Betsy Marvin


Sometimes, even when we know something is there, it is hard to see.  This activity will push students to think outside of the box as they search for books of the Bible hidden in a puzzling paragraph.

You are going to want to Download this PDF because it has the answer key. Print off enough copies to do this in teams. The paragraph (it’s posted below to see if you can find them without the answer key) has the names of 30 books of the Bible are hidden in its text, but they are broken up in tricky ways.  For example, the second sentence has the books Amos and Mark hidden in it like this:  This is a most remarkable puzzle.

Read Job 42:1-6, 10-17. Once students are finished, use these questions to discuss the activity and how it helps us understand Job:

Sometimes, even when we know something is there, it is hard to see.  You knew the puzzle had 30 books of the Bible in it, but some were really hard to see.

  • What helped you keep at the puzzle even when you were frustrated?
  • Why were some easier to find than others?
  • How does this connect to Job?
  • How does it feel to rely on things you cannot see? 12:1
  • As soon as Job stops trying to figure out God and prays, God restores him.What can we learn from this?
  • In the beginning we raised the question, why do bad things happen?Rethink this.   What have you learned from Job over the past few weeks that you can remember when bad things happen?
  • What did God know of Job before it all began? (He knew that Job had the faith and courage to withstand the test and grow his faith)

Full Text of the Puzzle:

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much, he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That’s a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or a scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, “The books are all right here in plain view hidden from sight.” Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus; there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found. God Bless.

Word Bank:  In Biblical order, not in the order they are in the paragraph!

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Numbers
  4. Judges
  5. Ruth
  6. Samuel
  7. Kings
  8. Chronicles
  9. Esther
  10. Job
  11. Lamentations
  12. Daniel
  13. Hosea
  14. Joel
  15. Amos
  16. Nahum
  17. Malachi
  18. Matthew
  19. Mark
  20. Luke
  21. John
  22. Acts
  23. Romans
  24. Timothy
  25. Titus
  26. Philemon
  27. Hebrew
  28. James
  29. Peter
  30. Revelation

We often are so busy it is hard to find time to just be quiet and listen for God might be teaching us. Silence is a spiritual practice that can help us grow closer to God. It is a way to build our faith as we seek to know Jesus more.  This exercise will help students explore the silence and storm imagery in Job 38 by quieting their world.

Begin by introducing the silence.  Explaining that you are going to spend the next 10 minutes in silence reading over Job 38. Notice the images, the questions God is asking, the point God is making. After reading, spend time in silence as you contemplate the magnitude of God. You may journal, pray, and draw.

After the silence ask,

As you read these verses, what image do you have of God?
Job had to have quiet to hear God, how can we use silence in our walk with Jesus?

Can it be that we can be so preoccupied with what we are experiencing in life that we can’t see God in our circumstances? Job feels deserted by God because he is blinded by what’s happening to him. He thinks God has forgotten him and his faith is struggling. But, inside him there is a spark of hope.  This activity will help students explore the frustration job is feeling.

Begin by creating a set of horse blinders for a student to wear.  Using a pair of sunglasses, tape thick cardboard or cardstock to the sides of a pair of sunglasses so that the student wearing them cannot see to the sides.

This activity involves the whole group. Choose one student to wear the blinders (see resources) and another to stand about 6-8 feet in behind them, facing them. Have the rest of the group spread out on each side of the blinded student facing away from the person behind the blinded student. Each of the students on the sides needs to pick a number that can be shown on their fingers (some may have the same number).

When you say “go”, have the students on the sides start saying and showing their numbers to the blinded student all at the same time – but they cannot move. As they show and tell their numbers, the blinded student needs to guess which numbers are being shown without turning their head.

Pause game –
Ask the blinded student, what makes this so hard?

Now have the students on the sides turn around so they are facing the person across the room, the blinders student does not turn. When you say ‘go’, have the students again start saying (or yelling) their numbers and showing them on their hands. The person behind the blinded student now begins to show the numbers he or she is seeing on their hands (no voice). The blinded student again can guess which numbers are seen.

After a few minutes of trying to guess the numbers, have the blinded person turn and face the person behind them who is showing them the numbers – can they guess the numbers now?

• What made the difference in guessing?
• What would have made this whole game easier for the student with blinders on?
(take off the blinders, turn around faster…)
• For those on the sides, were you frustrated? Why or why not?
• What spiritual connections can you make from our little game?
(person behind = God, blinded student = Job, rest of group = friends)
(we can be blinded by loneliness, distractions, hurts, confusion, etc which can make blind us to what God is doing)

Read: Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Connect to Job:
Can it be that we can be so preoccupied with what we are experiencing in life that we can’t see God in our circumstances?

Job feels deserted by God because he is blinded by what’s happening to him. He thinks God has forgotten him and his faith is struggling. But, inside him there is a spark of hope.

• How would you describe hope?
• Why is hope so important for Job?

Even when (the blinders student) couldn’t see the person behind him giving numbers, he/she knew help was right there, all he/she had to do was turn around. Job holds onto hope, despite feeling deserted.

• So many people feel deserted and lonely in our world, discuss ways you can help those around you who feel like Job.

