Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prodigal Son -

So many sermons focus on the "Prodigal" son's actions - his leaving home, taking his inheritance, partying, losing, ending up in the pig sty begging to eat the same food he was feeding the pigs. However, I chose to not focus on that, rather to focus on the returning of the son - returning, humbled, to his home. Here's today's sermon:

Prodigal Son

Luke 15: 11-24
“Seven Things You’ll Never Hear Your Dad Say”:

7. I notice all your friends have a hostile attitude–I like that!
6. Well now that you’re 13, Princess, I want you to start dating older guys. 
5. No son of mine is going to live under this roof without an earring!
4. Why do you want to get a job? I’ve got plenty of money for you to spend!
3. Your mother and I are going away for the weekend–you might want to consider throwing a party. 
2. Here’s my credit card and the keys to my car–now, GO CRAZY!
1. Well, looks like I’m lost–I guess I’ll have to stop and ask for directions! 

One thing you’ll never hear your Heavenly Father say is, “If you walk away from Me; you can never come back.” Instead, God is a loving Heavenly Father. He loves you so much, you are free to walk out of fellowship with Him–He won’t stop you. He will run to meet you more than halfway if you decide to return to Him. And He says when you repent; He will treat you as if you never left. There is a Biblical parable (universal in its telling, but I will be using the Bible version here), often titled the Prodigal Son. Do you know this story?

Well, prodigals still exist. These individuals rebel, stepping away from God’s blessings, indulging in reckless living and ruining their lives. But God runs to meet those who are at the point of total desperation and who are willing to repent and return home.

Today, we are going to back up and look at the parable again–but this time we’re going to look at what it took for the Son to go home.


What a great story! In just a few short words, Jesus shows us the selfishness and sinfulness of a rebellious son. Charles Dickens once wrote about this parable, “The Prodigal Son is the finest short story ever written.”

It’s a story that touches all of us at different points. Some are the parents of Prodigals and are feeling the pain of the father. Others are like the son who has wandered away from fellowship with the father. Still, others are like the older brother.

In this message, we’ll examine the steps of the rebellious son that will take him back home.



There is an immutable law of God that says you reap what you sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he WILL harvest.”

Through the years, I’ve known hundreds of Prodigals. They are teenagers and adults who had a loving relationship with God, but they allowed restlessness, and reckless living to enter their lives. They walked away from God’s blessings and they end up a mess. Some of them are still there, others have come back home.

That’s the good news: you can come back home. You don’t have to wait until you reach the pig pen either. At any time, you can decide to return to the blessing and fellowship with your Heavenly Father. Here’s how.

STEPS TO RETURN HOME TO GOD

If you have wandered away from God and allowed sin to take control of your life, it’s not hopeless.

Over 200 years ago, the hymn writer, Robert Robinson spoke for all of us when he wrote: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”


The son took three specific steps to return to his father and these are the same three steps you need to take to return to your heavenly Father.

1. The first step is to Realize!

The son, “Came to his senses.” This is the turning point of the parable. Before you can return to God, you must first realize you are in a mess without Him. Let’s climb down in the pig pen with our boy for a minute. There’s our boy–covered with the slimy mud and mess of the pig pen. He is so hungry he is tempted to eat the pig food, but he can’t even eat, because the owner of the pigs won’t allow it. He is being treated worse than the pigs. Finally, when he is about as low as you can get, a light bulb comes on in his head. “Click!” Suddenly he looks around and sees himself for who he really is. He looks down and is repulsed by his own filth and dirt. Sin had blinded his eyes, but once the light bulb of realization came on, he could see his life was a real mess. He reached the Point of Total Desperation. He says, “I don’t belong here. I’m made for something better than this. I’m tired of drinking, drugging, partying, running; I’m tired of slop; I’m tired of these chains. I want to go home. I want to see my daddy. I miss my mamma’s food. I want to go home.”

God meets people when they realize they are at the Point of Total Desperation. Before he reached this Point of Total Desperation, the son was proud. His attitude was: “I’ll never go crawling back to my dad and admit I was wrong. I’d sooner die in this pig pen than admit I was wrong.” When you get to the Point of Total Desperation, you stop denying your problem, and you get humble in a hurry.

The only way you can approach God is in humility. In Psalm 51:17 
we read, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Let me ask you: Has the light bulb to come on in your mind?

