Just the other day, my son was asking me what I had been up to lately. I told him that I had been working on a curriculum book called Balance®. I spoke of the hope and desire to present it to our women’s ministry small groups in the Fall. As I was telling him about my project, I found myself sharing that I’d been having a hard time staying focused. It was seeming to me that my special project was becoming more of a hobby these days than an actual proposed or planned undertaking. I had never really considered myself a true procrastinator, but I was finding it increasingly easy to shove this to the sidelines when other pressing matters come to the forefront of the day.

My son said, “Mom, it sounds like you need to upgrade your status!” “What?” I quipped. He said, “Yeah, you need to upgrade your current status from ‘hobby’ to ‘job’”. What a brilliant word for me that day–he was right. I needed to stop thinking about my writing Balance® as a hobby and treat it more like the real task it was intended to be.

All this had me immersed even deeper contemplating the thought, “Couldn’t we all use a fresh upgraded status?” I mean, how many times have we pushed our goals to the side for other people, things or busy schedules? How many times have you made goals and quit them before you even reached the intended outcome? Ponder how much further along in life you would be if you only would have stuck to them. Take a few minutes to ask yourself what have you been putting off that you really have wanted to accomplish? Maybe it’s that last 10-20 pounds down by summertime goal, or your goal to eat clean and healthy at every meal, or begin that new HITT class at the gym. Whatever it is, whether personal, wellness or professional goals, you are not alone when it comes to putting important matters off!

Did you know that one out of five people, researchers have found, find themselves in your same corner as a procrastinator. Well, I’d like to encourage you to choose today to give yourself that UPGRADED STATUS! Move from PROcrastinator to PRO-activator! Making this upgrade in any area of your life, becoming a Pro-activator instead of a procrastinator will get your job done and probably a job done well.

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! Matthew 25:23 NLT

 

 

Sara Rainey enjoys freelance writing and speaking to women about the goodness of God. Sara has served on staff as the North Central Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness® and taught as an ACE® Certified Group Fitness Instructor.

Sara spent her childhood years in rural Wisconsin for which she is truly grateful. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison majoring in Journalism and Communications. This is also where she met and fell head over heals in love with Jim, her husband, whom she has been married to for over 38 years.Together they have three sons, three beautiful daughter in laws and four grandchildren.

Sara holds strong beliefs regarding commitment to marriage and family and currently makes her home in Colorado. Sara loves the joy and freedom that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. She adores worship music, hiking in the mountains, snow shoeing, porch time with her hubby and precious time with her grandchildren. She loves rocks and roosters, getting lost in a good novel, hearing her sons’ laughter, a good cup of coffee, family traditions, cherished friendships, wild rivers, mountain lakes, the strength and beauty of horses and riding them, and most of all her family and her God.

 

“You gotta fight, stand up strong. You got a fire, so let it burn on. Show ‘em what you’re worth…You gotta roar, get up and shout. Ain’t gonna blend in; go on and stand out. Show ‘em what you’re worth…I’ve been created for a purpose that is solely His—know what I’m worth—aye! Don’t plan on playing games. I’m destiny’s child. I say His name—Jesus, you’re the only one. Stick closer than a friend and watch that fire deep inside you never die again.”

Sometimes the world tells us that we’re worthless or treats us like we’re worthless, but this song says—don’t believe it! Here’s the TRUTH: We are worth everything in God’s eyes! We are precious to Him and he wants us to find our worth in Him, not in what the world says is important. This song is a battle cry to fight back against the lies that come at us from every side. It is a cheer that says stand up, let the fire in you burn bright! Hear this personally then play this song for all the people you know who are listening to the world’s lies and questioning their worth. Let’s link arms with one another and with Jesus and get busy showing the world what we are worth in His eyes!

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Questions: Have you ever questioned your worth because of the lies of the world? What helps you be strong and fight back when the world tells you lies about your worth? Who will you encourage to find their worth in the truth and love of the Lord instead of the lies of the world?

Prayer Power: Dear Lord, thank you that you love me so much that you even know the number of hairs on my head. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your son Jesus to die for me that I may live with you eternally. Thank you that I can find my worth in you. Protect me and those I love from the lies of the world.

More about the song…

 

 

Determined to meet my new neighbors, one Sunday afternoon I made a big batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins. Warm muffins would be my offering of friendship, my reason to knock on their door. While the muffins baked, I wrote our name and contact information on little note cards and attached them to the top of the plastic containers.

That afternoon I walked six long driveways. I stood in front of six doors waiting for a neighbor to respond to my knock. But no one answered. Feeling lonely and defeated, I went home, made a cup of coffee, ate two muffins, then stored the rest in the freezer.

Six months ago, we moved to a new town. This makes new start number eight. Throughout my husband’s career, his job moved us seven times. Then a few months ago, my husband retired and we moved again. This move may actually be our last.

Moving and starting over can offer wonderful opportunities, but there are also challenges. Making and building new friendships is one of them. Thankfully, some of my other efforts to meet new people and make new friends have turned out better than the muffin fiasco.

Throughout our moves, God has taught me to take the initiative. It’s not that the people around me don’t want my friendship or care that I’m new. Most are simply settled in with a full life and a circle of friends.

I am naturally shy, so reaching out and taking the initiative in new friendships always feels risky – like standing in front of a stranger’s door, smiling at a security camera, warm muffins in hand. Will they open the door? Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Yet I continue to take the risk because I’ve experienced the value of friendship. In each place we’ve lived, God has graciously given me beautiful, lasting friendships I still enjoy. But no matter how wonderful these relationships are, I need local friends. I need women in my day-to-day life.

God designed us for relationship – with Him and with others. We not only need Him, we also need other women to encourage, comfort, and challenge us in our daily lives and our walk with Jesus. No matter how independent we are, we really can’t “go it alone.”

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV

We all need a friend to help us up when we fall. Do you have a friend or two to call when you’re on the floor? If not, reach out, take the initiative. Be the friend God can use to bless someone else. I’d be happy to share my muffin recipe with you.


Kathy Howard calls herself a “confused southerner.” Raised in Louisiana, she moved with her engineer husband around the U.S. and Canada. She says “pop” instead of “Coke” and “you guys” as often as “ya’ll.” But she’s still a southern girl at heart! Now that her husband’s retired, they’ve settled in the Dallas/Ft Worth area to be near family. They have three married children and four grandsons. Kathy encourages women to live an unshakeable faith by standing firm on our rock-solid God no matter life’s circumstances. Kathy, the author of eight books including “Unshakeable Faith” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,” has a Masters degree in Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at https://www.facebook.com/KathyHowardUnshakeableFaith/ , https://www.pinterest.com/kathyhhoward/pins/ and https://www.instagram.com/mkathoward/

 

“It’s hardwired, living inside of me. No matter where I go, I know You’re gonna be with me. I just can’t seem to shake You. Even if I could, yeah, I would not change a thing, yeah. If it’s pushing You away, yeah, or running to You, You still love me the same, yeah. Hallelujah! And as long as my heart is beating and my lungs are breathing, I’ll keep on singing for You. Even right to the moment when you call me home, yeah, I’ll still be singing for You, ‘cause that’s what lifers do.”

What are you a “lifer” for? Will you cheer for your college team “for life?” Are you friends “for life” with some special people? Will you eat chocolate “for life?” All those things are fine, (especially if it is dark chocolate that has more nutrition per bite, haha!) but these are not the most important lifer choices.

What this song is talking about is being a “lifer” who trusts in God no matter what, through highs and lows, pain and joy—until the day that the Lord returns and takes us to be home with him eternally. When you are a “lifer for God” your life is filled with powerful moments of reading his Word—his love letter to you, praying—talking with him as a friend and daddy, and singing praise to him in worship. If you need to ramp up these “lifer for God” habits, now is the time! Let’s be lifers for the Lord as we wait patiently for the best that is yet to come when we will be with him! Press on as God calls you heavenward!

Philippians 3:14  “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Questions: What does it mean to you to be a “lifer for God”?   What are you a “lifer” for?

Prayer Power:  Dear Lord, I commit to being a dedicated “lifer” or you. Help me to trust in you every moment. Help me to hope in your promises. Help me to be strong as I walk through this life by your side. I’m a lifer for You, God. Amen.

 

More from Mercy Me about the song…  

“I used to live like I was under attack, dodging arrows from my past. I had no hope for tomorrow. Felt so much pressure, yes, I thought I would crack. But now, there’s no looking back. I’m moving forward ‘cuz I know I got my armor now; no fear, no doubt gonna shoot me down. Now I’m bulletproof because of You…Your love made a way; now I’m not afraid.”

Have you ever felt like you were living life dodging arrows or bullets of fear and doubt? When we get stuck in this position, we can feel hope slipping away. It makes it easy to relate to the singer of this song who says he felt so much pressure that he thought he would crack. But there is an answer. There is hope! When we say yes to Jesus we can have hope for our tomorrows because we know he is in control. He has forgiven our past, present and future.  We don’t have to look back, we can look forward with hope. The Bible tells us how to be prepared for future attacks—there is a heavenly armor we need to put on, and this armor will help to make us bulletproof.

Ephesians 6: 10-18 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Questions:  Have you been feeling the arrows and bullets of doubt and fear recently? What is the most important piece of the armor of God to you?

Prayer Power:  Dear Lord, help me to be faithful to keep my armor on, trusting in You. Thank you for your love and protection. Help me to be strong in Your mighty power. Help me to be a faithful prayer warrior for others. Amen.

“Some say “Don’t ask for help. God helps the ones who help themselves. So press on; get it right, otherwise get left behind. Some say “He’s keeping score, so try hard, then try a little more.” But hold up—if this were true, explain to me what the cross is for? What if I were the one to tell you that the fight’s already been won? Well, I think your day’s about to get better. What if I were the one to tell you that the work’s already been done? It’s not good news—it’s the best news ever! So come, all you weary and you burdened, you heavy-laden and you hurting. For all you who have nothing left, come and find rest.”

This song speaks the truth that we cannot earn God’s favor or work our way into heaven. God does not keep score; it’s not about trying hard—it’s about believing. It’s not about earning his favor or any good works that we might do. God gives eternal rest for our souls by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That is the best news ever!”

Romans 3:23-25a ”…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through his shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.”

Questions: What does it mean to you that “the work has already been done?” Why is this the best news ever? Have you ever thought that God is “keeping score” of the good and bad things you do? What are you learning from this song that helps you understand that God is not a heavenly scorekeeper?

Prayer Power: Thank you, Lord, for doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. We are sinners, but you saved us by your grace through faith in your Son Jesus who redeemed us by sacrificing himself for us. We are grateful. Thank you for choosing us to be part of your eternal family.

Hawk Nelson

“I’m tellin’ you somethin’ this racing, this running, oh, you’re working way too hard. And this perfection you’re chasing is just energy wasted ‘cause he loves you like you are! So go ahead and live like you’re loved. It’s ok to act like you’ve been set free. His love has made you more than enough so go ahead and be who he made you to be. Live like you’re loved.” 

Many of us are perfectionists at one level or another. We make our lists and want to check things off. And we want each thing checked off to be done right—perfectly, if possible. But God is kind, and as he gives us opportunities to serve, jobs to do and families to love, he graciously shows us that he wants our love not our perfection. He wants us to be who he made us to be—not to be the stressed-out version of ourselves. Do you relate? Keep this in mind as you seek each day to balance your life of love in action. Don’t ‘work way too hard’ and don’t waste energy, as the song reminds you. God will show you how to fit the “one anothers” into your life, one day at a time if you seek him, starting each day your eyes on Him and your heart focused on what he tells you in his word. And remember, God wants you to live like you are loved by him, because you are! You have been set free from the chains of perfection.

Do you tend to be a perfectionist? Do you sometimes feel like you are working way too hard and wasting time trying to get everything perfect? Do you believe that God loves you just the way you are—perfect or not? Do you “live like you’re loved?”

Jeremiah 31:3 “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” 

Father, I want to stop striving to be perfect and I want to rest in your love. Break the cycle of striving for perfection and replace it with love. Help me to live like I’m loved by you so that others might see your love for them. Show me how you want me to love with action. Set me free to love. In Jesus’ name, Amen


Interested in more devotionals? Go to our Devotional Encouragement page.
Interested in more lyrics? Check out this session’s Music & Lyrics post.

I believe that God is able to do more than I can ask or imagine. I believe that He is unstoppable. And I believe that His power is at work within his people, including me. But do I always act this way? Do I operate in faith that demonstrates my belief in an unstoppable, all-powerful, and completely faithful God? I wish I could say yes, but my mother taught me to never tell a lie. Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes act in such a way that shows my belief and the identity I have because of Jesus Christ, but there are times when I pay too much attention to this world and instead, change my focus from my unstoppable God and let it rest on my problems, worries, and often uncontrollable circumstances. I trust I’m not alone in this. I think many of us – even the ones of us who love Ephesians 3:20 – struggle at times to believe that He “who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us,” is referring to us and our situation.

South Central Leaders in Oklahoma

Take my current circumstance: I’m traveling for Body & Soul Fitness leading training workshops for instructors. Our focus is UNSTOPPABLE. As we prepare to share this theme with students all around the US this spring, we’re digging into God’s faithful character qualities, His unstoppable love for us, His unstoppable pursuit of us, His unstoppable power that’s at work within us, and our reasonable response of unstoppable faith. As I travel and interact with fitness instructors from different parts of the country, God is showing up in amazing ways and knocking my socks off with His blessing and His provision! You see, I asked Him to go before me into these workshops and to make His presence known clearly and powerfully – and He has done more than I asked and more than I thought to even imagine! He assembled instructors from long distances so we could fellowship together in person rather than communicating digitally (gotta love good old-fashioned face to face fellowship!). He encouraged each of us in different yet very powerful ways – to press on in our pursuit of sharing faith through fitness. He enabled us to overcome obstacles of over-filled schedules and the never-ending home logistics lists to be present. He even supplied us with more than enough energy to train for hours at a time, and still left us overflowing with excitement! You’d think we’d be tired, but no. God really does do more than we ask or imagine. God is able! I know, because He enabled me to arrive back home after multiple training workshops with more energy than I had when I left.

Join us in a Body & Soul Fitness class this spring, and experience the unstoppable love, pursuit and power of God. Ask Him to give you unstoppable faith. Don’t let anything stop you. Let’s operate in faith that shows that we believe in a God who is UNSTOPPABLE!


 

Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

 

 

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Paul tells us Christ died so that the Church could be holy by the washing of the word, without stain or wrinkle or blemish–holy and blameless. He tells us that we are children of the light where goodness, righteousness, and truth will abound, exposing all of the deeds of darkness. He tells us we should keep ourselves from sexual immorality, greed, and obscenity. He says to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. He tells us to walk in the way of love, like Christ did, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Paul also tells us that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to each one of us for the common good–that all of these gifts are useless if not enveloped in love, which is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud. Love that honors others and seeks the good of others. Love that is slow to anger and keeps no record of wrongs–it protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Love that never fails.

Peter tells us to love deeply and show hospitality to one another without complaining. We should use whatever gift we have to serve one another, so that God may be glorified.

But why all of this encouragement and love? Both of these New Testament writers tell us the Church will suffer. It will be for Christ’s sake, and it will be for our good–that we will become mature and complete, lacking nothing–but make no mistake about it, the Church will suffer. It will be painful, and we will grieve. Instead of losing hope or giving in to a life of sin and destruction, though, God asks us to persevere. Christ knows what it is to suffer–to be humiliated, to mourn, to lose, to watch people He loves destroy themselves–and He says, Come to me, and I will give you rest. So that we can keep going. He doesn’t say to pretend we aren’t suffering, He says that those who mourn, will be comforted.

We continue to gather together–to make friends with people who look and think and act differently than we do, to pray for and love people whose worship preference is different than ours, to encourage people who challenge the way we see the church–because we need one another to run this race. We need people depositing courage into our souls. We need people to hold us accountable for the mean things we say, or for the lies we tell. We need people to remind us of exactly who God is, because Satan is so eager to keep us bound by his lies.

We need fellow believers to remind us to remain in awe of God. We need them to remind us that we were once in darkness, but that we have been set free! We need people to spur us on towards thanksgiving, to rejoicing. We need them to lay hands on our sick children, to celebrate our hard-earned anniversaries, to weep with us over scary diagnoses, to chase after us when we’ve lost our way. We need people linking arms with us to serve the least of these, to set the captives free, to spend ourselves on behalf of the oppressed, and to work to share the Good News across the globe. This is the primary reason I need my Body & Soul sisters—why the ministry remains so important to my soul. We are training our bodies, yes, and Paul tells us that is of some value. But better than that, we are training our souls to hear from God—to be encouraged to just hold on, that the best is yet to come. To turn our faces towards heaven and praise the great I AM.

The Bible tells us all of these things, and the Church echoes it back and all around—God is good, and He sent His son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. We are His plan for salvation–the Church–flawed and broken and, often dysfunctional–but redeemed, and in the process of redemption, and looking forward to full redemption in the presence of our King.

So we make a habit, a discipline, of meeting together–corporately on Sundays, to work out together, to break bread at each other’s homes, to study God’s word together whenever and wherever we are, to serve our communities together, to celebrate joys and mourn losses together–we learn how to love one another the way Christ loved us so that everyone will know that we are His disciples. When we are filled with hope and love, the abundance will overflow into our communities and bring glory to the One who saves.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13


Brandi Schroeder is a youth pastor’s wife and the mom of four wild young men. She has been co-teaching Body & Soul Fitness with several amazing Arkansas’ instructors for nearly a decade, and she counts it a privilege to lead the amazing women in her class. She seeks to inspire women to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, and she is passionate about spreading the Gospel to the nations.

For more information or to find a class near you, please visit www.bodyandsoul.org.

Did you give up something for Lent? If so, “How’s it going?” How did you decide what to give up? I think about this every year. Should I give up something I love to eat? If so, “What?” Most of us choose something like a food we really enjoy, and maybe we enjoy it a little too much. Some choose to give up a bad habit, hoping it will help break the habit for good. According to Christianity Today*, a recent article cited only two food-related items in the top five for 2018: alcohol and chocolate. The other three were social media, Twitter and swearing. I found this curious. It started me thinking that I don’t have a particular food that has a hold on me—not any more. I’m not addicted to social media, I don’t tweet and rarely use swear words.

Is there something that tempts me to act apart from Christ?

Is there possibly another behavior that has a hold on me? What am I struggling with right now? I pray and ask God to search my heart for anything that is not pleasing to Him. Of course, He is true to His word that if we ask, He will show us. How about a pinch of revenge and a smidgen of unforgiveness? Yep, that’s what I need to give up.  All of us experience hurt and wounding at some time in our lives. It could have been something done to you years ago or just this past week.  And the thing is that the closer the person who hurt you the deeper the hurt.  Many of you have experienced betrayal from a spouse, being unjustly fired from a job or maybe stabbed in the back by a close friend. The feelings of anger and bitterness are real. During 40 years of ministry I have experienced wounds, even from the church. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the harm done. It means that I give up my right to hurt them back. I’m not saying it is easy, but it is possible through the power of Christ. Unforgiveness may not be like alcohol and kill my brain cells. It may not be like smoking and destroying my lungs. But what it can do is just as deadly. The Bible tells us that if I choose not to forgive, it could grow into a root of bitterness, defile some and cause many to miss the grace of God. That’s what it could do to others. What could it do to me? Psalm 31:10 says, My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak.

Letting go of bitterness and revenge brings peace to my spirit and health and life to my body. According to studies from Mayo Clinic**, practicing forgiveness can lead to many health benefits including:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem

If I choose to live by my personal vision statement: to live as long and as strong as I can; to follow Christ and serve others, I have to let it go. It’s not too late for you to choose to give up something. It does not have to be for Lent, but maybe for yourself and the cause of Christ. You will be better, stronger, happier and healthier for it. I’m singing with Elsa and…Letting It Go!

 


Vicki Heath holds the following titles: First Place 4 Health National Director, American Council on Exercise, Certified Fitness Instructor, Certified Life Coach and Wellness Coordinator for her church in Edisto Beach, SC. Vicki is a Body & Soul Fitness instructor and Area Director. She is the author of Don’t Quit Get Fit and Wellness Journey of a Lifetime. She has been a successful leader in the health and wellness community for over twenty years. Vicki is a popular conference and event speaker. For more information you can contact her at vicki.heath@fp4h.com.

 

*https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/february/what-to-give-up-for-lent-2018-top-ideas-twitter-

**https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

We believe one of the things that sets us a part from other fitness programs is our music. You won’t hear vulgar lyrics, suggestive themes, or inappropriate words. Simply put – our music will always be uplifting and positive. Something your whole family can listen to. We are grateful for the artists who continue to put out great music we can exercise to.

In light of this, we are going to begin featuring songs we use in our classes. Today is a sneak peek. Let us know what you think. Comment, post a story, or share it with your circle of influence. We’ll be posting these every Saturday, so make sure you check back to catch the next one. Enjoy!

Love Broke Thru – Toby Mac

“When love broke thru You found me in the darkness, wanderin’ thru the desert. I was a hopeless fool, now I’m hopelessly devoted. My chains are broken. And it all began with You, when love broke thru.” 

God loves us—he loves us unconditionally. He loves us with an everlasting love. So many people wander around in the desert, living life in the darkness without the love of God. Maybe you remember being there. Maybe you are there right now. This song is the story of TobyMac’s life journey and it tells of the moment when God’s love broke through Toby’s darkness and filled it with the light of his love. It tells of Toby’s life when he was doing all that he could to “undo” himself, but God pursued him and drew him out of the shadows. Maybe you are living in the shadows right now. Maybe you know someone whose life is wrapped in darkness. God is waiting with open arms and overflowing love to accept all who say yes to his love. He is waiting with forgiveness if we just ask. He is waiting with redemption if we just believe. Let love break through in your life today. And pray for those you know who need to let God’s love break through to them, too.

What do you think it feels like to be wandering in the desert or living in darkness? Has God’s love broken through to you? If so, what was it like when that happened? If not, can you feel God knocking at your door right now, ready to share his love with you?

Psalm 52:8  “…I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”

Father, Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Break through the darkness with your light of love. Continue to pursue me when I walk in my own way and try to “undo” myself. Pull me out of the shadows and into your open arms. Forgive me when I get off track and restore me as I run back to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Interested in more devotionals? Go to our Devotional Encouragement page.
Interested in more lyrics? Check out this session’s Music & Lyrics post.

 

Today I was pondering the idea that “motion leads to motivation.” Not the other way around, as we may often think.

At one point in the day I had this little block of time before my next commitment, and I felt overwhelmed because there were so many things that needed to get done but nowhere near time for them all. Where should I start? Those situations can be paralyzing, can’t they? We can end up doing nothing, and then the list just gets longer…a vicious cycle. However, whenever I JUST PICK SOMETHING to do (this time, sweeping the floor) and start doing it, I feel this sudden burst of motivation right away. This energy and focus appear seemingly out of the blue. I finished the sweeping job and did something else and ended up getting way more done than I originally thought I could.

We know that exercise makes us feel happy and motivated, but isn’t it interesting that motion in general has the power start the positive wheels turning? Have you ever experienced this?

Motion leads to motivation. Hmm. Motion = Motivation? So that would suggest that creating a positive habit like regular exercise starts with just doing it, not necessarily “feeling” like doing it or even “wanting” to do it. The motivation comes later, after experiencing the benefits. Then, once we’re set into motion, we can draw on that wonderful memory of tangible benefits should we ever get stuck in that paralyzed spot again. Suddenly a vicious cycle turns into a positive one.

Of course, that “just doing it” part can be tricky. It’s not always so simple, is it? I needed a friend to invite me. Years ago, I wasn’t in a physical or emotional place where I could just “decide” to exercise. I had limitations that led me to believe exercise was impossible for me. I needed help with the first step, and I needed ongoing community. And then, honestly, exercise didn’t feel good right away either. I was too de-conditioned and in too much pain. It was many weeks, maybe even months before I really started feeling happy and better. It’s different for everyone. They don’t always tell you that part. Now, it’s better than I ever thought it could be. Now, I’m in more pain when I don’t exercise. Talk about motivation.

If any of you out there is in that overwhelmed, paralyzed spot and you don’t feel like moving or don’t know where to start, know that you’re not alone! You have a community in Body & Soul Fitness. Allow me to invite you. We have classes all over the country and world. If there’s not one near you, we can help you start one. Follow our Facebook page and visit our website for ongoing encouragement.

Start moving and keep moving, friends. Start at whatever level you’re at today and never stop. The motivationwill follow your motion. You can do this! We can do it together.

(And if you’re already in motion? Invite that friend who’s stuck. She needs you!)


Paula Huss is a certified group fitness instructor with Body & Soul Fitness, and also serves as assistant Western Regional Director. She currently leads classes at Mt. Olive Ministries in Milpitas, CA, where her husband, John is Senior Pastor. They have three creative kids: Max, Gina, and Drew as well as two energetic rescue dogs. Paula is passionate about encouraging others to keep moving, eat well and enjoy healthy, renewing rest. She also loves to sing, and listen to crashing waves.

 

Seventeen. Seventeen people were killed during a school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. There have been 25 fatal school shootings since Columbine in 1999. The temptation is to either avoid these statistics, turn off the news, look away, or to live in fear.

