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…

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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.

Meet Will George

Will George is one of my little buddies. In the church I serve I have a whole bunch of little buddies across both of our campuses. We fist bump. We laugh. They hit me up for gum balls out of my gum ball machine. They threaten me with bodily harm. I growl. They run. On occasion, one will need to talk or ask advice or need to pray with me.

A few days ago, Will George came to my office and wanted to tell me about his newest endeavor. Will George (he’s a two namer) had a God given idea to start an after school meeting for his fellow 3rd graders called “Church After School” (C.A.S. for short). Here is the letter to his principal seeking permission that he wrote all by himself:

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If you can’t make that out, here’s the transcription, word for word:

Dear Mr. Edwards,
I’m a fellow beleiver in christ and I would like to start a bible study. I’m wanting to teach people about Jesus. The name of the study will in my expectation be C.A.S. (Church After School). You may be thinking, “why ask me?” But here’s why. I don’t have anywhere to teach them so I ask for permission to use you’r school. Please trust me to teach the gospel to the students of this school. There are kids that don’t know about christ and I want to teach them! You’r and my question is, will you let me? If you’ve got the answer, yes or no, I’m in Ms. Lackey’s home room class and I would love to here the answer. The whole thing has been planned. I am a patien kid and give you all the time you need to figure out the answer so wait as long as you want. I will be okay if the answer is no so do whatever you want. Contact me at any time.

Sincerly,
Will George

Third grade, people!!!

After a few meetings and some minor plan revisions, Will George had it all together. Today was the very first meeting of C.A.S. at Johnson Elementary School. Take a sneak peek:

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I have preached a few sermons and taught a few classes where I wished I had that many people for the first meeting. I am so proud of my little buddy! It fills my heart to know that his father and mother, Rob and Julie, have poured into this kid and loved him to the Lord! I weep when I think of Ms. Jeralyn, Ms. Cyrena, and Ms. Lyndy and all of the Sunday School teachers, VBS teachers, Awana and TeamKid leaders who have invested in him and others just like him.

It makes me eager to step behind the pulpit each Sunday with the honor and privilege to preach the Word of God and know that it NEVER RETURNS VOID!

Will George, I love you, buddy! Come by the office for your free gum ball!!!