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.

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.

A Letter on Leaders Who Abuse Authority

I received this email and the author agreed to let me share it here…praise God for His truth and Charles’ courage

Dear Athena,

You may not remember me, but we talked once back in the end of 2004. I had signed up with WinePress books to publish a book called “Where is the Fear of God? Finding the Treasure of the Lord”, but I was never able to get it in print through them. I was going to the mission field to Kenya at that time and was trying to get it published before I left. At the time it was so frustrating, for each time we did what they said to do, and each time they came back and blamed the problems on us, when we did exactly what they said. After a year of trying I (and my friend back here in the states, Ros Chin) gave up, forsook the money we had paid to get it printed, and walked away. Little did we know what was taking place at WinePress and that this was right when the takeover was occurring.

When I came back from Kenya in 2009 I tried again to get it published through a ‘secular’ company and in 2 months time I had books on my doorstep, super easy. I never understood why it never worked with WinePress, until you ‘told your story’. So today nearly a decade later I finally understand why God never allowed to be published by WinePress, and I am truly thankful, for God’s ways are higher than our ways. So thank you for not being afraid to tell your story, it has truly encouraged me in several ways.

One of the things that goes far deeper than the publishing of the book was how you and I both were delivered from the snares of the devil. I also found myself in a cult (though for many years I truly felt I was in the best church on earth). But through the years it began to change and more and authority was brought in which abused and manipulated and bullied the members of the church, until finally there in Kenya Nov. 2011 I finally took a stand to say I was not going to compromise and not going to obey a man’s word over Jesus Christ. Well, that was the end for me in that ministry.

Once I brought correction to the leader on where he was contrary to Jesus’ example and his words, now men and women from around the world were stirred up against me to condemn me, strive with me, shame and rebuke me – ‘How could I dare question the man of God?’ Didn’t I know he was ‘Moses’ and the ground would open up and consume me for even questioning him? Now for the first time I felt what so many who were dis-fellowshipped before me must have felt: judgments, condemnations, curses, warnings I would go to hell and my wife and children die if I left their ‘perfect’, ‘loving’ fellowship that was so of God, how deceived I must be even to think they had any error.

Apparently I was even denser in understanding, than others as to what this ministry had become, because I served there faithfully with my whole heart for 22 years. Every friend I had in this world was there. Yes, we did the same things as you. We cut off every one who did not agree with us, we separated ourselves from family members who didn’t submit/agree with our doctrine, Yes, I mortgaged my home, as well as many other church members, and gave it all to the ‘Set Man’, the Lead Elder, so that he could run the ministry. We were not as extreme as some of the practices that you went through (like living in other peoples homes), but it is amazing how many of the practices were identical.

So I know a little of what you went through, and I can honestly say I am sorry you had to endure such things at the hands of one who called himself a man of God. It is the greatest shame. Sadly such men because of the extreme self-deception and over-abundant pride that is in them, cannot see that they are doing ANYTHING wrong. They have an amazing ability to discard their conscience, to justify EVERYTHING they do and to shift blame on others. I just wanted to know I will be praying for you that God will heal your heart and that you will continue with God in fellowship with other believers. That of course is one of the boasts of such men, that ‘everyone that leaves us is shipwrecked’. They truly believe they are ‘messiahs’ and that people are lost without them.

Those who abuse authority in the church always want to gloat that those who leave their ministry are always shipwrecked and don’t serve God anymore and their lives are destroyed. But if we truly received a good foundation at a ministry which prepared us properly as the bride of Christ, shouldn’t many of those who leave continue on faithfully in the Lord? Isn’t that a test of every ministry? Isn’t that the hope of every true parent? “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Pr 22:6  Is it possible that God will inspect the devastation in the lives of those who were associated with a certain man of God and credit that as bad fruit?

Thank God we are not shipwrecked. We will go on to serve God without Diotrephes lording over us. We will be a testimony of those who have been delivered by the Lord himself from the oppressions of unjust men. Such men do not know the devastation which they have caused in the lives of so many who have left their ministry and the condemnations those who leave have had to endure. First, they make those under their rule dependent on them, removing every support they have. Then when some can no longer endure the hypocrisy and are tired of being used and abused, finally decide they must leave. Then they are condemned, shamed, and evil spoken of, so they leave broken, disillusioned, deeply wounded. When such people wander spiritually or many forsake altogether the things of God, such leaders use that as ‘proof’ that they never should have left?! Amazing how such leaders never hear Jesus’ words: “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Mt 18:6

I could hear in your words on the Blog, some of the same things I have had to pass through and still at times struggle with: How could I be so stupid not to see what was going on for so long? Why did it take me so long to get out? Why did I let another talk me into what I knew in the depth of my heart was not right. This surely is one of the tools of the devil, to try to crush with shame those who come out of cults. But I pray all who come out of such abusive groups will in time become even stronger through such things to help deliver others who may still be caught in such groups and not even know it.

