How did the new technology impact my class?

Date: 20 Mar 2017 Comments:0

Hello everyone! If you read my previous post about using more advanced technology to support my students in my class during the Spring B term, I think you will like to see what I have found.

For those who missed it, I decided to use more technology to support the class I teach. I started this Spring semester teaching at Liberty armed with some new tech. I started to record weekly (or at least semi-weekly) videos with my face explaining the assignments in more depth. I also started using Remind.com to allow my students a way to get a quicker response from me and for me to send them information quickly.

I have now completed an entire class this way and I must say the results are fascinating! Before I tell you the results, here are a couple of quick things that must be considered:

  • Every class is different and there are always overachievers and always those who struggle.
  • The fact that it is a Spring semester and not Fall or Winter may have some correlation to the results but not one that I can quantify.
  • I will begin collecting metrics each semester to give a broader scope.
  • Although I can tell you that I saw great results, I can’t promise that it will work for everyone.

The first thing I noticed is that my students were far less likely to have a late assignment during this recent term. There were a few late assignments but most of the time, the students let me know well in advance and there were really only a few late ones even then. Did Remind help? Possibly? I can’t say for sure just yet.

The second thing I noticed is that the average grades on many assignments seemed much higher than the previous terms. Even after reviewing Article 1 grades (the first assignment in my class and often the ‘crushing blow’ for new students), overall performance seems very high. I saw many less formatting and organization errors than I had previously seen on the first assignment and this continued to go down (for most students) as each Article Review came through.

The third thing I noticed is that I did not field anywhere near as many email questions over the class about formatting papers, acceptable choices for source material, etc. Yes, there were some who simply did not respond to my feedback (or at least their work indicated as much) but they were minimal. The few questions I did get were more like “Professor, after I watched your video, you said something about…” which greatly reduced the amount of questions I needed to ask to determine what the student needed help with.

Fourthly, and perhaps the most interesting of all – average final grades went WAY up! This was very pronounced! Due to various privacy rules, I can’t share how many grades and who scored what, but I can tell you that I saw many grades on the HIGHER end than I usually do. I also feel that my mid-range grades seemed tilted towards the upper end of the grade scale rather than the lower end. It’s possible that all of the extra technology has delivered unexpected (though quite welcome) positive trends. That makes all the difference in the world!

I hope to be able to see a similar result once this term completes so once it does, I will let you know if the performance stayed the same! God Bless!

Technology Enhancements for my next class

Date: 12 Jan 2017 Comments:0

Hello Friends,

It’s hard to believe that I have not been able to post anything here in over a year. I guess that is just a testament to how chaotic life is. For the most part, things stay the same in my family and home life and sometimes they are different. One constant, at least for the past year or so has been my teaching at Liberty.

I am officially about to start my second year of being an instructor at Liberty and it has been both rewarding and challenging. Because the school runs in A, B, C, and D terms, I stay busy. I almost always teach in B and D terms and since these are split in two, I actually teach about two classes a semester. If you add the fact that over the last summer, there was a wealth of students that wanted to take the class I teach and only one teacher, during the B term I actually taught two classes (13 students each) at the same time. I have rarely had such a stressful time in my adult life and I won’t do that again. It’s simply impossible to juggle my full time career, my full time (and then some) family, and more than one block of 20 students at a time. Thank God that I am blessed with an amazing wife who is willing to go to great lengths to keep our children out of the house on some days when I was simply buried.

That’s all behind me now. However, it’s a new year and I wanted to make some changes. Over the several terms I have taught, one of the most common comments I have seen is that the class did not feel like it was interactive enough. I admit that I enjoyed simply having to post the materials each week and grade with little else required of me outside of answering emails but that was not very rewarding for the students and, in fact, cheapened their experience for my own personal comfort. That being said, I am using some new tools this term to help me reach my students in a much more interactive way.

First of all, I have recorded a welcome video for the first time in my teaching life. It’s really a simple 15 minute video but since I am not a video editor, I had to do it all in one take. Well… it took me about 30 tries (before I lost count) but I finally got one. It still omitted things and the stark white dry erase board behind me may be somewhat colder than I’d like but it’s a good first shot. I will try to do a better version next term. It is quite interesting to remind myself to look at the camera and not the computer screen as I recorded and I still let my eyes wander about while I was thinking on certain topics. At any rate, it was actually a fun experience and I think it will be nice to make one each term.

The next, and probably one of the most powerful changes (based off early use), is my decision to open a remind.com account. Unbeknownst to me, Remind.com actually offers educators a free and fully functional account to interact with their class. Thanks to the CTE folks at Liberty, I figured out how to get it activated. It’s nothing fancy outside of an app-based text message tool that allows me to communicate with students without having to know their personal phone numbers but I already see it’s power. Most of my students are pretty technical (given the discipline of IT Security, this makes sense) and most of them are highly mobile. Email is just too slow and stodgy for most of them. They forget to check their Liberty email or maybe my stuff gets lots in their mail, etc. With Remind, they get a text from me any time I have an announcement and if they are subscribed, they will get an app notification that I sent out an announcement right on their phone. What’s more, they can respond directly to my text and I will get it instantly. This has already helped me solve one student’s question and there are only three students subscribing currently. But wait.. class is not even fully started until this coming Monday so that’s a pretty good response in pre-class time. Don’t even get me started on how easily I can set timed reminders about certain assignments being due. This will revolutionize the way I communicate with my students.

Lastly, I have pondered the idea of using Poplur.me which is a CMS/microblog site that is also free to educators. It would allow me to take the “Wall of Text” announcements that my students get each week and turn them into a web portfolio that is easier to navigate and consume than Blackboard. I could do this with WordPress just as well but the modules prebuilt into Poplur are geared more towards education. I am still not sure if I will use it but it’s nice to know that I can.

This year is shaping up to be a very unique and different teaching experience and I am excited to see what God will do with it!

One More Class for the Books

Date: 4 Jan 2016 Comments:0

Hello readers and Happy New Year to you all! I have just now gotten my head above water long enough to blog about anything. As of about a week ago, I just completed my second term teaching at Liberty University. I must be doing something right, because my team told me that I have been selected to teach this course for two sub-terms this semester. Liberty operates primarily four alternating terms in a semester: A and C term (first of the term and middle) and then B and D term (second part of the semester and the last). Historically, I have only taught this class in D term (as happened the past two classes) but I was advised that I am teaching this class both in B and D terms this semester. That means that I have an even shorter break than before (B term starts up in about two weeks) and I will be teaching the class twice in a row (with a brief break between B and D terms). Couple that with being designated as the Subject Matter Expert (SME) with the class, which basically allows me to modify the core instructions of the class which are then used by anyone who teaches the class (I know of at least one other professor who teaches this class) and I would say that Liberty has put a lot of faith in me as a faculty member. I am blessed that God has favored me as such as I certainly earned nothing on my own.

That being said, this last term was a grizzly one. In fact, I had a few occasions where I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get all the work done. This was because of a number of factors. The primary factor is that my house was rocked with sickness from about Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas. It started with one of my children giving me some stomach bug right around Thanksgiving that put me out of commission for about a day. Then, one of my sons seemed to be constantly running fevers and seeming lethargic but the clinic and his primary care physician (PCP) did not see anything outside of a virus. Finally, when he was saying that it hurt to go potty, we took him to the clinic and they did an X Ray to find out that he had a pneumonia bacteria very deep in his lungs and it was starting to put pressure on his bladder. We started getting him through that and then the other kids got another stomach but and one of the babies got an upper respiratory infection. Finally, this all culminated in me personally coming down with what I perceived to be a wicked cold that caused me to spike fevers frequently and feel like my lungs were ‘rattling’ a lot. The end diagnosis was that I, too, had pneumonia and since it had not been diagnosed as such before, the antibiotic I had didn’t really help me much. Finally I got a some strong antibiotics and it started to leave my system.

As if the above situation was not enough, my work decided to send me to Las Vegas in early December to go to a conference. I am not complaining about being sent to Vegas for free, mind you, but it was a challenging thing to work at the conference and still have time to grade/enjoy the area. I learned a lot at the conference and made good friends with one of my coworkers who came along (and our wives became good friends too because they came with us). However, the conference lasted four days and I didn’t get to do any grading at all during that time. When I finally got back to the house, I was over a week behind in my grading and the sickness that hit me did not help.

