An Examined Life with Jeff Allen 7: Russ Taff

An Examined Life with Jeff Allen 7: Russ Taff April 16, 2014

Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Russ Taff calls into the show this week to discuss honesty in prayer, marriage, recovery and so much more!

Russ loves the honesty found in Robert Duvall’s character in the 1998 movie, “The Apostle” (which featured his Grammy winning song, “Ain’t No Grave”) when he would say something like:

“I screwed up again. Help me, Lord. That’s why you died – ‘cause I can’t do it without You.”

Russ and I go back decades ago when we toured with Bill Gaither, when we experienced and saw things that rocked my world – people laying hands on one another, slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues…

But none of this was new for Russ. His Daddy was a Pentecostal preacher who regularly had people shaking and baking in the aisles.

There was one night from his childhood Russ remembers very clearly. The congregation was rocking – overflowing with Hallelujahs, tongues speaking and prophesying. Then a guy started running – all over – then he sped full tilt toward the back door. But he missed the door’s release bar and knocked himself out cold as his head smashed into the closed door. Little eight-year-old Russ couldn’t help but bust out in uncontrollable laughter! His mother quickly swept him up, took him outside and gave him a whuppin’ that he’d never forget.

“Shut up! Stop laughing! The Spirit’s moving!!” said Russ’ mom.

All Russ could do was reply, “That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen!” as he continued to bust a gut in laughter.

These days, Russ’ wife is the one keeping him in check – or else she’ll tell the world about his miscues in her blog,

On a more serious note, though, is the one thing Russ sees in too many churches across America today – and that is an extreme amount of shame and guilt. It’s almost as if people are instantly made to feel guilty every time they get around God. IT really resonates with Russ because he was surrounded by it as a boy.

From this environment, Russ learned how to be involuntarily judgmental and look down his nose at almost everyone.

But when his life absolutely fell apart, the rules and structures he was raised with all fell apart at their foundations.

It was a hard lesson for him to learn: That it was okay to be comfortable. He didn’t have to work himself to death in order to please God. We can know that God loves us simply because He does. Not because of anything we do or don’t do or don’t do enough of.

It was so bad for Russ that he couldn’t even read God’s word without hearing the echoes of his Daddy’s sermons rattling around in his mind. Until he received a helpful tip from a pastor friend of his: Only read the red.

When Russ began to only read the red letters – Jesus’ words – in his Bible, he began to relate to Jesus in a whole new way. Suddenly Jesus is full of love and compassion and is actually on your side, rooting for you every day!

It’s like a ballgame with God as the umpire and Jesus is pitching. Jesus will underhand it to you and even when you repeatedly swing and miss three times in a raw and everyone else is yelling “You’re out!! You’re done!!”, God – the sovereign umpire – says, “Jesus, keep pitching ‘til he hits one, ‘cause he IS going to hit one.”

God’s grace never, ever runs out.

You can hear more from Russ at

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