Chris Cook Artist

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

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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

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When the Zeal is Real:

 

When I look at this painting, I am immediately drawn to the passion in his eyes and the wildness and spirit of his face. I am reminded of the way in which John the Baptizer is described in the scriptures as “wearing clothes of camel’s hair, with a leather belt…eating locusts and honey.” John called the religious leaders of his day “children of snakes… trees that don’t produce good fruit…and husks of wheat ready for the fire that can’t be put out”.

John the Baptizer was a man full of zeal and passion. He came along to prepare the hearts and lives of God’s people for Jesus’ arrival. He was tasked as a prophet to get God’s people to turn away from their wickedness and sins that hey might live on the path of God that would lead them to life eternal.

That zealous spirit was ultimately what led to John’s death. He spoke up to King Herod about his relationship with his sister-in-law. It didn’t take long for Herod to silence John by cutting off his head and placing it on a silver platter.

I believe that the zeal that John and people like him had is something that we should all desire to some point. His belief and faith in what God had called him to do and to be took him to a place that he was willing to live differently, and to press against the establishment of both religious and governmental leaders. There is something to be admired about living a life with such passion and zeal for a cause that you are willing to wager your very life for it. I believe that the world needs more of that…

There is no escaping the passion and life in the face of John in this painting. Chris does an excellent job of capturing the “wild man, camel hair, bug eating” spirit of John the Baptizer. I am captivated by the way that one can almost feel the passion behind the eyes of the man in this painting. To attempt to capture the face of someone using the way in which their personality traits are described is a difficult task I am sure. I believe that Chris does a great job of relaying what he sees as characteristics of John onto this painting.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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The Gift of Grace:

 

What’s so amazing about grace? What is it about the unmerited favor and acceptance from a loved one, despite all of our imperfections, that they extend to us time and time again? Why is it that a grace can captivate and keep us attached to people?

Why is grace so easy to want, but so difficult to want to give?

How is it that even in the midst of brokenness, pain, tears, and hurt, that grace can still be offered, and still be received?

As I look at this painting, I am struck by the fact that the embrace of grace is happening, even in the midst of pain and tears. The party on the left is present and loving even while the one on the right is clearly distraught and emotional. I believe that this is a great illustration of how grace can find us in seasons of our lives. While we are still in the midst of our pains and struggles, often completely undeserving of any grace or acceptance whatsoever, God is willing to meet us with an embrace of grace that says “my grace is sufficient for you”.

Are there times in your life when you feel like the one who is struggling to give out grace? Are you more often the one who feels undeserving of the redeeming grace of God and of others?

No matter where you find yourself in this image, it is safe to say that the embrace of grace is a wonderful, life-giving, and humbling place to be.

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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Motherhood:

As I look at this painting entitled “Motherhood”, I begin to think about what it means to be a mother. (I will begin by saying that I am not a woman, so I will never know what it’s like to be a mother, and I don’t have kids yet, so I am not speaking from personal parenting experiences).

First of all, the rolling hills in the landscape are beautiful. The lush colors provide a sense of warmth and life that one might expect from the hillsides of Scotland or Ireland. The stark contrast of the two white cows in the middle of the field is striking.

The mother cow seems alert. Even in the midst of what seems to be a safe and protected environment, she is on guard and knows where her calf is. The calf seems to find comfort and protection in the touch of its mother, knowing that food and room to play are close by, but that the safety of mother’s touch is still key.

I wonder if this painting is a good parallel to what motherhood must feel like. Standing in a field, surrounded by all that you know, but all that you need is to feel the presence of your child. It seems as if the mother and her calf would be content to simply graze and bond for the rest of their days. I imagine what it must be like for the mother as the calf begins to become less and less dependent on mother’s milk, and begins to graze further and further out into the pastures. I wonder how the calf feels as it comes over a ridge to find its mother still there, waiting for it to return.

I think about my own life growing up. I think about the times that I found comfort in knowing that my mother was nearby. I think of the times that I began to graze in new pastures, only to return back to the safety and security of the fold of home.

There is something about the bond of a mother and her children that will forever be one of nature’s most beautiful expressions of intimacy, love, protection, and care.
That may be a lot to see in a painting of two cows standing in a field…but it makes me think…it makes me feel…it makes me remember. And that, brothers and sisters, is what art is all about.

 

Shalom, y’all –

Jed

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Dive on in!

 

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

John 21:7 NIV

This painting is a reflection of one of my all time favorite passages of scripture. Jesus, having resurrected from the cross, is standing on the shore of the lake with a fire started and breakfast cooking for his friends. One of the first things that Love did was make breakfast! What a glorious breakfast that would be!

The disciples have come up completely short as they tried to turn back to what they knew how to do. The last three years of learning from Jesus, healing the sick, and ministering to those on the margins had come to an abrupt end, and they must’ve figured that fishing was the next best thing they could do.

If I were one of the disciples and this man had been shouting, almost taunting me from the shore as I came up with empty net after empty net, I would most likely be frustrated and down on myself as they were. Jesus was gone, their days as disciples and healers were over, and now they couldn’t even fish! 

But then, something beautiful happens. One of the disciples shouts out that he recognizes the man as Jesus. Impulsive, denying, sword swinging Peter tosses on his outer garment and dives to swim for shore. At the moment he realizes that Jesus is alive, that everything he had devoted his life to was not lost. His rabbi was alive, the Messiah had risen!

There are times in our lives when things seem lost. The beautiful truth is that sometimes all it takes is to catch a glimpse of Jesus, maybe even to be reminded of his presence through a friend or family member (thank goodness for the Johns of the world that can point out Jesus in our lives when they see Him) to turn a season of empty nets into breakfast with our Lord and savior!

I hope and pray that we could all find the passion and excitement to jump out of the boat and swim with all of our might to the shore where Jesus is standing, searching, calling out to us to once again drop our nets and live in relationship with him.

Who is your John? What is keeping you in the boat? How can you point out the presence of God to the people around you so that they might dive in, leave it all behind, and seek to be in relationship with the Lord forever and always?

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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“He died for us too”

 

With movements centered around racial equality and an end to racism and bigotry such as the “Black Lives Matter” still very much alive, well, and needed, even 53 years after the Civil Rights Act went into effect, one must ask themselves…”Why?”

Why does it take a set of activists and movement makers to bring to our attention that black lives matter as much as any others?

Why haven’t people of color been treated with the liberties, freedoms, and privileges that their white sisters and brothers have enjoyed without thought or consideration?

Why does the color of one’s skin, the amount of money in their wallet, their country of origin, who they love, or their racial background take away from their identity as an image bearer of God, and a redeemed child of the One True King?

 

When I look at this painting I am struck by the white feet of Jesus, pierced by nails and bleeding out from the cross. The title of this painting is “Died for us“. I am struck by the truth that sometimes we all need a reminder of who all “us” includes. “Us” means all of our brothers and sisters; especially those who don’t look and think like we do.

For God so loved…

  • The homeless
  • The Sick
  • People of color
  • The Elderly
  • People in poverty
  • Refugees
  • Widows
  • Orphans

…The World that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Us” means that we see the image of God in our brothers and sisters no matter what…and that we love, care for, respect, and protect them as if we were protecting our very selves. What a wonderful world it would be if this held true for us all.

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Connected…Not Connectional

 

It has been said that while people today are the most connected that we have ever been through the advent of smartphones and technology, we live in a world in which face to face verbal communication is in a great decline. Studies of coffee shop social interactions discovered that most people check their phone every 3-5 minutes and that most people held their phones in their hand or placed them on the table in front of them.

The art of face to face conversation is dying off, and people seem to have forgotten what it means to simply sit and enjoy being in the moment of social interaction with one person or a small group. This scene is one that can be found in nearly every coffee shop, restaurant or watering hole across the globe. Though we are the most connected that we have ever been as a people through social media, instant messaging, chat rooms, apps, etc., we have fallen away from the connection of good old fashioned conversation.

Some of the best and most memorable talks that I can remember having were with my friends and family members over a meal, perhaps a beverage simply enjoying being with one another. Whether we were in a rocking chair, on a couch, swinging on a porch, or taking a walk, there is simply no substitute for the connectedness that comes from being with someone simply for who they are.

I am as guilty as the next person, I will admit. Nevertheless, the question that I will leave with is this. Who do you need to sit down with for a cup of coffee, an adult beverage, a slice of pie, or a nice long walk? What could you stand to gain from a good old fashioned distraction-free conversation with someone that you care about?

 

Something to ponder…

 

Shalom, Y’all –

Jed

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The Infamy of Equality:

Born Michael Luther King, Jr. in January of 1929, Doctor King is without a doubt one of the names of people that I thought of when I began to think about Chris’ exhibit about infamous people. Despite his revolutionary efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement, and his commitment to nonviolent means of protests, Dr. King no doubt was an individual who lived a life that impacted the lived of all people (to the dismay of some, and the joy of others).

I believe that Dr. King’s infamy is rooted in part in what was then a radical and revolutionary thought that all people are image bearers of The Creator God, and should be treated and held equal as members of that creation.

In a time in which many African American citizens were fighting to be seen as something more than inferior, unworthy, and beneath their caucasian counterparts, Dr. King and others worked hard and marched, protested, picketed, and rallied to push for total inclusion and acceptance for all people. King became a hero to many, and a villain to others as a result of his efforts though the Civil Rights Movement.

I had the pleasure of walking through the National Civil Rights Museum alongside my classmates in the seminary program that I am a part of in February of 2017. Printed in large letters on the walls of the first room that one enters at the museum, amidst information and memorabilia about African slave trade and inhumane living and working conditions were the words

” We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”

I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of this statement, written in 1776, surrounding reminders of such a painful and shameful piece of our nation’s past.

I am grateful that Dr. King and others like him were willing to risk ridicule, violence, injustice, pain, and even death in the pursuit of what they felt was a right and noble cause. I am grateful that they believed so strongly, that they endured and triumphed in order that we might live in a society that was more diverse, accepting, free, and open to persons of all races, creeds, and backgrounds.

It is a shame that it took a bunch of infamous, “revolutionary”, and “visionary” thinkers to help our nation to realize the power of a more than 200-year-old statement that… “All men are created equal”.

I pray that we may all be willing to risk infamy and endure hardships in order that our brothers and sisters will know that they too bear the image of our Creator and that they too deserve the protection, freedom, and love that we are all entitled to.