heaven

Heal The Wound, Leave The Scar

Yesterday on Twitter, one of my favorite authors, Reverend Scotty Smith, had such a neat question for us. He said, "In the new heaven/new earth, I want to sing like Steve Perry, love like Mother Teresa and paint like Makoto Fugimura. You?" I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to fashion my response. "Dance like Fred Astaire," made my list. So did "Tell a good story like Max Lucado" and "Look like Rob Lowe." Hey, it's Heaven! And while Loretta and I laughed together, I began to wonder what guys like Paul, John, or a battered Job will be doing in eternity. Right? I mean, the Bible is full of men and women who endured life -- individuals who really lived and have the scars to prove it.Reminds me of the old song that said, "Heal the wound, but leave the scar. A reminder of how merciful you are."

Friends, I don't think for a second Paul will ever forget being blind. Or John his loneliness. Or Job, those boils. Each of them built altars with the broken pieces of their lives and worshiped. May that be our week's perspective. Let's stay on our knees, remember His mercy, bathe in grace, and let the dream of Heaven be the reason we work so hard for a healthy lifestyle on earth.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Okay, I know you're dying to answer with me. What say you to Scotty's question?

Final Prayfit Diet CoverTOMORROW WE HIT BOOKSTORES! One more day guys!!! Your local bookstores are being filled with our newest book, The PrayFit Diet. We are so overjoyed. Thank you if you've already ordered yours. And if you get yours, please send us a pic and we'll share it on Facebook and Twitter. And we know from your messages and posts that many of you shop on Amazon, so here's the link where you can buy yours. Thank you for supporting our little ministry and for helping tomorrow's book launch. You're so good to us. If you write us a review on one of the major book vendor sites, we'd love to share it with the community, so send us yours by clicking here.

Grace Defined

"For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so no man can boast." --Ephesians 2:8-9

Read: Ephesians 2

How much work does it take to transform your health? If you asked a hard-gainer how much work it takes to add muscle, they'd tell you it's pretty tough. Or ask someone who's struggled their entire life to maintain a healthy weight and you may get a similar response. We need help. We get educated, seek council, take cooking classes, hire trainers, study video. And we're not even discussing unforeseen illnesses, or even problems with immodesty or pride. Whether it's for motivation, specific guidelines, disease control or humility, we need assistance in our effort of Godly, physical stewardship.

So with our focus on grace this week, I decided to look it up. Webster defines grace as "Divine assistance given for sanctification." Now, if you think about how much help we need when it comes to health, how much assistance do you think we need when it comes to Heaven? A little? A lot? A lot, alot? That's why Webster's take on grace falls short, doesn't it? Did you catch it the first time? Assistance, right? So while I was at it, I looked that up too. To define assistance, Webster uses synonyms like "a boost, helping hand, a leg up." Makes sense to the world. We do our share of the work, and God does His. We try our best, but when our best isn't good enough for Heaven, He gives our souls a boost.

But grace is more than what Webster might call a hearty helping of chicken soup for the soul. No, our souls need more than help. In fact, we don't need help, we need Him. If grace were just a boost on God's part, then you and I could boast in our works. His share. Our share. But we don't share. Health is never earned. What would ever make us think grace could be?

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT DEVOTIONS ON AUDIO

Are you a fan of the PrayFit Daily devotions? Were you aware that many of our best devos are now on audio? Click here to give a listen to a selection of inspirational entries from PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña.

>> THE PRAYFIT MINUTE: LISTEN

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.

He's Strong. We're Weak.

"For by grace you have been saved 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

It just never seems to end, does it? This pursuit of health. For you, maybe it's another day in the gym, looking at that same row of dumbbells. Or maybe it's walking another lap around the familiar track with the expected turns. Either way, picking up the weight or the pace are the keys to change, improvement or even maintenance. More...again. Again, some more. Besides, you're only as good as your last workout, so you huff and puff...(rough). Folks, aren't we glad Heaven doesn't require the same?

Let's face it, we're just not strong enough, fast enough, good enough. Fortunately, Jesus lifted our heaviest burden and walked the steepest hill. We can stop fighting a fight He's already won. In fact, the next time you're struggling to lift yesterday's dumbbell with a body designed to weaken, or you're trying to keep your previous pace with steadily slowing legs, take a second and smile. Go ahead. Just grin and shake your head. Let it remind you of just how small and weak you are, and just how big and able He is. I admit, whenever I do that, I seem to be a little stronger and a little bit faster. I don't know. Maybe it's because I realize He's put me in charge of something that requires my effort.

--Jimmy Peña

STRENGTH TIP: Go Unilateral Did you know that by training one limb at a time, you can actually produce 20 percent more force? Get the inside scoop here.

NETWORK, SHOP, CHAT, SOW Take advantage of the many outlets and resources available to the PrayFit Nation

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

>> SHOP: Spread the health via your apparel at the PrayFit online store. Custom hats, cozy tees and logo wristbands are all available at the click of a mouse, with easy shipping. You can also pick up PrayFit books and DVDs to help you start living a healthier lifestyle here. Click to get started.

>> CHAT: Are you already a member of our forums? Get back in on the discussion by clicking here. Not yet signed up? All it takes is 20 seconds to get started. Click here.

>> SOWING: Plant the seeds of health and fitness in your church by arranging a visit from PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. Learn more about his message by clicking here, or write us at info@prayfit.com to start planning dates!

"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

>> Catch Robert Guerrero in action this weekend as he squares off against pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather on Showtime Boxing. For more info on the fight, click here!

Porch with a View

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will But not a single sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father?" --Matthew 10:29

Read: Matthew 10

BirdhouseSpent Easter at home. It's not that we didn't have anywhere to go after church but we just had too many reasons to stay. A day that began with a good ballgame and a brand new book found me on the same front porch where I started and finished both. And speaking of the porch, I spent hours watching a little family of birds take up residence in a tree just steps from our door. What can I say? It was been a perfect day. Where's Norman Rockwell when you need him?

Moments like these remind me how great God's love is. He doesn't miss a chance to delight in you and me. He's crazy about us, and He's near.

Which brings me back to those birds. They're living in a birdhouse we bought years ago, long before they were born. A small, yellow, wooden birdhouse with a greenish-brown roof and a "Bless This Nest" emblem under the tiny opening. (Let me see if I can get a good pic of it...got it. There he is.) Little do they realize, but their new home was placed so close to ours on purpose -- simply to bring us joy as we watch them live. You know, if Heaven has a porch, I bet God goes there a lot, just to enjoy the view up close. I like to think He's there right now, watching what He loves best. So God...please bless this nest.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Oh, the little guy has been working so hard. Going and coming with little twigs. Building and building. I'm mesmerized. Imagine if we find such joy watching a sparrow live and work... Folks, we're praying for you and your little nest. If we can pray specifically about something or if you want to simply say "Unspoken Request," write it in the comments section, and we promise to pray for you.

TRAINING TIP: Use Your Imagination

Compound pulling exercises -- moves like pulldowns, pull-ups and rows in which you move at multiple joints -- are great for building strength in your back but they can be tough to master. Here's how to use a little brain power to boost the effectiveness of these moves in your next workout.

>> CLICK HERE: Build a stronger back with this strategy...

>> For more exercise tips and workouts, visit our fitness page by clicking here.

We Are The Crowd

"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

No need to adjust your computer screen, that’s indeed the same verse as yesterday's entry. But I just had to go back to it. Ever since we posted last night, I haven’t been able to get a particular thought out of my head: The crowd knew something. Read the verse again.

Typically, we focus on either the blind man, Bartimaeus or, of course, Jesus. But the crowd's response has bugged me for nearly 24 hours. The crowd is…us. Why? Because they knew something. They knew what Jesus had the power to do in the blind man's life. Otherwise, they wouldn't have reacted as if the beggar had just won the lottery!

Read it again. Of all the thousand voices that were clamoring for Jesus to hear, that of a blind beggar behind all the others sitting on the side of the road found the ear of Jesus, and the crowd knew what that meant. Can't you just see them pause, their wide eyes, open mouths, and then their whiplash reactions as they run to the one who's number had just been called?

You and I stand among those who need to heed the call. Read the verse again (last time, I promise). Isn't Jesus calling everyone? Didn't He die for all the world? And if we've been saved and healed…aren't we the crowd who knows?

–Jimmy Peña

Question: Who in your life needs to know what you know?

GYM TIP: There's more than one way to use a treadmill. A recent study found that those who pedaled backward on treadmills and elliptical machines gained greater quadriceps and hamstring strength and had greater aerobic capacity than those who went forward. Click here for more.

bg-speaking-engagementsPeña to be Honored by UT Tyler Alumni Association: Next Friday (March 22), the University of Texas at Tyler Alumni Association will recognize five graduates at its Alumni Gala. Among those being honored will be PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña, who earned a master of science in clinical exercise physiology from UT Tyler in 1998. "It’s easy to think of Heaven on days like this," he said. "We’ve accepted an invitation we don’t deserve, to celebrate a reward we didn’t earn." Click here to read more.

Be Born Again

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

Read: Matthew 7

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

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

Let the King be King

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." --2 Corinthians 4:18

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

Venturing into my 4-year-old son’s room to make up his bed, I had to giggle at what I saw. He had, in his bed: his favorite giant shark stuffed animal, his Christmas elf (two months early), a NERF football, a stuffed penguin and his beloved Nintendo DSI game. As I began moving things around, I realized that he was buried in there as well, sleeping with all of his favorite things. When he went to bed at night, he did not want to let any of them out of his sight for a second. If this meant rolling over in the middle of the night on top of a football or shifting positions to avoid the hard case of his video game, well that was okay. Uncomfortable sleep or not, he was holding onto those precious possessions at all costs.

Sometimes in our own lives we refuse to let go of things that we love. We live in a world where "stuff" is king. We want the best homes, cars and toys and many times those things can interrupt our focus on God and on others. We don't need such a tight grip on those material things around us. Instead, shouldn't we tighten the grip on the One who has provided every ounce of what we have?

I love the concept that we don’t really "own" anything in this life, rather we are simply managers. We cannot take our stuffed sharks and our NERF footballs to heaven and we won't need video games in eternity. We have the greatest gift of all pursuing us every day so that we can live a life of fullness. So, let’s agree to not let our "stuff" be king, but let the King be king.

--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.

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bars

You don't need to pour your life savings into mass-produced energy bars. This tasty recipe from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White (www.danawhitenutrition.com) gives you plenty of body-friendly fuel for your day -- and without the fancy wrapper.

Ingredients: Cooking Spray 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 tablespoon canola oil 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups rolled oats 2 cups crisp brown rice cereal 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots 1/2 cup chopped dried figs 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions: Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, canola oil, brown sugar, cinnamon. Stir and cook until mixture just begins to bubble, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. In a large bowl, combine oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, peanuts, apricots, figs and salt. Pour peanut butter mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir gently with a spatula until well combined. Transfer to baking dish, cover with parchment paper and press firmly into dish. Allow to cool completely (mix will cool faster in the refrigerator). Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Calories: 240 | Total fat: 10g | Saturated fat: 1.5g | Carbohydrate: 30g | Protein: 6g | Sodium: 70mg

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is the nutrition expert for Food Network.com and the Healthy Eats blog. She is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

Gumption

"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air."—1 Corinthians 9:26

Read: 1 Corinithans 9

I'm definitely old-fashioned, but who reading this remembers tryouts? I thought of it yesterday when I asked, "Who won?" to a young boy and his mom as they came back from his soccer game. They replied, "Oh, we don't keep score. In this league, we don't keep score and everybody plays." Hmm. I tried to hide my confusion, but had she replied in Yiddish it would have made as much sense.

You know, if Paul were in sports, I think he would have enjoyed keeping score. The way he talked of disciplining his body like an athlete, or how passionately he wrote of running the race. Something tells me, Paul would have understood the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." Of course, Paul would be the first person to teach us of grace and forgiveness, but a record of wrongs is not the issue at stake. The issue is more about the kind of fight we have in us for the faith, as well as for the body. Like Paul, it's time to follow our instincts.

Truth be told, if our health was required for Heaven, well, we'd be in bad shape. And if God kept score on our day's losses, we'd lose outright every time. But it's because of those things that we might as well toughen up. Who knows how effective we could be for the kingdom if we exercised a little more Godly gumption. Not in order to win favor, but because we have favor.

Oh, and I have to report, as my neighbor disappeared into her home, the little boy stuck his head out the front door, put his hand up to the side of his mouth as if to tell me a secret from across the street: "We won 11 to nothin'!" he yelled with a whisper. Atta boy, I thought. Gumption. He's a carrier. And so are you.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Tomato Sauce

Makes 10 servings (1/2 cup each)

Ingredients:

6-8 large tomatoes cut into large chunks 1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped 1 red chili pepper, chopped 3 cloves garlic, whole 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon dried oregano Freshly ground black pepper 1 can (15 ounces) canned tomato sauce, no salt added 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 cup red wine 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place tomatoes, onion, chili and garlic on a large sheet pan; add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, oregano and pepper and toss to coat. Roast vegetables for 25-30 minutes or until tomatoes just begin to char; set aside to cool slightly. In a large pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then add the roasted tomato mixture, tomato sauce, tomato paste and wine. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil and parsley; season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Puree sauce using an immersion blender* until smooth.

*If you do not have an immersion blender, puree in a countertop blender in small batches. Make sure to hold the top of the blender closed with a dish towel while the machine is on.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories: 80 calories Total Fat: 3 grams Saturated Fat: 0 grams Total Carbohydrate: 11 grams Protein: 2 grams Sodium: 139 milligrams Cholesterol: 0 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian and is currently a nutrition expert for the Food Network, and has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine. She has appeared on Good Day Street Talk, Food Network.com, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. Visit her at Dana White Nutrition.

He Couldn't Move

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." --1 Peter 5:10

Read: 1 Peter 5

We talk a lot at PrayFit about the countless biblical examples of people who had physical reactions to Jesus, either to be near Him or because they had just been with Him. Shepherds sprinting to see the baby Messiah, John leaping in his mother's womb, or friends lifting their paralyzed friend through the roof so Jesus could heal. We've said it before, but He moves us!

But there was one person who didn't move a muscle.

The thief had just been given Heaven. Every sin of his wasted years had been forgiven, his name had just been written in the lamb's book of life, and soon the angels would be teaching him to sing. And yet, despite this gift of grace and mercy, He didn't run to embrace Him. He didn't leap for joy, lift his hands in praise or kneel in worship. Why? Well, he couldn't move. See, the nails were too deep, the pain was too great. If he could've descended the cross, he probably would've demonstrated physically what his heart had experienced spiritually.

What about you? You may be 18 or 80 and Lord knows this brief life is not about the body, but have you been given Heaven? Then tell your body to react. Walk the block, lift some weights, swim a few laps. And by all means, kneel. Don't wait. Celebrate in this life the free gift of eternal life.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Rise n’ Shine Breakfast Wrap First thing in the morning, you need protein to fight off muscle wasting, carbs to replenish energy stores and some healthy fat to aid digestion. This recipe provides all that and more in a tasty, waistline-friendly dish that'll get your day off to a perfect start.

(Serves: 4)

Ingredients: 4 eggs plus 4 egg whites 3 tablespoons water Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup chopped tomato ½ cup chopped poblano pepper 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 4 (6-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas Nonstick cooking spray

Directions: Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine eggs, egg whites, and water in a large bowl and whisk well. Spray skillet with nonstick spray and pour in eggs. Season with salt and pepper and gently scramble until eggs begin to set. Add tomato, pepper and cheese and cook until eggs are cooked and cheese is melted. Evenly divide egg mixture into each of the tortillas; roll up and serve immediately.

Nutrition Info Per Serving: Calories: 349 Total Fat: 17 grams Saturated Fat: 6.5 grams Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: 21 grams Cholesterol: 242 milligrams Sodium: 521 milligrams Fiber: 2.5 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.

Salvation Carpentry

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." --Galatians 6:14

Read: Galatians 6

Wendy, you complete me. Sorry to start with such a tired, borrowed phrase but it's true. She does. My weaknesses in this marriage are balanced out by perfectly by her strengths. She speaks Spanish pretty well, which has helped on our travels and with living in Southern California. She's tall, so that means I have someone to reach my supplements on the top shelf. But she's also a do-it-yourself maniac which is great since I am challenged by even the most remedial of home improvement projects.

