“Athena, do you realize that you took the Lord’s name in vain 34 times in that one hour presentation?”
THE OLD ATHENA
I was shocked that I’d said “God” in a derogatory manner that many times during my talk. This was back in 1986 and the Lord was beginning to awaken my awareness of Him and my sinful state, and one of my reps was lovingly pointing out my blind spots. At that time in my life I literally talked like a trucker, dropping “F” bombs galore and cussing up a storm. It was a big part of my worldly culture, so drinking lots of coffee (and alcohol), smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and swearing like a sailor was my daily fare.
God began to surround me with Christians in my new business venture and looking back I cringe when I think of how I must have sounded to them. At that point in my life I considered Christians wimps and people who needed a crutch, so I wasn’t the least bit interested in any of this Jesus nonsense. But God had other plans. Of course, He always seems to find effective ways to get our attention when He wants to.
I mindlessly drove home from the office with KIRO radio filling the car with noise to help me distract myself from thinking about anything too deep. Before I knew it, I was shocked to my senses as the voice declared, “Chuck and Athena Dean … indicted for the largest charity fraud case in Washington history.” I could not believe my ears. Neighborhood Outreach is HIS business, not mine! How could they possibly be dragging me into this? It can’t be!
CHUCK DEAN FOOLISH — ATHENA DEAN NAIVE
Over the last few years or so, I’d trained Chuck on a fund raising model I’d learned from my father and some of his Encyclopedia Britannica friends. After getting him all set up, he hooked up with another Vietnam vet friend and together they got involved in the Freeman movement … a bunch of folks who thought they shouldn’t have to pay taxes, have a license to drive on the roads, and pretty much follow any rules set down by the government. He went so far as to take the license plates off his car and make some homemade ones that said “JUST SKIP IT.”
As he got more and more involved with this mentality, he decided he didn’t want to deposit the funds from the business in a normal bank, but instead used what was called a “warehouse bank” that backed all deposits with gold and silver, as opposed to federal reserve notes. He also decided he didn’t have to fill out the proper forms to participate in fund raising activities in our state, and so all the money he raised from the sales his company was making was considered fraudulent. To the tune of $250,000!
As the State of Washington Attorney General’s office began to investigate Chuck’s business, calling the warehouse bank “money laundering” and the fact that they were not a bona fide non profit organization “fraudulent fundraising activity”, my job was on the line. At the time I worked with a company named A.L. Williams, selling term insurance and mutual funds. Now, because the word “fraud” was mentioned in the media regarding the investigation, I was in big trouble. You can’t sell mutual funds and be licensed with the SEC and be anywhere in the neighborhood of fraudulent activities! So, suffice it to say, this event in our lives was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to the wall. I was finished with our relationship as it had threatened my career and all I wanted at that point was a divorce.
I walked in one afternoon after I’d made up my mind that it was over, and Chuck seemed different. He had been crying for days and pretty much on the verge of a breakdown, but earlier that day he had talked to my agency manager on the phone and decided to give Jesus a try. I was shocked that he would do something so lame but I could not deny that there was a major change in him, and whatever it was, I found myself drawn to it. It was only three days later that I heard myself saying “Well, maybe we can give our marriage one more chance.”
GIVING JESUS A TRY
For someone who had such disdain for “those Christian people” it was pretty amazing that I was actually asking myself, could I really be one of them? After all, now that my husband is, I guess I will have to be too … I remembered all the times people involved in the company leadership would take the opportunity of being recognized by the company and they would boldly credit Jesus with their success. Oh, puh leeeeze! I would roll my eyes and express my disgust…. “Alright already…next!”
It took a while for me to finally be willing to take the next step. I kept thinking in my head… How’s this gonna work? Now I am going to be one of THEM?! They are losers! I make a $100,000 a year, am one of the few women Senior Vice Presidents in the company. I’m not a loser and I don’t want to be one!
I began to read “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis (read and download audio of the book) and God softened my heart. It wasn’t much longer before I called one of my other managers and asked him if he could pray with me. We met that same day and prayed together…I gave my life over to Jesus and asked Him to take control. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. That foul mouth of mine was gone. The continual cursing and “F” bombs that were second nature to me disappeared, no longer to return.
IN AN INSTANT, I WAS A CHANGED PERSON.
As I think about my salvation experience, I am struck by the miracle God had performed in my life by softening my hard heart, cleaning up my mouth, and drawing me to Himself. I believe even then He had a plan for me to speak for Him, so His first order of business with me was to wash my mouth out with some Holy Spirit soap.
And even though we took a detour into deception that resulted in a bitter divorce within a year of the detour…a detour that all but put duct tape on my mouth and sent me to the corner, God was still able to get me turned around and back on the right track. The more I ponder this, the more I get a sense that God still has a special job for me to do that will focus on the spoken word, and the enemy was intent on destroying me so that the job would not be accomplished.
Psalm 119 reminds us of how His word revives. Reading verse 88 brought an immediate visual to my mind of someone getting mouth to mouth resuscitation. He has surely been pouring His reviving power into my life over this last three-plus years preparing me to speak for Him.
I looked up the definition of “revive” on dictionary.com and especially liked the second definition:
2. to restore to life or consciousness: We revived him with artificial respiration.
I truly have been restored to life and consciousness since I walked away from the deception I’d been under. I have been revived with mouth to mouth respiration from the Holy Spirit.
Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth. (Psalm 119:88)
HE TRULY HAS BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO ME.
OH, AND ONE MORE THING. THE CHARITY FRAUD INDICTMENT CHARGES WERE DROPPED WITH A FINE. ISN’T GOD CREATIVE IN THE WAYS HE WORKS TO BRING US TO HIMSELF? ALL THAT JUST TO GET ME SAVED!
This is Athena Dean Holtz and I’m proud to share the personal side of my multi-faceted life with you on this blog. Check back regularly, find me on Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter and ensure you won’t ever miss a post. Thanks for stopping by and please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, I’m always grateful to hear from you!