By KATIE EUBANKS
Anne Graham Lotz talks cancer, loss, and seeing God’s blessings
In early 2019, Anne Graham Lotz — daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham — was scheduled to speak to the women at First Baptist Jackson. A brutal round of cancer treatment got in the way, but she is thrilled to be coming February 21 to speak what the Lord lays on her heart. She recently spoke with MCL Editor Katie Eubanks about her eventful past few years and her new book on the Holy Spirit.
MCL: How do you pray before a speaking engagement like this one?
ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ: I can’t explain how I pray (laughs). One of the things I would do — yesterday I spoke at a church, and a week before, I called the pastor (and) asked him where his church was, as far as what he’d been teaching… who’d be there … Trying to get a feel or grasp of what’s taking place in the area and among the women.
Sometimes a thought will come to my mind or something will stand out to me. Like for yesterday I had two different messages I felt were on my heart. They had given me a pretty tight timeframe because it was a Sunday morning service. So, I knew that one (of the two messages) I couldn’t do. … Sometimes the Lord doesn’t impress on my heart what He wants me to give until very close to the time … It’s very important that I give the message the Lord gives me for the people who are in front of me. Because He knows their needs, their yearnings.
I want them to hear a word from the Lord. I don’t want them to walk away and say, ‘Boy, Anne was terrific.’
MCL: Since 2015, you’ve lost your husband and your father, and you’ve fought cancer. What’s the most powerful thing you’ve seen God do through all that?
AGL: There are two things, maybe. One, He’s brought me through. … sometimes He doesn’t get us out of hard things. But He brings us through.
At the moment I might not have seen what He had done for me or the fact that He was with me, but I look back and I see, oh my goodness, He directed me there, and He blessed me. … He’s been with me every step.
But the second thing, I think, is that if I went through the last year with my focus on cancer and how I felt, I’m sure you could’ve scraped me up off the floor. … the treatments are barbaric (laughs). They’ve got to come up with something different, because it’s like medieval torture. … But I put my focus on my blessings. I felt God had given me a ministry assignment, and I kept my focus on that. Everybody, doctors, nurses, I was looking for opportunities to share the gospel with them.
I still go to a big hospital … The waiting rooms are packed … I just look for opportunities. And every single time I’ve gone, I’ve had that opportunity.
MCL: When and how did you decide to write your latest book, “Jesus In Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion”?
AGL: I’ve had it on my heart, a message on the Holy Spirit, for years. … I had turned in a rough draft in May (2018) … three months before my diagnosis. And then I didn’t touch it again because I took two trips to Israel. … And then I came back and went and had the mammogram, which showed that I had cancer. It was after my diagnosis that I went through the rewriting, the editing, the polishing (and a theological review). The truth doesn’t change — but the way I applied it, and the examples I used, (were impacted by my cancer battle).
By the time I finished my big bad (cancer) treatment, it was February 14 (2019). I think I had the book finished and polished by March.
That was another blessing, that God would have me focused on … the presence of the Holy Spirit, when I was going through horrific treatments. God timed it — because I’d tried to submit (the book idea) before, and He hadn’t opened that door.
And the fact that I had been through the death of my husband, the death of my father, and cancer in a short period of time, I think that gives me a credibility.
MCL: What do you miss the most about your dad?
AGL: Everything. I can’t think of something I miss the most about him.
In the last 30 years, maybe, we always spent Thanksgiving with him … As the family began to grow, they just all wanted to do their own thing. For the last four or five years, my family has gone to Daddy’s house and done it just for him. And it’s just been so sweet. That was difficult (in 2018 without him).
But I couldn’t have gone home (to Daddy’s in 2018) even if he had been there. I couldn’t leave the house; I couldn’t stand up. But we did include one of Daddy’s caregivers, one who was with him when he went to heaven. (She and her son) drove all the way, four hours, down here (to Raleigh, North Carolina). She’d always signed up to do Thanksgiving (with Daddy) because she knew we were coming.
I miss — whether it’s Thanksgiving or whether it’s just having a long weekend with no responsibilities and I would take off and go up to stay with him. I guess just his presence and having somebody to go to with what’s going on in your life and talking it through. The same reasons I’m sure every daughter who’s had a beloved father … would miss him.
MCL: Have there been any stories or memories of him that people have shared with you since his passing, that stick out to you?
AGL: All my life, people have shared stories about him.
Oh, I’ll tell you this story. (Yesterday) I spoke in the largest church in Greensboro, North Carolina. … The pastor, when he was introducing me, said in the ’50s Daddy held (revival) meetings in Greensboro. And they were supposed to last a couple weeks, but they went on far beyond that because of the response. And this church was formed in response to that. So that’s what, 70 years ago? And (the church is) just thriving.
I’ve met people all over the world who went forward at one of his meetings or came to Christ watching it on television — and they’re in turn pastoring churches, or they’re missionaries. So it’s very special to see the life change.
MCL: How are you doing physically?
AGL: My blood work looks as good as it could. I think if I’m cancer-free in five years, they’ll consider me clear for good.
I’m back to walking at least two miles a day. And doing my floor exercises and stuff – just trying to get my physical strength and energy back, because it’s a real wipeout.
I believe God has healed me. I believe He’s told me that He has. … And if He hasn’t, I’m fine to deal with that.
I will say that, yesterday, speaking (at two church services in a row), I didn’t realize I was going to be asked to do that, and the fact that I was able to … with strength and energy, that was encouraging to me, because I wouldn’t have thought I (could).
From this time a year ago, I’ve come such a long way. So I’m very thankful.
MCL: What do you do when you have a free moment?
AGL: I wish I had one. (laughs) I might do something with my grandchildren. I might go to one of their basketball games or go to a soccer game.
I love to read. I read a lot of things, I read everything, but I love novels. Joel Rosenberg has sent me his manuscript (for a new book).
I’ll work in the yard. … If I had time, I might even go to the store and get some new makeup. (laughs) I haven’t done that for a while either.
MCL: Who besides the Lord has been your biggest encouragement through your cancer journey?
AGL: My children. I have two daughters and a son. Both daughters went with me to every chemo appointment and took turns sleeping in the bed with me to make sure I didn’t have a severe reaction. I have a sister-in-law, and she’d come to almost every chemo appointment. … bring me a gift and give me a hug, pray with me — just really dear. My son would come down and do honey-do things, change a light bulb or do things I couldn’t get to.
And my friends have called to check on me and sent emails with just the right thing to say.
And all the cards and emails I got from people who were praying for me — and (they) didn’t stop when the chemo ended.
I know the Lord has carried me through on the wings of prayer.