A Celebration of the Life of Rose Ella Miller Brooks, 1933-2018

On March 1, 2018, I had the honor and privilege of preaching my Momma’s celebration of life service. I have received messages from folks who were not able to make it and wanted to experience it. I have posted the text here and the audio from the service is below (inserted below the opening prayer) so that you don’t miss the great music by my wife, Paige, and the music ministry of ISBC Glenwood Campus.

On behalf of my family, I want to thank you for being here this evening and for all the wonderful expressions of love through your kind words, flowers, food, and other gracious acts over the past few days. They have all been greatly appreciated.

Jesus once stood before a vast crowd on the side of a hill and uttered these words we find in Matthew 5:

 “13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14″You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

I would like to use these words to try to frame the life of my mother, Rose Ella Miller Brooks. Would you pray with me?

 Prayer: “Heavenly Father, tonight we gather in this place to celebrate the life of one of your children. We are clinging to your gracious promises of peace and comfort that available to us through your abiding Spirit. Father, give me the words to speak and the strength to speak them. And may you receive all the glory and honor tonight. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.”

If you thought it was easy to try to encapsulate her life into a few, concise words, think again! Mimi and I, under the leadership of the Good Lord, have collaborated on this because it was a task too big for just one of us. Fact is, there’s never been one quite like my momma!

My grandfather, K. Miller, instilled in my momma, along with sisters, Vonda and Sue, that if you were going to do something at all, you needed to do the very best you could. Just halfway doing something was NEVER an option. This value shaped and defined my momma. Jesus speaks of His followers being the salt of the earth and what happens when salt becomes tasteless. While some might want to disagree, I would submit to you that tasteless was never a part of Rose Brooks’ vernacular. Fashion and appearance were passions for her. My mother dared not even step outside the door to get the newspaper unless she was completely and totally “put together.” Not only did she have the outfit, she had the accessories, the jewelry, and the shoes to match whatever the theme of the day.

She was on a first name basis with the salespeople from Nettie Lee, Miller’s, Hess’, Parks-Belk, Proffit’s and Belk again. If UPS had established a Hall of Fame, my momma’s bronze bust would be adorning one of its pedestals right now. Those little brown trucks were the bane of my father’s existence. I have friends who have never seen my mother without her makeup on and hair just right. For that matter,  I have family members who have never seen it either.

To illustrate how much this meant to her, I take you back to Tuesday, February 20, a little over a week ago. Mimi and I finally won the battle and momma agreed to go back to the ER. Though we didn’t want to believe it at the time, she was dying. But before I carried her out of the house and placed her in the car, she spent 30 minutes walking Mimi, step by step, through the process of applying her makeup. She would not have, consciously, left home without it. Before Tim came from Oak Hill to pick up her body early last Sunday morning, Mimi carefully applied her lipstick and highlighted her famous beauty mark because that was what Momma would have wanted.

Speaking of tastes, not only was Momma passionate about fashion, she was a foodie from way back. Rose Brooks was a gourmet chef. From good ol’ country cooking like fried potatoes and onions and biscuits and gravy, to stir frying Oriental recipes in the wok, to more intricate and complex entrees, crepes, appetizers, and making the best candy and desserts ever, she could do it all! Momma was the greatest cook I ever knew. Anytime we ever went to a restaurant and had something especially tasty, I would sarcastically say to her, “Momma, there’s no way you could ever make this!” She would either get the waiter to ask the chef for the recipe or she would just go home and perfect it by trial and error. Heck, I even loved the errors!

She felt like no matter what “ailed” us, she could heal it with food. When Aunt Susie nearly broke her foot and was bedridden for a time, she convalesced at Mom’s. When Mimi had brain surgery to remove a tumor, she recovered at Mom’s, like so many times before. Mom delighted in waiting on us hand and foot…and Mimi thought long and hard about what other organ she might be able to do without just to continue to enjoy that treatment.

Momma delighted in cooking things that I would like. Being a large man, I have always struggled to keep my weight down. When I would go to Mom and Dad’s they would be quick to say, “You might want to start watching your weight – you’re getting a little heavy.” Which would always be followed by Momma saying, “Here taste this! Have a piece of this!” Very confusing!

One of her all-time specialties became a New York style cheesecake. She always kept one around, ready at a moment’s notice to be delivered to some bereaved family or someone celebrating something somewhere.

