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:

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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!!!

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.

The Time HAS Come (Part 3)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

–2 Timothy 4:1-5, NASB (emphasis added)

(Continued – Part 3 of 3)

When folks say the things I am saying, others call it hate. I challenge anyone to look at anything I have written and point out where I have expressed hatred toward anyone. I harbor no hatred toward any person or group of people. We have come to the place in our society where disagreement with someone’s viewpoint is tantamount to hatred. That is just plain wrongheaded.

We need to understand a very simple truth. The time has come. The time when Paul predicted folks will no longer listen to sound doctrine and will seek to gather teachings and teachers they find more palatable — that time has come! Even people who claim to be Christians will read Scripture and only utilize the parts that make them feel good. They will trumpet the fact that God is love, but forget the part where He is a Righteous Judge. They cling to the fact that Jesus is the Light of the world, but not that He is Truth. The Timothy passage I have shared is one of the marching orders given to preachers of the Gospel. I cannot preach only half the Gospel!

Make no mistake. Jesus Christ loves you. If you are struggling with gluttony, homosexuality, lust, lying, adultery or [enter your sin here] – The fact is JESUS IS LOVE and HE DIED FOR YOU. However, another thing that some people like to avoid is the very thing that helps form the gateway to salvation in Jesus Christ. It is called REPENTANCE. To repent means to turn around and turn away from your sin. Whatever your sin is, you are required to lay it down, turn away, denounce it. Stop! Does this mean you never sin again? No. We all still struggle with sin, but the big difference is it becomes the exception rather than the rule.

As far as I am concerned, the doors of my church are open wide to ANY AND ALL who are seeking answers to life’s problems. You may not even know that Christ is the missing puzzle piece that fits that emptiness in your life. You are welcome in my church. Know this though, as long as you embrace your sin, you will not serve in any leadership capacity. You cannot expect to keep one arm around Jesus and one arm around your sin of choice. Case in point, when the scribes and pharisees brought the adulterous woman before Jesus (John 8). After confounding the men by asking “he that is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus then turned to the woman and said, Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Go and sin no more! That is the thing. Jesus longs for you to be free from the bondage of sin and that is only available in Him. When we repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord we can experience that freedom.

This manifesto, if you will, will not sit well with some folks. I will no doubt receive nasty comments and I will be accused of being hateful, but I am anything but hateful. I will endure the bad vibes and nasty comments because I love you enough to share the truth. I want folks to be free in Christ. I don’t make a habit of wielding the Bible violently like an axe seeing whom I might strike down. Yet, the Bible describes itself as a two-edged sword and to those in sin it cuts pretty deep and makes folks uncomfortable. Loved or hated, a pastor must preach the Word! I will make no apologies for that.

THE END