So thank you and God bless you and lead you. May he heal the places of your heart that were trampled on by the proud and arrogant. They will meet their day, if not before the courts of men, then surely before the court of God. Where will all the men who exalted themselves before God’s people hide themselves on the day of the Lord when he returns?! On that day: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.” Isa 2:11-12

Praise the Lord for his mighty deliverances! He has set the captive free. The day will come when he will show “strength with his arm”, when he will scatter “the proud in the imagination of their hearts”, when he will put down the mighty from their seats”, and he will exalt them of low degree (Lk 1:51-52). I have to say I was grieved by the first person that responded on your blog. It truly shows how so many have no understanding of the abuse and pain people pass through when they are in such groups. In reality why did we get involved in such? Simply because we had a pure and humble heart and wanted all that God had for us. That is what prideful men of God take advantage of, when they begin telling us what we need to do in our walks with God, and stepping into the place in our heart which only Jesus the Lord is to occupy.

There is a spirit that is working in the earth which works in men who wield authority in the church and subtly they become lifted up just like Lucifer was and now they expect people to listen and obey WHATEVER they say. They become leaders after the manner of the Gentiles exactly like Jesus warned his own 12 that they were NOT to do: What you encountered was none other than the very same spirit of Diotrephes where a man wants preeminence in the church and in the hearts of God’s people, so that he may rule over our faith. But Paul, though he was a man of great authority was never like that. Notice how he and those with him did not “have dominion over”, they did not ‘rule over’ the faith of the believers, but were “helpers of [their] joy: for by faith ye stand.” (2Co 1:24).

Some ministers it seems that their truest joy is not in bringing joy to the believers, but rather in keeping them under their control, in lording over the sheep, and reminding the sheep of all the ‘great things’ that such a minister has done. In such places the leader often gets more attention that Christ Jesus himself! Such ministers want to convince the sheep that they ‘stand’ by their obedience to that man and to his subordinates. But scripture is clear, we stand by faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not faith in men. But I have even heard it said from such men, “All I ask is that you trust in the Lord and trust in the servant of the Lord and when we ask you to do some thing, just to do it.” That may sound innocent to some, but that is unbiblical. That is EXACTLY what the antichrist wants from each of us – just to trust him and do what he says.

I was blessed just yesterday with a scripture. Even God shows us why we should trust him. Why do “the children of men put their trust under the shadow of [his] wings”? because of “how excellent is [his] lovingkindness” (Ps 36:7). But men want to say that “ALL” they want is for you is to just trust them?! We are truly in the last days when men are deceiving and being deceived (2Tim 3:13). When men partake of such a spirit, requiring people to trust them, they indeed have drunk of the Luciferic principle. Praise God for the scriptures, which set us free when we see them rightly.

Ps 146:3: Put NOT your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Ps 118:8: It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

How sad some church leaders use the word of God as a club to beat the sheep into submission, to intimidate and to bully, the very opposite of what Jesus said to do (Mt 20:20-28). Truly many have forgotten the servant model that Jesus left us. Who should be the greatest servants in the church? Many men make it be the sheep, but Jesus said it should be the leaders! How then can a church leader call himself “the Shepherd” (which in truth is no different than saying he is “the Senior or Chief Pastor”) when only Jesus is “the Shepherd” and certainly he is the Chief Shepherd?! How can this be, unless such a man is already drinking of the Luciferic principle! How can a church leader call himself “the set man” or “the lead elder”? unless he is blinded by his own pride and self-importance. How can men praise themselves in the house of God while God is watching, and feel no shame? unless they are Pharisees inside their heart.

Some of the very things you have experienced I also have gone through, although not to the same depth. But it is the same spirit of antichrist authority that would put God’s sheep in bondage to the will of a man and keep them under his control, rather than growing in maturity and being able to discern the will of God for themselves. I pray that you again rejoice to here your Shepherd’s voice (Jesus) as he leads you into the green pastures he has for you.

Sincerely,

Charles von Hammerstein

An Update from Chip MacGregor re: WinePress and Me

Chip MacGregor is a hero in my book…a well-respected literary agent who has refused to be intimidated by the thugs at WinePress. This is his most recent post…be sure to read the comments as well!

http://www.chipmacgregor.com/current-affairs/last-last-word-winepress/

The REAL Reason WinePress Went Out of Business

I just found out the reason the WinePress landlord changed the locks on the building.

He was going to let them stay and continue on in business, as long as Tim Williams signed a document taking responsibility for the business.

And guess what?

He wouldn’t sign it.

So while WinePress employees tell authors that the reason WinePress is closing it’s doors is because of attacks on the business, or landlords who wanted their money, once again, they are lying.

The truth is, they could have carried on if Tim would have signed the document. The landlord was willing to start from a clean slate as long as Tim would guarantee using his personal assets.

But he refused to do so.

Funny how his name isn’t on any legal documents. He has never been a guarantor on any WinePress or Sound Doctrine bank loans (oh, but many of the other church members and employees were, including me!), and his name has never been on the incorporation papers. I doubt his name was even on the rental agreements after the company was transferred over…it was probably Josiah and Malcolm who put their names on the line. He was a master at having other people do his bidding and others put their assets and credit on the line.

Incredible how he took in a quarter of a million dollars a year from WinePress from 2005 until I left late 2011, but still spent Sound Doctrine money to make improvements on his cabin in the mountains, and spent WinePress money on all sorts of personal purchases.

It’s very telling that the ONLY reason that WinePress was shut down is because Tim Williams refused to sign his name to take responsibility for the cash cow that has paid him well over the years.

Yep, very telling.

The Double Standard of Tim Williams

I heard from an author that WinePress is finally admitting that they are, in fact, going out of business. The cult member/employee said “it was the result of attacks on the business and the landlord’s desire to get paid, which he wasn’t.”

Hmmmmm. Their landlord let them go ONE FULL YEAR without paying their rent, and finally said enough is enough. Start paying or get out, to which they whined and made more excuses.

One of the most recent employees to leave said “The last thing I heard from Josiah was that Mike was jerking them around.”

Here is a perfect example of the Sound Doctrine / Tim Williams /WinePress  double standard.

Their landlord gives them way more grace than they deserve, and they accuse the landlord of jerking them around.

HYPOCRISY!

If you are more than 15 days late on a bill you owe WinePress, they charge you exorbitant late fees.

But if they owe you money, they expect you to wait for months, and if you complain, YOU are in sin.

HYPOCRISY!

Tim Williams convinces his followers that I constantly beat Carla down when we went to writer’s conferences together.

The truth is, when we had a chance to talk without Tim around, and I showed her how we were wrong to charge so much for authors to buy copies of their books, and that some of the decisions Tim was making were BAD FOR BUSINESS, she completely agreed with me and tried to get Tim to listen. Uh oh. Bad idea. He doesn’t listen to anyone.

In reality, Tim was the one who constantly beat her down once we returned from the conferences. Verbally beat her into submission. She even told me once that because of our conversations at conferences we attended together, they nearly divorced more than once!

And here’s the last example I’ll share for the moment. A deaf woman who almost got sucked into the cult many years ago makes comments on this site and forwarded me an email she just received from the man himself.

Greetings Colleen Simsa,

You do understand that spreading lies is a sin and places you under God’s judgment – unless you repent?

Like Jesus, the book is very clear that all is a matter of love. It can’t be helped that you only want to love with human sinful love, rather than the selfless love of Jesus in you. However, it is stupid to attack those who love by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  (1 John 4:6)

That you have aligned yourself with a self-confessed manipulator proves you need to do some serious repenting.

Timothy Williams

For someone who spreads more lies than anyone I’ve ever known, both on the internet and in his scripture-out-of-context preaching, I find it almost laughable that he thinks he can continue to get away with his intimidation tactics. I must admit I laughed out loud when I read it, as did Colleen.

The last line, however, was the most telling…the master manipulator himself refers to me as a self-confessed manipulator.

Yep. I wrote all about it in my first book Consumed by Success. I admitted it and actually REPENTED for it.

Something he has yet to do.

If anyone is wondering why WinePress isn’t answering their phones…

I was asked by the attorney for the landlord to take these posts down because they were getting harassed by Tim Williams…the last thing I want do to someone who is trying to deal with the leadership of WP in a civilized fashion is make things difficult for them.

Well, now that their landlord finally kicked them out of the office building, I think it’s safe to say that the world should know the truth about why they aren’t answering their phones today. Of course, anything bad that happens to WinePress is blamed on me, or on the employees who won’t “repent” to Tim Williams’ liking.

But the truth is, just as I’ve been saying all along, the Williams family will pay themselves, their lawyers, the church building rent, and whatever bills they deem to their advantage, but will not pay their rent, their printer bills, their editor bills, their employee salaries or their author royalties! Here is the letter I received in early September showing them owing $150,000+ in back rent, and this doesn’t even count what they owe on the warehouse!

Amazing that this letter came in the DAY AFTER Tim Williams told the reporter for Publisher’s Weekly that WinePress was doing great.

And what does that prove? Just what I have been saying all along. The people in charge of WinePress are liars, and they use scripture to justify lying (hey, Abraham lied about Sarah, right?!). They lied on the witness stand, and they continue to lie even now. The truth is, they have only been living on the good reputation WinePress had when I still had some control of the company.

page 2 demand notice

I’m sorry so many authors didn’t believe the bizarre story I’ve told here could possibly be true, but it was then and it is now, even moreso. Especially since 2 key employees just left WinePress and Sound Doctrine a few weeks ago. The stories they will tell will only confirm everything I’ve been saying for two years.

If you are one of those authors who paid for a special deal on books in December and never got them, that’s because they owe the printer $50,000 and have not paid it down far enough so the printer won’t print any more books. Did they know that when they ran the special? You bet they did. And who got your money? Hmmmm….I will let you speculate on that one. If I were you, and if you paid by credit card, I would immediately do a charge back since you did not receive your product. And even if WP made you sign an agreement that disallows you any option to do a charge back, that’s ridiculous. If you paid for a service or product and didn’t get it, your credit card company is there to protect you!