Born with cerebral palsy, Ring, 52, battles physical limitations but has traveled as a nationally acclaimed speaker since 1973. He and his wife have four children and live in Nashville, Tenn..
He delivered his message with affected speech, using humor and story-telling to evoke laughter and tears from many listeners.
"I want to tell you how to become a champion in the game of life -- even with three strikes against you," said Ring.
Cerebral palsy caused a lack of oxygen to his brain at birth.
"That's why I walk like I do; that's why I talk like I do," said Ring, who grew up in Arkansas. "I was dead for 18 minutes. I'm supposed to be a vegetable, but God had other plans. I was born with cerebral palsy -- strike number one."
Liver cancer took his father when Ring was only 11 years old.
"Strike number two," Ring said.
The youngest of eight children, Ring was "spoiled rotten."
"My mama gave me everything I wanted," he said. "I was an A-number one baby boyThere's nothing wrong with loving your mama."
Ring was 14 when his mother underwent knee surgery on the day before Mother's Day 1968.
"A simple operation, no big deal," he said.
Two months later, he learned his mother had cancer and six months to live, at the most.
Ring said he thought, "My mama's not going to die. My mama would never abandon me like that. My mama loves me too much. My mama is my cheerleader. My mama's the only one who loves me just the way I am."
Ring prayed but saw his mother dwindle from 185 to 57 pounds; she died in October 1968.
"Strike number three," Ring said. "Three strikes in baseball and you're out. I wanted to be out of the game of life. I didn't want to play anymore, because life is not fairI couldn't come home and say, 'Mama, somebody made fun of me today,' and she couldn't put her arms around meEvery night with tears rolling down my face, I longed to be in my mother's arms. Mama could make me feel like a champion. But I didn't feel like a champion. I felt like a loser."
Ring said everyone gave up on him, except one sister.
"I told my sister, 'I'm hopeless; I'm worthless; give up on me,'" he said. "But she encouraged me. I didn't want to go to school. It's no fun to walk down the hallway and have somebody laugh at the way I walk and the way I talk."
Many students called him "retarded," he said.
"Can you imagine -- every time you open your mouth, people calling you every name other than your own?" he asked.
He'd attended church all his life but questioned God, asking, "If God loves me, why is he breaking my heart?"
"We all have a story, don't we?" Ring asked. "We all cry out sometime in our lives, 'God, if you love me, why, why, why?' Even the Lord Jesus, when he hung on Calvary, said, 'My God, my God, what hast thou forsaken me?'"
Ring, at age 16, attended a church service and heard the gospel in a new way, he said.
"I found out that God does love me and has a wonderful plan for my life," he said. "I found out I'm not okay, but that's okay, because God loves me, anyway.
"I went down to an old-fashioned altar and got down on my bony knees and said, 'Lord Jesus, here I am. If you really love me, come into my life. I'm a lonely crippled boy. I'm a nobody, but tonight, I want to be somebody.' And hallelujah, people, on April 17, 1970, at 8:45 p.m. Central Standard Time, I became a 'somebody' because Jesus came into my life
"Look at me. I still walk with a limp. I still talk funny, but oh the joy that floods my soul -- because Jesus touched me and made me whole. I'm not the same anymore. I've been changed by the power of God!"
Ring's teachers noticed his changed attitude and asked him to speak at a school assembly.
"I'm talking about a public school," he said. "I'm talking about a student body of 1,400."
He faced many who'd made fun of him.
Ring related that he walked onto the stage and said, "I gave my life to God. I don't understand it, yet, but all I know is I don't want to die, anymore. I want to live. Why? Because I've got something worth living for."
He later served as vice president of his class and was voted "Most Popular" and "Mr. School Spirit."
"I got the yearbook to prove it," he said. "It's not what you are on the outside -- it's everything you are on the inside."
Grace and Contentment
Ring said that when someone asks, "Brother David, don't you want to be normal?" he often replies, "What's normal?"
Ring scanned his Sandhills audience and commented, "You think you're normal? You got a long ways to go, buddy, and some of you aren't gonna make it."
"God knew me before I was born," he said. "When I was in my mother's womb, God ordained me. The Bible says I was wonderfully and fearfully made by God. God never says, 'Oops,' but looking at some of you -- he came real close!"
"What's wrong with walking with a limp?" he asked. "It's no handicap to talk funny. I love talking funny. Every time I open my mouth in public, people look. Can you do that? Duh-h-h-h.
"I'm not making fun of people. People who make fun of handicapped people are the scum of the earth, in my book."
Ring said he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder.
"God made me the way I amI have learned in whatsoever state I'm in to be content," he said. "Look at me, people. The moment you and I learn to be content in the way we are, then -- and only then -- are we going to be champions.
"I thank God every day for giving me the privilege to be born with cerebral palsy, because when I am weak, then I am strong.
"I thank God every day for taking my mama, because if my mama would still be living, I would be in Arkansas pulling on Mama's apron strings. But now, I'm in North Carolina, pulling on God's amazing grace. And the Bible says God's grace is sufficient."
Ring said the Devil intended for cerebral palsy to cause destruction in his life, but God has used it to accomplish good things.
He added, "The Devil said, 'It's over, boy,' but God said, 'It's not over; it's only the beginning. I'm going to take the foolish things in life and confound the wise.'
"God took my greatest liability in life and made it into my greatest asset in life -- only because I gave it to HimI have cerebral palsy; what's your excuse?"
Ring said doctors told him he wouldn't live past age 30.
"I'm 52," he said. "I'm in pain all the time; my joints are breaking down on meI may limp up to the gate (of heaven), but I will run on the other side. Until then, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doingDon't whine -- shine!...If God can change my life, God can change your life. You don't have to be a victim anymoreIf God can use me, God can use each one of you."
Steve Crain may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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