September 19, 2018

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the silly, made-up Talk Life a Pirate Day rolls around. If you enjoy acting like a buccaneer, then I say, have at it. For your trouble, Long John Silver’s is offering all you scallywags who take on the “ahoy, mateys” dialect a free Deep Fried Twinkie at participating locations. If you dress the part, you’ll get a free Fish N’ Fry combo as well.

Would it surprise you to know there are pirates found in the National Park Service? Aye, aye! Here’s just a few places where you’ll discover tales of nefarious blackguards who trolled the seas:

Six sites make up this park in the southern part of the state: Barataria Preserve is a 23,000-acre wetlands; Chalmette Battlefield is the place to learn about the War of 1812‘s Battle of New Orleans; the Acadian and Prairie Acadian Cultural Centers allow you to learn about the Cajun people; the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center offers bayou boat tours; and the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans is where Lafitte had his headquarters.

Not a lot is know about this pirate turned patriot turned pirate again. Lafitte called himself a privateer (basically, a pirate with government protection to capture enemy ships, usually used as a license to achieve wealth and dominance by less legal means; buccaneer is the Cajun slang for privateer, and today we use pirate, privateer and buccaneer interchangeably). He illegally smuggled goods and slaves into Louisiana, and was arrested twice by U.S. authorities, but escaped prosecution. During the War of 1812, though, General Andrew Jackson took Lafitte up on his offer to help fight the British in exchange for pardon for his band of men, called Baratarians. President James Madison granted the request, but Lafitte returned to piracy. What eventually happened to him is unknown.

Edward Teach (or perhaps Thatch), better known as the infamous Blackbeard, started out as a British privateer, then took up piracy in the Caribbean and the Atlantic coast of North America in the early 18th century. He burnished his menacing image as a man who stole cargo and terrorized passengers and seamen alike by growing his hair and beard long. He met a gruesome end at Ocracoke Inlet just a few short years into his disreputable career.

Captain Samuel Bellamy‘s ship, the Whydah, capsized off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717 with an almost total loss of life, including that of the captain. “Black Sam,” who earned his nickname because he wore his black hair tied with a black satin bow instead of adopting the fashion of powdered wigs, preferred to be called the “Robin Hood of the Sea.” The former slave ship supposedly contained a fortune in looted treasure. It was discovered in 1984, and its artifacts are at the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth. Just this year, archaeologists believe they may have uncovered Bellamy’s remains.

I always thought Sir Francis Drake was strictly a good guy, rescuing the first Roanoke Colony from starvation and attack, and taking them back to England. But before and after that, he was a thorn in Spain’s side, harassing its Caribbean colonies and looting its ships around the world. I suppose that makes him a privateer–along with Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville–even if he did defeat the Spanish Armada, which lead to England’s dominance on land and sea.  Oh, the things you never learn in school…

Pirates of the Caribbean isn’t just a concept for the movies–the area’s history is rife with tales of pillaging and mayhem. The Francis Drake Channel separates the American and British Virgin Islands. The celebrated Captain Kidd and “Black Sam” prowled the waters here. Two sites found within the park may have been 17th century pirate hideouts.

Pirates make for exciting stories, and if talking and/or dressing like a pirate gets you free food, more power to you. But theft is not fun for the victim. Thieves steal, kill and destroy, like pirates did long ago (and still do, in some parts of the world). If you’ve ever had your home or car broken into, or been accosted on the street, you know the fear, anger and anxiety the incident leaves in its wake.

In the opening verses of John chapter 10, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd; the writer of the book of Hebrews says He’s the “great Shepherd” (13:20), and Peter calls Him both the Chief Shepherd and “the Shepherd and Guardian of [our] souls” (1 Peter 5:4, 2:25). Isaiah foretells this shepherd’s coming (40:11), and most of us know Psalm 23 is all about the Lord being our shepherd. The word picture is that of a guide, protector and constant companion, who not only watches over us but provides for us. He gives us what we need, and showers us with an abundance of love, mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:4-7).

And here’s the best news: Once we’re His, He keeps us forever, and promises no one can snatch us away.

If you’ve wandered from the Good Shepherd and imagine He’s so disgusted with you that He’d never take you back, think again. He gave His life for you, so why wouldn’t He rejoice when you’re found again? If you think you don’t need a shepherd, well, you’ll never find a surer, steadier leader among all the “isms” or self-help gurus out there. As my pastor says, Jesus did all the work and we get all the benefits. Where else will you find a deal like that?!

In this life, we’ll always have break-ins and thefts. Our earthly treasures–material possessions, money, health, jobs, people and even our emotions–can disappear or take a nose dive in a heartbeat. False gods and teachers and scammers offer empty promises. But no one or thing or circumstance can steal our security once God grabs hold of us.

Good news on a day devoted to pirates!

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