Looking for the Kingdom at the Neighborhood Café

20 Mar

   I have a fairly juvenile approach toward prayer. My own interpretations and perspective often turn a little ridiculous. For instance, my wife and I recently read Romans 14:17, “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” I thought, “man, that sounds tough.” I truly enjoy the happiness of indulging in food and drink. What if Saint Peter is more of a host waiting to show us to our reserved spot (upon condition)? Don’t  you think that we’ll be eating and drinking to our hearts’ content once through the big pearly gates up there?  

Looking for the Kingdom at the Neighborhood Café
  I’ve recently found my own little slice of heaven at my favorite neighborhood greasy-spoon diner, appropriately called The Neighborhood Café on Snelling Ave in St Paul. They continue to make improvements, such as offering breakfast hash that looks more homemade than what you would get out of a can, a small dinner menu with good appetizers, a great draft beer lineup that includes tasty local suds, and usually a wildly concocted special that never seems to make sense until it hits your taste buds. They have the gruff (but with a smirk) service that is essential in the greasy spoon category.

  A few weeks ago, friends and I were there for one of their first dinner offerings. As we watched the local football rivalry ensue on their single wall-mounted 17” TV, I noshed on a pulled pork Cubano sandwich. My wife enjoyed a deluxe grilled cheese complete with bacon and tomato while our friend practically inhaled the famous pot roast. Although our stomachs were stuffed we all willingly assisted in the take down of a caramel-drizzled, seared pear with ice cream in the middle. Before we walked in we knew a few of the wait staff and the owner, after we departed we knew most of the patrons as well.

  This is my heaven. This is where I find my peace, my joy. Is it reasonable to think that this experience is what eternity could be? I doubt it, because in my heart of hearts, or the heart of my stomach, I know that the evening could have included much less tasty fare and would still have been as enjoyable. The peace I find in these situations isn’t how seasoned the pork is or how perfectly proportioned the deluxe grilled cheese presents. It isn’t about the seared pears or local brews. It’s about the laughs, the jokes, and the hilarious remarks. That is what the Holy Spirit is in my juvenile world. That is the peace I seek. Although my conscious goal is to find my wife and I a delicious meal that will fill our bodies, the real seasoning I seek is seeing the Spirit in others. Smiles on faces and inside jokes with new friends is the righteousness I crave. Maybe my purgatory would be an empty Neighborhood Cafe… still sounds pretty tasty though.

– Joseph Olson

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