Bible Bee 2010

There are moments in people’s life that take away one’s breath, strip away every notion of pride, and force one to fall to their spiritual knees.  The National Bible Bee was such an experience for me this year.

We registered for Bible Bee on May 1st, the first day possible, with hearts full of enthusiasm and determination.  From the first day we received the materials (June 2nd) I was resolved to be consistent and joyful in study, despite setbacks and discouragement. This was about God, not Sophie.
And then summer hit.  I had debated what all to commit to in my summer, and ended up doing everything:) Bible Bee, working at camp, youth missions trip, and a speech competition.  Two weeks into it, I had a meltdown, which is not a normal occurrence for me, but I felt helpless and completely incapable of seeing through everything I had signed up for.  My parents gave me such godly wisdom in planning out my days and prioritizing what needed to be done at what time. 
But still everyday I awoke with the thought, “I CAN’T DO THIS!” And then the calm assurance, “No, YOU can’t. But My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities…for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 
Throughout the whole summer, I tried to rise early and memorize, to make use of any free time to review and review, and some days I did succeed.  Other days I faltered and wondered "why did I sign up for this?"
But God was good, and His grace was sufficient!  I found courage in His Word, in the verses I was learning and in various preachers who spoke at camp.
Then the camp season was over and I had two weeks until the local contest.  My sisters and I were exhausted, but plunged in and were immersed in our studies every waking moment (almost completely accurate!).  The Local Contest went well, and we were so thankful.  I felt like we had accurately portrayed the amount of work we had done, but was not sure about Nationals.  Would I make it? I hadn’t been able to study as much as I’m sure others did (my preconceived notions of others:) and was sure the competition would be stiff!
The three of us who competed in the National division made the national contest! We were so excited!  But I was also trying to be realistic in my enthusiasm, was I really ready to give the next twelve weeks to studying Colossians and reviewing my verses?  I prayed about it, with my family, and decided that since the Lord saw fit to have me qualify, I should go for it. 
I remember lying in my bed, imagining the far off National Contest, remembering last year, and trying to fix my eyes on the goal.  But whenever I thought of the first place prize, there would be a struggle in my heart and soul.  Do I want to win? I was terrified that if I allowed the first place prize any spot in my desires, it would become a focus or motive in my daily study.  “O God! I want to glorify You in the way that You have ordained, and if that is winning—Praise You! And if it means falling apart—Praise You!”
So the weeks passed…some days slowly, but then they were gone! Our church family was wonderfully supportive, letting us recite in church and praying for us so faithfully.  Many dear friends encouraged and prayed for me.  My family was amazing; always willing to quiz my sisters and I and pick up slack in our chores:)
Then the National Contest came.  I was so excited to see everyone that I met last year and to meet new people with a like passion for God’s Word! I kept thinking, “Lord, I would LOVE to make semifinals, but You know best!”

