Recently we have suffered from the effects of the Beast from the East. In case you have forgotten, this was not a lion that escaped from Twycross Zoo, but a blast of cold weather from Siberia.

Over Christmas you may have seen the John Lewis advert telling the story of Moz the monster under seven year old Joe’s bed. Moz’s snoring kept Joe awake, until Joe managed to overcome his fears and make friends with the monster. However the sleepless nights continued because Joe spent hours playing the Moz. Thankfully the monster in this story is a good one and decides to find somewhere else to sleep, but not before leaving Joe a present beneath the christmas tree. Joe opens the gift to find a globe light, when he flicks the switch on he hears his friend’s familiar snoring. Happily he realises he can bring his imaginary buddy back whenever he thinks of him.

Do you have any monsters? I think I have one that lives in the refrigerator in our kitchen! It lives in a Kilner Jar and at first glance looks innocuous. It’s my own fault, I started it deliberately but little did I know what it would be like - don’t let it out of the jar! I once didn’t fasten the lid properly and it tried to make a break for it. It had oozed out across the shelf and was dripping out of the door before I noticed it. My monster is white Sourdough starter, it feeds on flour and water and left alone it bubbles away even in the fridge; even putting in the freezer doesn’t kill it. His real name is ‘Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus’; Lacty to his friends. At room temperature it needs feeding every day and can be used to make bread when it is active and a bit smelly. Sourdough starter works in the same way as yeast, albeit a bit slower, making the bread light and full of bubbles. I wouldn’t like to think how my little monster produces the gas as it digests the flour, but the result is worth the effort.

In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian is confronted by a monster named Apollyon (The Destroyer) in the Valley of Humiliation. Apollyon is no mean beast, he is covered with scales, wings like a dragon and feet like a bear, a mouth like a lion out of which came fire and smoke. Christian had been given armour on his journey and the means to fight but had nothing to protect his back, so his only hope was to face the monster head on. He had a hard battle and did get wounded but because he persisted he finally managed to defeat Apollyon and continue his journey towards the heavenly city.

With age (and hopefully maturity!) many of our childhood monsters disappear or as the hymn writer put it, ‘... back into storyland giants have fled, And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.’ However, some monsters or demons can still haunt us. As Christians we believe that the Devil works to defeat us and undermine our efforts as we seek to serve the Lord. Monsters such as fear, illness and weakness can still knock the wind out of our sails, but we have a loving and victorious Saviour in Jesus. Through God’s help and through prayer David’s Goliath and Paul’s thorn in the flesh can be overcome.

My Lactobacillus is a good monster - a friendly bacteria, but there are many of his friends and relations at work in our kitchen; some of them not so pleasant, but it is no use just being afraid of them, we need to tackle them head on. Rosie, where did I put the anti-bacterial wipes?

BBC Sourdough starter recipe - https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sourdough_starter_22976