Speaking of salt, I would be remiss if I did not also say that momma could be salty when it was necessary. You see Rose Brooks loved her family fiercely. She invested a great deal of time and attention into her husband, her children and her grandchildren. And when we made friends and brought them home to meet Momma, they were able to take shelter under her protective wings, as well. But don’t dare cross her or those she loved! I will never forget the time I was in the fourth grade. I would walk home from the old Washington Elementary School. I would cross paths with a couple of middle school boys walking from Sevier and they would like to try to pick on me and it would make me mad. Momma made me tell her about it one day. The next day the big black, 1979 Lincoln Town Car was parked in front of the school because Momma was there to pick me up … and go hunting. Though I protested, she made me point them out and she wheeled that Lincoln up to the curb and commenced to giving those two boys what for. In eight more years in the Kingsport public schools, I never saw them again!

Jesus continued saying, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” Rose Brooks lit up every room she ever walked into. Her laugh was one of her signature characteristics. She loved people and she loved creating environments that allowed people to be entertained. She was an amazingly talented and creative person when it came to directing and producing a party. The soirees that she hosted at our home, as well as, larger community events involving the Commodore Club or the Country Club became legendary.

Mom and Dad were together for 60 years. Though there were plenty of salty moments in their relationship, they loved each other deeply and they shared some wonderfully memorable times with family and friends. Now, after a little over three years of separation, they have been reunited. I can say that with confidence because we had many discussions about faith and both of them had trusted Christ and were clinging to the hope that is found in Him. Though I would have liked them to have been more involved in the life of the church during my lifetime, Mom and Dad grew up in the church and spent many years singing about the Savior and Lord in whom they had each confessed their faith.

Even after Mom stopped attending church regularly when I was a kid, she loved listening to the Bible on tape. She had a set of audio tapes with the King James Version that she would listen to on her Walkman while working around the house. In fact, she listened so often, one day she was standing in the kitchen at the sink looking out the window when Dad came home from work. Oddly, rather than approaching the house as he normally would from the right side, down Radcliffe Ave., he came from the left, down Springfield. So when he came in, she was puzzled and asked, “Why comest thou from the left?” They both had a big laugh.

One of my greatest experiences came nearly seven years ago when Mom and Dad came forward and I received them into the fellowship of Indian Springs Baptist Church.

So if you are here tonight and you are a theologian, you know that I have grossly misappropriated scripture to create a paradigm with which to talk about my Momma. Now I intend to rectify that. You see, when Jesus speaks of His followers being salt and light, He is urging us to live godly lives. To live in such a way as to allow the Holy Spirit to empower and enable us so that the gospel is given an opportunity to do what only the gospel can do. The gospel convicts folks of sin and points to the only hope that we have to overcome our sin problem which is Jesus Christ. You see, my sister and I are who we are in large part due to the Momma that gave birth to us, raised us, loved us, taught us and nurtured us. And many times, when we do and say things, people will point out that we sound or act just like Momma Rose. Likewise, for those who have been born again, we are who we are and we do what we do because of what Christ has done in us and is doing through us.

We need to look at the last verse of this text which states, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Though I love my Momma, my ultimate goal is not to have people see me and remember her. My ultimate goal is for people to see me and/or any good works that I might perform, and they would glorify my Father in Heaven. I mentioned earlier, there is no one quite like my Momma. But greater still, there is no one quite like my Jesus! And “there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” And I have it on good authority, that if my parents could somehow get a message back to you right now, that message would be, “Repent, believe and confess Jesus as Lord. You will not be sorry.”

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we are grateful to you that you are here with us as our shepherd to give us peace, comfort, and hope, because we need it.  We thank you for Rose Brooks and the many blessings that you brought to us through her life.  We are thankful that we were touched by her spirit and encouraged by the way she loved You and loved us. We are grateful that by her faith in Jesus Christ, now she is in Heaven with you, and all the weakness and frailty of our human experience has been taken away and replaced with eternal peace and joy.  But her being there means that she is no longer here with us, Lord, and we hurt tonight.  May Your Holy Spirit minister in a special way to our family.  Lift us up with Your tender comfort.  Sustain us with Your perfect peace.  Fill us with Your hopeful joy.  Lord, help us to trust You and live with You, abiding in You, and may we continue to experience Your peaceful presence in our lives, for we pray this in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

 

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The Power of Investing in People

Edith Jennings had a decision to make.  She was in her late fifties and had worked many years for the hotel in housekeeping.  Now a new opportunity had presented itself.  The hotel manager had come to her and asked if she would be willing to quit her job and start a new one, taking care of the manager’s infant son so that she could resume her duties managing the successful enterprise.  Edith had already raised 5 children and played a significant role in the rearing of her grandchildren, but her love for the Lord and her love for children compelled her to say “yes.”

