Father

I Wanna See You Be Brave

Sure do hope you've had a good first week back and an excellent fresh beginning to 2014. Monday we reminded each other that a new year is only new when we allow God to turn yesterday's shadows into shade. Tuesday we took that very heart and realized that while we often hail from rock bottom, grace says we can begin again. And of course on Wednesday, we all took inventory of the #oneword that captures what God is pressing into our lives for the year.

Speaking of, yesterday Loretta introduced me to a neat song called "Brave." I'd heard it on various commercials, but never really listened to the words. It actually reminds me that as a little boy, whenever I was attempting something physical outside, I'd say, "Dad, watch! Daddy, watch me!" And whatever it was I was trying, knowing he was looking gave me that little something extra. And of course, he genuinely watched, knowing his attention meant the world to me and say, "Good, my boy!"

Frankly, the idea that our little lives are being watched by a great and mighty God is too massive of a concept for my puny mind to comprehend. But when I imagine Him believing in me, encouraging my every situation, it's too critical of a truth for my little heart to ignore. Here are some of the words of "Brave" that feel like daggers as they go from my ears to the center of my heart and hopefully to yours:

Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave. Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Let your words be anything but empty. Why don't you tell them the truth? I want to see you be brave.

Truth is, He's the only thing brave in us. That's right. On our own we're nothing. We're scared. And what's more, He's the most important thing to be brave about! If you and I disagree with that, it only means the truth is invading our pride. But when we act, speak, witness, and work because He's watching, we show the world how big our brave is. Watch me, Abba. Watch me, Daddy. I'll be brave.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What are some of the ways He's called you to be brave? Be more mindful of the foods you eat? Take that walk with your spouse? Spend more time alone in Bible study? Be less prideful? Witness to strangers? Give without credit? All of the above? (This is me with my hand up.) What about you? Let your words be anything but empty.

P.S. Thank you everyone for all of the PrayFit birthday wishes yesterday. Means the world to us. More than you know.

I Got It, Daddy

"Bear one another's burdens." --Galatians 6:2

Read: Galatians 6

Growing up the younger of two sons, I used to love it when Daddy and I would take a ride in his truck just the two of us. Sitting shotgun, of course, was not my birthright, so I'd take advantage by rolling the window down, sticking my elbow out, and letting the wind blow. To a baby brother, the front seat was the promised land -- a 10-year old's olive branch.

Well, every once in a while, Dad would let his youngest son steer. As we got close to the house, He'd slow up, I'd scoot over, and we'd become partners. And although I couldn't reach the pedals, I'd assure him by saying, "I got it Daddy." Truth is, I knew he kept a hand on the bottom of the wheel.

Well, when that same hero drove home the news to me that he was one of the 79 million people in the U.S diagnosed with pre-diabetes, my wheels fell off.

Friends, do you have loved ones who are struggling with their health? If so, don't just go along for the ride. Get involved. Seek help. Let's keep praying for God's strength and wisdom to personally live abundantly like He intended, but let's not forget that we're not on this road home, alone. Like my Dad, someone you love needs you scoot over real close and say, "I got it."

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYER REQUESTS:Who do you know that needs prayer? We're scooting over, and we want to help you pray. Be specific or simply say, "Unspoken" and we promise to pray with you.

DID YOU KNOW? --25.8 million children and adults in the United States -- 8.3% of the population -- have diabetes --Diagnosed: 18.8 million people --Undiagnosed: 7.0 million people --Prediabetes: 79 million people --New Cases: 1.9 million new cases of diabetes

Source: American Diabetes Association

You Know The Story, Part I

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare and here I am starving to death!'" --Luke 15:17

Read: Luke 15

You know the story. A silhouette appears on the horizon. Too far away to distinguish, but a father who's been waiting for his son to come home can't help but wonder. Squinting, he raises his hand over his eyes to block the sun's glare. As the distant figure gets closer, the father begins to walk in that direction; slowly at first, trying to match the pace of his visitor. Until he realizes this is...this is no visitor. It's him. It's his boy. His long, lost son was home. And with compassion and forgiveness, he ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, clothed him and fed him.

You know the story. The prodigal son is nothing new to you. The son takes his inheritance and high-tails it his way to the highway. You know the story. And in one way or another maybe you've lived it. Perhaps you're living it now. Maybe not with an inheritance, but perhaps with your inherited health. Long hours, long days, obligations, deadlines, family matters, friends that matter, must-see TV and your must-read social media find you on foreign soil; a place you were never designed to be. Maybe it's time to go home.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Can anyone relate to today's message? Perhaps you're battling an illness, a habit, a struggle you can't seem to overcome. Let us know. We want to pray with you. As always, simply say "unspoken" if you prefer. See you tomorrow for Part II.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Lamb and Apricot Stew

It’s not “what’s for dinner” and it’s not even “the other white meat,” but lamb is a very savory meat that you should consider adding to your weekly menu. Try this dish from PrayFit contributor Kimberly Fuller, NASM-CPT, CES.

>> Click here for the recipe!

