Masterpiece by the Bay
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 NASB).
Friend To Friend
I grew up on the East Coast and was excited when my husband, son, and I 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 “Devil’s 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 its 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 headphones and a cassette recorder and toured the prison while listening to the taped voices of various prisoners recount their days behind bars. I walked into 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 was 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 a bit, and he autographed my copy of his book. Then God spoke to my heart, “On this vacation, 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 forests. But when I looked into Jim Quillen’s eyes, I saw God’s most incredible masterpiece: a changed life.
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,
Now It’s Your Turn
What one person that you know 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 a special way. And when He does, I’d love to hear about it! Visit my blog at .
Praise God for His changing power. I wasn’t in the actual Alcatraz, but I was in a prison of my own until Jesus made my life new.
Great post; great parallel.
God bless you and your family,
My family had a beautiful vacation in Banner Elk this summer. As we paddled down a river we found ourselves where mountains rose up on both sides. I asked my kids, “How small do you feel right now?” They both laughed and said, “Very small”. We kept paddling and I talked with them about how huge the mountains were and the vast expanse of the universe and yet God knows us so well, he’s counted the hairs on our head and has our name written on His hand. God is so sweet to pay so much attention to us and to know us that well!
As a mother to two toddlers, I find myself getting lazy by the days end. It is moments like these where I realize that I have not spent any time with the Lord. I decided to read my daily “Girlfriends in God” and I was so touched by your God-inspiring words. The way you poured your soul out on paper reminded me of the way my heart communicates and it is very similar to yours. What an amazing trip you had! God gave you something special on that trip. I love your recommendation to take a trip and ask God to show His greatness. I think I will do that. I won’t be able to go away to anything as thrilling as what you did but I know God will meet me with greatness anywhere I am! God bless you and your ministry.