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About Winn Collier

Winn’s home is Charlottesville, Virginia, where he lives with his wife, Miska, and their two sons. Winn likes friendship, fair-trade coffee, smart movies, books worth reading, mountains, questions, and walking in the woods. 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 four books: Restless Faith: Hanging on to a God Just Out of ReachLet God: The Transforming Wisdom of François FénelonHoly Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions; and his recent fiction, Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church. Winn is pastor of All Souls Charlottesville.

Trusting Our Future to God

By |2022-11-23T01:33:03-05:00November 23rd, 2022|

In 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz made the first purchase with bitcoin (a digital currency), paying 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas. In 2021, the value of those bitcoins would have been roughly $685 million. Back before the value skyrocketed, he kept paying for pizzas with coins, spending 100,000 bitcoins total. If he’d kept those bitcoins, their value would’ve made him a billionaire sixty-eight times over and placed him on the Forbes’ “richest people in the world” list. If only he’d known what was coming.

Of course, Hanyecz couldn’t possibly have known. None of us could have. Despite our attempts to comprehend and control the future, Ecclesiastes rings true: “No one knows what is coming” (10:14). Some of us delude ourselves into thinking we know more than we do, or worse, that we possess some special insight about another person’s life or future. But as Ecclesiastes pointedly asks: “who can tell someone else what will happen after them?” (v. 14). No one.

Scripture contrasts a wise and a foolish person, and one of the many distinctions between the two is humility about the future (Proverbs 27:1). A wise person recognizes that only God truly knows what’s over the horizon as they make decisions. But foolish people presume knowledge that isn’t theirs. May we have wisdom, trusting our future to the only One who actually knows it.

Envisioning a Different Future

By |2022-10-06T02:33:04-04:00October 6th, 2022|

The three hundred middle and high school students of the small town of Neodesha, Kansas filed into a surprise school assembly. They then sat in disbelief upon hearing that a married couple with ties to their town committed to pay college tuition for every Neodesha student for the next twenty-five years. The students were stunned, overjoyed, and tearful.

Neodesha had been hard hit economically, which meant many families worried about how to cover college expenses. The gift was a generational game-changer, and the donors hope it will immediately impact current families but also incentivize other families to move to Neodesha. They envision their generosity igniting new jobs, new vitality—an entirely different future for the town and its neighbors.

God desired His people to be generous by not only tending to their own acute needs but also by envisioning a new future for their overwhelmed, struggling neighbors. God’s directions were clear: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them” (Leviticus 25:35). The generosity wasn’t only about meeting basic physical needs of food and shelter but also about considering what their future life together as a community would require. “Help them,” God said, “so they can continue to live among you” (v. 35).

The deepest forms of giving reimagine a different future. God’s immense, creative generosity encourages us toward that day when we all live together in wholeness and plenty.

Compassion Over Bitterness

By |2022-09-11T02:33:14-04:00September 11th, 2022|

When the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001, Greg Rodriguez was one of the victims who died in the wreckage. As his mother Phyllis and his father grieved, they also carefully considered their response to such a horrific attack. In 2002, Phyllis met Aicha el-Wafe, the mother of one of the men accused of helping the terrorists. Phyllis said she “approached her and opened my arms. We embraced and cried. . . . For Aicha and me, there was an immediate bonding. . . . We both suffered on account of our sons.” 

Phyllis met Aicha amid shared pain and sorrow. Phyllis believed that fury over her son’s death, appropriate as it was, could not heal her anguish. Listening to Aicha’s family story, Phyllis felt compassion, resisting the temptation to view them merely as enemies. She desired justice, but believed we must release the temptation to seek revenge that often grips us when we’ve been wronged.

The apostle Paul shared this conviction, admonishing us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger . . . along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). As we relinquish these destructive powers, God’s Spirit fills us with new perspective. “Be kind and compassionate to one another,” Paul says (v. 32). It’s possible to work for wrongs to be made right while also refusing rageful vengeance. May the Spirit help us show compassion that overcomes bitterness.

Discerning Right Paths

By |2022-08-08T02:33:16-04:00August 8th, 2022|

One writer referred to Brazilian skateboarder Felipe Gustavo as “one of the most legendary skateboarders on the planet.” No one would have believed this would be Gustavo’s future when he was sixteen. Gustavo’s dad believed his son needed to pursue his dream of skating professionally, but they didn’t have the money. So his dad sold their car, and took his son to the renowned Tampa Am skating competition in Florida. No one had heard of Gustavo . . . until he won. And the victory catapulted him into an amazing career.

Gustavo’s dad had the capacity to see his son’s heart and passion. “When I become a father,” Gustavo said, “I just want to be like five percent of what my dad was for me.”

Proverbs describes the opportunity parents have to help their children discern the unique way God has crafted their heart, energy, and personality—and then to direct and encourage them toward the path that reflects who God made them to be. “Start children off on the way they should go,” the writer says, “and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6).

We may not possess vast resources or profound knowledge. With God’s wisdom (vv. 17–21) and our attentive love, however, we can offer our kids and other children within our sphere of influence an immense gift. We can help them trust in God and discern the paths they can follow for a lifetime (3:5–6).

The Whole House

By |2022-07-15T02:33:05-04:00July 15th, 2022|

Wearing his striped jumpsuit, James walked across the steamy jail gym and climbed into the portable pool where he was baptized by the prison chaplain. James’ joy multiplied, however, when he heard that his daughter Brittany—also an inmate—had been baptized that same day . . . in the same water. When they realized what had happened, even the staff got emotional. “There wasn’t a dry eye,” the chaplain said. In and out of jail for years, Brittany and her dad both wanted God’s forgiveness. And together, God gave them new life.

 Scripture describes another prison encounter—this time with a jailer—where Jesus’ love transformed an entire family. After a “violent earthquake” shook the prison and “the prion doors flew open,” Paul and Silas didn’t run but remained in their cell (Acts 16:26). The jailer, overcome with gratitude that they didn’t flee, took them to his house and eventually asked that life-changing question: “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30)

“Believe,” they answered, “you and your household” (v. 31). The response reveals God desire to pour out mercy on not only individuals but also entire families. Encountering God’s love, they all came “to believe in God—[the jailer] and his whole household” (v.34). Though we’re often anxious for the salvation of those we love, we can trust that God loves them even more than we do. He desires to renew all of us, our whole house.

Watching Out for One Another

By |2022-07-10T02:33:04-04:00July 10th, 2022|

Jose, a seventy-seven-year-old substitute teacher, had been living out of his car for eight years. Every night, the elderly man bunked down in his 1997 Ford Thunderbird LX, carefully monitoring the car battery as it powered his computer for his evening’s work. Jose used the money earmarked for rent and instead sent it to numerous family members in Mexico who needed it more. Early every morning, one of the teacher’s former students saw Jose rummaging through his trunk. “I just felt I needed to do something about it,” the man said. So, he launched a fundraiser and weeks later handed Jose a check to help him fund a place to live.

Though Scripture repeatedly instructs us to watch out for one another, it’s sometimes difficult to see past our own concerns. The prophet Zechariah rebuked Israel who, rather than worshiping God or serving others, were “feasting for [them]selves” (Zechariah 7:6). Ignoring their shared communal life, they disregarded their neighbors’ need. Zechariah made God’s instructions clear: the people were to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another . . . [and] not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (vv. 9–10).

While it’s easy to be consumed with our own needs, faithfulness calls us to tend to the needs of others. In the divine economy, there’s plenty for all. And God, in His mercy, chooses to use us to give some of that plenty to others.

Fatherless No More

By |2022-06-19T09:06:04-04:00June 19th, 2022|

Guy Bryant, single and with no children of his own, worked in New York City’s child welfare department. Daily, he encountered the intense need for foster parents and decided to do something about it. For more than a decade, Bryant fostered more than fifty children, once caring for nine at the same time. "Every time I turned around there was a kid who needed a place to stay," Bryant explained. “If you have the space in your home and heart, you just do it. You don't really think about it." The foster children who have grown and established their own lives still have keys to Bryant’s apartment and often return on Sundays for lunch with “Pops.” Bryant has shown the love of a father to many.

