Bible Bee 2016 Nationals | Recap

Well, I’m finally back! If you weren’t here for my last post, I took a hiatus due (mostly) to studying for Bible Bee, which was a couple weeks ago  (If you don’t know what the Bible Bee is, it’s a local and national competition centered around studying and memorizing the Bible. Nationals consists of preliminary written and oral rounds, and the top 15 in each age group go on to semifinals; the top five from there advance to the finals. First place in my age division (Seniors) is $100,000, just for perspective. If you want more information, just go here, or check out my About page). Nationals was such a blessed time this year, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t begin to find words to describe that week; but I’ll do my best. =) I’m going to do it in a sketches/journalesque style, because that’s the best way for me, and I apologize in advance for the length. Enjoy!


We traveled all day yesterday (of course we met friends in the lobby even though it was 10:00 p.m.), so we sleep in a little bit. The hotel gave us a suite, just one of God’s many blessings this week; Mom and I sit on the balcony over the waterpark as I recite, watching three girls trying to swim backwards in the lazy river, and my brothers stacking the double tubes three high and jumping on. The cool autumn breeze wafts by as I recite passage after passage. God’s words, flowing from my own heart (and somehow it’s easier, now, for them to flow with joy, not like those last tiring days at home; and I have them all perfect too).

I’m just a few minutes late for the prayer meeting. As I walk down the hall to the convention center I see a group outside behind the Starbucks, and I step out to join them, quietly sitting down in an empty space. We sit there for a long time, praying one by one (even though the background music is loud, and it’s hard to hear sometimes); praying for calm, for love, for God’s light to shine through us; for His will to be done; for His glory.


All the reviewing is done now. Written was this morning (it seemed to go okay), now all we have left is the orals. Mom and I have been reciting all afternoon. And now about ten of us sit in a circle outside the judging room and pray quietly as one by one we get called in. It’s silent in the hall, just the low murmur of voices.

I’m number four.

The aisle between the rows of chairs (my parents aren’t there, but others are) seems so long – and the podium at the end so intimidating. (why am I so nervous this year? Is it that I want to make semifinals so much worse than before?)

“Please state your name and Bible version.”

“Katherine Forster, NASB.”

“Please recite John 13:34-35”

It’s a locals passage. Those ones I didn’t think were so important. Those ones I never got around to reviewing earlier, but once or twice… But I know this one, well enough.

“Habakkuk 3:17-19.” (so very appropriate, after all) “Romans 12:1-5.” (another locals. I feel it out, remembering verse by verse) Philippians 2:12-18.” (one of my favorites and my best).

I always want to recite well; to recite with passion, clarity, and power. Right now I’m so nervous, so focused on these passages that I don’t know as well as I was sure I would. But something happens as I recite. Even through and despite my own weakness and pride, I can feel my voice begin to soar; hear myself reciting with more expression – more joy, even – than I ever have before. Why? It’s not me.

“John 13:13-17”

Another locals. How does it start? I can’t remember. I stand there for 30 seconds, maybe a minute (the clock is running down), trying to remember… Finally I ask for prompts; but about halfway through I realize I’ve messed it up too badly… I have absolutely no clue (and did I use up my startover? I think I did…). In desperation, though I know it’s not right, I say the last phrase and the reference and turn away. I just gave up any chance of semis.

A dear friend sits with me as the other six recite and my thoughts race. How could I have been so stupid, to forget to review the locals verses? It was a locals verse. And all the others were so perfect.

But then, it must have been God. What else? Maybe He was trying to kill my pride, to show me I can’t do it on my own. To teach me to rest on Him and trust in Him, not my own strength.

(Now as for me, I said in my prosperity, I will never be moved. O Lord, by Your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong; You hid Your face, I was dismayed…)

Other friends find me afterward, when my face is streaming with tears and my makeup is probably smeared. And even in the midst of disappointment, this is what I love about Nationals – the hugs, the encouragement, the reminders and the faith that it’s all in God’s hands.


This is the day we find out. And even though I know I have no chance to make the semifinals, somehow that’s hard for me to grasp as we stand in our lines and wait to be called in for the processional.

As we wait, someone begins to sing. This is another thing I love at Nationals – the singing, sounding like a choir (because though I don’t sing so well, many do). The first song is Great Is Thy Faithfulness; and I can’t sing. I start crying again, and again, some dear friends encourage me and pray with me until I can sing without too much of a quaver.

We walk out on stage, and I accept my medal with a smile (I’ve been praying for joy, even through the tears). And although my heart flips as usual when they announce the semifinalists, I’m not surprised that my name isn’t called – though I clap and cheer and shout as I hear my friends’ names.


But what about all those verses? 896 verses, all as perfect as a passage can be. 896 verses I’ll never get to recite, not on stage at least. What about all those hours (not just mine, my parents’ too), that went into that perfection? What are they worth now?

But we have to look beyond what we can see. (isn’t that the point of a poet, after all?) Because the word of God never returns void. Maybe I didn’t get to proclaim these verses, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be spoken. Now they’re like a fire within, stamped on my forehead, smoldering like coals in my heart – my foundation, my life, my light, my sword, my hope.

And as for the moments, they are fleeting; but God’s glory is eternal.

(And all those moments
are drops in an ocean
of glory)


Friday rushes past in a flurry of moments, each one priceless, each one burned into my memory (sitting right behind the front row with the Learys and Nathaniel, trying to check verses in our heads; that mad dash to the waterpark to catch the slides before Primary semis; watching the semis with Grace; barbeque from Rudy’s in the hotel room, and then Senior semis, sitting on the edge of the row with Victoria, and an ESVer in front and a KJVer behind us so we know who got their verses right; staying up past midnight to watch Star Wars with Victoria and Carrie-Grace and Schuyler, eating cookies and drinking tea).

Saturday, too. (Catching most of Junior finals, when I thought I’d missed it; seeing the Museum of the Bible exhibit again with Emily; people signing my notebook; the prayer meeting before Senior finals {and the 20-minute break during, where I talked with people and got Starbucks with my dad}; the Closing Ceremony, and the square dancing, and Ben and Belle teaching us to swing dance…)

Saying goodbye gets harder every year. Maybe it was better, in a way, that I had a curfew this time (although I wished I didn’t), so I only said goodbye once. But there was singing before I left. I was too busy saying goodbye to join, but then I heard it – Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.

And this time I could join in with all of my heart, singing out loud and strong, letting the words fill me with hope. Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside.

All week I couldn’t help being filled with awe at the grace of it all. Why would God give me all this – this second family, this indescribable week filled with His word and His church? Because for so much of it I was filled with pride and selfishness, and I’ve never seen that more clearly. And yet, He still calls me His child and gives me such unimaginable blessings. I walked back up to my room whispering, I don’t deserve this, Lord, I don’t deserve it; but thank You, thank You, thank You.

I probably won’t see these friends again for another year – or maybe never, this side of heaven. But again, this is where we have to look beyond this world, and you can see a bigger purpose even in that one week; where each conversation and prayer and laugh and hug is part of that greater picture of God’s glory – a fulfillment of His commandment, Love one another, even as I have loved you.

(Every one of those moments
is a speck in the mountain
of glory)


And one day, there will be no more goodbyes. One day, we will draw near the throne of grace once for all, we will look on Him and be like Him and worship Him forever, in perfect joy.

(He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces…)

So until then, Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn, and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth. Let us press on to love Him more, and to let our joy in Him spill out in love for others (even when it’s hard and they’re supremely annoying), to let His glory shine through these earthen vessels, and to let His power be perfected in our weakness, because indeed, It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

//Thank you so, so much to all of the staff, volunteers, and alumni who helped make this week so special. 

//Scripture quoted or referenced: Psalm 30:6-7; Isaiah 55:11; John 13:34; Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 6:3; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9; Philippians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. All NASB.


Join the conversation!