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What I’ve learned in seven decades

Hard-won wisdom from A to Z

by the Rev. Ken Rummer for Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Ken Rummer blogs periodically for Presbyterians Today.

What have I learned? An approaching birthday, one that ends in zero, has me thinking, not so much about academic knowledge, but more about the life experience sort of learning. The kind of observation-based wisdom I find in the book of Proverbs. The kind of practical stuff I might pass on to a grandchild or share with a friend. So I made a list. And here’s a sampling:

A. The first french fry tastes the best.

B. Speak softly to strange dogs and small children.

C. Frequent performance lessens stage fright. When I started preaching, I couldn’t eat breakfast on Sundays. After eight or 10 years, I could.

D. Sharpening is a pain. A dull tool is worse.

E. Strangers are more often kind than mean.

F. For a smaller splash off the diving board, overlap your hands and point your toes.

G. Last minute adrenaline helps on an assignment, until it doesn’t.

H. As you go along in life, you have to make a few adjustments.

I. A person can experience the full range of human emotions in a single round of golf.

J. Learning something new may require unlearning something you learned before.

K. Mastery grows out of skill, and skill grows out of practice. Lots of practice.

L. Looking for answers uncovers new questions, even in the Bible.

M. Coaster wagons aren’t designed to make hard lefts.

N. Flip the pancake when its edges lose their shine.

O. When mediating a conflict, you never have the whole story.

P. Words can conjure worlds. The silence between the words is part of the magic.

Q. A little cooking spray keeps the foam down on spaghetti water and boiling potatoes.

R. An empty canvas, a rough board, a blinking cursor on a blank screen — creative beginnings require courage.

S. There comes a time when done is better than perfect.

T. In a romantic quandary, let your heart and your head have a serious conversation, and listen in.

U. There is beauty in mathematics, elegance in physics, magic in music.

V. If you have to eat the vegetables on your plate, they’re better warm than later.

W. Stop for sunsets and rainbows and the moon on big water.

X. For a long marriage, you have to be willing to grow up together, and you have to be willing to grow old together.

Y. Drinking a whole gallon of root beer is not as much fun as it sounds.

Z. God is closer than breath, bigger than thought, and merciful beyond expectation.

The Rev. Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts are available at

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