The Scriptures tell us that God pursues all who are forgotten or cast aside. Although some believers will find themselves destitute and vulnerable in this life, He promises to be with them. God is “a father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). If, through neglect or tragedy, we’re alone, God is still there—reaching out to us, drawing us near, and giving us hope. Indeed, “God sets the lonely in families” (he provides family for the lonely, v 6). In Jesus, other believers comprise our spiritual family.

Whatever our challenging family stories, our isolation, our abandonment or our relational dysfunction, we are loved. With God, we’re fatherless no more.

Healing for the Whole World

By |2022-05-30T09:06:10-04:00May 30th, 2022|

Tucked into a remote gorge in western Slovenia, a secret medical facility (Franja Partisan Hospital) housed an extensive staff that tended to thousands of wounded soldiers during World War II—all the while staying hidden from the Nazis. Though avoiding detection from numerous Nazi attempts to locate the facility is in itself a remarkable feat, even more remarkable is that the hospital (founded and run by the Slovenia resistance movement) cared for soldiers from both the Allied and Axis armies. The hospital welcomed everyone.

Scripture calls us to help the whole world to be spiritually healed. This means we need to have compassion for all—regardless of their views. Everyone, no matter their ideology, deserves Christ’s love and kindness. Paul insists that Jesus’ all-embracing love “compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:14). All of us suffer the sickness of sin. All of us are in desperate need of the healing of Jesus’ forgiveness. And He’s moved toward all of us in order to heal us.

Then, in a surprising move, God entrusted us with “the message of reconciliation” (v. 19). God invites us to tend to wounded and broken people (like us). We participate in healing work where the sick are made healthy through union with Him. And this reconciliation, this healing, is for all who will receive it.

Something Deep and Binding

By |2022-05-22T09:06:04-04:00May 22nd, 2022|

Amina, an Iraqi immigrant, and Joseph, an American from birth, attended a political protest on opposite sides. We’ve been taught to believe that those who are separated by ethnicity and politics carry unbridled animosity toward each other. However, when a small mob accosted Joseph, trying to set his shirt on fire, Amina rushed to his defense. “I don’t think we could be any further apart as people,” Joseph told a reporter, “and yet, it was just kinda like this common ‘that’s not OK’ moment.” Something deeper than politics knit Amina and Joseph together.

Though we often have genuine disagreements with one another—substantial differences we often can’t ignore—there are far deeper realities that bind us together. We’re all created by God and bound together in one beloved human family. God has created each of us—regardless of gender, social class, ethnic identity or political persuasion—“in his own image” (Genesis 1:26). Whatever else might be true, God is reflected in both you and me. Further, He’s given us a shared purpose to “fill” and “rule” God’s world with wisdom and care (v. 28).

Whenever we forget how we’re bound together in God, we do damage to ourselves and others. But whenever we come together in His grace and truth, we participate in His desire to make a good and flourishing world.

The Fierce Struggle

By |2022-05-16T09:06:11-04:00May 16th, 2022|

In 1896, an explorer named Carl Akely found himself in a remote section of Ethiopia, chased by an eighty-pound leopard. He remembered the leopard pouncing, trying “to sink her teeth into my throat.” She missed, snagging his right arm with her vicious jaws. The two rolled in the sand—a long, fierce struggle. Akely weakened, and “it became a question of who would give up first.” Summoning his last bit of strength, Akely was able to suffocate the big cat with his bare hands.

The apostle Paul explained how each of us who believe in Jesus will inevitably encounter our own fierce struggles, those places where we feel overwhelmed and are tempted to surrender. Instead, we must “stand firm” and take our “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11, 14). Rather than cower in fear or crumble as we recognize our weakness and vulnerability, Paul challenged us to step forward in faith, remembering that we don’t rely on our own courage and strength but on God. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” he wrote (v. 10). In the challenges we face, He’s only a prayer away (v. 18).

Yes, we have many struggles, and we will never escape them by our own power or ingenuity. God is more powerful than any enemy or evil we will ever face.

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