Give Grace

grace-the-gift-of-grace-web

Tom Matson wrote in his book, “UNFROZEN: A Father’s Reflections on a Brain Tumor Journey:”

Grace: a word and associated actions I’ve never been able to comprehend. I don’t think our minds can fully grasp grace. I know many people could define grace differently, but for me, I see it as receiving love when we don’t necessarily deserve it. It’s love when we least expect it, and it’s love when we have done nothing to receive it.

I use this word often in my work as a Vice President. Particularly when working in a sector of higher education where students struggle to make ends meet, get to class, eat, fit in, and support their families. A sector where employees show up to do their best, but don’t always get there, or who are constantly challenged by shrinking resources and battered by the tides of the changing sea that is higher education. All of this is compounded by the ugly realities that plague us as a society, including all the ism’s we hear about and experience daily. What I realize is still missing in so many places is grace.

If we could all just give a little more grace, and be more full of grace, then it makes life more bearable. As a Christian, I believe that grace and mercy sit at the core of the love that saves us. If it were not for these twins we would be lost. So I often wonder how I can give grace in my interactions, as I teach acceptance in the work I do. I call on my colleagues who are engaged in the oftentimes thankless and tough work of education to give each other grace as we struggle through this life. Sometimes its the only thing that we have left, and its the only thing that keeps us trying despite the difficulty.
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I Do It For The Roses

“While strolling through the fields of time, there’s many things to see;

But nature is the greatest sight, that there could ever be.

The greatest of them all to me is how the world was formed;

And why the roses have to live each day among the thorns.”

RoseImage provided by bitrebels.com

My work places me in challenging positions. I have to have conversations with faculty members, students, and other employees about how to navigate difficult conversations, how to accommodate students so they can be successful, and how to see the humanity in people even when they don’t want or have to. It can be exhausting. I question why I do it, and how or if I will sustain doing it for the long run. I’m then reminded of an important reality, as I often am, through the gift of song. When the lyrics are good – I’m good. No matter the genre of music, I find a message that keeps me going. In this case I found it in Bluegrass. Having been raised in the Southern part of the U.S., I can appreciate some good Bluegrass.

The song A Rose Among The Thorns made me remember that one of the most beautiful flowers in the world, the Rose, exists amongst thorns. Metaphorically, good people, and indeed the good in people, are much like roses amongst the thorns. I don’t get to choose to be offended by the thorns and thereby lose an opportunity to appreciate the roses. I don’t get to be afraid of the thorns, and let that distract me from the beauty of people, or the value they bring to this world. There is good in people and bad in people. There are good people and there are bad people. You can’t have one without the other, and one shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the other. I will remember in my daily work that despite the selfishness, racism, bias, and bigotry in the world…I will continue to do what I do for the roses.

Grace

I’ve commented a few times recently via social media how amazing critical colleagues are. These are people who will challenge you, call you out, help you grow and learn in very authentic ways. One such college, who works in Pennsylvania and co-facilitates with me at various leadership conferences across the country, engaged me in great reflection about the concept of Grace. He told me of his friend Tom Matson who wrote in his book, “UNFROZEN: A Father’s Reflections on a Brain Tumor Journey” who had this to say about grace:

Grace: a word and associated actions I’ve never been able to comprehend. I don’t think our minds can fully grasp grace. I know many people could define grace differently, but for me, I see it as receiving love when we don’t necessarily deserve it. It’s love when we least expect it, and it’s love when we have done nothing to receive it.

I use this word often in my work as a Chief Diversity Officer. What I realized was missing in my college, and indeed in all communities struggling with racism and other forms of oppression, is grace. As a Christian, grace and mercy, sit at the core of the love that saves our souls. If it were not for these twins, we would be lost. So I often wonder how I can give grace in my interactions, as I teach acceptance in the work I do. I call on my colleagues who are engaged in tough work around oppression, education, equity, and justice to give each other grace as we struggle through this life. Sometimes its the only thing that we have left, and its the only thing that keeps us trying despite the difficulty.
Dr. Anthony

Peace, Be Still

Stand strong despite the storm...
Stand strong despite the storm

I’m having trouble finding peace right now. So maybe I’m not the best person to write about the necessity of peace in your life. Or maybe I am. I’m going to talk about what I know I should be doing in these tumultuous moments, and hopefully through that, we can all get closer to where we need to be.

As a Christian I go first to Christ to find my peace (at least I should). I’m reminded of how despite the storm raging outside of the ship, Jesus was sleeping soundly inside. I’m reminded how everyone around him were completely melting down, in an actual storm that threatened their lives. I’m reminded of how they did this despite literally being in the presence of God. I’m reminded how I do the same thing everyday. I have so much around me that reminds me of God’s peace and goodness, yet I find myself feeling overwhelmed by my personal storm.

So I am re-committing to what I know about storms, and how to get through them. Here is what I know from personal experience:

  • Storms happen for a reason – wait it, stay faithful, and think about the sunshine on the other side
  • Storms are temporary – even when it doesn’t feel like they are
  • God is still in control – He’s not the list bit rattled or surprised by what seems to be out of the blue
  • Other people are experiencing the same storm, or a similar storm  – I can seek support and solace in my relationships until it’s over
  • The last storm didn’t take me out, neither will this one, so I still have a lot of value on this Earth.

