Masterpiece by the Bay-A Prisoner Set Free


I grew up on the East Coast and was excited when my family decided to visit San Francisco for our vacation. My heart’s desire and prayer for each day was that we would see God’s handiwork, hear His voice and be reminded of His greatness as we ventured out like three eager explorers to discover new aspects of His creation.

We traveled south along the shoreline and were amazed at the 200 foot regal cliffs that rose from the earth, pushing heavenward with waves splashing at their feet. Then we traveled north and drank in the beauty of acres and acres of vineyards on grassy rolling hills in the Napa Valley wine country. We hiked through the majestic Redwood Forest and stood under 1,000 year old, 260 foot giants – dwarfed by their towering branches.

But the most amazing sight was in a place called Alcatraz. There in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, just a mile and a quarter from the sights and sounds of the beautiful city, sits a rock island, known by some as the “Devils Island of America.” From 1934-1963, Alcatraz was a prison where the country’s most corrupt, incorrigible criminals were housed. Al Capone and machine Gun Kelly were just two of the more colorful residents.

There is no road to the prison, so we took a ferry across the bay. As we taxied up to “The Rock” and stared at the shell of concrete walls, barbed wire, and iron bars, an eerie feeling crept over my body. Each of us picked up head phones and a cassette recorder and toured the prison while listening to the taped voices of various prisoners recount their days behind bars. I walked in a cell called “the hole,” closed my eyes, and tried to imagine what it would be like in solitary confinement with no light, no sound, and no other voice but my own. My heart grew heavy as I thought about the souls that passed those halls, souls full of darkness, depression and despair.

But as I rounded the final corner of the tour, I saw an amazing sight – a white haired eighty year old grandfather, with crystal blue laughing eyes and a radiant smile that spread across his wrinkled face. A line formed as tourists stood waiting for him to sign his name and number on his autobiography, Alcatraz: From the Inside. This precious man before me was Jim Quillen, ex-prisoner #AZ586. He had spent ten years of his life, from 1942-1952, behind bars in this prison built to house the most dangerous criminals of his day. I looked in his eyes as we spoke. This was not the face of a dangerous man.  What had happened to change his life?

I didn’t have to flip many pages in his book to find the answer. In it he wrote, “It was only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and His intercession, that my life of hopeless incarceration was averted. His help and forgiveness permitted me to obtain freedom, family, and a useful and productive place in society.” I went back over to Mr. Quillen and sat by his side for a minute or so. We chatted for a moment and he autographed my copy of his book. Then God spoke to my heart, “You prayed that you would see My handiwork and be reminded of My greatness. This man is some of my best work.”

On my trip to San Francisco, I was reminded of God’s unchanging strength in the majestic rock cliffs of the shoreline and of His nurturing care as the Vinedresser in the hills of the wine country. I saw a picture of God’s protective canopy over His children in the towering Redwoods of the forest. But when I looked into Jim Quillen’s eyes, I saw God’s most incredible masterpiece: a changed life.

And that’s what you are, dear sister…an incredible masterpiece crafted by God.

 Let’s Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for setting me free! You took my pain and turned it into purpose. You took my hurt and turned it into hope. You took my fear and turned it into faith. Thank you, O Lord, for setting my feet to dancing  and my voice to singing Your praise!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

What do You Think? 

Who is a person that has shown the most dramatic change since he or she became a Christian?

What has been the most dramatic change in your life since you gave your life to Christ?

This summer, as you head out on vacation, ask God to reveal Himself to you in special ways.  And when He does, I’d love to hear about it! Click on the comment box and let’s share stories!

Want More? 

Have you ever had a God-moment in your life?  A time when you saw God’s fingerprints on the pages of your day? My devotion book, Listening to God Day-by-Day has 100 of my favorite devotions filled with God-moments right smack dab in the middle of my busy messy days. It makes a great gift for someone who needs a bit of encouragement. That might be you.



33 Responses to Masterpiece by the Bay-A Prisoner Set Free

  1. Dawn August 6, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Sharon, thank you for that message today.

    This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime to Europe. I have wanted to go since I was a little girl and Paris was my dream destination. We spent 2 weeks traveling through London, Paris, Barcelona, Venice and Rome. I witnessed God’s handwork in the all the churches, museums and gardens I saw. But most of all, I also witnessed God’s grace in his ability to let my cousin’s son, who has autism, stand in awe and wonder and enjoy this marvelous adventure we were on. God also blessed me, a woman with rhematoid arthritis and a history of agoraphobia, to experience good health, peace and joy throughout the whole trip.

    I serve a God who is able….praise His Holy Name!!!!

  2. Kathylynn Duggins August 6, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Sharon, I recently met a lady at a local gym and instantly knew we were going to be friends but at the same time I knew she was in need of some love! The more we spent time together the more I found out that we were almost identical in our events of growing up! We both have shared experiences of incest and abuse but I could see that her pain was still very evident so I began praying fervently for God to show me how to help her! A couple of weeks ago I asked her to attend Church with me and she accepted. Last week we shared her first Communion together and she now has accepted Christ into her heart and has asked to be baptized. I ask for you to include her and myself in your prayers as the battle has begun with the enemy to attempt to keep her in his grasp! I Thank God every day for his mercies and Grace and for the opportunity to share his unending love with my new friend! Thank you for sharing every day and for beginning my mornings with your words of hope and encouragment!!
    Love, Kathylynn Duggins

  3. Taña August 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I am a recovering addict/alcoholic, I will be two years sober on the 25th of this month. I raised 5 kids and buried a husband while drinking and using drugs. My 2nd to the oldest son began getting in trouble with the law at 14 and was kicked out of every school I put him in. He is dyslexic, he had surgery for a brain injury at 12, and surgery to remove a brain tumor at 13. Not long after turning 15 he was in a car accident and broke his neck and his back, thank God he was not paralyzed. After that he began his criminal life in earnest. By the time he was in jail the third time at 19, he had pages of violent offenses in his criminal history. His entire highschool career he earned maybe 8 credits. Because of his violent lifestyle he had received additional injury to his brain over the years. Part of his brain injury is low tolerance for frustration, and he has dificulty finding the right words or understanding complex instructions. He is very intelligent. You don’t look at him and see a brain injury. But teachers looked at him and saw defiance. Needless to say by the time he was in jail at 19, facing possible prison time, no one held out much hope.
    In Jail he met Christian men who told him about Jesus. The first weekend he was out of jail he brought me to the church the man in jail told him about. That is where I gave my life to Christ, and it has been my church home since November 2011. My son works 10 hour days 6 days a week and has just enrolled in his 2nd semester of community college. Even though he struggles he plans to transfer to a university and earn a MINIMUM of a bachelors degree. He’s doing this without my financial help (other than living at home) because in my addiction I spent all of the college and retirement money. He takes an active interest in 12 year old brothers life, signing him up for sports, teaching him, even applying to coach his team, which he cannot because of his record.
    An ENTIRE family is changing because of Jesus working through one man in jail. I see His handiwork all around me every day. 😀

  4. Michelle August 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you for your message today! It makes me want to go out and experience God’s amazing handi work again and again and again! Not just in nature but in people! I get pretty cynical after too many encounters with “in name only” Christians. Maybe I’m looking with the wrong heart? Wrong eye? Thank you again!

  5. Anita August 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    This summer we made a long drive from Pa to Florida. We were happily driving along on the interstate with the cruise control on. All at one the van slowed down even though my husband hadn’t pushed any buttons. A split second later a deer jumped onto the highway and the car right ahead of us, in the other lane hit it. It cause a good bit of damage to their car. If we had not slowed just when we did, we would have hit that deer. I prayed before we left our driveway that God would give us safe travel. My husband, who is not a believer, even admitted that he thought God turned the cruise control off. That is a biggest miracle! God did reveal himself to us not just by the beauty of the ocean, and a Greta visit with family but he revealed himself to my husband in a very real way. Praise God! By the way LOVE all you do!

  6. Fran August 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Each morning I look forward to GIG. I thank all of you for your openness and honesty.
    Today I was very touched by your last line ” that’s what you are…masterpiece by God.”
    It was if God spoke to my heart through you, bringing me to tears. He has changed my life,
    Setting me free from many bondages of my past ( rejection, fears etc.) ;however at 72 as
    I grieve the death of my beloved husband 6 months ago, I struggle to hear His voice and
    To know His purpose for the rest of my life. I have never responded to anything like this ; I
    Was hesitant to do so, but I want to encourage you and tell you what you are doing is
    Making a difference . I pray your prayer ,that out of my pain , God will give me a new purpose and use me to help others who are hurting in a way that will glorify our great and sovereign God who alone has saved me and set me free and is giving me hope in the
    Midst of the most difficult time of my life. May the Lord continue to bless you and your
    Sisters in GIG as you share yourselves and your gifts with His Body.

  7. Vonnie Kronk August 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks for the opportunity to tell of God’s amazing handi-work I’ve experienced. Well, to start off I was in a bad accident in 2007 & came out of a coma like a New baby-having to relearn how to do basic things like eat, sit,go to bathroom & walk to name a few.Anyway, I prayed to be able to get back in choir which I was in when accident happened because I love to sing & my husband said that was the 1st thing I did when I came out of my coma!
    God whispered to me “I can when He is ready”. I wasn’t sure who he was or what God meant but I am now back in choir for about a year when the choir director asked me if I could & he made it possible for me to get up on the stage!

  8. Toni Wortherly August 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I haven’t been on a traditional vacation in a while, but on my last real vacation, I went to Savannah, Georgia. I loved being able to walk around and experience the beauty of God’s handiwork in nature. I also got to tour the First African Baptist Church and see how determined the slaves were to hear the Word of God when many of us take it for granted. That really hit home!

  9. Jeannine August 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Thanks that our God is Faithful & Forgiving:
    You know that we are all capable of being behind those walls just like Mr. Quillen. I have a son that spent time behind walls that weren’t so pleasant. However my parent left me some money when they passed and I was able to pay for him to attend Prudue Univ. while there and receive his associate degree. He has soon been out 10 years. Has a wonderful job. Thats all praise to Jesue Christ. Of course their are some that still criticize because they are jealeous & yet some Praise. The praise belongs to Jesus for forgiving him. Wish others could forgive live Jesus and they profess to be Christians.

  10. Diane August 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Awesome picture,and the meeting there in that place wasnt by accident,it was God! I am struggling in my walk with God,but little by little Im beginning to see God when Im at my wits end,and realizing that we have to listen to His still small voice speaking to us,instead of trying to do everything ourselves,because it will never happen. We have to stop and listen before making rash decisions. Thank you for your daily posts and if you will please pray for my family and friends and myself lastly,that we will listen to that still small voice,instead of trying to be the hero,because there is but One Hero,being God! Thank you,sincerely,Diane!

  11. Shannon August 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Thank you. I needed to hear about Mr. Quillen more today than ever. All in God’s time comes healing. Thank you so much, through my tears I thank you.

  12. Mary August 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    This was a great reminder and affirmation for me. Recently, my uncle was arrested after years of drug use and a recent change from 40+ years of pot smoking to some sort of “upper.” I was the one who called the police to protect my 92 year old grandmother who was living with him at the time. We have had four months of fear, verbal threats and real concern about the safety of our family.

    Yesterday my uncle visited his mother, now living with my sister and her family, and our greater family sat on pins and needles waiting to see what would transpire. My little sister saw God move to change a volatile man into someone who remembered being an innocent little boy. It was visible on his face, this change of heart.

    We pray that God’s spirit will continue to prevail and my uncle will open the door of his heart to our Savior. Your story is a reminder that such a miracle can happen. Thank you!

  13. Angel August 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Thank you so much for your message on 8/6, my heart has been so hurt and broken because my husband left me a few months ago but its been as of recently that I had begun to go into a deep depression. Your word and the prayer lifted the burden, yes I am tired of being sick and tired….thank you for the words of healing.

  14. Corine August 10, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I have been amazed by that verse saying In Him. We live. And move. And have our being. I have read this verse so many times before and I have never found any comfort in that verse. However today, I see a new light, a new beginning, a new understanding. It is true that day after day God opens our eyes, I am still reading and reading this verse over and over again, I can’t believe that I have been reading it a thousand times and not really understanding what is the true meaning and truth behind.

    Be blesses in the name of Jesus.

    Many thanks for explaining to us what wet think we already know.

  15. Susan August 10, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    Thank you, Jayne, for the message. Yes, I can say Jesus is in the boat with me. Last week, I was given the verse Psalms 46:10 which says be still and know that He is God. I struggled with the ‘be still’ cos as you said, motivational phrases kept ringing into my head. I’m based in UAE and I’ve grown tired from work and just wanted to go back to the Philippines. I was planning what to do once I reached home. Effectively, this also meant leaving my church responsibilities here in UAE. Then I got an SMS from a sister in church and gave me that verse. I offered all my worries to God and stopped worrying. The coming days at work went smoothly. All problems got solved with barely an effort from my part. Praise you, Jesus!

