DANVILLE — For the first five decades of her life, Dolly Redden wore many masks — as the perfect wife, mother, club member and churchgoer. Only she knew the guilt and deceit beneath the masks.
After reluctantly getting involved in a Bible study group, she began to feel the masks fall away. Finally, at age 53, she knelt in a darkened closet and cried out to God for forgiveness.
For the next 40 years, she would keep a journal of her thoughts, as well as the voice of the Holy Spirit, which she heard inside her consciousness.
“All through it, the Lord talks to me about singing,” she said.
In her first book, “Songs I Must Sing,” the 92-year-old Redden shares those writings and chronicles how her life has changed since that day in 1974 when she sought forgiveness.
She will sign copies of the 96-page paperback from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Danville Public Library and starting at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 at Raynbow Antiques, 111 S. Chicago, Rossville.
Redden said the voice of the spirit urged her to put her writings into a book, and it took her a year to sort through her notes. “I felt a strong leading of the spirit that I should put the book together for my children and grandchildren,” she recalled. At the time, she was 91.
Last September, her granddaughter, Army Capt. Meredith Morris had a similar inspiration to help her grandmother publish the book. Morris, who was serving in Afghanistan at the time, found a publisher and edited the book.
Redden finished writing the book before Christmas.
“I don’t want to toot my own horn,” she said, instead giving God the credit.
“I wanted to show people who might be seeking or are troubled, the love of God. My goal is that someone out there will relate to part of my testimony.”
As a singer since childhood, Redden still enjoys singing at the Rossville United Methodist Church.
In fact, many of the entries revolve around music. The middle of the book is filled with devotionals, with Redden’s thoughts at the top, followed by the spirit’s voice in italics.
For example, in one writing, she wonders how to “express God’s love to the unlovely and to share tender words with those who are prone to break with the pain of their failures.”
The spirit answers, in part: “Go forward in faith this day, for man needs a song; sing from your heart and those in the shadows will step out into your light.”
A ‘perfect’ life
In the beginning of the book, Redden talks about her “perfect” life as a wife and mother to three children. She married Lt. George Redden in 1941, and their 67-year marriage included 22 years of military service and life in two foreign countries. He died in 2008.
However, she made up nice-sounding stories about her past, worked to accumulate possessions and gave lip service at church. It wasn’t until she started attending a Bible study group that she realized how empty she was.
During the next several months, she suffered and cried, until the Lord “stripped away those masks and showed me myself. He put in my heart right away how much he loves me.”
The goal of the book is to reflect the love of God, she said, “and how he wants people to know he loves them. I love the Lord and I want to share him.”
She added, “The love of God is beyond description, and that’s what he wants you to know.”
Rosella Ray, owner of Raynbow Antiques in Rossville, one of Redden’s fans, said of the book, “I think it’s wonderful. A person could pick it up and read it at different times.”
Besides the devotionals and testimony, she said, “It has a beautiful closing, encouraging everyone to accept faith.”
The book will be on sale in Ray’s shop. For the book signing on Aug. 31, she encourages people to show up at 1 p.m., when she will introduce her friend.
This is Redden’s first book; however, a shorter version of her testimony was published in Billy Graham’s “Decision” magazine and selections of her poetry were used in his radio program. Other poems were published in anthologies “Bittersweet” and “I Have Need of the Poets.”
She also is a certified speaker for the United Methodist Church, has spoken to many Christian groups and women’s retreats.
When Redden held her book in her hands for the first time, she said, “I sat down and looked at it and said, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ The love of God can do anything.”
Redden gave an interview recently at WGNJ Radio; to hear the broadcast at http://www.greatnewsradio.com, click on ‘archives’ and type her name into the search box.
Redden’s family supports her efforts, including: son, Rex in Texas; daughters, Georganne Morris of Bloomington and Jan Morgan of Hoopeston; and eight grandchildren. She also has five great-grandchildren.
To order "Songs I Must Sing" is available at Five Loaves and Two Fish Book Cottage at 717 N. Gilbert St., and through www.amazon.com and www.CreativeForcePress.com. Cost is $12.95. To order signed copies of her book, to have her speak at an event or to give her feedback, email her at email@example.com.