"Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens . . .. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?" Psalm 8:1-4
avid wrote Psalm 8 while gazing into the night sky. He probably penned that song as an adolescent, while tending his father's flocks in some remote field. As he pondered the vast expanse of the heavens and the orderly nature of such an immense universe, he was awestruck by the realization that God, who created so many amazing wonders, is even greater, more glorious, and wiser than all of them combined.
While he was thinking about that, David was overwhelmed with a deep consciousness of the relative insignificance of humanity. He marveled that God has shown so much grace and kindness to the human race. After all, God has revealed Himself to us not only implicitly (in the glory of His creation) but also explicitly (in His Word) and (above all) personally through the incarnation of Christ. That is the prophetic subject matter of Psalm 8, according to Hebrews 2:6-9. The idea that the Creator of the universe would thus stoop to redeem fallen creatures elicited from David a profound outpouring of pure praise.
Anyone who takes time to study the heavens can appreciate David's amazement at the spectacle. Even without a telescope or satellite photos, David could see that the glory of the universe was beyond the ability of human language to describe.
As a matter of fact, you can look from any perspective at any portion of creation, great or small, and the message built into every aspect of it is exactly the same. God's invisible attributesnamely, his eternal power and divine natureare clearly perceptible in the things He has made. That has been true since the very beginning of creation (Romans 1:20).
Only in our generation, however, has it been possible to study earth from heaven's perspective. Jeff Williams has had the rare privilege of doing just that, and the experience likewise impressed him with the greatness, glory, and grace of God who "made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever" (Psalm 146:6).
During his six-month stint at the International Space Station in 2006, Colonel Williams orbited the earth more than 2,800 times. He worked on hundreds of experiments while suspended in microgravity. He walked in space twice (spending more than 12 hours hanging by a tether in the atmospheric void outside the spacecraft). And while doing all that, he took more photographs of earth than any astronaut in history.
In a journal entry written from the Space Station and posted on a NASA website near the end of his first month in orbit, Jeff wrote:
Another activity that we really enjoy is earth photography or what we formally call "earth observation."
You can never tire of looking at the part of God's creation we call Earth. Traveling around the globe every 90 minutes provides lots of opportunity to view the geography, oceans, cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets, thunderstorms, city lights and many other things in vivid detail.
Jeff preserved as much as possible of that vivid detail in an amazing collection of stunning digital photographs.
I was privileged to see some of Jeff's photography almost immediately via e-mail while he was still in orbit. One shot that especially stands out in my mind is an extraordinary view of California from above, with the coastline mostly obscured by a massive smoke-plume from the sixth largest wildfire in California history. Known as the Day Fire, it burned out of control for nearly the entire month of September that year. For several days that smoke-plume permeated and overshadowed the community where I live and minister. But a photograph of the fire from orbit is what enabled me to appreciate the true size of the fireand the amazing mercy seen in the fact that not a single life was lost in it.
That was just one snapshot. Every view from the window of the Space Station contains countless vivid lessons about the meticulous goodness of divine Providence, God's care for His creation, and His wisdom in ordering the universe. Jeff Williams has a wonderful gift for seeing those things and pointing them out.
This book tells the story of Expedition 13 from Jeff's perspective as flight engineerwhile giving us a front-row seat in the space station and letting us look with Jeff through the lens of his camera. These photos and the descriptions Jeff has written are filled with graphic reminders about the greatness and power of God, our own relative insignificance, and the great mercy whereby God cares for us.