Author Archives: Maria Marino

About Maria Marino

By nature and by profession, I am a project manager. I simply delight in putting all the pieces together and synergizing with a team to make things happen. I exist to bring joy to life. A woman of faith, I'm an eternal optimist who loves people more than anything. And oh yes, I'm all for sharing. That's why I created this blog.

52 Reminders of How God Cares for You


You’ll be amazed at how so few words will speak so much truth and comfort into your soul. Hope Your Heart Needs is a compact little gift book with 52 entries measuring approximately 4 pages bound to infuse hope deep and far into even the furthest corner and slightest crevice of your heart. Each chapter opens with Scripture defining a specific attribute of God. Holley builds on that trait with personal stories illustrating how that aspect of who God is plays out in real life. Simple anecdotes, layered with additional Bible verses to bring the message home and make it something we can easily relate to and see. The truth she shares concludes perfectly with a short, effective prayer, connecting our hearts to the heart of God, where hope stems from. 

This powerful devotional is geared to drive you straight to the roadway marked with the character of God where we get to know Him better. Some of the characteristics you may have heard before. Many may surprise you. They include Bright Morning Star, Shepherd, Counsellor, Cornerstone, Grower, Upholder, One Who Sees,  Purpose-giver. You can pick and choose from any of the offerings to meet you wherever you need hope or healing and land on just what you need to hear.

What I especially love about this book is you don’t need to be in a tough place to get so much out of it. Holley brings refreshing insight, doubling as a Bible study dive into a wellspring of wealthy wisdom from the Word of God.  Like me, you may make unexpected connections. I would never have imagined identifying or having anything in common with the demon-posed man Jesus healed or see how God calls us in the same way to tell our story. From beginning to end, each page connects you to the God who loves you, gets you, and will be there for you. There is hope for today and tomorrow.

Hope Your Heart Needs has become a favourite I keep going back to. It is a treasure that brings hope, comfort, insight and understanding. I believe you’ll love and appreciate it as much as I do. 

Many thanks to Revell Publishing for the complimentary book in exchange for this unbiased review. 

There must be more to this story…

Paul, Apostle of Christ Book CoverPaul, Apostle of Christ is a work of fiction. About actual people who existed long ago. Set to be released after the anticipated motion picture. Quite the tall order for author Angela Hunt to create a compelling, convincing novel you won’t want to put down. What better way, I thought, to measure the merit of the book than reading it through the eyes of a suspicious skeptic and heart of a convicted Christian?

How well does the storyline stack up as an accurate reflection of the Bible and what history tells us about Rome under Emperor Nero? About three-mile high I would say. If you question it at all, the Interview with the Author and References sections at the back of the book should replace all doubt with answers. But you won’t have to. Like an intricate stain-glass window that displays a unified image letting in the light, the fragments of fiction come together with what we know for sure to complete a viewpoint that opens the eyes of our understanding. And casts things more clearly. 

With details acting like the filler soldering the picture together, the skeptic eye and Christian heart get a closer look at the conditions in first century Rome. And a revealing snapshot of the minds and hearts of the real-life and imagined characters. It offers a front-row seat to what Rome was like back then.  The point of view of the Romans, particularly those with power, comes into sharper focus. We get to see how the Pharisees became so law-obsessed and the nasty jealousy that drove the desire to rid themselves of Jesus. We gain deeper insight into Saul’s zeal for the Law and source of persecution for Christians. And his remorse over the harm he had done. 

Paul’s blinding encounter with Christ and missionary journey take on a whole new dimension. Words, like laser-sharp 3D glasses, whisk us straight to Paul’s side, sharing his experience in the dunk, dusky, stinky prison. We are moved by his friendship with Luke, the physician and writer of Acts, where the inspiration for the book and movie stems from. We come face to face with the brutal persecution and the faith and love of early Christians such as Aquila and Priscilla. People who “had a strange affection for widows and ugly orphans.” Hunt adds credibilty with authentic vocabulary from that era. Scripture was also brilliantly and seamlessly interwoven, the Word of God hemmed in context and meaning. 

The novel takes you on a journey into the past where you could smell, feel, taste and envision every word she brought to the page. A journey that moves from what happened then to what happens in your heart throughout the book. 

While taking in an insider’s view of what Paul and the early Christians faced, went through, and thought about, their place in history and HIStory, we can’t help but be fascinated by the magnitude of their faith and love; grace and forgiveness. The way of The Way. Their willingness to joyfully die for their devotion to Christ begs you to ask “How could the resurrection not be true?”

Publius about Paul: “My point is this: you do not make a man your leader because he trips and falls in the road and then travels around a bit and says some things. There must be more to this story…and we have only to find out.”

The author’s unfolding of the “more to this story” is what makes Paul, Apostle of Christ effective and relevant for the suspicious skeptic and convicted Christian . She laid out so many things to think about, remember, and be challenged by. Things like the finding strength to do what’s  right and shedding the light of goodness onto oppressive evil darkness; how to serve, love, forgive. That there is a time for prayer and a time to act in faith. From captivating beginning to powerful ending, the “more” is what grabs your heart and attention. And leaves a lasting impression. 

Book  has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communication Inc. 

Worth Dying For

The apostle Paul travelled some 10,000 miles for 30 years, was blinded, shipwrecked, whipped, robbed, stoned; well acquainted with hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness. Assaulted by false witness, pain and infirmity. More than enough to make a compelling film. Would you believe instead this movie revolves around his last days in a dark, dank, desolate prison cell hewn out of rock? Surprised me too. In a powerful way.

Filmed in Malta where Paul was once shipwrecked, starring Jim Caviezel, Oliver Martinez, Joann Whalley, John Lynch, and James Faulkner, and spiked with haunting musical background, the stage is set to create something that will leave you forever changed. No matter where your faith stands. Paul, Apostle of Christ accurately and vividly marries the essence of the ancient past to present relevance, laying out answers to what life was like back then while stirring questions for our time.

Blamed for the great fire, Christians were hunted down, brutally tortured and killed with bloodthirsty relish. Barbaric cruelty reeking of insane inhumanity reigned supreme under Emperor Nero. Rome was a dangerous place for followers of The Way.

That did nothing to deter Luke, the Greek physician from stealthily making his way to visit Paul where he literally immortalized his life-work in what became the biblical book of Acts. The same account that spread throughout the world and magnified across the silver screen for us. Where it’s our turn to grasp Paul’s mission and message. And the story prison could not confine.

Paul, Apostle of Christ Movie.jpg

The realistic action in Paul, Apostle of Christ locks your attention and releases a flood of emotions mixed with points to puzzle over. Anger, heartbreak, fear and frustration for the violence, injustice, and persecution contrasting starkly with love, forgiveness, hope, mercy, grace  peace and joy in the midst of hardship. Arrows straight to the heart. Especially for those of us struggling with guilt or forgiveness. Or if you’re battered and bruised from stabs of persecution. If your faith is wavering or non-existent. Or if present-day darkness is casting you under a shadow of gloom-drenched trepidation.

We see Paul transformed from the enemy of Christ to the man beaten, martyred living out the message of the Jesus he once despised. What really happened on the road to Damascus? How did the most zealous persecutor of Christians flip to endure big-time trials defending the faith he sought to annihilate? Surely there is hope, grace, and redemption, no matter what we’ve done.

Condemned for crimes he didn’t commit, alone with the scars of abuse and isolation, he stood for peace and forgiveness. No doubt in his mind – “grace is for everyone”. Even the worst among us. He held nothing against those who abandoned, imprisoned, and whipped him. The love in his eyes prompting us to do the same.

Paul’s testimony made believers out of Romans and Greeks attached to gods of their own. Something convinced them to walk away from worshiping and sacrificing to familiar deities for an invisible God worth risking their lives for. Preferring death to life without Christ. What might that be?

Like Paul, those early Christians were persecuted, tormented in the worst way, yet their lives were filled with hope, joy, and a promised happy ending. For those of us who know rejection and exclusion because you won’t join in the gossip, know what it’s like when someone turns their back on you for refusing to lie for them or standing up for what is right; have been ridiculed for not cheating or waiting to have sex, this movie offers you hope and comfort.

