Entering 2017: Shifted and Lifted

destiney_and_nicole_2-112814

Nicole D. Hayes, VATG founder (l) and Destiney Bishop, VATG Digital Media Coordinator (r).

Wow—2016 is nearly out. From devastating floods, numerous earthquakes in diverse places, race riots and heightened tensions to shocking celebrity deaths and the presidential election, the events of 2016 have kept many of us in prayer like never before. We’ve had to encourage ourselves and others.

Many people, including some Believers, have felt great despair this year. Some of you have been surviving consecutive months and years of unemployment, or overcoming health challenges or grieving the passing of loved ones. What has occurred to-date is still a fraction of the trials to come before Christ’s return.

The events of 2016 most likely took you into some uncharted and unfamiliar territory. This was the case for us this year too. Entering new territories and spaces requires us to trust God EVERY step of the way. The process can also fortify our faith.  In such times, we are reminded of Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  When we step in courage and trust in Him, it emboldens us for the next leg of the journey. Rest assured that God will show us His faithfulness.

In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us that we will indeed go through trials in this life but we will overcome those challenges in Him! He says 33- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In writing you this message, the words that the Holy Spirit has encouraged us with for today and the days ahead is to be “shifted and lifted.” We are being asked to shift our focus onto Jesus so we may operate in peace and courage and be lifted out of our human default positions of despair, doubt and fear. Praise God!

We don’t leave you without hope: This year, many of us experienced unprecedented favor and prayers answered as we pressed the throne of grace boldly in prayer, in faith and with praises lifted! We saw God move mightily and we most certainly foiled some of the enemy’s plans. God is truly moved by the faith of His People!

We pray that these words and all of God’s Word comforts and reassures you in our challenging times. One of our objectives in presenting Holy Spirit-inspired content is to equip you to remain steady in unsteady times. As the Body of Christ, we will be challenged. We will suffer trials. We will endure war wounds. But God is preparing His Church to stand in these last days. So, take heart! Our victory is secured! Remain focused, in peace and steady! The gates of hell shall not prevail. We know how the story ends! God in His precision is watching over His Word to perform it and fulfill it as told to us in Jeremiah 1:12.

2017

As we close out 2016 and prepare to enter 2017, we at Voices Against the Grain encourage you in these points as you become shifted and lifted:

  • Allow God to lead. Be divinely persuaded (that’s what faith means—the Greek word is “pistis”) that God knows the best path for you and will lead you to it if you listen to Him. Walk in courage in what God has told you.
  • Place your hope in Jesus Christ alone and His Kingdom—not the kingdoms of this world. Do not place your hope in man, in government, finances, systems, etc., for these secondary sources will surely fail you. Take hold of the hope offered to us in God and be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf (Hebrews 6:18-20). Be shifted and lifted.
  • God is equipping you to respond to and serve those crying out and seeking direction. Pray to be more attentive to these cries and seek the Holy Spirit’s instruction on how He wants you to help them. Yield to carrying out His will and not your own.
  • In serving others, take the time to “steal away” to recharge; to have your cup refilled so you are able to pour into others again.
  • Pursue more intimacy with the Lord and seek to be Holy Spirit-led in all that you do. Knowing how the Holy Spirit wants to lead you is strengthened through spending more time communing with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord also enables you to abide in His Peace.

We love serving you and serving with you! We pray God’s blessings upon you, your family, your health, your ministries and everything He has called you to put your hands to. Go in courage, His confidence and peace. Thank you for supporting us and praying for us. We are excited and prayerful for how God will use His People in 2017. May we continue to be salt and light Christians to lead the world out of darkness and to the Cross.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Love,

Nicole & Destiney

Right Where You’re Supposed to Be

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

When God transitions us into new seasons or new spaces, doubt and uncertainty will likely follow. The unfamiliar spaces stretch us, bring discomfort and we may ask, “Lord, is this where I’m supposed to be?” If the process seems too long, we may seek other options to bring about our own resolution rather than trusting in God’s perfect plan for us. We may struggle with “Fear Of a Better Option.”

