Your Great Name

I sat through 3 church services this weekend. One Saturday night and 2 on Sunday morning. I was recruiting volunteers for the Enumclaw Street Fair coming up this weekend and we had some slots to fill in the schedule so I wanted to get my church involved.

As I walked to church the bright sunshine warmed my face. It just felt good.

I am really beginning to feel at home at The Summit, and am developing some wonderful relationships there. It didn’t really hit me until talking about it with my friend last week, that building new friendships is an important piece of my healing.

If I just stay in my little circle of friends who also escaped the cult, then conversation always tends to drift to that subject, and it’s just too much looking back. I can see how God needed to move my best friend out of the area so I would make a journey into the unknown of other people’s lives.

When someone from the church texted me this morning and almost apologetically said that “sitting through 3 services is a ton of work” I had to praise God for the way I felt. It was an honor to get to sit through 3 sessions of worship that touched my heart in a way that is hard to describe. One of the songs, Your Great Name, has been camped out in my brain ever since the first service and just continues to minister to me.

Your Great Name (click here to hear my favorite version)

Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your Great Name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of Your Great Name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your Great Name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your Great Name

Chorus
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and man you are high and lifted up;
that all the world will praise Your Great Name

Verse 2
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your Great Name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your Great Name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your Great Name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name

Chorus
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb; that was slain for us
Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up
that all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name.

Redeemer, my Healer; Lord Almighty
Defender; my Savior;  you are my King
Redeemer; my Healer; Lord Almighty
Defender; my Savior; you are my King

Jesus, the Name of Jesus, you are high and lifted up;
that all the world will praise your Great Name.
Savior, Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up;
all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name. Your Great Name

I guess it struck me because I am all those things…

The weak who has found strength, the hungry soul who has received grace, the fatherless who has found my rest, the sick who has been healed and the dead who has been raised.

And He, too, is all those things…

Redeemer, Healer, Defender, and Savior.

What was a life trashed by deception and hate has now been redeemed, healed, defended…with love and mercy.

Sitting through 3 services this weekend wasn’t a chore in the least. It was filled with a profound peace and was something I treasure as a blessing from God.

Freedom

Really good sermon today on FREEDOM. In light of the 4th of July, Pastor Ross asked the pointed question…why do we get so excited about physical, political and financial freedom, setting off fireworks and all manner of pyrotechnics, yet the freedom we have been given as believers in Christ is rather ho-hum in comparison?

He made the statement that freedom is not free…it always has a cost. I thought about the cost for me…the price I paid to walk away from what I had given my life and my heart and everything I owned to for 12 years. Walking away from all of that was extremely costly, but the resulting freedom was completely worth it.

I looked up freedom and definition number 5 really jumped off the page at me.

free·dom

[free-duhm]  Show IPA

noun

5.personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery

Being a believer in Christ sets us free from:

  • Sin (Romans 6:18)
  • The Law (Galatians 2:4)
  • Death (Romans 6:21-22, Romans 8:21)

As Pastor Ross elaborated on being set free from the law, I found myself so thankful for the truth of that statement. For 12 years I tried living up to every part of the scripture and continually failed. It got to the point where there was no joy, no hope, and absolutely no fireworks in my heart for what God had done for me. I had become a slave, in bondage to the law, when, in reality, I had already been set free from it.

The statement was also made that “liberty is not free…it produces responsibility.” The freedom I gained in 1986 carried with it the responsibility to learn what scripture says, discover more fully what God had done for me through the atoning sacrifice of His only Son, and grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Word, learning to rightly divide it.

Last night, when a new acquaintance asked me why I never joined Bible Study Fellowship or another program like that when I first came to Christ I really had to think about that. I realized that less than 6 months after accepting the Lord, Chuck and I were thrust into full time ministry when Point Man Ministries was given to him.

