Archive for February, 2010

JITTERBUGGER NOTE: As we get ready to rock to Juarez, Mexico, on our church mission trip today . . . .
We will be doing some blogging using our trusty i-HOP-phone, until our return trip to Dallas Monday evening.
It may be a bit limited since we’re going to be all about this mission of building cinder-block houses for people living in cardboard shelters–yes, living in cardboard shelters–but there will be some blogging, mostly about the mission.

Meanwhile . . . . .


Oh, my–this list of Top 10 all-time rock albums from the Vatican’s newspaper is so wrong it makes my rocking head spin. The only good thing about it is that it includes “The Nightfly” by you-know-who, and “Graceland,” by you-know-who.
In case you don’t, “The Nightfly” is the masterpiece album of Donald Fagen, he who is one half of the Steely Dan dynamic duo, and you Jitterbuggers know that yer leader of the cult of Jitterbug is all about Fagen and Becker. We’re also all about Small Paul “Rhymin'” Simon, especially his “world beat” music but a lot of his other stuff as well (anything but “Me and Julio” and all that too radio-friendly stuff, “You can call me Al” and some other radio stuff excepted.)
Here’s an excerpt of what Politics Daily had to say about the list:
Just last month we explored the new approach that the Vatican’s once-stodgy daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has taken in covering pop culture — a shift that has left more than a few eyebrows raised and lips pursed, especially among the more tradition-minded.

Well, now the pope’s newspaper has really stirred up the waters, and not just among old fogies, by publishing a “semi-serious guide” to the 10 best rock albums of all time. Drum roll please: The Top 10 albums are, in no particular order:

The Beatles’ “Revolver”
Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”
Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
U2’s “Achtung Baby”
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”
Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly”
Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural”
Paul Simon’s “Graceland”
David Crosby’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name.”
“Some songs seem to have been written yesterday . . . while others still send shivers down the spine for their illuminating simplicity and musical thrust,” the writers of the article said about “Thriller,” according to Chiara Vasarri’s translation of the article at the Wall Street Journal’s music blog. (L’Osservatore’s article was careful not to mention that Pope Benedict XVI hates rock-and-roll, and once said that the musical sense of the younger generation “has been stunted since the beginning of the ’60s by rock music and Outraged by what got on the Vatican paper’s list and what was left off? You’re not alone. Apparently making solemn (if not infallible) pronouncements on the “best” of rock music is at least as controversial as issuing declarations on birth control or gay marriage.

At InsideCatholic.com, editor Brian Saint-Paul called the list “ridiculous.”

“I’ll reluctantly give you the Beatles’ ‘Revolver’ in the top slot, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is a no-brainer (though ‘The Wall’ is better),” Saint-Paul writes. “But Carlos Santana’s ‘Supernatural,’ David Crosby’s ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name,’ and (choke) Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’? Please. This is the song list you blast at me if I’m ever holed up in a warehouse with hostages.”
Saint-Paul added that “Led Zeppelin IV” was a no-brainer — “that’s just science” — and he was incredulous that the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main St.” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” didn’t make the cut.

His colleague at InsideCatholic, Deal Hudson, said the list ticked him off so much he was thinking of renewing his call for the resignation of L’Osservatore’s new editor, Giovanni Maria Vian. (That last quip was an inside joke — Hudson has suggested Vian be dumped given the editor’s benevolent views on Barack Obama.) “How can anyone take such a list seriously and not include the Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’?” Hudson asked.

Other commenters thought the absence of the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” was “a sacrilege,” and there was also a lively debate on the story at First Things, where Joe Carter wondered if Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski was now editing L’Osservatore, given the emphasis on “geezer rock” music.

” ‘Thriller’ deserves a place on the list, but I can’t imagine how the others made the cut. U2 and the Beatles should be included but ‘Achtung Baby’ and ‘Revolver’ aren’t even their best albums (those would be ‘Joshua Tree’ and ‘The White Album’). And who in their right mind thinks that any albums containing the talentless Wyclef Jean warbling ‘Maria Maria’ [on ‘Supernatural’] or the Gallagher brothers singing ‘Champagne Supernova’ [on ‘Morning Glory’] belong on an all-time best list? Are they trying to convince us that rock really is the devil’s music?”
“Clearly,” Carter concluded, “like L’Osservatore Romano itself, this list is a work in progress.” (Many conservatives, as you can tell, weren’t terribly pleased with the revamped L’Osservatore even before the rock list.)