I don't think I've ever put something together without having an inordinate amount of parts leftover. While she savors opportunities to tool, tinker and fiddle -- or as she says, "to do it right" -- I prefer to just duct tape it and be done with it. Of course, the tape may hold -- for a time -- but eventually, it fails. Crafting things to last should be my goal, as it is hers, which reminds me of a great sign I saw once:

"People use duct tape to fix everything. God used nails."

God knew that our eternity was too fine a construct to employ inadequate materials. The cross -- which stands as the definitive, finishing touch on our salvation -- was built to last. It was built as a sign that heaven wasn't a "do-it-yourself" project. And the hands and feet of the Great Carpenter held the nails to prove it.

--Eric Velazquez

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.

>> 28 DAYS: Looking for the perfect four-week program to change your body? Pick up PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days, which is complete with an exercise program, meal plan and daily devotionals.

Built To Be Broken

"And by his wounds we are healed." --Isaiah 53:5

Read: Isaiah 53

For my daughter's fourth birthday recently, we allowed her and her younger sister to stay up an hour past bedtime so we could all snuggle up to a good movie and some popcorn. Our selection? At Jesus' Side, an animated story that centers around a pack of outcast animals in Jerusalem during the last week of Jesus' life. The birthday girl, Mya, sat cuddled up to me.

During the scene where Jesus is carrying his cross to Calvary, my wife turns to look at us and her eyes welled up with tears. Mya was crying. She was heartbroken at the way Jesus was being treated. When He finally gave up His soul on the cross, Mya buried her face in my chest and wept. I fought the lump in my throat as I held her tight and wiped her tears. It was only when the canine protagonist came to Jesus' empty tomb that her sadness was replaced once more with her signature smile.

The joy of the resurrection, as it turns out, isn't age-dependent. Even a four-year-old can appreciate the beauty of Christ's victory over death. Our bodies, we tell her, are designed for fun things like jumping in puddles and riding bikes. His, on the other hand, was built for one purpose: to be broken, so that one day, we can bury our faces in His chest and He can wipe away all our tears, for good.

--Eric Velazquez

REPORT: WEIGHT LOSS CAN BE CONTAGIOUS

What's your main fitness goal? If it's to lose a few pounds or inches, it's time to surround yourself with an all-star cast of teammates.

Researchers from The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University found that team members in a weight loss competition not only achieved similar weight loss outcomes, but participants who said their teammates played a large role in their weight loss actually lost the most weight. The study found that subjects who lost 5% of their bodyweight or more tended to be on the same teams.

The PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge (Lionsgate) is being used nationwide by churches and small groups looking to get in shape. Participants meet regularly or perform workouts on their own and log progress on our forums or compare results in other ways.

>> To start your own 33-day challenge with friends or family, click here. >> To share your results with others who are already taking the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, click here. >> For the full story on the weight loss study from Science Daily, click here.

Crusaders

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?" --Isaiah 40:26

Read: Isaiah 40

What would your super power be? I know, it's kid's stuff, but somehow that question still makes it to the grown-up table. So let's pretend. Would you travel through time? Gain super strength? Or maybe my favorite -- you'd fly. C'mon, how many of us have ever wanted to swoop down and save the day?

But we can't. We can't find the car keys let alone leap tall buildings. Saving the day will just have to wait. But we should remember that while we're not caped, we are crusaders -- crusaders flanked by angels, sent to protect the only thing that will eventually fight gravity and win: our souls.

So if you're feeling grounded and restless, that's okay. This isn't home. You and I were meant for a land far, far away. All we need to do is wait for our Hero to say the day. And guess what? We'll rise up with renewed strength and fly.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Speaking of heroes, I'd like to share with you that my dad, Jerry Peña, has lost 40 lbs over the last 5 months. He's done it simply by eating less and walking a little more. And if he strolls by you, just know, there goes my hero on earth. Way to go Pop. I love you.

NUTRITION TIP: A Little White Lie? By Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

A number of people I have counseled in nutrition are confused about the differences between brown sugar and white sugar. Some believe that brown sugar is healthier, using the logic that brown (whole grain) bread, rice, and pasta is better than the white (refined) versions of those products.

Actually, brown sugar is virtually equal to white sugar in calories and nutrient content. The only difference is that molasses has been added to brown sugar, which gives it its color and distinct taste. They key to maintaining a healthy weight is to use both types of sugar in moderation.

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.

PRAYFIT 33: Have you committed to take the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge? Order your DVD today to start this home-based, body-and-soul makeover, led by PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. Then, keep up with the rest of the community, or just share your daily progress, at the PrayFit forums. "In just 33 minutes a day for 33 days, we can honor the one who gave us 33 years," Jimmy says.

Cut to the Chase

"Come. Follow me." —Matthew 4:19

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

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

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

Jimmy Peña

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

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

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

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

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

"BUT MOM...IT'S JESUS"

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." — Matthew 1:23

NativityOut walking with their parents on a recent winter evening, Prayfit VP Eric Velazquez's little Mya and Ella came upon a scene that they could not resist. It’s not often that you run into a nearly-life-size donkey and cow begging for you to hop on their backs, right? Passing on propriety, they sped by their parents, the wise men, jumped right into the large nativity, and made themselves at home. Faces full of delight...click! A moment is captured forever and in the next, cautiously put on Facebook for friends near and far to enjoy.

Their parents questioned the appropriateness -- Mya and Ella questioned their caution.

“But Mom, it’s Jesus!”

Where are we in this picture? In Matthew 8, Jesus says that unless we become like children we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven; a child’s faith -- so pure and trusting -- is necessary for a relationship with Him.  As adults, bogged down with day-to-day issues, it’s easy to lose the child-like ease that intimacy with the Father brings. Knowing God's character, I believe it was not only okay for Mya and Ella to make themselves at home with Jesus, He’s waiting for us to join them.

--Catrina Vargas-Cormell

An entrepreneur, Catrina Vargas-Cormell was one of the first members of the PrayFit community. Catrina is now a PrayFit executive committee member and PrayFit Group leader in El Paso, Texas. For more from Catrina, join her group, “Hungry!,” on Facebook or visit her PrayFit workout journal.

SHOP & STAY LEAN Don’t let holiday shopping  derail your healthy-living goals

“It’s the heart of the holiday shopping season: Malls are flooded, parking lots are jam-packed, and your inbox is overflowing with e-coupons,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, PrayFit’s resident healthy-eating expert. “Whether you’re hitting up the food court or doing your shopping online, keep these tips in mind.”

Don’t…

…munch on free samples. The calories can add up fast.

…shop hungry. Eat a sensible meal before you head out to the store or sit at the computer.

…swig liquid calories. Large sodas and full-fat peppermint lattes can have as many calories as a meal.

…go overboard on holiday goodies. Just because you can buy a 10-pound bar of chocolate shaped like a Christmas tree doesn’t mean that you should.

Do…

…resist the wafting smells from the pretzel and cookie stands. Save those calories for holiday parties.

…pack power snacks. Granola bars, fresh fruit, peanut butter crackers, and trail mix are good options.

…keep your mouth occupied. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking, chew sugarless gum or sip on a  calorie-free drink.

…wash your hands before you eat, especially after a day of shopping.

>> For more healthy holiday tips, visit Dana’s Healthy Eats blog on the Food Network.

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.

 

NOW WHAT?

"He has made everything beautiful in its time."— Ecclesiastes 3:11

Now what? Have you ever asked yourself that? If so, you're not alone. It may not comfort you to know that this ham-and-egg writer has asked himself that question many times, but a few others you might recognize probably have too. Who comes to mind? Abraham when he reached the altar with Isaac, Moses when he reached the sea, or Joshua when they finally reached Jericho. The same question they whispered to themselves after being obedient was the same question the enemy shouted when Jesus was on the cross: Now what?

In response, God left Heaven's hall for Bethlehem's stall. He then climbed out of his crib and onto the cross. He became the answer to our biggest question and our direst need. Are you facing a 'now what' moment? Maybe your health is taking a wrong turn or the job you wanted is already filled. Whatever you're dealing with, the next time you look up at the stars, think of Abraham. When you run into a sea of obstacles and walls too tall to climb, remember Moses and Joshua. Just like you, their question just before the miracle was 'now what?'

--Jimmy Peña

MEMORY BOOST: GET THE BLUES

Eat one cup of blueberries, three times a week for better memory. "Blueberries," according to Johnny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of "The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer," "are the ultimate memory food. They are loaded with compounds that fight both oxidation and inflammation in our brains."

AMAZON TODAY!: If you're looking for a health-inspiring Christmas gift, head to Amazon and pick up our first-ever DVD. Loaded with at-home workouts and inspiring devotionals, this 33-day program offers a great way to start the new year!

FOREVER ROAD

November 14, 2011 Read: James 1

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." --James 1:12

Queensboro Bridge. Halfway through the New York City Marathon is both where this entry was written, and where my race actually began. Nearly two months of ultrasound and countless hours of therapy weren't enough to convalesce my troubled hamstring. And with 12 miles -- or roughly 24,000 steps left to go -- the grand, lofty notion of taking just one more was in question. So I wrote this entry.

In as much time as it took a thousand runners to pass me by, I wrapped my leg in a makeshift tourniquet using stored gauze, and as many white flags as I could find in my heart. If there's one thing this most novice of runners quickly realized on that bridge, was that the next step was as necessary as the eventual stride that would be needed to cross the finish line. So this week, we'll run the Boroughs together. If you recall, in the days before the race I asked God to open the eyes of my heart, and I promised you I'd write down what He showed me. Well, He kept His promise, and I wasn't about to break mine.

Friends, life is simply a bridge. Work, school, money, health...all mere mile markers that remind us that we're in a race. And while we don't compete against one another, I think sometimes the most daunting of life's fights occurs when we're surrounded by fellow runners. Fellow runners who are - by nature - each hamstrung by something, and fighting to turn another corner down Forever Road. Let's remember that each step is worth it if we know Who awaits us in the end. --Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT: RUNNER'S RESOURCES

Some may think that running is simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. To others, no performance tip is insignificant. In either case, running is an activity that can be improved upon, provided that you have the proper coaching. Build a stronger stride, better endurance, a leaner physique and a runner's heart by bookmarking some of these trusted resources on the web. Enjoy your runs this week and remember to post your distances to your workout journal on the PrayFit forums.

MarathonRookie.com: Tips for novices looking to enter half- or full-distance marathons

Runner's World Magazine: From shoe selection to race day decorum, the authoritative source for all things running

Jeff Galloway.com: Practical training tips from one of the industry's top coaches

Mapmyrun.com: Track your distance runs with this easy-to-use mapping tool

Josh Cox: Christian ultramarathon runner, TV personality, author and believer

NO MORE

November 10, 2011 Read: Ephesians 2

"For by grace you've been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God." --Ephesians 2:8

"No more school, no more books, no more teachers, dirty looks."

For years, my wife Loretta and I have playfully sung that short tune at the end of each of her college semesters. See, after high school, rather than walk for a diploma, she walked down the aisle. And throughout the years, she's chipped away at her degree at night school, auditioning for the title of graduate. Well, I'm proud to report that today she takes her final final exam. But what's interesting is that, even though she's done with class, the next ceremony isn't until May. So she'll have to wait for her reward, even though she's met her requirement.

Kind of easy to think of Heaven at this point, right? Except, Heaven isn't dependent upon us passing every earthly test. Our days are full of multiple choices, but our performance doesn't chip away at some heavenly quota of credits, and frankly, nobody auditions for grace.

The truth is, someday we'll graduate this life. And like I'll be singing "no more school" to Loretta one last time as she walks through the door tonight, I like to think that we'll hear much the same when we finally meet our requirement, face-to-face.

No more hurt, no more pain. No more struggles, no more strain. All is right, the fight is done. Welcome to Heaven. Your heart, I've won.

--Jimmy Peña

COFFEE & CHOLESTEROL Science explores the connection between your morning java and your heart health

We are a caffeinated nation. Sure, stressful commutes, hectic family lives and TPS reports keep us heading back to the coffee pot multiple times throughout the day but there is also a palate-pleasing allure to a well-brewed cup of java. But while the caffeine gets most of the attention, there are other compounds in coffee to be aware of -- some to be cautious of.

Some worry about coffee's effect on cholesterol because of the presence of certain compounds in the beans. Daily consumption of 10 milligrams of cafestol—the amount in about four 5-ounce cups of French-press coffee—has been shown to raise cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in four weeks, mostly due to increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some people are affected more than others, and the effects may be greater in those who have higher cholesterol to begin with.

