Texas Independence Day – This Day in History, March 2nd

Today is a very special day: the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence Day.  Therefore, out of reverence for my home state, I would like to share a bit of cool history (this is not an oxymoron) with you.

In 1836 Texas was embroiled in a several-year-long struggle with the Mexican Government, mostly involving the dramatic dictatorial centralization of the Mexican federal government under Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.  Shots were first fired in Gonzales in October of 1835, but in the first couple of months of 1836 Santa Anna marched the Mexican military into Texas, bent on crushing this runaway rebellion led by ‘Texican’ immigrants.  As he marched toward San Antonio de Bexar (modern day San Antonio), a band of some 180 volunteers gathered at the Mission San Antonio de Valero – now known as the Alamo to fend off the approaching Mexican forces, which outnumbered them at least ten to one.  The ensuing thirteen-day siege of the Alamo began February 23, 1836 and lasted until the final assault on March 6th.

On March 1st during that fateful siege, a delegation of leaders met at what would become the first capital of the Republic of Texas – Washington on the Brazos.  Though preceded by months of debate and disagreement over how to respond to the increasingly tyrannical Mexican government, a Declaration of Independence was drafted and officially signed by all 59 delegates on March 2nd, officially establishing the Republic of Texas – David G. Burnet would serve interim president.  Two days later Sam Houston would be appointed commander of the Texas Army and would lead his forces in the Runaway Scrape following the fall of the Alamo until the fateful battle at San Jacinto.

Houston would go on to become the first elected president of the Republic of Texas in December 1836, and would serve several more terms as president, state governor, and U.S. senator following Texas’ annexation into the United States.

The Republic of Texas existed just shy of a decade – from March 1836 to late December 1845, when the United States approved its annexation as the 28th state in the union.

So join me in celebrating a unique and very special piece of history today.  Eat a steak, drive a truck, say y’all… whatever you do, wherever you live, have a happy Texas Independence Day.

If you want to read more, check out these links:

Convention of 1836 (where the Declaration was signed):

Texas Declaration of Independence:

Timeline of the Texas Revolution:

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Another year is behind me and behold, I am twenty-seven as of today.  Life as of late has been quite the interesting experience, and I figured I’d catch up on what I’ve been doing and where God has been leading me these past few months.

While I was 26 I had a good time – In the last year I graduated from seminary, moved to my new home – Springfield, Missouri, and I’ve joined a sweet covenant community of believers at LifePoint Church.  Also, for the first time since I had first moved to Fort Worth, I have my dog Jack with me, and it’s good to have him around.  I’ve lived in Rogersville for the past six months, and the country living has been good.  I experienced fireflies for the first time, and enjoyed a real fall – the trees changing colors are gorgeous here in southern Missouri.

As far as employment goes, I went from being a glorified telemarketer to doing customer service with Wyndham, and it has been nothing short of a huge blessing.  I’ve enjoyed consistent paychecks, excellent benefits, great opportunities for advancement, and gracious management that have all allowed me the peace that a good job affords.  God has also seen fit to bring many good and godly friends into my same workplace, and in so doing has built an atmosphere of missional engagement, encouragement, and deep camaraderie.  I am thankful to not be depressed at work everyday, thankful for not having to drive to Branson, and thankful that I am both encouraged and challenged to do my best for the company that I work for.  Though my first few months in Springfield were rough to say the least, God has now seen fit to bless me with a solid, steady job for this season.

My new home church (LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO) has also been a huge blessing.  The elders there are both wise and godly men who lead their families well.  I have had the joy of learning from them as an elder-in-training for the past several months, and God has also given me an opportunity to use my gifts to encourage and sharpen the congregation.  I have spoken to Apex, the high school student ministry on two occasions, and along with writing several other documents for and with the elders, I will also teach/lead a session at our upcoming Community Group Leaders’ retreat in January.  So God has also seen fit to use me for public ministry in several ways, and I’m very excited for this next year to see how we grow together, and how I can be used of God for the betterment of his Bride.

My personal ministry has also been going well – I’ve been leading a dear younger friend (Logan) through the process of preparing for marriage, growing in the knowledge and application of the Scriptures, and in spiritual leadership.  We’ve had a great time thus far, and I’m both honored to be his mentor, and excited to see him grow and make more disciples himself.  I am further honored to stand at his side during his wedding in April, which will be a great joy.  I’ve known quite a few solid guys in my day, but there are very few that I have more respect for than my dear friend Logan.  He has shown me much about my own sin and walked through it with me, and he has been a gracious disciple as we’ve met and sharpened each other.

Along those same lines, I have been asked to officiate the wedding ceremony of another set of dear friends, Corey and his beautiful fiancée Alli.  I was overjoyed to accept, and am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next few months leading up to their wedding day.  Corey is a dear brother, and when I think back over the long hours of conversation we’ve had about marriage, I believe he will be nothing less than a godly, Christ-emulating, God-glorifying husband for his bride-to-be.

Though things as of late have been going quite well and a calm and comfort has found its way into my life for now, I have noticed a somewhat unsettling trend in the “things I never thought I’d do” category of my life.  For example, I never thought I’d have a job with a cubicle – I have now had two in a row.  I never thought I could have a job where I would be on the phone everyday all day, much less one in telemarketing – but I did serve my time there as well.  I had hoped to never turn in my Texas driver’s license – I have done that (with a bit of reservation).  At one time in my life I never thought I’d move out of Texas, much less enjoy life in another state – I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Missouri, and look forward to the next few years with these dear and precious people.  I also (and feel free to verify this with our lead planter Greg Gaumer) never thought I would plant a church.  I entertained thoughts of re-planting or revitalizing a church, but never planting and starting from the ground up.  I am now a joyful church planter and am passionate about men who feel called to plant churches.  It has been a longer process of thinking church planting appropriate for someone with my gifts, but I feel that God has indeed called me to be a part of a church planting team, and I’m excited to serve him in this way.  It is not an easy calling, but it is a precious one.  It requires of me much endurance, patience, and faith in God’s sovereign plan rather than my own selfish wants and preferences.

The past five years have been fairly challenging and have seen many trials come and go.  Fear, uncertainty, and doubt have plagued me and I have seen my fair share of sorrow.  I don’t know exactly what God has in store for me in the coming months, but I must say that he has chosen to bless me and bring me a certain kind of peace and security as I begin my 27th year under the sun.

I do praise God for this respite, knowing that my journey is far from complete.  I pray that I remember this season of blessing when joy is not as readily accessible and his praises are more seldom found on my lips.

I share a birthday with:
Franz Ferdinand (1863 – whose assassination began World War I),
Charles Wesley (1707 – hymn writer and brother of John Wesley),
Ty Cobb
(1886 – baseball player),
Keith Richards (1943 – of the Rolling Stones),
Steven Spielberg (1947 – amazing director),
Ray Liotta
(1954 – actor),
Brad Pitt
(1965 – actor),
Katie Holmes (1978 – actress),
Christina Aguilera
(1980 – singer).

A bit of trivia for December 18th:
In 1918 the House of Representatives approved the 18th Amendment, enacting Prohibition; in 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.

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D-Day + 66 years – This Day in History, June 6th

Today is a big day for me as an (amateur) historian, a Texas Aggie (whoop!), and as an American.

One of the most iconic moments in United States history occurred 66 years ago today:  the amphibious assault on the Bayeux region in Normandy, France which began the Allied invasion of Europe (‘Operation Overlord’) in World War II.

Late the night before on June 5th, several airborne divisions landed behind enemy lines and got into position for the main assault the following morning.  Early in the morning on June 6, 1944, 5,000 vessels carrying over 160,000 Allied soldiers (nearly 75,000 Americans) landed at various beachheads along the northern French coast.  Though it was by no means the beginning of American involvement in World War II (we’d already fought in the Pacific and North African theaters), it did represent the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

A whole host of factors came together in a perfect storm to make the D-Day landing a success, including: Hitler sleeping late because he was coming down from the moral equivalent of a crystal meth high, a brilliant fake-out involving General George S. Patton and a cardboard army in southern England (‘Operation Quicksilver’), and a daring assault involving a 100 ft. climb up a rocky cliffs under enemy fire.

Though there are many cool stories surrounding the D-Day invasion, I’d like to tell you of one in particular that struck me as extra awesome.  Pointe du Hoc lay directly between the American-assigned Omaha and Utah beaches on the western edge of the Allied assault.  There, on a ridge overlooking the sea was a large fortified battery of German artillery with a commanding view of the entire invasion force.  After a bit of pre-invasion bombing, Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder (a Texan) led a force of Army Rangers up a100 foot steep, rocky climb under fire to directly attack the enemy artillery position.  Rudder lost half of his men in the initial assault, but after capturing their objective held off enemy counterattacks for two days until American soldiers from the Utah beachhead fought their way to the point.  ‘Rudder’s Rangers’ ultimately suffered 70% casualties (Rudder himself wounded twice), but accomplished a pivotal objective in the Normandy invasion which helped the largest amphibious assault in history to succeed.