GET FIT WITH JIMMY PEÑA

Convenience of exercise is one of the greatest determining factors in program adherence. In other words, the easier a workout is to get in, the less likely you will be to skip it. For a great many people, home workouts are best. Team PrayFit's two workout DVDs provide challenging, results-driven, at-home workouts that are guaranteed to help you build a stronger, healthier body -- without having to venture out to a franchise gym. So far, the reviews on our latest DVD -- the PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System -- are outstanding! Click here to read what others are saying! For a sneak peek at what you can expect in our newest offering, click the video player below. To order now, click here.

The Hearing Impaired

Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would be without sin. But since you say 'We see', your sin remains." --John 9:41

Read: John 9

"Can you hear my voice?" her Dad asked her. "My voice" he repeated. You may have seen the story yesterday or perhaps you've seen similar videos whereby, through a procedure, people either see or hear their loved ones for the first time. Well, this particular moment made this sentimental fool a mess. Watching Amy Barber hear her family for the first time was enough to make even the Tin Man's heart beat. But it's what Amy said that caused mine to stop. Looking at her dad, she answered his question by saying, "I have to focus, because now I hear everything." Only after she got her hearing did she struggle to hear her dad.

Wow. I'm sure many of you could finish today's entry, but in one deaf sentence, Amy reminds us that we are hearing impaired. We have so much going on, so many voices, so many sounds and distractions coming from all sorts of directions that it's tough to hear Him. Our "hearing" impairs us. And it's because our ears work that we have to focus.

So as we hit the day's agenda, amid the noise that makes its way into our lives, let's finish the exchange as our sweet Father asks: "Can you hear my voice? My voice?"

Actually, I think I will let you finish this one...

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What areas of life do you need to tune out in order to hear Him?

AWARD NEWS: This Friday, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be honored by his alma mater, UT Tyler, as one of this year's distinguished alumni. Read the story here.

WILLFUL DESTRUCTION A few eye-opening facts about the most troubling health problem in America

--The annual healthcare costs of obesity in this country are $147 billion a year. This could rise to as much as $344 billion by 2018, according to one major study.

--Obesity has become one of the most expensive health problems in America today, surpassing smoking, according to a study in Health Affairs.

--Two-thirds of Americans are overweight although 85% of Americans characterize their lifestyle as somewhat/very healthy.

--Obese employee sick days total approximately 39 million workdays and 63 million doctor visits yearly.

--12 million Americans are considered severely obese, defined as more than 100 pounds overweight.

--Nearly a third of the children in this country are overweight and some experts believe up to one third of children will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime.

--For the first time in the history of our nation, some medical experts warn that this younger generation may be on track to have a shorter life span than their parents as a direct result of the obesity epidemic.

Source: CNBC's "One Nation, Overweight"

A Dad Who Shows Up

"Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." --Joshua 1:9

Read: Joshua 1

A few years ago, I was living a fitness writer's dream -- working at Weider headquarters in Los Angeles, contributing to two of the most widely-read publications in the industry. But it came at a cost. Hopelessly long commutes and deadline-packed work weeks meant that I was arriving home in the evening with just enough time to kiss my baby girls goodnight and spend a few hours with my amazing wife before heading to bed to do it all again the next day. Though I was flourishing in my role at work, I was far from fulfilling my role as a father. My girls needed a dad who showed up.

I left Weider HQ, along with my bi-monthly paychecks and generous benefits, in hopes of remedying the situation. The overwhelming uncertainty was worth the risk. Today, I am still blessed enough to write for several fitness publications, only now it's out of a home office. With my girls now at school age, they can count on seeing dad in the seats for every school performance and on the sidelines for every sports camp. They can depend on me to be there to prepare them for the school day and to be there when class is out. They have me to guide them along when it's time to ride on two wheels and to pick them up when their balance fails them. I may no longer be at the center of the industry but I am at the center of their childhood and that's alright by me.

Like my girls with me, I draw comfort from the unfailing, divine presence of our Father (Joshua 1:9). He is there when we struggle and when we succeed. We can look to Him when we crave guidance and reach with certainty for His outstretched hand when we fall. We can absolutely depend on His love to find us, each day, and always when we need it most. We never need to ponder whether He'll be absentee in our life story.

He could have stayed in heaven but the distance and disconnect were simply too much for Him to bear. He needed to be closer to His children and was willing to bear the consequences to come. He didn't want to miss a thing. Architect of the heavens, Author of our DNA -- there's no disputing His resume. But by a grace we can scarcely understand, He is most at home in a much simpler role: as a Dad who shows up.

--Eric Velazquez

NUTRITION: Stir-Fry Basics Stir-fry is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. They make a well-balanced meal with a bit of protein, tons of veggies and healthy carbs from rice. We’ll run you through the basic steps to get you started, then share a few ideas to liven things up.

>> "Wok" this way for better stir-fry! (Click here)

>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Lord, Do You See Yourself In Me?

"The Lord looks at the heart..." --1 Samuel 16:7

Read: 1 Samuel 16

When Prayfit VP Eric Velazquez describes seeing his resemblance in his daughter's faces, this weeping writer fights back tears. He says, "Jimmy, it's one thing to know they're your own flesh and blood, but when you start to see yourself, it's simply amazing. I'm at a loss for words." (That says a lot coming from Eric, arguably one of the best writers in the country.)

But you know what? I want to be like Mya and Ella. Not that I want to look like Eric (handsome as he is), but the only thing I want more than being a dad one day is to be a child that resembles the Father.

Friends, we hope that's the message you've heard here at PrayFit. Some enjoy the fitness tips, others the recipes. But don't miss this: Nothing matters unless we have Jesus in our hearts. If we're at a loss for words, our approach to wellness merely serves as a back-up to A) praise Him with our lives and B) help spread the gospel. Despite our highest highs and lowest lows, when He looks at us, it's His own reflection He longs to see.

--Jimmy Peña

Lord, we love you. Our utmost desire is for you to live in our hearts. We seek your resemblance. See yourself, we pray. Amen.

DISCUSS: Are you a believer who feels compelled to take better care of yourself? Are you a fitness enthusiast who feels compelled to demonstrate more modesty? Whoever you are and whatever you feel called to do, we're here to support, motivate, and inspire to you to stay that course. It's our life's work to help your lives work with a deeper faith and better health.

EXERCISE IN DEPTH: The Plank

Today we take a closer look at one of the simplest, most effective exercises you can do for your core: the plank. This exercise has no movement whatsoever but has plenty going on. The plank primarily works the muscle called the transverse abdominis -- the muscle most responsible when we breathe out air. Try it, as you read this sentence, take a deep breath and then blow out as much as possible. Keep going....keep breathing out....feel that? Well, that muscle ache deep in your gut is exactly that, deep in your gut. In fact, the transverse abdominis is highly responsible for the strength of your spine and helps prevent low back pain. The stronger the transverse abdominis, the better your posture and the more likely you are to enjoy abundant low back health. Try it. Each day, shoot for a longer plank time. Here's how to get it right:

PLANK | Focus: Core, abs, lower back Lie facedown on the floor with your body straight and forearms resting on the floor. Slowly press your body up off the floor onto your forearms and toes. Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position.

>> Does God call us to be fit? Let us know what you think by offering your comments on this discussion, either below in the comments section, or by clicking here to leave your thoughts at our forum.

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Still Time To Dance

I will be your God throughout your lifetime -- until your hair is white with age." --Isaiah 46:4

Read: Isaiah 46

You remember 8th grade dances, right? I sure do. I was the king of holding up the wall. Turn down the lights on a basketball court, add some streamers, some 80's music, and you had yourself a dance. Just...without the dancing. (No way I was crossing the outer marker.)

I thought of those dances while on a recent television interview. Referring to the senior citizens watching her show, the host asked me if it was ever too late to start an exercise program or to improve your health. Instantly I was transported to those last ten minutes of my 8th grade dance. Knowing my dad would be pulling up any minute to get me, I knew I didn't have another minute to spare. So I took a deep breath, swallowed any last drop of moisture left in my throat (gulp), and I defied 8th grade logic. I walked across the three-point line and asked the first girl I saw to dance. Best 10 minutes of the year for me.

And that's my answer to the host's question. Our life and our health are precious at any age. So if it's been a while since you've exercised or even if you've never crossed the outer marker, consider each sunrise the upbeat He's playing for you. So get crazy. Defy logic and move those arms and legs. Even if Daddy (Abba) says it's almost time to go, it's not too late to ask, "Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life?"

--Jimmy Peña

FAT-BURNING TIP: Train Hungry

Regardless of how long you've been exercising you have probably heard about the concept of "empty-stomach cardio." But it's not just lip service. Training while hungry -- ideally before breakfast -- can help you lose more fat when training. Researchers at Kansas State University found that exercisers who fasted before a low-intensity workout oxidized 94.3 more calories from fat, on average, than groups who had a meal 30, 60 or 90 minutes before exercise.

As you sleep, your body uses stored carbs (glycogen) to run your brain's motor, so in the morning, your body is in a carb-deprived state. This means that fat will be burned for fuel sooner during a workout.

As the study suggests, this approach is best done before low-intensity training because high-intensity training, such as sprinting, requires more carbohydrate for performance. What's "low" intensity? The most universal and leisurely low-intensity exercise is walking. So if losing bodyfat is one of your training goals, try putting your feet to the pavement before you put fork to mouth each morning.

BONUS TIP: The same logic applies to doing cardio after weights. Since weight training uses stored carbs for fuel, doing cardio after will help decrease the time it takes to start burning calories from fat.

DVD: Click here to get started on the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge.

DVD "PLUS": Looking for a more advanced home routine? Try the PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System.

You Have Some Body

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." --Genesis 1:31

Read: Genesis 1

When we think of creation, it's easy to think of the depths of the ocean floor. Mention God creating the world and our minds gravitate toward the peaks of Everest. Trees, birds, deserts, the sun. Some of God's best work, wouldn't you agree? But folks, He didn't rest until He made us. He didn't stamp "It was very good" until He gave us freckles, elbows and our little toes. His glorious face wouldn't show a Father's pride until He saw a smile on ours.

Make no mistake, you're not one. When you think of creation, look in the mirror. When you consider the breadth of His work, take a deep breath yourself. Because when He said it was good, He was looking at you. What did He see? His image. Rediscover His handiwork. You have some body.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How often do you stop to ponder the amazing craftsmanship of the Maker? How many times during the day do you stop to marvel at the function of your limbs, the cadence of your heartbeat or the countless other functions that God breathed into you? How often do you take these things for granted? Why or why not? Give your honest responses in the comments section below.

BOOST HEART HEALTH This wonder food can help lower bad cholesterol by 16% Keeping your heart vibrant and healthy goes way beyond exercise and eating less. But luckily, there are foods that you can eat that can boost your efforts. This source of healthy fat has been shown to reduce your levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, significantly.

>> Click here for the full story.

Falls and Fathers

"Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert." --Isaiah 50:2

Read: Isaiah 50

Nastia Liukin, the champion in the women's all-around of the 2008 Olympic Games, fell out of contention -- literally -- for a spot on this summer's gymnastics team on Sunday night. Her face plant from the uneven bars provided an unceremonious end to an otherwise brilliant career at this weekend's U.S. Olympic Trials. But the unsettling thud of her body hitting the canvas was perhaps most disconcerting to the one closest to her. Her father.

Valeri Liukin has trained and spotted his daughter for years and during her routine on the bars, he was uniquely positioned on the mat to come to her aid. When she missed the bar and landed on her chest, Valeri's fatherly inclination was surely to scoop his daughter up in his arms, hold her tight and let her cry as another shot at Olympic glory dissipated in a cloud of chalk. Instead, he did the unexpected -- he did nothing. After a brief pause, Nastia stood on her own and with her body battered and fighting back tears, she continued her routine to a dazzling finish.

Our Father spots us through every event of our lives. And when we fall, He is always right there, one divine arm's length away, ready to gather us up in His embrace. But He doesn't get so close because He fears He might miss us. He gets so close so that we won't miss Him. Even when we hit the canvas, He's caught us.

--Eric Velazquez

BREAKING NEWS: PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña has been named as the first member of the advisory board for The Daniel Plan, Pastor Rick Warren’s worldwide faith-and-fitness initiative that helped 15,000 members in 190 countries lose over 260,000 pounds in 2011 alone. For more on Jimmy's exciting partnership with Saddleback Church, click here. CEREAL SOLUTIONS What to look for in your breakfast bowl

We all love a good bowl of cereal, whether it's for breakfast or a late-night comfort snack. But not all cereals are created equal. PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez grew up with what he calls an "undiagnosed addiction to Cap'n Crunch," but is now wise to what makes a good, healthy cereal (hint: it's not a prize at the bottom of the box).

PrayFit contributing nutritionist Christie Menna, MS, RD, offers these following label readings to look for when selecting your next box of cereal to augment your healthy lifestyle.

>> 150-200 calories per serving (usually a serving is 1 cup) >> Less than 6 grams of sugar per serving >> At least 5 grams of fiber per serving >> Look for cereals made with whole grains and that contain less than 1.5g saturated fat

Christie's Top Picks: Kashi Go Lean®, Multi-Grain Cheerios®, Kashi Sunshine®, Shredded Wheat®, Honey Bunches of Oats®, Bran Flakes®, Wheaties®

Christie Menna, MS, RD, is a consumer safety officer with the Food and Drug Administration and personal nutrition coach based in Long Island, New York. For more on Christie, visit her at www.activeeatingnutrition.com.

Our Daddy Rocks

“God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away.” --Revelation 21:4

Read: Revelation 21

Recent business took my husband half way around the world to Hong Kong and Singapore, and after two weeks, my three young children missed their daddy. While he was gone, it was business as usual -- homework, projects, bath times and bedtimes -- but there was a huge part that felt empty. Though we were doing our best, I knew the kids missed those special moments that only a father can provide and I missed the comfort and security I feel when I lay in bed with him at my side. We had a few incidents including, but not limited to, rain storms, tornado warnings, power outages, falling from a tree and crashing a bicycle. Part of our well-oiled machine was missing, and we felt it.

The day finally came to pick up dad at the airport. Two full weeks of stumbles and bumbles and he was finally home to put us back together. The kids made signs saying, “Our Dad Rocks” to make sure anyone and everyone knew that our dad, in fact, rocks.  My daughter even had her favorite stuffed animals to help greet him as he arrived. I told them before we left, “Now, when you see your father, don’t drop everything and run. Give him a minute to get through the doors.”  But as we looked down the corridor and finally spied his blonde hair walking swiftly toward us, all three kids dropped everything and took off at lightening speed to tackle him. Home at last. Hugs, kisses and tears of celebration. In a moment, all was right again.

I wonder if that's how we'll be when we finally get to meet our Heavenly Father.  I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that we will drop all of the things we carry -- all the stuff that seemed so important -- in a millisecond and run with wild abandon to embrace Him. In that moment, all will be right (for good). After all, He not only keeps us from falling apart, but He's the only one who can put us back together. So, while we await His return, may our lives be a sign that says to anyone and everyone, "Our Dad (our Abba) Rocks."

--Allison King Earnst

PrayFit contributor Allison King Earnst is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can follow Allison on Facebook, Twitter or follow her blog here.

PRAYFIT NUTRITION TIP by Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

A salad before dinner is a great way to fit one or more servings of vegetables into your day. Try using bagged coleslaw mix (it usually contains shredded green and red cabbage and carrots) or broccoli slaw as an alternative to bagged lettuces. Cabbage and broccoli are packed with nutrients, provide a satisfying crunchy texture and are almost always cheaper than the bagged lettuce mixes -- you can often get the same amount of coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw for half the price of the bagged lettuces! Some of my favorite add-ins are chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, and 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette, which contains plenty of healthy fats.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

Lord, Do You See Yourself in Me?

"The Lord looks at the heart..." --1 Samuel 16:7

Read: 1 Samuel 16

When PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez described seeing his resemblance in his daughter's faces, this weeping writer fought back tears. He said, "Jimmy, it's one thing to know they're your own flesh and blood, but when you start to see yourself, it's simply amazing. I'm at a loss for words." That says a lot coming from Eric, arguably one of the best writers in the country.

But you know, I want to be like Mya and Ella. Not that I want to look like Eric (handsome as he is), but the only thing I want more than being a dad one day is to be a child that resembles the Father.

Friends, we hope that's the message you've heard here at PrayFit. Some enjoy the fitness tips, others the recipes. But don't miss this: Nothing matters unless we have Jesus in our hearts. If we're at a loss for words, our approach to wellness merely serves as a back-up to A) praise Him with our lives and B) help spread the gospel. Despite our highest highs and lowest lows, when He looks at us, it's His own reflection He longs to see.

--Jimmy Peña

"Lord, we love you. Our utmost desire is for you to live in our hearts. We seek your resemblance. See yourself, we pray. Amen."

POINT TO PONDER

Good friend, best-selling author of "Sugar Nation" and editor at Bodybuilding.com Mr. Jeff O'Connell (@J_O_Connell) Tweets...

Sugar Nation point: surplus sugar rots gums, threatens heart. Remove sugar, improve both. “Experts” who miss obvious -- REPORT: No Proof Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease

You Have Some Body

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." --Genesis 1:31

Read: Genesis 1

When we think of creation, it's easy to think of the depths of the ocean floor. Mention God creating the world and our minds gravitate toward the peaks of Everest. Trees, birds, deserts, the sun. Some of God's best work, wouldn't you agree? But folks, He didn't rest until He made us. He didn't stamp "It was very good" until He gave us freckles, elbows and our little toes. His glorious face wouldn't show a Father's pride until He saw a smile on ours.

Make no mistake, you're not one. When you think of creation, look in the mirror. When you consider the breadth of His work, take a deep breath yourself. Because when He said it was good, He was looking at you. What did He see? His image. Rediscover His handiwork. You have some body.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How often do you stop to ponder the amazing craftsmanship of the Maker? How many times during the day do you stop to marvel at the function of your limbs, the cadence of your heartbeat or the countless other functions that God breathed into you? How often do you take these things for granted? Why or why not? Give your honest responses in the comments section below.

RECIPE: HEALTHY FRENCH TOAST What's for breakfast? After reading this recipe, the only acceptable answer may be French toast. But not just any French toast -- Angelo Family French Toast. PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, walks us through her guilt-reduced recipe for this breakfast favorite.

>> Click here to get started.

Ella's Grin

"The Lord watches over you." --Psalm 121:5

Read: Psalm 121

Recently, PrayFit co-Founder Eric Velazquez posted this picture of his little girls. What Eric wrote as a caption was something I'm sure only a father can truly understand, but it hit me. Eric said:

"Does Ella's grin give it away that they're not really asleep? Still, I found them in bed, sharing a blanket and laughing yesterday, and it was just one of those fun, dad moments I wanted to snap. Bonus: Mya is in bed wearing a princess dress. She refused to nap without it."

Hmm...haven't we all slept with Ella's grin? We close our eyes, pretend, and try to fool God under the blanket of the very grace He provides. But the fact is, He knows us. And He loves us despite ourselves. Call me sentimental ('cause I am), but I like to think God watches over us like Eric does his kids, pausing on moments too good to pass up...with a grin of His own.

--Jimmy Peña

Lord, we love you. And you're watching. Though we often fall asleep on Your watch, we never lose your blanket of grace. We're so glad You love us and You never, ever... stop being Dad.

Question: How does knowing God is watching over you help you take better care of yourself and your family?

PRAYFIT NEWS & NOTES >> ARE YOU ON FACEBOOK? If not, you should be, if only to "like" PrayFit! Sign-up to get all the latest PrayFit updates, inspiring quotes, health facts and photo albums showing the PrayFit team in action. Sign up here or, if you're already a member, click here for pics of Jimmy Pena addressing crowds last weekend at Destiny Family Christian Center in El Paso, Texas.

>> TOTAL BODY CHALLENGE: "Let's give 33 minutes a day for 33 days to honor the One who gave us 33 years," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena. The PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, in stores now, is an at-home, bodyweight-only workout program designed to makeover the body that carries the soul. The DVD also comes equipped with powerful devotionals, delivered by Pena. (For an audio sample of these devotionals, click here.)

>> FELLOWSHIP: Part of the PrayFit mission is to develop a church of like-minded believers -- a nationwide congregation devoted to abundant living through faith and fitness. The good news? You don't have to go anywhere. Our online community is available to you at the click of a mouse. Click here to sign up or, if you're already a member, click here to get back into the discussion.

Still Time To Dance

I will be your God throughout your lifetime -- until your hair is white with age." --Isaiah 46:4

Read: Isaiah 46

You remember 8th grade dances, right? I sure do. I was the king of holding up the wall. Turn down the lights on a basketball court, add some streamers, some 80's music, and you had yourself a dance. Just...without the dancing. (No way I was crossing the outer marker.)

I thought of those dances this week while on a television interview in the Midwest. Referring to the senior citizens watching her show, the host asked me if it was ever too late to start an exercise program or to improve your health. Instantly I was transported to those last ten minutes of my 8th grade dance. Knowing my dad would be pulling up any minute to get me, I knew I didn't have another minute to spare. So I took a deep breath, swallowed any last drop of moisture left in my throat (gulp), and I defied 8th grade logic. I walked across the three-point line and asked the first girl I saw to dance. Best 10 minutes of the year for me.

And that's my answer to the host's question. Our life and our health are precious at any age. So if it's been a while since you've exercised or even if you've never crossed the outer marker, consider each sunrise the upbeat He's playing for you. So get crazy. Defy logic and move those arms and legs. Even if Daddy (Abba) says it's almost time to go, it's not too late to ask, "Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life?"

--Jimmy Peña

FAT-BURNING TIP: Train Hungry

Regardless of how long you've been exercising you have probably heard about the concept of "empty-stomach cardio." But it's not just lip service. Training while hungry -- ideally before breakfast -- can help you lose more fat when training. Researchers at Kansas State University found that exercisers who fasted before a low-intensity workout oxidized 94.3 more calories from fat, on average, than groups who had a meal 30, 60 or 90 minutes before exercise.

As you sleep, your body uses stored carbs (glycogen) to run your brain's motor, so in the morning, your body is in a carb-deprived state. This means that fat will be burned for fuel sooner during a workout.

As the study suggests, this approach is best done before low-intensity training because high-intensity training, such as sprinting, requires more carbohydrate for performance. What's "low" intensity? The most universal and leisurely low-intensity exercise is walking. So if losing bodyfat is one of your training goals, try putting your feet to the pavement before you put fork to mouth each morning.

BONUS TIP: The same logic applies to doing cardio after weights. Since weight training uses stored carbs for fuel, doing cardio after will help decrease the time it takes to start burning calories from fat.

DVD: Click here to get started on the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge.

Can't Be Silent

“‘I tell you,’” he replied, “‘if they keep quiet, the rocks will cry out.’” –Luke 19:40

Read: Luke 19:28-40

The song of creation. Can you hear it? You and I are God’s special guests in a masterpiece performed in His honor that He conducts. Not only that, He’s given us “first chair.” In orchestra speak, first chair is reserved for the one who is both most capable and responsible, regardless of the instrument they play. You and I are active participants in a grand arrangement entitled, 'Creation.'

When the Pharisees demanded Jesus to quiet the praise of His disciples, He assured them that if the disciples hush, they would literally hear rock music. But the idea of God’s people being quiet is probably as sad a commentary as I’ve ever read…like a father who comes home to a silent family oblivious to his presence, or a mom who has never heard her children say, "I love you." Friends, the God of wonder, who has a beyond-conceivable love and unbelievable future for us is worthy to be praised with everything we have — our minds, our money, our time, and yes, our bodies.

The song of creation. Are you playing it? It’s your life. Your cue! You can’t be silent. He gave you the music. You are the music. Just read the notes and watch the Master. You’re in the first chair. Be amazed…and play.

--Jimmy Peña

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Push-Up

Our workout of the week, a home-based strength-and-conditioning gem, includes the push-up. Here's a closer look at this staple exercise.

Standard Push-Up | Focus: Chest, shoulders, back, abs

Get into a push-up position with your body in a straight line, feet together, hands wider than shoulder-width apart and your eyes focused on the floor. Press yourself up to full arm extension, keeping your abs tight and back straight. Squeeze your arms and chest at the top then lower yourself to the start and repeat. Don’t bounce your chest off the floor, but rather start each rep when your chest reaches a point an inch or so away from the floor.

>> VIDEO: The Push-Up

Do You See Yourself?

"The Lord looks at the heart..." --1 Samuel 16:7

Read: 1 Samuel 16

Last week when PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez described seeing his resemblance in his daughter's faces, this weeping writer fought back tears. He said, "Jimmy, it's one thing to know they're your own flesh and blood, but when you start to see yourself, it's simply amazing. I'm at a loss for words." That says a lot coming from Eric, arguably one of the best writers in the country.

But you know, I want to be like Mya and Ella. Not that I want to look like Eric (handsome as he is), but the only thing I want more than being a dad one day is to be a child that resembles his Father.

Friends, as we end this work week, we hope that's the message you've heard here at PrayFit. Some enjoy the fitness tips, others the recipes. But don't miss this: Nothing matters unless we have Jesus in our hearts. If we're at a loss for words, our approach to wellness merely serves as a back-up to A) praise Him with our lives and B) help spread the gospel. Despite our highest highs and lowest lows, when He looks at us, it's His own reflection He longs to see.

--Jimmy Peña

"Lord, we love you. Our utmost desire is for you to live in our hearts. We seek your resemblance. See yourself, we pray. Amen."

WEEK IN REVIEW 

FAITH >> CUT TO THE CHASE: Let's follow Him so close that we're covered in His dust >> BREATHLESS: When we breathe it all out, He breathes it all in

>> WHAT CAN I BRING?: The One who matters most is the one that doesn't count

>> A DANGEROUS PRAYER: What will you do with the opportunity to live more healthfully?

FITNESS >> WORKOUT: Use this home-based routine to start the year with a sweat

>> EXERCISE: An in-depth look at one of the best exercises for your core

>> NUTRITION TIP: How to sneak more fruits and veggies in your diet

>> HEALTH: How higher protein diets help you stay lean  

HE UNDERSTANDS

November 18, 2011 Read: Hebrews 12

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." -- Hebrews 12:1

I think God understands the marathon. Many people will tell you that a marathon is all about the journey, the memories. Well, yes and no. While the memories have their moments, what awaits us at the end is really what it's all about. I mean, I loved the music at mile 12, but I didn't hang around for an entire song. It played, not so much that I would enjoy, but more so that I would endure.

When I began the race, I had a running partner as well as a dedicated pacer (the pacer's name was Paul, by the way.) But as you learned this week, a little over midway through the race, my body started to fail me. And when the partner and pacer ran ahead, I had to slow down. But had that not happened, I would have missed the blind man with his guide, and the woman in the wheelchair with no legs. And yes, I would have missed the two men who led me my last few miles of the race. Two men wearing identical shirts; bright yellow jerseys with black letters. Unmistakable to me. Not so much for the color combo, but for the words on their backs. On one shirt, "Father", and on the other, "Son". Oddly enough, the only comfort I could muster at the time was written on the back of two strangers.

The journey is one thing. But while our bodies fail us, friends leave us, and pacers lose us, the only real comfort is who we follow to the finish. I think God understands the marathon.

P.S. At dinner that night, I watched a lady limping her way through a restaurant. As she passed our table, I said, "Congratulations". Surprised, she thanked me. Hmm. You can always tell the runners. You can see it in their walk.

--Jimmy Pena

WEEK IN REVIEW

Faith

>> FOREVER ROAD: Each step is worth it when we remember who awaits us in the end

>> WHATEVER YOU DO: No matter how painful the pace, keep going

>> TRACKING NUMBERS: Following the steps of the one who's already won the race

>> TIRED OF RUNNING: His favorite place to run is to our rescue

Fitness

>> RUNNER'S RESOURCES: Our favorite digital haunts for running advice

>> SPEED TRICK: A surprising benefit of running sprint intervals

>> MASS FRUIT: How apples contribute to greater muscle gain

>> RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Spicy pulled pork

A CRY AT THE DOOR

November 6, 2011Read: Joshua 1

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." --Joshua 1:5

As a new dad, one of the toughest things to do was to leave my daughters. Each morning, when I would head out into the garage to depart for work, I'd have to endure the heart-wrenching sound of their screams from behind the kitchen door. They were so distraught that I was leaving that my wife's explanations of my eventual return seemed to do little good. But that was then. Older and more confident that I'll always come back, they hardly notice my departures now. Whether I'm heading to the store for milk, or dropping them off at grandma's for the weekend, I'm lucky to get a second look when I'm heading out.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss them missing me so much. I know they love their daddy but part of me wishes that they were always a little more aware of my absence, a bit more hungry for my presence -- anything to make for a more dramatic, lasting embrace when I return!

At times, it may feel as if we've been left alone -- like our desperation has us crying at door for a father that is ambivalent to our desperation. But our heavenly Father never leaves our sides. We are His work so while there's never occasion for such a conspicuous exit -- at least there hasn't been in 2,000 years -- just know that He still loves it when we hunger for His presence and that our eventual reunion with Him will be all the more sweet as a result.

