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The Difference a Penny Coin Makes

By Diliff – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

April 30, 1997 – UK’s Big Ben, known for its reliability, stopped for 54 minutes at 12:11!

April 30, 1993 – The World Wide Web (WWW) launched in the public domain.

April 30, 1975 – South Vietnam surrendered with the fall of Saigon.

April 30, 1945 – Adolf Hitler took a cyanide pill, then shot himself in the head, ending his dream of a 1000-year Reich.

April 30, 1939 – New York World’s Fair opened. (The World’s Fair, or Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, California, opened in February of that year.)

April 30, 1789 – George Washington delivered his first presidential inaugural address.

Babies were born. People died, either because of the cruelty of others such as Hitler, in wars, or due to natural causes, accidents, or diseases.

Time marched on.

Have you ever wondered, as I have, about the wristwatches many of us used to wear – how the intricate design inside kept the minute and second hands on time?

Big Ben, London, is known for its reliability. It has stopped only a few times since being completed in 1858. It rang in the 1962 New Year ten minutes late due to snow on the clock hands. It stopped twice on May 28, 2005, for a little more than 90 minutes — perhaps because of the unusual, 90F temperature. And, the April 30th stoppage I mentioned above was 24 hours before the general election, after which it stopped again three weeks later.

While “Big Ben” commonly refers to the clock and tower, it actually is the name for the main bell, which for those who are musically inclined, sounded an E-natural until repairs included giving the bell an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place!

But, despite dozens of Luftwaffe bomber attacks during the Second World War, the clock kept within one and a half seconds of GMT.

By © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0,

That’s pretty amazing for a clock frame that is 22.5 feet in diameter, making the dials the third largest in the UK. The length of the gun metal hour and copper minute hands are 8.75 feet and 14 feet respectively!

On top of the pendulum is a small stack of penny coins used to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin lifts the pendulum’s centre of mass minutely and increases the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny changes the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day. It keeps time to within a few seconds each week.

Hand winding the clock takes about one and a half hours, three times a week. There have been additional breakdowns to the ones I mentioned, and in August 2017 the chimes were silenced for four years during maintenance and repair work to the clock mechanism and tower building.

What struck me is the miniscule difference that adding or removing a penny coin makes. How like our lives. We make choices, sometimes tiny ones, that end up impacting the remaining days of our lives.

We choose to worship and adore our Creator, or not – and that little penny coin of taking Him for granted may impact, not our salvation, but our intimacy with our God.

We may choose to fill our lives with busyness–with good things, that drop that penny coin into less time to speak to and listen to our Lord.

Small choices have led me to big events. I chose to minister in the inner city of Los Angeles for a summer after college…and stayed ten years!

Songwriter Stuart Hamblen once told the story of when he rode his horse, “Big If.” It was a foggy day in the Los Angeles hills. Suddenly Big If stopped. No matter how Stuart prodded him, the horse would not move. Finally, Stuart carefully dismounted, got on hands and knees, and edged forward. An inch in front of Old If’s front hoofs was a cliff. Continuing would likely have sent both to their deaths. A small choice…trust this horse. A big result…life!

The amazing thing is that, with a penny coin, you can reverse time added to the Big Ben pendulum and buy back those .04 seconds.

And in God’s economy, if we repent and confess our sin, our walking away from Him, our sin is immediately erased as if it never happened. We may still suffer the consequences of that choice, but the sin itself is forgiven, gone forever, and our relationship with God is made right.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

And do we stop, listen and trust our Father when he whispers in our spirit, “Do this,” or “Go there,” or “Talk to that lonely person”?

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

Psalm 31:14-15

Can you remember a small choice you made that had significant consequences?


  1. Karen O'Connor says:

    Thank you, Carol, for such an interesting blog with so much to think about. Yes, I remember many times in my life that made an amazing impact on what the future held for me. Worth pondering.

    1. carolnl says:

      Thank you Karen, for your comment. I too remember many times when a small choice impacted something bigger. God’s mind and heart are so far beyond ours that he uses those moments to guide, teach, correct. Grateful this gave you something to ponder, as it did me.

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