FamilyLife Today® Podcast

National Bible Bee 2009 Highlights

with | January 21, 2010
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How well do you know your Scripture? In November 2009, 300 finalists from a field of over 17,000 contestants gathered in Washington D.C. for an historic event - the first annual Bible Bee. The winners took home one quarter million dollars in awards, and the event was a smashing success. On today’s edition of the broadcast, we’ll find out how one young woman’s passion for memorizing God’s word grew into an event with nationwide and eternal benefits, and we’ll also tell you how your family can be a part of this year’s event.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • How well do you know your Scripture? In November 2009, 300 finalists from a field of over 17,000 contestants gathered in Washington D.C. for an historic event - the first annual Bible Bee. The winners took home one quarter million dollars in awards, and the event was a smashing success. On today’s edition of the broadcast, we’ll find out how one young woman’s passion for memorizing God’s word grew into an event with nationwide and eternal benefits, and we’ll also tell you how your family can be a part of this year’s event.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How well do you know your Scripture?

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National Bible Bee 2009 Highlights

January 21, 2010
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Speaker:  Now, getting here to nationals means that all of you have done an excellent job at learning God’s word.

Parents 1:  We’re here in Washington, D.C. for the National Bible Bee and we’re rooting for Lucy Aleseo.

Parents 2:  We’re from Bloomingdale, Michigan and we have two children participating.  Nicholas will be in the junior division and Brittany will be in the senior division.

Moderator:  ReciteIsaiah 59:1-4.

Male Participant:  Isaiah 59:1-4—Surely the arm of the Lord…

Female Participant:  I always know that God is there and that I can remember some of the things that He says to me if I’m feeling down or not confident in myself so I know that He’s always there for me, and I have it in my heart.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 21st.   Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’re going to tell you about plans for the 2010 Bible Bee today, and let you know how your family can get involved. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know last year it was about this time that we first heard about the National Bible Bee.  I thought that sounds like it could be a really cool event.


Dennis:  And it was!


Bob:  It was a really cool event!


Dennis:  It was very cool!

Bob:  We’re going to talk about the plans for the Bible Bee this year but at the beginning of each program here in 2010 during the month of January we’re encouraging our listeners to do a little Bible reading of their own right?

Dennis:  That’s right and what better day to do that when we’re talking about the Bible Bee than to get people in the Bible themselves.  Today’s reading is from our book: Moments With You and it’s a daily devotional for couples. 

Today it’s all about Ephesians 5:29, and every man who’s listening to the broadcast ought to know what this verse says, “He who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ also does the church.”

Now, there are two words in there that men need to get.  One is nourish and the other is cherish.  Nourish means to feed, it means to cultivate so it will grow – that’s a husbands assignment with his wife – to help her grow spiritually; emotionally – to help her become the woman God designed her to be. 

Now the guys are going to really like the word cherish Bob because if you take this word literally it means to warm up.  So, it means give her a hug and warm her up.  But, it also means to help create a teachable heart so that she’ll grow and become that woman that I was talking about earlier.

Bob:  Now, we’ve been encouraging listeners to take a passage like this and spend some time talking about it.  If folks are interested, we send out The Moments With You daily devotionals as an e-mail to those who subscribe to it on our website at 

You can also get a copy of the book from us and have it in your home.  Again the title of the book is: Moments With You and our website is and you can go there to order a copy of the book.

You know you stop and think about it spending a little time in God’s word each day like you’re describing, that’s pretty easy to do compared to what some of the teenagers we met last year did.

Dennis:  Bob, I have to tell you I expected a great event, but it really was even better than I expected.  What was so impressive was to meet young people who had memorized not just hundreds of verses, but thousands of passages of scripture and recited them perfectly – word perfectly in front of a live audience of a thousand people.

Bob:  Yes, what we’re talking about is the first annual National Bible Bee that was held in Washington, D.C. back in November.  You and I were both there to be a part of the event, and the kids who competed – all of them were winners because of how much of God’s word they hid away in their hearts.  I know it sounds trivial to say all of them were winners because in the end there were some winners.  In fact in the elementary division there was a young lady from I think the Kansas City area who was the elementary winner.

Speaker:  And the grand prize of $25,000 goes to Rebecca Horning.


Bob:  Cute little girl – yes!

Dennis:  A rich, cute little girl!

Bob:  There was a young man from upstate New York who was the winner in the middle school division.

Dennis:  He won $50,000!

Speaker:  And the grand prize of $50,000 goes to Isaac Ward.


Bob:  Then there was a young man in the senior division who was from West Virginia.

Speaker:  The grand prize of $100,000 goes to Daniel Stanton.


Bob:  Then there was second and third place winners as well.

