Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

Mark 16: 6-7 (NKJV)

It’s the kind of morning that always seems to give a lift to our hopes—sunny, breezy, with cool spring-like temperatures predicted for the rest of the day. A bit like the sunshine the three women must have found at the empty tomb that morning so long ago when the Angel told them that Christ was risen.

And perhaps a place where dreams come true, shining moments happen, and where we just might find a second chance in life.

As I sit here with you, my thoughts drifted to the passing landscape of a few years ago when I was driving through the farmlands of western Indiana to a conference where I was scheduled to speak on team building and leadership principles to ministry leaders gathering from across the country. The barns and garages of the passing farmhouses were uniformly adorned with basketball backboards, exactly the way I envisioned they would be from the stories I had heard of the Midwest traditions of the sport.

Milan, Indiana was in the other direction, in the southeast corner of the state, not too far from the Ohio border. A little town of about one thousand in which dreams, shining moments, and second chances were lived out over fifty years ago and which became the springboard for the movie “Hoosiers”. I’ll watch that movie again later today—it’s on my top-five list and must-see viewing as we enter the season of college basketball post-season tournaments, leading to that annual rite of pilgrimage which we call March Madness. An annual phenomenon where college basketball players, coaches and fans from across the nation embark on an improbable journey, creating a lifetime of memories, for a chance at “one shining moment”, and perhaps along the way to find something extraordinary within themselves they had never known was there.

Milan High School (Hickory High School in the movie)—a school of 160 students— won that state championship game in 1954, defeating Muncie Central (South Central in the movie) with its three thousand plus student body, with a game-winning basket in the final seconds of the game. But it’s in the shadow of the backboards on basketball court after basketball court where the real-life stories dwell.

That’s the place we often overlook, where stories of second chances come alive and where dreams come true. A coach, barred from coaching for hitting a player, was given a second chance. An alcoholic turned assistant coach—also given another chance. The team’s manager-player, who played sparingly up until then, in a critical moment of victory or defeat, was given a second chance. A team and a town—initially focused only on winning—were all given another chance, under the darkening skies of certain defeat, to find more than just a state title in the sunshine of second chance after second chance in the lives all around them.

Stories not at all unlike the story in that verse from the Gospel of Mark above—“But go and tell the disciples and Peter…” The same Peter who had on three separate occasions denied that he knew Christ, as Christ was rapidly heading to his death on the cross. That same Peter was given a Divine second chance. “Tell the disciples,” the Angel told the three women gathered there that morning, but tell Peter, too. A place of second chances, where lives are healed, where we reach again for all we were created to be, where dreams begin to bloom, and where shining moments tend to happen.

And I would suspect if you mined down deep into the lives and stories of the participants of what is shaping up to be this year’s version of March Madness 2012, you would find a lot of stories like those in “Hoosiers”, and like that of Peter, and perhaps like many of those folks around you, or like you—or even you.

Need a second chance at the day? Perhaps something’s off track in your career plans. Something you should have said, or shouldn’t have said, to your spouse? Maybe you made a big mistake and can’t forgive yourself and move on. Maybe you need a change in perspective that comes when you allow the God who loves you to wipe away the stuff that keeps you from seeing all the shining moments He has planted within your future. Maybe you need to turn some area of weakness over to the God who can help you with it and give you the strength to overcome. Or maybe you need a second chance with your spouse, one of your children, or a friend.

With the same God who gave Peter a second chance, you won’t run out of chances with Him to change the way things are, to lift yourself after you fall, or to touch and change another life for the better.

Need a second chance? Today is the day. Before you run out of time, look up, reach out, and step forward into the arms of the God of the empty tomb.

The God of the second chance. The God of the shining moments.

The day is still sunny and breezy with spring-like temperatures—the way I suspect it was on the morning of that empty tomb. We’ll no doubt have some mornings that are gray, overcast and drizzly, with storms sprinkled in here and there, too. But the God of the empty tomb, the God of Peter, and the God of everyone one who feels at times they shouldn’t, couldn’t, and can’t, stands ready to give us a second chance, and a third, and a fourth—throughout all eternity.

You guessed it—He’s always there—no matter the gray or the sunshine of the day, or the heartaches or disappointments of our lives, with yet another chance to leap into all the potential He planned for our lives.

Reach for it—that second chance—to become all that God has always intended for you to be.

Reach for it—that life of shining moments which He created for you to live with Him—today and every day, for the rest of your life.

In His Name—Scott

Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.