Help Promote Kelly’s New Book: Three Ways of Searching

Hello readers!

Sorry I have not posted much in the last few weeks.  Many thanks to my friend William O’Flaherty for stepping in and guest posting last week!

Over the last few weeks, I have had several people ask me to do another humorous blog.  I did one several weeks ago about my comical aspirations to be a hip-hop dancer. I typically do more academic, artistic, or life application posts here, but I would love to do another humorous post.

SO, in honor of my fabulous friend Kelly Belmonte’s new book of poetry Three Ways of Searching (out May 24 from Finishing Line Press), I am asking at least TEN readers to purchase Kelly’s book.  If I can get at least 10 readers to pre-order her book, I will do a humorous post on my MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT.  It’s from my senior year in high school, and for those who know me, you know to expect something crazy!

That rules out some of my other embarrassing moments.  Such as:

*Forgetting the words to a song I sang in high school and making up the lyrics (It was from Phantom of the Opera, so use your imagination)

*Getting a foot cramp on stage at the Rhythm and Roots Festival and trying not to wince while singing.

*Being continually electricuted by an ungrounded microphone during another performance…and trying not to wince while singing.

*Performing a solo worship song (you know, the quiet, reverent type) in the campground at the Bristol NASCAR racetrack and watching an old man walk by wearing nothing but a loose, loose towel…and trying not to wince while singing.

*The time when I was six and thought butter was ice cream (yeah, that one was pretty bad)

*The time I clumsily and unnecessarily fell while trying to dodge a foul ball as a first base coach.

Interested in helping out?  Here’s what you need to do:

1) Visit and place a pre-order

2) Once you complete checkout, forward your confirmation email to

That’s it!  If I can get TEN people to help promote Kelly’s new book of poetry, I will let you have a hardy laugh at my expense.  Seriously, it’s that crazy!

Thanks all!!

Photo Courtesy of Lancia Smith


Crystal featured on Fridays with Friends!

Last Friday, Crystal was featured on the latest installment of Fridays with Friends, a series on All Nine Muses.  Crystal talks about what inspires her, her favorite artists, and where to catch up on all the latest!

AND DON’T FORGET…Kelly Belmonte’s new book of poetry Three Ways of Searching is now available for pre-order through Finishing Line Press.  Here is a link for purchase:

Lancia Smith recently conducted a fantastic interview with Kelly about the book.  Visit here for the interview:


Guest Post: A Don and Two Devils Hit the Big Time

I am excited to announce my first guest post!  This comes courtesy of the talented William O’Flaherty (the voice and webmaster of  Today marks the 70th anniversary for the American launch of The Screwtape Letters. To celebrate this event, William reflects on Screwtape and its powerful impact.  William O’Flaherty is the creator of, an online resource devoted to providing useful information on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis for both the casual and serious reader. He has also contributed articles to and Harperone’s official C.S. Lewis blog at Having worked professionally as an announcer in Christian radio, he holds a M.A. in Agency Counseling and presently works as a Family Therapist.

A Don and Two Devils Hit the Big Time
by William O’Flaherty

Seventy years ago this month an Oxford Don went from being a relatively unknown author in the United States to what we would call “going viral” today. Although The Screwtape Letters had been released a year before in the U.K. and did very well there (see my blog, “International Screwtape Month?”), it wasn’t published until February 16, 1943 in the U.S. Now, fifty years after his death (he died in November, 1963 on the same day JFK was killed) his star shines even brighter. The Screwtape Letters features the correspondence of a senior demon (Screwtape) written to his nephew (Wormwood) who is just starting his first assignment as a tempter. Each of the 31 letters can be read in about five minutes and provides what is sometimes humorous advice from the devil. It’s like getting a glimpse at your worse enemy’s plans to ruin your life. Imagine being in a battle and discovering letters from the opposing side with details about how it plans to destroy you.

If you lived in England in the early 1940’s you would have had the opportunity to get the inside information even earlier. The letters were first released weekly in The Guardian starting in May, 1941. Interestingly the satirical material caught some readers off guard. One person canceled their subscription because of not agreeing with the advice given by Screwtape. This individual missed the reverse viewpoint that Lewis presented. Thus, “the enemy” was God and “Our Father Below” was Satan.

