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Tis the Season to eat more hot dogs
Than the rest of the year combined!

Stretched Out
By Ben Stephens

The contestants arrive in plush buses. They grimace and grunt as they exit to the delight of show producers. It is the national Nathanís Hot Dog Eating Contest and the streets are filled with the morbidly curious as well as those on vacation who were just caught up in the crush, fearing for their very lives. Film crews search for any angle that will help enhance the spectacle. However there has been much that has led to this moment.

Strategies were mapped out in human-interest segments. Contestants explained how they prepared for a contest of such magnitude and importance.

Nicknames were adopted and a sense of bravado is expressed to all who would hear. Some ate heavily a few days before in the belief that stretching the stomach would provide an edge while others refrained from eating anything for awhile so that their hunger will be a driving force in the competition.

The world famous hot dogs have been prepared and stand sentry over a series of tables while participants spent time alone organizing their thoughts as they considered the enormous caloric intake that awaits them as cameras roll. It can be easily understood that editing would need to take place as some first time contestants discovered that belief in their ability was not equal to their desperate need for a quick exit.

There are two men who seem odds-on favorites in the event and they were given much attention. It was obvious from their physical appearance that they were involved in intensive training programs for those who really need to know how to throw down a dog. Others received less attention and were shown in slow motion as they fretted over the upcoming show down. For some the pressure was too great.

Stacks of bun encased dogs wait as contestants take their place. Some participants connected with the audience while others attempted to become one with the various meat fillers within. This is drama at its finest and I was riveted to my television set as I envisioned many things and wondered if some of my mental imagining would come true Ė most did.

The contest was over in a matter of minutes but we were all surprised to see a young man from Asia win the contest. He weighed in at less than 100 pounds yet consumed the most hot dogs in the allotted time.

It is clear that the whole ordeal has either taken a lot out of him or added something significant to his life. The audience is left to consider which it might have been. He exits the stage quickly, almost painfully.

His secret? He explained that he stays fit and trim so that when this contest takes place his stomach has the ability to stretch. His theory is that because his stomach muscles arenít stretched out on a regular basis it is more elastic for this competition when it is most needed.

And I am left to ponder many things I hadnít expected; does this same concept have meaning for my walk with Christ? Do I need to stay fit and trim in my walk so that I can be stretched when I most need to be? If I stay flabby in the faith can I be effectively stretched? Why did God use hot dogs to convey this lesson?

"All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should" (1 Corinthians 9:24 - NLT).
Ben Stephens is an avid and quite successful fisherman in almost every dream he has ever had. He grills better than his neighbor Earl (who actually does not own a grill) and he has a passion for chilled mint chocolate covered Oreos. Heís married and snores infrequently since his wife insisted that he do something about it. He calls his bride, "My little motivator." To contact Ben, email benstephens@inbox.com
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