Pull, Together

September 2, 2014

I’ll never forget it. I was 19; the newest member of a very small band of brothers. We weren’t an official group on the Baylor University campus, by any means, these “Russell Rats.” We had no membership roster, no board of directors or rules and regulations to speak of, but we were very exclusive. And although we weren’t organized, we did pay our dues — dues of a different kind that were collected daily. As far as acceptance into the group, well, it just happened. Call it a nonverbal recognition of pure heart. If you had it, you were in. And rather than Greek letters across our chest, we had chalk and sweat across our backs. There was no mistaking our crew.

In the late 80s, a small family of guys came one by one into the best (and only) fitness center on campus, Russell Gymnasium. The gym itself was actually a corner hole-in-the-wall within a bigger auditorium of basketball courts, with a two-tone, green concrete wall separating the outdated Universal equipment and rusty dumbbells from the courts next door.

Well, one sunny Waco afternoon, at a campus-wide celebration called Diadeloso (Day of the Bear), the group decided to enter itself into the annual tug-of-war competition. We wanted nothing more than to show the fraternities what real strength felt like. After a lot of hooplah, we marched — in slow motion if I recall — onto the sand. We could hear the audible gasp from the opposition. We nodded to one another with pre-victory smiles. After all, not only were we obviously strong, we had ourselves a plan. We reasoned that because we outweighed the competition, only half the team would pull when the whistle blew. And when one of us gave the signal, the rest of us would begin pulling. Trust me. We had it covered.

Well, we found our grip as our competition found theirs. I remember they were a preppy bunch. Handsome. But no doubt mismatched. We did our best not to giggle. The referee raised his hand to alert the start of the match and the whistle blew. And?!…..We got crushed.

Within 20 seconds, we were pulled across the line. It felt as if the rope was somehow cleverly tied to a Ford F-150. What happened you ask? Well, a couple things actually. First, they had seven guys and we had six. Completely fair because the only limit was total weight, but an extra pair of arms pays off come to find out. But I think we lost miserably because we were overly confident and planned poorly.

Why the long stroll down memory lane? Well, if I learned anything that day as I lay face down, swallowing dirt and pride, it’s that we can never underestimate the enemy in life, and we can’t wait to start pulling. Plainly said, we have to give it all we have, never saving anything for the second half, the second set, the climb down, or the swim back. We can’t wait to share Christ, visit the widow, give to the needy. The fact that you’re reading and I’m typing means we’re knee deep in sand and it’s quick.

Friends, we have to be humble constantly and plan wisely. In every area of life, be it with quiet times, workouts, relationships, school, work…a humble heart and wisdom will please God every time. So hang on tight. And when the sun comes up and you’ve given God your day, just start pulling.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S. Four years later, I led a team of seven onto the sand. We won every match but the last one; to a team of…eight.

For Discussion: Are you waiting to pull with your life? Your quiet times with the Lord? Your health? If I can help you start pulling, talk to me. I want to help. And if you have similar memories where you were humbled, please share!

GIVE TO PRAYFIT MINISTRIES:
Well my friends, I mentioned it last week and it’s official. We are a non-profit organization. I am so humbled and excited about what God is doing and what He will do. Everything – from our daily devotions to the new small group curriculum we’re developing and ambassador programs, to next year’s PrayFit Rise Conference – will all fall under the non-profit umbrella of PrayFit Ministries. And we need you. Pulling together never meant so much to me. I’ll say it again. We need you.

Guys, it’s through your giving that all of it will be made possible. Having a heart for what we’ve done over the last 6 years, perhaps you’d love to be a part of sponsoring the conference or anything we’re doing at PrayFit on a daily basis. If so, please click the GIVE button on the home page. You can make a one-time donation of any amount or perhaps become a monthly sponsor of any amount. Nothing is too big or too small, and we are grateful to partner with you. I’ve never been very good at selling merchandise, and I know I’m not very savvy at fundraising, but all I know is what the good Lord has placed upon my heart to do with my life and this ministry. May all we do together bring glory the Lord.

God Saw Fit

August 29, 2014

What a good week dreaming with you. I just love you all. If you missed any of the entries, I sincerely hope you go back and read them and pray for those that shared dreams, hopes and prayer requests. Trust me when I tell you, it was a neat and powerful week. Anybody agree? This is me sitting back in my writing chair next to my lamp, reading glasses atop my head, exhausted with a smile.

And speaking of dreams, I’d like to share with all of you a dream of mine that God saw fit to let us fulfill. Earlier this week, Loretta and I received word that our little publishing company, including this website, our travels to churches and the curriculum we’re developing, as well as the upcoming PrayFit RISE faith and fitness conference is now considered a non-profit organization. PrayFit Ministries Inc., is now the parent company to all we do for the cause of Christ at PrayFit.com.PrayFit Ministries

We’re so grateful for what the Lord is doing and what He’s working out, and we’re so thankful to each of you for being here to share grace, express love, offer hope and lift dreams. We would not be here without you. So, thank you. And well, somehow that seems like a good way to close the week. Glasses folded. Lamp off. Goodnight friends. Welcome to my wildest dream.
Jimmy Peña

P.S.
I have just been reminded that Monday is a holiday and we will be back to devotions come Tuesday. Have a great Labor Day Weekend. Be safe, get good rest and we’ll see you next week. Grow, in grace.

 

 

With God…Any Wall

August 28, 2014

As we’ve been talking about dreams this week, I’ve been constantly bombarded with this thought: What if my dreams are not God’s dreams for my life? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I know, it’s brutal. Moment-to-moment, from one objective or dream to the next we should be asking, “Lord, is this wall for me to climb?” Cause guys, if it’s not, we don’t want to climb it, regardless of what we’ll find or see or “achieve” by scaling it.

What’s going on inside us this week? How will we be impacted if our dreams came true? Will we be closer to the Lord? Cause here’s the kicker: God will never commit to a dream of ours that does not fit what’s best for us as it relates to our relationship with Him. (Feel free to slowly read that mouthful of a sentence again.) If we have dreams that are not God’s will, Dr. Charles Stanley says that, “He [God] loves you enough that He will derail you to protect you. And when He sends you a signal that it’s not of Him, and you go through it anyway, He’ll let you suffer the consequences of disappointment, pain and loss.”

Wow. Mouthful. Heart-full. Been there, felt that. Am I alone? Friends, this week is the perfect opportunity for us to recalibrate our dreams. We know that He wants the best for us – can give us the best for us – and will give us what’s best for us. So together, as a family that spans around the globe, let’s ask: “God, what are your dreams for my life?” Can we do that together? Before you hit the gym, the road, the cubicle, the chores, the books, let’s ask Him that question.

Truth is, apart from Jesus, no dream will never bring contentment. So let’s distill them. Let’s send them through the will of God. Do you feel like doing that today? I do, personally. They may be physical goals, financial, relational, and of course, spiritual.RiseAboveIt

And whatever we find when we’re done, we know that God desires that we know Him, spend time with Him, depend on him, and trust Him. And the more we do that, the more His dreams become the only ones we want. Remember the opening question today? Well, Psalm 18:29 says, “With my God, I can scale any wall.” Indeed, we can’t do everything we want to do, but we can do anything God wants us to do. And if He says the wall is ours, we take it.
-Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What wall are you praying about? Health related? Financial? Relational? Unspoken? And finally, Psalm 18:29 has a few key phrases, what’s your favorite? I know mine.

With God, I Like My Odds

August 27, 2014

“I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me [into the land]; as my strength was then, so my strength is now.” –Joshua 14:11

In the book of Numbers 13:30, the Bible says, “We are well able to conquer it.” As a quick reference, of the twelve spies to survey the promised land, the Bible says that only two came back positive that they’d be victorious with God’s help. Two dream chasers. Two true believers. When everyone else was negative, these two were wide-eyed and hopeful. We can take it, they said. I’m talking of course about Joshua and Caleb.OddsAgainstMe

Now take a look at today’s top verse. That’s Caleb talking. See, when he and Joshua first surveyed the promised land, Caleb was a 40-year old, modern day Billy the Kid, only with Godly morals and a conscience. Funny, not sure if you ever saw the movie Young Guns, but when Billy the Kid (played by Emilio Estevez) was completely surrounded and in a seemingly impossible scenario, he was the only optimist. The rest of his clan of regulators had all but given up and surrendered, but not Billy. Oh no sir. In fact, as they realized just how badly they were outnumbered, what did Billy say? “I like these odds.” That’s Caleb. Courageous, optimistic, full of hope.

