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Jars of Clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." --2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

Today's verse is as motivating as it is convicting. Take a look again. Notice what he said. "Treasure in jars of clay". That verse is coming from a man who was 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 the inconceivable grace of Jesus.

Compare what Paul said to something I read on a picture quote recently where someone boastfully warns, "Before you judge me, step into my shoes and walk the life I'm living, and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you'll see how strong I really am." I admit, I'd love to hear Paul's graceful response to such a misstatement, because if the most influential man this side of Christ knew anything, He knew where his power and strength came from and from where it didn't.

But today's verse is also a comfort, not simply because of the physical metaphors of hardship, but for the reason to get up at all. "So that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." See -- to Paul -- surviving the shipwreck or sustaining the beatings weren't so much as death defying as they were life-revealing.

And to think, you're a jar of clay, too. So am I. A malleable, bendable, breakable, fillable and spillable jar of clay. I know, some days we feel more like a piñata than a Godly jar of clay. But if it's any help, just remember, if you hit a piñata hard enough, what happens? People get the treasure inside. And that's what I get from Paul. He bled Jesus. He bled the treasure.

So dear friends, let's invite others to step into our shoes and live the life we're living. And when they get as far as we're going, maybe, just maybe, they'll get to see exactly just how strong we're not.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: The jar of clay typing this sentence has been known to lose his wallet, his truck keys, and his health, to say nothing of his daily sins and filthy rags of good deeds. I've said it before and I'll say it again, getting up from a trial doesn't reveal our strength. The fall reveals that. Getting up reveals God's grace. What are you thanking God for today? Any praises? What has He given you the health, strength and grace to continue? As for me, I have one. You're reading it.

 

DEFINING INTENSITY

The fitness world continues to parade high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as one of the best ways to improve body composition, improve athleticism and increase general health markers. You may be thinking, "I'm not really capable of high-intensity training." Hey, we're right there with you. Even the youngest and healthiest among us get uncomfortable with the idea of pushing your physical limits. But here's the good news: intensity is relative. And you may be able to start reaping the benefits of this simple training principle today, no matter where you are on your health walk.

>> What is intensity?

BRING PRAYFIT TO YOUR TOWN

Churches. Community events. Schools. Corporate events. PrayFit is on the march in 2014 with its unchanging message; one of stewardship, of faith, of humility, of endurance. The team is actively booking spring and summer events! Reach out to us at info@prayfit.com for more details. As always, for churches and other non-profit events there is never a speaking fee. Talk to your pastors and leaders. Reach out to us and let's see health as a means of praise, together.

Creator, Curator

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." --Ephesians 2:10

Read: Ephesians 2

God is a lot of things. To be more precise, He is everything. But certain of His attributes are more salient to us at different times. Today, you cling to His grace. Last week, you were grateful for the comfort of His word. But we are also sometimes just plain taken with His workmanship -- the artful, purpose-driven brushstrokes that He has made on everything we see. Masterpieces, all, to be sure. But what do you think is the pièce de résistance in His divine gallery? An expansive cosmos? Brimming oceans?

The world of art is a fickle one, where value is determined by discriminate buyers. The smallest imperfection can turn a multimillion dollar print into kindling -- colorful canvas that no one would want to hang in their foyer.

Similarly, we are all a part of our Father's collection, each of us besmudged by our own sin. But the same hands that created us are the same that maintain us. Day to day, we are touched up, reframed, resituated. In this gallery, the Creator is also the Curator and in His hall, we are never devalued.

--Eric Velazquez

For Discussion: Do you train regularly? If so, what is your true aim? How much time do you spend in the mirror evaluating the fruits of your labor? One of the "smudges" we all share is the desire to take credit. So let's try to remember Whose image we're supposed to reflect and whose handiwork we're really evaluating in the first place.

 

THE ULTIMATE HEALTH CARE SOLUTION New ABC report sheds some light on what really is the best medicine

"Millions of people in our society suffer from a ridiculous number of health problems -- some major, some minor that could become major -- because they lack basic fitness," writes Jordan Metzl, MD, in his new book The Exercise Cure. And it's not just making us fat and lazy -- it's also bankrupting the nation. "Based on current estimates, the United States spends more than $2.6 trillion -- 17 percent of the gross national product -- on health care. That's $8,300 per person," he adds.

Can we be doing more to solve the health care crisis in America?

>> For the full story, 9 Health Problems That You Can Treat with Exercise, click here.

The Little Jobs

"I know that you can do all things; and no one can stop you." --Job 42:2

Read: Job 42

"Jimmy, come help your Daddy." As a little boy, I'd make my way to the garage, and he'd be halfway under his '34 Ford, or welding, hammering or fixing something, whistling the entire time. "Yes sir?" I'd say. Of course, I probably had a baseball glove in my hands and eager to go outside and play. But within seconds I'd be holding a light, turning screws he'd practically completed, or he'd hammer a nail almost all the way and then let me finish it. I think back to those days a lot. He gave me the little jobs. And while they were tough, he knew I could handle them. But if I could whisper anything to my younger self, I'd say, "Ask him to show you the tough stuff." See, I'm not the best with my hands like Daddy, and not a day goes by that I don't wish I was. Can anyone relate?

You know, Jesus gives us the little jobs. If Heaven were up to our ability to be good enough or Godly enough, we'd never reach it. So He climbed on the cross to die for our sins so we can spend eternity with Him. A job nobody on earth -- below or above -- could do. He's put us in charge of things that require our effort.

So I take it back. Actually, if I could whisper anything to my younger self, I think I'd say, "Hey, don't hurry outside. He doesn't need your help, he wants your help. He just wants to spend time with you. Whistle with him. He's got the tough stuff. Just stay close."

Oh friends, may you and I -- as we tackle our little jobs on earth -- do just that.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: We can't work our way to Heaven, but God put us in charge of something that requires our effort: this body. What are you doing to be a good helper for the little job He's given you? A job He still oversees. 

HEART HEALTH BULLETIN: What is better for training your most important muscle? Rest or work? The experts weigh in. Click for the full story.

>> Bring this message to your church by contacting us here.

Our Place in the Son

Saving Mr. BanksThe expression on her face says it all. During the Summer, Loretta and I saw the announcement of Disney's Saving Mr. Banks to hit theaters this December, and well, it's been circled on our calendar ever since. Not only that, but because Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks were filmed at Disney Studios in Burbank, they had a special, exclusive engagement in honor of them both. Trust me. If you want to earn major husband points in my little home, you make arrangements for our names to be on the short list of special guests. And oh friends, what a night. Like I said, the expression on her face says it all.

For only the second time in 90 years, members of the public were allowed to watch a movie in their illustrious theater, where just days earlier, sat Tom Hanks and the cast for the premiere. After the movie, we were given a special tour of the sound stage and other places where Walt Disney, Julie Andrews and eventually Mr. Hanks brought the story to life "in a most delightful way." Not sure who had more fun -- Loretta as she took in each moment, or me watching Loretta as she took in each moment.

But alas, I couldn't elude the specialness for long. As part of the tour, we were led to a photo set where we could stand in the shadow of the main characters themselves. Go ahead and re-read that sentence. Yeah, I wrote this entry long before the photographer told us to smile.

Friends, the world will tell us that we can't shine while standing on someone else's sun. But David, a man who's backdrop was God's own heart, knew exactly where he needed to be when he wrote, "Keep me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:8)" Even King David knew that finding shade was the bright thing to do.

Yes indeed. The older I get, the more I'm realizing my job isn't to shine so much as it is to reflect. Try to shine on someone else's sun? No. Just save me a place near the shadow of the Son, and I'll be fine.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: How neat is that picture? Don't you love moments like that? I'm praising the Lord that He allowed me the health to make this event with Letta.

STUDY: A SWEET RISK

While it’s pretty widely known too many sodas can lead to excess calorie consumption, huge swings in energy and cavities, new research is suggesting that such beverages can also be a danger to your heart health.

>> Click here for the news!

A Powerful Statement

"Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord." --Isaiah 2:5

Read: Isaiah 2

Walking is a powerful statement. We've spent a few days this week on the subject, but there are a few biblical faces I wish I could see as they put one foot in front of the other. Try to imagine Abraham's anguished face as he walked with Isaac toward the altar; a wide-eyed Moses when his feet touched the Red Sea's floor; a groggy Lazarus coming out of the tomb; a soon-to-be-blind Saul heading to Damascus. The visionary Paul pacing in prison writing, "We walk by faith". Picture the crippled boy carrying his bed through town, or a once-blind Bartimaeus -- now turned follower -- not letting Jesus out of his sight. I'd love to have seen Simone the Cyrene heading to Jerusalem, or Simon the Cyrene leaving Jerusalem. The two mourning disciples shuffling along the road to Emmaus just before their eyes were opened, or Peter's look of wonder as he strolled across the water.

