fear

Kid Stuff

"And he said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.'" --Matthew 18:3

Read: Matthew 18

What a memory. As a little boy, I was too afraid of what was underneath the bed, so to say my prayers I'd get on my knees on top of it. I remember it like it was yesterday. To say I was scared would be like saying Beethoven wrote some music -- an understatement to say the least. I even remember hoping I wouldn't hurt Jesus' feelings. Kid stuff. But all I knew at the time was 1) my biggest fear was underneath my bed and 2) Jesus wanted me to talk to Him; a tricky situation for a kid my age. (Oh, give me the faith of a child again, amen?)

Jimmy Peña (That little boy)You know, Jesus more than wants us to be like children, He commands it. Not sure why it happens, but as our childlike fear diminishes, so goes our childlike faith. And I'm not sure exactly when that little scenario of mine ended, but the truth is, even though my fears today aren't awaiting me under the bed, I should be no less desperate to talk to Him. So if I think about it, those were actually my best moments, because our best trait is our dependence on Him.

In the area of health, what is your childlike prayer today? Desperate to be healthy for your spouse or family? Are you or one of your loved ones suffering unimaginable pain? If so, let's go to Him. Let's be kids again. Despite what's under the bed of our hearts, let's clasp our hands and shut our eyes. Kid stuff. List your prayer request or simply say "unspoken" and I promise, that little boy will pray for you.

--Jimmy Peña

Final Prayfit Diet CoverWHAT IS "THE PRAYFIT DIET?"

Jimmy Peña, one of the nation’s most sought-after fitness experts, has been trusted by the most prominent names in the entertainment industry, including Tyler Perry, Mario Lopez, and LL Cool J, to help them look and feel their best. His highest calling, however, is transforming the bodies and souls of people all over the country through his powerful combination of faith and fitness called PrayFit.

In The PrayFit Diet, Peña offers an easy, effective program-including shopping lists, daily menus, and simple, delicious recipes. A healthy body, he explains, is not about restriction of either calories or food groups. Instead, it’s all about eating in equilibrium -- a perfect 33% macronutrient balance of carbs, protein, and fat every day, which will allow you to make dramatic changes to your health and your waistline. The balanced approach of The PrayFit Diet is not only inspired by biblical principles, but it’s also supported by today’s cutting-edge science, and Peña gives you a plan to shed weight and the motivation to keep it off for a lifetime.

In The PrayFit Diet, Peña shows us how faith is the most powerful tool we have to conquer all of life’s obstacles, and that includes our health. More importantly, God wants you to be at your best, physically and spiritually. By combining perfectly proportioned meals with biblically based motivation, The PrayFit Diet will give you all the tools you need to live a life that will both inspire you and honor the Lord.

>> The PrayFit Diet can help you lose up to 20 pounds in 33 days! Combine it with the workouts in our other book, DVDs or fitness page to see even greater results! Pick up your book by clicking here TODAY!

>> Click here to read what others are saying about The PrayFit Diet.

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

They Knew What To Do

"Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" --Mark 4:38

Read: Mark 4

The disciples knew what to do. Isn't it true? We try and relate to those great men on so many levels, but for some reason, this week's theme on fear seems especially relatable. They knew what to do, and if you think about, they were the first to do it. Do what exactly? Well, they did literally what you and I do metaphorically. They praised Him in the storm. We know the story. First came the wind, then the waves. And with teeth chattering and knees knocking, the terrified bunch woke the only one who could put the sea to sleep.

Of all the things that we talked about this week, what did you connect with? For me, I think the truth that He takes our fears seriously has been a source of comfort. Take a look at our story today. Jesus may have been asleep in the boat, but He wasn't asleep at the wheel. And it's not that the storm wasn't threatening, or that the disciples were silly for being scared. No, the storm that night was real. But Jesus took their fears seriously.

Of all the things we can learn from this story, it's that Jesus didn't hush the storm to prove its insignificance. He hushed it to show their significance to Him.

Your storms are real. Our fears are real. But when your teeth chatter and my knees buckle, we can follow their lead, amen? They knew what to do. We can too. In many ways, we're in the same boat. Brings a lump to my throat to think He's patiently waiting for me to wake Him up.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Even though He was asleep that night, I like to imagine Jesus asleep with one eye open waiting for us to call on Him. Maybe even with a little grin. I don't know, but His face, His grin makes our worries cease. Whatever you're going through, I hope this week blessed your life and the lives of those you love. If you missed any of this week's entries, we hope you find some time to go back and review. Many of us are in need of comfort and prayer during times of fear, so please lift some names up.

SCHEDULE A FAITH & FITNESS WEEKEND FOR YOUR CHURCH!

