It’s That Time Again – New Year, New Start/ FaithWalk


Graphics credit – Sweet Dreamz Design, Creative Commons

The wonder of fresh starts… Even the word ‘fresh’ conjures up images of warm, baked bread, newborn babies, crisp cotton sheets or budding shoots of spring. It just sounds right – something positive we should embrace.

As we approach another new year, the vibe online has begun to spread epically over the last few days. It’s all about resolutions, goals, plans and dreams.

We have grown accustomed to valuing the first day of the year, almost to mystical proportions; you can feel it in the air. The first day of January demands our attention.

Such is the fervour and interest in what others have begun or have planned, that it’s difficult not to get caught up in an urgency to formulate our own resolution; perhaps a measure of guilt or jealousy if we ourselves have not aspired to equally lofty goals.

A few days into January though, and often we find that the super plan to get fit, stop smoking or start a new daily habit, has been hijacked by other life events, crises or distractions. Failure looms over our heads and we think we may as well give up.

Perhaps our goal was too ambitious. So next year we make none at all. But deep down something tugs at our spirit, almost willing us to at least attempt a new start.

Something is built into our psyche, that propels us forward, urging us to not settle for mediocre, not settle for the way we are. We know that we are capable of more.

The beauty of the Christian life is that every day is a fresh start, a new chance to start again. We can defy Western convention which dictates when a clean page may begin, such as January 1st or a milestone birthday – whether 30th, 40th or 60th.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say… “And on the first day of the next year the man of God rose early and decided to change the course of his life by making a few major decisions and plans.”

No! We are not to be restricted by cultural norms or ancient traditions. Every day can start anew. Every day is an opportunity to pursue a goal or make a difference.

2 Corinthians 5:17 confirms this: “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.”

I love that. If my life is entwined with Christ’s, the new has come. That holds true every day of the year.

Now is the time to do what you know is right or begin what you know you must complete. Christ in you can make it possible.

A fresh start. Why wait a couple more days? December 30, 2012 can be the day you made a change that changed your life. Do it!

(Astute readers may note that in my last post I stated that that would be the last one of the year. Well I changed my mind and didn’t want to wait ’til New Year’s Day!)

What I love about Bear Grylls

In an era of cynicism and negativity, I find the character of Bear Grylls exceedingly refreshing. Constantly upbeat and dynamic, he encourages everyone to step beyond their small mindset and think big – to achieve what others call ‘the impossible’.

Chief Scout in the UK, enterprising, risk-taking and wholly inspiring, Bear Grylls is also a model parent. Having three sons myself, I take a keen interest in both his style and wisdom. I also share the same faith as Grylls and find his words concerning the spiritual to be genuine and heartfelt.

What better person to feature on my last blog of the year?

Here is a short Christmas message that was recorded at a London church recently. I find it worthy of repeating here – a simple and timeless message. Enjoy.

Be sure to also check out the amazing song ‘Mary Did You Know’ (a couple of posts down).

Games, Guns and Killing – A Parent’s Call of Duty

Photo credit:

On both sides of the Atlantic there is rousing debate about gun control and the need to prevent further school shootings. The arguments range from: ‘It’s people who do bad things, it’s no use banning guns’ – to: ‘If we didn’t allow guns, we wouldn’t have mass shootings’.

Enough people have commented on this issue already, so I’d like to focus my attention on the story from a different angle. It’s time to talk about violent gaming.

Many of the people decrying the ownership and use of guns in America are quite happy to play realistic, violent games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, or to allow their pre-teen children to play them.

Immediately most readers will groan as they hash up that old argument in their head: “Just because I like to pretend I’m a soldier wielding guns and knives  in video games, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out and kill someone in real life. It’s just a game!’

I agree. Read my lips, I mean print; I agree.

YOU are not likely to go out and kill anybody after hundreds of hours of playing such games.

But one sad, lonely, emotionally stunted or mentally challenged individual is.

And therein lies the problem.

I call it the ‘One in a Million Theory’ (though the odds could quite likely be the 10 or 100 in a million theory).   Of all the millions playing such games, a very small proportion will be obsessing over their love of virtual killing. They may be reclusive types, loner types, angry types, or as one former classmate of Adam Lanza said ‘one of the freaks’.

