Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Taxonomy of Clutter

The article, found on Facebook, was titled 11 Things in Your Home That Are Making You Unhappy, and I couldn't resist clicking through. Though flawed (inevitably) by the "how to be more like me" bias, I thought the conclusions seemed pretty helpful.

(Remember, "All models are wrong, but some of them are useful.")

It also introduced me to several kinds of clutter. Do you, or people you love, pile up stuff for these reasons?
  1. Sentimental clutter: Do you have furniture, knickknacks, or other "treasures" that were once important to you, received as a gift, or passed down through your family? And do you feel bad whenever you see them because they no longer have the magic and you feel guilty getting rid of them or giving them away? Your heirlooms may have become sentimental clutter.
  2. Bargain clutter: Who can resist when stuff is free or on sale? Swag from conferences, great deals, and things that seem to good to pass up but don't look so good as time goes by may have morphed into bargain clutter.
  3. Abundance clutter: And what about those extra items that you might need someday? If you are so fully stocked, with backups for your backups, that you can't find things or forget what you already have, you might be amassing abundance clutter.
  4. Aspirational clutter: A stash of books or magazines you mean to read or an excess of tools or hobby supplies that triggers guilty feelings may be reminding you of the time you thought you'd have (but don't) or the person you thought you'd become (but haven't). It could be aspirational clutter.
What do you think of this taxonomy? "When we understand why we are holding onto clutter, it makes it easier to get rid of it," says one author.

Image found at 

Friday, January 06, 2017

George Hunter: Apostle of Turkestan

Half a dozen years ago, when I was reading my way through a selection of  biographies in the library of OMF International's US office, I wrote about Percy Mather, pioneering missionary to the Mongolians. One of the things that impressed me about Mather was his ability to work gracefully and contentedly not only in harsh conditions but also with harsh people... specifically the man he invariably referred to as "Mr Hunter" and with whom he had a ministry partnership for almost twenty years.

OMF recently published an article about the dour George Hunter (1861-1946). His "independent, single-minded spirit quickly distinguished him as a loner, unable to work with others, and frequently causing friction due to his firm principled stand on many issues of doctrine and churchmanship." 

Hunter, who had no interest in diversions, holidays, or vacations, is described as as one who "had single-mindedly set his hand to the plough, and he would not look back."

Mather did not keep all of Hunter's practices nor hold all of his views, but enough that they could be partners. The two men lived simply, preferring to spend what money they had on paper (which was expensive) and "on which they spent the winter months reproducing gospel portions in various Mongol dialects – Tibetan, Kazakh, Chinese, Manchu, Russian and Arabic." They traveled widely and distributed scripture portions in local languages to all who showed interest. Hunter and Mather "cover[ed] many thousands of miles by mule, often away for several months at a time, pioneering in unmapped areas, facing hardships, dangers and toil" as they trekked to the furthest reaches of their remote province.

Later in his life, and likely due at least in part by the "untoward" behavior of some younger missionaries sent to work alongside Hunter and Mather (but unable to survive there), Hunter was imprisoned and tortured by the Soviets for more than a year under accusation of espionage. When released, he was escorted from the city, never able to return. He died in Gansu hoping for a chance to return to Xinjiang.

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My final year of college my roommate and I were both in the process of applying for full-time ministry positions. When we compared notes, I was amused that her application and reference forms emphasized an ability to work independently and in rugged or solitary situations, whereas mine seemed designed to discover if I was winsome and popular with others. Neither of us was accepted  (though she later ended up serving with the ministry to which =I= had applied). My letter of rejection included encouragemetn to find a ministry "where I wouldn't be working with people." Maybe it seemed I have have more "Hunter" than "Mather" in me. Though I would probably go mad with the kind of isolation they both faced. Takes all kinds, doesn't it?

Ministry positions generally require =both= a good dose of independence and an ample helping of amiability. Most of us seem to be stronger in one or the other, I guess. At any rate, reading about Hunter made me grateful that Mather had both the charm to work well with such a partner, and the fortitude, himself, to share the otherwise harsh and solitary life Hunter had chosen and which seemed necessary, at that time, for the sake of those they hoped to reach. Neither ever married because they believed this was no life for a woman. I find it ironic that we know these stories primarily because of intrepid missionary-writer Mildred Cable, member of a trio of single women who trekked through this region and wrote about them.