Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

Immigrant children separation 1

This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

Immigrant children separation 6

This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

Immigration-Detention

There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

Immigration child separation 7 we belong

Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

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You Cannot Be Gentle in This Fight

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For the past three weeks, I’ve been praying on and drafting a blog post on the importance of “who you know” based on the book of Daniel. I’ve nearly completed it and was prepared to share it with you today or this weekend. But, a more immediate subject is impressed upon my spirit to address now with the Body of Christ. You can expect to receive the Daniel message sometime next week.

Kate Spade, 55. Anthony Bourdain, 61. Too many others to count. This Tuesday and now today, we are grappling with the sad and sobering news of lives lost to apparent suicide. Bad news travels fast particularly in today’s real-time news cycle at our fingertips— received on our phones, pads and various devices communicated across myriad platforms. As outside onlookers, the breaking news alerts of their deaths shocks us to our core, gives us pause and conjures up questions of “why” because we have benefited from their many gifts and talents. From a distance, we see them smiling, seemingly living well, traveling the world, basking in the fruits of their talents and enjoying life.

But by the news accounts, the external did not match the internal, what we as outsiders were not privy to seeing. We don’t know the inner turmoil they battled. Even for those closest to them, some of the “whys” remain and will remain. We lift their families, loved ones, friends and colleagues in prayer as they process these losses.

I write this article not as someone who has ever contemplated committing suicide. This will not be a data-driven article on suicide. I want to preserve that information for a more in-depth discussion we’ll have on our radio show/podcast as we relaunch our show later this summer/early fall since our hiatus last April. Some of us have been praying about various regions of the U.S. that are experiencing a significant uptick in suicides and we’ll discuss that on the show as well.

This is a message to strengthen and encourage.

I shared earlier today and through previous blog posts on overcoming anxiety and illness this year. While I experienced healing around mid-March, I underwent further attacks to my physical and mental health in late March up through early May. More returned trips to the ER for heart palpitations with heart rates that had doctors very concerned. Labs coming back showing that my body is sound, perfectly healthy and yet heart rates were off the charts. They ruled out this and that. Sent me home. The enemy, our formidable adversary, Satan, kept pounding my head with more thoughts about death, not being alive to complete the call on my life and ministry God has for me, etc., etc. I thought I was losing my mind.

As we continue in our walk with God, He extends us out further to advance His Kingdom; to be light where there is darkness. This is what I do and desire to do more of and yet, sometimes I wanted to isolate. I felt like my head was in a fog, quite simply oppression. The enemy had me running back and forth to doctors’ appointments, multiple tests were run, getting the all clear every time. These were ridiculous “errands” and not a good use of my time or resources. But this is the enemy’s plan. He can’t steal our salvation but he can sure try to steal our peace, joy, time, resources, focus, etc.

One morning, after being pounded relentlessly by the enemy, I called a dear sister in Christ who is a mighty prayer warrior. I seldom reach out to people like this but I was desperate. I knew my call to her was likely inconvenient timing because of her work schedule but I prayed that she would answer, and certainly she did. When her jovial voice answered, I shakily shared with her what I was experiencing. She immediately went into full throttle prayer. I began crying (folks who know me know I don’t do this) for what seemed like 10-15 minutes. Then, that thing just broke. It lifted. Was gone. No more. DONE. We laughed! We spoke for an hour and my spirit was lighter, my head clear and I was back! I should have reached out sooner!! I am grateful to her and the saints!

She said many great things during our conversation but certainly one statement that I have implemented and will share with you. She said, “We need to get angry.” 

I asked her, “Get angry?”

She replied, “Yes. We don’t get angry enough at what our adversary, Satan is doing. We need to get angry.”

I instantly understood what she was saying. And she was right–at least in how I had been responding to the enemy’s attacks.  I had to:

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my health (and your health too).

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my peace (and your peace too).

Get angry that Satan was stealing my time and resources with distractions (and yours too).

FIGHT punch

Though I am a fighter, I was still being too passive. I realized that I had to be intentional because the enemy was definitely intentional about trying to derail me. I could not be gentle in this fight. And neither can you be gentle in your fight. Punch the heck out of him. Nor do we give Satan any authority. He can only operate with the authority we give him.

For those of us advancing God’s Kingdom, living daily as Ambassadors of Christ, we can expect opposition. God will often place us in direct conflict with the enemy (sift us like wheat, Luke 22:31), but I promise you, you will be stronger and spiritually mature if you keep your focus on Jesus, in whom lies our victory. Saints, we have a formidable adversary who wants to derail and destroy you by any means possible. It’s important as soldiers in God’s Army for people to see us victorious but for them also to see our battle scars. David, Job, Moses, Paul and countless saints before us experienced those battle scars in part because of their weaknesses even while advancing God’s will. If you don’t have battle scars, don’t have something to lose/gain, then you don’t have skin in the game.

As one dear seasoned saint told me about our adversary, even when things appear chaotic everywhere: “The devil is serious about doing harm to humanity. The difference between him and many of the saints in carrying out efforts, is that he is disciplined, organized and committed.”

Saints, this is indeed spiritual warfare. As our enemy is so committed, we must be committed, disciplined and organized in our prayer life, in our walk. We should do nothing less. Our enemy won’t. We must be fit for the fight (read our blog post on what it means to be F.I.T.). We, you cannot be gentle in this fight. PUT ON your helmet of salvation to guard your thoughts. TAKE UP your shield of faith to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts coming at you. WIELD the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God so you can immediately respond to the enemy’s lies. Remember that you are already positioned in victory through Christ Jesus.