Jimmy Peña's message of "Life is not about the body, but health is a means of praise" is being well-received by congregations around the country. His story-telling approach to how a healthy body can strengthen the body of Christ and inspire abundant living is a message you don't want to miss. For speaking appearances, ministry assistance, media inquiries, write us at info@prayfit.com.

What Was I Thinking?

Genuine fear. That's what I felt the day after my 12th birthday. Allow me take you back. A couple of friends and I stayed the night at a buddy's house for his birthday. We played games, watched TV -- kid's stuff. But the next day -- the day -- one of us found an itzy bitzy, harmless, spool of wire outside. So what did these little boys do? Played with it, of course. We bent it, rolled it, played Army with it. No harm, no foul. That is, until we stuck it into the valve stem of a parked car tire.

SSSSSSSSSSsssssssssss. DOWN...Down...down....flat. Mind you, it would have been bad enough had we stopped with that first one. But no, we three geniuses decided to hit every other car in the entire apartment complex. I'm chuckling as I type this question but..."What was I thinking?"

Sitting in the apartment office, I stared out the window at flashing police lights. But truthfully, I wasn't thinking about the police, I was thinking about Daddy. Waiting for our parents to show up, I knew I was dead. The other two boys knew I was dead too. See, they knew Papa Peña. Before I knew it, I heard his voice from the other room. The first words out of his mouth? "Where is he?"

I won't go into too much detail -- to protect the innocent -- but suffice it to say that little Jimmy never got into trouble again. Later that night, both my parents came into my room to give me love. Even though it was hours later, I was still crying because of how I disappointed them, and because my older brother kidded me "in all seriousness" that Mom and Dad were shipping me off. (Pretty sure my brother got in trouble for that.)

Why do I tell that story during our "Fear Less" week? Because to this day, I love and respect my Daddy more than life itself. Growing up, I loved him, respected him, and feared him. And guess what...I still do.

PrayFit friends, help me wish my sweet Daddy a very Happy 70th Birthday come this Saturday. I love you, Papa.

Still my father's son, Jimmy

For Discussion: On this Halloween, I thought I'd share the scariest moment of my life with you, wink wink. Love and fear. Isn't that an amazing combination? It molds us. Shapes us. Develops us into the kind of people God designed us to be. 

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Serious Courage

Jesus takes our fears seriously. In fact, he takes our fears more seriously than we do. Imagine that for a second. Before He left earth, He left no doubt about it. More than any other command, Jesus urged us to not fear. Of everything we know the Lord said to us while dwelling among us, "fear not" topped the list. If you think about it, what stops us from sharing our faith with strangers? What hinders us from loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable or attempting the impossible? Fear, fear and more fear. It's no wonder He encouraged courage.

Fear paralyzes us. Bringing up the rear of the group on Saturday night, I was able to see things as they happened. And the one constant that fear forced the group to do was stop. Stop walking. Stop moving. Stopped cold and frozen. Predictably, at the stop sign of fear, we slam on the breaks.

Fear fools us. In one of the mazes, we were asked to wear 3-D glasses. Things appeared to be coming straight for us and fast. Better duck or get gobbled! But halfway through that maze, I took my glasses off. Turns out that things were actually much further away than they appeared. What a difference it was to see the source of fear with clear eyes.

Dear friends, Jesus takes our fears more seriously than we do. At a stop sign of fear? Run it. Blinded and confused? Try it with clear eyes. In the face of today's fear, let's take Him seriously, allowing courage to be our default reaction.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What has fear stopped you in pursuing today? Will courage be your default reaction? Friends, prayer is the key. What do you need courage for today? Whether for health-related issues or otherwise, list them below or simply say, "Unspoken...serious courage needed."

5-STEP FRIDGE MAKEOVER Use these strategies to clean up your diet for healthier eating and faster weight loss

If you're looking to get your nutritional house in order, you need to first make some simple swaps. Our contributing nutritionist, Dana Angelo White, offers up five of her favorite -- and least painful -- ways to make your fridge a waistline-friendly environment.

>> Tip No. 1 - Click here

MORE NUTRITION NEWS & NOTES

>> NEED A TREAT?: You can indulge without going overboard. Try this fall recipe for orange-chocolate cookies!

>> COMPLETE THE CLEAN-UP: After your fridge makeover, try these eight tips to start eating better, forever!

>> WHEY PROTEIN TUTORIAL: Learn how this supplement can help aid recovery, build strength and burn fat.

Fear Less

Saturday night Loretta and I joined some friends at Universal Studios. To be honest, we're not huge fans of Halloween, but we enjoyed getting out with the gang. After dinner together, the dozen of us like Scooby-Doo and friends, gathered our collective courage and dared the various mazes designed to haunt and scare. Like, Zoinks!

