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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

Jesus the Reconciler

I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.

All We Need

Dan Price announced in April 2015 that he would slash his CEO salary by roughly 90 percent so he could raise the salaries of his workforce (approximately 120 employees). By doing so, Price proposed that by 2017 everyone working for him would make at least $70,000 per year. To make this happen, his salary dropped from $1,000,000 to $70,000 per year—matching his employee’s minimum compensation. Price did this because he wanted his employees to have all they need. News of this generosity spread quickly because it is remarkable and unusual in corporate culture.

Demonstrated Faith

Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arch communities, has spent his life loving those often ostracized by society. L’Arch creates living communities for those with disabilities or those who, because of their need for intense care, would be institutionalized if they didn’t have such a home. Vanier talks about how the communities are centered around the most basic acts of caring for the physical body—bathing, dressing, and feeding residents who can’t do those things on their own.

Do Something!

When I was a kid, my dad encouraged me to be courageous and not play it safe. He could see how tempted I was to overthink a situation or to hedge my bets. “Do something!” he would say. Then in jest, he would add: “Even if it’s wrong, do something!”

Growing like Jesus

Every so often my wife and I will flip through family pictures and note how much our two boys have changed. I’m amazed at how small and childlike they were not so long ago. We’ve lived through these years with them and have witnessed their development. Yet their transformation has been so woven into the rhythm of our lives, we don’t notice the changes until we look back.

Are You Proud of Me?

Recently, while I was out jogging, I listened to a recorded conversation between a 9-year-old son and his father. Rain poured down on me, but my eyes were even wetter from tears. The father told his son of the immense joy he felt on the day of the boy’s birth when the doctor had handed him his son for the first time. He also shared the concern he harbored that day: “You know, [I felt] fear . . . I gotta bring up a black boy in Mississippi, which is a tough place to bring up kids . . . there are statistics that say black boys born after the year 2002 have a 1-in-3 chance of going to prison.” Then he added these sobering words: “All three of my sons were born after the year 2002.”

The Tone of Grace

I once had a difficult interaction with one of my sons. He had made several poor choices requiring a serious conversation. My son had a tender heart, however (as he often does), and he took responsibility for his behavior. Though I was frustrated with him, I told him that I forgave him. Later, aware that something was still bothering my son, I asked what was going on. “Well,” he replied, “you said you forgave me, but you didn’t exactly say it in a lovely tone.” My son picked up how I offered the right words, but the way I spoke told a different story. I said I forgave him, but I didn’t interact with a tone of grace.

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.

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> christian living

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Blending In

While on vacation, my daughter and I strolled on the beach in the cool of the evening. Interrupting her mid-sentence, I tapped her arm and pointed. “Look over there!” What appeared to be sand moving back and forth proved—upon closer inspection—to be a tiny crab scuttling across the beach. Its beige color, tiny size, and quick reflexes provided protection against being seen, much less caught. The small creature wanted to survive, not stand out.

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.

> daily devotional

Coram Deo

Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.

Memorials

Early in our marriage, my wife, Kristen, and I hiked a mountain trail. The day was full of color, with a hot, yellow sun overhead, lush evergreens on each side, and copper-colored soil beneath our feet. We came upon a tree on which numerous hikers had carved their initials. Filled with the joy of our new life together and the beauty of the natural world, we felt like leaving a memorial too. Using the teeth of my car key, I scratched “A + K” into the bark.

Sound Sensitive

Being overly sensitive to sound is a sign of creative genius. Research suggests that those who are extremely sensitive to sound might find it easier to think creatively because they’re able to focus on a wide range of things simultaneously. Now, I’m not a creative genius, but I am very sensitive to sound—particularly the sound of our children calling out in the night!

> 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

Memorials

Early in our marriage, my wife, Kristen, and I hiked a mountain trail. The day was full of color, with a hot, yellow sun overhead, lush evergreens on each side, and copper-colored soil beneath our feet. We came upon a tree on which numerous hikers had carved their initials. Filled with the joy of our new life together and the beauty of the natural world, we felt like leaving a memorial too. Using the teeth of my car key, I scratched “A + K” into the bark.

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Freedom from Stress

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.

> 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

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

The Last Stop

My friend says our lives are like trains. We make various “stops” for school, college, job, marriage, and family. At each stop we spend time with others who have stepped off. When we graduate or change jobs, we say goodbye to the people at that junction and step back onto the train. Only a handful of people stay with us all the way to the end. These are the most important people in our lives, the people who receive most of our time and attention.

> Topic of the Day

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