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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

Former Mega Church Pastor Dr. Allen Hunt Interviews with Matthew Kelly


Matthew Kelly:

Hi, I'm Matthew Kelly, and welcome to Profoundly Human. My guest today, Allen Hunt. Allen, welcome.

Allen Hunt:

Thank you, Matthew. Good to be here, man.

Matthew Kelly:

Great to be with you. Big questions to start with.

Allen Hunt:

All right.

Matthew Kelly:

Are you drinking coffee, there?

Allen Hunt:

I am.

Matthew Kelly:

And you're a big coffee drinker, a not so big coffee drinker? What does that look like?

Allen Hunt:

I don't handle caffeine that well. I'm pretty wired to begin with, so one cup of coffee a day is about it for me.

Matthew Kelly:

Very, very good. What about favorites? Favorite food?

Allen Hunt:

Favorite food? I like barbecue, I like mashed potatoes, but nobody does food like Italian.

Matthew Kelly:

Okay. What about favorite band? Musician?

Allen Hunt:

I'm a Tom Petty guy.

Matthew Kelly:

Tom Petty guy.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah, Tom Petty. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Favorite Tom Petty song?

Allen Hunt:

Petty's life has been... I mean, his career has spanned the same as my lifetime, I guess he came on the scene when I was in junior high or high school and obviously died a couple years ago as of now. And he's from north Florida near Gainesville, Alachua County. I don't know, his stuff has spoken to me. If I had to pick I'd go with his Southern Accents album, which is the least known, probably the least popular one compared to all the stuff that people typically know. There's some really good stuff on there, but the song Southern Accents speaks to Anita and me very much.

Matthew Kelly:

Brilliant lyricist.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Just fantastic lyrics, just mm.

Allen Hunt:

And loves music, man. He was the guy that would pull other musicians to... he was humble enough, there wasn't a lot of ego there, and he would pull other great musicians and guitarists just for the love music to get them together. People that wouldn't even talk together, he'd get them in the studio and just really trying to promote the craft and the art of music and guitar. Really big fan.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. I mean, Traveling Wilburys is a great story. He got Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison-

Allen Hunt:

George Harrison, yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

... together, and there's some big personalities there, some big egos there and some of them notorious for not being able to write with anybody. So to get them to do two albums and tour together at that stage of their lives, it's fantastic. What about-

Allen Hunt:

And you start with coffee. I mean, there's a great Petty coffee story, all right? After he died, about a year or two, somebody had done a long... oh, it was a guy who wrote the biography of Petty. And I can't remember his name and he published the biography and they, and they came to him and said, "As you reflect on Tom Petty's life and your work with him on this book, anything that stands out?" And he goes, "Yeah, there's one story that didn't make it in the book." He said, "Petty drank coffee all day. And he had some really bad lifestyle choices, so he probably needed the coffee to keep going." And he said, "And Petty was always in search of the perfect cup of coffee." And so he said, "What was fascinating was he was with somebody, but I don't remember remember if it was somebody who was interviewing him or a musician. And they gave him a cup of coffee and he goes, 'This is the best cup of coffee I've ever had. This is like the perfect cup of coffee.'" Of course he did it in that weird voice is.

Allen Hunt:

And the guy says, "Do you know what it is, Tom?" And he goes, "No." He goes, "It's Maxwell House." And Petty didn't believe him. Penny said, "I got to go back and see how you made this." And he says, "Well, part of it is how we make it." He goes into this guy's kitchen and there's one of those Bunn-O-Matics they have in restaurants, it's almost like a commercial grade, had a Bunn-O-Matic in his kitchen. And the secret was each scoop of coffee was perfectly leveled off and made in this Bunn-O-Matic. So Petty goes home and he buys all that stuff and for the rest of his life, that's what he drank, Maxwell House.

Matthew Kelly:

... That is a great story.

Allen Hunt:

The perfect cup of coffee.

Matthew Kelly:

That is a great story.

Allen Hunt:

I can't believe that Maxwell House hasn't done anything with that.

Matthew Kelly:

I can't believe it didn't make the book. What about favorite movie?

Allen Hunt:

Close second would be Godfather. You and I share that one. But number one, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Matthew Kelly:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, it's just a classic

Matthew Kelly:

Bueller.

Allen Hunt:

Bueller. Bueller.

Matthew Kelly:

What do you love about it? What is-

Allen Hunt:

Do you know when Ben Stein's calling roll in the classroom there?

Matthew Kelly:

... Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

Do you remember the name that comes after that?

Matthew Kelly:

No.

Allen Hunt:

Bueller, Bueller, Fry, Fry. This is a great movie. I forgot the question. What was the question? Fry.

Matthew Kelly:

Did you skip school like that as a child?

Allen Hunt:

I had a good friend who did, and I always admired that, because he could get away with it. I was the one that always got caught. I think that's why I like Bueller, it was sort of my fantasy life. I wanted to be like that, but I was always getting caught.

Matthew Kelly:

Tell us about childhood. What was it like growing up? Where did you grow up? What are your significant memories of your childhood?

Allen Hunt:

Most of my childhood was spent in a little town in western North Carolina called Brevard, this is a town about 7,000 folks now. It's right in the middle of Pisgah National Forest in the mountains. Beautiful place. Waterfalls, kayaking, mountain climbing, all that kind of stuff. My folks worked at a little small Methodist college there that had about 500 students called Brevard College. It was a really, really good place to grow up, because it was safe. People knew each other. I would spend just practically the whole day, either walking around town or riding my bike around town, never felt unsafe. Good school system. I grew up on that college campus, so I got exposed to lots of cool stuff in the fine arts and the athletics program, lecturers and things that... There was a life that I had as a kid of a professor and the business manager that allowed me to just get exposed to a lot of cool stuff.

Allen Hunt:

It was a good childhood. Baseball was at the center of it. Like your son Harry, I can identify with him. Everything was about baseball for me. Everything. I learned to read by reading the box scores with my brother. Got up every morning, I was a big Dodger fan, 7:15 in the morning on WPNF, they would give the West Coast baseball scores because obviously the Dodgers were playing long after I was in bed. Played baseball as much as could. A big baseball field in our backyard. Our neighbor was a retired plumber and he got tired of having the foul balls coming into his yard. So he came out one day and he brought these huge like telephone poles and we go, "Mr. Osborn, what are you doing? He goes, "Well, I'm building you a backstop." He puts up four big telephone poles and gets chicken wire, has some other guys helping him. We had this backstop in our backyard, it was often Fenway Park in our backyard.

Matthew Kelly:

Wow.

Allen Hunt:

It was cool. It was cool. It was a good childhood, it really was.

Matthew Kelly:

What position did you play?

Allen Hunt:

Short stop. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

And did you have a favorite Dodgers player?

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. And this was the '70s, so that infield of Steve Garvey at first, Davey Lopes at second, and Bill Russell at short and Ron Cey at third, The Penguin. Those four guys, that infield, those were my guys. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

What broke them up? Do you remember what broke them up?

Allen Hunt:

Yeah, it's been a while. I think it was when Steve Garvey, I think he got traded to the Padres after a pretty long run, I think he was the first one. And then I think Ron Cey's contract ran out and he signed with the Cubs. So they probably had a, at least a six year, maybe an eight, possibly even 10. I mean, Bill Russell and Davey Lopes at second and short were there for forever anda day. But those four guys, that was fun. It's back when they were playing The Big Red Machine. If Harry had been alive, he and I would've been at loggerheads [inaudible 00:07:50].

Matthew Kelly:

Loggerheads. What was the feeling like when your favorite players got traded as a kid?

Allen Hunt:

Oh, that was tough stuff. That was tough stuff. That was tough stuff. You're not sure who to be more mad at and you're sad, you're devastated, but you're also mad. And is it the player's fault? Is it the general manager's fault? It was like a divorce.

Matthew Kelly:

And that didn't consult you.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. Nobody asked my opinion. I just wanted to be able to speak into the process. Didn't seem like too much to ask. I was eight. I had things to offer.

Matthew Kelly:

I got a lot of that going on at the house at the moment.

Allen Hunt:

I bet you do. I bet.

Matthew Kelly:

It's like every day I'm getting update on the trades.

Allen Hunt:

I bet, I bet.

Matthew Kelly:

What about, who is the most interesting person you've ever met?

Allen Hunt:

This sounds packaged, but it's my wife, Anita. After we had been dating six or 12 months, I said to her, "You're the only person that I don't ever get tired of being around." And I think that's when I knew I need to marry this lady. Because most people, you spend some time with them and you're ready to move on. But with Anita, I just never got tired of being around her. I still don't get tired of being around her. Part of that's being infinitely interesting and just part of it's her great qualities. But I know that sounds cheesy, but it's my wife.

Matthew Kelly:

We can talk a little bit about that later because one of the things I've experienced with you as a friend, as a speaker, as an author, is that very often you will say something that does feel cliche or packaged or however you want to call that, but when you start one packet, it is astoundingly unique and interesting. And I think as we've just experienced, because I don't think most people, in considering who to spend their life with, consider what you have just considered, which is, do I get tired of being with this person? Because if you get tired of being with this person when you're dating this person, what is that going to look like-

Allen Hunt:

A lifetime's a long time.

Matthew Kelly:

... It's a long time.

Allen Hunt:

It's funny because I like change. I don't like routine. I like to do different stuff. And even in my life in ministry professionally, I've done different kinds of stuff. I like that. I couldn't do the same job for 40 years. And people always will ask Anita, "Doesn't that bother you that Allen's... he likes change and likes to explore new stuff and all that kind stuff?" She goes, "No, because I learned early on I'm the only person he never gets tired of." She took that as this sort of, "Okay, this'll be fine. Allen may do different kinds of stuff, but he's my guy and I'm his gal."

Matthew Kelly:

Powerful.

Allen Hunt:

She's a good one.

Matthew Kelly:

What are you most excited about at this time in your life?

Allen Hunt:

Well, as you know, I mean, and you and I have talked about this in a number of settings, some publicly and some privately, I mean, this is a new chapter for me, going to be 59 here in a couple months. We got seven grandkids, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and six months old, total chaos and bedlam. And it's a new season, a new chapter, where a lot of my adult life was focused around my job, my career, my ministry, my reputation, my achievement, my accomplishments, all that kind of stuff. And most of that stuff doesn't really make much difference to me anymore. And it's a new chapter and I realize, hey, I've got a good 20, and if I get lucky, 30 more years with a different kind of perspective. And my grandkids now matter a lot more to me than most things.