Such individuals are storing up the images in their head and becoming inclined towards wanting to kill in real life. When they will strike may depend on a variety of influences and current mood. But death is lurking within them, way before they strike out to harm someone or many ones, as in Newtown, Connecticut.

Murder doesn’t happen in a day.

I’m convinced that the desire to kill begins as a small seed in a person’s psyche or heart before they ever pick up their weapon of choice.

The Bible talks about the desire to sin, and how what starts in our hearts can lead to death. [James 1:14: Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15These desires give birth to sinful (evil) actions. And when sin (evil) is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.]

I believe that playing violent video games waters and fertilises the seed, encouraging thoughts of killing to grow. Other influences or family dysfunction also play their part. But once the seed is fully grown, the perpetrator strikes out.

‘So what’s that got to do with me?’ You might ask yourself. ‘I don’t have a desire to kill anyone and I’m not watering anything!’

Again, correct. But if one in a million players is a psychologically disturbed individual, then we could potentially have dozens of budding Adam Lanzas lurking out there. Think about it: dozens of others willing to enact such brutal destruction and loss in just a few moments of action.

Admittedly, the banning of guns would reduce the scale of death, but even with a couple of knives, Lanza could still have killed several before being restrained or detained.

The one in a million is still capable of inflicting excessive pain and loss.

I think it’s time to not just think about gun control, but think about fascination with virtual killing. Children, in particular, are more influenced by what they see on a screen, than rational adults who have already learnt empathy, kindness and, hopefully, self control.

In the last few years, I have noticed an increase of stories in the media about young men, ranging  from teens to those in their 30s, who have never committed any crime before, lashing out to kill their wife or girlfriend or family member. In the UK, this is usually a knife inflicted murder. Stories such as this or this. And more recently, this. (An horrific killing in front of the couple’s young son)

Ordinary men. Often responsible men with children. Middle class men. Decent employees. These were, in fact, not weird or reclusive individuals.

Yet in a moment of madness they have killed. Perhaps they were angry with something their partner said or did. But instead of leaving or working through the conflict, they did the thing they so instinctively found easy to do: They reached for a knife and killed.

It would be interesting to know what they had in their dvd or gaming collection.

I find it hard to believe that the correlation between spur of the moment killing and violent gaming is considered ludicrous. Yet mass killer, Norwgian Anders Behring Breivik even boasted that he had practised on Modern Warfare 2 (part of the CoD games)  for around seven hours a day before carrying out his killing spree on the island of Utoya in the summer of 2011. (Reference) Likewise, it has been reported that Lanza liked to play violent video games.

Do we really think that there are not any others like him out there? Even if it is only one in a million players, do the calculations. Around one billion dollars of revenue from  Call of Duty – Black Ops II, that means around 16 million games sold, if the item costs around 60 dollars. That means 16 budding killers according to my modest, hypothesis. If you think that ten in a million players could be disaffected, disturbed people, that figure jumps to 160. Sounds alarming.

In the same way that people wish to see gun restrictions enforced for the good of the many, I would like to see video game restrictions enforced to help reduce the cultivation of killing among so many young people, an obsession that has potential to translate into killing in real life, at some point in the future.

In the same way, that gun owners are encouraged to lock away their weapon, I’d like to see parents lock away their 18 (or R) rated games, and game producers to tone down the level of violence.

I once read that during WWI, many soldiers found it hard to kill human opponents, having just practised on circular targets. Thereafter, the military trained soldiers to shoot lifelike, stuffed figures, that resembled people. The soldiers responded as expected – shooting their opponents came more naturally to them; they no longer flinched or held back during WWII battles.

Now we have high tech, visually realistic killing scenarios, surely it is much easier for the one in a million to enact what they’ve done on screen countless times: wipe out a human life. A precious human life.

Blood and gore doesn’t faze them; they’ve seen it all before. How utterly horrific.

Outside legitimate settings of war or training for war, what business does entertainment have with the promotion of graphic, realistic killing? Not just a few seconds in a movie, but scenes played over and over and over again in the comfort of one’s bedroom or living room. Where the player is the perpetrator.

