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Winn Collier

Winn Collier

A pastor for twenty-five years, Winn and his family live in Holland, Michigan, where Winn teaches at Western Theological Seminary and directs the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination. 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 five books: Restless Faith, Let God: The Transforming Wisdom of François Fénelon, Holy Curiosity, the epistolary novel Love Big, Be Well, and A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson.

Articles by Winn Collier

Fatherless No More

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

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

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

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.

Really Alive

Since it was the week after Easter, our five-year-old son, Wyatt, had heard plenty of resurrection talk. He always had questions—usually real stumpers. I was driving, and he was buckled into his seat behind me. Wyatt peered out the window, deep in thought. “Daddy,” he said, pausing and preparing to ask me a tough one. “When Jesus brings us back…

This Changes Everything

Jaroslav Pelikan, longtime Yale professor considered one of “his generation’s preeminent authorities on Christian history,” was renowned for his extensive academic career. He published more than thirty books and won the esteemed Kluge Prize as a lifetime award for his voluminous writing. One of his students, however, recounted what he considered his teacher’s most important words, spoken from his deathbed:…

A Life of Integrity

Abel Mutai, a Kenyan runner competing in a grueling international cross-country race, was mere yards from victory—his lead secure. Confused by the course’s signage and thinking he’d already crossed the finish line, however, Mutai stopped short. The Spanish runner in second place, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, saw Mutai’s mistake. Rather than take advantage and bolt past for the win, however, he caught up to Mutai, put out his arm and guided Mutai forward to a gold-medal win. When reporters asked Anaya why he purposefully lost the race, he insisted that Mutai deserved the win, not him. “What would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of that medal? What would my mom think of that?” As one report put it: “Anaya chose honesty over victory.”

Proverbs says that those who desire to live honestly, who want their lives to display faithfulness and authenticity, make choices based on what’s true rather than what’s expedient. “The integrity of the upright guides them” (11:3). This commitment to integrity isn’t only the right way to live, but it also offers a better life. The proverb continues: “But the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (v. 3). In the long run, dishonesty never pays.

If we abandon our integrity, short term “wins” actually yield defeat. But when fidelity and truthfulness shape us in God’s power, we slowly become people of deep character who lead genuinely good lives.

The Joy of Good News

One evening in 1964, the Great Alaska earthquake shocked and writhed for more than four minutes, registering a 9.2 magnitude. In Anchorage, whole city blocks disappeared, leaving only massive craters and rubble. Through the dark, terrifying night, news reporter Genie Chance stood at her microphone, passing along messages to desperate people sitting by their radios: a husband working in the bush heard that his wife was alive, distraught families heard that their sons on a Boy Scout camping trip were okay, a couple heard that their children had been found. The radio crackled with line after line of good news—pure joy amid the ruin.

This must have been something like what Israel felt when they heard these words from the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (61:1).  As they looked over the wasteland of their wrecked lives and grim future, Isaiah’s clear voice brought good news at the very moment when all seemed lost. God intended to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives. . . . [To] rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” (vv. 1, 4). In the midst of their terror, the people heard God’s assuring promise, His good news.

For us today, it’s in Jesus that we hear God’s good news—this is what the word gospel means. Into our fears, pains and failures, He delivers good news. And our distress gives way to joy.

The Power of Love

Two octogenarians, one from Germany and the other Denmark, were an unlikely couple. They each enjoyed sixty years of marriage before being widowed. Though living only fifteen minutes apart, their homes were in separate countries. Still, they fell in love, regularly cooking meals and spending time together. Sadly, in 2020, due to the coronavirus, the Danish government closed the border crossing. Undeterred, every day at 3:00 p.m., the two met at the border on a quiet country lane, and seated on their respective sides, shared a picnic. “We’re here because of love,” the man explained. Their love was stronger than borders, more powerful than a pandemic.

The Song of Songs effuses in rapturous language about love’s indomitable power. “Love is as strong as death,” Solomon insists (8:6). None of us escapes death; it arrives with a steely finality we can’t break. And yet love, the writer says, is every bit as strong. What’s more, love “burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (v. 6). Have you ever watched a fire exploding in feverish rage? Fire—like love—is impossible to contain. “Many waters cannot quench love.” Not even a raging river can sweep love away (v. 7).

Human love, whenever it’s selfless and true, offers reflections of these characteristics. However, only God’s love offers such potency, such limitless depths, such tenacious power. And here’s the stunner: God loves each of us with this unquenchable love.