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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.

Tray Tables Full Of Dreams

laptop"We've reached our cruising altitude. At this time you may use all approved electronic devices..." Flying back from The 700 Club taping last week, I sat staring at the tray table in front of me. It all happened so fast, I thought. Instead a sit-down interview plus cooking demo, they decided to make it a kitchen segment. I did my best to try and convey the message of grace while showing a day's worth of food. The team (Eric) busted my chops for closing my eyes so much. Passion, I laughed back in a text. Just pure passion. Oh friends, what a blessing of an opportunity.

Where was I? Ah, yes. The plane ride home. Well, across the aisle, a gentleman was thundering away on his laptop. A tall fellow, his knees were near his chest but that didn't stop him from furiously typing with purpose. For nearly five hours his eyes never left the screen. Meanwhile, I was exhausted and I could feel my glands getting swollen and a tickle in my throat. The days of little sleep and all the emotion were catching up to me. I was ready to get home.

Long flight story short, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign as we've begun our initial descent into LAX." Music to my clogged ears. And for the first time since we took off, my neighbor stopped typing and made a mad dash to the lavatory. Placing the computer on his seat with the screen open, I couldn't help but read the heading of his document. In big, bold letters it read, "PASSION PROJECTS." No wonder. I wish you could have seen me grin and nod at him as he returned to his seat. I was this close to encouraging him. After all - because of grace - I'm living mine.

As we begin a week's worth of devotions surrounding the holiest of weeks, passion will be a common theme. Of heart, of health, of hope. Please join us each day. Let's dive into Scripture together. Let's look at training, running, activity and balanced eating. If there's ever been a week to celebrate abundant life for the right reasons, this is it. Welcome to Monday.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Our recipe of the week comes directly from the pages of The PrayFit Diet. Like every other recipe in the book, it is a tasty concoction from the mind (and kitchen) of Food Network contributor Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.

Ingredients: 1 mango, peeled and diced ½ cup chopped red bell pepper ½ cup chopped cucumber Juice of ½ lime 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro Salt Hot sauce 8 ounces tilapia 1 tablespoon canola oil

For the salsa, combine mango, pepper, cucumber, lime juice, and cilantro. Season with salt and a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired; set aside.

Season tilapia with canola oil, salt, and hot sauce. Cook fish in a nonstick skillet or grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until completely cooked through. Serve topped with salsa.

THE 33 DIFFERENCE: Tilapia is a healthy, protein-loaded mainstay on the PrayFit Diet, and there are a number of ways you can prepare it. But after you try this recipe, you may be more of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” persuasion. By combining mango, bell pepper, cucumber, lime, and cilantro, you get a flavor explosion that jazzes up an already amazing source of protein and healthy dietary fat.

For another recipe and an excerpt from the The PrayFit Diet on BeliefNet, click here!

And the Grammy Goes "Too"

"We left the Grammys early. I've many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I'll say this: I've never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I've never been more sure of the path I've chosen." --Natalie Grant on leaving the Grammys early My wife and I didn't watch the Grammys but I was asked about them on Monday. Thankfully, I had no reply. And I don't plan on spending time discussing the things that happened on stage that night. But with that said, let the uproar from the Christian community about the Grammys be a lightning rod for the Christian in the fitness industry.

Now, I realize that if hard work is paired with modesty and humility rather than pride and narcissism, the industry would crumble. But then again, honoring God with our health has absolutely nothing to do with what the fitness industry says. And I realize I could do more teaching in the area of fitness via protocols, techniques, schemes, intensity techniques, and so on. But after all my years, degrees and book projects, I am more sure than ever that grace is the most important reason to be as healthy as God wants us to be. It's the greatest motivator, perspective-giver, heart-pumping, blood-flowing, mind-blowing catalyst the world has ever known. We'll remove grace from the fabric of "fitness" when a cat swims the Atlantic. And I'll stop talking about grace as it relates to our health when grace ceases to be the only reason we have it.

I'll stop talking about grace as it relates to our health when grace ceases to be the only reason we have it.

Truthfully, I'm not suggesting we need blinders. We need a shield. We don't need Christians blending in with the rest of the crowd. We need a perplexed world noticing and simultaneously wondering what makes the Christian so different in whatever the sport or activity and then given the answer with love. In Monday's post, I wrote that "God runs this body." Friends, that declaration creates for us a wonderful, amazing, divine dilemma. It compels us to be the hardest workers in the pool, on the track, in the studio and in the gym. And while it demands that Olympic-style dedication, it cloaks us in character, harnesses us to humility and grounds us to grace. What a powerful place to be.

That's where we'll find Paul, disciplining himself like an athlete to turn hearts, not heads. That's where we find a battered and beaten Job, proclaiming -- unlike the world boasts -- that health is surely given. And it's where we find the Proverbs woman -- strong arms from her work but too invested in value to show them off in vain. What a powerful, divine dilemma. We only practice what's in our hearts. I think that's why Natalie Grant did what she did and said what she said following her Grammy experience. May we all have her kind of heart when we stand up and walk out.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: In what ways can we share Christ in love to those in our respective sports? How can we show the world that we love it and still not be "in" it? Do you make it a practice to share Jesus with those you train with? Do they know you're a Christian? Share any thoughts with those who may need your encouragement and wisdom.

Sick ChickenRECIPE: SICK CHICKEN

It's going around here. What about where you are? The flu has a firm foothold across many parts of the country and amid the aches and pains, the coughs and sleepless nights, one thing that gets lost is your focus on healthy, body-fortifying food. This recipe, from our contributor and friend Kimberly Fuller, provides a tasty recipe packed with protein and vitamins to get you back on your feet. Who says comfort food has to be bad for you?

>> Click here for the recipe.

Little Is Much

I was in maybe the first or second grade, and Mom had given me a dollar to go shopping for Daddy at our school's make-shift Christmas store. I remember walking the narrow aisles, squeezing the life out of that dollar like it was something really precious. And I suppose it was, because it represented my chance to give something to Dad. And then...I saw it.

I knew it right away. I had no idea if I had enough to cover the cost, but it didn't matter. Even back then I was sentimental, and that little ceramic...whatever-it-was...was cool, and it had a message written on it. So with one tiny hand gripping the gift and the other my dollar, I handed both to the lady at the counter.

I'm smiling as I type, because aren't we glad God sees the heart? I didn't know what I was giving him, but Dad knew where it was coming from. In fact, that dollar's gift is still in his office, along with his other precious memories being kept behind glass. Folks, our life is a chance to give all we have, and I like to think it warms God's heart when we do. Of course, on our own, we don't have what it takes, but God does. There's an old gospel hymn that says, "Little is much if God is in it." And when it comes to our days, He can take our little and make it much. I say we squeeze the life out of our little lives, as if it's a chance to give something back to Dad.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S.What was the present? Well, I didn't know it then, but apparently it was an office paperweight of all things. One that had a message for customers: "Thank You For Not Smoking." Hey, what did I know? I was like five years old! I was just thanking my Pop, and I meant it. And it meant a lot to him.

For Discussion: What little gift do you want to hand the Lord? Looking back, even that dollar was a gift. I didn't earn it and I certainly didn't have it on my own. But I turned my gift into one. Is God waiting for you to hand something over? These days Loretta and I are leaning on God's grace and wisdom, needing Him to make much out of something little. But just like when I was a kid, we have to let go and give Him all we have. What about you?

Blueberry SauceRECIPE: Blueberry Sauce

It's tasty and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. So what do we put blueberry sauce on top of in our home? It has been a tasty topping on our blueberry banana pancakes, as well as gracing the tops of our grilled pork tenderloins. Does that sound like its going from one extreme to another? It does, and it works beautifully on both.

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!

Kiss The Walls

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

Read: Isaiah 6

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: It's not easy is it? Yesterday at rehab I found myself trying to find joy in what I can't do anymore. Being bound to my area, you might as well put prison bars around me. But the therapists and doctors who have been assigned to me just might need the Lord. Captive audience. Kissing walls...not easy. Can anyone relate?

FALL RECIPE: Banana-Pear Bread

Need a little something to compliment that cup of hot cocoa in front of the fire? Try this healthy loaf recipe from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller.

>> Click here for the recipe!

BONUS SEASONAL RECIPE: Apple-Raisin Salad

>> Got a fall recipe you want to share? Post it to the comments below!

Yes, I'm Still Listening

Working and writing from home, I tend to keep the place filled with music. When I'm reflective, I've been known to go a little old-school (ya know, 90's Christian). If I'm researching, it's classical Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. For me, music just seems to help me focus on the mission at hand. One of the programs I often use is Pandora, a free music service that serves up all my favorites. I can create channels with my favorite genre, artists and songs. Before I know it, I've written volumes.

However, and some of you may be familiar with this, if you listen to Pandora long enough, it goes quiet, completely silent. If I'm consumed by a topic, deep in thought or finishing a paragraph, I may not actually notice it right away. But after a few minutes, when you finally click on it, a simple question appears: Are You Still Listening? That question always makes me pause. I like that it gives me the opportunity to click the button that says, Yes, I'm still listening.

Many of us have the week planned. The necessary routine is pretty much set. But as we schedule excellence each day, let's not forget to plan those precious moments alone with the Lord. We need to take our Bibles, read a passage, talk to Him, and listen to Him. We need to hit our knees and give Him our undivided attention. Because from the moment our little feet hit the floor, our lives are filled with so much noise. Indeed, from social media to social demands, life is a non-stop soundtrack. But in truth, some of it -- much of it -- should really only be background noise for the God-given mission at hand. Through it all, let's be sure to watch and listen for the question. It's a question that's always being asked. And when the moment comes, when the noise finally goes away, just take a deep breath and sigh, close your eyes, smile and say, "Yes, Lord. Yes, I'm still listening."

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Much like our physical muscle, spiritual muscle can atrophy. Our hearts need to be trained. However, most of the time, silence needs to be planned. Are you having quiet times? Are you being as disciplined about that aspect of life as you are about your workout? Let this week be that kind of week. Who's in?

Team PrayFit Heads to Baylor: PrayFit founders Jimmy and Loretta Peña head to Baylor University later this week. As special guests of faculty, Jimmy and Loretta will be attending the Baylor vs. Oklahoma football game on Thursday night, gratefully watching the action from the President's Box. Jimmy has also been asked to speak to a few classes in both the Health and Human Performance and Religion departments. More details to come, but please be praying for their trip and the his message to students.

fall hike appleraisin 007RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Morgan's Apple & Raisin Salad

Song of Songs says, "Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples." This fall recipe from newly-minted PrayFit contributor Kimberlee Bush does just that. Crunchy, crispy, tangy and -- wait for it -- healthy. The best part? This recipe was developed with the input of a four-year-old. True story.

>> Click here for the recipe!

 

Bring On The Crew

"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." --John 15:2

Read: John 15

IMG_8120Shall we? Let's go this way. I have a friend I'd like you to meet. See, just down this street -- not too far away from that palm we talked about recently -- is a row of trees. And for years I've watched pruning crews pull up and do their work. I admit, it's painful to watch. Cut, snip, snap, buzzzz. And just like that, the crew cleans up the rubble and off they go, leaving nothing but a seemingly empty, barren-looking tree. And here we are. A couple of weeks ago, I took the picture on the left. To the right: the same tree today.

Now, I'm not the first person to see Heaven in a pruning process, and I won't be the last, but I've learned a few simple things. 1) The pruning process helps keep trees healthy. 2) Trees will eventually bear more branches and fruit. 3) Pruning allows more light and oxygen to reach the center of the tree. And 4) pruning trains a tree to take the shape the owner desires.

I probably don't have to say another word, but as long as we're walking, it leaves me no choice. In the area of faith, health, fitness, food, what do we need to prune? Perhaps, for starters, instead of grabbing the cell phone or logging on each morning, we instead reach for God's word or Godly devotional (cut). We can rid the pantry of unhealthy food choices and fill it with natural, healthy alternatives (cut, snip). We can park away from the mall's entrance, take the stairs, walk the block with spouses, play outside with kids. (cut, snip, buzzzz, TIMBER!!).

And when the rubble at our feet is cleared away, we're left with more time for the Lord, healthier options to eat and better alternatives to spark metabolism. Yep, I'm not the first person to see Heaven in a pruning process, but if you and I can get healthy, bear more fruit, and allow His light to hit us deeply so that we take the shape spiritually and physically that He desires, I say, "Bring on the crew."

Thanks for the walk. This is my stop.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Forget delivery. Stay on track with this healthy alternative to a guilty favorite.

>> Click here for the recipe!

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The Palm and the Cedar

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

Read: Psalm 92

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

 

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

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

>> Click here for the recipe!

The Athlete

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

____

Country Baked FrittataRECIPE OF THE WEEK: Country Baked Frittata

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

>> Click here for the mouthwatering recipe!

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!

#nofilter

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." --John 13:35

Read: John 13

Have you ever taken a picture that was so good, so clear, so perfect that when you shared it, you needed everyone to know that you didn't use a filter? Why? Because you wanted others to know that you had nothing to do with it. It was that good. You were just happy to pull back the curtain. Speaking of pictures, I'm rather a novice at Instagram (@prayfit), but you'd be surprised at how good of a photographer I think I am after a few nifty filters. A shade here, a little darker there. Oh yeah. Now it's ready to be shared.

Curious, but have you ever wondered to yourself, "What kind of a filter am I for Christ?" The bible says in John 13, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." I guess you could say that love is the bible's version of a filter. But we use our own, don't we? We gloss ourselves up. "Surely people will know that I'm a believer based on my physical and mental strength. I'm absolutely positive that the world needs to experience God through my charisma. And since I'm supposed to be strong and courageous -- in case you want to get run over -- I'm coming through in Jesus' name!" But really, the filter we should be using is a filter of love. Otherwise, we're just blocking the view.

Boy, aren't we so thankful that we wear Jesus on our hearts? Like we said last week, when God looks at us, we're seen filtered through the blood of Jesus Himself. And we had nothing to do with it. That's love. And it's all ready to be shared.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Are you delivering your message at work, school, social media, or in your community with love? Do this today: Before you press send, post, call or offer any advice to anyone, whisper, "Lord, is this your will? And am I showing your love with my words and deeds?"

RECIPE: Chicken or Tuna Salad Pockets

Selecting the proper protein to build a dinner around can be fun — unless you’re crunched for time. If you need a speedy solution that’s healthy and palate-pleasing, try this recipe from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD.

>> Click here for the recipe.

The Promise of Grace

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

Read: 2 Corinthians 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

>> RECIPE - CLICK HERE

To Be That Little Boy

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

Read: Matthew 18

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

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

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

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

--Jimmy Peña

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

>> Healthier fried chicken - click here

Chase What Matters

"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. And all these things shall be given to you." --Matthew 6:33

Read: Matthew 6

Ironic that a credit card company would give such great advice: encouraging us to seek out only what we need. But credit is all about trust, isn't it? Because of our history, we're allowed only so much, and we're trusted to pay it back.

When God looks at our lives, He doesn't see us, He sees the blood of Jesus. His bloodline of credit extends to you and it extends to me. My mom will tell you it reminds her of the song, "He Paid a Debt."

He paid a debt, He did not owe. I owed a debt, I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And because of that, we do get to chase a life that matters...and the credit is His.

--Jimmy Peña

Question(s): How does your health help you chase the life the matters? What would you do if you lost your health? Would it be different than what you're doing with it now?

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

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

>> Click here for the recipe!

Sown Up With Love

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." --Colossians 1:17

Read: Colossians 1

To imagine God carefully knitting our souls together is, well, tough to imagine. It's easier to picture Him forming mountains than it is to see him fashioning hearts. But nothing in all creation was created with more care. Compared to you, Everest is a mole hill and the Sahara is a single grain of sand. Are the heavens amazing? Absolutely. Does the earth pronounce His splendor? Without a doubt. But only you and I were sown up with one distinguishing trait and something no star above can claim: choice.

And much like an artist puts a signature on his work, God signed us. That's right. In our very cells, God made His mark. Pictured here is the actual structure of the protein molecule that binds all of our cells together: Scientists call it laminin, but let's just call it love.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: I first learned about Laminin from my Louie Giglio. Folks, isn't it amazing how we're held together? From Heaven down to earth, it's all about the Cross. What will you do today to protect what protects you?

To hear Louie Giglio talk about Laminin, watch his Indescribable series. Be blessed! (I had the blessing of listening to Louie for 4 years at Baylor University.) While I was at Muscle & Fitness, Louie was the one who first told me that we need to "embrace our smallness". A theme that I would never forget.

 

THE DAILY, DELIVERED

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SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/cSd8tp

For Those Who Can't, Stand

"...Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." --Mark 10:49

Read: Mark 10

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted something I witnessed on Sunday:

"I sat behind a man in church on Sunday, paralyzed from the neck down. It was interesting to me that when the choir director asked the congregation to stand and sing, you could feel the reluctance and see the slow-moving crowd rise to their feet. I thought to myself, I wonder how fast this sweet man would stand if he could. The next song we sang was 'Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy name.' You know what? This man's voice was the loudest one around me. Plainly said, when we were asked to stand, he already was. Folks, life is not about the body, so if you have health and ability, use it as a means of praise. And believer, if you're called to stand and sing -- and you can stand up and sing -- stand up and sing."

The responses to our post had us in tears and awe. We wanted to share a few of them with you.

Renee Foster: "We have a young boy in our church who has been wheelchair bound his whole life and yet, when we sing he raises his one hand by just bending it at the wrist from his wheelchair armrest. It's all he can do so he does it. Imagine what an example that is for us."

Tricia Weaver Cross: "Thank you so much...I have a 13 yr old daughter that is wheelchair bound with a brain injury. I know that if she could stand and sing she would, with hands raised in praise. One day...one day!"

Isabelle Kafarela: "My father is paralyzed. What he wouldn't give to have the use of his legs! We thank GOD every day for my father's spirit as he lives with pain daily! Lord, please give my father Niko Kafarela strength in spirit to live Your Purpose daily!"

Bud Krueger: "The next time I stand, guess who will be there in front of me...Jesus, God, Holy Ghost. Amen"

No words, right? Well, I have a few for us. "Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy name." And for those who can't, stand.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Chicken Sausage & Pepper Flatbread

Looking for something that tastes way worse for you than it really is? Try this savory recipe from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.

>> Recipe - Click here

For more PrayFit recipes and healthy eating tips, visit our nutrition page.

Feels Like Redemption

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint." --Romans 5:3-5

Read: Romans 5

Exercise is not good for you. Yes, you read that right. Strictly speaking, it's downright harmful. Take running, for instance. It's traumatic, and the breakdown puts the body at an extremely vulnerable state. But what? It's only how the body comes back from a beating that proves its worth.

Speaking of tough exercises, try and name one biblical character that didn't run into problems. Do you notice that each person that comes to mind was likely restored to become a more effective God follower?

Healing, repair, growth, strength: descendants of diligence and progenies of prudence. The next time you're sore from a workout or when your soul hurts from tribulation, whisper to yourself, "Feels like redemption".

--Jimmy Peña

PrayFit Poll: Thank you so much to everyone for participating in our informal poll yesterday. If you missed it, here is the link Monday's entry so you can provide your feedback. We very much appreciate your input.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions

Most people don’t eat as many vegetables as they should and an easy, more enjoyable way to get enough at a meal is to roast them. Broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, onions, carrots, collards, kale, sweet potatoes, squash –- there are so many options! Starchier veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash) tend to take longer to cook, but the smaller you cut any vegetable, the quicker it will cook. One of my favorite combos for roasting is brussels sprouts with apples and onions. The sweetness of the apples balances the sprouts, which some people find mildly bitter.

Ingredients: • 2 cups fresh brussels sprouts • 1 large apple • 1 medium onion • 1½ tablespoons canola or olive oil • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, then spray the foil with cooking spray. Cut the stem ends off of the sprouts and cut them in half (or quarters if they are large). Core the apple and cut into ½-inch chunks (no need to remove the peel, there are a lot of nutrients in there!). Chop the onion into ½-inch chunks. Put the sprouts, apples, and onions on the aluminum foil in the pan, then drizzle everything with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper, stirring everything together. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, and continue to cook at 5-minute intervals as needed until sprouts are beginning to brown and the apples and vegetables are fork-tender. You may need to cover with foil partway through if they are getting too brown. Serves 4.

