We hit it off immediately over our Russian past—she was from there; I used to travel there. I told the crazy story about how I began those trips to work with orphans… and we took turns, explaining to the group the various reasons why there are so many orphans in Russia. I don’t know any details about how “Masha” ended up in jail or in my class, but I gathered it was drugs. I also gathered she had a pretty extensive understanding of the Bible from the ways she added to our conversation, with her bleach-blond hair and denim blue eyes.
Our conversations in the jail are unpredictable. This time, as often happens, we strayed from our “Bad Girls of the Bible” curriculum into a discussion about addiction (which hits every single one of us square in the eyes, every time—we are all prone to addiction, some of us just have more socially acceptable addictions than others), insecurity, shame and feelings of being unworthy of love (again—things we all relate to in that group, no matter which side of the bars we find ourselves on).
I broke out Philippians 4 which talks about rejoicing and bringing our requests to God, His unconscionable peace…and culminates with a mental check list. How do we guard our hearts and minds? How do we take captive every thought? Here’s a check list for you!
In college someone made up a word, well, an acronym to be precise, from the first letter of each word in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is True, whatever is Noble, whatever is Right, whatever is Pure, whatever is Lovely, whatever is Admirable—if anything is Excellent or Praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Emphasis added.)
Suddenly, as I write this, I’m hearing Cinderella’s Godmother singing, “Put it together what have you got? Bibbity, bobbity, boo.” What have you got when you put those first letters together? A word as ridiculous and catchy as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: Tnrpla. Ok, so, we made a word out of the first part and tacked on the Excellent and Praiseworthy at the end. The result of which was we would say it like this: “tuh-ner-puhl-a-E.-P.”. It’s ridiculous, but it kind of sticks in your head. I never forgot it, anyway. And because of that goofy mnemonic, that verse is now locked into my brain.
So I shared my little memory trick with the girls. True, noble, right, lovely admirable, excellent, praiseworthy…they really resonated with the idea of using these traits as a measuring stick by which to evaluate their thought life. Satan is the accuser. God speaks love and restoration. If God speaks a “negative” truth, aka He points out your sin, it’s always with the aim of redemption and restoration. When Satan does the same is with the aim of shame and guilt and isolation. They “know” this, but sometimes it’s hard to know if a thought is conviction or guilt. And let’s be honest, our thought patterns are so ingrained—they are such habits and patterns that we don’t even recognize them.
Add to that that most of these girls have some very difficult pasts. They have abusers in their pasts speaking hate and shame and condemnation over them and into them. They have a past which has haunted and hounded them right into jail. They feel accusation from every angle, from the world, from their friends and family and even from their own selves. They have such destructive patterns of thinking that they are driven right back to their addictions to cope with (aka numb) the voices in their heads. If they are going to find true freedom, they have to win the battle in their heads. They have to learn to think about things the way GOD thinks about things…beginning with how they think about themselves.
They get this in theory, but understanding how to do this in practice is hard. That’s where TNRPLA-EP comes in handy.
And let’s be honest…are we any different? When I talk to these girls I realize that I’m in the same pit they are in. They may be a little farther in than I am, but I have the same mud on my shoes. I have the same battles in my head. The same accuser comes at me that comes at them. I need some TNRPLA-EP re-patterning in my brain. I need some holy brainwashing!
I asked the girls to share an area in life where they feel accused, guilty, ashamed—whether it was self-inflicted or something they have accepted from others. Then we held those thoughts up to the light of Philippians 4:8. Is it first of all TRUE? Ok, well, possibly, so let’s keep going… Is it NOBLE, … PURE… EXCELLENT…? It didn’t take long before the tears began to fall in tandem with the release of their pain and burdens—unnecessary baggage in the light of God’s love and freedom. There wasn’t one burden in the group that wasn’t easily exposed for the lie from Hell that it was when held up to TNRPLA-EP.
This treatment may provide an immediate relief, but it’s one that must be reapplied continually. Old habits die hard. Old thoughts may even die harder for they are both structure as well as foundation. The foundation has to be rebuilt and the habits formed on top of those thoughts have to be reformed. This is an exercise and it must be repeated over and over and over again until your mental muscles are strong and reflexive in this area.
So, even though we had this powerful moment of exposing our faulty thinking to the light of God’s truth and love, it was short-lived. It wasn’t long before one of the girls uttered something self-condemning, full of shame and bitterness—a lie she believed about her lack of worth. A feeling I know all too well.
That’s when “Masha” pipes up and says, almost before the other girl had finished uttering the ugly thing, “That’s not TNRPL-onic!!!” And thus the phrase was coined: “TNRPL-onic”—having the qualities of thought in accordance with Philippians 4:8; in alignment with Philippians 4:8; thoughts which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.
We busted up laughing, of course. You can’t help but laugh around “Masha”—she’s infectious and so full of joyous energy. TNRPL-onic made a few other appearances that day. It quickly became the way the girls helped keep each other “honest”. It was the way they were loving each other, by helping each other see when their thoughts weren’t right. That’s why we need community—we can’t always see things for ourselves, especially when it’s in our thought life, and even more so when it’s a thought that’s been with us all our life. That day they began the habit of helping each other nip wrong thinking in the bud. It was a beautiful thing.
That’s the first step. Recognizing wrong thoughts and refusing to think them. The second step is replacing wrong thoughts with right thoughts. Thoughts about God’s love and truth for your life. Maybe the steps are interchangeable. If you fill yourself with true thoughts of God’s love, the lies don’t have as much room…they are squashed before they begin. Darkness can’t come in where the light is. Chicken or the egg…both are necessary and that day was a start.
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
May all your thoughts be TNRPL-0nic!
 2 Corinthians 10:5