Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time Isn't What We Perceive It to Be


            Every moment in time is a page in a book—a book that is already written, a complete volume resting in the library of the author. The moments that have gone before are still alive on the page. The moments that exist in the present are ink that has already dried. The moments in the future are already complete, but not read by human eyes.
            We already exist in the eternal state—whatever that might be, but it is beyond our meager faculties. Perhaps you doubt that we exist outside the constructs of time and space. If so, then consider prophecy. Things that happened in the past were predicted by men abiding in an even more ancient past. Things that will happen in the future have already been penned by men living before we were born. While the prophets existed on only a few pages of the book, part of them also existed outside—beyond the book, with the ability to flip the pages and see the past and present. Moses wrote of things that had gone before—of creation, Abraham, and the birth of the Children of Israel. Daniel saw kings and kingdoms—some that have already been, and some that are yet to be. Ezekiel saw wheels within wheels, and was transported to some abode we yet understand, where he could flip through and see some pages of the book.
            The human spirit, soul, or whatever name we want to give to the immaterial part of us, exists outside—outside the book, outside the realm of our perceptions, outside what we see, hear, live, and breathe. But, our body is like a book mark, pulling us to reside only on a single page. But, in the opening of the book, God breathed into mankind and we became living spirits—spiritual beings, who exist outside the book, designed to have eternal communion with him. It’s a communion that we don’t experience; and yet, we are already there.
            We have those fleeting moments—in dreams, visions, or when struck by utter terror, when we realize this page we are reading isn’t all there is. No, there’s more. There’s much more, and we long to experience that much more.
            Let’s consider the eternal state. I used to know for sure that there was a heaven and a hell—a place of constant bliss or constant torment. But, my surety was based on what I had been taught—conditioned to think that way by religious institution. I can’t say that way of thinking is wrong, but I can say it’s up for honest scrutiny. Men have taken those viewpoints from Scripture, but honest men have also taken other viewpoints from Scripture—including annihilation and universal salvation. So, let’s consider all three and how they fit in with our expanded view of time.
            I must at minimum question eternal torment, if for no other reason how it’s been used throughout history to control and manipulate people. It is the fear tactic of the institutional church, and it is an effective one. At this point, I can’t with any certainty declare this (or any of the other viewpoints) as being correct. As with most things, I suspect the true answer lies between the extremes being proposed. What if all three are correct? What if eternal torment, annihilation, and universal salvation are all true. But, how can that be?
            Those that hold to eternal torment divide people into two categories—the saved (those who have placed faith in Jesus), and the lost. But, in truth, the Bible divides people into at least three categories. There are the descendants of Adam, and within that broader category are those who have placed faith in Christ, and those who haven’t. But, there is another race of men called the Nephilim. These were a hybrid cross between fallen angels and human mothers. They are clearly described in Genesis six as existing before the Flood, but also afterwards. Many of the giants the Israelites later faced when crossing into the promised land came from this race. And, since the Israelites never completed their God-given mission of utterly destroying certain people groups, this hybrid race likely still exists today—probably parading as full-blooded members of the human race. The contemporary existence of the Nephilim is conjecture, but wasn’t isn’t conjecture is that the race existed. It’s what the Bible clearly teaches. This gives us at least three categories of men: 1) those from Adam who have accepted Christ, 2) those from Adam that haven’t accepted Christ, and 3) those from the Nephilim.
            When Jesus teaches of hell, it has to be considered in the context of the rest of his teachings. Didn’t he say the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat? Didn’t he say there would be a division between the sheep and the goats? Modern day Evangelicals will claim this is referring to their two categories—that the wheat and the sheep are those that have placed faith in Christ, and the tares and the goats are those that haven’t put faith in Christ. But, their interpretation doesn’t fit when you consider the Nephilim. The tares the enemy sowed were the Nephilim. Christ description of sowing (propagating) tares, fits in cleanly with the description given in Genesis six of the sons of God (a term clearly referring to angels) having relations with the daughters of men, and creating a hybrid offspring. Christ’s teaching of tares and goats most likely refers to the Nephilim—not to any pure-blood descendants of Adam. This turns Evangelical’s teaching of hell on the ear, for it seems Christ might really be teaching that eternal judgment falls on the Nephilim, which makes sense considering Scripture teaches that the lake of fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels. Doesn’t it make sense that’s where the descendants of the devil and his angels would also spend eternity?
            I know I’m bucking thousands of years of church dogma, but I’m doing so by using a clear teaching of Scripture that the church has been ignoring for centuries. Could it be the institutional church has been using fear to control people, when the people it is controlling have no reason to fear? At this point, I can’t say for sure. I’m just thinking things through.
            Let’s follow another train of thought. Let’s say the Nephilim don’t receive eternal torment, but instead face annihilation. Some may argue this isn’t possible, for the Scripture teaches everlasting punishment. But, let’s consider the nature of the book the author has written. The book is eternal. So, anything contained within the book is eternal. When the book is finally closed, all time ceases to exist, and everything within the book lasts forever—even if the characters within the book no longer experience the ink on the pages. The nature of the book allows for something to be eternal (because it is inked on the pages), but also not to exist outside the book in the eternal state. The nature of the book allows for both an eternality of torment, because the record is permanent, but also for an annihilation—in that something no longer has life and consciousness in the eternality that exists outside the book.
            Let’s consider the descendants of Adam. There are Scriptures that teach that those who accept Christ are saved. Further discussion for this group of people isn’t really necessary—for whether one accepts the concept of universal bliss for a select few, or accepts the concept of universal salvation, this group is set for eternity.
            How about those descendants of Adam that don’t accept Christ? We can’t assume the teaching of the church for hundreds of years is correct, because the church’s teaching is based on two categories of people, when in truth there are at least three. What if the teachings on eternal torment apply only the Nephilim? It seems many of the teachings of Jesus in reference to eternal torment applies specifically to this group, because it is the common sense reading once the doctrine of the Nephilim is accepted. Could it be that those who don’t accept Christ receive torment for a period of time, and that torment is considered eternal, because it is permanently inked in the book? But, when it comes to the eternal state that exists outside the book, God saves all descendants of Adam?
            At this point, I don’t have any definite answers. The only definite answer I have is that the church’s teaching on eternity and the eternal state is incorrect, because it is based on the faulty assumption of a two-fold division of mankind, when in truth there is a three-fold division: two divisions for the race of Adam, and the hybrid race of the Nephilim. Both the nature of the book, as well as the three-fold division of mankind has me questioning if annihilation, eternal torment, and universal salvation might all be true doctrine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder

            When falls turns into winter and the skies become grey, do you lack energy and motivation? Do you find it hard to find your get-up-and-go when there are several cloudy days in a row? Do you feel more alive on a bright, sunny day? You might be struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. If so, I’ll share what I’ve found that helps. I’m not a doctor, so you’d be wise to talk to a medical professional.

WHAT IS SAD (SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER)

            Your eyes have special cells that detect light called light sensitive ganglia. They are separate from your rods and cones. The rods and cones help you see. The light sensitive ganglia help to establish your body’s rhythm. They help to flip the switch in your brain—the switch between a sleepy, hibernating state; and an alert, fully-awake state.
            Your brain has a “day brain” and a “night brain”. Or, you might think of these as an “awake brain” and a “sleepy brain”. The chemistry in your brain is different in these two states. Throughout the course of 24-hours, your brain transitions between these two states.
            It’s the light sensitive ganglia that help flip the switch between these two different brain states. When the ganglia don’t receive enough light or the right kind of light, which happens in winter, the brain doesn’t fully wake up. This can also happen to someone who works inside too much—without access to proper lights or windows. While it’s normal and healthy to have a sleepy brain during the night, when one needs to sleep, when the brain is in sleepy-mode too often, you begin to feel sluggish, anxious, and antisocial. You may lack drive. You may also have food cravings, put on weight easily, and find it hard to find the energy to exercise.
            Too much of this sleepy brain is hard on the body. It’s a stress that impacts the adrenal systems in your body. During stressful times, the adrenal glands kick in to give you a boost of energy. That’s fine short-term, but long-term they can become stressed, leading to a further lack of energy, weight gain, anxiety, and a general decline in health. If you live in a particularly dreary climate (or don’t receive adequate light a good percent of the time), you may find SAD impacts you year round—even though it’s worse during certain times of the year.

THE SAD PATTERN

            In general, SAD has a yearly pattern. The most common pattern is that during the sunnier months of late spring to early fall, you’ll feel better—sometimes significantly more balanced and energetic. During late fall to early spring, you’ll feel down—probably feeling the worst during the dark days of December and/or January. You may also notice that even during the summer, you just don’t have the same energy when there are several cloudy days in a row.
            Some people with SAD experience an opposite pattern. They feel best during the darker months, and worse during the summer. During the summer, they may experience anxiety and deep depressions. It’s my belief this is because the adrenal glands are working hard during those dark months to give the person energy. Some people like the feeling of running on adrenaline. But, after a while, the adrenal glands run out of juice, and during the summer the person feels down, because the adrenal glands are in a depleted state.

TREATING WITH LIGHT THERAPY

            A common treatment for SAD is light therapy. Since the main cause is a lack of proper light, a key solution is light. There are several factors that impact light therapy including: intensity of light, wavelength or light, length of treatment, and timing of light. There are several devices that can help provide the light your body is lacking, including: dawn simulators, light boxes, and light visors.
            Light intensity is the first factor to consider. Offices, homes, and factories often contain insufficient light to provide the stimulus to the light sensitive ganglia to wake the brain up. Light intensity is measured in lux. The standard for treatment is 10,000 lux (although full sunlight can be more than 10 times that amount). When you choose a device to help with SAD, you need to consider that the light intensity decreases as the distance from the light source increases. A device that produces 10,000 lux at 8 or 16 inches isn’t going to be as effective (or may have no effect) at greater distances.
            When choosing a light therapy product, be sure it is UV free. Also, be sure it produces enough lux at the distance you’ll be using it.
            The most common device to help with SAD is called a light box. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a device that produces a high intensity light. Some of these look more like a desk or floor lamp. Some look like a box that is meant to placed on a table or desk near the person. You don’t stare into the light box. You place the light box to your side (or with some devices overhead) where the light is indirectly reaching the eyes. One that I’ve found to be effective is called the Aurora LightPad Mini made by Alaska Northern Lights. This can be purchased for about $200 on Amazon.com. It’s about the size of an iPad Mini, and produces 10,000 lux at 25 inches. The amount of light it produces for its size is phenomenal.
            The only downfall of 10,000 lux is that it’s quite bright. You might find it hard on your eyes. If that’s the case, there is another solution. Several light therapy devices produce blue spectrum light—similar to the color of a clear, blue sky in the middle of day. The light sensitive ganglia are more sensitive to this wavelength of light, so the theory is that it requires less intensity to have the same effect. Philips makes a device called the GoLITE BLU Energy Light. The rechargeable version costs about $130, and the plug-in around $100 on Amazon.com. I have the rechargeable version, and find the blue light it produces does give a boost in energy.
            Another device that I’ve found helpful is called the Feel Bright Light Portable Light Therapy Device. It’s a rechargeable device that connects to the visor of a ball cap. It shines green-spectrum light into the eyes. The biggest advantage is it allows the user to receive light therapy while moving around. There are two main disadvantages. It is quite bright, so it tends to wash out other light sources. If the surroundings aren’t well lit, it can be somewhat difficult to see. The other downfall is that it looks goofy. If you wear it in public, people are going to wonder why you have beams of green light glimmering down on your eyes. This product can be found for around $150 on Amazon.com.
            The three devices I’ve mentioned are all highly rated. They are also small enough to use while traveling. Some of the light therapy devices are quite large.
            Besides intensity and wavelength, the other factors for treatment are the length of time, and the timing of treatment. You’ll find the various treatments often advertise short lengths of time—15, 30, or 60 minutes. While I have found short treatments useful, I find I do best when I have light during most of the day—whether that comes from a device or natural sunshine.
            For me light therapy works best when I’m on some sort of consistent schedule—generally waking up and going to bed at the same time, and starting and stopping light between the same general time frame every day. You don’t want to use light therapy before a normal waking hour. You might find it causes insomnia. You may also need to be careful not to use any kind of light therapy within several hours of bedtime. During the night hours, you want things to be dark. You may find it helpful to avoid reading lamps, bright lights, or watching a TV or monitor too late at night. You’ll have to experiment a little and find out what works best for you—but in general, you’ll want things bright during the day and dark during the night.
            For some people, light therapy can aggravate other conditions—such as bipolar disorder. You may find too much may make you jittery. Each person is a little different, so you’ll have to find out what works for you.

DAWN SIMULATOR

            A dawn simulator is an alarm clock that simulates the light of early morning. Over a period of time, it gently increases light intensity. I have found it wakes me up much more gently than a blaring alarm. It seems to help establish a more natural body rhythm, which is healthy for the body. The one I use is made by Philips and can be purchased on Amazon.com for around $120.

VITAMIN D

            You body produces vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin. During the winter months, vitamin D levels can plummet. This may also be true for people who spend quite a bit of time inside. I find that a vitamin D supplement does help some.

HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS

            You’ll need to be careful with herbal supplements, because they can interact with prescribed medications. So, talk with your doctor. The prime herbal supplement to help with SAD is St. John’s Wart. It helps elevate mood. Some people also mention SAM-E.

NEGATIVE ION GENERATOR

            Negative ion generators give air molecules a negative charge. These negative ions are found in nature in abundance near the ocean or near waterfalls. There has been some research that suggest they are helpful to treating SAD, although I haven’t found a good explanation why. Some people have concerns with negative ion generators that produce ozone, so if you want to purchase one, I’d suggest doing your research first. They do give the air a fresh scent. I purchased one called the Sani-Mate Plug-In Ionic Air Purifier for about $35. I do think it is mildly helpful, but it wouldn’t be my first line of defense for fighting off SAD.

MOVING TO A SUNNIER CLIMATE

            One option in treating SAD is moving to a sunnier climate. I didn’t even realize I suffered from SAD until after I lived a few years in Pensacola, Florida. I’ve lived most of my life in Northeast, Ohio. When I was in Florida, I became a different person. I was more energetic. My thinking was clearer. My body went through huge, positive changes. Before that time, I never knew someone could feel that healthy.
            After moving back to Ohio, I was fine for several years. Then, I began to return to my old self. I started to fatten up and get sluggish. It took a while for me to put the pieces together and realize the problem. I can see that I’m two very different people. When my SAD is under control, I’m more energetic, have more physical stamina, think clearer, have more drive, and am generally a happier person. When my SAD is dragging me down, I’m sluggish, anxious, have periods of depression, and just have a hard time getting myself going.

DIET AND EXERCISE

            Just as with any other physical malady, moderate exercise and a sensible diet should be part of the treatment regimen. I’ve found that as I’m discovering how to get my SAD under control, I’m gaining more willpower to eat right. SAD does produce food cravings. I’m also finding I have more energy to workout.

COUNSELLING AND MEDICINE

            Counselling and medicine (sometimes separately or in conjunction) are also common treatments for SAD. I’ve never tried those therapies, since I prefer more natural routes.

SUMMARY

            From my experience, my first line of defense against SAD would be moving to a sunny climate. I haven’t found anything that replaces natural sunlight. My second line of defense would be light therapy and a dawn simulator. Those two treatments in combination provide considerable relief. If they don’t work, you’re probably either not getting enough intensity of light, or you’re not getting enough time of regular treatment. I don’t find the times recommended (usually 15-60 minutes) enough to alleviate the problem. Those amounts of time do seem to help, but for me more light is better. I would consider vitamin D therapy, diet, and exercise as the third line of defense. Certainly, diet and exercise would be the first line of defense for general health, but for treating SAD, at least in my case, it doesn’t seem as effective as getting adequate light. I would place herbal supplements and negative ion generators as a fourth line of defense. I do think they help a little, but not nearly as much as other treatments. I would consider counseling and medicine as the last line of defense (at least for me). SAD does cause huge changes in brain chemistry, so for some people those treatments might be essential.

            I hope what I’ve shared can help. Those people that suffer from SAD know how miserable it can be. For some people, it can be debilitating. For other people, a dreary climate or the darker days of winter have little impact. I hope this short blog can help ease the suffering of someone impacted by SAD.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Frightening Prospect That One of These Candidates Will Win

            The crowd gathers and they are all looking to make their country great again. They’re looking for a revival of days of old. They’re looking for a country that reasserts its dominance. They’re looking for renewed prosperity. They’re looking for an iron-fisted authoritarian, who through strength can make things right again. If you’re thinking this is a Trump rally, you’re mistaken. This is a crowd gathering and laying down palm branches to see Jesus enter Jerusalem.
            The people were looking for a king—a Jewish king, maybe a warrior like king David. What they got was a suffering savior—one who bore a cross. As I consider this election, I fear both camps are looking for a Messiah—but, not the Messiah who bore the cross. No, they aren’t looking for a Messiah like the one we see in the Gospels. They’re looking for a dictator—but, not any dictator, “their” dictator.
            Our country is about to elect a Messiah. Which version, we’re not sure, but both sides are looking for “their” Messiah, someone who will impose their will on the people. Both sides want an authoritarian, but neither wants a Messiah like the one found in the Gospels.
            The Messiah of the Gospels was one who cared for the poor—not just as a political marketing slogan, but helped to ensure people were fed. He healed the sick. He touched the broken hearted. He was criticized, because he dined with drunkards and harlots. He was a man of the people—not by being above the people, but by being among the people.
            He humbly picked up a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. Could you imagine Hillary or Donald doing that for average Americans? Jesus was teaching his disciples humility. He taught them that they weren’t supposed to have positions of authority over each other, but they were a community of equals.
            With the common man, Jesus was a healer, a teacher, a peacemaker, and a friend. Does this sound like either candidate? He often had conflicts with the religious leaders. At one point he overturned the tables in the temple, because corrupt people were trying to take advantage of those coming to worship. At times he spoke condemning words about those in authority. He wasn’t involved in underhanded business or political deals. He was willing to uncover and confront corruption.

            Jesus wasn’t an authoritarian. Authoritarians scare me—even when they hold views similar to mine, because the authoritarian mindset leads to depraved actions regardless of how moral one’s belief system may be. If the Jesus of the Gospels were running for office, I fear few Christians (or anyone else for that matter) would recognize him, because what people are looking for is for someone to impose their beliefs on someone else. Unfortunately, what often happens is the person given power ends up imposing his/her beliefs on everyone—including those who initially viewed them as a Messiah.