Of course, I was hesitant. Not fully healed and still unable to twist or turn, I was fine to sit it out and meet everyone at the end. And I would have too were it not for my pesky friends. But in truth, a few things helped my decision to dare it. First, our group had private security in all directions to help keep us together. And second, the characters whose job it was to frighten us along each path were not allowed to touch us. Spook us, yes. Lunge at us, absolutely. But as long as I kept calm, I could walk in a straight line without fear; no need to react, wince or balk.

So like -- "gangway!" -- off we went. As we entered each maze, I literally found myself going through both a physical and mental checklist. First, I stood up tall, drew my core in tight and thought to myself 'nobody can touch you Jimmy. Don't react, don't wince, don't balk, just walk.'

Well, I foiled them. And halfway through the night I wrote this entry. As the skeletons in the closet attempted to trap me and the shadowy unknown tried to paralyze me, I thought of each of you. I figured, during a week designed to playfully frighten us, let's unmask fear -- the good fear, bad fear and the beginning-of-wisdom kind of fear. Hopefully when all is said and done, we can echo the psalmist when he wrote, "When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)

Let's have a good week in this maze of grace. Oh, and one more thing, let's remember to stick together.

--Jimmy Peña

Next StepUPDATE: Jimmy's next step in therapy last week was lifting opposite limbs off the floor simultaneously. Not an easy move, even for the healthy spine, but slowly but surely, he's working his way back. You can leave your prayers and/or messages of encouragement below or e-mail them direct to jimmy@prayfit.com.

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If God Asks...

"We live by faith, not by sight." --2 Corinthians 5:7

Read: 2 Corinthians 5

I know we typically end our study with a question, but today we're starting with one. I'm wondering: Would you forfeit your health for the Lord? More specifically, would you give up your fitness lifestyle if God asked you to? Maybe you're a runner. An avid runner. Your calendar is marked -- not with holidays and birthdays -- but with 10Ks. Or perhaps you're a fitness junkie. You lift, you sprint, you jump rope, you sweat and you repeat it...six days a week. What if God asked you to give it all up? And no, He doesn't give you His reasoning, because He doesn't need to explain Himself to you. All you know is that the one passion you have in life -- that one thing that fulfills you and makes you you -- He wants you to relinquish. No more gym. No more road. How would you feel? Sad, confused, both? What would you do?

Well, before you say, "Jimmy, I doubt God would ever ask me to give up something like that," let's visit a couple guys who would beg to differ...

When Abraham got to the top of Mt. Moriah, he was confused and saddened. "Daddy, where's the lamb?" asked Isaac. But Abraham took the son he loved more than life itself, set him on the altar and raised his knife.

When the rich young ruler approached the Lord and asked Him what he needed to do to have eternal life, Jesus said to sell all his possessions, give to the poor and then follow Him. But the bible says the rich man walked away sad because he was rich.

Two men, both asked to sacrifice the love of their life. One was sad but obedient, the other was sad because he couldn't be. The difference? Faith. Faith saved Isaac and spawned generations that outnumber the stars. Faith loved. Faith sensed guidance. Faith followed. Faith swallowed fear. Faith didn't walk away sad.

Now, Lord only knows what He's calling you to do (or not do) when it comes to His purpose for your life, but is there anything you need to sacrifice in order to be closer to Him? Since He's likely not asking you to give up your pursuit of fitness, could it mean you need to carve out time alone with Him? If He's asking for time with you, do you walk away sad because you're so "fit"? Or on the flip side, if you're not honoring your health like God desires, perhaps stewardship is your sacrifice. Maybe the hill of discipline is your Mount Moriah. What is God asking you to do?

--Jimmy Peña

To Be That Little Boy

"And he said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.'" --Matthew 18:3

Read: Matthew 18

What a memory. As a little boy, I was too afraid of what was underneath the bed, so to say my prayers I'd get on my knees on top of it. I remember it like it was yesterday. To say I was scared would be like saying Beethoven wrote some music -- an understatement to say the least. I even remember hoping I wouldn't hurt Jesus' feelings. Kid stuff. But all I knew at the time was 1) my biggest fear was underneath my bed and 2) Jesus wanted me to talk to him; a tricky situation for a kid my age. (Oh, give me the faith of a child again, amen?)

You know, Jesus more than wants us to be like children, He commands it. Not sure why it happens, but as our childlike fear diminishes, so goes our childlike faith. And I'm not sure exactly when that little scenario of mine ended, but the truth is, even though my fears today aren't awaiting me under the bed, I should be no less desperate to talk to Him. So if I think about it, those were actually my best moments, because our best trait is our dependence on Him.

I bring this little story up because my first day back from the hospital last week I realized -- I'm afraid -- that I can't kneel. The only difference is, I'm not worried it will hurt His feelings. But you know -- if it makes sense -- I kind of wish I worried about things like that.