Allen Hunt:

And it's a time that I explore some things that I never got around to in the past, things that I wanted to do. Because I don't have to be quite as accomplishment driven. I can be more relationship driven. And in some ways that makes me sad. Because as I look back, I realize I probably wasn't as relationship driven as I would've liked to have been over the last 58 years. But it's also a great opportunity for the next 20 or 30 years to be more relationship driven and enjoy people more than got to drive, got to drive, got to drive kind of thing.

Matthew Kelly:

What are the grandchildren teaching you?

Allen Hunt:

How to drink a lot of coffee. I guess they're teaching me two things, one good and one not so good. The good thing, they're teaching me to rediscover joy in a much simpler, purer way, because there's just a lot of joy and discovery and wonder. The pleasure of wonder as they discover things and I get to show them things. What they're teaching me in a bad way is this is a tough culture. This is a tough culture to grow up in. Obviously we're still early, the oldest one is six, will be going into first grade next year. But I can see that 10 year old, 12 year old window out there when the world begins to change.

Allen Hunt:

First of all, grandparents don't become less important, you get more interactive with sports, with music, with friends, with phones, with technology. And I know how the technological sector, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are targeting those folks in a very aggressive way. And so really trying to give a lot of thought to how, how I can help walk alongside them. Because it's a really different world than the one my kids grew up in. And so obviously a very different world than the one that I grew up in. And so trying to help prepare them for that. That feels a little more sober, somber than the joy and the wonder, which when they're three and they're five and they're seven, that is just off the charts.

Matthew Kelly:

How would you describe yourself to someone who had never met you?

Allen Hunt:

That's a really hard question. I actually don't know. I think, again, it sounds packaged and cheesy, I'm the king of Velveeta here. I think I would simply say I'm just somebody who's really trying to love God. Because really, at this point in my life, I think that's who I am, that's who I want to anyway. And really, I don't need them to know a whole lot of other stuff about me besides that.

Matthew Kelly:

What matters most to you at this time in your life and how has that changed?

Allen Hunt:

Well, I mean, I think it goes to the two previous questions. What matters most to me is, as somebody who's really trying to love God and somebody who's trying to help prepare his grandchildren for a life, and somebody that realizes that my shelf life is a lot shorter than my grandkids. And the most important thing to me is my faith. And I want my grandkids to have that. Really, the most important thing, and this is for Anita and me, it's not just me, really, the most important thing for us is trying to pass our faith onto our grandkids and trying to have that DNA of the Catholic faith, of Jesus Christ, of the Eucharist be embedded in them. Because I really believe that if we can do that, A, we will love them well. And B, the stuff that I was just mentioning that I'm a little suspicious and skeptical about when they start hitting 10, 12, 15, and the technological world opens and everything's changing and getting bombard with social media. That if we can embed that now, that gives them a much higher chance of coming through all that in a healthy, whole way, rather than just getting battered by the waves of the culture. Passing on that faith and embedding and in the grandkids, that would be it, it really would.

Matthew Kelly:

When you look back on your life, your faith journey, is there a moment where you say, "Okay, at that moment, the faith became mine?"

Allen Hunt:

Well, I guess I'm Catholic because as a Protestant, a lot of times it's like, "This is the moment." And that was never my experience. My experience was there's been a lot of moments. It reminds me of an old Methodist bishop actually from my old life. He said, "Yeah, people ask me, 'When were you called to preach?'" And he says, "Well, the last time was this morning." and in some ways, to me, that's sort of this... it's this ongoing journey. And so, I mean, first moment was probably my confirmation. We had confirmation in the Methodist church. And so I remember when I was being confirmed at First Methodist Church in Brevard, North Carolina, Dr. Tuttle was our pastor, marvelous guy. And Dr. Tuttle, the week before confirmation, he met with us. I don't remember how many of us there were, there was maybe 20 of us, I guess. And I think we were sixth graders, if my memory's right. And he said, "Now, next week's the week. This is a big moment for you. And I want you to be sure that you're doing this and not just your parents doing it. This is you."

Allen Hunt:

And so I went home to my dad ,because I knew better than to ask my mom this question, so I asked my dad, I said, "Dad, Dr. Tuttle says I need to take this seriously. Why do you believe? Why are you a Christian?" Dad had grown up in a Methodist parson, his father had been a Methodist preacher and his grandfather had been Methodist preacher. And so I assumed it was going to be something related to that. And he goes, "For me, it was, I started thinking about after Jesus died, those 12 guys, those 12 apostles gave up everything and they scattered. They didn't just all stick together, they scattered across the earth. And none of them ever recanted. And they all told the same story. And it was so powerful that it had changed their lives and they gave up everything to go do it, in many situations, which either they were going to be persecuted or executed." He said, "So that told me clearly something happened." And he said, "Now, that was good enough for me."

Allen Hunt:

The confirmation was a big one. Then I got into high school, I, like a lot of folks, wandered off into the other paths. And I was always a little too curious, I had too many questions. Like our high school youth director was an older woman, I think she was maybe 70 years old. And we had this youth group of, I don't know, 40 or 50 high schoolers. And I wanted to... "Can we go visit the Catholic church and see how they do it? Can we maybe go visit the Mormon church? Could we maybe go to a synagogue?" And she just got tired of my questions. So she asked me not to come back, said, "This is probably not a good fit for you." Yeah, I have the red badge of honored of having getting thrown out of youth group. My parents were so proud. It's like, oh my gosh.

Allen Hunt:

So I wandered away and then I got into my twenties and I started dating Anita and we started going to church together and I had a real reawakening then. And so that was another moment. And then there was a call to leave the business world and go into full-time ministry, so that was another moment. And then when Anita and I went through a two or three period of intense suffering, that was another moment. There's been a lot of moments when it's been a renewing of the faith really is mine. It's not somebody else's that I'm trying to appropriate or do to please, this is my faith and this is why I believe and who I am. That's a long answer. Sorry about that.

Matthew Kelly:

[inaudible 00:20:25]. How does God amaze you today?

Allen Hunt:

Well, again, I'm Catholic. I chose Catholic. And one of the reasons I chose Catholic was the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from St. Gertrude the Great to St. Margaret Mary, to the Gospel Luke chapter 15, and the prodigal son and the lost sheep and the lost coin. The overwhelming love of God and how little I think we're able to comprehend that. Every once in a while, maybe you have it, one of those moments where you at least begin to go, "Whew." But that to me is what's amazing, is that at the center of the universe, and actually what holds everything of all creation together is that divine love. If God withdraws that, it's not that the universe blows up, the universe just disappears. Because it's the love that's holding it all together. And yet that same love is applied exponentially and overwhelmingly to you and to me, as people made in His image, that to me is what amazes me. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's-

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah, very much so.

Allen Hunt:

... that's where I'm at.

Matthew Kelly:

You talk about that love being withdrawn. And for some reason, what flashed into my mind is I think so many people experience that with their parents, of that love being withdrawn and it can shatter their lives. How do you see the parentlessness that our society's experiencing, particularly the fatherlessness, in relation to people's inability to ponder the love of God or experience the love of God, or be exposed to love of God?

Allen Hunt:

Whew. That's a good one, man. Yeah, the decline of the American father is probably the great tragedy of the 20th and 21st centuries. I mean, you know the statistics as well are better than I do, I mean, when you go to the prison, the greatest predictor is an absent father. And when you grow up in a chaotic... I mean, I love single moms and the heroic work that they do, but kids need a dad and a mom. One person is just not able to do both of those. It's asking too much. I mean, if the mom tends to maybe nurture and keeping the nest, well, and the dad... I mean, again, that's the generalization, but the dad tends to push out and get the kids to try to spread their wings and become... there's a healthy tension there between nurture and adventure and that kind of thing.

Allen Hunt:

And so if you grow up in a more chaotic, less stable setting, and you've experienced part of parental love, but not all of parental love, and you're exposed to things because you don't have two engaged parents in your life, a lot of your life becomes more... First of all, if you haven't really experienced love, the idea of a loving God is almost like a foreign language. And you also are, excuse me, you're facing more dangers, you're facing more hurdles in your life. I mean, so your life becomes much more of a survival contest than a thriving contest. I mean, I think about something that Father Mike, our mutual friend, said in a talk, I don't even remember if I was there or if I watched it on YouTube or something. He said the millennial generation was defined by... they came to the conclusion life is hard. And the next generation, I think he calls them the I generation, is instead saying, "Is it worth it?" There's almost a despair.

Allen Hunt:

And I think a lot of that is because that fatherlessness and life is so challenging because economically you're disadvantaged, educationally, you tend to be disadvantaged, you're exposed to more dangers, it does, it becomes more of a survival of the fittest Lord of the Flies kind of thing, to exaggerate a bit. But there's less stability in your life. And I think the greatest gift my dad gave me, I mean, my dad was not a high curb appeal kind of guy. He hated speaking period, let alone speaking in public. He was an accountant. He was very quiet, very reserved. Oftentimes you would never even know he was in the room. But the greatest gift he gave me was the consistency, the steadiness, the stability. I knew every single day he was going to come home from work. Every day at 5:30, he was going to walk through that door. He wasn't going to be drunk. He wasn't going to be angry. He wasn't going to be violent and he wasn't going to not show up.

Allen Hunt:

And I didn't really appreciate that until I got to be about 17, 18. In high school and college, I start to encounter people that it didn't have that kind of stability that gives you a home base that you can count on because then you're able to go out and explore the world and explore your own gifts and explore things for yourself as opposed to the whole world just being chaotic to you. That gift of predictability, consistency, stability was an incredible gift that he gave me that I didn't appreciate until a lot later.

Matthew Kelly:

When we talk about these things, and it could be this issue, it could be 20 other issues, one of the things I've noticed is that people get uncomfortable, people get defensive, people get in a place if they're affected by what you're talking about right now. If there's someone watching and they are divorced and they are raising their children maybe solo because there's an addict or whatever, it's hard for them to hear what you're saying.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah, totally agree.

Matthew Kelly:

Because it has deep and sometimes heartbreaking implications for their life. How do we develop in people the maturity to be able to say, "Hey, my situation is broken, either through my own fault or someone else's fault, but I can still see that is the best way." Do you know what I'm talking about? I

Allen Hunt:

I do. I do. And I mean, it's not like an absent father is a new invention. I mean, there were a lot of dads that didn't come home from World War II. You had a lot of women who found themselves at the end of World War II as single moms. It doesn't mean it can't be done. It doesn't mean that it can't be done heroically and well. It means it's harder. And it means that statistically it's going to be more challenging. The probability's not zero, but wouldn't we all prefer to go for the probability of 80%, 90% positive outcome than the 50%, 60% prob probability of a positive outcome?

Allen Hunt:

I think to be secure in who we are and say, "This is the circumstances that I've got," whether I'm divorced, or my husband was tragically killed, or my husband, went AWOL or what have you, or your wife for that manner, that this is the circumstances I've got, and I'm going to maximize those circumstances. But my hope for my children is that they'll have this because it's going to be an... I mean, we have always wanted our children to have it better than we have. And so let me help my kids be prepared so that they'll have an easier path of this than I've had. And so their probability may be 50%, 60%, 70%. I want to set them up so they realize, hey, if you do this, the probability of your kids having a little better life than you've had is 80%, 90%.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah, I mean, we have to accept life is messy. We are broken imperfect people. And so things happen. At the same time, it doesn't mean you say, "Okay, anything goes." And we're going to pretend like all these produce the same outcomes because they don't. So let's at least aim for the bullseye and we at least hit the target. Let's don't just shoot the arrow and let it go wherever it goes.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. You've mentioned your father, your grandfather and your great grandfather.

Allen Hunt:

Right.

Matthew Kelly:

Your family has a heritage of ministry. Walk us through your family history a little bit from that point of view.

Allen Hunt:

Obviously I grew up very Methodist. My grandfather was a Methodist pastor in Mississippi. And he had two sons, my dad and my uncle. I come from a very small family. And-

Allen Hunt:

... uncle. I come from a very small family. And my uncle went into the Methodist ministry as well. And so I just read an interesting book that a friend gave me, I think it came out three or four years ago. It's called Born of Conviction.

Matthew Kelly:

Hmm.

Allen Hunt:

And it's written by historian, so it's a little dense. It's not spellbinding like a Ken Follett novel, but it's a great accounting of the Methodist church in Mississippi in the early 60s during the Civil Rights Movement. When James Meredith integrated Ole Miss, first black kid to go to Ole Miss, and the state just went nuclear. And the Methodist church was silent, didn't say a word institutionally for about six months. And so a group of young pastors got together and they wrote a little statement that they had published actually in the New York Times and some other places.

Allen Hunt:

And by today's standards, I mean, the guy that wrote the books, by today's standards, this is pretty vanilla milk toast, but by 1960, whatever that was, 1961, '62 Mississippi standards, this was... Basically, it was we're all made in the image you got and black folk and white folk ought to be able to worship together.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

And that was sort of a whew, a big kind ax right down the middle of the Methodist Church of Mississippi. And I'm an emotional guy, as you know, my grandfather was one of the leaders that tried to kind of hold things together and lead the church to become a better version of myself. So I'm very, very proud of him. He was a leader and really one of the two key leaders that was trying to kind of hold this together, but also help the church be the church, not be the white church, not be the segregated church, and to help the church become a better version of itself. So I'm proud of him for that. And the pressure was pretty high.

Allen Hunt:

And so my uncle and a number of young pastors, it almost became impossible for them to be able to serve churches because the churches oftentimes had very strident segregationist leadership, not all, I don't want to paint two broad of a brush, so 20 or 30 of the young pastors, maybe even 40, had to leave Mississippi and go be elsewhere. And so my uncle, who I'm also very proud of, moved to Southern Indiana and was a Methodist pastor in Indiana for 40 years. And I always remember the Bishop in Indianapolis called up my Uncle Robert and then my uncle's brother-in-law, so the two of them were both pastors, and the Bishop said, "I hear you got a few problems down in Mississippi, so I want you two to know, I'll be glad to have you. I've got two pieces of land that I've wanted to start new Methodist churches on. If you'll come, I'll give you the land and you start." And so Robert did that and planted what ultimately became the biggest Methodist church in Indiana for a long time.

Allen Hunt:

So I grew up in that kind of church, Methodist faith, Christian. My dad, as I said, was very, very shy. He was the older of the two sons, felt immense pressure to become a pastor, but would rather die than speak in front of anybody ever. I remember at our wedding, at our rehearsal dinner, he had to get up and make just a little welcoming speech and say a prayer. And he had his notes and it was painful to watch because he was just shaking like crazy. So I mean, he was a brilliant guy, he got a Harvard MBA back in the 50s, before that was a big thing and decided that rather than making money, he would serve the church, but not as a pastor. And so he worked at little Methodist colleges kind of as their financial CFO business manager kind of thing. So that's the environment or the terrarium that I grew up in. I kind of got off on that and I forgot what the question was beyond that.

Matthew Kelly:

Well, we are talking about sort of like the heritage of ministry in your family.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

And then you come along and decide to lay your life down for ministry. What did that feel like? What was that experience hearing the call and how has that evolved over time?

Allen Hunt:

Well, it wasn't something that I really wanted. It wasn't something that I ever really thought about growing up as evidenced by the fact that I got thrown out of youth group.

Matthew Kelly:

I'm not sure that's evidence of anything, but we'll see.

Allen Hunt:

It's evidence that I'm annoying. And so it wasn't something that I really kind always thought that I would do. And so I really wanted to go into business, I love business, enjoy business a lot, worked in real estate development in high school and college and loved that. Got out and worked for management consulting firm in Atlanta. And after I'd done that for a couple of years, after college, majored in finance and history and I was using the finance part of that. And after I'd done that for a couple years and Anita and I, we were engaged, I had this nagging dissatisfaction in my life. I loved the job that I had. I liked the people that I worked with. I was effective at what I did. Things were fine at one level, but it just didn't satisfy me. And I just kept thinking, this is not what I was made for.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

And at the same time, Anita and I started going to church together, and this was the first time that I'd been in church in probably close to 10 years in any meaningful way. And the pastor there, a guy named Ferrell Drummond, he was extraordinary and took an interest in me, and I developed a friendship with him and I started to do different kinds of leadership stuff there. And so I sort of got the spiritual reawakening going. I've got this dissatisfaction of as much as I like this, I always thought this is what I was going to do, I don't think this is what I was made for vocationally. Getting ready to marry my bride. And one day I was in New York on a project, I spent about half my time in Manhattan and half in Atlanta, and we were down on Wall Street and I was going with one of the partners. I was sort of the underling and he was the main guy.

Allen Hunt:

And we were going into an investment bank office, a very, very, very, very nice office building right down there overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the water there. And it was pouring down rain, it was cold. I think it was maybe February, March. It was nasty New York winter stuff, especially for somebody who had gone to high school in Florida. And we get out of the cab and we're walking in, and I was kind of fooling myself, I mean, because it was a fun role for me. I was like I'm doing [inaudible 00:37:30]. And we're walking into this building and there was a homeless man huddled on the subway grating in the pouring down rain and the heat's coming up, which is why he is lying on the grating, and I had to step over him to get into the building. And at that moment, God spoke to a place deep inside of me and He said, "When are you going to stop serving yourself and start serving me?"

Allen Hunt:

And so you take that nagging dissatisfaction, you take sort of this reawakening that's going on in my church and with my fiance at the time, and then that experience. And so I came back to Atlanta from that trip and I took Anita out to dinner and I said, "I need to tell you something, sweetie." I said, "I think God's calling me to leave the business world and to go into full time ministry." And very unlike Anita, she didn't say anything.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

The pistol had no... She just looked at me and she goes, "Okay." And I said, "So you and I are engaged and to be fair to you, you got engaged to a guy who was a businessman. And for me to say yes to ministry, to full-time ministry, I can't say yes for the both of us to that. I can give my yes to God. So if you want to break up, I get it, because you didn't sign up for this." And she said, "Why don't you take me home?" And so she went home, I don't know, two, three days later we talked, went together again. She goes, "Okay, I didn't see this coming, but I'm in."

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

"I'm with you." So then we kind of began to... So my last day at work for the firm I was working with was on a Monday, we got married on Saturday, we went on our honeymoon, the next weekend we moved to little tiny Methodist church in rural Georgia where I was actually the pastor before I even went to seminary. And was the pastor of this little 100 member church, marvelous, marvelous people in Carrollton, Georgia, and drove an hour to seminary at Emory every day each way for three years, and she taught school, and that's it.

Matthew Kelly:

So you were doing the Wall Street thing, and when you walk in and tell your boss, your colleagues, "Hey, I'm making this shift. I'm going to go and do this," what was their reaction?

Allen Hunt:

Boy, it was all over the map, man. It was all over the map. It really was. I've been really lucky in my life and in almost every season of my life I've been surrounded by a lot of really good people.

Matthew Kelly:

Hmm.

Allen Hunt:

And these were some good, in this case it was mostly men, there was one or two women that I worked with in that group. One of them said, "I always thought you might do something kind of like that." And he was the guy that I respected the most. He was not somebody that went to church. He would've considered himself an atheist. So much so that even 20, 25 years later as he was getting ready to die, out of the blue, I hadn't talked to him in 10 years, he calls me up and he says, "Allen, I don't get it." He said, "I don't see what you see. I don't understand it at all." He said, "I have studied this since the last time you and I were together. I've read everything. I just don't see it."

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

But on that day when I walked in and I told him, the guy that I admired the most, he was actually relatively supportive. It was like, I always knew there was something about you that was a little different. And one guy who was a very devoted Southern Baptist was like, "Good for you, man. Proud of you. That's great." And others were just like, "Well, okay. I didn't see that coming, but if that's what you want to do, okay."

Matthew Kelly:

Anyone critical?

Allen Hunt:

At work? Not overwhelmingly, no. No.

Matthew Kelly:

What's it like to be a pastor while you're going to seminary?

Allen Hunt:

Talk about on the job training. The stories I could tell you.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

Here's this young whippersnapper that's overconfident and thinks he can figure out just about anything. And I'm not a farm kid, I go out to a community that's all farms, best people, I mean, just fantastic people. These people were so gracious to us because I mean, I was only 25 years old and they knew that I didn't know anything, but they saw it as part of their vocation or part of their mission to help me become somebody who did know something. I mean, they didn't have to be that gracious to us.

Matthew Kelly:

Yep.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, they could have just punted us. And so there was a lot of trial and error. It's harder than it looks. I kind of thought I could figure some stuff out and then you do some things and you go well, okay, that probably is not the best way to get at that. So it was a good experience because while I'm doing all the formal education, I'm getting immersion in sitting with people as they die.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

Being with them when there's a great tragedy, when one of their kids is killed a car wreck, of sitting with people just out on their porch and visiting and listening to their life stories, people who had very different life experiences than I did, being with folks who had been widowed for 20 years and getting married again. I mean, I got the real stuff of ministry, the real stuff of life. It was a tremendous gift. Doing it over again I wouldn't change that at all. I think I would've really struggled if I'd only been in the educational part and not been in that immersion kind of thing.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

And it was good because I had to preach three times a week. I mean, here I'm in school, driving 61 miles each way to the seminary, and I had to have a sermon on Sunday morning at 11:00, had to have a different sermon on Sunday night for Sunday night service at six o'clock, and then I had to lead a Bible study on Wednesday night. So three different preps every week and that discipline, that gets you up to learning curve in a hurry.

Matthew Kelly:

No question.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

What did you love about being a pastor? Not just in that initial experience, but throughout your life?

Allen Hunt:

Well, one of them is when I... Probably two things. One of them is what I just touched on is that there is nothing else quite like that, of the access that you are granted and permitted into people's lives at some of the most human moments. Great joy, we've been waiting for a child for 14 years, we've given birth, great pain, my wife just got diagnosed. And I mean, it's such a sacred privilege to be with people in those moments. And unless you're a pastor, and I'm counting priests obviously as pastors, it's a different kind of access that the pastor is given. Had Allen Hunt been a layperson in that congregation, I still could have been physically present and emotionally present, but it's not the same.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

You know? That is such a sacred privilege. And then the other is, there's nothing really quite like leading a group of people, a congregation. And I had a congregation of hundreds and I had a congregation of thousands, but it's still the same no matter the size. There's nothing like trying to lead them to really become the best version of the congregation, not just individually, but to lead them to do great things, to be able to respond to a tragedy in your city, the church. To rally them and to mobilize, they have to really serve some people who are struggling and to mobilize them and to get a, excuse me, a very eclectic group of people and to be able to try to inspire, and organize, and mobilize them so that they feel what it's like to really be the body of Christ together and the union of being common in mission. I mean, leading that is, I mean, it's just an incredibly sacred privilege. I mean, there's nothing else like it. Those two things you don't get in any other role ever. So those are the two things I enjoy the most.

Matthew Kelly:

Ministry comes at a cost.

Allen Hunt:

Sure.

Matthew Kelly:

Not only to you, but the people around you.

Allen Hunt:

Sure.

Matthew Kelly:

What price has ministry exacted and how has that affected you and those close to you?

Allen Hunt:

Well, there's never been anybody in the history of my family that was bald before me. Just kidding. So evidently that was the impact.

Matthew Kelly:

That's the price.

Allen Hunt:

God said, you get to do these things, but it's going to cost you your hair. That's such a hard question to answer because it does come with a cost and it's very hard to describe. Anita and I talk about this occasionally, because obviously she gets it, because she's been on the journey with me. We're not 50/50 partners. We're 100/100 partners. I mean, she's been an integral part of all of it and she probably understands... No, she doesn't probably, she does understand ministry and churches is better than I do. So we both understand the cost and it's hard to describe. Obviously there's the personal cost of when you're given that kind of access to people, you also get them at some of their worst moments.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

And a lot of times they take it out on you because you're there and also because as a pastor you're seen as somebody that kind of has to take it. And so you take a lot of verbal abuse and there are things that people will say to a pastor that they would never say to anybody else, because they think they can get away with it. So there's that and you have to sort of adapt and go, okay, I understand it's not about me, this is about the office, the role of the position. My uncle, who was the pastor in Indiana for so long, he retired, I guess, in the early mid 90s, right as I was kind of getting started. And he said, "Man, I am so glad that I retired before email."

Matthew Kelly:

Hmm.

Allen Hunt:

He said, "Because I sit here and look at some of the emails that you share with me," and he said, "It's astonishing what people will say to their pastor." Woo. So that's one and you get used to that, I guess. I think the harder part for me was what I alluded to a little while ago about it's one thing for me to give my yes to God, say yeah, I'm going to give up everything and go do this, and it's another thing for Anita to do that as my wife and my partner. But I don't think I ever anticipated by doing that my kids were also going to pay the cost.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

And they didn't ask for that.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

They didn't get the opportunity to say yes, they just showed up. And so the life of being in a fish bowl of having everything scrutinized, of having everything evaluated, the countless decisions that you have to make as a pastor. Okay, my daughter's giving her piano recital and the key leader in our church is getting ready to die and his wife has just called and asked me if I could get there as quickly as possible, what are going to do? And the fact that you have to make those decisions, I mean, all the time, it's not like it's a one time kind of moment. And those where you're trying to balance, I owe something to my wife and my kids, I owe something to... And so you're always sort of divided. And so there's a cost of that. You're on vacation, you're finally away, you got two Sundays off a year as the Methodist pastor, you're finally away and one of your staff members has an extreme sexual misconduct and there's a massive rift in the congregation. Your family's finally away and you got to go back.

Allen Hunt:

And so there's always that tension between your family and the church. And so there's a cost of that. There's a cost of that. But to come to the realization that my kids didn't ask for it and to help them understand why their mother and father were doing what they were doing, but also to give them enough space to be able to at least navigate, they didn't get a choice, but they can navigate how they were going to do that. And they could respond in different ways when we come home and say, "I know a bunch of kids at school were having a party, but why didn't you go?" "Well, I didn't get invited." "Well, why didn't you get invited?" "Well, I'm the pastor's kid."

Allen Hunt:

And so kind of going through that kind of stuff and giving them room to do it on their own and not trying to kind of solve it all, but giving them that freedom in that. So yeah, I mean, there... I don't even know how you get at the cost, but that's sort of the point isn't it? I mean, isn't that kind of what Jesus says? Take up your cross, deny yourself every day, and follow me. So we all, I mean, not to sound trite, but we all are called anyway to follow Him and following Him in all of our lives, no matter who you are, has some cost, but there is a unique cost of being in full-time ministry. Yeah, no question.

Matthew Kelly:

Was it worth it?

Allen Hunt:

Oh yeah, wouldn't have changed the thing, wouldn't change the thing. I mean, it's deeply satisfying. I mean, I still feel the same way about what we do. To be able to give your life over to this, the satisfaction and the, I don't know what the word is, but just that deep sense of satisfaction of I'm doing something meaningful with my life. And I think that was why I was struggling in my old role, because as much as I liked my role in business, I knew that I was made for this and as long as I was doing this, I wasn't going to be satisfied. I had to do this because this is what I was made for. Everybody's not made for this. I get that. Some people are made for that and that's their role in God's economy and God's kingdom. That's cool. Just I wasn't. And so I don't think I ever would've been satisfied had I not done it.

Matthew Kelly:

Hmm.

Allen Hunt:

And I've been really blessed, man. To be able to be a pastor for 20 years, to be able to do talk radio and engage with all kinds of strange people across the culture in a secular setting, and to try to sort of be a voice of faith, and voice of hope, and love in that, and then to partner with you in trying to do what we're doing. I mean, I've just been incredibly, incredibly fortunate.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm. You're a biblical scholar. I've known a lot of them. Most of them, everybody in their life knows that they're a biblical scholar. You're not that way. Most people, even those who may be familiar with your work or work with you, don't know that. What was that journey like, the scholarship of the Bible and why are you so humble about it?

Allen Hunt:

Is that a serious question?

Matthew Kelly:

It's a serious question.

Allen Hunt:

What was the journey like? What do you mean? The study? The preparation?

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. I mean the study, the experience, the-

Allen Hunt:

Okay. No, I get it.

Matthew Kelly:

... going deep into the Bible.

Allen Hunt:

I talked about when we were talking about what it was it like to be the pastor of this congregation while I was in seminary. I mean, when I really had no idea what I was doing and I realized how little I knew about scripture, that was one of the things that became very clear to me. I mean, a funny story was, I was in a small group of other guys doing the same thing and we had to do... I was reading a passage from the gospel Mark and I said, "The Pharisees and the Sadducees," da, da, da, da, da. And they went, "Allen that's the Sadducees." "Oh, okay." So I thought it was Italian, Sadducees. So I mean, I didn't know lot, but the church that had sponsored me, on the committee in that church was an Old Testament professor at the seminary.

Matthew Kelly:

Mm.

Allen Hunt:

And he said, "I'll sign off on us endorsing you if you'll make me one promise." I said, "Okay, what is it?" He said, "You promise that you will take New Testament Greek," because it wasn't required, "you'll take New Testament Greek and Old Testament Hebrew." I said, "Sure, I'll do that. I like languages. Sure, I'll do it." So the first semester I go and I take Greek, eight, 10 people in there. I mean, the entering class is what? 100? 150 people? Eight or 10 of us took Greek. And I cannot describe for you when after you start to be able to read it just a little bit and they start you with some stuff after the basics of what a word looks like and that kind of stuff, start you with some stuff out of the gospel of John or out of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, that's the easiest Greek to read in the Bible.

Allen Hunt:

So they start with the easy stuff, God is love, that kind of thing. And all of a sudden, I mean, it really was like an entire new world had opened up to me. I mean, I was captivated. I was enchanted. It was like, wow, there is so much here and I never knew it. And it's almost inexhaustible. So I very quickly kind of... I had a preaching professor who was just extraordinary and I remember him mentioning one day in class, he said, "I went and I got a PhD in New Testament because I figured it'd probably be good if I knew what I was talking about."

Matthew Kelly:

Hmm.

Allen Hunt:

And that made sense to me. So I started kind of working my way toward that. And I had a couple professors that had good connections and they helped me get into Yale when I finished at Emory to do this PhD in New Testament and ancient Christian history. And that was such an extraordinary privilege. It was a life changer. I mean, I wouldn't be Catholic if I hadn't done that, because the Jesuit and Dominican Presbyterian in me, and I was easily the weakest of the four in preparation. It wasn't even close. I mean four years prior I'd been saying Sadducees, so I mean, I didn't know. I mean yeah, compared to... They were scholars. I've always seen myself more as a missionary evangelist. Am I a Bible scholar? I have the credentials and I can do that, but that's not really my calling. My calling is to apply that to help other people discover what I began to discover as this world was opened up to me. So I see myself more as a missionary evangelist where I go where God tells me to go, and evangelists share good news, share faith, open love.

Allen Hunt:

And so the biblical scholarship for me was not so much for me to remain a biblical scholar, but to use that in doing this. So most of my classmates and colleagues are all now very highly regarded biblical scholars in all kinds of places, Jesuit School of Theology, Dominican House of Studies, et cetera, the Biblicum in Rome. But for me it was more... I really think looking back, it was more almost in preparation for God to put you and me together to do what we're doing and that allows me to bring something that oftentimes is ignored. There's just a lot of scripture and so it helps me in doing that. I mean, it sounds sort of... It helps me. So it was wonderful. It was the hardest thing I ever did, going and doing that graduate program. It was the first time in my entire life that I was the weakest student in the class, very humiliating, very humbling.

Allen Hunt:

Got the same root word there, humiliating and humbling, humiliation sometimes if had it leads to humility. So if there is any humility, and I think we're all pretty poor judges of our own humility, but if you say that I have a little, I'll take that. And I'll say it's probably because, part of it is because I recognize that the other people who were there were truly biblical scholars and I was trying to get the same kind of education to use in a different way. So I brought sort of different brain and skill set or gift set than they did. It was actually good for my soul to have to struggle a lot. It was a struggle. It was a struggle. And that's easily the hardest struggle that I've ever encountered.

Matthew Kelly:

Always remember who you are is a phrase that I've heard you use powerfully. What does that mean? And why does it matter?

Allen Hunt:

Well, folks who have been to some of my speaking engagements are familiar with that story, that when I was in second grade, my parents came and picked me up from school and my brother who's six years older than I, so he was in eighth grade. They put us in the car and we drove over the mountain from the town that we were into the next town Waynesville. And we got out of the car and dad took my brother and me by the hand and knocked on the door, and an elderly woman opened the door and she was just exhausted, and my dad said, "Is he ready?" She said, "Yeah, he's ready." So she and my mom went into the kitchen and my dad took my brother and me and we walked down the hall to the second door on the right. And we went into this bedroom and there was an elderly man...

Allen Hunt:

This bedroom, and there was an elderly man lying on a little single twin bed. And my dad, dropped our hands and my dad turned and walked out the door. And so, it was just my brother and me and this elderly gentleman. He used to be six feet tall, square jaw, big voice, 180 pounds, but at this point he is about 120 pounds and just was emaciated from cancer. And he looked at us and he said, "Boys, I want you to write something down." And we said, "Yes, sir." And he said, "Have you got a pencil and paper?" And we went, "No." And so, we started looking around and we found a pencil and paper. And he said, "You got something to write down?" And we said, "Yes, sir. Yes, sir." And he said, "Because I want you to write something down." I said, "yes, sir." He said, "Because what I'm about to tell you, I want you to write it down." We said, "We get that. Okay." So he pushed himself up and he looked at us and he said, "Always remember who you are."

Allen Hunt:

And so, I wrote it down and I didn't bring it with me today. It's in my Bible that I take with me everywhere that I go when I go speak. I have it in my Bible, because those were the last words that my grandfather ever said to me, the one that I described earlier. And I don't think that he meant, "Remember that you're my grandson." He might have. I don't think that he meant, "Remember that you're a Hunt." I think what he was trying to communicate is, "You're a child of God. You're a child of the great kingdom. Remember that, because that's going to hold you through." And so, that stayed with me, which is why I carry it with me everywhere I go when I speak. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

So fast forward through your many experiences as a pastor. At the height of what many people would consider your success as a pastor leading an enormous community, you have another call. What was that like? And how did that unfold?

Allen Hunt:

That's a long story, so we won't do that one today, but it really began at that time in Yale with those three classmates, in the same year, and the Dominican, who's now the Vicar General in the Archdiocese of Hartford, who's still outside of my wife, my closest friend. I got exposed to Catholicism through that friendship. It wasn't like we were debating who was right. We were really deep friends and that began to kind of open up Catholicism to me in a way that I hadn't. And through him, Father Steve, one of the things I did when I went back to Georgia, to pastor after I finished the degree was I would go to Conyers every month to the Monastery of The Holy Spirit, the Trappist, that sprung off Gethsemani where Merton was. About 50 guys there. I would go there every month for a day of just retreat.

Allen Hunt:

And the abbot of the community, I'm a Methodist pastor at this point. The abbot of the community, Bernard Johnson, would give me spiritual direction. And I mean, it's not really dawning on me. I'm finding these rich treasures, this rich spirituality in Catholicism, and over time, it really began to from the get-go when Anita and I said yes together to full-time ministry, I've always wanted to give as much of myself to Jesus as I could and receive as much of him as I could. I wanted everything that he had to give me. And so over time, as I'm sort of in Catholicism in different kinds of ways, I'm discovering saints, all kinds of cool saints, Saint Ephrem the Syrian, and Saint Margaret, Mary, and I'm using those folks to inform and shape my preaching.

Allen Hunt:

I'm getting spiritual direction at this Trappist monastery. I really, really, really wanted everything he could give me, and he begins to say, "I'd like to give him my body and my blood. I'd like to give him myself." And so, I'd go to mass and obviously I wouldn't receive communion. And it wasn't just a spiritual yearning, it eventually became a physical craving for the Eucharist and it kind of did two things. One is it caused me to feel like I had integrity problem, because I had come to believe Chesterton said that he became Catholic. When anybody asked him why he'd said, there's a million reasons why I became Catholic and it all boils down to because it's true. And I began to realize, I did believe that was true. And I did believe in the full, true presence of Jesus and Eucharist.

Allen Hunt:

And I had integrity problem leading this congregation and doing something different. And I also had the issue of, I really did, I had to try to honor who I wanted to be of somebody who was giving himself completely over to God, not saying, "Okay, I think I've given you enough. I'm good." And so, it really was that call to the Eucharist at the end of the day, where I had to say, "Okay, God, I believe you're calling me to this. Not quite sure what to do with that, but I trust you." And it really was. I mean, going leaving business to go into, into full-time ministry, there was some faith involved in that, but I kind of knew what that was going to involve, because I'd grown up around ministers, but this was more like stepping through a black curtain into total darkness and just hoping that God was on the other side.

Allen Hunt:

But I knew I had to do it, because if I was going to be obedient and have any integrity, I had to do it. So I did it, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But I mean, wouldn't trade it for anything.

Matthew Kelly:

There's a lot of pieces here. You've got growing up in Florida, you've got Tom Petty, you've got Yale, you've got pastoring at church of-

Allen Hunt:

Don't forget the Dodger short stuff. Don't forget that.

Matthew Kelly:

You've got the Dodgers. Is the string that ties it all together or one of the themes that ties it all together. Is it this missionary evangelist thing and just being open to going, doing, being whatever it is God is calling you to?

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. I mean, like I said, I don't like routine and I always have a little bit of restlessness about me that Anita doesn't have. So she balances me out really well. And we moved a number of times when I was a kid. And so, I kind of got used to that. And so, the openness to doing what God wants me to do and going where God wants me to be, has sort of, that's actually been fairly easy for me. That's kind of been the easier part, because it kind of fits me better. And he's given me the opportunity to do some really, really extraordinary kinds of stuff. So yeah. I don't know. I guess, I hadn't thought about that before, but that's really kind of been at least since I was 20-something it's been sort of the connecting thread.

Allen Hunt:

I know a lot of folks don't get it, because it has probably been a little unconventional compared to regular folks, I guess, but it really has been a really, if I'm going to say yes and I'm going to leave something that I like, I really believe there's something at stake here, I believe Heaven and Hell are real. I believe there's something really at stake here. I don't want to be halfhearted about it. If I'm going to go, I'm going all in, otherwise I'm not going, because this is what I was prepared for, this business life and that kind of stuff. So it really hasn't been that hard. Some folks would say it was crazy. Some folks would say it was courageous. I don't know. Who cares? I mean, it just, I've just tried to kind of do what I feel like God wants me to do. The harder part that hadn't been me, the hard part's trying to explain that to my wife and kids and my mom.

Matthew Kelly:

Looking back, it looks like that God has used the restlessness and probably even given you the restlessness to help.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Navigate the path.

Allen Hunt:

I totally agree.

Matthew Kelly:

Was there a time where you felt the restlessness needed to be fixed?

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think I still have moments like that where a lot of people in my life, I don't know if a lot of people in life are like this or if it's just people around me, a lot of them not all have lived in the same place and do the same thing. They've had the same job for a long time, whether they've changed companies or, whether they were an electrician for different people, whether they were still always an electrician or whether they went to the same insurance agency every single day for 40, 50 years like my father-in-law did, I could never do that. And that's not good or bad. It's just, that's who God made me to be. But sometimes when you're surrounded by folks, you go, "Am I missing something here? Am I missing something?" But I think I'm okay with it.

Matthew Kelly:

We live in a culture obsessed with, wants, "This is what I want." Nowhere in our conversation have I heard you say, "I wanted to..." Where does what Allen wants and what Allen needs fit into all of this?

Allen Hunt:

I don't really have an answer for that one either. I think, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, I probably had a lot more pride and ambition. And I mean, I don't want to make it sound like, oh, I'm just sort of this perfectly obedient servant of God, because I mean, we all have different motives for what we do and why we do it. And it's not always one motive. And I mean, I think I was very driven. I think where I am now is the church needs our help. It doesn't really matter what I want. It's what does God want? And what does the church need? It's well, here's what I have to offer the church, so I'm going to offer to the church. I mean, that's nice, but right now, the church needs help. We've had all this scandal stuff. I mean, statistically, it says we've lost 90% of our kids and Southern Baptist lose about 50% of their kids, mainline Protestants, Methodist, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and then also Catholics lose about 90% of our kids. So we've lost a generation, maybe two, maybe three.

Allen Hunt:

We come through COVID where a healthy parish has 80% of its attendance from pre-COVID. Some of the other parishes have 50% of their... So we've lost another... So the church needs help. And it's really, it's not about me at this point. I mean, it doesn't matter what I'm good at or what I want or what I think I need. I'm not sure that anybody ever really is good at trying to say, "Here's what I need." Well, maybe it is. And maybe it's just what you want, but it's about God, it's not about me, and it's not about now. As Rick Warren says, "It's not about me. It's not about now. It's all about God and it's all about eternity." And so, the church needs our help and I want to do what the church needs, not what I feel like I want to do for the church. Not that I'm necessarily always a good discern of that, but trying to do what the church needs and having it be about that as opposed to about Allen.