Oh, we could go on and on, right? Some of the greatest moments of all-time occurred during one of life's most basic yet powerful actions. Whether they were called, healed, leading, following or reminiscing, we get to imagine their faces of faith as they walked. But I don't think the best evidence of its power is found on the floor of the Red Sea. It's not on the island of Patmos or somewhere along the road to Damascus.

How does the Bible describe the miracle moment of the Word becoming flesh? He walked among us. Of all the ways God chose to relate to us, making footprints was one of them. And those precious feet wouldn't stop until they were nailed to a Roman cross. The hill of Calvary didn't require Paul's brilliant mind, Job's resilience, Mary's innocence, Luke's precision, Joseph's persistence or the positive encouragement of Barnabas. No, Calvary required the perfect, spotless, blameless, loving, grace-giving walk of the Savior.

Evidence of faith, of agreement, of courage, of vision, of passion and purpose, of love and amazing grace. Walking is a powerful statement.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: We know the specialness of a walk, don't we? The bride in her aisle. The soldier exiting the plane home. The surgeon walking out to family with good news. What walk are you about to make? What steps of faith will you take to get your soul where it needs to go? Make no mistake, your walk is powerful statement. Say something with it today.

Sister Powell Update: Hey everyone, Sister Powell received the prayers and thoughts from everyone. She's traveling from the jungle of Cambodia en route home. Thank you guys for blessing her and me with your words. Here is her reply to you all:

"Jimmy, I am honored by your kindness and your generous spirit toward Henry and me. I praise the Lord that Henry lived long enough to see the Godly man you have become. I thank the Lord we both saw the stable marriage you and Loretta have. And, I thank the Lord for my PrayFit partners. I just received this e-mail and devotion. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

You are like the steel girders under the bridge, holding me up. I cannot even express the encouragement you deliver to me through your words and responses. Encourage means to put courage in another. Truly, you have and continue to do that for me. I am both humbled and grateful."

DID YOU KNOW?

High blood sugar can sour your mood. In a recent study, researchers found that people who drink two and a half cans of soda daily are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious than those drinking less pop. What's more, the depressed have a heightened risk for Type II diabetes. The reverse also holds true: Diabetics are twice as likely as others to suffer depression.

Source: Jeff O'Connell's "Sugar Nation"

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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Fit Together

"For where two or more gather in my name, there I am with them." --Matthew 18:20

Read: Matthew 18

Among the things I miss most about playing sports in high school and college are those times when coach would huddle us up to give us words of motivation. We'd all take a knee and, at the end of his talk, he'd say, "Everybody in." He'd put out his hand, and we'd stand to put ours atop his. At that very moment, there was nothing more important. I learned then that powerful things happen when people come together with a common purpose and a serious plan.

Speaking of small groups, we don't know what all was said among the disciples in the upper room, on shorelines, or on hillsides, but something tells me they huddled. I don't know, but when it was time to get everyone's attention, I like to think they brought it in real close like teams do. Don't you? After all, if our faith had a team, they were the first string. Wow. That's neat, huh? To think, what they said to each other before that first huddle broke, eventually got to you and me. Common purpose, serious plan. Powerful.

--Jimmy Peña

Group_Study_91START YOUR OWN PRAYFIT "TEAM": All across the country, members of the PrayFit Nation are coming together for their own weekly "huddles" using our books and DVDs as their curriculum. To find out how to start your own PrayFit-themed small group or bible study -- one that focuses on being good stewards of health -- write us today at info@prayfit.com!

FIT FACT: Research shows that one-limb (unilateral) training allows you to recruit more total muscle fibers, making you approximately 20% stronger on each rep. For example, if you were able to curl a 50-pound barbell for 10 reps, you could reasonably expect to curl 30-pound dumbbells (or 60 pounds total) for as many reps.

What Do You Say?

"I thank you, Lord, with all my heart." --Psalm 138

Read: Psalm 138

Sitting in a waiting room recently, I filled out paperwork, answering questions, checking this box and that one. Circle where it hurts and on a scale from 1-10, rate this, gauge that. And just as I was about to turn in my clipboard, I watched a daughter taking care of her mother in a wheelchair. When a nurse brought the mother some juice, the daughter gently asked, "What do you say?" Then her elderly mom -- barely able to hold the bottle -- turned and weakly said to the nurse, "Thank you."

With a lump in my throat I thought to myself, "She knows how to say thank you. She's just thirsty." My heart broke on a couple of levels.

But the moment made me wonder if I know how to say thank you. Not sure about you, but I spend a lot of my time listing my life's aches and pains, inconveniences and delays. Much like that paperwork, my daily prayers often go straight to where it hurts, and what I need, and my worry and fear. Like you, I'm so grateful that in no particular order, I can go right to Him with all of it. But if I could, I'd erase my answers and start over. Rather than ask God to heal what hurts, I want to mention to Him the things that don't. I want to circle my blessings. And as I read my list, may I hear that gentle reminder, "What do you say?" And like that sweet women, I know how to say thank you.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What are some ways you can thank the Lord for the blessings you have? If you could thank God right now, what would you list? You can share them with us if you'd like. I'm sure they'll be a blessing to others.

PROTEIN PLUS Is protein helping to decrease your blood pressure? Science says ‘yes’

In addition to the protein they consume from whole foods like chicken, beef and fish, many active individuals also choose to supplement their diets with protein powders. Doing so ensures more complete recovery from exercise, and works to blunt appetite and increase fat burning. And if you’re not using a protein powder to support your training, you may want to start.

>> Click here to figure out another crucial way protein is helping you keep healthy.

Hearts That Hustle

"Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might." --Ecclesiastes 9:10

Read: Ecclesiastes 9 It's interesting that of the blessings, trophies and awards I've been humbled to receive throughout my life, one stands out as my most cherished. When I was a kid, my coaches gave me the "Hustle" award. Ironically, it was for a sport that I wasn't particularly great at. Try and imagine running the 100 meter hurdles wearing swim fins. Got the visual? That's me playing basketball. And even that might be gracious. But while I didn't run the offense very well, or lead the team in rebounds, and although I was never the game's high scorer, I was never out-hustled. For whatever reason -- whether it be practice or a game -- something inside my heart just would not let me be out-worked.

You know, they don't give hustle awards when you grow up. But think about it. When you're the only one in the office unwilling to gossip? That's hustle. When you get up extra early each day to make sure your kids eat a balanced breakfast, that's hustle. And when you lace up those running shoes minutes after taking off the work ones, that's hustle.

As believers, we have faith in Christ. And that faith is not only the greatest tool God gave us to tackle the issues of life, it's also the reason to tackle the issues of life. Regardless of the situation, let's not be out-worked. When someone wonders what makes the difference in us, why we're not like the crowd at school or going with the flow at work, it's because Jesus is in our hearts. Hearts that beat. Hearts that hustle.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What will you hustle for today? You may not be diving for loose basketballs, but the game of life is calling you. Share your game plan with us.

Josh-snowTHE BEST WAY TO BURN EXCESS BODYFAT

If your primary training goal is to lose a few inches or pounds, you may want to give more consideration to your preferred training method to maximize results. There's an overwhelming amount of research pointing to this can't-miss fat-burning protocol.

>> Click here for the secret.

I'll Say, "No"

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." --Job 13:15

Read: Job 13

My wife is the runner in the family, so I typically don't read her magazine, but the cover blurb on her Runner's World caught my eye: "The Most Inspiring Runner You've Never Met." And I can tell you that if he's not, he's close. Hit by a car at the age of six, Bret Dunlap spent weeks in a coma. His first word when he woke up? "No." Seems he knew he had more life in him. And while he doesn't remember saying it, the 39 years after the accident simply prove that he meant it.

And while I won't give anything away, there was something his mom said to him that stuck with me. She said, "God never said anything about fair. He said you got a chance." This she said to a boy who suffered brain damage, paralysis, a colostomy, and who's face freezes, and who's mind forgets what he learns; just to name a few of his afflictions. But this she also said to boy who would teach himself several languages, give 12 gallons of blood over the years as a volunteer, play the piano left handed, hold the same job for over 18 years and eventually, run. Oh my friends, he may finish last, but he runs his race; one floppy foot over another. The rest of the story is miraculous, and sad, and gut-wrenching, and funny, and unbelievable and well, convicting.

Have you ever wallowed? Ever thought, "Why me?" or stomped your feet and said, "Not fair!" I know I have. I know I do. But it's stories like that of Bret that help give me perspective. And hope. And courage. And it's stories like that of Bret that always seem to remind me of grace and what Jesus did for me on the cross. Like our verse reminds us today, God's grace really is all I need and want, so whatever else I have in life is a gift. And when the enemy tries to convince me otherwise, when he tries to blind me to blessings, when he tries to discourage my personal calling, when he reminds me that my body is failing, I won't let it steal my joy. I'll just steal a line from Bret and say "No." What about you? What is your answer today?

