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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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!

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.

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!!!

In Praise of the Praiseworthy

Oh, what a night!

There we were, two and half seasons into our Downton Abbey binge watching marathon. Paige and I were seated in the living room after Midnight on a snow day, anticipating another snow day, when the phone rang. As a pastor, and the son of a widowed mother, a phone call at 12:45 a.m. is never going to be a good thing. It was mom. Her trembling voice barely able to squeak out the words, “Someone just tried to break into the house!” The next voice I heard was that of an officer with the Kingsport Police Department. Mom was so shaken she just handed over the phone to the officer. He explained two juvenile delinquents had been apprehended in the back yard of my old home place and that the situation was under control.KPD-logo-patch

In my truck on the way to my mother’s house, a wave of emotion came over me. I was angered that someone, anyone would frighten my mother so badly that she could not form words to speak. I was distraught at the thought my mother was, indeed, vulnerable to the whims of some punks with nothing better to do than to destroy private property and steal things. It was not a great state of mind to be in as I tried to navigate the frozen, snow-covered streets of Kingsport.

Upon arrival, I saw that three of the five police cruisers that initially responded to the distress call, had already left. An old friend and member of the force greeted me and apprised me of the situation. I could not see the two 14-year-old boys in the back of the car, but I could not help but wonder if they were kids that my church had reached out to through our ministry to the community where they resided. I’m not sure I need or truly want to know either.

Sometime around 12:30 a.m., my mother was awakened by voices and the sounds of footsteps on the other side of her bedroom wall. She got out of bed, grabbed her phone and went to the window and turned on the outside lights. Keep in mind, there’s five inches of snow on the ground and the light of the moon and stars reflecting off the pristine powder was more than enough to allow one to see everything in the backyard… especially footprints in the fresh, untouched snow. Seeing the outside lights come on, our two Einstein’s froze and looked at each other. Decision time: 1) Turn and run for it OR 2) Dismiss it as some sort of motion light and continue on with the nefarious plan. They chose the latter.

When mom saw them turning back for the house, she reported this to the 9-1-1 dispatcher already on the phone. Units were already on the way. The dispatcher advised mom to go to the opposite end of the house from where the boys were headed. As she moved out of her bedroom and down the hallway –  CRASH! –  the 4 foot X 6 foot picture window next to my mother’s bath tub exploded sending plate glass in every direction. The noise was so loud the dispatcher heard it over the phone. My mother ran to a half-bath off the kitchen and attempted to lock herself inside. Can you see it… my 80+… er um… seasoned senior mother cowering in a dark bathroom with who knows what getting ready to come in her house, clinging to the hope in the voice on the other end of a phone call? I see it too and it infuriates me, but I digress.

About that time, before the boys could make entry, the police arrived on the scene. Utilizing the aforementioned weather conditions to their advantage, the officers apprehended the suspects in the backyard. They found the softball size river rock they chucked through the window which, we discovered this morning, was thrown with such force as to break through a plate glass window AND create a gaping hole in the drywall on the opposite wall six feet away. The officers told us there had been three other home invasion-style break ins in my mother’s neighborhood over the previous few days. Perhaps these kids were responsible, perhaps not. All I know is in the final analysis, there needed to be praise offered forth.

First, I praise my Lord Jesus for keeping my mother safe and unharmed through it all. Secondly, I praise the calm, professionalism of the 9-1-1 dispatcher who talked my mother through the turmoil. Finally, I praise the the officers of the KPD who were willing and able to do what was necessary to serve and protect my mother and our community. In the current climate in which we live, too many voices are taking too many political stances and pointing their accusatory fingers at too broad a swath of police officers. Are there some attitudes that need changing? Of course. But we need not besmirch the good names of the 99% who do it right just because of a few bad ones.

Fifteen hours, one tarp and a sheet of plywood later, I am happy that I can still call Kingsport home. However, much like everywhere else in this world, our hometown is not the place it used to be. We must remain vigilant. We must stick together. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If you see something, say something.

I saw some things that were praiseworthy and I had to say something.