At that point it was a 501(C)3 with no activity after the founder  went home to be with Jesus. We were to take it from nothing and develop into an international ministry with outposts (outreaches in churches ministering to Vietnam Veterans and their wives) all across the country. I immediately dived in to help Chuck develop the infrastructure, the ministry administration, the veteran wives ministry, and a host of other tasks. I went from being a babe in Christ to teaching veterans and their loved ones about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how wounds become our idols. I was on the fast track to burn out, and it came many years down the road, without me even realizing it.

That must be why scripture admonishes us not to lay hands on too quickly. I never took the responsibility of my new found freedom in Christ to heart and so became vulnerable down the road when bondage came knocking at my door.

How thankful I am to be able to look back and see those vulnerabilities and weaknesses and understand how I ended up in slavery. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I believe the more I can learn from my mistakes and blunders, sins and failures, and learn the truth of the Word, in context and in all its fullness, I can truly begin to see clearly through the glasses of true freedom in Christ and embrace the responsibility that comes with it.

Feeling very grateful right now to be free.

God’s Quarry

I had originally shared this only with my Facebook friends, but decided it is a good way to wrap up my 7 months of healing from the painful devastation of being sucked into the cult of Sound Doctrine. Now that God has moved me forward into a time of mind boggling restoration with partnership in a new company and a house He completely hand-picked just for me, I thought it fitting to share this perspective.

Thanks for traveling this journey of healing with me for these last few months. I am excited to see what lies ahead as I continue to grow in His grace!

*****

Pondering the message I heard today. It was really good. All about rejoicing while we’re in God’s Quarry. I wanted to get a better understanding of how a quarry works so looked up the definition. The first one said:

Noun: an excavation or pit, usually open to the air, from which building stone, slate, or the like, is obtained by cutting, blasting, etc.

That one really resonated with me…the hard times in my life, most recently the 12 years in a cult and the last 7 months of starting my life all over again from scratch, have been a true pit for me. And my faith and understanding of who God is was, for many years, blasted to a place of nonrecognition.

Wikipedia said:

Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials…

Based on Pastor Ross Holtz‘s comments today, I am quite sure the building materials are build ready…the hard work has been done in the quarry, so once they leave there, they are acceptable to the builder.

I kept thinking of the scripture

1 Peter 2:5
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

As much as I hate what I went through in the cult, and the struggles I have had coming out and allowing the Lord to heal my mind and my heart, I do believe He has used it to build me into a sacrifice acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I can rejoice in being that living stone that will continue to be built into that spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. If it says we “are being built” then it’s not over. There may (more like WILL) be more pits for me in the future, and more blasting to come.

May I learn my lessons well now, to rejoice always, and pray continually, so that I’m well prepared for whatever comes next.

Learning to Wait

Been meditating today on how much the Lord has been teaching me to wait on Him.

Looking back on the last 7 months I see so many times when my natural tendency would have been to “make it happen” whether it was a work situation or finding a place to live.

Back in March I had a great opportunity to go to a Philanthropy conference in Chicago and find a bunch of prospective book projects. I could have easily made it happen and found the money from somewhere to go, but I decided if God really wanted me to go HE would make a way (not ME). He didn’t, so I didn’t go down that road.

Another opportunity came up where I could have had a part time job in exchange for free rent right here in Enumclaw. The 55+ community was owned by someone at my church and they were excited about the possibilities…and I was at the point of being tired of living in a 100 square foot rented room. Even though I dearly love my “landlord” and had no complaints with the living conditions, I was just anxious to get on with my life. I really wanted that situation to be my answer, but I just couldn’t move forward with that either.

Countless times I went on a resume rampage, sending out dozens of resumes, even building a blog called “Why Hire Athena Dean?” Overall, I guess I have really struggled with the waiting and the lesson God wanted to teach me. But I see now that it was a good lesson.

Had I made things happen in any of these other opportunities, then how would I ever know if my success was God or me? I would have always wondered, in the back of my mind…is this really God’s will or did I put this thing together?

As I pack up my room in anticipation of moving into the Lord’s clear provision for me, I was struck by the scripture I’d taped up to my mirror when I first moved in here on February 1. It said:

Psalm 31:23
God takes care of all who stay close to Him.

The closer I stay to Him, waiting on Him for clear direction and provision, the more He takes care of me. Instead of me doing my independent strong woman “thing” like I have in the past, I am finally getting the hang of depending on Him.

I had to chuckle when the gal who owns the house God has provided for me to rent texted me tonight to say she wasn’t ready for me to move in tomorrow, and wouldn’t be done getting everything ready for me until Tuesday or Wednesday. Of course my first response was “Waaaahhhhhhhh! I want it NOW!”

But I just had to take a chill pill and realize I’m on God’s timetable not my own, He provided the work so I can afford this house, and He provided the house and a landlord who has a heart to see me blessed with this sanctuary of a home.

Good things take time, and I am learning to embrace the waiting. As I do so, I am gaining new strength, and singing a new song!

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

7 Month Anniversary – Faithful God

As I look back on this week, to say that God has provided for me would be an understatement. Not only did He work a new business partnership that will enable me to earn an income, but He also provided a place for me to live. As I was on my way home Friday from the business meeting where we all agreed to move forward on a new venture, I called Jessica to let her know the good news. She immediately replied “Write this number down….I found you a house!”

A few hours earlier she had driven over to Dells to looks for some boots, and on her way back she noticed a FOR RENT sign up in front of her all-time favorite house in Enumclaw. She had always driven by the house and loved the improvements the owner made, wishing someone she knew could live there. I quickly called the number and left a message. It wasn’t long before I got a call back and the voice on the other end of the phone told me I was the 2nd person to leave a message, and she really wasn’t going to call anyone back until the evening, but felt compelled to call me.

As I shared a little bit of my story with her, she told me if I wanted the place, she would not call back the other callers and would actually take the For Rent sign down. I told her I can tell just by seeing the outside that I would be happy with the inside. I simply just felt the hand of God all over the situation. We agreed to meet on Sunday morning before church so I could see the inside of the house.

Jessica and I went over to take a look this morning and it was just like visiting with a long-time friend. The owner had moved into the house during a traumatic transition time in her own life and had created a sanctuary out of it, and now she could see that it was the perfect place for me with everything I’ve been through. It was like God set it up and orchestrated everything.

When I told her that I had no furniture or anything, and that I would be furnishing it a little at a time, she looked around and asked “Well, do you like what’s here? I can let you have whatever you would like.” Honestly, I felt lightheaded and almost at a loss for words. This house is decorated exactly like I would decorate a house…the colors, the furniture, the lighting fixtures, everything down to the smallest detail.

I went from there to church and then back again to meet with her to work out all the details. I am still stunned at God’s goodness. Later on this week I will move all my earthly possessions (clothes and books!)  into what feels like a bed and breakfast, a beautiful sanctuary, a place of rest.

How fitting that this would all culminate on the 7 month anniversary of my deliverance from bondage. On the 7th day He rested…and this will be a place for me to rest in God like never before.  Yes, He is faithful. The last few days I’ve been singing this song non-stop…it so epitomizes my heart right now and how I feel about my God!

Faithful God – Travis Cottrell

I see You turning ashes to beauty,
bringing this dead man to life
Here You are in the midst of this sadness,
wiping the tears from my eyes
I can hear, the song of redemption
filling my heart with Your praise

Faithful God, You reign forever
We will hope in Your great Name
Strong and Mighty King of Heaven
We will worship You, Oh faithful God

You see me as a child who’s forgiven,
clothed in the mercy of Christ
Here I am, unashamed and surrendered
I have been bought with a price
Can you hear the sound of Your people,
shaking the earth with Your praise?

Faithfull God you reign forever,
we will hope in Your great Name
Strong and mighty King of Heaven
we will worship You oh faithful God

You turned my mourning into dancing and celebration
You took my sorrow and You gave me your joy
You broke the my bondage and You gave me my liberation
And I will ever praise You, and I will ever praise You, and I will ever praise You

Listen to the song here.

Six Month Anniversary

Wow. It’s been six months that I’ve been free from the insanity I’ve lived with for the last 12 years. Exactly half a year ago I walked away from the most abusive and traumatic time in my life, with little hope of ever regaining a vibrant faith in God.

I still believed, even with all the hypocrisy and manipulation I endured, that I was walking away from God and that Tim and Carla Williams had a special relationship with God that I could never achieve. I had internalized all the judgments and condemnation that somehow I was the “betrayer witch” they labeled me as and they were the “beloved of God”.

How shocked I was to find out so many things pointing to the calculated abuse and Hitler-like exploitation that I’d lived for over a decade. Then to realize that the authoritarian domination and textbook cult mind-control techniques created a fertile ground for pedophile Malcolm Fraser to thrive in a position of authority without Tim and Carla even knowing…that had to be one of the most freeing realizations of my life.

I had not walked away from God. I had walked away from a spiritually abusive organization that thrives on destruction.

I must admit that I still have a hard time not feeling revenge well up inside my heart. Situations come up almost on a daily basis where I fail, feeling good that I am somehow able to do something to stop them and their abusive ways. And then God has to remind me that the battle is not mine, but His, and vengeance belongs to Him.

I’m afraid this battle with anger towards my abusers is going to take a while until it’s finally over.  I’m going to have to extend forgiveness over and over and over, regardless of the outcome of the sexual assault trial, and no matter how God chooses to execute judgment on my abusers.

My hope is for those still blinded by the spirit of intimidation and deliberate abuse of spiritual authority. May God open their eyes and give them the courage to humble themselves and admit they’ve been deceived.

God’s Faithfulness

As I spent the weekend going through pictures of my firstborn to prepare a video montage for his birthday yesterday, I couldn’t help seeing God’s faithfulness through the years, and more importantly in the last six months.

When I walked away from what I thought for 12 years was the truth, but in reality turned out to be a bona fide cult, I had determined that if that was God, then I didn’t want to serve Him anymore. True to His faithfulness, He went to work to convince me that what had been presented to me as God was, in fact, NOT GOD. God set out to prove to me that He can be trusted and that He had been grossly misrepresented.

Not long after I left He intentionally wooed me back to Himself. First in helping me deprogram through a wonderful woman of God, then in bringing me to The Summit where they were starting the first class in the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality study…the week after I stepped foot in the door. Then He provided a place for me to stay while I get my feet back on the ground and start earning a living.

He orchestrated a divine appointment when I visited my Mom and brother in San Antonio, TX which resulted in working with 2 different authors, providing for me the income I needed right at that moment. Then when it seemed as if nothing more was coming and I wrestled with whether I should go out and get a job, He sent me not only another author to work with but a group of authors to represent for a big event later on this month.

The encouraging part of the whole thing is every time I have been down to nothing in my account and I want to talk to someone to get my ducks in a row to earn some income, God won’t let me. I am learning once again how much He wants me to know His faithfulness. If I go out and make things happen, then how will I know whether it is me or Him?

One example in particular was my most recent coaching assignment. The author said they couldn’t move forward until April 30. On April 25 I so wanted to ask her to send everything over to me early and just postdate the check to make sure I’d have it on the 30th….funds were down so low I didn’t have an extra day. The Lord just would not let me do that no matter how much I whined to Him about my need. The very next day, on the 26th, I received an email from the author saying “I just dropped everything in the mail today with a check dated April 30.” Then on top of that, when I emailed her on the 30th to let her know the paperwork had arrived and say thank you, she wrote back explaining what a miracle it was that it arrived that quickly. Normally mail takes a week to reach Seattle from her small town, but this made it in half the time!

Then I started Bible Study Fellowship in the last few months of meetings before they break for the summer. And what are they studying but James, 1st and 2nd Peter and Jude. Hmmmmmm….warnings against false leaders and teachers. How timely!

There are numerous other instances where His ways have built back my trust in Him. In all of this His faithfulness rings true and I marvel at His handiwork.

