Mary, the Mother of Christ, II

Mary, the mother of Christ is unique among all women in her divine role in giving birth to the Messiah. Her story is fascinating, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, or LDS. And yet, for the countless pages that have been written about her, we still know so little about Mary, the person, & Mary, the Mother of God.

Here is Part II of her story:

Unique among Women

Many are the unique experiences and qualities of Mary that extend beyond the obvious, i.e., the mother of the Messiah. Most notably, she was the only eyewitness of the Savior throughout his mortal life. In so doing, she obtained a testimony of the Lord’s divinity as well as his mortal mission on a very personal level… one which I’m sure that she shared with John the Beloved after he (John) took her into his home as his mother 1.

John’s testimony of Christ has a distinctive flavor that includes aspects and details missing in the other gospels. For example, in the three other gospels a clear separation exists between man and Yahweh …a continuation of Old Testament statutes. However, in John’s Gospel we see the clear joining of man and God as one in purpose. 2 We also see details about the Savior’s life not present in other records, e.g., the wedding at Cana.

Some of the above may result from his longevity and opportunity to progress in mortality. Others I suspect are a result of his care — assignment if you will — of Mary to himself. The presumption has always been that the Savior was commending his mother to John’s care. But perhaps, the Lord was also saying, ‘John, here is your mother… learn from her for she has much to share.’

The Gospel of John tells us that from that day forward, John took her into his own home. And, from then on, John who loved the Savior greatly would have much opportunity to talk with Mary about the Savior and his life.

John under went quite a transformation from a son of Thunder to a John the beloved filled with charity. The Book of Revelation is stark and quite a contrast from the Gospel of John and letters attributed to him. Although we digress but I do suspect that his association with Mary, select above all other women, had a marked impact across the years on the Lord’s beloved apostle. JMO

Lessons Learned:

  1. Parenting doesn’t stop at age 18, 21, or ?? but is a life long role. In Mary we see the impact and a mother’s love that extends throughout the Lord’s life. Anything we can learn here-in?
  2. If you had the opportunity to speak with Mary, what two things would you really like to know about the Savior’s life?

Also see:

[1] See John 19:25-27

[2] See John 17:21-23

© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved

The Wolf Within


If you should find a wolf inside
howling with madness in the wind
remember that his twin,
also resides within

if one should growl and bare his teeth
find the brother, that you must
warm and friendly,
in his heart love grows deep
feed the one with a smile,
but let the other sleep

Two wolves battle within each boy
one small and filled with lies,
the other born of a gentle soul
the difference in who prevails
rests not in size or bite
but the one you feed, will win the fight

Inspired by the Cherokee legend of the two wolves…

Thanks for stopping by! (The Wolf Within  is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon , Pic is from )

 When Shall the Butterfly Rest

© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

Along the Shore

In an autumn eve, so long ago
one day in an autumn gift
footprints crossed in the sand,
in time chose a path, a life to share
the walk along the shore

traveling by the waves
hands as one, the sand revealed
a heart had been won
imprints on the beach
forever etched as one

Thanks for stopping by! (Along the Shore  is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon, pic is from

© 2019 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

Mary, the Mother of Christ

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 1 Luke 47-48

Mary, the mother of Christ is unique among all women in her divine role in giving birth to the Messiah. Her story is fascinating, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, or Latter Day Saint. And yet, for the countless pages that have been written about her, we still know so little about Mary, the person, & Mary, the Mother of God.

Here are just a few things gleamed from her story:

… A Beehive in Israel

Young women ages 12-17 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are organized into three distinct groups: Beehives (ages 12-13), Mia Maids (14-15), and Laurels (16-18). Why the distinction? The person that we call Mary was little more than a Beehive when she learned that she was to give birth to the Savior.

We are not talking about a Mia Maid, Laurel, or even a young woman just graduating from high school … but a Beehive. (Interestingly, a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith was similarly entrusted with a great mission.)

During that period women in Judea were typically betrothed at age 12, married at age 13 1, i.e., the age of a Beehive. The perspective helps us appreciate in some small way the esteem to which Mary must have been held, her very character, & integrity. She was selected as a young woman of Beehive age, above all other women ever born, for this important event. For all the credit Eve may have ever received as being the ‘first,’ her mission would never carry with it the weight that Mary’s would.

It also reminds us of the respect that we should treat all youth with — for in those Young Women lay the mother of the Savior, in another perhaps a potential prophet, or maybe a wonderful companion. I remember well the harsh words of a self important high priest as he bragged how he put a young lady in her place. I wonder if he would feel the same if it had been Mary that he spoke with?

Challenges of ancient Judea

Challenges: those of youth, the role of women in ancient Judea (read that near slavery), no elementary school with free lunches, etc. But for whatever she endured, she rose above all of the injustice/embarrassment including the appearance of having a child while unmarried, being completely vulnerable to an unmerciful system in which women who committed adultery could be executed, sold as slaves, …along with the day to day hardships of disease, wars, invading Romans (OK, occupying Romans), and periodic famine/food shortages.

No, she rose above her surroundings and while I wasn’t physically present, the descriptions of her all recount a person of quiet dignity. Her response to a 12 year old in the temple, the wedding feast in Cana, all testify of divine attributes — a woman of virtue who knew no guile, a vessel that could bear and teach the Lord that which he would need to know.

Although the Savior was taught from on high in ways that are not yet revealed we also can be sure that a mother’s care was just as relevant then as perhaps it is today. The hours spent as a toddler at her side, as a ‘elementary age’ youth, trained and able to read and write scripture to the point of astonishing the Priests.

It’s not surprising that the Lord could read and write, and probably learned this either from his parents or from Mary’s cousins Elizabeth & Zechariah. The latter, Zachariah, as a Priest would certainly have known how to write and quite probably had a role in training the Messiah. (Everything within me tells me that John & Jesus knew each other long before his baptism.)

Although we may be getting a little ahead of our story, five character traits of Mary do stand out — ones that she displayed through out her life:

  • Courage both physical and moral. No record exists of her ever denying her role as mother of Christ, even while standing by (at a distance) during the Crucifixion, etc
  • Patience and endurance to travel to Bethlehem, pack it up to go to Egypt, and the most difficult — to endure the murder of her first born.
  • Faith almost beyond compare to have entertained angels and heavenly messengers
  • Profound wisdom to raise the Son of the Most High God, to have him at her side in his youth, to love him without guile, and to let him grow into that which he was.
  • Understanding to live a life time of middle class (carpenters were mc), yet humble in the knowledge of her divine role.

See the life of Mary and important events in her life in video…

Lessons Learned:

  1. From reading the scriptures, what traits did Mary possess that can help each of us in our role as a parent? As a Christian?
  2. What are two things that help increase our faith in God that we learn from Mary’s life?

1.  Data retrieved from Everyday life in the time of Jesus on May 11, 2012. An interesting read…

© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved

Butterflies Just Passing By


Hiding in windows
known only to time
are ripples within the veil
life’s little roses that float our way,
then so quickly fade away,
butterflies just saying hello,
but before the moon can rise
leave once more,
their journey to explore

Thanks for stopping by! (Butterflies Just Passing By  is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’ 
 available on Amazon , Pic is from )

 When Shall the Butterfly Rest

© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved



Purple and yellow flowers

The sun lingers as if to say,
for just a tiny moment, I wish I could stay
before my rays, my warmth must depart
to gather tomorrow’s flowers from nightly dreams
and sprinkle in mountain meadows
and morning beams

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! I post weekly poems on my website the Poet’s Heart for those who enjoy poems. 

(Flowers  is from my newest book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon )

© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved


Castles in the Night

When the moon
completes her nightly journey
and hides in the coming dawn
the sandcastles erected in dreams
but await a morning tide.

And though the nightly vision complete
and sleeping robes set aside
by the nightstand gleaming
were moist grains of sand,
droplets of water left by the tide

Trapped by a morning ray,
they failed to remember
the coming of day
and lingered but for a moment
waiting for the tide

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! I post weekly poems on my website the Poet’s Heart for those who enjoy poems.

(Castles in the Night is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon )

© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved


Wings of Wax

Winged Pair

With wings of wax
Icarus flew
on strands of an autumn air

But like moths drawn to the sun
Icarus learned
what Daedalus had ever warned him
not to do

Icarus, my friend
the wings you wear
are the morning frost

ever so beautiful to behold
but fade
oh so quickly in the sun

Just for fun… and yes, there are a zillion
poems about Icarus (google it), and now there’s one more 🙂  

Thanks for stopping by! (Wings of Wax  is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon )

© 2018 by James Spruell. All rights reserved


Just Puttering Along

Just a snail

Puttering along
hiding from the cold
of a brisk Autumn air
a snail creeps along
singing his little song

I don’t care if I’m just a snail
God loves me and sunbeams
warm my soul, sang the snail
as he puttered along

Though majestic as the mountains are
and roaring seas remind all of their might
or winds that howl through the night
though I am just a snail
I too belong, sang my friend
as he puttered along.

The story of the snail… just puttering along.
(Pic is by Jon Sullivan who has released it into the public domain)

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! I post weekly poems on my website the Poet’s Heart for those who enjoy poems.

 (Just Puttering Along  is from my newest
book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon )

© 2018 by James Spruell, All rights reserved


Profound Lessons from Women in the Scriptures

The Two Mites
“A bronze Widow’s Mite or Prutah, minted by Alexander Jannaeus, King of Judaea” — from Wikipedia Commons

We often hear about Mary – the mother of the Savior, Mary Magdalene, Eve, and even the woman at the well as great teaching moments. But just as important are those lessons encapsulated in some very short passages. Three of my favorite are those below:

A touch of a robe, the gift of the Master

Many have exercised great faith, including a passing woman who needed only to touch the hem of his robe.

Healed by a touch is a woman whose faith was so great that she needed no fanfare or great declaration to be healed of her infirmity. No, she needed only to touch the hem of the Master’s robe to be healed.

He noticed immediately that virtue had gone forth, and commended her by acknowledging simply ‘who has touched my robe’. Of course he knew but wanted us to know of the great faith found in her humble touch.

So what’s so special — the ease of what was required, to be willing to reach out to the Savior such that even a slight touch was sufficient. The story reminds me of the many who perished in ancient Israel who were not willing to lift their eyes to the serpent — the smallest of gestures, the slightest of faith, the beginning of a mustard seed — to be healed.

Hidden in a coin

Was it a coin that she sought? Or, was it the child who was wayward?

Hidden in a coin was the mother who looked for the lost coin among the ten that she had. The coin that was lost? Not an old coin, but something far more valuable …a loved son or daughter in need.

Ever wonder why the Lord spoke of the 99 sheep, but of the 10 that belonged to the mother? It was her family, and he spoke of a mother’s love to find a cherished child.

Offerings of the Heart

Priests, Levites, the rich & powerful, all upstaged by a widow and her mite…

Hidden in a coin was the mother we talked about above. Hidden in the widow’s mite is the requirement for eternal life… the willingness to give all that we have.

Her story is short, only a few lines. But for any, and all serious about gaining eternal salvation, is the hidden path. Simple, but perplexing enough that it escaped Nicodemus.

Jesus Teaches about the Widow’s Mites

Mary, the Mother of Christ VideoThe Video, produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, reflects the true worship of one who had little by way of earthly possessions but possessed great riches in heaven. 0:59

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

When a Poor Self-Esteem Becomes a Vicious Cycle

Walking Through the maze of esteem

…taken from Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking through the Abyss

Toddlers are not born into the world despising themselves – it’s learned. Unfortunately many of the external elements over time give rise to an internal guidance system that says ‘I’m not good enough’ and even encapsulated as ‘learned helplessness.’

A newborn does not enter the world with a poor self-esteem, but develops a self-image in intimate interaction with care givers and others. As the child develops the brain learns to interpret its environment, e.g., crying gets attention, those wet areas around the bottom aren’t very comfortable, etc.

In time an internal guidance system adopts heuristics (rules of thumb) that internalize knowledge and how to react to the external world.  For example, when the bottom area is wet, crying can get a diaper changed. Eventually, growth continues in interpreting the environment, and an interpretive style develops. (At 2:00 a.m., crying may or may not get attention, if the bottom is dry, tummy full, and healthy.)

When a child lives with harsh criticism, a lack of attention, or abuse he or she may learn to interpret the environment as beyond its control. And, if not checked, an interpretive style sets in that says it doesn’t matter what you do, you are always (un-loved, not getting the promotion, etc.).

Martin Seligman has done extensive research on learned helplessness and found that a person, even animals, faced with continued events that cannot be controlled learns to be helpless. In this state, a person interpretsevents as beyond their control even when alternatives are available. [1]

Their internal guidance system has adopted an interpretive stylethat ‘insulates’ the person from a sense of failure — after all, experience has told him or her that ‘that Peggy always gets the promotion.’

When internalized the inner voice translates or interprets new events as also beyond control. What was once an external event (harsh criticism) has become an internal event that precludes success where success is clearly available.

A vicious cycle spiraling downward can precipitate to serious injure a self-esteem. Each new circumstance is interpreted as beyond control, halfhearted efforts made that are not successful, and the ‘lack of control’ is re-enforced. The inner voice now takes over creating havoc even though the once external abuse or harsh messages are no longer present.

Over time the interpretive style of environmental events may take another step that I would call a signature response. For example, a person may adopt avoidance or passive aggressive elements as a coping mechanism that produces undesirable results — after all ‘I’m just not good enough.’

And the vicious cycle continues …


If we look at the cycle, three critical areas need re-aligning:

  1. A young child is limited in removing or modifying harsh environmental messages while adults can learn life skills that permits greater control – which includes separation from abusers, anger management, etc.
  2. Empathy and love can stop and replace the harsh inner (and exterior) voices with charity.
  3. Less successful responses (passive aggressive, half-hearted efforts) can be replaced with skills that produce positive resultsthat yield positive feedback. Improving life skills, professional and personal, can create positive land marks that remind us just how truly valuable that we are.

Life skills can be developed that enlarge our personal competence at cycle busting. These include growing our empathy bucket, survival tactics for handling abuse, and a few tune-up suggestions.

Embrace loving others AKA, growing the empathy bucket.

The Godfrey Camille story reminds us that the number one factor identified in 75 years of keeping track of the personal welfare of participants was that the capacity for empathy trumped all other variables. And just as importantly, the capacity for empathy can be developed. [2]

The ability to flourish economically, as well as enjoying good physical and mental health — was directly related to a “history of warm intimate relationships—and the ability to foster them.” (George E. Vailant)

Increasing our capacity for empathy turns thoughts from inward reflection to reaching out to others. But there has to be more and there is – love is a very powerful feeling. As memories fade, and the warmth of giving of ourselves (and receiving the same) can replace the once harsh messages.

Warm intimate relations also provides feedback that refutes the inner voice that says ‘I’m not loved.’ A simple exchange of hugs, for example, provides the mind evidence that previous mental wiring is a candidate for new heuristics – give a hug, get a hug.

Appropriate hugs almost always invoke a positive response. Asking another how they are doing or about a detail in their life sparks a smile that conveys someone is listening. Children often just need a smile to which they will return a smile sending a signal that one is loved.

Stumped for suggestions on growing the empathy bucket? Here are a few that build on learning to love yourself and building quality relationships:

  1. Learn to love yourself– it’s not a crime and includes:
    1. Self-care and meeting your daily physical and emotional needs;
    2. Eliminate self-criticism, especially comparing yourself to others and remember that the marbling in the agate is what makes it beautiful;
    3. Treat others with love and respect;
    4. Practice saying NO!
    5. Personal blogging and/or journal.
  2. Quality relationships. Quality relationships. Quality relationships.
  3. Explore your love buckets and those of a companion. Your primary love bucket may be service and hers touch – non-sexual touch! So, make some changes, practice a little more hand holding, and see what happens.
  4. Show gratitude to others is simple but effective. After spending a good 10 hours helping someone, nothing says you’re not worth much more than a glossed over thank you.

In short, fostering warm intimate relations allows the brain to rewire old interpretive styles to form new connections.

Serviceis also quite central to enhancing self-esteem and can foster empathy. Focusing inward may create obsessions that obstruct reaching beyond ourselves to embrace another through selfless acts. When loss or issues appear overwhelming and dark clouds have gathered, grief / diaspora (that’s a cool word) will yield in service to another.

The service that we give also invites the Holy Spirit in to cleanse and make anew the spirit injured from the ravages of a swollen river filled with muddy debris, trucks, and houses afloat or adrift.  Even more importantly the mind will be occupied with the positive rather than dark images arising from too much time spent in introspection. New friendships can be forged along with options not apparent to inward glances.

I am also utterly convinced that the physiology of neural connections can be re-written by the cleaning effect of the Holy Spirit. Old neural pathways can reset and new connections initiated.

[1] Martin Seligman, (2011) Building Resilience. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from

[2] George E. Vailant, (2013) What are the Secrets to a Happy Life? Retrieved August 13, 2013 from

See Also: When a Truck backs over your Self-Esteem

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

Mary Magdalene

Gospel of Mary

Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896. P. Oxyrhynchus L 3525, Papyrology Room, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Mary Magdalene appears to the immediate left in De Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ …an artist’s conception or divine inspiration?

Mary Magdalene, companion & disciple of Jesus, was trusted and greatly loved  by the Lord. At the tomb her sorrow and desire to know where they had taken her Lord turned to joy on hearing one word ‘Mary’. It was enough for she knew the Master’s voice, and immediately responded ‘Rabboni’ (Master) 1.

The parting of the sea in the movie The Ten Commandments reminds us of heaven’s great power. Mary’s humble request to know where they have taken her Lord melts the heart with her love and devotion.

So why has Mary Magdalene captured the interest & attention of so many …beyond that of the popular novel and movies? Her addition to the last supper (perhaps speculation) occurred well before the birth of any 20th century author. Although the codex Gospel of Mary was discovered circa 1896 2, translations weren’t widely available until more recently (read that internet). And yet, we wonder about her role.

The answer may be more simple than we realize — she is a profound example of Heavenly Father’s plan and truth restored. In great contrast, the adversary would cloud, degrade, and deny the role & divine nature of women — as companion, mothers, and disciples. Mary’s story reveals a quiet strength and life filled with love and virtue that honors all women.

During that era, an evolution in the Judeo/Christian view of women is evident — from Pre-Christ roles (chattel/property), to more prominent roles found in the New Testament, & then the gradual diminishing role/discipleship with the rise of a male priesthood in the early church (especially post 300 AD) — male egos at work? Maybe…

Whatever the case, each sees with eyes quite different than their neighbor’s. For example, one may see an architectural perfect 1963ish Vet, another will pop the hood to see that engine, or perhaps in the case of a few of female friends — just a bunch of old, pudgy guys with thinning hair trying to drive around looking cool.

In Mary’s case, what I see:

  • devoted disciple,
  • a wonderful friend/companion to the Lord,
  • a person whose personality shines through… even though very little is written directly in the scripture,
  • fearless at times & unashamed at the events of the crucifixion and burial,
  • faithful in continuing her discipleship after the acension,
  • and humble, very humble and sincere in her attitudes and reverence for God, the Father, and all that he created.

Lessons Learned:

  1. What could I learn from Mary’s devotion that would help me in my progression as a Christian?
  2. What else do you see in the life of Mary that really stands out… as disciple, woman, or as an example?


Mary Magdalene

Mary, the Mother of Christ VideoThe Video, produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, depicts the resurrection & meeting of Jesus with Mary, Magdalene. 4:01


[1} See John 20: 11-18. Mary’s response to refer to the Savior as Rabboni represents her reverence and silent love for the Master..

[2] For more information: The Gnostic Society Library, the Gospel of Mary – Wikipedia and/or Early Christian Writings: Gospel of Mary

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

Searching for a Happy Productive Life?

We all search for a good life, to be productive (well, most of us), and be healthy come retirement. But do you know what made the biggest difference in one of the longest recorded studies on happiness?

An amazing 75 year Harvard study tracked 724 men from 2 different groups:

  • Group one was sophomore students at Harvard;
  • Group two was composed of young men from the poorer neighborhoods in Boston and included many from troubled families;

After 75 years about 60 of the men were still alive… and still being interviewed regularly. One might expect that the group from wealthy families, highly educated (Harvard) would by default be enough to predict happiness – but it wasn’t.

What the study found was that men in their 50’s with strong, healthy relationships were the healthiest in their 80’s. And that overall the greatest predictor of happiness was the ability to have empathy for others. It wasn’t money, fame, or many of the things so often sought after.

Robert Waldinger provided an excellent overview of the study as did George E. Vailant. Waldinger’s YouTube Video:


George E. Valiant (2013). What are the Secrets to a Happy Life? Retrieved August 13, 2013 from

Robert Waldinger (2016) What Makes for a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. Retrieved from on Sept 20, 2018

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

The Woman at the Well


By Carl Heinrich Bloch ([Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Many have traveled along lonely paths carrying heavy burdens, hoping for relief. The woman at the well illustrates God’s love for his children in sending Jesus to teach and heal a beloved daughter.

The woman at the well is one of my favorite biblical stories. And, for many years I didn’t really know why, just that it was very touching. Often I heard suggestions that this Samaritan woman who had five husbands was quite promiscuous, unworthy by every measure. Yet intuition said otherwise. Why would the Savior travel so far out of his way to meet with the ‘one’, and how could she be so unworthy yet spiritually in tune enough to eventually recognize that she spoke with a prophet?

Much of her reputation may stem from comments that can be interpreted quite differently. The most often cited is a single line where the Savior declares that she has had five husbands and lives unmarried with another.

The assumption is that she has broken her marriage vows and deserted each eventually to live with a man to whom she was not married. Unfortunately, the latter especially conveys a promiscuous image.

The second hint at unworthiness came from her not going with the village women to the well in the morning but rather during the heat of the sun — a time when others would not be around. The well that she used was further away than those closer to the village, again allowing her to avoid contact with others.

So why did the Savior select the Samaritan woman to convey such a powerful message of God’s love? Was it to soften and prepare the way for the gospel to be carried throughout the world?

Or was it more personal in that she was the ‘1’ separated from the ‘99’ and needed encouragement? She clearly loved God for within her was a spirit that recognized and cherished the Messiah, rejoicing greatly in the knowledge.

Divorce in Judea

In her day divorce was simple, and could be done for almost any reason. She simply had to be given a writ of divorce and her clothes and belongings set outside. The Talmud allowed a man to divorce a woman “because she spoiled his dinner or simply because he finds another woman more attractive, and the woman’s consent to the divorce is not required”.[1] The 19th chapter of Mathew reinforces the ease of divorce that then prevailed: “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3).

Jewish law suggests that it was the woman who was abused for only men could initiate divorce and not women. As for her living with another man, she may have been a live-in cook of sorts. Custom may not have accepted a woman living alone.

We can also conclude that was she was not wealthy — women of wealth did not draw their own water. Yet she was willing to share that which she had with a stranger. And in turn, she too desired deeply to drink of the water that he freely brought to all on earth that would receive it.

His conversation with her is among the longest recorded in the New Testament. Her spirituality was keen enough to recognize that she stood with a prophet while her detractors — those whom she may have avoided by drawing water at noon — did not.

The Savior’s deep respect for women is well illustrated in his reaction to the Samaritan woman. In that season men did not speak to women publically although Jesus often did so. He had great reason to shun this woman for she not only was a Samaritan but a virtual outcast from her own people.

In short she was an outcast among the outcast — a contest that I wouldn’t want to win. But his conversation with her became symbolic of his great love.

She came to draw water from Jacob’s well at noon seeking only to quietly fill her vessel from the well. Afterwards, she left filled with joy and declared that she had found the Messiah.

At the well, the Good Shepherd left the 99 (he sent his apostles & disciples on ahead into Jericho) that he could tend to the one. Ever wonder how he knew that the one was in need, and that she would be at the well? The answer lies in the same as how he knew the fish contained the coin that would pay his taxes.

He left the 99 to search her out, specifically, not by chance, that he might tend to her wounds that she as you and I might always know of his great love.

A lesson learned

Ahhh, but the story’s not over, not quite. The Samaritan woman displayed considerable knowledge in the questions and comments that she posed of the Savior. She was not ignorant by any means but was earnestly seeking the truth, her heart was prepared and ready.

As Paul Harvey often related on his radio broadcasts, ‘And now for the rest of the story…’ the ‘one’ on hearing his message then turned to help convert many of the ’99’. The Samaritans saw no mighty miracle by mortal standards but the miracle of the heart swayed by a Savior’s love:

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.

41 And many more believed because of his own word;

42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

43 Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. …

John 4: 39-43

Jesus Teaches a Samaritan Woman

Mary, the Mother of Christ Video The video, produced by the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is from Mormon Messages… 3:56

Lessons Learned:

What is the real lesson(s) behind the Samaritan woman at the well?

Many in Jesus day expected a temporal Messiah, a king after the mold of King David. Instead, the Messiah was born in a manger, openly walked / talked with women, and related some of his most profound teachings through their greatest (or most disdained): the Samaritans? Why?

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights reserved

When a Truck backs over your Self-Esteem

Walking Through the maze of esteem


Fortunately self-esteem is not static but a living, breathing entity — at times amazing similar to a coral reef.  These beautiful structures are formed by minute coral cell secretions (events) that across time take the shape that we are familiar with — some to wither and die, or conversely, grow to a point where they alter the very currents that make up seas and oceans.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the accumulation of billions, maybe trillions of small actions (a single cell secretion) to form the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem — a 2,000 mile structure. The reef is quite a paradox that while at times amazingly sensitive to fierce tropical storms, toxins, and ecological events not only survives, but flourishes and provides home to countless ecological communities.

Our reef— self-portrait — emerges in response to myriads of events, continues to evolve and respond to the environment to give shape and definition to that which we are.  And like the Great Barrier Reef self-esteem is sensitive to the fierce storms, disasters, and toxic elements yet is resilient enough that somehow most of us manage.

When life isn’t going well

Low self-esteem often has roots in early childhood, and stems from the most intimate interaction of family, adults, and caregivers. Although a single incident may have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves, more commonly our esteem is shaped by consistent patterns of interaction — much like the reef. Some of these include a hypercritical care giver, an inability to show affection or warmth, or where a parent displays open contempt for a child.

A healthy self-esteem includes two vital areas. The first is the life skills that let us navigate the roads of mortality successfully. These are grounded in problem solving, the ability to create and nurture relationships, and the capacity to remain alive, active, and move forward ‘in spite of heaven and hell’.

The other area, self-respect, is how we feel about ourselves and how our image of self-worth forms and shapes the belief that we are valued. Of the gifts that we can give to our children and ourselves the sense of personal worth really is priceless. It begins in early childhood with interaction from parents, family, and care givers, and is shaped by our relationship with Heavenly Father, and relationships with a spouse and loved ones. It is the healthy love of/from self, family, and God.

Self-respect issues arising in early childhood and formative periods are like the tiny reef secretions spoken of earlier. The many microelements that contribute to self-esteem may go unnoticed in caregivers but collectively either build or wage war on a child’s self-image. Simple statements, or even lack of attention, communicate subtle messages that a child is/ is not loved.

A short video overview:


From: Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss

James Spruel, PhDl

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights

Orson Smith Trail & Park

The Orson Smith Trail (and Park) is an easy hike — a little over a mile each way. The trail and park is fairly well maintained and includes benches,  tables, trailhead, adequate parking, etc. The trail itself is decorated (by nature) with wild flowers, birds, and native grasses.

Orson Smith Park
Orson Smith Park

The trail grade has a gentle slope with an elevation gain of ~ 350 feet that allows for hikers of all skill levels. The times that I’ve been there the trail was not overrun with visitors but a nice mix of joggers, hikers, and others.

View from the Park
View from the Park


The park is readily accessable off Highland Dr. (12625 Highland Dr, Draper, UT 84020) . You can get there from Pioneer road to 2000 East that becomes Highland Drive.

Trail Map
Map at the Park…

There is a peaceful feeling that comes while hiking the trail. The slow meandering of the trail, the birds chirping, etc. lets the hiker enjoy nature while getting some exercise.

Trail View

The Trailhead

Trail Sign
Trail Sign

Orson Smith Trailhead access point — Map

© 2018 by James Spruell All rights

Investing Mistakes to Avoid

If your intend to invest, mistakes will occur! The slide share presentation below is an update of the previous post and covers some of the more common mistakes, Including:

  • not having a plan and knowing where you want to go;
  • understanding market volatility;
  • failing to diversify;
  • (and several more!)

The slide presentation also has suggestions for dealing with many of the mistakes made by investors. Take a look and happy investing!


Happy Holidays

Especially for Singles (Video)

Every feel like the Grinch really did steal Christmas? Below are video versions of Finding Happiness for the Holidays — a summary of ideas for turning the holidays into wonderful traditions. Written especially for singles:

(HTML Version)
    Part One
    Part Two


Christmas Noel

   Slide Share

James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.

© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.

Finding Happiness in the Holiday Season – Part 2

Christmas Noel

The introductory post identified 12 suggestions to turn this holiday season into an extraordinary  one.  Today we will look at a few of my favorite suggestions:

  • Creating new traditions;
  • Handling sensitive topics (read that politics) at dinner;
  • Make it reasonable, not perfect;
  • Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings;
  • Resolve to forgive past hurts;
  • Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness;

Creating New Traditions

I love the movie Lion King and the wise old Rafiki,  especially the scene where Rafiki is dislodging Simba  from the past. With a good whack of his walking stick, he reminds Simba that it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.

Times change and our status may go from married with children to empty nester, single parent with/without children, to …sigh. And it’s time to create new holiday traditions and memories.

Holiday traditions are about coming together, maybe no longer as a big family, but in every imaginable variation. If alone, you can establish traditions of going to the movies, attending holiday events, etc. Single parents can create a smaller version of what they and the children enjoy.

Three ideas I’ve thrown in are shown below. The important thing is to create your own traditions with positive memories for all.

The Every Other Year Dilemma

Often in divorce cases in the US holiday custody or visitation may be on an every other year basis. Sometimes that works but the rules don’t prohibit talking over the issues. For example, every holiday is not the same for both parents. The 4th of July may be a biggie for one and Thanksgiving for the other. Do some tradeoffs, explore and create what works for everyone.

For myself we started off with the every other year but fairly quickly identified that while one parent always celebrated Christmas afternoon (giving in-laws time to travel) my mornings were free. So we compromised and had a Christmas brunch and present opening in the morning at my house, and a dinner later in the afternoon with the X.

For the guys who don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen, google has almost everything you need to cook a turkey dinner. I would suggest you start with a smaller turkey  as it takes less time to cook and you won’t have to eat it for the next 7 weeks.

If your cooking has been deemed a fire hazard, you can actually buy a pre-cooked turkey with all the trimmings. And for fun, pretend you cooked it 🙂

A sure way to get a lump of coal…

Stay off the Naughty list by not speaking ill of the X and definitely don’t put the children in the middle between you in a tug of war. Although anecdotal, I can’t count the number of times that friends have related how speaking ill of the X, etc. backfired when the children grew older and realized…

A Gift Buying Day

One of my favorite traditions was to set aside a day for gift buying with the children. Helping the little ones to select a gift for the other parent left positive messages. Smaller children don’t drive, may not have money, and there as yet may be no step-parent to help out.

The children also had fun buying presents for each other. When money is tight, the dollar can buy anything store is often around the corner. Buying gifts for others turn thoughts outward and not inward, selfishly on ourselves.

Christmas (or any holiday) Dinner

One of my greatest Christmas experiences came when a friend invited singles in our congregation (ward) to come over for a Christmas dinner potluck. Christmas Eve was spent cleaning house, the morning  making final food preparations, etc. My children were scheduled to come over early Christmas morn, and that year we rescheduled their visit for late afternoon.

The dinner worked well, and I have fond memories of it. With the kindness of a friend, thoughts were again turned outward to others.

