Monday, August 18, 2014

The role of conflict and chaos in deterring you from spiritual breakthrough

Aloha friends, I know it's been awhile since I've kept up with my blog here but I've noticed a recurring pattern on Facebook and other social networks where essentially all of my friends seem to be suffering from nearly the same identical problems: they're feeling burned out, unfulfilled, unappreciated, overloaded and in many cases filled with the sense that they're drifting in search of identity. For many of my Christian friends, a common question that seems to come up is whether or not God "hears them" when they're calling out to Him. These are all important issues to address, though it's not uncommon for many people who struggle with them to remain silent because of fear of embarrassment or perceived social stigma.

I'd like to begin this blog post by sharing with my friends a counterintuitive principle: whenever God is speaking to us the most, people generally have the tendency to hear Him the least.

Let's use a technological example to help us understand what's spiritually at work here. Most people since the late 90s have become entirely dependent on their cell phones as their means for interacting with the world. People today send SMS text messages, e-mail, social media updates, phone calls and more all through the tiny device that fits in their pocket. For many people, the cell phone is as important as the air they breathe and separation from their mobile device can often bring intense anger and frustration.

Every so often, cell phones or the networks hosting them suffer glitches. On one occasion I had seven voicemail messages on my phone, many of which were extremely urgent but I didn't know I received them because the LED indicator on my phone wasn't blinking and the voicemail alert icon wasn't in the system status tray. My visual voicemail application said "No Messages." As far as I was concerned, no one was communicating with me. However when I actually took the time to call my voicemail service, it was then that I discovered I was backlogged for several days in missed messages.

"Jesus Praying in the Garden" by Gustav Dore.
Our relationship with God is very similar to the modern cell phone. Many people call on God and leave messages with heaven, asking for guidance in what to do, explanations for why things are happening or even encouragement over difficult battles they're facing. Many times God's answer comes immediately, but the "alert" that we have a message waiting for us doesn't pop up in our natural perception. Interference from life clutter or distractions in the form of conflict have the tendency to make people overlook the fact that God hears them and has already sent a reply.

In Exodus 5:1-20, the Bible shows us how God dispatched Moses and Aaron as messengers to Pharaoh to release His people from bondage and bring them into fellowship together. Pharaoh, however, believed that the people simply had too much free time on their hands and wanted to overload them with so much daily work that they would have no time to think about notions of God or freedom. Verse 19 says "and the officers of the children of Israel saw they were in trouble" (NKJV). Instead of perceiving the awesome answer that God had sent in response to four centuries of affliction (Genesis 15:13, Exodus 3:16-18) the officers "saw they were in trouble". Pharaoh of the Old Testament represents allegorically a kind of "god" of the world due to his authority and scope of power over the ancient world. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that "the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (KJV).

Whenever God sends an answer or a messenger, even as Pharaoh increased the workload to distract the slaves from their pending release so the "god of this world" often turns up the heat on people's lives to prevent them from knowing God is talking to them and working on their behalf. The modern church has often assumed that whenever one is doing "the will of God" everything falls into place and works perfectly because God clears the way for things to happen. In fact, the reverse is often true: when one actually tries to serve God or live an upright life, waves of unreasonable people often interfere with their plans, unusual incidents and unfair circumstances seem to swarm out of nowhere and the first thing people say is ... you guessed it ... "I'm in trouble!"

Just because it seems that God hasn't answered you doesn't mean He's ignoring you. The "alert" may not be perceptible to you that your health has changed, that your finances have improved, that crises are being solved, that the direction you've been asking for has arrived but that doesn't mean it isn't there. You have to press in and keep checking for the answer. It's nice to see miracles and overt demonstrations that God is actively doing something, but when you have a spiritual enemy that is likewise actively attempting to prevent you from knowing God, you have to do more than just superficial checks to get God's answer.