We wouldn’t dare suggest that children should play with AK47s or knives. So why is it OK to let them play with such weapons in a virtual world (that is now highly realistic in its depictions of action, gore and death)? (For the record, I am not against toy guns or paintballing and the like – these pursuits do not involve gore.)

For those of us who are parents, it’s a tough call. Ironically, what is OUR call of duty? To succumb to group pressure from the rest of the class and let them play such games, or to buck the trend and stand up for what we know to be right: Children and young teens shouldn’t be spending hours every day killing people on screen.

Violent gaming is effectively a social experiment that could be brewing a whole host of future killers.

I’m no mathematician, but if there were an equation for a killer, I’m certain that violent gaming would be one of the variables. Yes, there are other parts to the equation – ‘isolated and withdrawn character’ perhaps one of the constants – but if we could remove one part, perhaps the formula might crumble a little and not result in multiple deaths.

One thing is certain: gaming has played a part in several massacres.

Endnote – An interesting article addressed to parents about the latest CoD installment, Black Ops II.

Another article discuss the same issue here, mentioning nine year olds who play CoD with their fathers.

‘Tis the Season to be … Grumpy! / FaithWalk

 A few years ago I distinctly remember going round some busy shops close to Christmas, feeling quite upbeat and happy, and actually not in a tremendous rush (probably quite rare for me!) I was just getting a few last minute things. As I wandered around and queued at the tills, it struck me just how miserable everyone seemed.

Here we are in the West, with all the clothes, food and technology we could possibly want, and yet so many seem so absolutely fed up.

Christmas has morphed into an obscene commercial enterprise, where advertisers dole out their image of what Christmas should be: laughing children, sitting by the fireside, families kitted out in the latest fashion, a feast fit to impress Nigella Lawson and of course plentiful snow and stacks of perfectly wrapped presents. The reality is often rather off the mark…

People are feeling stressed, lonely, anxious, perhaps worried about finances, ex husbands or in-laws, and all the while pressured to create the ideal festive celebration.

I put together this light-hearted, alternative to the carol – ‘Tis the season to be jolly’, with the last verse featuring a voice for the Christian perspective. ‘Do we have light and life in our hearts?’ is the question we should never cease asking ourselves, not just at Christmas. Let’s place less emphasis on following everyone’s expectations and make Jesus the focus once more.

Oh, and look out for those sad faces over the season; someone you know could be among them.


Tis the season to be grumpy Fa la la la la, la la la la

People crashing into you with their trolleys! Fa la la la la, la la la la

Shops are too full, traffic’s standing still

Kids are all whining: “WHEN is it Christmas?!”

 Nobody knows if they’re coming or going,

Drinking too much at Christmas time / wrapping hundreds of presents at Christmas time


Tis the reason to be silly Fa la la la la, la la la la

Wearing these hats, and overfilling our tummies Fa la la la la, la la la la

Ten packs of mince pies, a turkey that’s oversized

Dancing like crazy at the work party

Everyone’s thinking  “When- will- it all be over?”

And then we’ll just repeat and- do- it again next year!


Lots- of- people are wondering “what’s the point?”, Fa la la la la, la la la

Many try escaping by going on holiday Fa la la la la, la la la la

Some start rowing more, others party till-their-heads-are-sore,

Hoping they’ll find some meaning in the madness

Santa used to be their reason for believing

But now the grown-ups have nothing-to-hope for


Tis the season to be joyful, Fa la la la la, la la la la

We  have light and life in our hearts, Fa la la la la, la la la la

People are wondering, if we’re any different

Or if we’re just stuck in silly traditions!

Jesus means more than all of our presents –  

We can’t even remember what we got last year!

Yes Jesus gives us reason to celebrate!

Why the Law Really is an Ass Sometimes…

Are you someone who tends to stick to the law or are you a bit of a rebel? My husband will ensure that he goes not one mile over 60mph on country roads, yet sometimes I cling tensely onto car handles as he whizzes round curves on the quiet lanes.

