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September 2015

Family in Focus


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FIRST GLIMPSE: Praying With One Eye Open

“Zip it! And I’m not going to tell you again!”

The exasperated words exploded from my lips as I called down the mouthy middle schooler for at least the tenth time. An uneasy silence settled over the room as 15 other students turned startled stares in his direction. Mischievous blue eyes sparkled in return, and his broad smirk spoke volumes: “Just wait until your back is turned!”

This particular scalawag had been a thorn in my side since the night he simply vanished during the opening prayer. After a panicky, muttering-under-my-breath search, I found him hiding, curled up under a table. After that escapade, I acquired the skill of praying with one eye open.

As a new Christian, he had little concept of how to act in church…and he didn’t seem to be overly concerned about learning. He cheated during Bible games, got into shoving matches with other boys, cut line during kickball, and left a nest of handouts and paper wads around his chair every week. His rowdy behavior seemed to spread to other students, and to be honest, I began to dread seeing his freckled face on the front row every week.

I’ll never forget the night we made Scripture posters. The passage was about God’s love; his poster was a gory masterpiece depicting sharks and swimmers. I’m sure it got some strange looks when I posted it in the hallway along with the others.

As we neared the end of the school year, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had gained anything from our long months together. Discouraged, I began to count the days until summer break arrived. Because the Bible club is built around Scripture memorization, on the final night we held a competition to see which student could recite the most verses learned throughout the year. To my surprise, he made it past the first round then sailed through the second…and he was just warming up. Eight rounds later, he rattled off a 29-word passage to claim the championship.

I was more excited than he was!

That night, I thanked God for reminding me that no one—not even an obnoxious pre-teen or his impatient teacher—is beyond help. We are all unfinished works of grace, molding slowly into His image by exposure to His Word, the work of the Spirit, and the influence of other believers. He reminded me that His Word never “returns void,” even in the chaos of a middle school Bible club.
But when next year rolls around, you can be sure I will still be praying with one eye open!


Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at




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