Forgotten in the Woods


Forgotten in the woods
lies a cabin amidst the forest trees
hiding in the shadows
of another time, of days now spent

her home once decorated with cheer
her children banged her doors
and clamored with joy
but she was happy to have them
amidst the forest floor

time now affray
she waits for another day
when her children once again
remember her youth, of time spent together
in the cabin, hiding in the woods

© 2019 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

Eve – a Help Meet


Adam and Eve were our first parents on planet earth. Eve’s story is unique among all women, and represents the profound wisdom of God in placing man in families. Her role as a ‘Help Meet’ is so much more than cook, companion, etc. but represents ‘God’s Help’ in accomplishing all things appointed unto man.

To find out more about the role of a help meet:

© 2019 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

Tips to Improve how an Author Website ranks in Web Searches

After many of the basics are met, authors (and potential authors) want  to improve how their web page ranks in search engines. And while coming up on page 1 is a challenge, there are many basic things that you can do. The powerpoint below covers a few tips to improving your ranking.

© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved

Mary, the Mother of Christ, III

Mary, the Mother of Christ

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 III of her story:

Her Earthly Family

Mary’s Parents & Lineage

The Gospel of Mathew records Joseph’s father as Jacob, son of Matthan…  However, Luke records a different genealogy with Jesus as the son of Joseph who was the son of Heli, son of Matthat.

Many Christian scholars attribute the difference to Mathew’s record as Joseph’s lineage while Luke records that of Mary. If so,  Mary & Joseph were likely first cousins. In either case, Jesus was be a descendant of King David and of the house of Judah.

Others scholars attribute the difference to an error in the record while tradition and early Christian writings declare her parents as Joachim and Anne. The Gospel of James, an apocryphal gospel written about AD 145, discusses Mary’s early life and identifies her parents as Joachim and Anne.

Elizabeth & Zachariah

Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, played an important role as John the Baptist’s mother. John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus in the spirit and power of ‘Elias’. John, as a descendant of Zachariah, and hence Aaron, would hold the Aaronic priesthood and the right to baptize others, including Jesus.

The relationship  is also important from the prophesy of Elizabeth  that Mary carried the ‘mother of my Lord.’ The story of Zacharias and Elizabeth are significant in their own right and demonstrate a wonderful love and faith in God, the Father.

The Brothers/Sisters of Christ

Scripture records that Jesus had four brothers — James, Joses, Simon, and Judas — and at least two sisters, probably three. The latter is based on Greek manuscripts of Mathew containing the phrase ‘ hai adelphia‘  (the sisters — a plural) vs.  ‘amphoterai’   (both) commonly used for two of (sisters). 1 Either way his family included several brothers & sisters.

The Family of Jesus in Scripture

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him Matt. 12:46;
Mark 3:31
Is not this the carpenter’s son? s not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
And his sisters, are they not all with us?
Matt. 13:55-56
Mark 6:3
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. John 1:41
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. John 2:12
For neither did his brethren believe in him. John 7:5
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. John 19:27
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren Acts 1:14
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Gal. 1:19

A conflict does exist between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations as to whether the ‘brothers’ mentioned in the New Testament were actually brothers or cousins. For me, the scriptures are clear:

  • (a) Jesus is recorded as the first-born of Mary, i.e., a ‘first born’ makes little sense without a ‘second born’;
  • (b) the Gospel of John 1: 41 uses language that  in Greek always means ‘brother’, never cousin; 2
  • (c) having a family would be integral to the Savior facing all the challenges of mortality …including those pesky brothers and sisters!

After the birth of Jesus and the wise men’s visit, Joseph and Mary were warned to flee unto Egypt to escape the tyrany (insanity) of Herod. There they remained until the Herod’s death (about AD 4) before returning to their home.

Given that Herod sought to slay all male children under the age of two, some authors suggest that Jesus was about 18 months old when they moved to Egypt where they lived until Herod’s death. Later, they sought to return to Judea but were warned to turn aside to Galilee (Nazareth) to escape Archelaus, son of Herod.

Hence, the first of Mary and Joseph’s children quite possibly were born in Egypt, and others later in Galilee. I also suspect that the sons were born in the same order as they were mentioned in scripture — given the importance of birth order in Judea.

In the absence of ‘hard data,’ family history research often employs a rule of thumb of 2-3 years between children to provide a ‘ball park’ estimate for children’s ages. With 6 known and probably seven+ siblings, Jesus grew up surrounded by infants, toddlers, and young siblings.

His love for children recorded in New Testament writings reflects that of a loving family life. It also could reflect time spent in a caregiver role of younger brothers and sisters after the death of Joseph. Either way, coming from a family where children were loved and cherished seemed to have a great impact on the Lord.

Mary, the Widow

The last record of Joseph was when Jesus was 12 in the temple, and a common belief is that he died between then and the wedding at Cana. With the 6 or 7 children that came along, likely every 2-3 years, Joseph could have passed away any time from when Jesus was a youth — the math would suggest maybe 15ish, but we really don’t know — until he was about 30.

The time Mary spent as a widow helps us appreciate the Savior’s stories of widows, e.g., the widow and her 2 mites. Although not likely, it’s possible that Mary was the widow that tithed the 2 mites. I am sure, though, that he observed his own mother tithing and knew well the sacrifices of widows & single parents.

After Joseph died, Jesus would have assumed a critical role in the family helping /teaching his younger brothers & sisters. The experience as a surrogate father of sorts would provide a keen understanding of the challenges righteous father’s face.

As the oldest son, he was also expected to play a critical role in providing for the family. He had learned his carpentry skills from his step-father, and later was remembered as a carpenter and carpenter’s son… the latter suggesting that Joseph was around long enough for the neighborhood to remember him.

Although scripture does not record the where/when of Joseph’s death, I firmly believe that Mary’s time as a widow played a significant role in the Savior’s mortal experience. The death of Joseph, would help him appreciate first hand the challenges faced by those who have lost a love one and struggle to provide and move forward. He would understand how difficult things can get & the sacrifice charity requires, e.g., the widow who offered Elijah a cake from her last bit of bread.

Mother of Children Who Doubt

Many have struggled with children who chose to disregard ‘God’s good word’, and Mary was no different. The Gospel of John records that Jesus’ brothers did not believe that he was the Messiah. Luke recorded a seeming rebuke in reminding all that his brothers and sisters are these which hear the word of God.

Carlfred Broderick in a 1987 Ensign article related how painful that it must have been at Calvary to not find his brothers supporting him or his mother:

From the cross, Jesus looked down at his distraught mother weeping together with a small cluster of disciples. She had four other sons, yet apparently none were present to comfort her.

The situation must have been quite difficult! Fortunately, the New Testament reveals that with time that the brothers of Jesus did gain a testimony with James eventually serving as an apostle.

In spite of her son’s disbelief, Mary proved faithful in her witness of Jesus, and traveled with him on several occasions. The gnostic Gospel of Thomas further relates that Jesus rarely traveled without the company of Mary, his mother, and Mary, Magdalene. If accurate, the record serves as but another example that displays Mary’s discipleship and that of Mary, Magdalene.

Her life with John the Beloved

At the crucifixion, Christ gave John charge of his mother, Mary.  We read in Luke that she was present with the 11 disciples in the upper room after the ascension. We know that John spent time in Ephesus, and wouldn’t be surprised if Mary was also there with him.

Tradition holds that she died at either Ephesus or Jerusalem surrounded by all the apostles. Indeed her life touched some of Heavenly Fathers most valiant children: She walked the earth with Jesus the infant, toddler, and adult. She was cared for by John the beloved after the crucifixion, and knew Cephas along with John the Baptist, the son of her cousin Elizabeth.

And it seems, she also got acquainted with Gabriel, angel of the Most High God…

Part 1 | 2 | 3 |      The Life of Mary in Video

[1] Robert J. Matthews, Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews [1999], 232–333 as retrieved from on June 12,2012.

[2]   John 1:41

© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved

A ‘Help Meet’ – Ezer Knegdo

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”Genesis 2:18

The Rules of the Road

The scriptures could have laid husband & wife roles in Pharisee format as a formal set of do’s and don’ts. Alternatively, perhaps an informal approach might have been utilized, e.g., quietly decide ahead of time what needs to be done, then subtly suggest it to Adam …but do so in a way that let’s him think that it was his idea. Then thank him profusely for such a wonderful suggestion.

Unfortunately no matter how subtle, a Pharisee approach would yield only a small measure of compliance and certainly not to the level where we embrace, internalize, and take ownership of God’s good word on marriage.

Nope, the Hebrew version uses the phrase ‘help meet’, ezer knegdo, and there-in begins the engagement of the mind that yields a little over 2,000,000 hits on Google, numerous books, and countless discussions. This simple phrase so fundamental to gospel principles has led many, many authors to analyze, sway and even campaign for a particular view point in the hope of capturing its meaning.

And the discussion is quite understandable: We would like to know what Jehovah intended to be the pattern for husband and wife, i.e., ezer knegdo.

The Choices

Symbolic language can incorporate many different concepts layered within one another.  But just as importantly meanings have changed since the writing of the King James Version. Language is not static but quite dynamic, and capturing the literal translation of ancient Hebrew or any language is challenging. Additionally, phrases may have no direct translation — try the Southern phrase ‘I’m fixing to do it’as an example.