I’ll admit I’m quite different.  I’ll drive cautiously on such roads as I’m concerned about what might be lurking around the corner (…a farmer and his herd of sheep, possibly, or a bunch of errant cyclers?)  But I’ll happily slip way past 70mph on a quiet stretch of straight motorway, keeping my distance from the car safely within Highway Code guidelines.

I believe speed limits were imposed to improve road safety and reduce fatalities.  Yet I’m certain that more fatalities have occurred on country roads with drivers going 60, than on aforementioned motorways with law defying drivers.

It’s all about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law.

Consider this: Pharmacies will not allow me to flout the law by a margin of only 6 months to purchase eczema cream for my son, but school nurses would happily supply a potential 13 year old daughter of mine a stack of contraception and advice. In fact if she were 14 or 15 a doctor might deem her mature enough to opt for an abortion if she found herself unwittingly pregnant.

That without my knowledge or consent. A major procedure that is not necessarily without complication or error.  And perhaps she wouldn’t know the answer to questions about her parents’ and grandparents’ health or blood pressure problems.

That’s absolutely fine according to the laws of this land. But I, on the other hand, may not use my parental prerogative to administer specialist eczema cream to my 11 year old son, who is already physically the size of an average 12 year old, because the packet states that it is only to be used by those over the age of 12.

The woman behind the counter glared at me as if I were attempting to buy cigarettes for my son.  I just wanted to avoid a doctor’s visit and a long spell in a stuffy waiting room full of spluttering sick people and crying babies.

I’d be more than happy to follow the rules if pharmacists, doctors and teachers would likewise adhere to other rules concerning young people. What do you bet that any barely post-pubescent child could walk in and request a pregnancy test without anyone batting an eyelid?

Up and down the country girls and boys of 13 and 14 are supported and encouraged to break the law regarding the age of consent.

The argument goes… Well they’re only going to go out and engage in sexual activity anyway, so we should at least help them be safe.

Well how about…  Oh, the parent is only going to find another pharmacy to supply medicinal ointment for her unwell child, so they may as well sell her (i.e. me) the product.

Never gonna happen.  Yet one law concerns those who are still children, whose decisions are mostly fuelled by emotions and peer pressure; the other is an adult who has significantly more years of life experience under her belt and knows about dodgy signs or side effects to look out for.

Many 14 year olds can’t even follow simple instructions on a teacher’s PowerPoint yet we hope they’ll read all the contraindications listed on their packet of contraceptive pills?

Consider this also…  If I go to purchase a video or Xbox game that is rated 18, no one behind the counter asks if I have children at home who will also be watching and what their ages are.

As a former teacher who’s marked hundreds of year 7 scrapbook projects, I found it hard to comprehend how countless boys of 11 named Call of Duty their favourite video game.

Oh but that’s all right. The parents obviously believe that their child is mature enough to blow people to pieces on screen, despite being 7 years under the age limit.

But woe betide any parent attempting to push the boundaries by 6 months to administer some skin cream. Quelle horreur! Will they be sending round the social workers to metaphorically slap me on the wrist any time soon?

Unfortunately it would not surprise me. Thankfully, I decided not to go to another pharmacist to pretend the cream was for my older son, but rather followed the letter of the law and duly booked an appointment at the surgery. (So no, you can’t nail me with wrongdoing here, though I am guilty as charged concerning motorway driving sometimes.)

And I really do understand the perspective of the sales lady behind the counter.  She must adhere to the rules.  It’s just disappointing that no one adheres to many other rules regarding children these days.  And in some cases rules are shockingly absent.

If I want to, I could buy my 11 year old son a laptop or tablet for Christmas and let him use it unsupervised in his bedroom without any parental restrictions.  It would be perfectly legal to do so, in the process allowing him to view violence, pornography and yep, 18 movies downloaded online. (You’d be surprised how many parents know nothing much about installing restrictions on devices in their homes.)

I could likewise allow same said son to drink a glass of wine at Christmas (from age 5 this is legal). But I will only allow him a sip or two because as his parent I do actually possess a modicum of common sense and like to follow the spirit of the law rather than arbitrarily following the letter of the law.

What has incensed you lately about the laws of the land?