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?


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.


It really does take my breath away.

WOW. He really is faithful. Always.

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.



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.

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.

An Amazing Story of God’s Faithfulness

I first attended the Summit (Evangelical Free Church of America) in January of 2012, just 2 months after being delivered from my 12 years in captivity. My good friend Jessica Gambill and her family attended there and I finally decided to go with her to church. I’d finished 2 months of intensive counseling and was ready for the next step. They started a 13 week session on Emotional Healthy Spirituality and it seemed to be just what I needed for the next step of my healing after so many years in a toxic church.

Ross would preach about the study topic for the week each Sunday. I can remember sitting there in church and listening to him preach. I’d think to myself, “Lord, can I please have a husband like that some day?” He loved God, was authentic, humble, sensitive, not afraid to admit his faults, and did not have wandering eyes. He loved his wife and family and he loved his flock.

In May of 2012 while all the men were at Trout Bums, I attended a get together of some women in the church. Ross’s wife, Cathy, was there, and about an hour into the evening she said to me “You know, Athena, I told Ross if anything ever happens to me, he needs to marry you!” Needless to say that totally freaked me out and plenty of mind games ensued (does he know that she told me that? Etc., etc.) I found myself distancing myself just because I didn’t know what to do with that information.

Not long after that I got interested in a widower from Colorado and spent the next 6 months waiting and wondering if anything would develop, which it did not…but it’s interesting how God allowed that distraction to keep me busy with other interests so I didn’t think about Cathy’s comment.

Then in November the Lord took me down to Texas to help my brother with our 90 year old Momma who was on hospice. For the 14 months I was there I experienced more healing, bonding with my older brother, and ended up with a radio ministry. On a few occasions I tried online dating and God just shut me down every time. I whined and complained that I’d been single for 14 years and let God know in no uncertain terms that I was ready for a husband! I had no interest in dating unless it was someone I would be interested in marrying. So I waited, and I waited. No dates. No nothing. Intermittent whining to God.

Last summer I reconnected with an old author friend and we had a great friendship. I thought maybe God wanted me to wait for him while he healed from a traumatic end to his marriage of three decades. (see my post entitled “Speed Bumps, Benches and Trees, Oh My!” for a better idea of my struggles with waiting!) This gave me something to look forward to, and I was committed to waiting, thinking that this was God’s plan. I was so committed, in fact, that when I heard the news that Ross’s wife had passed away I freaked out thinking that was a distraction to what God was asking me to do…wait for my friend. So, I decided I needed to draw a line in the sand and let Ross know that I wasn’t available. I wrote him a letter addressing the “elephant in the room” with what Cathy said to him and to me and let him know I felt God wanted me to wait for my friend. His response was gracious. He made sure to let me know he did not find the thought of being married to me unpleasant, and that he wanted to make sure we stayed friends in the future.

By the end of the year God was helping me to see how much I had tried to make this other relationship happen, and I spent the entire New Years’ Eve repenting for idolatry, for pursuing, for assuming I knew what God was doing. I told the Lord, if this is not the man You have for me, then I surrender my will and what I thought my future was going to be like, and I say HAVE YOUR WAY, LORD.

On January 8th I land in the ER and end up having my gallbladder removed. While in the hospital, WinePress announces on their website that they are closing their doors. Two days later the question is posed…would I be willing to return to Washington to start a company to help all the orphaned WinePress authors?

I’d been telling God for 14 months that I was NOT returning to Washington…too many reminders of the trauma and the loss and the abuse I’d endured, so when the question came I was a little taken aback. I committed to pray and ask for Godly counsel from my family and others I knew I could trust. All responses were positive, and on January 14 I felt confident that this was God’s will. (You can listen to the podcast of my Always Faithful radio show from February 1 where I told the story of how this all played out).

I had already purchased roundtrip tickets to come to CA and WA to visit grandkids, and all of I sudden I am realizing that I wouldn’t be using the return ticket. As I prayed through the transition to Washington I felt compelled to try to stay under my Commission to Every Nation banner and expand my radio ministry to include publishing. In order to do so, I had to explain my plans to CTEN and my pastoral care couple and see if they would approve it. They asked who I would be accountable to, who would be my pastor and where I would worship. Well, of course I would go back to the Summit…that was my church, and I was returning to Enumclaw to live and work in the same building that used to be mine. My pastoral care couple called Ross and asked him many questions…could I meet with him weekly, and would he be my overseer? He was happy to oblige, and I began to wonder what God was up to!

