must be showstopping....."
Perhaps if they had not been barren, then what they helped shelter would not have felt so sad. But sadness grabbed at me -- sorrow threatened .....this choice I had made to turn off the road and into this funky little turn off made my heart lurch. My emotions were paying for the choice.
Here on this crooked little mud-packed lane, I discovered a sort of "community" -- ratty, horrendously raggedy, RV campers and beaten up mobile homes -- each of them 'makeshifted' into place with worse-for-the-wear lawn chairs and old stumps pulled up near to the little doors of many of the dwellings.
Windows covered with dirty, tattered sheets, blankets and tarps. Some of them surrounded by beaten up children's toys. I noticed that one of those most surrounded with children's well-used toys was no larger than 15 feet long and was old.... an old pull-behind camper -- fixed in place with a sewer line and little generator -- I wondered how many children were inside.
I could feel the tears -- they were right at the edge, and I prayed as I bumped ever so slowly along the path.
Who lived in these places? What a mixture of emotions -- I found myself feeling proud of the occupants for carving out a shelter, even in the midst of such apparent poverty -- I felt humbled and yet, so sad -- I wanted to help. I wanted to reach out and give ... something .... but what ... what did I have to give? And so, I prayed -- it was the best and only thing I could think to give -- I didn't know exactly how to pray but I prayed for each individual living in each space.
My thoughts were a million places when I realized that I had heard a soft grumble from the backseat. I quickly refocused my attention on my dog, Chelsea, who had patiently and quietly been sitting with her head out of the back window, as she oftentimes does. I half turned to find she was leaning hard out the window -- Looking further to my right, I learned that sure enough -- she was looking at birds. She loves birds! But, these were huge birds -- PEA-HENS! Oh my gosh! I rolled down my passenger window and started a conversation with the "girls" who were showing obvious interest in me and my Border Collie......
And then it struck me -- Only God could teach me a lesson in such a place and in such a simple way. He is awesome about that! And I am so simple and He is so faithful! In this sad and devastating place -- ugly and ragged and wretched -- He has graced it with Pea-hens -- in this seeming "ashpile".
It was then that I turned my head to the left to look out my own car window ... and he was there. The LARGEST, most magnificent Peacock I had ever seen. I was driving only about 2-3 miles an hour and he had been walking alongside my car -- looking straight into my window. He had placed himself on full display -- brilliant -- beautiful! The colors! Only God could create those colors and then make them into feathers....
WOW! A beautiful huge Peacock -- in charge of his hens and wondering what I was doing there, bothering them. The sun shone on him and he glistened like jewels. Awestruck, I stopped the car and leaned out my window toward him. I continued telling him how beautiful he was -- and wondering out loud where on earth he had come from with his harem of lovelies.
He strutted more closely, wooed, I imagined, by my praise. As he came almost within touching distance, he gently raised his head, and lowered his brilliant tail feathers bringing them back into a train that flowed along behind him. I cooed at him some more, admiring him and still staring in utter amazement at his beauty. His colors -- He was glorious -- He was beautiful -- in the middle of this dreary place of such abject poverty.
And then it dawned on me -- this is just like the Lord -- in the midst of our poverty and poorness of spirit, if we will stop and pay attention -- HE IS THERE! And his train fills the temple as the people cry holy, holy is the Lord....
He is there to bring glory and grace and beauty and majesty and joy and wonder right into the midst of our spiritual poverty....
His Beauty -- Beauty for ashes....
Oh God --- My God! Pouring His beauty straight into the midst of our ashes -- glory and hope and grace --
The tears came as I thanked God for taking me away from the thoroughfare just to remind me of yet another truth of grace ....He is an awesome God..... I'm so glad He loves me!
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Bravo Debra, Again your writing illustrates your fantastic detail in imagination and praising heart for the Lord. Thanks for the reminder of God's presence in all places.
Wonderful story! Bravo ! I see that you said it could be shared freely so I printed it off and sent it to a couple of guys who are in prison. I hope they will discover that God shows up in places you least expect him to. Thanks for your article.
It's been a while since I've read something from you, so it was great to read a new story of yours. This was a really uplifting work to catch. God does have a way to show up when one least expects it. I just wonder if the people there were aware of what was happening. I hope all of us Christians realize the "peacocks" are not just for us. Good to hear from you again!
A short and wonderful reminder that God transcends our human senses of judgement and fills our spirit world all the time with a sublime enlightenment, we only need to seek and see that wonderful, unlimited splendour. Well done!
This is a great write. I remember years ago I heard that song "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper and though it is a secular song, I feel that is the way God looks at us. He sees our true colors and that's why He loves us. It's funny how God can use situations like this one to minister to our hearts in such a colorful way~
I have been there... or very close... or so I thought. Best line: "Only God could create those colors and then make them into feathers..." The piece flowed well, without spurts or sputters... very nice.
As I relish in the moment of God's amazing grace - and the goosebumps - your story inspired, I thank Him with you for His undying, unconditional love for me. As faithful as the sun shines, it is new every morning. What an adventure of life we have in Him. Thank you for sharing!