--Eric Velazquez Co-Founder, Prayfit

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: RUNNER'S CORE

In an effort to become more efficient runners, people will often train their legs harder. A few more miles per week, a few more lunges in the gym -- legs, legs, legs. But as any experienced runner will tell you, legs are only part of the equation. Core strength and stamina are incredibly important for maintaining proper mechanics, whether you're training for a 5K or running out a double in a softball game. Muscles in your abdomen, such as rectus abdominis, obliques and deep transverse abdominis, help to keep the torso stable when running, allowing the legs to do what they need to. But simple crunches won't suffice. Your core needs deep and dynamic work in order to strengthen your stride. If you're a runner, or just someone looking for a more athletic core, this routine will come in handy.

Plank - 30 sec. Side plank - 30 sec. (each side) Ab rollout - 10-12 reps Bicycle crunch - 30 sec. Mountain climber - 30 sec. Medicine ball twist - 30 sec.

>> Perform all exercises as a circuit with little to no rest between moves. Do the entire circuit 2-3 times total, 2-3 times per week on non-running days. If you must perform your core work and runs on the same day, go running first -- doing your abdominal work first could compromise your running form, putting you at risk for injury.

>> SHOP: Looking for some awesome PrayFit gear to sport on your next run? Visit the PrayFit store today for hot deals on tees, hats, wristbands and more.

ELLA'S GRIN

November 1, 2011 Read: Psalm 121

"The Lord watches over you." --Psalm 121:5

Last week, PrayFit co-Founder Eric Velazquez posted this picture of his little girls. What Eric wrote as a caption was something I'm sure only a Father can truly understand, but it hit me. Eric said:

"Does Ella's grin give it away that they're not really asleep? Still, I found them in bed, sharing a blanket and laughing yesterday, and it was just one of those fun, dad moments I wanted to snap. Bonus: Mya is in bed wearing a princess dress. She refused to nap without it."

Hmm...haven't we all slept with Ella's grin? We close our eyes, pretend, and try to fool God under the blanket of the very grace He provides. But the fact is, He knows us. And He loves us despite ourselves. Call me sentimental ('cause I am), but I like to think God watches over us like Eric does his kids, pausing on moments too good to pass up...with a grin of His own.

--J.P.

Lord, we love you. And you're watching. Though we often fall asleep on Your watch, we never lose your blanket of grace. We're so glad You love us and You never, ever... stop being Dad.

Question: How does knowing God is watching over you help you take better care of yourself and your family?

HOW MUCH ACTIVITY?

As the numbers on child obesity climb and favorite after school activities gravitate more toward thumb work than lawn play, do you wonder exactly how much activity is enough for your kids? The more your child runs around, the better. But if you’re looking for a basic guideline to help them follow, look to the experts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes per day of activity, including some of the “vigorous” variety three times per week.

>> Commit:

Today, take stock of how much activity your children are getting each day, taking physical education at school and organized sports into account as well. Discuss the importance of regular activity with your child and make today the first day of a scheduled family “workout,” where you spend 15-20 minutes exercising, walking or playing together.

 

(Source: CDC)

 

 

 

 

OUR DAD ROCKS

October 19, 2011Read: Revelation 21

God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away.”  --Revelation 21:4

Recent business took my husband half way around the world to Hong Kong and Singapore, and after two weeks, my three young children missed their daddy. While he was gone, it was business as usual -- homework, projects, bath times and bedtimes -- but there was a huge part that felt empty. Though we were doing our best, I knew the kids missed those special moments that only a father can provide and I missed the comfort and security I feel when I lay in bed with him at my side. We had a few incidents including, but not limited to, rain storms, tornado warnings, power outages, falling from a tree and crashing a bicycle. Part of our well-oiled machine was missing, and we felt it.

The day finally came to pick up dad at the airport. Two full weeks of stumbles and bumbles and he was finally home to put us back together. The kids made signs saying, “Our Dad Rocks” to make sure anyone and everyone knew that our dad, in fact, rocks.  My daughter even had her favorite stuffed animals to help greet him as he arrived. I told them before we left, “Now, when you see your father, don’t drop everything and run. Give him a minute to get through the doors.”  But as we looked down the corridor and finally spied his blonde hair walking swiftly toward us, all three kids dropped everything and took off at lightening speed to tackle him. Home at last. Hugs, kisses and tears of celebration. In a moment, all was right again.

I wonder if that's how we'll be when we finally get to meet our Heavenly Father.  I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that we will drop all of the things we carry -- all the stuff that seemed so important -- in a millisecond and run with wild abandon to embrace Him. In that moment, all will be right (for good). After all, He not only keeps us from falling apart, but He's the only one who can put us back together. So, while we await His return, may our lives be a sign that says to anyone and everyone, "Our Dad (our Abba) Rocks."

--Allison King Earnst

PrayFit's newest executive team member is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act."

PRAYFIT NUTRITION TIP by Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

A salad before dinner is a great way to fit one or more servings of vegetables into your day. Try using bagged coleslaw mix (it usually contains shredded green and red cabbage and carrots) or broccoli slaw as an alternative to bagged lettuces. Cabbage and broccoli are packed with nutrients, provide a satisfying crunchy texture and are almost always cheaper than the bagged lettuce mixes -- you can often get the same amount of coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw for half the price of the bagged lettuces! Some of my favorite add-ins are chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, and 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette, which contains plenty of healthy fats.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.