Finally brothers, 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.

Philippians 4:8

How often do we think about “such things” as Paul refers to in his exhortation to the church at Philippi in the book of Philippians? And how often does that translate to excellence in our lives?

Not often enough, right?

I dare say what most occupies our head space is that which is on our schedule or what will make us feel good or sometimes, gulp, what we shouldn’t be thinking about . . . i.e. anything that is the antithesis to the list of descriptors Paul’s called out in verse 8 above.

But today, a new film and an unusual television show have got me thinking about “such things” that I think coincide with what he is saying.

Thanks to a film called The Way, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of life, how I interact with others in community and what my purpose is in this world. It opened in limited release earlier this month and Crosswalk ran a review of it then. But the net will be cast a little farther today when The Way releases wide in many more theaters.

Directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen, this film is not one I expected to like. I know, shame on me. But we all have expectations (however uninformed or misguided they may be) before seeing a movie, right? And in this case, mine were not set very high.

Thankfully, though, I was pleasantly surprised. Here is a travel lover’s visual feast that weaves a story of a father and son reconnecting (thanks to the help of other travelers) via the Camino de Santiago—the “Way of St. James”—a 500-mile pilgrimage beginning in France, weaving through the Basque Country of Spain and ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Sure, it moved a little slowly as the story unfolded and the miles of the pilgrims’ progress ticked by as they stopped here and there, had a few squabbles and eventually learned to trust one another. But after a while I found the meandering pace and the gorgeous scenery quite effective as my thoughts were stirred and I considered my own life path, who is on it with me (and the condition of those relationships) and what my overall journey is looking like at this point.

I had the opportunity to interview Emilio and Martin a few weeks ago and enjoyed hearing how the film’s father and son characters mirrored the acting duo’s real-life relationship and had caused them to reconsider their spiritual beliefs, as well as their places and purposes in this world.

Now, way on the other end of the life spectrum, BIO Channel’s I Survived ... Beyond and Back has also caused me to consider our earthly existence, its meaning and what I am living for while still alive and kicking.

Part of A&E Television Networks, BIO Channel (also known as Biography Channel) premiered six episodes of this documentary-style show last year. During an hour timeframe, two to three profiles of survivors who flatlined and then came back to life are powerfully told . . . by the very survivors themselves. It’s important to note that the channel takes no religious or philosophical position, so the claims of those who say they experienced heaven or hell during the moments they were pronounced dead are their very own.

I talked with Fred Grinstein, Director of Nonfiction and Alternative Programming at A&E Television Networks earlier this week, and have seen the second season’s premiere episode which airs this coming Sunday night, October 23, 2011 (check your local listings for times). To say the least, I was fascinated by the stories of Tyrone, Mick and Noelle, who each—as a result of accidents or grave medical conditions—was pronounced dead for several minutes and then came back to life.

Tyrone says he stood at the gates of hell. Mick remembers talking with Moses and then felt the Almighty’s hand on his shoulder. Noelle recollects seeing a deceased uncle in heaven before she was resuscitated.

I can tell you that it’s not kooky-crazy entertainment at all. The stories are told in a very factual and straightforward manner. But whether you believe these survivors actually encountered what they say they did in their moments of death or not, what can be verified are the changes each have made in their lives since.

While watching, I found myself thinking about what it would take to shake me out of my day-to-day complacency that is so easy to fall into. Would it take a death experience like these three individuals had gone through for me to awaken to all that God wants to do in and through my life if I would only surrender it to him?

Both I Survived ... Beyond and Back and The Way offer a lot to chew on. So consider my thoughts provoked. Because I'm thinking about “such things.”