"Like many of you, my life has been filled with problems and challenges.And ... it has given me just a heart's cry for revival," she said in a firmSouthern cadence.
"I have not wanted to escape. And I don't want to quit. I don't want amiracle. I don't even want a vacation. Just give me Jesus, please ..."
With that, evangelist Billy Graham's second daughter launched into her firstbig-time crusade before an applauding, largely female crowd of 12,500 at theUniversity of Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena.
Lotz's "Just Give Me Jesus" tour of free revivals supported by donationsand proceeds from book sales continues to Dallas-Fort Worth,then goes on to Atlanta on Aug. 25-26, Kansas City on Sept. 15-16 and San Diego on Oct. 20-21.
"She speaks from the heart and she speaks from the Bible," said AnnFurrow, a friend and one of the organizers of the Knoxville event. "Putthat together with her gift as a communicator and there is no question in mymind that this is just the beginning."
Lotz, 51, has come to this point with a mixture of determination andreluctance. She says she was driven by a personal need to be closer to Godand to reach others even as some Baptist evangelicals turned their backs onher and as her father's ministry favored her brother, Franklin Graham,Billy's heir-apparent.
"I tend to be a shy person. I am a very private person," she said in acell phone interview as she drove from her home in Raleigh, N.C., to amountain retreat before last weekend's revival in Knoxville.
Taking a stage before thousands is something she never expected or planned,Lotz said.
"If God had let me know sooner, I might have backed out on him," she saidwith a laugh. "But what he did is, he timed it."
Her passion for the Scriptures first caught fire when she saw Cecil B.DeMille's "The King of Kings" on TV one Easter when she was 7 or 8. And itgrew as she did with four siblings in the home of America's preacher.
"I feel like it is sort of a trust that God put me in that family,entrusted me with my position in this particular family, and blessed me withit," she said.
Theirs was a genuinely religious home, "not one that just gave lip serviceto Jesus," she said, and her father brought his global perspective to thegrace before dinner.
"You were raised with an awareness of a big world out there ... bigger thanjust Montreat, N.C., Lotz said of her hometown.The hardest thing about growing up in Billy and Ruth Graham's home was herfather's long absences. "All of us adore our Daddy," she said, "but wehave only had him a very small part of the time."
At 18, she married Dan Lotz, a dentist and former University of NorthCarolina basketball star. By 21, she had three children and felt stifled.
"It is just being in a small home and small children, small little toys andsmall little words, and you just feel trapped," she recalled.
"I wasn't handling it very well. I was losing my temper. I wasn't patient.I wasn't kind. I wasn't loving. I wasn't the kind of mother ... my motheris."
She decided she needed to fix her "relationship with God." When ProvidenceBaptist Church in Raleigh didn't have a Bible study class she could attend,she started one.
Membership quickly swelled to more than 500 women. Lotz taught the classevery week for 12 years.
By 1988, she formed an itinerant ministry called AnGeL Ministries - thecapital letters are her initials - to reach a broader audience. Since then,she has addressed conferences and seminars and churches on every continentexcept Antarctica.
Despite her popularity, she has encountered resistance. She was bumped froman evangelism conference sponsored by the Baptist General Convention ofOklahoma in 1993 because some ministers opposed the idea of women preachingto men.
"That was fine with me," Lotz said, "because I didn't want to be thatkind of problem for them (the organizers). I go where I am invited and theaudience is voluntary."
Bill Merrell, vice president at the Nashville-based Southern BaptistConvention, said the convention still holds that only "mature and godly"males can be pastors.
"But Anne Graham Lotz makes plain she is not a pastor," he said. "Sheexhorts and teaches and does so, I think, with a high degree ofexcellence."
Though Graham said she is the most gifted preacher of his offspring, thedaughter's role in the father's organization has been limited.
Two years ago she began thinking and praying about "stepping out" on herown with what has become her revival tour.
She said she has a different message than her father and brother, Franklin.They are like Moses, who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, shesaid, while she is like Moses' successor, Joshua, who guided the Israelitesout of the wilderness and into the promised land.
"Their primary objective is to save the people from Egypt, in the sensethat they save people from the bondage to sin," she said of her father andbrother.
"But so many people who receive Christ end up out in the wilderness, goingin circles and going nowhere with God."I think a lot of Christians don't know they are in the wilderness," Lotzsaid. "They are looking for satisfaction, whether it is in the stock marketor in a career or in a family or in a position or a reputation, and theyjust don't know what they are missing."That could change, she said, at her revivals.
"By the time they leave they will know what they have been missing," Lotzsaid.