This is the extraordinary tale of a real kingdom that was built upon a rock that was once my childhood special place. Our farm was located in central New England, with fields of corn, timothy and tomatoes squeezed between deep swatches of evergreen and deciduous trees. This was our stomping ground. Bubbling books created unmovable landmarks that we traced for hours, doubling back home to beat the falling sun.
One path branched off the main path and led to the magnificent lake that covered 30 premium acres, lined with spectacular maples, oaks and elms. A beaver dam was nature’s classroom, all four seasons. I learned to trace the shore, weaving between downed trees and randomly ensconced boulders. Trees of every thickness and leaf shape grew various distances apart.
Eventually a path was created by my frequent and usually solitary visits. My destination was always the 25 foot ledge that jutted out into, up and above the surface of the lake. The layers of the sedimentary rock ran the spectrum of silvery white to battleship gray, variegated and smoothed by centuries of New England storms.
Hours and hours were spent in my undisclosed location, reading, wondering, praying. Truly, no one could care because no one but God had registered the existence of this haven, in mind, or on a map. The fact stunned me, even then. I wondered at the gift of my place and visited as seasons changed; sappy, muddy Spring, sweltering, stagnant Summer, glorious, abundant Autumn, icy, brutal Winter, all for me.
Hours and hours were spent in my undisclosed location, reading, wondering, praying.
The first understanding of the scale of the impending architectural undertaking came with the thunderous flap of aircraft from above. The realization that helicopters were landing a forest patch away from my father’s humble home more than piqued area interest. The industrial building equipment that creeped, but still roared, upon passing his house became routine. Tall metal fences with security warning signs and green, obstructing panels guarded the entrance.
Within months, peeks through the bare winter trees no longer provided a view of the lake. Instead, turrets poked the low-hanging clouds. Slate shingles were apparent over the tree line. Eventually, the dark vestige that blocked the sun formed an unmistakable fantastical outline that was as clear as a child's cookie cutter. My father’s new neighbor was building a 23,000 square foot medieval castle!
My first viewing of the castle was via youtube, back when drones were new and completely unregulated. The castle’s owner was intensely secretive and even contractors had to sign contracts to not disclose details or photos. The drone's footage revealed the expanse of the property. The opulence was unmatched. Since then, the castle has been on several cable shows where the contents are on display for the world to see. It’s spectacular.
The story hasn't had a happy ending for this prince, I’m truly sorry to say.
Personal problems and scandal caused the owner to put the castle on the market. Its name was a variation of the owner’s name. The lake had been renamed an upscale version of it’s original and unpretentious name. The panels on the secretive front gate were replaced by “For Sale” signs that caused town residents to shrug.
Which passer-bye could consider its purchase? It was a kingdom that few could afford. It was a kingdom that now, reputation smeared, stood with only dark magical ties. It's a monument to failed dreams and fantasies. Its price was over 50 million dollars, down to 46 million, then 32 million, then it was off of the market, standing empty, probably with a caretaker in lone residence.
It's a monument to failed dreams and fantasies.
My special place, the beautiful layers of stone that formed my perch over serene, clear water, still probably stands a few hundred feet from this fairytale castle-turned-monstrosity. I have viewed recent aerial photos of the perimeter of the lake, thanks to google. The castle looms, but it appears that my special place is unmarred as it stands on an undeveloped piece of the property .
I would need to breach impressive security to approach it now, so it's for all purposes, physically gone to me. But its memories are not, never will be. A sharp and artistic black and white photo, taken by my brother as an affectionate gift many years ago, preserves these memories. The juxtaposition is mind-boggling. My place is now part of this kingdom. This is the stuff that prophets ponder.
I think of this man, surrounded by money and privilege, building his kingdom, like many of us do. Because of his ample resources, he was able to build a genuine castle. We all have things we enjoy, goals and dreams. We all have to make the choice of what we will do with our lives and resources. We may not have millions of dollars, but we will put what we have into something.
Psalm 46:6 says, “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.” This is what happens to kingdoms. Earthly kingdoms fall. Some are torn down in war, some fall when the earth shakes. Others may still remain standing, magnificent but empty of life and joy, residents no longer shining, preening or collecting.
Daniel 2:44 prophesies, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” The King of this Kingdom has made Himself known. He is Jesus.
It's a tragedy to spend our lives building a kingdom that will inevitably fall. History is the documentation of the consecutive falling of kingdom after kingdom. One Kingdom lasts. It would seem prudent to live in that realm.
It's a tragedy to spend our lives building a kingdom that will inevitably fall.
We forget the vanity of earthly possessions that Jesus warned us about in Matthew 6:19-21;
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If I were to meet my father’s neighbor on the short stretch of winding road between their property, I don’t think I would be intimidated by him. I once “owned” a small but lovely part of his piece of land more than he will ever be able to. Where he built a monument to himself and found unhappiness and trouble, I had once been a young girl who couldn't imagine the complexity of the world that I had not yet discovered.
Even with the troubles of a young country girl, I understood the peace that came from knowing God. I wish my father’s absentee neighbor God’s blessings and peace. His empty Kingdom causes my heart to overflow with gratitude that the Kingdom I seek will prevail. Luke 1:32-33 speaks of my King; “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Revelations 9:16 speaks of Jesus; “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.” May God’s richest blessings come to all who seek to build His eternal Kingdom!