If you are not familiar with the book you might fear Lewis has an unhealthy interest in devils. Lewis is aware of this tendency, but he also points out the other extreme is possible. In the short preface Lewis says:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

As noted already the book is rather short, however if you want to enjoy the content in other ways besides the traditional format you have many options. First is a graphic novel of the book that was published by Marvel Comics in the 1990’s (but it is out of print). There have been several audio book versions released, including one by John Cleese. Less than ten years ago an audio drama adaptation was made by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. It features the vice of Andy Serkis who is famous for his role as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies. There is even a live stage adaptation of The Screwtape Letters. The production is led by Max McLean and is currently on a national tour.

Providing a complete summary of The Screwtape Letters would be a difficult task in this short essay. That said, I do want to share some of my most enjoyed quotes from the book. Before doing this, however, I want to stress the importance of reading (or re-reading) the book itself. Some of the best material is either too lengthy to quote, or the ideas are revisited across several letters. Someday I’ll finish an index I once started looking at the topic addressed and where you find them throughout the book.


“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (Letter 4)

“The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.” (Letter 6)

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” (Letter 8)

“He may say on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.'” (Letters 12)

“The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books.”  (Letter 13)

“In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man.” (Letter 21)

William O’Flaherty started creating a variety of resources on C.S. Lewis just a few years ago and long ago brought them together in one place at For more details about The Screwtape Letters visit his blog that contains a special podcast of a talk he did on an introduction to the book. Also, last year he released a “new” address by Screwtape himself at a special Demon-Chapel

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Image courtesy of Jef Murray 

Crystal’s Talk Featured on the All About Jack Podcast

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, Crystal’s talk on Lewis as Transformational Leader (given at Taylor University last summer) is the featured talk on the All About Jack podcast. Go check it out!!  (Bottom Left Corner)

Please make sure to bookmark the informative  Enjoy many facets of William’s site, including Jack in Retrospect (important events in the life of C.S. Lewis this week), Quote of the Day, the C.S. Lewis Quiz, C.S. Lewis Facts, and C.S. Lewis Minute.  Also, share the love and “like” EssentialCSLewis on Facebook –!/EssentialCSLewis

“Love is a Doing Word”: What Grief is Teaching Me

The song “Teardrop” by Massive Attack begins with these two lines:

“Love, love is a verb

Love is a doing word”

You may recognize this tune as the theme song for the medical drama “House.” Unfortunately, the show only uses the instrumental portion of the song, but the lyrics, in my opinion, are as good as the music.

And it was this song which was repeating through my head last week, as I received the call that my grandmother had passed away.  I, along with my husband and parents, sat with her for just a few moments before other family and clergy arrived. Free of pain at long last, she laid there no longer plagued by her struggling mind, her withering body. The noisy oxygen machine had been silenced and removed.  Her roommate had been taken out for the morning.  The sun invaded the right side of her bed from the nearby window.  Out of sheer habit, I kept waiting for her chest to rise.  I swallowed my panic when it didn’t. As I sat there and the minutes swiftly rolled past me, I had a feeling that this moment, one filled with utter sadness and solemnity, would be remembered as a sacred one.  A body with the spirit newly liberated.  That was all she was now.  I was beginning to realize that I didn’t recognize her, not as I had known her my whole life.  There was no smile on her face, her hands were inert.  The glow was absent.

She isn’t here anymore. She left.  She’s gone.

Even when you expect it, it still stings when it occurs.  The hole her absence creates is still a painful vacuum. We can fill it with whatever we want, but they are poor substitutes.  For me, that is an incredibly sad realization.  All of a sudden, gifts she gave me before she was ill, time we spent together, stories she told me, all had a deep and abiding significance.  She is all that can replace this emptiness…and she is not here to replace it. That was what hurt so much in the first few days.   A matriarch, a pillar of support for my entire life, had collapsed.  Although dementia robbed her of so many things, it robbed us of her essence.  She was not the same as she was.  She was a shell, a vacant and lonely cocoon with her passion and personality stripped away.  But at least I had something of my grandmother.  It wasn’t completely “her”, but I had this tiny body suffering and medicated. For a time, that was enough for my heart and my confidence.