And, oh yes, we find the most powerful man in the world felt the need to restrain a frail, old man and kind, simple people doing good in the name of a convicted, crucified criminal. Rather laughable don’t you think? There must be more to this story.  Confirmation for the convicted Christian. Proof to ponder and hopefully adopt for the unbeliever.

What really made the movie for me was James Faulkner’s portrayal of Paul. He cast the giant of the faith in a different-coloured light. I always pictured the apostle as bigger than life. Strong, powerful, energetic. We see a meek, soft-spoken man; remorseful,  broken and scarred, facing his final hours. Humble. Gentle. But still burning bright and strong with the fire of Christ’s love radiating in his every word. His heart in full display.

Finally, Paul’s words in dialogue and scripture fuse into a charged baton sparked with inspiration and conviction which the film nimbly passes onto the viewer. With task in hand, it’s now up to us to run with it.

Film has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Releasing Canada (Affirm Films) and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

and the verdict is…

Case for Christ MovieNothing like overwhelming evidence overturned by a skeptic. Nothing like a rousing investigation spiked with personal conflict and tension. The Case for Christ delivers both with accuracy to the true story narrative and a thumbs-up, 5-star, gotta see film.

Lee Strobel’s life was sailing high. Beautiful spouse, adorable daughter, baby on the way and a promotion to legal editor to the Chicago Tribune. Then his daughter, Alison, almost choked in a restaurant. The nurse who saved the child’s life was a Christian who claimed to be divinely prompted to dine at that particular establishment.

That changed everything. His wife, Leslie, found Christ. Lee lost himself in the obsession to bring her back to her senses. And his atheistic convictions. He was absorbed in the relentless pursuit to debunk the ‘delusion’ of the resurrection. She was steadfast and resolute to follow Christ and take Lee with her. He came home drunk and miserable. She was at home praying for him.

The friction in their marriage was tangible. The drama intense. At one point, I needed to remind myself this happened in real life and not the product of Hollywood scripting. So enveloped in the suspense, I almost forgot I knew how it ended.

Directed by Jon Gunn and featuring Faye Dunaway, Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, and Robert Forster, The Case for Christ, as the title alludes, stacks the clues that substantiate Christianity, one scene after another.  In a fast-paced, heart-stopping production that rivals any top-rated, popular detective show.

The movie makes an unashamed “case for Christ”. It is intended to entice believers and strengthen followers. But what makes it so effective is not so much the evidence it uncovers but the personal element that draws you in, and that many can identify with. The further Lee dug to disprove the resurrection, the higher the odds piled to the contrary. All the historical, scientific and medical facts pointed in the same direction. Lee is left to make a verdict. He takes the stand as a witness to Jesus and leads a convincing argument for the viewer to do the same. Believe and receive.

The cinematographic excellence kept me riveted to the screen.  While the heart-thumps and lessons grabbed my heart, leaving a lasting impression and buckets of inspiration. Lee’s devastating discovery after the death of his father spoke loudly of the cost of carrying a grudge. I saw first-hand the power of prayer, listening to that small voice inside, and never giving up on people. To continue believing, hanging onto faith even when circumstances taunt you to do otherwise.

More than anything, the movie vividly confirmed Christ’s love is the big “why” behind the resurrection truth. That transformation is the best evidence for Christ. Because He lives in your heart.

The Case for Christ can be summed up as a bold apologetics documentary cleverly disguised as a compelling legal thriller. Kinda like a nutritious snack. You don’t have to know it’s good for you to thoroughly enjoy it! This is an exceptional film which keeps you glued to your seat and gripped by the mounting proof that Jesus, Light of the World, Son of God, Lamb of God, Redeemer, King came down from heaven, died on the cross, and rose again. As promised. Because he loves each and every one of us. But you don’t have to take my word for it.  I invite you to watch the movie and see for yourself. It will make a believer out of anyone.

Disclaimer: Movie has been provided with thanks courtesy of Mongrel Media and  Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for this unbiased review.

