Mary

Be Born In Us

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy."— Matthew 2:10

Read: Matthew 2

If you missed Christmas Presence yesterday, we talked about the shepherds and their efforts to see the newborn King. We agreed that their best was all they had to offer Him -- our pacesetters if you will, and they made it. Can't you just see their cold breath and chests rising as they arrive? But today, let's focus on the one who didn't run. Though she trembled when she was told of the miracle, Mary waited for the promise.

As I write this, a song by Francesca Battistelli called Born In Me is ringing in my ears. The chorus:

I'll hold you in the beginning, you will hold me in the end. Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem, be born in me.

Isn't that what we want? For our hearts to be His Bethlehem? Born in us? When you and I walk into work or school, when we make dinner for the kids or visit a neighbor, we hold Him. We're His home on earth. Mary offered to God what she was denied at the inn: a vacancy. The shepherds offered to God the only thing they could: an audience.

As Christmas nears, let the ones who ran to Him, and the one who didn't run from Him, give us courage to do both.

–Jimmy Peña

REFUELING LESSON PrayFit contributing dietitian Dana Angelo White gives great advice for refueling with energy-rich foods

"Everyone needs carbohydrates, the body’s preferred energy source," she says. "If you get regular cardiovascular exercise or train for an endurance sport, you need more daily carbs to fuel your workouts and replenish your energy stores. But remember: all carbs are not created equal. Grains, fruit, vegetables (nutrient-rich choices) as well as candy and sweets (empty calories) are all sources of carbohydrate. Some foods, like dairy and legumes, combine carbohydrate and protein, which helps restore muscles. The best carbs to choose are ones that contribute plenty of other nutrients such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants."

Source: Cookinglight.com

"Let The Healing Never End"

"Jesus wept." --John 11:35

Read: John 11

If you haven't read today's chapter, Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem. And when Mary finally reached Jesus, Lazarus had been dead four days. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn't hurry or didn't notice. Either way, the grief and pain that Mary and the others were feeling moved Jesus to tears. Although Lazarus would soon be having a good laugh, Jesus cried. Why? Because their loss was His too, and their pain hurt. Imagine that for a second. Their agony hit His heart and...gush.

Yesterday I received encouraging news with one of my surgeons (last year's). But it wasn't an easy appointment. So important was this check-up that I had my wife, mother, dad and small corner of friends hitting their knees for me. I even bet my mom went old school -- like biblical -- and prayed in a closet. And it was the doctor who delivered the good news to a teary Loretta. But he wasn't crying with her. He didn't console her, hold her and he definitely didn't cry. Why? He knew the outcome. He saw her tears and quickly knew how to dry them.

You know, if Jesus could instantly dry the eyes of a broken Mary, surely He could prevent His own from welling up. But aren't we glad He knows how we feel? And shows it? Which makes me think, that probably wasn't the last time Mary cried, or cried out to a healing God. And yesterday wasn't the last day we'll follow her example. I'm learning that it's true that on this side of Heaven, the healing never ends. Like you, I often want Him to hurry or notice. If I didn't know better, I'd say this life looks a lot like that short road to Bethany.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Incidentally, tomorrow is my 14-day check-up with the neurosurgeon. Let the dust fly, and like my boys of the group Salvador sing, "Let the healing never end". Amen?

REPORT: ROOT OF THE PAIN Are you walking around each day with chronic pain in your knees or back? It might not be the thrashing you put on your body in your formidable years. It may be the few extra pounds you've accumulated since. The good news is that there's an easy fix.

>> Get the full report here.

LISTEN: Want to take in some of your favorite entries direct from Jimmy? Click here for a selection of audio devotions and be sure to share the link with your social networks!

It Just Wouldn't Be Sunday...

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" --Luke 24:5

Read Luke 24

Run away. Just run away. Prayfit contributing writer Allison Earnst can often be heard urging people to run away from bad food choices. Simply put, sometimes you have to just physically remove yourself from situations. Can anyone relate?

You know that reminds me, a few weeks ago, we celebrated Easter, and one of the stories of the Resurrection comes to mind today. When the women saw that the tomb was empty, what did they do? They ran to tell the others. They ran away from what was empty. In fact, what were they asked? "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Reminds me, on Saturday I wrote on Twitter:

"Donuts aren't the cause of the church's failing health, but whether we continue or discontinue, I'm afraid we'll lose members far too soon."