  16. Laura August 10, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Jesus is in the boat with me…

  17. Newly Found Faith by the Grace of God August 10, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Jesus is in the Boat with me

  18. Lisa August 10, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Jesus is in the boat with me!know

  19. Jeanette Larrimore August 10, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Sharon, Thank you for today’s, August 10, reminder that “Jesus is in the boat with me.” My sister is going through serious health issues, with doctors trying to determine what is causing her symptoms. This has been, and still is, very costly financially, emotionally, and physically to her. I plan to share today’s devotion with her and hopefully, it will encourage her to allow Him to calm the storm within her. Thank you again!

  20. Cindy Wink August 10, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Jesus is in the boat with me. I awake every morning with my steamy cup of coffee to enjoy a devotion with my Girlfriends. My heart is excited every morning while I watch my Yahoo account open up and there’s a message from “Girlfriends in God”. I have reached another milestone in my life and have been blessed beyond measures from the One and Only. On Saturday, my son will be marrying the love of his life. As he enters phase of his life, he and Abbie continue to keep God as the center of their relationship. Amen. Have a beautiful weekend, as I know I will.

  21. Gail Hickman August 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I want Jesus in the boat with me. Life is hard and I know I can do nothing without him.
    I need to be still and really really listen. Thanks GH

  22. Debbie August 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me!

  23. trena August 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    we just had a bible study on this subject on keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the Arthur and finisher of our faith its title was, who are you looking at !

  24. Maritza August 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me.
    Thank you God.

  25. Lori August 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me.

  26. Diane August 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me.. this is exactly the reminder I needed to hear this morning, thank you, Lord!

  27. Jooleigh August 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me!

  28. Euginia Maseko August 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Amen God is in the boat with me…………………..

  29. Laura August 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Jesus in the boat with me…thank you for this reminder and this deeply accurate depiction of my relationship with God…i have a hard time being still…in Him we live and move and have our being…i wll go to these Scriptures tonight. They are two Scriptures that were very meaningful when i first came to Christ…then as i hold tight to my faith, prayer life, dedication and committment to God in the midst of storm after storm..i think i’ve lost that Divine relationship God and i once shared and i miss it so much…the other night i had to go to the er of a local hospital for chest pain and shortness of breat and after the ct scan of my chest, the doctor came in and told me that i didn’t have a blood clot in my lung, but a tumor on my pancreas…my husband and i sat there stunned and stared at the doctor for what seemed like an eternity. My life was coming to an end…pancreatic cancer is aggressive and though there’s a chance it was benign, the doctor wanted me to go to the hospital in Boston that is connected with the Dana Farber Cancer Center…how was i supposed to think this wasn’t the end. An ambulance transported me to Brigham and Women’s Hospital ER (about a 45 min drive) in the middle of the night and there i was treated like it was the end…the er team was the best…such beautiful people…but i was numb. I had had a ct of my abdomen 2 years prior there in that very ER and that result helped them to realize that this was NOT a tumor. This ’tissue’ was there 2 years ago. A storm??? Jesus…please…not me. I am already struggling with health issues, but for that 2-3 hour period of thniking that my time on earth was over…i realized that i was not ready to die….there is so much i still have to do…like falling in love with God again…to dance that Divine dance again and know that all is well with Him and our relationship is on a better track… and getting right with my husband too…we need to be more one…we’ve been fighting so much about everything…then there is our older daughter who needs our love and support for a difficult issue she has to face….and this is a relationshipi is volatile so i need to be here for her …and then our little one…who adores me…i can’t leave her until we as a family are mended or she’s at least out of college…I praise God that this diagnosis may be in my favor…it’s likely that it will be, but what it did for me was wake me up to the reality that i need to be still and allow Him to woo me again…i haven’t fallen away, just rough sailing…I plan to allow these Scriptures to ruminate while i rest on my bed…just being still. Thank you for allowing me to share.

  30. zyppilu August 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Jesus is in the boat with me.

  31. Patty August 12, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Jesus is in the boat with me!!!!!!

  32. Markeetia McKinnis August 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    JESUS IS IN THE BOAT WITH ME…as I prepare for yet another busy school year with a first time middle schooler (just typing that seems stressful), a 2nd grader and a spunky kindergartner I so needed this devotion today. It’s not that we don’t KNOW he’s right there, but we’re so busy that we aren’t still enough to benefit from him being there. I was just thinking…oh my where did the summer go…back to the grind we go. Just searching for what’s next. Just asking God, what would you have me to do….and there it is….BE STILL AND KNOW…..thanks again for being a vessell.

    P.S. I too have not yet mastered the art of being still…. 🙂

  33. virginia August 13, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    Jesus is in the with me. I thank God for Girlfriends in God , Praise is Holy name .

Leave a Reply