Sebring, Racing, and Camping Culture

I am a sports fan. Underneath that very broad umbrella lies the category of motor sports. I follow motor sports – peripherally – but in no way would I all myself an avid fan.

I am, however, a fan of taking time off of work and taking part in new experiences with my friends. That is how I find myself at Sebring International Raceway this weekend taking in the 12 Hours of Sebring race. I won’t go into specifics about the race except to say it last twelve hours. When you’re sitting out in the sun, drinking beer, and watching cars scream by, twelve hours feels like twenty four.

But for my wife and me, this is less about the race and more about the time shared with friends. For us, it’s about fellowship, and considering we’ve been here since Wednesday, sharing the close confines of a 30-foot camper (i.e. one bathroom), it’s very safe to say we really like our friends.

Our Camper

 

In addition to the good times, grilled food, and empty beer bottles, I have learned a lot these last several days. Here’s a recap in no particular order.

  1. I know very little about camping, campers, RV’s, and the entire culture that goes with it. I am 42 years old, and I feel there is a slew of life lessons I still need to learn like; how to empty the tanks on an RV (I’ll just pay someones else to do it for me, thank you very much), and how a refrigerator can run off propane (I am still perplexed).
  2. Corvettes are beautiful. Prototype Corvettes are bleeping gorgeous. Vette Prototype
  3. The logistics that go into a racing team – specifically for endurance racing like Sebring – are amazing. From scheduling how long a particular driver will be out of the track to tuning the car to account for weather, wind direction, surface temperature, to the crew involved with loading and hauling the cars; it’s all mind-blowing when you stop and think about it. I know all motor sports teams deal with it, but to see it so up close makes it a more tangible experience.
  4. Green Park at Sebring is Spring Break for old men. Yes, there are many who partake in the festivities of the free-for-all that is Green Park (an open camping area on the north end of the track), but for the most part, it seems to be dominated by dudes looking at 40 in the rear view mirror and still trying to drink as if they were 20. If you’re looking for a crazy party atmosphere, Green Park is something you may want to experience. If you’re looking something a bit more family friendly, then Green Park is something you’ll want to avoid. Green Park Party Animal
  5. There’s no escaping the sound of the race cars. They wake you up in the morning (practices start at 8:00), and the high-pitched whine of a car accelerating out of a turn will seep into your subconscious. Even in the moments between races and practices, you’ll swear you can hear cars running. It’s akin to having sea-legs after a cruise. I will probably hear the buzzing of race cars in my brain for the next week.
  6. There are a lot of innovative campers at Sebring. From makeshift disco lounges, to tents anchored by pickup trucks, to elaborate party zones, the campers at Sebring have merged the best of function, imagination, and craftiness when it comes to watching the race.

As the race comes to a close, I look back with a relatively proud, “been there, done that” attitude. Growing up in Florida, Sebring was something I’d always heard about, and it’s cool I am now able to say I’ve experienced it. In many ways, it reminds me of when I finally got around to watching a shuttle launch.

I’m eager to continue to check off the list things to do in Florida, and we’re already planning to do the 24 Hours at Daytona in 2016. But whatever the event or the destination, what makes it all worthwhile is being able to share those experiences with the people you love.

Team Sebring

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I don’t particularly enjoy working out alone. My wife and I have shared the experience of going to the gym together, and although we may do different exercises or use different machines, knowing we’re both there together makes the experience more fulfilling for me.

The same goes for my spiritual workouts.

At the end of last year, our dear friend Lindsey invited Lee and me to undertake a new challenge.

“Will you join me in reading the entire Bible in one year?”

“Ummm…..what?”

“The Bible. I am going to read it all in one year, and I want you to join me.”

<uneasy silence> “Ummmmm …… yes?”

It was very much a daunting task at the time it was presented to us. Yet another thing I needed to make time for in my day to day. It’s not like I wasn’t already falling behind on everything else, so sure, why not add something else to the To Do list (which in my case usually ends up being a Good Intentions list)?

But undertake it I did, with the help of the YouVersion Bible app. Every morning in the car I would start the readings for the day of the reading plan. The great thing about YouVersion is, depending on the translation, you can have the app read it to you. This is especially helpful because I find it easier to follow along as I hear someone else read, and I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of names and places (especially in the Old Testament). Also, I can take advantage of my commute time to take in His word.

So here we are three months removed from that awkward conversation with my friend and I’m 25% done with reading the Bible. Think about that. I’ve read a quarter of the Good Book, and I’ve done it a few chapters at a time. Not only has this plan made it manageable by spreading out the reading between Old and New Testaments, it has also opened my eyes to the amazing stories in the Bible.

I’ve been introduced to the talking donkeys, how the sons of Jacob plotted to avenge the rape of their sister, and passages that have made me blush. More importantly, I’ve made the time in my day to nourish my spirit and grow in my relationship with God. And I am finding that as situations and challenges present themselves in my life, I am able to lean on what I’ve read and learned in order to better deal with them. I’m able to reference a particular story in the Bible that provides me with a better perspective as to how I should act or not act. Like going to the gym, I am stronger now than when I started.

