Matthew Burden

An invitation to a journey…

Wings over the Wall: Faith, Birding, and Walking with Jesus in the Holy Land

Come embark on a pilgrimage through the story of Jesus, with the Gospel sites serving as the backdrop for an adventure that plunges deep into the love of God. Filled with the glories of nature, insights from Scripture, and the tales of saints long gone, this account of one pilgrim’s journey opens the door for all to come and walk the ancient paths, side by side with the Savior.

Making pilgrimage is a spiritual practice, it is about more than learning, seeing, or visiting. It’s about taking your whole self, body and soul, and committing to a pathway of bearing witness to what God has done, and then opening yourself up to being transformed anew by his grace.

The author hopes this book will inspire readers to learn more, perhaps to go and see for themselves, and to fill out his incomplete picture with an experience of Israel that is fuller and richer in the end.


"A spiritual memoir of memorable sincerity . . . an eloquent and often moving Christian meditation." - Kirkus Reviews

“Burden finds spiritual meaning in nooks and crannies most of us miss. From the Temple Mount to an old pew in Maine, here is a paean about paying attention... With an eye on the birds and a heart toward heaven, Burden's Wings over the Wall effortlessly soars above the rest.”  
- Dr. Eli Knapp (Houghton College),
author of The Delightful Horror of Family Birding
Wings over the Wall is a book for Christians who yearn for a closer walk with God. For those who appreciate sharing quests, Burden invites you into much of his life’s pilgrimage. For folks who can only dream of visiting the sacred sites in the Holy Land, this book will transport you there in your imagination. For those who have been privileged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you will be reminded of what you experienced and humbled by what you missed, as I was.”   -
Rev. Dr. Scott Dow, owner of Transformation Travel, LLC

Book Excerpt 1:

My first few minutes in Israel were all about birds. After we had maneuvered through the passport and customs lines, we met our guide, an Israeli woman named Norah, and stepped out onto the curb outside the doors of Ben Gurion International Airport. It was bright and warm and reminded me of the time I had spent in Africa more than a decade before. A silvery little bus was waiting for us by the curb, and behind it a row of flowering bushes brightened the concrete pillars of the arrivals lane.
But the first thing my eyes went to, naturally, were the birds. I was three seconds in the Holy Land, and had already seen three new species: zipping over the concrete barrier, the unmistakable flash of a Red-rumped swallow; and there, flying over the pillars, the familiar shape of a corvid, but with a striking gray cloak slung about its shoulders—a Hooded crow; and then a flurry of motion as three yellow-gilded, starling-esque birds danced around the tires of a row of parked trucks—Common mynas. I had pored over my field guide of Middle Eastern birds and had researched the most likely sightings at each location of our trip, but I had set fairly modest expectations. I knew that all my birding would have to be done “on the fly” as it were, in and around the planned activities of the tour; and with that constraint in place, I was thinking that I could hope to identify about twenty new species, and I would be very happy to get thirty. But this initial burst of birds, the very second I stepped out of the terminal, gave me an inkling that I might have set my hopes a bit too low.
Those who are not birders will perhaps not appreciate the sheer excitement and delight of a moment like this, but it is powerful and exhilarating. It feels like receiving wave after wave after wave of unexpected and unmerited grace. Each new bird is a marvel of God’s creation, and in each one I get to share his joy in his handiwork all over again. I often feel, in my birding experiences, that I can taste just the slightest edge of the infinite delight that God felt in Genesis, chapter 1, when he looked over these creatures he had made and saw that they were good.

Book Excerpt 2:

It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, what the Nazareth of Jesus’ day would have looked like. But I knew that it would be like that, so I wasn’t disappointed. It was enough of a thrill to simply be there, on those hilly slopes where my Lord grew up. Though the houses looked different, and there were far more of them now, the shape of the mountains would have been the same as those he saw, the blue overhead the same that he looked at every day, and (most importantly) the birds winging about were the same species he would have spied as a child, the same sparrows and doves that he referenced in his teaching.

About the Author

Matthew Burden (MDiv, MA, PhD candidate) is the pastor of a church in eastern Maine, where he lives with his wife and three children. He is the author of several novels and works of poetry, including the fantasy-adventure series The Hidden Kings Trilogy. On the rare occasions when he’s not investing in family, church, or writing, you can find him tromping through the woods, looking for birds.


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