For those of us reading daily newspapers or watching nightly news, bad news is no novelty. We get it all the time. Yet once in a while something happens that seems so monstrously evil that it almost stops our hearts. Such an incident was the report of a young mother who strapped her two little children in the back seat of the family car and drowned them so she could be "free" of the responsibility of raising them.

To us this behavior seems beyond understanding, beyond belief! But there is a possibility, perhaps even a likelihood, that her behavior is both understandable and predictable.

How? Well, look at it this way: the big choices we make don't come from outer space. They come from deep within us. They come from the inner heart we create, one decision at a time, over a lifetime. Just as we become what we eat, so we become what we choose. It happens so subtly we hardly notice it. Through the everyday choices we make, we shape our hearts as surely as a sculptor shapes his clay, an artist her painting. If a heart takes shape by constantly telling itself "I want what I want when I want it!" it should be no surprise that when a major decision is to be made, the easy choice is to get what you want with little or no thought of what you are doing to other people. Should that be a surprise? A bad choice is always "bought and paid for" well in advance.

But there is another side to this : a much happier one. Gracious and true hearts are fashioned in exactly the same way as vicious and selfish hearts: through thousands of choices we make every single day. Not one of our decisions to be compassionate, gracious and helpful ever gets lost. Every decision we make is incorporated into the fabric of our hearts, and each decision helps shape the good choices that naturally come afterwards.

The two widows in this Sunday's Scripture readings (from the Book of Kings and the Gospel of Mark) obviously fashioned gracious and true hearts over their lifetimes. So when opportunities came to give what little they had, their decisions were both understandable and predictable. They came from the inner hearts each widow had created over her lifetime, one choice at a time.

With Abba God's help, we have the power to create hearts and lives for ourselves that are truly compassionate, authentic and gracious. We shape our future decisions by the decisions we are making now. So... what kind of hearts are we fashioning by the choices we are making this day, Sunday, November 8, 2009?

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