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Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

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Just a smile

The thing that goes the farthest
Towards making life worthwhile,
That cost the least, that does the most
Is just a pleasant smile.

It’s full of worth and goodness, too,
With many a kindness bent;
It’s worth a million dollars,
But it doesn’t cost a cent.

(Author unknown)

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The Power of Ideals

The other Sunday we sang the wonderful hymn, “May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day, by His love and power controlling all I do and say.” It prompted me to realise that the power of ideal is incalculable. We see no power in a drop of water. But let it get into a crack and be turned into ice, and it splits the rock; turned into steam, it drives the pistons of the most powerful engines. Something has happened to it which makes active and effective the power that is latent to it.

So, it is with ideals. Ideals are thoughts. So long as they merely exist as thoughts, the power latent in them remains ineffective, however great the enthusiasm and however strong the conviction with which the thought is held. Their power becomes effective only when they are taken up into some refined human personality.

There is a huge battle going on in most of us in our thought life. If we are going to be greatly used by God we constantly need to pray that we will have His mind in us guiding us in all we do and say.

Your highest goal must be to possess maturity.

The one thing that I constantly pray for not only in my own life but in the lives of every Christian person that I meet is to reach full spiritual maturity.

Maturity is many things. First, it is the ability to base a judgement on the Big Picture – The Long Haul. It means being able to overlook the “fun-for-the minute” and select the course of action which will pay off later. One of the characteristics of infancy is the “I want it NOW” approach. Grown-up people can wait.

Maturity is the ability to stick to a project or a situation until it is finished. The adult who is constantly changing jobs, changing friends, changing churches, is immature. He or she cannot stick it out because they are not grown up. After a while everything for them seems to turn out sour.

Maturity is the capacity to face unpleasantness, frustration, discomfort and defeat, without complaint or collapse. The mature person knows he/she cannot have everything their own way.

Maturity is the ability to live up to your responsibility, and this means being dependable. It means keeping your word. And dependability equates with personal integrity. Do you mean what you say – and say what you mean?

Sadly, the world is filled with people who cannot be counted upon – have you ever met anyone like that? People who never seem to come through in the tight places. People who break promises and substitute alibis for performance. They show up late or not at all. They are confused and disorganised. Their lives are a chaotic maze of unfinished business.

Maturity is the ability to make a decision and stand by it. Immature people spend their lives exploring endless possibilities and then do nothing. Action requires courage, and there is no maturity without courage.

Maturity is the ability to harness your abilities and your energies and to do more than is expected. The mature person refuses to settle for mediocrity. He/she would rather aim high and miss the mark than aim low and make it. The quest however remains: Am I am mature person?

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The adventure of being human

Most of us have great admiration for a man like Sir Francis Chichester who sailed single-handed around the world by clipper route and was the fastest to circumnavigate the world in just nine months and one day during 1966 – 1967. He achieved a worthwhile goal by a similar effort of sustained perseverance and willpower.

In an age of the Welfare State when we are encouraged to take the line of least resistance and live off the State, we all find that qualities of enthusiasm, strength of character, and “tough-minded” optimism still count for something.

How can we improve our daily performance not only at work but in our everyday relationships?

I believe that we can all open up a new dimension to our lives by setting aside ten-minutes, daily, for a quiet half-hour by ourselves. Puritans like William Bridge who founded the Old Meeting House got up a 4am each morning to spend time alone with God. Sadly, we are so busy that we can’t take up as much time but not to take any time at all is a great mistake. Merely wishing for the thing vaguely whilst watching TV and waiting for it to arrive, can be asking for the impossible. Inspiration may provide the rhythm to keep us in step, but aspiration gives us a map of our journey.

Why not start each day with an affirmation? I love one that I found in the book of Psalms which has now become one of the Taize chants that I love to sing. The words come from Psalm 27 verse 13. “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The key is to repeat it to ourselves audibly on rising, determined to hold it in our minds through the day. Expect to be happy and successful. Expect to be well. Don’t leave it too late before committing yourself.

Listen to what W.H. Murray, the Scottish mountaineer who climbed Everest in 1951 wrote about commitment: “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffective. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moved too.

All sorts of things occur that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goeth’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

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Prayer is the greatest power available to me in solving my personal problems…its power astonishes me.

I seek to base my whole life on prayer. A hundred times a day my thoughts go to the one human life that so powerfully influenced the world, and I renew my faith in my relationship with the Saviour of mankind. I have prayed silently during all kinds of situations and circumstances.

Gradually the miracle has been forced on me that no prayer goes unanswered. It may be answered by seeming disappointment, even humiliation. Often it is answered in a totally unexpected way, or when it has been forgotten even by the supplicant. The insufferable has disappeared, the unbearable has become precious and right, the heart-break has become heart’s-ease.

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No longer forward, nor behind I look in hope or fear; but, grateful, take the good I find, the best of now and here. Horace Bushnell (Congregational Minister 1802-1876).