I can relate. On this past Wednesday’s Voices Against the Grain radio show entitled, “Do You Struggle with FOBO?” (Fear Of a Better Option), I shared with you some of my moments of uncertainty in this new season God has me in. A successful PR professional of more than 10 years who in fall 2015, God led me to enroll in grad school to pursue my Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit and faith-based management. God is asking me to uncleave from previous, successful crutches to tread a new, unfamiliar path. I’ve cut back on certain volunteer activities, reduced work hours, and seem to have more free time than the legal law should allow!  I get to cook lunch, take naps, go for long walks, do laundry, run errands, counsel and pray for others, do my full-time coursework, and carry out this ministry.

To someone whose been employed since age 15 working multiple jobs at the same time (“3 jobs mon!” impersonating Jamaican voice), going from one thing to the next barely to pause in between, the extra time in the day, the peace, the quiet, and tranquility, unnerved me. I said, “Lord, is this where I’m supposed to be? Lord, what more should I be doing?”  

Trust God has you where He wants you

I’m confident in my spirit that this is His path for me, though thoughts of uncertainty have come. Through deeper commune with the Lord, prayer time, fasting, and words spoken by trusted prayer partners I press forward in courage and confidence. I trust what He has called me to do. I trust that He has me right where I’m supposed to be. Reflecting on Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

If God has you in a new, unfamiliar season, trust that He has you RIGHT WHERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE. Our God Who is Sovereign over all including your very steps, has you right where He wants you. He’s the same God who told Joshua and others, “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.” (Joshua 1:9)

If anything I’ve learned in this season of transition to encourage you, is this:

  • Whatever God allows in this season is done to conform you into the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ; He will build your faith, refine your character, purge old ways and thoughts that are not of Him.
  • He will not show you the entire staircase but He will lead and guide your steps.
  • God’s calling and gifts on your life are irrevocable (Romans 11:29); He called you to this path knowing that you’re an imperfect vessel (me too).
  • The new season will stretch you, but oh what joy!!
  • Glean, GLEAN everything from this season that you can! All activities, character refining, conversations, discomforts, events, lessons learned, etc., are important for those you will impact in your new territory.
  • Create a hostile environment to deflect the enemy’s fiery darts of doubt through prayer, worship, fasting, commune with the Lord. GO forward in courage and confidence! Remain a moving target to the enemy!

As our Voices Against the Grain ministry turns “3” today, I smile with great joy!! Thank you, Jesus! A blessing that I/we don’t take lightly to pour into you His Word, instruction, love and encouragement. Thank you for each of you who has joined us in this journey—some of you from the very day we launched and boldly said, “Hello” to a public world on May 28, 2013. Thank you for supporting and joining us whether in prayer, comments and likes to posts, retweets, shares, your blog posts, tweets, testimonies shared on our radio show, partnerships, donations and words of encouragement and instruction.

Thank you, and God bless you! We remain vigilant in sharing Christ’s love with the lost and joyful in serving the Lord in “advancing His Kingdom” as the Body of Christ.

Love and Blessings,

Nicole

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.

Breathe Into Me

Ezekiel 37:5- This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

When your mind hurts, your heart aches. When your heart aches, your body shivers. When your body shivers, your whole demeanor is compromised, which ultimately affects the daily routine of your life. Thus, we search for a panacea. A proverbial cure-all elixir to take away the pain. We search within the darkness, grasping for a fleeting hope that something might help prop ourselves up. “THERE IS NOTHING LEFT,” we cry out, as the quiet solitude grows deafening. There is no more vitality left in our cheeks, as hope forged within the glint of light escapes our eyes. We are finished. Although, what is this light peeking through the doorway? What is this resurgence of hope and courage? What is this essence breathing life back into our bones? Well, that is the Lord giving back what the world sought to take from us.

Amen #HBSr

Herbert writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He is also the founder of B.T.E.P. (Bringing Together Extraordinary People), a Charlotte, N.C.-based nonprofit with a mission to unite professional athletic organizations in accordance with their neighboring counties in the Greater Charlotte area, and to improve underprivileged athletic programs and share in the duty of empowering disadvantaged youth within their communities.
Learn more about Herbert Bowen, Jr., here.   

When the Blind Refuse Sight

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Who wouldn’t want to see? It seems strange that a blind person would willfully pass on the opportunity to receive their sight. Prior to considering this concept, I couldn’t imagine who’d make such a choice. But these people exist. I’ve met them.