And wouldn't you know it, the next day the leader of the elder board at church said to the congregation, "It just wouldn't be Sunday without a donut." I turned and asked Loretta, "Did that really just happen?" To which she replied, "You're squeezing my hand." I'm chuckling as I type this sentence, because folks, I know donuts aren't the problem, but our heart toward food might be. Because of that, I think Allison is right when she urges people to do the unthinkable. And in many ways, we need to follow Mary's example and turn from what is empty. Plainly said, if believers are going to be the example in this country for a heart toward health, I think Sunday just might be the best day to start. Don't you?

--Jimmy Peña

TRENDING IN...HEALTH

When was the last time you checked in on the rising epidemic of obesity in this country? If it's been a while, here's a heavy, disheartening update. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children ages 2-19 are obese. And, if the trend continues, every state will see 44 percent of its population hit the obese category by 2030. Several states will hit 60 percent.

Despite the many causes of weight gain, the solutions are always simple: an increase an activity and changes to diet. A preponderance of resources on exercise and nutrition in the marketplace have failed to stem the rising tide of obesity and weight-related disease. Perhaps it's time for us to stop focusing so much on "the how" and start focusing more on "the why"?

By focusing on our health as a means of praise and seeing the need to be better stewards of our physical gifts, we can commit to serious, long-term change, honoring the One that created us.

"We don't strive to be healthy to be loved by God," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. "We strive to be healthy because we are."

For Discussion: Are you struggling with your own weight? What are the roadblocks to a healthier lifestyle? Do you think the Lord is pleased with the care that you have shown the body He gave you? Why or why not? Have you ever thought of your body as a divine gift that requires better upkeep?

Be Born Again

"If you then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" --Matthew 7:11

Read: Matthew 7

Like many of you, my wife and I are getting ready for Christmas. The menu, the plans, the family, the joy. But at the Peña home, things are different. Why? Well, we're actually...home. See, for the first time in my life, I won't be traveling to Mom and Dad's. Guess what...they're coming here. It's Christmas in L.A. For 40 years, I opened presents under Mom's tree. But because of my health and the infirmity I endured over the last 12 months, Mom and Dad knew I couldn't get to them. So they did the unexpected. They're coming here.

Now, to the casual reader, that might not seem like much. But if you knew my Memphis-born, Southern hospitality-dipped, tradition-rich mother, you would know that her leaving home is an act of love -- pure, unabashed, selfless love. Her kids are stuck, and nothing is gonna stop her from seeing them.

Two thousand years ago, God made an unexpected trip. Because we were unable to get to Him, He came to us. God left Heaven's hall for Bethlehem's stall. He then climbed out of his crib and onto the cross for your sins and mine. Imagine, God with us. Say that out loud and emphasize with me. God with us. God with us. God with us. Amazing, isn't it? The distance He traveled for you and me. I love Christmas time. The traditions, old and new. But something about Christmas will never change, and that's the story of our Savior.

So Jesus, we know the story, but tell us again. Show us the pride in Joseph's eyes, the awe on a shepherd's face, and the courage of Mary. We know the story, but take us back. Remind us that your birth began a rescue mission. We know the story, but please Jesus, we love it. Be born again.

--Jimmy Peña

CALLING ALL PASTORS, CHURCH LEADERS, TEACHERS, AND INFLUENCERS >> Dozens of churches and small groups around the country are using our book, "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," as bible study curriculum. From California to Texas to Florida, PrayFit groups are enjoying an enormous blessing, combining fitness and fellowship in His name.

If you're interested in more info on how these groups got started and how you might begin a small group in your city, reach out to us at info@prayfit.com. We'd love to share the stories of others with you. This is our life's work. Let us help you and those you love be healthier for all the right reasons. For a sample of the message, click play below.

BORN IN US

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy."— Matthew 2:10

If you missed "Christmas Presence" last week, we talked about the shepherds and their efforts to see the newborn King. We agreed that their best was all they had to offer Him; our pacesetters if you will, and they made it. Can't you just see their cold breath and chests rising as they arrive? But today, let's focus on the one who didn't run. Though she trembled, Mary waited for the promise.

As I write this, a song by Francesca Battistelli called Born In Me is ringing in my ears. The chorus:

I'll hold you in the beginning, you will hold me in the end. Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem, be born in me.

Isn't that what we want? For our hearts to be His Bethlehem? Born in us? When you and I walk into work or school, when we make dinner for the kids or visit a neighbor, we hold Him. We're His home on earth. Mary offered to God what she was denied at the inn; a vacancy. The shepherds offered to God the only thing they could; an audience.

As Christmas nears, let the ones who ran to Him, and the one who didn't run from Him, give us courage to do both.

–Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT IN THE NEWS

>> PRAYFIT ON ITUNES: Yes, you can find PrayFit's 33-Day Total Body Challenge DVD on Amazon but did you know that you can also download it on iTunes? Now, you can sweat with PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena anywhere you can take your iPad.

>> ASSIST NEWS: Prayfit 33-Day Total Body Challenge Debuts in Time for New Year‘s Resolutions by Janey DeMeo

>> CHRISTIAN POST: Jimmy Pena Talks 'PrayFit,' Healthy Holiday Tips

>> CROSSROAD MAG: PrayFit Stepping into Living Rooms This Winter

THE ONE WHO CALLS

October 25, 2011Read: Romans 12

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." -- Romans 12:1 I'm probably dating myself with this statement, but the classic Christian group 4HIM sang a song called "A Man You Would Write About." I was reminded of that song on a run this weekend when a buddy of mine and I talked about the sacrifices and tests God allowed people in biblical times to endure. People like Daniel, Noah, Mary and specifically, Abraham. When asked what I would do if I were in Abraham's shoes, I simply said, "There are plenty of reasons why I'm not in Abraham's shoes."

But during the quiet miles, I reflected on his question. Truth is, while you and I haven't been called to sleep with lions, build an ark, or sacrifice flesh and blood, we have been called. Perhaps you're called to be a better mom, son or husband. Maybe you've been called to the medical field, football field or mission field.

In any case, it's not the calling that matters, it's the One who calls. And friends, God has as much confidence in you and me as He did a shepherd boy headhunting giants, a stutterer convincing a Pharaoh, and a few fisherman who altered the course of history. Remember that truth as you pursue your goals, physically and spiritually. The very same one who believed in them, believes in you.

--J.P.

TEST THE MACHINE

In whatever activity you enjoy the most or in whichever workout you have in store, take it to the max today and see where you are. Perhaps you have a familiar trail that you run after work or maybe you're hitting chest in the gym. Whatever your day's agenda, push yourself to a personal best. Write down the time, the weight, the reps or the distance and post it somewhere in your home or office. Every time you see it, let it remind you of your effort. When you read it, thank God as you think to yourself, "That was me, at my very best." Then, next time, you'll beat it.

>> SHARE: Please remember to share us on Facebook as we try to reach our goal of 10,000 likes by January 1st! And remember, you can help support our ministry by going to Amazon and pre-ordering our new DVD, PrayFit:33-Day Total Body Challenge, (Lionsgate Entertainment) which hits stores December 6th!

PREGNANT WITH PURPOSE

September 28, 2011Read: Luke 1

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb." --Luke 1:41

Though he couldn't yet see, he was already focused. And though he couldn't yet walk, he jumped. You see, Jesus was in the room, and John knew it. So, let's face it: Elizabeth was pregnant with purpose.

It's true...Jesus in a room makes all the difference. When it comes to our jobs, school and even our health, when our purpose walks in, we know it. Sure, someday we'll all bow, but until then, let's jump.

--J.P.

SPEED EATING EQUALS WEIGHT GAIN Study shows that slower eaters have more favorable body composition

How fast do you eat? If you've never considered the question, maybe it's time you should. New research out of New Zealand shows a strong correlation between how quickly you scarf down your dinner and how wide your waistline is.

Researchers mailed a survey to about 1,600 New Zealand women aged 40 to 50 years, asking them to rate themselves on how quickly they ate and also to provide their height, weight and other lifestyle and health factors. About half of the women described themselves as middle-of-the-road in terms of their speed of eating. Thirty two percent fell in the fast or very fast categories, and about 15 percent of women considered themselves slow or very slow eaters.

The women at the slowest end of the scale had the lowest body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of a person's weight relative to their height. For each step up the speed scale, the BMI rose by 2.8 percent. That translates to nearly six pounds for an average U.S. woman. Researchers suggest that rapid eating may simply lead to greater ingestion of calories.

>> For the full report, click here.

DEVOTION COSTS

September 19, 2011Read: Luke 10:38-42

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." --Luke 10:41, 42

When I was 19 years old, my college buddies and I would base the week's success on how well we did in the squat rack. "Leg Day" was the focal point of our week, around which everything else rotated. Well one day, someone among us -- someone bigger and stronger -- put leg day on Sunday.

