Does It Matter What We Do in Private?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Behind closed doors where it’s just you, no one else. At your dining room table where conversations are shared with your nearest and dearest and not for public dissemination. The videos you watch. The music you listen to. The fetish that is private for now, but it’s growing appetite will soon put you on front street and embarrass you. The locker room conversations not meant for the board room.

Does it matter what we do and say in private? Does it matter who we speak unlovingly about? For those of us living in the “free world” of America, most would say that what we do and say in the privacy of our homes or private spaces is no one’s business. But to God, it matters.

For those in relationship with Christ Jesus, our character, actions, speech and heart should mirror His in the office, the storefront, in our homes, at the dining room table. As lights on the hill (Matthew 5:14) for everyone to see, the Christ in us should not be compartmentalized or covered. He should not be excused from certain environments for flesh to have its way.

As Voices Against the Grain and those of us who no longer wish to conform to this world’s status quo AND who desire to be continually transformed into Christ’s likeness through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we can display Christ to a skeptical world. The world is dying to see if godliness is indeed possible and simultaneously seeks its impossibility. For who would give up their right to not freely exercise whatever they want to do and say?


In my professional life of public relations, we prepare our clients with messaging and talking points to help them “stay on message” when interviewing with media or delivering public presentations. It’s hoped that these talking points communicate who the client is, what they stand for and what they hope to accomplish through their platform. Yet, away from the hot mic and cameras, what resides in their hearts may be entirely different. Thus, we’re shocked when those “differences” are recorded outside of the person’s “talking points” environment.

If you are a Christian reading this, who are you in public and in private? Do you display godly character in both environments?

As God has grown the desire in me to truly be a Christian public servant, I think often on what that means. It means that God is grooming leaders who will not reflect the current landscape of “it doesn’t matter what I do in private.” They will not have dual minds but minds solely focused on obedience to His will and ways.

Such leaders will not rationalize policies that support convenience and expediency at the risk of morality. Such leaders will exercise integrity in matters great and small, public and private. Godly character is integrated into the whole and throughout their lives. We’ve seen quite enough of the dualism. We need to see more of the principled with moral absolutes.

In serving others publicly or in private, I continue to think on Luke 16:10


When it comes to character, the little things matter. Lord, may our living be so close to You that the talking points are no longer needed because You live daily throughout our hearts and lives. Our daily public and private living will be Christ-like and not compartmentalized. Help us Lord, to be trustworthy in character in the great and the small things so a skeptical world will be the recipients of the blessings therein. Amen.

God bless you, much love to you and trust that the transformation is worth it.


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.


The Deception of Progress: A Harmful Illusion

“If you want to change the direction of our country, vote.”  And in doing so, what are we advancing?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (liberty).  (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

In referencing the above New Testament scripture, I’m attempting to draw the clearest line, paint-by-numbers directions for this world to obtain true freedom instead of the counterfeit freedoms they currently pursue.

Liberty: the pursuit of it underpins our democratic society. Indeed, voting is important to register your voice in how our government should operate in serving our interests and preserving our freedoms.

But when such exercises compromise or disregard God’s laws for the sake of “progress,” we’ve not grasped the unprotected turmoil we’ve therefore brought upon ourselves. We’ve grieved God and incurred His judgments.

So why are many baffled by the decay our country lies in today?

“The irony of America’s quest for happiness lies in the fact that she succeeded more obviously than any other nation in making life “comfortable,” only to run into larger incongruities of human destiny by the same achievements by which it escaped the smaller ones. Our very success in this enterprise has hastened the exposure of its final limits.” – Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Though Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary, penned this quote 64 years ago, his message still rings truth today.

America has sought greater liberties to make people “comfortable” with their immoral lifestyle choices. Ironically, in pursuing such liberty, perfect harmony is yet to be achieved.



The irony is that the immoral have gotten the liberties they’ve pushed for, but oh, it comes with so much more. The disappointment of the “so much more” is concealed until you get the package home, unwrap it, celebrate its novelty and then realize it is bundled with unwelcomed outcomes.

The duplicitous nature of such progress masquerades itself as a solution to accommodate our self-interests—absent of critical thinking, absent of considering the future ramifications. The only advancement in this type of progress is to advance gross deception within the recipient. This is a harmful illusion. The lesson in this is be careful what you ask for. You just might get it and other things along with it you didn’t ask for. This is the trickery of ungodly progress.