All that is to say that I spent the greater part of a month, being almost two weeks behind in grading. I had a lot going on in my primary job and so I couldn’t really work on my grading then either. Ultimately, I had to pretty much come home every night, eat dinner, put kids to bed and then blast through as many papers as I could. I didn’t get caught up until a day or two before the final grades were due and still had to grade some papers even up to the last few hours before the papers were due. But, by God’s grace, I got it done. Now, I have two classes under my belt.

So how did I fare this time? Honestly, about the same as last time. Based on the results of the End of Course Survey, I had about two students who were very unhappy with having me as their teacher, 6 or 7 more than felt I did pretty good overall but still were unhappy with a few things, and finally about 8 to 10 that were happy with the class overall. That’s a pretty good set of odds! I learned early on that I was never going to make every student happy and this term was no different but none of the students indicated that I was not supportive of them which is vital to my success as a teacher at Liberty. There were still some concerns about the confusing directions but this time, it was more due to the fact that I implemented two new sets of instructions (one for the Article Reviews and another for the Research Papers) but they were not setup to replace the default instructions in the course so the students had to look in a different place to get the instructions. I did provide them links to the material frequently in my announcements but I can see how even that is not enough for some people. Now that I have updated the core instructions, my new instructions should not require the students to look two places as the new guides have been replaced in the core documents for all future classes (thanks to my SME powers). I know that there will still be those who do not get what they expected which causes them to be upset but overall it will be a positive path going forward.

For now, I just ask that God continue to fill me with the care and compassion that these students need and help me maintain health and balance during the next term. I will continue to find ways to relax and breathe so that I can go into the next round of classes without as much stress as the others. If you need me, I will be either playing with the kiddos or doing some awesome gaming until the new term starts.

How Professor Dave Fared

Date: 14 Sep 2015 Comments:0

Hello to the readers of this blog. I am obviously rather poor at completing any timely updates to my blog. I would love to offer a cool and creative excuse but I also want to be honest. Simply put, I have been overwhelmed with EVERYTHING in the past several months. It’s not all been bad but it’s also not all been good. Overall, God has continued to bless me continually and His riches continue to be lavished upon this unworthy person. I will never be able to list all of the blessings that God has delivered in recent months but I think that I can summarize enough that you all get the idea.

Since I last shared anything here, I have started and completed my first ever teaching assignment with Liberty University. To say that it was an experience would not do it anywhere near enough justice. I can definitely say that is a rewarding (though sometimes humbling) experience to be an instructor. It’s an even higher honor and privilege to serve as an instructor at a Christian university. Despite this awesome potential, when you combine higher education and Christianity, it can sometimes cause strange results. Overall, the interactions I had with my students were quite positive. I got to pray with students, encourage them in their education and their walk with Christ, and be privy to some of their wonderful faith stories. On the other hand, the demand on my students to be biblical in their thoughts and actions did not always go well and the Enemy used some of my attempts at bolstering faith through encouragement into corrupted messages to my students. I can’t really go much deeper than that, but suffice to say that one of the biggest lessons I have learned from this first experience as a college instructor, is that no matter how much you try to be positive, impacting and helpful, some students will simply never agree with you and will argue with you until they are blue in the face…er…email text. Despite these challenges. my final rankings from the end-of-course survey reflect me quite well. Almost all of the students strongly agreed that I was a good professor and that I was always willing to help them with their needs. One of the biggest things I noticed was that the students did not feel that some of the instructions for the work were very clear. I am looking at how to change that. Also… I get to teach the same course in the coming Fall D Term. I have certainly learned a few ways that I can improve my own performance for the next term so I am looking forward to doing this all again in October.

