Initial thoughts on the book:
"This would probably be be a good book for my 10 year old daughter. . . although I would have to explain the moralism."
"This reminds me of that parenting book we read, Light Their Fire for God, because of all of the 'This is Carol's story...' and 'Once we knew a lady named Stacy...' and 'Roberta wasn't ready for Jesus, but then we...' but also because of the comforting and applicable scripture references; I like that part."
"This might be a good book for a new Christian."
"Stop being so proud, you need this too!"
"I know. But really!?!? I'm gettin' 'bla bla bla'."
One thing I've noticed about myself is that the books I consider good books are ones that I want to underline and otherwise mark up, are quotable, and re-readable. This book was none of these. That's not to say that it's not a good book though. It certainly isn't a bad book, just as soggy oatmeal isn't a bad breakfast, but when you're waiting for your breakfast in bed at at a French hotel and this is what's brought to you - well, it's a let-down.
This is the type of book that I most abhor for a book club or discussion: There is nothing to really discuss, nothing for anyone to disagree with (myself excepted), but is precisely the type that is chosen over and over for just such a discussion. Written by a kindly grandmother for a mass audience in a modern church and chalked full of platitudes and moral principles that would make Ben Franklin proud, this book quotes all of the "right" people: Augustine, Packer, Lloyd-Jones, etc. I have no doubt that I would enjoy a conversation with Mrs Hughes and could learn a lot from this lady's sterling character, but her book (any book) cannot depend solely on that; it must stand on it's own. Mrs Hughes is a pastor's wife and naturally her book places a strong emphasis on the tithe, church attendance, and praying over the church prayer list. I find it oddly humorous that she chose 1 Corinthians 16:2 (On the first of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.) to argue for the collecting of the tithe - humored, but not surprised. The favorite few are always brought forward to argue for how we do it now. She also quotes Hebrews 10:25 (Do not forsake assembling together...) to prove, absolutely prove with out a doubt, that your rear is to be on a pew from 10-12am every Sunday morning while other verses, that may suggest otherwise, are never touched on.
I do appreciate her many scripture references and have written some down to revisit, but if that was what I wanted my time would be better employed with a concordance. Don't get me wrong: I question myself. I question myself even as I have these thoughts. But I also question them - the modern Reformed folk who can't get past square uno. At least Tim Keller's Prodigal God makes you think! He almost had something there! (Might I recommend The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal?)
Books such as this, written for church women, just deflate me. Alice von Hildebrand pulls it off, Barbara Hughes does not. I'm sorry. I remember one Beth Moore study we did in Sunday school - all of the women were chatting about how encouraged they were. Me? It depressed me, and so does this book. It's soggy oatmeal when I long for a real French breakfast.
It all puts me in mind of Mr Woodhouse who loves his "small basin of thin gruel" and is all that he "with thorough self-approbation" can recommend. It's as if this group is scared. Of what I do not know, but just read the blog comments on such a blog (Reformed, esp. the ones for women) and it's obvious that unless someone comments "Great post!! Thank you!!! Just what I needed today!!!! I am in tears!!!!!" and has no original thought in their head they are frowned upon. (Not that this is done by the authors of the blog per se but is frequently done by others who claim this vestment.) We're, in effect, told (as Mrs Bates was told) "Let me propose you venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. (Fill in here the name of the approved Reformed, Calvinistic thinker, writer, pastor of today) understands boiling an egg better than anybody. I would not recommend an egg boiled by anybody else - but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see - one of our small eggs will not hurt you." I'm left feeling like Emma, who, "though delighted to see everyone looking so comfortable", "the quiet prosings of such women made her feel that every evening so spent was indeed one of the evenings she had fearfully anticipated".