We all love a good story. Have you ever noticed the one ingredient that makes a good story? Truth; when the story is real it has a special meaning. Real Life Stories are the life and times of our journey. What’s your story? Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There we were…. Seems like the beginning to many of the stories I’ve heard. But, no, there we were sitting in victory lane waiting to get the 50thRunning of the Greatest Race in the History of Spring kicked off with the invocation and National Anthem but there was a delay. There was damage to the wall in turn three and it needed to be repaired before we could continue. Let’s reminisce about previous races. Who has a story to tell?
It just so happened that many of the past champions and car owners were assembled there for opening ceremonies so why not take the opportunity to tell a few stories. From Bugs Stevens to Bob Garbarino to Ed Flemke Jr. talking about his dad’s victory, to Fuller, Marquis, Coby, Preece, Santos and Pitkat. Names like Boehler, Barry, Stefanik, Blewett and Christopher; Modified Royalty. We had stories to tell and they were just about one race.
The trio of Grand Marshals were the ones who had the idea some fifty years ago and we have them to thank for such a rich tradition in Modified Racing; Dick Berggren, Lew Boyd and Bruce Cohen. They shared their story of how this whole thing started. A big Thanks to these guys for coming up with this idea for a race and having the courage and wisdom to see it through.
There is another part of the story I’d like to share, my story. The first memory of the Sizzler I have is from a painting that hung in a Barber Shop in Rockville CT. Someone took a photograph of the field coming to the green and from that painted a large, maybe 3’ x 6’ painting. I was just a teenager and I had been to Stafford a few times, but that picture was larger than life.
I remember the excitement the barber had as he asked; “Do you know what that is? That’s the starting line up of the first Spring Sizzler, look at those cars and the names of the drivers….” He got carried away.
He had stopped my haircut at this point and was lost in the memory of that day. I heard it all, the way the sun shone, the thunder of the cars, the anticipation…. I don’t remember the haircut or much else other than the passion and excitement with which he told the story of the Mighty Modifieds.
To say it made an impression on me was an understatement. Here, on this sunny Sunday afternoon I stood amongst those stories of so many. The stories of folklore; do you remember the time….
Fast forward to a Sunday afternoon thirty years later. As a pastor I don’t have too many Sundays off. The congregation usually frowns on me skipping church. But on this Sunday, I was in a transition spot in my walk with the Lord. I was between jobs.
God has a way of writing our stories in a way that we don’t see until we look back. We see His hand and how he led us through. He is there beside us, sometimes He carries us, but always we are not alone. I remember David as he spoke of the closeness God shows us;
Psalm 23:2-4; NLT; He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
I wasn’t on the right road in my teenage years, my folks divorced when I was 11, my dad died when I was 15 and from there I was on my own. I managed to find my way through, but as I look back, I am confident God was there alongside. I met my wife and we married young; I am blessed to say we celebrate 42 years of marriage this year. That is more her doing than mine. I was and continue to be a work in progress.
During the first ten years of our marriage, she carried the load and I looked after myself. Something had to change. God had a hand in that, brought someone alongside to lead me to Him and my life changed direction at 30.
I am not a sideline sitter, sitting still is not my strong suit. I got involved and pursued God as much as anything I had pursued in my life. At age 39 I was ordained to the Gospel Ministry, I became Rev. Don, pastor and minister. My first position was Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in West Springfield MA. Things were going well until God indicated he had another place for me to focus on.
The process of moving me isn’t an easy one, because of my background I have a desire to know the road ahead before I commit to follow. God said trust me. I said show me. God won, I stepped down from the pulpit and waited for God to indicate where I was to be headed next.
We were living in Willington CT at the time and as I sat at home that first Sunday without a pulpit to speak in, I could hear the roar of the mighty modifieds from Stafford Motor Speedway. That’s right, they’re running the Sizzler today, it had been postponed for a few weeks because of weather. I turned to my racing buddy, my daughter Elisabeth, and said let’s go!
We sat in the sunshine watching the cars assemble on the mini mile. At the front sat a white dodge with colorful graphics. I learned that was the Racing with Jesus Ministries Pace Car and the driver was none other than Rev. Pat Evans. I turned to my daughter and said; “that would be a great ministry to be involved with.”
Twenty years later I stood in Victory Lane with Modified Racing Royalty, delivering the invocation for the 50th edition of the Greatest Race in the History of Spring. God prompting me; see I told you it would be an incredible journey.
Deuteronomy 31:6; NLT; So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.
The journey hasn’t always been easy, there are days I’d rather have not experienced and things I would have done differently had God asked my opinion. That doesn’t change the fact that he has been beside me the entire way, providing guidance, direction, discipline, protection and comfort.
As Billy Graham was fond of saying; “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow.”
Until next time, remember God loves you and Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing! God Bless. Remember, that your prayerful support and donations helps us continue this ministry. Thank You.