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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Five Year Anniversary Out of Captivity

Five years ago today, the scales fell from my eyes and I could finally see the truth. I had believed a lie was the truth, and gave up everything for it, thinking I was doing it for God. But He is a Romans 8:28 God! He works ALL things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

I am rejoicing today in the way He has renewed family ties, redeemed my life, and restored what the enemy has stolen. He is ALWAYS FAITHFUL!

God’s Faithfulness – Out of Captivity & Into His Redemption from Redemption Press on Vimeo.

God Can Even Redeem a Cruise!

One thing I’ve come to learn. God is in the business of redeeming the life and losses of Athena Dean Holtz. In fact, He is in the business of redeeming the losses in all 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.

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.

Rescued from Satan’s Dominion

Today is feeling a bit surreal.

Up at 4am to get my pastor-husband, Ross, to the airport to attend the National Coalition of Ministries for Men in Little Rock, AR where he will formally receive his national award of NCMM’s “Pastor of the Year.”

Home by 5:30…spending some quiet time and doing my study for “If God is in Control, Why am I a Basket Case?”

The statement on page 58 jumps out at me:

Express your gratitude to God the Father and Jesus Christ for all they’ve done to rescue you from Satan’s dominion.

Hmmm.

Fitting indeed.

Today marks 3 years since God rescued me from the height of deception…believing a lie to be the truth for 12 long years and forsaking all to hold onto it.

Yep. Satan’s dominion, for sure.

1,095 days ago today I was numb, disillusioned, battered and bruised…wondering how I could have allowed myself to be duped, losing everything that mattered to me as a result. November 10, 2011 I packed my bags and called my son. “Aaron, it’s your mom. Where are you? I’m coming.” Words that I’d been convinced would mean I was turning my back on God. But in reality, they were words of freedom and deliverance.

I had lost my marriage; relationships will all my kids, my house, my car, and the company I co-founded. All as a result of believing a wolf in sheep’s clothing who knew just how to quote scripture out of context to control and manipulate those who had zeal without knowledge. A master at using shame, condemnation, and the fear of losing your salvation to get his followers to do nearly anything to please him…truth be told, it was all for his own selfish, evil gain.

But oh, how glorious is the grace of God. How He could take such destruction and use it for good is beyond me…but it is exactly what He has done.

Just last night I was talking to a friend who reminded me of our last visit together, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday last year. I was so forlorn…so discouraged. Had I missed God altogether? Would He ever bring me a godly husband? I finally resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life and was determined to be content with that.

Who would have guessed that just a few weeks later God would be bringing me back to Washington, back into publishing, and back to The Summit…where He would provide the perfect husband for me…making me a pastor’s wife, no less! So much has been restored … relationships with my family, back in my old offices helping authors once again … it’s as my late momma used to say, “Mind-boggling!”

My memory verse from Colossians is from chapter 1 verses 13 & 14:

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I am so grateful today for the way He has worked.

He has indeed rescued me, redeemed my life, forgiven me, and continues to make all things work together for good.

Yep. Faithful. That’s what He is.

29 Months Out of Captivity

Today marks 29 months of freedom from deception. It’s a strange mix of emotions. Joy wells up inside me as I think of God’s faithfulness to heal me and restore me during these months. At the same time, it’s sobering to consider the damage that I caused with one bad decision. I praise God for His grace that forgives me for the part I played in the WinePress debacle, and the lives that have been effected by my actions.

Just last week on April 1st was the 4 year anniversary of the completion of WinePress being transferred to the enemy camp. I posted this on Facebook and today am more in awe of His hand in all that I am experiencing.

Four years ago today I allowed WinePress Publishing to be stolen by the enemy, through a wolf in sheep’s clothing named Tim Williams. Of course, it started much earlier than four years ago, but April 1, 2010 was the enemy’s final coup when the ownership of WinePress officially changed from me to Sound Doctrine…from light to darkness.

Up until November 10, 2011, I kept trying to convince myself that I was doing, and had done, God’s will…but praise God He finally allowed the scales to fall from my eyes and gave me the courage to admit how wrong I was—that I had believed a lie to be truth for twelve long years and had hurt many people who loved me in the process.

I’ve spent the last 2 ½ years repenting and healing and learning who God really is…not an angry taskmaster waiting for you to screw up so you can be disciplined until you repent to his satisfaction. No—that is a tragically false picture of our loving Heavenly Father.

I’ve learned anew that our God, Jesus Christ, is a God of grace and truth—a balance of both—a loving Father who encourages us to be who He made us to be, to glorify Him.

On this anniversary of the height of devastation, I am amazed at the restoration God has allowed. In a few minutes we will be doing a ribbon cutting ceremony with City of Enumclaw officials, friends and family, to celebrate the official launching of Redemption Press in my old publishing offices at 1730 Railroad Street in Enumclaw, Washington, (Click here to read the story of how Redemption Press came to be).

He has turned my mourning into dancing, and restored what I allowed the enemy to steal. He is redeeming every area of my life, and for that I am grateful. Truth be told, that word does not do justice to the emotions I feel when I consider all that He has done. He truly has given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…and I can only praise Him for His goodness.

Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
“The people whom I formed Myself,
Will declare My praise.”
Isaiah 43:20b-21