Dominion from Sea to Sea

“88FE8717-1591-4D70-BF6B-63E8326A7D79”You know, I always wondered why the “Great White North” was known as Dominion of Canada. One Dominion – Celebrating Canada, Prepared for a Purpose by Bob Beasley & Paul Richardson answers that and so much more. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love this beautiful, oversized coffee table book filled with captivating information, and stunning photography. If you’re into biographies, you’ve come to the right place. If you call Canada home or someone you care about lives there, this book makes a perfect gift that opens into a priceless guide to get to know and appreciate the stories that shaped this nation. It’s a panoramic snapshot that captures past accomplishments, transposes them onto today’s reality framed in future dreams to carry on the vision and legacy that built this nation.

One Dominion is a quick read mosaicked in photos layered rich in content and fascinating facts. I found it especially cool to connect the stories and people behind familiar and famous institutions, such as McMaster University, University of Ottawa, SickKids Hospital, Hotel Dieu, Toronto Humane Society, Children’s Aid Society.  Was also sweet to discover the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill has Scripture written all over it; that politics and faith can mix and accomplish plenty.

Each page traces the narrative of Canada along its faith-based roots. But you don’t have to be a Christian to stand in awe of the magnitude of contributions made by people inspired by the Living Word of God. The intriguing account is well-written and based on true historical details filling us in on how Canada evolved. Yes, the naming of ‘Dominion of Canada’ is anchored in the bible verse “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth – Psalm 72:8 KJV” and the book highlights the mandate to give God dominion over “our home and native land” and to the ends of the earth. That calling includes embracing everyone –  people of every nation, tongue, creed, ethnic background. Whether you are here by birth, immigration, studies or work.  Or even just visiting for a while.

Now, I know how Canada got to be named, the stories and lives that got us to this place, and I’m pumped to continue the legacy of our forefathers whose faith and goodness built the nation, who brought us health care, education, social justice, fair and safe working conditions, rights and freedoms.

One Dominion is an exciting journey through Canada’s past reflected in today’s blessings and tomorrow’s  promise. Making its timely debut in the year Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, this book illustrates much to rejoice over and look forward to. From sea to sea.  And unto the ends of the earth. Cheers Canada! Kudos to One Dominion  Celebrating Canada -Prepared for a Purpose by Bob Beasley & Paul Richardson!


Disclaimer:  Many thanks to Graf Martin Communications for the complimentary copy of One Dominion in exchange for this unbiased review.

Something wonderful to enrich your summer days

Helloooooooooooooooo summer. Hello time to slow down. Time to step back from routine and step up to new adventures. Special times with family. With friends. With new people you’ll meet. Vacation. Staycation. Home renovations. House guests. Barbecues. Picnics. Walks in the park. Stargazing after dark. Outdoor fun in the sun. Rainy days under a tent. On the road. Parked on the beach, or your very own lawn chair. Wherever you go, wherever you are, you can tune into HOPETV, “The Nation’s Faith Station ” for something wonderful that will enrich your summer days.


HOPETV offers all the favourite pastors and programs such as Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, James Robison, Charles Stanley, 700 Club Canada known to do just that. With your remote in hand there’s a treasure at your fingertips waiting for you to grow your faith and learn more about the world around you. Day or night you can tap into HOPETV to relax, be inspired or energized.

Wake up to an uplifting boost each morning when you open the HOPETV website featuring Latest News and Inspiration sidebar and a link to their content on Facebook. Then head over to Today’s News where tile streaming Tweets from popular shows gives a panoramic, at-a-glance, snapshot of inspiration/news to choose from or collect all day long.

Love music ?HOPETV offers beautiful inspirational videos set to music, Peter Popoff Ministries, Zoomer Concert Series, The Gaither Gospel Hour, and Time to Sing singalong with Rosalie Drysdale and Marshall Hall.

Summer has just begun. So much ahead to look forward to and enjoy. With HOPETV as part of your summertime, it can be celebrated with more faith, hope, love and joy!

Disclaimer:  This post graciously sponsored by Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  As always, opinions are my own.



Would you marry your enemy to save her life?

They crossed paths on the battlefield. Enemies on opposite sides. The fallen Canaanite found still alive by Tobiah, the Hebrew soldier. No reason not to swing his sword and finish the job. Except, with helmet gone and braid free, the wounded warrior was unmistakably a woman. One look into the her eyes was enough to shift his warrior fury into a heroic gesture to protect a vulnerable casualty enveloped in hostile territory.Wings of the Wind Cover

Tobiah knew the law, and knew in his heart the right thing to do was obey the Torah and marry her. Otherwise, she was easy prey for someone to violate or destroy her. Not exactly a dream come true, but he couldn’t walk away from the only thing that would keep her safe. Besides, the law also granted the “captive wife” the freedom to leave after 30 days.

As I hoped and expected, Tobiah and his bride Alanah fell in love and tied the knot for real. She chose to stay and he couldn’t be happier. Neither could I. They were both two enchanting,  strong-willed,  compassionate personalities that belonged together. I was rooting for them all the way.

It’s the perfect ending to a love story that crossed enemy lines. A story of faith and trust that brought something good out of evil territory. Except that wasn’t how the book ends.

When Alanah discovered it was her arrow that killed Tobiah’s best friend and brother–in-law, the sweet, heart warming, romantic tale rollercoasters into a nail-biting, edge of your seat,  hold your breath suspense drama with surprise twists. Sheer genius how the author cast biblical fiction staged securely on accurate background scenery to show the face of Yehweh, the one true God against the backdrop of “idol worship”. While the captivating characters stole the show whisking you into the plot from heart aflutter start to heart-stopping finale.

Wings of the Wind is the masterful conclusion to the Out of Egypt trilogy. Connilynn Cossette brilliantly sketched, in living colour, the rich characters pulled from her imagination into biblical history. While drawing you in with her vivid, true to life vision of what went on from the time of slavery in Egypt to the final lap of the wilderness journey to claim the Promised Land,  she marked the path to a more profound understanding and desire to delve deeper into the original Scripture.

Every page held something precious and wonderful. It delivered warmth, exciting mystery, and even brought me to my knees in worship with the faith factor that held the story together. I was encouraged and challenged with lessons of trust and forgiveness, kindness and mercy toward our enemies, and above all God’s provision and protection. He has a plan and purpose for everything that happens to each and every one of us. Plans for good. That’s what defined the novel from begnning to end.

My one word for Wings of the Wind? “Wow!” I loved it and think you will too!

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of Wings of the Wind in exchange for this unbiased review.


Courage is all you need to Win

race-to-win-movie-coverThe skeptics weighed in heavily against the likelihood Gentry could make anything of the vast, expansive ranch.  But he had a vision. Took on the impossible, and made it happen. Now that he’s gone, his grieving family has 30 days to come up with $150,000 to clear a business loan or lose it all.

Doesn’t help matters they owe the money to a heartless slime bucket who’s had his greedy eye on the property for a while. Who will stop at nothing to get his way or make a quick, dishonest buck. But the Rhodes family is not without hope or options. There’s still a battle to fight and a race to win their ticket to freedom from his debt-fisted grasp.

The answer was simple and obvious. Victory in the upcoming Hancock County Championship Race would turn things around just like that!…..or so it seemed. That dream dissolved into a puddle of washed-up optimism when the jockey refused to race Sheba, their prized racehorse. “This horse is not a winner!” he insisted and walks away.

That dropped one last, lofty chance for daughter Hannah to come through on to her promise to keep the homestead in the family. Could she find the courage to take on fierce, unbeatable competition and wrestle haunting self-doubt on the shoulders of halting unreadiness? Gather everything her father taught her about riding to chase the ride of her life?

With all the inner strength she could muster, boldly facing the daunting challenge of training with a new horse, she chooses to race. To honour her dad’s legacy. Race to win for the family who believes in her; who quiet her fears with the lovingly assurance, “Your best is enough!”

This is the part where I sighed, expecting to settle in to the classic, rousing, triumphant story unfold. Poetic justice wrapped in a victory lap. I won’t spoil it for you with the result of the race, and don’t mean to tease, but the twist in the plot was worth waiting for.

Race to Win is the perfect movie for anyone who has lost someone dear. It sensitively captures the sting of grief and the brave stepping out it takes to carry on.  The film casts a clear view of what it looks like to find the strength to hold each other up in the mourning. And hold fast to the love-filled memory of the one  who will always be with you, deep in your heart. Always.