Just like we need to work our muscles and push them, test them, and break them down to build them, the same is true of our faith.  It isn’t always easy to see, but sometimes when things come our way that we can’t explain, we have the opportunity to remain faithful to God see what he is teaching us.

  • Have a volunteer do 15 pushups. Ask: Where the pushups easy or hard? Why?
  • Have another volunteer do 15 sit ups. Ask: Where the sit ups easy or hard? Why?
  • Have another volunteer do the plank – 3 minutes.
    (If you have enough space, the whole group can try! This will be hard even for someone really in shape).
  • What makes this exercise easy or hard to do?
  • How do we develop strength?

Explain: We develop muscle and strength by practice, training, and pushing our muscles.

  • Does anyone know how muscle is built?
    (It is built thought the breakdown and rebuilding of the muscle tissue, pushing to its limit, testing your endurance and building it over time)

Read Job 2:9-10.

  • What do you think of Job’s question to his wife? What does he mean?
  • When things go wrong, or even badly, who do you blame? What do you agree with his wife? Why or why not?
  • Why do we blame God so quickly when things go bad?
  • Can you remain faithful to God when trouble comes?

In an interview about being creative, author Brene Brown made an interesting statement.  She said that creativity was a way for what you know in your mind – moves to your heart. For me that means that when we are creative we build a bridge for knowledge to move to our hearts.  

This made me  immediately think of my family. My husband is incredibly artistic and he has given that gene to our kids. For me, creativity is playing with words. As I write, I form ideas, new interpretations, etc.  

If creativity builds bridges for truths to move to our hearts, how often are we creating space for this to happen with our students?

A few years ago, probably motivated by my own kids, I put together a chest of supplies.  Paper, pens, paint, markers, play-doh, journals, pastels, and more. Every so often, we create space for kids to just draw, write, mold, listen, be.     

When we think of being creative we often think of art, and it is.  It’s also writing, acting, music, speaking, and so much more. By definition, creativity is original ideas or using our imagination to form something whether physical or thoughtful.  Creativity doesn’t have to just be thought of in terms of art, it is also an approach to faith.  

Think about it.  Creativity is defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.  It’s originality, progressiveness, or imagination.  That means that creative spirituality is when we take the traditional verse, topic, or theme and create meaningful, imaginative ways to look them.  How often do we let kids get creative with a truth so that they internalize the truths?

I think this gives us one of the best ways to see what’s going on inside a student.  What they create gives us a window into what they believe. Spending the time to create opens the opportunity to resonate, process, pray, and internalize the topic or verse.

We recently had a retreat where the topic was Be Still and Know – we focused on doubt.  The art and words that come out of the weekend were amazing. The different ways that each person… For the past few years, as we plan our high school retreat, we’ve created a space to get creative with the topic of the weekend.

Creativity is messy, a bit chaotic, and insightful.  It gives us a look into the variety of ways to look at lesson, verse, or topic.  It gives us a way to move something from our head to our heart.

Who’s Right?

Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.
 Prov. 14:9

There are many moments that stand out to me as change moments. A time when I either needed to quit or change my thinking or attitude. None were pain free but all have value as I look back.

Before I was a parent, I sure thought I had it down. I was a teacher, therefore I knew kids, right? But, being part of a student’s life and being their parent are two very different things. I was a part-time middle school leader at church when I learned the critical lesson that we don’t know, what we don’t know. My kids were still quite young and I hadn’t experienced my own walk as a parent of a teenager.

That day as I hung up the phone, I slipped down onto my kitchen floor and cried. I had never been chewed out so thoroughly by a parent. I felt humbled, hurt, surprised, and small. She had every right to be angry and she made very valid points, but all I wanted to do was quit.

It had been a great day at an amusement park, kids had a blast riding rides and eating junk food. I had carefully put them in groups to go around the park, made check-in times, and sent them off to enjoy it. They were in middle school; I was confident they could handle it. This mother was not. Although everyone returned tired and happy, she fully and thoroughly informed me of all the dangers at the park, how young middle schoolers are, and that any one of them could have been snatched and I wouldn’t have known until check-in time. Her children had not been safe and she let me know that I was irresponsible.

Didn’t she know I gave my whole day to her kids? Wasn’t she thankful I created this full day so her kids could have an adventure? Maybe. Could the middle schoolers handle the park? Yes. Was she right? Yes.

Although the kids did great, as a parent I can now see how scary a park like that can be and the trust it takes to send your child off on a trip – with anyone. Her anger at me stemmed from the fear that something awful could have happened – I totally get it. I have found that almost every time a parent is angry with me, the bottom line is fear for their child whether founded or not, doesn’t really matter.

I had to admit what I didn’t know, and change my thinking. They are her daughters not mine. I needed some help to understand how parents think, so I apologized and asked for her help. That mom became a number one volunteer and helped me in so many ways. I could have quit, I could have just said deal with it, or I could humble my heart and realize I wasn’t a middle school parent.


Have you had a run in or conflict with a parent? Who’s right – does it matter? In what area do you need a change of heart in order to reestablish or reconcile a relationship?

