Country superstar Dolly Parton was raised to believe that “Jesus loves her, and that with God, nothing is impossible.” Dolly never forgot her humble beginnings, even as she went on to achieve great success in her career and has received the highest awards for her music, songwriting, acting and other creative endeavors. Dolly is grateful for what she has been given and seeks ways to give back and bless others. In 1995, she had vision to foster a love of reading with preschool children and launched the Imagination Library, providing books monthly to children during their first 5 years of life. Now, 50 years from the release of her first record, Dolly continues to speak encouragement into the lives of children by releasing her first ever kid’s album titled, “I Believe In You,” for which all proceeds go to The Imagination Library.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today, we speak with country superstar, Dolly Parton. Dolly’s eclectic and impactful career has been recognized through numerous awards she has received including Emmy, Oscars, Grammy and Tony’s. Dolly’s dream has been, “to make as many people happy as I could in this life.” Dolly had a vision back in 1995 to foster a love of reading with preschool children, so she launched the Imagination Library – providing books monthly to children during their first five years of life.
Now 50 years from the release of her first record, Dolly continues to speak encouragement into the lives of children by releasing her first-ever kids album titled, “I Believe In You,” for which all proceeds go to the Imagination Library. Dolly shares about her own childhood and what inspires her to keep giving back.
Dolly Parton Believes with God, All Things Are Possible – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 63
Dolly Parton: I grew up in a family of 12 kids. A lot of people know my story, a lot of people don’t. My grandpa was a Pentecostal preacher, so I grew up in the church loving the Lord; believing that Jesus loved me, and that through God, all things were possible.
Mama was very spiritual also. My grandpa, it was my mama’s dad that was a preacher. They were all very musical as well. My grandpa was a great musician and he played the piano, he played guitar, and played fiddle. All of Mama’s brothers and sisters all played musical instruments. That’s where I got the music from; the spiritual side of me and the musical side of me.
…so we were just country; simple people with a lot of faith and love.
My dad’s people were very hardworking, serious thinking, and good fun people. It made a good combination. I got my work ethic from my dad, got my creativity and my musical self from Mom’s people. There was just a lot of music and a lot of love, and a lot of hard work going on in that family.
That Great Giving Scripture
My mom and dad were just country people–farm folk. We just grew our own food, raised our own crops, Daddy sold tobacco for our money crop. Everybody has their own crops that they sell, and so we were just country, simple people with a lot of faith and love.
We grew up with that great giving Scripture, you know, about it being better to give than to receive. It’s important to do things that are personal and important; that you can take pride in, and take joy in doing them. But I think we should all give. I mean I like to get stuff too, now never mind, but I love to give. It makes me feel good to be able to help and to help someone else. That’s just my nature. I learned that through my parents. Good, good parents that always were helping neighbors. Anytime anybody needed anything. We didn’t have anything that money could buy, we had help, helping hands. We had kind words. We had whatever we could do to help, we did. That’s just instilled in me. I just do it on a bigger scale now.
Imagination Library: Giving Books To Children
I’m happy that I became successful. I’m happy that I was in a position to be able to help. I think when you get in a position to help, you should help. I think you should find charities that are important to you. I think you should find charities just like our little Imagination Library.
It’s a program that I started 20 some years ago in honor of my dad, who couldn’t read and write. Daddy was a country man who had to work like most country people did, to help put food on the table for the rest of the kids. It kind of crippled my dad that he couldn’t read; he thought he couldn’t learn after he was grown.
I think when you get in a position to help, you should help.
But he was so smart. I’ve so often wondered what all he might have been if he could have had an education. But it wasn’t his fault. I wanted to do something to honor him because the Bible says, “honor your father and mother,” and there’s many ways that don’t necessarily mean “obey,” it means that too, I suppose. But when it says “honor your father and mother,” I wanted to bring honor to his name and to thank him for all he had done for us.
I got him involved in this program–literacy program–where we give books to children from the time they’re born, once a month, until they start school. They get that little book in the mail with their little name on it. They’re gonna get that little book; they’re going to sit somebody down to read. It just started out as something for our county. And it grew; went all over Tennessee, all over Canada, all over the world now, in different places. We’re giving away our hundred-millionth book soon.
Lifting Children Up To Learn
My Daddy got to live long enough to see it start doing well. He took such pride in it and knowing that he helped me with it. He got such a kick out of the kids calling me the “book lady.” So now all the money from this CD that we’re doing, the children’s album called “I Believe In You,” all the money goes back into the Imagination Library to put more books in the hands of more children.
I’ve been writing songs for all these years for children. Even a lot of my early songs in my own life–because I started writing songs when I was seven–and even before I could write, I was making up songs. A lot of those were children-type songs. I know children, and I love children of my brothers’, sisters’, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and nephews. I’ve been doing that for years, and then I write songs about the themes of whatever the books are that we give away through the Imagination Library.
The “Coat of Many Colors” two movies did so well, we had new little fans with that. It just seemed to be like a light bulb went off in my head, especially when I found out that we were going to be giving our hundred-millionth book away, “Maybe this is my year for children. So why not just go ahead and put out that album now?”
It’s for kids and kids at heart. These songs, really, I think will appeal to the moms and dads too, and the grandmas and grandpas, because they’re very uplifting–they’re sing-able songs. They have good messages. This world is so dark and negative right now in so many ways, but these little songs kind of lift you up. They’ll certainly lift the children up, and they’ll learn, and be taught by the messages that I have. But the grown-ups are going to get the message also. It makes me happy–it makes me feel good to sing about positive things.
Craving Time With Family
“I Believe In You,” is kind of based loosely on “The Little Engine That Could.” That’s our first book that we give away through the Imagination Library. I use the line; “just like the little engine that we’ve all heard about—it says, ‘I think I can, I think I can,’ and I’m here to tell you, I’m here to shout!”
Then it goes on into talking about having faith in yourself, knowing that you can do it; about building your confidence and all that. They’re done in such a way to where it’s really good for grownups–ain’t we all kind of kids at heart? Plus, we can play. They can kind of play along with the kids, and sing in that little kid voice, like I do a lot of the stuff in a kid’s voice. And do expressions that I think the kids will enjoy. I think the grown-ups will like it too.
I just think that people are kind of hungry for that family time. Everything can’t be on social media, everything can’t be on a computer, everything can’t be on just something out there. This little album kind of helps to bring people together. I just think that just praying together, and being together, and kind of just talking about the things that are important.
God Does Work Through His People
I think it’s very important for families to, as they used to say, “those that pray together, stay together.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I think if you have some faith in what you’re doing, if you believe in that something Greater than you, and those golden rules, whether they be commandments or rules, I think if you share that within your family, it’ll actually just strengthen those bonds more than anything.
I think it’s very important for families to, as they used to say, “those that pray together, stay together.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that.
I believe, that through God, all things are possible, and I’ve proved a lot of that. I pray every day that God will lead me, guide me, and direct me; that He’ll bring all the right things, all the right people into my life, and take all the wrong things out. I ask Him to let me every day, do something to uplift mankind and to glorify Him. Those are my prayers in the mornings.
I get up, I do my little spiritual work. I read my little Jesus Calling book. All the little things every day where it’s dated. It means a lot to me, because sometimes I think God speaks to me through that little book. I’ve noticed so many times, that I myself have had things going on, and I was just wondering about the answer. Then I read, and it just makes it clear. So God does work through people and He does work in strange and mysterious ways; His wonders to perform.
Narrator: Dolly’s new record for kids is called, “I Believe In You,” and is available now at Amazon.com. All proceeds of this record go to Dolly’s Imagination Library. To find out more about how you can get a free book every month for the first 5 years of the life of your child, or grandchild, or to donate, please visit Dolly’s Imagination Library at ImaginationLibrary.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we speak with author, counselor and teacher John Eldredge. John’s book, “Wild At Heart,” took the world by storm when it came out in 2001. John has now written a book that gives a new perspective about the hope of heaven entitled: “All Things New: Heaven, Earth and The Restoration of Everything You Love.”
John Eldredge: I have met so many dear people of God who actually don’t have a lot of hope in their future. The future is something that they fear.
I really began digging into the Scriptures to say, “Jesus, what is it we’re supposed to be hoping for?”
In Matthew 19, Peter has asked Jesus the exact same question.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke the question, He doesn’t tell him, “c’mon Peter, virtue is its’ own reward.” Listen to what He says; He says, “Peter, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His throne,” and He gets very specific, He says, “all of you who have lost loved ones, or even houses–dear places to you–even careers; it will all be given back to you.”
Narrator: Today’s featured passage is from the July 23rd entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
I am the Light of the World. Men crawl through their lives cursing the darkness, but all the while I am shining brightly. I desire each of My followers to be a Light-bearer. The Holy Spirit who lives in you can shine from your face, making Me visible to people around you. Ask My Spirit to live through you, as you wind your way through this day. Hold My hand in joyful trust, for I never leave your side. The Light of My Presence is shining upon you. Brighten up the world by reflecting who I am.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.