Matthew Kelly:

I have a friend who came to you speak a few years back and had a chance to talk to you for a few minutes and was asking you about something and was looking for your insight, maybe your advice on something. And your response to him was, "Love your spouse really well." And at the moment he felt like he had asked you about something over here and you had talked to him about something over here. And he told me it was 18 months later that the two connected very, very powerfully for him. What do you mean when you say, "Love your spouse really well,"? And what does that look like?

Allen Hunt:

I guess, the two most important decisions every single person has to make is am I going to say yes to God? Am I going to say yes to Jesus Christ in his church, in my life. And then assuming that you're not called to religious life or a single life, who am I going to marry? There is no other decision in your life anywhere near those two in terms of gravity and importance, because when you choose who you marry, forever is a long time we talked about this earlier, forever is a long time. And when I do marriage events, I'll tell ya, marriage is really powerful for two reasons. One it's because it's deeply intimate. You're together at all kinds of moments of your life. I mean, you see each other at your best, at your worst. When you're showering, when you're taking a nap, when you're cutting the grass.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, just, it's intimate, you learn things about each other when you to clip your fingernails and how often you like to wash your hair. I mean, you learn intimate stuff, but it's also every day. I mean, I had an intimate relationship with my mom and my dad, but it wasn't every day. Marriage is every day, every single day for the rest of your life. That's the most important relationship human relationship you're going to have. And this is the one person that you have committed to love. And they've committed to love you. Everything, all other relationships have some negotiation about them, but once you make that decision on the marriage. And so, if this is the most important relationship, and this is the person that's going to be alongside you, invest in that. If you can only invest in one relationship, invest in that one relationship, because that decision in that relationship's going to impact every single other aspect of your life, including every other relationship that you have, even with people who don't know your spouse, it's going to impact them.

Allen Hunt:

If you're coming in emotionally wounded, emotionally exhausted, what have you. It impacts all those other relationships. And so, I say, invest, invest in your relationship. I mean, it's easy to get distracted by your kids, by your bills, by your career, all of which are good things. But if you're not careful, you wake up 20 years down the road and you and I are seeing this a lot in a lot of conversations we have with folks and you look over at your spouse and you go now, "Who are you again?" Because you don't realize it for a long time. You were just slowly being invested in other stuff until all of a sudden, you cross the point of no return. It's like, what have we got here now? Because we haven't invested along the way. So if you can only invest in one relationship, because it's every day and it's going to influence every other aspect of your life, and it's going to deeply influence whether you're happy, joyful, and peaceful.

Allen Hunt:

So to me, I mean, it's self-evident, but our culture has become so confused about marriage in general and what it's supposed to be about. It's just about me being happy. And it's, I mean, there's a lot more going on in a marriage than just two people trying to make each other happy.

Matthew Kelly:

What about when it comes to raising kids? I've heard you say, "Raise your kids, knowing who they are." What do you mean by that?

Allen Hunt:

Well, you go back to what my grandfather said. Always remember who you are. And you go back to what we talked about earlier with my grandkids in this toxic culture that we're throwing our kids into the deep end. Faith is caught more than taught. And the greatest predictor for your kid's spiritual life is your spiritual life as a parent. In Allen Hunt's opinion, the greatest responsibility you have as a parent is to help your kid have that faith life. To remember who they are, you are made in the image of God. So sweetheart, you belong to him. You're the child of a great kid. And he has great things in store for you. He desires you to be the best version of yourself. He has big hopes. He wants what's best for you. He loves you unconditionally to help them understand at the core who they are, because then all this other stuff you can't get, you can't get rid of it.

Allen Hunt:

You can't erase all these other things, but you can prepare them. You know the saying that we always like to use with each other, "Prepare your child for the road. Don't try to prepare the road for your child." And so, helping them know who they are made in that image in God, at their child of God, it's a game-changer and the greatest likelihood of your kid getting that, it's not going to come from sending them to Catholic school, it's not going to come from their best friend, it's not going to come from their aunt and their uncle, it's going to come from mom and dad. All those other ones have help influence they matter. But the greatest likelihood is from mom and dad. Job one. Starting to preach now, man, getting me warmed up.

Matthew Kelly:

That's good.

Allen Hunt:

Coming out of the bullpen.

Matthew Kelly:

You've helped tons of parents and grandparents do just what you're describing in many ways throughout your life and ministry. In the past decade, you've written a number of books. Do you have a favorite?

Allen Hunt:

I do. Would you like to know what it is?

Matthew Kelly:

We would.

Allen Hunt:

You would. I'm not sure anybody else does actually. It's the book you and I are putting out as we speak, No Regrets. Maybe it's because it's the most recent and so you tend to fall in love with whatever project that you're working on. But one of the ways that you've helped me is I'd spent before you and I met, I'd spent 30 years or 25 years developing being as good of a speaker as I could be, but I'd never developed anything on writing. And it's been a journey for me. Writing's hard, it's really hard. And speaking and writing, maybe your first cousins, they're definitely not siblings. They might even be second cousins. They're sort of related, but not as close as you think.

Allen Hunt:

And so, writing has been, it's been a lot of hard work for me. And so, No Regrets has been enormously rewarding to me, partly because you and I collaborated on it and partly because I've been working hard at becoming a better writer. And I feel like in this one, I can see, I have become better than I was. I'm still not great, but I'm better than I was and I'm progress. And that's deeply satisfying. And also I tend to work better in collaboration than I do in isolation. And so, you've drawn out some stuff, and that's made me a better writer and made it a better book. So I'm actually, I'm really proud of it.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. I'm excited to have people experience that. Yeah. The book's about the fourth quarter of life. We hear a lot in our culture about midlife crisis. We hear a lot about the first half, the second half of life. I think there is something unique about this in that it does deal with the fourth quarter. What has surprised you or what have you learned about the fourth quarter through this process that has surprised you or that you're most excited for people to discover?

Allen Hunt:

Well, you know me, I've always got two answers. I can never have give you one. The first one is how much denial we Americans live in. We think a life is first half, second half. And how many people who are 60 years old say, "Yeah, I'm entering the second half of life," and go, "You didn't major in math, did you? Might want to go back and look at that," because the average American, I mean, I looked at the other day, average American lives to be about 80, 78, 81, something like that. So when you're 60, you're three fourth of the way there. And people, "Well, yeah. I'm not really counting my childhood." Well, this first 20 years, first of all, you lived them, you were here, right? You were present. And second of all, those were really important, because they shaped everything else.

Allen Hunt:

So each quarter has its own season. And the fourth quarter to me that the exciting thing, I mean, first of all again, how few people actually really think about it. And secondly, to me, the fun thing has been, as you asked me earlier, what am I most excited about? Is it's a new season of life and rather than to be dreaded it's to be embraced, and go, is it going to be different than other seasons? Yeah, I can't run as fast. Don't have my hair anymore. I've donated several body parts to science, through surgery and stuff. Okay, I get it. But there's things that I can only figure out when I'm in my sixties and my seventies and my eighties that I never would've been able to figure out when I was 20, 30, 40, or 50. And so, looking forward to discovering those and also hopefully my relationship with God is in a different place than it was when I was 50, 40, 30, or 20.

Allen Hunt:

And so, looking forward to what God wants to do in my life for the next 20 years. And so, trying to figure out how to maximize that and make it meaningful to me is it's a wonderful thing. And our culture's really not particularly keen on aging, dying, elderly, we're all about youth and the Pepsi generation being young and 60 is the new 20. And that's how our culture is. But as Christians, we know different, we know life has a termination date. This life does. And so, it only makes sense that God has a purpose for this. And it is probably going to involve some suffering. But as I've learned earlier in life, the suffering actually made me better. Wouldn't sign up for it again. But when it comes, I don't fear it. I know that God's going to be with me. And so looking forward to how this season's going to be different from for second and third quarters.

Matthew Kelly:

Your book, Life's Greatest Lesson has impacted so many people. Who is the person that should read that book?

Allen Hunt:

That's a great question. I think the easy answer is, well, no, it's not the easy answer. I'll change my answer. I think the answer is the dissatisfied person. So I think it could be any age and I think it could be any economic level, but I think, because the core point of the book is if you actually want a transformation in your life, you want to become a different person. You want to have a different disposition on life. If you actually really want transformation in your life become generous, give it away. It's counter-cultural, it's almost counterintuitive, but it's thoroughly gospel. Jesus said, "If you want more of your life, give it away." And so, I think if you're dissatisfied that this is the book, because it helps you. I mean, I've been in full-time ministry now for a long time. There are a lot of things you can do to experience spiritual transformation, there's a lot. But the most potent is learning to become generous.

Allen Hunt:

People usually say, "Well, I'm going to do this for a while. And then as I grow in my spiritual maturity, as I grow in my faith and hopefully God will make me more generous." Actually doesn't work that way. It's almost the exact opposite. Become generous and the switch flips, because all of a sudden you trust God and realize it all belongs to him and your life's going away. And guess what, everything that you have is going back in the box and it's going to somebody else. And so, when you learn, all of a sudden your whole spiritual life upside down. Transformation.

Matthew Kelly:

Speaking of counter-cultural, your book, Everybody Needs To Forgive Somebody has helped so many people overcome what is, I think, a significant hurdle in their lives and their journeys in their relationships. What are your thoughts around forgiveness in our culture, and why is that so difficult for people? And why does that matter so much?

Allen Hunt:

That book has surprised me, because I really wrote it for myself. I'm not a naturally very good forgiver at all. That has been a journey for me. My wife is really, really good at it. I have a daughter who's like an Olympic gold medalist forgiver and she just kind of came in the box that way, which is really kind of fast. I was like, "Where did you come from? And why do you have that?" A lot of folks in my family are grudge holders, long memories. And I embodied that for a long time, really liked to keep score. And I realized eventually it was killing me. It's like, "This just a lot of negativity to be carrying brother. It's a lot." It's a lot of work to carry all that stuff. And so, I really, I wrote the book for myself, because I was just trying to inspire me with true stories of forgiveness.

Allen Hunt:

And what surprised me is how many people have sought me out. And I realized what a deep, deep, deep, spiritual need, so many people are carrying so many hurts and wounds that only forgiveness can cure. I underestimated how many other people are carrying that. Now, because the book was written what, 10 years ago. Now, as we've gone through the last decade and our culture's become increasingly merciless, unforgiving and all about perfectionism, cancellation and self-righteousness, I just can't stop Instagramming and Facebooking enough about what a great person I am kind of culture. We need that more than ever. And I think, that's part of the reason our culture's struggling so much is because we don't really believe anymore that people can change. We think you're either good or you're bad. If you agree with me, you're probably good. And if you disagree with me, you're probably bad and you're you're irredeemable. So you don't have the capacity to change morally.

Allen Hunt:

And I think a lot of that's because of the diminishing influence of the church, the diminishing religiosity of our culture, the secularization, I think there's a turning to more of a human. I mean, humans are not naturally grace-filled. Grace comes from God, grace is infused in us and given to us. And when you remove grace, it's tough to have any relationship, well alone, a marriage, but even a work relationship or a friendship or a neighbor relationship. If there's no grace, it's going to struggle.

Matthew Kelly:

What's attractive to canceling people? What is satisfying to human beings?

Allen Hunt:

Oh, I think we all have some natural tendency to a, be right, get our way and think that we're better than other people. I mean, I think that's, CS Lewis said, "Pride is the supreme anti-God state of mind." And I think, pride is sort of the original sin, I want to be God. And original sin, if original sin is wanting to be like God, I mean, cancellation to being like God. I'm eliminating you. You're on the wrong side. You're evil. Banishing you from the garden.

Allen Hunt:

I'm eliminating you. You're on the wrong side. You're evil. Banishing you from the garden. See you. There's no Jesus. There's no crucifixion. There's no Good Friday. There's no Easter. It's just banishment. And I think, obviously, it's magnified or fertilized by social media where it's so easy to do it. I don't even have to care about these people that I'm canceling. It's not like I'm canceling my neighbor. I'm canceling just a bunch of people out there who are in this fictitious cyber world. And ooh, it feels good because it just makes me feel so righteous. It's a lazy man's path to righteousness.

Matthew Kelly:

You're a lover of stories. Your books are filled with stories. When you speak, you use stories powerfully. Your Bible studies now on YouTube, you're using stories powerfully. What do stories mean to you? Why are they so important to the way you communicate with people?

Allen Hunt:

I like to tell folks stories don't illustrate the point. Stories are the point. My hunch is, I don't have the data, but if I had the data, I'm pretty sure I know how it would turn out. If you ask people, "What's the one teaching of Jesus that you remember," they would either say the parable of the good Samaritan, the parable of the sower and the seed, or the parable of the prodigal son. All stories. A, stories are memorable. Second of all, they're real. Third of all, you can engage at them in multiple levels. A five or a 10 year old can engage with the parable of prodigal son, and an 85 year old can engage with it. It's not complex. You engage at it at your own level.

Allen Hunt:

Second of all, you remember it, and the power of memory, to go back and revisit that story. First of all, after you hear it, you go back and you chew on it over the next week or three, but then also my favorite thing in life is when somebody comes to me who heard me speak 20 years ago. And they say, "You remember that story?" And I go, I don't, but I'm so glad you do, because it stays with you and you can go back to it and you can revisit it and engage it in a different level. And it's shaping you more than you're shaping it. So, I mean, I think there's a reason why Jesus used stories most of the time, so they've been powerful in my life. I mean, the things have been most transformational for me have been stories.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. You wrote a book 21 undeniable secrets of marriage. It's helped marriages. It has saved marriages. It has transformed marriages. It has prepared couples to be married. Do you have a favorite of the 21 secrets?

Allen Hunt:

Well, I mean, the favorite's my grandmother saying, I remember my grandmother telling me very distinctly, "Alan, don't marry somebody. You can live with. Marry somebody you can't live without." There's just a lot of truth in that one statement. The other, I guess, is because I always have two answers, which is why this interview will be six hours, is that the secret of the little things, that research from John and Julie Gottman, the Jewish academic researching couple, in Washington state, who's probably emerged over the last 30, 40 years as the premier researchers on marriage, the idea that in a healthy marriage, there's five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. So for every roll of the eye, for every turning of a cold shoulder, for every not giving undivided attention, every one of those there's got to be five undivided attentions, smiles, thank yous, winks, touches.

Allen Hunt:

And when that ratio gets out of whack here in the danger zone, and so I think we think of marriage as these big grand gestures, got this big ring, we went on this big vacation. We had this big honeymoon, we got this big house, da, da, da, da, da. It's not the big things. I mean, the research proves that it's the little interactions day to day, again, it's every day, because it is so intimate. It's the little things treating each other in a positive kind way that's the greatest preventer of divorce is the little things. And anybody can do that.

Matthew Kelly:

A week doesn't pass. Without someone emailing me, speaking to me, sharing with me that they're thinking of getting divorced. What advice would you have for that person?

Allen Hunt:

Take a deep breath. To quote one of your books, take the long view. Dream about who you want to be. Dream about what you want your life to look like. Don't react in the moment, because the fact of the matter is, the grass is probably not greener on the other side of this marriage. That's hard for people to hear because I think we have this endless hope springs eternal. You know, I messed up this one, but I'm going to go find a better one.

Allen Hunt:

There's a reason why the divorce rate for first marriages is 50%, for second marriages it's 70%. And for third marriages it's 90%. So your greatest likelihood is to figure out how can I make this work? So not telling you have to stay married. Saying And take a deep breath and dream a little bit about not only who you are, but what you want your life to look like. There's no rush. That's what I tell them.

Matthew Kelly:

Are there exceptions? Are there-

Allen Hunt:

Oh, of course. Of course.

Matthew Kelly:

... scenarios that in that conversation someone has to be mindful of?

Allen Hunt:

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I mean, if you're in a situation where you are being severely abused, if you're in a situation where there is routine casual adultery, those kinds of things, we got to take a hard look at this. But the bulk of American divorces don't fit into those two categories. Those are very real categories. Not disputing that at all. But Americans, I mean, that's part of the reason why we're seeing such a low marriage rate among 20 somethings and 30 somethings now is because we've so watered down what marriage actually looks like. It no longer really, A, seems possible or appealing to people who are now a marrying age, so they're marrying at an increasingly low rate because they're not seeing sort of lifelong, selfless, giving, sacrificial love. They're seeing kind of transactional. This is I'm not happy anymore. And it's part of the reason why we're seeing a skyrocketing divorce rate among baby boomers for heaven's sake. I mean, I'm the youngest age of baby boomer. So 1946 to '64. So people between, what, 78 years old and 59 years old, skyrocketing divorce rates.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, somehow we've lost. I mean, to me, I hope anyway, that what we believe is that should be the richest harvest season for the marriage. Not the season of I just can't stand you anymore. I sucked it up as long as I could. I mean, to me, that's just the painful tragedy.

Matthew Kelly:

Is there a connection between that and the denial of the fourth quarter reality, do you think?

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. Yeah. That's a great point. That's a great point, because I mean, if you think about baby boomers as being particularly not my age, but the older baby boomers as the kids at the sixties and the sexual revolution and free love and all that kind of stuff, I think there's a romanticism of, I want to go back to my youth. I want to recapture the pizzazz and the sizzle that I had when I was 15, 20, 25. And I'm not feeling it anymore in this marriage that's been around for 30 or 40 years. So I'm going to go reinvent that. And then more often not people find, what they find is they can't reinvent it and they're increasingly lonely and they're increasingly broke because instead of supporting one household, they're now supporting two on the same amount of money. So they've gone into more poverty, more loneliness, and more despair because they were sold this false dream.

Matthew Kelly:

One of your most successful books is Dreams For Your Grandchild or Grandchildren.

Allen Hunt:

Dreams For Your Grandchild.

Matthew Kelly:

How is God's view of being a grandparent different to the world's view of being a grandparent?

Allen Hunt:

You know, it's funny to me because the grandparent role in our culture has almost been lost. It's sad in a way because grandparents can be the unconditional positive love, encouragement, in grandkids life, but as families have scattered and moved to where I got relatives in Utah and Maine and south Florida and Mississippi, the physical connection to grandparents has diminished. And it's also diminished by our later birth age now. I mean, so parents now are older than they were 20 and 40 years ago when they were having kids. And so the grandparents are by definition older. And so there's less youthfulness to be able to share. And so I think that's a real loss. I really do, because I think I had a good relationship with my grandparents and my wife Anita had an extraordinary relationship with her grandparents. And I see the difference there.

Allen Hunt:

And I saw the difference in the kids that I grew up with who've had their grandparents more active in their lives, because that geographic proximity. It's a bigger nest of love. And I think it's a bigger nest of stability and it's a bigger nest of self-confidence and to go to the research for part of the book, I mean, as we talked about earlier, the number one predictor of your kid's spiritual life as an adult is the parents' spiritual life. Now, the number two predictor is the grandparents' spiritual life.

Allen Hunt:

So if faith is caught more than taught, they're most likely to catch the faith from their parents. The second most likely is to catch it from their grandparents. So grandparents have that spiritual role. In addition to that simple love, nurture, encouragement role. And I think for multiple reasons of modern life, it's been diminished substantially in a lot of families.

Matthew Kelly:

If you could experience one moment in Jesus' life, if you could be physically present for one moment in Jesus's life, which would you choose and why?

Allen Hunt:

Transfiguration. It's the ultimate mountaintop experience, man, you're still here, but you get a quick little window into eternity in heaven.

Matthew Kelly:

Powerful.

Allen Hunt:

What would you do? What would you pick?

Matthew Kelly:

It's a fascinating question because I ask it to almost all of my guests and I'm always surprised at the answer. When I first come up with the question, I had some concern that I would hear the same thing over and over again.

Allen Hunt:

And they're all different. Huh?

Matthew Kelly:

And I'm not sure we've heard ...

Allen Hunt:

What are two or three of the other answers?

Matthew Kelly:

So we've heard the crucifixion.

Allen Hunt:

Wow. I couldn't do that one.

Matthew Kelly:

We've heard the last supper. It's interesting. You say, "I couldn't do that." I think the assumption that you could do that is an interesting assumption. I think sometimes people don't think that through. One fascinating one I heard was to be there in the temple with Jesus, as a child.

Allen Hunt:

Interesting.

Matthew Kelly:

You know, and having a sense of, okay, what was the situation? What did he know? What was he sharing? How was he sharing it? And how aware was he of who he was and the role that he was about to play in the history of humanity?

Matthew Kelly:

So I think that I would choose just walking down the road with him and the disciples. I think I would choose a moment that does not appear in the gospels. You know, I have seven brothers, so eight boys growing up that just the experience of that was rich. And I mean, just so powerful in so many ways. And one of the things that was very much at the core of that was humor. And so I find it impossible to believe that Jesus did not have just an astounding sense of humor and that the humor of these guys walking down these dusty roads, I mean, it must have been just spectacular.

Allen Hunt:

That's great.