2. The second step on the road back home is Repent!

After he realized the shame of his situation, the next thing the prodigal son said was, “I have sinned.” He admitted his rebellion was a sin against God. AA Step 1! That’s what the Bible calls confession. Step 5: confession and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Confession always precedes repentance. When you confess your sin you aren’t notifying God of what you have done – He knows. Confession occurs when you agree with God about your behavior, and at the same time you display a measure of remorse and regret.

Next, he was willing to confess to his father he was wrong, Step 8. All sin must be confessed to God, and some sin is against another person and must be confessed to that person. AA teaches the circle of confession should be as large as the circle of the sin.

Do you see the change? At the beginning of the story, he was saying, “Give me, give me, give me. Give me my inheritance, give me my freedom.” After repenting he was saying, “Make me, make me as one of your hired servants.” That’s what real repentance is.

But true change is not just admitting you are in the pig pen, it means leaving the pig pen. Change involves more than just feeling regret or remorse over your sin, it is being willing to walk away from your sin and walk back toward God. Doing the 12 Steps means changing your mind about your behavior and then being willing to change your behavior.

Jesus doesn’t condemn sin, but He demands repentance. Are you willing to admit to God your life is a mess? Are you willing to walk away from your sin? Then you are ready for the final step back to God.

3. Lastly, the son had to Return!

After he came to his senses, and admitted his wrongs, he was ready for the final step – Steps 9, 11, 12. He said, “I will go back.” Two of the most powerful words in the human language are, “I will.” It was by an act of his will he decided to demand his inheritance to run away from home, and it was by an act of his will he decided to get out of pig sty and head back home. He didn’t say, “I’m going to send a letter to my dad to come get me.” He knew, he and he alone, could walk out of the mess and back toward his home.

Can you picture him? He was prancing and strutting when he left home, but now he was weak, thin, dirty, and humbled. The trip home took a lot longer than the trip away from home. But he had one thought in mind–his home, his father. I can imagine him limping along down a dusty road singing, “I’ve wandered far away from God; now I’m coming home. The paths of sin, too long I’ve trod; now Lord, I’m coming home. I’ve wasted many precious years; now I’m coming home; I now repent with bitter tears; Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home; coming home; never more to roam; Open wide your arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.” 


And that’s what he found when he got home. His dad came running (This is the only place in Biblical scriptures that shows God running - can you imagine the excitement the Father felt at seeing His son? So much so that He ran to meet the son.) down the road and he opened wide his arms of love and hugged and kissed him. He put a robe on his back, a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. He killed the fatted calf and they began to celebrate. 

Is that what you need to do today? Do you need to come home? You may be a child of God who’s wandered for years–it’s time to return home. Are you tired of wandering? Are you weary and tired of being weary and tired? Jesus said, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Will you come home today?

A life-line is has been thrown your way. The life-line has been thrown your way because you matter to God, to your family, to your community, because you are of value, valuable, and because you can change your life. My God, my father, is saying, “I love you I want you to return home.” In Joel 2:13 we read,
 “Rend your heart not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.”



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Witness Protection

Scott and I got hooked on the TV series (well, Netflix), "Blue Bloods" during the Christmas holidays. I like the show - I like Tom Selleck (Frank, the NYPD commissioner) in this show; in fact the entire cast is pretty darn good (check out Dino [NY Police Chief], John Ventimiglia). Last night we were watching Season 4, Episode 12 - it's where Danny's (Frank's son) best childhood friend moves back to New York, they reconnect, and decide they'll stay in touch. However, Danny (NYPD Detective) finds out this friend works for a big mob in Florida and is in NY setting up the mob family there. So Danny is assigned to set this friend up, to flush out the mob family before they get their base in NY. Danny does, and his friend is pissed at Danny, and the mob family hires some guys to kill this friend, and Danny saves him.

OK, typical NYPD show scene. But there is where I had this little "ahaa" moment:

Danny's friend says, "So I guess I'm going to have to testify, or lose my life."
Danny says, "Yup. Looks that way. But after the trial, we will set you and your family up in our witness protection program."
Friend, "Oh great, my children won't be able to carry on my name, we'll start all over again, and they will not have the family we have here. My wife won't even be able to care for her dying mother."
Danny, "That's right, you'll have to start all over again, but at least you will now be alive to do that."
Friend, "Looks like I don't have much of a choice."

I paused the show. This is the first time I've heard my thoughts on cancer spoken so clearly and profoundly.
Doctors, "You have cancer."
Me, "Ok. What does that mean?"
Doctors, "You can have traditional cancer treatments and live, or you can come back to us after you've tried the other treatments, and we'll hope for the best."
Me, "Oh great, my life as I know it will end. Everything will change, and I don't even know what that means. I have to take that risk?"
Doctors, "You're life will change, you'll have to start all over again, but at least you will be alive to do that."
Me, "Looks like I don't have much of a choice."

I didn't get the witness protection plan; I am healing with my family surrounding me, but in many ways, I have so substantially changed that I wonder if perhaps the witness protection plan would have been an easier way to make that change.

Food for thought this Sabbath morning - change, change, change - I need to stop looking for "normal."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vulnerability and Spirituality -

Freakin' crazy around here with the beginning of Spring 2015 semester at UVU (why is it called spring semester?), 2 groups and Sunday sermon at Cirque, and volunteering plus working at UVRMC as a chaplain. Oh, and yes, having the library and living room repainted, which means removing and moving. Oh happy day when this week is finished.

On the other hand, sermon for Sunday was on Vulnerability and Spirituality. While similar to the week's conversation about vulnerability and intimacy, this takes the topic a little deeper - intimacy with one's Higher Power.



Once when I was feeling particularly stressed and overwhelmed, my sister said to me, “Just fall back and let the universe catch you.”

When she said that, a feeling of peace washed over me. How lovely it would be to simply let go and feel completely safe, knowing that everything would be OK. That I was OK. The thought gave me a few moments of respite from my worries. I was free from the pain and pretense of trying to control everything.

Imagine if you heard those words from someone you love — “Just fall back and let me catch you. Just fall back and tell me everything. Just fall back and be yourself, flaws and all. I will still love you. I will be there for you.”

Imagine the peace of not holding it all in, of being completely authentic and open, sharing your most intimate dreams and fears, perfectly secure in the knowledge you won’t be ridiculed or rejected. Instead you’ll be embraced.

Imagine being completely vulnerable and exposed, and rather than it pushing someone away, it brings you closer together.

Unfortunately, most of us have been trained from a very early age not to be vulnerable. We’ve learned the painful lesson of opening our hearts, telling our truths, and showing our frailties, only to have our hearts broken and our weaknesses disparaged. We’ve learned to hold back, to pretend to be someone else, to protect our hearts.

We’ve learned that the best defense against pain is a good offense. So we build brick walls. We hold ourselves at arm’s length. We offer the smiling, jolly facade lest others think we aren’t pulled together and perfect.

Of course it’s exhausting and stressful maintaining this pretense. It takes a lot of energy to be something you’re not. It does protect you from emotional pain in the short term. But in the long run it wreaks havoc on your close relationships. Without being vulnerable, spirituality will wither and die, like a flower that never develops deep roots.

There can be no intimacy – emotional, physical, or spiritual, without vulnerability. One of the reasons there is such a spiritual deficit today is because we don’t know how to be vulnerable – open to the unknown, the undocumented, the unseen – we can’t be open with our hearts, only with our minds. Vulnerability is about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need, and asking for what we need. Yet – we are often afraid to ask, let alone feel like we deserve, answers from our Higher Power. For some reason we cannot be vulnerable with that Higher Power. Yet vulnerability is the glue that keeps us humble and connected to our Higher Power.

Brene Brown, Embracing Vulnerability 

Vulnerability directly affects our levels of spirituality. As we work the steps, we are really asked to create a relationship with our Higher Power, and this isn’t on a “Hey, how you doin’” and walk on by, but a first-name basis. Vulnerability precedes spiritual growth.

When you are vulnerable enough to open yourself up to share you – what are you looking for?
Brene Brown said this is a person who loves you not despite your vulnerability, but because of it. She calls this a “move-the-body friend,” someone who is going to show up and wade through the deep with them.

And this can be your Higher Power. He/she/it is endless, timeless, never ceasing, always available. Sometimes we steam-roll over our Higher Power, to get to those who we are trying to please or fool ourselves, to them. So why not give your Higher Power a try? “You share with people who have earned the right to hear your story.” (Brown) “Are you casting your pearls before swine,” rather than choosing your Higher Power as the one to share your story with?

Show up and be seen. Ask for what you need. Talk about how you’re feeling. Have the heart-to-heart conversation. When we ask for assistance, help, out of our vulnerability, we are humbled, and then, then, then we are open to answers. We then have the confidence to be ourselves, and in turn, open to receiving the assistance.

Sometimes the answer is this, “I can’t fix it, but I can walk through the storm with you.”

1.      Vulnerability reveals reality
a.       You can be yourself the good, bad, and ugly. There is beauty in being known so completely.
2.      Vulnerability fosters trust
a.       The more you let go, the more you can receive. If your hands are full of control, there is no room for trust, promptings. When you are secure in your relationship, you have peace, and in having peace you have security, and in the secure place you are capable of letting go.
b.      Do I really hear God’s voice, or is it my own? Don’t be afraid if you’re hearing Gods voice or if it is your own! You have to trust that when you have told God about your thoughts, and the way is open, go! Don’t stand there and struggle with the doors that is closed. Don’t give more attention to those that stands in the way. Walk through the crowd or take another way!
c.       “Why Trust Is Worth It”

3.      Vulnerability invites growth
a.       The more you give, the more you receive, and the more you grow. When you are in a safe place to honestly reflect on your true self and on your true needs, you can assess any changes that you need to make, without taking a blow to your self-esteem. You can be honest with yourself, which in turn enables you to live authentically, opening doors to your potential. (Prompting in Park City)
4.      Vulnerability builds confidence
a.       As you practice expressing your feelings, your concerns, and admitting your faults and weaknesses, you become stronger. You can stand true to your truth.
5.      Vulnerability heals wounds
a.       Yes! Vulnerability doesn’t make wounds, open wounds, but heals wounds. Healing begins with acknowledgment, then acceptance, then awareness. When you acknowledge your pain or fear, rather than running from it or hiding from it, you allow the light of truth into your healing process.
b.      We need to be able to accept constructive criticism from those with whom we’re vulnerable. Are you ready?
6.      Vulnerability creates bonds
a.       Do you have areas that you fear rejection or retaliation if you share with another? Here you have a quiet partner, someone who has already told you that you won’t be rejected, and in that sharing, in that connecting, intimacy is forged.
b.      Sharing with one another is what is taught in the Bible.
c.       James 5:16, we read, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” 
7.      Vulnerability deepens love
a.       Being vulnerable means being able to express your deepest feelings. You can become completely open, emotionally, physically, mentally, and know that your sharing creates openness between you and your Higher Power.
b.      “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis
8.      Vulnerability makes us more attractive
a.       Nothing is more attractive than authenticity. By being fully yourself, and confidently expressing your good and bad qualities, you begin to feel safe and confident.
b.      “I Trust You”

9.      Vulnerability teaches us to be comfortable with uncertainty
a.       We learn how to have faith. We learn that we aren’t in control, and that’s OK. Uncertainty can be our middle name, because we know our Higher Power has our back.
10.  Vulnerability teaches us how to be humble
a.       All games are tossed to the side, all our facades are broken down, and we are us, in our nakedness, in our authentic self. And we are not ashamed.
b.      There’s no way to have a real relationship without becoming vulnerable to hurt. Whom better to begin this process than with your Higher Power?
11.  Vulnerability teaches us that life is precious
a.       Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable, like a diamond, but because it is vulnerable, like a little bird. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability. The newborn child and the dying elder both remind us of the preciousness of our lives.
b.      “Hugs” (I trust you, do you trust me) 


“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something. So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman (born 1960);
Author, Producer, Storyteller (Coraline)
  
Song: “Trust” Kristine Mueller 


Affirmation:
Brene Brown reminds, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Vulnerability = Intimacy

I’d like to chat with you about vulnerability. Usually when we hear about being vulnerable we hear/see it in a negative fashion – someone naked standing in the cold, swimming in the ocean surrounded by sharks, perhaps down to your last penny, with nowhere to go, no one to turn to. Perhaps you have been in vulnerable positions – and these places hurt. These are scary places to be, and we don’t want to be in those situations where we are that vulnerable, that exposed to the unknown or the uncomfortable. We see being vulnerable as being weak – “Be strong, don’t be weak.” We marginalize vulnerability – it’s a weakness. Particularly for men. Not that we know better, but that we don’t know better. What does vulnerability ask of us? However, vulnerability is the admission price for intimacy.


Brene Brown, "The Price of Invulnerability"


Honoring and Working with Male Vulnerability

Intimacy requires vulnerability? I say, vulnerability strengthens intimacy (into me see).

I want to suggest that we look at vulnerability as a strength. Why? Because when we’re vulnerable, when we expose our weakest points, share our fears, or our hopes and dreams, the level of intimacy rises at the same amount as our level of vulnerability. Of course, we have to know how to be intimate with ourselves (see this as being brutally honest with ourselves) before we can be intimate with someone else. And we search outside of ourselves to find that intimacy – and we shut down, because we can’t find it outside of ourselves. Yet to feel truly loved we need to let others (beginning with ourselves) who we really are inside.

Now I’m not suggesting that we bare our souls to the first person we come in contact with! Or to share everything, with everyone, all the time. We need places where we can safely heal – these are called boundaries and defenses. And as we heal and soften and loosen, we can shed those boundaries and defense – and we can make that conscious decision to become vulnerable, to shed our defenses and broaden our boundaries.

So then, trust, comes into place. Who do we trust, how much can we trust, who do we trust with what, and biggest – HOW do we trust? And more than that, how do we trust ourselves? How do we be vulnerable to ourselves, become intimate with ourselves? 

Being vulnerable is often the easiest with strangers or when we are in intense situations – not with our own, not in our own space. Why?

When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we then can share with those we trust; we develop trust – in ourselves and in others, which in turn strengthens our bonds with each other. When I tell you my story of divorce, of cancer, of my long journey to a college degree – when I share with you my weaknesses, my triggers, we begin to see similarities in our lives; it’s no longer you and me. We see that we have similar stories, we begin to draw connections between us, and we are no longer the other but “we,” and that is when we can travel together. If I can trust myself to share, and I can trust that you will carry my sharing gently, then you and I have a bond, and gentle reciprocity develops, trust strengthens, and being vulnerable is no longer a weakness – it may be a risk, but most likely taking that risk is worth the risk. When I trust you trusting my story, then I can be free to be my imperfect self – and I know you can be my support. And help comes in being willing to admit I need help.

Have you ever worn the “freak flag”? You know – the physical sign that says you are not in control of your life, that your life is going in a direction you don’t want it to be going, that not all is well? What if we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk or the masks, and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter. What if our friends and family wore signs like this?
…we would treat each other differently.
I think we should just try to imagine it. That when a friend is quiet…or not showing up to stuff she usually shows up to, or acting a little “off”, or a family member is wearing pajamas to the grocery store for weeks on end, or not answering the phone, or the lawn is not mowed…
whatever it is…                    
IT IS A SIGN. It is not a sign that can be read in words and letters, but it is a sign that someone needs to be treated gently. That they need help. Most of all, that they need love, understanding, and that they DEFINITELY DO NOT need to be judged.
It’s amazing how people open up, themselves, when you choose to trust and be vulnerable; when you show them that you do not want/need a superficial interaction with them. We highlight ourselves without fear of being judged. Try it, try it once, and see what it does to your relationship.
As important as it is to tell our stories, let’s learn to listen, and let’s be gentle with each other, let’s learn how to read each other’s stories. (Melody Ross)
“Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people's souls.” (Melody Beattie)
Do you wear a Coat of Arms to share or carry a Shield to protect? What do you want to share/hide with/from others?







Monday, January 5, 2015

Self-Awareness

I've been pretty wrapped up in myself for a few years - and rightly so, and I won't apologize for it. But I'm as tired of my being self-centered as my husband is! This year I'm healthy enough to reach out - in healthy ways - which is what I'm continuing to learn. Maintaining a healthy me includes surrounding myself with healthy people, or having enough healthy energy that I can give without emptying myself. In order to give, I have to be aware of what I have.
Here's a good evaluation (without points to tally); how well do you know yourself?

