Wordsday Word: Amateur—in its Original Sense

Today our Word of the Week is …


What do you think of when you hear this word? Do you think of anything highly skilled?

Do you think of God?

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Instead of giving you various dictionary definitions for our word this week, I’m going to send you to a book excerpt that explains better than I can how its meaning has changed through time, and why the book from which the exerpt comes has such a curious title: God is an Amateur.

Please click on the following link for an awesome (or awful?) look at a wonderful aspect of God that connects in so many ways to the things we’ve been considering about art and creativity and the original Creator–and us, as created in His image. Savor the first three pages (or more, if you like) of the peek inside this remarkable book, in Chapter One, “Amateurism, God, and Ourselves.” 

Then think about the question below the next photo.


What endeavor do you do just for the sheer love and enjoyment of it?

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Tentmaking Wows

Besides the evangelistic work he was set apart for (Acts 13:2), the Apostle Paul also worked as a tent maker. But what this tent making really encompassed I had no informed idea… until this week! Then, wow!

I was hopping around the internet, looking for open doors to interesting new amateur work, because health concerns seem to have closed the door for me on handspinning and weaving. And I happened on these surprising videos.

Not only did they make me sit right up with wide-eyed interest, but they also blew my conception of Apostle Paul’s hand labor right out of the water. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

Talk about art and creativity! Did he really do work like this? If you watch the first video for a short while, you’ll hear the presenter mentioning him (somewhere about five minutes in or so)…

A few notes:

  • I find applique the most challenging and time-consuming kind of “quilt work.” To see these guys work so skillfully so lightning fast just leaves me breathless.
  • As I was looking again at the videos, I was imagining these works in huge size covering the inside of tents as they once did traditionally (though now only rarely), with the blazing Middle Eastern sun shining through them. Just imagine… !
  • I also started wondering about the “embroidery” (as sometimes translated) in the tabernacle (tent!) of God…
  • Also do you see the enjoyment these men have in their work? In one video we learn that one of them was trained as a lawyer, yet returned to the family craft because he found much more pleasure in it. This really led me to think about Paul, and wonder if part of the reason he continued tent-making as he carried on his ministry was that pleasure and not just earning his own bread…

Hobbying for God? With a Drop Spindle?

This evening I load up the car with baskets full of wool, both spun and unspun, some still in locks from sheep who once romped the Funny Farm pastures. I toss in some cotton and some flax. I don my thrown-together “Bible-era dress,” and drive off to a “vacation Bible school”  to demonstrate drop-spindle spinning, as in Jesus’ earthly boyhood hometown of Nazareth.


It’s “just a hobby.” Who needs to drop-spindle spin in America’s Northeast today?

In a southwestern touristy area, Native American primitive spinning and weaving might help provide a livelihood. But elsewhere in the USA, even hand-spun yarns for sale come off spinning wheel bobbins, not drop spindle shafts. Drop-spindle yarns sell in Third World settings. People there also use hammers to break rocks into pieces, to pile by the roadside and sell. Who would do that for a hobby?

But drop spindle spinning has become a hobby in affluent America, much as it did in Italy centuries ago, among wealthy women who used ornate spindles as they sat and talked or contemplated life. Today I also see lovely ornate spindles in my high-tech world, have a friend who fashions beautiful stained glass ones. And I know a lot of people–women and men, girls and boys, who drop-spindle spin, as “just a hobby.” Why?

Why a Hobby?

It’s time to define hobby. Webster’s Unabridged Encyclopedic Dictionary says it’s “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.”

How refreshing, in our enterprise-driven, “fame-and-fortune” fixated world! And thus, a plausible reason why people drop-spin.

Once you get past the frustrations of learning either wheel or spindle spinning, a more relaxing, even soothing, activity is hard to find. Even people who sit with spinners at “work” feel life’s pressures ease, as they watch that wheel or spindle go round and round. The motion even calms careening children and lulls babes to sleep.

I know women (including myself) who in times of crisis, robbed of midnight slumber, head for their fiber stash and start spinning, just spinning, till their bodies untense and their minds let go the jumbled fears and tangled worries, as if they were lining up and straightening them out along with that fiber now turned yarn.

Just for Amateurs

The word “amateur” also comes to mind–in its original sense, rather than what it has come to imply today. Still defined first as “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons” (i.e., as a “hobby”), by definition number three, that person gets considered “inexperienced” or “unskilled..”

Yet even God is an Amateur, as this blog post so beautifully points out, discussing the book by the same name. Who can approach His workmanship? Yet what He created was done for love and enjoyment. How sad if we lose that kind of motivation, and do every endeavor for Mammon, or deadly dull duty!

We never know, either, how God might use our amateur pursuits. I certainly didn’t with this one!

So. Enjoy a hobby today!