As a young preacher, one of the most intimidating things for me was having a brotherhood legend as one of my elders. It took several years and someone telling me what was happening before I stopped getting nervous. Every time Reuel took a note card out of his front pocket and wrote something down while I was preaching, I wondered what I had said that was wrong. Rather than writing down something I had wrongly said or something he didn't agree with, I found out he was writing down what he liked and would use in his editorials. What I initially thought was a criticism was actually a compliment.)

Another thing Reuel did that often concerned our worship leaders was to simply bow his head and not sing while we were singing congregationally. This was most noticeable on newer, more "contemporary" — whatever that really means — songs. This sometimes threw our worship leaders and irritated other members of the congregation. Finally, I got up enough nerve to go share this information with him. His answer — which I can still hear in his scratchy voice — went something like this: "Well, I sure don't want to be discouraging during our singing, but sometimes I just like to listen."

No big problem here. No big theological issue or quarrel with song selection or content. With all he had on his plate, with all his years of ministry, with all his concerns about the future of God's people, sometimes he just wanted to sit there and be blessed by the brothers and sisters as they sang!

Years later, we lived in west Texas and suffered through several weeks of icy weather in the western and central parts of Texas. Roads had been closed. Businesses, schools, and churches had been closed. On Wednesday evening, our services were canceled at the building, but our HIP service (HIP stands for High Impact Praise) was conducted at a chapel on a university campus in town. The acoustics were great. There were only four of us who were over thirty years old in attendance. As we began to sing with no amplification or microphones, the sound of over three hundred voices melding into one great sound of praise drove me to sit there in silence. I just listened!

I sat there on the verge of major tear duct leakage.
As I sat there on the verge of major tear duct leakage, I remembered my elder's old statement and made it my own. "Sometimes I just like to listen!" Like the proper salve for an open wound, like a glass of cool water on a hot day, and like a breath of fresh air for someone coming out of a mine shaft, this singing filled a deep soul-need. While I hope I'm never warped by an evil spirit as King Saul was, I sure understand how "the tormenting spirit would go away" when David sang and played for him (1 Samuel 16:23). Sitting there listening to these young adults praising God at the top of their voices in such beautiful harmony on a night when most folks in town didn't venture outside their door sent my tormenting spirits scurrying for cover!

I have known for years that praise music juices me in ways that I cannot define. So if you see me with a throng of worshipers and I'm not singing, please know this truth: I'm not angry. I don't dislike the song selection. I'm not offended by something. it's just that sometimes I just like to listen!