In my experience working as a minister, I've observed people who report being lonely and feeling dejected by society in fact are often surrounded by sincere, loyal friends or family members trying to help them who they completely ignore them because of the distractions in their life. The message is there, but they're not aware of it. I've also seen other people who have prayed for healing and divine intervention over a certain infirmity, but they have been sick so long that they use it as a mechanism for manipulating other people and refuse to do what's needed to get up and spring into health. The answer is there, but they won't hear it. Still other people ask me to pray for them that they might know what God wants of them, yet when I advise them to take a time out and first read the Bible so they can understand the prior precedents and history of God's commands, they say they don't have time. The answer, again, is already there.

The devil blinds minds as the Apostle Paul wrote through persecution, chaos and outright ignorance. Some of the trouble seasons we face isn't even our fault (or God's fault for that matter). King David wrote in Psalm 59:3-4 "The mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine" (NKJV). That passage is ultimately a prophetic reference to Christ who during His earthly ministry was found to be completely sinless (Isaiah 50:6, 53:5, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:19) but it also speaks to the fact that even as Christ did nothing wrong (ever!) but still incurred massive persecution, so we who seek to serve God will likewise face often mighty problems, even though we did nothing wrong.

The key here is to understand at all times there are two separate kingdoms at work in this world, the kingdom of darkness which is governed by the "god" of this (fallen) world, Satan, and the kingdom of God which refers to all that has submitted itself willingly to the domain of God's authority. That's why Jesus advised the disciples to pray "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" because the fallen world opposes the message and the plan God wants done. Even as Pharaoh feared losing control of his slaves, so the "god" of this world Satan fears people who are operating outside of his realm of authority and turning to the kingdom of God's light.

Persistence and patience is the key to getting through to God's answers. Just because it doesn't look like God is answering you doesn't mean He's ignoring you. This being said, I totally sympathize with how it feels to be praying for an answer amid difficult circumstances and nothing seems to be happening or changing. I totally know how it's easier said than done to endure against all odds, however difficult they may be. But remember above all else that when you make it a point to seek God for help, that help has to come, whether short term or long. Never make the mistake of assuming God will leave someone who sincerely is seeking Him for help to perish or be ruined without help. The Scripture that saved my life is Jesus' promise in John 6:37 that "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (KJV).

Jesus never turns us away. And what is the most amazing truth to be found in this promise of John 6:37? The sheer fact that you're seeking God for answers is proof God plans to answer them. The Bible says in Luke 18:1 in the Amplified translation "[Jesus] told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up)." Check your life for unheard voicemails. Chances are, the answer you're seeking God for has already arrived or its soon on the way.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Interview: Get into Hawaii summer vacation style with Clea Saldania-Rountree

Hawaii's tropical charm lures many tourists. (Photo by Danny de Gracia)
With summer once more in season, Hawaii is one of the top vacation destinations for people the world over. Curious to know what's to see and where to go? I had the opportunity to speak with one of the 50th state's most prestigious and sought after fashion models, the beautiful Clea Saldania-Rountree for an essential précis what's hot in the Islands. Related to Donna Reed who wooed classic Hollywood audiences with the iconic 1953 Hawaii film From Here To Eternity, Clea has deep family roots in stardom and herself has represented countless international fashion labels and will be appearing in the soon-to-be-released independent film Jade Dragon which is currently in post-production.

Me: Clea, now that summer is here, a lot of tourists will be flying into the Islands. What's some of the best places to go and hottest things to do in Hawaii?

Clea: Talking about hot, visiting the volcano on the Big Island is a unique experience [as well as] Maui's Haleakala Crater, Kauai's Waimea Canyon and Hanauma Bay on Oahu. Visiting the Arizona Memorial is also a humbling historical experience. The best thing to do on each island is a circle island [tour] and stopping at the lookouts, going to the beach, kayaking, surfing, hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, boat cruise, sailing, walking, watching a hula show and definitely going to a luau.

Me: I notice you take some pretty good photos with your cell phone of the beaches in Hawaii from time to time. Do you have a favorite beach you think people should check out?

Clea Saldania-Rountree is a Hawaii 
model and actress. (Photo by Tzana Saldania)
Clea: Lanikai is my favorite beach, others are Kawela and Turtle Bay, as well as Kahala.

Me: What are some of the best places to eat on Oahu that you like?

Clea: Bills Sydney in Waikiki, Miyako in the New Otani Hotel, Kona Brewing at Koko Marina, Hiroshi in Restaurant Row, Cha Cha Cha in Hawaii Kai Towne Center and Doraku in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. I like to go with friends to the Lobby Bar at the Modern Hotel, Rumfire at the Sheraton Waikiki and the 80s Pop Muzik event at Bar 35 in Chinatown.

Me: Are there any "must try" foods in Hawaii that mainlanders should try?

Clea: Definitely the Hawaiian food, shave ice, Spam musubi, malasadas, poke, sashimi, teriyaki plate lunch, mochi and an açaí bowl.

Me: What's the weirdest thing you've eaten in Hawaii?

Clea: As for the weirdest thing I've eaten, I can't seem to adjust to the taste of Chinese parsley.

Me: Is it just me or are the food networks and travel shows always featuring Hawaii restaurants?

Clea: Well, if they do, I feel Hawaii has some of the best restaurants and chefs. The cuisine is very exotic and different because we're a melting pot of many cultures. The best chefs that come from here and from other parts of the world would put Hawaii as their number one destination to work and live.

Me: Speaking of TV, is it really true that nearly everyone on Oahu these days has at least starred as an extra on Hawaii Five-O at least once now?

Clea: Not everyone, but it could look like that. You'd be surprised, not a lot of people are interested in doing that.

Me: Let's talk a little bit about summer fashion. I notice a lot of clothing is going the 80s and 90s appearance trend. Even swimwear is bringing back a lot of 20th century styles. What do you think looks best today?

Clea: I think staying current and classic is the best; basic and simple pieces. I really don't like going back to the 80s or 90s or any other decade, to me it's over and done.

Any trip to Hawaii needs a tour of all the major Islands to soak in the full
(Photo by Danny de Gracia)
Me: How's modeling been lately? You were recently featured in Las Vegas and Hawaii fashion calendars and I know those are selling well because every time I try to get a copy for myself the shelves are always empty. What kind of feedback and comments have been people saying about your calendars?

Clea: I've gotten excellent feedback. I had an autograph signing and the turnout was great. I have a great following and fan base from all over the world buying here and online. The people in charge of the calendars are so proud and excited and said I was extra special to have been the only one to have modeled in both calendars.

Me: Have you been watching any new movies lately? Summer is usually when the best action movies come out, is there anything you're looking forward to?

Clea: The only movies I've seen are the ones I did reviews on, like Noah and Pompeii. I might go and see Maleficent with Angelina Jolie. She is a neighbor across the street where I stay sometimes in New Orleans.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to interview Clea. Find out more about her by visiting her official Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bacon wrapped sausages

Check out my friend's awesome video on YouTube, I just had to share, this is amazing!

An open letter to God, Part II

In recent years, especially with the rise of the blogosphere it's become increasingly popular to write open letters to everyone from one's former teachers to elected officials and even God Himself. I don't think I've ever written an open letter to God, but after reading one of my dearest friends' open letters to the Creator, I've been thinking a lot about the soul-wrenching questions he's asked myself and realized I too need to write a letter to God. So here goes.

Dear God,

Even though You already know what I'm going to write before I even write it, I want to take this time to write You an open letter because so many confusing things are going on in the world right now and I know that both Christians and non-Christians alike have so many questions they want answered.

I feel awkward addressing You as "God" because even though You are indeed God, the world knows You as "God" the far off, distant and inhuman God who created the Universe somehow and punishes and rewards based on a complex system that is supposedly only for us mere mortals to submit to without ever really understanding its justice or merits.

Instead, for this letter I want to call You by a name that I feel most comfortable with, and that is Heavenly Father. I can call you "Father" because You drew the blueprints for my life, chose who my earthly parents would be and You conceived me not only in flesh but through the seed of your Word which gave me spiritual life as well as a physical one. You're more than just "God" because we have a personal relationship. You animate my being and You are with me everywhere I go. I may not see You with my physical eyes, but I don't see my physical heart either, but that doesn't mean it isn't inside of me, even as the Holy Spirit lives inside of me.

Father, lately this world has been very stressful, sorrowful and difficult. People are cruel, greedy and violent. There are some mornings that I wake up and I wonder how am I going to get through the day. You know better than anyone else that things have been hard not only for me, but for everyone else.

At 34 years old, I've been feeling very vulnerable and weak. I'm not in my teens or twenties anymore, and while I'm not in my forties yet, I've felt changes in my life and in my body that humble me to realize that I'm going to need help and more of it. More than ever I need Your help. I see the people I love getting older and frailer, I see the vibrant and strong nation I knew as a boy crumbling apart and I see the wicked making terrible boasts of their power and success. I feel lonely, isolated and the chill of this world is on my back.

It's tempting to be afraid and to walk in worry and to constantly live in fear of what's next, but I know too much of Your Word to fixate solely on what's wrong. You said "I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). You also said I am "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4) and "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

I don't have any explanation for why bad things happen to good people or why tragic things happen in life. I can only speak to the experience that You and I have with one another. I've experienced tragic defeats, heartbreaking rejections and delays in life that none of my friends or family have had to endure. If I compared myself to other people and used the average of others as a standard, I might have cause to be nervous, worried and fearful. But I choose not to fixate on what's wrong but rather on the incredible victories and hope that You have given me.

For every time that I may have prayed for something but didn't get what I asked for, there are countless other times where I got exactly what I asked for and more from You. In fact, if we want to talk about "hits" and "misses" the record is overwhelmingly on the side of prayers answered, ranging from everything from sicknesses healed, dangers averted, needs met, crises solved and impossible tasks overcome. In fact, You spend more time giving me things I haven't asked for than anything else. And even when I don't deserve good, You show yourself to be good.

Honestly, Sir, I'm not where I want to be where I am in life. I feel weak. I want to be strong because I love my family and my friends and I want to protect them. I want to be like a paladin who fights a worthy cause on behalf of the oppressed and the weak, whose glory is the victory of defeating injustice and providing for the needs of others. I also would like to have a family and a wife and a son because every time I see a human being I see You in them and I want to see the miracle and gift of life repeated in my own life.

Deep down, Sir, I just really want to be accepted for who I am, loved unconditionally and at peace with all men. Father, the conflicts with others may seem personal but at the end of the day I hold no grudges with anyone. I love everyone but I know that evil has a way of dividing light from darkness and there is a conflict being waged that all of us are a part of whether we like it or not. Bad things therefore happen. Conflicts and oppression and persecution happen. I don't blame You for that conflict because my experience with You is one that I have always found peace, tenderness, compassion and grace whenever I came to You. I've never heard You say "No, don't talk to me, I don't have time." Instead, what Jesus said was true: "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

I understand that Jesus came to earth not because all was well and fine, but because the world was in trouble then and it's in trouble now. I understand that this world needs a savior and that savior is Jesus. Therefore I will encourage my brothers and sisters to know that the world, if it had the means to fix itself, would have fixed itself already. Instead we look to You, the Author and the Perfecter of our faith to make things - all things - work together for good.

Father, I know that You hear me, so I'd like to go on the record by saying I'm going to believe that the best and most blessed days for me and those who believe in You are not behind us, but ahead of us. The reason I believe that is because in spite of how bad things are, I know that Your sense of justice and mercy is so great that You can't help make things right. I know You know my fears and my worries, and I know that You have not orphaned me to deal with them alone. I cast these cares on You and anticipate resolution because it's a Father's job to proactively protect and furnish His children with all they need to be strong and to mimic His ways of strength in adulthood.