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What are you doing to show the Lord and everyone around you how grateful you are for the gifts you been given? Is your life a statement that says, "Faith" or a question that wonders, "Why"?

It’s not just a tagline: Milk does do a body good. So do cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese. A new study showed that women who followed a regular exercise program on high-protein, high-dairy diets lost more total fat –- and more from their abdomen –- than those on adequate-protein, medium-dairy and adequate-protein, low-dairy diets.

>> For more detail on the study, click here.

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.

Bring Jimmy to your church this year! Contact us here: info@prayfit.com

Dad Hands

"So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'"--John 20:25

Read: John 20

The older I get, the more my hands are looking like my dad's. I'll be typing or writing something, and I'll pause to look at my hands and immediately think of his. But unlike my clumsy paws, Dad can actually put his to work. He can fix everything or put anything together. Weld it, untie it, prime it, paint it, dig it...you name it, if we put it in his hands, he's able.

It's funny...despite that knowledge, I've often handed something to Dad for help, and immediately began to tell him how do it or what I think should be done next. To which Dad simply says, "James, am I doing this, or are you?" Gulp!

I think we have the tendency to do the same with the Lord. We pray for His guidance, ask for His help, and we "give it to Him," yet we never really let go of worry, doubt or control. (A show of hands of those who can relate...)

But we need to remember that the very same hands that reached for a sinking Peter on the water, and rubbed mud into the eyes of the blind, are the very same hands that still reach for us today. They assure us in hospital rooms and lead us through the dark times. It's no wonder Thomas wanted to see His hands. He can hold us like a newborn baby in one, while holding off Satan's army with the other. He wants us to bring Him our knots each day. It's what He does. He's got Dad hands, and He is able.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: During this holy week, what about you needs to be in His hands today? Your job? A relationship? Anxiety? Your heart? Whatever it is, He is right there. You can touch Him. You will never be the same.

STUDY: Obesity Linked to Chronic Pain

Knees hurt? Back sore all the time? Before reaching for another dose of ibuprofen, you might wanna check the scale. A recent study reaffirmed what you might already know -- that carrying around excess weight puts you at much higher risk for chronic pain.

>> Click here for the story.

The Hearing Impaired

Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would be without sin. But since you say 'We see', your sin remains." --John 9:41

Read: John 9

"Can you hear my voice?" her Dad asked her. "My voice" he repeated. You may have seen the story yesterday or perhaps you've seen similar videos whereby, through a procedure, people either see or hear their loved ones for the first time. Well, this particular moment made this sentimental fool a mess. Watching Amy Barber hear her family for the first time was enough to make even the Tin Man's heart beat. But it's what Amy said that caused mine to stop. Looking at her dad, she answered his question by saying, "I have to focus, because now I hear everything." Only after she got her hearing did she struggle to hear her dad.

Wow. I'm sure many of you could finish today's entry, but in one deaf sentence, Amy reminds us that we are hearing impaired. We have so much going on, so many voices, so many sounds and distractions coming from all sorts of directions that it's tough to hear Him. Our "hearing" impairs us. And it's because our ears work that we have to focus.

So as we hit the day's agenda, amid the noise that makes its way into our lives, let's finish the exchange as our sweet Father asks: "Can you hear my voice? My voice?"

Actually, I think I will let you finish this one...

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What areas of life do you need to tune out in order to hear Him?

AWARD NEWS: This Friday, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be honored by his alma mater, UT Tyler, as one of this year's distinguished alumni. Read the story here.

WILLFUL DESTRUCTION A few eye-opening facts about the most troubling health problem in America

--The annual healthcare costs of obesity in this country are $147 billion a year. This could rise to as much as $344 billion by 2018, according to one major study.

--Obesity has become one of the most expensive health problems in America today, surpassing smoking, according to a study in Health Affairs.

--Two-thirds of Americans are overweight although 85% of Americans characterize their lifestyle as somewhat/very healthy.

--Obese employee sick days total approximately 39 million workdays and 63 million doctor visits yearly.

--12 million Americans are considered severely obese, defined as more than 100 pounds overweight.

--Nearly a third of the children in this country are overweight and some experts believe up to one third of children will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime.

--For the first time in the history of our nation, some medical experts warn that this younger generation may be on track to have a shorter life span than their parents as a direct result of the obesity epidemic.

Source: CNBC's "One Nation, Overweight"

Perfect Harmony

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." --Romans 10:9

Read: Romans 10

Yesterday at the gym I was listening to a great new soundtrack filled with well-known classics in my headphones. The voices on this one song and the catchy chorus were just too good not to join in. So without hesitation, I began to add a harmony line; something I learned from countless days singing with Mom.

Well, as I walked by, one of the employees nearby raised his eyebrows and looked at me as if to say, "Don't quit your day job, pal." I grinned and chuckled to myself. But it dawned on me. He didn't know I was singing the harmony. See, even if you're in tune, any harmony line doesn't sound right to others if they can't hear the melody.

Folks, our lives, the daily routines and these bodies are merely harmonies. Let's remember that we're out of tune if we're too focused on our minor line, never letting others hear who we're listening to. You know, "I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony," but that can only happen if I'm in unison with God's favorite song of all -- and the only one He lifts His hand for silence to hear -- the song of Jesus.

--Jimmy Peña

TURN UP THE VOLUME

A few years ago, PrayFit co-founder Eric Velazquez, Dr. Jim Stoppani and I formed the Weider Research Group when we worked together at Muscle & Fitness Magazine. One month in particular, we performed a study to determine how music affects strength.

We had a group of trained athletes complete a shoulder workout on two separate occasions. Both sessions consisted of three sets of dumbbell overhead presses, three sets of Smith machine upright rows, and three sets of dumbbell side laterals, all done using their 10-rep max and taking each set to failure. They did one workout while listening to their choice of music on headphones and during the other workout they listened to no music.

We reported at the 2008 annual meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) that the subjects were able to do an average of one more rep per set when they listened to music as compared to when they did not.

The take-home message from this study is obvious: listen to your preferred music when you train (or during whatever activity you enjoy). Being able to complete one more rep with the same weight, or going that extra 1/4 mile, is what can make all the difference in your physical progression.

WHAT'S ON YOUR PLAYLIST? Some of you (and you know who you are) have told us you're tired of listening to Toby Mac. Nothing against Toby Mac, but hey, what else gets the blood pumping? We want to know the top three songs that are on your playlist. Ready? Go.

Pope Francis

"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant." --Matthew 20:26

Read: Matthew 20

You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate the election of a new Pope. Before he was named, I joined leaders in praying for whoever it was to be, as well as for the 1.2 billion people who will look to him for leadership and guidance. And like many of you, as the moment came close, I could feel the anticipation as the name was read.

If you watched the coverage, the first thing the experts did was defend his reputation -- who he was, his strengths, what he's done, and why he will make an excellent Pope. And then it hit me...

As chilling and exciting as yesterday was, there will never be more intense anticipation than the day we bow before Jesus. But friends, it won't be His reputation that needs defending, it will be ours. And even if we string together our best moments and grandest days, we won't have anything acceptable. Nothing worthy of Heaven. Not who we are, how we looked, our strengths, or what good we've done. But in divine irony and grace, His reputation will be our defense, as our lives are seen through His blood.

So we want to wish a heartfelt congratulations to our dear Catholic friends. May God bless Pope Francis and give him wisdom and courage. May he teach grace above all. His name was read, and it reminded me that someday ours will be too.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S. You know, of all the traditions the Catholic church has, the use of smoke signals of alerting the world of news (and not modern technology) is one of my favorites. It certainly would be easier to Tweet it or post it on Facebook. Reminds me of something Max Lucado once wrote in the book "God Came Near." He said, "Jesus could have come back as a man in another era when society wasn't so volatile, when religion wasn't so stale, when people would listen better. He could have come back when crosses were out of style."

NUTRITION TIP: Dark Chocolate It may sound like the most counterintuitive performance training advice ever, but having dark chocolate with approximately 70 percent cocoa pre-workout, can actually make your workouts more productive. Click here to learn how.

>> COMMUNITY & FELLOWSHIP: Our family has grown by leaps and bounds in five years. Interact with fellow faith-and-fitness devotees by joining our forums today. Here, you can share successes and struggles, swap recipes, pray for one another or just catch up with like-minded friends. Already a member? Sign in 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.

Discipline Determines Destiny

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should." --1 Corinthians 9:27

Read: 1 Corinthians 9

>> AUDIO: To hear this entry read by Jimmy Peña, click here. [audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/PrayfitAudio/Discipline+Determines+Destiny.mp3]

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Charles Stanley with In Touch Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. He delivered a message entitled, "Discipline Determines Destiny." Of course, he made it clear that he wasn't talking about eternal destiny, but that he wanted to discuss our earthly effectiveness; how we handle our money, our time, our relationships and ohhhh yes, while I was at the edge of my seat, he said it..."how we handle our health."