The next big change is that we have officially moved! That’s correct, after staying in our house for over 5 years and adding 4 more children to the home since we moved in (the boys and the twins came after we moved), we finally moved on. Where? Well, one of the most amazing places we could ever have as our home. We bought an existing house in Noble, not far away from Norman. The house has 5 full bedrooms, plus an office, 3 car garage, a shop, AND it sits on almost 5 acres. Even when I lived with my parents in SE OK, the biggest land I had available was about 1 acre at my mom’s house. My wife and I both love the fact that the house is far enough from the city that we feel like the area is peaceful and disconnected from urban life while still being close to most things in civilization (it only takes me about 15 minutes to get to work and 10 minutes to get to our church). The house is still pretty chaotic and largely still packed, but we are slowly getting through things and organizing as we go. We have already installed a Merry-Go-Round and a jungle gym for the kids to enjoy and will be installing a swing set once time (and weather) allows us to do so.

Lastly, my beloved wife has decided that after being out of the work force for over 2 years, she is now returning to work. She greatly enjoyed being able to stay home with the kids and especially to watch the twins grow but she also desires to have some professional life outside of the home and to earn some income. She accepted a position as a part time teacher at the daycare where our children currently attend but is only using that until some of the other positions she has applied to pan out. The director of the daycare is aware that my wife wants to do a full time position but she also didn’t want us to lose our spots for the twins and our oldest at the daycare if the other jobs take a while to get back to her. It’s not her favorite job to do but she is blessed to be able to work in the school and earn the paycheck while she waits for the other jobs to come along. I pray that God will deliver her the job that will let her use her gifts to the fullest extent.

Take Care all and Happy Fall!

Teaching My First Class Soon!

Date: 17 Jun 2015 Comments:0

Hello! It has been a very long time since I have posted anything. Basically, the last two weeks of work at my old employer went by very quickly and then I was dumped headlong into my exciting new career with OU. I have been at work for about 3 months now and am already doing great things. God is certainly showing me how to use skills that I had previously not used but have always had and is giving me new and exciting skills as I go. Also, God has finally shown me a chance to sell the house my wife and I have been building our family in for 5 years and buy a house that can hold all of my large family. We still have not sold our current house, but we have a contract on the house we hope to move in to soon but it is contingent on the sale of our current home. It’s truly a situation where it is God’s timing and not ours.

On a different note, I am excited to announce that after almost a year of waiting, I was assigned my first class to teach at Liberty University. Starting in a few short weeks, I will be teaching Ethics, Legal Issues and Policy! I am excited that I am finally getting to use what I feel is a God-given ability to teach and reach others in a place that not only builds minds of scholars but also brings glory to God. There is not much better way to use ability than in that capacity! The verdict is still out on how effective of a teacher I will be in a remote environment but I am not too concerned. If God has brought me here, there is no reason He won’t help me where I lack.

That is all for now! Enjoy the oncoming summer!

God Brings New and Good Things

Date: 24 Feb 2015 Comments:0

I am pleased to report that after a year of waiting, praying, seeking and hoping, God has finally brought a new change that I feel will be an amazing change. I have been working with my current employer for almost two years. They were the best company to scoop me up when Chesapeake released me but my time with this position has run out. I feel that although the position is relatively easy and pays me quite well, there is simply no future in it. Furthermore, this work has been a very challenging place for me from a spiritual perspective. I work with many non-believers, some of which are downright cruel in their statements against Christianity.

I have, on occasion, spoken out against my coworkers to defend my faith. As a result, I have been targeted by my coworkers for minor offenses that have culminated in me feeling like I cannot do anything without drawing negative attention to myself. I forgive them for their actions against me but it has made my life somewhat difficult. Now, God has granted me the opportunity to change my situation. I really hope that I can use my new position to glorify God more so than before.

I thank God for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing where this new road will lead.

Professor Dave at Last!

Date: 27 Jan 2015 Comments:0

It was easily the longest possible wait that I have ever experienced in any career move, but as of Jan. 13, 2015, I am officially an Adjunct Instructor, Cybersecurity at Liberty University Online (LUO). From the first day that I taught a summer program in IT to middle schoolers back in 2002, to the decision to pursue a Master’s Degree in anything, I have always wanted to teach. Every Wednesday, I give up my entire night to teach English to Hispanic, Arabic and Chinese speakers and I love it! Not to mention, I can see people actually learning from teaching, some at a faster rate than they have ever learned before.