I also want to apologize for all the times I haven't trusted You, and for the times I've grieved the Holy Spirit by refusing to listen or by going against Your commands. More than that, I want to apologize for all the times I haven't forgiven people and for holding grudges against others. People may have done terrible things to me and done much harm, but it was precisely those kinds of people that Jesus died to forgive. Therefore I put away all the ways of pride, bitterness and self-righteousness and look to You to settle conflicts, change hearts and right all that has been wronged. It hurts whenever I think of the past, but Your love makes me a new person every day on the inside.

Heavenly Father, tonight I ask You to stop and arrest the work of the destroyer and the evil one, Satan in the lives of all my friends and family and everyone reading this. Let this be a turning point for victory from this day forward. We overcome through this confession of faith. Jesus said the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy but You have come that we might have life and life to the full. It's not Your will for any of us to be defeated, sorrowful, ineffective and bitter about this life. It is Your will for us to have life to the full. So tonight, I pray peace upon all and believe tomorrow will be a new day of good reports and fresh beginnings. I believe whatever has been stolen will be put back in its place - whether it is missing finances, stolen dreams, lost health or anything necessary for life.

Heavenly Father, You are not a liar. Everything You say is true. I believe that the devil however is the father of lies and that he goes out of his way to portray You in an accusatory fashion and to deny You fellowship with man by causing man to turn against You. As it is written, the devil and all his agents "have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life" (Ezekiel 13:22). Your Word is truth. So I choose to believe in Your goodness over the devil's evil. I choose to believe that You are the God who raises the dead and calls those things which are not as though they are (Romans 4:17).

Heavenly Father, nothing is over and nothing is beyond Your touch. The rules can change because You are the Rulemaker. Yes, life can send some of us a bad hand of cards, but let's not forget Who owns the casino. You are Love. There isn't a single situation where I could possibly claim to be more righteous, more compassionate and more loving than You. So I won't for one minute dare to say "How could You let this happen?" because if I am able to see injustice, how much more are You able to see it?

As it is written, "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or shall he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:11-13).

Well Father, it looks like I'm all out of excuses. I ask You according to these promises to send Your Holy Spirit and armies of ministering angels to attend to all my friends and family who are sick, suffering, oppressed, depressed, persecuted, hurting and lacking in any way right now. Let no one who knows me - and especially, knows You - lack any essential thing. Let all these people know how much I love them, even as You have revealed to me how much You love me.

As for me, I pray that I would have the courage to stand tall in the face of evil and make You proud as the son you have raised me to be. I pray that I would represent You and Your holiness to the nations and that I would be Your ambassador of righteousness. I also pray that You would bless me in such a way that others might see that what they believe to be unattainable is easily attainable simply through Your graciousness.

We must not be discouraged in any way, nor allow confusion to pacify and intimidate us from our faith in a God that saves and that God is You. Sometimes miracles are needed to make the unbelieving believe, and this is that time. I love You Father, and I look forward to all the good things that will happen, starting now. Amen, so be it.

Your friend and son,


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Essential Reading List: Danny de Gracia star profiles and interviews

I've met many amazing people. (Photo by Christina Giuseppe)
Aloha friends, hope you are blessed and that 2014 is treating all of you well. Over the last two years I've had the honor of meeting and interviewing some of the most unique and interesting individuals both here in Hawaii and around the world. I decided to put together an "essential reading list" digest of some of the people I've profiled and interviewed. I've learned a lot from the incredible spectrum of opinions, life experiences and perspectives of these and so many others, and I think you'll enjoy reading these if you haven't already.

