My brother, Ricky Tippett, is my guest blogger today. Our older brother, Bert, died a month ago after a long battle with cancer. He influenced many and still does from heaven.
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Each year I tell the seniors in my worldviews course that real leaders look back or look down as they are seeking to become biblical, godly leaders. I go on to explain how sometimes teenagers seeking to be a leader look ahead or look up in an effort to influence; this is a more difficult path. I remember one young man so bent on fitting in with the class ahead of him that he neglected establishing relationships with those in his own class and he would never think to look back at the students in classes below his.
Not long ago a senior came to me at the end of the school year and said, “By the way, Mr. Tippett, it worked.”
“What worked?” I asked.
“You told us at the beginning of the year to seek to be a leader by looking back at the students in our school that were younger than us. I tried it with a good number of middle school kids and some 10th graders, too, and it worked.” Laughing, he added, “I leave RCA with a small following of friends that I didn’t have a year ago. It’s a cool principle and I’ll remember it as I go on to college this fall.”
Back in 1967 I walked into my brother’s office at
for the first time. There was a sunny warmth to it. He had a second story, corner office and there were a good number of windows on both outside walls, letting in beautiful, natural light. Bert taught me all about the value of natural light because as a high school kid he was teaching me how to take pictures with my first 35mm camera. Bert was always teaching me something it seemed: a love for muscle cars, swimming, reading, and writing. This is what big brothers do for little brothers. Bible College
In 1967 I was only a junior in high school, but I remember asking Bert if he liked his corner office. “Oh, yes, I love it.”
“Come here.” I walked over behind his desk to the corner of the two adjoining windows. “Look down there.” I smiled because I knew what he was referring to without another word. Still, he added, “I can work here on publications and at the same time I can look out my window and down on the student lounge building and see all the students. I like getting to know them, especially the freshmen.”
Well, that was my big brother in a single moment of time. He loved people and he would often pick some out, inquire about who they were, and then he would go about trying to connect with them. He had a desire to see them succeed in knowing and doing the will of God.
“I saw you down there the other day,” he added. I had a puzzled look. “Oh, yes. You were down there cutting grass and I looked down and saw you.”
My big brother seemed to spend a great deal of his life looking down on me, but not just me. There are a hundreds of people who came to
to find that Bert had looked down on them so he could look them up later. And they would find their way to his office, plop down in a chair, and pour out their hearts to him. Bert was always a great listener. Bible College
I think one of the things my father taught all three of us as children was to look for people who needed help, especially those who seemed to be friendless or maybe lost direction. Lost people, like most men drivers, don’t usually ask for directions. I recall that Dad took in a cousin of his once and gave him a bed and food until he could get back on his feet. Robert was homeless most of his life. He told me once that he lived in the woods in a small tent for a good number of years. His family had pretty much disowned him due to his addictions. He struggled with alcohol his whole life. But Dad helped him get past that and our church gave him a job and soon Sam was truly back on the right road. He loved to work late at night vacuuming hallways and classrooms, singing the hymns of the faith. He told a number of people how he loved the solitude of the church and that it brought him more into a realization of God in his life.
Bert had a heart for people who needed help, too. Rather than seek status by climbing man-made ladders, Bert sought students who seemed to need his help. Every year there was a steady stream of Bible College students, coming by just to talk and share their hearts and their dreams.
Looking down doesn’t mean looking down your nose, but more like Proverbs 24:16 describes:
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again...
Bert was in the ministry of helping falling people get “up again.”
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite looked down at the Samaritan and passed by on the other side. Dad taught us to stop and help fallen people regain their balance so they could continue the walk God had for them. My goodness, how many people found the upstairs corner room of the administration building a safe place to come and sit and cry and then “rise up again.” An old commercial comes to mind: “HELP! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Bert always stopped what he was doing so he could help his brother or sister get back up.
Years ago George Orwell wrote a dark, foretelling novel entitled 1984, in which the world had come to a place of global totalitarianism. Privacy no longer existed because government cameras were every where, always looking, always listening. Throughout the world citizens constantly read these ominous words: “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!” It was meant to intimidate.
When my big brother was watching, it was more like I think of our Father watching over us.
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their cry.
– Psalm 34:15
Bert went home to be with our Father and father on January 4, 2011. It was a good homecoming as his family will tell you. Gathered around his bed that day, they all said their goodbyes and reaffirmed their love for each other. The Holy Spirit, Karen said, was powerfully present in the room that day. This time, however, they were looking down on Bert—Dianne and his entire family.
Bert asked me a couple of weeks before he died, “Ricky, how come I am still here? What do you think? I’m so ready to go.” We talked between us as close brothers do, but this time it was the baby brother looking down on his big brother. I cried on the phone with Bert and I assured him that the only reason I knew that he was still here was because he still had influence on the life of someone. He said, “Yes, I think that is true. I’m really burdened for
. She needs the Lord. Pray I can help her in these last days. She’s come by several times to check on me.” I stopped and we prayed right then over the phone. Nancy
I still picture Bert today looking down from heaven. Perhaps, it is sentimentalism.
But I really don’t think so.