The feeling I get when I let God work through me to share knowledge with people who need it and the joy I get in seeing them learn makes teaching an amazing reward for me. Granted, the position is only part time in the figurative sense, but I am permitted to teach more than one class at a time if I so choose. That being said, I am going to start with only one class and see how it impacts my professional and spiritual life. If I manage to do well, I may take on more classes in time

Now, let’s be realistic. I am actually getting paid to do this work for the first time in my life but that’s not WHY I am doing it. I am doing this to use the skills I have been given to enrich the students I meet. I will be ‘Training Champions for Christ” which is a great thing to do. I am still in training as of now but will hopefully be given my first class within the next semester or so.

God Bless!

A New Spiritual Challenge

Date: 25 Aug 2014 Comments:0

It appears as though I am on the verge of yet another spiritual growth challenge. As anyone who has read my blog much would know, I once attended Liberty University as I attempted to get my Master of Divinity. I ultimately did not complete this degree because the cost of the degree would never pay itself back with the salary potential I could make from being a pastor. Furthermore, I don’t really feel like God is calling me into pastoral roles at the moment or maybe at all because He has other things in line for me. Well, I somehow knew that my history with Liberty was not over.

No, I am not going back after my M.Div, my beloved wife has forbidden me to pursue any further academic pursuits for the time being :). However, when I began pursuing my Masters in Cyber Security from the University of Maryland University College, the primary purpose (other than giving myself new skills to use for employment) was to make it so that I could be a full fledged teacher. I have been a volunteer teacher in many ways and I feel that I am gifted as a teacher and those who work with me in ESL classes tend to agree.

So, on a hopeful whim, I applied for many different online adjunct teaching positions including my Alma Mater UMUC. Liberty University has an adjunct professor position open in their Cyber Security classes so I went about completing the very detailed application process. I had to provide them with a resume, a curriculum vitae, 3 professional letters of recommendation, 2 academic letters or recommendation, copies of all my transcripts, a teaching philosophy, and even a pastoral reference letter. Thanks to all of my good friends and co-workers who assisted me, I have been moved up the chain! I am supposed to schedule a WebEx conference this week to be interviewed for the position. However, in the email they actually addressed me as ‘Professor Shields” which is a title I have never been called outside of the ESL classes and even that is more honorific than professional. That makes me think that as long as I ace this interview, I am in.

I can’t explain how excited I am that God has opened YET ANOTHER door for me to do something that is meaningful, will help me to grow spiritually, and let’s me use this degree very shortly after I paid to earn it. God’s timing and HIS plan is always amazing! If I can earn some years of working as a professor in online classes, I can develop a tenure. Tenured professors usually have great luck getting in to full time academic work. Will I ever fully give up professional employment in  pursuit of academic? Maybe if the time was right and I felt like the work was something that I actually did well in on a professional level then I certainly could go that route. But for now, I am just grateful that God will give me another chance to use one of the gift’s he’s given me.

Now I need to say this so as not to provide false information. I am not guaranteed this position. I have not been selected yet. What I do feel, however, is that I am on the right track. Keep watching my blog and IF I am selected for this position, I will let you all know.

 

10 Years Later – An Answered Prayer

Date: 29 Jul 2014 Comments:0

July 23, 2014 at 10:53AM, God answered a prayer that my wife and I have been praying about for over 10 years. On July 23, 2014 at 10:53, my biological daughter was born. Two minutes later, my biological son was born. This may not seem like much to some people but to our family, it was a prayer answered that had been on our hearts for the longest time. Those of you that know me will know that my wife and I already have three adopted children whom we fostered for various periods of time before they were adopted. They are also answered prayers but a different kind of answer.

I remember it well, in 2007 my wife and I had been attempting to have children for about 2 years and nothing had happened. We wanted children and we loved the idea of having a family to share life with and grow. In early 2007, my wife was told by a fertility specialist that she would not be capable of having children due to her health and her family medical history. We were both crushed because it felt like we were being denied something we so desperately sought and God had not allowed it to happen. It was even worse for my wife because, as a woman, she felt like producing children was one of her primary duties as a mother and a wife and now she was being told that it would never be possible. The pain we felt was something that we could not quite describe and yet we had friends all around us who were very fertile and people had more children than they knew what to do with and yet we were not in that demographic.