The Opening Ceremony was a wonderful experience.  Every contestant age group filed up in a processional, our names were put on the screen, and we were awarded medals.  It made each one of us feel recognized and encouraged. 
My National Qualifying Sisters (Carissa and Lexi) and I
That night I slept well, praise the Lord, but woke up with a pit in my stomach the size of a State-fair pumpkin!  I spent some time out in the hallway, praying and laying out my day before the Lord.  I was going to read some encouragement from the Psalms, but verses I had studied kept coming to mind and I prayed them to the Lord.  It was very calming to say to God, “Lord it is nothing for you to help, whether with many or with those who have no power.  Help me, O Lord my God, for I rest on You, and in Your name I compete today. O Lord, You are my God, do not let man prevail against You!” (2 Chron. 14:11—personalized paraphrase:)
My little sisters began their competition earlier than I did, so I got to go with them as Carissa went to her written test, and Lexi did her oral round.  I was able to listen to Lexi recite and was so proud of her! I wish I known that many verses at age nine.  What a blessing!
Then at nine o’clock, all the Seniors gathered in the written test room.  I was nervous, but confident that I knew what I knew, and that would either be enough to make the cut, or not! The test went well; I felt prepared for the questions and pretty assured of my answers. 
Then we headed to the oral round room. Waiting is excruciating.  It is hard to trust when every moment ticks by so slowly.  The girls directly around me and I decided to pray for the people in the chairs ahead of us, and for each other, and then was calming. 
My seat buddies and I- Bethany Lee, Liesl Lawrence, and Hosanna Krahn
When it was my turn, all the family members who could fit in the room came in there with me.  Once I began to recite I was fine! My judges were wonderful; both encouraging and consistent, and I finished with time to spare.  I had made one mistake that I knew of, but there could have been more.
Friday was one of those days that seemed so long, and yet went by quickly.  All afternoon I watched the Primary and Junior Semifinals, cringing when they made a mistake, rejoicing with them when they were told, “Thank you, that was correct.  You may return to your seat!”
Then it was time for the Seniors to proceed into the ballroom another time and have our semifinalists announced.  I still had a pit in my stomach, but was determined to enjoy my last time on the stage!  Then they started calling the semifinalists.  Despite my resolutions that making it or not was fine…my heart lept and fell at every name.  Many of those called I had met personally, and I was so happy for them!  When Dr. Farris called Sophie Haire, I was prepared, but still jumped a little!
Then he came to the fifteenth contestant, and paused.  Then he announced in a very French accent, “Sophia LaFleur, from Bondurant, Iowa!”  I was in shock as I walked across the stage to my chair with the other semifinalists.  I kept thinking, “No way! No way! Thank you Lord!”
That night was pure bliss and torture:) It was a struggle to be calm and rest on the Lord, while going over problem verses and praying for peace.  Over and over in my mind, “Be anxious for nothing…and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Phil. 4:6-7; John 14:27)
The Lord was gracious to give me a good night of sleep, though I awoke with an even bigger pit in my stomach and felt like I could throw up.  I was frustrated with myself because nerves seemed to be a reflection of my fear of man, and not a reliance on God.  And so I went back out into the hall and opened my copy of the Scriptures to one of my favorite psalms: Psalm 16.
“Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.  The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” (vv. 1-3, 5-9)