SELF AWARENESS EXERCISE 

1.       Five adjectives that describe me are ...
2.       Other people would describe me as ...
3.       Friends who have known me for years say ...
4.       The issues and causes that get me stirred up are ...
5.       As I've grown older, I've changed in that ...
6.       If I could have a perfect week, if would be ...
7.       The way I prefer to dress is ...
8.       The way I look has changed over the years in that ...
9.       My voice  ...
10.   In a group I usually ...
11.   Things I find funny are ...
12.   If I could have anything in the world, it would be ...
13.   If I could give any one thing in the world, to any person in the world, I would give                              to because  ...
14.    Spiritually, I think of myself as ...
15.   The most important values I base my life on are ...
16.   If I could give one thing to the world it would be ...
17.   If I could leave one lesson for my children it would be  ...
18.   My very favorite things to do ...
19.   My very favorite place ...
20.   My very favorite hobbies ...
21.   My very favorite sports ...
22.    My very favorite foods ...
23.   My very favorite movies ...
24.   My very favorite books ...
25.   My very favorite TV shows ...
26.   My very favorite actors/celebrities ...
27.   My very favorite songs ...
28.   My very favorite people ...
29.   My very favorite colors ...
30.   My very favorite time of day ...
31.    My very favorite day of the week  ...
32.    My very favorite season of the year ...
33.   My very favorite year ...
34.    Growing up in my hometown of                    was ...
35.   The house where I grew up was ...
36.   Our neighborhood was ...
37.   When I was growing up, girls and women were  ...
38.   When I was growing up, boys and men were ...
39.   As a child, some traditions, which were always in place, were ...
40.   On weekends, we usually ...
41.   My earliest ambitions were ...
42.   Some childhood heroes were ...
43.   A secret place I had as a child was ...
44.   When I was little I always dreamed that one day ...
45.   My parents usually disciplined me be ...
46.   I got in lots of trouble as a kid when ...
47.   My memories of my early school years are ...
48.   My favorite subjects in school were ...
49.   A favorite teacher was ...
50.   When I was little, something that really scared me was ...
51.   My favorite things to do as a kid were ...
52.   When I was a teenager, I used to ...
53.   The fashions of the day when I was young were ...
54.   When I was in college, I …
55.   Some of my romantic interests have been ...
56.   Smells that remind me of my earlier years are ...
57.   Places I associate with my growing up include ...
58.   The special pets I remember are ...
59.   My best friends from elementary school were ...
60.   A childhood vacation I remember is ...
61.   A major embarrassing moment from childhood is ...
62.   A hard lesson I learned as a kid was ...
63.   A regret I have about my early years is ...
64.   When I was young, my family never knew I ...
65.  The people who helped me most when I was a young adult were  ...
66.   When I was little, older people always said that I would  ...
67.   When I was growing up, I always excelled at ...
68.   One of my fondest memories of childhood is ...
69.   My mother ...
70.   My father ...
71.   My siblings ...
72.   My grandparents ...
73.   My Mother's family was ...
74.   My father's family was ...
75.   A favorite birthday celebration of mine was ...
76.   When I was little, we celebrated major holidays by ...
77.   My ancestry and ethnic heritage ...
78.   Our family's religious traditions were ...
79.   A favorite relative was ...
80.   A question I have about my family is ...
81.   The major values my parents tried to instill in me were  ...
82.   When my spouse and I me t...
83.   I decided to get married because ...
84.   Our wedding was ...
85.  After my spouse and I had been married many years I ...
86.   Some of the major tests of our marriage have been ...
87.   When I had my first (and second, third, etc.) child, I ...
88.   When I was a young parent, I ...
89.   On holidays and birthdays we used to ...
90.  When the kids were little, I was really scared when ...
91.   Some funny of special stories about my children are ...
92.   Something about parenthood, which has surprised me, is ...
93.  Being a parent during the 90's (60's, 70's, 80's, etc.) was ...
94.  When my kids were teenagers I thought ...
95.  When I become a grandparent I ...
96.  The way I feel today about my marriage is ...
97.  The major values I've tried to instill in my children are ...
98.  Of all places I have ever visited, I have the most vivid memories of  ...
99.  I still want to travel to ...
100.Some of my strongest memories regarding "current events" are ...
101. During the 1960's ...
102.During the 1970's...
103.During the 1980's...
104.During the 1990's...
105.My most memorable U.S. Presidents have been ...
106.Some political "causes" which have been important to me are ...
107.Community and volunteer work I've done is ...
108.Some famous people I've met ...
109.Some "famous moments" I've had myself are ...
110.To me, "art" means . . .
111.The "natural disasters" I remember are …
112.The world changes I've seen are ...
113.My wishes for the world are ...
114.My first car ...
115.My first job ...
116.My first day of school ...
117.My first "big" success  ...
118.My first "big" failure ...
119.My first best friend ...
120.My first passionate kiss ...
121.My first airplane trip ...
122.My first "major" illness/medical problem ...
123.My first time away from home and family ...
124.My very earliest first memory is …