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

 

 

 

Let Your Love (and His) Flow

During my formative years, The Bellamy Brothers had a huge hit with a song entitled, Let Your Love Flow. It’s a catchy tune with a great hook, full of sweetness and light and, thus, it performed fairly well. It made it all the way to #1 on the charts. However, not knowing the Bellamy Brothers, I have no way of knowing their motivation behind the song.

Jesus had a very similar outlook on the Christian life when He spoke the words we find in John chapter seven:

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

— John 7:38

Notice it says from his innermost being, and not merely, within his innermost being. As Christ-followers, we are not just reservoirs of grace storing it up for our own purposes. We are conduits of the grace of Christ designed to allow the living water to flow through us to others who thirst. Look around. The thirsty are everywhere!

 

So go ahead … open the valve and let the living water flow today!

tap-water

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