But as she declined, we all knew what was approaching. My father is a diligent son.  He and my Mom visited her several times a week during meal time and fed her small portions of pureed food on the tip of a spoon.  Gentle hands carried some form of nourishment to obedient, tired lips.  She would be heavily medicated but she would still assist  him as best she could.  One day, she cupped his hand next to her cheek.  The last time I saw her awake, she waved a frail hand of goodbye to Mom and me.  My parents worked for many months to make the transition to the nursing home a comfortable one for her, and had visited her often.

This is what love is. Love is disguised as so many things in our culture. Every day, I listen to teenagers confuse it for lust.  Society tells us to pursue it at all costs, but can’t really define it (Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, right?). The world strives for the height of ecstasy, for butterflies in the stomach.  But butterflies are privy to get tangled in nets. As C.S. Lewis once stated, it is very dangerous to capture an impulse and set it up as “the thing you ought to follow at all costs”.  Love, through the world’s lens, is often an embellished, fictionalized emotion.

But love is much tougher than that. Love is hard sometimes. Real love is unconditional. Love is sitting in a nursing home with your ailing mother.  Love is cleaning out her home.  Love is giving your wife a cup of cold water at the funeral because she needs it and she’s too overcome with grief to get it herself.  Love is compromise.  Love is sometimes inconvenient.  Love endures heartache.  Love is taking from yourself and giving to others, without regret.   Massive Attack had it right: love is a doing word. Your hands reveal your heart.  In the days after her passing, I began to ponder the evidence of her enormous love, and furthermore, the extravagant love our Father has for us. The night is dark, but joy comes in the morning.  Every time I become tearful, He whispers that promise to me again.

As the healing begins for us, I am learning new aspects about life. Death has a way of instructing us. Through it, you can understand eternity much better.  And maybe, just maybe, you can improve your life by accepting the fact that life is finite – a vapor, a blade of grass.  With this knowledge, we can become better people and attempt to fill the shoes of the “giants” who trained us.

1.       Invest time where it matters.  Let’s face it, there are unhealthy people out there. I don’t mean from an exclusively spiritual stance.  Some people want to use you, to take up your time, to encourage heartache, even if they intended well.  There have been times in my life where, to impress someone who perhaps didn’t care, I have let others who genuinely loved me down.  But not now.  I only focus my time and energy into people I feel truly care about me. I don’t chase acceptance anymore, especially after reading Lewis’s “The Inner Ring” (great essay!). I want to be found a “craftsman” and find myself in the company of other “craftsmen”.  I do the work that God gives me to do.  I walk the path on which He is leading me. I have people surrounding me who genuinely care for me as I care for them. That is love, and that is enough.

2.       Embrace your leadership role in life .  As I age, I begin to understand that my role in life transitions from passive to active. I was so scared that my matriarch was gone, concerned that I couldn’t be the kind of person she was.   But there are people out there who need good leadership, and we need to be leaders.  I remember going to Target last Monday night and being so heartbroken.  Then I looked around to see others, busy with their lists, pushing buggies full of kids, and scurrying between sections.  I stumbled upon the realization: yes, my grandmother is gone but these people aren’t.  Those who survive must guide.  The world needs us, our children need us. If I honestly want to honor my grandmother’s memory, I will strive to be the person she was for others.  My generation needs to accept our leadership roles in society.  We should exercise our influence. Whether it is as a parent, a coach, a teacher, a mentor, we must understand that God is preparing us to take the reins one day. We need to muster the strength our predecessors provided for us and lead.

3.       Laugh often and love often. Be happy.  Don’t live your life in the realm of “what if”.   Create radical dreams and passionately pursue them.  Be relentless about your life. Last night, my husband and I booked our flights to Europe, where we are going for nine days this summer.  While I’m there, I’m going to meet up with kindred spirits, have new adventures, and even chase my ancestors.  I will take pictures and collect stories.  I will dwell in joy.  While the blood runs through my veins, I will live, I will love, and I will thrive.  There will be a day (hopefully a long time from now) when I will be buried among my family.  Until then, I will unapologetically drink life to the dregs.

It’s a great paradox, but one that continually rings true: dying has taught me to live.

*image courtesy of Shyduck