Faithful In Adversity

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Report For 2006


This commuter marriage, with Janalee staying in
Illinois for her sinus health while I try to get our Maryland
house ready to sell, has already given me material for
several columns, just from what I've heard and experienced
while travelling back and forth between house and wife.

After spending Christmas with Janalee, I headed back
east so as to be back in the Baltimore area before New
Year's Eve. On the way past Bloomington, Illinois, I did
something I _never_ do anymore: I picked up a hitchhiker.
People scoff at people saying God led them to some action,
but I say God led me to pick up this man and take him as
far as Indianapolis as he sought to get to Alabama where
his brother lives. The fact that I'm writing this attests
that he didn't murder me. I intend to go back to NOT
picking up hitchhikers, but this time was God's will. (Since
the main theme of this weblog is loyalty, I have to admit
that my action could be regarded as a betrayal of my
obligations to Janalee, since if the risk I took had led to
my death she would be left in a bad position. But I was
obeying God--the highest of loyalties--and He saw to it
that no harm befell me.)

This was one of those cases where an article almost
writes itself, because my passenger had quite a story to
tell. At least a few details are subject to verification, if I
ever bother to trace them; but in any case he told a good
story...and I didn't want to leave a man who looked older
than myself at the mercy of the snowstorm I believed
was following on my heels. (He turned out to be younger
than I--but I imagine being severely injured in a tornado
spun off by Hurricane Katrina might age you, and he
said that this had happened to him.)

In Scotland, it seems, there is a family called Keenan,
some of whose members came to the United States and
dropped the last two letters of their surname when they
immigrated to the United States. (My subsequent effort
to locate the clan in Scotland seems to show that they
can be found around Glasgow and Paisley.) The first of
the "Keens" to achieve some fame in America was Colonel
Marion Keen, Senior, of the 5th Alabama Infantry in the
Civil War. After his side lost, Colonel Keen moved west,
prospecting for gold in Colorado and meeting the famous
gunfighters Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson.

Marion Keen, Junior was born in Tucson, Arizona.
Later, in World War One, he served in the U.S. Army's
historic Rainbow Division. He lived to see his son become
a jet pilot. That son, David Keen, Senior, flew propellor-
driven Wildcat and Corsair fighter planes in World War
Two after surviving the Pearl Harbor bombing. Staying in
the Navy, David was commanding officer of the Pensacola
Naval Air Station for awhile, and learned to fly the two-
seater F-14 Tomcat jet when it came out. So I was told by
my passenger, David Keen, Junior--who said of his mother,
"She kept the home fires burning while everybody else was
making history."

My David told me that he "served in the Army to get
away from the Navy." (I told him, "You didn't get _very_
far away from it," as I showed him my Navy-retiree ID
card.) Raised as a Baptist, he had had conscience problems
about the Scripture "Thou shalt not kill." He, like many
soldiers, would have been spared the needless guilt feelings
if someone had just told him what hardly any preachers
get around to telling people--that THE ACTUAL HEBREW
TEXT of that commandment, as opposed to the usual flawed
English translation, only forbids MURDER, and does NOT
treat all taking of human life as automatically being
murder. Since late is better than never, I explained this
to him as we drove along I-74 toward Indianapolis.

In the 1970's, David played lead guitar for the middle-
of-the-road Christian singing group "Truth," recording on
the Integrity label. (This being a time when many Christians
were carrying residual hippie pacifism from the 1960's, he
didn't discuss his Army service with his bandmates.) He
then became a Baptist minister for several years. When I
asked him what doctrinal and social issues he felt the
church needed to pay more attention to--telling him that
whatever his answer was, it would find itself being reported
in my online column--he said that the doctrinal priorities
would be "what Jesus said about loving, giving and
forgiving," while the social issue needing more attention
would be homelessness.

I told David about my father's Air Corps adventures in
World War Two (including how Dad thwarted a Japanese
fighter that tried to shoot down his unarmed transport
plane), and about my mother's work for a local-history
museum in Illinois as a tour guide and article writer, to
illustrate that, even in a world of stupid music videos, there
still is an audience for history. I told him I hoped he could
preserve some of his family's history, with help if he didn't
feel up to writing it down unassisted. And I gave him my
my e-mail address, asking him to e-mail me and let me
know he made it safely to Mobile, Alabama. As I recall, he
said that his family grows oranges there on land that used
to be a cotton plantation.

If I ever get that e-mail from David Keen, Junior, I'll
send him a copy of this article, my final "Empowered For
Freedom" column of 2006. Big things are going on all
around us as 2007 approaches; but the world is still made
up of the individuals in it. And when you travel America's
roads, you meet some of those individuals--individuals
whom terrorists would enjoy killing for the fun of it, but
individuals for whom Jesus Christ shed His blood in
sacrificial atonement, then rose again to offer them
eternal life in His Father's Kingdom. (He makes the
same offer to the terrorists, but they aren't interested;
they prefer the version where they strut into an eternal
harem with Christian and Jewish blood on their hands.)
I hope there will still be some time granted to America,
in 2007 and beyond, for us to have the freedom to bear
witness for Jesus.

Let me share with you a saying I shared with David
as we drove: "God created men because He loves stories."
I love them too. I'll be including my hitchhiker on the
prayer list tonight, as Janalee and I pray the New Year
in together over the phone.

Yours for Jesus and America,

P.O.1 Joseph Richard Ravitts, U.S.N. Ret.