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Lillian Daniel: The Reading Train

August 22, 2014


"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." - Psalm 119:105 

In a delightfully honest piece entitled "My Dirty Little Secret: I Ride the Rails to Read," Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center explains how he keeps reading, despite the distractions of the Internet, emails, his phone and life in general:

"Here's how I do it. After I drop off my daughter at school or summer camp, I jump on the subway. I ride the rails for three to four hours . . . . I take nothing with me but my book and a pen. I take notes on the front and back pages of the book. If I run out of pages, I carry a little notebook with me. I never get off the train (except, occasionally, to meet my wife for lunch in Manhattan). I have an ancient phone, so there's no Internet or desire to text, and I'm mostly underground, so there are no phone calls."

I was surprised to learn that Corey Robin, a prolific and well-read writer who I admire, has to take a train in order to make himself read. Then I felt sort of relieved. And then I took his reading routine seriously. Sometimes we have to step away in order to go deep. Sometimes we have to turn things off or actually leave them behind. Sometimes we have to take a train away from our own distractions. 

I think this is why getting to church for worship is different from simply praying alone. Both have value. And in either setting, a person can get distracted. People in worship will open a Bible during a quiet moment. They'll pray in church because there's a time set aside to do that and there's no other competing option. Plus they've made the effort to get there, so why not? Once you've gone to all that trouble to get someplace to do a particular thing, you're more inclined to come home having done it. 

Dear God, if you can't get me a ticket on the train out of distractions, at least get me on the right train of thought. Amen.

From the UCC's StillSpeaking Devotionals. Visit

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