Hotel Habits

We just got back from a mini-vacation in the States: we spent 3 days shopping in various cities in Washington State.  When we weren’t shopping (Gail’s favourite), we were either swimming (the kids’ favourite), eating (Daddy’s favourite) or sleeping (a family favourite…especially Jacob’s).  It was a wonderful getaway while Gail and the kids are on Spring Break. 

Gail and the kids absolutely love staying in hotels:  Gail because she doesn’t have to clean up after us (or at least less than usual) and the kids enjoy swimming and riding elevators and luggage carts.  It’s indeed a nice break from the regular routine of Richmond.

Starting last summer on our road trip to California, I noticed that all 5 of us have a “signature thing” or “habit” that we do or check out upon entering a hotel room for the very first time.  And sure enough, we all did as expected on Thursday afternoon as we checked into our hotel in Everett.  I guess old habits are hard to break!

So you think you know our family?  Then see if you can match up who does what upon entering a hotel room.  For simplicity, we’ll put Kayla with Gail, so your choices are:

-Gail (w/Kayla)

to go with:

-lying on the bed to check its size and comfort
-running to the window to check out the view
-testing the remote control of the tv and seeing what channels are available
-flushing the toilet to see how strong it is

Good luck…the answers might not be as obvious as you might think!

Emulating Mary’s “Yes”: God Doesn’t Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called

Today is the Annunciation, the Christian celebration of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ. Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive a child who would be called the Son of God.

As my friend and colleague Tom East said so well on Facebook, “I think this is an important day for us as youth ministers. We have the chance to be like Gabriel and bear God’s message of love and promise to teenagers. We speak on God’s behalf as we tell a young person: you are beautiful inside and out, and God has a plan for your life. What a privilege, this ministry we share.”

Or, as my friend and OYYAM colleague Gerard Garcia stated nicely: “TGFMY: Thank God for Mary’s Yes!”

Today’s feast day was significant to me, and not just because I could eat meat all day (despite it being a Friday in Lent).

Rather, I had a chance to spend some time reflecting on my calling as a Catholic youth minister. Continuing the thoughts expressed by Tom, not only do we have a chance to be like Gabriel, but we are also like Mary.

We may struggle with our calling sometimes, especially when things don’t go as well as we like. We fret about numbers. We worry about logistics. And we stress about our talk or teaching falling flat.

But we can learn a lot from Mary, especially in her faithfulness and trust in what the angel Gabriel was saying. We, like Mary, may consider ourselves unworthy or unqualified. But we are comforted knowing that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called!

And it’s not just the trust and faith that we have for ourselves. It’s the same trust we have when we defer an important teaching to another youth ministry leader, it’s the same confidence we have in allowing a grade seven student greet the Archbishop at Spirit Day, and it’s the same faith we have that we are indeed making a difference in the lives of young people.

We are blessed indeed, we are truly highly favoured. And it has nothing to do with us…it has everything to do with God.

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30).

So when we’re asked if we like what we do or if we feel we’re making a difference…may our answer always be a resounding “YES!”

CCC – Clay’s Canucks Commentary for March 20, 2011: Putting Things into Perspective

For this CCC, I take a more mellow and serious approach and reflect on the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the fluke eye injury suffered by Canucks center Manny Malhotra.

As exciting as this season has been and as much as we are looking forward a long playoff run, it’s important to keep things in proper perspective, especially when it comes to someone’s health and well-being.

Music is “Hockey Night in Canada” recorded by Naturally 7 on their CD “VocalPlay.” (

Hungry for Jesus

This past weekend, Jacob’s child-like faith reminded me as to how I should approach receiving Jesus every time I am at Mass. 

Jake received his First Communion on February 26 and since that point had received communion from our 2 parish priests at Masses.  This past Sunday, March 13, I was scheduled to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (Eucharistic Minister) at the 6:30pm Mass, meaning I had the chance to give communion to Jake for the first time.

Both Jake and I were looking forward to me sharing Jesus with him, but I warned him that if it didn’t work out for whatever reason, that it’s all the same Jesus:  ultimately it didn’t matter if he went to me or someone else.

Jake nodded at me, confirming his understanding.

(As an aside, it’s always interesting to see the priest’s communion line is usually much longer than a “lay person’s” line…as if communion means more coming from a religious.  But I digress).

