In the book of Leviticus, when God gave instructions about the duties of the High Priest, the Lord told Moses, “He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense, and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony.” This sacrifice - for the purpose of intercession - is known in the Hebrew as Paga'.
Listening to many praise & worship songs sung today, one might think sacrifice is an easy thing. Our modern songs about sacrifices of praise are generally upbeat and joyful. But sacrifice is difficult and painful, and a true sacrifice of praise comes when praising is the last thing you want to do. When life itself is grueling, when getting up in the morning, taking that next step, taking that next breath, is itself a battle.
Singer/songwriter Kelly Willard knows what it is to offer a sacrifice of praise.
People who were part of the “Jesus Movement” in the late‘70s know Kelly Willard’s music well. She was a featured soloist on over two dozen praise projects from Integrity, Vineyard Music and Maranatha! Music, including 16 of the Maranatha! Music Praise albums, which were precursors to the resurgence in popularity of worship music today. She has sung duets and background vocals with artists such as Dion Di Mucci, Paul Clark, the late Keith Green, Bob Bennett, Roby Duke, Lenny LeBlanc, Michele(Pillar)Carlton, Amy Grant, Twila Paris, Buddy Greene, Steve Green, Paul Overstreet, Ricky Skaggs, and more. She has recorded nine of her own solo projects.
So, why did Kelly walk away from a vibrant career and ministry in 1991? It was her commitment to her family. “I couldn’t travel, be there for my marriage and children, and be everything the public wanted me to be for them, as far as ministry goes”, Kelly states. “I felt pulled in too many different directions.”
Caring for her family included caring for her Mother, who suffered for 10 years with Alzheimer’s. It was during this time that Kelly was re-diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Then in 2004, life quickly unraveled for Kelly. In less than one year, her 29 year marriage failed, both of her parents passed away, and her teenage daughter, Haylie Grace Willard, who was suffering with severe depression, took her own life. Many people would give up after a year like this,and few would fault them. But, Kelly never did. “The last three years have been a steep uphill climb."
"The fact that I am alive and still functioning after my daughter took her own life is like a miracle. Anyone who has lost a child would know what I mean." Kelly leaned not only on the Lord, but she was blessed with loving friends. One in particular was Jamie Wellington, whom Kelly would later marry. “Jamie was like my rock, and I leaned very hard upon him. He just did what the Lord told him, which was to love me and hold onto me. He did a perfect job of being there for me, and he still is. Also, my Pastor, my grief counselor, and people from my church were standing closely with and praying for me all of the way."
During all of this, Willard never stopped writing songs and her new CD, Paga', was released to the public on September 4, 2007 on AUTUMN RECORDS. Despite what she has been through, her music shows no evidence of bitterness, no “Why me, Lord?” There is just a sense of leaning into and trusting the loving hand of God woven throughout her music.
From start to finish, the arrangements on Paga' are simple and clear, yet never simplistic, much like the Gospel itself. Irish pipes, harps and strings accent the beauty of her pure, uncomplicated melodies. “A lot of my songs are just heartfelt longings for a closer walk with God."
Kelly admits that “Charity” has been one of her favorite songs for a long time. Written by Ken Gulliksen during the Jesus Movement, it is an adaptation of 1 Corinthians 13, with the heart of the scripture in the chorus: "Jesus, reduce me to Love." The arrangement Kelly adopted for this song utilizes Celtic orchestration, complete with Irish pipes and harp, resulting in a haunting, evocative sound that is at once emotionally charged and spiritually soothing.
The folk rocker, “Take Up Your Bed and Walk,” is a challenge to people who are down, or whose relationship with God is stale, to get up from that place and walk with Him again.
Most artists have one song on their album that has a special meaning to them, and the worship song,"Beautiful Jesus", is that song for Kelly. “When I first heard this song written by Kelanie Gloeckler, my knees actually buckled, and I went down on the kitchen floor in worship to the Lord”, Kelly relates. However, Kelly’s love for this song goes beyond worship, as her daughter, Haylie, sung a duet with her on it. “Haylie sung the second verse and harmonized with me on the choruses. She wasn't even 16 years old yet, and I told her that she was 'better than me'! It's still too painful for me to listen to it very much, but it is one of the most precious things in the world to me."
Now, as a result of all she’s been through, Willard feels even stronger about singing to the brokenhearted.
“These are the people I can identify with the most,” she relates. “I don’t know what is going to happen, or how the Lord will use this, but I am willing to share openly. I have nothing to hide.”