With Arms Wide Open

It’s always an honour to serve as a Eucharistic minister, whether at an archdiocesan event or at my home parish of St. Paul’s in Richmond.  And it’s an added bonus when I get to share Jesus with my lovely wife Gail and our children.

Sean and Jacob are mature enough to realize that it’s all the same Jesus; it doesn’t matter who they go to receive Jesus at Mass…as long as they receive him!  But admittedly, I will try and serve on the side of the church where my family is sitting so they can come to me (if they want).

So there we were this past Sunday night at the 6:30pm Mass at St. Paul’s.  During the sign of peace, the 3 of us Eucharistic ministers went to wash our hands and do our usual assigning of spots.  On this week, I was serving with Mary and Kris, and I started off by saying:  “It doesn’t matter to me what side I’m on.”

“Doesn’t matter to me either,” replied Kris.

“Same here,” Mary answered.

“Well then, if I can, I’d love to serve on the left side of the church so I can give communion to my family…so middle or choir side would be great.”

“I’ll take the middle then,” said Kris, “and you can have choir.”

“Mary, are you okay with the far side?” I asked.

“Sure, no problem,” she answered and then we all made our way to the altar.

(So for anyone wondering…that’s what we’re talking about while washing our hands…haha).

After a few minutes, I saw Gail, Sean and Kayla approaching me (Jake had gone to Mass earlier in the day with a friend…from all accounts he stayed awake for the entire Mass).  Sean arrived first, so I gave communion to him.  I loved the way he was concentrating on receiving Jesus, similar to the way he did at his First Communion over 2 years ago.  Makes a daddy proud!

Next was Gail carrying Kayla (our 3 year-old tends to get lazy at the most convenient times) and I went to lay my hand atop Kayla’s head.  After blessing her, I went to give communion to Gail.  But as I reached into the ciboria, Kayla lunged towards me with her arms wide open.  She wrapped me up in a massive hug and then gave me a huge kiss on my cheek.  “I love you, Daddy!” she proclaimed, all while I was trying to get a host out for Gail.

“I love you too, sweetie” I replied as she finally gave me enough space to give communion to Gail.  I could barely suppress my joy as I caught them returning to their pew out of the corner of my eye.

During my prayer time after communion, I reflected on what had just happened and I was struck by how desperately Kayla wanted to show her affection for me, albeit while I was trying to distribute communion.  How she displayed innocence, child-like faith, and determination in expressing her love for her father.

This is exactly how we should approach God our loving Father and Jesus Christ His son.  In good times and tough times and everything in between, our goal should always be to grow closer to Him.  When we feel hopeless or beaten down, we can go to our Father for His love and comfort.  When we sin, we can lunge for God and His mercy and forgiveness.  And when things are going our way, we can strive to meet Him to thank Him for blessing us.  No matter the situation, when we approach God with our arms wide open we must have faith that He will be there to pick us up.

That’s what unconditional love is all about.

AYC 2011: First Part of my Keynote Talk (Canadians, Asians, and Myths About Canada)

Here are the first 15 minutes of my keynote talk at AYC (Archdiocesan Youth Conference) for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. AYC took place at the Hilton Americas Houston Hotel and had over 2,100 participants, making in the largest diocesan youth conference in the United States. I was blessed to serve as a keynote for AYC along with Fr. Tony Ricard, Cooper Ray, and Jason Evert.

This is the first part of my talk on “Growing on Discipleship”, but don’t expect to hear much about growing in discipleship in this video…haha. I spend some time having the audience get to know me.

I intro my family, talk about famous Canadians and famous Asians, and then I debunk and dispel myths and stereotypes about Canada. Lastly, I start to move into the “meat” of my talk by sharing my experience of the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver in June.

Houston Day 2: A Whole Lot of Laughter

I had a slow start to Day 2 in Houston as I slept until mid-morning.  I was up the night before until 3am (which was only 1am on my PST body clock) but I sure felt it in the morning.  Once I mustered enough energy to get up and shower, I took a walk around downtown Houston before returning to the hotel for lunch.

My lunch was with Randy from the Office of Youth Ministry and Fr. Tony Ricard of New Orleans.  When I first saw Fr. Tony today he gave me a puzzled look and stammered:  “Uh…Clay…from…uh…Canada…right?”

