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It’s Complicated

November 5, 2010

Note: Jim Lyon is the Senior Pastor at Madison Park Church of God in Anderson. His personal story about adoption essentially served as the genesis of the Miriam Project in 1998. This entry is reposted with permission from the Madison Park Threads.

By Jim Lyon, Senior Pastor, Madison Park Church of God

As many of you know, I have kind of a complicated history. First there’s that whole conceived-out-of-wedlock-and-given-up-for-adoption thing. I have an official birth certificate that reads: Baby Boy Thornton. That’s me. (Thornton was my birthmother’s name; my birthfather’s name was Jordan; I was first named Michael; Michael Jordan, then, was how I left the hospital. After some months went by, I was adopted and renamed James Harold Webster. I also have an official birth certificate with that name. That’s me, too.

And then, I was adopted again and renamed a third time: James Donald Lyon. This one stuck. That’s me, too. I have a United States passport with that name. But, I don’t have a birth certificate with that name. Yet.

It’s been a challenge to organize the paperwork and persuade the State of Washington (where I was born) to issue me a new birth certificate with my present legal name. I know who I am. Washington’s Office of Vital Statistics in Olympia isn’t so sure. It’s not so easy to establish identity these days. Maybe I should go with the Irish passport and identity deal (for which I’m eligible by Irish law; my birth parents are both Irish nationals).

At least Ireland thinks it knows who I am. In this, Barack Obama and I have something in common. Where was he born anyway? Oh yes, Hawaii. And, I was born in Washington. If only I could persuade the government there to believe me. Hmmm.

Of course, you know who I am. My parents, Don and Mildred Lyon, surely do. Why, they have devoted their lives to giving me life. A future. And a name. Names matter. I never take mine for granted.

But, ultimately, who we are is not hinged on what people call us. Our sense of self is a lot deeper, more profound, than that. After all, I’ve been called names over a lifetime that never were given to me by law (like “loser” and “Dr.” and “Helmut”… some guy in China thought I was German). Whatever we’re called, whatever we’re named, we’d better know who we are, deep down inside.

Who are you? Do you ever think about that? Perhaps, due to my succession of names on paper, I’ve thought about my identity more than most. And, I’ve understood, perhaps more than most, how much power each of us has to define ourselves.

I am a follower of Christ—a man born again, by the grace of God. I am a husband. And a father. A grandpa. And a son. I am a pastor: wherever in the world I go, I am, deep down inside, the pastor of the Madison Park Church. My heart is fixed on these fundamental identities.

Madison Park Church is all about helping people discover who they are, too, helping them understand their “adoption as God’s own children.” (Eph. 1:3-5) Discovering who you really are is at the core of the Gospel. Change your life. Change your world.

Not only do we preach the transforming power of Jesus to give a new start in life, we also actually make adoption by this world’s measure possible, too. The Miriam Project (named after the sister of Moses who helped him find a new home in the care of Pharaoh’s daughter) is one of Madison Park’s most extraordinary ministries, dedicated to placing children in loving Christian homes. It is the only licensed adoption agency with offices in Madison County, serving not only receiving families and the children placed in their care, but the relinquishing moms, as well.

If anyone reading this is wrestling with the choice of relinquishment, give me a call. I can honestly describe for you a child’s journey like that of your own; I lived it.

Adoption works. Lovingly.

November is National Adoption Month—and on Sunday, November 21, in all three morning services, you will meet families who have received children through the ministry of the Miriam Project. When you see the smiles, the love, the hope, and the future in all of those bright eyes (it’s an annual reunion for families touched by adoption right here in Madison County), you will, once more, thank God for the good He does—and for this church through which so much of His good is done.

It’s who we are. Followers of Christ. That’s our identity.

I’ll get my birth certificate sorted out soon. The court of my last adoption did not record my date of birth and that’s what Washington State is looking for now to match my last birth certificates with my present name. Whew. Maybe before I die.

In the meantime, I know who I am—thanks to the parents who adopted me and the Christ Who saved me. And, I am so thankful to be a part of a church that helps others know who they are in Christ, too. You are loved and treasured, Madison Park. Thanks for making ministries like the Miriam Project possible, all the year long. They’re literally life changing.

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