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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

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:

Toward the Small

Recently, after I had a terse interaction with my oldest son, my wife brought me aside and said, “I think you were a little hard on him. You really swelled up and charged into the situation with a lot of force.” It wasn’t that my son didn’t need to be corrected (he did), but the way I dealt with him didn’t express the gentleness my son needed.

Larger than Suffering

The 2010 French film Of Gods and Men recounts the inspiring and tragic story of nine Trappist monks who lived in the small Algerian monastery of Tibhirine. For years, the various religious communities lived in friendship. As the political climate deteriorated, however, radical elements took advantage and gained power. The Brothers debated whether they should escape Algeria, but eventually they determined that God would not have them abandon their village. Then, after midnight on March 27, 1996, militants overwhelmed the monastery and captured seven of the Brothers, all of whom lost their lives.

The Power of Kindness

One Saturday last year, my family rode our bikes to the downtown city market. Each weekend, the market takes over a parking lot and presents a diverse group of vendors’ booths. The place overflows with organic produce, baked goods, and every imaginable artisan craft creation (jewelry, paintings, woodwork, and more).

Reaching the Margins

In Mumbai, India, a boy named Lakhan lives with his elderly grandmother, Sakubai. Lakhan has cerebral palsy and is deaf. With no home or family to help care for him and Sakubai, they slept on the pavement behind a small bus stop. A published photo shows 9-year-old Lakhan tied to a pole—the only way his grandmother could ensure his safety when she went out to search for work. Sakubai explained her drastic action: “[Lakhan] is deaf, so he would not be able to hear the traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he’d get killed.” Thankfully, a group that works with special-needs children heard the story, secured a room where both grandson and grandmother could live, and helped the grandmother obtain a job.

a terrible kind of lonely

The Great Andamanese is one of the most ancient people groups, a collection of 10 tribes tracing their lineage directly back to the first people who migrated out of Africa. These tribes have slowly dwindled over the past few centuries. One of the tribes had only one survivor remaining, Boa Sr.—a woman with no children and failing eyesight. After Boa’s husband died, she was no longer able to speak to anyone in her native language (Bo).

restored

Austin Hatch survived two plane crashes before his 20th birthday! In 2003, a private plane went down, killing his mother and siblings. In 2011, another small plane crashed, and he lost his father and stepmother. After this second tragedy, Austin was in a coma for 2 months.

not repaying evil

In 2014, a terrorist group abducted 276 young Nigerian girls from their school. Within hours, the news filled the airwaves, and the call for swift action hit a fever pitch.

divine diversity

If you’ve ever strolled through a botanical garden or an art museum, you know that diversity makes for beauty. For some reason, however, this doesn’t seem to work within the church.

Walking Close

In 2014, a pod of pilot whales was found floundering in perilously shallow water off the shore of Florida in the US. Forty or fifty short-finned whales remained close to a narrow shoreline—choosing not to swim out to the deeper waters, where they would be safe. Several of the blackfish were ill, which caused conservationists to worry. Pilot whales are intensely loyal creatures, and when one in their group is sick or in jeopardy, the rest of the pod simply will not leave. They form a circle and stay close together.

Tempting With “Good”

I’ve endured many cycles of success and failure in my long struggle with healthy eating and consistent exercise. Whenever my efforts fail, however, it’s because I’ve succumbed to the allure of something that seemed to offer me true pleasure: another slice of apple cake with fresh maple frosting or a series of leisurely mornings where I don’t have to drag my body out to the road for another run. The truth, of course, is that poor nutrition and a lethargic body yield nothing good at all.

Big Ego, Bigger God

I once had a boss who wielded the ultimate power in our organization. It was his goal to make sure we never forgot who was in charge. Though he was successful in gaining an iron grip within our office, the net result was that this man was very lonely. How different it could have been if he had humbled himself and formed friendly relationships with his employees!

Related Topics

> christian living

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.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

> daily devotional

disappointment & growth

Roger Bannister was considered the favorite for the 1500m race at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He planned to retire if he won gold, but an unusual schedule at the Games affected his chances and he came in fourth. Instead of quitting, however, his disappointment spurred him on to continue competing. Two years later he went on to change sporting history. On the 6th of May in 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.

finding our identity

If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

no worries

How often do you find yourself worrying about something? We worry about tomorrow, the economy, our jobs, and friendships. We worry about our kids, our parents, and our health.

> 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

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

taste and see

A friend posted a crockpot recipe on her Facebook page. The meal looked good, so I downloaded the recipe—intending to use it one day. The following week, another friend said she was looking for some good slow-cooker meals to prepare, so I emailed her the crockpot recipe I had seen on Facebook. She, in turn, forwarded it to several friends who passed it on as well.

Whose Opinion Matters?

I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”

> health

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.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

hope deferred

As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

> relationships

alone in the dark

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone—a brilliant biomedical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Her partner for the journey is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. During a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone, tethered to nothing but each other, and ominously spiraling out into blackness.

small spark

In 2004, a man went over a dry, brown patch of grass while mowing his lawn. A blade on the mower struck a rock and created a spark, which resulted in a fire that soon raged out of control. The resulting catastrophe, known as the Bear Fire, blackened 10,484 acres of land and destroyed more than 80 homes. To put out the blaze required the efforts of 33 fire crews and 42 fire engines.

True Success

What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world