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…


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!

“Hey Big Man, Let Me Hold A Dollar!”

Okay, okay, in all deference to the John Boy and Billy Show, no one has actually used that particular line on me, but in my line of work benevolent requests are a regular occurrence.

Five years ago I was installed as the Campus Pastor of what became known as the Glenwood Campus of Indian Springs Baptist Church. It happens to be located on one of the main thoroughfares in Kingsport (Center Street) and in an area replete with socio-economic depression. As God blessed our little congregation and He began breathing life into our midst, it was not long before the benevolent requests began to stream in. Having served another church in similar geographic and demographic circumstances, I was accustomed to the dance. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but the truth is 20% of the requests are what I would describe as bonafide, legitimate needs and the other 80% of the requests involve people trying to game the system and abuse the good graces of God-fearing, faithful supporters of the church.

Our church and churches just like ours establish systems and protocols so that we can, in good conscience and under the Lordship of Christ, minister to the people. A large number of requests involve money for groceries and/or diapers and other basic necessities. One of the greatest things we did was to ramp up the food pantry ministry that Glenwood Baptist had been doing for many years. This gave us the ability to immediately meet the need without the risk of giving money which may or may not facilitate other unnecessary things. I will never forget the time one man scoffed at the two bags full of canned goods and dry goods I handed him — completely free of charge — by saying, “My kids don’t like to eat these kinds of things.” Before I could tame my tongue I responded with, “Then they must not be that hungry.” Suffice it to say I had to repent and confess after that encounter.

We do NOT keep cash on hand at the church. If people come with needs for rent money or money to pay a bill, etc., we have them fill out a detailed request form. This gathering of required information serves two purposes. If they just wanted the cash for alternative reasons, they can bow out and play the “I don’t have time for this” card. If it is legit or they agree to play the long game with us, the information we gather can verify identities and check prior requests made to other churches or organizations.

This is all well and good, but what do you do when the individual comes to you, personally, seeking assistance and just wants money? This happens to me quite frequently. I don’t know if it is because they know me or know what I do or I just have “that look,” but this happened just a few days ago. I have developed a response over the years and I want to share this concept with you.

Share Your Time Before You Share Your $

It never fails. They catch me at the end of a worship service, after all my deacons have vanished, or they catch me in the parking lot of a grocery store or Walmart, or while I am standing at a gas pump filling my car.  They have a well-rehearsed back story that explains their current plight.  I will interject here that often the mistake they make is offering more details than is necessary or humanly possible to comprehend. Then they make the “ask” for just enough money to put with the money they already got from others to meet their need. I am notorious for not carrying a lot of what my father would call “walking around money.” Since the dawn of the age of the debit card, I rarely carry much cash unless I am traveling. This special trait comes in handy in these circumstances because I will not lie to someone about my not having the needed cash. I have been known to carry some Pal’s Bucks (an East Tennessee tradition) or McDonald’s gift cards for people who say they just need some food for their family. It is much harder to convert that type of currency for some nefarious purpose.

However, what I started doing that has produced the greatest results is offering my time instead of money. A few days ago, the lady who approached me at the gas pump at Food City who needed money for a tow truck for her disabled car that was on John B. Dennis, who already had a little money and just needed some more, who worked at the hospital and who’s sister also had some job somewhere [breathe]  – turned on her heels and marched away when I had the audacity to say, “Ma’am, I don’t have any cash to give you, but I would be happy to go to where your car is and see what I could do.”

Then there was the man who needed gas for his car so he could make it up to Big Stone Gap, VA, where his brother-in-law was in the hospital with stage four cancer and was not supposed to make it through the night. He stopped me in the parking lot behind my church. I said, “Sir, I don’t have the money to give you, but I will follow you down to the corner market where I can buy you some gas on my credit card.” He actually took me up on the offer. While going through all the motions to put the gas in his car, I asked him about his relationship with Christ and shared the Gospel with him. He was not really interested. Oh, and his Toyota held a grand total of $3.78 worth of fuel. I’m thinking he could have made it Big Stone just fine.