One verdict Carter did agree with the Vatican paper on — snubbing Bob Dylan.
The authors of the piece, Giuseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini, said that Dylan was left off despite his “great poetic vein” because, as the WSJ put it, he opened the door to generations of unprofessional singer-songwriters who have “harshly tested the ears and patience of listeners” with their tormented stories.

That judgment certainly lit up the comment boxes even more. (“I now have my doubts about infallibility,” quipped Francis Beckwith, a recent high-profile convert to Catholicism who had been president of the Evangelical Theological Association.)

Dissing Dylan was also interesting given that in 1997, the late Pope John Paul II hosted a rock concert in Bologna for 200,000 young people called “Jesus Live Superstar.” The concert came after a beatification Mass and in the midst of the country’s Eucharistic Congress, normally a solemn liturgical celebration. The concert’s headliner — after the pope — was Dylan, who serenaded John Paul with “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” perhaps intending the classic make-out song as a single-entendre tune for that evening.

Dylan also performed his famous ballad “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and afterwards John Paul offered his own riff, asking, “How many roads must a man walk down? One! There is only one way for man, and that is Christ, who said, ‘I am the way.’ It is He who is the way to truth, the way to life.”

Then again, John Paul met frequently with Bono, the lead singer for U2 and a prominent poverty fighter, who dubbed him “history’s first funky pontiff” and eulogized him at his death as “the best frontman the Roman Catholic Church ever had.”
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I love the story of little Zacchaeus from Luke 19. Here’s spiritual writer Joyce Rupp’s take on it:

“Come and stay at my house today”
By Joyce Rupp*

Jesus, this Lent I am yearning to wear a Zacchaeus heart.
I am wanting to hear you call my name just as you did his.
I am anxious to know that you are inviting yourself to my home.
I am humbled, amazed, excited, and astounded, just as he was.

But that is where the desire to wear a Zacchaeus heart stops,
because I know what happens when you visit someone’s house.
Conversations occur. Choices are presented. Changes happen.
That’s because you look for more than dust when you come to visit
and you talk about things more vital than the weather.
You move into the heart’s dimension. You gaze deeply.
You don’t just dwell. You interact. You activate.
You dwell so lovingly that the truth cannot be resisted.

This Lent help me to welcome you and yearn for your love.
Give me a Zacchaeus heart that turns around and sees the truth.
I need the gaze of your love to remind me of my truest self.
I, too, need the strong call to make amends and start anew.
Hurry, Jesus, come and stay at my house today.
From Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season by Joyce Rupp

* Joyce Rupp is well known for her work as a writer, a spiritual “midwife,” and retreat and conference speaker. She has led retreats throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Joyce has a B.A. in English, a M.R.E. in Religious Education, and a M.A. in Transpersonal Psychology. She is a member of the Servites (Servants of Mary) community and a volunteer for Hospice. She currently resides in Des Moines, Iowa.

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Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler was a heroine, but pretty much unsung as heroines go. Here’s background, excerpted, on her from Louis Bülow at “The Holocaust: Crimes, Heroes and Villians” (www.auschwitz.dk):

The Holocaust – the systematic annihilation of six million Jews – is a history of enduring horror and sorrow. The charred skeletons, the diabolic experiments, the death camps, the mass graves, the smoke from the chimneys … In 1933 nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed by the Nazis. 1.5 million children were murdered. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of handicapped children.

Yet there were acts of courage and human decency during the Holocaust – stories to bear witness to goodness, love and compassion. This is the story of an incredible woman and her amazing gift to mankind. Irena Sendler. An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. As a health worker, she sneaked the children out between 1942 and 1943 to safe hiding places and found non-Jewish families to adopt them.

For many years Irena Sendler – white-haired, gentle and courageous – was living a modest existence in her Warsaw apartment. This unsung heroine passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008.

Her achievement went largely unnoticed for many years. Then the story was uncovered by four young students at Uniontown High School, in Kansas, who were the winners of the 2000 Kansas state National History Day competition by writing a play Life in a Jar about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler. The girls – Elizabeth Cambers, Megan Stewart, Sabrina Coons and Janice Underwood – have since gained international recognition, along with their teacher, Norman Conard. The presentation, seen in many venues in the United States and popularized by National Public Radio, C-SPAN and CBS, has brought Irena Sendlers story to a wider public. The students continue their prize-winning dramatic presentation Life in a Jar. . . .

Irena Sendler did not think of herself as a hero. She claimed no credit for her actions. “I could have done more,” she said. “This regret will follow me to my death.” She has been honored by international Jewish organizations – in 1965 she accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem organization in Jerusalem and in 1991 she was made an honorary citizen of Israel. Irena Sendler was awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle, in Warsaw Monday Nov. 10, 2003, and she was announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. She has officially been designated a national hero in Poland and schools are named in her honor. Annual Irena Sendler days are celebrated throughout Europe and the United States.

In 2007, she was nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. . .
This lovely, courageous woman was one of the most dedicated and active workers in aiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Her courage enabled not only the survival of 2,500 Jewish children but also of the generations of their descendants.

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From National Geographic online: Elephant, Kenya
Photograph by Michael Nichols
A rainbow streams over a lone elephant as it walks in Samburu National Reserve, a little-known jewel of northern Kenya that teems with wildlife.
In the top photo: Photograph by U.S. Navy: The second atomic bomb tested in Operation Crossroads. From the book National Geographic Image Collection, 2009

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His Greatness Mr. Cash

Little did we know when we posted a video of the late and the great Rev. Johnny Cash (he was an ordained Baptist minister, BTW) the other day that His Greatness’s birthday is coming up.
Actually we’ve posted a couple of Cash vids this week: One of him with The Highwaymen (your Tuesday afternoon music therapy), and the vid of his “Man in Black” with the lyrics.
Below is an email I got in response to that latter posting. I’ll be in Juarez this Friday but I’m thinking yer Jitterbugger may have some Johnny Cash music stored up for the regular Friday Night Special Music Therapy and the Friday Night Music Therapy (Early Bird Ed.) so that he can post it with a simple click of his i-Hop-phone. (What’d I ever do without my i-Hop-phone. It’s as much a necessity now as my car, or my Emmylou Harris posters.)
So it’s a must that you come back every day–even when Jitterbugger is in Mexico on a mission trip with a team of volunteers from his church–because JFJ.com is the blog that is saving the world after all, with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possible (probably) alienating whole towns, cities, states and nations (that’s our motto for newcomers who keep discovering JFJ.com by the scores).
Here’s that aforementioned email.
Hey Paul,
What would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday is on this Friday, February 26th. It is also the date of the release of his final album titled American VI: Ain’t No Grave. Fans are being invited to celebrate Johnny Cash’s life by wearing black on his birthday. They are also having a contest for the fans that participate.

I have included the press release below. I was hoping that you would share this news with your readers.

Help celebrate what would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday on Friday, February 26, the day that his final studio album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave (American Recordings/Lost Highway), is officially released, and Wear Black for Johnny.
Fans from all over the world are being invited to help celebrate Johnny Cash’s life, music, and the enduring voice he gave to the poor and beaten down by posting pictures of themselves wearing black on February 26. More information as well as links to join the Facebook event (to post photos), follow on Twitter, and to hear the first single, “Ain’t No Grave,” can be accessed here: http://awe.sm/50ha7 Participants will be eligible to win a copy of the new American VI: Ain’t No Grave, plus his amazing 5-CD box set, Unearthed. The lucky winner will be chosen at random on March 12, 2010.

American VI: Ain’t No Grave, is the sixth and final installment of Johnny Cash’s critically-acclaimed American Recordings series, and, as with previous albums in this series, was produced by Rick Rubin.
American VI is deeply elegiac and spiritual, with each song its own piece of the puzzle of life’s mysteries and challenges – the pursuit of salvation, the importance of friendships, the dream of peace, the power of faith and the joys and adversities that entail simple survival. It is an achingly personal and intimate statement, as, from the end of the line, Johnny Cash looks back on a most extraordinary life.
So, help celebrate the Man in Black’s birthday and Wear Black for Johnny on 2/26.

“Man In Black” (by John R. Cash)
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

To preorder American VI: Ain’t No Grave from Amazon: http://awe.sm/36OYP

Heather Owen
Marketing Assistant
UMG NetReach
Universal Music Group Distribution
Universal City,

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Mark the Great

What follows is only an excerpt from the whole of Samuel Clemens’ anti-war yarn.

Twain’s “War Prayer” was so powerful–so potentially offensive and explosive–that his publisher wouldn’t touch it while the great one was still alive. So tough-minded that his own family was rattled by it.

“I have told the truth in that,” he said of it, “and only dead men can tell the truth in this world.”

And so it came to be published after his death in 1910.

Did I say it’s anti-war? Its more like anti-religion, specifically anti-Christian church, anti-Christian culture. It’s a powerful critique of how even preachers and churches get so caught up in patriotic fervor that they lose sight of the fact that war is always evil.

War is always Hell. Period. And we throw ourselves at the mercy of God anytime we go to war.

Here’s the thrust of Mr. Mark’s critique:

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

*From Wiki
“The War Prayer,” a short story or prose poem by Mark Twain, is a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war.

The structure of the work is simple, but effective: an unnamed country goes to war, and patriotic citizens attend a church service for soldiers who have been called up. The people call upon their God to grant them victory and protect their troops. Suddenly, an “aged stranger” appears and announces that he is God’s messenger. He explains to them that he is there to speak aloud the second part of their prayer for victory, the part which they have implicitly wished for but have not spoken aloud themselves: the prayer for the suffering and destruction of their enemies. What follows is a grisly depiction of hardships inflicted on war-torn nations by their conquerors. The story ends on a pessimistic note: the messenger is ignored.

The piece was left unpublished by Mark Twain at his death, largely due to pressure from his family, who feared that the story would be considered sacrilegious.[1] Twain’s publisher and other friends also discouraged him from publishing it.[citation needed] According to one account, his illustrator Dan Beard asked him if he would publish it regardless, and Twain replied that “Only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead.”[2] Mindful of public reaction, he considered that he had a family to support[1], and did not want to be seen as a lunatic or fanatic.[2]

“The War Prayer” wasn’t published until six years after Twain’s death, in unusual circumstances. World War I had broken out more than two years previously, and in that time had produced unprecedented casualties on both sides, yet with the U.S. still officially neutral, and President Wilson running for re-election on the slogan He Kept Us Out of War. Twain’s story appeared in Harper’s Monthly, November 1916. Had the attempt been made to publish it five months later, in April 1917, it might ironically have been seen as too unpatriotic for print.

In April, 2007, a short film adaptation was shot by Lyceum Films. Marco Sanchez wrote the adaptation, which was directed by Michael Goorjian. The film stars Jeremy Sisto as “The Stranger” and Tim Sullivan as “The Preacher”.

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The Chicago Temple (United Methodist Church)

Yes, Jesus Christ (i.e. God) is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). However, times and duties and expectations do change. Only two things in life are certain, really: death and changes.

From theologian Hendrik Hart* on the Bible, church and change:

“Already in the Old Testament, Isaiah 56 prophesies that God’s law prohibiting eunuchs and foreigners from entering the temple (Deut. 23:1-3) must change. Much earlier a wise woman from Tekoa nudged King David to disregard God’s legislation regarding murderers in order to show love for his son Absalom, an exiled assassin (2 Sam. 14). . . .

“The church must take responsibility for interpreting God’s orientation in its own time. In the ever-changing circumstances of history, the normative embodiment of God’s guidance remains a task we must undertake again and again, in continuity with appeals to Scripture and the tradition of the church. But Scripture and tradition do not necessarily provide specific rules of conduct for today, if and when changing times require adjustments.”