As people of God we have a better way.

We know that we serve a God who is mighty to save. Who will make all things right. Who works all things for His glory and our good. We can’t afford to look away because we have the Good News that this broken world needs. And we can’t live in fear, because perfect love drives out fear. So we will be filled with gratitude that our God is a consuming fire. We can have hope in the darkness. We can breathe life into dead spaces. And we can go before the throne of God, interceding on behalf of our families, our communities, and our world.

Our God has defeated death. There is NOTHING He can’t do.


Brandi Schroeder is a youth pastor’s wife and the mom of four wild young men. She has been co-teaching Body & Soul Fitness with several amazing Arkansas’ instructors for nearly a decade, and she counts it a privilege to lead the amazing women in her class. She seeks to inspire women to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, and she is passionate about spreading the Gospel to the nations.

For more information or to find a class near you, please visit www.bodyandsoul.org.

“Your baby is going to be born with a birth defect.” The young mother heard these unsettling words when she was pregnant with her second baby. She played back the sequence of events in her mind. Her nearly three-year old daughter had double-pneumonia and when the mom went to the hospital to be by her side, she unwittingly got exposed to Rubella, also known as the German Measles. Rubella causes serious birth defects to babies in utero. Some are born deaf, others blind, some unable to speak.

So, the mother prayed, but did not take any other action. (Some were recommending that she terminate her pregnancy.) And when her baby was born, she arrived without any apparent complications. However, a few short months later, a small hole was detected between the lower two ventricles of the baby’s heart. As the child grew, the doctors monitored the dime-shaped hole and kept a close watch on the girl’s health. Then, at the age of nine, they performed open-heart surgery to patch up the hole. The surgery was successful and the girl was expected to live a long, normal, healthy life.

And I really have! As you may have guessed, I’m the one who was born with the hole in my heart. I’m the one with a big “T” shaped scar on my chest as a reminder of how the doctors saved my life.

I am BEYOND thankful that the hole in my heart was fixed, but I had another hole that the doctors couldn’t do anything about. My parents’ marriage was uneven. Even during the best of times, my parents paid my sisters and I little mind. We were left a good deal to manage life on our own. When my parents divorced and my father moved out, my world felt shakier than ever. I was insecure, and often felt lost and hungry for affection. We had a nanny who was kind and constant, but there was an emotional void in my heart that one person couldn’t fill.

In high school, I went to a Young Life club where they spoke of a God who created me and loved me more than I could imagine. And they said that He was so attentive, He even knew the number of hairs on my head. His love was so profound that He sent His Son to make His love known to me, personally. Sin was a barrier that disrupts our relationship with one another and with God. But Jesus took down that obstacle and made a way for us to rightly relate to one another by giving His life on the cross.

When I heard this truth, it resonated with me. I let it into my heart, and it healed me emotionally and spiritually. I believed in this good news, so I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and suddenly I was well in body and soul.

I tell this story right around Valentine’s Day because it’s the most beautiful love story I know. There is a love deeper than any we’ve experienced from our fellow human beings. There is a Being who knows you inside and out and loves you just the same. There is one who can fill the hole in your heart, but who leaves no scar. Indeed, He is the One who bore suffering and scars for our sake!

My open-heart surgery left me whole and “good to go,” physically. I have lived a good, long life. I am a wife, mother of four, a health coach and fitness instructor. But my encounter with God has made me whole on a whole new level. I have experienced a love that filled the hole in my heart to overflowing, that gives me meaning and purpose, joy and peace. Are you longing for something more than what those around you can give? Do you feel shaky and alone, with a hole in your heart? This love is for you. The One who created your heart is the very One who can mend it.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16 MSG

 


Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness and teaches classes in Washington, DC. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast. For more encouragement from Hilda, go to holistichilda.com.

This time last year, God began working in my heart during a New Year’s sermon at my church. The verse that was used was “Lead a life worthy of the calling you received.”- Ephesians 4:1. The preacher told us to write out the verse as well as a few things we were going to work on and put it out as a reminder to us and those around us. On my piece of paper I wrote down I wanted to work on encouragement to others, kindness, forgiveness, focus, and not losing hope. I also prayed for a word for 2017 and God very clearly told me JOY.

The verse that immediately stood out to me about joy was Nehemiah 8:10 -“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Many of y’all know the year before with my tough pregnancy and post partum depression was definitely marked with dejection and sadness. It was wave after wave of life hitting hard and I let it knock me down. One person came up to me one day and told me that it looked like my light had gone out and that she prayed it would come back because it was a light that was needed. A light gone out is not something that brings others to Christ and that really got me praying for a change.

We always talk about this particular verse in Nehemiah but I thought it was interesting what it says a few verses later: “So the people went away to eat at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” Nehemiah 8:12

THEY HAD HEARD GOD’S WORD AND UNDERSTOOD THEM. That’s what gave them great joy. I can tell you that one of the main reasons that I let life get me down and I lost my joy is I started listening to my problems and my pain much more than I was listening to God. This time last year I was not joy filled, I was just moving through the motions, and I wasn’t doing much other than surviving.  But the Lord sustained me and loved me through it all. And He used everything for my good just like He promised and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing because He’s used it in some of the biggest plans for my life.

I think that’s where my joy is coming from. Truly trusting God for maybe the first time in my whole life. I always thought that I trusted God but I don’t think I really did. I feel this sense of knowing for certain that He does work everything together for my good and that even if I don’t feel Him working, time always proves to me that He is and always has been.

Not long after God started me on this journey to joy, I was asked to take part in a Body & Soul Fitness class. The very first class I felt God speak so clearly to me and give me a lot of clarity on what He was trying to do in my life. A few months later, not surprisingly the theme for the semester was JOY. All of the songs spoke to my heart and helped me see exactly what God was wanting to teach me. In one of the devotionals it talked about how true joy is found in God alone. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 I had been trying to find joy in other things of this world when it could only be found in God alone. My Body & Soul family really encouraged me and help me learn this important lesson. I’ve found joy in Godly community and friendship.

I feel like I have changed so much for the better and it’s because I’ve experienced God in a whole new way and started learning and understanding more truth about who He really is. In this fallen world where we deserve nothing but troubles, He has created so much GOOD. So much beauty and love and things to experience that point us to Him and give us the tiniest glimpse of what our forever home in Heaven will look like. And He will never leave us or make us go through anything alone. All of that just overwhelms me. His care for the details of my life just overwhelms me.

I’ve found joy in prayer. Really taking time to pray and really trusting God whatever His answer. I have prayed more this year than I ever have and it gives me this joy deep down and releases so much stress. I’ve realized more than ever that I’m not in control of much at all, but God is and He’s out for my good and on my side. If there’s one thing I can say, PRAYING is what has changed me the most.

I’ve realized what they mean by joy not being the same as happiness. It’s really the unwavering faith in the goodness of God and the promise He has for us that will not let us down. It’s the solid belief that even if everything around us is going wrong, God still is out for our good. But it also can feel a lot like happy, too. I read the other day that we shouldn’t let the well of smiling and laughter run dry and I couldn’t agree more. And the best reason to smile and laugh is hearing God’s word and truly understanding it because if we really understand it, then our hope and joy can’t help but overflow.


Abby Higgins is an Oklahoma City Body & Soul Fitness student.  She and her husband have two boys, Luke (1) and Beau (4).  Abby is the Prayer Team Leader  for MOMS on Missions, a ministry that serves moms who have children with terminal illnesses and special needs.

To find a class near you, start a class in your area or find information on becoming an instructor check out our website at www.bodyandsoul.org

We are thrilled to announce that our 21-Day January Jumpstart Challenge is now open for registration!

Participants will receive access to a private workout library for ALL fitness levels, live cooking classes, an invitation to a private Facebook group, and more.

The program will be running from January 10-31st and only costs $49! Join today.

JANUARY 19-21, 2018

Fun Fitness Weekend

Kick off the New Year with healthy eating and exercise at Sandy Cove Retreat Center in North East, Maryland!

Sandy Cove is offering three days of fun-filled exercise sessions featuring the ministries of First Place 4 Health and Body & Soul Fitness. All fitness components will be covered: cardio, strength training and flexibility training – taught with YOU in mind by Certified Fitness Trainers.

During this Fun & Fitness 4 Life Weekend everything from Dance Blast (you love Zumba, right? This is everything you love about it done to great Christian music!) to Power Strength training to Chair Fitness will be offered.

We have something for every ‘body’! Plus Bible based teaching on How to Sustain Your Fitness Motivation by Vicki Heath, author of Don’t Quit Get Fit.

This weekend is just for women – All fitness levels welcome!

Body & Soul Fitness Workout Descriptions:

Basic Techniques of Strength Training
A full body work out incorporating balance, core strength and stability utilizing bands, hand weights and your own body weight.

Fit 360
An interval workout that combines sports drills, cardiovascular, resistance, core and balance training that is physically challenging, emotionally & spiritually uplifting.

Dance Blast
Dancing is taking the nation by storm! Learn a few basic dance steps and burn a ton of calories. Hip Hop, Salsa, and swing, beginner and advanced modifications, you choose your level.

Longevity
Functional exercise class suited for all fitness levels, and includes cardio movement, strength training, coordination and balance exercises, and flexibility training.

Core and Flexibility with Pilates – Gentle stretching and strength for the mind and body, flexibility training, relaxation, core body strengthening using the Pilates method of breathing.

Click here to sign up now!

 

When the daily news is getting you down, here is a tip to lift your spirit. Replace worries and discouraging thoughts with encouraging, energizing music! Choose wisely what message will play inside your head as you go about your daily tasks. When your mind is focused on the positive promises of God set to music it can change your outlook for the whole day!

So how do we do this? I love to add some music to my quiet time of prayer and devotions in the morning. It focuses my mind on God and keeps me from getting distracted. Can you relate?  Then, what about having some music in the background as you hit the kitchen, preparing breakfast for the family and packing lunches. Next, keep listening to the music while you drive carpools, or head to work. You get the picture—think about ways that you can add uplifting music all day long.

Finally, as things wind down at the end of the day, consider how music—not just TV, can be a part of your evening. And one last tip–I will often “play a tune in my head” calming my spirit as I settle down to sleep.  I can “see” the Body & Soul Fitness choreography for that song in my mind, and it makes me smile and relax. It’s interesting how this can be a way of “counting sheep” for me. The repetition of the verses and choruses of the songs is calming—and we all can use a little more calm in our life, amen?

And the crazy thing is that I have also experienced waking up the next morning with that song being the first thing that hits my mind—the encouraging message of that song had somehow been with me all night –it’s amazing how the mind works. Only our Almighty God could have created our brain this way!

Best News Ever Devotional

If you have never tried this type of “personal music therapy” check out the Body & Soul winter playlist in the front of the devotional above and choose some songs that you can download and listen to. And while you are there—read the devotional messages about the theme of this session of Body & Soul. The Scriptures and wisdom will definitely lift your heart above the worries and cares of this world.  This session in particular the message of the songs is focused on the best news ever—the fact that Jesus has redeemed all who believe in him and we can look forward to eternal life in heaven with him one day! Now that is good news!

Songs Artists Webistes
Best is Yet to Come Group 1 Crew azlyrics.com
Rest of My Life Jasmine Murray azlyrics.com
Bring it On Kutless azlyrics.com
Child of Heaven Calling Glory youtube.com
Open the Clouds Unspoken azlyrics.com
Now Mallary Hope air1.com
Impossible 1GN 1GNofficial.com
Just Hold On Citizen Way azlyrics.com
Can’t be Moved Jeremy Camp azlyrics.com
Heaven’s Here MercyMe azlyrics.com
Bulletproof Citizen Way air1.com
The Best is Yet to Come Matty Mullins azlyrics.com
What You’re Worth Mandisa azlyrics.com
Lifer MercyMe azlyrics.com
Never Gonna Let me Go Tauren Wells azlyrics.com
Best Day Ever KJ52 metrolyrics.com
Unfinished Mandisa azlyrics.com
Best News Ever MercyMe azlyrics.com
Hills and Valleys Tauren Wells air1.com
All that Matters Colton Dixon air1.com
There Will be a Day Jeremy Camp azlyrics.com
Endless Praise PlanetShakers azlyrics.com
Good News Mandisa azlyrics.com
Till’ the Day I Die TobyMac azlyrics.com
Me Voy P’al Cielo Franklin Valverde

 


Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.

Friends, my struggle with the blank page is real. The blinking cursor on an all-white computer screen is like the incessant drip of a leaky faucet. It haunts me when it’s time to write devotionals for a new Body & Soul Fitness session, when it’s time to write choreography to brand new music, and yes, when I sit down to blog. It’s not that the thoughts don’t come. It’s that the thoughts are many and their organization is non-existent. Picture swarming mosquitos in the southeast, on a hot afternoon following a thunderstorm. Yes, my thoughts fly around in chaos – great in number, unorganized in nature. Now that I have you scratching at imaginary bug bites, let’s return to the task at hand: the struggle with the blank page and the blinking cursor. Even though I approach this place each time with fear and trembling (and a little bit of dread), what actually happens is quite miraculous. You see, even though I approach the page with little confidence, I am met here by One who knows what is to be written. Whether it’s devotional thoughts or exercise choreography or blog content, God has it all planned out. I know this in my head, yet I still approach this place with some degree of apprehension and uneasiness. If I’m completely honest, I have a fear that I’ve said all I have to say (which may be true, but I’m learning that God always has more for us to hear and learn).

As we turn the page from 2017 to 2018, the year lies before us like a clean slate. A blank canvas or sheet of paper, awaiting our input, our thoughts, our plans and dreams. What do you hope for this new year? What milestones and accomplishments do you anticipate? What tasks cause you a bit of anxiety as you set your 2018 goals? Friends, I’ve got good news for you. Actually, I have the best news ever! God has a good and perfect plan for you that will exceed your expectations. This is a promise.

Now, as you look ahead into this new year, may I offer a few helpful hints from one struggler to another? To help you organize these tips in your mind (think of it as mosquito repellent), just remember P.R.A.Y. Pause and take a moment to consider the blank page, without fear. Instead, anticipate how God will enable you to serve and work and create new content this coming year. Reflect on God’s faithful promises that you have experienced so far, and use these as stepping stones to build your faith. Acknowledge God’s perfect plan for your life, trusting that He knows you best and loves you the most. Yearn to learn – dig into God’s word. Learn from it and apply it to the blank page that is your life. The Bible is our instruction manual, and it’s filled with the best news ever.

At Body & Soul, our winter session begins soon and we’ll be focusing on this theme, “The Best News Ever”. Please join us in a class near you. If you live in an area that has no local class, visit our website and join our January Jumpstart 21-day Challenge for workouts and encouragement for the new year. Let’s jump into 2018 without fear, and embrace the unknown, blank page. The best is yet to come!


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

We live on a street where we get power outages often. And, by often, I mean sometimes when there is a gust of wind that wouldn’t push a sailboat 10 feet, we lose electricity. As soon as it starts blowing outside, my neighbors and I have gotten into the habit of gathering flashlights and charging our cellphones. But as often as it happens to us, we still never get used to living without the comfort of those lights, and we don’t realize how much we rely on electricity until we have to go without it. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into my pantry KNOWING THE ELECTRICITY IS OUT, and still flipping on the light switch. Habit.

This week, it happened not only in my house, but at the place where I teach my Body & Soul Fitness classes, as well. And I didn’t realize that the power was out until I got to the building, so I didn’t have time to notify my students to cancel class. I am an over-planner, so this realization really threw me. It was our last class of the session and we were looking forward to a fun Christmas workout and get-together after class. I said a quick prayer asking for guidance. Fortunately, it was an unusual 58 degree day in December in Michigan, so, as I looked around outside, there was a nearby church parking lot that was well lit. I decided to have the ladies grab their weights from the dark building and head over there to exercise. I texted my emergency sub and asked her to bring a portable speaker. The wind was blowing harder by the time we started our warm up, though, and we were getting chilly. Just then we saw one of the lights come on inside the building, so we decided that it was better to work out with a little bit of light and not have to deal with the wind than be outside. So, we jogged back over to our building and counted that as part of our workout. We proceeded with our Christmas-themed FIT360 Boot Camp in the half dark, feeling accomplished that although we couldn’t see each other very well, the holiday songs were loud enough and we were getting our workout in.

This time of year, many of us can feel like we are dodging obstacles trying to get things done in the same way. We can be easily discouraged by the “darkness” in our world — in the news, in our communities, and in our personal lives. Things often don’t go as planned. We can be tempted to throw up our hands in frustration. Fortunately, we have access to One who had a perfect plan in place to save us 2000 years ago, whose birth we anticipate celebrating in a couple of weeks. Without God’s help, many of us could not make it through the difficulties this world brings.

Sometimes we need to go moment by moment, asking for his guidance as we persevere through the difficulties. We don’t need an elaborate prayer or a fancy title to approach our Savior for help. All we need to do is whisper, “Help me Jesus.” Oftentimes, he will answer with just a little bit of light to help you get to the next step, as he did in my Body & Soul class. This continues to happen step by step, keeping our reliance on Him until we make it through the difficulty.

This season, let us not take our source of light for granted. Sometimes it does take a dark time for us to remember that, without Him, we would be stumbling through life without direction. In John 8:12 Jesus says, “ I am the light of the world . Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Today I am grateful that I have access to that true Light, just by speaking His name. Try it. The good news is, His power never goes out — no matter how windy it gets.

 


Chriss Pruim teaches Body & Soul Boot Camp and Power Strength programs in Byron Center, Michigan.  She is also a Boot Camp trainer, and wife to Mark and mom to Owen, Grace, and Lily.

 

As a Body & Soul Fitness instructor, I don’t repeat a lot of older routines once I have learned the new session. The big exception is Christmas 2012 which I have taught for the past 5 years for the 6 weeks before Christmas.  It is always wonderful to revisit and be brought back to a particular night teaching at a new venue in Walker, Minnesota. 

I went one wintry night to teach in a sanctuary that was beautifully lit for Christmas.  The class was a small, but filled with a passionate group of women who loved Jesus and me.  My heart was heavy with loss.  My mom had died in October and our oldest daughter, Rachel was living in New York and hadn’t had contact with her family due to a man she was dating. Earlier that day, our daughter Hannah had asked me if I would pray with her about inviting Rachel to Christmas.

That night as we were doing an end stretch to the song “The Heart of Christmas,” I was worshipping in my spirit and reaching forward with my body, when I felt the Lord tangibly speak. He said He would bring Rachel home for Christmas. It was an incredibly powerful moment for me, tingly and all. I shared with the women and we prayed about it at the close of the class.

On December 18, Rachel called her faithfully praying sister, Hannah, and said, “I am waiting in a bus station and I won’t leave until I get on a bus home.” *

“Wherever you are, no matter how far, come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas.  Live while you can, cherish the moment and the ones that you love, make sure they know it, and don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas. You will find Him in a manger, the heart of Christmas has a name.”

Body & Soul is more than an excellent exercise program that uses Christian music (though it is that). It is a place where God meets with people as they work out and worship. And this is just one more example that He is living and active and relentless in His pursuit of a relationship with us.  He is, indeed, the heart of Christmas.

*Rachel has an amazing story of escape from an abusive relationship. Her story is miraculous and she now speaks on being a survivor and helps women trapped in the cycle of abuse.


Julie Swedburg lives in Minnesota, with her husband who pastors a church. They have 4 adult children and 3 grandchildren and love every moment with them. She learned about Body & Soul Fitness when they moved to California and the ministry has been a lifeline ever since. Julie has a “personal trainer,” a 10 year-old girl who she provides care services for, and she teaches Body & Soul Fitness classes at her church facility and Redwood Area Community Center.

Shhhhh.  Be real quiet.  Do you hear it?  That low, rapid thump, thump, thump?  Yep.  That’s my heart beating, at a rapid pace. Because let’s face it.  We’ve hit it.  That after-Thanksgiving-before-Christmas HUSTLE!  There are presents to be bought, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, carols to sing, and parties to attend.  There are decorations to be hung and garland to be strung.  There are charities to help and meals to be served.  There is taxi driving the children to choir and play practice. Not to mention shuttling them to their regularly schedule activities!  And, with all that going on, I start stressing over finding time for my “normal” tasks like exercise and prayer.   In fact, I may even put them aside, because let’s face it, I’m tired. I’m run down.  My spirit is dampened, and my stress level is through the roof.  Please tell me this sounds familiar, because I just can’t be all alone!

Now that I’ve succeeded in raising your heart rate too, I am here to let you know that you can take a deep breath and let Body & Soul Fitness lighten some of your load.  They have created their very own 12-Day Holiday Hustle program that will help get you through this hustle, bustle season!  Its intention is to keep you focused while you confront the pressures and craziness that only the holiday season can bring.  Let me explain how.

Over 12 days (Dec 4 – 15) participants will receive one email per day that will include tips and information that focus on the topics of Fitness, Faith, Nutrition and Holiday Sanity.  It’s short, sweet and to the point — just what you need in this time-strapped season.   You’ll receive ideas to stay fit, spiritual messages to lift your soul, nutrition tips to help you navigate the endless buffets, and holiday tips to keep your sanity in check and your heart rates low!  However, Body & Soul doesn’t stop there!  You will also receive four printable workouts to do on your own time and access to a private Facebook Group to ask questions, stay motivated, and get advice from master trainers.  (Not to mention I have it on good authority that there will be some pretty cool bonuses too!)

Sound pretty good, right?  I know you are hooked and want to register, so here’s the skinny on the registration details.  First, you can sign up by clicking here.  The cost of the program is $12.  Seriously.  That’s only $1 per day!   AND, the BEST part is, your $12 is a tax-deductible DONATION to the Salvation Army.  We will be sending them 100% of the money collected.  This money will be used to help families that have been affected by disasters this year.   So, there you have it.  Win-Win!  You donate $12 and you get 12 days of tips and information to keep you in check this season.

I’ll be signing up today and will be anxiously looking forward to the daily tips.  I promise, right now, in front of you, to set aside a few minutes every day for 12 days.  I’ll sit (with my hot cocoa of course!) and read my tips and feel the load lighten as I learn how to navigate my body AND soul through this holiday season.  I hope you will join me.

Finally, as I write this, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite holiday quotes (see if you can guess the author!)  After all, he has a point, and that point is what sets Body & Soul apart from your average group fitness class.  It’s what is most important, especially during this Holiday Hustle.  I’ll leave you with these words and smile!  Merry Christmas! –“It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes, or bags.  Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Perhaps Christmas means a little bit more!”


Kelly Favret is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist / Personal Trainer / Group Fitness Instructor with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science. She is also a certified Health Coach and a Master Trainer for the Power Strength program with Body & Soul Fitness! She loves teaching Power Strength and her favorite part of the PS Workout is the Dynamic Core Track! (She loves to hate it!)  She currently teaches and resides in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland with her husband, son, daughter, and beagle!  In her spare time she refines a culinary passion for healthy cooking, spends time with her family, watches Netflix, and loves sunny days on the beach!

#GivingTuesday is a time to give back to our community and support your favorite nonprofit organizations. Your support over the years has allowed Body & Soul Fitness to expand worldwide. We hope you will choose to continue your support today.

We want you to help spread this ministry to even more communities in the U.S. and abroad! Without your generosity, there is no way we could do what we do.

Please consider making your most generous #GivingTuesday gift today!

My friend is going through a rough patch. Ann (not her real name) is out of work and has been for a period of months. She doesn’t have a place of her own. Friends have opened their home for her to stay with them, and she is thankful for their generosity, but there’s no denying that this circumstance has been hard on her. She is worried about the future. And who can blame her? How long before she gets gainful employment, a place of her own, and some independence and stability in her life? A woman of faith, Ann was struggling. Where was God? Did he hear her prayers? She started feeling like her joy was gone and fear had taken its place. You can’t blame her for being discouraged. You and I would have felt the same way, had we been in her shoes.

Ann decided to take a page from a child’s imagination. She was going to play “make believe.” She was going to act like she was living in the Land of No Fear–a fictitious place where nothing was wrong. She determined to live like this for a weekend. She pretended that all was well and that there was nothing to worry about. She sang in the shower. She greeted those around her with effusive embraces and was able to listen attentively to their stories. She felt loving and confident…and happy, the happiest she had felt in months.

After a weekend of living in the Land of No Fear, Ann braced herself for a return to reality when Monday rolled around. But it struck her that maybe she wasn’t pretending, after all. The Bible says that “Perfect love casts out fear.” Maybe her true reality was that God’s love was sufficient to sustain her, through the worries and doubts. The Bible also says in II Timothy 1:7 that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love and a sound mind.” Ann trusted in these truths, leaning on them, throughout that weekend. And I know that she has now decided to keep doing so.

There was wisdom in Ann’s experiment. At a nutrition conference I attended recently, I heard someone say: “Gratitude and fear are both located in the same region of the brain. It’s impossible to experience these emotions simultaneously.” As we approach thanksgiving, I want each of us to step into the Land of No Fear. We move in when we release our doubts, anxieties, and concerns, and trust that God’s love is sufficient to sustain us. The Land of No Fear is not a fairy tale; it is a reality we can live in, every single day.


Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC metro Regional Director and Director of Communications for Body & Soul Fitness and teaches classes in Washington, DC. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast. For more encouragement from Hilda, go to holistichilda.com.

I love the holidays. In my opinion, Christmas songs can start as soon as the first leaf turns orange signaling that fall is here. Halloween and Thanksgiving are fine and all, but, for me, the Christmas spirit takes over fall and winter. This is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but a focus on joy and gratefulness is a large part of it.
However, there are a lot of things I don’t like about this time of year. Ice storms and freezing rain aside, the Christmas season has been manipulated into a strange and unfamiliar time. Black Friday sales are already starting and the retail sector is gearing up for its most profitable time of year. Now, I have nothing against the retail industry or for-profit companies. What I do have a problem with is the fact that we have let the true meaning and purpose of Christmas be contorted into a time of year when all we can think about is “things”.
I am a minimalist at heart and am not a big fan of having excess. (My husband dislikes this because I will spontaneously purge items from our household.) But this has also made me acutely aware of how our society is all about “things” during the Christmas season. As one of my favorite bloggers likes to say, “Everything is 100% off when you don’t buy it.”
We’ve gotten so far away from what this time of year is all about. For Christians specifically, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and an acknowledgement of his life’s teachings. It’s a moment to pause and count our blessings, spend time loving our family, and to give back to those in need. Jesus cared deeply for those who needed Him most. Why don’t we spend the time of year when we are celebrating His birth, representing Christ to the world?
If you are tired of the way materialism has taken over the Christmas season, like I am, consider these ways to shift your holiday spirit:
1. Volunteer somewhere! This year, Body & Soul Fitness is partnering with the Salvation Army. Contact your local station for volunteer opportunities near you.
2. Instead of gifts, make donations to worthy causes. For our family’s Christmas gifts, we make donations in the name of each family member. They will receive a notification that a gift has been made in their name and they get to hear the impact it is having. Is there anything more rewarding than helping others?!
3. Don’t want to donate? Make something homemade! Taking the time to craft something from scratch creates a sentimental gift that will be remembered. Some of my favorite things to make for the holidays are assorted cookies, salt scrubs, and pumpkin butter.
4. Take the time to purge your house of things you don’t need. You can sell these items online, donate them to your local thrift store, or give them to other families in your neighborhood, church, or local school system.
5. Make it a point to refocus the holiday season on what it is really about. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out your Christmas tree and ban all gifts! You CAN make sure your family is focusing on the celebration of Jesus’ birth and representing Him to others during this season and all year long. You can take time each day to read scripture, follow an advent calendar, or say a prayer of thanksgiving for the way Christ has impacted your life.
Let’s make a commitment to take Christmas back this year! What ideas would you add to this list?

Rebecca Huron is the Community Manager and Director of Development at Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and precious baby. Rebecca is passionate about serving those in need, cooking, and blogging at The Vintage Vista.

Ahh…what to do with an ENTIRE day off?! I woke up feeling excited yet overwhelmed. The whole family was home from school and work due to a holiday. Yay! Precious time. I briefly entertained thoughts of fun outings like heading to the beach for the afternoon. I LOVE the beach, and a breath of fresh ocean air sounded downright glorious.

But as I looked around at the piles, unfinished projects, and general mess that goes hand-in-hand with an active family, it all grabbed and held my attention more than the idea of a day trip. Like everyone, our family has a to-do list that is miles long. Sometimes we feel defeated by it. We prioritize and make schedules and plans. Sure, there are days you toss the list, leave the messes and go to the beach! But on this particular day, I felt we needed something different.

I started to think: what if we stayed home and formatted that to-do list a little more creatively? A little more intentionally, perhaps. Then it hit me–I had an idea. I sat the family down and said excitedly, “Ok! Who knows what interval training is? We have a lot to do and a whole day off to tackle some of it. We’re going to do it interval style!”

Dictionary.com defines interval training like this:

interval training

noun

  1. an exercise and training program in which each session consists of periods of intense exertion alternating with periods of rest or lighter exertion.

This type of exercise has proven to be highly effective on the body. We even use it in some of our Body & Soul Fitness programs. And so, I thought, maybe, just MAYBE, it would also be highly effective on my house!

I showed everyone what I wrote out and we went for it!

  • 45 min-clean great room
  • 15 min-rest
  • 45 min-exercise dogs
  • 15 min-rest
  • 60 min-trip to thrift store for Halloween costumes
  • 15 minutes rest
  • 45 min-solo work: bedrooms, office, etc.

Dinner, yard work, and so on! We called it “interval working” or “interval chores.” Not only did we accomplish more than we typically do in a day, we also had plenty of time to relax and watch a family movie that evening. And the kids–they loved it! They enjoyed the challenge of beating the clock, and the joy of accomplishment as a team. We reaped the benefits of work balanced with rest that day!

Approaching our housework through the paradigm  of “interval chores” was a new, adventurous change from our normal work/rest rhythms. In fact, it was EXACTLY the glorious breath of fresh air that this ocean-loving girl needed!


Paula Huss is a certified group fitness instructor with Body & Soul Fitness, and also serves as assistant Western Regional Director. She currently leads classes at Mt. Olive Ministries in Milpitas, CA, where her husband, John is Senior Pastor. They have three creative kids: Max, Gina, and Drew as well as two energetic rescue dogs. Paula is passionate about encouraging others to keep moving, eat well and enjoy healthy, renewing rest. She also loves to sing, and listen to crashing waves.

The hurricane season this year has created devastation in many parts of the world and our hearts have been heavy as we have lifted prayers for all who have been affected and found ways to help personally. I have been praying for God to not only heal cities that have flooded but to heal hearts that are weary and souls that need encouragement and hope. It has brought to my mind the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford—one of my favorites.

The story of this hymn grips my heart every time I read it. Spafford was a prominent lawyer and a church elder in Chicago, Illinois. He lived there with his wife Anna and five children. He was a devout Christian and among his friends were Dwight L. Moody and other evangelists. The Spaffords were no strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died of pneumonia in 1871 and, that same year, Spafford lost much of his business in the great Chicago fire.

Then, in 1873, tragedy struck their family again. Anna and their four daughters boarded an ocean liner to head for Europe with Horatio ready to join them, coming on a later ship after dealing with a business problem that had arisen. About 4 days into the crossing, the ship that the Spafford ladies were on collided with another ship and went down in 12 minutes. All four daughters were lost, but Anna Spafford survived and sent this telegram to Horatio: “Saved alone, what shall I do?” He immediately booked a passage on the next available ship and when he sailed over the spot where his daughters perished he was inspired to write these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” Even in the midst of intense sorrow, he was trusting God to the depths of his soul. And this is not the end of the story. The Spaffords had 3 more children and moved to Jerusalem where they founded the American Colony, a Christian utopian Society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews, Muslims and Christians. They continued to serve God and find joy despite the hard things they had experienced. What an example for all of us to follow as we live out our lives where God has placed us.

God has placed me at the beach and I see sea billows roll often. I walk on the beach on calm days and also on days when the red flags fly, indicating rip currents and danger. When family and friends come to visit, we never know exactly what the weather will be, but it doesn’t matter, because there is something about the beach that makes us all feel that it is well with our souls no matter what is going on in our lives. There is a majesty of God’s presence there in the face of the awesomeness of His creation.

“This is what the Lord says: He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who declared the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that the waves roar–the LORD Almighty is his name.” Jeremiah 31:35

A few weeks ago our daughter visited with our grandson and some friends for a few days of R & R—we knew that hurricane Jose was going to be passing by during their time with us. Thankfully, it was far out to sea. We walked on the beach and were buffeted by the wind and saw the sea billows rolling—the pictures tell the story.

Watching my little grandson enjoy the windy, wild day with joy in his heart reminded me that we can find joy even on days when unexpected weather and unexpected challenges come our way. I have never experienced the level of loss and tragedy that Horatio Spafford did, and this year Virginia Beach has been spared from the effects of each hurricane that has come barreling through so far. I am grateful. And I can truly say that “it is well with my soul.”

Have you been able to find joy this session in spite of sorrow and pain? Have you been able to say “it is well with my soul” during hard times? Tell us how you have found joy this session. Your story will encourage others—even as the Spafford’s story and the song that came from it have encouraged many for over a hundred years.

 


Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.

In the past few weeks I’ve been plagued by what I call “first-world problems”. What I’m referring to are the inconveniences that slow down my productivity and/or take away some modern comfort that I’ve grown accustomed to. Here’s the current list: the in-door water dispenser in my refrigerator kept freezing. The uninterrupted power source that runs my office equipment died, setting off continuous high-pitched alarms. The screen on my cell phone went black, never to be operational again. And the computer in the dash of my car prompted me to install an update, after which the satellite radio no longer works, my cell phone (even the replacement that was just delivered) will not sync with the car, and the screen keeps prompting me to “see dealer” because the car detects a malfunction.

Yes, these are what I call first-world problems – the silly and unimportant, yet frustrating problems that arise in my modern daily life. No judgement please – just being real. So here’s another real statement about myself: my relationship with all things techie and electronic is a volatile one. In other words, me and office equipment don’t always get along. Either they need to function properly (as if they have human traits and should be able to control themselves), or they’re going to have their reset button pressed (numerous times), or they’re going to simply be replaced. There’s also a slight chance they’re going to be tapped on, banged on, or shaken vigorously (by this human who should be able to control herself) in an effort to fix the problem. Again, no judgement please. I am confident that I am not alone in this.

As I am moving forward and working to solve my current techie problems, I’m wondering in what other areas of my life do I need to press the reset button or simply replace? When I was without a working cell phone, I spent the weekend unplugged, which reminded me of a goal I set earlier this year to avoid the trap of being continuously connected electronically. My work piled up as I spent several days offline, but I must admit, even with the amount of work I had to catch up on, the freedom of the unplugged time was absolutely worth it! Now that I’m back up and running with a working cell phone and an office full of functioning devices, I’m finding myself looking for areas in my life that need adjusting – whether it’s hitting the reset button or replacing something altogether.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: First, I need to hit reset on my attitude EVERY SINGLE MORNING, which means I’m sitting quietly and reading Scripture first thing, before everything else starts demanding my attention. Second, I need to replace my anxious thoughts with God’s promises of peace and joy; therefore, I am setting boundaries in my work schedule and trusting Him with my to-do list. And finally, I need to reset my connectedness regularly to make sure I’m avoiding the digital trap. By the way, the refrigerator has been replaced because I really, really like cold, filtered water, and I’m continuing to learn about patience because my car’s computer can only be replaced after a new one is built for my specific car, which apparently takes some time. Oh well, like I said – first-world, silly, unimportant, inconveniences. Now it’s your turn: what needs to be reset or replaced in your life?


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

Once upon a time, a girl named Goldilocks went for a walk in the forest and came upon a house. When no one answered her knock on the door, she went in and found three bowls of porridge. One was too hot, one was too cold, and one was just right. After tasting porridge, she proceeded to find the right-sized chair, and the right-cushioned bed. I’m confident that you’re familiar with the tale, and know that the three bears soon return home to find their porridge eaten, their chairs sat in, and their beds slept in.

My story parallels Goldilocks’ tale in that I have searched for just the right-sized life recently. My story doesn’t include food necessarily, but I do resonate with her desire to find the chair and the bed that suits her best. Just over ten years ago, my husband and I built a big, beautiful house. He’s a structural engineer, so this was both a professional learning experience and a personal dream of his. For me, it was an exciting adventure in shopping for cabinets, faucets, light fixtures, paint colors, appliances, and yes, chairs and beds to fill a big house. We enjoyed the big-house lifestyle – hosting family and friends, both short-term and long-term, being the place where large groups could hold their meetings and holiday parties, and we even had the privilege of a wedding rehearsal dinner around the pool in the back yard! This was a wonderfully busy season in our lives, and looking back today, I am grateful for the opportunity to share such a property – and yet I’m also grateful that we now live in a small townhouse, where we enjoy a smaller life. We still have friends over and enjoy family visits, but our lives are much less hectic now and are characterized by weekend getaways, after-dinner walks, and much less time cooking, cleaning, and hosting.

Some people call this downsizing, which I understand is trending at the moment, but my husband and I call it right-sizing. We have adjusted our lifestyle and our living arrangements to match our priorities and our current season of life. During this exercise in adjusted living, we also sold a business, sold an office building, sent our only child to college, and both of us changed jobs. His job became smaller, moving from business owner to employee, and my job grew bigger as I became the president of Body & Soul Fitness. All these changes may sound stressful, but we did not find that to be the case. Instead, we found each decision freeing – one at a time. As we let go of bigger things, it’s as though God handed us smaller, better things at just the right time, so we could not only enjoy the right-sized life today, but were also able to find joy in the process.

No matter where you find yourself today, I pray that you are finding joy in your current season, and that you are experiencing the satisfaction that comes from the right-sized life. Enjoy it, friends! I’m heading out on this beautiful day to ride motorcycles with my husband, because we can…and I am grateful. You never know, maybe we’ll happen upon a cozy little place in the forest and make some new friends.


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

I am not a bibilcal scholar. I love the Word and love to study it but I am by no means an expert. I keep myself enrolled in Bible study throughout the year because truth be told, as much as I love it, Bible study often is the first thing to fall off of my daily list of things to do when the calendar looks too full of commitments. Knowing that about myself, I made sure to sign up for a study this summer: Beth Moore’s Entrusted. We walked through the book of 2 Timothy which was written by Paul to Timothy while Paul was in prison in Rome. It was a powerful study that I enjoyed so much. One reason that I loved it was because I got to know a little more about this guy named Paul.

Paul didn’t always live life for Christ. Most of us know that about him; we know the story of his dramatic conversion after being confronted by the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. We know he was a persecutor of the church–that he stoned believers, that he likely was present when Steven was killed, that his fury and zeal to persecute encompassed everyone, including women and children. He wasn’t a lovable guy…but then God stepped in.

When confronted by Christ, Paul’s life changed dramatically. No longer a persecutor of the church, he became one of the greatest proponents of Christ, facing ridicule, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, torture, loneliness, and eventually execution. It wasn’t an easy road that Christ started him down but Paul relentlessly persued the cross of Christ and nothing could make him change course once he set down the path of belief.

Paul wasn’t perfect. He continued being himself after he became a believer. He was a firey guy and that caused some challenges relationally for him. He had a huge falling out with Barnabas, who by all accounts was a pretty wonderful guy. Sometimes, our old self gets in the way as we walk out our faith. But God used even a dramatic falling out to continue to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Could the message have spread without these two men going their separate ways? Sure, but that’s not what happened. God’s fingerprints were on the mess that Paul made. He still used Paul. He wasn’t done with him yet. That is such an encouragement to me. My sin so often brings such pain but God can still bring beauty out of the ashes I create.

I see myself in Paul. My conversion was less dramatic than his, obviously, but it changed my life’s course completely. Nothing has been the same about my life’s direction because of my response to God’s call to come to Him. Everything changed…but there is still plenty of my old nature left to deal with. As I was listening this summer to the new music I couldn’t help but hear Paul’s story in the lyrics of our songs. Have you heard it?

In our Body & Soul Fitness classes this fall, we are working out to “You Found Me” by Mercy Me.  (It is our low jack and knee repeater song.) The lyrics say: “Come out, come out wherever you are. Your greatest wound is barely a scar. You’re free indeed, no matter what you do.” Don’t you know Paul thought about who he had been and what he had done to God’s people? He knew his own past, but God still used him in a mightly way. During the bridge of that song, they sing, “You will never have to hide….Before the heavens, before the earth, I knew exactly where you were. I am yours and you are mine!” (Oh my word…I love that part!) Paul could have realized the damage he had done to God’s people and let that paralyze him. He could have let shame keep him from coming to the disciples and then what would we know of his story? But he didn’t do that, instead he didn’t hide from what he had done, nor who he had been. He acknowledged it (he calls himself the greatest of sinners) in so many ways and then let God continue to use him to spread the Gospel. His testimony changed hearts and called people to the Lord all over the world in his own time and still even today.

The song’s high point is the chorus that says: “You found me! Never, never, never going to be the same, ever, ever, ever since that day, You found me…” That’s Paul’s story, true, but it’s our story too! God knew what Paul had done. God knows what you have done but in His great mercy, He forgives you then uses you (and me) for His Glory! That’s so crazy, so counterintuitive, so merciful, so beautiful and it reflects perfectly the character of our God!

He will use you, no matter what your past looks like. He will tell His story and bring Himself glory through you. He will not leave you blinded on the road. He will give you the courage to change your life…even if that looks completely insane to the people around you. He has known you since the beginning of time. He has found you and when you surrender to Him…oh my, you never will be the same.

He has found you. Rest in the glory of that knowledge.


Tracie Durham is a Cardio Strength Trainer for South Central. She is a former attorney, full-time home schooling mother of three kids (Abbie, Aubrie and Charlie), wife of a Fire Chief (Phillip) and unabashed fan-girl of “all the words” and mostly importantly…of Jesus.