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Winn Collier

Winn Collier

Winn’s home is Charlottesville, Virginia, where he lives with his wife Miska, the woman he describes as “the most interesting woman alive” and their two sons, Wyatt and Seth. Winn likes friendship, fair-trade coffee, smart movies, books worth reading, honest music, mountains, questions, walking in the woods, and doing just about anything with Miska or his boys. Winn dislikes pretense, fear, injustice—and that he doesn’t live anywhere near a Planet Smoothie. Winn writes for magazines and is the author of three books: Restless Faith: Hanging on to a God Just out of Reach, Let God: The Transforming Wisdom of Francois Fenelon, and most recently, Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions. Winn serves his spiritual community, All Souls Charlottesville, as pastor.

Articles by Winn Collier

Peace to You

Recently as I sat in a circle of leaders from our church, a woman asked a simple question, provoking rich discussion. “What are your hopes for our church?” There were several responses, for our little community has many hopes. But on that night this spilled out of me: “I hope we become more and more the kind of people who learn to resist the anxieties of this world because we believe Jesus is with us and that Jesus is doing something with us.”

God Won’t Fit

Years ago, when our youngest son was 5, Seth asked during breakfast, “What day is it? Am I going to school today?” “Yes, it’s Tuesday,” my wife answered. An excited smile broke across Seth’s face. “Tuesday?! Today is sharing day!” I asked Seth what he was supposed to share. “Something that begins with the letter D,” he said. I grinned. “Well . . . you could bring . . . Daddy.” “No,” Seth replied matter-of-factly, “you wouldn’t fit in my cubby.”

Genuine Life

During a conversation with friends, several in the circle took turns recounting their early experiences with certain words in the Christian vocabulary. One person said, “Whenever I heard the word life mentioned by a Christian or in the Bible, I always thought it was only talking about heaven. I never thought it had much to do with me right now.” Most everyone nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it was difficult to know what there really was to be excited about,” another confessed. “I imagined playing harps somewhere in the clouds, and I felt guilty when the whole idea just didn’t excite me too much.”

Celebrate!

Last Christmas I read an article from a religious thinker I admire. She attempted to make the case that we should avoid the exuberant celebration of Christmas—particularly gift-giving. Her familiar complaints? The consumerism and hustle and bustle of the holidays. As we take an axe to consumerism or greed, however, we must not unwittingly also take the axe to joy. In the next few days, you’ll likely give someone a Christmas gift that feels at least a little lavish or unnecessary. You may receive one as well. I believe this mirrors the generosity of God. Certainly, joy doesn’t require expensive gifts. But joy does provide for a gregarious and generous posture toward others.

Burning all the Bridges

When my wife, Miska, and I were dating and our relationship grew serious, marriage became the obvious next step. For more than a year, however, I hesitated and pushed the conversation aside. We even broke up twice as our communication faltered and expectations diverged. Through several difficult conversations, I had to face how afraid I was of commitment. I loved Miska, but I wanted to keep my options open. And I found myself haunted by all the “what ifs” and all the unknown future possibilities. My fear of commitment wasn’t unusual, but it was immature. Love requires a risk. To say yes to one person, we must say no to others.

the God who will come

My wife and I have arrived at that poignant age when we can’t believe how quickly time has passed—especially while looking at one of my favorite videos of our oldest son, taken when he was just 2 years old. Miska and I had gone out for a date, and the kid-sitter shot a short video of our boy clinging to the bottom ledge of the living room window. He was just tall enough to peek over the edge. As he watched us get in our car and drive away, he said, “Momma. Dadda.” There was an anxious longing in his voice. Our son was sad to see us go and eager for us to return.

good for the neighborhood

In January 2015, a terrorist stormed Hyper Cacher (a Kosher supermarket) in Paris and murdered four hostages. One of the store’s clerks, Lassana Bathily, heard the gunfire and hid shoppers in a freezer. Bathily, a Muslim whose courageous actions saved several Jews (including a child), was an immigrant who had been seeking French citizenship. As a thank-you for his bravery, authorities fast-tracked his papers and handed him a French passport during a public ceremony.

Burst from the Heavens

In November 2014, police found a 13-year-old boy who had been missing for 4 years. The heart- wrenching story grew even more shocking when police revealed that the boy’s father and stepmother had the boy all the time—hidden behind a fake wall in their house during most hours of each day. For 4 long years the boy waited to be found, waited to be reunited with his mother.

