David Teems is one of only a few people I have ever met who has the same rabid, romantic infatuation with words I do. He and I have exchanged many a well-turned phrase only to hear the other sigh with that deep "Ah yes! Beautiful!" sort of sigh.
David has long been a student of the devoted life. He has had wonderful teachers along the way; Thomas Merton (another shared obsession), Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Bernard to name a few. He has also benefited from the instruction of three other "mystics" whose names might be less familiar: Oreo, Salem and Savannah. It is these three indomitable spirits who inspired his new book, And Thereby Hangs a Tale: What I Really Know About the Devoted Life I Learned From My Dogs.
"Set worship adrift in me. Awaken my heart, the Eden sleeping in me. I submit to all my teachers...I submit to the wonders of creation...I will listen for instruction. I will suffer their gentle rebuke that I may find the rule of life...Let worship flourish; let it prosper in me. Let it filter into the very lengths and limits of me, into the full extent of who I am."
In stories both delightfully humorous and deeply poignant, he explains how his four-legged friends gave a physical texture to slippery concepts like abiding in the Presence, uncommon love, vibrant silence, authentic self-hood, and union with God. Through the warp of these, he weaves a weft of poetry and mystical language from sources as varied as Shakespeare, Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Jack London, G.K. Chesterton and Khalil Gibran.
"Love is the logos, the central heat of inspiration, the primal cause, the unreason God reasons with."
I would buy the book purely for the prayers which close each chapter. I know I will revisit these in my own devotional life again and again. The narrative, while descriptive, is clean and uncluttered, and imminently readable. But the prayers, well, those are pure poetry...rich, luscious, honest, vigorous, and potent...an elegant distillation. This one is my favorite.
You are the sun in my eyes, Lord, the day that breaks on all my sleeping senses. Search me until you see yourself. I am hopeful clay. And in the yielding, in the undoing, in the unraveling of all my fictions, in the unspinning of all my webs, in the letting go, I will know with certainty just who I am. Let joy overcome me, even as sight given to a man born blind. Let gladness and thanksgiving be my twin witnesses in a cynical world. Let redemption, like worship, be a continuous event in my life. Author me into gladness. Put yourself into this peculiar work. For I am no less a gospel, a love letter written by the sure hand of majesty. I am a poem forming in the mouth of God, a psalm ascending, an ecstasy rising in the midst of all my disenchantments. I am contentment in the heart of deity. I am myself. I am awake.
In Christ my wakefulness. Amen.
Treat yourself to this book. Snuggle into stories that will remind you of beloved four-leggers in your own life. And allow them to nuzzle, bound, and lick you into the Presence.