Today, I am at the best I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve undergone a six-month metamorphosis and have come out newer, stronger, more resolved and more emboldened for God’s Kingdom. What I’ve gained and learned is indescribable and has prepared me for the next level. I pray this for you too.

I shared this prayer earlier on social media, and will include it here as well. I was first praying it aloud but was led to post it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). In You, is Life! For those who seek You and trust in You, we know that You have good plans and a good future for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We come against the murderous and suicidal spirit in the earth; the thief that seeks to kill and destroy. We reject the spirit of anxiety, depression, despair and hopelessness. We reject the enemy’s lies which are ALWAYS counterfeit to the truth and Your promises. Father, we pray those battling this right now may feel and know and be settled by Your love, joy and peace. Reset their minds with thoughts of hope and peace. Help us to be a refuge to those who are hurting. Where they feel faint by this life, give them strength. May they know that they are loved by many, but most importantly, loved by You. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, we ask this. Amen.

Love and blessings to you my brothers and sisters,

Nicole

Stop Lingering. ‘Come Out of Her, My People’

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

She has been an adulterer with all of us…

What activities in your life do you linger in that are snares to your spiritual growth?

1After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2With a mighty voice he shouted:

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3For all nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. 4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5for her sins have piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. – Revelation 18:1-5, New International Version

Babylon was a splendid city in ancient Mesopotamia located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers about 60 miles south of what is now Baghdad. It was a resilient, thriving and idolatrous city whose pleasures often came with a price to its occupiers. Through Daniel, King Belshazzar, who ruled in Babylon, was warned that “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.” (Daniel 5:26) True to the prophecy, Babylon and Belshazzar’s kingdom was destroyed by the Persians.

Today, “Babylon” is our sinful, wicked and hedonistic culture. It is also whatever is your personal “Babylon.” What is your personal Babylon? I don’t know. But it usually appeals to our flesh. The Holy Spirit surely will indicate areas in your life that need sanctification; activities or people that He has asked you to shed, be separated from, no longer be ensnared by, to no longer entertain the flesh.

Your “Babylon” could be anything from gorging on unhealthy foods or particular goods He has instructed you to abstain from, music, types of television shows or other forms of media and entertainment He has pricked your spirit about to no longer allow these in your life since our bodies house the Holy Spirit. It could be any form of sexual immorality, lusts of the flesh, pride of life, gossiping, ungodly associations, materialism, vanity, selfish ambition, false doctrine, false beliefs and trends, etc.

If we are truly walking and talking with the Lord, studying His Word and learning His ways, we’ll feel that “prick” in our spirit as only He can do. In His infinite wisdom, He knows that indulging Babylon is harmful to us whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or mentally. I presume that any loving parent would call their child away from harm.

In His great love for us, God does the same and we should take joy in this. We are His Children and He calls us away from such harm knowing that it corrupts even if “everybody else is doing it” (in this case, the world). The world is behaving as it should in a world heavily influenced by Satan. We are called to be set apart from the world. Not only has God set us apart from the world for His purposes, we are called to expose the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

It may even be something that doesn’t appear bad by outward appearances. For example, habitually drinking coffee, or for me it was listening to a lot of R & B music years ago, watching some TV shows. The Lord may see an activity as too consuming in your life and ask you to “put it down” to subdue the flesh. We may also be ignorant of what is our personal Babylon. Ask Him to reveal it to you.

When He says, “Come out,” don’t linger like Lot’s wife who was destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah for lingering because her heart was still joined to it. Sever ties with it. Avoid rationalizing your need to stay in Babylon, however harmless it seems in the grand scheme of things. That’s the intended delusion!

 

Babylon culture

Is there anything we would allow to hinder deepening our obedience to the Lord, whatever He asks? Is there anything not worth shedding that He asks us? He is indeed a gracious, loving and patient God who calls and prompts us, awaiting our response. He is imploring His People—you and me as members of the Body of Christ, His elect and those lost sheep yet to return to the fold—to “Come out of her,” to come out of Babylon.

I join many of you and other Believers in sensing that Jesus is preparing His Bride, preparing His Church for His return. There is a serious tenderness with an increased urgency to “come out now” and “don’t linger.” While the world will continue to engage in its affections, God has called us to separate from it. He is returning for a glorious Church without spot, wrinkle or blemish, holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).

I direct this message to you as well as to myself. Our goal is spiritual maturity, to be perfected in Christ Jesus. To be truly liberated from our clamoring flesh. We are at war with our flesh–not to make peace with it. We must be vigilant.

Sanctification is a process. You have to desire the change and it starts by renewing your mind (Romans 12:2) and setting your mind on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5-6). God will not change His mind about what He wants from us so we need to change ours. Come out now and don’t linger. May you be obedient and guard against any rationalization to stay in or return to it. He will help you if you trust Him and obey. He will give you the grace to do it but we must be a participant. May we directly associate obedience with our love for Him.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” -John 14:15 (New International Version)

Heavenly Father, thank you for your lovingkindness shown toward us even when we have blatantly rebelled. As your children, you know what is best for us and the purposes you have for us. May we be determined by a desire for holiness to stop lingering in a lifestyle or habit when you have said “Come out of it.” May our hearts be tendered to your voice. If we are ignorant of our personal Babylon, show us and help our obedience to leave it behind. May we press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. Thank you for wanting to free us from the affections of this world so we may experience abundant life as you’ve promised. By your leading, may we serve as light, love and truth to help free others who are ensnared by worldly culture. 

