Chris Cook Artist

Southern Art – Georgia Artist – Landscape Paintings, Christian Art, Southern Expressionist Art

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Land of the free…

 

 

The stars and stripes have always stood for so much to so many people.

 

To some, they are a reminder of the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For others, they are a battle flag, a representation of why they volunteered to serve in the military…the reason that they fought.

For some, it reminds them that they live in a nation of freedom from persecution and terror.

For others, it serves as a brutal reminder that the established order of government operates and exists on a plane much larger than any one citizen might hope to ever influence or change.

And still, others see the Red, White, and Blue banner as a representation of everything that is wrong with American society today; citing big brother, government conspiracies, the eye in the sky, racism, classism, hatred, etc. that continue to divide these “United States” of America.

 

Regardless of what comes to mind when you see the American flag, there is no doubt that it represents much more than simply an assembly of people from 50 states living together on one land mass. It represents a collection of ideas, dreams, wishes, and hopes of millions of individuals who are United in their attempt to live out their own understanding of what freedom, liberty, and Justice for all means to them.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Hay, Y’all:

 

Growing up in Madison, Georgia, There are some things that one grows accustomed to seeing, smelling, and encountering as just part of life in a small town.

  • Farmers plant fields of hay, grain, crops, and other goods
    • You can mark the seasons by when they are cutting and baling each growth of hay or straw
  • Farms have animals. Animals make noises and smell funny. It’s part of living in dairy country.
    • Those same fields of hay and grass get fertilized… often with chicken manure. You will grow familiar with the distinct smell that comes along
  • Tractors need fuel and repair. A small town traffic jam might be because you’re stuck behind a combine or a tractor on its way into town or back out to the farm.
  • People live life at a little slower pace. Strolling down the streets of downtown, you could be met by any number of people who know your name, your mama’s name, and probably where you go to church. The community, connectedness, and camaraderie are simply something that one can’t always find in bigger cities and towns.

 

Chris captures a snapshot of a scene that I have driven or walked by thousands of times in my life. To me, this painting serves as a great reminder of the pace, peace, and presence that comes along with living in a small town like Madison, Georgia.

 

What is your favorite part of living in small town USA?

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Coffee!

 

It seems that so much in life, particularly in the work of the church, revolves around the glorious essence of a ground bean that has been steeped in hot water. Coffee is what makes much of the world go round. It brings warmth and energy to our bodies and life to events and parties.

Some of us cannot function without at least one cup in the morning. Even if we can make it out the door dressed and ready, our day hasn’t started without a stop by our favorite spot for coffee, or a good cup from our favorite mug at home.

I believe that the way that one takes their coffee is a matter of pride, preference, and passion. I personally tend to take mine black. I am a purist. I don’t often waste time or calories with creams, sugars, and syrups. When I first began drinking coffee, it had to taste like a candy bar in order for me to even think of drinking it. I wasn’t fond of the taste or the smell of coffee, and I couldn’t understand how or why other people drank it. As I continued to work through meetings and counseling sessions as a youth minister and church staff member, it became more and more clear that coffee was going to be a necessary evil. Somehow,

Somehow, coffee was able to work its hooks into me, and before long I was drinking it black and by the pot full.

 

No matter how you take your coffee or if it’s tea or cocoa that you prefer, I believe that one thing that we can all agree on is that there is something special about holding that cup of hot delicious goodness that brings us together, keeps us going, and motivates us all throughout our busy lives.

 

May your weeks be short, and your coffee be strong.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Choosing what is better

 

I love this representation that Chris painted of the story of Mary and Martha in this painting. As I have contemplated the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other prominent women figures in my life, I have noticed when each of them demonstrated the tendency to be more of a “Mary” or a “Martha” at times.

 

As I look at this painting, I find it almost comical. The style in which Chris painted is to me very reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s work. Martha is seen draped over the open refrigerator door, red-faced and trying to collect herself from the business of hosting the party. You can almost see her internal dialogue going off. “Ok, devilled eggs, tea sandwiches, the olive tray is full, the vegetables will be done in 4 minutes,  the meat is resting…do we have enough ice? Mary, I could really use a hand here!”

Mary is intently studying, reflecting, and taking notes on everything that Jesus is saying. Her smile suggests that she is absolutely captivated by Jesus’ words and could care less about making sure that the food and the details are all taken care of. The company is her only concern.

I believe that it takes both types of people at different times to keep events going and to make sure that things get done. I know that Martha gets a bad reputation, but without the Marthas of this world, none of us would have tea sandwiches, olive trays, or the vegetables with our dinner. Mary’s exist to remind us to stop and enjoy fellowship, to sit at Jesus’ feet and to keep our eyes and mind on the things that truly matter in the grand scheme of life.