How Do We Obtain Authentic Liberty? 

“Liberation is not found in escaping or manipulating what God requires of us, but it is found by embracing and being faithful to God’s ideals.”- Charles “Chuck” Colson and Nancy Pearson, How Now Shall We Live (1999)

In Niebuhr’s words, our culture has hastened the exposure of the limits of what worldly progress/liberty can bring. There are far too many deceived in these last days.

Lord Jesus, we pray that those deceived would have the veil removed to clearly see that their freedom rests in You alone. May those pursuing ungodly progress be quickened in their hearts by hearing Your Word and be led to repent and recognize that true progress rests in our obedience to You, rooted in love for You. Jesus, You alone remain our intervention and deliverance from temporal and eternal ruin. Life in You is how we transform our country and our very lives.

Are you advancing decay or true liberty through Christ Jesus? The integrity of God and His Word are impeccable. Be very clear: God will not violate His integrity nor His Word. Those who seek liberties outside of His will are grossly deceived.

Why Are We Telling You This? 

At Voices Against the Grain, we present God’s Word to: 1- bring clarity and restoration so you can navigate successfully out of and away from deception, 2- to educate and equip you in God’s truth for abundant living—so you can truly live free as God designed, 3- to encourage you, and last, 4- to love you as we’re telling you the truth. Our platform messages, primarily geared for the Believer, also serve to educate the unbeliever.

We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who are advancing God’s Kingdom alongside us and within their communities. Thank you for exposing deception with truth and transforming one heart at a time in the love of Jesus Christ, so that those transformed are empowered by the Holy Spirit to help transform others. This is progress.


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

We’ve Come This Far By Faith

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“If one minute’s freedom had been offered to me and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it.” –Elizabeth Freeman “Mum Bett,” a Massachusetts slave who sued for her freedom and helped end slavery in that state, 1800

Sobering words. You can feel this former slave’s yearning to experience freedom, even if only for 60 seconds before being killed. Through her words, you feel her disregard for death in exchange for one minute’s freedom to escape the life she had been enslaved.

Though I saw her quote earlier this week during my five-hour tour of the newly opened National African American Museum of History and Culture here in Washington, D.C., her palpable words have stayed with me. In the course of my tour of the intelligently designed crown/corona-shaped museum and its four levels and basement levels, dare I say that there are many words and images that have stayed with me.


A project 100 years in the making, the National African American Museum of History and Culture, a Smithsonian property, was built on the last available space on the National Mall grounds. Its history memorializes in artifact, imagery, film, music, written and audio messages the good, bad and ugly of America’s history in its treatment of Blacks.

I joyfully made my way through and down the top levels whose exhibits fabulously celebrate some of African Americans’ crowning achievements from opening businesses and restaurants, to the music many of us sing and dance to, sports records set and the creation of popular Black-owned magazines and newspapers telling stories from perspectives that wouldn’t have been told otherwise. I felt proud.


The infamous gold track shoes of four-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and World Champion sprinter, Michael Johnson

The museum staff first recommended that visitors start at the basement level which contains exhibits of slavery (and Emmett Till’s casket), and then work our way up. This was purposely designed to lift us out of the earlier sorrow. But, as life would have it, there was a long line to the basement level so it was recommended that we start our tour at the top levels.


By the time I reached the basement levels, I understood why the reverse order was preferred. Upon entering the basement level exhibits that embarked on Africans’ journey of slavery into the Americas and Europe, starting around year 1400, my jubilation sunk into anger and sorrow.

Beatings. Brutality. Men, women and children in shackles. Packed in large cargo ships with less than 2 feet of space between the next person. Forced to lie in their excrement. Some were healthy enough to survive the Transatlantic journey and some were not. Those that survived the journey, not all survived the overbearing field work. Rice crops, sugar trade, tobacco fields and other goods established the wealthy and many companies still operating in America today—built on the blood, sweat, brutality, tears and cries of despair from the millions upon millions of enslaved Africans.

In reading some of the slaves’ stories and viewing the clothes and shackles passed down to their family for me as a free person to see today, I asked, “God, where were you in their brutality? Where were you in their beatings, struggles and oppression? Children separated from their parents? Enslaved men and women who loved each other not allowed by law to marry. Treated as property, while the wicked were held in high esteem.  Lord, where were you??!”


