Today’s post, part two of my Legend’s Ball is a poem loosely based on “We Speak Your Names” my Pearl Cleage.  Cleage wrote this piece for Oprah’s Legend’s Ball to celebrate the Legends whose lives influenced the “Young-uns” in the room.


When I think about my renewed picture of God, I think about late mornings reading and praying at the City Park Peristyle. After moving to New Orleans, I felt so alone and unwanted.  I was surrounded by so many Christians, and even though I loved Jesus and believed all the things they did, I was the outcast. Even though I did what they all told me and chose to not abort my son, I had to live in community with them as the spiritual pariah—the unmarried and pregnant girl. So every day I would fill up a water bottle of sweet tea, grab my bible and journal, pack up my boombox, and sit on these steps.  At first Jesus was too scary to approach, so I found the women in the Bible with whom I could relate.  I found the pregnant Mary, mother of Jesus, I found the woman at the well, Martha who got life from her doing all the right things, and a few others.


Today’s post is a poem inspired by those women and those mornings.


I Speak Your Name: A Celebration of Freedom and Faith

My sisters, I gather you here today because I am your daughter.  I am your daughter, your sister, a fellow disciple,  and friend.  Today, I speak your names with thanksgiving.

As surely as some of you never thought you’d bear children or become respectable grandmothers to sweaty, smiley, gritty little children, you became my mothers in the faith.  Today, I speak your names with love.

Your examples gave me joy!  Jesus was incredibly accessible to every one of you. He embodied love and invited you to come and be known and you said “yes”.  I speak your names with joy today.

If I were to invite you all to come and celebrate this freedom from shame with me, I’d pour canning jars of spicy apple cider and arrange bouquets of sunflowers on rustic tables among the maple trees.  Then I’d put on my Converse with my favorite pair of skinny jeans— the ones that don’t need a belt and slide effortlessly around my curves.  Not because it’s cool, but because it’s comforting.

Because y’all don’t expect ball gowns and diamonds—there is no need for formalities among Sisters in Christ.  And that is who you became to me, on those  concrete New Orleans steps between the lions.  My Sisters.

And so, I sit here at the table surrounded by my Legends, the bridges between my shame and my Savior.  The girls of grace who saw and touched, who spoke to and walked alongside, who kissed and anointed the feet our Jesus. Our Messiah.  Our Lord. Son of Man, the fullness of God.

You walked the hard road, you asked the hard questions, you stood up under hard scrutiny and you became indestructible, like the diamonds you deserve— like the diamonds you are.  So I speak your names because they spoke to me.

I speak your name because they helped me speak His name. When I was afraid and doubted his goodness, your Jesus stories gave me courage to once again, whisper his powerful the name above all names.


I speak your name and I raise my glass to you.

Mary, mother of Jesus, I speak your name.  Our Lord was with you. Even in your womb Jesus’ presence was so powerful. His peace gave you to courage to carry him with a selfless, servant’s heart. You did not give into fear but gave yourself to God.  I speak your name for the essential character of God  revealed to us in your pregnancy : Just to be close to us, God will risk. Entrusting himself to your fragile, human womb God showed us how desperately he wants to touch and be touched by his creation. So thank you my friend, for I no longer question God’s presence or desire to be near me. 

Samaritan Woman at the well, I speak your name.   You and I share scandalous births.  You—a Samaritan.  Me—a product of an affair.  We also share tragic pasts with men that forced us to run in shame.  I ran to the Big Easy.  You ran to the well in the middle of the day, when no one else would have drawn water.   I speak your name because you asked Jesus hard questions.  Does he not see my sinful past?  Does he not know it’s improper to sit and talk to a woman? Let alone a woman of questionable birth? Let along a woman with a questionable past? I wondered that too.
  I speak your name because you were thirsty and asked for Jesus to quench your thirst.  I speak your name because you wielded the power of story beautifully, turning your whole town upside down with your testimony.  So thank you my friend, for I no longer question God’s ability to see me fully, love me completely, and use me powerfully.

Woman with the Issue of Blood, I speak your name.  You showed me that God is safe enough to trust with my brokenness and close enough reach out for my healing.  Your faith has saved you and inspired me.  So thank you my friend, for I no longer question if God is for me and if God can restore me?


Martha, sister of Mary, I speak your name.  You, like me get life from what you can do—even though Jesus just asks us sit down with him for a while. Just be! But, you carried on about all that needs to be done. Your bustling and bemoaning, being judgy towards your sister, and a little sassy to the Savior gave me hope.  I got you, just like I think you’d get me.  And yet, our Jesus was so patient with you.  “Martha, Martha” he said.   So thank you, my friend, for I no longer question if God will lose his temper with my imperfections.

Woman who loved Jesus well, I speak your name.  You were a sinner by all accounts yet you did not let your sin prevent you from worshiping Jesus truly and lavishly. You were courageous, almost headstrong my sister and I loved it.  When you cried and let down your hair as an intimate act of worship towards Jesus, you taught me that Jesus only wants us.  You. Me.  His creation.  He wants us, in whatever state we find ourselves.  Our authentic worship is a fragrant offering, more remarkable and lingering than your alabaster box.  Your beautifully brazen act sparked my favorite teaching from Jesus on forgiveness.  And I cry just thinking about our Savior’s profound words, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”   My sister, I have sinned much and I’ve been forgiven much and I love our Jesus so, so very much.   So thank you, my friend, for I know without a shadow of doubt our God sees me, not my mistakes.  Me.

Jesus, I speak your name.  I speak your name with a trembling stutter.  I speak your name in a hush of reverence.  I speak your name from full supple lips no longer parched, but satisfied by the Living Water.  I speak your name “Rabboni” and I want to stay covered in your dust. I speak your name, Son of God who sees me.  I speak your name, Restorer of my innocence.  I speak your name, Patience and Loving-Kindness.

I speak your name because you first spoke mine. 

And I hope to never forget those burning hot steps or the bottle of sweet tea or the tinny worship music from my boombox.  But I know I will never forget the love seared into my soul or the sweetness of the presence of our Lord after months of swear words and wrestling. I’ll never forget your robust worship from Scriptures, my Legends.

I will never forget the perfect picture of love I learned from my Jesus and his daughters.

My tribe and My Lord.

I speak your names.

I speak your names.

Speaking the Names with Joy,



If you want to know more about these amazing Legends in the faith.  This series by Pastor Jonathan Martin is AMAZING!  Check it out: