What Does it Mean to Be “Fit” (F.I.T.)?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Fit.” It’s a word that the Holy Spirit has given me in this season. So, what does it mean for me, for you, for the Body of Christ?

First, let’s see how the dictionary defines “fit”: 

1. (of a thing) of a suitable quality, standard, or type to meet the required purpose.”the meat is fit for human consumption”
synonyms: suitable, good enough; relevant, pertinent, apt, appropriate, suited, apposite, fitting; archaic meet “fit for human habitation”
2. in good health, especially because of regular physical exercise.
“I swim regularly to keep fit” synonyms: healthy, well, in good health, in (good) shape, in (good) trim, in good condition, fighting fit, as fit as a fiddle;
verb 1. be of the right shape and size for. “those jeans still fit me” 2. fix or put (something) into place. “They fitted smoke alarms to their home”
synonyms: lay, position, place, put in place/position, fix

Now we have a good idea of what meanings encompass “fit.”

In persevering and running our race, in countering the attacks delivered by our adversary Satan, in dispersing light in darkness and encroaching on the enemy’s territory, in taking territory away from the enemy and reclaiming it for God’s Kingdom, we must be “fit.”

  • “Fit” emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. As Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I am content in all circumstances.” We are not elated or deflated by our circumstances. We are maintained and steadied by the peace of Christ and the confidence in Him in whom we anchor our hope.
  • That we would allow perseverance to “finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4
  • Our faith should be continuously maintained and developed/kept “fit” to help us persevere in courage, in the confidence of God’s promises and faithfulness. Someone told me of warriors past who would regularly maintain their shields which were made in part from leather. If the leather was not regularly maintained, the shield would crack and leave the user defenseless against oncoming arrows. Consider how important this is in our being able to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts by arming ourselves with and deploying the spiritual shield of faith as depicted in Ephesians 6:16. Our faith must be fit for the fight. 
  • We must shed/lay aside anything (ex: sins, burdens, strange teachings, carrying unnecessary weight) that would hinder our ability to successfully run our race so we are able to move freely and unobstructed as instructed in Hebrews 12:1-2 :

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Training Like an Athlete

When I think about being “fit,” I consider the great example of athletes training to meet and exceed certain performance goals. From diet, to rigorous workouts, to having great coaches (in our case mentors, teachers, pastors), to proper rest and recovery, to implementing discipline and consistency in adhering to the various criteria required to meet their goals, there is significant preparation involved. Being undisciplined or unprepared in any area could lead to missed goals.

Athletes training

During elementary and junior high school I ran track. I was one of the fastest sprinters in school, competing against other schools and taking home first and second place ribbons. My prized races were the 50 and 100-yard dash and bringing up the rear as the anchor in relay races, taking us into first place. Again, these were short distance races for which I was well prepared.

Now enter the 800-meter race. It was a hot day and for whatever reason I was running the 800 meter. The track was black asphalt made several degrees hotter by the beating early afternoon sun. In one moment I remember coming into the curve of the track. In the next moment, I was waking up on the black asphalt and being escorted to the school nurse’s office. My mom was called and met me at school. According to my PE teacher, I blacked out, likely from a combination of the heat, hot asphalt and not consuming enough fluids beforehand, causing dehydration. Thank GOD that I didn’t bust my pretty teeth in the fall!  🙂

In short, I had not properly prepared for that longer race. I was not fit to endure it to successful completion. What I had in physical abilities and talent was short-circuited by a lack of practical hydration. This can happen in running and enduring our spiritual race too if we’re strong in a number of areas but not shored up in one or more. Imagine if you do everything else but aren’t engaged in a continuous spirit of prayer? Or not studying God’s Word, meditating on it day and night so you can immediately and confidently refute the enemy’s lies? Imagine if your shield of faith has been neglected and subject to cracking on the first hit?

In wrapping up, I’ve created an acronym to summarize being fit for our purposes:

F.I.T. = Fortifying an Intentional Trajectory

fortify: strengthen, protect, secure mentally or physically

intentional: deliberate, intended, purposeful, studied

trajectory: moving under the action of given forces; course, path, track

May we fortify our spiritual development with the intentionality of completing our race in excellence.

I believe that we are in a time of seeing greater moves of God accompanied by greater enemy opposition as we advance God’s Kingdom in the earth. We are indeed overcoming that enemy opposition and are more than conquerors because He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Hallelujah! We were chosen, predestined (fit) for this race. We have been positioned, placed in this particular race by God to endure to a specific end designed on a track for His purposes. So, let’s be intentional, purposeful in our development that we may be fit for what’s coming.

Fortify us, Lord, in your Word and may we meditate on it and keep our mind on you to keep us on the path. We want to hear you say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

female track runnerFit female track runner

Love and God bless you! Run your race!

Nicole

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Toplines on Trauma

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

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?”

 

comfortingeachother

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.

he-refreshes-the-weary-and-the-faint

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

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.

 

“This Must Go”

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it too. As Christians, there are times when we distinctly hear the Holy Spirit tell us that something in our life “must go.” As we grow in Christ, the Lord purges us of things that ensnare; things that hinder our promotion to the next level; things that prevent our effectiveness in God’s Kingdom. Ultimately, the purging and “this must go” is designed to transform us more into Christ’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

When you hear God say “this must go,” how do you respond? Do you immediately obey given your love for Him, or are you reluctant to lose the thing or an activity you’ve enjoyed?

The “this must go” items could include removing secular music from your playlists, abstaining from alcohol, not going to the dance club (particularly if your growth is still immature and unable to handle fleshly temptations often present in club environments), distancing yourself from certain people who are not aligned with your Kingdom calling, not watching movies or TV shows because of their cursing, violence or overtly sexual content, etc. It could be bad habits, foul language, thoughts or deceptions. More items could be listed but you get the point. For some, our devotion to the Lord enables us to say “bye bye” to whatever it is, realizing it will impede our spiritual growth. However, sometimes when the Holy Spirit tells us that “this must go,” it can be like prying the favorite toy from a crying toddler. Yikes!

toddler tantrum

One of my “this must go” items was dumping the R&B music I previously enjoyed. Primarily, R&B music with overtly sexual overtones produced by such artists as H-Town, Jodeci, 112 and a HOST of others! For a while it was difficult to rid myself of these songs that I liked dancing to. Not so much for the lyrics but the beats. Soon after, my playlists became more infused with Christian music, gospel music and my appetite for the previous went away. If I hear it today, it’s like “yuck” and I have a visceral reaction to it. My body, mind and spirit are fixed on godly things!

Clear out clutter

What I know to be true is this: If you struggle to let go of something that the Holy Spirit has said to you “This must go,” I understand. Flesh wants what it wants. On the flip side, if you desire to grow in Christ, you have to clear out the clutter. Clearing out the clutter makes room for the new things God wants to pour into you. You can’t put new things in a jammed closet. Clear out the old and clutter from the closet. The clutter will indeed hinder you, despite Satan’s lies telling you that “you can have a little.” Our goal is to be more and more like Christ;  to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” as told in Hebrews 12:1. The more we fall in love with Christ, the more we lose an appetite for the things of old and gain an appetite for the desires of Christ. 

When God asks us to do something, He gives us enough grace and forgiveness to accomplish the task. God works with us even in our flaws. God gives us grace, forbearance, forgiveness, gifts, to support His objectives. Without His grace, we’d never achieve His objectives. We never go at it alone. He is with us.

When God tells you “this must go” it’s so you can go forward.

God bless you,

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.

We’re Losing By the Mouthful

burger and fries platterWe pray at the church altar to slay a number of sins. Afterward, we return to our seats like victorious conquerors. But in all of our praising and shouting “Hallelujah,” one sin in the Body of Christ continues to punch us in the gut: gluttony. If your health is compromised, read our ministry founder’s four tips on how you can begin restoring your health so you can effectively run your race and bring God glory in your body in her GospelToday.com article, “We’re Losing By the Mouthful.”