Sifting Ashes

February 22, 2023

For Christians, today marks Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40 day Lenten Journey when Jesus Christ’s walk to the cross is remembered and held in the heart.  Ash Wednesday, with its invitation to fasting, repentance, and commitment to taking the journey, along with its emphasis on mortality, is something, quite honestly, I have resisted these last three years.  For me, pandemic and politics became ongoing Lents that I was living.  Not much has changed in this year of 2023 with earthquakes and wars, gun violence, climate catastrophes, and rising tensions among and between countries.  Yes, this current time can feel like perpetual Lent, like trees that will never leaf out.  But this year, I am entering Lent a bit differently, seeking the Light that promises to continue shining, considering Lent an opportunity to know myself better and in knowing myself better, perhaps to know the God of Love and Light better, especially in the darkness.

Christians are not alone on this pilgrimage to deeper self-reflection and thus deeper relationship with the Divine.  The Jewish people observe Rosh Hashana, and their holiest day, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, with fasting and introspection while the Muslims participate in Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, as an opportunity for heightened spirituality.  Whether we believe in “something higher,” or not, we are all, the world over, in this earthly boat at this present time together, seeking some kind of understanding, hoping for some kind of shimmering, longing for peace and wholeness.  This season invites us to ask ourselves how we might contribute to and be part of the peace and wholeness our world so desperately needs.

I’ve got my ticket for the journey, and I hope to see you along the way.

With Lenten blessings ~ Rosemary

Sifting Ashes
A Lenten poem

What would you do
if you were invited
to enter your heart
in this season
of self-honesty?
If you were encouraged
to leave reason and judgment
behind and instead
ask grace to be your
Would you say yes?
Would you accept the flashlight
offered when you crossed
the threshold, the decoder ring
needed to decipher
each message that begs
Could you look?
Once inside, would you willingly
sift through the ashes
that have accumulated
over your life
like the layers
of cinder in your
own unswept fireplace?
Finger the silt-soft remains
of grief, remorse, regret,
guilt, even shame,
letting them fall
through your fingers
like the fair hair
of a child?
For here you will hear
the stories that make you
you, filled with ashes
and hope, shadows and light, death
and life.

And after you have sat
among the ashes,
know that it is your choice
to decide which to wash away,
which to bury, and which
to hold to your heart
like a locket,
as you emerge
to breathe the bright air
of Spring.

©  Rosemary McMahan

Photo credit: Rosemary McMahan

Author: remcmahan

Poet, writer, minister, wanderer, traveler on the way, Light-seeker ~ hoping others will join me on the journey of discovering who we are and were meant to be. You can reach me at or at my blog,

8 thoughts on “Sifting Ashes”

  1. The shimmering moonlight so beautifully reflects your narrative. I love how this year is about “seeking the Light” for you, Rosemary. There is a Light that shines in and through you and that Spirit of Light is offered to us through your words and pictures. Thank you 🙏. Not only am I happy to walk the journey with you (ticket purchased!), but my daily Lenten practice will now also include meditating on your poem, “Sifting Ashes”. It gives me much food to feast on even when I fast. Blessings to you this holy season of Lent. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Rosemary. I have been a grateful recipient of your messages for a few years now.
    I love your profound poetry and your photography.
    And yes, I will accept the flashlight and walk with you on this new journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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