“These Are the Results”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

On October 27, 2018, I was invited to share a message for the third year in a row to students at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. The message I delivered was entitled “Identity Theft” on how Satan steals the identity already given to us by God. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Called the “father of lies,” Satan from the very beginning has been challenging God and His designs to fabricate a counter design. In order for us to acquiesce to Satan’s design, we’d have to change our identity. Many people are living off of a false identity to deal with traumas, abuses and brokenness. They concoct and are attracted to what the false identity offers and tells them.

The false identities are camouflaged in “courage” and “acceptance.” That’s the appeal. But they are empty promises from Satan. In confusing the truth about our identity, he sows seeds of depression, hopelessness and apprehension about our future. But here’s the Good News: Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full! Question is, Will you volunteer to suffer? A dear sister in Christ and guest writer for Voices Against the Grain, Bambi Jenkins, shares a sobering message on this subject entitled “These Are the Results.” I implore you to read and consider what identity you are living today. If you have accepted false information, there is hope.   -Nicole

To the Broken: “These Are the Results”

bambi jenkinsI had a vision. I was driving down the street and saw a woman walking around in her home with a broken spirit. She is smart, has all types of degrees, is a peak performer at her job and holds a top position. But, in her home when no one was around, she was torn and depressed. As she walked slowly throughout her home, head hung down, she looked back over her life.

Her history was traumatic. She had been sexually abused, exposed to a lot of trauma and severely mistreated at the hands of those she trusted. Being raised in the church, she had begun to trust the Lord but soon lost her connection with Him. She turned to alternative religions and paths that opposed the Christian faith in which she was raised. Desperate to escape her pain, she created a false image of herself. At work, she was skilled, confident, and personable, but when alone at home, she was defeated, depressed with thoughts of suicide. She was confronted with the reality of her tormented past, without any viable repost. The identity she was able to portray at work, was not sufficient to sustain her destroyed self-esteem at home.

These are the results of abuse, neglect, and fear.

You see, if the devil fears anything, it is the future you and what God has planned to do through you. The enemy wants to discourage and disrupt your progress towards being who God created you to be. So Satan sows seeds of self-doubt. Seeds that can be carried throughout and impact virtually every area of your life.

Without God’s help, many will surrender their true identity in order to cope with deep-seated pain. We will put on a mask to conceal old but still-painful wounds so that people may see a more beautiful, successful and powerful person —a person that we are unable to see for ourselves, but one that we desperately create in an attempt to fit in with society. We will turn away from what God says about us and become what the world says is more acceptable.

deception-john-rizzuto

But know this beloved: God is calling us out of all the self-made tombs that we have accepted for our lives. He’s calling us out of the darkness and the very painful chains that bind and distract us. He will show us what it means to live free in Him. He will give us a new identity and the confidence to live in it as He mends our broken hearts.

Psalm 34:18 NIV The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

We can stand against pleasing our flesh, the devil and this world’s agenda, by simply trusting in who God says we are.

James 4:17 NIV Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

To the Church: “These Are the Results”

In my frustration about what is happening in some churches and with its leaders, the Lord allowed me to see and understand that if we don’t recognize the results, then we won’t understand how to fight to be free of them. The results that I’m speaking of is when leadership lacks truth, love, and order, we create church members who are simply religious, without a true relationship with Christ. This often turns nonbelievers away who don’t care to participate in what they see as hypocrisy.

We have many great leaders among us, however, too many are more concerned about their image, church rosters and/or financial success. This leads to ineffective and powerless sermons and teachings that compromises the very power, strength and saving Grace of God’s Word.

All too often the body of Christ has come under attack because of those who use the house of God as just another social club to alleviate their loneliness and boredom. But the Word of God makes it clear the role of the Church leadership:

Proverbs 27:23 NLT Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;

Jesus is calling for Christian leaders to follow Him and to speak the truth in love, without compromising it in order to avoid offending anyone. We are to put our trust in Him— not in numbers — and believe that He will provide everything that is needed. Leadership is responsible for teaching the truth as well as living it. As leaders, we have to be serious about God’s Kingdom business and not religious busy-ness.

1 Timothy 3:2 NIV 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

Many church members have relinquished the responsibility of their relationship with the Lord and knowing His word, giving this work totally over to the church. This has resulted in fickleness, inadequate power, ineffectual prayer, and instability. Hebrews 10:25 encourages the gathering together of saints but that is not where it stops. Christians, we are to study daily as well as teach those in our care the word of God. No one can eat once a week and be sustained. As with Christians, we must continue to feast on the word of God every day. When we neglect to read and meditate on the word of God, this weakens our spirits and allows the flesh to take control.

Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

We must be willing to look in the mirror and get real with ourselves. We have to allow God to penetrate those painful areas that we’ve attempted to hide and hold back. We need to understand that anything that we hold on to, is the very thing that the enemy will use to target and distract us. Obedience must become non-negotiable to us. Children of God, I encourage you to get to know God for yourselves. Pray for those in authority. Lift each other and live God’s truth before everyone.

Jesus is calling for nonbelievers to put their trust in Him alone and to yield their lives to Him based on His love and truth. He loves you so much that He died for you. I can agree that there are those in the church who seem to be living different lives from what they profess. There will be many who profess to know Him. This can be disappointing and discouraging but nevertheless, God’s word is still true.

Titus 1: 16 NIV 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Also, please understand that there are many who aren’t playing with God but are simply struggling in different areas and could be in the process of change. Don’t run from God because of them. Run to Him because of Jesus. We are all in need of God’s strength to stand. I’m praying that you will come to know Him for yourselves.

Altar Call to Alter Your Path

These are the results, but it’s not the end. There is hope.

i surrender all

Do you desire the real thing? To no longer live a facade? Will you volunteer to shed your robe of comfort in exchange for pain — on purpose? Are you ready to be someone who no longer wants just a surface relationship, who runs to the throne of grace to surrender all to God?

My prayers are with you.

Your sister in Christ,

Bambi

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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.

 

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.   

The Endless Dance

Job 30:17- At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Where does it come from? At what point will this cutting pain dissipate? Why must these pins and needles play with the muscles? For their dance has led to lack of sleep. Their dance has created spasms that have left us breathless. Their dance has rendered our schedules useless, which has kept us from completing the tasks of our day. Pain is nothing but an admonition to tell us that something is wrong. Pain is the sensor that lights up to make us cognizant that we must pay attention. Pain is the brakes that slow us down to a grinding halt. Therefore, may we revel in our thorns that have pierced our flesh, because like Paul who asked, “three different times for the Lord to take it away,” he found that His power was greatest when weak, “so that the power of Christ could work through him” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Thus, pain is crucial as it strengthens our resolve and steadies are minds.

 

#Godsway

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

 

He Heard Me

Thank you Herbert for sharing this touching devotional as an encouragement to your friend, TB.  I/we stand in prayer for TB. As you’ve served as an encouragement and support to TB, I believe this message will give others reading this the strength to stand. Even in our trials, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) In the video below “Need You Now” by the group Plumb, the message reminds us that in our wounds, pain, when we call upon God, He hears us.      -Nicole

Psalm 130:2 Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

O Lord hear my cry. When I speak do not turn a deaf ear to me. For these tears are not of joy, but of pain that has stricken my heart. Therefore, TB (initials of my friend) do not lose heart for the Lord consoled you with God-fearing adoptive parents. Don’t lose heart for God secured a job and home for you, when your mom sold the house and left you in desolation. Don’t lose heart for God detoured you from a path of despair to a route filled with the loving embrace of friends who will support you. Your life was changed when you chose to follow him. Therefore, may this devotional be your answer, for God has heard your cry and blessed you with a tangible Christian relationship. He’s now preparing you to do great works, despite the lack of money, family, and friends. They were stripped away (at 1st) so you only had HIM to lean on. You are special and transformed and all it took was a simple phone call. (Stand tall TB) Amen

(Video shared by The River Walk blog)

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.