No, they aren’t using a walking stick or guide dog. Nor are their eyes concealed by protective eye wear. Bumbling, fumbling and stumbling, these blind people walk with their eyes wide open but lack sight. When opportunities, life lessons or people present sight to them, they choose not to receive it. Instead, they choose to keep bumbling, fumbling and stumbling on the poorly lit path they tread. Proceeding with no sight and partial light, they dismiss the signs directly ahead and guides alongside them lighting the way. They prefer getting banged up and stumbling into a caution open ditch signditch…repeatedly. Ego, pride and a false perception of self have kept them ignorant, obstinate and afraid to see what they don’t want to see. They will also lead the unwise into the ditch. Hence the saying, “the blind leading the blind.”

I recall the 1999 movie “At First Sight” starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino. Sorvino’s character is girlfriend to Kilmer’s character who is blind. They enjoy their lives together, yet in desiring to improve her boyfriend’s quality of life, she informs him of a new but risky surgery that could restore his sight. He resists the treatment for some time, but eventually proceeds. Not to spoil this 15-year-old movie if you haven’t yet viewed it, but upon receiving his gradual sight, the couple endures various challenges. His restored sight is a gift but is he prepared to handle what he sees/what he is shown?

The same scenario occurs when we’re blind to something we’re doing, involved in or contributing to, and then someone tries to tell us the truth about it; to shine light on it so we’re no longer walking into the ditch. We may not like what we see/what we’re shown. It takes humility to receive it and courage to make the course corrections with the information shown. Otherwise, be prepared to bumble, fumble and stumble. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105, English Standard Version)

I used to invest significant time in people who I desperately wanted to help “see.” Oh, how my heart pained for them when an opportunity to receive sight presented itself and they preferred to stumble in the dark, because it was comfortable. Witnessing this scenario repeatedly with the same and different people, I realized I had to let them stumble.

I’ve shifted my efforts to preparing people who want to be prepared; people who want to see. I learned some people are not prepared to receive the sight I’m offering them. As they continue stumbling in the dark, I pray for them to see the futility in their thinking. I’ve also been liberated from their liability by saying this one, two-syllable word: “Ok.” “Ok” doesn’t mean I agree. It simply means I’m steering clear of the open ditch they’ve chosen.

In Matthew 15:14, Jesus shares these wise words: “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into a pit.” (New International Version)

-Nicole

About Nicole D. Hayes

Nicole D. Hayes is committed to serve as a vessel of compassion, instruction, love and truth for Jesus Christ. Born and raised in Topeka, Kan., she is a member of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.  Drawn to know Christ in her early childhood and saved at the age of 12, Nicole is a student and applier of God’s Word. She is also a successful public relations professional operating in Washington, D.C., with more than eight years experience of coordinating and delivering strategic communications and media outreach support for nonprofits and small business owners. During her career she has placed several nonprofits and small business owners in national, local and regional media spaces. She operates with a personal and business mantra of “making an investment in people.” Among many things, Nicole is also a motivational speaker. She has been invited to deliver messages to business leaders to not be misguided by the world’s view of success, to direct young people navigating through the world’s challenges, and to remind those who may have lost their way that joyfully, “God Has Not Changed His Mind About You.” Nicole’s purpose in creating “Voices Against the Grain” is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amidst confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

 

 

It Can’t Hold Me

 

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Job 4:14 -“Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled.” (New Living Translation) 

 (This is dedicated to RR) Fear is nothing more than a deceitful agent that robs us of our hope. Fear is nothing more than a cataclysmic event of our consciousness warring within our souls. Fear is nothing more than venom, which seeks to systemically shut down each one of our bodily functions, until the color leaves our faces. From dust we were configured. From God’s breath we were made alive. From His love and sacrifice we were made whole. Therefore, may we seek confidence over the likelihood of defeat. May we seek strength over the crushing vice of of uncontrollable circumstances. May we seek comfort over the bed of needles this world provides for rest. For the mission is a laborious one, packed to the brim with disappointments and unlikable scenarios. But it is God who leads us to the path of victory. Hence, our FEAR slowly transforms into COURAGE. A trait that will lead anyone to the promise land flowing with milk and honey. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the pureHOPE advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.