the heavens declare

Astronomy has never really been my thing. But today I got to do something really cool. Ava’s class took a field trip to Perkins Observatory, and Gabe, Nina and I tagged along.

The Director of the Observatory is a guy named Tom Burns. A hoot, a gem, and a genius all rolled into one. And amazing with kids. I learned (and laughed) more from his guided tour today than I’ve learned (and laughed) in quite a while. Wow.

My favorite part of the day (besides launching the homemade 2-liter rocket inside and looking at the sun with eclipse glasses and seeing this crazy-huge telescope) was when he took us all to the library (the walls were lined with old books!) and told us a story.

p.s. The library was heaven for both Gabe and me. For me, it was the books (obvs). For him, it was the TWENTY-NINE MAC COMPUTERS (all makes and model from the Mac Classic on up). And Gabe’s pretty enthralled with all things space/universe/cosmos too, so it was double-cool.

Anyway, Mr. Tom told us the story of Hiram Perkins who grew up in the early-to-mid-1800’s as the son of poor pig farmers. He dreamed of going to college, but that wasn’t going to happen. Except that his parents wanted their son to pursue his dreams, so they went without food until they scrimped and saved enough.

Then he became a professor (of astronomy, I assume) at Ohio Wesleyan University (right up the road from us) until he quit. Not because he didn’t love his job, but because his country was now in the middle of a Civil War, and he wanted to help. However, he was rejected by the Army. Guess why. He was too skinny. Over 6 feet tall and weighed 97 pounds. Yeah, I know.

So. He went back to his parents’ farm and raised pigs to sell to the Union troops. At the end of the war, he had a whopping $89,000 in the bank. “I’m not touching it,” he said. “It’s blood money.”

And he didn’t. He went back to teaching. For $400/year. And bought a new suit once every 10 years. And after 42 years of teaching, he retired.

And realized he had $290,000 in the bank.

In 1923, he had a gigundo telescope built. With a dome. And a building. And he died before it was completed. But it was his dream that students could come and learn about space. And they have. And they do.

And he made a stipulation about the observatory. His family Bible must be kept on display. And opened to Psalm 19:1–“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

And Mr. Tom, with tears in his eyes, told those 52 2nd-graders to dream big, to reach for the stars, and to appreciate their teachers.

And even though I’ve always been more of a Giraffe Girl than a Jupiter Girl, I can’t wait to go back some Friday night as a family and look at some of God’s blow-me-away, far-in-the-distance creation through a massive telescope.

Makes me want to break out in song.

My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do! My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do! The mountains are His! The valleys are His! THE STARS ARE HIS HANDIWORK TOO! My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

18 thoughts on “the heavens declare

  1. Gretchen

    Humming the song that Tiffani started me on…

    Love it when science (one of my favorite subjects) gives proper homage to creation. Sounds like your field trip was a blast.

  2. katie n

    you guys should check out the DVD on …have you ever seen this? our sunday school class just watched it over christmas. this lawyer became interested in astronomy and used software to prove / tie things mentioned in the Bible with the clockwork of the solar system…such as an eclipse at Jesus’s death and the Bethlehem Star at His birth. It is AMAZING to watch this. 🙂

  3. Tiffani

    I love space, stars, all of it…used to want to be an astronaut and my son does too so this story was extra sweet…

    I was singing “the Heavens declare your greatness..the oceans cry out to you..the mountains they bow down before I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You!!!”

  4. Elizabeth

    I think astronomy is fascinating, and there’s no better tool for reminding us how very small we are and how very BIG God is. Sending clients to a planetarium was actually a counseling tool I used. What better reminder of how awesome the universe and the One who created it is?!

  5. amber

    LOVE this story. The husband is one of those smarty astronomy/physics people, and I struggle to try to meet him where he is. Because my idea of looking at the stars is digging through a People Magazine.

    But it is stories like this one that make me want to cuddle up with him for a night of star gazing.

    Man, God is good, isn’t He???

  6. whimzie

    What a great storyteller you are! I’ve never been much of a space girl either (spacey, maybe) but I love this story about Hiram Perkins. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  7. jess

    this almost brought me to tears (probably would have if my reading wasn’t punctuated with flying cheerios). God is BIG. And the earthquakes are his, too. It’s hard to remember–but God is in control, even through the tragedies!

    I loved that story! So, the bible is still on display? that is SO cool!

  8. Stephanie your sister

    Daniel would love this. He (and I) have been fascinated with stars and space ever since watching Louis Giglio’s ‘Indescribable’ video a couple years ago. How can people study this stuff and not be utterly AMAZED at the glory and power of God?

  9. Betsy

    Loved this post, Marla! Very interested in the Perkins Observatory now. I thought of you yesterday. I work one day a week at my sister’s toy store. We got in 2 HUGE giraffes yesterday that stand about 4 ft. tall. Gorgeous too. (And stuffed…) When I saw them, I immediately thought of you and your love of the real ones! 🙂

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