Isaiah 56: 3-8 — 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant– 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant– 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Sovereign LORD declares– he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

* Hendrik Hart was Professor of systematic philosophy (1967-2001) at Institute for Christian Studies (Free University). This excerpt is from his essay “Spiritual Maturity, Biblical Authority and Life in Christ.” (www.rca.org)

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In the photo:
Vernon Hunter, the IRS employee and Vietnam vet who was killed last week, with wife Valerie Hunter.

Joe Stack murdered Hunter when he crashed his plane into the building where Hunter worked.

This blog is on record as calling this murder what it was–an act of domestic violence. I can only imagine how Hunter’s family must feel that so many people in this country regard Joe Stack as some kind of hero or “little guy” who made a statement about the federal government and “taxation without representation” in his murder-suicide.
Stack–God rest his soul–was an angry man for sure. But also a sick man who was in need of help. He was more than just another angry man, furious at Uncle Sam, as he’s been depicted by so many people.

As we pointed out the other day here, try to imagine the terror you would have felt if you had merely been driving down the street near the IRS building and seen Stack’s plane heading for its target near you.
Or ask yourself how terrorized your children would have been, or any children who actually witnessed this act.

Then tell me that this wasn’t an act of terror.

It was an act of terror, clearly, and Mr. Hunter was an innocent victim of this mad man’s misdirected and unresolved anger. It’s sad for all involved.

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This is the magic that happened when the four giants of country came together to form “The Highwaymen,” circa 1990.

If this triple doesn’t give you goosebumps, have somebody check your pulse immediately if not sooner.

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(For my wonderful former editors Mary Moody & Burke Watson and for all the other ex-Houston Chronicle ink-stained types too.)


Sara Miles was a journalist, a chef and a hardcore atheist who wandered into a San Francisco church one Sunday, got religion, and stayed to start a food pantry that now feeds 600 families a week. Religiondispatches.org talked to her recently about her newest book, Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead.

Yer old Jitterbugger highly recommends her books. But then, Sara’s a former journalist, and you know how we are about old ink-stained scribes–very partial to them. Still, Sara Miles is a deep-water Christian and a terrific writer and always has something to say. Check her out.

Excerpt from the interview by religiondispatches.org’s Lisa Webster:

LISA WEBSTER: It was interesting to me that you make very clear distinctions among “religion,” the church, theology, and practice. You say, for example, that religion is “a set of ideas about God.” You don’t talk much about sin, but when you do it’s this surprising reading of the story of the Canaanite woman (from Matthew) in which Jesus has to be “healed of the sin of religion.”

SARA MILES: As someone who is not a scholar of religion, there are a couple of things that struck me when I became a believer. One is, of course, that every religion claims that it has the inherent path to truth, when in fact it is a catalog and piling on of heresies. You pile the heresies on top of each other and the ones that last become orthodoxy. There’s a constant re-making of religion.

So, there’s this desire for “pure” religion, and then there’s actually how it’s made. And how it’s made is how all cultural stuff is made: people pile stuff on. And they sometimes fight over it, and they win by violence, and they win by persuasion. It’s a cultural artifact that’s made by people. Religion can also very easily become a way to manage God; this is why people say they lose their religion when bad things happen to them.

The idea that you’re appeasing God by performing ritual actions is really profound. And people long for it — I long for it. I like the idea that if I simply light the candles at a certain time and say the prayers at a certain time and cross myself in the right way, I will be safe. And I’ll be good. And I’ll be right with God. But that reduces God to an object that can be manipulated by my technology— my words, thoughts, gestures. Or I create an even more complex system in which my priest tells me how to be right with God, and all I have to do is obey the human authority. I start to imagine I can control God.

Why I think that’s sinful is that it takes you out of relationship, and I think sin is what breaks relationship. You’re divorced from having to have a real relationship with God—including one that is unsatisfying, frustrating, painful, confusing, mysterious.

It’s hard. But people want it. They want to be protected from relationship with God and with other people but they yearn for it. They yearn for it so much, because it’s great and scary. It’s like falling in love; it’s a powerful, real thing.

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