But once every so often, this tactic pays off. Like the time I elected to not give a man money for food and, instead, offered to take he and his family to McDonald’s. I sat and watched his kids eat like I was about to take the food away from them. I was able to share my faith and show my faith rather than just throw money at a problem.

Offering to share your time before you share your money can prove to open some doors for opportunity and, most certainly, close some doors where they need to be closed. I hope this helps you live the Life and give the Life.

There’s No Such Thing as a Little Prayer

It was my turn tonight. You see, last year I was put on a list with several other pastors and clergymen. It’s a list of people who will offer a prayer of invocation at the beginning of one of the monthly meetings of the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Honestly, I was not looking for something else to do. I routinely have plenty of things on my plate from day to day. Many days, I’ve got enough things for several days. I agreed, however, when I was invited to be a part of the rotation. After all, it’s just a prayer, right? Ten minute drive to City Hall, ten minute wait while exchanging pleasantries with different folks, two minute prayer and then the option of staying for the meeting or heading to the next function. Surely a man can make time for a simple, little prayer.

I arrived tonight at about ten minutes before the hour, just making it inside before the skies opened up and the deluge began. Walking through the door, I took note of the larger-than-normal crowd gathered in the courtroom that had been staged in the official monthly BMA meeting design. Four beauty queens, representing several entities in upper East Tennessee, were on hand to lead the Pledge of Allegiance just before my prayer. There were several others on hand for one of the four acknowledgements and proclamations.

Most of the partnership of the law firm of Hunter, Smith and Davis were on hand. They were being honored as they celebrated their 100th year doing business in Kingsport. I learned that HS&D played an integral part in the establishment of Kingsport as an incorporated city. It was good to see many folks I had not seen in years, old friends of the family and former colleagues of my cousin/brother, Jeff.

“Five minutes!” cried the student assigned to run the audio/video internet stream for the meeting. As folks began to settle down and find a seat, my spirit began to be captured by the moment. The elected city officials of my fair city have invited me — an evangelical, Southern Baptist, Christ-following, Bible-believing, pastor, to open this meeting with a prayer. This is not a schedule busting imposition! This is an opportunity for me to take these people on a journey to take hold of the throne of the Most High God. To invite the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to inhabit our gathering and to bless our leaders and our city. I mean this is 2016. How many city governments still allow prayer to take place in such proceedings? What a true honor and blessing I have been afforded!

Here is the prayer I offered:

Heavenly Father, even as we have gathered together in this place, the seat of power in the city of Kingsport, we readily acknowledge your sovereignty over us, our city, our state, our nation and our world. We remember your admonitions to be submissive to the those who have authority over us and we pray that those in positions of authority would be submissive to You, as well.

Father, we are thankful for the ways in which You have blessed our fair city. Kingsport is a special place and we who have lived here our whole lives know this to be true. You have seen fit to give us unique gifts and grace us with quality people who use the talents you have given them to benefit our community. Father, help us to capitalize on those unique qualities and in the areas of disagreement, we pray for your continued grace to help us become “OneKingsport” just as we are one in You.

We are grateful, Father, for these men and women who sacrifice time from career,  family, and their own private interests, to run for and serve in the offices of mayor and aldermen. Grant them wisdom to make the decisions You would have them make. 

We are grateful for all those who make our city run from the city offices and departments, to the police, fire and emergency services personnel, every cog in the wheel vital to our well-being as a city.

Bless this meeting tonight, Father, and may you be glorified in all that is said and done.

For it is in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Yes, tonight I was reminded of a very important truth — there’s no such thing as a little prayer. Prayer is the conduit of communication with the King! We must take advantage of EVERY opportunity to speak to Him.

Thank you to the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen for still recognizing the importance and the power of prayer. It simply serves as further evidence that Kingsport is and always will be a special place.

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:

Screenshot 2016-03-01 17.45.22

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.

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:


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!!!