Demonstrating the amazing nature of internet dynamics and communication (and God’s mysterious working), I have decided to repost this blog. Originally posted several months ago (without any great fanfare, I might add), suddenly, 2 days ago, hit after hit was registered for this story. I do not know who originally read this or how they found it.  Nor do I know who spread this to over 100 other readers (at last count) within the space of just a few hours but this true story seems to have captivated many. The note at the end of the post will further intrigue you as, for some reason, God does not seem to be content with this story laying dormant for very long. Thanks for riding along with Dean Strickland one more time.

**** This is an excerpt from Captivated Anew: Restored to Pursue Him published in 2009.

For Dean Strickland I was the 951st driver with whom he’d hitched a ride in the last four years. I found him at a convenience store as he purchased several large bottles of drinking water. When I first noticed his guitar case and backpack, I imagined him another Nashville music “star” traveling through. Upon closer inspection, however, I saw that Dean’s western belt displayed an image of Calvary and his cowboy hat had a small cross attached to it. Even more telling as to his faith in Jesus was the gentle and courteous manner he used with the clerk who rang up his order. Doing something I had never done before, I asked Dean if he needed a ride. 

“Yes, Sir,” he answered in a respectful but cautious tone. 

As we headed toward my car, I found that Dean has just performed for the Cowboy Church in Nashville. Having no lodging, he had slept in the church’s parking lot the previous night. Surprisingly, he looked refreshed and even invigorated as he shared that he felt the service had been pleasing to God. Now Dean was ready to move on to his next gig; an event 700 miles away in Galveston, Texas. 

On our brief ride together, Dean shared that he felt called—in a unique sense—to travel the country by hitchhiking and singing gospel music. He chronicled his journeys on a website which explains that over the previous four years he had been picked up 950 times and averaged walking four to five miles between rides prior to our meeting. When I dropped Dean off near I-40 on the western side of Nashville, I gave him a few dollars and a copy of one of my books. He gave me his musical CD, a nod, and a smile and gathered his meager belongings to begin the march towards Galveston. “I’ve found,” he stated in his Texas drawl right before the door shut, “that America is not as dangerous as some folks think.” 

Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous will live by his faith.” If I’ve ever met a man who exemplified that truth, Dean Strickland is that man. As I drove away from him that day, the Habakkuk passage rang in my head. I pondered his example of living by that motto and was chagrined to admit that I had never really experienced such a radical trust in God, but I definitely wanted to. The Lord certainly doesn’t expect every believer to follow Him through hitchhiking, but I think He does expect each of us to “go” and “tell” others about Him in our own unique ways. And that “going” and “telling” might be in drastically different ways and places than we allow ourselves to imagine. Luke 10:1 explains that Jesus appointed believers to “go” in a manner that was definitely out of the norm. To them He said, 

 “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. … When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near’” (Luke 10:2-11). 

The world needs to hear about Jesus, but most of us become so bogged down with life’s busyness and worries that we give little thought to stepping out of our comfort zones so that others may come to know Him. I, like so many other Christians, know the promises of Jesus found in Matthew 6:25-26. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” I realize that I’m more valuable than the sparrows (see Matthew 6:26). But what I’ve got to focus on is Christ’s indication that a life of faith is driven by the philosophy, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” I must remember that the Lord will provide for my needs as I do His will. 

Jesus’ words and Dean Strickland’s example pierce my heart. What have I done to display a radical faith in my promise-honoring Savior? When was I willing to jump off the cultural carousel to trust in my omnipotent Father? When did I feel such an assurance in my calling to serve for the kingdom that I took God’s Word at face value? Frankly, I sometimes forget that Christ calls me to a journey of radical faith. He promises to provide for me and to produce in me what He has called me to be and do. But will I take Him up on the offer? 

The writer of Hebrews tells us “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). My experience with meeting Dean Strickland taught me that a stranger can rock my spiritual world. I needed a hitchhiking “angel” to remind me that when God is in it and faith is deployed then, “[I] can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for [me]” (Matthew 17:20). I believe that all of us who claim to follow Jesus need similar reminders—for truly “the kingdom of God is near” (Like 10:11).

**** This blog has another chapter. Although I have had no contact with Dean since this providential encounter, I recently searched for his website to find out the latest. There I found how God continues to bless his journey of faith. There, much to my amazement, I also found a copy of the story I had written about this experience. I have no idea, other than God’s intervention, how he found this piece of writing.  Go to his site, scroll down (look for this article, please), and saturate yourself in Dean’s example – http://deanstrickland.com.

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