 

This picture speaks to me on many levels. Are you more inclined to feel like a Mary or a Martha? Why…

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Peter Denies Jesus

 

Loneliness and shame are two very powerful emotions. I would imagine that in the hours after Jesus was taken and arrested, all of the disciples ran the gamut of emotions. The Gospels focus particularly on Peter during these hours. Known to be outspoken about his faith and devotion to Christ, Peter resorts to hiding on the fringes and denying even knowing Jesus three times just as the Master had predicted that he would.

It would seem that this Peter, who knew what it felt like to walk on the waves alongside Jesus, might have fallen the hardest. How could he have allowed himself to sink from walking on the waves into the depths of the darkest corners? What took a man who was so bold and impetuous to draw a sword against the Roman soldiers down to where he did not even want to be associated with this Jesus who he had followed for so long?

I believe that Chris does a great job of capturing the loneliness and shame that must have been going through Peter’s mind and heart that morning. When one looks at this painting, it feels as if we are pulled out to the fringes, away from the warmth and light of the fire and into the darkness. The darkness is no doubt both literal and metaphorical in this image. Being separated from the true source of light that darkness will not overcome was a feeling that I am sure Peter longed for as he wondered what would come next.

 

I am grateful to God that grace allows us all the opportunity to come out of darkness and back into the light of Christ. No longer do we have to be bound to our guilt, shame, and loneliness. The gift of Grace is that God offers us a chance to step out in faith to be restored through grace, and to say “Lord, you know I love you” as we set out to be one who might feed God’s sheep.”

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Three in one…One in three.

 

I believe that one of the hardest concepts about God that we humans have constructed and used to try to understand God’s nature is that of the Holy Trinity. We talk about “persons” of the Trinity, knowing that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not all entirely “persons” as we might think of our friends and neighbors.

God the Father is God the Father, Jesus the Son of God is Jesus the Son of God, The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit…. and yet, all three are God. They entirely are divine in their essence, but they alone do not make up all of what is God.

Many have tried to use analogies to describe the Trinity like the shamrock, water, ice, and steam, Neopolitan ice cream, etc.. The truth is, however, that many of our constructs and attempts to describe God as displayed in the three persons of the Trinity fail to adequately or correctly express the nature and power of who God is. many would me content to simply leave it at “it’s a mystery”.

 

I really like how Chris made his expression of Trinity in this painting. All three figures are seen connected together as one body, but still different in their own individualities. I believe that the skeleton-like parts of the figure in the middle might point to the humanity of Jesus’ nature. Which figure do you see as God the Father? Which might be the Holy Spirit?

No matter how you think of the persons of the Holy Trinity, it is a beautiful comfort to remember that God, in whatever form God is present, loves and provides for all of God’s children who would believe and have faith. I believe that the mystery of parts of this revelation of God only adds to the power and awesome nature of who God is.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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If only by the hem…

 

In this painting, Chris captures the moment in Scripture where a woman who has been suffering from a condition for quite some time reaches out in a crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and received healing.

This account provides a lot of comfort and insight into the nature and character of Jesus to me. The suffering woman probably feels lost and rejected by the mass of the crowd that she is in. A woman, nevermind a sick woman, she is in desperate need for something that will make her fell restored and whole again. In what seems like a desperate effort, she reaches out and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. One account mentions that she thought “if I can only touch His robe, I will be healed” (Matthew 9:21).

I believe that there are times when we all feel like this woman probably did. Things in our life don’t seem to be going right for one reason or another, and we don’t feel like we’re as close to God as we could or should be. Our minds tell us that our best hope might be to stay off at a distance and hope to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passes by.

The beauty of this account is that in that moment, Jesus noticed the tug on his robe, looked back, and assured the woman that she would receive healing because of her faith.

Jesus knows when one of God’s children reach out in faith to try and receive healing and power. Jesus notices our struggle, acknowledges our need, and assures us that healing and restoration are possible through faith and the healing power of God.

 

I for one am grateful for the assurance that though I may feel weak and marginalized at times, God sees me, knows me, and seeks to heal me and restore me.

 

I pray that we may all rest in that assurance each and every day.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Don’t you wag that finger at me!

“so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.  They do all their deeds to be seen by others.

 They do all their deeds to be seen by others.”

Pharisees were very quick to point out the faults and shortcomings in other people’s lives while making sure to keep up all appearances of perfection and adherence to the law for themselves. They dragged a woman caught in adultery out into the street and asked Jesus what He felt should be her punishment. Their religio-righteous anger and frustration can be felt when we read of their interactions with Jesus, “friend of sinners”. One might almost feel the need to watch their back as they think about the Pharisees, so as to avoid being struck by a stone, or impaled by the plank in their eye.

