Perhaps you attend a church during the Christmas season and have seen or taken part in decorating a tree with certain symbols. A rainbow, a cross, a Star of David, a fish, etc. The first time I did this was in 2005 when I started attending a new church and I had no clue what it truly meant. Each symbol/ornament has represents something and it shares the Gospel. Below are a list of the symbols, the Chrismons (Christ Monograms):
The Alpha and Omega are Greek letters for Beginning and the End.
The Rainbow is God’s covenant with man.
The Lyre symbolizes praise in music.
The Scales signify judgment.
The Empty Cross is the symbol of death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Fish is the sign used by the early Christians to identify themselves.
The Eye represents the all seeing Eye of God.
The Star of David represents the lineage of Jesus.
The Dove represents the Holy Spirit.
The Candle symbolizes that Jesus is Light of the World.
The Three Circles is the sign of the Trinity – linked to signify One God.
As an amateur (major emphasis on the word amateur) historian, I’ve seen the above photograph several, several times. You can kind of guess the story behind it: Its the 1930’s, Hitler is in power and across the street a Nazi flag is unfurled, a sight not uncommon in those days. The photographer is Jewish and has set their menorah in the window. The message is clear: the darkness cannot conquer the light, good will always overcome evil, and God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).
To learn the full story behind this photograph, click here.
I recently learned that a hero of mine died last month. Her name was Stefania Podgorska and when she was seventeen years old, she and her little sister Helena saved thirteen Jews during the Holocaust.
I first learned of her story when I was sixteen and my family invited over some church friends to watch a movie called “Hidden in Silence.” A Lifetime Original Movie, it surpasses the TV movie. Filmed in the Czech Republic, one of the original thirteen rescued Jews makes a cameo at the beginning. It followed the story of Stefania “Fusia” Podgorska who worked for a Jewish family, the Diamant’s and loved them dearly. In 1941, Poland and the village of Przemysl was divided by the Germans and Russians, but by June the Germans invaded the Russian side and began to unleash their terror on the Jewish population. The Diamant’s are forced into the local ghetto and it isn’t long before the deportations begin. One of the Diamant sons, Max, asks Fusia to hide him and his friends and she agrees.
For over two years, Fusia and her little sister, Helena hide thirteen Jews in their apartment’s attic. At one-point, German nurses moved in and Fusia and Helena were still able to keep their Jewish friends a secret from them. In autumn of 1944, the Soviets liberate their village and the Russians were astonished to find two girls successfully rescued thirteen people.
After the war, Fusia and Max marry and years later she receives the honor of being one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Stefania’s story resonated deeply with me. I knew quite a bit about the Holocaust, having read Anne Frank’s diary and a number of biographies on her, and having watched “Anne Frank: The Whole Story” and “Uprising.” It wasn’t long after watching “Hidden in Silence” that I started writing fiction based in Nazi Occupied Poland. If it weren’t for Stefania and “Hidden in Silence,” I probably wouldn’t have become fascinated by Poland and traveled there to tour Auschwitz and Krakow.
Fifteen years later, Stefania’s story continues to inspire me and encourages me to take a leap of faith.
So, may Stefania Podgorska rest in peace.
For more information about Stefania, please CLICK HERE and look at the website her son created for her. And consider watching “Hidden in Silence.” It’s amazing.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all first drafts SUCK.
Even if you have a story semi-planned out as I do and you know exactly what you want, your first draft will still SUCK. Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a short story… yeah, you guessed it, it will SUCK. It can’t be helped. You are getting the bare bones of the story down on the page. And you know what, its okay. It’s supposed to SUCK. Let it SUCK. Ask any other author and they will tell you the same thing. In my opinion, a story really doesn’t start to take shape and resemble a decent narrative until draft three or four.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard comes from “Finding Forrester”:
Forrester: No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!
The first draft is for you and no one else. I mean, its good to show it to someone eventually and get some solid feedback, to find out what works and what doesn’t. But for now, just focus on telling that story.
After months of procrastination, I began my new WIP. And it SUCKS, as it should. I know its terrible and I don’t plan to show it to anyone. But after I complete a chapter, my mind is unburdened knowing that part of the story has been told and I go on to the next part. When the first draft is complete (God only knows how long it will take to complete this first draft – its going very slow), I’ll let it sit and after a month or so, then I’ll look it over, question my sanity, and begin on Draft 2. Then it hopefully won’t SUCK so much.
Until next time!
PS. I highly recommend the movie “Finding Forrester.” It’s an inspiring story about a young man who dreams of becoming a writer and receives encouragement from a reclusive, Pulitzer Prize winning author. There’s some language and innuendos, but its worth the watch.