3252609They could do Deep Purple better than Deep Purple. The Alley Cats were the kings of the Penang disco scene. They were the premier rock group in Penang in the 1970s. They would go on to write their own stuff and became heroes in the Malaysian music industry.

One of the highlights of my teenage years was catching them at Carmen’s Inn (disco). Who cared if the volume of the music did irreparable damage to your ear drums. You were young. You were immortal.

Yesterday (June 6 ’07) was the funeral of Loganathan Arumugam, one of the two Arumugam brothers who fronted the Alley Cats. He died of lung cancer. He was 54. Just two years my senior.

There is no better “momento mori” (Latin phrase: “Remember you are mortal”) than the death of your peers especially icons from your teenage years. Or the death of good friends. Two of mine died at the end of 2006.

Saw an obituary in yesterday’s paper of a man who died at the age of 61. If I went at 61 I have only 9 years left. Feels very short. I am hoping I do as good as my dad who went at 81.

Of course you never know how long you have. That is something that is filed under the perfect, loving, unknowable will of God. Therefore there is every reason in the world to live intentionally.

Recently a brother helped me to identify my primary competency by doing an audit of my life. It convinced me that I should embrace teaching as my primary contribution to life. Yet this has to be qualified.

The teaching I am called to do is not just to impart knowledge. The study showed that my main calling is to expound truth with the purpose of engaging hearts and transforming lives.

This recent exercise confirms clues that have been in my life all along. Early in my ministry, a group “prophesied” over me and said that I had the gift of prophecy but not the “thus saith the Lord” variety. My prophetic ministry was to be expressed in the form of prophetic teaching. This word was confirmed by another word at another time by another group.

And in numerous life mission exercises, after much reflection, I had given my life mission as: “seeing lives transformed through the relevant, accurate and passionate preaching of God’s Word.” At age 52 I find my vocation confirmed yet again.

Therefore it would make sense that I should invest a large part of whatever years that God chooses to give me, in “teaching to engage and transform.” It also means that I may have to tweak my present ministry.

Right now, Grace@Work focuses on spiritual friendship and spiritual mentoring. Events in my life opened my eyes to the centrality of seeing lives transformed through relationships and truth. This will continue. It is a question of proportion.

If my primary calling is to do “teaching that engages and transforms” then the bulk of my time should be invested into doing just that. I will continue to do spiritual mentoring but I will spend more time preaching and teaching.

Theologically I think this is the responsible thing to do. After all Paul tells us: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8 TNIV)

Peter concurs when he says: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1Peter 4:10 TNIV)

Peter and Paul assume that different believers have different spiritual competencies. To be good stewards of our gift, indeed to be good stewards of our lives, we need to pay attention to exercising that competency given to us. Indeed our gifting can be an additional true north as we go through the changes of life.

I have gone through some major changes recently. I have accepted a gracious invitation to help minister in a church in Singapore. For this and other reasons I have relocated from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. I have found the transition demanding.

Yet it is in the chaos of change that you ask yourself what does not change. And I have come to realise that whether it is Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Vancouver, and that whoever signs my pay cheque at the end of the month, my primary contribution remains the same and therefore the basic contours of my ministry will remain the same — teaching to engage and transform.

It also makes sense of many of the things that have happened to me. God had to engage and transform me first if I was to be of any good in carrying out His calling. He is still engaging and transforming me. So much rubbish to cut out so that His life can shine through.

To grow older is to realise how far one has come — and how far one has yet to go. Kierkegaard is right. Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.

Loga was buried with Hindu rites. As far as I know he was not a follower of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful. Thanks Loga, for the music, and in your passing, reminding me to count my days.
Terima kassihh.
Thank you.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan