HALLOWEEN STORY: The Messages on Emily’s New Phone

Message on Emily's Phone


   Emily Bradley wanted a smart phone for her tenth birthday.  Her mother and step-father had been reluctant to give her one because they felt it was a luxury for a child to have, but finally agreed to surprise her with one for her birthday. 

At bedtime, as Emily laid the phone on the stand beside her bed, she noticed a text message on the phone.  She was surprised because no one knew she had a phone.

She picked up the phone and read the message. Good news.  Now we can talk.”

For some strange reason, Emily couldn’t tell who sent the message.  And she couldn’t respond because her parents told her to not be on the phone after nine o’clock and it was now ten o’clock. But she was dying to know who sent the message.

She was about to turn out the light when she noticed another message.  “Please respond.  Important.”

Emily decided to take the risk violating her parents’ rule and respond.

“Who are you?” she texted.

“Your brother.”

“I don’t have a brother.”

“Yes you do.”

“You’re wrong.  Who are you?”

“Your brother.  I’m dead.”

Emily almost dropped the phone.  Someone’s playing a mean prank, she thought.

Another message appeared.  “Sorry to shock u.”

Emily sat in disbelief.

“My name is Brogan,” the next message said.

Emily got upset.  This has gone far enough, she thought.

“Stop,” she texted.  “This isn’t funny.”

“He killed me.”

Emily became frightened.  A lunatic had somehow gotten her number.

Another message appeared. “U MUST believe me.  Your life’s in danger.”

Emily began to tremble but felt herself being drawn into this strange mystery on her phone.  She decided to respond.

“If u r dead how can u text?”

“My body’s dead….my spirit isn’t.”

“That’s impossible.”

Trust me.  My spirit can create text messages on your phone.”

Another text appeared. “Come to Bexley Cemetery after school. Bring your phone.”

“Why?” Emily texted.

“To prove I’m your brother.”

“If you’re trying to frighten me…u r.”

“Sorry.  Just trying to save your life.”

The next day after school, Emily dreaded the idea of going to the cemetery alone but was too curious not to go.  As she got to the cemetery, a text appeared on her phone.

  “Come to large oak tree in center.”

Emily walked to the large oak tree.

“Read the headstone,” the text said.

Emily looked at the inscription.  It said: Brogan J. Bradley.

   The year of the death was the year Emily was born.

“See.  I’m your brother.  He killed me. Made it look like an accident.”

“Who?” Emily texted.

“It’s too late.  He followed you.”


“Our step-father.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“He did it for insurance money.  Sorry, I tried to warn you.”

   Emily heard a voice behind her.  “It’s too bad you got the phone, Emily.”

Emily turned and saw her step-father.  He had a cell phone in one hand and a rope in the other.







HALLOWEEN STORY The Deceased’s Wife

deceased's wife

As Betsy Green drove home from her husband’s viewing at Bentley’s Funeral Home, she sang an upbeat song.  She had never been so happy.  Her husband’s death was ruled an accident and it happened just two days after he signed his new life insurance papers.  It was so perfect.

She was going to be rich. Of course, she would have to use some of the insurance money to have the defective valve in her heart replaced, but there would be plenty of money left over to go to Europe, go on cruises, and live a life of luxury — things she had secretly dreamed about for a long time.

Once home she pampered herself with a relaxing bubble bath and a glass of wine before crawling into bed.  She looked forward to a good night’s sleep, maybe the best sleep in a long time.

About 1:00 a.m. she was awakened by what she thought was someone humming.  She recognized it as a Hank Williams song — “You’re Cheatin’ Heart.”   Her husband was always singing Hank Williams songs.  But he was dead and soon to be buried.  So who could it be?  After nervous fretting, she told herself it was a bad dream and tried to go back to sleep.

But the humming didn’t stop.  It got louder.  “Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep, you’ll cry and cry and try to sleep.”  It sounded exactly like her husband, but…..it simply couldn’t be.  The humming continue.  “But sleep won’t come the whole night through, your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.”

She was convinced that someone was standing at the end of her bed humming that song. Someone was trying to play a trick on her.  She peered into the darkness and was certain the figure was a man. If it wasn’t her husband, who was it?  Who could it be? She started to panic.  She wanted to jump out of bed and run but she was too frightened to do so.  She could feel herself trembling as she sat up in bed.  Her throat tightened, but she managed to say , “Who’s there? What do you want?”

As the humming got even louder, her trembling got worse.  She could feel the whole bed shaking.   She started gasping for breath.  What…..what if he wasn’t dead?  But he had to be.  He was in the casket.  But what if his death was a prank?  It was Halloween.  He always played pranks on Halloween, practically scaring her to death,  and then laughing.  But this wasn’t funny.  She could feel her heart pounding and pain shooting down her arm.

What….what if his death was a hoax and he wanted to scare her to death?  He knew she had a bad heart.  And, after all, she signed life insurance papers the same day he did.  Gasping for breath, she reached for the light by the bed.  But her heart gave out before she could turn it on.









Jesus slipped into the church and sat in the last pew.  The pastor’s sermon described how Jesus simply said to his disciples, “Come,” and they gave up their jobs and daily routines to follow him and experience a life of serving others.

After the worship service, Jesus went to the pastor and expressed interest in becoming a member of the congregation.

“Have you been baptized?” the pastor asked.

“Yes,” Jesus said.

“Good,” the pastor said. “Do you have proof of your baptism?”

“Not actually,” Jesus said.  “Can you trust me and accept my word?”

“Sorry,” said the pastor.  “Our church bylaws say we have to have proof.  Do you by chance have a letter of transfer from another church?”

“I have no letter of transfer,” Jesus said.  “I don’t even know what it is.  Can’t I just declare that I want to enjoy fellowship with this group and be accepted?”

“No, not according to our bylaws,” the pastor said.  “Sorry.”

“Do you ever make exceptions?” Jesus asked.”

“Not even if you were the good Lord himself,” the pastor said.  “If we did it for one, we’d have to do it for everyone.”

“So, where do I start?”  Jesus asked.

“Well, first you’ll need to fill out a form requesting membership,” the pastor said.  “Then you’ll be assigned to a class on membership.”

“What is involved in a membership class?” Jesus asked.

“Well, lots of things,” the pastor said.  “You’ll learn all about who we are as a church, what our vision is, what our particular beliefs are.  Basically you need to know in order to become a member with us.”

“I’ve studied the Scriptures,” Jesus said.  “I believe I have a good understanding of what the church is all about and what the basic beliefs are. Isn’t that good enough?”

“That’s just what’s in the Scriptures,” the pastor said. “I’m talking about what our church believes.  What’s in our covenants and bylaws, important stuff like that.”

“So if you and I were traveling in a car together discussing the Scriptures and I said I wanted to obey the Scriptures and be baptized, and there was a river nearby, what would you do?” Jesus asked.

“You don’t seem to be grasping what I’m saying,” the pastor said.  “I would probably take you to the river and baptize you.  But don’t you see, you still would have to go through our membership class.  We can’t just blindly accept anyone who comes in the door.  What kind of church would we be if we did that?  You have to be confirmed.”

“When do these membership classes take place?”  Jesus asked.

“It depends,” the pastor said. “We try to have regular classes scheduled at least several times a year.  Sometimes we wait until Lent.”

“What’s Lent?” Jesus asked.  “I’m familiar with the Scriptures, but I never heard of Lent.”

“Well then, my friend, you don’t know your church history,” the pastor said.  “Lent is when our church members fast and pray for forty days before Easter as a way of remembering our Lord and his suffering.  It’s a serious time of sacrifice, like giving up candy bars or coffee for forty whole days.  Stuff like that.”

“Isn’t that something your members do throughout the year?”  Jesus asked.

“Of course they do,” the pastor said.  “Lent is just something church leaders came up with to make it an extra special time.  Listen, you’re asking a lot of questions.  Do you want to become a member or not?”

“I think you’ve convinced me,” Jesus said.

“Good,” the pastor said.  “Now, if you just fill out the request for membership card, we can get you started.

“No,” Jesus said.  “I think you convinced me that I might not fit in here. I’ve spent my life opposing man-made rules and laws and steps I’m required to follow in order to be viewed as acceptable and spiritual, requirements that go above and beyond what the Scriptures say.  I prefer to not return to that kind of worship.  Thank you for your time, though.  Oh, and by the way, I didn’t introduce myself.  My name is Jesus.  Have a good day.”

















If we would learn to encourage more and praise less in our relationships, we would help others improve their self-confidence, experience greater self-worth, and empower them to feel more capable and courageous.


Of course this is difficult to do because we have been taught and conditioned to consistently use praise to let others know how we feel about their accomplishments.  We have been taught to focus on outcomes and results rather than effort.  Historically, our education system has been notorious for praising perfection: stressing right answers, turning in outstanding work, achieving A’s, completing all requirements.  Likewise, the business world has learned to praise achievement and reward productivity, awarding promotions based on accomplishments.


Unfortunately, because we are so accustomed to using praise, we have ignored what research says on this topic (i.e., Dweck (2015); Butcher (2017); Ginott (1965); Grille (2005); Aldort (2000).  Studies show that children who receive encouragement as they are growing up are more successful later in life than those who receive consistent praise.  According to the studies, praise can hamper risk taking. Children who were praised for being smart when they accomplished a task chose easier tasks in the future because they didn’t want to risk making mistakes.  On the other hand, children who were encouraged for their efforts were willing to choose more challenging tasks when given a choice.


So, what are the basic differences between encouragement and praise?

  1. Encouragement focuses on effort, praise focuses on results.
  2. Encouragement helps others feel good about themselves and believe in themselves; praise makes others feel good at the moment but the effects are temporary.
  3. Encouragement fosters self-sufficiency and independence; praise fosters dependence on the need for on-going praise.
  4. Encouragement creates an attitude of trying and not giving up; praise creates the need to perform to receive praise and an attitude of giving up if failure occurs.
  5. Encouragement comes before results. Results come before praise.


Examples of Praise Statements:

  1. You did a good job.
  2. Your work is outstanding.
  3. I am proud of what you did.
  4. You deserve a medal for what you did.


Examples of Encouragement Statements:

  1. You really put a lot of effort in that.
  2. You tried really hard.
  3. You have really improved.
  4. I admire you for your persistence and for not giving up.


Psychologists often use a term called locus of control to describe motivation.  There are two types of locus of control, internal and external.  Individuals who have an internal locus of control are not greatly influenced by the comments and values of the people around them.  Their decisions are made based on their own values and convictions and they tend to exhibit a sense of control over their lives.  Individuals who have an external locus of control tend to be highly dependent on the views and comments of others and tend to believe that most events are outside of their control.  Consistent praise often leads to an external locus of control, whereas encouragement promotes an internal locus of control.


In promoting personal growth in others (as well as ourselves), it isn’t necessary to remove praise from our vocabulary, but it would be a distinct advantage if we would encourage more than we praise.  It’s definitely a skill we can learn.



Pig in clothes

Dear Dr. Wise-One,

My girlfriend has a pet pig named Wilma.  Each time I go to my girlfriend’s apartment I get better and better acquainted with Wilma.  Now I have a problem.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve grown to like Wilma more than I like my girlfriend, Leona.  In fact, I love Wilma.

It sounds crazy but Wilma is absolutely charming and her eyes are so expressive.  And I absolutely love her little “oink, oink.”  Whereas Leona is often too busy to spend much time with me, Wilma follows me wherever I go.  She makes me feel so needed.   I miss her so much when I’m not with her.  Fortunately, Leona lets me take Wilma to the park and we sit on a park bench and I hold her on my lap and it’s like being in heaven. 

Dr. Wise-One, what should I do?  Should I tell my girlfriend that I love Wilma instead of her?

Signed, Pig Lover


Dear Pig Lover,

Yes, by all means tell Leona that you’re in love with her pig, Wilma.  Honesty is always the best policy in a relationship, but be prepared because this could end your relationship with Leona.  Not many women like playing second fiddle to another female, especially to a female pig (no offense to Wilma).

Also, be prepared that you and Wilma may run into obstacles as a couple.  It’s likely you won’t be invited to many parties unless Wilma can learn a few more words than “Oink-oink.”  People usually like a higher level of conversation than an “oink-oink” here and an “oink-oink” there. Also, you’ll likely have to avoid going to restaurants that serve pork, ham, or bacon as Wilma might get offended.  And keep in mind that a lot of restaurants will refuse to serve Wilma.

If you decide to get married, you should know that few pastors will marry a man to a pig.  Although there’s no Scripture that says, “Thou shalt not marry a pig,” current social norms oppose it. So you have a lot to think about, Pig Lover.  I must admit, though, you sound like you’re in pig heaven.  Remember, “love conquers all,” so perhaps you can make it work.  Best wishes and good luck.

Signed, Dr. Wise-One





woman with a man

  1. Be his friend.

A man appreciates a close friend he can confide in and count on no matter what happens, someone he can share his thoughts and feelings with, someone who will always be there and will listen to him without judgment or condemnation.  Be that friend to him.  Be his confidant.  Be careful, though, not to mother him or smother him.  Give him room to breathe.  Admit when you’re wrong and be willing to forgive when he’s wrong.

  1. Be affectionate.

Be generous and consistent with your hugs and gentle touches. Say “I love you” often and take the time to tell him why you love him, why he means so much to you, why your life would be empty without him.   Initiate your affection.  Make him feel wanted and needed.

  1. Accept him for who he is.

Let him know you have no desire to try to change him, that your goal is not to “make him a better person.”  You like him the way he is. Make it clear to him that he’s your Prince Charming.  Don’t compare him to other men, especially in a way that makes him feel like he doesn’t measure up, that he’s not good enough.

  1. Be his encourager.

Every man needs and wants encouragement. It’s especially meaningful when he’s facing challenges or is having a rough day or week.  Little things, done on a regular basis, can mean the world to him, like writing a thoughtful note and putting it on his bathroom mirror, or taking him to a movie he really wants to see, or preparing his favorite meal, or sending him an email at work or at home with an inspirational quote or thought, or buying a magazine dealing with topics he enjoys and having it on the table when he sits down for breakfast….little things that tell him you’re thinking of him and that you’re in his corner and always will be.

  1. Respect him.

One of the most important thing you can do is convey to him that you respect him, that you hold him in high regard.  Let him know you appreciate his wisdom in making decisions,  and whatever you do don’t go behind his back and undermine the things he does or what he decides.  Don’t try to manipulate him into doing or thinking what you might think is best.  If you disagree with any of his decisions, sit down and talk with him about it in an objective manner.  Don’t try to persuade, just share feedback.

  1. Keep a record of good times together.

One of the ways a man feels loved is letting him know you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the good times the two of you have had together.  Take the time to verbally reminisce with him.  Maybe keep photos of the special moments you’ve had together, perhaps in a photo album or on your phone and/or computer.  Set aside times when you can sit down with him and look at the photos and talk about the special moment you’ve had together. Tell him how special those moments made you feel and how he has contributed to your happiness.

  1. Sincerely compliment him.

Be alert to the things he does, large or small, that you appreciate and then compliment him.  Build him up and make him feel special. Focus on his strengths.  He’s a man and he wants to be viewed as a man and your compliments can help with that.  Let how know how proud you are of him and that you appreciate the good qualities you see in him.

  1. Share in his interests.

Take the time to talk with him about his interests, even the seemingly insignificant ones, and determine which ones you might be able to enjoy with him.  Some of them may not be your “cup of tea” but just being willing to participate with him will make him feel special.  Surprise him with little gifts or gift cards that he can use to help him enjoy his interests.

  1. Believe in him.

One way to win his heart is to really believe in him, even when others might not and especially when he’s struggling with his own self doubts.  Even if he has had some setbacks or failures or has made some unwise decisions, let him know that you believe in him and trust the fact that he has the ability to make good decisions.  Be willing to sacrifice and work hard to help him accomplish his goals and fulfill his dreams  and do it with a positive, “never give up” attitude.

  1. Encourage his spirituality.

There’s a tendency for a man to feel like he should be strong and independent and rely on himself, that it’s a sign of weakness to depend on anyone else or to let God be in control.  Sometimes it’s difficult for him to express what he believes spiritually.  Give him freedom to travel his own unique spiritual journey and let him know you accept and support him wherever he is along the pathway.  Be patient.  Be an example.  And be supportive.



man and woman holding hands

  1. Say positive things about her in private as well as public.

Observe her! Look for opportunities to give her sincere compliments.  Let her know you like how she looks, or what she wears, or things she does, or what she cooks.  When appropriate, tell others in a public setting how much you appreciate her and let her hear the kind words you say about her.

  1. Display photos of her.

Carry a photo of her in your wallet.  If possible, display a photo of her at your work place and have one visible on your desk at home where you can easily see it when you’re on the computer.  Use a nice photo of her as your desktop wallpaper. She’ll feel honored and cherished.

  1. Take her out to eat.

Make sure you know which meal is her preferred meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and treat her at her favorite places.  Don’t just go on her birthday or anniversary, or at holiday time. Let her know you want to take her out as a treat.  And when you take her out, TALK, carry on a conversation.  Don’t just sit there and eat.  And NEVER sit and look at your phone.

  1. Take time to know her interests and participate in them with her.

If she enjoys going on a walk, go with her as often as you can.  If she likes romance movies, enjoy them with her.   If she likes playing cards, take the time to enjoy playing cards with her.  You don’t have to participate all the time, but enough to show her that you genuinely enjoy being involved in her life. What’s really important is that your world isn’t centered primarily on YOUR interests.  One way to check this out is to list the top five things the two of you enjoy doing together and then determine if these are primarily YOUR interests.  How many of them are based on HER interests?

  1. Surprise her with little gifts on a regular basis.

Take the time to know the little things that make her feel special and then, as much as possible, give them to her as surprise gifts. Learn which things have sentimental value to her.  Maybe it’s a rose bud.  Maybe it’s dusting FOR her or WITH her.  Maybe it’s doing the laundry or emptying the dish washer.  Maybe it’s giving her a book by her favorite author. Maybe it’s simply going to the store and buying a card that says you’re thinking of her or, even better, giving her a homemade card.  Maybe it’s putting a thoughtful note in her purse or lunch container and surprising her.  But remember, the best gift you can give her is yourself.  Be there for her.

  1. Talk to her, share your thoughts and feelings.

Tell her about your day and then ask her about hers and LISTEN when she talks.  Make her feel important by looking at her when she talks.  Don’t be distracted. It will make her feel so good to know you thoroughly enjoy her company and want to have a conversation with her.

  1. Spend time with her friends and family.

Be aware of who’s important to her and find ways for her to share time with them.  Let her know you are willing to be there with her to share time with them as well.  Don’t be critical of the family and friends that mean a lot to her.

  1. Accept her for who she is.

Make sure she feels that you accept her for who she is, not who you want her to be.  Don’t make her feel that she has to meet certain standards or expectations in order to gain your acceptance.  Focus your attention on accepting her, not trying to change her.  She’ll appreciate it.

  1. Say “I love you” often.

Doing things for her will make her feel special, but nothing is more important than sincerely saying to her, “I love you.”  There are those who think you don’t have to say the words, that actions are what’s important. But the key is what’s important to HER.  Ask her if she likes to hear you say, “I love you.”  If she does, be willing to say it.  It’s reassuring to her.

  1. Encourage her spirituality.

Encourage her in her search for spiritual meaning. Spirituality is a personal thing so give her freedom to explore.  Support her beliefs even if they’re different from yours. If she chooses to express faith in God, don’t discourage her efforts.  To the contrary,  buy her inspirational books and gifts that give her a spiritual lift.  Her spirituality is part of who she is so don’t do anything to discourage or squelch it.