As my time to travel back to WA drew closer, communication by messaging on Facebook increased, and just before I left on the 23rd of January Ross told me he was glad I was coming back to WA and asked me to call him some evening since he now has so much free time on his hands. This really sent me into a tizzy! He was pursuing me! That was one of the things on my list of what I wanted in a man…if it was really the man God had for me, he would pursue me, not the other way around. I finally got up the nerve to call him while I was traveling to CA and sitting in the Sacramento airport waiting for my shuttle to Redding.

That phone call was a defining moment. Within the first 5 minutes he asked to take me out. My first date in 14 years! And from there we both asked questions to see if each other fit the requirements we each had on our “list”. It didn’t take long to find out each non-negotiable on our lists were checked and confirmed. It was quickly proving to be a perfect match.

Ross picked me up at the airport when I arrived in Washington on January 27. Walking off the concourse and into his arms felt like coming home. We talked for hours and I was stunned at many of the facts I discovered. I found out that Cathy had made a list of potential wives once she knew her cancer was terminal. And who was #1 on the list? Yep. I was. And guess what else? Ross had a sailboat for about 14 years, and when he bought it, the name was, yes, you guessed it…The Athena. He changed the name of the boat, but the curtains on the inside still have Athena embroidered on each one of them…what a hoot!

I also found out that if God hadn’t taken me to Texas, and I was still a member of The Summit, he wouldn’t have been able to date me. There’s an unwritten rule in the church world that pastors don’t date in the congregation because of the tension in causes between people. God took me away and brought me back right at the right time… amazing!

I look back and see that on September 5 my daughter wrote me an email saying that God was releasing the word Marriage to me and is sending me my match made in heaven. I thought it was referring to my friend that I was waiting for, but in reality it was all about Ross and I, but I couldn’t see it. Turns out that word from the Lord through Roby was right after they realized the chemo wasn’t working, and she passed just 25 days later. While God was bringing me to a place of realizing that I’d been trying to make this other relationship happen, Ross was asking God to send him a wife because he didn’t want to spend the summer alone. He even began telling his staff that he was going to get married…he just didn’t know who to yet! All that was going on while I was realizing I was in sin and needed to repent.

There’s so much more to share, but this is the basic timeline of events and a testimony, once again, to God’s faithfulness. We knew pretty quickly that this was it, what we’d both been looking for and dreaming of in a relationship. It just blew my mind that every single line item on our individual lists of what we wanted in a mate got a resounding “check” … God really was blessing me for being willing to wait for the right guy and Ross for being faithful and true for 49 years of marriage.

It was important to wait to announce it to the church family until Ross’s adult children felt good about his decision. That’s definitely the bittersweet part. The kids and grandkids suffered a huge loss, which enabled me to experience great gain. Ross didn’t want to rush them and encouraged each of them to process their own grief in a way that would be authentic. Once that was moving forward and they were all supportive of their dad’s decision, we announced it to the church family on the weekend of March 15 & 16 that our marriage date is set for June 13. 1902986_10200804226623107_1847260727_n While Ross had grieved ever since June of 2013 when the diagnosis first came, there were still a few women in the congregation who felt he was too easily replacing his wife of 49 years. I was so amazed at the analogy God gave Ross to share on that day. He recalled the time when Cathy found out she was pregnant with their second child and was overly emotional. She could not see how she could possibly love another child as much as she loved her firstborn, Bret. But, as time went on, she not only loved Thad well, but Nathan and Elizabeth too. She found she had the capacity to love each child as an individual without taking away any of the love for the others. And just the same with me, Ross’s love for me in no way diminishes the love he had for Cathy for 49 years of marriage.

As I read over all that has happened in such a short time, I stand amazed at the faithfulness of God. In fact, a good friend told me she’d been sharing my story with some ladies, and just how evident God’s blessing is for my being willing to repent and obey His call. She said I’m only the second woman in her life who she knows who walked away from the wrong guy to really get God’s choice. I am SO glad I did…so glad He gave me a tender enough heart to lay down what I thought was His will and surrender all my plans in exchange for His. I am, literally, stunned by the goodness of God!

Update as of April, 2015 – What? Me? A Pastor’s Wife?!

Podcast from Today’s Show – My Detour into Deception

In case you didn’t get to hear it on Always Faithful this morning (www.alwaysfaithfulradio.com) here’s the podcast of my story…


This Saturday, 10/9 – Detour into Deception – on AM 630 KSLR

I’ve been waiting for just the right time to share my story on my weekly radio show, and this Saturday seems to be the time God has ordained for me to do so.

This weekend marks the 2 year anniversary of my deliverance from deception. November 10, 2011 was the day I realized everything I thought was true for 12 long years was actually a lie. Not only a lie, but an extremely abusive, destructive, graceless and legalistic “Christianity.”

How amazing it will be to look back at God’s hand on my life, and see His enduring faithfulness…even during the darkest times of my life, even through losing everything I once held dear, even when I came to terms with the fact that I had been deceived, He was, and is, always faithful.


How fitting it was for me to spend this morning with Mike Sharpe and his wife, Marna. Mike led me to the Lord 27 years ago and has watched my life take many twists and turns. As I share this Saturday, I’ll start from that point 27 years ago and bring you all up to speed on the mountains and the valleys of my Christian walk, and all that God has done to restore what the enemy attempted to steal from me.

I look forward to sharing my life with my Always Faithful Radio listeners, and hope you’ll be able to join me for Always Faithful this Saturday, November 9, from 11AM to Noon CST on AM 630 KSLR, or streaming live on www.kslr.com or iheartradio.com.

Elation and Sorrow

Its hard to articulate the state of my heart this morning. After hearing the news that justice was served in the trial, that the accused was found guilty on all counts, that vindication had finally come…I must admit I was in shock…it was an unusual mix of elation and sorrow.

Sorrow for the fact that I, under the influence of Sound Doctrine for 12 years, hurt so many people close to me…and all “in the name of Jesus”… Sorrow for those who are still deceived and held captive by the lies of the evil one…and at the same time, elation that this may be the beginning of the end for Sound Doctrine and WinePress, the end of the unrelenting and horrible abuse meted out on the poor, deceived followers of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Tim Williams.

When I read this devotional this morning, I was struck by this line…”But the sense of triumph must come from the memory of the chain.” And thus the bittersweet feeling lingering in my heart…I too clearly recall the chains of legalism and deception that kept me believing in a lie for so long…and so the sense of triumph is tempered with a serious recollection of my own part in promoting what I now know to be a lie from the pit of hell.

God has taught me a new song through it all, but it came at a great cost to many. As I close this door on my past and walk through the new door God has opened for me, I sing a song of God’s great faithfulness.

Streams in the Desert – May 30

“And no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.”

Rev. 14:3.

THERE are songs which can only be learned in the valley. No art can teach them; no rules of voice can make them perfectly sung. Their music is in the heart. They are songs of memory, of personal experience. They bring out their burden from the shadow of the past: they mount on the wings of yesterday.

St. John says that even in Heaven there will be a song that can only be fully sung by the sons of earth─the strain of redemption. Doubtless it is a song of triumph, a hymn of victory to the Christ who made us free. But the sense of triumph must come from the memory of the chain.

No angel, no archangel can sing it so sweetly as I can. To sing it as I sing it, they must pass through my exile, and this they cannot do. None can learn it but the children of the Cross.

And so, my soul, thou art receiving a music lesson from thy Father. Thou art being educated for the choir invisible. There are parts of the symphony that none can take but thee.

There are chords too minor for the angels. There may be heights in the symphony which are beyond the scale heights which angels alone can reach; but there are depths which belong to thee, and can only be touched by thee.

Thy Father is training thee for the part the angels cannot sing; and the school is sorrow. I have heard many say that He sends sorrow to prove thee; nay, he sends sorrow to educate thee, to train thee for the choir invisible.

In the night He is preparing thy song. In the valley He is tuning thy voice. In the cloud He is deepening thy chords. In the rain He is sweetening thy melody. In the cold He is moulding thy expression. In the transition from hope to fear He is perfecting thy lights.

Despise not thy school of sorrow, O my soul; it will give thee a unique part in the universal song.

“Is the midnight closing round you?

Are the shadows dark and long?

Ask Him to come close beside you,

And He’ll give you a new, sweet song.

He’ll give it and sing it with you;

And when weakness lets it down,

He’ll take up the broken cadence,

And blend it with His own.

“And many a rapturous minstrel,

Among those sons of light,

Will say of His sweetest music,

` I learned it in the night.’

And many a rolling anthem,

That fills the Father’s home,

Sobbed out its first rehearsal,

In the shade of a darkened room.”