food

The Palm and the Cedar

"The righteous will flourish like the palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon." --Psalm 92:12

Read: Psalm 92

IMG_9712Many of you know by now that Loretta and I walk each night. Not so much for the exercise -- it's simply a time to share the day. So I'd say it's more like a three-mile mosey. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I noticed a crew caring intently for a tree on our street. A few days went by and there they were, still climbing and manicuring. I admit, I was so impressed with the finished product, I snapped this pic, hoping to share it with you at some point. I think today is a perfect day for it.

In Psalm 92, the Bible says, "The righteous will flourish like the palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon." Of all the trees the psalmist could have used to describe the righteous, he chose these two. First, the palm tree can tower as high as 70-90 feet, and its root system is so incredibly strong, it can withstand storms without equal. And what's more? It produces a lot of fruit. And as for the cedar, this symbol of strength has a trunk that's more than eight feet wide. And what's more? It's impervious to not only weather, but also termites; tough to get to this one from within or without.

Sounds about right, doesn't it? The palm and cedar. God wants us to be deeply rooted, nourished by His word so we can withstand the storms of life. And He wants us to grow, to flourish, and to be fruitful all the while.

I'm so glad I watched that crew go to work. They can't take credit for its deep root system. They didn't design and fashion the fruit. And they certainly aren't responsible for its strength during storms. But the fact that they took the time to care for it, we're reading about the One who is.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How can we be more like the palm tree or cedar? In what ways can our health help us stay fruitful? And how - like the crew - can our humble care for our health point others to the God we serve?

 

Mango Lime Chicken SaladRECIPE OF THE WEEK: Mango Lime Chicken Salad

Pretty much every word in the title of this recipe by PrayFit contributor Kimberly Fuller says "health." But remember -- "health" doesn't have to mean "bland." This full-flavored lunch-or-dinner dish packs a punch heavy on vitamins and muscle-building protein.

>> Click here for the recipe!

The Athlete

Where were we? Oh, yes. Under the light of the lamp; mid-letter. As we look over his shoulder, we find Paul telling the people of Corinth about the need for self-discipline. Not in order to earn salvation, but for the eternal rewards of reflecting the Lord in life. "I discipline my body like an athlete..."

In the book of Hebrews, Paul writes, "For they (earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." Paul knew that God wants us to live holy lives, and because we fall and fail, we need to be disciplined like children. And here, what we find Paul proclaiming -- and eventually carving into our hearts -- is a preemptive strike upon his own. As the sports-minded or health-conscious person may appreciate, Paul uses the analogy of an athlete who perseveres through training. He allowed the athlete's life of sacrifice to describe how he lives the sacrificial life of a Christ-follower.

At first glance, it's an incredible parallel drawn by the most influential man the world has ever known this side of Christ. But even more amazing when you consider that the man who wrote these words would be given 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods five times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, and who would go without sleep, food and clothing; all because of his heart for churches, people and the message of Jesus.

In sports or fitness, it's tough for an athlete to go without food or sleep, but this most amazing man of God didn't seek to look like, win medals like, or get adored like an athlete. No, the man we find under the lamp trained his life like one. And when he finishes this sentence, we'll find out why.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What is your definition of a Christian athlete?

____

Country Baked FrittataRECIPE OF THE WEEK: Country Baked Frittata

"I can't call this a true frittata or a true quiche," says PrayFit contributor Kimberly Fuller, NASM-CPT, CES. "It's a mish-mash of both -- the ingredients of a frittata, but baked like a quiche. You can call it whatever you want, I'll just call it good and healthy!"

>> Click here for the mouthwatering recipe!

Walking Joshua To Class

"So Joshua ordered the officers of the people." --Joshua 1:10

Read: Joshua 1 I used to dread 5th period math. Oh, I was fine with the subject matter, but it was the getting to my math class that had me shaking in my little boots. Each day that semester, a small group of bullies would hang out by my locker, calculating ways to torment me until one day, I got smart and asked my Bubba to walk me to class. Little did they know that the skinniest kid in school was the younger brother of the toughest. They did the math.

In our passage today, Moses has just died and the responsibility fell on Joshua. In preparing Joshua to address the people, you notice God say things like, "Nobody will be able to stand against you" (v. 5), "Be strong and courageous" (v. 6) "Be strong and very courageous" (v. 7) and then again God finishes his holy encouragement with, "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (v. 9)

God walked Joshua to class.

You know, I don't remember ever being scared again on the way to math. Not because of who I was, but because of who walked with me that day. If you notice, God didn't tell Joshua, "Chin up, you have the power, trust your instincts, believe in yourself." No, God knew Joshua could stand tall because he wouldn't be alone. And what was Joshua's response? After nine verses of God's assurance, we learn Joshua didn't hesitate. That's right. He ordered. He commanded. He pushed forward in faith and trust. (Because that's how winning is done.)

Folks, faith says that there aren't enough problems waiting around today's corner that can add up or stand up to the One you bring with you. Like we said yesterday, life hits hard. Life can bully. And if we rely on our "selves," we do have reason to fear. But like Joshua and that skinny fifth grader, you and I don't walk to class alone.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What are you facing that needs your absolute faith and trust that God is with you? Health, financial, relationships, hardships? What can we be praying with you about?

EXTREME MAKEOVER: FRIDGE EDITION Body makeovers start in the kitchen. So for 2013, it’s out with the old and in with the new for your fridge and freezer. We’ve got five things to scratch off your shopping list and five fresher, healthier, and more affordable things to put in their place.

>> Click here for tips on how to retrofit your fridge for year-round clean eating. Prayfit Stainless Steel Water BottleSHOP FIT: Looking for some new fitness swag to sweat up in your pursuit of a leaner, healthier body? We've got just the thing(s).

Click here to explore the newly updated PrayFit store!

The Promise of Grace

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." --2 Corinthians 12:8

Read: 2 Corinthians 12

This being "Grace Week," I wanted to share (or remind some of you) of a phone call I took from a listener while I was on Moody Bible Radio last year.

She struggles with a physical ailment -- one she can't shake. Lord only knows how many times she's gone to the foot of the cross for healing. The sleepless nights, the prescriptions that don't help, the brokenness untold. Perhaps she asks Heaven if this is how she'll have to endure earth. Maybe you can relate because you've whispered similar on your own tear-stained pillow.

Paul could. We don't know for sure what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was but we do know he was soul-stricken by it. Whether it was physical or spiritual, Paul begged God to remove it. God's response? Let's hear it from Paul:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Paul mentions that God said, "No" in order to prevent him from becoming conceited. And yes, it's only God who knows what He's protecting you and me from or, like Paul, what God is enabling us to do in an even better way when the answer is no.

Today you may be searching for the answer to the question Why? If so, rather than strain to see clearly through that prism of uncertainty, shut your eyes and pray for God to be seen through you instead. Though many of us are hurting, be encouraged. If your body is failing, He won't. If your limbs have stopped working, He hasn't. Let's stand close to Paul and let our pain be bathed in that same promise..."My grace is sufficient for you."

--Jimmy Peña

Grilled Lamb and Eggplant2 (1)RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Grilled Lamb & Eggplant with Marinara Time to hit the Mediterranean in your quest for greater health. Try this tasty dish from PrayFit kitchen guru Kimberly Fuller!

>> RECIPE - CLICK HERE

The Three Rs

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord." --Colossians 3:23-24

Read: Colossians 3

A few years back, I read a great story from Max Lucado about 'giving God our boat'. He talked about how Peter and the others caught nothing until they surrendered the boat to Jesus. They turned over their jobs to the Lord and great things happened.

But we need to see all aspects of life as a boat to surrender, our health being one of them. For that to happen, we need to agree that being  healthy is a matter of obedience and an opportunity to praise God. To accomplish this, we need to renew, recalibrate, respond.

Renew: See health and fitness differently each day. See it as a way to show thankfulness and praise. Recalibrate: Measure the day's events, working to make room for your responsibility of greater fitness. Respond: Commit. Get up and move, utilizing your God-given abilities and gifts to better serve him.

Do you see your health as merely a state of being? Or is your view out of balance -- more self-centered than God-centered? Maybe you're not training right now at all, and you easily excuse lack of activity against your busy schedule and responsibilities. And finally, perhaps you're simply ready to say, "Jesus, takeover my health. Renew my mind and help me respond each day with a commitment worthy of the gift of life you've given me."

Wherever you are in your health walk, remember, God formed us, gave us our bodies--how we take of them is our response.

--Jimmy Peña

FOOD TIP: Great Starts

People always talk about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It puts a halt to muscle-wasting, sets your blood sugar right, crushes food cravings and provides you energy for whatever the day holds in store for you. But what does a perfect breakfast look like?

>> Click here to find out!

Wilson!

"Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." --Luke 18:25

Read: Luke 18

If you remember the move "Cast Away," Tom Hanks' character, Chuck Noland was a time-obsessed FedEx analyst with a simple job: deliver the mail on time. After his plane crashed, he got washed up on a deserted island where he spent four lonely years. Well, he wasn't totally alone.

Wilson, a volleyball Chuck found in the wreckage, became more like a friend than a piece of sporting goods equipment. Clearly out of his mind, Chuck would talk and even argue with the ball. But when he finally escaped from the island, his raft was hit by a storm. And when he woke up, he realized Wilson had been thrown overboard (cue the sad music). After attempts to retrieve Wilson failed, a heartbroken Chuck realized he couldn't take it with him. He knew he had to decide: Be saved or go in after his prized possession.

Silly, right? I mean, who in their right mind would act that way? When I saw that scene, I was shaking my head thinking, "It's a VOLLEYBALL, you NUT!" But then I thought of the rich young ruler, and the answer Jesus gave him. Haven't we all been in that boat? Ever gone overboard on stuff? Funny, like watching Chuck, I wonder if the Lord ever shakes His head at how crazy we get about our toys.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Are you fixed on the stuff of this world? Do you spend more time focused on clothes, iphones, jewelry than you do God's word or serving others? Would He be pleased in where our daily focus is? And for some of us, our focus on "stuff" even hinders our health. We need to ask the Lord for His heart. His heart in us. His heart for others (and His heart for things.) Where would our attention be if that prayer was answered?

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Grilled Caprese Sandwiches Indulgent, healthy sandwiches are within reach. This recipe from new PrayFit contributor Kimberly Fuller provides the proof!

>> Click here for the recipe.

The Body Forgives

"If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge that to my account." --Philemon 1:18

Read: Philemon 1 "Charge that to my account," Paul told his friend Philemon. In our reading today, Philemon had a slave who stole from him and ran away to Rome. When this slave met Paul, Paul showed him how to be saved. Then Paul wrote some amazing words to Philemon. He said that this man who was once "useless to you" is useful now. And upon the slave's return to Philemon, Paul wanted his slate clean; completely forgiven and welcomed home like a brother. From thief to saint, useless to useful.

Reading that story recently got me to thinking about how forgiving the body is. Imagine the rigors of the military or the pounding the body takes during sports; amazing how it recovers and bounces back. He sure knew what He was doing, amen? God knew all the situations we would get ourselves into, and He built us able.

You know what? The body forgives not only damage from effort, but damage from the lack of it. That's right. It doesn't take long for the body to respond to better choices of fitness or food. And when you consider that our health is only a tool -- a vessel to be useful in serving others -- an apologetic lifestyle may be the only response. To think, God nestled forgiveness deep within our bodies. Maybe as a picture of grace for us, maybe not. But aren't we glad that taking care of ourselves is only one way to thank the Lord for only seeing our hearts?

--Jimmy Peña

NUTRITION BASICS: Whey Protein

In your efforts to start living more healthfully, you may have paid a visit to your local supplement store. On the top of everyone's list for supplemental must-haves is whey protein, and for good reason -- it is crucial for muscle repair and recovery. But do you know how to make the most out of this wonder supp? Click here to learn!

>> For more tips like these, visit our new nutrition page by clicking here.

Move With Your Life

"For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." --James 2:26

Read: James 2

How many times have we asked God to move in our lives? I wonder if it even comes close to the number of times He's asked us to move with ours. Follow me through the day: The homeless beggar outside the supermarket; the lonely neighbor nobody ever seems to talk to; the teacher everybody gossips about. How many times a day does God ask us to move with our lives?

Same goes with our bodies. You may find yourself asking the Lord for the strength to stick with better food choices or for motivation to begin an exercise plan. But friends, if you know Him, He's made His move. The real question is whether the miracle He's done in your heart has reached your feet.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Fighter Conditioning

You may not have any interest in the Sweet Science, but the fact remains that boxers are some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet. They have to be. The whole-body demand of jabbing, slipping, bobbing and weaving for any length of time, over time, makes them stronger, leaner and tougher than those who practice other sports. PrayFit partner and endorser Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero boasts a physique that is equal parts form and function from all of his years spent in the gym. But if you don’t have the dough, or desire, to dive headlong into a franchise boxing gym membership, you can use this 12-minute, at-home solution to start building a pugilistic physique.

>> CLICK HERE FOR THE WORKOUT

"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

>> Be sure to watch Robert Guerrero take on pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather on May 4! Keep visiting here for more information on the fight, or visit the official fight site here.

He's Calling You

"Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you!' Throwing his cloak aside, he leaped to his feet and came to Jesus." --Mark 10:49-50

Read: Mark 10

Most of us can't fathom what the blind man was going through that day outside of Jericho. What we do know is that he spent his days begging in the dark. In the verses leading up to this one, we learn he's rebuked and told to be quiet for calling out for Jesus. But nothing stirs the blind like a close encounter with a sight giver. So when Jesus called for him, he jumped.

Nobody knows what you're battling today either. Though your eyes may work just fine, things like family matters, school issues and health problems might be darkening your spirit and blinding you from all that God wants you to see. But whatever you do, don't sit there quietly. Despite what those around you might say, cry out for Him with every functioning sense, and then cheer up and jump to your feet. He's calling you!

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Baked Salmon

Get a dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fats from this easy and delicious salmon dish. All you need is 15 minutes to prep this quick weeknight dinner. Leftovers are delicious over lettuce for lunch the next day.

Ingredients

Serves: 4 1 1/4 pound wild salmon, skin removed, cut into 4 pieces 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup 1 clove garlic, minced Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon pieces on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper; roast for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mustard, maple syrup, garlic and lemon juice. After 10 minutes of cooking, brush salmon with mixture and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until salmon is just cooked through.

Wild Salmon

Wild caught salmon is a sustainable seafood pick, packed with protein and omega-3 fats — 4 ounces raw has 1,660 milligrams of heart healthy omega-3 fats.

Whole Grain Mustard

You can spot whole grain mustard by the tiny round mustard seeds running through it. Those yellow seeds are packed with iron and selenium; they also contain some omega-3 fats! Despite its low calorie count (only 30 calories per tablespoon), this course mustard adds tangy flavor and texture.

Maple Syrup

It’s not just for pancakes anymore! Maple syrup is an outrageously delicious way to add some natural sweetness to a dish. Make sure to pick 100% pure syrup; there are some imposters out there made from water and corn syrup.

Garlic

This sweet and tangy salmon needs some spice from fresh garlic. There’s some research to support that a compound in garlic called allicin has antibacterial properties. Some other research is looking into how garlic may help lower cholesterol — for now the jury is still out, but it’s delicious either way.

Lemon Juice

Finally, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice balances the sweetness and cuts through some of the strong salmon flavor.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 240 Total fat: 9 grams Saturated fat: 1.5 grams Carbohydrates: 14 grams Cholesterol: 50 milligrams Sodium: 125 milligrams Protein: 25 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. You can also visit her blog for more recipes at http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/.

Upside Down

"For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." --Ephesians 2:8-9

Read: Ephesians 2

Sometimes God allows things to be turned upside down for our own good, amen? I thought of that yesterday while hanging completely upside down on a call to my agent. I wish it were because I was cool, trendy or a serious Batman fan. Well, maybe one of those? But alas, no. See, I have accelerated degenerative disk disease, so an inversion table is a fixture in my home. Of course, Loretta makes me hang around downstairs in my cave. And each day I do everything in my power to help relieve the symptoms of an otherwise irreversible trend. My disks are failing rapidly, and they're unforgiving.

In a recent article with InTouch Magazine, Max Lucado was asked, "Why do you think we miss out on this aspect of grace and try to live for God on our own strength? Max answered by saying, "Grace goes so contrary to everything else in life. Everything else in life is a barter system. We work, so we get paid. We love others; we hope they will love us back. Then we come into a relationship with God with the same idea — that it’s going to be some type of exchange with a merit system. Religion says that if you do good, God will notice you. The Bible says God has already noticed you. He’s loved you and adopted you, and given you a new heart. Now go out and do good. It just really kind of flips everything upside down."

Yeah, grace does that. When everyone and everything is unforgiving, God's grace turns it upside down. I can no sooner turn back the clock on my disks than I can take back yesterday's sin. But Jesus gives grace. Grace great enough to secure my soul forever. And that's why I hang upside down; just in case He gives me another day to share that news.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Has your life been turned upside down? Financially, emotionally, physically? Let us be an encouragement that no matter what happens, sweet grace never lets go. Share with us how we can be praying for you today.

5 FLU-FIGHTING FOODS This flu season will go down as one of the worst on record, and it's not over yet. Parts of the country are still reeling from the epidemic and thousands more are still likely to get it. The flu can knock you down for days or even weeks, making it that much harder to focus on proper nutrition. But there are certain foods that you can take down that can ease your symptoms and get you back into the game sooner. Read this authoritative list of five flu-fighting foods from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.

>> Click here for the list!

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22,048 flu cases from September 30 through the end of 2012. By the same time last year, only 849 flu cases had been reported nationwide.

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

Of Gifts and Gratitude

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." --John 15:6

Read: 1 Corinthians 12

Anyone who is blessed enough to be around children for any length of time knows that you often end up with the strangest collection of gifts. My girls are no different. Much to the dismay of our community groundskeeper, Mya and Ella are intent upon picking every flower that they see, always with a single plan in mind -- to brighten someone else's day with a makeshift, yet heartfelt bouquet.

This gesture, which holds great meaning to the girls, is quickly lost on us grown-ups. We accept the flowers with a showy smile and a nod, only to set them down in the moments to follow. We carry on with our business, leaving petals to wilt and whither from neglect. It is only when Mya and Ella return to inquire about the condition of their floral good tidings that we are suddenly forced to ponder the true value of their gift. Put plainly, the flowers matter to them because they probably carefully selected each one with me and Wendy in mind, and no explanation can soothe the heartbreak of our apparent ingratitude.

Our bodies are exquisite and unparalleled works of art. Formed from the dirt in His own garden, each for a unique purpose. And like flowers handed to you by a child, they were given to us with an expectation of continued care. How we express gratitude for our bodies doesn't just matter to us. It matters, perhaps more than we'll ever know, to the One who gifted them in the first place.

--Eric Velazquez

NUTRITION TIPS: 5 Easy Fridge Makeovers Body makeovers start in the kitchen. So for 2013, it’s out with the old and in with the new for your fridge and freezer. We’ve got five things to scratch off your shopping list and five fresher, healthier, and more affordable things to put in their place.

>> Click here for the list!

>> If you're not already getting the PrayFit Daily delivered to your inbox each morning, click here. Then, get in on the act with us on Facebook, Twitter, HeavenUp and YouTube. And for a final look at how your health can be used as a means of praise, click 'play' to hear from founder Jimmy Peña.

The Prayfit Daily Returns Jan 7th! Subscribe Today!

"For unto us, a child is born." --Isaiah 9:6

Read: Isaiah 9

Soon we'll lay down the dumbbells and set aside the running shoes, and replace them with egg nog and wrapping paper. Christmas marks the crescendo of a chorus that began the day after Thanksgiving and will fade before the dawn of the new year.

For many, Christmas is a holiday of toys, food, family and new sweaters that we won't wear 'til next year (if ever). But through all the great things that come along with this season, all of which we too love to enjoy, let's remember the cliche is true. There is a reason for the season: that God came down to our level, because we couldn't get up to His.

So let us be first to say...Merry Christmas!

And finally, we at PrayFit want to thank all of you for your prayers of support, your time spent with us daily and for your encouragement. We're so excited about what God has in store for us and for you this new year.

May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones today and everyday. May He guide and protect all of you and we pray for abundant health for everyone, so that we may continue to boldly serve Him all the days of our lives.

--Team PrayFit

NUTRITION TIP: SUPER SWAPS

As you look for ways to avoid the all-too-common holiday weight gain, or if you're planning on changing your dietary practices in 2013, your approach doesn't need to be as drastic as you think. Eating healthy does not have to mean a complete diet overhaul. A substitution-type approach can create big improvements in the way you eat, feel and look. To get started, try swapping the following:

• Processed grains for whole grains Research shows that eating whole grains reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. When shopping for breads and pastas, look for those with "whole wheat" listed as their first ingredient. And when dining out, don't be afraid to ask your server to switch your sandwich bread or hamburger bun to whole wheat. Many sushi restaurants will even make rolls using brown rice if you request it.

• Sugary beverages for water Drinks like fruit juices and sodas are high in refined sugar and calories. Their consumption can quickly lead to excess weight gain and eventually health problems. By switching to water, you can prevent this. You will also meet one of your body's essential needs, as water is required for carrying out most of its daily functions. If you'd prefer a bit of flavor, try adding some lemon. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

• Empty calorie snacks for protein Foods high in processed carbs and fats yet low in nutrients are said to contain empty calories. They provide little to no benefit to our health and can easily lead to weight gain and the maladies that come along with it. Cookies, chips and candy are a few examples of snacks you'll want to swap out. By considering foods high in protein as an alternative -- like trail mix, yogurt, or natural beef jerky -- you will be giving your body a nutrient it needs to build and repair while satisfying your hunger in the meantime.

Amanda McDermott is an ISSA-certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and the owner of Feed My Body, a nutrition coaching program. Learn more at feedmybody.com and facebook.com/feedmybody.

>> The PrayFit Daily will continue on January 7, 2013. To sign-up, or to get friends on our subscriber list, click here. For now, you can stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, HeavenUp and YouTube. And for a final look at how your health can be used as a means of praise, click 'play' to hear from founder Jimmy Peña.

Jesus Ate Perfectly

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." --John 4:34

Read: John 4

Jesus ate perfectly. Does anyone find that amazing? Whether during a hearty celebration meal with friends or while eating sparingly on the road as He traveled, He never sinned. In fact, nobody ever ate better. Now, that's food for thought.

Some of you may be sitting back in your chair thinking, "Wait, what? Surely you don't mean perfectly?" Well, in fact, yes. That's exactly what we mean. See, we believe Jesus was perfect in every imaginable way and that includes how He ate. It's easy to think of Jesus as the healer or speaker but perfect eater? Well, while we know He never ate for vanity or gluttony, that truth is easier to digest when we realize that nothing He ate or didn't eat would prevent Him from reaching the cross for your sins and mine. Knowing that, it's tough to argue that He ate perfectly, wouldn't you agree?

So what can that teach us? For one, it should remind us that God looks at the heart, so we might as well get out of the mirror. But it also means that neglecting the body and eating without purpose is a heart issue. On one hand, we can't be so focused on our waistline that we fail to see the needs around us, nor can we eat in such a way that we can't function with abundance or fulfill our potential.

But isn't it liberating? See, like you, I believe Jesus enjoyed a good meal with the disciples and I like to imagine Him leaning back and being the first to doze off. But humbly, I can also see Him going days without food, fasting for Heavenly wisdom for you and for me. Oh my friends, it's when we see food through His eyes that the table clearly comes into focus. Enjoy food, respect food, and learn how it allows you to serve Him. After all, He was the perfect example. Everything He ate or didn't eat, helped Him save us.

--Jimmy Peña

FUN FACT: As we strive — and struggle — to live more like Jesus, it’s important to immerse ourselves in God’s word on a daily basis. But an extension of Christ-like living, whether we realize it or not, is exercise (1 Timothy 4:8) — because Jesus did a lot of it, mostly through walking. Sure, most of that was out of necessity but you can bet that He was pretty fit. Would you believe that Jesus walked over 3,000 miles during his ministry?

>> The Word is out...PrayFit's new, challenging at-home workout DVD is helping people build physical and spiritual muscle! We peaked at No. 14 today on Amazon's hot new releases in exercise & fitness and are determined to hit the top spot. We're blessed by your support...and sweat! Share the link below with others, or order yours today!

Election Day Prayer

With today being election day, we have no higher calling than to stop and ask the Lord for His blessing. Together with close to 50,000 others, we join hands and circle around Max Lucado as he prays for the country:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have given us this promise: ”...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

So, we pray to you. We turn from evil and look to you, our God. Please:

Unite us

Strengthen us

Appoint and anoint our next president

In the name of Christ we pray,

Amen

SNACK SWAP: PITA CHIPS AND PRETZELS Snack foods don't have to be unhealthy. Use this healthy substitution to limit

Pita chips are only a marginally better choice than potato chips because they have a bit less fat, but you usually get a similar amount of calories per portion. Unless they’re made from 100% whole-grain pita bread, it’s just another source of refined grains, which during processing have been stripped of many of the nutrients that you would get from whole grains, such as vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber.

The same goes for pretzels –- yes, these are a low-fat food, but they’re usually made from refined flour.

Better bet: 100% whole-grain pita chips or pretzels made from 100% whole wheat. Even better, use zucchini or celery sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, or carrot chips (look for them by the bagged salads in the supermarket) to scoop up your salsa or hummus.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-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 Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

Think or Swim

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." --Proverbs 3:5

Read: Proverbs 3

Armed with new floaties, towels and toys, we made our way to the condo pool for the second time this summer. My preschoolers clamored for the water, wiggling with impatience as I slathered them with sunscreen. Excited to join the pool-step floaty gang, they splashed and played with toys while their feet remained planted on the ground. My four-year-old rejected my requests for her to swim in my arms afraid that, despite massive bundles of air around her arms, chest and back and my ability to carry her, she would sink.

When she finally worked up the courage to trust me, or was just sick of being confined to the steps, she jumped from the deck into my arms. I was so happy to have her with me that I poured kisses on her face and exclaimed, "I love you so much!" She grinned with pride and I slowly toured her around the pool. Gradually, I released my grip on her until she was floating in the pool on her own, something she hadn't thought possible. She spent the next joyful hour in the pool exploring the depths, the sides and the ladder, and never stopped smiling.

What is it that keeps you and me on the "steps?" The Lord wants to gather us up in his arms, rain love on us and show us the amazing feats we're capable of –- if only we would trust him.

--Kristi Valentini

When not kissing boo-boos or playing dolls with her two little beauties, Kristi Valentini can be found writing parenting and lifestyle articles for the Huffington Post, Milkshake Kids and Momtastic, and sharing her mothering shortcuts at her own site, MommyCribNotes.com. RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Angelo Family French Toast

French toast -- we'll say it -- is a breakfast delicacy. There may be a special place in heaven where thick, egg-battered slices of perfectly prepared French toast are served at every meal. Unfortunately, here on Earth, it is an indulgence best had occasionally...until now. This recipe, prepared by PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, is a healthier alternative to this breakfast favorite.

Serves 4

Ingredients: 3 large eggs ¾ cup lowfat (1%) milk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more to taste 8 slices multi-grain bread 4 teaspoon unsalted butter Canola oil cooking spray 100% maple syrup 2 cups fresh seasonal fruit

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon; set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, spray with nonstick spray. Melt 1 tsp butter in skillet. Dip 2 slices of bread into milk mixture, making sure both sides are well coated. Place bread in skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown (sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired). Repeat with remaining slices of bread. Transfer to a warm oven until ready to serve. Top with maple syrup -- sugar-free if carbs are a concern -- and fruit.

Nutrition info per serving: Calories: 414 Total Fat: 11 grams Saturated Fat: 4 grams Total Carbohydrate: 64 grams Protein: 15 grams Sodium:  473 milligrams Cholesterol: 171 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer, and nutrition and fitness consultant for international food companies, restaurants and marketing firm. Dana is also the nutrition advisor to The Food Network.

>> NEW! Now, you can easily view past installments of the PrayFit Daily by visiting our new archives. Using this new feature, you can now categorically access years' worth of faith and fitness information and inspiration.

Rattle Some Chains

"Then I heard the Lord asking, 'Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?' I said, 'Here I am. Send me.'" --Isaiah 6:8

We often pray for God to send us where He wants us to go. You've probably said, "Here I am Lord...send me."  Well, when Paul was put in prison, he kissed the walls. He figured he had a captive audience, and if this is where God wanted him, he was gonna rattle some chains.

So take a look around you. Survey your surroundings. Do you have a captive audience? Oh, you may not be in prison, but perhaps God has cleverly placed you right where He wants you. Any family members come to mind? What about your next door neighbor, or that handful of people you see each day at the gym. Would Paul consider them captive? Well, whoever it may be, perhaps it's time to kiss the walls and rattle some chains. Besides, you and I keep praying, "Here I am Lord, send me", but maybe He already has.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT NUTRITION TIP: Fruits & Veggies by Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

Let’s be honest...most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. The federal government’s new Dietary Guidelines say that we should fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables. Not only does this add a lot of nutrients and not a lot of calories, but it makes our meals colorful and more appealing. Here are some easy, thoughtful ways to bump up your fruit and veggie intake without simply picking up a cucumber and crunching away.

>> Add vegetables to omelets or scrambled eggs, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese (try broccoli and tomatoes), soups, and sandwiches

>> Add fruit to smoothies, pancake and muffin mix, cereal and milk, yogurt, oatmeal, and salads

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-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 Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

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.

Traffic

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." --Ecclesiastes 7:8

Read: Ecclesiastes 7

I could hear it in his voice. Dejected, defeated, exhausted, PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena was in his third hour of a commute that should take 45 minutes. Those familiar with Southern California freeways can relate to the emotional roller coaster of emerging from a sea of brake lights with renewed hope, only to pull to a screeching halt a quarter mile ahead. Accidents, curious passersby, construction -- all things beyond his control. Tonight, Jimmy was, as ever, at the mercy of the pace provided.

Life can be the same way. Just when we think that we are ready to meander into the fast lane, we are pinned in by other obstacles and forced to stay put until the traffic eases. In these moments, we may want to lay on the horn or maneuver for the next closest exit but invariably, the best play is to exercise patience and wait it out.

Are you stuck in one of life's jams, physically or spiritually? In need of Godspeed? Stay in your lane and let Him guide you through. Someday the rearview will reveal that there really was no better place on earth, than on the road that led to Heaven.

And oh, for the record, Jimmy made it home just fine. It was much later than he may have wanted but he arrived safely to a smiling wife and a silent embrace that seemed to absorb all of the frustration of the road behind him. Someday, we'll all be so blessed.

--Eric Velazquez

TUNE IN: You can catch PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena on the airwaves with Moody Radio host Nancy Turner, Tuesday (June 26) at 10 am CST on 90.1 WMBI or click here to listen live online!

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Quesadilla Lasagna The perfect dish for health-conscious cheese lovers

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil 1 pound ground turkey breast 1⁄2 red onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp chili powder 1 small zucchini, sliced 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional) 3 whole wheat flour tortillas 1 cup shredded low fat cheddar cheese 1 avocado, diced 3⁄4 cup salsa Salt and pepper to taste Canola oil spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add turkey and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until browned. Add onion and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder; stir to combine. Add zucchini, bell pepper and jalapeno and cook, stirring continuously until turkey meat is no longer pink and vegetables are slightly tender. Turn off the heat and set the skillet aside.

Spray a 9-inch pie plate or square casserole dish with non-stick spray. Place one flour tortilla on the bottom of the pan and top with half the turkey mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Create second layer with another tortilla, and add the remaining turkey mixture and another 1/4 cup of cheese. Create top layer with remaining tortilla, 1/4 cup of salsa and the remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 15 to 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine diced avocado with remaining salsa. Slice the lasagna and serve topped with salsa-avocado mixture.

Calories: 437 | Fat: 15 grams | Saturated Fat: 2 grams | Protein: 47 grams | Carbohydrate: 42 grams | Sodium: 892 milligrams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently the nutrition expert for the Food Network.com, 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 www.danawhitenutrition.com

Pick A Food Fight

"And everyone who is striving, has self-control in all things." --1 Corinthians 9:25

Read: 1 Corinthians 9

At PrayFit, we place a great deal of emphasis on healthy eating habits in order that you might live more abundant lives. Of course, we believe that this life is vapor-quick and that no matter how many good foods we eat or bad foods we avoid, our days are numbered. Let's face it, food can't save us.

And many say, "Since life is so quick, why not eat up?" We say "Since life is so brief, why not stay the course?" Think about it: Where does God live? He lives inside of us. Our bodies are His dwelling place. How much respect are we showing if we have a willful disregard for what certain foods -- not to mention what certain amounts of foods -- can do to our bodies? Again, this won't translate into long-lasting change unless you see healthy eating as an act of obedience.

Now, we're not saying we can't enjoy food -- even the cheat kind -- but too many of our friends and siblings, parents and kids are struggling in a battle against food-related illness...A battle we were never meant to fight, and one we're sure to lose unless we:

--push away from the table sooner --shop smarter --teach our kids portion control --put up a fight

Besides, God didn't design us to be at the mercy of food. Let's bless His heart by taking care of ours.

--Jimmy Peña

DANA'S HEALTH FOOD QUIZ

PrayFit nutritional consultant Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, is the best in the business when it comes to helping people develop healthy eating habits. A stickler for education, Dana came up with this simple quiz to gauge just how much you know about the difference between processed foods and fresh foods.

1. Which typically contains the most additives and preservatives?

A. Frozen dinners B. Sugary cereals C. Canned tuna

2. Which is lowest in sodium?

A. Frozen pizza B. Frozen vegetables C. Canned soup

3. Which preservative is typically used to add color to hot dogs and lunch meats?

A. Xanthan Gum B. Sodium Nitrite C. Citric Acid

4. On food packaging, "natural" means...

A. Nothing B. The ingredients meet federal requirements C. The ingredients come from nature

RESULTS

Add up your score based on the following points system: 1. A: 5 points; B: 3 points; C: 1 point 2: A: 3 points; B: 5 points; C: 1 point 3: A: 1 point; B: 5 points: C: 3 points 4: A: 5 points; B: 3 points; C: 1 point

Your Score:

15-20 Points: All About Fresh You know better than to mess with frozen pizzas and breakfast sandwiches and instead opt for mostly fresh ingredients and the healthiest of processed foods like frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, dried fruit and whole grain crackers.

10-14 Points: On the Fresh Track While you may not always be making it to farmers’ market or produce aisle, your diet has a healthy balance of fresh and packaged foods.

4-9 Points: Packing in the Preservatives A quick lesson in fresh foods 101 would do you some good. Pay closer attention to those labels and tally up the sodium count, are you getting way more than you need?

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.