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KEEPING THE FAITH | Facing an enemy called 'Average'

"I should never accept anything less than my best," became a guiding principle. Why settle and accept less than what is within your reach? 
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

In 1978, Joseph Sculli, my seventh-grade math teacher at Adams Junior High School, sent a deficiency report to my home.  

I was earning an overall B in the class, yet he reasoned that my potential was really at an A-level performance.

I often assert that Tyler Perry‘s Madea character that he brings to life on stage and film actually is the embodiment of my own beloved grandmother. For those blessed to have known her, I can attest I am not embellishing by any means. There are so many similarities to mention — the gold Cadillac, the drag on the cigarette which was actually never smoked, the sass, wit and wisdom.

While my grandmother’s cherished St. Louis Slugger baseball bat was her preferred weapon of choice, the visual threat was more than enough, and she never had to use it except for its actual intended purpose. Both personalities possessed a hardcore exterior that protected the soft loving nature. The roar of a lion, the peace of a dove and gentle as a lamb. I hope you get the picture!  

Well, when my grandmother opened the mail and read the report stating that I was performing at an unacceptable level, she reasoned this required a different kind of intervention.  Grandma came to the school immediately — and unannounced. She was outfitted sporting an ensemble that was complete with peeling pleather white go-go boots, wide-legged gauchos, plaid poncho and a blonde wig deliberately placed upon her head to expose her natural gray hair underneath.

Grandma arrived at the school and I was summoned to the office. Murmurs traveled around the school quickly about the uniquely attired woman looking for me. When I entered the office, there stood Andrew Fedor, the assistant principal, Mr. Sculli and my grandmother.

Mr. Sculli cited that he was “duty bound” to convey to the family my “deficiencies” in his class. He reiterated that there was no reason that I should settle for anything less than an A with my ability. While I should have been honored or impressed, I was actually still reeling in shock and awe.

In true Madea fashion, my free-styling rapping grandmother declared, "You eat my bread, I'll beat your head!" along with some other admonishments for my immediate consideration. Just think what Madea would say in those moments! 

To my surprise, Mr. Fedor, the assistant principal responded, "You're my kind of mother!" I was not going to correct him and say that's my grandma! I just wanted the whole episode to end. All this drama for a B grade. Needless to say, I earned an A overall for the grading period. Not bragging, in fact, I willingly admit having a healthy dose of fear and respect!

That life lesson was far more impactful overall than any mathematical equations and formulas. "I should never accept anything less than my best," became a guiding principle. Why settle and accept less than what is within your reach? 

There is a favorite book among my library collection entitled “An Enemy Called Average” by John Mason, published in 1990. It challenges the reader to go beyond the accepting bare minimum in one’s performance or expectations. The book contains 52 gems that are akin to a weekly prescription which gives you doses of truth. Like Mr. Sculli, this publication challenges me to stir up the gifts from within. I re-read it often to remind myself of its timeless wisdom. 

My personal favorite is the directive within the book is to “Stop every day and look at the size of God!” I recognize and understand that God is greater than any challenge we experience. There is nothing new under the sun. Whether it’s a pandemic, human conflict, natural or man-made disasters, you name it — God’s still greater! 

Not only is He great, but those who understand His nature can be benefactors of His greatness. Ephesians 3:20 declares, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think.”

This is not to be boastful or arrogant by any means but testifying to its simple truth: God continues to prove Himself to me in a demonstrative way. He reminds me to always think bigger. When I make my requests known to Him, it is a trusting relationship that He is able to help me in every area of my life. I realize, with God, my dreams are not too lofty dreams and visions elusive. 

God's power works within us by empowering, enabling and equipping us to accomplish, in our own efforts, which otherwise would be deemed impossible. 

I even have a disclaimer, "God is GREATER than my checkbook balance! - Ephesians 3:20" printed on my check drafts directly above the signature line. Why? Simply because it is true! It’s a visible reminder to me and those who receive the instrument of God’s greatness. 

Dr. Tony Evans, the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas recently said, “Faith does not always make sense, but it can make miracles!” Despite how unlikely the situation appears, I have come to expect and believe that my prayers and submission to God will produce the desired end! 

And as a postscript to last week’s article “Don’t Count Me Out,” please make sure you and your family are included in the 2020 U.S. Census count. The U.S. Constitution requires a count of all people living in the United States every 10 years. The Census count does not differentiate between citizens and non-citizens: ALL people living within the nation are included in the count. 

Census results impact decisions at all levels of government. The census data is used to determine congressional districts. The data also determines funding and delivery of many federal programs. The resulting benefits wide-ranging — from education, business and enterprise incentives, transportation, and public safety improvements. 

Conversely, a flawed census data can have real and lasting consequences. The final count will impact decisions for the next decade within our community. The Census’ Sept. 30 deadline is rapidly approaching, for further information or to participate, visit

As we approach the fourth quarter of 2020, I pray that you will “not get weary in well doing.” Although the challenges of 2020 continue to be demanding I believe it is preparing us for 2021 and beyond. We must therefore resolve to keep praying, keep believing, keep trusting and yes keep the faith.

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise