Saturday, October 25, 2008

A New Twist to Pro Choice

Tolerance for other people's viewpoints and freedom to choose are sacred rights in our fluid political world today. Points of view are promoted as methods of learning and 'fair and balanced' are mantras for our media driven culture. I remember back when abortion was a horrible word and represented something that was not discussed in polite company. To the determinate of my critical thinking skills, my childhood rarely allowed 'alternative' points of view and if "God said it, then that settled it for me." If God did not settle it then my dad would! My world of information was often guided by the narrow point of view found in our regularly repeated phrase 'our church does not believe in that.' That was said so many times that I wondered, "Did my church believe in anything?" One thing was certain, we rarely discussed anything from a critical perspective.

I remember the first time I knew about suicide (a 'famous' evangelist committed suicide) and no discussion was to be had and the topic was swept away in prayers and all was hushed in the hallowed halls during my Bible School days. Then the abortion movement swept in and again I was left in the dark and not given the opportunity to think my way through and determine what is good or bad, right or wrong, holy or evil in this incredible life changing event.

I was told Roe vs. Wade established the law of the land and that Roe was a precious lady who had to carry her baby full term even though the pregnancy was the result of some horrible crime committed against her. Later I found out that Roe was a precious lady and was pulled into a hoax that was foisted upon our American culture through devious manipulations of the legal system to promote an agenda that I still can't quite wrap my brain around.

Pro choice and pro life are 'lighting rod terms' that ignite the emotions of millions of Americans. Some will even say pro abortion and anti choice to further carve out some political position for some ulterior purpose. Arguments and emotions run high and my faith steps in and sees Pro Choice in a new light. Words, thoughts, images, and music can pierce through the fog of ego defense with powerful messages…I am still critical of my thinking and strive to examine my thoughts and pursue mature life decisions…however, challenge your mind to see Pro Choice a different way and click the link below…listen and you may weep even as I did.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Do I Want To Do When I Grow Up??

The popular career interest inventory the Self-Directed Search® (SDS®) was recently featured on Good Morning America. All four anchors of GMA took the SDS and reported their results on-air. Sam Champion and Chris Cuomo took the SDS last week and presented their results; this week, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts presented theirs. You can visit and watch the videos from the broadcast at your leisure.

One of my son's recently did this and discovered some very useful information and career guidance. I have helped numbers of clients with this self exploration. There are careers that many of us have never heard of and this short 30 minute investment of your time (along with $5.00 or so) will not only tell you what you suited for (based on your preferences) but will tell you what educational requirements are needed for your interests. Go ahead, view the videos and then take the SDS…let me know what you find…

Monday, September 22, 2008

American University Professor Akbar Ahmed to Embark on Cross-Country Trip for Ethnographic Study of Muslims in America

I recently had lunch with Don and Glenda Moon (World Gospel Missionaries who reside in Argentina) and during our conversation this was queried by Don. Can someone be a follower of Jesus Christ and still maintain a Muslim culture as his/her main identity? Wow, what a question for someone who lives on the Brass  Buckle that comprises the Bible Belt in America!! Have you, ever contemplated how much of our 'church' can be best explained by our culture...I mean the Wednesday night attendance, the sitting in pews, the organ music (or even the latest fad, 'the praise band') are cultural artifacts not biblical absolutes (and there are many, many more...).

Don mentioned that in India, multitudes of Hindu's are embracing Christ Jesus and still retaining their place within the caste system the main culture of that Hindu country. American churches are still arguing over contemporary worship versus 'traditional' worship (by the way my dad hated the word contemporary...he thought it to be something akin to blasphemy, of course he has been in heaven since 1985 and now he knows better!!) and that plane left the runway years ago. In order to overcome the fear/hatred (those two powerful psychological emotions go together) Americans have for Muslims (and vice versus) it may take some trips like Professor Ahmed is making. May God grant him safety and bless him with His grace.

American University Professor Akbar Ahmed to Embark on Cross-Country Trip for Ethnographic Study of Muslims in America

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Living in Patterns

Wendell Berry and his "Solving for Pattern"

"Solving for Pattern," one of twenty-four essays appearing in Wendell Berry's The Gift of Good Land (North Point Press, 1982). "Solving for Pattern" is an important essay about the makeup of good solutions, and it is well worth your reading.

Berry begins by identifying two kinds of bad solutions. The first kind of bad solution brings into play the Law of Unintended Consequences. Berry states, "There is, first, the solution that causes a ramifying series of new problems, the only limiting criterion being, apparently, that the new problems should arise beyond the purview of the expertise that produced the solution." One can think of numerous examples, including me eating a half a bag of Dorito Tortilla Chips whenever I get the munchies: now chips are very efficient at relieving my munchies but they are just as efficient at raising my blood pressure, keep my cholesterol high, and make my heart doctor at UAB upset!

The second kind of bad solution invokes Positive Feedback Loops, driving the system away from stability, and making it increasingly unstable. According to Berry, "The second kind of solution is that which immediately worsens the problem it is intended to solve, causing a hellish symbiosis in which problem and solution reciprocally enlarge one another in a sequence that, so far as its own logic is concerned, is limitless." For example, war and national (and even personal) aggression of all kinds falls into this category.

Wendell Berry then gives a compelling example of a good solution (Earl F. Spencer's 250-acre dairy farm near Palatine Bridge, New York), as well as fourteen characteristics of good solutions. According to Berry, good solutions contribute to personal, communal, and ecological health, by invoking complexity in such a way that there is a cascade of healthful benefits. An example would be when I begin exercising regularly: regular exercise can lead to weight loss, lower cholesterol, improved sleep, improved cardiovascular functioning, greater energy, and it makes my heart doctor at UAB happy! Each of these "byproducts" of exercise can in turn lead to other beneficial outcomes, resulting in a mutually reinforcing web of healthful benefits.

Very often good solutions require paradigm shifts. This was true in Earl Spencer's case, where he completely reframed his farming operation. Such reframing is the centerpiece of a theory of change described by Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland, and Richard Fisch in their book, Change: Principles of Problem Formulation and Problem Resolution (Norton, 1974). In my own work, I seek to help students and patients "look at the problem with different eyes" and with a different perspective. It is reframing and more…it is 'solving for pattern' and avoiding the symbiosis in which the solution and the problem feed each other to an even greater destruction.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Waking Up In Glory, and Finding You Are HOME!

Pauline Sadler, age 89, married 69 plus years to Geary Sadler, died Saturday (July 26, 2008) night at 8:45 (eastern standard time) was/is the mother of my best friend and wife of 32 plus years, Faith.

Pauline was precious, Godly, strong, a person of powerful convictions, and unwavering in her love. She is the person my dad had in mind when he would talk about "her face is set toward heaven like a flint!" That was Pauline, her singular desire was to be like Jesus Christ in every area of her life. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer some 8 weeks ago and knowing that her father died of the same and how her father died caused some anxiety in Pauline's heart. Pancreatic cancer is vicious, swift and severe, the pain is excruciating, the stomach wrenches in spasms, the body burns with fevers of exceeding 104 degrees, in a word, it is horrible!

I asked her how she managed her fears and she smiled and told me of the countless Psalms she had committed to memory and said, "John Mark, if I can bring my mind to focus on the content of the Psalm my fears go way." Listen, when she paid attention to the Psalms she could not pay attention to her fears and they would subside। She truly exercised what St। Paul described in Philippians 4:8 "brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things…" And you know the God of Peace kept her heart and mind free of those fears।

Maybe you have heard that FEAR is best understood as False Evidence Appearing Real and that the word FEAR appears about 365 times in the Holy Bible and that most of those occurrences are statements such as; "fear not", "don't be afraid", "you have not been given a spirit of fear." Someone told me that God put that in Scripture because we should not be afraid but I think they are there because HE knows that each of us will face fear in this world. Pauline faced her fears with grace, love, and the EXCELLENCE of TRUTH…in the face of LOVE and TRUTH, fear wilts and is no more.

Days like these calls upon our faith because our faith is the only sensible thing we possess…it is during these times my mind is drawn to some gospel songs and I sing them over and over, maybe you remember as well:

"Known only to Him, are the great hidden secrets
I fear not the darkness when my flame shall dim
I know not what the future holds but I know Who holds the future…
It is a secret, Known only to Him…"

And then, there is the one that is part of this BLOG'S title…

"Just think of stepping ashore
and finding it Heaven,
of touching a hand and finding it God's
of breathing new air and finding it celestial....
of waking up in glory and finding you are Home..."

That is what Pauline did tonight…she stepped ashore and found the shore was heaven, she touched a hand and discovered that hand was God's, she took a deep pain free breath of air and to her delight it was celestial and she woke up in Glory found she was HOME!

Pauline, tell my mom and dad, "Hello" from their son, and I will there soon!!
--- John Mark Trent, PhD

Monday, July 7, 2008

Claim: Kids who say 'yuck' may be racist

I recently read George Orwell's 1984. Orwell graphically describes the end of civilization. Winston (the main character in the book) reads three statements published by the THOUGHT POLICE;


Now you might wonder, how could anyone ever 'believe' these statements. BigBrother ran a huge campaign of psychological manipulation (remember BB ran the THOUGHT POLICE) and introduced the concept of DOUBLE THINK. DOUBLE THINK is exactly what you might imagine...doublethink is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s mind at the same time. As the BigBrother's mind-control techniques break down an individual’s capacity for independent thought, it becomes possible for that individual to believe anything that BB tells them, even while possessing the exact information that runs counter to what they are being told. Whee, are you with me still??

Today, I read where in Great Britain a government publication stated that toddlers who say "yuck" when given flavorful foreign food may be exhibiting racist behavior. Now I live in the greater Montgomery, Alabama area and am fully aware that true racism exists today and only through an inner spiritual transformation can our hearts be rid of this hideous poison. There are many legitimate examples of  real racism but when DOUBLE THINK enters, then true racism is erased.

I remember Catholic's who said "yuck" to fish on Friday's, orthodox Jews who say "yuck" to pork, and modern Muslims who say "yuck" to pork and shell fish. I have even been know to say "yuck" to cooked broccoli. One more thing, I wonder how much money was spent on this 366 page guide parents are to read?

Claim: Kids who say 'yuck' may be racist

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Church's acceptance of homosexuality (

A new survey finds that Americans are split almost evenly over perceptions of homosexual behavior as either sinful or acceptable to God. LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, surveyed 1,201 adults in April to determine their attitudes about homosexuality. Forty-eight percent responded that homosexual behavior is sinful, but 45 percent said that it is not -- basically a statistical tie when the margin of error is taken into account.

My point: Who cares what the average rank and file church member thinks or believes about this issue. I really don't care what you know until I know how much you care. Much more critical to our walk in this world is this question; Suppose your best friend, your son, your daughter, were to inform you that they were would you handle it? To me that is the question!Some may say, "that is completely irrelevant..." To them I would ask, "Have you ever loved a gay man or a lesbian woman? Or do you turn away in complete disgust?" Many evangelicals (I was reared "holiness" and we were good at this one)  have a visceral response that totally denies the love and understanding of Christ. Remember, Christ touched the untouchables and reached the unreachables, and my friend, they were not only homosexual men but they were pious religious people like you and me. He touched me! Me in my filthy, despicable, self-righteous rags...when no one else understood me, He cared and when I knew how much He cared, I opened up to His Grace.

There was a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8) and you might remember, Christ knelt down, doodled/scribbled/wrote in the dust after He asked one of the most piercing and stinging rebukes in all of history. "You who are without sin, throw the first stone." The tragedy of my life is my pockets are always full of stones and had I been there, I wonder if I would have thrown one? Rubbish, someone says! Nay, says I...your hand has a rock in it as well!

So, back to the question at hand...I think it is much more pertinent is suppose your best friend wants you to accept him and love him and he is gay? Can you get past your own stuff that causes you to turn away in disgust and allow Christ to love him through you? That is what the Church needs to investigate...that is what I need to investigate!

Church's acceptance of homosexuality (

Monday, June 23, 2008

Survey on Extramarital Affairs

  Frank Pittman wrote Private Lies, and details the anatomy of an affair. The anguish, anger, selfishness, immaturity, the "swamp of pathology" are all discussed in his well known text. I have discussed with countless couples their affairs and some stay married, some divorce, and some, well some are still trying to figure it all out.

