Daily Encouragement For The Smart Stepfamily: Daily Inspiration And Wisdom For Blended Families, by Ron Deal & Dianne Deal Matthews
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Books/Net Gallery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I am no stranger to reading devotionals , but this is the first such book that I can remember reading that is aimed at blended families. My feelings about the book are considerably ambivalent. When you have read fantastic devotionals that manage to tackle deep biblical subjects and provide considerable scriptural insights, a book like this appears flimsy and definitely far too worldly with its whining about guilt and its deep interests in contemporary psychology. Likewise, when one considers the biblical focus on godly families, the reveling of this book in the messiness of contemporary blended families is at least somewhat off-putting. This is by no means a terrible book, and there are people who would certainly find this book to be encouraging, I would think–it certainly does its best to encourage others in a worldly fashion, not overly concerned with God’s laws and ways–but as a reader I found this book to be wanting.
In terms of its contents, this book belongs to the 365 day genre of devotional, with short comments, some with scriptural citations and discussions but most of them without biblical references, for each day of the Gregorian year. The contents in general tend to deal with various concerns about blended families, including dealing with communication problems and holidays (most of them pagan), trying to avoid overprotecting and being a knight in shining armor and coping with jealousy and insecurity. Some of the devotionals are focused on monetary issues and concerns of trust, while others are geared towards specific members of the family–stepmothers and stepfathers and children and adults whose parents are remarrying. Some of the reflections deal with widows and widowers but most assume that the blended family is the result of divorce and remarriage. There are expressions like bonus mothers and concerns about crazy exes and trying to stop feeling guilty over the mistakes of the past and other thoughts that would be generally acceptable to the majority of people with no particularly claims to morality. This book likely has a large potential audience, but it is really acceptable to marginal Christians and does not require that one be a really committed Christian to appreciate.
Ultimately, this book has some serious difficulties in it that make it quite a difficult book to fully appreciate. For one, the book takes a tone that is far more in line with pop psychology than it is with the high moral standards of the Bible. The authors’ attempt to co-opt Jesus’ own childhood with encouraging blended families is particularly unfortunate. It is one thing to make the best of a less than ideal situation, but this book definitely errs in the direction of wallowing in the real rather than seeking to uphold a biblical ideal. Moreover, most of the counsel of this book seems particularly perverse. If people could do a good job at communicating and dealing with awkwardness and being able to forgive and seek the best interests of one’s partner and of children in a marriage, then it is pretty likely that one would not be involved in a blended family situation unless there was an unfortunate death of a spouse. This book is really aimed at people who should have done much more work on themselves before getting themselves involved in the complicated family situation that this book envisions. Likewise, if one is to eschew being a knight in shining armor, it is difficult why one would be a stepfather in a blended family situation with someone who had been married before and presumably not done a bang-up job of it.
 See, for example: