health

Praise in Pictures

firstdaybackRather than write you a novel describing my joy, I thought I'd let a few pictures do the talking. Given my permission to engage in more activity, last Saturday I reached for dumbbells. (Five pound dumbbells may as well have been a ton.) And I worked virtually every upper body muscle using these dumbbells and a bench. Nearly 1.5 years since being able to train, I can't...quite...describe. (I'll let you know when I graduate to ten pounds.) PreachercurlThe next picture shows me getting creative. I can't sit and lean over on a preacher bench, so I kneel on the floor and stabilize myself with my non-working hand on the wall, then I sit back and straight, and then use the bench as my platform. Fun stuff.

The final pic shows me at the exact moment I failed on my plank. You can't see my face, but I'm smiling because I'm actually able to fail again. Anyone want to take a stab at how thankful I am? failing

And as the Lord is seeing me out of this valley, I hope this pic is a helpful reminder of my perspective, both from a spiritual and physical one. In a word, grace.

madewithOver

--Jimmy Peña

FOR DISCUSSION: What praises do YOU have to share? I don't want to do all the talking and sharing. Let us know so we can celebrate with you.

MY WORKOUT: Seeing as I used weights and actually targeted body parts, in case any of you were curious what the moves work, the first exercise you see is a chest-supported dumbbell row. I can't bend over with weight just yet, but as long as I am supported, it's ALL mine. For this move, I like to primarily use a wide rowing motion, with what's called a pronated (palms-down) grip. The wide grip (as if I had a bar in my hands) helps target the highest part of the lats (upper lats) as well as the rhomboids and the middle traps. Had I used a neutral grip (palms-toward my body) and pulled the dumbbells up and toward my hips, I'd be hitting primarily the lower lats with little middle back involvement.

The preacher curl, of course, is a biceps exercise which targets the short, inner head of the biceps. Although, I can't quite see mine anymore!

The plank you see me failing on hits the core, specifically the transverse abdominis which is one of the most important muscles we have to help protect the spine. Trust me on that one.

NOT SHOWN: I also hit chest, shoulders and triceps. Next week I'll show you those exercises. You guys want to see my workouts? This is me doing a poll. Also checking who actually read this far down the page!

Unearned Health

"Every good and perfect gift comes from above." --James 1:17

Read: James 1

You've likely seen someone boast that health is "Always earned, never given." Sounds reasonable, right? You put in the work, you get the reward. Sounds reasonable, but it's not true. Health is not earned. Granted, some people appropriately celebrate their health (and hopefully more and more of us each day), but even the byproducts of that discipline -- toned muscle, greater endurance, increased strength -- gift...gift...gift. Oh we don't like to admit it. We like to think we've earned the right to raise that banner and boast, "I EARNED THIS!" But in truth, it's when we realize we have undeserved and unearned health that we can make the greatest impact with it.

You might also consider the flip-side. There are those among us who are statistically apparently healthy, but who choose a sedentary lifestyle over an active one. Those who opt for poor food choices over balanced, sensible meals. Despite great genetics, honorable stewardship is the furthest thing from their minds. If you're like me, you may have people close to you who have absolutely no health issues, but have no issue with abusing it; alive but not living. Healthy vital signs? Sure. Earned? No. A gift. Unopened, but a gift nonetheless.

Whether they're opened or still neatly wrapped, the bible says that every single gift comes from above and that includes the body. So just remember, as you wake up with grace and mercy, check and see if your limbs work and if your heart's beating. If all systems are go, then celebrate! Treat life like a Christmas morning kind of present. Open it up! It's when you see what's inside that you can really see what's inside you! And you can't give God the glory and claim it at the same time. Christians have to choose. So choose to walk, train, run, swim, strive, push, claw, climb, and reach with every single, grateful, thankful, humble, undeserved, unearned gift of health you got.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: All you have to do is visit a children's cancer hospital and the idea that health is earned quickly evaporates. Are you a fitness person? A runner? A lifter? Is it difficult for you to accept the truth that you don't earn your health? 

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Honey Nut Oatmeal

What do you have lined up for breakfast today? This tasty, balanced gem from The PrayFit Diet (available now), is an energy-packed, motor-revving recipe that is easy to prepare.

Ingredients ½ cup dry rolled oats Water 2 teaspoons honey 2 tablespoons chopped almonds Pinch cinnamon

Directions Prepare oats according to package directions. Top with honey, almonds and cinnamon.

THE 33 DIFFERENCE: The dry rolled oats provide a great source of slow-digesting complex carbs for long-lasting energy. Honey gives you a quick jolt of healthy sugars to replenish fuel stores after your overnight fast. Almonds add great taste and texture to the oatmeal while providing quality fats to further slow digestion, while the cinnamon helps to stabilize blood sugar.

>> Find 33 days worth of healthy eating solutions just like this in The PrayFit Diet! To order yours, click here now.

On God's Errand

er-rand: a short journey undertaken in order to deliver or collect something, often on someone else's behalf.

malibu sunsetA couple days away from the dawn of a new year, and I can't believe how fast 2013 came and went. Anybody with me on this? It literally feels like it flew by. Last night, Loretta and I took in a Malibu sunset as a way to try and put a button on the year. I snapped this pic to memorize the moment. A minute or so before it finally disappeared, I removed my cap, grabbed her hand, and we prayed. I tell ya, if one thing a good sunset will do is shine a nice light on a year gone by.

Oh the errands the good Lord sent us on this year. And that's really what they are. Errands. Short journeys to collect or deliver something on someone else's behalf. His.

Maybe it's just me, but don't some errands feel like enormous compliments? That God would deem us able? I can almost feel your collective sigh. The job situation, the mounting bills, your husband's diagnosis, your surgery, your brother's illness, your sister's dilemma. And on the other side of that same sigh is a smile. The graduation, the promotion, the solution. You got that long-awaited e-mail, someone gave just enough, that call of forgiveness or the letter of reconciliation.So many of God's errands leave us wiping our brow, scratching our heads, smiling in joy or everything in between. Thankfully, He's the common denominator, Amen?

Suffice it say that the sunset last night represented two bookends for me. Before it disappeared, it was a light that allowed me to both remember the year and dream about the next. And as it descended and disappeared, it reminded me that God gives us a short time to fulfill our calling. Sweet friends, we're either delivering or collecting something for Him in this quick life, and I'm thankful to be on this 'God errand' with you. So this is me, removing my cap and reaching for your hand.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Health is a God errand. What an enormous blessing, obligation and opportunity. Called to honor Him with our health, battling the elements designed to destroy a body that's built to thrive while we're alive. Who's celebrating 2013 and/or ready for 2014 (or both)? One day more...

SUNRISE RESOURCES

So yes, like Jimmy said, the sun is setting on 2013 and before long, we'll be walking into the sunrise of 2014 fully charged with a fresh take on health. So here we are, once more, extending a hand...humbly praying you'll take that walk with us. Our modest collection of resources gives you everything you need to help your body thrive in the new year. If we've helped to convince you of why it helps to stay healthy, let us now show you how with one of our at-home workout DVDs.

Bring Me To Life

"But about the day or the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father knows." --Matthew 24:36

Read: Matthew 24

Goofing off with Loretta in the truck outside of Trader Joe's this weekend, we were asking Siri (the male voice) some questions on our phones. Have you ever done that? Well, from updates on football scores, weather and traffic, he had all the answers. And then in jest, I asked him something nobody knows the answer to. I inquired, "When's the end of the world?" His answer hushed the truck.

Suri pic

Loretta and I sat silent, staring at each other with wide-mouthed grins. Typically, Siri will check the internet or offer some type of helpful pathway for most questions. But instead, he made a wish.

Now I admit, the sentimental side of me could have easily formed a lump in my throat, but I assure you, I pulled it together. It's just a computer after all! But his sense of urgency to enjoy life was something to take to heart. Amen? Even though he didn't know the answer, he gave us one.

Bring me to life for one glorious day. Wow. Is that your heart's desire? What do you burn inside to do? Share Christ, celebrate health, spend time with family, make a difference, run on the beach? I'm guessing all of the above and more. Well, me too. And yeah, maybe with a little ice cream.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: The nightly newscast is full of stories of pain and loss, even recently with car accidents and train derailments. Our hearts ache for those who are suffering. Like Siri, you and I don't have the answers about the end of the world or the end of the day for that matter. But sometimes they share the same date. That's why we have to choose now. To accept Christ, to share Christ, to serve Him. Along with that comes all the rest, including the need for health. What can we pray about with you today? List it below or simply say, "Unspoken" and we promise to lift you up. We don't have the answers, but we know Who does. Let's ask Him for one more glorious day.

deuteronomy 88cookies 001RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Deuteronomy 8:8 Cookies

A cookie recipe? Here? You betcha. A delicious, too-good-to-be-true cookie recipe that you can whip up in no time flat. But this delightful, fresh-from-the-oven treat doesn't fall into the same category as other waist-widening delectable desserts. Read on to find out why.

>> Click here for the recipe!

A Healthy Fear

"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God..." --1 Peter 2:17

Read: 1 Peter 2

You may have anticipated today's entry -- for the other shoe to drop. Well, you'd be right, because there is a healthy kind of fear. Back in my heavy lifting days, after the warm-up and light sets, we'd gradually load more and more plates to the bar. As I wrapped my wrists and knees for the heavy stuff, the fire of fear would build inside me.

By the time I put my belt on and chalked-up, it was an inferno. A slap across my face and a deep inhale through the nose and I'd get under the bar for battle. Indeed, I respected the bar too much not to respect it. Plainly said, fear dictated my posture for the moment, kept me sharp, alert, strong. Fear was a friend.

When the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, it's not referring to a scary fear -- it's talking about a reverence, an awe, a holy respect that brings wisdom. When we seek Him daily in prayer and Bible study, we gain wisdom from a love born through awesome fear. As Christians with a mind for health, our fear of the Lord should dictate our posture -- first in our kneeling and then in how we conduct ourselves. Our fear of the Lord is what separates us from other fitness enthusiasts or athletes. We respect Him too much not to. Fear keeps us sharp, alert, strong. Make no mistake, fear is a friend.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: How else can fear be healthy? What do we fear more, not getting the approval and applause of others or not having God's approval? Is our life a posture that proves it?

 

Pure Strength

Yesterday we touched on the idea of "A Strong Life" and I thought we'd continue the discussion. What exactly does a strong life look like? In the shortest, simplest form, the strongest life you'll ever meet -- both spiritually and physically -- is one that has committed their life to Christ and is committed to honoring Him with their health. Now, the first and most important part of that sentence is a life that has Jesus in their hearts. Someone who is saved, Heaven-bound and Spirit-led. Then once eternity is taken care of, time on earth has guidance, which leads us to the second part of the sentence. Honoring Him with our bodies takes on many, many forms.

What is it not about? Well, let me say this. I know preachers that have never stepped foot in a gym and who may not have been the healthiest, but who did more for the Kingdom of God physically than the fittest "Christian athlete." So we know it's not about aesthetics, or perception or ability or the reflection. Honoring Him with our bodies goes to the core of who we are in Him, through Him and because of Him.

You know, if someone were to ask us to summarize today's workout as well as what we read in God's word today, which one would be easier to recount? Many of us know when it's "Leg Day" but have no plan for what scripture we've set aside to read. Truth is, we honor Him with our bodies first by the amount of time we spend with Him. In fact, tending to our spiritual needs requires physical discipline; stopping, getting on our knees, reading our Bibles, praying. Physical discipline for spiritual strength.

Once we've trained in godliness, then we can do physically whatever glorifies Him, and protects and rejuvenates our bodies, what's enjoyable, habit-forming, etc. For some, it's walking, swimming, running, lifting or a combination. And once we've cared for the soul and the body, we put the two to use in tandem by serving God and those He's brought into our lives: family, neighbors, church, friends, the less fortunate. A strong life is one of service, of character, commitment, discipline, priority, practice. Fact is, a strong life can take on too many forms for a lowly fitness devotional to handle. But our little lives can be strong because we serve a mighty God who wants to do His will through us.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What is YOUR definition of a strong life?

Many of us know when it's "Leg Day" but have no plan for what scripture we've set aside to read. Truth is, we honor Him with our bodies first by the amount of time we spend with Him. --Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: BeFit Workout with Jimmy

Use this four-minute jaunt through the PrayFit gauntlet energize your efforts and start living a strong life today

>> To order the full video for you to do at home, click the links on the video directly or visit the online store today!

3000 Miles To Grace Land

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." --1 Peter 2:21

Read: 1 Peter 2

You can learn a lot on a walk. I've been so blessed this week by your comments and thoughts on our theme. On our walk that counts, we learned that when things get pruned, they bloom. We encouraged one another to take another step during dark times and wear the song out the door. And yesterday, we watched the gait of some of the Bible's most amazing characters as well as that of our life's main character, Christ. The only walk to follow.

We've said it before, but it's estimated that Jesus physically walked over 3,000 miles during His public ministry. Imagine, 3,000 miles in order that we could see grace land with one step.

Wow. What a good God we have. What a faithful God we serve. What a walk to follow.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Where did your walk take you this week? Hopefully in good health we pray. Hope to see you right back here Monday morning. Have a good weekend.

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.

I Got It, Daddy

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

Read: Galatians 6

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

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

Source: American Diabetes Association

Strength and Honor

"This is what the Lord says, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast in his strength..." --Jeremiah 9:23

With so much on my mind yesterday, I walked into my physical therapy session. Progress is slow. Parents need prayer. PrayFit at a crossroads. Swirling and swirling inside my little pea brain. After my daily evaluation, one of the therapists asked that I follow them to the other side of the center. We walked through the machines, the cable stations, and then we finally reached the free weights -- first time in a weight room in close to two years and sentimental me had to pause.

As I looked at the corner of heavy dumbbells, I immediately thought of the movie Gladiator. Remember the scene?

Maximus is about to fight the final battle. As he walked by, his men stood to salute and pay honor. So, I took a deep breath and began to walk. "Weary from battle," I limped through the dumbbell area, and I could faintly hear the iron whispering, "General", "Sir", "Strength and Honor." (Go ahead and humor me by smiling.)

As the therapist and tech worked me through my required stretching, I told them that I used to lift a lot of weight -- even wrote an article (or two) about it. While I laid on my back, they manipulated my legs about me, and I found myself looking up at the ceiling, recounting my personal records -- what I used to bench press and squat. Ah, the glory days. Then in an almost doubtful tone, the young tech said, "Oh yeah? Pretty good." I couldn't help but grin. Then the Holy Spirit spoke, "Tell him what (Who) you really lift." So I did.

Jimmy, circa 1990, with 315 pounds on the reverse-grip bench press.

"It's amazing how the Lord used those old lifting days, and still does," I began. "Today I spend my time describing the weight of God's mercy, and how it crashes down on us. These days, I try and teach others to do more with their health than just be healthy. And of all the things this body should remind us of, our frailty is one of them. All that weight merely helped me realize my smallness. Truth is, our dependence on grace is really our greatest strength."

He looked at me and nodded. I asked him to check out PrayFit.

Oh my friends, although I'm struggling to tie my shoes from a seated position (which I did for the first time yesterday, say "Amen"), I'm grateful for the weight I used to lift -- it helps me remember the weight that only HE can. And yes, as I left the weight room to go back to my therapy station, I couldn't help myself. I turned to that heavy corner, paused and said with a grin..."Strength and honor."

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What does your health help you realize? How can our grasp of our weakness help us get closer to the Lord? Aren't you glad we don't have to lift the really heavy things of life?

eatqBOOST YOUR EatQ: Using Your Mind to Maximize Weight Loss

Need a quick tactic to cut down on your calorie count? Use your non-dominant hand to eat. A recent study showed that this strategy can reduce your eating by 30%. This action breaks up the automatic hand to mouth flow. You have to think about each bite similar to writing with your opposite hand.

This mindful-eating strategy represents the tip of the iceberg for those who pick up Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence, the latest literary offering by licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.

"EatQ is an easy, 3-step program to help you stop overeating for good and lose/manage your weight," says Albers. "I created this concept because many of my clients are whiz kids when it comes to nutrition knowledge. In fact, many of my readers could rattle off the fat grams and sugar content of every food you could imagine. But what they don't know is how to talk themselves into making the healthy choice."

>> Pick up your copy of EatQ today by clicking here!

Leland Family Ministry

FloridaHomeless. Orphan. Addict. Lost. These are just a few of the words you could use to appropriately describe Libbie Combee's first 30 years of life. But stand among the rows of freshly grown produce she gives to the hungry people in her community, or sit in a Bible study she leads for those recently freed from prison, or watch as she encourages those struggling with addiction, and you'd describe her last twenty years a little differently. In fact, if you combine the grace that Paul preached with the works that James demanded, I think you'd get Libbie Combee and the ministry she founded.

Last week, I had the unbelievable honor of speaking at The PrayFit Banquet hosted and produced by the Leland Family Ministry. I assure you folks, I was blessed and fed more than I blessed and fed others. I left Florida wanting and needing to do more with my health and my little company because of this group. It's been said that you never know how far away you are from your goal until you're standing right next to it. Well, standing next to Libbie, I promise that statement is certainly true. As we start a new week, let the example that Libbie -- who makes it look so natural -- be the standard we follow. Let's use our health to serve.

Simple. Significant. Selfless. Servant. These are just a few of the words you could use to appropriately describe Libbie Combee. If you would like to learn more about her and the ministry she founded, please go to their website. You'd bless us if you would. Have a great week everyone. Let's go to work.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Pictured above is the PrayFit Banquet venue from last week. What a tremendous time together of fellowship, praising the Lord and serving each other. Can't wait to go back!

 

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!

Behind The Scenes

"When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out." --Matthew 6:2-4

Read: Matthew 6

Yesterday, Eric sent me some behind-the-scenes footage from our DVD series; specifically, various things that went on the day we shot the "Prayfit Minutes" portion of the discs. Wow, I had never seen any of it. Great memories. (We've posted a quick 10 seconds from that day for you to see below.) But I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon watching what was going on before and after the cameras rolled. And you know, everything you saw on the DVD was the result of dozens of people doing their finest work. I couldn't tell you their names but countless people across the country have heard our message of health and praise all because of what these pros did off-camera.

In Matthew, we learn the importance of doing things for others without being seen; void of any credit and in the absence of praise. In fact, you and I are never to do good things so that others can see us. “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding." (Matthew 6:1 The Msg) The passage goes on to say that when we tell others what good we've done, we've lost the blessing in Heaven.

Giving, praying, doing. So much of who we are should happen when nobody sees it. That fires me up. The gospel done in secret. In fact, that's how God works. "When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out." (Matthew 6:2-4)

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: When the offering plate comes around in church, you don't tell everyone what you give. That would not only be absurd, but you'd lose the blessing in Heaven. How can our health be a private offering to the Lord? Are you in the habit of showing off your physical gifts from God for the praise of others? Let's work this week to pray in private, give to the needy in private, do for the Lord just for the Lord, even when it comes to our health. And when we do, He knows it. And that's enough.

"THAT'S A WRAP!": What a great day this was. We are still so honored by the countless people from Lionsgate Entertainment who did such an amazing job on set. And while we won't show you too much of all the footage, we thought we'd show you the minute they told Jimmy we were wrapped. (He gets excited)...

You Don't Have To

"Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good." --Psalm 25:7

Read: Psalm 25 Earlier this week I received the most incredible and undeserved invitation. Details to come, but later this Fall, Loretta and I will be special guests at Baylor University, my alma mater. In the days leading up to a special Saturday event, we'll have the unique opportunity of speaking to students, staff and the community. We're so blessed and excited. Can I get a "Sic'em Bears?"

You know, the idea of going back and showing Loretta some of my old stomping grounds after all these years is already making my heart pound. I've even started taking notes on things I want to be sure and discuss with the students in particular. Oh man, to be able to go back and talk to a younger Jimmy Peña.  What would I tell him? (Other than to enjoy his hair line while he can and to eat more fiber. He'll just have to trust me on both.) So many things come to mind. But one thing I know, I'd make sure to find my way to old Russell Gym. I'd stand right next to young Jimmy as he eyed his next lift. While the gang of Russell Rats yell and scream in one ear, I'd whisper in the other, "You don't have to. You don't have to lift that much weight."

Carrying the weight of the past gets heavy, does it not? Yesterday's mistakes can feel heavier than a 500-pound bar across your back. I know, because I've carried both. But like the old Gaither hymn reminds me as I type this sentence:

"I'm free from the fear of tomorrow. I'm free from the guilt of my past. I've traded my shackles for a glorious song. I'm free. Praise the Lord, free at last."

If you're carrying yesterday's burden today, the Cross of Jesus says we don't have to. And we have the most incredible and undeserved invitation to embrace it.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Even though I know I would change some things in my past, I believe the good Lord has worked it all out. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I hadn't gone through some of my mistakes and wrong turns, I wouldn't be living the life I live today. Share your story. Give us your comments below. And have a great weekend everyone.

LISTEN, WATCH, INVITE: Life is not about the body. Our health is a means of praise. This fundamental message, which has become the heart of PrayFit in the last several years, has always been at the heart of Jimmy's philosophy on exercise and nutrition. But to put it in a paragraph here doesn't do it justice -- to hear it from the man himself is a convicting experience for anyone who has the opportunity. Use the links below to explore what we mean...

Listen >> Many of Jimmy's favorite devotionals are available here as audio files. Click here to "hear" PrayFit's founder articulate his passion for your health.

Watch >> The mission of PrayFit isn't six-pack abs -- it's stewardship. Click here for a video compilation of Jimmy's heartfelt message about caring for the bodies that carry these souls.

Invite >> Finally, if this is a message that you feel your family, your church or your community, then reach out to us today to find out how you can bring Jimmy to your next Sunday service or event. Click here for more info.

For additional PrayFit resources, such as books or DVDs, click here.

Strengthen Your Message

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." --2 Timothy 4:17

Read: 2 Timothy 4

Yesterday we touched on what's most important: our daily time with the good Lord. (How is everyone doing on their 5-minute commitment?) But you may already have that part down pat. While yesterday's entry was extremely well-written and uncommonly clever (this is where you just nod in agreement), it wasn't for you. Let's face it, you can set clocks by your prayer and reading rituals. You wrote the book on quiet times. And if so, we're glad you're back, because today we're talking about what fewer and fewer believers are doing once they get up off their knees.

Dr. Charles Stanley recently said that adversity can either be a burden or a bridge. When I look back at my year, I know beyond a doubt that when adversity weakened my muscle, God strengthened my message. What about you? Do you see health as a burden or a bridge? Perhaps you have self-inflicted infirmities or maybe you were blindsided. Distinguishing between the two isn't always easy, is it? But let me be as much of an encourager as I am a tough reminder that our bodies have so much to accomplish for the kingdom. Many of the things God calls us to do as believers require a stewardship-type outlook of the body. Not in vain, but practically speaking. If you're a believer who finds himself or herself unknowingly hiding behind the truth that God only sees the heart -- with all due respect -- a "willful" neglect of the body is a heart issue.

But trust me, I know the battle is tough. I know it's daily. And I know how despair feels. But ask the Lord for wisdom and strength on how to be a better steward in this area. Determine today that only the limits God sets for your life will slow you down. Not anything man-made or self-made. When you close that bible and rise to your feet, tell the Lord your body is at His service now. And if that means adversity, or healthier food choices and fitness-type activities, see it all as an opportunity to strengthen your message.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT IN PREVENTION, ON MSN: After you've polished off that basket of fries, praying for skinniness may be futile. But across the country, weight loss programs are combining the typical tools of diet, exercise and community support with one more: The power of belief. "The Bible is full of stories of men and women who have conquered obstacles in their life through faith," says Jimmy Peña, who founded the Bible-based program PrayFit. [click here for more]

SODIUM: NOT TOO MUCH, NOT TOO LITTLE

Think you're consuming too much salt? A review published in the American Journal of Medicine found that people who consumed less than the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day actually had a 37% increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than those who ingested more. So trying to go cold turkey, or letting your spouse take that salt shaker away from you every night at dinner time may not be the best approach.

Still, there are some who need to be careful not to overdo the salt because they have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease. To reduce your levels of sodium, try these simple tips from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD.

• Instead of a lot of salt, use herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, citrus juices, or wine to flavor food • Taste your food before salting it • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned "no salt added" veggies, and add a little salt at the table • Rinse canned beans and other canned veggies to remove sodium • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereal without salt • Read labels: look for "low-sodium," "reduced-sodium," "no salt added," and foods that have less than 200 mg per serving

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

The Firefighter

"When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses his face was radiant..." --Exodus 34:30

Read: Exodus 34

Immediately after my walk on Saturday, I was standing outside the condo doing my prescribed stretching when a neighbor's visiting father offered me encouragement on his way to dinner; a tall man, sharp, very put-together and gray-haired. He'd obviously learned I was recovering and he simply told me that he understood what I was going through. As I asked him questions, there was something about his answers. Not so much in the content, but in his conduct. You know those kinds of people who immediately capture your attention? This guy was that kind of guy. A man's man and a gentle giant of sorts.

Long story short, as we spoke, I learned he was a firefighter. Those who know me don't even blink when I admit that I unashamedly interrupted him mid-sentence to shake his hand and thank him for his service. But then you guessed it, just as naturally as could be, he spoke of the Lord as if he had just hung up the phone with him. His thankfulness to God for his health and ability were written all over his face long before it came out of his mouth. It was neat. He didn't know me or Loretta or what we did. He was just walking by, shared the Lord and drove away.

In our passage today, when Moses came down to talk to Aaron and the Israelites, how does the bible describe his face? Radiant, right? You just know when someone has been with the Lord. And nothing, folks -- nothing -- prepares us to meet the world, strangers, neighbors, obstacles or triumphs better than our intimate time with Jesus. You want to honor God with your body? It starts by hitting your knees and spending time with Him. The stranger who strolled by me on Saturday sure does, and it shows on his face. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that before that man puts out any fires, he goes to the well.

--Jimmy Peña

A FIRE FIGHT: We all have fires that need extinguishing today. Jobs, health, healing, family matters, kids' summers, and the list goes on. Amidst it all, how do we expect to live a life God desires if we don't pick up His word and read it? This week, who will commit to spending five minutes alone with the Lord? Not checking the phone, not on the TV or computer -- but quiet time with God. I realize we talk to Him throughout the day, but who's going to find a way for a personal bible study and prayer time? Maybe start with today's chapter if you haven't already. Let's come down from the mountain with an unmistakable glow that only God can give. Let's let the people we encounter say to themselves, "There's something about this one." And then let's tell them Who that is.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: THE RUNNER'S CORE

In an effort to become more efficient runners, people will often train their legs harder. A few more miles per week, a few more lunges in the gym -- legs, legs, legs. But as any experienced runner will tell you, legs are only part of the equation. Core strength and stamina are incredibly important for maintaining proper mechanics, whether you're training for a 5K or running out a double in a softball game.

>> Click here for a running-focused core routine!

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

You Know The Story, Part II

"So he got up and went to his father." --Luke 15:20

Read: Luke 15

We had a rule growing up. If my brother and I got in trouble for doing something wrong, we weren't allowed to keep pouting about it. No sir. Once it was done, and my brother got what he deserved, it was over. Finished. Like it never happened. Well okay, we suffered consequences, yes, but it wasn't held over our heads. In fact, if I was pouting about it later on, you guessed it, I got in trouble for pouting. You know what that taught me? Trust. I trusted my parents. I knew what to expect. Periodically reprimanded, constantly loved.

Although he came back with memories of deeds as stinky as his pig-slopped clothes, yesterday's prodigal couldn't stray beyond his father's love. Before he knew it, a robe replaced his rags, a ring dressed his hand and a feast filled his belly. And while you and I may not have mud on our shoes, there's not a person reading this sentence who doesn't need that kind of grace from a grace-giving God.

You know, many of us have treated our bodies -- our inherited health -- much like the prodigal treated his promised pay. We've over spent and wasted it. But something tells me the prodigal son took better care of the things he was given after he got home. And so can we. For some, there's a family waiting for you, too; waiting for you to start eating better, to stop smoking, to start exercising. They're waiting to celebrate you. Who's coming home, been home, staying home? You're the life of their party. It doesn't begin without you.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Knowing that God sees our hearts, not our waistline, should invigorate and empower us to be better stewards of health. We're constantly loved. Doesn't that fire you up to live your entire life to its fullest? Let's see a few "YES" comments. We ask again: Who's coming home, been home, staying home?

NUTRITION TIP: Eat in Balance for Sustained Health

With all the fad diets out there that promise to help you lose weight for good, the best one may have been under your nose this whole time. Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat.

>> Click here for more on the study!

Unearned Health

"Every good and perfect gift comes from above." --James 1:17

Read: James 1

You've likely seen someone boast that health is "Always earned, never given." Sounds reasonable, right? You put in the work, you get the reward. Sounds reasonable, but it's not true. Health is not earned. Granted, some people appropriately celebrate their health (and hopefully more and more of us each day), but even the byproducts of that discipline -- toned muscle, greater endurance, increased strength -- gift...gift...gift. Oh we don't like to admit it. We like to think we've earned the right to raise that banner and boast, "I EARNED THIS!" But in truth, it's when we realize we have undeserved and unearned health that we can make the greatest impact with it.

You might also consider the flip-side. There are those among us who are statistically apparently healthy, but who choose a sedentary lifestyle over an active one. Those who opt for poor food choices over balanced, sensible meals. Despite great genetics, honorable stewardship is the furthest thing from their minds. If you're like me, you may have people close to you who have absolutely no health issues, but have no issue with abusing it; alive but not living. Healthy vital signs? Sure. Earned? No. A gift. Unopened, but a gift nonetheless.

Whether they're opened or still neatly wrapped, the bible says that every single gift comes from above and that includes the body. So just remember, as you wake up with grace and mercy, check and see if your limbs work and if your heart's beating. If all systems are go, then celebrate! Treat life like a Christmas morning kind of present. Open it up! It's when you see what's inside that you can really see what's inside you! And you can't give God the glory and claim it at the same time. Christians have to choose. So choose to walk, train, run, swim, strive, push, claw, climb, and reach with every single, grateful, thankful, humble, undeserved, unearned gift of health you got.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: All you have to do is visit a children's cancer hospital and the idea that health is earned quickly evaporates. Are you a fitness person? A runner? A lifter? Is it difficult for you to accept the truth that you don't earn your health? 

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Complete Cardio

Try this workout to jump-start your week. Build muscle, burn calories…all at your own pace. Everyone has a “best.” What’s yours? That’s what your effort should be everyday.

>> Click here to start sweating!

A Little Ditty

"For physical training is of some value, but training in godliness has value now and in the life to come." --1 Timothy 4:8

Read: 1 Timothy 4

I'm likely giving away my age when I remind you of one of my favorite praise and worship songs, "I Just Came To Praise The Lord." Anyone?...Anyone?

"I just came to praise the Lord. I just came to praise the Lord. I just came to praise His holy name. I just came to praise the Lord."

Classic, right? On more than one occasion, I've felt like that in church. Shake hands, wave at friends, but get me to my seat, I need to talk to Jesus. I felt like that on my walk yesterday. I didn't set any land speed records, but I logged 3.12 miles. It's always such a good time talking to the Lord, cleansing my heart, clearing my mind, praying for family, asking for wisdom, planning excellence. Far beyond the physical benefits the walking is doing to my recovery -- being over a month removed from major back surgery -- my training has always been an extension of my quiet time. Sure, each stride sends vital nutrients to aid in healing, but my "walk" is more important.

