These stories were presented as part of our Thursday Night Bible Study at the  Holy Grounds Coffee Shop:

From Darkness to Light

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver and, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he'd told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.

It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity.

Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her. "How could this have happened to me?" she would plead, her heart knotted with anger. But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth - her sight was never going to return.

A cloud of depression hung over Susan's once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion. And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark.

Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all of his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark's military background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face.

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but she was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark's need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task.

Soon, however Mark realized that this arrangement wasn't working - it was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react?

Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. "I'm blind!" she responded bitterly. "How am I supposed to know where I'm going? I feel like you're abandoning me." Mark's heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it.

And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses, specifically her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save her a seat.

He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office.

Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, in the Susan he used to know before she'd lost her sight, who wasn't afraid of any challenge and who would never, ever quit.

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own.

Monday morning arrived, and before she left she threw her arms around Mark - her temporary bus riding companion, her husband, and her best friend. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his patience, and his love. She said good-bye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ... Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself!

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, "Boy, I sure envy you." Susan wasn't sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year?

Curious, she asked the driver, "Why do you say that you envy me?" The driver responded, "It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are."

Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, "What do you mean?"

The driver answered, "You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady."

Tears of happiness poured down Susan's cheeks. For although she couldn't physically see him, she had always felt Mark's presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn't need to see to believe - the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.

God watches over us in just the same way. We may not know He is present, but He is. We may not be able to see His face, but He is there nonetheless!

Be blessed in this thought. God Loves You - even when you are not looking.

Live Your Love

Imagine four Army chaplains during an icy storm at sea; four men in uniform holding hands as they gaze over the rail of their sinking vessel. They are watching lifeboats pulling away from their reeling ship, the U.S. transport Dorchester. The story of these chaplains is a remarkable account of love and sacrifice.

The scene takes place February 3, 1943, off the southern tip of Greenland. The winter night covers the ship like a blanket. Most of the 909 aboard ship are asleep below the decks.

Suddenly the Dorchester jerks and shudders. A German torpedo has smashed through her starboard side! In a raging torrent, the sea spurts through the gaping wound. The Dorchester has been dealt a mortal blow. She is sinking.

An order is given to abandon ship. Aboard the dying vessel, men -- many of them injured -- search frantically for life jackets. Some stand in shock, not knowing how to react to the catastrophe.

Amidst the chaos stand four pillars of strength, four Army chaplains: George L. Fox, Methodist; Alexander Goode, Jewish; Clark V. Poling, Reformed; and John P. Washington, Roman Catholic. They calm the panic-stricken, help the confused search for life jackets and aid the soldiers into the lifeboats swinging out from the tilting deck.

When no more jackets can be found, each chaplain takes off his own and straps it onto a soldier who has none. The lifeboats pull slowly away from the doomed vessel. Only 299 will finally survive this night.

As the Dorchester slides beneath the icy water, some can see the four chaplains, hand in hand, praying to the God of them all. The chaplains' different theological opinions did not seem to matter much on a sinking ship. All that mattered was that, at a time of crisis, they lived their love. Yet even for us, every day in lesser ways, I suspect that's all that ever matters.

Meant to be One

In 1942, the American consul ordered citi­zens home from the Persian Gulf, for fear they might get caught in the spreading conflict of World War II.

Travel was difficult, and some civilians se­cured passage on the troop ship Mauritania. Pas­sengers included thousands of Allied soldiers, 500 German prisoners of war, and 25 civilian women and children.

The ship traveled slowly and cautiously, constantly in danger from hostile submarines pa­trolling the ocean depths. It was Christmas Eve and they had traveled for a full two months. They had only made it as far as the coastal waters of New Zealand, and everyone on board was home­sick, anxious and frightened.

Someone came up with the idea of asking the captain for permission to sing Christmas carols for the German prisoners, who were surely as homesick and lonely as the passengers. Permission was granted.

A small choral group made its way to the quarters where the unsuspecting prisoners were held. They decided to sing "Silent Night" first, as it was written in Germany by Joseph Mohr and was equally well known by the prisoners.

Within seconds of beginning the carol, a deafening clatter shook the floor. Hundreds of Ger­man soldiers sprang up and crowded the tiny windows in order to better see and hear the cho­ris­ters. Tears streamed unashamedly down their faces. At that moment, everyone on both sides of the wall experienced the universal truth -- that all people eve­rywhere are one.

Hope and love broke down the bar­riers be­tween warring nations and, for that moment at least, all were one family. We are meant to be one. And in that knowledge we find true peace.

The Heart
Author Unknown

"Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart..."

"You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted.

The surgeon looked up, annoyed "I have to do surgery on your heart and I just want you to know this is rather serious,“ he continued, “I neeto see how much damage has been done..."

"But when you open up my heart, you'll find Jesus in there," said the boy.

The surgeon looked to the parents, who sat by quietly, offering no help in this awkward situation. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll close you up and we’ll meet together to talk about our next step in trying to help you."

"But you'll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. All the hymns say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart."

The surgeon had had enough. "Listen, this is a little difficult for me but you need to know your situation is rather serious. I don’t want to scare you but I’m afraid your heart muscle is damaged, it probably has low blood supply and weakened vessels. I’m going to do all I can to try to make you well."

"But you'll find Jesus there too. He lives there."

The surgeon left and the next morning the surgery went according to plan. Sitting in his office, the surgeon made his notations regarding the surgery, "...damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure.

Therapy:   painkillers and bed rest.

Prognosis:   here he paused, "death within one year."

He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. If you truly do exist, why did You do this? You put him here; You put him in this painful situation and You've cursed him to an early death. Why?"

Surprised by the voice he heard within him, the surgeon heard the following:  "The boy, My lamb, was not meant for this world for long, for he is a part of My flock, and will forever be. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine.

His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace, and My flock will continue to grow."

The surgeon's tears were hot on his face but his anger was hotter. "You created that boy, and You created that heart and for what, to bring sadness to him and to his parents? He'll be dead in months. Why?"

The inner voice answered, "The boy, My lamb, will become part of My flock, for He will have done his work:  My lamb wasn't created only to be lost but he was sent to be the means by which another lost one would be found." The surgeon wept.

Later, the surgeon sat beside the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. The boy awakened from the surgery and whispered, "Did you open me up?"

"Yes," said the surgeon.

"What did you find?" asked the boy.

"Just like you said, I found Jesus there," said the surgeon, and because of your faith, He’s in my heart too.