Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Just glancing at the title of this post, I can imagine that you might be guessing what "N.B." means.Knowing that you know that I'm a runner (and that I often enjoy writing about how running is a spiritual practice for me) you might think that "N.B." stands for New Balance.Or perhaps, recalling the way that recent World Series turned out and knowing that I'm in the midst of Cardinal Country, you think that "N.B." stands for "Not Boston."Or maybe, knowing that November is a month in which some men grow facial hair in order to draw awareness to men's health issues (see: Novembeard and Movember), you might be hoping "N.B." stands for "No Beards."

Alas, you'd be wrong on all accounts.

Last month, on my second trip to the White House Retreat Center in St. Louis, we were introduced to some new (old?) faith-acronyms.You're probably familiar with faith-acronyms.Of course there's W.W.J.D (What Would Jesus Do?).But there's also P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens) and F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God).There's even B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth).But did you know that faith-acronyms have been around for millennia?Early Christians used the symbol of the fish to communicate their faith to one another, because the Greek word fish ("ichthus") - transliterated - represented the phrase "Jesus Christ God's Son, Savior" (Iesous Xristos Theou Huios, Soter).

On our retreat at White House, we were introduced to a new-to-us (but actually much older) acronym that should inspire us to greater faithfulness.N.B. refers to the Latin phrase "Nota Bene."First appearing in print in the 1720s this phrase means "note well," as the goal of the communicator to the reader was to "note well" a particular detail in the writing.It was a call to "pay good attention to the manner at hand."

When used in spiritual terms, however, the initials "N.B." means something more.It stands as a reminder to "note well" or "pay attention" to the presence of God in your midst.One of the core Jesuit teachings we learned on our retreat is that God is everywhere - in all things; in all circumstances and events.If we believe that, then there is something "good" in every situation.There is something in each moment which can draw us toward God.From a spiritual standpoint, seeing the initials "N.B." is to be reminded to pause and ask oneself: How would I be different or act differently if I understood that the ground I was standing on at that particular moment was holy ground?How might I look at people and places and things differently if I were to 'note well' the presence of God in them?"

What if we reminded ourselves to "note well" the presence of God before we began each conversation; walked into every room; went to every meeting?How would we look at the kids from the neighborhood, or the hymns appointed in the bulletin, or the co-worker who always seems to bring out the worst in us, orif we truly believed that God was present in them?

When I sign my name, I'll often include the letters "N.B." - as a way of reminding me of the importance of "noting well.""Nota Bene" has become part of my daily prayers.And I try to repeat the phrase often throughout the day."Lord, help me 'note well' today - help me pay close attention to the ways you are speaking through all the people I will meet today; all the things I will experience."As we learned on retreat, being silent doesn't just mean not talking.It means slowing oneself down so that one is less likely to miss the ways God revealing Godself."N.B." reminds me to slow down; not take things for granted; not make snap judgments about people; to pay close attention to the details of my life so that I might not miss how God is at work in all aspects of my experiences, which I believe, in order to draw me closer.
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