In college, I was quite the busy-body. I found my self-worth in participating in every possible activity, club, and organization. I was in the band, played tennis, and a member of student council. I was also a member of the student television news station, volunteered with the Chapel every Sunday, and I pledged a sorority. Can you say, “busy?!” The less I slept, the more meals I skipped, and the more coffee I drank, the more valuable I felt.
I was not taking care of my temple. Instead, I was abusing it as if that was a way to win God’s approval. As I write this now, it sounds so silly. I’ve matured a lot. But in my younger years, I had some serious insecurities and lacked self-worth. I literally hated everything about the body I was in. I hated my mind, I hated my body, and I hated my spirit. As a result, every part of me was mistreated by…me.
Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since my college days. I’ve learned that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love and make him value me more than He already does. How could I forget that He was the one who formed me in my mother’s womb? How could I forget that He created me in His own image? How could I not honor Him by taking care of the body, mind, and spirit that He formed—in detail—when He created me?
Since taking care of myself was a completely foreign concept to me, it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t wake up one morning and begin eating healthy meals and taking time for myself. I truly struggled with how to start valuing and treating myself like a daughter of The King.
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that are as healthy in body as you are strong in Spirit.” — 3 John 1:2
God is glorified when we take care of the temples He gave us, and it is important that we do so in body, mind, and spirit.
Feeding your temple: BODY
In college, I was barely eating. I skipped meals to make time for all of my activities, and when I did eat, I only ate cereal, ramen noodles, and fries from the dollar menu at fast-food restaurants. Talk about nutritious! However, I realized that I wanted to be energized to do work for God’s Kingdom, but the way I was fueling my body was leaving me tired, weak, and lethargic. It was time for a diet change.
If you’re active on social media and spend your life online—like most people do—you are most likely aware of the constant pressure to eat healthier, lose weight, and feel your best. However, with my focus being on God’s glory, I chose to change my diet to ensure that His temple that He created was thriving. He is my motivation for healthy living – not how my body looks.
So, if you are looking to make some changes in how you feed your temple, here are a few tips:
Take time out to prepare three healthy meals a day. Breakfast is as important as lunch and lunch is as important as dinner. It is so tempting to skip a meal when we are on-the-go, but we are truly doing ourselves a disservice when we do this.
Start small. It can be overwhelming to change every eating habit at once. Start with breakfast. Set an alarm for 20 minutes earlier than you normally get up to allow yourself time to prepare and eat a nutritious meal.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, look up healthy alternatives online to satisfy that craving. My go-to is a chocolate peanut butter smoothie that is made with raw cacao powder and organic peanut butter. Super healthy and super delicious! It doesn’t have to be hard to feed your body delicious, nutritious meals. You will feel more energized and your body will thank you.
Feeding your temple: MIND
I believe that this falls under the category of taking time for yourself. Let’s face it. We are busy people. This society thrives on “busyness.” I fell into that trap in college and I still have trouble with it today as a wife and mom.
Things have to get done! There is no time for myself! Sleep? What is that?
However, if we neglect sleep and fail to take time for ourselves, our minds become cluttered. And, I realized that when my mind is cluttered, I struggle to hear God and stay in tune with His presence. I am here to glorify the Lord through my every step and if I can’t hear Him, due to a cluttered mind, how can I glorify Him?
I recommend writing down areas in your life that you can see as mind clutter. For me, it’s social media, my busy schedule, and a constant need for perfectionism. Once you figure out what your areas are, write down ways to clear your mind from these things.
I’m going to make a commitment to find time every day to be social media-free. I am going to commit to saying “no” to something on my agenda that just isn’t important and replace that time with something a bit more relaxing.
What commitments can you make to clear your mind? Whatever they are, write them down to help you stick to them. Place Post-It Notes around your house with your commitments. Set reminders on your phone. Write them down in your planner. Ask an accountability partner to remind you of your commitments.
Feeding your temple: SPIRIT
Finally, it is important to feed your spirit. It is the spirit of The Lord that lives inside of you. It is the spirit that God intricately created that makes you, YOU. It is your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Feeding this area of your temple is so important.
However, can I be honest with you? This is the hardest area for me to feed and keep healthy. Can anyone else relate? Why is it easier to scroll through social media than it is to open our Bibles and receive the Truth?
I’ll be the first to admit that planning a healthy meal is much easier for me than devoting time to my relationship with God. I am so thankful for God’s grace and strength in this huge area of weakness for me.
One thing that has truly helped me in this area is getting connected in my church community. Serving in the Church and being a part of small groups Bible studies are both ways to fuel my spirit. They are great ways to ensure that I am taking time out to refresh with The Lord.
However, alone time with the Lord is equally as important and should be a part of our daily lives.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate alone time is to worship in the car while I am driving. No phone, no distractions, just me and the Lord.
While working on your relationship with God, keep in mind that we are not earning God’s approval by spending more time with Him. We cannot do anything to make Him love us more. We are strengthening our relationship with Him because He desires us so much! Don’t let the enemy turn your efforts into a guilt trap when you fall short, because, the truth is, we will always fall short. We are human.
Our Heavenly Father gave each of us these beautiful temples that were made in His image. It is imperative that we take care of them and treasure them just as He treasures us. When we do so, we are making ourselves even more available for Him to use us at His will for His glory, and we are fueled and ready to live the lives that God has called us to live.
What are some healthy ways that you use to feed your temple? Share them below.
A new program pairing Black women in ministry with mentors has received a $1 million Lilly Endowment grant.
The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, former U.S. international religious freedom ambassador, and her home church, Union Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, have partnered on the R.E.A.L. THRIVE Initiative. The program includes women in the New York and Washington metropolitan areas as well as in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas.
The R.E.A.L. acronym stands for relationship building, equipping and expanding, access and leadership and legacy development. It will feature two groups of 25 senior pastors and church planters who will serve as mentors for women representing about a dozen denominations.
The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry emphasis that supports U.S. religious organizations starting or enhancing programs that help experienced clergy mentor newer pastors as they lead congregations.
“This is truly a blessing and a stain(ed) glass ceiling game changer, not only for the 50 women who are now advancing, being blessed and being placed and elevated in parish ministries, through this grant, but we hope it will help many generations who follow,” said Cook, in a Monday (Feb. 1) announcement.
Cook is the former minister at Mariners’ Temple Baptist Church, where she was the first Black woman senior pastor in the history of the American Baptist Churches USA.
In a recent interview with Religion News Service, Cook said the initiative marks a new juncture in her efforts as a faith leader, entrepreneur and diplomat as she continues to support women in ministry.
“I’m about legacy right now, making sure our people are whole and wholesome,” she said.
Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, said programs like the R.E.A.L. Thrive Initiative especially help clergy as they make key professional transitions.
“When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced col-leagues,” he said in the announcement, “they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives.”
At St. Brigid Catholic Church, the Rev. Kenneth Keke preaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only about eternity, but about “having a human face, loving one another.” Keke’s message stresses unity and that a “common humanity is what we need for us to live in peace.”
“That is liberation theology and that is what we preach here,” said Keke, the St. Brigid priest from Nigeria.
This is the South Central Los Angeles church where 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, grew up singing in the youth choir, taking her sacraments and reciting her poetry.
Gorman, who graduated from Harvard University last year, captivated Americans with the recent recitation of her poem on national unity at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Since that day, she has signed on with IMG modeling agency and has been invited to recite a poem at the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.
“She would always get standing ovations,” said Floy Hawkins, a parishioner and former director of religious education at St. Brigid. “We were in just as much awe of her then, as we were when we all witnessed her at the inauguration.”
St. Brigid, which established in a small rented house in 1920, has a rich history in Los Angeles.
“St. Brigid was one of the first parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that encompassed the entirety of Black Catholicism,” said Anderson Shaw, director of the African American Catholic Center for Evangelization.
What used to be an Irish parish is now a predominantly Black and Latino congregation where, Keke told Religion News Service, parishioners take pride in their community and often “push me to do something … to fight more.”
“We need to liberate our people more,” Keke said they tell him. “It’s like everybody here is a freedom fighter.”
St. Brigid is an Afrocentric Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that’s overseen by the Josephites — a religious community of Catholic priests and brothers that centers its ministry in African American communities. The Josephites formed in 1871 to meet the needs of newly freed people after the Civil War.
The Josephites arrived at the South Central LA parish in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after African Americans had migrated to the city from Louisiana and Southeast Texas in search of jobs at aircraft construction companies, said the Rev. Thomas Frank, vicar general of the Josephites, who served as pastor at St. Brigid from 2007 to 2011.
Frank said the Josephites took over the parish at the written request of African American Catholics in the area. The church, which could accommodate about 800 people, was struggling with dwindling attendance and was down to about 150 core parishioners, who were mostly Black but also included a significant number of Latinos.
With the Josephites’ arrival, the parish received its first African American priest, the Rev. William Norvell, as well as an Afro-Latino Jesuit priest, the Rev. Fernando Arizti, to connect with the Latino community, Frank said.
Hawkins came to St. Brigid around 1980 after her sister encouraged her to visit. She heard St. Brigid incorporated a gospel choir during Mass, and she thought, “A gospel choir at a Catholic church?” She decided to give St. Brigid a visit and has remained there ever since.
“The relevancy, the comfort of connecting in the community and the nuances of the actual Mass, it’s very culturally relatable,” Hawkins said.
During a typical pre-pandemic Mass, an ensemble wearing dashikis and headdresses would sound African drums to call parishioners to gather for worship. A gospel choir would follow, sending congregants to their feet as they danced and waved their arms, giving God praise, glory and honor.
Inside the church, a Black crucifix is suspended above the altar. Oil paintings of a Black Joseph holding his son, a Black Jesus, and of Martin Luther King Jr. hang on the walls of the parish.
St. Brigid has become known as a pillar in the community.
It’s a member of OneLA, an organization made up of Jewish temples, schools and other nonprofit groups that work to improve housing insecurity, public transportation and criminal justice reform. The church also turns into a voting center during elections and during the coronavirus pandemic has served as a COVID-19 testing site. St. Brigid also has a food distribution ministry.
To Hawkins, the church community was an ideal and welcoming worship space for her four children.
She recalled how Arizti opened up the church space to a Muslim mosque whose building had been damaged after an earthquake.
“That was amazing,” Hawkins said. “The church was a light to the surrounding community.”
Seeing Gorman in the national spotlight now, Hawkins remembers how the poet’s mother went to the church with her twin daughters, Amanda and Gabrielle, with the hope of exposing her children to a Catholic faith “that was relevant to their identity as African American.”
The Gorman sisters were in middle school, became part of the religious education program and stayed throughout their preparation for baptism, first Communion and confirmation, Hawkins said. Amanda Gorman would participate in the church’s Black history programs through her poetry.
“Her mother was very intentional about her girls,” Hawkins said. “That was very clear, and as a result, her girls were very responsive to the African American worship experience.”
“This is a very humble family,” Hawkins added. “They’re a family that loves to share, but they are not imposing people.”
Gabrielle Gorman has made her own strides, in the filmmaking industry. Last year, she edited and directed a voting public service announcement, #Vote4theFuture, in collaboration with her sister, featuring self-taped clips from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Cara Delevingne and Mahershala Ali. Her work, focusing on social change, has been featured in Essence, Bustle and NPR.
In a video created by Gabrielle Gorman, a graduate of UCLA’s School of Film and Television, the sisters deliver a message of solidarity with images of diverse people and protesters across the city of LA. The video shows Amanda Gorman reciting a poem in the bus and in the middle of protesters:
“This is my country-Catholic grandmother on bus-defending hijab-wearing girl-immigrant learning a new language-Native remembers an old one rarely spoken in this world. This is who we are …”
In the days leading up to Jan. 20, Keke said parishioners were calling him to let him know “their very own Amanda Gorman” would be the one reciting a poem at the momentous ceremony. Enthusiasm was high.
“Everybody was excited for the opportunity Amanda received,” Keke said. “There was no doubt that she would do well. She grew to become very articulate and bold.”
Reflecting back on Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” Keke said it was about “democracy and unity,” and the importance of “living in the country as one people, recognizing one another and respecting one another.”