I have been blessed to have some extremely wise people in my life. My parents were wise in their striving for simplicity in life, I had coaches that taught wisdom through consistency and focus on details, I had bosses that displayed wisdom through caring, and I have friends that I consider as wise mentors. Wise people find meaning in both positive and negative life experiences; they also transform negative experiences into life affirming ones. Through this process, they may possess a sense of serenity that others lack. As part of a class I am taking, I knew I had to interview one person that I considered wise for this week’s assignment. After reflecting on the above statement, I knew the person to interview was going to be my spiritual mentor: Tom Allen.
In 1997, my family had relocated to Des Moines from Albuquerque, and our first order of business was to find a new home. Then a health club. Then a church. I know, I know, this should have had a somewhat different order but it is an important part of the story. Within a day we found an awesome house at a fair price, and just like that, task number one was done. Everyone in Des Moines said that “THE” health club to join in the city was 7 Flags Health Club. We visited, we signed up, and task number two was completed. As for a church, I grew up singing hymns from a pipe organ, and I knew that was something that I did not want. In Albuquerque, we attended our first “contemporary” church and we loved the worship music and the teaching format. We tried a few contemporary churches but none seemed to have the right feel for us. Task number three was proving to not be as easy as the first two. Now back to 7 Flags; one day after a workout I was standing at the urinal and low-and-behold there was an advertisement above the urinal for Point of Grace Church. Internal thought, “whoever thought of advertising a church above an urinal in a health club is brilliant.” More on that later. That next Sunday, we loaded up the family and tried Point of Grace Church. Two steps in the door an older gentleman approached me and gave me a handshake like a friend who had not seen a friend for years would do. “Hi, I am Tom Allen, welcome!” And there you have it, the story of how I met one of the wisest people alive.
After church, Tom hunted, yes, actually hunted me down to invite me and my wife to his house for dinner. I initially thought that the invitation was a bit odd, but a secondary thought occurred not soon after, that the invitation was pretty cool. We accepted, and my life was forever changed. Twenty years later, while chatting over a cup of coffee, I am still amazed and blessed by the amount of time and energy Tom Allen has poured into my life and the lives of hundreds of other men. I call Tom the Golden Retriever of pastors; he is always happy, he is loyal, he is caring, he is generous, he is humble, and he will do almost anything to help you with the right amount of non-enabling. Tom taught me to gain wisdom one needs to have 360 degree mentoring. Every person needs three types of mentors in their life: a person they are mentoring (younger), a person with whom they are walking through life at the same pace (equal age), and someone that is a little further down the path (older). Tom is my older mentor only in age; he is 76 years old, looks 56, and can play racquetball like someone who is 36. Tom takes care of the temple he was given, exemplifying wisdom in the physical form.
I have valued my relationship with Tom on many fronts but I truly admire his perspective on the developmental process of each individual. He sees the goodness and potential in everyone, allows them to use their past as a tool to teach, and continually encourages them to use their strengths. Tom speaks about the necessity of relationships, he uses Proverbs 27:17 quite often, which states “iron sharpens iron, and people sharpen people.” Tom highly encouraged me to participate in a three year, three-part study about authentic manhood. Each part of the study had large group, small group, and self-reflection time. I learned through this study the true definition of manhood, how to win at work and home, and ultimately my life quest for excellence. This process helped me take a huge leap of faith to fully pursue my passion in life, to be a coach. After going through the process, Tom saw growth in me that represented the qualities required to be a leader of the program. He encouraged me to take the step, he mentored me along the way, allowed me to succeed, allowed me to fail at times, and ultimately let me spread the wings that he knew I had within me. Lastly, Tom is a man of virtue. It may be that I view him so much as a Godly man or that I always see him say and do the right thing, at the right time, with the right tone. His vision for his life, and the life of others is always guided by what is good, honorable, and admirable.
After seeing this week’s assignment, I texted Tom that I would like to meet with him, and in true Tom fashion he responded, “tell me where and when and I will be there.” If I did not know better, I would think Tom does nothing all day except wait for text messages in anticipation of invitations to meet for coffee. In fact, that is kind of what he does. Tom openly meets and mentors with people all the time, that is his calling, listening and imparting wisdom on needy people. I had not seen Tom for a while so we had some cordial catching up to do, and again, Tom soon flipped the script on me and was interviewing me about life. He was genuinely interested on what was going on in my life and that of my family. Let the interview begin:
Wisest thing you ever heard or practiced: Reasonable people, equally informed, seldom disagree.
How do you gain wisdom: At age 16, I prayed to God for wisdom. I asked for six things: 1) Love God with all my heart, 2) Love others as God loves them, 3) Give me wisdom and knowledge beyond my age and ability, 4) Give me power with God, power with man, and power over sin in my life, 5) Continually remind me of Luke 2:52, favor with God and favor with man, and 6) Give me the faith to believe nothing is impossible.
Difference between wisdom and intelligence: Intelligence is a collection of head knowledge, we all have a certain amount. Wisdom is the application of head knowledge to daily life.
Who do you see as wise: Mike Householder, Senior Pastor at Lutheran Church of Hope.
Age and wisdom: Age is a chronological data point often filled with foolish decisions and not learning from those experiences. Wisdom is a great teacher if you are following truth.
Final parting comments: Read and understand the Prayer of Jabez, which broken down means the following: attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed...unless God steps in!
Each time I meet with Tom, I walk out feeling inspired, energized, and important. To this day, I thank God for that brilliant man (Tom Allen) who placed an advertisement for a church over a bathroom urinal in a health club.