Don’t have a house but an apartment, try reserving the group room. If money is tight, split the cost between two or more. And ‘wella’, a new tradition has been formed.

Handling those Sensitive Topics at Dinner

Wow – politics have evolved into open warfare at times with many entrenched in extremes.

Some pointers for avoiding open conflict include simply seeding the conversation with ‘How ’bout them Chiefs’ …assuming all are Chief fans. Others may take a direct approach by gently reminding everyone that politics are banned from the table.

Or if the topic comes up, try a quick re-direct to safer grounds. And definitely never give into the troll, i.e., step into the ring with the troll and not good things are going to happen.

Sometimes a good approach is to just listen, and try to understand another’s viewpoint. It’s not your job to correct their insanity for in doing so, you might be revealing your own insanity 🙂

Make it Reasonable, not Perfect

Many friends and relatives have come to hate the holidays due to trying to create the perfect dinner, find the perfect gift, etc. Hours and hours can be spent looking for ‘the gift’.

It’s not a contest, and we should tone our efforts down to what’s reasonable.

Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings

Gratitude is often not recognized for the contribution to happiness that it provides. Research shows a positive correlation between gratitude and measures of happiness, health, and satisfaction as well as likeability. And most importantly, it doesn’t cost a thing.

Numerous articles have been written on gratitude, and how to learn to be more grateful. One of my favorites is to keep a gratitude journal, listing every day 3 things for which you are grateful. Gratitude is an important part of the Lord’s prayer, and should be a part of our personal prayers.

Not one of us is an island, and recognizing the many things we have been given is so important!

Resolve to forgive past hurts;

Forgiving others of their trespasses is an important element of the Christian tradition. Letting go of past ill feelings, i.e., tossing out those extra rocks in our backpack,  can renew our spirits and lift the heart.

Sometimes when things have gone terribly wrong we may not be able to forgive all at once. If you’ve tried, then maybe just start with one item at a time until you work your way to charity — the pure love of Christ.

Christmas, Thanksgiving are especially good times to remember to be humble and forgive.

Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness

Serving those less fortunate is a most appropriate round the year activity, but particularly at holiday time. By turning outward, you can bring joy to another and teach your children the same.

Return to Part One
Video presentation

James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.

© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.


Finding Happiness in the Holiday Season

 Especially for the Single (A two-part Series) Christmas Noel

Ever wonder if the Grinch stole Christmas? You’re not alone — the Holidays can be a tough time for singles (and others).

There can be many causes for unhappiness around holidays from SAD (basically lack of sunlight) to man over board (trying to create the perfect Christmas).

One of the Grinch’s master elves is social isolation that can creep in at Christmas. For example, many single activities are often canceled from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve and leave a vacuum for some. Others may be facing the “it’s the ‘X’s year” leaving …another vacuum. And the multitude of pre-Christmas family activities may remind you of your ‘singleness’. And it can be tough.

Although it’s been many years, I can still remember that first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my children, i.e., it was the X’s year. And even though I was with my parents and some of my siblings, opening Christmas packages, dinner, etc. only reminded me that my children weren’t there.

But what can we do about it… beyond sitting on the porch, waiting for the Grinch with shotgun in hand? (Do Not Do This!)

Research shows us that genetics plays an important role in happiness, almost 50% is genetic (1). Another 10% is coupled to significant events that are largely beyond our control, e.g. the loss of a close friend or family member. Which leaves about 40% that is under our control.

Dr. Lyubomirsky labeled the 40% that we can manage intentional activities (2) . The question is how do we manage that 40% to increase our happiness during the Holidays? And of the many, many studies on happiness, which are truly useful?

Twelve Days of Christmas: Suggestions

In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, I’ve listed 12 suggestions for creating a truly remarkable Holiday. My favorites:

  1. Creating new traditions;
  2. Handling sensitive topics (read that politics) at dinner;
  3. Make it reasonable, not perfect;
  4. Remembering the things that bring you joy;
  5. Building new friendships and nurturing relationships;
  6. Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings;
  7. Deck ‘thy’ face with that beautiful smile;
  8. Remember to decorate;
  9. Resolve to forgive past hurts;
  10. Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness;
  11. Gifts to go;
  12. Everything Else!

Part Two — Some of my favorite Holiday Suggestions
Video presentation

James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.


(1) Bobbi Emel. (2014). 3 Scientifically Proven Ways to Boost Your Happiness. Retrieved February 26, 2014 from

(2) Sonja Lyubomirsky, S. & Porta, D. (in press). Boosting happiness, buttressing resilience: Results from cognitive and behavioral interventions. . In J.W. Reich, A.J. Zautra & J. Hall (Ed.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, metthods, and applications. New York: Guilford Press.

© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.