Above: “The Nirvana-Shaped Hole in My Heart,” by Danny J. Gibson.

More high-resolution images of the art from The Stained-Glass Kaleidoscope can be found here.

About the Book 

Author Chad Thomas Johnston’s The Stained-Glass Kaleidoscope: Essays at Play in the Churchyard of the Mind is an essay-driven creative memoir that explores life through the lenses of theology, pop culture, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Seattle-based literary agent Jenée Arthur is currently shopping Chad’s book to major publishing houses. Writing about The Stained-Glass Kaleidoscope, Arthur says “Chad’s personal essays are presented with a humor and wit that parallel David Sedaris’s tongue-in-cheek reenactments of childhood and adult life. Johnston’s renaissance approach to merging pop culture and religious faith is both refreshing and entertaining.” Visit Chad’s page at the Jenée Arthur Agency, LLC Web site.

Chad’s main writing influences are his dad, growing up as the son of a Baptist minister, his friendship with artist Danny J. Gibson, C. S. Lewis, Anne Lamott, The Innocence Mission, music journalism, film, childhood, cats, coffee with too much creamer, and the darkly whimsical works of Stephin Merritt, who fronts multiple recording acts, including The Magnetic Fields, Future Bible Heroes, and The Gothic Archies. He is also quite fond of Flannery O’Connor, but he doubts he is fortunate enough to have been influenced by her tremendous talent.

Chad began writing his debut in October 2007, shortly after dropping out of his PhD program in film studies at the University of Kansas. He suspected only five people would ever read his dissertation, and he also knew that researching for it and writing it would result in something like mental constipation (for which there is no known laxative). Convinced he could coerce six people into reading a work written on his own terms, he set out to write his magnum opus. After drinking as much coffee as there is water in Lake Michigan, he completed his book on February 5, 2011.

Chad commissioned Kansas City-based artist Danny J. Gibson to create original art for his book. The resulting 8-foot-wide piece is visible below.

Book Table of Contents

NOTE: Chapter titles are in red boldface. Subheads are listed below chapter titles in regular font typeface. Titles in parentheses are short-form essays (i.e. interludes, oases, vignettes).

Foreword: Kicking Dead Horses Until They Live Again

Preface: The Milk Crate Incident

Chapter 1: And Key Largo Begat Montego: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Genealogy
Musical Vegetarianism
Mötley Crüe & Ecclesiastes
Vulcanized Rubber Soul
The Flannel Lost and Found (or “Sheepless in Seattle”)
Beneath the Wings of Angel In Utero

Chapter 2: Looking the Trojan Gift Horse in the Mouth
Good Tidings of Great Boredom
A Case of Existential Static Cling: OCD and Me
Suffering: The Gift That Cannot Be Returned (Even with a Receipt)

(Purple Horseshoes)

(Rapture and Banana Bread)

Chapter 3: White Sabbath (or “Sabbath, Snowy Sabbath”)
Frosty Takes a Leak
When Life Interrupts Living
Burying Our Darkness in the Snow

Chapter 4: Animals Marching Two by Two into My Heart
When the Cows Come Home, the Cats Will Be Waiting
Van Gogh Visits the Zoo
Where Angels Fear to Treadwell: The Fall of a Grizzly Man

(Fast-Food Funeral Procession)

(To Teotihuacan, Accidentally)

(Boys Go to Jupiter to Get More Stupider)

Chapter 5: The Simplicity Complex
Toy Store Terrorists
Bland Faith (or “Temple for Simpletons”)
A Friendly Story about the Annihilation of Mankind

Chapter 6: We’re All Normal and We Want Our Freedom
The Sonic Soothsayer
Dissecting the Beauty Out of a Butterfly
Olympian Overlords
Of Dentists and Other Abominations
Lipstick Graffiti

Toil!: A Triumphant Triptych
(Reveille [Rhymes with “Heavily”])

Chapter 7: Living in the Desert of What We Deserve
Wetlands (Bachelor Pad, Lily Pad)
Rooted in Sand: The Origins of Entitlement
Evergreen Hearts
When We Are Blind to the Beach
The American Dream, Stillborn

Chapter 8: The Water Buffalo Herdsman
Bathroom Reading
Setting the (Ob)Scene
In Defense of Ancient Egyptian Hygiene
To Yucca Mountain, Pronto!

Chapter 9: Hell Knoweth No Flame-Retardant Souls: A Devil of a Good Time at the Cinema
Spared Death Because of Spare Change
Diet and Exorcize
Realtors for the Afterlife
When Evil Speaks Esperanto

(The Doghouse Is a Wonderful Place to Repent)

(The Bat vs. The Snow-Mummy)

Chapter 10: Abra-Chad-abra!: Marital Magic (or “How to Transform a Woman into a Teapot”)
A Revelatory River
Through the Yuletide Loophole
Purple Alligators

Chapter 11: Minds and Mops: Custodians of Creativity
James Hampton’s Throne of Trash
Henry Darger: Broken Transmitter of God’s Glory
Man Falls Again (This Time from a Lesser Height): Danny J. Gibson
Conclusions (In Heaven Everything Is Fine)


1. No contractions were used (or harmed) in the writing of this book, with the exception of any that might appear in dialog or quoted material.

2. Chad sent a digital copy of his book to author Philip Yancey, whose works were a great comfort to him in 2001 when he was suffering from a protracted, particularly bad bout of OCD-related anxiety. Chad was diagnosed with the disorder in 2004, so in 2001 he was still trying to figure out why his brain’s circus was short on clowns. After receiving the book, Yancey replied to Chad with a short letter, which made Chad leap momentarily like a fish from a lake. Yancey is the author of delightful, church-challenging books such as What’s So Amazing About Grace? and Disappointment With God.

3. After considering the possibility of writing a book for quite some time, Chad jotted down ideas for potential chapters on an airline napkin at 30,000 feet. The resulting napkin can be seen here. Several of the ideas made it into the book.

4. Danny J. Gibson’s cat Porchie can be seen rolling on the book art in the video below, adding her own feline flare to the resulting work. The music in the background is Elliott Smith’s “The Ballad of Big Nothing,” from his Either/Or LP.