The Gospel According to Dolly Parton

Posted by Daniel Tipton on Jun 8, 2020 1:46:23 PM

May 28, 2020


Y’all!!!!! Have you heard the glorious news?!!?!?!?!?!?!?  Her Majesty, the Queen of East Tennessee, Ms. Dolly Parton has released a new song in response to the Covid-19 pandemic!  There is hope and her name is Dolly! 


If you know me, you know how much I love Dolly Parton.  For Christmas one year, my grandmother gave me an autographed photo of Dolly in a gold frame!!! It was one of the best things I’ve ever gotten for Christmas.  Yes, I know my grandmother took the picture out of a magazine and signed it herself.  I’m not that dumb!  But my grandmother thought so much of my love for Dolly that she tried very hard to make me happy! 

So when Dolly writes a song about life during Covid-19 and how life should be once it’s all over, I stop and listen!  It’s a great song.  “When Life is Good Again” is a promise of how we should build a better future once we are free from the harshness of quarantine and isolation.  When life is good again, she says, we must do better than we did before, open up our doors, and change how we relate with one another.  She recognized and names the hardness of our daily living but dares to believe in a future defined not by our wrongs of the past but by the mended patchwork of recovery. 


I love the hope in this song.  The only problem I have is the “when” part, as if we have to wait until everything is over and we’ve fully recovered before we can truly start living again.  I think we can do a lot of the mending and healing now, living fully in our present pain, bravely doing whatever it takes to survive and thrive!  We don’t have to wait until life is good again to make life good again. 


This perspective is important.  It’s the idea of the road to the future being paved by walking it.  It’s the same concept behind practicing a new artform, hobby, or skill.  If you expect to be a masterclass painter, you have to start with a blank canvas, get used to holding the brushes, learn how to mix colors, and understand perspective and light.  It’s not something you will be instantly good at.  Very few virtuosos really exist.  Most talent you see in the world is the result of years and years of practice.  If you wait until you’re good to begin to paint, the canvas will always be blank. 


Dolly’s song is a beacon of hope in a dark and fearful season.  I’ve listened to it several times already today.  The hope Dolly has is testimony to her faith that all things shall be well.  It’s a hard thing to believe that everything will work out some way, some day.  It’s the hardest thing I do as a chaplain.  It’s the hardest thing I ask you to do today.  All shall be well, all shall be well, all matter of things shall be well. 


But how?  How can I say that when people are dying?  How can I say that when people are suffering? How can I say that when injustice and lack of human decency permeates so much of our culture?  How can I say all shall be well, when nothing, is in fact, well? 


The author of this saying is a young woman from England who lived most of her life between the 14th and 15th century.  She was known as a mystic and had many religious visions.  In one of those visions she saw how terrible the world around her was, how terribly people treated one another, how down right evil people were, and how suppressed and oppressed the people of her community felt.  In this vision she heard a voice from heaven that boldly claims “All shall be well.” 


Julian heard the voice as a reassurance that not everything evil will prevail.  In fact, the promise given to Julian is the same promise Dolly makes to each of us in her song:  Everything that is bad, everything that causes pain, everything that hurts, is temporary.  Good will return. 


The hard question to answer is how…Honestly, I don’t know.  All I know is that if I want good to return to the world, I have to be good in the world.  If I want my relationships to heal I have to offer healing and do the work of mending.  If I want life to prevail, I have to practice life-giving, I have to do life-sustaining things. 


Yes, I’m going to dare you to say it with me: “All shall be well, all shall be well, all mater of things shall be well.”  When life is good again, as Dolly says, when life is in need of good, dare to be the good the world needs.  Dare to make things well! 


Heal, mend, build, walk, grow!  My dear hearts, all shall be well! 


In case you haven’t been blessed by Dolly’s song, here’s a link to youtube!


Love and Light! 

Topics: Covid-19, Grief Services