If you haven’t been to Goodwill for a while–or ever–here’s an idea:This weekend, see if you can locate one near you (or a Salvation Army or other large second-hand store).And then, on your way home from the mall, just step inside the doors of the Goodwill. You don’t have to buy or even touch anything if that creeps you out–just step in and look around.As you scan the racks of clothes and aisles of toys and plates and fondue pots and exercise machines and purses and belts and lamps and alarm clocks, think to yourself:Is that Ann Kroeker over there trying on roller blades?No, I’m kidding. Well, I’d kind of like roller blades, as that was one of the risks I intended to take this past year and never attempted. But I digress.Try thinking this to yourself, instead:Once upon a time, many of these items were Christmas presents. And now….A year ago, or two or three, somebody drove all around town looking for just the right thing. He found it, wrapped it up, and gave it to the person on his list. It was given with love, let’s hope, and was fully enjoyed, let’s hope; but, eventually it made its way here.Don’t get me wrong–it’s sure fun to give gifts to the people we love. I think about my family while I’m in the stores, wondering if this or that would be the right gift and hoping they love what they open from us on Christmas Day. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that–in fact, I think that’s the delight of the gift exchange part of Christmas.When the giving and receiving flows from a deep appreciation of God’s love, there’s another layer of meaning–the gifts we give each other are a small symbol of the love we received from Him, through Jesus, whom we seek to honor during this time chosen to celebrate the Incarnation.But in the end, the stuff, the items that we can obsess and fret about during this stressful countdown to Tuesday, “all just goes to the curb eventually,” as Shalee said in the comments of my last post.Or, as a friend of mine told me one time as she quoted an African who visited America for the first time, “It’s all gonna burn.”And in the meantime, before hitting the trash can or burning up in the End Times, that elusive item you’ve been out shopping for may very well make a stop at Goodwill one day in the future.And, actually, there’s a good chance that it will sojourn at my house if I find it in the mountain of donated goods, because I’m guessing you gave a cool gift that I would enjoy even if it’s scuffed up a bit.But my trips to Goodwill and the shopping in “real” stores this season remind me how fleeting these worldly goods are compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.They’re so empty compared to the relationships God has given us on this earth in which we give and receive, celebrate and struggle through, love and serve.We’ll go ahead and shop, of course. We’ll enjoy expressing love through giving.But if we can’t find just the right thing, or we’re not sure about the color or size, or if the traffic is maddening, or somebody reaches past us to grab the last item on the shelf…the very item we were searching for…We’ll think of Goodwill.That very item will be sitting on one of its shelves one day.And that always gives me healthy perspective.Before I log off, though, I can’t help wondering: What did you buy this year?I’m just curious, because I might keep an eye open for it myself.In a year or two.At Goodwill.