Brutal Betrayal

In October of 2014, Italian authorities arrested a woman for the murder of as many as 38 victims. Most shocking was the revelation that she was the victims’ nurse. Police first charged the woman with the murder of a 78-year-old hospital patient. Later, however, they suspected her involvement in a string of suspicious deaths. News outlets posted a disturbing pic seized by police: a selfie the nurse took of herself (in her hospital scrubs) standing near the body of a recently deceased patient while smiling and making a thumbs-up gesture.

What We Most Need

Recently a highly respected journalist from the Middle East reflected on the many complicating issues and unjust events that have led to distrust among political factions in the region. The difficulty that truly captivated me was how belligerent rhetoric and vicious violence will escalate whenever issues become explicitly religious. “We can deal with cultural and even ethnic divides, but whenever God comes into the picture, there’s no way to control the conflict,” the journalist stated. As a result, leaders exert much energy attempting to keep references to God out of political disputes.

Wholehearted Life

When counseling young couples who are preparing for marriage, I always ask these questions: “Why do you love each other? Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with this person?” What I really want to hear is a flash of passion, a quake of desire. I don’t merely want to hear rational judgments (“We complement each other,” “Our families approve,” “I think we’d have the necessary elements for a successful family”). These observations are good, but I also want to hear how their souls yearn for one another, how they become more of their true selves in each other’s presence. I want to hear some indication that all they are is engaged in their transforming relationship that will culminate in marriage.

dangerous friends

One of our sons has endured bullies on his elementary school bus. Two weeks ago, he walked into the kitchen after school and with a quivering lip said, “I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.” It’s been hard for him to learn how to protect himself while also staying open to forgiveness (if the bullies show repentance) and the possibility of extending friendship to them.

the crooked path

My family is planning a walking tour of Scotland. I’m eager to take the meandering paths and the side roads—to encounter parts of the Scottish Highlands that we would miss if we simply stuck with a bus tour. Some things are experienced better by taking the crooked path.

Spacious

In 2003, the Crafton family—dad, mom, two daughters, and a son—sold their home and possessions and set out on a sailing voyage in which they traveled 30,000 miles over 83 months. The family says the experience, something not practical or possible for most of us, drew them closer together and made their lives feel more open and spacious. Before setting sail, parents Tom and Kathleen realized that their successful careers and two houses, though providing the external symbols of success, weren’t making for the life they desired. So they headed for open waters.

Waiting

In C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy (from the Chronicles of Narnia series), Shasta embarked on a long journey from his village to escape being sold as a slave. As he traveled, he became aware of something following him:

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> christian living

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

> daily devotional

Unfailing Love

A friend of mine got divorced after her husband left her for another woman. Years later I was talking with her father when the subject of their broken marriage came up. “That’s when [vulgar word] was still around,” he said. “That’s what I like to call him: [vulgar word].”

Fit for a King

A man known as the “king of cocaine” built an island hideaway known to the locals as the big house. It featured a marble lobby and an enormous pool ringed by palm trees. The now-deceased man’s estate included multiple waterfront dwellings where 300 guests could lodge in luxury. Gardens, boats, and a helicopter landing pad all displayed the “king’s” immense but wrongly amassed wealth.

Paint Your Leaf

In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Loving God, Loving Others

While watching the orbit of Uranus, astronomers noticed that the planet didn’t seem to orbit as expected, almost as if there was another unknown planet nearby whose gravity was pulling Uranus toward it. Using mathematics, the scientists were able to compute both the position and the mass of this unknown object and then observed it for the first time in 1846: the previously unknown planet Neptune. Math allowed them to identify Neptune before they could even see it!

Shine Brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

Lottie’s Legacy

The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

What’s Your Fragrance?

A colleague approached me in front of some coworkers and asked, “So what’s your attitude, as a Christian, to euthanasia?” Everyone stopped their conversation and all eyes were on me. I spent 20 minutes not in debate, but trying to share the aroma of Christ with those who didn’t know Him: His love, compassion, unchanging character, and absolute righteousness. As I shared about Jesus and His love, I prayed that my coworkers would get a whiff of the character of God—not the erudite arguments of a theologian.

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