Dennis:  What I want our listeners to kind of get a picture of here – this is a first class national competition:  It’s the National Bible Bee.  We’re coming up on the second one now that will be – well, they’re now signing folks up to my understanding – is that right Bob?

Bob:  Yes, I think they are getting the information packets out to everybody, and the deadline to register is later on this spring.  Then the regional competition will take place early in the fall, and the nationals will be held again later in the fall.  I think the second week in November, and we have all the information on our website at

One of the organizations that we partnered with in helping to promote The National Bible Bee is Patrick Henry College which is about an hour outside of Washington, D.C. in Virginia.  I don’t know how many of our listeners know this, but the Chancellor at Patrick Henry College in addition to being Chancellor is also the star of a major motion picture – did you know that?

Dennis:  I did not know that!

Bob:  I have seen Come What May that Dr. Farris appears in playing Dr. Farris right?

Dennis:  Yes, well let’s introduce Michael Farris joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  I didn’t ask for your autograph when you came in though.

Michael:  Well, it would decrease the value of whatever I signed.


Dennis:  Well, he does join us and he is one of the key leaders in The National Bible Bee that we talked about here a year ago.  I just have to ask you Michael now looking back over the past year and what happened – what do you think – you excited?

Michael:  It was thrilling.  It’s bigger, better, and more important than we ever imagined.  You know there’s some idea and you have a pretty good idea that it’s going to be of certain scope.  The scope of this was beyond what we could ask or think.  That’s the way with God’s word – it’s always beyond what we could ask or think.

Dennis:  I have to tell you what happened.  Both Bob and I participated in the Bible Bee, and as I was leading the junior’s which is approximately Junior High age category, one of the judges came up and he said, “I was listening to FamilyLife Today in Central Wisconsin.” 

He said, “I was on my way back from a job interview but I was so excited about the National Bible Bee that I pulled over to the side of the road, wrote down all the information that Dr. Farris gave us about how we could get involved, and I came home and my wife asked me how’d the job interview go?” 

And he said, “Forget the job interview, let me tell you about what’s going on with FamilyLife Today and the National Bible Bee and what Michael Farris talked about.”  They got all excited, and he became a key leader, a key volunteer in Wisconsin for this, and ultimately became a judge back at the national event in Washington, D.C., and he was really excited.

Bob:  I have to tell you what surprised me as I was at the event.  I had envisioned that students would come up, and they’d be given a verse that they would have to recite.  So, someone would say okay, Philippians 2:3, and they’d recite Philippians 2:3. 

Well, when I got to the event I found out it wasn’t Philippians 2:3.  It was Philippians 2:1-18.  I mean these were students – some of the winners they had memorized huge chunks of scripture:  Entire Psalms, entire chapters of the Bible.  It was amazing.

Michael:  It was indeed.  It was a lot to memorize, and we may have to vary that a little bit to make it more approachable for the young people that we wanted to participate.  Because, it’s not just about getting the final three!  Our real emphasis was on the 17,000 that started off. 

When I was a young person, I was involved with a group that memorized scripture called:  King’s Sons.  It was kind of a precursor of Awana, and I memorized probably over five or six years several hundred verses – nothing like these kids have memorized for The Bible Bee. 

None the less, God continues to bring fruit to that, and there are passages today.  When I was listening to these kids back in November and hearing them recite some of it started coming back to me.  God has used it in my life and I know He will multiply it immensely in their lives because they memorized so much more.  The more scripture you have the more benefit you get.

Bob:  You mentioned Awana.  In this year’s competition Awana is partnered with the Bible Bee.  That should bring lots of new Bible Bee contestants shouldn’t it?

Michael:  It’s going to bring tens of thousands of new contestants.

Dennis:  You know one of the reasons for the success you had last year that I know you’re going to desperately need this year are volunteers.

Michael:  We need volunteers to help with local bees.  We need volunteers to help at the national.  It’s really a challenging thing to get about 200 volunteers to show up in Washington, D.C. at 7:30 in the morning with all the traffic and all the problems there are.  The Lord was good to us last year in that contest but we need His people to respond to the call this year as well.

Bob:  Michael thanks for being with us today.  We want to turn our attention, and introduce our listeners to a couple other guests who are joining us.  You know folks who heard about the Bible Bee last year may have heard about The Shelby Kennedy Foundation.  That’s the organization that sponsored the Bible Bee.  They may have thought I wonder what The Shelby Kennedy Foundation is and I wonder who Shelby Kennedy is? 

I think it would be good for our listeners as we look forward to The Bible Bee in 2010 to get a little more of the back-story behind the foundation, and about Shelby Kennedy.

Dennis:  Shelby’s life must have been remarkable.  I’ve done a little reading on it and I’m looking forward to hearing more of the story.  So, we’ve asked Debbie Kennedy who’s Shelby’s Mom to come in – Debbie welcome to FamilyLife Today.


Debbie:  Well, thank you for having me.

Dennis:  And, Holly Wakefield who is Shelby’s sister.  Holly thanks for joining us!

Holly:  Thank you!

Dennis:  Tell us about your sister Holly.

Holly:  Well, Shelby was an amazing person.  I mean she was an amazing sister to me, and to all of us. 

Bob:  Was she the oldest of how many children?

Holly:  There were 13 children!

Bob:  Thirteen children and she’s the oldest is that right?

Holly:  No, she’s the oldest of my parents, but they adopted nine children so after the adoption she was number seven.

Bob:  Okay, hold on a moment.  We have to reel this back.

Dennis:  I think we need to go to Mom.


Bob:  Debbie, tell us how this family got built.

Debbie:  Well, Shelby was our first birth child.  We had Shelby and then Holly, and then we started adopting as we were having birth children.  So, we wound up with four birth children, and nine adopted children.  In birth order Shelby was number seven even though she was our first born.

Bob:  Okay, you’re already now a hero with Dennis.


Dennis:  We can continue talking about this, and trust me I’m restraining myself not to go down the road of all the adoptions and hear more about that.  But, Shelby from the very beginning seemed to be set apart for something very special.

Debbie:  You are right!

Holly:  She had a love for the Lord that was very contagious to anybody around her.  She spent hours where she would go on long walks and take her Bible, and sit and read.  She was obsessed with the scripture – in knowing it, and she just had this enthusiasm for life that was different.  She was kind of the motivational speaker of the family you could say that when any of us were struggling or down she would take us on a walk – that was her thing.  She’d take us on a walk and we would discuss the issues with her, and she would talk us through it.

Bob:  Debbie, how old was Shelby when you first learned there was something wrong?

Debbie:  She was twenty-two when she got sick.  It was right at the time Holly and Mike had got married.  So, she started having pain but we didn’t think much of it because she was a very healthy girl.  She ate health food, and exercised, and those kinds of things so we weren’t suspicious of any cancer – we didn’t go that route.  We were thinking she had a pinched nerve, something wrong in her back, or you know and she was trying to check on it that way.

She went to several doctors and chiropractors trying to figure out what it was, and it slowly I guess from April to October is when she was actually diagnosed it was getting worse and worse.  She started limping more where it was becoming more obvious that there was actually a big tumor on her leg.

Bob:  When did you get that diagnosis, and just take us to that day will you?

Debbie:  Okay!  On October 8, 2004 we found out that she had Leiomyosarcoma.  It was a big word, and we’d never heard of anything like that.  They told us it was very serious there was not much they could do in San Antonio.  One doctor even suggested that she not do anything.  But, we thought well, that’s kind of gloomy and Shelby didn’t want to be down or she wanted to be hopeful. 

So, we went to Houston, and they had worked with Leiosarcoma there some, and so you know by having a little bit of hope there we started chemo, and went through MD Anderson.  I think she did six rounds of chemo and it didn’t seem to do any good.  We progressively got worse from the beginning.

Bob:  It had to just knock the wind out of you to hear a doctor say, “I wouldn’t do anything.”  I mean that kind of a diagnosis every parent thinks, no!

Debbie:  There has to be hope – right!  We were very hopeful.  Shelby was very hopeful.  But I do believe she was very realistic and knew.  I think she was better prepared than the rest of us were.  Even afterwards of course looking back at things there were things she had done, and said that it was like God had prepared her so much.

On her door she had painted things before she ever got sick about suffering for Christ.  I can’t remember what all they were but it really impacted us after everything happened.  She had read a lot of books about Christian martyrs, and that sort of thing. 

She just was very strong spiritually and physically as long as she could be.  She tried to be very strong.  She always could bring up her countenance when people came, and she always tried to be encouraging but we knew she was in a lot of pain. 

Dennis:  Even near the end she was ministering from a wheelchair?

Debbie:  Yes, she was in a wheelchair.

Holly:  She still had a very positive attitude about the whole thing.  She was very positive in just sharing Christ with the nurses and doctors, and it was amazing her attitude through all of it.  She was actually encouraging us when we felt like we should be encouraging her but we were just so desperate.  We just felt traumatized and she was the one trying to lift us up and encourage us.

Bob:  Holly, you had to feel like you were losing your best friend didn’t you?

Holly:  I did – yes!  It was very traumatizing.  I had lots of questions and I think I had to come to the conclusion that those questions couldn’t be answered.  God could show me someday Himself because there aren’t answers to all the questions of the why.  I still don’t know why and it will never make sense because she was an amazing person.