None of the other topics received much of a reaction (perhaps because they were expected), but when he asked the question, "Who wants to live a long, healthy life?", there was a noticeable murmur. When it became quiet, Dr. Stanley simply asked his congregation how they expected to live abundantly when they're facing avoidable and preventable road blocks of health. Hearing it from me is one thing, but when Dr. Charles Stanley says it, it's another thing altogether.

As he preached, I scribbled. He used words and phrases like,

The value we place on our health will be evident in our diligence... Fulfilling, achieving, orderly, less stressful... Aimless and lethargic versus Godly and confident... Feeling good about yourself...  Nothing to do with age... He still has the best in mind for you... Positive impact on others...health can be a way to witness... Build better health and a better faith...

Folks, go ahead and quiet the murmur in your mind and settle your thoughts on this one: Your health is important to God. Any personal justification you've otherwise convinced yourself with, is false. The call to action this week is a call of discipline. And it doesn't matter what you decide to do.  Just decide and work within your means. Walk the block or the dog. Do some push-ups or lift some weights. Walk away from the dessert menu and step up to the plate of clean eating. Discipline determines destiny, and if you're reading this, yours is still unwritten.

--Jimmy Peña

STUDY: A SWEET RISK One of the most common obstacles that people cite in their quest for healthier living is an inability to shake their soda habit. While it's pretty widely known that having these sugar-laden drinks on a regular basis can lead to excess calorie consumption, huge swings in energy and cavities, new research is suggesting that such beverages can also be a danger to your heart health.

>> For the full story, click here.

33 DAYS WITH PRAYFIT

Have you tried the new PrayFit at-home workout DVD? The PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System is a highly-challenging workout that can be done in your living room with some dumbbells and a workout mat and is guaranteed to provide a powerful stimulus for change. Whether you're looking to lose a few inches around the waist or simply shape-up specific bodyparts, this is the DVD for you. Click here to read more or to purchase one for yourself or a friend!

Worthy of a Frame

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." --Psalm 139:14

Read: Psalm 139

Where do you keep your pictures? I’m not talking about fun, random, cell phone snaps or Facebook profile images. I’m talking about the special ones –- those worthy of a frame. That’s where we need to start…the mantle of your heart.

You know, we’ve all heard the statement that if God had a mantle, your picture would be on it. And while I love knowing that, I wonder what you and I would actually look like? At first, that thought might sound a bit weird, awkward or even irrelevant. I suppose it would be if we were talking about the body, but God sees our hearts. And like we’ve said many times, life is not about the body, and our bodies -- these frames -- will most certainly not last heaven.

But if anyone knows our bodies, what they’re capable of, and most importantly, how healthy they were intended to be on earth, it’s Him. So I guess you could say, we’re just pictures of grace; souls He saw worthy...of a frame.

--Jimmy Peña

QUESTION: God loves our souls so much he framed them with bodies. How does knowing that change the way you view the importance of health? Please give us your comments below and please share this with your Facebook and Twitter communities.

DID YOU KNOW? Obesity is threatening national security, according to a new study, because one in four young adults is too overweight to join the military. In some states, as many as 44 percent of young adults, age 18-24, are obese and unfit to serve and protect.

Source: Mission: Readiness

COMMUNITY: Plug yourself into the faith-and-fitness discussion by joining our social networks! FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/officialprayfit TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/prayfit

Get Your Voice Back

"How can I be sure this will happen? I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." --Luke 1:18

Read: Luke 1

Not his best moment. Zacharias has just been given really great news; news of eternal significance. He's been told that Elizabeth will bear him a son. And he will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah, no doubt. He'll be the frontrunner! And not only that, the courier of this miracle message wasn't a neighbor. It wasn't a trusted uncle or even the High Priest. No, Zacharias heard this first-hand from - wait for it - none other than Angel Gabriel himself.

Now, all things being equal, you'd think it would prompt Zacharias to simply rejoice, trust and obey. But as you read in today's verse, Zacharias chose to respond like you and I often do.

Who me? I'm not qualified for that job, have you seen my resume? Who me? A missionary? Have you read my laundry list of weaknesses? Who me? Regain my health after years of negligence? What good can this body accomplish?

There's no telling how effective we would be for the Lord if we trusted the things God lays on our hearts. You know, Zacharias' little faith spoke volumes, so Gabriel made him mute. Months later, on the day of his son's birth, those standing around Elizabeth objected to his given name. But Zacharias -- still mute -- boldly wrote on his tablet: His name is John.