I found such peace and security, despite my nerves, that the Lord was holding my lot.  The Lord gives me counsel.  The Lord is always before me, and my right hand, holding me secure. Even my flesh is secure in the Lord my God. And so, Semifinals arrived.
It is so hard to describe the National Bible Bee to those of you who have never been. The whole environment is electric, full of energy and zest.  All the contestants are in it together; we are comrades, friends, though competition.  The families there love the Word of God, and have proved that by their five months of commitment to its study.  Every where you go, there are instant friends and a bond in Christ that is beyond comprehension to those in the world.  We are the body of Christ.
When I came downstairs right before Semifinals, I was so blessed and encouraged! My friends from Iowa, family, those I met last year, those I had just met…they were all full of smiles, hugs, and prayers.  I went to stand with the other semifinal qualifying girls and we were nervous together:) They were all wonderful, sweet people, and I was so honored to be up there with them!
Dr. Farris called us all onto the stage and introduced the judges and moderator and the first round began.  When you are standing in front of that mike, every second is like a thousand years.  Every pause, hesitation and slur of a letter, is amplified on the speaker system and feels like a trumpet blast.
What an emotional time! Ups and downs, panic and joy, sickness and ecstasy!  I was the second to last contestant to recite and I was praying throughout most of the time up until my turn. 
When the moderator called my name, I walked up to the mike, stated my version and prayed.  “Lord, I’m scared out of my mind.  Let the Word of Christ dwell in me richly. Glorify Yourself, whatever happens.”
I was given the verse I needed to tell myself: Psalm 139:9-16.  “Where can I go from Your Spirit, or where can I flee from Your presence?”  The Lord was with me!  As always, when I start speaking, the Lord gives strength and peace and I no longer feel afraid.  I took courage that the Lord knew every thought, word, and moment of my life before I was even formed!  Wasn’t He in control of this moment as well?
Reciting at Semifinals
I finished and was told that it was correct and that I could return to my chair.  Unless you have been in a situation like that, where every word and letter counts and determines whether you continue or not…you cannot really empathize with the joy of being told you are correct! I returned to my seat, so grateful.
Those rounds were both wonderful and terrible.  Every contestant had worked so hard for so long; if they made a mistake, everyone felt it terribly!  In the second round, I was asked John 14:1-6.  “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. …I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” What a privilege to declare such truth! I was overcome at how the Truth was giving me the strength to declare the truth!  (John 17:17) 
In the third round, the difficulty and length of the verses intensified, and there were more who made mistakes.  The two people before me both were told, “Thank you, but that was not correct.”  It was with great trepidation that I approached the microphone as the final person in the Semifinal Challenge Round.
“Please recite 2 Chronicles 20:3-17.”  My heart jumped into my throat.  This was a beautiful passage, full of drama, reliance on the Lord and His deliverance!  But it was also one with which I had struggled.  I had worked hard on it, but rather hesitantly I began, every word coming slowly and unsurely.  But then the passage became clear in my mind.  Here is Jehoshaphat, terrified and unsure how to proceed.  He remembered the promises of God and cried out to Him to remember as well!
About a quarter of the way through the passage, I said “I will stand before this temple” instead of “we will stand before this temple.” In that moment, my mind did a transition from “I want to get this passage perfectly” to “Lord, glorify yourself through this passage, despite my error.”
And it was then that I really felt the power of the Word. “Oh, our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us, nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
I finished my passage, and was told that it was incorrect, which I already knew and was prepared for, and I took my seat on the other side of the stage. Then the semifinals were over, and the 5 finalists were announced.  It was interesting that not all those who had finished all three rounds perfectly qualified for the Final Round.  It was only the top five scorers from the Preliminary Oral and Written Rounds.
I was so excited to rejoin my family, who were all so supportive, and more disappointed in my mistake than I was.  I was so thrilled to have made it to semis and get to recite three times that I was crying from the sheer joy of it.
Then an interesting thing happened.  Several people came up to me and thanked me for my recitations, saying that it had really blessed them, some even to tears.  I was so moved.  This was far beyond my expectations! To not only make it to semifinals, but then to bless other people through my speaking of the Word? It was too much.  Throughout that day I was near to tears. I kept thanking the Lord, “You didn’t have to do this. You didn’t have to bless me like this, but thank You!”
That afternoon were the final rounds and they were such a blessing! The finalists knew the Word so well, and when some of them messed up, especially the little Primaries, I cried. All of the finalists got trophies and standing ovations—it was wonderful! They all deserved it! 
It was such a delightful, encouraging thing to watch because they were so sincere. I always fear that someone will make it to finals and win that really doesn’t care about the Word of God, but is just doing it for the money.  Obviously, I can’t see people’s hearts, but from the semifinalists and finalists attitudes and demeanors, they were just kids who loved God and wanted to do their best for the Lord.
Then came the Give Thanks Celebration Dinner.  It was a beautiful room, a delicious dinner, and a moving program.  The Gettys came and let the singing, which was a neat experience. It was such an encouraging time because not only were the contestants and staff praised for their hard work, but God was so uplifted throughout the whole event.
Toward the end of the dinner program, Dr. Farris announced a new award, The Chairman’s Oratory Award.  He explained that it was new this year, because the idea had been a result of last year and a recitation by third place winner, Ellen Lawrence.  She recited John 15:1-17 with such a sweetness of conviction and sincerity that they decided that they needed an award for not just accuracy in memorization, but for the expression and interpretation of the Word.
Ellen Lawrence and I
They awarded Ellen the 2009 award, and then called me up to receive the 2010 award. I also got to recite Romans 5:1-11 for the banquet, which was a great honor as well.
The most meaningful part of receiving this award to me, was that it wasn’t about me.  It wasn’t about my brilliant mind, diligent study, or excellence in speaking, but it was about the Word of God being living and active, and I was merely the one opening my mouth.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Looking back on this year of Bible Bee, I am awed and humbled by how God has done a work in my heart and that it has been a blessing to others.  Incredible how God uses even someone like me, who has no special merit of my own except what He has given me as a stewardship to use wisely. 

If you read this narrative of my experience and are even tempted to think, “She is an amazing person,” push that thought away from your mind!  I deserve no credit or recognition, it was all possible only because of His grace and the glory belongs to Him!

Soli Deo Gloria!
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1

If this has peaked your interest in the Bible Bee at all, please pray about participating in the National Bible Bee and telling your friends about it.  The sacrifice of time and energies is a small thing in the light of the many blessings and rewards of hiding God’s word in your heart.  If you have any questions, visit or contact me and I would love to help if I can!

Registration opens April 1, 2011!