May 09

Ye shall be witnesses unto me . . . unto the uttermost part of the earth. —Acts 1:8

Spring in New York City is a very short season. Chilly April seems to give way suddenly to hot May. But today is beautiful, so I'm taking an after-lunch stroll down Fifth Avenue from the Guideposts editorial offices on 34th Street.

Five blocks downtown, on the corner of 29th Street, I come to Marble Collegiate Church. To the right of the entrance, there's a life-size bronze statue of Guideposts' co-founder, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Feeling a little guilty for being away from my desk, I duck my head and walk by, trying to look inconspicuous.

The next dozen blocks go by quickly. With a sigh, I hurry by the big bookstore on 18th Street. If I stop there, it'll be hours before I get back to work. At 12th Street, there's another church, First Presbyterian. Then, two blocks south at 10th Street, I see the open door of the Church of the Ascension. There's been a service there today, and while the sexton is putting things away, I stop in to look around.

On the wall above the altar is an enormous painting by John Lafarge of the event for which the church is named. Surrounded by a circle of angels, Jesus rises into a cloudy sky, while His disciples gaze up at Him in amazement. But there's something odd about the picture: The curving green hills in the background seem somehow out of place. On receiving the commission for the mural, I learn, Lafarge made a trip to Japan, and the Far East, not the Middle East, provided the landscape for his painting.

I take my eyes from the painting and glance at my watch. It's almost two; I'd better head back to the office. As I walk back up Fifth Avenue, surrounded by strollers whose roots are in a hundred different countries, Lafarge's odd choice suddenly makes sense: Japan and Galilee are equally close to heaven—and for the believing heart, so is New York City.

Lord, renew us in Your Spirit and make us one in You.

—Andrew Attaway