PRIVATE LIESOne of the foundational building blocks of all emotionally intimate relationships is truth. Truth extends from honesty, good faith, and sincerity in general, to agreement with fact or reality in particular. Someone today told me that they had committed adultery but would never tell their spouse and I have to wonder if that marriage relationship will survive let alone thrive in this world which seeks to undermine and erode away such foundations. Of course you might ponder, how honest do I have to be, how much must I tell, how much of me does my spouse want to know and need to know? All of this gets really confusing when there is an affair and the troubled couple comes for marital therapy. Many times one spouse has lots of questions and the other spouse is tired of talking about it. Phrases like, "can't she get over it" and "why can't he just put it behind him" become commonplace in the early stages of recovery from an affair. It is my task as their therapist to coach them to talk and discuss and answers questions...many questions. Peggy Vaughn ( researched couples who were impacted by affairs and discovered that talking about it truly predicts how well the couple will recover. Now as a researcher I am aware of the inherent limitations of this survey, but if you are in the throes of an affair you must consider this material. Find a good therapist and begin to talk...

The primary goals of the survey were:

--To discover the factors involved in whether or not marriages are likely to survive.
--To determine the factors involved in whether or not people are likely to personally recover from this experience.

Statistical analyses of the results indicate:

--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with the current marital status and quality of the marriage.
--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with recovery.

Below are the Results of 2 of the 8 Statistical Analyses

1. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when they thoroughly discuss the whole situation.

chi squared (2, N = 1083) = 78.30, p <.001

55% of those who discussed the situation very little were still married (and together)
78% of those who discussed the situation a good bit were still married (and together)
86% of those who discussed the situation a lot were still married (and together)

2. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when the spouse answers their questions.

chi squared (2, N = 1083) = 66.58, p <.001

59% of those who refused to answer questions were still married (and together)
81% of those whose partner answered some of their questions were still married (and together)
86% of those whose partner answered all their questions were still married (and together)

John Mark Trent, PhD, Educational Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Answers to Life’s Questions

I have always liked what Anonymous has written. Maybe you have read one of her poignant poems or been caught on the rhyme of some prose she penned. I found another bit of intelligence for your life (can any say I am tired of John Tesh) written by Anonymous that I include in a moment.

I have always enjoyed the exchanged of ideas through rhetoric, discussion, and Socratic questioning. The most important thing I learned during my PhD studies at Auburn University was the value of the right question. Asking the right question remains the best strategy to get the right answer (I still don't know who said this first…). Socrates offered six types of queries you can use to deepen your understanding of your friend, boss, employee, or client/patient (as I often do in my therapy sessions). These 6 Types are can be used in a wide variety of situations and can even become a lens through which you view your world. When you do so, life is a bit clearer and you're a bit wiser. So think with me about each type and see how they are useful for you…

  1. First there are the Conceptual clarification questions
    1. Get them to think more about what exactly they are asking or thinking about. Prove the concepts behind their position. These are basic 'tell me more' questions that get them to go deeper. Why are you saying that? What exactly does this mean? How does this relate to what we have been talking about? Can you give me an example?
    2. Are you saying ... or ... ? Can you rephrase that, please?
  2. Second of all are the Probing assumptions questions
    1. Probing of assumptions makes them think about the presuppositions and unquestioned beliefs on which they are standing. Is this the only way to understand this problem? What else could we assume? You seem to be assuming ... ? How did you choose those assumptions?
  3. Third are the Probing rationale, reasons and evidence seeking questions
    1. People often use 'uncritical' or weakly understood reasons for their arguments. How do you know this? Show me ... ? Can you give me an example of that? What do you think causes ... ? What is the nature of this?
  4. Fourth are the Viewpoints and perspectives questionings
    1. Most people are stuck with a particular perspective that comes from a particular position. So my questions are used to show that there are other, equally valid, viewpoints. Questions to use are; Another way of looking at this is ..., does this seem reasonable? What alternative ways of looking at this are there? Why it is ... necessary? How could you look another way at this?
  5. Fifth are the Probing implications and consequence seeking questions
    1. Each position a person takes has some logical implications that can be guesstimated. Do these make sense? Are they desirable? Then what would happen? What are the consequences of that assumption?
  6. And last but not least are the Questions about the question
    1. These are some of my favorites because it allows me to be reflexive about whatever we are discussing. Questions like; what was the point of asking that question? Why do you think I asked this question? What does that mean?

Oh yes I did mention Anonymous earlier, she once said:

I fully realize that I failed to answer your questions completely and,

in fact, to answer some of them all.

The answers I have found only lead

to a new set of questions, some of which

we were not even aware were problems

in the first place.

To sum it up,

I believe that while we are confused as ever,

we are confused about greater and more important things.


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