With much at stake, and many factors impinging upon our understanding, we are going to find a range of interpretations. One of my favorite was that of a Jewish scholar from the middle ages named Rashi who must have been married! His interpretation translates to

If he is worthy she shall be a help to him; if he is unworthy she shall be opposed to him, to fight him.1

A lot of wisdom and moxie is found in that translation, and one that men would be wise to remember.

Hebraic words are often far richer than those in the English language and may require looking at how the word or phrase is used in a variety of passages. The word ezer is no exception, and several authors have picked up on that the word doesn’t mean just help but a particular kind of help, even a ‘strong help’ or more over ‘God’s help’.

Wayne Simpson in Adam’s Rib 2 reminds us that this is more than a little ‘hand holding’, but the powerful help defined in the very nature of the Creator:

… for He (God) was my help. Ex 18:4
… The Lord, the shield of thy help Deut. 33:29
… Be thou (the Lord) a help to him from his enemies. Deut 33:7 “…

Created to Be an Ezer: the Help Meet Dilemma 3 shares with us another example:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. –Psalms 121:1-2

[1] Retrieved on Jan 28th,2011 from Krista Tippett Blog on Being. (Website appears no longer valid.)

[2] Retrieved on Jan 28th,2011 from Wayne Simpson author. (Website appears no longer valid.)

[3] Retrieved on Jan 28th,2011 from

© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved


When a Rainbow Cannot Smile


Lost in the abyss
is a rainbow that cannot smile
of lovers who no longer kiss,
the telltale sign of hearts
that needs to mend

When the petals on a flower
no longer bloom
time can still bring to an end
wars that rage, of awful words
we wish we did not say

Or perhaps,
the petals waits to bloom
on a knee that needs to bend
there lies the treasure of the kiss
that says I love you, let’s begin again

Find again
the rainbow’s gentle smile
held in the warm embrace
of a truly special friend

That ole knee
can surely learn to bend
to earn the treasure of the kiss
that never ends

 (When a Rainbow Cannot Smile is from my book ‘When Shall the Butterfly Rest’  available on Amazon )

© 2019 by James Spruell, All rights reserved

Eve, A ‘Help Meet’


“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Genesis 2:18

One of the most sacred elements of the plan of creation is the relationship between husband and wife. The information isn’t hidden, buried in mid Old Testament passages between the who begat who’s, but rather is up front in chapter 2. Chapter 1 discusses concepts of the physical plan of creation ~ earth, water, etc. Chapter 2 contains his plan for marriage, i.e., the role of husband and wife.

Chapter 1, Creation Basics 101, begins with the fundamental concepts of separating light from dark, symbolic of the eternal struggle of good from evil. Then earth, water, skies, ‘critters’ are all added until Adam comes into being.

The real crowning moment of the creation, however, is the formation of a ‘help meet’, Eve, who is to be the mother of all. And although God’s description is quite generous in stating that it is not good for man to be alone, the reality is much more apparent.

Nope, we guys can make a real mess of things if left by ourselves — just read the news on any given day if you have lingering doubts. No, the crowning achievement was the creation of woman as a help meet for man .

A Sacred Role

The implication is clear that Eve’s role is sacred, to stand beside and sustain Adam in his trials even as Heavenly Father sustains and supports his children. The second part of the phrase ‘Help meet’ is the word knegdo that further defines the relation of husband and wife.

In a beautiful explanation from Women in the Scriptures, The Real Meaning of the Term Help Meet,’1  Diana Webb explained:

“Neged, a related word which means “against”, was one of the first words I learned in Hebrew. I thought it was very strange that God would create a companion for Adam that was “against” him! Later, I learned that kenegdo could also mean “in front of” or “opposite.” This still didn’t help much. Finally I heard it explained as being “exactly corresponding to,” like when you look at yourself in a mirror.”

Eve was not designed to be exactly like Adam. She was designed to be his mirror opposite, possessing the other half of the qualities, responsibilities, and attributes which he lacked. Just like Adam and Eve’s sexual organs were physically mirror opposites (one being internal and the other external) so were their their divine stewardship designed to be opposite but fit together perfectly to create life. Eve was Adam’s complete spiritual equal, endowed with a saving power that was opposite from his.”

The King James Version may also be an ole English way of saying (paraphrased), ‘a suitable helper for you’.

The author points out important aspects of God’s plan – that Eve and the role of women is sacred. She is to be an equal partner with Adam to sustain him in those trials that come upon all men.

[1] Retrieved from on Saturday, Jan 26, 2019.


© 2019 by James Spruell All rights reserved

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