Beginning the Year Well

On last week’s podcast, Dr. Dan Allender reflected on the end of the year, looking at what is required to be attentive and to bless what God is showing us through the past year. This week, we’re turning to the New Year. Dan discusses what it means to start a year with the same care and intentionality that goes into ending a year well.

“Happy New Year. And may it be—2016—the year of the Lord’s favor. The question is: How can we make this year as good and sweet and profitable as humanly possible?”

Dan returns to some of the same categories he talked about last week: collecting data, highlighting and writing, asking questions, listening, and ultimately, blessing and surrendering. This means looking at a calendar and thinking about the next work year, travel plans, financial commitments, family matters, and everything else that’s coming up, all while asking big questions and being willing to listen for new insights.

“Anything that you do not dream, you will not execute, and therefore you will be submitting yourself to, in many ways, the vicissitudes and whims of those around you, the world around you. That is not a profitable way to go into the year.”

For Dan, looking ahead to the new year means preparing for the end of his year-long academic sabbatical and a return to teaching at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology—not to mention a major book launch, a groundbreaking new conference with John Eldredge, Restoration of the Heart, and The Allender Center’s full slate of conferences and workshops. All of this work is life-giving for Dan, and intimately connected to his central calling, but engaging this work well means being able to say no to other things. It means recognizing the core themes that tie together his dreams, plans, and calling for the year, and then using those themes to guide his day-to-day planning and decision making throughout the year.

“In some ways, the novelty and newness of the year has to be held with the reality that if I’m going to accomplish all that is ahead, I will have to say the word ‘no’ hundreds and hundreds of times, to indeed be able to say the word ‘yes’ in a way that bears wisdom and awareness of the cost.”

Identifying those core themes, which flow out of the central calling of our lives, can be a daunting task. Dan says that, as Christians, our calling always comes down to our own unique embodiment of Jesus’ proclamation in Luke 4, to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

“All of us have a calling to the brokenhearted, because we’re brokenhearted. All of us have a calling to those who are in bondage, because we all know something of bondage. And we are all called to invite, to address, to heal the blind, because we know our own blindness.”

That is our hope—in all of our conferences, workshops, and training programs at The Allender Center, in our graduate education at The Seattle School, and as individuals committed to restoration, our hope for 2016 is to be aligned ever more fully with the ongoing work of proclaiming hope, healing, and freedom in places of trauma, abuse, and oppression.

“So yes: may there be great vacation plans, but may they be about a larger calling. May there be lots of sweet times with good friends, but for what purpose? To what end? […] Is there a larger purpose, a larger calling, a larger sense of—this is what this year holds. And whatever it holds, it is the year of the Lord’s favor. And may it be a remarkable year for you, for your family, for a sense of how you have been uniquely called to live your story for the One who has invited you into His story.”