Luckily, most American-style, drip coffee is practically devoid of these types of compounds and coffee's many health benefits, such as its powerful antioxidant content, may outweigh the risks. Read the full report from the University of California (Berkeley) by clicking here.

 

TRAFFIC

October 28, 2011Read: Ecclesiastes 7

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

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.

--E.V.

PRAYFIT WEEK IN REVIEW

Faith

>> WE'RE PAGE-TURNERS: If you love the Author, the end will be better than expected

>> THE ONE WHO CALLS: Believe it or not, you're in the same class pharoahs and kings

>> THE MOMENT AT HAND: Let's clear our throats and make the most of our opportunities today

>> NO OTHER WORD FOR GRACE: It may be worth novels but a single word will do

Fitness

>> WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Use mechanical advantage to enhance your productivity

>> TEST THE MACHINE: Make practice out of setting the bar high and hurdling it the next day

>> SMARTER SOUP: Liven up this comfort food with a few easy tips

>> MUSCLE FOOD: Add eggs to your breakfast to get stronger

 

 

 

UPHILL BATTLES

September 23, 2011Read: Galatians 6

"Carry each other's burdens." --Galations 6:2

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Simon did. Simon of Cyrene was of course the man who helped Jesus carry the cross up the hill toward Calvary. In one moment, a bystander. The next, a cross bearer. He did literally what you and I are called to do figuratively. Little did he know the example he was setting. I wonder if he knew his sin would soon be nailed to the tree he carried.

Uphill battles. If anyone understood the phrase, Jesus did. Yet Jesus knew that what He faced, He had to face alone. Nobody on earth, above or below, could take His place as He took ours. But the thought of you and me facing our days without hope was enough to kill Him. The weight of the cross and our helplessness were more than He could bear.

Simon, Jesus. Two men, one cross and an uphill battle.

-J.P.

Are you facing an uphill battle as we end the week? Perhaps at work? Out of work? Physically? Spiritually? We want to pray for you so leave your comment here. If you'd prefer, simply list your prayer request as: "unspoken request" and we'll be sure and lift you up.

PRAYFIT: A WEEK IN REVIEW

Faith

DEVOTION COSTS: God is pleased with what we are willing to surrender for Him

DIAGNOSIS: MIRACLE: The Great Healer does some of His best work when  you least expect it

WHAT CAN I BRING?: Give Jesus all you have and watch Him make miracles of it

DON'T MISS THIS BOAT: Tired and frustrated, Peter trusted Jesus, and cast his nets yet again.

Fitness

WORKOUT: Scramble your legs with this lower-body routine

33-33-33: How these percentages could help you live a healthier lifestyle

GREAT STARTS: Two great-tasting breakfast recipes that provide long-lasting fuel

COMMUNITY: A healthier soul, and a stronger body to carry it, awaits at the hands of like-minded believers

TELL THE FUTURE

August 12, 2011 Read: Jeremiah 29

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11

If you happen to keep up with the stock market, well then you know it's been tough to keep up. A roller coaster has less ups and downs. Yesterday's confidence going toe-to-toe with tomorrow's uncertainty. If only we could tell the future.

Well, it's Friday; (Monday's futures, if you will). Looking back at the week according to health or otherwise, that roller coaster may have taken you lower than you thought you could go, or higher than you actually expected. But like we learned from Moses at the water's edge or from fallen Navy SEALs, we've been rescued from a life that doesn't always return our investments. We need to consciously remember that the options in life we lose or give up in obedience will ultimately make perfect sense. Put stock in that truth as you thank the week for the ride. And if you tell the future anything, just tell it you're comin'...and Heaven's comin with you.

--J.P.

PRAYFIT WEEK IN REVIEW A weekend reboot of abundant, active living tips

>> WORKOUT: Use this home-based workout to burn fat, build muscle

>> NOMENCLATURE: How we really managed to kill adult-onset diabetes

>> HEALTH: Keeping diabetes at bay...without medication.

>> STATISTICS: How much is the obesity epidemic costing us in fuel?

>> COMING SOON TO A CHURCH NEAR YOU!: Want to have Team PrayFit come to your church? Contact us at info@prayfit.com for more information.

>> SHOP: Visit our online store by clicking this line to pick up PrayFit hats, tees and wristbands!