Rudder went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, and also served as the president of Texas A&M University – my alma mater – from 1959-1970 (the main auditorium and meeting room complex at A&M bear his name).

I had the opportunity to visit the Bayeux and Caen area on a long weekend during a study abroad trip in the summer of 2004 (I missed the 60th anniversary ceremony by just a couple of days), and it is a beautiful area.  The rich history of a united Allied effort against a tyrannical dictator and an oppressive fascist permeated the beautiful rural region, which still bears the scars of naval and aerial bombardment.

So whether you love history or Texas Aggies, or don’t care about either, please join me in remembering and honoring the heroism that 66 years ago today helped establish the freedom in which we as Americans now live.

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San Jacinto Day and Aggie Muster – Today in History, April 21st

This Day in History:  April, 21 – San Jacinto Day, Aggie Muster
Today is a very cool day for me in several different ways – first as a Texan, second as an Aggie, and third as a nerd an amateur historian.

As a Texan, April 21st (1836) is a momentous day because it marks the victory at San Jacinto for Sam Houston and the Texas Army, effectively ending the Texas Revolution.  You should definitely read the full article on Wikipedia (it’s actually pretty good), which you can find here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Jacinto .  Just in case you’re more devoted to my blog than history, I’ll give you a brief run-down on what happened and why it’s awesome.

http://thesafiles.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/alamo_at_night3.jpgMexico and ‘Texians’ (American settlers in the Mexican territory of Coahuila y Tejas) were increasingly at odds until armed conflict broke out at Gonzales (the ‘Concord and Lexington’ of Texas – google that if you don’t get what I’m talking about).  Anyway, the Texas Revolution begins a war of independence from October 1835 until April 1836.  After several conflicts of note, the Mexican army under their president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (several thousand soldiers) surrounded and besieged the Alamo at San Antonio de Bexar (modern day San Antonio) on February 23, 1836.  For thirteen days the small force of 180-200 men inside the Alamo held off the Mexican Army bombardment and small skirmishes, eventually losing a main assault early in the morning on March 6th.  During that siege, a delegation of Texans drafted and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2nd (Sam Houston’s birthday, coincidentally).

After the Alamo, Santa Anna split his force into several prongs in order to try to find and eliminate the Texas Army under Sam Houston.  Over the next month and a half, Houston continually retreated to the east (toward the Houston area) so that he could train his men and consolidate his ragtag military and engage the Mexicans on a good battlefield – this is what we know as the ‘Runaway Scrape.’  On April 20th, two prongs of the Mexican Army (Santa Anna and Cos) caught up with the Texas Army at the San Jacinto River.  The Mexicans expected the Texans to retreat again and did not prepare to attack.  To their dismay the Texans mounted a surprise assault in the mid-afternoon on April 21st and completely defeated the larger Mexican force in about 18 minutes.

Santa Anna disguised himself as a Mexican private and was captured immediately after the battle was over, hoping to escape the attention of the Texan leadership.  He was discovered and brought to Sam Houston who had suffered a gunshot wound in his ankle and was laying down at the time.  Houston exchanged Santa Anna’s freedom for Texas’ independence, ending the Texas Revolution and establishing Texas as a sovereign republic.  Therefore, April 21st, 1836 is an awesome day for all Texans.

Now, as an Aggie, this day also holds a very special significance because it is the day on which we hold a celebration called ‘Muster’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muster_%28Texas_A&M_University%29).  On April 21st (because of the immense importance of San Jacinto Day) Aggies all over the world get together to commemorate current and former students who have passed away in the previous year.  Loved ones gather during the ‘Roll Call of the Absent’ and as a list of the names of the deceased is read, their loved ones answer ‘here’.  It is a solemn time of celebration and remembrance, and one of the most moving traditions at A&M, of which there are many.  ‘Silver Taps’ is another similar tradition where students silently gather in the Academic Plaza on the A&M campus the first Tuesday of every month to honor current students who have died in the past month.  A special harmonized rendition of Taps is played and then a 21-gun salute is given for the deceased.

If you care to perpetuate the stereotype that A&M is a cult, please do so in an educated fashion by refraining from commenting until after you have studied up on what the traditions actually mean – you can find them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditions_of_Texas_A%26M_University .

Thanks, Gig ‘Em, and Remember the Alamo.
– nj

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