God Can Even Redeem a Cruise!

One thing I’ve come to learn. God is in the business of redeeming the losses in our lives.

I simply thought I was being a good wife, deciding to take my pastor husband away on a cruise so that he could get a full week of total relaxation. After all, spending time on our 30 year old sailboat isn’t the most relaxing thing to do… something is always breaking!

We’d also just spent a month in the middle of a family storm that caused some major emotional stress and the thought of going on a cruise to decompress and allow the Lord some space to do His thing in our hearts felt like the right thing to do.

We had planned to spend 2 more weeks in August on the sail boat, but one day I received a sales call offering me a low cost cruise. I thought, Hey! I’ve been on lots of cruises, but most of them have been work related…this would be a good way for us to really get away and relax!

I didn’t take the offer from the salesperson, but immediately visited the website for “last minute cruises” where you can save up to 80% by booking at the last minute.

I searched and searched…setting my criteria for a few specifics:

  • It had to leave from and return to Seattle (no time to fly to Florida to get on a boat!)
  • The stateroom had to have a balcony
  • It had to be at least 50% off or more
  • Sail date had to be the 2nd or 3rd week of August
  • It had to leave on a Sunday

So search I did and finally nailed down an option with a great price, and all the other aspects were in order. I booked the cruise and went on with my day.

The closer our sail date approached, the more I began thinking about my experiences on cruises.

While I was in the middle of my detour into deception, sparked by a conversation with a fellow conferee at the Write to Publish conference on the Wheaton College campus, I had the idea to do a Writer’s Cruise as a special event for the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. I think I was probably president at the time, and we were looking for new ideas to add value for our members. So, over the next 6 years, we held 3 NCWA Alaskan Christian Writer’s Cruises, each time bringing in a keynote speaker, editors and other industry professionals. They were wonderful events, but there was always the behind the scenes intimidation, abuse, and shaming by Tim Williams, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Since his wife was also involved on the NCWA board, he came along as some sort of spiritual authority for the group. <big sigh>

After winding down the last cruise for NCWA, the wolf decided (after getting a taste of the good life) to take the staff of WinePress on a cruise to further exert his authority as management and move his agenda forward. The biggest thing I remember on that cruise was his focus on convincing us all (but most importantly me) that raising the rates for WinePress services was doing God’s will, because this was His business, and any of us who had reservations about the new prices he was setting were “in sin.”

Truth be told, I was always complaining about the inflated prices and the diminishing value provided for the services being sold. That was not the way I built the company and it bothered me that it seemed to me like we were taking advantage of people. I was always getting in trouble with the new management, being told I was in rebellion against God’s will. And all along, the wolf was just lining his pockets… and it really had nothing at all to do with God’s will at all.

So here I am remembering all the undertones on these cruises, all the manipulation, all the word games, all the humiliation when I dared to disagree.

I began to wonder…just when was that cruise?

I called the cruise line and told them I’d been on their ships in the past and had an upcoming trip booked. Could they look me up and tell me when I’d been on the boat last?

I was beginning to put the pieces together. As I looked at the pictures of the ship, I realized that the ship we were booked on was the same ship we sailed on with the WinePress cruise. Hmmmmmm… what’s God up to here?

alaska-ship

And then she said it…

“Yes, I found you. Your roommate was Jan Owens, and you sailed on August 24, 2008 on the Norwegian Pearl.”

I almost dropped the phone.

We are sailing from August 16 to August 23, exactly 7 years later. On the same ship. To the same place.

Oh. My.

My head felt light…

I had to steady myself.

How gracious is the love of God. That He would want to redeem even a cruise where He loves to show off His magnificence in nature and provide rest and relaxation for weary souls.

A cruise that was used by the evil one to destroy my soul and condemn me into silent submission. It was used to do the exact opposite of its true purpose. And at the time, it was effective.

But here I am, on the eve of embarkation on that same ship, with the man of my dreams, free from the chains of spiritual abuse, legalism, and deception. To be refreshed and renewed. To have this experience the way a gracious God would have it, not the counterfeit I’ve experienced in the past.

Redemption!

It really does take my breath away.

WOW. He really is faithful. Always.

My Independence Day

Perspectives-personal-independence

It’s been 44 months since I gained my independence from toxic leadership.