Brianna Acosta, model, Miss Hawaii USA 2013

Tiffany Au, second generation immigrant, Hawaii GOP candidate
Davis Aurini, YouTube personality, author
Doug Bandow, foreign policy expert
Tammy Blair, Texas GOP candidate
Jackie Bodnar, FreedomWorks
Michael Boldin, Tenth Amendment Center founder
Mike Bond, bestselling author

Gigi Bowman, Liberty Candidates founder
David Chang, Hawaii GOP chair
Michelle Ching, MLM expert, Millennial entrepreneur
Lauren Cheape-Matsumoto, Miss Hawaii 2011, Hawaii state representative
Aaron Clarey, YouTube personality, author
Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Strategy Chair, major policymaker
Laura Grace D'Angeli, model, actress, media personality
Dan Danner, NFIB president
Matt DiGeronimo, Hawaii GOP congressional candidate
Lauren Easley, model, fashion expert
Nigel Farage, European Union MEP, UKIP party leader
Blake Filippi, Tenth Amendment Center legal expert
Christy Giuseppe, actress, model, media personality, Miss Los Angeles 2008
Robert Harris, Hawaii Sierra Club director
Lanson Hoopai, first time 2012 election voter
Janie Johnson, author, conservative leader
Cherry Lei, model, gogo dancer
Tim Lussier, Mitt Romney campaign staffer
Edward Luttwak, CSIS policy expert, Cold War strategist
Tiana Morales, model, YouTube personality, actress
Michael Moriarty, Emmy award-winning actor, composer
Leianna Kai, model, music producer
Evan Klassen, FSR immigrant, MLM expert, millionaire, bestselling author
Randal O'Toole, policy expert
Ronnie Paul, son of Ron Paul
Lyndon Remias, Virginia Beach city auditor
Andy Roth, Club for Growth
Clea Saldania-Rountree, actress, fashion model, Hawaii media personality
Sam Slom, Hawaii's only GOP senator
Kristen StephensonPino, model, actress, rising star
Jamie Story, policy expert, Miss Texas 2004
Stephen Lowell Swisher, Christian scholar, national evangelist

John Tate, Ron Paul campaign director
Hunt Tooley, historian, hyperinflation expert, scholar
Jessica Wooley, Hawaii state representative, environmental leader

(Note, this is by no means a comprehensive list and several have multiple interviews with me, this is just a digest of some of best articles I've done. Be sure to check out my other articles and multiple columns!)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Check out my new interviews!

Aloha friends, hope all is well and you are enjoying your weekend. If you have time, be sure to check out my two separate exclusive interviews with Kristen StephensonPino at Yahoo and also at CDN which ran yesterday.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Before you see the new Godzilla, watch the 2002 Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

Last night I watched the latest American take on the Toho Godzilla franchise since Roland Emmerich's 1998 interpretation. It's an interesting film and I'll be doing a thorough review of it later, but if you haven't yet watched the new Godzilla, I say stop and instead watch the 2002 Japanese film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla first, then watch the new American film. (Be sure, however, to watch Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla in its original Japanese audio, not the English dub.)

The Best 'Godzilla' Film Ever Made

The original Japanese promotional poster.
Most kaiju films (as well as big disaster films) are usually an abused plot formula of experts detect something strange; experts are ignored; monster attacks familiar geographic landmarks; military is discovered to be useless; experts suddenly are at the center of the fight; something special is applied through expert knowledge; monsters are defeated. If this is a Japanese disaster film, the story is ultimately reduced to a tale of frail women or children in peril. If this is an American disaster film, the story is effectively a recruiting drive for FEMA or a municipal police department or your favorite service branch. In this regard, nearly all of these type of films are basically retreads of the 1950s American giant monster movies, which makes them boring and unstimulating. Not so with Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. Instead of the typical kaiju movie, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla despite the title is not so much a monster movie as it is a military war drama speaking to soul-wrenching moral issues like the consequences of friendly fire, survivor's guilt, the contrast between policymakers and line officers and single parenthood. While the movie certainly does not disappoint viewers looking for kinetic visuals and high tech military extravaganzas, these are not the actual focus of the film.

Courage Under (Godzilla's) Fire

The story begins on a dark, stormy, wet night where the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force is conducting a special deployment with its "Anti-Megalosaurus Force" (AMF) of truck-mounted maser cannons, a staple weapon seen in countless prior Godzilla films. A female JGSDF officer named Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) is on patrol that night with her crew when Godzilla attacks through the cover of dense trees. Akane orders her team to open fire on Godzilla's face, resulting in a chain of unforseeable events that results in a fellow AMF vehicle full of soldiers being killed.

After the battle is over, Akane is brought before a military board of inquiry where blame for the deaths of her comrades falls on her shoulders. The movie transitions to a powerful dolly shot of Akane sitting alone among dozens of empty chairs in a mess hall converted into a memorial viewing for the fallen soldiers, whose bodies could not be recovered intact and are instead represented by giant photographs of their faces. While no tears are seen on her face, her head is bowed in shame as she ponders how her actions cost the lives of other men.

The JGSDF brass transfers Akane out of the elite AMF unit for a posting manning the information desk at a defense library, where it is implied she is positioned to be put out to pasture for early separation from the military. During this time, the political effects of Godzilla's attack on Japan results in a government paradigm shift towards developing an effective deterrent, namely, a Godzilla cyborg clone that can be controlled by the Self-Defense Forces. The development of the new weapon, codenamed Kiryu, results in a reorganization of the AMF that permits its team leader, Lt. Togashi (Ko Takasugi) to resurrect Akane's career by offering her a position in the unit.

When watched in the original Japanese audio, the scene of Togashi approaching Akane in the library, dressed in full Class A uniform and offering her a second chance to right what was wronged is one of the most spine-chilling deliveries I've ever seen in a Godzilla film.

Despite Akane's career redemption, she immediately comes into collision with the surviving brother of one of the men killed in the accident her actions precipitated. As both the only female officer on the Kiryu rotation and a woman blamed for the deaths of SDF officers, Akane struggles not only to be seen as a competent line officer but also to win forgiveness for her friendly-fire incident.

The entire concept of giant monsters let alone a military unit being formed to fight monsters is clearly sophomoric and absurd, but what makes Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla so fascinating is how intensely convincing the director and actors approach portraying the story. One of the best moments in the film is when Lt. Togashi visits the Prime Minister's office in the middle of a Godzilla raid, asking for permission to scramble Kiryu. The PM hesitates because - like so many other real-life prototype weapons - Kiryu suffers from dangerous design flaws and a spotted development marred by loss of human life. Nevertheless, the PM realizes the imminent harm Japan faces from Godzilla and authorizes Togashi to launch, promising to take "full responsibility" should the mission fail. Togashi snaps his boots to the position of attention and delivers what has to be the best movie salute since Wolfgang Bodison's "Ten Hut! There's an officer on deck!" salute in A Few Good Men (1992).

The 2014 Godzilla film portrays an overwhelming show of force with military hardware and light infantry galore, but one thing it sorely lacks in is its portrayal of military units is the manifested core creed of duty, honor, country in action. The 2002 Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla delivers that in stunning fashion and acquaints the viewer with the concept that though monster movies often make light of military men and women of war battling enemies, in real life warfighters inwardly struggle with immense moral conflicts over the missions and situations they are thrust into by circumstances outside of their control.

In 2001, just shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and a few months before my father retired as a colonel in the Air Force, he brought me to the hail and farewell of a fellow officer who was also retiring as an O-6 at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The colonel told the story of how one of his friends flew an A-37 Dragonfly close air support aircraft during the Vietnam War and died when it crashed into a mountain. The pilot's death resulted in his younger brother joining the Marines to avenge his loss, only to be killed himself in a helicopter in Vietnam. As the colonel retold the story, he wept bitterly and explained that these things are far more common in war than most realize. The real-life burdens that men and women who wear a uniform are often unfairly forced to shoulder are often never understood by civilians who ignorantly criticize them or the politicians that order them capriciously into combat.

As you watch the new Godzilla film, be sure to keep in mind the real glory of the U.S. military is not found in our hardware but in the hardness of a warfighter's resolve to overcome all odds, to protect the men and women under their command and to live by a code of honor. The 2002 film captures that important concept in a much more effective way, which is why I recommend watching that movie before you see the new 2014 one.