Matthew Kelly:

You know? So I think I would, I would pick a day on the road with the guys. Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

That's awesome. And you like to listen and observe anyway. And so just kind of being there and listening and observing all that. I can see that. I want that mountaintop experience, man.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah, me too. I like that one too.

Allen Hunt:

You can have two.

Matthew Kelly:

Thank you.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. You're welcome.

Matthew Kelly:

I appreciate that. If someone came to you and said, "Listen, Alan. You know, I want to grow in my interior life. I want to get closer to God," how would you encourage them to get started on that path?

Allen Hunt:

I'd go with one of the things that you say in ... I think in I Heard God Laugh and you may say it and Dig the Well Before You Get Thirsty, in both places, "Just show up." That the commitment to a daily routine to prayer will change your life. And it's not always going to be wonderful. It's not always going to be abundant. Just keep showing up. I think we over complicate this. We're all looking for the home run when we should just be looking to get on base. Yeah. And just keep showing up.

Matthew Kelly:

We're finishing the book No Regrets, and sort of the fourth quarter workbook that will go with that to help people navigate that. You look back on your life. Do you have regrets?

Allen Hunt:

I actually don't. And it's not because I've made a lot of great decisions. It's because it's interesting. Because Anita and I talk about this a lot and just like we talk about the fact that I never get tired of her. She always says to me, "One of the things that I love most about you is that you're not a regret kind of person." I don't look back and go, I wish I'd have dated that girl or I wish I'd had taken that job or I wish I'd had gone to that school or I wish ... I don't, I just never found out to be a healthy, fruitful way to. I look back. I've made a lot of bad decisions in my life. Oh god. How long have we got? But I look back at those and go, okay, what do I need to learn and how can they help me do better next time and how can they help me become a better version of myself? So I'm really not a regret person. I'm really not.

Matthew Kelly:

Part of that is, we live in a culture that wants to pick and choose and I think that affects the way we look at ourselves. Do you think that people forget that, okay, if you take that thing out of your life, you would not be the person you are today?

Allen Hunt:

Right.

Matthew Kelly:

You would not have the insight you have today. And do you feel that the book, No Regrets, is going to help people who feel like they do have regrets reconcile in a new way with that idea?

Allen Hunt:

I think that's a really good insight. I think we do live in sort of this imaginary perfectionist world, that if I could just go back and change this one thing, everything would be different. And I suspect you're the same way. I can think about lots of different things that I would say, "Gosh, that was, that was painful. Or that was a bad decision." But when I think about two or three steps later, things that came out of him, I go, okay, even though that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do at the time, here's how God used that.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, thinking about going to college, I didn't get to go to college where I wanted to go to college. My dad made me go to this place because it was free. He said, "I got you a free scholarship. You're going there." And you know, I could regret that, but that's the reason I met Anita. I don't go there, I go where I wanted to go. So I don't regret it. I mean, good for my dad for telling me to shut up, go where I'm telling you to go.

Allen Hunt:

So the book that was actually where the question was, I think it'll help. You know, the book's a fable. And the workbook's designed to help people take some of the teaching and ideas that are embedded in the fable and begin to apply them into their own lives. And so, actually that is one of my deepest hopes for this whole project that you and I've done with No Regrets and the workbook is that people who are still saddled with regrets, saddled with wounds, can come to a resolution of that and to see that God doesn't desire for them to live in that, particularly for their fourth quarters. Finish well. Don't finish resentful, don't finish bitter, don't finish begrudgingly. Finish well.

Allen Hunt:

And we show, in both the fable and in the workbook, I think, we show different ways to do, to do that. The main character goes through some of that as she kind of evaluates some things in her life. And then some of the exercises in the workbook I think are just incredibly helpful in that. So that is one of my deepest hopes there for people.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

Because you know, in our culture, we don't place a lot of value on finishing well.

Matthew Kelly:

No, we don't.

Allen Hunt:

The idea of dying well. You never talk about that, but there's a real beauty to that. There's a real dignity to that. There's real art to it. So yeah. That's my hope.

Matthew Kelly:

It's interesting because we talked about baseball early and we're talking about my boys and they love baseball so much at the moment and they're talking about, well, we should do this next year and we should do that next year. And, a lot of families have an opening day tradition. You know? And the last few weeks, I've been talking to the kids and saying, "Why don't we have a closing day tradition? Why don't we have a tradition in our family that we all go to the last baseball game for the Reds every year?" And, the boys are like, oh, that's ... why? You know? And just so many lessons around that. You know? Because it's easy to go on opening day. The possibilities are infinite. And it's hard to go on closing day, especially if your team ...

Allen Hunt:

...is 43 games out of first place. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Amen. You know? So it's the closing, the finishing well, is a very powerful insight you've had there. What message would you have for parents whose children have fallen away from the church, don't go to church anymore, or don't see it as relevant?

Allen Hunt:

The same words that Jesus had for the disciples in the boat. The same words that Pope John Paul II reminded us. Being not afraid. Don't despair. Do not despair. So I think the three words that I would have, wouldn't be be not afraid. Those would be the intro. The three words would be love, pray, invite. Embody love to those kids whose spiritual life you're still worried about. Don't embody finger wagging. Don't embody judgment. Embody love. Pray for them in a deep, personal way. And when the right moments come, either with a book, or with a special musical at your parish, or with a retreat that you're doing say, "Hey, Hey, I really like this book. I found it helpful. I thought you might too. Here's here's your copy. I'm going on this retreat. I'm excited about it. Any chance you'd like to come? I think it's going to be fascinating." Little non-threatening invitations. So love, pray, and invite.

Matthew Kelly:

Love it. Last three questions.

Allen Hunt:

All right.

Matthew Kelly:

If you could host a dinner potty, you can invite anybody from history, as many as you want. Who would you invite to your dinner? Potty.

Allen Hunt:

Oh, as many as I want?

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Allen Hunt:

Oh, wow.

Matthew Kelly:

It doesn't have to be one.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, obviously there's a lot of saints.

Matthew Kelly:

Yep.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, St. Anthony in the desert. Poof. St. Theresa of Avila. St. Margaret Mary. The apostle Paul.

Matthew Kelly:

These are all people who can't accept party invitations.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah. Well, but I get to dine with him every time I go to mass, my friend.

Matthew Kelly:

Amen.

Allen Hunt:

You know? Not kidding. Who I would invite, as I've thought about that, is Jackie and Rachel Robinson. I know in this day and age, it sounds like a trendy answer, but it's not. I've always been fascinated by Jackie Robinson. And I've also been fascinated by their marriage, how she was a full engaged partner in that journey. And a lot of people will disagree and they have the right to be wrong. But I think Jackie Robinson was the most influential American in the 20th century. Just like when you're trying to break up a huge chunk of ice, it takes a lot of blows, but there's one blow that you finally hit and a bunch of other fissures happen. And the rest of it breaks up more easily. That was Jackie Robinson at the right time, in the right place.

Allen Hunt:

And not in the political sphere, not in the government sphere, but in the baseball sphere. So he could kind of sneak in the back door of people's pastime and help them to rethink and re-envision stuff. And I've always been fascinated by him. And he died, I think, in 1970. So he's been gone 50 plus years. And Rachel, his wife, is still alive. Beautiful woman. A hundred years old, I think. I think she turned a hundred this year. And just the intelligence, the courage, the dignity of her and of their marriage and how they did that together. That'd be a fun dinner just for Anita and me to have dinner with Jackie and Rachel.

Matthew Kelly:

Amazing. What's your favorite possession? You know it's just a thing, but it just gives you great joy.

Allen Hunt:

Well, as you know, I'm not a stuff guy. Not big on my stuff, but I have a friend who loves me a lot and he knows that I like novels. And he knows that I'm from the mountains of Western North Carolina. And a few years ago, he gave me a copy of my favorite novel, which is Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. And he gave me an original version and it wasn't signed by Thomas Wolfe because Thomas has been dead a long time, but it's an original edition of Look Homeward, Angel, which is just a magnificent novel, that once you Wade through the first 400 or 600 pages and you get to the last 25 pages, the most brilliant last 25 pages of any book ever written. And he gave me that and it sits squarely on the shelf in my office where I can see it every day. And I really dig that book. I like books, man.

Matthew Kelly:

Me too.

Allen Hunt:

They're hard to write. Did I mention that?

Matthew Kelly:

You did mention that and I can resonate with that. Getting harder, actually.

Allen Hunt:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

We don't talk enough about heaven I don't think. When you think of life after death, the afterlife, heaven, what do you reflect upon?

Allen Hunt:

A, that part of the reason we don't talk about, cause we don't really get it and we have to acknowledged that. I mean, we're talking about something that it's beyond our grasp. Part of the reason why I go to the transfiguration, because it gives you just that little bit of that earthly sense of when the two worlds come together.

Allen Hunt:

But I think it goes back to what you were asking me earlier about how does God amaze me? And I think it's the idea of God's immense love and thinking about heaven as an ocean of love. And it's so incomprehensible to us, but to think about being absorbed and this is what we were made for. It's not just sort of the next place. This is our destiny. This is what we were made for in the first. We weren't made for this.

Allen Hunt:

These are the stepping stones to that. And so that's the fulfillment, the completion, the perfection, of our lives, of creation, and to be in pure, unadulterated, unconditional, unwavering, eternal love. To be in that, even though we can't comprehend it, there's something deep inside of us that goes, wow. I think that is what I'm made for.

Allen Hunt:

There's a truth inside of us that goes ... and so you go to funerals and you hear about ... I went to one the other day, this guy's a trucker and they say he was an asphalt cowboy and now he is trucking down the streets of golden heaven. Another one I went to, grandma was a great Italian cook and now she's making meatballs for Jesus. Well, I think there's more to it than that.

Allen Hunt:

I mean, I get that. But we're leaving all this behind for what we're really made for. As great as those things were, as great as a trucker as he was, and as great as a cook as she was, we're going for what we're really, really made for. And it is incomprehensible. So we try to put other words around it and we can't do it justice. But again, it goes back to that sacred heart of Jesus for me, that prodigal son, and that God is love. And as my confessor told me one time, "Alan, you really have no idea how much God loves you." And he is right. I don't, and I'm afraid we don't. But I know I don't.

Matthew Kelly:

Fantastic conversation.

Allen Hunt:

It's good stuff, man.

Matthew Kelly:

Thank you so much for being with us.

Allen Hunt:

It is a sacred privilege. So thank you for having me.


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