You see, Pharisees were the people who appeared to have it all together and the people that looked down in self-righteous judgment on those who did not. They strained the gnat but swallowed the camel. They tithed their spices, but neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness. There is a reason that Jesus called these types of people “whitewashed tombs…outwardly beautiful, but full of death and uncleanness”.

When one becomes so caught up in appearing to be clean, righteous, and “together” that he or she begins to neglect practices like compassion, justice, faithfulness, mercy, and brotherly love, then they have very well compromised their very selves in the process. Jesus warns not to model the behavior of people who live this way. Instead, we are asked to model Jesus himself, the one who called the so called religious leaders to drop their stones, who dined with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. We are called to give mercy, not a sacrifice. We are called to love our brothers and sisters with the same non-condemning and non-judgmental love that Christ showed to the people of his day.

Instead of shaking a finger in holy righteousness and judgment… instead of picking up stones of condemnation and causing pain…

May we be a people who use our hands to love, to heal, to build up God’s people and God’s kingdom.

Don’t wag that finger at me – instead… hold my hand, and walk beside me as we journey through this life together.

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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“Listen to Him”

 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

Once Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan river at his baptism, those who were present heard these words in what I assume was an audible voice from God.

THIS is my son, whom I love. That “This” is Jesus the Christ…God incarnate. It was at this moment that we begin to see and understand a glimpse of what we call the Trinity. God the Father speaks about Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit comes down and rests on Jesus as a dove. All three persons of the Trinity showcase the power, majesty, and glory that God possesses in one beautiful moment.

We see, or rather we read, that Jesus is being baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” and to set the example for the body of believers about how we should respond to a relationship with God. baptism meant a reminder of our washing of the old, sinful self and an emergence as a newly clean creation in the eyes of the Lord. When we participate in that same sacrament, we are claiming our belovedness as God’s chosen child. We lean into the promise that God loves us and finds happiness in us!

As I look at what Chris did in this particular painting, I am struck by several aspects and components.

  • Jesus is depicted as the silhouette of a man. I believe (though I haven’t spoken directly with Chris about this) that it shows me an expression of the humanity of Jesus, without harping on details like facial features, skin color, etc.. Simply put, it is an expression that Jesus was a man as he walked the earth as God incarnate.
  • The Holy Spirit is depicted as and aura-like presence, hovering over and descending into the very being of Jesus the man. God is joining God’s self in a beautiful exchange.
  • The reflection in the water of both Jesus and the luminous presence of The Spirit. To me, this suggests creation’s response to and interaction with what was surely a powerful moment to behold. The very presence of the river waters reflected God’s great radiance. There were sights, sounds, and feelings all together on that day when God the Father, Son, and Spirit united as one presence at the day of Jesus’ baptism.

What stands out to you? Where would you have like to have been on this day? Do you find it easy to daily remember that God calls you a beloved child that brings happiness and love to God simply through your presence?

“This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

 

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At the Feet of Jesus:

 

The feet of Jesus… What a wonderful place to be.

While some were hustling around being busy in the kitchen, making sure that all of the seasonings were just right, that the food was hot, and that the silverware was shined up.

While some were more concerned with keeping their seat of stature and status at the table with Jesus; more of a political maneuver than anything else.

While people pointed and murmured because she let her hair down, a social taboo of promiscuity in her time.

While the host stayed seated and didn’t offer even to have a servant wash Jesus’ feet, the most basic of hospitable gestures.

 

We find her lying at Jesus’ feet, desperate to drink in every word that comes out of his mouth. She is captivated and entranced by the words of the master and fixed by the presence of the Lord of all in her midst. She washes Jesus feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She anoints Jesus with expensive perfume; the fragrance of her worship fills the nostrils of everyone in the room.

People call into question her being there, they criticize her lavish worship. Shouldn’t this woman be in the kitchen? Why is she so locked on to being so close to Jesus? Doesn’t she respect social conventions and personal space?

 

In this moment, the one that Chris captured in this painting, we see that the only thing that mattered to her was to be near Jesus. It’s funny how when we are fully involved in the presence of the Almighty, everything else simply goes out the window. Social conventions, gender roles, political correctness, how others see us… all of it pales in comparison to simply being with Jesus.

Chris captures an image of a woman kissing the feet of her Lord. Feet that the host of the dinner didn’t have enough care to wash. A woman…who for all intents and purposes had no place at the feet of a rabbi in mixed company. A woman… letting her hair down in a sign of intimacy and reverence with God.

What he captures is something that I believe we should all hope for someday…to be perfectly content, comfortable, and happy in our intimate and worshipful relationship with Jesus our Lord.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed