The Art of Answering Questions

The Art of Answering Questions

Or, The Joy of Meeting Fascinating People

Recently, I had the awesome privilege of meeting a brilliant educator from Indonesia, who, for me, was the best question-answerer I’ve ever met. He sat on a panel discussion, and the way he answered questions was just so… illuminating… that it got me asking, what was it about the way he responded that made him shine brighter than the other panelists? Because whatever it was, I want to learn it.

There’s no doubt that the panelists who did better than the others gave much more than good answers. They spoke with their hearts and with passion; they seemed like they believed every word they said. This, which in and of itself was very crucial, was a given. Yet there seemed to be more than just being passionate.

I’m sure that there is no simplistic answer to this question, but after a few days of reflection, I think I have a few guesses. It seemed to me there were three things that made certain answers very impactful for me:

1. Illuminate the context of the question.

The first thing he did before answering the question was to give the background and context of the question. Instead of giving the right answer directly, he would guide you to think correctly about that question you just asked. Every question comes with certain presumptions, so before he answered them, he made sure everyone was on the same page, not by saying “are we on the same page?” explicitly, but by tactfully giving more information on the context of the problem. Thus, before you get your answers, you are already more knowledgeable than before.

2. Answer the question right on.

It may seem obvious, but I was surprised at how few actually do this straightforward thing when someone asked a question: answer it. Most of the times, either we skirt around issues, or give canned answers. It is a hard thing to answer questions sincerely, and to hit it on the spot. Hence, we often ask, “Did I answer your question?” Not once did he do this.

3. Give ‘em some more.

Then, after all of that was done, he gave extra bits of information or hints at what you should think about next. The questioner then was left with utter satisfaction, plus some food for thought.

Seriously, I was marveled. I got the chance to speak with him one on one too, and when I asked him about what steps should I do if I was planning to move back to Indonesia, he actually answered my questions with specifics and practical advice. NOBODY has ever done that before.

Sometimes in a young person’s life, or in anyone’s life for that matter, he/she just needs answers. Plain answers, without rhetoric or telling me I have to do more research, that would not only make me less lost, but would give me absolute clarity.

Add to this mastery of answering questions kindness, generosity, courtesy, and approachability, what you have is true charisma and influence. I’m meeting more and more people of this kind these days, and really, the world is a better place because of them. I would love to be this kind of person one day. But in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy marveling over these fascinating people.

The Bridge to Eternity

The Bridge to Eternity

Twenty six plus years of being a Sabbath keeper are not enough to exhaust the multifacetedness of this holy day. Perhaps nothing less than eternity will suffice. Sitting in my Sabbath School class last week like a good Adventist, and catching up on the week’s lesson in class like a Badventist, I was kicking myself for not studying it earlier. It was so good! The author of the lesson, Jo Ann Davidson, brought up important lessons on the Sabbath that I never thought before.

The Great Equalizer

In the 10 Commandments, it is written:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11

On the Sabbath day, we are to rest along with those around us, namely family members, those who work for us, animals that work for us, or guests who are at our disposal. Davidson writes:

The entire family household, including any servants of either gender, the working class along with the “boss,” are to rest together. Sabbath is the great equalizer, the liberator of all inequalities in the social structure. Before God, all human beings are equal, and the Sabbath is a unique way of revealing this crucial truth, especially in a world so dominated by class structures that place various groups “over” or “beneath” others. Glimpses of our God, Sabbath School Quarterly Jan-Mar 2012, Lesson 7.

Mind-blowing! The Sabbath liberates all men and women, and animals too. When we say the Sabbath is a memorial of creation, it not only reminds us of the God who created the heavens and the earth, it is also a memorial of that perfect world that God made and one day will restore, a world where all men, women, and animals are free.

In that world, every son and daughter has full access to God as the Father, there is no master over you, and there is no master over any animal. No one is a stranger, and no one is at anyone else’s disposal, except at His who is the Source of all things. Every living thing rests, relies, and depends on the Creator alone.

In another place Davidson writes, “[Sabbath] is a day for healing and restoration,” and how true that is. By keeping the Sabbath day, humanity is restored to what it is meant to be. We get to experience glimpses of that original creation and be brought back to that perfect world.

Repairers of the Breach

Isaiah 58 then came to mind; that chapter whose promises in verses 13-14 are so dear to Sabbath keepers (i.e., those who call the Sabbath a delight are promised to ride upon the high places of the earth and receive the heritage of Jacob), but whose verses 1-12 don’t… sound… as… sweet.

The Pharisees gave Jesus a lot of heat for healing people on the Sabbath. They wanted Him to be pious like them in keeping the Sabbath, down to every nitpicky detail of what entails as work or rest. But that was not the point of the Sabbath.

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Isaiah 58:5.

The Sabbath was not made to burden men, but to set men free.

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to lose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Isaiah 58:6-7

These things sound awfully similar to what Jesus would do on the Sabbath. No, they were exactly what He did. He went about doing good, freeing men from the bondage of sin and suffering. He healed and restored them on the Sabbath day. He brought them back to the condition akin to that at Creation – perfect, healthy, free, sinless/forgiven men and women.

And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones, and thou salt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:10-12.

These things sound awfully like Jesus. They were exactly what Jesus was on earth: His light rose in obscurity, He was guided continually, His soul was satisfied in drought, He was like a watered garden and a spring of water whose waters did not fail. People drew strength, love, and much more from Him and He never tired. He built the waste places and raised up foundations of many generations. He was the Repairer of the breach.

What breach? There was a breach to the perfect world that God created that yielded the world that we live in now with its oppression, sickness, and death. The breach is called sin.

As He healed people, He restored humanity and repaired that breach. He brought to earth something like that world with all things good and perfect. In fact, His death and His rest on the Sabbath day in the grave was the ultimate repair of the breach, giving sinners access to God and setting them on a path towards restoration.

These were why all the things Jesus did on the Sabbath did not break the commandment. They were all in fact in the spirit of the Sabbath – healing, liberating, restoring, recreating humanity.

These are also why it is perfectly within the perimeters of keeping the Sabbath to do good for humanity. In fact, the Sabbath is the very means to override that breach of sin.

In the spirit of the Sabbath, a spirit of restoration and healing, let the world draw out our compassion for humanity and let us act on it. Following Jesus’ example, we are too are repairers of the breach, and let us bring glimpses of eternity to this earth.

Second Chances

Second Chances

Have you ever

Messed up badly

And you know it’s entirely your fault


Then you ask for a second chance

Not because you deserve it

But because your Master is kind


He gives it to you

And things are as though the mistake never happened

You know that you are under grace


I’m thankful there are such things called second chances