The song that keeps running through my mind is Kari Jobe’s “You Are For Me”…how true it is, and how grateful I am for such a loving and faithful God!

So faithful, so constant and so true
So powerful in all You do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You

I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are

So patient, so gracious, so merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You

Lord, I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me of who You are

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/k/kari_jobe/#share

Undo What I’ve Become

Driving to meet with an author this morning, I heard this chorus on the radio. I remembered back to a time when I was still in the cult and I sang this song as a prayer to God. Little did I know how He would answer that prayer.

Turn me around, pick me up, undo what I’ve become   /   Bring me back to the place of forgiveness and grace   /   I need You, I need Your help, I can’t do this myself   /   You’re the only one who can undo what I’ve become

At the time I had pretty much been demonized to the rest of the “church” so I was very isolated. I felt as though there was no hope for me since I had been unable to repent acceptably. About a year earlier, Tim had called the body to meet at WinePress and he proceeded to call us out one by one (excluding his sons and Malcolm, of course) telling us that if we did not repent, we were going to hell.

Shortly after this event, I’d done something that made Tim Williams mad. If my memory serves me, the rebellion I displayed was that I called Malcolm and asked permission to work on a Saturday after I’d been told not to. So there I was in the middle of Grocery Outlet when I got a call from Tim Williams asking why I asked to work when I’d been told not to…he proceeded to chew me out on my cell phone and that conversation ended in Tim praying God’s judgment upon me.

From that point on, everything seemed to go downhill…I was pretty much booted out of WinePress, not allowed to invite other “church” members over for dinner, and was not allowed to verbally communicate with anyone. It was pretty much as close to being disfellowshipped as possible without actually being so.

I remember hearing this song on the radio and was bewildered with what I had become…a Christian with no joy or hope of heaven…alone…numb.

Now I can look back and see that God did exactly that…he turned me around, picked me up, and undid what I’d become….He brought me back to the place of forgiveness and grace…

Instead of leaving me in that barren land that was full of hate and judgment, He delivered me out of captivity and back to Himself.

I can only praise God for His faithfulness to answer my prayer, even though I expected the answer to look completely different.

Praise God His ways are not my ways!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8

This is Going to Take Some Time

Last week I spent some time doing the final cleaning of the house I lived in for the last few years.

It was quite the challenge to remove the leftovers of the carpet tape on the Pergo flooring.

I figured applying Goof Off and letting it sit for a while would make my clean up easy and fast. I guess I had an image in my mind of the way oven cleaner works. Spray on, walk away for a few hours, and then come back to find it all clean with just a little dust to wipe out.

NOT!

The Goof Off took off the top layer, but that was it. I tried using my putty knife to scrape off the rest.

Sheesh! This was going to be a project… I don’t have time for all this mess!

I tried applying more Goof Off, getting on my hands and knees and using a scouring pad to begin removing what’s left.

OK God. This is not going to go the way I planned, is it?

Back to the hardware store for a sharper tool and better adhesive remover.

Squirt on the new stuff. Let it sit for a while.

As I begin scraping with a razor it finally starts to come up, but still not without a fight.

I realized that I was going to be down there for a while, so I had to finally accept it.

It’s still going to take some time to finish this!

Hmmmmm…isn’t this just like my journey? In my typical optimism I am thinking as I deal with major issues in my counseling, and as I get de-programmed and learn again about the goodness of God, the healing should be quick and easy.

NOT!

There are so many layers of pain from the abuse.

And then there are the consequences of bad choices.

How do I reconcile the loss of our family and grieve well? What about the destruction I see in the lives of those I love who have lost their faith in God because of this tragic misrepresentation of God?

Then how do I get to a place of forgiving myself for the deception I led so many other unsuspecting believers into? These were people who wanted to love God with everything!

I’m afraid this is going to take a while.

And it’s not going to go the way I plan.

A friend recently dubbed me “Mrs. Job”… I’ve been thinking about that and it made me think of a fitting scripture:

Job 13:15a
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him