Approximate nutrition information per serving: 105 calories, 5.5g fat (0.5g of which is saturated), 15mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g protein. (Adding ½ tsp. salt adds 290mg sodium/serving, adding ¼ tsp. salt adds 145mg sodium/serving.)

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.

I Am One Of Them

In the third century, St. Cyprian wrote to a friend named Donatus: "This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden under the shadow of these vines. But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out over the wide lands, you know very well what I would see; brigands on the high road, pirates on the seas, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds, under all roofs misery and selfishness. It really is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. Yet, in the midst of it, I have found a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians...and I am one of them."

I paste that quote because the subject of being quiet and holy has been on my mind lately; quiet as it pertains to humility of health as well as service. In reading the books of Thessalonians and James this week, I've noticed some common themes, a few of which we're going to dive into next week. But make no mistake, our health can have an eternal impact. Not in the way it looks, but in how we use it to serve others. Paul urges us to "lead a quiet life, and to work with your own hands," while James says, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

Folks, we are in this place right now to put this body to use for God's kingdom. If we make too much of its reflection, we're vain. If we sit idle and don't put it to work, we waste it. But in a time where health is disregarded as a means of praise, there is a quiet and holy people. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians, and I am one of them.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Green Herb Hummus

Ten minutes to tasty with this fresh, fiber- and protein-rich recipe from PrayFit contributing dietitian Dana Angelo White.

>> RECIPE - VIDEO

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://www.foodnetwork.com/green-herb-hummus/video/index.html

Time to Board

"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." --James 4:14

Read: James 4

With flights being cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, I can relate to those in airports. A few months ago, I found myself stranded. No flights coming or going, I settled into my corner of the gate area and watched others do the same. Turns out, airports are to a writer what open car windows are to my chocolate Lab Josey; an overload on the senses.

As I sat there, I watched my fellow travelers as they took ownership of their waiting space. One lady turned a few open seats into a makeshift office. Another man used the floor for a picnic. I thought I'd seen it all until a young couple installed a mailbox and rolled-out a welcome home mat. Their address: 2 Stayforeverlane

Okay, so maybe the young couple didn't exactly make the waiting area their front porch, but you and I sure do. We claim what's ours, deadbolt our belongings, and even though we're not, we make ourselves at home.

Truth is, we're not here to stay and our wait isn't all that long. But instead of seeing the brevity of life as encouragement to stay strong and healthy, we rationalize since it's not gonna last, why bother? But we have to remind ourselves that we don't do good things in order to be loved, we do them because we are. (If only we saw our health that way.)

So, after a five-hour delay, it was finally time to board. I began packing up my things when a little girl holding her father's hand walked by and asked, "Daddy, will there be someone waiting for us?" And while I didn't hear the father's reply, I do know the answer. And because of that, I think the best we can do is wait and live abundantly like God intended...and be ready when it's finally time to board.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. All of us at Prayfit are thinking about and praying for everyone affected by Sandy. And while most of you within its terrible path won't see this, we're praying for your safety, comfort and the same for your loved ones.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ORANGE-CHOCOLATE COOKIES

That's right, it's time for some dessert. Being healthier, after all, isn't about painful deprivation as much as it is about better choices. So if you are moving your body regularly, you shouldn't feel guilty about occasionally giving in to your sweet tooth. But if you are being calorie-conscious, this can be a bit more agonizing unless you know how to indulge without going overboard. That's where PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, comes in.

"My mother-in-law discovered this recipe last year in a magazine, and these cookies became an instant family favorite," she says. "The combination of orange and chocolate makes for a light but decadent cookie. At 90 calories each, you can have one (or two) and not feel guilty about dessert."

Orange-Chocolate Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened 1 cup granulated sugar 1 egg yolk 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup orange marmalade 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate 1 tablespoon shortening

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in egg yolk and orange peel. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Press your thumb into center and fill with 1/4 teaspoon orange marmalade.

Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets in a 375-degree oven for about 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening over low heat. Dip half of each cookie in chocolate mixture. Place cookies on rack to set.

Calories: 89 Fat: 5.5 grams Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams Protein: 1 gram Carbohydrate: 11 grams Sodium: 2 milligrams Cholesterol: 15 milligrams Fiber: 0 grams

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

>> PLUS! 3 ways to start losing bodyfat...today