And I am so blessed to be doing this with my wife and friends. We turn to each other to discuss His word and better understand what we’ve read. We push and encourage each other to stay on plan and not fall behind, which is what fellowship is all about.

So if you’re feeling you can use some new perspective, insight, and encouragement in your life, I invite you to turn to a resource that’s been there for you from the beginning. Download the YouVersion app and check out The Bible in a Year plan. Or if you’re old school, open up your Bible and read a chapter a day. As the plan overview says, “The Bible is God’s love letter to each one of us. Why should you miss out on any of the things God wants to say to you?”

Daily Bread

Called to Drink

It’s been my experience that life is found in the spontaneous moments.

“Dude. Whatcha’ doing right now.”

“Talking to you.”

“I mean …. do you have anything going on this afternoon.”

“No. Why?”

“Want to go get some beers?”

“Are you in the need for some beers?”

“Dude ….. I’m always in the need for some beers.”

“Let’s do it.”

As so ‘it’ happened, and so my buddy and I got together for some beer and some grub. Totally off diet, but totally worth it. There was no rhyme or reason. We weren’t planning anything. He didn’t need to give anything to me or I return anything to him. We just got together because we could.

And we got together because I told to do so.

I know a lot of people will roll their eyes at the notion that God speaks to them. Statements like those often lead to bizarre follow-up questions or awkward silence. So I can only imagine how it will be received as I tell you that God told me to go drink beer with my friend. “Dude. I turned water into wine at a party. Go share in some suds with you bud.” {As an aside, I love the notion of surfer-dude Jesus. Jesus calling out to the first disciples in their boat: “Sup, dudes. Catch anything? No? Try the other side, man.” Jesus telling Peter he will deny him three times: “Duuuuuuude. Before the rooster crows, you’re gonna like totally deny me three times. Bummer, I know.” This would make for an excellent play. Anyways….}

It wasn’t a voice. There was no sign. It was more of a feeling. At the moment I reached out to my friend, I felt a conviction there was nothing more important that I needed to be doing. It was the feeling of, “Go. Leave now. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.”

As it turns out, my friend had a lot on his mind. As a guy, I was someone to whom he could simply turn and just talk, vent, inquire, wonder, etc. By the end of the third beer, I could see his demeanor had changed. He was tight when I met up with him. As we headed home, he seemed more relaxed and a little more at ease.

Whatever the reason, be it divine intervention or simple random impulse, this evening meant a lot to me. I am quite sure it meant a lot to my buddy as well. At the end of the day, we don’t need a special occasion to make an occasion special. All we need is the motivation to reach out to each other and be to others the type of friend that makes a difference in someone’s life.

That and beer.

Beer

Jesus Was A Badass

Earlier this month I was blessed to be able to get out of our old SUV and into a new car. Modernized technology, better fuel economy, working air conditioner: it was really nice to be ‘out with the old and in with the new’. After many hours finalizing everything at the dealership, Lee and I sat in the car ready to drive it home.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man waving at us in the dealership’s parking lot. Still focusing on getting the mirrors adjusted and the seat just right, I simply assumed it was someone from the dealership that needed to tell us one last thing about the car. I opened the window, and the young man asked me a question. With a saddened and distressed look in his eyes, he asked if I would call the police because he was seriously thinking of killing himself.

We did call the police*. Our sales rep at the dealership came over and spoke with him (and he was great with the man, BTW). I simply stood in the background, motionless and quiet. I can’t explain why, but I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do nor what to say. I allowed perceptions and ill-conceived notions to cloud my head, and on my way home, I cried because I was ashamed. In a moment of ministry, I slinked into a corner and let others do the work.

If I claim to be a Christ follower, why was it that in that very moment, I did the exact opposite of what Jesus himself would have done? Jesus would have reached out to that man in compassion. I thought only of myself and held back. Jesus would have offered love and understanding. I offered skepticism and cautious hesitation. Jesus would have been fearless (as he always was). I let fear divert me from what He was calling me to do.

We don’t often think of Jesus as fearless. We don’t think of Him as the guy who didn’t concern himself with the opinions of others. You never hear anyone refer to Christ as a badass. But think about it. He really was. He challenged the status quo. He compelled others to think beyond their human limitations, and to act out of love and service for others. He tactfully turned the manipulation of those who opposed him into learning experiences for all. Jesus’ deft way about Him was truly badass.

This morning I was walking into Starbucks, my eyes cloudy and groggy from not getting enough sleep. A man at a table outside the store looked at me and said, “Good morning.” I don’t think I acknowledged him. I remember my first (and selfish) thought being, “I don’t have time for this right now.”

I went inside, ordered my coffee, and waited. Your typical Starbucks routine. As I waited, the image of the man from the car dealership popped in my head. I remembered the redness in his eyes from the crying he’d been doing. I remembered his body language, full of pain and yearning. I heard a voice in my head say, “You DO have time for this.”

The barista called my name. I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door.

“You DO have time for this.”

I turned to the man outside and wished him a good morning. I sat at the table with him and just started talking. I asked him if he’d had breakfast yet (he hadn’t). I then let him speak to me about his recent troubles. We chit-chatted for a while. His name is Ron. He an Italian-German former truck driver who’s apparently traversed Pinellas and Hillsborough counties by foot. He went on to tell me he is a disciple of God. I told him I like to think of myself as one too. Then, as if by instinct, I reached out, grabbed his arm, and we prayed.

Others were walking in and out of the store. I could feel their glances. I could almost hear them think to themselves, “What the hell?” But in that moment, I didn’t care. In that moment, I was obedient to His calling and what it was He wanted me to do. In that moment, I followed Jesus’ example and reached out to a brother in need. I like to think it made a difference for Ron, but I honestly will never know. I can, however, tell you it made a difference for me.

This morning’s experience with Ron was uplifting. It was also personally rewarding. And in many ways, it was very badass.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Acts 20:24 NLT

No Fear

*Lee followed up the next morning with the Pasco County Sheriff’s office and was able to confirm the man had been Baker-acted and taken to a hospital. 

Friendly Friday – Kendall Lyons

Have you ever had a tough time explaining how you met someone? “Hey, how did you guys meet?” You stumble across um’s and awkward pauses until you figure out the best way to explain a peculiar story. That’s pretty much the case with my friend Kendall.

I had the great fortune of traveling to Colorado last summer to attend the Wild at Heart Boot Camp hosted by John Eldridge and his Ransomed Heart Ministries team. It was a great men’s retreat the opened my eyes to all types of new directions in my faith walk with Jesus, and allowed me to realize the warrior that lives in me, fighting everyday here on earth for the kingdom of God. It was four days of reflection, introspection, and fellowship with the hundreds of other men at the retreat.

In those moments of fellowship, we’d congregate around the fire, introducing ourselves and sharing life stories. I traveled to the retreat with my friend Jeff, and I told him I’d meet him down at the fire once I grabbed some stuff from our dormitory area. Upon my arrival, he peppered me with questions.

“Hey. Do you know this guy named cartoon daily?”

“Cartoon daily? His first name is cartoon?”

“No. That’s his Twitter handle. Cartoondaily ….. something.”

“What? What are you talking about.”

“I met this guy and he happened to mention he’s a blogger. I told him I was here with a buddy of mine who also is a blogger. I mentioned you’re danaCreative, and he said he knows you.”

“Wait. What? He said he knows me?”

“Yeah. Says he follows you on Twitter … or something like that.” (my friend Jeff was not very keen on the details that evening)

So after the sketchy conversation and upon returning home, I did some research and found @CartoonDaily1, better known as Kendall Lyons.

The Internet is a great tool. So much so that it allowed two complete strangers, both with a penchant for writing and a mutual love for Jesus Christ, to come together in a really unexplainable way. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Kendall in person, but we’ve interacted quite a bit since the retreat, and I am a fan of his work.

Kendall is a youth minister and a writer – he just released his book “22 Life Lessons for Personal Growth” – and a dedicated man of God. In addition, Kendall is a talented artist and self-proclaimed cartoon fanatic. I look forward to growing in this friendship with Kendall, and I smile knowing there is another warrior out there working hard to kingdom build here on earth.

You can find Kendall via his blog at KendallLyons.com. Please take a moment to check out Kendall’s animated mini-bio for Draw My Life. It’s excellent.

Happy Friday!

208/365 The Write Stuff

Even though it’s waaaaayyyyyy across town for us, Lee and I are members of the Brandon Christian Writers. To use their words, BCW is “a place for Christian writers of all genres to gather for fellowship, encouragement, and learning.”

The other members are all so very friendly, constructive, and inviting, and Lee and I always leave the monthly meeting reinvigorated to write.

Regardless of your trade, profession, craft, or hobby, if you want to get more out of it, I invite you to find a group in your area that is devoted to what you do. It’s in sharing and experiencing together both the successes and failures that we truly learn. And as my college marketing professor used to say, “If you’re not learning, you’re dying.”

193/365 Good Fortune

Tonight we got together for dinner with the members of our growth group from this past Spring. It was great to see all those loving and familiar faces, and it felt like more than just a couple of months since our group concluded in early May. I feel like I’ve been in a personal funk since the group wrapped up, like when you do well on a diet and then let yourself go all over again. Being with the group was a reminder of how I can always do better with my life, both in small and big ways.

In addition to the wonderful food – we always have such wonderful food at our groups – the fellowship that was shared, as well as the loving spirit that filled the room, was just the kind of positive uplift I needed in my life at this time.We also took the time to discuss and plan for the next semester of growth group. I was thrilled to see we all were in agreement to use the same model we followed last semester, with Renee and Mark hosting and Lee and myself leading the group. I think we even settled on which topic we want to cover in our next group.

Getting back to the food, someone had brought, as their contribution to the pot-luck dinner, some fried rice and fortune cookies. I am a big fan of fortune cookies, and I opened mine with giddy anticipation. The message?

Getting together with old friends brings new adventures.

As I’ve said before, coincidence is just God showing off.