In that instant, the bible says he got his voice back.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: When you and I let fear and doubt cloud our hearts and minds, we too become mute. What has God put on your heart that you need courage to accept? With the New Year well under way, what roadblocks and barriers to a healthier 2013 are already rearing their head? What is your plan? Do you have your voice back?

INTENSITY EQUALS PROGRESS

How hard do you train? If you haven't asked yourself this question lately, then it's probably likely that change to your health and physique are hard to come by. By gradually pushing yourself a bit harder -- and intensity is relative -- you will see greater results, faster.

>> Click here for more on how intensity plays into health and fitness and how you can use it to reach your goals faster in 2013.

Open House

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow." --Isaiah 1:18

Read: Isaiah 1

Walking Josey around the neighborhood this last weekend, I came across an open house sign. The arrow pointed us up the street, so...up we went. Interestingly, the closer we got to the house, the nicer things seemed. The manicured lawn looked like the greens of The Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta. Smiling neighbors waved at the milkman. Kids played hopscotch. Josey chased cartoon animals across the street while Mr. Bluebird rested upon my shoulder. After all, it was an open house. And everything seems perfect at an open house.

Okay, maybe the cartoon animals were a little much, but as I stood watching the people going in and out, I could relate to the owner who had clearly taken great pains in preparing the house to make a good first impression. Before we let anyone in our lives, we hide the dirt. We sweep regrets under the rug, polish the pain and spit-shine the shame. We don't want anyone to see the proof under the roof.

Isn't it comforting to know that we don't need to clean ourselves up before we let Jesus in? We can stop scrubbing failures from the floor and just open the door. Besides, the asking price for our heart's home is way too high for anyone but Him, and He paid it in full.

--Jimmy Peña

FUEL AND FAT

Like most Americans, you probably paid somewhere near $4.50 a gallon at the pump this week. But before you go and blame Middle East unrest, market instability or rapid inflation, you might want to consider the following statistic.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine,  nearly one billion gallons of additional fuel per year can be attributed to the average weight gain between 1960 and 2002 of people living in the United States. This represents nearly three times the total amount of fuel consumed by all passenger vehicles each day based on current driving habits, or approximately 0.7% of the total amount of fuel consumed by passenger vehicles annually. Moreover, it is estimated that over 39 million gallons of fuel are consumed annually for every one pound increase in average passenger weight.

In other words, the heavier we get, the harder our cars, trucks, trains and planes have to work to transport us from A to B.

Source: Entrepreneur Magazine

Benchwarmer

"So Sarah laughed to herself." --Genesis 18:12

Read: Genesis 18

Benchwarmer. Not something that sat well with me. But during my sophomore year in high school, I endured it for the first time in my life. See, I was a baseball player, and a good one. But basketball? I probably should've hung up the Air Jordans as a freshmen. Sitting at the end of the bench during a blowout game, I hoped my friends and family would assume I was injured; maybe I twisted an ankle during warm-ups or something. But with a little over a minute on the clock, the unthinkable happened. Coach called my name.

"Reluctant" would be putting it mildly. I literally peeled myself off the chair. I removed my warm-ups from my cold body and joined the otherwise sweaty and necessary group of kids on the court. What's the use, I thought. Well, the clock ran out, we shook hands, and I put my warm-ups on as slowly as I had removed it.

Well, leaving the locker room that night to face the awkward "good game" from loved ones, Coach stopped me. He said something that I'd carry the rest of my life. He said, "I wanted to see your reaction when I called for you late in the game. Jimmy, it's never too late to make an impact."

Maybe you're wondering what kind of influence you can have. Perhaps you think it's way too late in the game for God to use you. That family member? Too far gone. That group of friends? Too set in their ways. No way God is calling me from the bench at my age, with my past. 

Folks, God has a way of doing the unexpected. And if He noticed Sarah laughing at the news of her baby on the way, rest assured He sees our reaction. So, take a minute to consider what the Spirit is whispering to your heart. If it's too lofty, too lowly, too late...God just may be looking for our reaction to His call. Carve this into your heart...If God calls for you, it's never too late to make an impact.

--Jimmy Peña

WALKING FOR HEALTH Just an hour of this low-impact activity per day can make you 50% healthier

Watch some TV? Just make sure you go for a walk after. New research put out by the American Heart Association showed that an hour of walking per day can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity as a result of watching the picture box by half.

"In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," said Qibin Qi, Ph.D., study author and a post doctorate research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent."

The study included 7,740 women and 4,564 men from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers collected data on physical activity and TV watching two years prior to assessing BMI.

>> For the full story, click here.