One of the most fascinating sites in America is the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, the home of the late George Vanderbilt.
The house represented the finest in design and technology of its day. The slate and copper roof has never been replaced. In 1895, the house featured central heating, indoor plumbing (43 bathrooms), walk-in refrigeration, and electricity (his own personal generator). Construction started in 1889 and the home was opened in 1895. There are 255 rooms covering over 4 acres. The Approach Road winds for three landscaped miles. Only on the last turn of the road do you see the expansive house.
The original estate consisted of 125,000 acres. The estate was to incorporate a small village, school, All Soul’s Church, post office, train station, hospital, formal gardens, agriculture and a dairy. The estate was created to be similar to the European country estates. After George’s death in 1914, his widow deeded the majority of the property to the United States government. Today, the home remains the largest privately owned home in America.
Biltmore was open to the public in the 1930s. Over 600,000 persons a year tour the home. Countless signs of elegance and extravagance surround you. The home is filled with priceless artwork, antiques, tapestries and books. There are over 70,000 collectors’ items in the home. Many items were created and designed especially for Biltmore Estates.
At the turn of the century, 80 servants worked at Biltmore. On a recent visit, my family and I took a “behind the scenes” tour. We viewed areas of the house previously “off limits” to the general public. These areas have been open less than 2 years and require an additional hour and a half to see. The fourth floor was devoted to servants’ quarters. An elaborate bell system would notify a servant when and where they were needed. Talk about room service!
My favorite room is the Library. Mr. Vanderbilt could read in eight languages. The library contains over 10,000 volumes. To me, the room represents the ultimate pastor’s study. I doubt that will happen this side of glory, but the thought is nice.
I am impressed; however, I find it difficult to imagine this house being a home. I can’t picture toys on the stairs, Barbie dolls in the bedrooms, or a can of tuna in the kitchen. I wonder if anyone could eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich in the living room? I doubt if George ever consumed a Nutty bar and glass of milk with ice in the Library. I can’t see myself in a recliner watching the Braves on TBS in the “sitting room.”
Anyone can build a house, grand or quite plain. It may contain antiques that date back to Louis XIV. Ours goes back to Sears on the fifteenth. The essence of a home is not found in art but in the atmosphere.
Only God can make a house a home. Only when Scripture is taken seriously is a house a home. A man’s home is his castle only if his castle is built on the rock of ages. Even believers today have families in name only. We have dozens of books on the family, most of them left un-purchased or unread.
If you want to discover what God intends for the home, Ephesians tells us wives should be subject to their husbands and husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. He also reminds us that children are to obey their parents. God has a definite plan for the home. The words in Ephesians are not suggestions, they are commands.
Fathers are commanded not to provoke their children to anger; but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” To put it simply, the Word has the answers for today’s family. To build a family takes TIME! Something most of us are not willing to give. Our family time is not a dress rehearsal for a future event. It is here and now. Our families don’t need things, they need us!
Maybe it’s time to rethink what’s supremely important. We spend thousands to decorate and equip the house with the latest in gadgets. We shop for “no payments till…” furniture. Americans have the nicest dwellings in the world, yet, we lead the world in child abuse, divorce and a multiplicity of family problems. What will it profit a man if he builds the best house, has the finest lands, and still loses his soul, his children and his wife?
Profound thought…”Six things are necessary to make a house a home: 1. the architect-integrity; 2. the upholsterer-time management; 3. the heating-love and affection; 4. the lighting-forgiveness & cheerfulness; 5. the ventilator-diligence; 6. the roof-God’s blessing.”
BE A HERO IN YOUR HOME
©Michael Catt 1994 (from I Left My Mind in Mississippi, pg. 52-54) All rights reserved.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.