I'll never forget the feeling I had in our campus cafeteria. I sat there drenched in my old T-Michael sweatshirt with traces of chalk still on my hands, when a group of students fresh from church joined us at our table. Having spent practically every Sunday in church since the 8th grade, I knew something was "off" for me. My legs might have been growing, but my heart wasn't. I determined at that point that if I didn't get my training done in six days, it wouldn't get done in seven. I couldn't help it. Someone bigger and stronger had set my schedule. And for the rest of my college days and to this day 20 years later, I've never trained on Sunday.

Friends, I'm not suggesting you never train on Sundays, but I am saying to make sure that you rest. Renew your mind, your heart and your body. Let all three heal, repair and grow. It might mean a sacrifice. It might mean surrendering the dearest things in life. But He's honored by what we're willing to lay down.

--J.P.

Please join us this week as we look at our health as a sacrifice, a means of praise, and what that means for our daily lives.

SCRAMBLED LEGS For those of you who hit the gym frequently, here's a similar workout I wrote when I was with Muscle & Fitness magazine. It's based on a principle I've published and preached for over 10 years, called pre-exhaust. Basically, you destroy the target muscle with isolation moves (which are basically exercises that have one joint moving) before finishing it off compound moves (which are basically multi-joint and multiple muscle moves). Enjoy and hit them hard.

Exercise, sets, reps Rest 1 minute between each set

Leg Extensions (5-6 sets of 6-15 reps) Squat (4 sets of 8-10 reps) Leg Press (4 sets of 10-12 reps) Leg Curl (5-6 sets of 6-15 reps) Romanian Deadlift (4 sets of 8-10 reps) Glute-ham extensions (4 sets of 10-15 reps)

Note: Be sure to utilize a weight that allows you to fail at or within the rep range listed. The lower the rep range, the heavier the weight required to achieve failure. The higher the rep range, the lighter the weights.

>> QUESTIONS FOR THE TRAINER: Unsure on why or how to use a particular exercise or workout principle? Put your question to our experts.

HE MOVES YOU

June 15, 2011Read: Mark 2

"Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them." -- Mark 2:3

John the Baptist jumped in his mother's womb when a pregnant Mary walked into the room. Shepherds dropped their tools and sprinted to see the newborn king. And years later, friends of a crippled man lifted him up and through the roof to be healed by Jesus. Then and now, there's just something about Him. He moves people. John jumped, shepherds sprinted, and friends lifted.

However He affects you...move.

--J.P.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Honey Mustard Dressing & Dipping Sauce

Makes: ¾ cup

Ingredients: ¼ cup Dijon mustard ¼ cup honey ¼ cup reduced fat (2%) Greek style yogurt 1/8 tsp kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions: Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to a resealable jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon): Calories: 30 Total Fat: 0 grams Saturated Fat: 0 grams Total Carbohydrate: 7 grams Protein: 0.5 grams Sodium: 133 milligrams Cholesterol:  0.5 milligrams Fiber: 0 gram

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently a nutrition expert for the Food Network, and has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine. She has appeared on Good Day Street Talk, Food Network.com, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. Visit her at Dana White Nutrition. You can also visit her blog for more recipes at http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/.

>> GOT A RECIPE? Finding healthy recipes that taste good can be a daunting or even discouraging task. Do you have a physique-friendly dish that you'd like to share with the community? Drop it in our recipes forum and we may use it as a featured recipe of the week in a future entry.

>> 28 DAYS: What can you do in 28 days? How much can you grow in your faith? How strong can you get? Thousands have found the answers to these questions through "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," now available at our online store.

GOING...UNNOTICED

February 23, 2011Read: John 11

"Jesus wept." --John 11:35

When Mary finally reached Jesus, Lazarus had been dead four days. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn't hurry or didn't notice. Either way, the grief and pain that Mary and the others were feeling moved Jesus to tears. Although Lazarus would soon be having a good laugh, Jesus cried. Why? Their loss was His too, and their pain hurt.

Today I read a story about a woman here in Los Angeles that died at work but wasn't noticed for over a day. Sitting at her desk, in a row of empty cubicles on a practically vacant office floor, she died. Unknown and alone.

Of all the things this story brings to mind, most prominent is an inconsolable Mary comforted by a tear-soaked Jesus. We don't always notice the hurting around us, but He does. He sees, knows and cares. By the way, the lady's name? Rebecca. Means secured. She may have died alone, but her family (and you and I) can rest secure in that what breaks our heart, tears Him apart.

Application: Today, notice the lonely. Someone around you might be dying on the inside. Look them in the eye, smile and offer something perhaps nobody has in a while -- your time.

--J.P.

NUTRITION BYTE

Cold and flu supplements have become a multi-billion dollar business. As the cold weather rolls in each year, consumers fork over a pretty penny for anything that promises to keep them healthy or get them better. Are these supplements all they’re cracked up to be? PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC weighs in.