In Jesus’ Name we ask and pray this.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 2)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters: This writing continues as Part 2 of 2  to the previous post I wrote sharing with you my present season of trial in overcoming illness and being restored to health. This has not only been a physical battle but also a spiritual battle in rejecting the enemy’s lies about my future and God’s plans for me. In this experience, God has revealed several things to me which I will share to hopefully encourage you in your current or upcoming trial. Most importantly, I’ve learned that: our God is greater than our circumstances, He is so near to us even at times if you do not perceive His presence, He goes out of His way to remind us of His faithfulness toward us and love for us…and that the devil remains and will always be a liar. I have also been encouraged by many of your “likes,” “shares” and comments on social media with regard to how the previous post blessed you. I am grateful to be used in God’s service for His Kingdom. I am also very thankful for those praying for me.

Lord, help me to see the treasure in this trial. -Joyce Meyer

In the previous post, I concluded that by God’s grace I am improving in health and yet await more concrete answers from my doctors’ appointments. In the waiting, those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

Indeed, my need to have answers was consuming too much of my focus. During a text message exchange on the subject with a dear sister in Christ, I communicated to her my frustration of not having the full picture of whatever was going on with me. She responded with scripture and Godly counsel that reframed my thinking on the matter that would steer me in a more productive direction:

“I cannot say I understand what you’re going through and it seems quite terrifying by your description. However, I see you rallying to the trial and submitting to Christ and appealing to His mercy for help. I say, ‘Amen,’ and keep fighting my sister!!! Also, I look at how God uses healing to minister to our spirits, remove fleshly strength, increase our faith and to “see” the fragility of man against God’s power, strength and provision. I think about how your dependence on Him has grown and I say ‘Amen!’ I think perhaps the focus might be provision over answers. They may come in time as you work through the medical system but focusing on that “need” keeps you distracted from what God is providing in terms of strength and resources TODAY. Follow Him so close that you are looking at the hem of His garment. Remember He fed the 5,000 and His prayer was to thank His Father for the few fish and loaves He had in hand. Thank God for what is in your hand to open the supernatural abundance that only God can give. I say this to slow down your thoughts and encourage you not to lose the precious holy ground you’ve gained through faith and trust in Him. As it says in James 1:2…“let steadfastness have its full effect”–in other words, don’t cut short your trial because the full effect is that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Lacking in nothing my sister!!! Our God is a burden bearer, our great physician and healer. His work is mighty and our requests are but a shadow of what He wants to accomplish! Be strong and courageous and keep on today with what generous provision He has blessed you with TODAY! Our God is so faithful!”

My dear sister’s words resonated with me and I’ve referred back to them often to remind myself to be grateful and thankful for what God is doing TODAY. To thank Him for the improvements today that were not experienced yesterday. I am grateful!

The Next Health Scare

It was a couple weeks later that I began a doctor-recommended fruit and vegetable juice fast. This would help give rest to my digestive system and still gain nutrients while clearing out any toxins, food allergies, etc., that were aggravating my system. To give my body a reset. For the first couple days, I struggled on the fast for I was already in a weakened state from not being able to consume much without experiencing inflammation. I stayed with dear friends who lovingly cared for me and monitored my progress while on the fast. The fast was good for me as I began to see improvements, namely my energy returning, my digestive system seemed to be settled and my nasal allergies were dissipating.

However, as I continue to learn the sensitivities of my system, my dear friend had to drive me to the ER at 2 a.m., because of inflammation from one of the juices. My heart palpitations were faster and pounding harder than I had ever experienced and it greatly concerned me. The palpitations were likely exacerbated by my anxiousness (though I was trying to remain calm as I laid in her back seat) and also by the inflammation my body was fighting. I also had some vomiting. The ER attendants, seeing my condition, took my vitals and quickly wheeled me back to a trauma room to immediately slow down my heart rate. I didn’t even look at the monitor to the left and above my head, knowing that seeing the numbers would have made me even more nervous.

I am thankful for my dear friend for staying with me as the doctors and nurses got my system settled. Thank you God. When I tell you that I know He is with me, I can tell you for sure having gone through this process. He is indeed with me. I am thankful for my dear friend and her family as they continue to pray for my recovery. I was released from the ER later that morning and went home. I’ve since been prescribed medication to begin addressing my GI issues which has helped. Inflammation is little to no more and I’ve not had palpitations. Even with upcoming doctors’ appointments, I know though more than anything, it is my prayer time, meditating and believing on God’s Word, God’s faithfulness and healing, and the prayers of many that are restoring me to health. We are more than conquerors, my brothers and sisters! The enemy is defeated!

In encouraging words shared by another dear sister in Christ, she reminded me that “whatever God allows us to go through, we’re going to come out on the other side. The one question is, “Do you trust God?” So true. God will see us through it and if we trust Him, we will indeed come out victorious on the other side–like pure gold. There are indeed treasures wrapped in trials.

 

Treasure

What I’ve Learned in This Process to Hopefully Encourage You

  1. Humble yourself, cry out to the Lord. Acknowledge that you need His help and cannot do this by yourself. Surrender all notions of pride or self-sufficiency. At my most vulnerable times, I cried out like David, asking the Lord’s help. He has surely helped and rescued me (The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; – Psalm 34:15). Though I’ve known the Lord many years, I’ve known Him better in the fiery furnace.
  2. Don’t quit, never give up. Keep pressing. There are spiritual blessings, treasures wrapped in trials. James 1:2 assures us of this: “Let steadfastness have its full effect.” When the answers seem slow in coming or hard to understand, trust God.
  3. DEMOLISH arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take EVERY thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, as told to us in 2 Corinthians 10:5. IMMEDIATELY, I reject any thought or attack of the enemy by responding with God’s Word, God’s promises of what God says about who He is, who I am and my future. This also means our thought life must be renewed and transformed out of the natural (Romans 12:2). 
  4. It’s not enough to read and hear God’s Word. We must also believe God’s Word and be doers/act in accordance to God’s Word as referenced in James 1:22.  I also meditate on God’s Word day and night (Joshua 1:8) and throughout the day. I believe God’s Word. I believe what I’ve read and written about. Now, it’s about holding fast to it and acting on it in every environment and situation. 
  5. Though I had God’s peace before, I am learning more what it means to abide, dwell in, rest in, be still in God’s peace. He has given us His peace (John 14:27) which is part of our inheritance. It’s already in us. We simply need to abide in it.
  6. Do not worry, do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6), do not fret (Psalm 37:1). This is especially important if you battle anxiety which really is an unproductive anticipatory response (“what if”) about your future when we already know that God is the Chief and Designer of our future. He is already IN our future and He is the One keeping you and me in all moments even when we don’t have all of the answers. I am learning to live in the “right now.”
  7. Celebrate and GIVE THANKS for what God is doing in you, for you and through you TODAY–no matter what you see, how you feel or what you hear that would seek to contradict that God is at work and bringing all things together for your good.
  8.  God loves you and me SO MUCH and in so many ways. Nothing will ever, ever, ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39).
  9. I’ve learned to forgive myself. I am certain that my health issues were created by or exacerbated by my fears and anxiety. As much as I’ve been a good steward of my health over the years by eating right, exercise, etc., I was upset that I allowed something like anxiety to cause me such problems. Anxiety and worry is a sin (and I repented to God about it) as it infers that I do not trust God and who He says He is and what He will do. Yet, God knew this point in my spiritual development would come. I am still being developed, being matured and being perfected in Christ Jesus. No challenge, no change. This is a lifelong journey for each of us who are in Christ Jesus and if we remain steadfast, we will one day be made complete, made perfect, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). We will also be more of a blessing to equip and encourage others.
  10. Put aside all pride and reach out to others/allow others to help you. God truly blesses us through people as we were not designed to journey this life alone.
  11. Do not find it strange that you have come under attack by the enemy. As long as we’re Believers, we have a target on our back. Though the enemy roars like a lion, looking for someone to devour, be humble, stand firm in your faith and do not fear. Our enemy is on a short leash and will only be allowed to go so far. After you have suffered a little while, (God) will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). I encourage you to read 1 Peter 5:5-11 which is the foundation scripture in this powerful sermon, “When Anxiety Attacks” delivered by Pastor Steven Furtick. I invite you to watch it.
  12. Lastly: We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,). We are operating from and seated in a position of victory. We are not of this world. This world is not our home. We are traversing through this perishing, decaying, corrupt world as Ambassadors of Christ, each day walking more and more in the eternal land of the living and hopefully pointing the lost and deceived toward abundant life found only in Christ Jesus.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you, thank you for Your awesome, unconditional and unfailing love You have for us. Your love is beyond compare and I’m still in awe of You. I thank you for how you have cared and watched over us; how Your Presence is with us even in times when we may not feel You as strongly as in other situations. You are indeed with us. You will never leave us nor forsake us as you promised. Father, please forgive us for times we have allowed worry, fears, anxiety or Satan’s lies to overshadow and undermine Your powerful Word, Your promises. We demolish and take captive anything that is contrary to Your Word and what you have promised us. Thank you for patiently striving with us as You lovingly stand with us in the fiery furnace so we will be perfected, lacking nothing. May we stand in Your Truth and abide in your peace in the fiery furnace and at all times, not only being hearers of your Word, but also believers and doers. Shore up our faith that we may remain steadfast. Help us to persevere and encourage others to persevere so the spiritual treasures in our trials may be seen.

Father, be with those who are waiting on You and trusting You for their healing. May they be reminded of Your faithfulness in their lives and cling to that. Give them wisdom in how to proceed and also wisdom to their health care providers in how to treat them. As we wait and believe for the full manifestation of what we seek, may we thank you for what you are doing today, this very minute.

In Your Son Jesus’ Matchless and Mighty Name we ask this.

Amen

God loves you. I love you. Remain steadfast. He’s got you in the protective grip of His Hand.

-Nicole

Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 1)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  As you can surely attest, life has a way of turning on a dime, throwing us curve balls and suddenly placing us in the fiery furnace. During those “in the furnace” seasons, much is revealed about our faith, our trust in God, things God needs to shed from us and where we need to shore up our gaps to persevere and remain steadfast. This is a two-part writing I authentically share with you during a present season of trial. It’s more information than I would normally share publicly though I am led to do so in hopes to encourage and equip you to endure your current or upcoming trial. God is indeed with you.

My trial comes in the form of being extremely healthy for many years to suddenly battling and overcoming illness. I have learned and continue to glean much from this experience—particularly, where I thought I was in my faith walk, was not entirely so. Even so, God knows this and has still chosen me as His Daughter, His servant and co-laborer in His Kingdom. In my shortcomings and areas of weakness, His call on my life remains irrevocable for which I am grateful (the same applies to you too). I know for sure now more than ever that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is indeed my Strength and I am learning to fully lean on Him. This has also been a season of great vulnerability and reaching out to others for help. I am thankful for dear friends, dear prayer partners and family who have truly lifted me up in this time.

Faith: Not Where I Thought Was

In overcoming illness, I’ve had to believe what I have long read and have faithfully written about: The Word of God.