Proverbs tells us, the godly acknowledge and seek reconciliation. It’s one thing to acknowledge an issue but as followers of Jesus we are called to seek reconciliation – to heal relationships. This might mean that you don’t get to be right. We need to take that knowledge and seek change not only in the relationship but in ourselves.

I can see and hear it like yesterday, one of the moments that you mark in time that everything shifts. We were sitting on a picnic table in the middle of the camp overlooking a lake in early spring. It was chilly but not bad as students enjoyed free time during the weekend retreat. We sat pretty quiet for a moment, then she dove in. What if… How can… Why…

The doubt pouring out as she wrestled with who God is, why bad things happened to her, and what if the Bible after all this, isn’t true? This wasn’t our first conversation about all this, we’d had many, but I could tell she was coming to that big question – if I have doubt do I still have Jesus?

Underneath doubt is that fear- the fear that maybe God isn’t good or that God will be disappointed in our questions, or the fear that the wondering means we don’t have faith.

When it comes to doubt, there are few things we need to realize. God is so immense, so incredibly more than we can ever imagine that if we never wonder it raises ….. Yet, as our minds develop, we begin to process what we really believe, not if there is a God but more about who He is.

So often when it comes to doubt questions, we ignore them or brush them aside. They are scary for some people to even contemplate. But, for this young woman sitting with me during free time and others, that’s a big disservice. She needed me to acknowledge her questions and encourage her that she wasn’t bad for wondering. She needed to know that we could find some answers but not all. There are some things about God that will always be a mystery – can we be OK with that? If we could understand Him, he wouldn’t be God.

This past summer I sat in a school hallway talking with a young man at camp. He was so troubled about the doubts he was feeling and wondered if that meant he didn’t have Jesus if he had doubts. I asked him, do you believe Jesus died for you? Yes. Do you believe that he loves and has forgiven you? Yes. So what are your questions? And we began…so many times we forget to remember what it was like to wonder.

Doubt is an element of growth in faith. It’s in the doubt that we are motivated to know God more. It’s in the doubt that our minds seek to know what our hearts have accepted.

Peter sank in the water, yet he was the rock on which Jesus built his church. Doubt doesn’t exclude us from God’s plan, it invites to discover and grow into his plan.

This activity uses a single donuts the starting point to explore the issues of hunger.  Prepare the room with a single donut on a plate in the middle of a table.  

ONE donut of regular size
• Hungry? Have you ever been so hungry that you thought you were starving?
• How many people do you think one donut can feed?
• What if this is really all we had to eat for today? How would you share this one donut?
Pass donut around the group – have everyone take a piece from the donut to eat.
• How does it feel to have to share one donut?

(10 min) Ice Breaker Connector:
• Have you ever thought about what it would be like to not know where your next meal would come from?
• Have you ever come in contact with a homeless person? What did you think?
• If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life or had one last meal but it could be anything you wanted – what would you choose? Why?

Your students may already know how to play. If not, they’re going to love it!

Setup for Ultimate Ninja

Players begin standing in a circle, standing at arms-length.

Playing the Game

The goal of Ultimate Ninja is to be the last ninja standing: to eliminate other players by slapping their hands.  On a given turn, a player can attack or move in one fluid motion.

  1. Everyone says, “3, 2, 1… ULTIMATE NINJA!” and then all players quickly hold a ninja pose.
  2. Choose one player to begin play.
  3. On a player’s turn, he or she may do one swift ninja attack — one motion that attempts to touch another player’s hand.  Once making this motion, the player must freeze and hold the motion they just made.
  4. Any time a player is attacked, they may dodge as a reaction by moving their hand or arm, but they cannot move their feet.
  5. Immediately after the attacker moves, it is the next player’s turn (moving clockwise from the attacker) and they can immediately do an attack.
  6. If a player gets their hand struck, they must leave the circle, as they are eliminated.
  7. Play continues until all ninjas are eliminated.  The winner is the ninja left standing

Debrief the game talking about being anchored:

  • What did it feel like to have your feet anchored to the floor during our game?
  • How did it help to have your feet anchored?
  • Just as a boat is anchored, or our feet were anchored in the game, Jesus can be our anchor. What do you think that means? Read Hebrews 6:19.

The people mistook Jesus for John the Baptist or Elijah in Mark 6:13-16 because the incredible things he was doing. The miracles were making Jesus known, yet his real identity is more than the miracles: he is the Christ the Son of God.

Hand out little hand mirrors or have students pull out their phones and turn the camera to selfie mode. Have them take a good look at themselves.

  • What do you see?
  • What are you known for?
  • Does anyone ever think you are someone else? How did that feel?

Give students time to think and then share. It might be helpful to have them share what they see in each other, more like an affirmation circle.

There are things we can see, the facts: eye color, hair color, shape, size, etc. There are also things we can’t see but make us who we are: personality, strengths, gifts, family, and character.

  • Who are you known as?
  • What about your church? If your church were to leave your community tomorrow – would it be missed? What do you think people would know about your church?


Take a group picture – as you look at the picture – discuss – how can this group become known? How can we make an impact in the church and community? What can we do?