Iva Greening at 100

Front Row July/August 2013

John Greening July 10, 2013




FR_INMy mother recently celebrated her 100th birthday. As our family prepared for an open house to celebrate this grand event, I found myself thinking back over her life well lived.

Mom is a remarkably positive lady. Her life has had its share of pain. Physically she is somewhat restricted by an aging body, but aches and pains are not the headlines of her life. Every Sunday we are in town, she goes to church with us—climbing in and out of our SUV, despite legs that don’t bend too well. Her years of ministry as a pastor’s wife were filled with many happy experiences and also severe heartache. But when speaking of her and Dad’s ministry, she never relates tales of woe. Her farmer’s daughter upbringing taught her to be resilient, to work hard, to trust the Lord, and to not be a drama queen or a whiner.

Everyone seems to love Mom. She lives in an apartment complex populated exclusively by seniors, in which the staff and residents talk in glowing terms about the positive attitude that Mom contributes to the building. She always has an upbeat word for people, even the cranky ones. She makes muffins and shares them with her neighbors. She patiently listens to others’ concerns and then prays with them. The staff of the apartment arranged a special birthday party in Mom’s honor. Guests attending included Jim Schwantz, mayor of Palatine and a former Chicago Bears linebacker. Mom was thrilled; she does enjoy her occasional celebrity status!

Mom even spreads her charm in the grocery store. On Tuesdays, a friend from a sister church picks Mom up to go shopping at Eurofresh. It’s a social event, with Mom sharing greetings with the produce staff and hugs among fellow shoppers. Patrons of Eurofresh whom I had never met attended her birthday open house. She truly lives out Christ to all the lives she touches.

Mom keeps her mind alert by reading. Her Bible is her daily companion. She reads books and magazines, especially the Baptist Bulletin, which she is convinced everyone should read. She keeps up on the news—reading the newspaper and listening to TV newscasts. She is especially interested in the royal news from London, which has something to do with her upbringing in Canada. She learned how to send and receive e-mails a few years ago so she can keep in touch with extended family and friends. She watches Wheel of Fortune and helps Judge Judy solve cases. She even watches the Chicago Bulls and other sporting events because she knows her family is interested in them.

Church is of great importance to her. It always has been. My dad met her at the church where he preached as a student pastor from Toronto Baptist Seminary. She was the church organist. Her dad was a committed Baptist due to his parents, former Presbyterians, reading their Bible and concluding that Baptists were the most consistent with the teachings of God’s Word. To this day church is the center of Mom’s life. She thinks it is the greatest thing that her grandson and his wife are her pastor and wife. She loves working in the church plant.

She is so proud of her family. She loves all of us. She prays for us, taking special interest to intercede for the specifics of each of our lives. She is our biggest fan. She is thrilled to watch the antics of her great-grandchildren and would love to be able to play ball or hide-and-seek with them. Her love and encouragement, along with her character, have influenced us all to have a healthy esteem rather than a crippled insecurity.

Her good genes and wholesome eating have kept her remarkably healthy. The doctor’s office called after a recent checkup to discuss her test results. We thought perhaps the report might be negative, only to learn that all of her tests came back normal. At this rate, we may be having a 110th birthday party.

Though this column is a departure from a discussion of ministry issues, tributes such as this are as important as confronting heretical teaching. First Timothy 5:3–8 contains essential family and church truths: “Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. . . . But if anyone does not provide for his own, especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Mom fits the standards of a Biblical widow. She is well over the age of 60. She was the wife of one man. She is well reported for good works, as evidenced by the scores of delivered birthday cards. She lodged strangers; I could tell you tons of stories about people staying in our home, even Dr. R. T. Ketcham. She washed the saints’ feet; she kept and fed people for extended stays when they didn’t have homes. She relieved the afflicted; she and Dad made endless hospital and home calls during their lifetimes. She diligently followed every good work; for example, baking muffins, greeting children, welcoming visitors, etc., etc.

Mom, thank you for teaching me the meaning of real ministry by precept and by example. Your family loves and respects you.

John Greening is national representative of the GARBC.