I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and life at age 12. I’ve been reading and studying God’s Word since then with a fervent desire to grow more in Him, to be more Christ-like, to truly advance His Kingdom in the earth; to encourage, equip and instruct the saints in His Word. I’m led to help the Body of Christ walk out their calling while also hoping to reach the lost and point them to true freedom in Christ Jesus. I’ve recited and stood upon scriptures more times than I can count. I am a Godly woman of faith. I have refuted Satan on numerous occasions during his attacks. Yet, it is this particular trial, testing and building up of my faith that has been unlike anything I had previously endured.

It began with contracting the flu or a virus on Thanksgiving Day 2017. I felt a tickle in my throat the night before and considered it to be my allergies. However, by midday Thanksgiving, came the onset of body aches, chills and a fever. For the next week and a half, I was laid up in bed with little to no appetite, weak, and frankly feeling like I was fading away. Just before contracting the virus, I experienced great energy, health, walked at least an hour or more six to seven days a week. I hadn’t had the flu since I was a kid. I am rarely sick. Life was zinging along well. Grad school was done and because of, there was more time to dedicate to ministry and mentoring. However, with limited energy, I was forced to reach out to others for help—something those close to me know that I rarely do. Dear friends in their generosity and thoughtfulness brought me soups, bottled water, had groceries delivered, made teas, etc. I am truly loved and cared for. God blessed me through them and in turn, I prayed that God would pour out His favor on them.

To provide some background to the situation: Prior to contracting the virus, I had begun mentoring youth at a school in the most violent, crime-ridden, impoverished part of Washington, D.C., which is southeast DC.  Of the District’s more than 650,000 residents, at least 142,000 residents call SE DC home. The area experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, drug trafficking, gang activity and unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, D.C. suffered a 54 percent increase in homicides with an estimated 75 percent of shootings committed by Black and Hispanic males ages 16 to 25. A number of youth that I’ve spoken to in SE DC have witnessed violence and because of, are unsure about their future and longevity.

In short, I had entered the enemy’s territory or as another person called it, “Devil’s County.” In addition, this past September, we ministered to students at two North Carolina colleges where strongholds were brought down and life, futures, and hope were restored. We experienced great victories at both colleges that did not go unnoticed. You can bet the enemy is displeased when you begin taking territory away from him for God’s Kingdom. You can expect spiritual opposition, spiritual warfare.

As I began to recover from the flu/virus, I felt like I was getting back to myself. I felt great and my colleagues could see this as well. It seemed to bring relief to all of us. In this time of recovery, I had been praying and crying out to God. In those times, He assured me He would heal me step by step. True to His character, I would see improvements a bit each day. I praised God!

Then one night, I got ahead of what God had promised me and attempted to “fix” or “hurry along” an area that still needed healing. In my need to “fix it,” I worsened my situation and had to go to the ER. I spent 12 hours in the ER undergoing several blood tests, waiting on results, then underwent a PE (pulmonary embolism) DT test to rule out a blood clot due to a rapid heart rate I was experiencing. The very thought of possibly having a blood clot gave me great angst and actually made my knees buckle when the nurse went to escort me down the hallway to the room and machine where the test would be performed.

As I laid on my back (I was by myself at the ER), hands folded above my head as the doctors slowly ran me through a tube to scan my chest, heart and lungs for a blood clot, I prayed to God under my breath as I had to be very still for the test. How did I get in this situation?? I was escorted back to the ER room where many patients were waiting, or in their rooms coughing and hacking from terrible colds or the flu. The ER was packed with patients seeking treatment for whatever ailed them and I was trying to stay in peace as I sat and awaited the PE scan results. As I waited, I texted a dear sister in Christ to pray for me and she did. Praise God, after about an hour of waiting, I was told I was clear–no blood clots.

I was released and headed home. I was relieved. But this would become one of at least six late night to wee-morning hour additional trips to the ER as the rapid heart rate (tachycardia) returned, my anxiety increased about my health (not knowing exactly what was causing my health issues), and inflammation with my GI system. I was losing weight because of a loss of appetite and a sensitivity to certain foods. And at times, I was losing my focus on God’s Word and His promises as the situation held more of my attention, awake and asleep. I also had to temporarily suspend some activities and pass on a great opportunity in order to make wellness a high priority. This saddened me as I am known for being reliable and following through on my commitments. I felt like the “me” of who I’ve been known as was crumbling.

I cried out to God like a child. As they say, “The struggle was real.” From bent knees to curled up fetal position, I was crying out for the Lord’s mercy and help. The battle was revealing to me areas where I needed to shore up my faith. I was battling the enemy’s onslaught of attacks on my thoughts, lies about my future and God’s plans for me. I began meditating on God’s Word “day and night” as written in Joshua 1:8, reading scriptures on healing, scriptures to cast my cares/burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22), to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6), to stay in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27), and to look to the One who bore our infirmities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  My bible is marked up and highlighted, flagged and dogeared; His Word tucked in my heart. Yet in this trial, was I believing what I had read and had written about? I’ve written a number of blog posts using these very scriptures. 

Bible Psalms

In this time, I was beginning to understand some of the root causes of my anxiety other than the enemy’s attacks. I’m only a few years older than my mother was when she passed at the young age of 40 in 1989 from colon cancer when my brother and I were teens.  She had been healthy as far as we knew and her diagnosis that year before hit my dad and our family like a freight train. We felt blindsided. In all of our praying, she still passed and I felt like her life was cut short. Today, I know that such things are God’s business and His ways are not our ways. Even in understanding this, the enemy would send thoughts that my life would be cut short. The thoughts seemed to come one after the other, like fiery darts that I would thwart with the shield of faith, yet some of those lies found their way in the chink of my armor and would ruminate in my mind far too long. I also spoke with others about this to release it.