Slave shackles, property of 3rd U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson.


In my anger, I came upon a display that brought a wellspring of joy within my spirit.

Encased in glass was Nat Turner’s open bible and Harriet Tubman’s book of gospel hymns. Both Turner and Tubman were instrumental in bravely leading other slaves to freedom. The description beneath Tubman’s hymnal reads:

“A fiercely religious woman, Tubman spoke of visions and dreams that helped provide a moral compass throughout her life. The wear and tear on this hymnal suggests that she must have loved it and used it quite frequently.”


Harriet Tubman’s Hymnal

Wow. More than wow. Seeing Tubman’s hymnal and Turner’s bible stirred my spirit to recognize: Lord, You were with them! Just as You were faithfully with Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt after suffering 400 years of slavery, YOU were with those who led, bled and suffered! You are the same God then as you are today. For all Believers, You are with us today, in our struggles! You tell us to go in courage (Joshua 1:9) for you go with us! If we trust You and Your Word, You will bring us out and into freedom! Exodus! For those who trust, that means spiritual freedom in Christ Jesus. For some of you, it also means leaving the land of not enough (Egypt) to the land of more than enough (Canaan).

I could write more on my experience but truly this is a powerful takeaway for me. God is indeed with us in our struggles even when it doesn’t feel like it at times. God knows our struggles, suffering and sorrows, for He sent His only Son to be beaten, whipped, nailed to a wooden cross to die as an innocent to take on the wickedness of this world so mankind could be redeemed and reconciled in relationship with God. Christ died so that you and I could truly be free.

Presently, the Black community is still under siege. There is a present-day slavery of a different sort strategized by Satan that has kept many in perpetual slavery to poverty, addiction, incarceration and violence. It’s my prayer at least for the population God has entrusted me to serve and share His Truth, to help them recognize true freedom in Christ Jesus and unshackle them from the things that enslave and entangle  (Hebrews 12:1). “To proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” (Isaiah 61:1, NIV).

I, like many DC-area residents, get caught up in the busyness of Washington life. Sometimes we take for granted the national treasures easily accessible to us; treasures that thousands travel from far away to simply get a glimpse of; to somehow capture the experience permanently by photo, video or gift shop trinket.

But I promise you, I won’t take for granted what I saw and experienced. In ways I will never know personally, the struggles of my predecessors and more importantly, their legacy of faith and resiliency, has in part enabled me to be where I am today: free.  I think on words from the hymn, “We’ve Come this Far By Faith”:

Oh, We’ve come this far by faith

Leaning on the Lord

Trusting in His holy word

He’s never failed me yet

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Can’t turn around

We’ve come this far by faith



Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

An Appeal When Love Wanes and Anger Flames

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed last Friday by Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby. Crutcher’s SUV had stalled in the middle of the road and police arrived to address the situation. Crutcher, a large black man, threw his hands up as police approached (to show he was not a threat) but was still tasered, shot and later died at the hospital. Husband. Father. Brother. Unarmed black man. Another one, again.

I was angrier than I’ve felt in some time in learning this news story yesterday. Another unarmed black man shot and killed by a white police officer. The egregious incident, captured on a police dashboard camera, shows Crutcher with his hands up. Officer Shelby is under federal investigation.

Many are angry. We’re inflamed by the injustice of it all. We’re in disbelief that another black man has been taken away from his family like this. In their anger, many have lost their love for others, particularly a number of blacks toward whites. But this response further divides us and plays right into Satan’s ploy. As more Believers grow into the image of Christ, Satan is trying to derail the light of the Church. He seeks to cause division and dissension to where unity cannot be forged. We reject that in Jesus’ Mighty Name!

In recognizing the signs of the end of the age, Matthew 24:12 (NIV) warns us:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.

This is happening now, among some Believers. 


And Matthew 24:13 encourages us:

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

My appeal to all who read this: 

As the crises increase in frequency and intensity, when justice seems elusive and our very lives seem to be under siege, we have an even greater opportunity to display Godly character.  We should be the hands and feet of Christ, serving one another in love; to not lose our love for one another, to not allow our love to grow cold toward others. God’s love demonstrated is exactly what the world desperately needs. Those who are children of God, we are called to manifest His love to others:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:10, NIV)

As a dear sister in Christ reminded me:

Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)

My appeal to you: In our thirst for justice to be rendered, let’s maintain our love for one another. Keep your hope, Godly character and faith. Don’t become disheartened and drift away from Him but rather, draw nearer and cleave to Him more. Others need to see His Light in us! If we lose our love toward others, then sadly, we’ve drifted away from our first love: Jesus Christ.

My appeal to you: Remember how the story ends: love/good wins over evil in the end. Satan knows this too. Though he is already defeated, he hopes to make you forget your victory already won.

Lord Jesus, we need You. Our hearts are grieved again by the injustice that has occurred here. Forgive us for our words, thoughts and actions that have not displayed Your Love. Though we are angered by this situation, let it not pull us out of Godly character. Renew a right spirit within us, dear Lord. Create in us a clean heart, for You are holy and require us to be as well. Lord, may we desire to stay close to You, so we can truly be Your hands and feet to others in this sinful and perishing world. So long as we keep You, Jesus, as our first love, our love for others will not grow cold. 

Jesus, please comfort the Crutcher Family in their loss, and all those affected. We pray for the police officer involved, that she would accept responsibility for her actions; that she would seek You to transform her heart and renew her mind so she may truly love and serve others in Your way.  We pray healing for Tulsa and all communities devastated by such actions. Thank you, Jesus. 

In Jesus’ Name,



Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Toplines on Trauma

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Trauma Informed Care training presented by national expert Bonnie Martin, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). The training was hosted by National Community Church here in Washington, D.C. I was joined by one of my mentees who is pursuing her Master of Social Work. Since attending the training, it’s been my intent to share with you some of what we learned.

Though I’ve been told by others that I am a good listener, compassionate and provide wise counsel, it was recommended that I attend the training to better serve the at-risk youth population the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to mentor here in D.C. Unlike the young people I’m currently mentoring who seek guidance in navigating career choices, relationship matters and their life in Christ Jesus in a morally decaying world, it is highly likely the stories I’ll hear from the at-risk population will be gut-wrenching and horrific.

The training was tremendously helpful to someone like me who is not—I repeat NOT a mental health expert. She presented a lot of information, at which my mentee and I took copious notes. Though she is a Christian, Martin framed the information primarily from a scientific perspective to depict how trauma affects the brain and how the brain attempts to heal.

While I wouldn’t dare capture for you the entire training in this blog post, I can provide you some toplines. I hope this helps to enlighten and certainly not minimize the scale and impact trauma can have on someone physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. For those of you reading this who are mental health professionals and more versed in issues on trauma, please feel free to provide additional insight.

Toplines on Trauma

What is trauma and what does it look like?

  1. Trauma (as Martin defined it): too much stress at one time for the body to handle properly; a distressing experience.
  2. Trauma can be acute (ex: earthquake) followed by subsequent aftershocks. PTSD looks at how the body and brain are responding two months after trauma. Complex post-trauma could also be trauma that is chronic (ex: some children are born into trauma, such as those born to a heroin-addicted mother, child born into food insecure home or molestation. Chronic homelessness is ongoing trauma).
  3. The brain is being altered under traumatic stress and this needs to be taken into consideration.
  4. Neuroplasticity: how the brain seeks to heal after trauma or injury and establish new neuro connections to adjust to changes in new environment.
  5. Trauma can cause memory impairment. Memories can also change, become disjointed or not make sense.
  6. Negative behaviors of acting out: Some of the behaviors that traumatized people act out is what helped them survive (lying, stealing, etc.) to cope with stresses that never should have been. While we get this, they need to be restored from this. Sexual acting out may be sign of previous sexual trauma. This is done to manage stress response.
  7. Prefrontal cortex of the brain if compromised or damaged during trauma, creates hypervigilence. The person’s ability to perceive stress in a healthy way, is gone. All events are elevated to a high stress level (ex: studying for an exam and being chased by a shark receives same stress response).
  8. A person experiencing trauma may feel unworthy of love, acceptance and carry shame.
  9. They may crave sweet, fatty food combinations. They can gain weight and this compounds the shame feelings. Diet is critical. They need hydration and healthy food. Dehydration impairs mental function.
  10. People experiencing trauma are exhausted. Difficulty getting out of bed to run their race. Weary and faint-hearted.

How can you best help this person?

  1. Listen. If they choose to be silent instead of talk, sit with them in the silence. Don’t seek to fill the silence.
  2. By listening and not trying to “help,” you offer them a safe place to engage and build a healthy relationship. This also helps their brain establish new neuro connections.
  3. Focus on their strengths.
  4. Show up. Be present. Your presence matters.
  5. Stick to what you know. If they ask you a question and you don’t know, tell them, “I don’t know.” Do seek to connect them to the appropriate resources who can help.
  6. Ask questions to get to know them. Be interested in them. People are the assignment. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.
  7. People who have experienced trauma tend to self-isolate. This can kill. They need community and connection.
  8. Embrace anger and grief. These are honest, raw and real emotions about pain and trauma. Bear witness to their pain. Don’t try to shut them down too soon.
  9. Understand that resiliency differs for everyone. Trauma differs for everyone and cannot be compared.
  10. Empower people. Never take their power away. “Do you want an apple or orange?” “Do you want to sit here or over there?”



How can you stay healthy when serving/ministering to a person who has been traumatized?

  1. Don’t be a sponge/don’t absorb others’ trauma or you will not be good for yourself or others. Instead, mirror love and resiliency, laughter, play, redemption. Mirror everything you pray for them to have. The Holy Spirit working through you and your presence will be the influence.
  2. Make sure you bounce back. If you are not bouncing back, stop and get help.

Praise Jesus Christ, who is our Savior! He is a sure help in our times. You need not think that you can save this person. Only Jesus can. Jesus knows our pain and suffering. He knows that pain and despised the shame of that pain for the joy set before him as told in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus, Our Savior, to bear it all for us on the Cross. In our pain, our grief, anger, a yearning to understand “why?”, He knows and sees our struggle. He hears our cries and utterances.  Because of His victory achieved on the Cross, the shame is not His or ours. Thank you Jesus for your amazing love that heals the broken places and makes all things new. We pray that those experiencing such pain would begin to lay their burdens down, so they may see the victory and joy you’ve already set before them. Refresh and renew their spirit, mind and body, Lord with your love, strength, peace and joy. In this joy, may they run their race with perseverance, seeing their victory already won. Please also strengthen those of us you’ve called to help those in pain. We thank you for inviting us to be co-workers with you in this work as they move toward healing and freedom, and prayerfully, may be equipped to help free somebody else. 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.


The Believer’s Disposition/Posture

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

What should be the Believer’s disposition/posture at all times? What should be our posture to advance God’s Kingdom in increasingly turbulent times?

The Believer’s Disposition (or posture):

  • Focused on Jesus, Communes with Him. (Colossians 3:2)
  • Worships the Lord in spirit and truth/whole heart (John 4:23-24, Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
  • Called, Called for God’s Work, Made Righteous Through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 1:6, Romans 11:29, Romans 8:30)
  • Sanctified, Holy, Set Apart for God’s Purposes. (1 Peter 1:6, 2 Corinthians 6:17)
  • Love and Goodwill toward others. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • Humility. (Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 2:3)
  • Peace. Abiding in Jesus’ perfect peace. The world doesn’t have peace. The world is putting on a good show, but it is counterfeit peace. (John 14:27, John 16:33)
  • Joy. (Galatians 5:22-23, Nehemiah 8:10)
  • Self-Control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Expectant, Rooted in Hope, Knows Who Holds Their Future. (Hebrews 10:23, Hebrews 11:1, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:24)
  • Fearlessness. We don’t shrink back from what God has called us to do. He reminds us in Joshua 1:9 to be courageous: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • Content in all situations, Gives Thanks. (Philippians 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Forward moving, advancing God’s Kingdom, led into direct confrontation with the enemy as we take territory away from the kingdom of darkness and reclaim for God’s Kingdom. How else would you get battle experience? (Ephesians 6:10-17)
  • Authorized by God. God, who is greater than us, has authorized you to “GO” and “Conquer.” Walk in it. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)


  • Obedience. (John 14:15, Revelation 14:12)
  • Holy Spirit-led; divergent, dexterous; moves boldly and confidently in God’s instruction and not led or made stagnant by doctrine
  • Discernment/Wisdom. (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 3:13, Hebrews 5:14, James 3:17)
  • Rest, Confidence in God. (Hebrews 4, Isaiah 33:6, Psalm 62:5-8)
  • Clarity and Sound Mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • Unshakable Convictions. We share God’s Truth so those living outside of it can begin to bear good fruit. We wouldn’t encourage them to continue sowing lawlessness to appease them and spare our discomfort in telling them the truth. (Colossians 2:8, 2 Timothy 4:2-5)
  • Perseverance. Pressing in, not seeking comfortable spaces, understanding that suffering and struggle grows our faith. Staying the course. Finishing the race. (2 Timothy 4:7, Acts 20:24, Hebrews 12:1, Philippians 3:14)
  • Free. (2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:32, Romans 8:1)
  • Victorious! (Romans 8:31-32, Romans 8:37, John 16:33, 1 John 5:4, Joshua 10:8)

What an awesome picture of the secure Believer amid the world’s insecurity! What other characteristics would you add to this list? Your comments welcomed!


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.


Is Holiness Possible Today?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Oh Nikki, stop it with that holier than thou stuff,” said mom to my then 13 or 14-year-old self. Note: mom didn’t say “stuff” but I’ve chosen a more appropriate substitute.  :-)

Mom was responding to my correction about her cussing. I was a black child, albeit raised in a household by two Christian parents, along with my brother, who found boldness (or ignorance) to correct her mother. Those of you who understand the dynamics of growing up in a black household, mom didn’t like back talk (even if we were right) and neither did/does Dad (mom passed away in 1989). But within me, I had a boldness and love for the Lord and a desire to see others love and live for the Lord as He calls us to.


My love for the Lord began in early childhood. My parents bought my brother and me an entire 10-volume set of illustrated bible stories. I read the stories from page to page, enjoying the illustrations, loved learning about Jesus, his ministry, his and the disciples’ interactions with others. Even reading about his crucifixion and resurrection, I may have read that more than the other stories. I loved the Lord, yet my childhood thing was to be so perfect that I wouldn’t get in trouble with mom and dad. So if I didn’t complete a chore, broke a dish, got a bad report card grade, or something else, I lied about it. I sometimes blamed the incident on my brother who had no clue that he was about to get a spanking because I lied so well. Goodness gracious. He and I can look back on it now and laugh, but at that time it was no laughing matter. My parents were grieved by my boldface lying pattern, and one day said to me, “Nikki, we want to be able to trust you. We can’t trust you.”

Those words pained me deeply. I too, wanted my parents to be able to trust me. Why did I fear being punished to the point of lying? I was truly repentant and asked the Lord’s help to stop lying, to turn from this. I didn’t want to be a liar. This was at age 12. It was then that I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and my heart was made new. It was then that I felt a greater love for the Lord, with such a zeal to share Him and His love with others, to encourage them to walk in His truth.

Oh yes, this has long been who I am. This sudden change occurred within our household with my mom who was a Believer. But she still had her favorite curse words, liked to smoke her occasional More brand slim cigarettes, and liked to drink her occasional screwdriver. She was not delighted to hear her teen daughter’s correction. Eeeks.

Two scriptures (and certainly there are more) come to mind in writing this: 

1 Peter 1:16 (English Standard Version), since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” As one commentary reads, “The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian’s life, and by this rule, we are commanded to be holy in every way. God makes those holy who he saves.  Holiness (should be) the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, all conditions and toward all people.”

Matthew 5:6 (New International Version), Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  As I was coming more into the Lord in childhood, I genuinely had a hunger and thirst for righteousness; for a right relationship with God and others (and still do). I simply didn’t interpret it with this understanding at that time, and likely, neither did mom.


Sooo many opportunities to sin abound in our society. Is the Bible and how God calls us to live still relevant or even possible in today’s challenging times? The answer is “Yes.” God’s Word, His character and His nature are unchanging, no matter the situation. In the next few weeks, our ministry will speak with college students who are struggling on how to navigate such societal trappings. Worse, as they seek to successfully avoid the trappings and enticements of sin, they see some members within the Body of Christ who they look up to, engaging in similar sins—the sins the students are told to avoid. Many of them are disheartened and confused by what they see. As I mentor our young people, I understand that this millenial generation truly wants to see those more mature in the Body of Christ walking the walk and not just talking it. Truly living in holiness,  yielding our flesh and spirit in obedience to God’s will. Mirroring Christ’s love and His ways.

But I’ll ask them as I am asking you: Is holiness possible today? Do you even desire holiness or understand what it is? As dear friend and co-founder of Christian think tank, Hakim Hazim, said so well recently: “Many want God’s blessings but reject the relationship standards.” 

What Holiness Means and Why It is Possible Today 

Holiness means to be “set apart, consecrated, set apart for God’s purposes; sacred, hallowed, sanctified. Called out of darkness to reflect God’s Light to the world.” God gives us His Holy Spirit so we can live as He does. That’s why it is possible, even today, to live holy.

Is holiness possible today? You bet. It’s not only possible, it’s God’s plan for us. Be encouraged: I am living it as are others. If you’re living it, continue, as others are watching and listening. If you’re struggling, I offer this prayer:

Lord, help us through Your Holy Spirit to yield to your ways, your will for holiness and not how we interpret that to mean.  Develop within us such a love and devotion for you that drives our desire to pursue holiness no matter the situation or environment we’re facing. Though there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), let us not use that as a license to keep allowing past sins into our present.  Help us to model to this generation what a life of true joy, true freedom, true peace can look like in You. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, mercy and grace upon us. 



Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.


Are You Drinking the World’s Kool-Aid?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I always thought the deception would be harder for the enemy to pull off, but this generation has been presented with such degraded morality, that it is no stretch for people to accept such blatant blasphemies.”


Powerful words stated by a dear sister in Christ. I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Her words were shared during our conversation in response to this June 2014 Upworthy article that recently reposted, “There Are Six Scriptures About Homosexuality in the Bible. Here’s What They Really Say,” written by Erica Williams Simon, the daughter of two ministers. Ms. Simon notes that she studies the Bible “pretty closely.” Yet, deception abounds throughout her article in her true understanding of God’s Word. More importantly, her understanding is contrary to God’s character, design and nature. I was stunned by her conclusions but more so, I was grieved by her being deceived and potentially deceiving others (Kool-Aid).


Certainly, there’s nothing new under the sun. I never write these posts as if there is. Every sin committed today has existed since time began. Today, there’s simply more ways to do it, greater access to participate, more support to accommodate it and more opportunities for brokenness. It’s a mess. The pitcher of Kool-Aid that was sweet has soured. It’s no laughing matter.


Anything not connected to the love of God is a counterfeit freedom. Counterfeit freedom produces momentary pleasure with its participants chained in brokenness. God’s design and intention IS for us to be truly free and not enslaved by the world’s trappings. John 10:10 (KJV) says so: 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.


Then how can a Believer know His Word, know what it’s designed to do, experience His power in their own lives and still be deceived to drink the world’s Kool-Aid? As James 1:22-24 (ESV) reads:


22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.


A withering devotion to the Lord, no desire for critical thinking or for the pursuit of holiness, spiritual laziness and being fickle in Godly principles has enabled deception to occur in the Body of Christ.


Are you drinking the world’s Kool-Aid? Have you knowing the truth, been persuaded by a popular idea or lifestyle to exchange the truth for a lie? If so, Father please forgive us. Help us to courageously live out Your Word, Your Word which does not change.


Heavenly Father, help us to deliver Your Word as You have intended—not by how we think it should be interpreted to appease our and others’ self-interests. Help us pursue holiness, being unmoved in Godly principles in a world that daily pushes the envelope to satisfy self-interests and seeks our support for doing so. Let us remain holy, set apart, called out from the world for Your purposes so we can be light in darkness, to help free the captives. 


As my dear sister prayed, “God help the saints shine with the glory of Christ, who is in us and who made us for ‘such a time as this.’ May God raise up His saints in love and shock and awe victory over anything the enemy can manufacture, and help us destroy it with God’s truth and Spirit. For by Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, You have declared in Your Word our victory is assured. Glory to you, Lord! Our hope is in You and our faith is in the true Christ and our labor is testifying to the true God, to Jesus Christ. We thank you for the honor of the labor to work in Your fields as you bring in the saints before the harvest of the unrighteous. Jesus, make us righteous and holy and worthy of the calling of our election.” 


There is no fitting substitute, God, for Your love, truth and freedom. There is no substitute for Your Word. Help us God to endure, to keep Your commandments and our faith in Jesus.





Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Are Your Words Like Fresh Water?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to pour out. If I plant an apple tree, I expect apples to be produced. No mystery in what is expected from either of these vessels. So, how and why then, do words of blessings, complaining, criticizing and cursing come out of the SAME mouth? Shouldn’t it be consistently one or the other (preferably blessings and words of goodwill, especially for those in the Body of Christ)?

