How an ordinary diner became the perfect setting for reflecting on the many ways God provides.
I ate at Denny’s recently. That might not seem like a big deal, particularly in light of how many such establishments exist (approximately 1,600 worldwide). However, that particular Denny’s on that particular day became the setting of a wonderful time of reflection and thanksgiving. It was lunchtime during the first day of our recent denominational conference, M19, in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I walked through three blocks of busy traffic to that out of the way Denny’s on Broadway Boulevard—a restaurant I had been to many times before—and found it nearly empty. Having the restaurant mostly to myself meant plenty of quiet time to reflect.
I informed the waitress of my sentimental reason for coming: that my wife (then fiancé) Shiela, had worked at this very restaurant four and a half decades earlier while a student at MidAmerica Nazarene College (now University). My lunchtime that first day of the conference was an opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness in my life.
I thought about my conversion as a freshman in high school and my entire sanctification experience a few years later.
I remembered how, just prior to my first days in college, I had discerned a call to preach, and I remembered the open doors of the church through my denominational family. I recalled, as a new Christian, ordering items from the Nazarene Publishing House (now The Foundry). I had no idea that I would end up as a pastor, promoting the Herald of Holiness (now Holiness Today), or that the publishing house would eventually employ one of my brothers for over 20 years in the art department, or that two other brothers would find their life’s work though the ministry of the Church.
That day at lunch, I also thought about the many great chapel services I attended in college and the numerous revivals at College Church of the Nazarene on the MNU campus. My thoughts traveled back to my years at Nazarene Theological Seminary where most of my theological and pastoral training took place.
God had reached into my life those many years ago, and I’ve never been the same!
When I was converted at the age of fourteen, I could never have envisioned all that God would do, the places to which He would send me, or the things He would lead me to undertake—ultimately, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ! I recalled how Shiela had paid many of her college expenses by working at this Denny’s restaurant those many years ago. This restaurant had taken on a special spot in my heart because of how the good Lord had used it in both of our lives.
When Shiela was 16, her mother died somewhat unexpectedly. It would have been easy to bypass a Christian college education or to let her sorrow sidetrack her from following God’s lead. Instead, she worked, prayed, and followed through on her dream of attending MidAmerica Nazarene College. It wasn’t so much a restaurant that helped her; it was our wonderful Lord.
That Denny’s restaurant has a nostalgic place in my heart, but it was ultimately not the setting that mattered. What mattered was the time I spent alone with God, praising Him from the bottom of my heart for all of His blessings. I will never be able to repay Him.
Gary A. Williamson is senior pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Paris, Illinois, USA.
Holiness Today, Jul/Aug 2019.