She took to her new vocation with vigor, doting over this little boy as if he were her own.  She was short in stature, but her heart knew no limitations.  They would play together, take walks together and she tried her best to keep the little tike from messing up the house, after all, she would not stand for her boss coming home to a house that had been destroyed on her watch.  For three years she cared for and prayed for that young child until his mother could stand it no longer and gave up her career to raise her child.  Edith certainly understood and she retired to spend the next 32 years of her life shining the light of Jesus’ love upon all who would know her.

I must tell you it came as quite a shock to me when Mom called to tell me that “Edie,” as I called her, had passed away.  I had not seen her or spoken to her since she left in 1973. Immediately after hanging up with Mom, I went to my computer and pulled up the obituaries on the Times-News internet site.  I was not prepared for my reaction as I read the words on the screen.

Though my recollections are few–just images really of a sweet lady in a white uniform– I know Edie loved me, prayed for me and invested her life in me even if for a short time. The 47-year-old man who writes this article today “is who he is” because of the legacy of love invested by many people like Edie over the years.  My name was not listed in her obituary, but I know, spiritually, I am a surviving descendent of Edith “Edie” Jennings.  Never, ever discount the effect of investing your Christ-like love into a life.  You may be shocked at the return.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem on the back of that colt, the disciples could not grasp that He was entering His last week of earthly, bodily, ministry. He had poured Himself into the disciples for three years and now He was about to pour Himself out for all humanity. I would never seek to diminish what Jesus accomplished on the cross, His true purpose in coming to us to begin with. I just want to pause long enough to appreciate the investment He made in the disciples during His earthly ministry. What a perfect model to follow! What a tremendous legacy to leave.

 

“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” – John 13:1

 

 

 

What’s In a Name?

Ever since that golfing phenom came on the scene several years ago, I have found that more and more people have difficulty with my name. It has become an international issue, as well. A few years back, I went to Managua, Nicaragua to teach a seminar in the Baptist Seminary with some other staff members from my church.  Upon walking through the door of the seminary, I came face to face with a poster advertising the upcoming training opportunity only to find that the seminar was being taught by “Pastor Tiger Woods.” Suffice it to say, the rest of our little entourage got a great big belly laugh. I was only slightly amused.

I have decided to take advantage of this digital age and, once and for all, explain the genesis of my nomenclature. Now all I have to do henceforth is send folks a link to this post and save my breath.

First of all, be it known far and wide that I was “Tiger” before that “other guy” was “Tiger!”

To help give some context and background for my name, I came across this visual aid that might expedite the process…

patiyt

Many thanks to my sister, Mimi, and lifelong friend, Phoebe, because a mutual friend of theirs actually posted this on social media and I shamelessly copied and pasted it here.

My story starts with my mother and father, Tom and Rose Brooks. [LOL! No … that’s not what I meant.] My dad was an Exxon dealer in Kingsport for more than 40 years. Point of fact, he started at his first location, Stone Drive Esso, in 1964 on Stone Drive right above Lynn Garden Drive, and, later, opened a second location at 1800 East Stone Drive known as Tom Brooks Exxon. He operated both for a few years before selling the first location and maintaining the second for more than three decades until he retired and sold the property to Kroger several years ago. The Kroger Fuel Center sits on the location now.

When I was born (1970), Esso had not yet rebranded as Exxon (that happened in 1972 for all U.S. locations after the purchase of Humble Oil – around the world, it is still known as Esso). The slogan Put a Tiger In Your Tank was all the rage back then. The company gave away tiger tails and they could be seen hanging out of gas filler lids on cars everywhere. So as the story goes, when my mom became pregnant with me, being the free-spirit that she is, she loved going around telling everyone, “Tom put a ‘Tiger’ in my tank!” My given birth name is Thomas L. Brooks Jr.  Okay … okay, if you must know, the “L” stands for Lester. There! I said it! I’ll own it! If you give me grief about it I will baptize you … for three minutes.

My entire family has called me “Tiger” my whole life. When I was in kindergarten, I came home from school one day very distraught. When mom asked me what was wrong, I said, “Mommy, why don’t I have a name like “Mark,” or “John,” like the other boys?” Sensing my frustration, Mom said, “You do, sweetheart, your real name is Thomas. How does Tommy sound?” I lit up! I thought to myself, “I don’t have to answer questions with ‘Tommy’!” So for the rest of my elementary and middle school years I went by “Tommy.”