Q: Is there any benefit from those pills, powders and fizzy drinks that promise to cure or protect you from cold and flu germs?

A: Unfortunately there are no proven cures for these illnesses. Some of the most common supplements are harmless; others you need to watch out for. There are numerous vitamin, mineral and herb concoctions out there. Here are a few of the most common ingredients and what you’ll want to know before picking up a cold and flu supplement.

Echinacea
There’s no solid scientific evidence to prove that this herb can prevent or shorten the duration of a cold. Since the quality of herbal supplements is sometimes questionable due to loose regulations, you’re better off saving your money.

Vitamin C
While no one can discount the benefit of meeting your daily needs for vitamin C , only a small amount of research links the vitamin with shortening the duration of colds. While the anti-inflammatory properties may help to relieve some symptoms, proceed with caution — mega-doses can also cause unpleasant side effects like stomach upset and diarrhea.

Zinc
Zinc does play a role in immune function, but that doesn’t mean that more is better. Excessive amounts can be toxic, causing loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and headaches. It’s pretty tough to eat your way to a zinc toxicity, so stick to zinc from foods like shellfish, pork, beans, nuts and whole grains.

Vitamins A and E
You body relies on vitamins A and E from foods to help keep the immune system running strong. These two vitamins also happen to have cell-protecting antioxidant properties. Again, more is not the answer — large doses from supplements can be toxic.

Bottom Line: Beat germs during the winter months by eating a diet loaded with nutrients and antioxidants from brightly colored fruits and vegetables. If you do come down with an ailment, seek relief from real foods like chicken soup, tea with honey and lemon and orange juice.

PREGNANT WITH PURPOSE

February 16, 2011Read: Luke 1

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb." --Luke 1:41

Though he couldn't yet see, he was already focused. And though he couldn't yet walk, he jumped. You see, Jesus was in the room, and John knew it. So, let's face it: Elizabeth was pregnant with purpose.

It's true...Jesus in a room makes all the difference. When it comes to our jobs, school and even our health, when our purpose walks in, we know it. Sure, someday we'll all bow, but until then, let's jump.

--J.P.

NUTRITION: STIR-FRY BASICS "Wok" this way for healthy, easy-to-prepare meals

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.

A basic stir-fry is made from a protein and veggies. The slicing and dicing takes a little time; you can do it either the night before or in the morning work to save some time in the evening. In a pinch, look for pre-sliced veggies in your grocery store’s produce section.

Once the ingredients are prepped, here are your basic steps:

Heat oil: Heat up your wok with a touch of oil. Use a flavorless oil with a high smoke point, like canola or grapeseed. This is what makes or breaks the calories of your stir-fry.  Remember, every tablespoon of any oil contains 120 calories, so use it sparingly!

Add protein: Raw foods like beef, pork, fish, shrimp, tofu and chicken should be cooked first. Don’t forget to brown all sides of the food to create flavor.

Add veggies: Add veggies and cook them until just tender — overcooking will destroy important vitamins, not to mention flavor. Whatever mixture you choose, cut veggies in so they’ll all finish cooking at the same time. For instance, carrots take longer to cook than snow peas, so they should be cut smaller.

Add  flavor: A touch of soy sauce or spices to finish it off.

Serve over carbs: Cook up some healthy carbs like brown rice or rice noodles to serve your stir-fry with.

The Protein If you’re used to using chicken, shake it up by using beef or pork. Or try shrimp, which is ridiculously low in calories. If you’re looking for a Meatless Monday dish, try a using extra-firm tofu.  It contains the same amount of protein as chicken or beef, but without the cholesterol.

The Veggies Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn or peas…the possibilities are endless! Use as many or as few veggies as you want. If you’re cooking for kids, you may want to choose only a few veggies (younger kids especially like simpler dishes). Remember, the more colors you have, the more vitamins and minerals you’re taking in.

Flavor Some simple flavor enhancers include garlic, ginger, chili sauce, chicken stock, rice vinegar, dry sherry, scallions and hoisin sauce. Dana’s stir-fry secret is to use a tablespoon of natural peanut butter and let it melt in with soy sauce – delicious!

The Carb Choose brown rice for some extra whole grain goodness. Remember to read the cooking instructions as it takes a bit longer to cook up than white rice. For a change of pace, try serving over whole grain pasta or rice noodles. Keep portions to no more than 1 cup per person of whichever cooked carb you choose.

--Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC

PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
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