Do you complain of your birth, your training, your employment, your personal problems? Never imagine that you could ever be something if only you had a different lot. God understands His own plan. He knows what you want a great deal better than you do. The very things that disappoint you most, as frustrations or obstructions, are probably what you really need.

What you call hindrances, obstacles, discouragements, are most likely God’s opportunities. Lift up your heart to receive God’s will. Do His work. Do it in your circumstances, under your cloud of obscurity, against temptation. Then you will find your condition is never opposed to your good, but really consistent with it.

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It Came To Pass, It Didn’t Come To Stay

Having been a teacher in my early life I developed “Magpie” habits. I still find it hard to throw things away just in case they might come in useful at some stage in the future. From time to time I look through some my old papers. I found this the other day which my late mother sent me to help me though a difficult time in my life and I hope it might help you.

When you feel cast down and despondently sad and you long to be happy and carefree and glad, do you ask yourself, as I often do, “Why must there be days that are cheerless and blue?” Why is the song silenced in my heart this day and then I ask God, “What makes life this way?” And His explanation makes everything clear, the soul has its seasons the same as the year, man, too must pass through life’s autumn of death and have his heart frozen by winter’s cold breath – but spring always comes with new life and birth followed by summer to warm the soft earth – and, oh, what a comfort to know there are reasons that souls, like nature, must too have their seasons, bounteous seasons and barren ones, too, times for rejoicing and times to be blue – for with nothing but sameness how dull life would be for only life’s challenge can set the soul free, and it takes a mixture of both bitter and sweet to season our lives and make them complete.

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The Pessimist Sees Difficulty in Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity in Every Difficulty.

2018 seems to have a theme at the chapel this year of stepping out of the boat. This takes faith to conquer fear. It also means focusing on the positive rather than the negative. This goes against the tide as the newspapers are full of articles written by pessimists. Can you promise yourself – to think only the best, to work only for the best and expect only the best; to think health, happiness and prosperity to everyone you meet; to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind; to look on the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Promise yourself, with God’s help, to wear a cheerful face at all times and give every living creature a smile – to give so much to self-improvement that you have no time to criticise others.

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Nothing will ever be done at all if I wait until I can do it so well that no one can find fault with it.

Henry Ford, poor and uneducated dreamed of a horseless carriage went to work with the tools he possessed, without waiting for the opportunity to favour him. Now the evidence of his dream is evidenced all over the world!

Thomas Edison, you may recall, dreamed of a lamp that could be operated by electricity. He began where he stood. Despite more than 10,000 failures he stood by his dream and did not give up.

Marconi dreamed of a system of harnessing the intangible forces of the ether. Evidence that he did not dream in vain is found in every radio and television in the world.

The oak sleeps in the acorn. The bird waits in the egg. In the highest vision of each soul a potential saint awaits the opportunity to be born.

During 2018 we at the Old Meeting are praying that God will not only bring us breakthroughs in our fellowship but will make us better able to reach out to you. Lots of people these days seem to think that there is an ideal moment to start. The truth is that the best moment to start is right now. You might remember the Bible story when Moses asked God about His name. God told him that His name is “I AM” past is over, the future has not yet arrived, the only time to live is NOW, in the present.

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When I am good to others... then I am good to myself

To me the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who are conscious and those who are unconscious. There is no difference to me when it comes to people’s colour, their race or their religion. God made us all equal. The only difference is their awareness of the world they live in, their understanding of the meaning and purpose of life, of the joy and pleasure of living, of having faith in their Creator, and the need of sharing that awareness with others and bringing it to their fellowmen… is a measure of this difference.

During my long life, I hope that I have learned at least the most important lesson: that the most important thing is to realise why I am alive. I think it is not only to build bridges, or tall buildings, or make money, or be a leader, but to do something truly important; to do something for humanity. To bring joy, hope, inspire faith, and to make life richer. For the Spirit of God helps you because you have been alive… that is the most important thing.

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You fearful saints, fresh courage take…the clouds you so much dread…are big with mercy, and shall break…. In blessings on your head.

You might have heard that on the 3rd Saturday every month we have Sing on Saturday at the chapel, this is a time when we sing the hymns which have been loved over the years and are not sung so often these days. You would be right in thinking that I love singing the old hymns especially as I find them so uplifting and inspiring.

It might surprise you if the hymn that I turn to more than any other was written by a man who contemplated suicide. Life had become so meaningless and hopeless for William Cowper, the famous English poet, that he decided to commit suicide. Hailing a horse-drawn cab, he gave as his destination a bridge over the River Thames. But the fog was so think that he rode about for an hour or more. Where was the river? Rebuking the cabbie for taking so long to find the river bank, Cowper thrust open the door of the cab. Upon doing so, he discovered that instead of being near the river, he was right back at his own doorstep! Smitten by the coincidence, he rushed to his room, took a quill and paper and penned the lines that have cheered millions who have come to the brink of disaster:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

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