The Double Edged Sword of Silence

I’ve been making my way through Edie Melson’s “Soul Care: When You’re Weary” and am encountering the faithfulness of God in new ways.

There was one exercise that hit me hard and got me thinking more about the power of words. Edie listed a group of words and asked us to pick one, think about it for 5 minutes, and then write what comes to mind. Since my life revolves around words, the editing, publishing, and promotion of, this was a significant ah-hah moment for me. I chose the word SILENT.

SILENT

All of my life I’ve had people tell me to “be quiet.”

First my mom, then my maid (about our “little secret”), then my teachers, then my husbands (not Ross), then my “pastor.” I guess I’ve been an interrupter in some ways – but have been made to feel unworthy of speaking so the shame took over and had its way with me.

It went to the extreme when I fell prey to a toxic, narcissistic, spiritually abusive church leader who pounded that shame into my very being using scripture out of context. There were times where my punishment for not “obeying leadership” was that I would not be allowed to speak to anyone, or even send emails to communicate. Shunned into complete silence.

Even now, when I bring up issues that stir up emotions, like the fact that there are sexual predators in the Christian publishing industry and in the evangelical church, I often hear “Stop talking about this! Can we please just extend forgiveness and move on?”
So I’m seeing that silence has a few different sides.

First, there is being shushed or silenced when we should speak up and address conflict or expose evil, and the flip side is talking or expounding when we should be still and asking God what He says.

Then there is the discipline of solitude to be still and connect with God, meditating on His Word contrasted by the many ways the enemy thwarts this process. He is a master of drawing us away from silence with busyness or drama or anxiety.

So, silence can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Mostly for me, it has been punished and shaming for being verbal and outspoken. Early on as a strong-willed child, and more recently for bringing up and into the light difficult issues that stir up pain. Pain that God wants to be healed but the wounded wish would just go away.

But it’s also something I struggle with when I need to be still and listen for God and my mind is going a million miles a minute.

Silence. It’s a double-edged sword. It can bring death or life. Bondage or freedom. Pain or joy.
Worth pondering in more detail and depth… so am I the only one who struggles like this?

Cult Survivor’s Faith Journey Brings Her Full Circle

Press Release from Icon Media Group – Media Contact: Katie Powell Bell

Athena Dean Holtz shares the deception that wrecked her life and how she found her way back into the arms of Jesus in new book.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 2017— From a young age, Athena Dean Holtz chased affirmation and attention from all the wrong sources, leaving her empty and alone. A victim of physical abuse and spiritual deception, she was deceived by Scientology, forays into mysticism and 12 years in a restrictive and legalistic cult, she lost everything—her marriage, relationships, home, business, money and reputation. In her forthcoming book Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God (Redemption Press, Feb. 27, 2017), Holtz candidly tells her story of self-discovery, redemption and freedom as she surrendered to Jesus.

“This is the story of how God brought me full circle,” writes Holtz. “How he brought me home . . . to a place I had always longed for, but never knew how to find.”

In Full Circle, Holtz vulnerably shares her journey and gives readers a front-row seat to her story of a shattered life restored. An important story for anyone who has questioned his or her worth or direction; Holtz proves that anyone who believes God and invites Him to join in their trials welcomes the result of His triumph. Full Circle offers not only her life story but biblical answers to the raw questions she asked during the peaks and valleys of her life.

“Knowing how much God loves me, I am finding my significance in Him rather than in what I do or with whom I am associated.”

Holtz is available for interviews. Potential interview topics include:

  • Good grief: how to embrace life’s most painful moments to find true peace
  • If God is good, why does he allow bad things to happen?
  • Five ways to fight the thorns of insecurity
  • From hurt to happiness: three steps that healed me
  • Seven common pursuits that rob us of true joy
  • How I escaped life in a cult
  • Bless this mess: God’s perfect love for your imperfect life

About the Author

Athena Dean Holtz has been at the forefront of Christian custom publishing for the last 30 years. The co-founder of WinePress Publishing, she now leads Redemption Press. Author of three previous books and a highly-rated personal blog, she serves as president of the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association, is a president’s club member of the Christian Women in Media Association, and a member of the Advanced Writer & Speaker Association. She serves as host and interviewer on “Always Faithful Radio,” KCIS, Seattle. Married to Ross Holtz, pastor of The Summit, Athena enjoys her grandchildren and time spent sailing. The couple makes their home in Enumclaw, Wash.

Autographed copies available at www.redemption-press.com/shop/product/102606

Ebook available now:

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Toxic Leader Behavior and Proverbs 6

I’m studying Proverbs in my Sunday School class and was reading Proverbs 6 yesterday. Verses 16-19 resonated in my heart in a new way as I began to understand how the Lord feels about those who use His word to manipulate and control those who are genuinely desiring to follow Him.

As I looked through every line of this section of the text, I was amazed, once again, at how toxic leaders, in my experience it was Tim Williams specifically, preach against the very things they do, and accuse those under their care of doing the very things they are guilty of.

There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
18 a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
19 a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.

Haughty eyes and a lying tongue. The foundation of a toxic leader and a common accusation Tim Williams made of anyone who questioned his authority or the way he used scripture. It was always someone else who was haughty, arrogant, and prideful… someone else who was lying, when all along it was (and still is) he who is the liar. Just take a look at the website he created to try to come across as an authority. www.enumclaw.com. When he couldn’t get the City of Enumclaw to acquiesce to his demands, he used it to smear anyone (myself included) who stood up for the truth, making it look like an official publication of our city. What a LIE! And this is only one example, for more on that, read this post.

Hands that kill the innocent. Interesting that Tim and his late wife, Carla, always went after those with disabilities who were developmentally disabled in some way, and of course those who were so broken from childhood abuse, vulnerable souls, who were easily manipulated. I’ve come to find out all con men and wolves target those who are easily controlled for a variety of reasons. They may not physically kill them, but emotionally and spiritually, they accomplish the task well.

I think back to the time when Tim Williams began blogging, out of the blue, about the Innocence Project and how so many people are sent to prison when they are not guilty. He followed those rants with the topic of false memory syndrome, declaring you could never trust a person who says they were sexually abused as a child. He was diabolically building a case he knew would surface in the future, as his timing was telling. He started blogging on these topics shortly after the family whose daughter was pedophile Malcolm Fraser’s sexual abuse victim left the cult. I believe Malcolm confessed his crime to Tim and Tim developed this plot to hide the truth. A heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong. He crafted his plan to brainwash his followers so no one would even ask the question, could Malcolm be guilty? There are still a handful of followers who stand convinced that Malcolm is innocent, even though he was found guilty on all charges. All as a result of a heart that plots evil to cover up a crime.

A false witness who pours out lies. Tim Williams had his followers lie on the witness stand during Malcolm’s child rape trial. I was appalled as I read the testimonies, thinking to myself, how can he justify the lies? Oh, that’s right, Sarah lied and said she was Abraham’s sister, so that must make it OK. More on that here.

The last verse jumped off the page as I pondered the wake of broken families in his path, mine being only one of many. Using scripture out of context, Tim Williams sowed discord in families. Turned wives against husbands, husbands against wives, children against their parents, adult children against their parents, all in an attempt to gain control. He intentionally would keep one or two families together just to be able to point to them to say he wasn’t destroying families. What evil. To use Luke 14:26 to divide families so that those under his care were easier to control for his own benefit. Interesting that this is a common scripture used in cults to keep their prey from staying in touch with those who don’t buy in.

Shame on you, Tim Williams.

Shame on you.

I would not want to stand before God in your shoes.

And to all who remain loyal to this man who, on all 7 counts exhibits behavior that the Lord hates, I pray for the courage you’ll need to finally realize you’ve been led astray. It was hard for me too, but the peace that comes from admitting the truth, no matter how painful, is more than worth it.

More on Toxic Leaders and How to Identify Them

Brad Sargent aka Futuristguy has cheered me on for years now, ever since I started blogging about my spiritual abuse experience at the hands of Timothy Shelby Williams, founder of Sound Doctrine Institute.

What an honor it was to spend time with him yesterday discussing the possible publishing of his life work. The overall series is for both survivors of spiritual abuse (and their support networks) and organizational developers (social activists, church planters, church and non-profit leaders), and is about deconstructing systems that damage and constructing systems that are healthy.

As we discussed the content and I scanned through some of the charts, I was stunned to see such accurate descriptions of the toxic leadership roles common in unhealthy organizations. Yep, there’s nothing new under the sun… evil men who are puppets of the evil one use the same tactics to control and manipulate those under their influence.

I’m sharing 2 charts that were particularly meaningful to me. You can view the articles on these particular topics on Brad’s blog here.

The two that captured my attention were the comparison of organizations run by agents of damage vs. agents of healing and the pyramid of responsibility. So telling. If you’ve ever been involved in a toxic organization, you’ll be able to identify the roles your leaders played pretty easily. I know I did.

agents-of-damage-vs-agents-of-healing-chart

the-pyramid-of-responsibility

My experience may have been the extreme end of the spectrum, but there are so many other examples of this type of abuse in the church today. I hear from people all the time who’ve survived abuse in the church. Sadly, many of them lose their faith and never return. Just what the enemy was hoping for.

As you read these charts, does any of it resonate with you?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Freedom in the New Year

Tonight marks the 5th New Year’s Eve I’ve celebrated since God opened my eyes to the deception I believed was truth for 12 years.

It must be difficult for the handful still left in Sound Doctrine to ask themselves the question…could it be true…that what you’ve believed is a lie? That someone you trusted and believed in could actually be guilty of the crime he was convicted of? That it really is a destructive cult? That the leader you follow does not speak for God? That you’ve been led astray?

Being willing to ask those hard questions takes courage, and a humble heart.

I commit this New Year to continue praying for those still blinded by the enemy’s lies.

At the same time I rejoice in my growing ability to ignore those who, as a result of believing those lies, call evil good and good evil.

I choose healthy boundaries, and I say “no” to:

  • The bullying.
  • The name calling.
  • The fury.
  • The intimidation.

Here’s the deal…those tactics don’t work on me anymore.

And that’s healthy.

And I praise God for that.

To all who’ve been led astray and to those who’ve found true freedom in Christ outside of the cult of Sound Doctrine, I pray that He continues to draw you to Himself and heal every wound caused by the enemy of our souls.

Happy New Year!

Discovering More About the Enemy’s Strategies

On the anniversary of my fourth year out of the cult of Sound Doctrine, I am praising God to be able to connect even more dots as to the why’s and how’s of my 12 year detour into deception.

As I taught this last weekend at a ladies’ retreat, I covered areas of vulnerability that can leave anyone open to deception. I used some quotes from a book we developed for ministry back in the late 90s and as I read this one section to the ladies, it took my breath away how precisely the enemy of my soul used these tactics through the leadership of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Tim Williams.

This is the section of the book, Behind Enemy Lines, where the guerrilla warfare tactics are compared to the way Satan operates, and any comments I add will be italicized:

The following list of ways the enemy fought is by no means compete, but it will serve to show you some of the tactics used by the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese soldiers to kill, maim, harass, and disrupt our war strategies. You will see how these methods match Satan’s ways in fighting us in the spirit realm.

  • The VC attempted to look as much like the civilian population as possible. (Satan disguises himself and can even look like a friend – an angel of light.)

Tim Williams used his wife, Carla, to draw people into his initiative. She found her way into positions of credibility so that she would be seen as friend, not foe. That was a very effective strategy…it sucked me in, and in the end, gained him a publishing company to further his agenda and doctrine.

  • The VC did not fight for physical territory…they fought to win the hearts and minds of people. (If Satan can shift our attention, our zeal, our time, our hearts and our minds onto something other than Jesus and the Great Commission, he has won. We have fallen into idolatry without even knowing it. He has captured our heart and mind leaving us unfruitful and ineffective in the Kingdom of God.)

