Who gave you wings?


In the story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence, the angel, earns his wings by showing George the people his life had touched to enable George to see that, indeed, he did make a difference in the world. I bet we all could tell stories about someone who made a difference in our lives — someone who, if they were never born, would leave a huge hole in our personal histories and so life might have led us to different ends had that person not been there.

“What are you going to do after this summer?” a man named Ron asked me during the summer of 1969. I had just graduated from college and recorded my first album of original songs and was performing and leading music at a high school camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, finding out the impact the songs God had given me were going to have on people.

“I’m going to seminary,” I replied.

“Why are you going to do that?”

“I’ve always planned on it ever since I felt a call to the ministry.”

He looked out over the swimming pool and the tall Ponderosa pines that surrounded this beautiful setting for a place to relate to kids. He had been the speaker the first week of camp that summer and his teaching and my music had made a powerful combination. I admired him greatly and his unorthodox approach to ministry and his genuine love for kids had enthralled me.

“Well, I graduated from seminary not too long ago, and if you come with me, I’ll teach you everything I know.”

The course of my life was altered that day. It was a huge turning point that set me up for the Jesus Movement and being ready to take advantage of a mighty move of God. I went with Ron and he did just what he said he would do, although he didn’t do it out of a book, or even his own program. He taught me mostly from his life — by being an open book. We went on trips together. I watched him and then he watched me. We walked and we talked and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t ask. It was the closest thing to Jesus and his disciples you could get in the modern world.download

I owe my life, my confidence, and style of ministry to this man. He gave me wings.

Some years after that, my wife, Marti, suggested I write a song about Ron and liken him to an animal. I said he’d be a black stallion — an Italian stallion. I wrote the lyrics to the following song about him. It became the title song of my most popular album.

He’s a dark horse in the nighttime

Heading straight for the enemy camp

And he has no fear

‘Cause his eye is clear

Throwing light like a burning lamp

And maybe sometime at the right time

You may see him galloping by

A simple man

With a single plan,

And the Spirit in his eye


He’s the one who no one thought could make it through

He’s the one who looks a lot like me and you

But he can hear it when the Spirit

Tells him where to go and what to say

‘Cause he knows that he can never be free

When he’s going his own way


He will not deny the struggle in his heart

But he also knows the grace that is his part

And his secret is the Spirit

‘Cause he’s trusting nothing of his own

And he’s fixed his eyes on the highest prize

And he’s headed for his home


He’s a dark horse in the nighttime

Heading straight for the enemy camp

And he has no fear

‘Cause his eye is clear

Throwing light like a burning lamp

And maybe sometime at the right time

You may see him galloping by

A simple man

With a single plan,

And the Spirit in his eye

If Jesus had never been born, Ron would most likely be an orphan in Philadelphia who stayed in trouble. I doubt he’d even be alive now. And where would I be? God only knows.

Who gave you wings?

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11 Responses to Who gave you wings?

  1. Mark D Seguin says:

    Cool song!

    To answer the question:”Who gave you wings?” I’d say my first Pastor, Pastor DeRenzo. (He’s with the Lord now) And the one who invited me to learn about the Lord. I’ll never forget that Christmas service of 1979. He ended it by saying if anyone would like to know how to get to heaven – step forward. I remember thinking to myself, if this guy knows something I don’t. Well my Mom didn’t raise a fool, so I’ll go and see. It was the first “alter call” I ever experienced. Another man who just passed away a few weeks ago, Mr. Byers led me to the Lord @ Bearen Bible Church.

    A few months later I was so on fire for the Lord! I could hardly believe it, I was someday going to heaven and soon established my “three foot rule.” Meaning if you got within three foot of me, I’d tell you God’s plan of salvation. And I thought for sure God was calling me to become a Missionary. I led a few to the Lord, but I think it was for them to get on the weight loss program – For me to get off their back, LOL 🙂

    I now see it was a great way to end for the Lord to end the engagement & wedding plans, because she broke up with me telling me she didn’t what to marry a Missionary, which about killed me @ the time! Yet now, I understood. Because in truth I didn’t really want to become one, yet if God’s calling me I had to. Yet I thank God I didn’t get married! Because I absolutely love my life!

    • Sandie says:

      Mark – I absolutely identify with your “new-Believer” syndrome…sometimes known as the “shove The Dove” method!” I think there are people walking around who accepted Jesus just to get me to shut up!

      • Mark D Seguin says:

        LOL, Sandie, but at least we were both willing to at least open our mouths. I had this one dear brother in the Lord that would often say to me it’s not our job to play the Holy Spirit and just learn how to ‘plant the seed in love.’

        I really love how Pastor John & Marti phrase it walk along side of them & get to know them.

      • Sandie says:

        AMEN AND AMEN!

  2. David Talbott says:

    Nice to see you honor Ron Ritchie, John. Well-deserved.

  3. Sandie says:

    John – there are so many people I could name – you among them, though we’ve never met. Mr. Jessamine, the elder who led me to the Lord. My husband who has had my back all these years and partners with me in music. Different friends I loved and sometimes fought with – the process of spiritually knowing what to keep and what to throw away. Pastors who taught me how NOT to lead. I have a long list of those who don’t know Jesus, or didn’t at that time. Co-workers who trusted me, teens who fought with me and loved me, a principal who trained me and supported me, even when I screwed up. A pastor that I met on equal ground. So much music and ,; so many musicians; some I met and prayed with…Amy Grant, Petra, David and The Giants, Mylon LeFevre and Brokenheart, Russ Taff, LoveSong, Michael Card, Whiteheart, Scott Roley…and you. A long time ago, you helped my husband with the chords and cadence for Lord of The Dance.Through all of these people, JESUS gave me my freedom to fly, ever testing my wings, strengthening them so I could reach new heights, and recover when I swooped into the valleys.

  4. Donna Wagoner says:

    To answer the question.. a Pastor’s wife Sandra Shelton. She didn’t see me as I was but as I could be. She saw potential in me. She started me on a journey to believing the impossible God can do. I could go on and on. She planted seed in me at 26 that are still coming up and growing in me at 61. She taught me to have faith and to not accept the status quo of doubting fellow Christians. Be brave and believe big. Grab hold of God and His promises and don’t let go. Of course there were others but she stands out.

  5. Nanci Frank Scheevel says:

    You, John, gave me wings that first year of Ponderosa Lodge in the 1970’s. Always following you, your music and your walk with the Lord. During summer breaks of Whitworth College, I would serve as a counselor at Redwood Camp. Now I am almost 63 and still, to this day, sing your songs in my head. Your music and messages have gotten my family and I through some very difficult life journey paths. We are retired now and live happily and reverently in Grass Valley, Ca. You have done well John. I am sure there are many more teenagers who “grew up and out” with your teachings and gift of music. God Bless!

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