For some reason when I got to high school, I guess I thought I had grown out of “Tommy” and I just started going by “Tom.” I had also started working for my Dad at the station by then and in those circles, Tom Jr., seemed to carry a little more weight. All through high school and into college I went by “Tom.” Keep in mind, this entire time my family and really close friends still only called me “Tiger.” When I see people on the street I can always tell how long they have known me by what they call me.

My undergraduate collegiate odyssey took 13 calendar years to complete and would be an entire post all unto itself. Years five through eleven did not involve any schooling whatsoever as I quit to manage Tom Brooks Exxon full-time while also getting married. However, at the age of 29, God got a hold of me and laid on my heart a new purpose. Returning to school to complete my BS in Business Administration, I simply went by the name that was most closely associated with me my whole life – “Tiger.”

During this same time, I had opportunities to get into radio broadcasting, first covering Dobyns-Bennett football games on WKIN and now on ESPN Tri-Cities. I was also hired part-time at WCQR and for more than 15 years I have been known to listeners all over East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia as “Tiger Brooks.”

Now having completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, each one of my diplomas reads, “Thomas L. ‘Tiger’ Brooks, Jr.” If the Lord ever calls me away from Kingsport, it will probably not be easy for new folks to call me “Pastor Tiger” or, especially, “Dr. Tiger Brooks.” I admit that it probably feels a little odd to say those things, but after 46 years of wrangling with it and answering questions about it, “Tiger” is my name and I own it!

God’s Got People In All The Right Places

Thailand Team 2016

Indian Springs Baptist Church Thailand Team

My heart is full as I sit down with my Macbook in the lobby of the hotel in which we have been staying for the past seven days. It is 5:19 a.m. back home in Tennessee, but it is 4:19 p.m. here in this particular city in Thailand. I hesitate to post the precise city name because I have a duty to my new friends to protect them. You see, my new friends gathered here this week from all over South Asia for a season of rest and revitalization. The team you see in the picture above was tasked with the responsibility of providing programming for the children so that these new friends of mine, brothers and sisters in the ministry of the Gospel, could focus on God and each other.

My heart is full because I had the high honor and privilege of opening the glorious Word of God each day and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister the Gospel among us. Each day a ballroom full of men and women who have said, “Yes!” to the call of God in their life, who work and serve in some of the most spiritually dark places on Earth, listened intently and graciously to the messages God had placed in my heart and in my mouth. I did not feel worthy to stand before them, yet, I was fully aware of the One who called me to this ministry and He certainly is worthy to stand there in me as I stand in Him.

My heart is full because I was able to sit for hours on end and listen to stories of the miraculous works of God. Stories of God saving individuals from lives bound up in the worship of statues and dead men, turning instead to the One who had died yet rose again victoriously. I heard the story of “Amelia” – not her real name – the seven-year old daughter of two of these faithful workers who just two weeks ago had confessed her faith in Jesus Christ. Her father warned her about the fact that now that she had committed her life to Christ, Satan, the enemy, would be attacking. Only one week later, Amelia began to convulse with violent seizures. She was rushed to the hospital where she began a battery of tests to determine the cause. They were concerned that it was a parasite in her brain or, possibly, tuberculosis. While lying in the hospital, Amelia turned to her father and said, “Daddy, this is what you were talking about isn’t it?”

My heart was full five days later when “Amelia” and her family walked victoriously into the ballroom where we were gathered to the thunderous applause of all in attendance. Take that, Satan!

My heart is full because as a Southern Baptist pastor, I hold a leadership position in a local church that supports these workers with Cooperative Program giving and funding from money given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering each year. Some may question what happens when those checks are written, when those apps are initiated, or when those bills hit the offering plate. I feel as though I have hitched a ride atop one of those wire transfers and have followed it all the way to the field. I can say, unequivocally, as for me and my house, we will gladly and generously continue to support this work because I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears what God can do when He gets the right people in the right places. His name goes forth in power and lives are transformed from death unto life.

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My heart is full because this team of which I am a member, went above and beyond the call of duty this week. They worked hard and they loved harder. They stepped out of their comfort zone and pretty much slammed the door so hard they shattered. These baby toting, child disciplining, youth engaging pals of mine are my new heroes. Their hard work enabled me to participate in virtually every aspect of this conference and it has radically energized me even as I was coming to try to energize others. God is sneaky like that! We pour ourselves out for Him and He fills us to overflowing.

My social media pages will not be graced by the images of my new friends. No hash tags will be formulated to encapsulate these days. Because the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, I cannot publicly disclose the awesomeness that we have experienced. I must have faith in the applause of heaven that cannot yet be heard. I must be satisfied with the fullness of my heart that will not soon be exhausted.