The enemy used Tim Williams to shift our attention off winning souls and onto promoting his agenda, his doctrine, his message that ultimately divided families and destroyed lives. His twisting of scripture rendered the hearts and minds of his followers ineffective to discern the truth from a lie.

  • The VC deployed booby-traps along trails to destroy our confidence. By blowing off the arms and legs of our buddies along the march, our purpose and confidence was weakened. We were taking casualties, but never saw the enemy because after the explosives were detonated the enemy could watch the destruction from afar—out of harm’s way (Satan knows he cannot win the war, but if he can set enough traps along our walk to make us hurt and be unsure of our faith then he can keep us from being effective witnesses for Christ. He usually wreaks enough misery from a distance that we sometimes forget who the real foe is. Many times we target each other as the enemy because he (the devil) is not an obvious player in the scenario).

Tim was a master manipulator and using shame based theology he set traps to beat us down and make us question our ability to hear God and discern His will.

  • The VC used innocent civilians, even to the point of destroying them, as decoys to undermine our security and confidence. It was a common practice to strap explosive charges on small children and send them into groups of G.I.s to make friends and win their affection. When the child would get close enough, the communist soldier would detonate the charge with a remote switch—taking out the G.I.s and the child. (Often Satan will use even good things to win our affections. Once he has accomplished this, he ambushes us and attempts to destroy us.)

Tim effectively used children as pawns in his game of deception. He and his wife openly shamed the parents, telling them they were unfit to lead their children in the Lord, and then turned the children against their parents, building into them complete loyalty to their new “granny and grandpappy.” That inevitably made the parents more dedicated to the wolf’s doctrine and agenda because they didn’t want to lose their kids or grandkids.

  • The VC tried to get us to mistakenly kill our fellow warriors. One particular tactic he used was what we called “cutting the pie.” At night, when we would stop daylight operations in the jungle, we would dig into night-defensive positions. The entire unit formed into a large circle (pie) for protection. Normally, there were two men to a hole, and one slept while the other kept watch for enemy activity. The VC would probe a point in the perimeter circle, making a lot of noise to attract attention, and would try to take a slick out of the “pie.” After making the noise, they would pull back into the jungle and hope we would fire our weapons in the direction of the noise—which would be at our own men on the other side of the circle. (Satan deploys the same strategy against us. He creeps into our midst and causes disruptive “noise,” and then pulls back into his jungle and waits for us to kill each other. He tries his best to cause fights, quarrels, dissatisfaction and dissention in our midst. All the while he has distanced himself and remains the undetected source of trouble. This tactic is evident in almost every church or fellowship in Christendom. Most pastors can attest to this.)

This was common in the cult. No one was safe, people were used against each other in order to further the wolf’s agenda and provide information to be used against them in the future to his advantage.

  • The VC attempted to stay close to U.S. military units. They knew that the closer they could be to us—especially in a firefight—the less likely it was that we would call in artillery or air support, in fear of directing the incoming fire on ourselves. (Satan sends his forces against us in the same manner. He gets as close to us as possible so that we cannot determine which direction to call in “air support” to take him out. Many times he is so close that we completely overlook him when he is in our midst.)

There was always lots of talk and preaching of Satan and his strategies, when the reality was he was in the midst of this group and calling all the shots, in the Name of Jesus.

WOW. Reading this book again after all these years, with 20/20 hindsight, it’s amazing to see how the enemy worked to steal, kill and destroy our family, business, and faith.

Today is, however, a victory day. Four years ago I escaped the mind-control and evil deception of Sound Doctrine and Tim Williams, and am connecting new dots as I review the schemes of the evil one and more clearly see how he worked in my life and the life of my family.

Let me be clear. I am not one who sees a demon behind every doorknob. But I have to say, the church had better wake up and realize how the enemy works. There is just too much at stake and there are too many opportunities for him to come in and deceive. I am living proof of that, and I praise God He rescued me from that deception. There continue to be too many others caught in the enemy’s grip through Tim Williams and Sound Doctrine, and other spiritually abusive leaders out there. Oh God, please open their eyes, in Jesus’ Name!

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.