If you need to find the faith to believe it’s never too late, even when it seems you’ve exhausted all options, this movie is for you. If you need the inspiration to hang on to hope and keep going, you won’t be disappointed.

If you need to be reminded your best is enough, Race to Win is right up your alley. If you could use a little encouragement or long for a wholesome, uplifting family film, this movie is definitely for you. Especially if you happen to like animals.

Race to Win touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I loved how the true-to-life characters drew me in while precious values such as:

  • perseverance
  • courage to do the right thing and the hard things
  • what it means to be a true champion
  • strength born from family love and commitment
  • there’s always room for redemption

were molded into captivating drama. I enjoyed every minute, from beginning to end.

Movie has been provided courtesy of Mongrel Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Releases to DVD March 7

I am a hope writer

Unlocking the Bible

If you’ve ever wanted to read through the bible and found yourself confused, dizzy from a myriad of numbers, bogged down with a litany of laws, lost in a sea of strange places and names, this book is for you. Like a jigsaw puzzle, Unlocking the Bible snaps together one piece at at a time to reveal the big picture of something extraordinary.

Written in a warm, conversational style with fascinating facts, anecdotes, quotes, stories, and a touch of humour, it captures a panoramic snapshot of ancient Biblical times from the viewpoint of present-day relevance. In the background and foreground is evidence of how each page of the Bible carries a unified theme and the presence of Christ throughout.

Jeff Lasseigne’s “keys” to unlocking the Bible are simple, easy to understand yet filled with lots of rich detail and practical application. Keys that include answers to common questions like: where did Old Testament people go when they died? Why is the Bible important? What happened in the 400 years between the Old Testament and New Testament? What’s with all the translations? Keys to treasures like the ten reasons you can trust the Bible, Seven takeaway thoughts for when we don’t feel as if God is speaking to us, times when He is silent; helpful geography and historical facts, how to study and teach the Bible and an overall view of the Bible as a whole followed by gems from each of the 66 books.

The author’s hope and prayer for this book is “as you read through it you will fall more in love with Jesus and receive and understand His Word.” Definitely worked for me. Over and over again I couldn’t wait to open my Bible because of what I read or learned.
Disclaimer:  Many thanks to Baker Publishing for the complimentary copy of Unlocking the Bible in exchange to this unbiased review.

I am a hope writer

For such a time as this

img_0979You may want to lock the door, put up the Do Not Disturb sign, and fill up on rations when you start reading The Domino Effect. Because you won’t want to leave until you finish the whole entire book. Yes, it’s that good!

Davis Bunn does a masterful job of spinning a financial thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat while intricately entwining an enchanting storyline built around endearing, believable characters you’ll immediately get attached to. The novel is an unfolding of a heart-warming, hope-based narrative. The uncovering of a sinister scheme aimed at global plunging into economy collapse. And the unwavering commitment to save the world from financial meltdown and ruin.

Esther Larsen lost both parents within nine months of each other while she was still in grade school. Now, her only brother is confined in a rehab centre since his pregnant wife died in an automobile accident. No wonder she was pretty well comfortable married to safety on the sidelines, alone and detached. That was about to change. Fast.

Her job as a risk analyst for one of the largest banks in the US, placed her in a spot where remaining silent was a risk she just wouldn’t take. Too many lives were at stake. The time to help people survive the economic crisis looming on the horizon is now. There was no time to waste. Esther opened up her heart and life for the greater good, to keep people secure “even when that means doing what comes hardest for me.”

What was remarkable about The Domino Effect is how the author brought to life a modern take on the Book of Esther. Mirroring her biblical namesake, Esther courageously stepped out into her purpose in history “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) As we follow her surge from obscurity to international spotlight, we grasp financial terminology, market conditions, and how global economies are interconnected. We are drawn into what it’s like to be orphaned at a young age, effects of trauma on the brain, and the painful reality of a family separated by divorce.

Like Esther, the novel invites us to take a stand when it’s not convenient, speak up to defend justice and protect people from impending danger; do what’s right even in the face of uncertainty. Take a risk, reach out and love with all your heart. For such a time as this.

Many thanks to Bethany House for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for this unbiased review.

I am a hope writer