The Bible provides several scriptures on the words produced by our tongue, and the affects thereafter. Here are at least four scriptures on the subject:



  • Proverbs 18:21- The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (one commentary says “shall receive either good or evil according to the quality of their speeches”).
  • Matthew 12:34-37- “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35- The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36- But I can tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37- For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • James 3:6, 8- The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 8-but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
  • James 3:9-12- With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10- Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11- Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12- My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 


spring water

What fruit does your speech produce in your life and in others’ lives? Does your speech speak life and light over those created in God’s image? How are your words used (or not used) when addressing challenging issues—through complaining, criticizing, cursing or with quiet trust, praise, uplifting and thanksgiving?

Our words are conditional to our heart and thoughts. For those of us in Christ Jesus who have truly yielded to His ways, the sanctification process (us being transformed and perfected into Christ’s likeness) is just that: a process. Thankfully, as we desire to be more like Him, He renews our mind and transforms our heart, and thereby, our responses to situations. For me, He is replacing my complaining/grumbling with quiet trust, praise and thanksgiving. Whether waiting for a delayed train while sweating in the smoldering heat and humidity, or extending patience to the person ahead of me who is proceeding slowly, I choose to not complain. I have more gratitude in all situations.

As he continues to transform my heart and mind, my words, my tongue will produce His desired intention of those words springing forth.  I am grateful for His merciful and patient striving with me.

We are reminded as His vessels to use our words in such ways that we “are joyful always,” and to  17-“pray continually, 18- give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

From your one mouth, may words of light, restoration, blessing and thanksgiving flow in your life and others.

Proverbs 16:24- Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

God bless you,


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.




What Time is It? Our Greatest Opportunity

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

This week…there have been few words to be offered other than those spoken to comfort, encourage others and commune with God in prayer. We continue to pray for the families affected. All of us have been affected one way or another by the back-to-back traumas. Our hearts are grieved. The successive acts of violence committed against Black men and White police officers has left us heartbroken, angry and in search for answers. Many have asked, “When is this going to stop??!”

Sadly, we’ve yet to witness evil’s capacity. Yet, the times should indicate to Believers and unbelievers that the answer to “when is this going to stop” is beyond the implementation of traditional, temporary, external solutions. This indeed and always has required us to surrender our human arrogance to offer up Band-Aid solutions to curtail evil’s appetite with counterfeit solutions only to dismiss the true answer, which is Jesus Christ.

Dallas police makeshfit memorial

Michael O’ Mahoney, a former police officer, places his patch on a makeshift memorial at the Dallas police headquarters on July 8, 2016. Photo courtesy: AP

So what time is it? 

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to remain vigilant in prayer and fasting. It is our greatest opportunity to display unity and true freedom to a world that is fractured, broken and seeking life and healing to no avail. It is our greatest opportunity to be salt, light and truth when people offer textbook solutions and seek not the heart of God for answers.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to stop being led by others who aren’t plugged into the Vine, who aren’t yielding to the Holy Spirit, who aren’t in their prayer closets, and to walk in the instructions the Holy Spirit gives us on how to push back the darkness.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to become unshackled from false doctrine and legalism and be transformed by Christ in our thinking so we can move with clarity, unhindered. As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to boldly and confidently move in our callings where God has placed us, particularly to challenge broken, traditional processes and systems that continue to churn out temporary remedies in our communities.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to share with those who are crying out for answers and relief; to joyfully and lovingly share Who is our Greatest Hope, and not be afraid of offending someone or seek to be politically correct.

So again, what time is it?

To the Believer, there should be no question as to “what time it is.” Everything is telling us “what time it is.” Question is, how will you respond with this insight? Should you choose to move as Light against the darkness and as described in the aforementioned paragraphs, you will certainly be met with opposition. But even so, do you dare to use this greatest opportunity to allow God to show you all that He is and all that you are in Him?

light of the world

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

Praying for bold warriors. Prayers for vigilance in the Body of Christ. Prayers for the Body of Christ to continue to be salt, light and truth in a world that pursues other methods for solutions rather than pursuing God. Prayers for those seeking answers in these dark times to find Jesus Christ, Who is our Answer and Greatest Hope.

God bless you,



Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.