I am growing more to trust God in the process of healing and trusting in His promises. This means forgoing my need to “fix” situations my way and rather to be Holy Spirit-led in how He would have me to approach issues. I am also rejecting the anxious and fearful thoughts that have waged war on my body, recovery and confidence in God’s Word. I am also so very grateful for my prayer partners who have undergone and some still going through their own seasons of illness and have encouraged me with their words and prayers. This process has also given me a deeper compassion and sensitivity for those battling illnesses and a greater connection in praying for them.

In the course of this battle with days of progress and setbacks, I still don’t have solid answers as to what is causing my health issues. By God’s grace and prayers, I am improving. I am awaiting my next doctors’ appointments to learn more. During a good portion of this process, my need to understand “why” and “what” was becoming too much of my focus. Yes, it is good to seek answers so we can learn more how God would have us to address the situation, but those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

-Nicole

NEXT: Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About” as I share excellent Godly counsel received from a dear sister in Christ that reframed my thinking, who I learned to forgive, what God has shown me in this process…and the next health scare.

Christmas: True Peace Comes By Sword

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I was the kid who would ask mom and dad 20 questions until their answers satisfied my information gaps. I was the “Why?” kid whose parents patiently entertained my questions. Today, I still ask “Who, what, when, where, why and how” to have my information gaps satisfied.

As a girl, like many little girls, I had dolls. I would usually seat them at my made up table with plates, tea cups, spoons, forks and knives. So when my Dad asked, “Nikki, what are you making for your dolls today?” I would always reply, “Eggs.” It didn’t matter what time of day he asked me — whether day or night— my response was always “Eggs.” Thank goodness as dolls, they never rolled their eyes for being fed the same meal everyday! Eeeks! Today, I still enjoy eating breakfast anytime of the day.

As we transition from childhood, into our teens, to becoming young adults and mature adults, life experiences and relationships shape us. Even as we’re shaped by experiences, there are parts of us that remain the same. It’s part of our personality. It’s how we’re wired.

Conversely, as life experiences and relationships shape us, what we used to do we may do no longer. As a kid, from the ages of nine to 12, I frequently lied to my parents to avoid getting in trouble. I had become quite skilled in constructing stories to defend a bad report card grade, hide a dish that I broke, or anything else. But it was a growing thirst and a “who, why and how” interest I had in reading bible stories about Jesus Christ that began prodding my heart. At age 12, I surrendered my life to Christ and received Him as my Lord and Savior. I stopped lying. In fact, I told the truth about EVERYTHING that I did or I saw someone else do.  🙂

I share these stories of dichotomy with you to say this: Life experiences and relationships will most certainly shape us. It is also hoped that they refine us into who we are called to be. While our personalities are part of what makes us “us,” only when we are joined and partnered in relationship with Jesus Christ can the old nature begin to fall away and be replaced with Christ’s character. We become new as told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ Jesus, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV)

When we receive Christ into our hearts, we come into opposition with what we used to do and how we used to behave as the Holy Spirit works within to give us godly affections and appetites. New joys, new hope and even new boldness for those previously shy. New life is operating in us and others begin to see it in and on us. Our personality remains but is enhanced and tempered by the new nature of Christ.

As we rejoice this season (and truly every day) in the birth of the King of kings, Lord of lords, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there is no greater relationship in which we could be partnered. Many think they are happy without God, to live life shaped by their preferred appetites and beliefs. In all likelihood they feel a “peace” with how they’ve constructed life on their own terms.

Matthew 10-34 lion and sword

But as the Scottish Christian minister and teacher Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) wrote in his highly regarded daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, “That kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level. Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.” Jesus speaks to this aspect in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Through Jesus’ gift of salvation the disobedient, the liar, the rebellious and ungodly are restored to right relationship with God. Those received by Him are no longer an enemy of God.

While many pray for peace at Christmas, we pray more importantly that the true peace of Christ rules in our hearts because He has sent His sword through the false peace in which we once trusted.

Thank you Heavenly Father for loving us so very much that you sent your only Son in the form of a babe from heaven to earth to separate us from the world’s false misconception of “peace.” By doing so, we have opportunity to experience true peace in Jesus. Dear Jesus, for those who have yet to know and receive you, we pray that you would send Your sword through their false happiness and peace; separate them unto You, Lord. Fill them with Your joy and peace that is unsurpassed. May they desire to become new creations in You, no longer with appetites for their old ways but appetites for new ways — Your ways. No longer left empty by what the world takes from us, Your coming to earth is a blessed gift and relationship that continues to fill us. Thank you. I love you. 

Merry Christmas,

Nicole

 

 

 

We Are Family!

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Wow! What is that?” This is a question I would sometimes ask myself in meeting another Believer for the first time. Upon meeting, there seems an instant joy, love and recognition in the Spirit that we know and love the same God: Jesus Christ. There is often a great excitement felt and exchanged upon meeting as we share with one another about our personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how we have seen Him faithfully move in our lives and others’ lives, and how we see His Hand moving throughout the world. In these testimonial exchanges, there is a comfort and encouragement in hearing each others’ experiences from the simple to the supernatural; to know that we are not alone in how we have experienced God’s Presence in our lives.

