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Worn-Out Tools

"So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart." --Nehemiah 4:6

Read: Nehemiah 4

Like it was yesterday, I remember walking out of my English professor's office angry, upset and embarrassed. Gritting my teeth and holding back tears I marched, but I didn't get very far. "Excuse me, Mr. Peña!" And Coach Jim Loweree proceeded to alter my life. See, I had poured my heart into a project. Gave it everything I had. I stayed up late, studied early, went the extra mile. That's just what you did at the prestigious Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. It was the home of The Fighting Irish -- a place of faith, unparalleled scholastics, sport, and most of all, tradition. But alas, I bombed it. To make matters worse, Coach Loweree was a man I idolized. I wanted nothing more than to maintain a perfect GPA and impress him along the way. And in a matter of seconds, both goals were gone.

Speaking of goals, earlier that year, I successfully recited the famous poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling to Coach Loweree. I never missed a beat when it came to recitations. I loved that part of class. Speeches by President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, all by heart, not one word missed. But a line from "If" has been rolling around my brain lately:

"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools."

Worn-out tools. Midway through my three-month spinal fusion process, I'm walking steadily and doing my prescribed bends. Yes, to Rocky music, no doubt. We're just praying that the new hardware fuses perfectly with the bones, and that the same success we saw with my neck replacement occurs in my lower back. God's will we pray.

I wonder, have you ever had to rebuild anything? A business or a home? Perhaps another aspect of your life and maybe even your health. Well, rebuilding is a faith issue. Not in our ability to make things as they once were but for Whom we build. Because when things fall apart, when we watch the things we gave our life to break, He's why we stoop.

And remember how I mentioned that Coach changed my life? Well, he did. In the schoolyard that day, he told me that I was going to have to start all over. Yep, he stole a line from Kipling himself. But Coach also told me not to take grades so seriously, to keep working hard, keep honoring my parents and to stand up straight after a test if I did my best, regardless of the grade. Funny, I took his advice. I never made straight A's again. But after six book projects, 15 years of newsstand articles and my highest honor -- this website -- I hope Coach knows his freshman English class and that afternoon talk in the yard changed a kid. So thanks, Coach. I'm still stooping. Still rebuilding. My life's work is my faith and health. Perfect for worn-out tools like mine.

--Jimmy Peña

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.

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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.

HE MOVES YOU

June 15, 2011Read: Mark 2

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

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

However He affects you...move.

--J.P.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Honey Mustard Dressing & Dipping Sauce

Makes: ¾ cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRE...PROOF

March 30, 2011Read: Daniel 3

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feat in amazement." --Daniel 3:24

Three young men, when faced with a stubborn king's order to worship a pile of gold or else face a fiery furnace, jumped 1) at the chance to serve God, 2) out of the way of peer pressure and 3) in front of the crowd.

Three young men had a defining moment. When tested, they knew God was all they needed. And since God's favorite place to run is to our rescue, He jumped in the flame with them. And if their bold faith wasn't enough to convince anyone they were serious, the fourth image with them in the flame was. Can't you just see King Nebuchadnezzar counting his fingers and squinting his eyes? "Wait, one, two, thr..."

But that's what God does. He shows up and leaves the naysayers in shock and awe. So today, when we're faced with a challenge or golden opportunity, let's remember two things: God is with us, and the world is watching.

So on the count of three...

--J.P.

FIREPROOF HEALTH

Friends and family, the time for half-measured health is over. If you're fighting your bodyweight, blood pressure or other health issues, you're not alone in the fire. With God, it's possible, and we're praying for you and applauding your heart to serve. If you're not fighting but should be, it's time to jump. Health takes sacrifice. Health takes guts. And in this day and age, it takes those who are willing to set themselves apart from the crowd. The phrase "God looks at the heart" can no longer be used as an excuse to abuse the body. But there is no tomorrow. If it's right to jump, it's right to jump today. Let the onlookers watch in amazement at just how serious you are.

Here are some ways to jump in the fire: Turn off the TV, computer and phone and take a walk outside with your family. Get up 10 minutes earlier each day to do bodyweight exercises in your living room. Push away from the table just a few minutes early.

But these are merely suggestions. We have to decide what we'll sacrifice, what we're willing to change in order to be better stewards of the physical gifts we've been given. And since God looks at the heart, that's probably the first place we need to start.

WHEN JESUS KNOCKED

December 2, 2010Read: Revelation 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

--J.P.

FITNESS TO-DO LIST: WRITE IT DOWN

If you don't currently keep a journal, now is the day to start. By logging your progress or workouts in terms of number of sets, reps, rest periods, for example, you can track from one workout to the next just how well you’re doing. If you don’t keep a journal, it makes it very difficult for you to know if you’re improving.

Next week, we'll run a three-part series on better journal keeping. We hope that you'll start your own and visit us all next week for ways to fine tune it! For now, visit some of our featured workout journals to see how others are working toward healthier bodies.

FEATURED PRAYFIT WORKOUT JOURNALS

Amy Lynne

BChen

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