As I thought through the characteristics of this type of destructive leadership and what I am no longer dependent on, I could only praise God for opening my eyes, delivering me from deception, and giving me the courage to warn the rest of the body of Christ.

There are many red flags we MUST be aware of that characterize a toxic church. At the same time, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of us as Bereans understanding scripture IN CONTEXT, being willing to respectfully question and search out the truth, not just believing what someone says because they are a persuasive communicator who quotes a lot of scripture.

Here’s the full post that illustrates what to watch for in leadership, and may we be ever thankful for the independence that Jesus has given us by giving up His life for us.

An Email from Someone Who Knew Nothing About My Story

I have had many people suggest to me that I address every accusation the Sound Doctrine / Tim Williams smear campaign levels against me on their website. I have hesitated, mostly because it feels as though I would be defending my self to do so, even though on occasion I have addressed some of the things they say.

Today I received an email from a potential author who knew nothing of my story and Googled my name. I was encouraged by his comments on what he read and he gave me permission to share it.

Dear Miss Athena:

It should not offend you for me to inform you that I have spent several hours today trying to investigate you and Redemption Press. I have every reason to do that before making a major step about publication of this book of mine.

I think — I THINK — that you basically are upright and honest.

The first thing I did was to check out the “hardtruth.us” site which, as you must know, is filled with scathing criticism of you.

I jotted down some observations as I went through this website — and I must say, any number of things they said didn’t add up and didn’t make sense.

This site says you are a liar, but the quotes they attribute to you are astonishing in their capacity for critical self-examination.

They accuse you of using “hate crimes” to drive them out of business.

HUH? A “hate crime” is a violent criminal act perpetrated against a victim whom one dislikes for reasons pertaining to race / gender / sexual orientation, etc.

They accuse YOU of bringing criminal accusations against them.

But surely, those are brought by police departments and prosecutors’ offices.

They said, “”Prosecutors know that on a basic level juries will always get it wrong – it is human nature and takes very real resolve to examine evidence.”

That is TOTALLY FALSE. Juries generally get it RIGHT.

“”The jury responded that they convicted Malcolm Fraser because the woman talked like a 10 year old when she told the story. So irrational had Prosecutor Rich Anderson inflamed the jury that they “just figured” everyone on the defense was lying and the false accuser talked like a “ten year old.” Garbage in, garbage out.”

This makes no sense at all. If this woman — I assume Fraser’s victim — behaved badly on the stand while testifying against him, that would result in his ACQUITTAL, NOT his conviction.

“Athena Dean Holtz is what the world calls a sociopath – a person without conscience. This is the cold, hard, scientific truth.”

NONSENSE. Even if you are a sociopath, that is HARDLY a “cold, hard, scientific truth.” I mean, WHO made this determination?

Accusing you of causing the Senior Pastor’s wife’s tumor is simply DUMB.

Brain tumors develop over the course of MANY YEARS.

***

OK.

So then I studied Chip MacGregor’s blog. I wish his postings were more current; the youngest is 9 months old. But I was quite impressed with MacGregor. He struck me as an honest, neutral, disinterested broker.

***

From all of this, I am strongly inclined to believe that you are a morally decent person who TRIES to do the right thing. And, I think surviving your experience with Sound Doctrine has made you a better person. Charles Barkley the basketball player once remarked (though Nietzsche said it first, about a hundred of years before Barkley), “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.” (“Was mich nicht tötet nur macht mich stärker.”)

So — as a person, as now I can say, I am happy and comfortable dealing with you.

Understand this: Until this very morning, I knew NOTHING about any of this. I was therefore quite willing to examine their claims with an open mind. And — they just did not make any sense.

I noted from MacGregor’s site that this cult movement — Sound Insight or whatever they called themselves — tried to make a virtue of “Hating for Christ.” That is like fornicating for chastity.

In the 5th Century, St. Augustine wrote, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” I believe this is fatally flawed advice. I believe the Devil (to the extent that he is a distinct personality at all) WANTS us to hate the sin. That’s alright. Because the act of hating ANYTHING, even a sin, opens a portal through which the Devil can then work his mischief. If today you can hate evil, tomorrow you might turn to hate God. The mechanism is already in place.

Better to avoid hatred altogether.

—————-

Thank you, James Nollet. Your words of insight have blessed me today.

Nothing New Under the Sun When it Comes to Cults

If you’ve ever heard my story, you know that I come from a New Age background and was involved in Scientology back in the ‘70s before I ever heard the gospel. This last Sunday evening, we watched the HBO documentary on Scientology, called “Going Clear” which included a number of people who have had the courage to leave the cult, and stand up and tell their stories. They spoke out even though each one experienced tremendous backlash and ongoing harassment by the “church” and their loyal followers.

There were so many similarities in how Scientology deals with criticism and former members who speak up and how Sound Doctrine behaves it was chilling.

I sat stunned as the video footage of L.Ron Hubbard spilled across the screen, giving me a glimpse of what a nut case he was. I realized as I was watching the documentary that, for the seven years I was involved and on staff at the Celebrity Centre, I never saw even one of those interviews with him. The only thing I was ever exposed to was the headshot of him in his skipper’s hat where he looks pretty normal and credible.

Ding, ding, ding!

First parallel

LIMIT ACCESS TO TRUTH

Limit what the loyal members of the organization see and hear about the leader and his activities. Only let them see and read what makes him look good. It’s much easier to play word games with a printed document than it is to edit a video. And words can be quoted completely out of context and end up looking and sounding completely different than when they were originally spoken. Those who are intent on keeping others controlled and in bondage will twist words like a pretzel if it gets them what they want.

THREATS & BLACKMAIL

Using private information against a potential threat (or as Scientology calls it, a Potential Trouble Source) in an attempt to shut them up is the order of the day in cults. The church of Scientology amasses intimate information about each member’s life through their process of counseling (called auditing), and threatens to use it to destroy a person’s reputation if they happen to question the abuses they see or show in any way that they may be thinking about leaving the organization. Because of this, many high profile people have stayed in the organization against their better judgment because of the promised threat of humiliation. And everyone involved in speaking out on this documentary had smear campaigns launched with dedicated websites and all manner of lies spread all over the internet.

Tim Williams was a master at this. He would have me put my repentance and confession into writing to document whenever he got me to a point of turning everything back onto myself and believing I was wrong for questioning his integrity or actions. These situations would always turn inward to search my heart and repent for my accusations, which were surely of the devil. I would have to apologize in writing and admit that I had a bitter root, and that I was focusing on the speck in his eye instead of the log in my own.

I was persuaded using scripture to say that Tim was the man of God that He put in my life and I was in sin to question his authority. I would then be required to list all the sinful aspects of my character and personality and grovel in order to prove my repentance, (this was supposed to show that I was walking in the light and the only way I could be healed by the Lord). He would then file these documents away to use at a later date to disprove that any criticism I could ever possibly make if I ever left Sound Doctrine. These documents would be used to try to prove that anything I say that is negative is a lie since I have apologized in the past for the same behavior.

More specifically with the fraudulent sale of WinePress, he made sure I wrote up a statement saying I was selling the company of my own free will, that it was my desire to do so, that I was unfit to run the company, and that if any of my children say otherwise not to listen to them. I was made to feel that I would be in rebellion if I did not declare my allegiance in writing and that was the last thing I wanted to be. As is fitting with this characteristic of a cult, he has some of those very documents I penned posted on the website he created to destroy my reputation!

FEAR OF PUNISHMENT

One of the long time Scientologists in the documentary talked about how he never read any of the stuff online about Scientology. That he was loyal and was convinced that anything negative online was put on there by suppressive people who’d left the church and been excommunicated, so their words could not be trusted. It was actually only after 35 years and a nagging inside that he finally started reading what others were saying and realized they were speaking truth, and it really was abuse that he was experiencing, and it was wrong!

The more I thought about it, I realized how the Scientology leadership is able to keep people from looking at what people are saying or doing any kind of research on criticism. And it’s amazing how similar it is to what Sound Doctrine did! During the course of a Scientologist’s auditing, the question would always be asked by the counselor “Did I miss a withhold?” A withhold being something you don’t want them to know about. Actually, I just looked it up on a site that exposes the cult:

A Withhold is an unspoken, unannounced transgression against a moral code by which the person was bound.

As a loyal member, dedicated to the moral code of Scientology, if you read any of the critical analyses of the organization, you knew good and well that, if you admitted it, you would be in big trouble, disciplined and abused in horrific ways. But of course, you believed that you would have deserved that kind of discipline for your bad behavior. That’s all part of the brain washing and mind control.

WOW.

Tim Williams did the same thing. We were convinced early on, with lots of scripture, that anyone saying anything negative about Tim or Sound Doctrine was in sin, a “wide road Christian” with a bitter root, a false witness, a Judas, and generally just someone who is selfish and doesn’t really want God but just wants their own way so we should have nothing to do with them. I can’t even find the scripture now, but Tim always used to quote “Whoever listens to a false witness will be destroyed.” So of course, if you ever read anything critical about Tim’s handling of scripture or the doctrine he pushes, you’d feel incredibly guilty (even if you wondered if they were right in the criticism). So guilty, in fact, that you’d be compelled to confess it as sin, and would then be disciplined for your rebellion, your bitter root and for becoming a Judas. You would be cut off from fellowship from the rest of the body, and likely put “outside the camp” like Miriam was when she rebelled against Moses. If that happens a time or two, you definitely determine to avoid reading anything that could bring Tim or Sound Doctrine into question…out of self-preservation!

INTIMIDATION THROUGH ATTORNEYS

The last huge parallel I will mention today is the standard practice of Scientology utilizing lawsuits to bully others into giving them what they want. The documentary talked about them taking on the IRS to get their 501©3 status, and how they had members file lawsuits against IRS tax auditors INDIVIDUALLLY, to the tune of thousands of individual lawsuits. It was a tidal wave of intimidation that the IRS finally caved under and gave them what they wanted to get all the lawsuits to go away.

That reminds me of Tim Williams having all the cult members write letters to the Insurance Commissioner to try to get State Farm Agent Tony Truax’s license suspended. All because he was willing to stand against them and their bullying.

Tony had told me that 3 single women from Sound Doctrine had tried to purchase million dollar policies and put Tim down as the beneficiary. All three of the ladies came into his office at different times and used the same reason and story as to why there was an insurable interest. He was so troubled by this when it happened that he reported it to the Enumclaw Police. When Tim got wind that I’d been told about this he demanded an apology from Tony and Tony would not offer one, on any terms. When Tim couldn’t get what he wanted, he had all the members cancel their insurance policies. When that didn’t work he had them all call State Farm and complain and try to get him fired. When that didn’t work, he had them all write letters to the Insurance Commissioner and filed a formal complaint to get his license revoked. When all was said and done, Sound Doctrine LOST the suit they filed with the state agency. Praise God they didn’t cave like the IRS did!

With today being April 1, 2015, exactly 5 years from when Tim Williams and Sound Doctrine got legal possession of WinePress Publishing (albeit fraudulently), I thought it timely to have seen the documentary of a secular cult and discover how similar the tactics were in a conservative Christian cult, both organizations originating from the pit of hell….hmmmmm…. nothing new under the sun, huh?

A Day to Praise God for His Faithfulness

20150327_085215

In September of 1999 we bought this house in Enumclaw, deceived that it would be used for the Lord’s work. When WinePress changed ownership on April 1, 2010 I was immediately given a 50% pay cut which forced me into a short sale. The “pastor” who was the Executive Officer of WinePress (the same one who is serving 18 years in prison) bought the house for a pittance of what I owed and members of Sound Doctrine have been living there ever since – for free, even up until this last weekend.

The house has finally gone into foreclosure and today is going on the auction block.  PRAISE GOD!

No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

                                         Psalm 25:3

Today is definitely a day to praise God for His faithfulness and for His mighty right arm.

When the Truth Becomes a Lie

I Googled my full name the other day (Athena Dean Holtz) and stumbled upon the latest twist in the ongoing rampage against my character. My jaw dropped as I read it…I was stunned at the blatant deception that was communicated. A perfect example of the truth becoming a lie. Here is the statement made about me:

Spokesperson calls Athena Dean a “rabid griper who makes a career of attacking the church.”

This quote was cited on the website created by Tim Williams to smear my reputation and cause people to question my character. The people he most hopes will continue to buy his lies are the handful of followers who continue to consider him a “man of God.” Those whom he’s convinced will be destroyed if they listen to anything I have to say. (Truth be told, if they actually did read everything I’ve written, they’d realize they too have been duped by this con-man who calls himself a pastor).

So how has this truth, this quote about me, become a lie, at the hands of Tim Williams? Here’s how. The way this quote has been cited leads you to believe someone else with authority agrees with Tim Williams, that I have made a career in attacking the church, as in, the body of Christ. But what is the context of this quote about me, and who actually said it? Seattle PI Article 1984

Since their resignation, the Deans say church members have heckled and harassed them. Scientologists who worked for them have quit. The Deans believe it’s part of a church process called “disconnecting” or “striking a blow to the enemy.” That’s ridiculous, said Ruble, the local Scientology president. Ruble, who oversees 16,000 Scientologists in three Northwest states, called the Deans “rabid gripers” who are making a career of attacking the church.

The full article can be found at this link: http://www.xenu-directory.net/news/library-item.php?iid=1919

Pretty ironic, really.

This was a newspaper article from 1984, 2 years before I became a Christian. And the most compelling parallel is that all those years ago I was standing up to yet another cult… the church of Scientology… another toxic organization that bullies and intimidates anyone who speaks out against them. Amazing how all cults use the same tactics…threats, intimidation, lawsuits towards the defectors, and extreme isolation of those who are still buying the lie…heaven forbid they should learn the truth that they’ve been led astray.

So when you read the quote on the website that was created to expose my “lies” and bring to light the truth about “who I really am,” does it mean something different now…now that you actually know who said it and what church they were referring to?

Of course.

But that’s just exactly how the enemy works. He doesn’t want you to know the truth, because it’s the truth that will set you free. Instead, he wants to keep you in bondage with word games that hide the truth.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Col 2:8

Please pray for all those still ensnared by the hollow and deceptive philosophy of Sound Doctrine and Tim Williams. Pray that they Holy Spirit would be able to get through to them and open their blind eyes, and that they would be humble enough to admit the truth…that they’ve been duped.

That’s a hard thing to do when you’ve burned all your bridges.

Just the other day I’d heard about “confirmation bias,” and was amazed at such an accurate description of what happens to people who stay in cults and turn against those who have the courage to leave and expose the truth.

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.

It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

I must admit, I lived for 12 years being manipulated by a man who knew how to take advantage of our sinful human nature that looks for a way to prove we are right when we are really dead wrong. I think the Bible calls that PRIDE.

Please, please, please…pray with me that the power of the enemy would be broken in the lives of those who remain loyal to the wolf and that Jesus would draw them back to Himself.

One Year Ago Today WinePress Closed Their Doors

It was a year ago today.

My gallbladder had just been removed and I was groggy from the anesthesia.

I’d been living in San Antonio, Texas for 14 months, having moved away from Washington State to help my brother care for our 90 year old mom who was on hospice. After she passed I was given the opportunity to host a radio show for women on the local Salem affiliate, KSLR (www.alwaysfaithfulradio.com), and absolutely loved what I was doing.

I’d told God in no uncertain terms that I would never return to Washington. Too many bad memories from the 12 years I was duped by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Over a decade believing a lie was the truth, losing the 20 year old company I’d poured my life and energy into building and making a valuable resource for Christian authors.

A year ago today I got the call… WinePress Publishing has closed their doors for good.

Since early 2012, I’d been warning people on this blog and all over Facebook that, due to my own misjudgment of character, WinePress had fallen into the hands of leaders who were spiritually, emotionally and financially abusive, arrogant and elitist. Leaders who used scripture out of context to silence and shame anyone who questioned their words or actions… anyone who spoke up and told the truth. Those who, as I found out months later, were sexually abusive as well…and all in the Name of Jesus. How tragic for those whose lives were forever scarred by their sick and twisted actions.

A year ago today… WinePress Publishing, the God idea that was high jacked by the enemy, after being ridden into the ground by excessive spending, exorbitant salaries for the Williams family members, and the height of incompetence, finally admitted defeat… albeit at the expense of many innocent authors.

With the closing of WinePress, nearly 2,000 authors became displaced, unable to get their hands on the books they’d paid to have produced and made available.  195 authors who were in process…who had paid for publishing services and never received what they paid for… left in the lurch without any hope of recovering their investment.

When I was asked to return to help them, I knew it was the right thing to do. And I’m so, so grateful I was given the opportunity.  I never could have guessed that I’d have the chance to help so many authors get back what was rightfully theirs, and at the same time, offer new solutions to the publishing dilemma.

It’s really almost surreal.

A year ago today.

I was out of publishing, on the radio, in Texas, 14 years single and waiting and not happy about that, I must admit. It was a struggle to believe God really did have a husband for me… one who loved God and would love me well.

Boy, was I ever wrong about that.