I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg or not so I started to explain that we had met many times before.

He quickly cut me off saying “Of course I know who you are!” and he gave me a huge hug to the laughter of those in the room.

I explained to everyone that Fr. Tony was our keynote speaker in Vancouver for Youth Day 2004, and together with Matt Maher helped turn the fortunes of that event around after a couple of lean years. 

Fr. Tony proclaimed:  “Yeah, in my year they doubled their attendance…to 12 people!”  The room burst into more laughter.

And so it went for the next hour over lunch:  he had Randy and me in stitches the entire time with his stories about teaching, traveling, and speaking.  We were also able to discuss sports, ministry and his memorable visit to Vancouver seven years ago.

I spent the afternoon reviewing my talks and checking out the sights and sounds of AYC as it was getting going.  I also sat in on one of the rehearsals and had a quick catch up with my buddy Brian, who is serving as one of the emcees for the event.

Dinner was with Randy, Fr. Tony, and Cooper Ray (another one of the keynote speakers).  The lunch-time hilarity carried over to dinner and afterwards Cooper and I had a great chat about ministry, speaking engagements and family life.

I went to the opening session of AYC.  There was a special energy in the room as it seemed that the vast majority of the 2,100 attendees were truly happy to be there.  Fr. Tony did his thing as only Fr. Tony can do, and he had the audience captivated for entire time. 

After the session, I was able to see and speak to my family on FaceTime (I can’t believe I waited so long before getting my iPhone…haha) where I learned the news that all 3 kids had passed their swimming lessons.  Yippee!

I wound up the night visiting with Liz and her crew from Vietnamese Martyrs Parish.  I had a great time meeting all of the adults and teens from her parish and sharing stories of how Liz and I met (apparently I name-dropped Matt Maher within 2 minutes of meeting her back in June 2008…haha).  It was a wonderful way to wrap up the day, even if the security guard came to the room and told us to keep it down at 11:55pm (curfew was at midnite).

On my way down to my room, I shared the elevator with the same security guard. 

“Gonna be a long night, huh?” I asked.

The look on his face said it all as he nodded sheepishly.

I will spend some time practicing my talks and in prayer tonight before I go to bed.  I will be delivering a workshop at 11am and then my keynote at 5pm. 

Dear Lord, I pray that you will use me as Your instrument and witness of Your abundant love.   Amen.

Houston Day 1: Zip Ties, Scissors, and Yao Ming’s Blazer

I arrived in Houston today in advance of this weekend’s Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC) for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.  I am blessed to be serving as one of the 4 keynote speakers for AYC, which I learned is the biggest diocesan youth gathering in the United States aside from LA’s Youth Day.  And if the rest of my trip is anything like today was, I’m in for a memorable week!

Things got off to a great start when my lovely wife Gail brought me to the airport early in the morning.  Usually I take a taxi to YVR but with Gail being “off” for the summer, she offered to bring me.  Or perhaps she just wanted to make sure I got on the plane and was rid of me for a week!

I was checked in (not checked out) by a former neighbour of mine, so she switched my seat to the emergency exit row.  This won’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me well; I often remark of how I love being the short 5’6”guy with the extra leg-room while a 6’5” guy might be crammed in behind me.  She also gave me a zip tie to secure my luggage (more on this later).

Before I boarded my plane, I gave Bell Mobility a quick call to confirm that they had added a US texting plan for me as per my request from yesterday.  Good thing I did, as they had no record of my conversation with them the day prior, and therefore I would have been charged an arm and a leg (and likely a few other body parts) if I hadn’t had called again.  PHEW!

After two relatively uneventful flights (I had a quick stop over in Seattle), I arrived in Houston and was met with a combo of heat and humidity that blasted me in the face (thanks for the warning Kathy!).   I was met by Randy, an Associate Director of the Office of Youth Ministry, and he drove me to the conference hotel downtown.  We had a great chat on the way to the hotel, and found out we had a lot of things in common.

I went to drop off my suitcase and computer before heading out for dinner and told Randy I would be less than 5 minutes (he waited for me in the hotel lobby).  I intended to change my shirt and put my contacts in but I needed access to my suitcase.  Remember that zip tie I mentioned earlier?  Well, I had nothing to cut it with (my scissors were in my suitcase) so I proceeded to break 3 pens in trying to slice through it.  It was all for nought and I ran down to the lobby apologizing to Randy for my delay.