In the area of health, what is your childlike prayer today? Desperate to be healthy for your spouse or family? Are you or one of your loved ones suffering unimaginable pain? If so, let's go to Him. Let's be kids again. List your prayer request or simply say "unspoken" and I promise, he may not be kneeling at his bedside, but that little boy will pray for you.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Spicy Oven "Fried" Chicken On our long list of cultural comfort foods in America, fried chicken holds a special place near the top. Unfortunately, your local bird fry isn't exactly conducive to the whole "abundant health" thing. Luckily, Kimberly Fuller is offering us all a healthier alternative. Click the link below for the recipe!

>> Healthier fried chicken - click here

What Do You Say?

"I thank you, Lord, with all my heart." --Psalm 138

Read: Psalm 138

Sitting in a waiting room recently, I filled out paperwork, answering questions, checking this box and that one. Circle where it hurts and on a scale from 1-10, rate this, gauge that. And just as I was about to turn in my clipboard, I watched a daughter taking care of her mother in a wheelchair. When a nurse brought the mother some juice, the daughter gently asked, "What do you say?" Then her elderly mom -- barely able to hold the bottle -- turned and weakly said to the nurse, "Thank you."

With a lump in my throat I thought to myself, "She knows how to say thank you. She's just thirsty." My heart broke on a couple of levels.

But the moment made me wonder if I know how to say thank you. Not sure about you, but I spend a lot of my time listing my life's aches and pains, inconveniences and delays. Much like that paperwork, my daily prayers often go straight to where it hurts, and what I need, and my worry and fear. Like you, I'm so grateful that in no particular order, I can go right to Him with all of it. But if I could, I'd erase my answers and start over. Rather than ask God to heal what hurts, I want to mention to Him the things that don't. I want to circle my blessings. And as I read my list, may I hear that gentle reminder, "What do you say?" And like that sweet women, I know how to say thank you.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What are some ways you can thank the Lord for the blessings you have? If you could thank God right now, what would you list? You can share them with us if you'd like. I'm sure they'll be a blessing to others.

PROTEIN PLUS Is protein helping to decrease your blood pressure? Science says ‘yes’

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You're Closest

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose." --Romans 8:28

Read: Romans 8

Last week I wrote about my MRI experience for my spine in an entry titled "Be Really Still." If you missed it, it might explain today's entry. But what I didn't write about was what happened moments before and after the test. On my way there, I stood next to a man less fortunate; homeless. My heart broke. And in that moment I whispered, "Lord, help him." And then it was as if God said, "I am. You're closest." Oh friends. This is what our health is for. Let's not be fit for fit's sake, but healthy for Heaven's sake.

Two hours later, my surgeon would tell me that another vertebrae is broken, and that I'll lose another disk in my back next month. Many of you remember back in 2010 that I had a few disks removed from my neck. Well, the look on my doctor's face said it all. The degenerative disease is eating me up. But folks, my health is still a means of praise. A means to share Christ. We can't wait. I'll say it again: Life is not about the body. The more adversity weakens my muscle, the more God strengthens my message. And until life's final war with pain, I want to stand up as straight as possible and be reckless. Who's with me? Think about this entry throughout your day. Who has God put you close to? We may be on our way to get some bad news, but let's try and see it as another chance to share the good.

--Jimmy Peña

JUST "D" FACTS...

Vitamin D isn't just a vitamin -- it's a powerful tool in achieving better overall health. Numerous studies show that Vitamin D can lower blood pressure, help prevent certain kinds of cancer and fortify you against diabetes. Vitamin D can also help you feel fuller longer, store less bodyfat, burn more abdominal fat and improve strength levels. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Stronger Faith and Healthy Body in 28 Days," vitamin D enhances muscle contraction and protein synthesis, meaning better workouts and improved recovery afterward. The Endocrine Society recommends that healthy individuals get in 1,000-2,000 international units (IU) per day from all sources (food and supplemental). Those who are overweight could benefit from slightly higher doses, up to 4,000 IU.

Be Really Still

“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10 Read: Psalm 46

If you’ve never had an MRI procedure, let me paint the scene. You lay down and the technician gives you ear plugs to numb the deafening sounds that are soon to come. You get secured into position and after a short list of instructions, you’re sent inside this narrow tube. Claustrorphobes should skip the next sentence, because they send you in head first, so that your entire body is inside the casing, with just a couple of inches between the end of your nose and the inside of the cylinder. To say you feel vulnerable is no exaggeration. You battle mental questions like, “What if I can’t get out? What if the power goes out? What if?!”

Your only solace is the comforting voice of the tech that booms around you throughout the exam, repeating his instructions and making sure you’re okay. The most important thing? Be very, very still. Regardless of what’s going on around you, what you hear, as well as your seemingly helpless predicament, don’t move a muscle until the test is done. If you’re able to be still, the physician has a better chance to determine what’s going on inside. You know where I'm headed.

We have a lot going on around us; from the economy, to security issues to health problems. Sometimes we feel trapped, surrounded by the strange but familiar sounds of a life we’ve chosen, asking scary questions like, “What if I don’t get better? What if I fail? What if?!” Yet the most important thing? Be as still as we can, and listen for His voice through the noise.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Friends, the above entry is a repost from 2010, prior to my first spine surgery. Well, yesterday I had another MRI. And for the first time ever, halfway through the test, I had to get out. For whatever reason, I lost my breath and opened my eyes; both of which they strongly discourage. Not sure what happened in there, but as I exited the machine, the tech was standing at my side. He completely understood. After a minute of catching my breath (and wits), I nodded as if to say, "Let's do it." Oh folks, the Lord understands we want to get out sometimes. But He's right there. It's Friday, friends. Let's do it.

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"Being a big believer in Jesus Christ, PrayFit gets me on track to start my day off in the right direction. In boxing there is no room for error. You have to be not only be physically prepared but spiritually strong as well." — Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, 6-Time Boxing World Champion

Off You Go

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I have always loved that saying. Story of my life. But what does it mean? Well, for me it means that God often calls us to do something that we may not feel equipped to do. Sometimes I think, "Who me? But Lord, that isn't what I am best at." Or so I think. I'm reminded of a few biblical examples of those who understood what it meant to be outside their comfort zones. (Moses, Peter, Mary Magdalene...) But when we're obedient, I believe those are the times we grow and are really used by Him.

Reminds me of my recent trip to Allaso Ranch, my amazing church's kids camp where I was a counselor. So many adventures and fun things to do, one of which was the zip line. As I stood in line with my 9-year-old daughter to fly high above the camp and across the lake, she was all smiles. I was smiling too but beneath my smile and sunglasses, I was scared. How is it that my 9-year-old daughter has no fear but me, a grown woman, is apprehensive?

So the guy tells us, "Just sit on the edge, let your legs dangle, lean over and off you go." I literally asked him, "Can you just push me?" (It seemed easier if the choice wasn't mine, but his) "No, you have to do it," he replied. "Ugh," I growled under my breath. I looked over at my daughter beaming at me from the other zip line, she was seated, feet dangling, just waiting for me. I flashed her a big grin, took a deep breath and off we went.

You know what? Experience of a lifetime. In my comfort zone? No. Worth the risk? Yes.

Outside of my comfort zone, I struggle. I sway back and forth between what is comfortable and what is good. It's a tug of war between my mind and my heart. Thankfully, God knows my heart, and He knows yours. He created us to be anything but mediocre, and He cares about the details of our lives. So today, I am going to move forward outside of my comfort zone, in obedience and in faith that the God of the universe has great things in store for me. He has them for you too. It’s His promise. So go ahead, sit on the edge, let your legs dangle and...off you go.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison 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 visit her blog by clicking here.

3 WAYS TO CLEAN UP YOUR DIET With the abundance of nutrition information out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to start making changes. Too many steps explored, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to none taken. Here, we've boiled it down to three easy things you can start doing today to clean up your diet.

>> Dietary Do-Overs: 3 Steps You Can Take NOW

Two Tributes

"Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" --Luke 9:23

Read: Luke 9

Undeniably effective for building strength and changing the way your body looks, feels and performs, the squat also happens to be remarkably humbling. As I was looking at today's scheduled workout, I started to look for excuses to avoid my date with the barbell, but then it hit me: I should be thankful I can squat at all.

You see, while I was here racking my head for reasons to avoid this workout, a close friend of mine was struggling with a physical ailment, longing for the day when he could once again test his mettle in the squat. He would do anything to get under that bar, to feel the weight pressing him into the floor, to tremble through that uncertain descent skilled squatters so willingly endure -- and to rise again.

This friend of mine who would give anything to trade places with me on my toughest training day of the week reminds me of another Who traded places with me for all my days to come -- of One who willingly carried the crushing weight of the cross and a certain descent into the tomb, only to rise again.

So today, tossing aside my fears and hesitations, I paid physical tribute to two friends. For one, I squatted. And for the other, I knelt.

--Eric Velazquez

Questions: Do you take your ability to exercise for granted? Do you think training can be a God-pleasing act? Do you have people in your life that are physically unable to workout? Does that change your perspective on utilizing your physical gifts or striving for better health?

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: BODYWEIGHT SQUAT You don't have to settle yourself under an Olympic barbell to reap the benefits of this exercise

Bodyweight Squat | Focus: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, lower back | (VIDEO)

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, a light bend in your knees and your toes turned out slightly. Keeping your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach a 90-degree angle, then forcefully drive through your heels, extending at your hips and knees until you arrive at the standing position.

50 - Percent greater calorie burn when performing the squat, as compared to the leg press.

4 - Percent greater strength when performing squats in a Smith machine apparatus, as opposed to a free standing squat.

1000 - Total, in pounds, of Robert Wilkerson's (UK) record-setting raw squat in 2011.

Unlock the Door

"They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." --Acts 1:14

Peter denied. Thomas doubted. Fear filled the upper room. Both the cross and the tomb were void of any sign of their allegiance, so they hid. Then they heard His voice, felt His scars and were filled with the Spirit. Before long someone said, "Unlock the door."

You and I? We deny. We doubt. And boy do we let fear fill our days. But the same reasons that sent the disciples underground -- an empty cross and tomb -- are why we have faith in the first place. So as we begin a new week, take a few seconds and pause. Stand in the room with Peter, Thomas and the others. Look around at everyday men and women with an extraordinary mission. Like them, beyond your door is a world that needs the gospel according to you. Could be at work, at the gym or even at school, but as you leave your room, imagine the disciples doing the same. Same Jesus, same mission.

Now, somebody unlock the door.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Delts & Abs

To start the week, we present a shoulders and abs workout that provides silhouette-enhancing benefits for both men and women. You begin the workout with a total-body move and work your way through progressively more targeted work.

"You start out in the strongest possible position, utilizing your entire body to train the shoulders and slowly begin isolating the different delt heads," says Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS, founder of PrayFit. "The result is a better v-taper. Stronger shoulders give the visual appearance of a slimmer waistline."

DELTS Dumbbell Squat-Overhead Press* Dumbbell Upright Row Lateral Raise Front raise Bent-over Lateral Raise

ABS Standard Crunch Reverse Crunch Double Crunch

--Perform three sets of 10-12 reps on each exercise in the order listed, resting no more than 60 seconds between sets.

Dumbbell Squat-Overhead Press With a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells or even soup cans, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed out slightly. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level. With your abs tight, chest up and back flat, squat down 10-12 inches then press through the floor to extend your legs as you press the weights overhead to full arm extension. Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat.

>> NEWS & NOTES: PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena just completed a Texas tour, hitting several events in El Paso. Get the story, which appeared in the El Paso Times, by clicking here.

>> PHOTOS: Hey Facebookers! Be sure to stop by the Official Facebook page to check out pics of Jimmy Pena's visit to Cielo Vista Church. Then share it and tell friends to do the same.

Who Wants the Ball?

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." --2 Timothy 1:7

Read: 2 Timothy 1

Imagine a coach before a big football game. The team has taken a knee and their helmets are off as they await the last few words of encouragement. The coach stands before them and says, "Now listen up, boys. We got here as a team and we'll finish as one. I believe in you. But...I gotta admit, I think the other coach is smarter than me, and the other kids, well, they're a lot bigger than you. But hey, it was a fun season. Try not to get hurt. Now, let's go!"

Not much confidence in those words, right? Aren't we glad that's not how God sends us off into the world to tackle our biggest foes -- foes of health issues, financial hardships, relationship battles and good old fear and doubt. On the contrary, if God had a blackboard, He'd outline our daily route...straight to the cross. His pre-game words would be the same today as they were yesterday: "Be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go" (Josh 1:9) and "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Who wants the ball?

Question: The Bible is full of wonderful verses that remind us of God's strength, love and guidance. What is your favorite?

--Jimmy Peña

51 FAT-BURNING TIPS

You can find plenty of ways to fight bodyfat everyday here at PrayFit.com but this list, put out by Health.com and picked up by CNN, is easy one-stop shopping for those looking to get a little leaner in 2012. The full list, which includes tips on everything from rep pace to nutritional supplements, can be found by clicking here.

>> NEW! Have you visited the redesigned PrayFit Store? Click here to shop for books, DVDs, apparel and more with our retooled, user-friendly shopping cart.

>> GUEST SPEAKING: Want PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena to come to your church in 2012 to help lay the groundwork for your fitness ministry? E-mail us at info@prayfit.com for more details!

Cut to the Chase

"Come. Follow me." —Matthew 4:19

The phrase "cut to the chase" originated in scripts during the silent film era. After dramatic story lines, these mute motion pictures would routinely end in chase sequences on dusty roads. Today, the phrase has come to mean "get to the point." Fittingly, with our first entry of 2012, that's exactly what we intend to do.

At PrayFit, we believe that a pursuit of health is all about enabling us to follow Christ with reckless abandon. Frankly, everything we have should help us chase Him; our money, our time, and yes, our bodies. The more fit we are, the better we serve Him—not for health's sake, but for heaven's. So let's get to the point.

This year, our health should do nothing less than assist us in our pursuit of Him. Like it's been said, let's follow so close that we're "covered in His dust." He's calling for us. And our story lines of life will become motion pictures of grace the sooner we cut to the chase.

Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Home-Based Start-Up Get your body moving this week with this 10-minute routine

Jumping jacks - 1 minute Jog in place - 1 minute Push-up - 33 seconds Plank - 33 seconds --Repeat sequence for 10 minutes

While we note the importance of pursuing health with reckless abandon in 2012, it should be noted that we are referring to the big picture. Think of it more of a year-long pursuit than a blind charge out of the gate. If you've been to your gym already in 2012, you've likely seen throngs of gym newbies and returners attacking their fitness goals with a Rocky movie montage-like determination. But you can't undo all of 2011 in the first month of 2012. Getting fit and staying fit is a matter of building consistency and a rocket start could see you fizzle fast.

This workout is measured, both in its aim and its intensity. The goal? Get moving. That's it. This head-to-toe lineup of exercises allows you to use all your major muscle groups, without going to the gym, in a way that won't overtrain you too soon. Try this routine 2-3 times this week, or beyond, to start increasing your baseline fitness levels for whatever routine you'd like to try next.

>> WHAT'S NEXT?: If you're ready for something more challenging, you can try the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, by Lionsgate. This at-home program, led by PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena, helps you push your training to the limit while using only your bodyweight. Click here for more info or to order!

A FLOOD OF HOPE

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"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth."— Genesis 8:11

It might seem odd during Christmas season to read about the flood, but if you live in sunny southern California, it's pretty appropriate this week. It won't stop raining. At all. Ever. Where's the nearest gopher wood vendor when you need him?

When Noah built the ark, those around him probably laughed and scoffed. But we all know the story. The ark was completed, then came two-by-two, and then the rain (a lot of it). A year later, the dove returned to Noah carrying hope; the olive branch meant land was near.

You and I just might be going through a flood this week. Sure, maybe not a literal downpour of rain, but caught in a torrent all the same -- up to our knees in doubt, our waists in worry, and our necks in fear. An olive branch to grab onto right about now would be nice, amen? A little break in the clouds maybe?

Well, it is Christmas time after all -- a reminder that the hope we need came in human form. And those ten little fingers and toes would eventually heal the broken, raise the dead and yes, calm storms. You know, if I'm not mistaken, I think it just stopped raining.

–Jimmy Peña

RECIPES OF THE WEEK: CRACKERS

Boasting one of the most palate-pleasing crunches in the world of snack, crackers are a fantastic low-calorie food -- not to mention the perfect complement to your favorite calcium-loaded cube of cheese. Try one -- or both -- of these healthier home recipes to create a kindler, gentler cracker to tote along to your next social gathering.

Parmesan & Oregano Crackers Makes 40 crackers 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/2 all-purpose flour 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Combine ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – mix until dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 to 1/4 –inch thick and use a cookie cutter to cut into desired shapes. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Package or serve.

Nutrition Info Per Cracker

Calories: 32
; Total Fat: 2 grams; 
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
; Total Carbohydrate: 1.5 grams
; Protein: 1 gram
; Sodium: 49 milligrams; 
Cholesterol: 6 milligrams; 
Fiber: 0 grams

Homemade Whole Grain Crackers Makes 40 crackers

2 whole wheat flour tortillas 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Herbs and spices of choice (see ideas below)

Cut tortilla into small squares. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings and bake at 350-degrees for  8 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Seasoning Ideas: Poppy seeds and sea salt (pictured above) Fresh rosemary and black pepper (pictured above) Garlic and chili powder Fresh thyme and sesame seeds

Nutrition Info Per Cracker

Calories: 13
; Total Fat: 0.5 grams
; Saturated Fat: 0 gram
; Total Carbohydrate: 1 gram; 
Protein: 0 gram
; Sodium: 33 milligrams; 
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
; Fiber: 0 grams

>> GIFTING TIP: Serve up your homemade crackers with grapes, cheese and wine at your own house party or bring them along to the neighborhood potluck. Wrap them up in tins or decorative bags just like cookies, or give alongside homemade chutney.

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.

WHEN HE KNOCKED

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."— Revelation 3:20

It was a typical day when Jesus knocked on my heart's door. I wasn't expecting company, so when He knocked, I hesitated. Looking through the peep hole, I wasn't exactly sure what to do, so I paused. Again, He knocked gently. As I slowly opened the door to invite Him in, I admit, I was a bit embarrassed at what He walked into. I had plenty of grudges lying around, and the smell of fear lingered heavy in the air. Quickly trying to clean the place up, I asked if I could get Him anything, but He just made his way through the halls. (He seemed to know His away around.)

He first walked by my room of regrets. "Ugh, why didn't I keep that door closed?", I grumbled. Then my shoulders drooped when He saw all of the corners where I stood in compromise. "I'm sure He'll want to leave now", I resigned.

But the next thing I knew, we were in the backyard. I seldom went out there. He led me to the garden of Grace that He himself had planted. He said this garden will never die, and that I should spend time there each day. I nodded.

Then to my surprise, when we walked back inside, everything was made new. What was once a den full of doubts had become a living room of faith. It even had a new room; a Master bedroom. He said if I'd let Him, that's where He'd stay.

I'm so glad I let Him in that day. He's the resident king in the castle of my heart. I don't always act like I know that, but He shows me the garden everyday. And I nod.

--Jimmy Peña

>> IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Today marked the official, global release date of PrayFit's 33-Day Total Body Challenge DVD byLionsgate. View the trailer by clicking here, or order yours immediately by visiting Amazon. Share the news with your pastors, small groups, friends and relatives!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: SAUTEED KALE Go green with this health-filled, spicy spin on kale

Serves: 4

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 2 bunches kale, trimmed and chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add kale, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic; reduce heat to medium and cook, turning frequently for an additional 5 minutes. Add vinegar and continue to cook until kale is just tender, about 5 minutes more.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 103 Total Fat:  3 grams Saturated Fat: 0 grams Carbohydrate: 15 grams Protein: 5 grams Cholesterol: 0 milligrams Sodium: 125 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

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.

>> For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here.

 

GRACIAS A DIOS

October 20, 2011Read: John 20

"Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." --John 20:27

"The usual?", I asked with a smile. The sweet lunchtime waitress and I have grown accustomed to each another. I'm greeted, not with a menu but with a name. By now, she knows I don't like ice in my water, and that I prefer egg whites. Probably in her late sixties, she speaks beautiful Spanish and forces me to practice mine. I know she likes my PrayFit hat and goes to church just around the corner. Today, however, she lingered longer than usual after showing me to my booth. I knew immediately she was more empty than my stomach.

"Do you ever doubt?" she asked as she straightened her apron and adjusted her bifocals. Before I could answer, she began to serve up her hurt, and as she phrased it, the need to "see Him" in her life. A glimpse. That's all she wanted. Something to feel, something real. I didn't presume to have all the answers, but we chatted. By the time I ate and payed my bill, my friend was assured of two things. 1) she wasn't alone in her doubts, and 2) she wasn't alone at all.

Friends, Jesus understands. That's why when He showed His scars to Thomas, He showed them to you and me. In order to reach us, He let us touch Him.

Gracias a Dios.

--J.P.

KIDS & ASTHMA

Want to keep your kids lungs healthy? Keep them at a healthy bodyweight. Research shows that overweight or obese children are 50%  more likely to have asthma than children who maintain a healthy weight. But even if your child is heavy, keep them eating a sensible diet and make sure they still get 60 minutes per day or more of moderate to rigorous physical activity. Increased physical activity can actually work to improve lung function, so the benefits far outweigh the risks. More severe cases should be monitored more closely, of course, so be sure to consult with your family physician before starting your child out on any structured exercise program.

 

 

 

 

A MAZE OF GRACE

October 18, 2011Read: Hebrews 13

"So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" --Hebrews 13:6

"On a scale of 1-10, it's probably a 9 (in difficulty)" said Bob Connor, the owner of a Massachusetts corn maze. Last week, his farm became the center of national attention when a couple and their newborn couldn't find their way out as darkness fell. The emergency 911 call recorded their fear, and when it came to pass, it was learned that the trio was only 25 feet from the exit when help arrived.

Sounds simple enough, and the farmer's 15 minutes of fame have come and gone, but the story stuck with me this weekend. When it comes to health, the day's maze gets tough to navigate when darkness falls. If we're not careful, we can easily get lost amid the tall statistics. Before you know it, we're turned around and confused while sickness and disease become real scarecrows in the cornfield of life.

So friends, if you're struggling, take courage. Whatever labyrinth you find yourself in, God is neither bewildered or astonished. He's never slept and knows the way. Although the enemy wants to puzzle you, God simultaneously has your hand and an aerial view. So, don't panic. Mercy is on the way. We're either almost out, or He's almost back. You're lost only in a maze of grace.

--J.P.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

According to NBC News, a new survey from Gallup indicates... >> Only 1 in 7  American workers are at a normal weight without a chronic health issue; >> 86% of American workers are above normal weight or have chronic health issues; >> Health problems can be linked to 450 million missed work days; >> Abnormal weight costs the economy 153 billion in lost productivity.

How have weight-related issues affected your business, your productivity or the work of a colleague? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below.