That particular Sunday got off to a great start, as Jake told me in the morning that Sunday was his favourite day of the week.

“Why, Jake?” I asked.

“Because I get to have Jesus!” was his earnest response.

The day was also notable because it was my lovely wife Gail’s birthday, highlighted by lunch out and our weekly grocery shopping at Superstore.

The day went by quickly, and soon we found ourselves at St. Paul’s for Mass.  Gail and the kids sat on the choir side while I met Pat and Charly, the other 2 Eucharistic Ministers before Mass in the church foyer.  We quickly discussed who would serve from what position.

“I’m usually not that picky,” I stated, “but I would love to be able to give communion to Jake today.  But both he and I know that it’s all the same Jesus!”

The 2 dudes chuckled a bit as we prepared ourselves for the procession.

The Sign of Peace was our signal to wash our hands at the side…and this is where we traditionally finalize our spots.  Pat and Charly told me to take the middle-left, which would give me an opportunity to give communion to the family.

As I gave communion to the parishioners, I eagerly awaited Jake’s arrival at the altar.  I did my best to concentrate on the people at-hand as I eyed my family approaching.  Finally, it was Jake’s turn.

He stepped up to me with his small arms outstretched towards me, his hands resting one atop of the other as he was taught.  He had a massive smile on his face, as if he had just received wonderful news.  But most of all, he was almost running in place, his legs and feet dancing around…almost like he had to go the bathroom.  He was THAT excited to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

“The body of Christ, Jake” I said quietly as I shared Jesus with him.  I was beaming with so much pride and joy that I could barely get the words out.

“AMEN!”  Jake proclaimed.

Sean, Julie Ann, and Gail (with Kayla) were right behind Jacob in line, and I was just as happy to share Jesus with each of them.  But make no mistake about it, I was deeply touched with how Jake received Jesus.

During my prayer time after communion, I reflected on what had just transpired.  Jake’s cute and innocent actions in receiving communion had a humbling effect on me and challenged me to approach Eucharist in the same child-like manner:  with wide-eyed curiosity, dangerous wonder, and simple faith.

We are called to be child-like (and not childish) in our faith.  As adults, we often complicate things and we search for the “perfect” words or actions.  For children, there are no “religiously-correct” words or phrases:  children say what they mean and mean what they say.  And like adults, their actions will often speak louder than their words.

That’s why I was so thankful for Jacob.  His honest yet excited way of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist reminded me to never take things for granted, and to always hunger:

For integrity.

For justice.

For truth.

For Jesus.

Bad Hair Clay

As I headed down to the 150 Robson basement today to grab some supplies for FREEDOM, I caught up to Archbishop Michael as he was heading to his car. 

“All ready for tomorrow?”  I asked him, referring to FREEDOM.

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it!” he replied.

“Me too!”

As I answered him, I caught him staring at the top of my head.

“Hey, Clay…are you doing something different with your hair?”

Half-embarrassed and half-amused, I sheepishly replied “Uh no…I just need a haircut…and VERY BADLY.”

Archbishop Michael, the pastoral man he is, offered “Oh…how often do you get your haircut?”

“Every three weeks…or else I run the risk of being kicked out of public places.”

Archbishop Michael chuckled lightly and then we proceeded to talk about more important things than my hair.

But since we’re on the topic of my hair…

Most people know that I’ve had my current hairstyle (and I use that term loosely) since 2001.  I’m able to cut it myself, saving about $350 a year in the process.  Prior to shaving it all off, I had been sporting the box-cut for a few years, including in 2000 when Gail and I got married.

Many of my friends have been urging me to bring the Kid ‘n Clay haircut back, but I’m not sure if that’s the best look for me now.  But I could be convinced…

Simply put, there’s not a lot I can do with my hair.  It’s quite thick and it grows forward, so I’m limited as to what I can do with it.  But that didn’t stop me from experimenting in my high school years as you’ll see.

I can trace my bad hair to my childhood…check out this shot from 1978 (coincidentally, this could be a Stanley Cup preview for 2011!).  I, like many other Asian kids, had my haircut by my grandma in her bathroom…with the help of a very round bowl no doubt.

Or maybe I could go blond.

On second thought, maybe not. 

As my brother Jason said about me during his Best Man speech at my wedding 11 years ago:  “There’s nothing wrong with sticking with a haircut that works.”