The testimony she left behind has been very beautiful though, and it has been encouraging to see God work through her life now that she has left a legacy.  One of her favorite songs was by Nichole Nordeman called Legacy.   She wanted to leave a legacy and leave a mark on things.  It’s interesting because she did and that was her favorite song before she was diagnosed. 

We would go on rocks and she would throw a rock in the water and we’d see the ripple effect and she would tell me she wanted that to be her life.  It has been her life.  It’s been encouraging seeing how the Lord has used her life now that she’s gone. 

Dennis:  You don’t have any way of knowing this but that song you just mentioned – we’ve played that numerous times here on FamilyLife Today.

Holly:  Oh, wow!

Dennis:  I think we’re going to play it before the broadcast is over today because it does really talk about how we need to be passing it on, and influencing others.  That’s really what I wanted to ask you Debbie. 

How did this foundation come about on behalf of your daughter that has now become a National Bible Bee?  Here you had a daughter who lived her life for Christ – did you ever in your wildest imaginations believe there would be a foundation set up in her honor that has sponsored a nationwide effort to get tens of thousands of children memorizing scripture?

Debbie:  No, I had no idea.  Let me just say Shelby loved children, and she loved the word.  So, this is so amazing that the two have come together, and to watch all that’s been going into it.  But, no I never envisioned that. 

It was at Shelby’s memorial service, and a very dear friend, and brother in the Lord was there at the service and it was like the Lord gave him a vision for this in just a minute or two during her service.  We didn’t have any idea that had happened.  He came to us a little bit later and talked to us about it and asked what we thought.

It was just way over our head as far as can’t even imagine.  We thought, yes, that sounds really neat, and exciting and it would be just a blessing.  It would be something that Shelby would very much be excited by.  So, that’s where it got started.  He prayed about it and we prayed.  Then other people were talked to and so it kind of slowly came together.

Bob:  Well, Holly, you talk about the ripples of a life and I think of the 17,000 kids last year who participated in the first National Bible Bee.  I don’t know how many thousands who will participate this year.  How many hundreds of thousands of Bible verses are being tucked away in hearts – that’s a lot of ripple effect, that’s huge!

Holly:  It is!  Shelby had such an enthusiasm for the Bible, and so seeing this is amazing.  Seeing these kids memorize all of this scripture.  God speaks to His people through His word so just knowing that they have all this in their heart now is just a huge blessing – it’s an amazing legacy. 

Bob:  Well, of course we’re hoping that over the next several months there’ll be a lot of young people and their parents who will get registered for the 2010 Bible Bee who will compete in the regional competitions that take place in the early fall.  Then some of those students will be back at the National Bible Bee in 2010 which will take place in November. 

All of the details about how to register, how to find out more about the event, what’s involved, how much you have to memorize, and all of that can be found on our website  There’s a link there that will take you to the Bible Bee website and you can get more information.

You can download the forms you need, find out dates, and all of the information.  As Michael Farris mentioned earlier if you’re interested in being a volunteer and helping out at the event there’s information about that as well.  If you’d like to host one of the regional competitions at your church or in your community there’s information about doing that as well.

Go to click through to the Bible Bee website and find out more about how you can participate in the 2010 Bible Bee.  Keep in mind some young person, some elementary age student is going to win the $25,000 first prize, some middle school student is going to win the $50,000 first prize, and some high school student is going to win the $100,000 first prize, and that’s a pretty good incentive to get involved in this year’s Bible Bee.

Dennis:  Bob, I think there’s going to be more than 50,000.

Bob:  This year – you think?

Dennis:  Oh, I don’t think many people knew about it last year.  Tons of our listeners got involved but I think because of Awana forging an alliance and partnership here, Patrick Henry College again and God’s favor.  Just thinking back to last November when we were in DC it was electric, and it was exciting.  I kept thinking if the competition is this fierce the first year, what is it going to be like next year?

So, I just have to say, “Thanks Holly and Debbie.  Thank you for joining us and thanks for your faithfulness to be obedient to the Lord and you know we lost a granddaughter who only lived seven days and it’s interesting she left a legacy!

Debbie:  Wow – praise the Lord!

Dennis:  Here’s your daughter Shelby who lived 23 years.   I think it’s a challenge to all of our listeners to evaluate:  What kind of a legacy are you going to leave?  So, as you listen to this song reflect on your life and ask the question – are you sending some ripples out?

Thanks for being with us!

Debbie and Holly:  Thank You!

Nicole Nordeman Legacy lyrics:

I won’t lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights

We all need an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Atta girl’

But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides the temporary trappings of this world.

I want to leave a legacy.  How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?  Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?

I want to leave an offering.  A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy.


Bob:  FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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