While our experiences are unique, there are consistent threads of God’s proven character, faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, favor, and attention to detail over our smallest and greatest concerns woven through our testimonies. So when I say “Wow! What is that?” it is a feeling of this special affinity felt and shared among Believers. This special affinity, an inexplicable and sometimes hard to explain joy is felt that may cause us to desire to fellowship with such Believers for hours or all day long as we talk about our love for the Lord. Have you experienced this too?!

holy-spirit-fire-003

Recently, I lunched with one of the young ladies I mentor. She had moved to the DC/Virginia area from a small town in Northern California and in doing so, introduced me to her former mentor from California. Her former mentor was briefly visiting Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer events and joined us for lunch. Immediately upon she and I meeting, the connection of the Holy Spirit was felt among us. I am Black, the two of them White, and you would have sworn by seeing us together that we were family or had known each other for a very long time. We could have tarried in our fellowship all day in great joy in sharing about the Lord, but we needed to drive my mentee’s former mentor to the airport for her return flight to California.

I am grateful that God knit us together as brothers and sisters in His eternal family—not always through natural blood as in our born family, but more importantly through the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is through His Blood shed as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and our belief in His Name and Who He is (Galatians 3:26), that we are indeed brothers and sisters in God’s eternal, multi-ethnic family! How extravagant! As the popular 1979 R&B Sister Sledge song says, “We Are Family.” People ask, “Could we be that close?” I say through Christ Jesus, “Yes, indeed!” As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This special connection and joy is perhaps felt more deeply among those who have developed a daily and growing intimacy with the Lord. There’s so much to share in our daily experiences when you have journeyed with Jesus for several years—when the more time you spend with Him, the more you see Him show up in your day. I have truly enjoyed great conversations and fellowship with my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! I love them so much! I thank God for gifting us a foretaste of what we will experience eternally one day.

My dear brothers and sisters: It’s hoped that the outward display of our joy, love and sweet fellowship with Jesus—and with those who are not our natural brothers and sisters but our brothers and sisters through new life secured in Jesus Christ—will make curious those who say, “Wow! What is that?” Whether Believers who desire to deepen their intimacy with the Lord or those seeking to know the Lord, may our Christian fellowship be a witness of the amazing love in Christ flowing through His People. May the rivers of living water that flow in us by the Holy Spirit also pour into others so they may experience the Lord. And as we await Christ’s return, may what we hope for continue to be what we live for.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, New International Version)

Love and blessings,

Nicole

We Must Be Vigilant

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New International Version)

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New Living Translation)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13, International Standard Version)

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6, English Standard Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12, New International Version)

There is nothing passive about the above referenced scriptures. Everything about these scriptures gives the image of a Believer who is alert, who is watchful (sober) or in the Greek context “nepho”; someone who abstains from wine or beverages (anything) that would dull their senses or distract them. The scriptures suggest that the Believer would not be caught off guard or caught slumbering but ready to offend whatever comes.

Imagine your disposition, how keen your senses if you knew that an enemy was lurking outside your door to kill you and yours. The enemy is looking for any breach, crack or gap to gain access and entry into your home, your mind, or your heart. How would you protect yourself? Your family?

If from reading these scriptures you still have an imagery of Satan as a red, pitch fork-carrying caricature with horns and tail who passively pursues you, then you have underestimated your enemy. The enemy is intentionally prowling around, looking for that easy access, that one moment of someone letting down their guard. Where will you compromise and make concessions? Like a prowling lion, your enemy seeks to pick off the weakest sheep from the flock for its prey.

Your enemy plants thoughts that become plots. Your enemy could care less about you, how old or young you are. Your enemy kills 17-month-old babies and pregnant women. He is a murderer, capable of unimaginable horror. He inspires actions, text messages and graphic images that result in careers, marriages and lives destroyed. He plants lies in your mind to make you distrust God and thereby take matters into your own hands. He intently seeks to impose fear upon you, to make you cower and submit to defeat.

Many view the follower of Jesus Christ as passive. Though we desire to be obedient to God, meek, kind and loving toward others, this does not mean we let down our guard. We are ever-discerning, we are wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), we are guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), we put on our spiritual armor daily to guard against the wiles of the devil and thwart his fiery darts. We also war against him in prayer, praise and through speaking scripture back to him.

Remember even Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness, the enemy relentlessly tempting him while He fasted. Jesus rebuked and responded to Satan with scripture and authority. We must do the same. In response to this Matthew 4:11 says, Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (New International Version)

Armor of God

This message is that of a team huddle or a war room strategy for the saints.

We must be vigilant. As wickedness increases, I am telling you, the Body of Christ, to gird your loins. Guard against appeasing worldly culture, for you will soon begin to look like it and it will always take you further than you wanted to go. We are called to be holy; sanctified for God’s purposes and set apart from the world.

Be alert, sober and be prepared to stand against every onslaught, deception and temptation. Do not be caught off guard. Do not be caught slumbering. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting to seize any opportunity that you find it okay to welcome that errant thought, embrace laziness, or slack in your spiritual growth. He’s looking for that chink in your armor, your area of weakness that will prevent your success.

Be alert and stay alert. Stay vigilant. That means step up your prayer life. Pray with authority and unshakable faith. Put on your spiritual armor before you begin your day (Ephesians 6:13-17). Meditate on God’s Word day and night so you may be successful (Joshua 1:8) and also know how to call up God’s Word at any moment to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means sealing up breaches in your behavior, character, emotions, lifestyle and thought life that would give the enemy the opportunity to ensnare you. This means giving Godly counsel to others you see as prey for the enemy due to destructive choices they are making. This means telling the devil in your Godly authority, “You are not welcome here.”

Love and blessings,

Nicole

For more on this, read our article “The Believer’s Disposition/Posture.”

 

To the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs: May We Each Be the Brick

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To Pastor Frank Pomeroy, Sherri Pomeroy, the members of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and the community of Sutherland Springs, Texas:

You do not know us but we have come to know you.

From our televisions and other devices, we have watched you graciously deliver responses to reporters and media as you lean on the Lord for strength in this time of unimaginable sorrow. Our hearts have been breaking alongside you upon hearing the horrific news and details from this past Sunday’s shooting that took place in your church. We mourn with you (Romans 12:15).

We know your hearts and minds like ours seek to understand “Why” but as you stated Pastor Pomeroy, “I don’t understand but I know my God does.” Questions abound as you and your wife grapple with the death of your precious daughter Annabelle, the 26 members of your church (several of them children) and those still hospitalized and fighting to live. As you and we know, God’s ways, wisdom and purposes infinitely surpass and transcend our finite minds. As the Lord says to us in Isaiah 55:8-9, 8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The moment we learned of this horrific tragedy brought to you, your families, church family and community, we prayed for the Lord to be so near to you; that you would immediately feel enveloped in His loving arms of comfort, peace and strength. We prayed for His peace to undergird you and we trust that He will continue to so long as you lean on Him.

The Texas Catholic Sutherland Springs

(Photo courtesy: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

We stand with you. We will continue to lift you in prayer and we will remain steadfast in advancing God’s Kingdom. In what the enemy sent to cause defeat and devastation, we trust that God will be glorified. We are already seeing the love of Christ pour out and believe through your display of love, faith and forgiveness, those unbelieving of how such a disposition is possible in the face of great wickedness, will know that it is Christ who sustains you. The LORD is truly our Refuge, our Strength, our Strong Tower, our Rock.

Now, you know us. As members of the Body of Christ, may you also be able to count on us as a refuge of comfort, of peace, of love, of strength and encouragement. As a dear sister in Christ said, “May we each be the one brick in the wall” as it pertains to being a united Body of Christ, serving as a refuge to you and others.

In Christian Love and Fellowship,

The Body of Christ/Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ

To donate to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, please visit their website http://ssfb.org/ . You may also visit their Facebook page for additional donation information.

Does Anyone “Sleep on It” Anymore?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11, New International Version) A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man holds it back. (English Standard Version)

Much can be said on this particular verse. A recent conversation with my elderly Christian neighbor as she and I discussed world events, words said and decisions made helped to spur this writing. Her wisdom shared during our conversation came from a seasoned position of forging peace rather than strife throughout her years of raising children, grandchildren and dealing with co-workers.

In reading Proverbs 29:11, the words described will likely bring someone or several people to mind. Today’s social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have provided space for those who are quick-tempered, lack restraint, short on self-control and Godly wisdom to reveal all of their mind all of the time. Trust me, nobody wants to partake in all of that undressing to see all the caverns of someone’s unrestrained mind. The Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 29:11 reads, “A fool uttereth all his mind; his spirit, his anger. A fool pours out all his wrath, restrained by no consideration.” It then references a wise maxim that says, “Command your temper, lest it command you.”

We have all seen the damage and feeding frenzy of what 140 unrestrained characters or less can do in a 24/7 media cycle. We’ve seen how one social media post, without measure and restraint exercised by audiences, can create a thread that is vicious and worse than a street beat down—even among those considered friends and family. Before tweets, posts, emails, text messages and decisions are driven by emotions, does anyone “sleep on it” anymore?

I present this subject to encourage the Body of Christ to reflect wisdom, Christ’s love and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23 at all times. Our various platforms are favorable to rapid fire and thoughtless responses in which our 24/7 media cycle delights and thirsts to expose and exacerbate such foolishness.

However, WE have an opportunity to display Godly wisdom to an unrestrained world. In a season where division is increasingly being stirred on every side and within every group and demographic, we have an opportunity to bring calm and reason that puts those agitated at rest. In fact, before they speak further or engage in abrupt, unwise actions, we have the opportunity to offer them the wise counsel of “Why don’t you sleep on it.” It’s an opportunity to pivot; to be circumspect, to use good judgment.

Sleep on it

 

Speaking from experience, I have found great peace in “sleeping on it” before responding to someone or something that has frustrated me. I have found that the words I thought so important to say were often unnecessary and would not bring the situation to a better place.

Sometimes no words were necessary or if a response was required, the tone was one of love. The night’s sleep coupled with prayer and giving myself time to yield to the Holy Spirit made all the difference. Even in some conversations where I had every right to refute what the person was saying, I’ve literally sensed the Holy Spirit purse my lips together to say “Be quiet.” Or, even when I had sound counsel to give someone the Holy Spirit knows when that person is or is not ready to receive that instruction. He has said to me in that still, small, steady voice, “Not now.” In wisdom and obedience, I hold my tongue or I refrain from hitting “SEND” on that email or text message.

So, what is the remedy to preserve ourselves and others in moments when emotions run high and division is at the door?

Pray for self-control. Pray to exercise the nine fruits of the Spirit of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control toward everyone in whatever space you engage with them. Obediently yield to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to “be quiet” or “sleep on it.”

Numerous scriptures throughout the Bible show us the blessings and precious fruits of wisdom: Blessed are those who find wisdom, who gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13). We’re encouraged to ask for it, to seek it: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). 

Many consider quick words to be a great strength. But quick words have been known to sink relationships and torch careers. But a word not spoken in haste is truly great wisdom with the possibility to preserve people and outcomes.

Love and blessings,

Nicole