We met the rest of the crew at the House of Blues for dinner; there were about 40-50 people there…all having a hand in AYC.  Some were office staff, some were youth ministers, some were volunteers, and some were youth leaders.  I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  I had a nice chat with one person in particular: Leilani.  She is a Filipina who used to dance for the Houston Rockets’ dance team.  I told her that I used to date a Filipina who used to dance for the Vancouver Grizzlies’ dance team.  Surprisingly, Leilani didn’t get creeped out.   I consider that a success…haha.

What wasn’t a success was how my stomach reacted to my huge plate of jambalaya.  As we were getting ready to leave, I excused myself and paid a visit to the men’s room.  After what I thought was only a few minutes, I emerged from the bathroom to a standing ovation from the AYC crew.   I was slightly embarrassed at this first impression to say the least. 

As we walked back to the hotel, I was talking to some of the people about my zip tie incident.  As I turned back to Leilani, I was shocked to see her holding a rather large pair of scissors near my face.  Maybe she was creeped out after all.  She kindly offered me the scissors so I could access my suitcase.  I thanked for her thoughtful gesture while secretly wondering why she was wandering the streets of downtown Houston with a pair of scissors in her purse.

I sat in on their planning team meeting for an hour or so and it was fascinating and affirming to hear them talk about details for the next day.  Things like who gets radios, who’s doing security, and how they will handle requests for t-shirt exchanges.  It admittedly was nice being on the other “side” for once, as I’ve been in my fair share of these types of meetings back home.  There was a certain urgency yet calm in the room as they finalized details in anticipation of the 2,100 participants arriving the next day.

Before calling it a night, a few of us headed next door to the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets.  We had a quick tour of the offices courtesy of Leilani (she is a senior promotions manager for the team) and we learned some neat insight into the workings of the team and the building.  I tried to impress the group by reminding them that the Rockets obtained point guard Steve Francis from the Vancouver Grizzlies in exchange for Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Antoine Carr, Brent Price, and 2 draft picks in what was then the largest trade in NBA history.  Similar to Vancouver’s response to the Grizzlies, they didn’t seem to care.

Nevertheless, I felt like a kid in a candy store given my love of sports and my fascination with sports arenas.  I even got to try on Yao Ming’s blazer…it looked like a dress on me.  And a bright red one at that.

I’m thankful for the safe travel and for meeting some great people.   I can’t wait to see what this weekend holds for all of us.

Imoo Family Prayer Calendar

Here is our Imoo Family Prayer Calendar.  We started it a few years ago as a way to incorporate more prayer into our family life and it’s been a wonderful blessing to us ever since. 

On any given day, we lift up at least one person or family in prayer and we know that they are doing the same for us!  The love and support of our prayer partners continues to lift us up.

The Prayer Calendar is a nice constant for us amidst the craziness that life serves up.  It’s a neat evangelization tool and great talking point when we have company.  It’s especially gratifying to see Sean and Jacob making it their job to look up the names every day.

Drop me a line if you’d like to be added to our prayer calendar!

1. Estrada, Goh, Powell
2. Marie, Tom
3. Khym, Sarah
4. Genevieve, Katrina
5. Akoglu, Neil, Nicole, Tse
6. Dave & Kathy, Dungen
7. Geri, Graham, Julie Ann, Spicer
8. Bandy & Natalie, Ciara & Mio
9. Manibusan, Patin
10. Alisha, Luttrell
11. Devin, Joelle & Kevin, Vetter
12. Fok, Joseph
13. Chen, Imoo
14. Mascitti
15. Angotti, Dorothy & Kevin, Yu
16. Analyn, McCreedy
17. Chiu, Mesana
18. Hume, Kevin T
19. Wong
20. Mary, So
21. Elisse & James, Gwen & Paul
22. Mom, Phyllis & Kris
23. Celina & Chris, Friesen, Greg
24. Jan
25. Darian, Krissy & Stephen
26. McBurney
27. Chris & Jenny, Karen, Tony
28. East, Garcia, Gillespie, Megan
29. Alvina, Father Justin, Janice
30. Father James
31. Goh