After a great deal of convincing, my wife finally agreed for us to become a foster home in 2008. Soon after we received our first foster (and later our first adopted) daughter, we realized that God had a whole world of children out there who needed us more than children who had not even been born yet. We changed our perspective about children but there was still that underlying longing for biological children. When we got our foster son B, in 2011 at only 8 days old, Tiff was deeply in love with the thought of having a baby, only a month later we got another baby boy and she got double the motherly love. Despite this great blessing, the pain of always having to ‘share’ the role of mother with strangers even after the two boys were adopted (in 2012 and early 2014 respectively). Even though our house was full, we never lost sight of the thought that we might have our own kids some day. We just didn’t know how or when it would take place.

In 2011, I left my comfortable position at a company where I had worked for 6 years (that’s a long time in IT) and took a position with a Fortune 500 oil  company that boasted ridiculous benefits and enough salary that my wife could finally stay home. I took the position and we began to think about the potential of having in-vitro fertilization (IVF) performed to have a baby. Why? Because the company’s insurance permitted us to get this and it would pay over 75% of the cost of this very expensive procedure. We prayed about it and talked it over for hours on end.Finally, we decided in September 2013 that we were going to go for it. The best explanation I can give was that we decided we would rather try the IVF while we were still young enough and had insurance that would cover it than to not do the procedure and spend our whole lives wondering ‘What If?’

Steeled by our hopes and prayed up, my wife began the painful process of preparing. This required her to go take medications to increase fertility. It required her to take steroid shots until the eggs were big enough to be used for the procedure and she had to be very careful about how she ate and slept and so on. Unfortunately, on October 8,  2013, barely a month after we had started the process, my company downsized and terminated over 640 people in the OKC metro… I was one of those people. When I told my wife about this information, she was hysterically sad and was worried that we would not be able to keep going when we were SO CLOSE. However, there is a silver lining in this… the company allowed me to keep my insurance until Dec. 2013 which would mean that we would be done with the most expensive part (the harvesting and fertilization part) before the insurance ran out! Furthermore, the company that hired me only a week after I was released from my old job paid me even more than my Fortune 500 job! I praised God for His provision and the path continued onward.

Once my wife and I did the harvesting, we got four eggs that were capable of fertilization so we went ahead and did all four. This was a scary thought because once the egg was fully fertilized, we either had to deposit it, freeze it, or give it up for adoption. We actually were scared about this because we couldn’t afford if all 4 fertilized nor could we afford to freeze the others. After five days, the eggs would either die or become viable. Tiff and I prayed and turned over the concept of what we wanted to do. We got a call on Day 3 that the smallest of our eggs had deteriorated and was no longer usable. The first two looked good and the third one was ‘okay’. The fourth day, they called and said that the third egg looked like it was starting to deteriorate but the other two looked great. Finally, on the morning of day 5, the third egg was no longer viable but the first two were 100% ready to go! It sounds negative but we were actually glad that this was the way things worked out.

In November, my wife went through the painful process of having the embryos implanted. We found out after a few weeks that BOTH babies were now stable and growing. My wife still had to go through painful shots, countless steroids and even was put on modified bedrest. The problem with my wife being on modified bed rest is that she is not exactly a ‘sit down’ kind of person. She wants to be moving constantly,  she has a daily list of stuff she needs/wants to do to ensure the operation of our already 3 children household. Thank God, we have friends that have been placed in our life for various reasons that are willing to help us out when she had to sit down.

Well, after 10 years of prayer, several months of shots, bloodwork and sitting down.. we gave birth to our twins! There are no words to express how amazing this feels! When I see how God literally made two beautiful things out of the particles of dust that make up humans and gave them to two people who prayed for years and cried for years – it reminds me of how amazing God is. We may not understand His timing, we may not understand why things happen and we may not even think God hears us. But I am here to tell you. MY GOD LISTENS AND ANSWERS PRAYERS! Keep your faith strong and pray without ceasing – God will reward you in ways that you cannot imagine.

God’s Not Dead, The Movie is Doing Something Right

Date: 6 Apr 2014 Comments:0

I recently got the opportunity to have a rare date night with my wife and we chose to watch “God’s Not Dead” and I am glad we did. I am not going to spend a long amount of time discussing the movie because there are plenty of sites that offer reviews. What I can tell you, in short, is that if you believe in God as I do then you are likely to enjoy the movie but if you do not believe in God, you are likely to think the movie is dumb and pointless. What I wanted to mention is a salient point that I think is due some consideration. The movie was made by a Christian company and backed by many Christian supporters including the Duck Dynasty gang.

It doesn’t take long when looking on the Internet to find that the movie has a very polarizing effect on its audience. If one were to check the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, you would see that it received a score of 20% which is pretty low as there are only 10 reviews. However, if you look deeper into the reviews, you will find that the majority of the people who DISLIKE the movie, are people who either publicly are not Christians or who indicate with their public persona that they are not believers. The ones that seem to like it are either Christians in some form or fashion or people who appear to have no real bias against Christianity. This is awfully curious, is it not? Yet when you see the reviews of ‘Noah’  scored it at a whopping 78% but it is surprisingly less Christian than any movie based off a character in the Bible should ever be. The director himself states that he believes in ‘something’ but not necessarily the Christian God. Noah was a sci-fi, falshy movie that tried to bring a ‘new spin’ on an ‘old story’. Many of the believers I have spoke to about the movie feel that it is not very Christian in its message – yet it was vastly more popular than God’s Not Dead… hmm…

What I submit to you is this… there is no doubt that Christianity is one of the most unpopular things one can do with their lives nowadays. When the Duck Dynasty patriarch openly spoke against homosexuality, he was removed from the show and many of the anti-Christian media denounced him as a dumb hillbilly. When Tim Teebow spoke about praying before his games and how God helped him, he was regarded as a fool who had been brainwashed. Why is that? Simply because these people were doing something right. Despite what some churches teach, the so-called Drugstore Gospel that says that as long as you love God everything will be fine, being a Christian is NOT easy, it is one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. I lost friends, I lost family (in ways), and I lost some of my ‘youth’ when I decided to follow Christ with true devotion. Would I take it back? No way! I gave up a few things in my life, yes. Maybe I don’t get to stay up late and do stuff with my buddies on a Saturday because I ‘have to go to church’. I have been ribbed plenty of times by my friends, most of which consider themselves intellectuals, and like to hurl such insults as ‘why haven’t you joined the Enlightenment like the rest of us?’ These things sting pretty strongly but when ever my friends are in trouble… who do they seek out for spiritual advice? The guy who is not ‘Enlightened’ like they are. Guess what… I am an intellectual. I am perfectly capable of thinking for myself. I hold three degrees – one of which is a Masters – and I have a ‘knowledge worker’ job instead of busting my tail in the factory and just barely getting by. I have been given a beautiful life and I can experience the things that only love can offer… laughter of my children, the smell of the rain because God made a new day, etc. But it was NOT without a price. When you do something ‘right’ as a Christian, you are going to be challenged… ‘For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering’ (Romans 8:16-17). Or perhaps this: ‘Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body’ (Romans 8:23). The truth is, being a Christian can really be unhappy at times.

I honestly think that the fact that “God’s Not Dead” seems to be so polarizing proves that it is doing something right. Sure, I could go on and on about the plot holes in the movie, I could bemoan the fact that something was done or not done in the way I would have wanted it done but who am I to judge? What I want to make clear is this… when you are serving God, life is NOT going to be easy. When you make a movie that does its best to illustrate a spiritual point and you are lambasted by negative reviews and bad press… that may not be a bad thing. God’s Not Dead and this movie reminded me of that fact quite strongly. The movie wasn’t a perfect movie but Christians are not perfect people either. I hope that my believing friends will go see this movie and I even hope that some of my non-believing friends will go see it because both groups will get something out of it. You won’t feel warm and fuzzy inside when the movie is over but you will feel a deeper feeling that will make you think more about your situation and less about what you like and dislike.