Dear Friends

Apologies for last week.  It got to Friday and I was suddenly reminded that I hadn’t written it.
2 Timothy 4:  17
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
I’ve had a disaster!  I must have hit a pothole sometime over the last few weeks because I’ve discovered a widening crack on the frame of my bike.  For a week or so, I’d been juddering a lot when I was cycling fast downhill and I couldn’t work out why.  Now I know!  I think I am probably very fortunate that the tube did not give way when I was riding.  The frame must have had a weak point which fractured under the stresses and strains of riding on less than perfect country lanes.
What do you need strength for? Coping with extra pressure.  Stress at work?  Relationships with the people you love?  Continuing life with the rising threat of Covid 19?  Fear about the security of your job?  A mixture of all these with a few extra scenarios thrown in for good measure?  Sometimes it’s just worry about the uncertainty of the future.  Whatever it is,  there is a sense of wariness about ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’.  One more thing, which, although small in itself, makes the whole burden unendurable.
I get the feeling that this was what St Paul was remembering when he was writing to St Timothy in the letter above.  St Paul lived a dangerous stress filled life, attempting to preach the Gospel around the Meditterranean.  When we think of the Meditterranean today we think of air flights, villas and beaches.  Meals out in small tavernas and a trip to some ancient ruins.  Not so St Paul!  There was not a lot of basking round the hotel pool with a glass of something cold and a good book for him!  Travel was dangerous, and wherever he went he headed straight into controversy.  Straight into the lion’s mouth.  He was regularly beaten, imprisoned and mocked.  He suffered shipwrecks, death threats, cold and hunger.  Several of his companions became seriously ill during the journeys.  Reading between the lines, there seemed to be more failure than success.
What kept him going?  The question would be better phrased as ‘Who kept him going’?  The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.  That straw was never going to cause his frame to fracture!  And if you read his writings looking for clues you quickly realise that the Lord spoke to him not just through prayer and reading the Old Testament scriptures, not just by worship but also by Christian fellowship and sharing.  Much the same as the way he speaks to us in fact!  You and I are not steel framed bicycles, ready to fracture when the pressure gets too great.  You and I are Spirit filled human beings made in God’s image.  Through us the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  Success isn’t the issue, it’s the direction that’s important!
So next time you’re feeling the pressure and wondering how much more you can take, remember these words of St Paul, and notice how the Lord is standing by you and giving you strength!
Here is a prayer written by St Francis of Assisi
Most High and glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our hearts
and give us a true faith,
a certain hope
and a perfect love.
Give us a sense of the divine and knowledge of yourself,
so that we may do everything in the fulfillment of your holy will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And here’s a LouisArmstrong song to enjoy
Every blessing