Try it. Next time you hit the gym or go for your jog, remember today's little ditty. As you raise those weights overhead, remember the ultimate burden He lifted. As you run your miles, recall the distance He went to call you His own. And I know, the world will demand that you "focus" on the goal, the reason you're in the gym or on the road. And your response can either be spoken or sung, because in truth, you are focusing on the goal and the reason you're in the gym.

--Jimmy Peña

A Little Ditty with Jimmy: Old habits die hard, because 20-plus years ago -- during my really heavy lifting days -- my best lifts always came when my heart was right, my mind was focused and my motives were pure. If I was worried, convicted, or struggling somehow, I just wasn't my best. The habit of praying before each workout became a habit I would take into each set and each rest period, until my training became an extension of my quiet time. Trust me, while I had the Rocky soundtrack blaring in my ears, I had grace and forgiveness coursing through my heart. I even remember specific prayers, mantras even, that I'd say to the Lord. Funny, I still do. Even as I blaze through -- okay, limp through -- my 3.12 miles.

EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Double Crunch

One of the most challenging exercises that you can do for your abs is the double crunch -- which is featured in our workout of the week -- because it hits your abs hard from top to bottom. Here's how to get it right.

Double Crunch | Focus: Upper abs, lower abs | (VIDEO) Lie down on the floor with your legs straight, feet together. Place your hands gently behind your head and raise your feet off the floor roughly six inches. Crunch your upper body off the floor while simultaneously bringing your knees toward your torso, so that your upper body meets your lower body in the middle. Squeeze and return to the start, allowing your legs to remain above the floor throughout.

 

God's Will and Good Health

I have a long list of goals. Wanna hear a few of them? Ok, here goes. In no particular order -- and before I turn 50 -- my goals are 1) to become fluent in Spanish 2) memorize the New Testament 3) learn to play the piano 4) visit Bethlehem and 5) be able to do a handstand. Do you like my odds? Please, no bets on the handstand. Give me a hand for just standing!

But when you read some of my life's objectives, what do they all require? Any common denominators? I can think of two: God's will and my health. I am nothing without either. But I love to imagine what all I could do with God's blessing of a plan and His blessing of good health to see it through. Wow. The idea literally makes my heart pound. Friends, I'm convinced that the only two solitary and pivotal elements any believer needs when it comes to their goals are God's will and health.

What do you need your health to help you see and do? (Don't hold back, I want to know.) Be around for your daughter's wedding? Someone with special needs who needs you the most? Hand bibles out in uncharted territories? Goals. Of course, we celebrate the byproducts of obedience like healthier weight, blood pressure, clear lungs, but if God allows those things, don't dare stop there. What are your goals? Let's get together and pray for God's will and wisdom. And then plan. Let's plan away. Get on your knees, and with God's help, deliver an unwavering commitment to put your health on that mission.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What swing-for-the-fence dreams do you have? If it were God's will, what makes your heart pound? Please give us your short list. Etched on your heart is part of your purpose. What is it?

Banana Pumpkin Pie PancakesRECIPE OF THE WEEK: Banana-Pumpkin Pie Pancakes Breakfast time, PrayFit Nation. This tasty recipe from contributor Kimberly Fuller evokes the cooling-weather comfort of fall without contributing to your winter coat. Get the vitamin-and-fiber rich recipe by clicking the link below.

>> CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE!

It's Not In Our DNA

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” --Luke 17:15-16

Read: Luke 17

DNAOur DNA is remarkable. Our microscopic fingerprint. A double-helix with 25,000 regions of genes that tell the body how to build itself. And we’re getting better at reading it. Want to know if your child has the genetics of an all-pro athlete? There’s a gene for that. Or maybe even more impressive, there’s a gene that determines motivation to become an all-pro athlete. One’s genetic make-up can tell us so much about our future. The smarter we get, the better we’ll be at predicting all sorts of things from the likelihood of certain illnesses to athletic potential.

Aren’t we glad that Heaven isn’t determined by our DNA? When ability falls short and capability fails miserably, Jesus touches our hearts and leaves a permanent imprint of a nail-scarred hand; the only statistically significant indicator of one’s destiny.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: As believers, we have to employ healthy habits in our lives. The goal of abundant life needs to become part of our DNA. If it wasn't something that we have to consciously do, God wouldn't have reminded us. Some things don't come naturally, whether it be motivation, athletic ability, coordination. But none of that matters. God sees the heart, so don't spend time critiquing the mirror or applauding it. Get moving in order to reflect Him. Serve others, be an example to kids, help neighbors, get active in church. When we say health is a means of praise, we don't mean for ourselves.

WORKING OUT AT HOME

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