Eleven Month Anniversary – Melt Down

I had a melt-down of sorts a few days ago. A strange mix of emotions that included depression, profound sadness, and a bit of despair. I originally chocked it up to an adrenaline crash after my whirlwind of travel to Dallas and Branson, but I’ve come to realize it really was much more than that.

Today marks my 11 month anniversary of leaving the Christian cult I was trapped in for 12 long years, and as I consider the past months, I am reminded how important anniversary dates can be. In fact, I used to teach veterans and their family members all about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how things in the environment, as well as the anniversary dates of prior traumatic experiences, can trigger in the present, unwanted emotions and memories.

I started thinking back to what was happening in my life around this time of the month in October of last year, and was shocked to remember that it was one of the most stressful experiences I had endured, as the “Tax Oversight Committee” had finally finished their work and ominously commanded my presence in the WinePress offices. Under scrutiny of no less than 5 other people, I filled out the tax forms for the first quarter of 2010. I was bullied and intimidated into filing my own business taxes (I wasn’t allowed to have a CPA review them for me or get any outside advice at all), and on top of that I was not allowed to even keep a copy of the forms I’d filed. My income was right around $1500 a month and my tax liability was adding up to over $50,000 due to the capital gains that were calculated (even though I only received $10 in exchange for my 3.5 million dollar business!).

It was truly the most bizarre experience I’d ever experienced in my life, and all the while I was being manipulated into taking responsibility for tax liabilities that were not even mine to assume.  And all in the Name of God.  Every move I made was condemned, criticized, and demonized by the very people who I now know to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. One man for years had covered up his own sexual perversion and sick attraction to and vile abuse of little girls, and another who knowingly covered up his crimes. Not only are these men the “spiritual leaders” of Sound Doctrine, but those who manage what continues to be deceitfully promoted as a “Christian Publisher”, WinePress Publishing.

How kind and merciful it was for God to allow me to discover the full extent of the evil and wickedness that reigned in the midst of Sound Doctrine a little at a time. It was shortly after I left that I found out what was done to me with the supposed “sale” of my business to the cult was completely fraudulent and a gross violation of spiritual authority, but then it was five months after I left before I found out about Malcolm Fraser being a pedophile.  I honestly don’t know if I could have emotionally handled learning all of it at one time, so God had to spoon feed the revelation of the extent of the abuse and profound evil over a period of time.

So, should I be surprised at my recent emotional roller-coaster, mostly downward? I think not. When I consider the level of stress and trauma I endured last year at this time, along with the ongoing grieving God is having me work through, and the amazing restoration that God is continuing to work in my life, it’s clearly remarkable that I haven’t been in worse shape than I am. In fact, it is astonishing that I’m not, after all I’ve been through, locked away in a mental hospital.

My God has taken a horridly abusive and traumatic experience and turned it around to glorify His name in countless ways. Not only does He continue to encourage others as I walk through my healing journey with Him, but  I heard only yesterday that one young man who was trapped by the cult for the last six years finally escaped just a month ago, so I can only praise Him that one more captive has been set free.  The exciting part is that this young man was one for whom my friend Cindy Scinto consistently received visions from the Lord about and was urged by Him to fast and pray for him to break free from the horrific abuse he was under in Sound Doctrine.

I continue to pray for the rest of those in bondage, especially my own grandchildren, one of whom is also a victim of the sick pedophile Malcolm Fraser. I pray that they soon will have their spiritual eyes opened and have the courage to walk away from the insanity before it’s too late.

Ten Month Anniversary – You Can See It In My Eyes

Today marks 10 months since God opened my eyes to the deception I’d lived under for 12 long years.

It has been an amazing journey of having literally every scripture that I’d been taught out of context righted in my heart and mind.

The biggest delusion I believed in Sound Doctrine was that my salvation was at risk, and that there was more I had to do to earn it, namely whatever Tim Williams determined was God’s will for my life.

Believing this allowed him the ability to manipulate and control my entire life based on fear.

A close second was that unity with the brethren means you never question any decision or action taken by “the man of God”.

Believing this allowed the leadership in Sound Doctrine to do as they pleased without any consequence on their part.

As I sat in church yesterday and listened as Pastor Ross shared scriptures on unity in the body, it was so refreshing to hear the scripture being preached IN CONTEXT and in a way that builds up believers rather than tearing them down.