So whether you are challenged by a difficult relationship, or assignment, or job, or loss, hang in there. If for no other reason than to say you did, hang in there. Share this with someone who may need it, and let me know if we can help each other through our storms.

Then I Looked Around

I am thankful for 2014. There were times in 2013 that I asked that oh so selfish question…you know the one. The one that assumes that you can’t have problems, and that bad things aren’t supposed to happen to you. I asked…Why MeWhy did my aunt have to die? Why did my fraternity brother, and two of my former students, all 33 or younger have to die? Why did my mother get that? Why did she do this? Why did he say that? Why did I lose this? Why is life seeming to crumble around me? Then I looked around. I looked up at the roof covering my head. I looked down into the face of my daughter – the true love of my life. I looked beside me and saw my friends and family, and heard their words of support and wisdom. I looked at my phone to see the technology to which I am privileged to have access.

The reality is that I have my senses, and I can still extend love and support to those around me. Despite the horrors and difficulty of 2013, God has still favored me in numerous ways. Despite my own proclivities and hang ups, I am still shown mercy. The greatest grace I know is understanding that the sadness and darkness passes. It’s OK to dwell in it for a short time, but I have to change the question. Maybe I (and you) should be asking “why not me?” I am resilient, well resourced, and well supported. I have been blessed with so much, shouldn’t I expect to be challenged and tested in this life, just as everyone else is? I think the answer is of course.

So I will start everyday with this: there are two roads we can choose to go down; two realities we can choose to acknowledge. I choose to go down the path that reflects on the blessings in spite of the curses, and I choose to acknowledge that in reality – I’m very much so OK. I am blessed and highly favored. And if you have the privilege of reading this, then you are too.Two Paths Share this with someone who might need it, and Happy New Year!

Dr. Anthony

Gratitude

It has been months since I posted last, and that’s unfortunate. My life has taken many turns since September or so of 2012. Without doing a bunch of catching up, I’d rather just pick back up with creating content through sharing my insights and ah-has. Sharing is the least I can do. This post is about gratitude.

I am sitting in Boulder, CO (actually Louisville, CO – ironically enough) with a person I value a great deal, working on something we care a great deal about. I am grateful that I have a friend like this. I am grateful that I have a partner at home that allows and enables me to explore, experiment, challenge myself, and grow. I am grateful for the people in this community that shared their time with me today. And I am grateful to God and my family that has given me the strength and permission to be where I am in my life. I am grateful to have choices, options, and the sense to take advantage of those two things.

Spend some time thinking about what you are grateful for. Name it, own it, and never forget the alternative. Mindfulness about the blessings we have make the challenges in our life seem manageable. So why don’t we all spend more time being grateful? Start now.

Dr. Anthony

You wanna know what love is?

This post is a bit selfish – it’s not really for anyone but me and my amazing partner, Hannah Katharine Anthony. But if leading by example is good, then loving by example must be even better.

Today is our fourth anniversary. Some say there is nothing significant about four years, it’s just another year gone by. But when you’re married to someone like her, you know that every second you are together is indescribable, and that every second apart is like dying a thousand deaths – even when you don’t want to admit it.

I know I don’t say it enough in public spaces, but today I have to. You see I’m full of love today for so many reasons. Even though I’m away from my wife today on our anniversary, it is because I’m doing something else I love. Tomorrow is “Day 0” of the LeaderShape Institute, and I have the privilege and honor of leading here at the University of Cincinnati. For those who may think its weird that I’m spending time away from my wife during our anniversary, or for those who may think I’ll be in the dog house because of this; you don’t know the extent of my wife’s love. So if you’re looking for love, or you’ve ever wondered what it is, let me help you out – as I have one of the best teachers around:

Love is…

– seeing the best in someone who puts up their worse on a regular basis

– loving in spite of…period

– doing something, anything, to make your partner happy

– sacrifice, and communication, and pain

– being vulnerable; more vulnerable than you’ve ever been before

– putting up with your exact opposite, and never once complaining about who they are

– selfless, and caring, and so patient

All of these things embody the person I married four years ago, and there is nothing at all I would change about her, who she is, what she does, or how she loves. She is perfect in almost every way. Her only fault may be her unwavering commitment to me. So if it’s not clear by now, I’m going to let Ray Charles speak for me about my best friend in his song Talkin’ ‘Bout You:

Who is my friend, when all friends are gone
You always defend me, if I’m right or wrong
Who knows how to love me, in my way
Who’s always there, every night and day

Who is the sugar in my tea
When I’m in trouble, who sees about me
I’m talkin’ ’bout you, I do mean you

I thank God for you Hannah, and need to remember to do it more. I love you – and it wouldn’t be an anniversary without a few musical selections for your listening pleasure. I’ll always be by your side, and you are truly the love of my life. Happy Anniversary!