What about you during DREAM WEEK? Imagine yourself in the old West, crawling up to the ledge of a canyon to overlook your dreams. Shhh, you’re quiet so you don’t call any attention, but down in the ravine is your heart’s desire. College maybe. A different job. Weight loss. Recovery. Married life. The bank loan. Being alone. What goes through your mind? It’s too late, too soon, too much, too little, too…???

Friends, if God is behind the dream — like He was in Caleb’s — it’s never “too” anything. Caleb along with Joshua were the only two faith-bearing spies to believe that with God anything was possible. And because of that, God inspired the dream that one day the promised land would be theirs. A dream and a promise Caleb never forgot. I get the chills just telling you this, but when Caleb spoke today’s verse, he was 85 years old. That’s right. Caleb had to wait a generation of 40 years before he could realize God’s dream in his life. But he stayed faithful, fruitful, young, able and eager. Not even a lifetime of heartbreak were enough to remove his resolve for the dream God placed in his heart. All he knew was that when the time was right, he’d be ready. Even at 85 years of age – with God – Caleb liked his odds.

Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Don’t you just love dreaming? Me too. But now more than ever, I’m in love with the Dream Giver. God is bigger than anything I can imagine, and He wants more for my life than I could ever want. That’s why I fight tooth and nail for whatever that is. I’ll admit, I’ve been dreaming a lot lately. Studying, praying, asking, over and over. And if it takes a generation for me to realize it, I want to take Caleb’s example. I like my odds. What about you? What is God inspiring you to do? And like Caleb, what work do you have to do while you wait for God’s timing? Could be spiritual, financial, social or even physical. Who’s with me? Who likes their odds?

(photo credit: pxleyes.com)

Dreams Can Mean The Pits

August 26, 2014

“You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” –Genesis 50:20

Left out, left behind, left for dead. I mentioned yesterday that dreams often mean the pits, well, here’s one example. Joseph could do no wrong in his father’s eyes, so his big brothers squinted theirs. After hearing Joseph’s dream, his brothers took him for a long walk off a short pier. The next thing this favorite son knew, he was lying in a pit, listening to the sound of clanging silver in exchange for his life. Before long, he was in a foreign land full of foreign faces that spoke a foreign language.

Like I said yesterday, when I watched Joe Weider struggle down that hallway, the wheels began turning in my mind. Actually, it was more like a crank being wound inside my heart. And each week it would tighten and ache. Well, on a Friday in 2009, a spiraling economy forced downsizing and before I knew it I was in the pit of unemployment. There I was looking up with a box of memories in one hand and a fake, potted plant in the other.

The Monday after my layoff, I started writing this blog. It turns out you can do a lot of work in the pit. I began clumsily trying to convey what my heart had been dying to say. See, over the previous 12 years, every article I wrote about leg training, strength or endurance, I saw as an opportunity for a Biblical lesson. I now had my chance, and I was serious. But the 1,250 devotions since don’t prove how serious I took the dream, they merely expose the truth that when God places something on your heart, you fight for it.lookingup

Your boss gives the promotion to the one who sleeps in his cubicle. Keep dreaming. Someone else gets the credit for the work you did on the school group project. Keep dreaming. Or God has placed something on your heart you can no longer ignore. Keep DREAMING. We may not be shipped off to another country, but we sure do know our way around the pits. But a neat thing about young Joseph is that although the breaks got rough, they didn’t break him. He knew his dream was divine. So he made good. Learned the language, made friends, stayed focused. It wasn’t long until the king alone out-ranked him.

Joseph’s story is unavoidable and one I thought was perfect again for “Dream Week.” Because of a dream, Joseph went from pit to prime minister. Despite his circumstances, Joseph honed his unique, God-given gift. Everything around him might have been foreign, but the same God he knew at home was the same God in the pit and the same God in Egypt. So he resolved to cling to his dreams, literally, because what some people mean for bad, God can make great. Written off in chapter one, his rough start made for one great conclusion.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What do you love about the story of Joseph? The fact he stayed his course before and during his time in the pit? Or for what he did when he got to Egypt? What can his faithfulness and forgiveness teach us about our lives, our health, our perspective? Do you feel like you need a tighter grip on your dreams? Is something inspiring cranking away inside your chest? Like Joseph, will you share it and leave the consequences to God? Anything we can all pray about together?

Today, Dream

August 25, 2014

TodayDreamJesus, You Are My
All In All.

Happy Monday everyone. Hope you had a good weekend. We did. Yesterday I took Loretta to the beach so she could celebrate her birthday. Fun times. We love going to the water as often as possible. Seems it’s where we do our best dreaming. Pursuing God’s best for our lives and living that dream is our week’s theme. Hope you check-in each day. I’ll want your feedback as well as the opportunity to let the community pray for you in your pursuits.

Thing about dreams is that they don’t always mean smooth sailing or clear vision. But if we’re following God’s will for our lives, it will always be an opportunity to demonstrate our allegiance to Him. I’m pretty excited about the theme. Loretta asked me to begin with the dream that God placed on my heart nearly 7 years ago.

Twist my arm. Ok. (I love telling this story, and forgive me if you know how this ends.) Whenever I’m speaking to groups around the country, I seldom miss an opportunity to share it. Years ago as I sat in my office as the worldwide Fitness Director at Muscle & Fitness magazine, I was editing an article that needed to get out the door ASAP, when I heard a noise from across the indoor atrium. It was Joe Weider – the founder of bodybuilding and fitness — leaving his office for the night.

At the time, Joe was in need of a walker as well as a nurse to get around. As he walked out of his office, I watched him as he made his way down the hall and directly in front of a bronze statue of himself from his younger prime — arms folded, chest puffed, chin high. Captured in time, a bronzed Joe Weider, now merely a backdrop of a struggling reality. In one rare moment, I was an eyewitness to two bookends of the same man. The sight caused me to sit back in my chair. Right then the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “It’s not about the body.” I thought to myself, What’s a Christian exercise physiologist to do with such a realization? One of the top fitness experts in the country with one of the nicest titles in the industry, a few celebrity books under my belt and more on the way, I immediately realized a strange hollowness and deadness in my work. I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives, and I was hungry for a legacy that would honor the Lord in my area of expertise. It’s a moment I will never forget. I started to dream.

Weider HQ

I will always be in Joe’s debt for giving me my very first writing job out of graduate school and then for the honor of being the fitness expert to his magazines. But while he did so much for the temporary body of a country, I will forever remember him struggle down that hall, fighting for every step. God used his loss of movement to help inspire one. I called it PrayFit.

Again, this week is about pursuing God’s best for our lives and living that dream to its fullest. And as we’ll see tomorrow from one of God’s Biblical examples, sometimes that means the pits and other times it means the peak. See you tomorrow.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: I began today’s message with ‘Jesus You Are My All In All.’ That means He’s the treasure we seek. He’s the goal. I tell ya, the older I get the more I realize how little I’ve meant that statement over the course of my life. I can get so caught up in my dreams that I forget to trust the Giver of it. Are you like me? Am I alone? What can you and I do to make sure that as we diligently strive to live this life, we make sure it’s His approval we’re after? It’s gonna be a good week. Dream, on.

Don’t Worry, You Will

August 22, 2014

When the naysayers said to Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Arnold, we never want to look like you,” he famously quipped, “Don’t worry. You never will.” My younger self chuckles, because on the surface that’s one of the best replies I’ve ever heard. But then again, it’s not the surface I’m worried about.

Thing is, honoring God with our bodies has nothing to do with the size and shape of muscle. If you think about it, our eyes are part of the body. So what we look at or avoid, what we notice, what we see, what we LIKE on social media, and what we don’t look at, that’s honor. Our ears too, can’t forget those. What we discipline ourselves to listen to, and when we cover our ears to gossip, when we choose to miss a workout to listen to somebody’s hurts, that’s honoring God with the body. And the tongue, oh man, our words. Talk about honor God! What we say, who we say it to, the topic of discussion, just name it; to say nothing about the time we take to actually talk to Him!

Biceps? Not about circumference, but about picking up your brother. Triceps? Not about what you can pressdown, but about extending the arms to serve, to help, to shake hands, to wipe tears, point directions, and wave hello. (I could go on, but I’ll spare you.) Cover your ears Arnold, but any amount of muscle we have should serve to enable us to get where God needs us to be so we can honor Him with the body.

I think that’s why Paul – inspired by God – urged us to train in godliness above all. And as I sit here thinking about it, when we train in godliness, spending time in God’s word, on our knees in prayer, listening to worship music or Christian lyrics, we’re training to look just like Jesus. To think like Him. Walk where He would walk. Talk like He would have us talk. It’s a divine twist, right? The purpose of our health is to make much of Jesus, but it’s when we eventually lose that health that we’ll finally see why: Him. And in that moment, we’ll look just like Him. We’ll forgive just like Him. We’ll extend grace JUST LIKE HIM. We’ll be everything we trained for; that’s glory.

When we say, “Jesus, we want to look just like you.” He says, “Don’t worry, you will.”
Jimmy Peña

Guys, have a good weekend. Such an honor being a part of your week. So many prayer requests, so many names. If you missed any of this week’s entries, please sift through and lift people up. Much love to everyone.

MakeMuchofJesus

It’s A Run/Walk

August 20, 2014

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” –Ephesians 5:2

An author, speaker and member of the 1972 Olympic team, Jeff Galloway is a world-class runner. He broke the U.S. 10-mile record in 1973, and among his victories are the Honolulu, Atlanta and Boston Marathons. What’s his best tip? Walk. That’s right. In fact, Jeff says, “Thousands of time-goal-oriented veterans have improved by 10, 20, and over 30 minutes in marathons by taking walk breaks early and often to reach their goal in the race. You can easily spot these folks. They’re the ones who are picking up speed during the last few miles when everyone else is slowing down.”

Almost 20 years ago, I stood in the middle of a rain-soaked football field in Austin, Texas and watched Jeff’s theory being tested. For weeks, she’d verbalize her goal: “One time around the track without stopping.” What did she do when she didn’t make it? She walked. And when she caught her breath, she’d run again. As it turns out, long before my wife Loretta ever read a book by Jeff Galloway or listened to any of his seminars, she practiced what he preached. And I’ll never forget the day she made it one (1) time around that old track. In the pouring rain and drenched, we shouted for joy. (She eventually turned that one lap into 26.2 miles without stopping, several times a year.)

One time around the day. You may have just entered your cubicle, dropped the kids off at school or you’re about to exercise. Whatever the case, the Bible says we’re to run the race and walk in love. So no matter what the world has stacked against you — be encouraged — it’s a run/walk.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S. You know, it was pretty neat for me to see Loretta meet her hero of the track. Just look at her sweet face. Do you see him giving her instruction? The moment made me think that when it comes to the faith, you and I have an opportunity to follow some heroes and maybe lead as one. Kind of like we talked about yesterday and the pacers of life. So today, as you run your race, make it a point to stand in the middle of someone else’s track and shout for joy.

For Discussion: Who will you encourage today? Can you put their name here as a testament and promise? Just type their name. We’ll be sure to pray for them. Someone from work that needs a boost, a family member who needs some love, a friend barely holding on. Whoever it is, you’re standing in the middle, shouting. Let me help. Let US, help.

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healthisafaithbattle

Distance Yourself

August 20, 2014

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but he who walks with fools suffers harm.” –Proverbs 13:20

Leading up to her third marathon, my wife had a simple plan: find her pacer and stay close to him or her no matter what. See, most marathon organizations provide the runners with all sorts of tools and techniques to help them through the grueling course — from seminars on stride, tactics for tackling hills, and perhaps most notably, they offer the runners a pacer.

A pacer is a man or woman capable of finishing the race at an exact time. And when I say exact, I mean exactly that. Kevin (pictured here) ran through the finish line at three hours and 35 minutes — just what he was asked he’d do. Now, Kevin didn’t know who was counting on his pace. All he knew was that someone would be relying on his experience, strength and endurance to help them along their way toward their goal.

In our daily pursuit of spiritual and physical stewardship, we all need pacesetters. People who God places in our lives to help us stay the course. Not only that but God may, in fact, bless us with the privilege of being that for someone else, and it’s an honor we can’t take lightly. Like Kevin, we may or may not know who it is, but someone is depending on us to know the way and show the way. Just take a look at Monday’s prayer requests and yesterday’s comments. Glance back and read some of the pain and the hurt. Then listen closely as others come running up beside to rescue with prayer and encourage with hope. Sounds like a group of pacesetters to me.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S. Kevin was a little surprised when I asked him for a photo. Perhaps it’s typical for the pacers to be invisible after a race. But I had to ask him to stop, especially when I read the back of his shirt. “Distance Yourself” it said. Wow. Perfect for our verse of the day. Thanks for inspiring us Kevin. We want to keep up.

For Discussion: Does anyone have something they’d like to share? A Praise? A request? Unspoken? We’re going to the Lord ALL week for each other. If you happen to read a need from earlier in the week, go ahead and respond here.

BRING US TO YOUR TOWN
In a few weeks, Jimmy will be speaking at Pepperdine University in Malibu, talking health through the gospel’s lens with faculty and staff. We’re so honored. Destiny-pic-5-320x213Expos, conferences and congregations across the country have welcomed Jimmy and his message of health as a means of praise. Your town or event could be next. Contact us at info@prayfit.com to schedule a visit from the PrayFit team! 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.

 

God Understands Your Race

August 19, 2014

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1

I think God understands the marathon. Many people will tell you that a marathon is all about the journey, the memories. Well, yes and no. While the memories have their moments, what awaits us at the end is really what it’s all about. I mean, I loved the music at mile 12, but I didn’t hang around for an entire song. It played, not so much that I would enjoy, but more so that I would endure.

When I began the New York City Marathon a few years ago, I had a running partner as well as a dedicated pacer (the pacer’s name was Paul, by the way.) But as you learned yesterday, a little over midway through the race, my body started to fail me (a precursor to the years of spinal issues). So when the partner and pacer ran ahead, I had to slow down. But had that not happened, I would have missed the blind man with his guide, and the woman in the wheelchair with no legs. And yes, I would have missed the two men who led me my last few miles of the race. Two men wearing identical shirts; bright yellow jerseys with black letters. Unmistakable to me. Not so much for the color combo, but for the words on their backs. On one shirt, “Father”, and on the other, “Son”. Oddly enough, the only comfort I could muster at the time was written on the back of two strangers.

The journey is one thing. But while our bodies fail us, friends leave us, and pacers lose us, the only real comfort is who we follow to the finish. I think God understands the marathon.

–Jimmy Pena

P.S. At dinner that night, I watched a lady limping her way through a restaurant. As she passed our table, I said, “Congratulations”. She thanked me. You can always tell the runners. You can see it in their walk.

For Discussion: Please go back to yesterday’s entry and read the comments and prayer requests. You’ll see the names and you’ll hear the voices of others in the race. Like me, they need pacers. Like you, someone on the list needs a friend. Guys, we’ve been made more than conquerors and we endure.

For The Runner in You: Please take a look at the store for some of our runner-friendly tanks and caps. I think you’ll like them. Our partner on the caps is none other than Headsweats, so you know it’s the best quality in the business. Thanks Headsweats.

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