It is a sad time in so many ways: You will no longer see your Danebank friends – your Danebank sisters – every day. They are precious to you. They are your other family. You will miss the lessons where you spend time dissecting the positive and negatives of the boys at the station or youth group, and those times in your classes when you move away from the subject matter and consider the meaning of life.

Danebank Class of 2019

I’m not sure that you will miss:

Danebank uniforms – will you ever wear green again? Lining up at the canteen, Danebank back packs, green lockers, black school shoes, assessment booklets, school rules or the mould in the common room fridge!

But you’ve learned so much:

You’ve learned not to leave the lunch from the last day of term in your locker or backpack over the holidays. You’ve learned that it is possible to take off your lace-up school shoes without undoing the laces, and hiding from your parents the fact that you have ruined the back of the shoe. You’ve learned it is possible to exist with almost no makeup and only one ring. You’ve learned that being a watermelon is a bonding experience.

Above all you’ve learned that … when life gets tough, when school work is overwhelming … keep calm and watch Disney princess movies.

To be honest, when we are finding life just a bit too challenging, we often look to these classic movies as a reminder that even though life is filled with bad people and bad things are happening, there will be a life that is lived happily ever after.

 

But really, what can you possibly learn about life after school from Disney princesses?

Year 12, I would have to say that your parents probably think that all of the areas where you have fallen short this year, are front and centre with every Disney princess.

  • They usually ignore the advice of their parents, or others who know better, and this makes what ever is going wrong, even worse.
  • When life is proving difficult, they isolate themselves rather than seeking out the support of those around them.
  • Surely they are all teaching the wrong things. We can summarise all that Disney princesses teach is that, in order to live “happily ever after”, you need a slim figure, magic to solve your problems, and the desire to be rescued with a kiss by a handsome prince who looks exactly like your perfect man.

However, behind all of the negative clichés associated with the Disney princesses, we know that there are many positives aspects to these women – so much so that the England women’s football team say that, in order to be a successful player, you must exhibit the traits of a Disney princess.

So, what are the elements of the Disney Princess we should seek in ourselves and others? Let’s just pick a few…

What about Snow White? She surely teaches us that we should be open to making new friends. Her new friends were trusted, and they supported her through the very tough times. She also reminds us not to accept food from strangers and that if you are finding your work – or, in your case, your HSC study – hard, you should whistle while you work.

And above all, Snow White helps us to remember that in life there are tough times and often we can’t understand why, but with the help of a greater power you will be able to choose to make a decision that will provide the key to living happily ever after.

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle constantly stands up for herself. She doesn’t give in to Gaston or let the Beast push her around as a prisoner.

As you leave the comfort and support of Danebank, you could all use a little of Belle’s confidence. She was strong and determined to live life according to the values she had been taught by her father. Above all, we should call take note from Belle when selecting our partners for life and remember not to be deceived by appearances – beauty comes from within.

Belle also reminds us reading is great – don't be afraid to fall for a guy who has a fantastic library. That intelligence and independence are incredibly powerful personality traits and Ut Prosim is your superpower – serving others brings strength to them and to you. Throughout Beauty and the Beast, we see the power of love – parent to child, child to parent and woman to man – or enchanted man as the case may be.

Love is summarised throughout the New Testament with Christ as the exemplar. Christ loves us in spite of our rejection of him – he shows us how to love the unlovely. Corinthians gives us a definition of love that is used as the gold standard by many whether they believe in Christ or not. It says:

 

Love-is-poem

Belle, like Snow White, helps us to remember that in life there are tough times and often we can’t understand why, but with the help of a greater power you will be able to choose to make a decision that will provide the key to living happily ever after.

Mulan is a wild adventurous princess … a young woman who chose a different pathway for her life and, even though it was tough, in the process gained the honour and respect of everyone.

Year 12, Mulan would say to you: “You go girl, find your inner warrior!” but remember that even though Mulan was a great warrior, she didn't start out that way. Mulan trained hard to achieve her goals.

"Let's Get Down to Business" is an excellent work motto for you over the next few weeks, months and years. Mulan shows us it is OK to find the challenges that life brings, tough, but as The Emperor of China from Mulan said: "The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all." Mulan, like Belle and Snow White, helps us to remember that in life there are tough times and often we can’t understand why, but with the help of a greater power you will be able to choose to make a decision that will provide the key to living happily ever after.

Pocahontas is the role-model princess for Year 12's for whom the Duke of Edinburgh remains the highlight of their time at Danebank. This daring princess inspires us to appreciate nature. Pocahontas makes us want to embrace the great outdoors and respect the earth. Pocahontas also teaches us to embrace change like the river and to embrace other cultures … two of the most important lessons for a successful and happy life in the 21st century. Walking in the footsteps of a stranger can be an excellent learning opportunity.

As you look to the future, Pocahontas reminds us to shun materialism. Pocahontas reminds us to shun vapid Western materialist pursuits and to instead take note and appreciate the simpler things in life, like nature. In nature, she sees the “riches all around us” and advises us to “for once, never wonder what they’re worth”.

Pocahontas also reminds us that grandmothers are very wise, even in tree form. Girls, value and listen to your parents and grandparents. They truly are wise. Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas that sometimes the right path is not the easiest one:

"You will have many difficult decisions to make throughout life. Don't take the easy way out.”

Pocahontas, like Mulan, Belle and Snow White, helps us to remember that in life there are tough times and often we can’t understand why, but with the help of a greater power you will be able to choose to make a decision that will provide the key to living happily ever after.

Merida. We can’t imagine anyone making it all the way through Brave and not wanting to hug their parents.

Merida’s story teaches us many things, but above all it is a prime example of the importance of family. She shows us that while you might disagree, you shouldn’t try to change them. Merida teaches us to be brave and accept others as they are. Girls, today you should take the time to thank your parents. Every parent here and many grandparents will have made incredible sacrifices so that you could be part of the Danebank community. Merida is independent, she loves her red hair, she stands up for what she believes in, never sees any challenge as too big and is a role model for bravery. Merida also differentiates between fate and destiny:

"There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it."

Most of you will find that it takes courage to take control of your life as you leave Danebank. So, be brave - step away from the stereotypes and expectations of others and carve out your own path. Merida, like Pocahontas, Mulan, Belle and Snow White, helps us to remember that in life there are tough times and often we can’t understand why, but with the help of a greater power you will be able to choose to make a decision that will provide the key to living happily ever after.

And, finally, Rapunzel in Tangled … Rapunzel says exactly what I am sure you are all thinking:

“I've been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything I dreamed it would be?” And Flynn tells her: “It will be. Rapunzel” Rapunzel answers: “And what if it is? What do I do then?”Flynn responds: “Well, that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream.”

Perhaps, Year 12, that is where you are right now: “What if life outside Danebank isn’t all I dreamed it would be?"

And I would say to you: Maybe it will be and maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be, but not for a few years yet. Sometimes there is so much stuff going on that we can’t see the future clearly. For Rapunzel, as for all of our princesses, your life may not turn out exactly the way that you have dreamed it would be: in life there are tough times that are not part of our dream, not part of how we imagine our “happily ever after” future. When this  happens, we all ask: Why? Generally, there is no answer to that question.

In the reading we heard today from Ecclesiastes, we hear that for everything there is a time. The writer lists not only the good things but also the bad:

For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

In her speeches, World War 2 Dutch Resistance activist Corrie Ten Boom used a poem by an unknown author* to paint one of my favourite pictures of God’s working in our lives, especially during the tough times when we can’t understand why they are occurring in our lives. This picture of life presents a picture of God as the master craftsman. He is creating a tapestry that has both happy, beautiful and bright colours, as well as sad, dark colours. The thing is, we don't get to see the picture side of the weaving, we get to see the back with all of the loose threads and knotted bits.

My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colours
He works so steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.

 

For us, just like the Disney princesses, there are tough times. Times when we only see the underside of the weaving. But we also have times when we glimpse the beautiful in life. The reading that we had from Ecclesiastes is all about this. God says the answer is to know and trust the Master Craftsman, to know and trust that He is indeed making something beautiful; that He is in fact a God who redeems and restores the most broken and hopeless situation even when we don’t understand why or how. He actually calls us to live almost exclusively looking at the underside of the tapestry. Our hope from that side is a trust that there is a beautiful side being created by a Master craftsman.

Why can we do that? We can do it because we know that He loved us beyond measure. That his love was so great that He sent his son to die on the cross for us, so that the things that separate us from the perfection of God could be forgiven and we could have eternal life … we could live happily ever after in eternity with God.

Girls, as I have said to you so often, you will make my joy complete if you shine like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of God. I want you to understand that you are woven into the vast tapestry stitched with Gods love:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

And so, girls, as you step out from the Danebank oasis:

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
May the soft winds freshen your spirit
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
And may God ever enfold you in the mantle of his love.

Shine like stars.