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