And this morning I opened my devotional, Jesus Calling, and I am reminded again that He is always available to me…that once I have trusted Him as Savior, He never distances Himself from me…any distance I feel is just that, a feeling, not to be confused with reality.

Looking back at who I became in those 12 years is sobering. I went from a strong, successful, business owner to one who allowed my emotions to be influenced by a master manipulator, all in the Name of God, leaving me second guessing God’s voice, His plan for my life, and His will for me.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Below you can see the reality of how I was robbed of the joy of my salvation by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How easily I was deceived because the wolf quoted so many scriptures and “seemed” so godly. But scripture is clear that Satan masquerades as an angel of light…and wasn’t it the Father of Lies who used scripture to tempt Jesus? How true it is that if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!  You can see it in my eyes…the depth of the darkness I believed was enormous.

I am eternally grateful for a faithful God who, ten months ago today, opened my darkened eyes so I could see, gave me the courage to admit that I had been duped, and has since been restoring all that the locusts had eaten.

Nine Month Anniversary – No Risk, No Reward

It was the day I decided to fast from Facebook for a week. My youngest son showed up later in the afternoon and proved to be a wonderful distraction from the withdrawal symptoms I experienced. He mentioned something that really stuck with me…how people go on trips and spend their whole time taking pictures and posting to Facebook instead of just experiencing the beauty and actually being “in” the moment.

That really got me to thinking about how much I miss in my relationships when I am busy taking pictures and posting them with some witty comment. I also had to ask myself how much I really appreciate the moment I am in, the person I am with, the conversation I am having, whether in person or on the phone…or am I thinking in the back of my mind, Ooooohhhh, that would be great to post!

This is so good for me to ponder…especially today. It’s been exactly nine months since I walked away from the most abusive and degrading “church” experience of my life. It takes nine months to grow and birth a baby, so I asked the Lord this morning what it is that has been growing inside me for these last nine months, and is now ready to be “born” in my life.

I felt Him impress upon my heart the word “relationship.”

Before the cult I struggled with being a workaholic, and valuing things over people. After my successful stint (by the world’s standards) in network marketing, I realized all along I had it all backwards. Instead of loving people and using things, I’d been using people and loving things.

Then during my 12 years in the cult I found myself keeping most everyone at arm’s length. Of course, as it turned out, this was a serious defense mechanism to attempt to keep from getting hurt, although they did a pretty good job of destroying me emotionally and spiritually over those years.

So here I am today, learning how to be a real friend to some pretty amazing people. Learning how to be a Mom to my boys and a Yiayia (Greek for Grandma) to my grandkids. Learning how to value the moment I am in with the person in front of me. Loving people instead of judging them or using them. Letting them in rather than pushing them away.

Thinking back on a sermon from a few weeks ago when Pastor Roger preached on No Risk, No Reward, I realized there’s a risk here, because I’ve been so trashed in the past, I could get hurt again, and probably will, since people aren’t perfect. I had to think that through and ask myself some hard questions. Do I want to open myself up to the chance of more pain, more devastation, and more emotional upheaval? Well, no, not really. Who would answer yes to that? But the more I pondered and asked God to work in my heart, the easier it was for me to take a step forward. I have determined that the reward is worth the risk. The reward of having true friendships, authentic relationships…without walking on eggshells or always wondering what the other person is really thinking but being too afraid to ask.

I wondered how all of this translated over to my relationship with the Lord, since I’ve been making a point to spend extra time with Him during my Facebook fast. As I watched the last nine months in movie form before my eyes, I saw how much I risked in being willing to trust Him after all that I’d endured. But with that risk came reward…the restoration and renewal that He has worked so far, and is continuing to work, is an amazing work of a loving Father.

So yes, what is being birthed in my life is a new desire to be “in the moment” with people…to be present, not distracted by social media or other enticements. To risk allowing people into my heart so that, through these rich life experiences, He can teach me to go deep with Him.

It’s an amazing parallel there, what He works in our relationships He also works in our relationship to Him.

Wow. What a good God.

New Chip MacGregor Post

Well, how could I not share this wonderfully witty update from well-known, well-respected literary agent, Chip MacGregor?

I know he caught heat after his last post on March 5 (Conspirators R Us), when the Sound Doctrine/WinePress bullies threatened to sue him. But God bless him, Chip just couldn’t stay quiet after seeing them at ICRS (the large trade show put on by the Christian Booksellers Association…stands for International Christian Retail Show).

His current post went up today, titled The WinePress Follies, and it will have you laughing out loud all the way through. At the same time you’ll be shaking your head at the blatant hypocrisy and utter insanity they have displayed.

I feel terrible for all the innocent victims (authors) who now have to live with the WinePress imprint on their books. The company is quickly becoming a laughing stock in the Christian publishing industry, and that’s so not fair for those who paid good money to have their book published and supposedly by a Christian company with credibility.

Someone reminded me the other day that WinePress was, at one time, a real God thing….it just got hijacked.

True statement. Sad, but true.

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.

Danger Zone

It took me only 5 minutes to walk to the gym for Zumba class this morning. What a treat! I forgot that this morning was Zumba Mix. Instead of all Columbian dance songs, Christine Offerdahl adds in oldies as well.

All was going fine until “Highway to the Danger Zone” blared over the speakers. Yes, that’s the old “Top Gun” song about flying an incredibly powerful jet, but it had new meaning to me this morning.

Just yesterday I had coffee with Dean Smith (founder of Live to Forgive ministries). He and Jaclyn VanHoof wanted me to give them some feedback on their Bible Study Workbook, so I read through some of it last evening while having dinner.

One of the first things Dean asks the reader to do is:

Important Exercise: Find Your Bob’s (your “Bob” is the person who you need to forgive)

Close your eyes, and picture the faces of the people in your life. Now, when you picture their faces:

• Is there anyone who causes you to feel a little resentment, bitterness, anger, or frustration? Do you find yourself thinking about the harm they have caused you or someone you know?
• Do you feel the need or have the desire to put any of them in their place for the harm they have done to you or someone you love?
• Is there simply someone you know, that without a shadow of a doubt you simply haven’t forgiven them from your heart?

(Live to Forgive Bible Study Workbook page 4)

I had to admit that the first 2 bullet points struck a nerve. Knowing the perverted abuse heaped on my friend’s daughter and my own granddaughter by “pastor” Malcolm Fraser, for him to be “declared innocent” by all Sound Doctrine members and WinePress Publishing employees really invokes in my heart a desire to put him in his place every time I see him walking around town.

Resentment? Yep.
Anger? Yep.
Frustration? Oh yeah.

Especially seeing the Christian media stay quiet about the fact that a cult now owns WinePress and one of the pastors was charged with child rape…the only thing that makes any sense is that the litigious Sound Doctrine/WinePress leaders have threatened to sue, and everyone is either intimidated or just doesn’t want the hassle and attorney fees that will follow exposing the truth about this group.

Interesting that it struck me last night after reading this, that I, once again, needed to forgive them all over again.

Then, right around midnight, I received a Google alert of Sound Doctrine’s post about the trial date being set for November 8, and saw that the Courier Herald posted the information regarding the date, but describing him as “accused of inappropriate sexual contact with an underage girl”.

Really? That sounds a lot less offensive than the truth…He was arrested and charged with Child Rape of a 10 year old girl and was jailed until he was bailed out 48 hours later. I realize my granddaughter has not come forward and told her story (her body language has told it loud and clear) but she was age 6-10 when she lived with the pedophile. I’m sorry but that just makes me want to hurt that guy.

What amazes me is how all the children are being trained by the church to shun anyone who has had the courage to speak out against the evil that has been hidden inside Sound Doctrine. When the victim went to visit my son and saw my granddaughter and grandson (who are still in the cult with their mother) they turned their backs to her and faced the wall, refusing to speak to her or acknowledge her presence. That is just plain wrong..

It’s obvious that the Lord timed the reviewing of this Bible Study on Forgiveness with the trial date being set. I have to remember…

What Forgiveness is NOT:

• Approval of what your Bob did.
• Justifying what your Bob did.
• Excusing what your Bob did.
• Denying what your Bob did.
• Pretending you’re not hurt, masking it, or pushing it down.
• Forgetting what your Bob did.

(Live to Forgive Bible Study Workbook page 6)

If I do not continue to forgive the pedophile and the rest of the leadership at Sound Doctrine/WinePress, then I will be on that highway to the danger zone.

I don’t want to go there.

God help me.

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.